The Exorcist – Darling Nikki
By: Maggie Stankiewicz
Andy (John Cho) stares longingly into the eyes of his late wife, Nikki (Alicia Witt). They only exist together within the ramshackle walls of Andy’s altar of agony. He asks where Grace has gone, though he already knows the answer. “You sent her away,” she replies. He has condemned his visions of Grace in favor of Nikki.
Caleb (Hunter Dillon), Shelby (Alex Barima), Harper (Beatrice Kitsos), and Colleen (June B. Wilde) trudge through the words while they discuss Truck’s fate in wake of his violent somnambulant episode. It is revealed that he’ll be held for an undisclosed amount of time. Caleb thinks his best friend’s future is bleak. Harper straggles behind, hearing whispers from between the trees. She stops for a moment to entertain them but is beckoned back to reality.
Andy is still in the throes of his faux reunion with Nikki. He reopens the wounds of being left behind, but Nikki assures him that she’ll never leave again. This sounds more like a threat than a promise, but Andy is too entranced to recognize the brevity of the situation. As Andy turns away to tend to the kids, the demon dressed as Nikki stares at him, cold and blank.
Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) are preparing to rip at each other’s collars again. Marcus scolds Tomas for returning to the house against his wishes, but Tomas insists that the horrors he bore witness to the night before are a divine plea for help. When the gifted priest’s eyes gloss over, it is clear that he may still be in the in-between. In the bed of Marcus’ truck, Tomas sees the battered and bloodied bodies of small children, he watches a mother thrust her child into the well. Marcus grabs Tomas’ face in an attempt to ground his apprentice. Their bond is enough to bring him back.
These children, throughout the ages, he explains, have all been killed at the hands of someone they loved. These incidents were not random or isolated incidences of evil activity. They were carried out by a demon with the same modus operandi throughout the centuries. There is an ancient, powerful, malevolent demon in their midst and it looks like it has it’s talons stuck in Andy. A loving man responsible for several innocent souls.
Andy is nearly catatonic during his visit with Truck (Cyrus Arnold). Rose (Li Jun Li) has taken the lead in comforting the scared young boy, who admits that they have prescribed him drugs that make him tired – and that he only hurt Verity because the woman in his head told him to do so. Before he can go more in-depth, the doctor interrupts to escort Truck to another psychological evaluation. As he walks away, he begs Andy not to hate him, while all of our hearts break. Andy’s adopted a fatalistic point of view since reacquainting himself with his wife. He expresses his belief that Truck will not be rehabilitated and leaves Rose to spend some more quality time with his delusion.
“Darling” Nikki tells Andy that some kids can’t be fixed, while Rose watches from a distance. Is it just her, or does it look like he’s been talking to himself?
Caleb and Harper are having some quality sibling time in his room, where Caleb tells her how Truck’s nickname came to be as a happy accident. The conversation quickly turns to the validity of the Island Witch myth, but Andy interjects before Harper can get the details she hopes more.
Marcus, Tomas, and Rose are having a clandestine meeting by the infamous well. The priests are trying to appeal to Rose’s superstitious side while they discuss their suspicions. Rose remains skeptical, but is willing to admit that Andy has been acting peculiar. The men finally address the elephant in the room, telling Rose that they believe a primordial evil with a hunger for children has targeted Andy’s family. If they can observe the behavior and perform an exorcism, they can save them all before it’s too late.
Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) approaches Andy to ask about Truck. There is genuine concern in her heart, and she declares that she will not press charges – she wants him to come home. Andy says that he can no longer help Truck, and Verity retreats. The bruises around her neck have darkened, much like the shadows cast upon Andy’s soul.
Rose enters the home with Tomas and Marcus to notify him that they will be guests at dinner. Andy is shaken by the company and finds himself alone in the kitchen with Nikki, who tells him that Rose invited the priests to tear them apart.
A nurse hooks up a bag of fluids to an IV before leaving the room of her anonymous patient. Upon her exit, she is rendered unconscious by Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) while Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiwan)looks on. They enter the room, and it is revealed that the patient in none other than an extremely possessed, sickened Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald).
Andy has cooked up and served a cheesy dinner for the family. Shelby requests that Father Tomas say grace before they eat. Tomas obliges, but Andy mocks Tomas and mumbles under his breath. Harper and Verity grow increasingly uncomfortable. Harper reveals that the men are exorcists who helped her when her mother went crazy. Once again, Andy mocks their profession and invalidates their very purpose. It is clear he is attempting to disengage the priests, and raise the defenses of the children. He even goes so far as to mention the harmful events that have occurred at the hands of religious extremists. He goes too far, directed the conversation to Verity and the conversion therapy she endured for being gay. Tomas apologizes to Verity for what happened to her, while Marcus implores them to leave the children out of the discussion.
Back in Chicago, it is clear that Maria Walters is dead and gone. The demon residing in her body antagonizes Mouse and Bennett – suggesting that the war has already been lost. Mouse doesn’t care, and instead hooks up an IV of Holy Water to the demon’s hookup. The demon begin to hemorrhage from the dosage, laughing all the while.
Marcus and Harper have a few tender moments to themselves, with the kind priest asking about unusual activity. Harper mentions the voices she heard in the woods the night before. Marcus assures her that it was just her imagination before entering into yet another heated conversation with Andy. Tomas and Rose are also present in the room, listening to Andy undermine their authority. Marcus is not one to be challenged, and expertly handles Andy’s objections. It is clear that Marcus knows exactly what he is doing, and that each exchange is at least a little bit calculated. The goal of Tomas and Marcus is to elicit an emotional response from Andy, in order to assess the severity of the suspect possession…and it’s working.
Andy gets a little too emotional at one of Marcus’ probing questions and Nikki flashes behind Andy, who gets up to serve some tea. As Andy pour Tomas’ tea, he has a vision of his tea cup filling up with blood. Tomas exits the room to compose himself while Marcus continues his clandestine interrogation.
Marcus brings up the rock from “Grace’s” room, the one that seems to have sparked an interest in Andy. Nikki manifests behind Marcus and urges Andy to remain silent. There is more to this geode than meets the eye. Andy cannot keep his eyes off of it. The room is growing more crowded with each passing moment. Andy stands to challenge Marcus, who meets his position and stares him down. Nikki appears behind Rose, whispering words of betrayal to Andy. She is trying to convince him that everyone is working against him.
Marcus urges Andy to fight the demon’s grasp on him, but it’s no use. As long as the demon looks like Nikki, he will come to her beck and call.
Our favorite men of the cloth are returning to their vehicle, plotting on how to best remove Andy from the children. They discuss sneaking back in when the lights go out to remove him by force. Tomas agrees, but he has other things on his mind. He is struck by an intense wave of fear, telling Marcus that his visions are a curse, not a gift from God. Marcus holds his cub’s hand, and they pray together. We can only hope God is listening.
Father Bennett is at Maria’s bedside, urging her to provide them with the information they need. The demon offers itself up to Bennett, but he passes. The demon teases that Marcus’ little cub, Tomas, is being primed for possession. In that moment, the demon takes on Marcus’ voice to taunt Mouse, suggesting that she is hiding a few skeletons in her closet. Mouse is clearly shaken as the demon urges Bennett to ask her about an event that transpired 20 years ago. On impulse, Mouse kills the demon. The impact pushes Bennett back and he suffers a severe puncture wound, but it will not be fatal.
Rose and Andy convene in the kitchen, and he is not pleased. She defends her actions by expressing concern for Andy’s behavior, which he rationalizes with the stress he’s been living under. He tells Rose that he did not process his grief properly (gee, ya think?!), and that is has been coming back to the surface once again. He proceeds to distract her from the conversation by seducing her in a fit of passion.
Harper awakens in the still of the night, only to be ambushed by her mother Lorraine (Rochelle Greenwood) from within the house.
Rose and Andy are preparing to get frisky in his bedroom, but Andy stops. He imagines Nikki’s hands around Rose’s neck. Nikki then appears in bed beside Rose, and Andy stops in his tracks.
Concurrently, Lorraine attempts to usher Harper out of the house. Harper declines the offer, and her mother’s rage swells. Harper declines again, more adamantly, until Lorraine pulls out a large knife. Harper’s consent was never going to be taken into consideration. Harper is pulled down the stairs by her mother, but they’re cut off by Marcus and Tomas.
Nicole is not pleased with Andy’s attempt at getting jiggy with Rose, filling the home with the energy of a poltergeist. Rose, Harper, Marcus, and Tomas are caught in the crossfire, defying gravity. The demon suspends them in mid-air, then releases them. It has its sights set on Rose, and lifts her up once again.
In the hallway, Marcus and Tomas fight to get Harper to safety while the other children watch in horror. Windows have broken, rain is falling, lightning is flashing. Harper’s mother scrambles to regain control of her weapon, but Andy picks it up. There is an indescribable deadness in his eyes. He lifts Lorraine in the air with ease and slides the knife into her abdomen – killing her viciously in front of his entire family. His bloodied hand touches the wall – a stain like the one left on his soul.
He falls to his knees, a guttural growl emanating from his mouth. Has he let it in? There’s no time to tell. Marcus and Tomas spring into action, crosses in hand.
And with that…the episode comes to a startling conclusion.