Following the aftermath of Andy Tran’s murder on campus, Ben (Joel Allen) finds himself facing two homicide detectives. He had connections to Andy, so he’s a natural suspect (and the murderer, of course). He’s openly nervous but explains it away by confessing to a Level Y offense—smoking weed prior to the chaos. Either the detectives are gullible, or they think Ben will trip up again. They let him go.
Deeply paranoid, Esme (Paola Nunez) learns that the NFFA is certainly out to get her. They don’t like her snooping around. When she meets up with Darren (Denzel Whittaker), he’s wearing a wire but tips her off. She’s on the run, and even her former boss is keen on her capture, using private cams and citizen cell phones to track her. After several near misses, she ends up at the home of heist man Ryan (Max Martini). It’s a tense meeting but ends with Esme joining the team. Her knowledge is useful. Plus, she has no other options.
Speaking of needed vacations, Ben brings Kelen (Danika Yarosh) to his mother’s countryside home. Introductions ensue and we meet Ben’s older brother Logan (Joshua Mikel). Guess what? He’s kind of a bully. There’s no relief to be found, as he constantly digs at Ben’s childhood inadequacies. Over dinner, Ben snaps and yells, “I’d love to see what the Campus Killer would do to you!”
Oh, yes, his persona has a name now. A bit surprising since there’s only been one kill? But this is the world of the Purge, so I suppose off-Purging is so rarely reported that it’s a big deal. The opening segment from the “Bobby Sheridan Show” illustrates the NFFA’s commitment to covering up illegal murders, clarifying that the old man was indeed murdered by Ben (reported as a heat stroke but found buried). Sheridan (Dermot Mulroney!) and his co-host talk down to naysaying guest, Sydney (Hannah Alline), on the matter. Illegal crimes are a thing of the past! Afterward, they brag that they’re targeted by thousands of fans. “You’re nobody in America unless somebody wants to purge you,” Sheridan beams.
“Happy Holidays” furthers the dilemmas of each character, but none more so with Marcus (Derek Luke) and Michelle (Rochelle Aytes). Having identified his hit-lister as Sam (Jay Ali), Marcus takes the initiative and invites the man over (via Michelle’s cell). Sam arrives, but not alone. He’s brought his wife April (Rachel G. Whittle), who soon admits that she knows everything. “Everything?” Marcus asks, barely containing his contempt.
This is a great scene, with lots to quote. “My wife must’ve been some volcanic f*ck for you to take a hit out on me” is a better American Horror Story line than anything said in the recent 1984 arc. “I’ll get the duct tape,” is another, this time coming from Michelle who proves to be very eager to torture “the truth” out of Sam. This includes a face-to-stove top threat, where she quickly fires up the burner. When Sam accuses her of initiating the hit herself (while in bed with him), it’s definitely believable.
Marcus pulls an Unforgiven, promising to kill Sam’s entire generational line if Sam doesn’t remove the hit. He does, but only his money amount. “It wasn’t just me,” he says.
The episode ends with a gesture that the entire neighborhood is involved, as the camera moves to each nearby person, all sneering in Marcus’s direction. Jeez, the guy must’ve done something to piss everybody off. Did he forget to use a pooper scooper? Does Marcus even have a dog?