Welcome to episode five of The Stand — where the good news is that we finally get to see what’s going on in the bad-guy camp in Las Vegas. We start off in the bowels of some power station where the Queen of Pink, Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara), goes to pick up Boulder spy Dayna Jurgens (Natalie Martinez). Dayna’s gotten herself embedded with the enemy, and is, of course, welding something. At least the foreman calls her “Flashdance,” so we know the writers are in on the joke.
So Julie tells Dayna that word’s been getting around about her. It seems Dayna’s been asking everyone about meeting the literal man upstairs, Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård). Which is what any good spy would do — eyeroll. So Julie asks why, and Dayna just says she has the dreams. Julie says that doesn’t make her special, and that anyone who wants an audience with Mr. Hard-Case-Walkin’-Dude has to go through her man, Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff) — aka Flagg’s right hand.
And Lloyd appears right on cue, looking very, uh — different — from the starving, grimy inmate we first met. He’s transformed himself into the epitome of Vegas-overload, with his gaudy bling, shiny suit of clashing animal prints and an equally flamboyant attitude. He announces that Flagg’s intrigued and wants to meet her. Then he does get serious for just a moment and asks why she’s suddenly shown up there. Dayna says she saw what was out there and it wasn’t for her. I’m assuming she meant Boulder, but I’m not sure.
Lloyd says Flagg wants him to show her a good time and then bring her to him. He pays lip service to Flagg saving his life, saying that they’ve set up an amazing new society in Vegas where one can be whatever they want to be. And then an impressive visual-effects shot shows us that we’re at Hoover Dam — and then flies across the desert and down the Vegas strip.
Then we cut to some office at one of the casinos, where a b*tchy worker chick is trying to get information out of a newly-arrived Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke). Once she gets the gist of Tom’s disability, she tells the guards who brought him in to take him to the “slave cages.” But one of the guards (Mark Gibbon) reminds her that anyone who arrives in Vegas voluntarily is automatically a citizen and gets a job. Wanting to just get Tom out of her sight, she assigns him to the “Gladiators’ Hall.” Sounds fun.
Lloyd brings Dayna and Julie to his suite, which isn’t quite the top floor as the penthouse is reserved for Flagg. Lloyd brings Dayna out to the balcony, which overlooks what used to be the swimming pool — and is now a mini-version of the Roman Coliseum. As Lloyd pops a bottle of Champagne and rather annoyingly sings, “Welcome to Hea-vaaaaaaaaaan!” Dayna gets an eyeful of the 24/7 orgy of sex, violence, booze and drugs going on all around her. All to the tune of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual,” of course.
Meanwhile, back in Boulder, Harold (Owen Teague) and Nadine (Amber Heard) clean up after murdering poor Teddy Weizak (Eion Bailey). They hear Stu (James Marsden) on the radio looking for Teddy, and he’s getting nervous. He tells Nadine they should just leave Boulder now, but Nadine says no way, telling him point blank that they “can’t f**k this up.” They can’t let him down — “him” being Flagg. Then Stu calls out on the radio for everyone on the watch to meet him at the amphitheater.
Cut to Stu and Larry (Jovan Adepo) looking at Teddy’s body, which Harold and Nadine moved to the amphitheater. They’ve sat him up in one of his movie theater seats and put the gun in his hand to make it look like suicide. Larry says Teddy didn’t seem like the “suicide type,” but Stu says he’s surprised they haven’t seen more of them given everything that’s happened. Larry brings up Crucified Guy and his prophecy that “the devil was coming” — and now this. Larry’s not sure it’s coincidence, but Stu isn’t convinced it’s supernatural.
Then Harold arrives, and Stu breaks the bad news. Harold does decent job of faking grief — but we can also tell it’s not entirely fake. He says that he’ll open the drive-in theater like Teddy wanted as a tribute. Then we cut to a furious Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg), who’s wailing on Nick (Henry Zaga) for sending the spies against her orders. She asks if he’s trying to start a war. Flagg can see them and everything they’ve done. “We’ll see what you’ve wrought,” she says.
Back in Vegas, Lloyd, Julie and Dayna are about to have themselves a threesome. Dayna finds a pair of scissors in the bathroom and squirrels it away. Then she comes out in her impressive lingerie ensemble, complete with a whip. But before they can get into it, Julie starts bringing up Flagg — which Lloyd apparently hates. It brings his mood down — along with other things. Julie acts sorry, but then laughs as Lloyd goes scurrying to the bathroom. Apparently, Julie brings up Flagg on purpose so that she doesn’t have to actually f**k him. Lloyd gives up on the threesome and Julie suggests that they go shopping instead.
Cut to après-shopping, as the newly outfitted gang makes their grand entrance at the fighting arena. A showgirl-costumed chick called Rat Woman (Fiona Dourif) emcees while contestants kill each other in the empty, blood-and-guts-splattered pool. While Lloyd’s checking out other women’s butts, Julie spots Tom Cullen as he enters with the cleanup crew. She tells Dayna about meeting a “feeb” who looked like him and a deaf guy. Then Rat Woman calls for Lloyd, putting the spotlight on him and thanking him for all he’s done. The crowd cheers and Lloyd eats it up, having become the celebrity he always wanted to be — complete with sparkly eye shadow and coke all over his nose.
Then Rat Woman says it’s time for a word from their benefactor, “the father of the future.” And while the crowd roars in adoration, up in the penthouse Flagg does this nifty, levitating thing that puts his face on the jumbotron. He announces that the “world that was” told them all it was wrong to love sex and violence, that it was wrong to want more. But in New Vegas, he gives them freedom. And while his speech goes on, his blown-up face looks right at Dayna.
Back in Boulder, Nadine dreams of being with Larry — and then she’s back in the desert dream with Flagg. She’s angry with him, saying he just gave her away to Harold. But Flagg says he gave her purpose. He says they’re in this together, that he’s always been there for her — and that she still belongs to him. Then Nadine goes and meets Harold at the school, where he says that she didn’t have to kill Teddy. They were friends, and Teddy would have listened to him. Nadine says she’s his friend and he grabs her by the face. But Nadine manages to redirect him from whatever violent and horrible thing he had in mind. Later, as they’re getting their clothes back on and leaving, Harold runs smack into Frannie (Odessa Young). Nadine hides, listening in as Fran says she’s sorry about Teddy and invites him over for dinner the next night.
Fran then goes to see Larry, who’s doing manly things like chopping wood. She asks Larry to break into Harold’s house and snoop around while she keeps him busy at her place. Larry asks what he’s supposed to be looking for, but Fran isn’t sure. She just knows Harold’s up to something bad, and Larry agrees that there’s something “off” about him. Fran says she’ll call Larry on the radio to let him know when to go.
Back at her place, Nadine looks for Joe (Gordon Comier), calling him for lunch but he’s not there. She goes searching for him and finds him at Mother Abagail’s, playing the piano. Nadine scolds him for running off on her and Mother Abagail apologizes, saying they were “talking” and lost track of time. Nadine asks what he said, if he told her what his real name is — but Mother Abagail says they didn’t get that far and that Joe’s mind is full of things no child should ever have to see.
Then they get into this whole discussion about the piano, and Nadine reveals that one of the foster homes she was in had one. She thought that meant it would be a good place — but that music didn’t stop “people from being people.” Mother Abagail agrees and commends her for taking good care of Joe. Nadine says she didn’t have a choice, but Mother Abagail says she did — and does. “We all have choice … until we don’t,” she says — and we get the feeling they’re not talking about Joe anymore.
Moving on, Harold shows up at Stu and Frannie’s with wine and flowers, and they’re both so fake-cheerful it’s nauseating. Stu tears himself away from the town-watch radio and pulls Harold into the kitchen, giving Fran time to call Larry. But before he can leave, a desperate Nadine shows up at his door. She says she needs him to do something for her — f**k her. Larry’s shocked and put off by how she’s acting, but she says it’s the only way “he” will let her go. Larry gets suddenly dense and asks who she’s talking about. She begs him again, but he says if they sleep together, things would get weird between them and that would be bad for Joe. Nadine suddenly relents at the mention of Joe and Larry tells her to go home.
Larry then heads over to Harold’s while Fran and Stu keep him busy at their place. Larry finds the basement door’s locked and looks for the key — as if Harold would just leave the key sitting around. Cut back to dinner, where Harold’s telling this story of his sister Amy and Fran taking him to an amusement park when he was a kid. He went into the ice cream store but the guy behind the counter paid him no mind until the gorgeous Frannie walked in. Harold says she got them free ice cream — including one with chocolate. Harold asks Frannie if she remembers giving him the chocolate one. She says, yeah, sure, of course — but then Harold rats her out and says he was never there. In fact, Amy and Frannie never took him anywhere and it was Amy who told him that story.
Then things get even weirder as Harold loses himself for a moment and rants about how Amy was the favorite. He even goes so far as to say it was a good thing their parents weren’t immune, so they wouldn’t have to face life without her. Yow. Long awkward silence. Then Harold apologizes, saying it’s been a tough week what with Teddy and all. He asks to use the bathroom and goes upstairs. Then we cut to Larry also going upstairs at Harold’s, where he finds Harold’s secret weapon — the Tom Cruise photo.
Harold goes into Stu and Fran’s bedroom and sees an ugly stuffed bear on the dresser across from the bed. Cut to him coming back down while Stu’s on the radio. He sneaks up behind Fran and says he should go. Fran tries to get him to stay, actually saying “the night is young.” Lordy. Harold just looks at her knowingly and leaves.
Meanwhile, Mother Abagail’s praying, asking God what she did to offend Him and how she can get back in His confidence. Back at Harold’s, Larry finds a T-shirt in a drawer — one that belongs to Nadine. Then Frannie calls him on the radio, telling him to get out. As he puts the shirt back, he bumps Harold’s chess set and has to scramble to put the pieces back in place. Harold comes in and marches up the steps — but Larry’s somehow magically gone. Harold looks at the chess set and sees that one knight is facing the wrong way. (I’m assuming that’s a Misery easter egg — Annie Wilkes’ penguin that always faces due south.) Cut back to Mother Abagail who looks up from her prayer to see Flagg’s wolf growling at her.
Back in Vegas, Dayna goes looking for Tom Cullen for some stupid reason. The guard takes her to him, in the basement moving corpses. She tells Tom she “lost something” and while Tom goes on his usual ramble, she tells him she lost her bracelet and jams a note in his hand just as Lloyd and Julie show up. Tom opens the note, which says “RUN” — but of course, he can’t read it. Lloyd and Julie take Dayna up to the penthouse in the elevator and Julie says an ominous, “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya” as the guard shoves her out.
Dayna heads in with the scissors at the ready. She sees Flagg drinking milk and staring out the window at a shroud being lowered over the Caesar’s Palace sign. Flagg’s all kinds of nice and offers her a drink, asking what brought her to Vegas. Then he says he’s been watching her since she left Boulder, which she tries to deny — but even if Flagg wasn’t psychic, Dayna’s such a lousy spy that it’d be obvious anyway. She asks if he’s going to kill her and he says no. She comments on the “poor bastards nailed to the power poles,” and he comes back at her with, “Poor bastards like…Mr. Garvey?” (in case you missed it, Garvey’s the sicko who held her hostage before she got rescued).
Flagg reminds her that she killed the guy and that all who come to Vegas are looking for his “protection against the Garveys of the world.” And the only way to do that is to “reestablish order.” He calls Mother Abagail a “charlatan” who’s trying to sell a way to do that that’s pure but impossible. Dayna says she’s no charlatan and wants to know what he’s going to do. He says he’s gonna send her back — but first, he needs to know who the other spy is. He knows there are three of them: her and Judge Farris, whom we haven’t seen but is apparently waiting outside the border, so they don’t all arrive at once.
Dayna says it must be driving him insane that he can’t see who the third spy is. Then she attacks, going right for his neck with the scissors. Flagg goes down and seems dead for a minute — but then he suddenly sits back up like we all knew he would. Everyone except Dayna, the world’s worst spy ever.
Flagg keeps drilling her about who the third spy is — that she can still serve him. “Never,” she says. Then Flagg’s eyes turn into deep, dark galaxies as he yells, “Who’s the third spy?” Dayna smashes her beer bottle and, finally getting it through her thick head that you can’t actually kill the devil, uses the broken bottle to kill herself. Flagg’s genuinely surprised — then he does a funny, “well, sh*t” kind of shrug and sits back down on his couch with his milk.
Back in Boulder, Frannie tells Stu she knows Harold’s up to something. Stu says he just sees the whole unrequited love thing with Harold and that can mess a person up. But Fran’s not interested in talking anymore and wants to get busy. Unfortunately for them, Harold’s put a camera in that ugly, stuffed bear and is watching them from the comfort of his basement. He’s also watching the footage of Larry snooping around.
And lastly, Ray Brentner (Irene Bedard) shows up at Mother Abagail’s to find a note on the door — which says not to look for her, that she’ll be back if it’s His will. Ray gets on the radio and interrupts Stu and Frannie’s sexy time to freak out and say she’s gone. And Harold just smiles a Grinch-like, evil smile.
Honestly, I think the only good thing going on in this episode is finally getting to see Las Vegas. And I give the creators credit for doing that complicated shot flying over the Hoover Dam to the Strip, and making Vegas the big show of debauchery that it’s supposed to be. And of course, there’s also Owen Teague’s Harold, who continues to be the only consistent bright spot in this whole thing.
Other than that, all this episode did was disappoint, confuse and aggravate me. They stripped Dayna’s toughness away and turned her into a nervous wreck. And even worse than that was what they turned Lloyd into. You can’t look at Vegas-Lloyd and convince me that Flagg (or anybody in their right mind, for that matter) would want that foppy idiot as his right-hand man. And then the whole idea that Dayna searches Tom Cullen out is just stupid. None of the spies are supposed to know about each other, so that Flagg can’t see them. And not only does she search him out, but then Flagg for some reason doesn’t see that. Sorry, but that’s just sloppy.
And then Mother Abagail — whom we’ve barely gotten to know — is just up and gone. Only those who’ve read the book know that she leaves because over her time in Boulder, she becomes an idol that everyone worships, and she likes the adoration. But then she realizes she’s being prideful and leaves as penance, going on a vision-quest type thing to get right with God. Makes sense, right? Of course it does — but have we seen any of that in this series so far? Not at all. Mother Abagail’s only appeared a handful of times, so her sudden disappearance makes no sense at all.
I really wish I had nicer things to say about this version of The Stand, but those behind it just aren’t giving us anything to work with. There’s always hope that things will improve as we head for the big climax. But at this point if I had to bet money, I would say it’s just going to be more of the same — and that’s just tragic.