The Irrational is back! Though we haven’t seen Alec & Co. in action since November, Episode 8 picks up like no time has passed, thrusting us deep into an arson/murder case that dredges up lots of fiery terribleness for Dr. Mercer. And we get a huge, albeit potentially bananas, update on who was actually behind the church bombing. Read on for the highlights of “Scorched Earth.”
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE… | Alec gets a call from his burn specialist, who’d like Alec to help with Izzy, a patient who has just incurred similarly debilitating burns over most of her body. To make matters worse, a friend she was with was killed in the fire. “You want me to give her the ‘It’s going to be all right’ speech,” Alec says resignedly. He’s sympathetic as he reassures Izzy that she will heal and her life will go on, but she informs him that she’s not sure she deserves that. She explains that she and the friend who died, Chris, were supposed to go to a party but she wanted to be alone with him. So instead, they broke into an empty house, had a few drinks and lit some candles. While they were making out, they must’ve knocked over a drink that soon interacted with the candles; the flames soon overtook the couple. “I killed Chris,” she tearfully tells Alec. But he is quick to point out that the vodka sodas they were drinking don’t contain enough alcohol to account for the strength of the fire.
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Back at his office, though, Alec points out that his own biases — empathy for Izzy, lack of closure in the case that left him permanently scarred — may be causing him to see a crime where there is none. So he enlists Phoebe and Rizwan to help him investigate. Based on the way the house burned, they theorize that someone poured out an accelerant in the basement and lit it, which means we’re looking at arson and homicide.
WHO BENEFITS? | Marisa comes on board, and she and Alec talk to the young deputy fire marshal. He’s apologetic, saying his relative inexperience made him to assume that the paraffin residue they found around the house came from the candles. Turns out, Izzy’s candles were soy and couldn’t have left that residue. A conversation with the three daughters of the home’s previous (and now deceased) owner points them toward Chris’ vengeful ex, but that turns out to be a bust. Then three more fires break out simultaneously, all set with the same liquid paraffin that was used in the house blaze.
Off a tip from a local Episcopal church staffer, whom they’d talked to because the house of faith had at one point been interested in buying the three sisters’ land, Alec and Marisa check out a shelter and soup kitchen in the vicinity of the fires. They think they’ve found their man when they hear about a pyromaniac malcontent, but the guy’s RV is torched — and he’s dead — when they arrive. Alec points out that the man was known to use matches, and this fire was set with a lighter (the burned shell of which is among the ashes). The deputy fire marshal posits that it’s all too neat, and that maybe the real arsonist planted incriminating evidence in the trailer to frame the guy.
Alec later realizes that he’s been looking at the investigation in the wrong way: He’s been thinking about who’ll benefit most from the fires, rather than who’ll be hurt the most by them. And that leads him back to the homeowner’s daughters, one of whom worked at the shelter and knew the dead arsonist. Turns out that Molly, the daughter in question, was mad because she and her sisters couldn’t come to a consensus about what to do with their father’s property. “She torched the house to punish them,” Alec says in summary.
While the marshal and Marisa go to see Molly again, Alec hangs back to talk on the phone with Izzy, who is despondent and in a lot of pain. While he’s consoling her, though, he realizes that the trailer housing the fire marshal’s office is on fire… and the door is chained shut from the outside.
WELL THAT COULD HAVE GONE BADLY | Alec tries not to panic as he simultaneously searches for a way out and has flashbacks to the explosion at the church. Eventually, he is left with only one option: Pull a protective fire blanket over his head and run through the flames to safety. As he’s getting checked out by EMTs afterward (he’s OK!), the marshal and Marisa collar Molly, who’s likely going to jail for a very long time.
With that sorted, Marisa is free to worry over Alec. He jokingly tells her “that’s not your job anymore,” so she asks if she should call Rose. He informs her that Rose is still in Paris on a case, then reassures her that he’s fine. “I promise, when I have something to say about all of this, I will,” he adds. Relieved, she hugs him before leaving to interrogate Molly.
Back at the hospital, Alec lets Izzy know that she had no fault in the fire and Chris’ death. “Then why do I still feel guilty?” she wonders. “Survivor’s guilt,” he tells her sadly. “You survived with someone else didn’t, and for no good reason.” Then he admits that, 20 years after his burns, “I still have a lot of emotional ground to cover,” and that he’s been placating her as a way to distance himself from reliving the pain of his own injuries. They both cry as he tells her she has to accept that her old life is over, but to take heart in the notion that the worst thing that can happen to her… has. (It’s actually kinda uplifting, I promise.) “If you can get to the other side of this,” he says, “you can do anything you want.” (See what I mean?)
AN UPDATE ON ALEC’S CASE | While all of this is going on, the FBI gets confirmation that Matthias, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing that hurt Alec, was indeed the unseen man who scared Wes Banning at his parole hearing. And later, Jace puts forth a theory that he admits is not easily believed: That the candidate whose campaign event was held at the church that night was involved in the bombing; after all, he wasn’t ahead in the polls before the tragedy, but after the Black community turned out in droves in response to the violence, he certainly was. A shocked Marisa is unconvinced, and Jace himself admits the theory is farfetched. But with all of their other hypotheses trashed, “How do we not pursue?” he wonders. And even though the politician in question is now a four-term sitting senator, Marisa reluctantly agrees that they should look into it. (Hear what Jesse L. Martin had to say about the mystery’s impending wrap-up — and its aftermath — here.)
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