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Teen Wolf 5x04: Condition Terminal

Deputies, dance parties, and death.

Teen Wolf 5x04: Condition Terminal

Is this not the best show of the summer? Are you not entertained??



Malia, for being so visibly affected by Tracy's unfair and unkind death, and shaken by the uncertainty of her own senses forced on her by the sight of the Dread Doctors.


Aspirational Award to Brett, who as a born wolf is the opposite of a puppy, but as a member of a pack other than Scott's is definitely on new ground sleuthing/fighting in their defense. Come on over, Brett! The True Alpha pack needs you (to lure Danny out of supporting cast purgatory).


Usually I interpret "best" to mean "most entertaining in its blithe acceptance of/obliviousness to a blatantly insane supernatural occurrence," but in this case I am going to interpret it to mean "most compassionate and open-minded in the face of near-certain magical death," giving the award to Natalie Martin for her reaction to Lydia's drug- and pain-dazed admonition to her not to tell anyone what she saw, even as Lydia herself is being wheeled off to critical surgery.

Oh, parents of Beacon Hills. You get everything just right.


Spiny-fanged leech mouth. In Donovan's palm. SPINY-FANGED LEECH MOUTH IN DONOVAN'S PALM.




Melissa McCall, of course! Her support of Scott's ever deadlier gambit to protect every single person in Beacon Hills isn't new, but it is always welcome, especially when Scott is at his most despairing. Although this week's defeat is definitely not going to be the worst Scott and his pack suffer this season, so I hope Melissa has a few more Grandpa Joke gems in her pocket for when shit truly starts going down…


Bic and/or Zippo, for missing out on that scorching hot spot (pun intended) in between Lydia and Parrish's hands in the cold open. Come on brands, light their fire!


Tracy Stewart was a stressed senior, then she was a werewolf, then she was a kanima, then she froze out all the boys in Scott's pack (and Malia) and all of Beacon Hills' on-duty law enforcement officers and nearly killed Lydia with a swift tail-swipe to the gut before her tail was chopped off by Kira's fire kitsune sword swipe. Malia recovered from the kanima venom before anyone else (ofc) and chased after Tracy to wake her up from her murderous night terror, but just as Malia's humanity kicked in for the first ever time she she was rescued from a coyote's life in the wild, the Dread Doctors appeared from the darkness and jabbed Tracy in the neck with a syringe full of mercury. Meanwhile, Scott and Stiles were barely on their feet at the animal clinic, thanks to some last-minute stalking help from "I'm Just Here For Some Friends" Theo Raeken, who is definitely the same Theo from fourth grade and just as definitely not out to destroy all of their lives.


This 'Ship is on Fire

In a flashback-within-a-flashback, we open this week on Lydia and Parrish in a dark, abandoned sheriff's department, apparently in the the middle of their #WhatIsParrish (phoenix) summer research project. Lydia is wielding a no-name (shame) plastic lighter and needling Parrish over his bravery. "Hold out your hand," she commands, so compellingly that sitting at home, I wanted to hold out my hand. "What are you going to do?" Parrish wants to know. "Some kind of magic trick?" No—he is. And not the one kind he knows with a playing card—the kind with a lighter, his palm, and a pair of fire-proof cojones. "It's dangerous, yes," Lydia purrs, "but certainly no more dangerous than being set on fire inside a deputy's cruiser, and you walked away from that unscathed!"

Not TOTALLY unscathed, Parrish (phoenix) is quick to point out—he had to pay for a whole new uniform! Because mine was burned to dust right off my completely unscathed and perfectly scupted body, subtext/his hand gestures invite her to imagine.

There is literally not a single line of dialogue here that is not a euphemism, and it…works. For the both of them AND for this at-home viewer. I was perfectly happy with their inevitable pairing before (she deserves someone nice who respects her capabilities and isn't a literal predator, and to *choose* who that person is), but now? I'm ALL IN.

Anyway, that trick Lydia is proposing—if you, like Parrish, think you saw it in a movie once, you're right. "Lawrence of Arabia," Lydia confirms. "The trick, Jordan Parrish, is not minding that it hurts."



This is not just some throwaway reference—the idea of pain's power over a person is acutely applicable to Teen Wolf as a whole (how else did Scott manage the trick of becoming a True Alpha, but by accepting the pain he was suffering and going on anyway?) and to the ideas this season is tackling in particular (a fact confirmed by Theo's villain's monologue to Donovan a couple scenes deeper into this episode). But Lawrence of Arabia itself is incredibly interesting to set up as a reference within this show. As Roger Ebert said in his retrospective review of the film:

I've noticed that when people remember “Lawrence of Arabia,” they don't talk about the details of the plot. They get a certain look in their eye, as if they are remembering the whole experience, and have never quite been able to put it into words. […] It is spectacle and experience, and its ideas are about things you can see or feel, not things you can say.

This is just the experience of watching Teen Wolf, to a T. Plot is not (like, at all) why one watches Teen Wolf. It is the spactacle and the experience, the giffable moments and "the feels." It is certainly more about quippy dialogue than the uniquely taciturn Lawrence of Arabia is (Ebert: The dialogue in these scenes is not complex, and sometimes Bolt makes it so spare it sounds like poetry), but both hinge on the visceral gutpunch of stark, crisp, often silent images: a speck resolving into a man on a desert horizon; one innocent girl spilling mercury from her lips and crumpling to a dirty floor as another innocent girl is pinned against a wall, forced to watch. LoA is bright and stifling; TW is dark and stifling. Both have heroes that defy their world's conventions and expectations and will launch a suicide mission to turn around and save their friends. And both, ultimately, force (or will force) those heroes to learn that pain can be more than physical. The trick, Scott McCall, will be not minding that it hurts.

But for right now, let us return to that other major difference between Lawrence of Arabia and Teen Wolf: the 'ships. Specifically, the Marrish 'ship that just saw Lydia laughing and teasing that Parrish "can last longer than that" after he flinched away from the lighter's heat after a measly few seconds.




"Don't think of the flame, or the heat, or the pain," Lydia instructs, caressing his hand. "Don't even look at it!" And when they try again, it works. He holds out against the flame so long that the metal flint of the lighter heating up enough to burn Lydia's thumb is what sets the ultimate limit on the experiment. Parrish (phoenix), on the other hand, has nothing more than a palmful of soot, and about six months' worth of dreams of him carrying fiery bodies through the woods to lay atop a giant old tree stump to recount.

"The Nemeton," Lydia breathes, resigned, terrified, pissed off. "It's a real tree. In a real place in Beacon Hills." The last added because somehow, even after all this time they've spent together researching, Parrish has still never heard of it. Seriously, pack? You spent all that time bringing Parrish up to speed during the Deadpool arc, and you didn't *once* approach either of Season 3's major arcs and their mystical origins? That's just sloppy.

Anyway, before Parrish knew that it was a real tree, he was (more or less) perfectly comfortable sharing his dreams with Lydia—it was such a crazy thing, and in such an obviously dreamed-up place, that it all had to be metaphor. But now that he knows the Nemeton is real…well. What if the rest is, too? "And then what happens?" Lydia asks, urging Parrish to continue. "……nothing," Parrish says. "I lay the body on the rings of the tree. And that's it." 


Only, that's not it, of course. What really happens, we learn as we flash forward in this flashback-within-a-flashback to Parrish doing his card trick for himself later that night (with a Queen of Diamonds that looks exactly like Lydia, high five, TW art department!), is that Parrish (phoenix) lays the body on the Nemeton and uses his own body to set it—and the pile of bodies surrounding the Nemeton—on fire. And considering the night terrors of Tracy's that weren't really night terrors, the question we're left asking is, premonition? Or memory?

Flash-Forward-Forward Flashback

And with that we return to the compact storyline (seriously—it's been like one week between the premiere and now, in show time) that cut off last week while our heroes were in seriously dire straits. Only, we don't return to one of our heroes, but to Donovan, alone and scared in his cell as the sounds of Kira and Tracy battling ricochet down the halls. Although it is the other things coming down the halls, the Dread Doctors in all their shuddery, quietly buzz-clicking spookiness that should scare him even more. (They do; don't worry. They do.)

While the Dread Doctors are breaking Donovan out, Scott and crew finally arrive, racing in in slow-motion as Deputy Clark and Sheriff Stilinski are just starting to break free from their kanima-induced paralysis. Stiles walks into fear-induced paralysis at the sight of Lydia frozen and bleeding out on the floor, Theo leaping past him while simultaneously removing his belt to use as a tourniquet as Stiles watches, unable to move an inch.


"Tracy," Lydia mouths as Theo joins Kira on the floor. "Tracy!" Stilinski calls as he lurches to his feet behind them. "TRACY!" Scott shouts as he turns to race to the basement. Stiles finally breaks free from his paralysis at the sound of Scott's voice, and they all—plus Deaton, who has been examining Tracy's severed kanima tail until now—descend to the basement, where they find a shell-shocked Malia standing over Tracy's dead body.

"I didn't do it!" is the first thing our poor coyote pup blurts when they all look from Tracy to her. The change between the Malia of two hours ago and the Malia of now is stark. She cares so much what the people she cares about think of her, and cares so much about the girl who didn't deserve to die, and is so uncertain about the events that are or are not connecting the two, it's almost impossible for her to speak. "It was the people…with masks…I think there were three of them. I didn't do this. They had a weapon. They were strong. This wasn't me, Stiles, this wasn't me."

Deaton is ready to haul Tracy's still-scaly corpse off to the animal clinic before the non-BHSD authorities/EMTs arrive, but Sheriff Stilinski is having none of it. "This is a crime scene!" he shrieks, "there is a line we have to draw!"


Yes, Stilinski, there is, but as your own son is quick to point out, you've already crossed that line. Repeatedly. So unless you want to set up a press conference to announce the presence of supernatural monsters in Beacon Hills… 

"Fine, fine! Take her!" And off Scott, Stiles, and Deaton go, trailed by a still-broken Malia.

Operating Theaters/Operation as Theater

In the Dread Doctors' basement, Donovan wakes strapped to a metal operating table. The three masked doctors shudder-approach, tipping their masked faces and examining their prey patient. "His condition is promising," one intones, but none of the three answer Donovan when he begs them to explain what that means, because they are two busy preparing the foot-long dental forceps they'll need to yank out all of Donovan's teeth to make room for his new mouthful of anglerfish fangs.


Apropos of night terrors, my cousin has been making anglerfish "litemare" night lights for a couple of years now, just in case you wanted another way not to sleep at night.

Meanwhile, across town in Beacon Hills' legit (if often decimated by supernatural terrorism) medical facility, Lydia is being raced into surgery, her mother running alongside her gurney, totally going with the supernatural shock flow so long as Lydia makes it through surgery alive. At the other end of the hall, Scott and Liam are catching each other up on their adventures, Liam sharing with Scott the discovery he and Brett and Mason made of the dirt pits they found and suspect Tracy and at least one other person crawled out of. 

"Alright, gang, it's bad, but not as bad as it could have been," Melissa says, gathering Scott's pack + Theo for some final exchanging of information before she heads into Lydia's operating room. "Theo, stellar tourniquet work—you probably saved her life. The rest of you: what else do I need to know before heading back in there?" Both because she was there and because Stiles and Scott are too busy giving Theo a long, appraising look after Melissa's comment about the tourniquet, Kira is the one to tell Melissa that it was Tracy's kanima tail that sliced Lydia opens. "In case that matters."



It might! As in, it might have infected Lydia with whatever chimaeric concoction the Dread Doctors changed Tracy with, as the anaesthetic that Melissa asks Lydia to count down from 10 into brings into horrifyingly blurry focus the Dread Doctors, there in Lydia's operating room, bending over her and waiting to cut her open. It's no wonder it takes her all the way until 4 to actually succumb to the anaesthesia—that's some scary shit.

When she wakes, it is the next morning and Parrish is there waiting to collect her "eyewitness testimony" slash trying to find something to watch other than the one old Japanese fighting movie that is coming through on the hospital television. Slash, of course, keeping the hurt girl he likes company while she recovers. "Do you know how to do that?" she asks, watching the stage fighting on the screen. Why yes, Ryan Kelley DOES know how to stage fight! Oh, wait, you meant Deputy Jordan Parrish, and real fighting. Yes, he knows that, too. In the army they learned Close Quarters Combat (CQC)/jiu jitsu, and he'd be more than happy to teach Lydia to fight. 



This is both useful and sweet, but I would be remiss if I didn't also note that after the tail swipe and the Dread Doctors sighting it is just as likely to be all happening in Lydia's head as it is being real—especially taking into considerationg the twist at the end of the episode. Depending on how much interaction Lydia has with people other than Parrish moving forward, odds on real v. not real may change, but for now I'm pegging it at an even 50/50.

Speaking of the Dread Doctors, we left Donovan on his own, less comfy operating table last night. Today upon waking, he too has a surprise visitor. A wild Mike Montgomery! 

Yes, Theo Raeken is in with the Doctors, though whether as puppetmaster or one of their creations we don't yet know. Either way, the Doctors are in charge of all new patients, and they evidently are miserly in giving Theo permission to talk to them as they recover. But he got some time with Donovan! And boy does he make good use of it, riling Monster Boy up with reminders of his meteorological failure on his law enforcement exam before starting in on a soliloquoy on pain, and how physical pain only seems the worst sort, when in reality physical pain can be fairly easily overcome—it is emotional pain that sticks. So if Donovan really wants to punish Stilinski for failures that are entirely on Donovan's unlucky genetics/circumstances in combination with his bad decisions (the persecution complex is strong in these ones)? Go after someone Stilinski loves.

Leading to that kicker shot of Donovan and his palm fangs attacking Stiles from behind as he had the hood of his Jeep up to patch one more leak with duct tape. HOORAY PERSECUTION COMPLEXES IN MONSTER BOYS.

Girl + Boy, Interrupted

With Lydia in for a long surgery, everyone heads home. Scott and Kira return to his house, finally finding a moment they can take just for the two of them to decompress and comfort each other after the long, hard fight, and the grief of Tracy's loss. Their moment is short. Deaton barrels in from the living room hauling a duffel of biology lab vessels, each containing show-and-tell pieces of their fallen monster foes' unlikely pan-species parts. 



"What does it mean?" Scott and Kira want to know, ready for Deaton to drop some real wisdom, or at least some actionable intelligence, since he hoofed it all the way to Scott's residence to interrupt their private smoochtime, after all. "It means Tracy wasn't supernatural, which means she was made, which means someone is making supernatural creatures using science, which means the rules are dust, which means we're so screwed!" Deaton says. "The rules are changing, and as a man of science first and magic second, I'm scared as heck! Also I'm going out of town for several days. LOL good luck, children." Yeah, PROBABLY he is going out of town to investigate a lead on something that might give them an advantage in a war in which mad scientists are changing the rules of the supernatural world, but he doesn't SAY that. What he says amounts to (in my estimation) "I am running away. You have to combat whatever comes next all on your own." 


Okay, he does at least also remind them that the best they can do is to protect each other and their friends. But when it comes to that extra step of protecting other innocent people, like Tracy and whoever else was buried in Liam's other hole, people who didn't ask to be part of some mad scientists' scheme for supernatural domination? Ha, Scott. Like Deaton cares about that! There, buddy, you are on your own.

Advanced Placement Hell

And so Scott attacks the problem of how to protect everyone the best way he knows how…with research! Haven't you all heard? Scott's book-smart now.

Not like his terror of a Biology teacher would know. I was all on her side the last couple of times she showed up—AP science bars are set high! The classes, and teachers, have to be tough. Future doctors and scientists have to learn to work hard and not take shortcuts! But this episode? She's a monster, belittling that nice girl Sydney who had panic attacks during the SAT/Deadpool contagion lockdown for using her phone to access the internet and learn information to answer a question about something not on the assigned reading that no one was expected to know (never punish someone for seeking knowledge and being excited about it!), and snapping Scott's confidence in two when he is literally taking notes on the thing she just started talking about and so is not immediately ready with an answer to her question about something else entirely.


No, he didn't do the reading from the night before. But in terms of scientific skills, the leap she made from his reaction to her conclusion is not one.

Anyway, she batters Scott's self-worth enough that he stops and picks up a drop slip from the front table on his way out. And you can tell from the way the teacher watches him that she doesn't WANT him to drop, that she probably does believe in his potential, but jeeeeeeze what a shitty way to show it.

Oh—and that thing he was taking notes on, that Sydney looked up on her phone to learn something new about? Chimaera, which are creatures with more than one species of DNA in their makeup, and derive from Greek myth, and should have been the number one word out of Deaton's mouth when he interrupted Scott and Kira's makeout session the night before. If I didn't know better, I'd say these adults don't want kids to know anything (remember Deaton's sister? LOL what a gem of a mentor).

Sinema Fight (AKA TEEN WOLF Dance Party #…5? It was pretty good, right?)

So now Scott and Kira are armed with a real path of research, which they rope Stiles and Malia into helping them on. Liam and Mason could probably have been roped in, too, but it is Friday and they are fifteen, so obviously they already have other plans to go party at the town's hottest weekly underage sexy dance club, Sinema. Where, obviously, their "in" is fifteen-year old Hayden, who is, ALSO OBVIOUSLY, a bar waitress. Sure, why not!



Liam is there as Mason's wingman (and co-pilot, and sexy flight attendant), because Mason is in a dry spell and Liam, having kept so many major secrets from him for so long, owes him one. Liam is not happy about this arrangement. Hayden is not happy about this arrangement. Mason's wallet, now fifty bribe-bucks lighter, is not happy about this arrangement. But Mason is happy about this arrangement! And sometimes that's all you can do for your best friend, is give them a night to be happy about. 

The club, in addition to having the very cool detail of old horror films being projected onto silver chain curtains, is suuuuuuper sexy. Like, I have never seen so many cut men in a state of half-dress since I dreamed Shane from Faking It's dreams one time. It is also a "mixed" club, sort of, but there's not really any chance of Liam finding someone there to flirt with. And it turns out Mason didn't even need him as a wingman, because Brett is here! And he is obviously more gregarious and more cut and more queer than little wolf Liam, so he tags in no problem.



Liam, meanwhile, knocks $200 worth of glass vial cocktails off of Hayden's tray (she is frantically poor, just like everyone last season), and catches hearing of someone off, but is not sharp enough to catch the dude before he makes his moves on Mason. Those moves being some nice tongue action, followed by monster scorpion stings from the dozens of monster spines along his arms and back.

Yep, we found our second hole-escapee! Another BHHS student, who was the shy one in his new puppy love relationship, but suddely turned aggressive before stinging his boyfriend and leaving him with a festering whole-forearm scorpion sting that it takes all of Scott's strength to pull the pain from. Luckily, Scott is able to pull enough pain from the boyfriend to get him conscious enough to relate what happened, and where the boyfriend is likely to be now (Sinema, duh), and Scott and Kira take off. No rest for the wickedly supernatural!

At the club, Brett caught sight of Mason being attacked before Liam did (although it was Liam who tipped him off to something ooky in the building in the first place), and he kicked Mason's attacker out of the way before any stinging could occur. By the time Scott and Kira join in the fray (Kira stopping a door alarm with her obsidian fox tail throwing star, prompting Scott to thoughtlessly say "I love you," and prompting her, in turn, to freak out at his characteristic thoughtless thoughtfulness), both Brett and Liam are in the fight, no one getting many solid blows in for fear of getting to close to the stinging spines.



Kira has the best go of it, given the longer reach with her sword, but that is eventually wrested from her grip. They all four of them finally manage to knock the kid out of his night terror attack, but while he lays on the ground, dazed, Kira's fire kitsune spirit envelops her—possesses her, really—and she shouts a battle cry in Japanese before swinging her blade down to separate the kid's head from his body. Scott stops her just in time, but the fox eyes that look to the true alpha wold in shock aren't Kira's; it takes too many long beats for her to come back to herself and realize what it was she was about to unwittingly do. 

Their mutual victory over saving an innocent life is short lived, though, and blood spurts from the kid's chest at the very moment, and the gang looks up to the rafters to see Malia's three Dread Doctors, one wielding some sort of harpoon gun. "Why did you do that!?!" Scott demands, the wind knocked out of him at the realization of his defeat. "His condition was…terminal," one of the Doctors drones. But just like with Donovan's questions on the operating table, Scott's shouted demands to know what that means are left unanswered.

Back at the hospital, as Scott assists Melissa in finalizing the details on the still-spined body ("I'm sure they'll come up with some explanation," Melissa sighs before sliding the tray into the coolr and closing the door), it becomes increasingly clear that Scott is freaking out about all the battles they have lost in just the last week, alone, and how resposible he feels for them all. He should have been there, should have known, should have helped.

"You're grandpa used to have a saying about should," Melissa interrupts. "You say it too much, and you just end up shoulding all over yourself." Yes, friends, that is the proto-Dad Joke: the Grandpa Joke, in its natural environment, twice as dumb as a Dad Joke, and passed down through word of mouth as wisdom.



It helps. As does Melissa's reminder to him that she supports his heroism, no matter where it takes him. She knows she can't talk him out of trying to help, and wouldn't try. But what she will do is ask him to articulate what it is he will do, rather than focus on what happened already that he can't change. And in most other cases I would argue against such open-ended advice, especially since the declaration it inspires is that Scott will save everyone, but Scott has made that dumb, too-ambitious declaration before! And he SUCCEEDED!

Scott, you can succeed at anything you set your mind to. Don't drop out of AP Bio.

Malia, Human

Shelley Hennig ended up with one of the most interesting and compelling performances this week, mostly silent and tentative and completely introspective. She turned fully compassionate in that moment she chose not to choke Tracy to death, and then had her certainty in her own reality upended by the appearance and disappearance of the Dread Doctors. She responds to this by closing in on herself, using her words only to ensure that everyone else in the pack knows what she saw. Other than that, she walks through their world, observing but barely participating.



When Stiles adds Tracy and the three masked figures to his mystery board, Malia stands and erases Who Is The Desert Wolf? When Stiles falls asleep on top of his Bestiary/Chimaera research in the school library while Scott and Kira are out rescuing Liam, Brett and Mason from Chimaera #2 (not Donovan), Malia is sitting in the middle of Tracy's silent bedroom in the dead Stewarts' silent house, trying to absorb everything about Tracy that made her her, and human.

Also, possibly, looking for any clues that Tracy knew what those three masked figures were, since you can tell that despite the fact that Scott and Stiles et al have no reason to disbelieve her, and despite the fact that Stiles added the masked figures to his mystery board, Malia still isn't convinced that they believe her—probably because she isn't convinced that she believes herself. She is being gaslit by monsters and humanity. Oof.

Luckliy (horribly) Malia does finally find the clue she is looking for: a pocket edition of an old pulp horror novel called The Dread Doctors, with a handwritten note on the cover from dead Tracy's dead dad saying that he found what she was asking about, and that it was silly, but fun. Like I said: horrible. 


The kicker this week is a mysterious figure entering the morgue from the opposite door, just as Melissa and Scott leave, heading straight for the drawer Melissa just closed. The camera descends and reorients itself to reveal…Parrish! In street clothes! Here to retrieve the chimaeric body and bring it to the Nemeton, where he will, as he has done so many times these last six months, use his mystery (phoenix) powers to burn it into oblivion.

Is EVERYONE in a waking nightmare? Good lord.

So what do you all think Parrish is? INNOCENT? In a waking nightmare? Totally in love with Lydia/pumping iron? All of the above?

And speaking of pumping iron…


The official Teen Wolf tumblr is the best of all show social media. Real talk.


<--Teen Wolf 5x03: Dreamcatchers

Teen Wolf 5x05: A Novel Approach-->

Categories: Tubin' Tags: mtvteen wolf
Alexis.'s photo About the Author: Alexis grew up in Wyoming, where she did NOT ride horses to school, but did write her IB extended essay on the youth of heroism in Peter Pan and Stargirl. In spite of this, she was shocked years later to realize how seriously she loved YA lit (blame the snobbery of academia for the blindness). She now lives in Washington DC, where she reads so much YA and MG she built a whole scavenger hunt around it.