‘Stranger Things’ Season Three, Episode Four Recap: “The Sauna Test”
So far this season we’ve seen El(even) adapt to the human world by spying on boys, having a makeover with a new wardrobe to boot… but she has yet to brush her teeth.
Episode four starts off with exactly that. As the rain hits the roof of Hopper’s house, we think things are starting to get a tad normal before Billy’s voice echoes in El’s ear and an editing sequence fills us in on everything we know thus far: Billy’s off-kilter, and Heather is in trouble.
But El’s currently in the midst of doing another really human thing — a girly sleepover with Max — that she puts her Mind Flayer senses aside after some reassurance. And dives into the world of Wonder Woman.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Driscoll is being restrained and carted off to the hospital as a horrified Nancy and Jonathan look on. She twists and shouts, and reaches out her hand just before we’re outside of the ambulance and into the warehouse where the Hawkins Post boss Tom has just woken up next to his wife.
Heather crouches down to take off the handkerchief around her daddy’s mouth, and he reprimands her. Falling onto brainwashed ears, the plan is set into motion and the two are left with the monster emerging from the shadows. Its claws lunge at their heads and begin to attach onto them.
On the list of people who are unaware of what is currently happening, Hopper wakes up on his couch. Joyce, who’s spent the night helping him recover, rushes over to check him. Questioning where his clothes are after he stands up, Hopper towers over Joyce who looks away sheepishly. Instead of discussing the sexual tension between them, the Russian spy talk winds up. After going over the events of the previous night, Joyce says that she copied down the license plate numbers of the thug’s motorcycle… or at least, some of the numbers.
On the other list of people who have some idea about what’s going on in Hawkins, Lucas is trying to get the attention of a disgruntled and very sleepy Max through a walkie talkie. It goes to static. It is only when Mike calls her on the phone, telling her to come to his house, that she starts to get a little freaked out and realizes something must actually be wrong.
Lucas then tries to get into contact with Dustin (they’re not exactly on the best of terms right now) who, on top of everything else, is currently eyeballing the said spies through binoculars as he is sprawled out on the roof of the Starcourt Mall. Guns, key cards, and ominous boxes can only spell trouble, but he’s in mission mode.
So, too, are Robin and a chest-perked-up Steve who believes he can knock out the guards… who have massive guns. Dustin asks Steve if he’s ever won a fight in his life…ever. Paying no mind to their banter, Robin rushes to the Scoops Ahoy register and takes the majority of the tip jar. She has an idea.
Nancy and Jonathan sit outside of Tom’s office. He’s a little mad, but he’s also not himself as sweat drips from his forehead. Apparently, when it comes to tricking the elderly into thinking you’re reporters to land a story your boss doesn’t want you to go ahead with, it can cost you your job. Nancy and Jonathan walk out of the Hawkins Post unemployed.
At Mike’s, Will is surrounded by everyone, and he explains to the circle the feeling he experienced at the back of his neck when they were at the movies. “You know when you drop on a rollercoaster?” He asked. Everyone gives him a resounding yes except for El. “It’s like everything inside your body is sinking all at once, but this is worse. Your body, it goes cold. And you can’t breath.” Will thinks its the Mind Flayer. El reminds him that she locked the gate. But what if it never left? What if there is a new host?!
Hopper storms into Mayor Larry’s office. At first, he tries to uncover the mystery of the Russian spy/military man by asking questions, and then threatening, and when that doesn’t go to plan, he puts option Z into motion which is to break the Mayor’s nose. Larry isn’t spilling and Hopper has to take it up another notch. Hopper starts to get answers from the Mayor when he threatens to remove one of his fingers with his cigar cutter: our mystery man works for Stockwood, who owns the mall.
Robin returns with her tip-jar purchase: a copy of the complete blueprints of the Starcourt Mall. While our heroes aren’t able to walk straight into the sooper-sekrit room, they can crawl to it using air ducts. More specifically, a Gumby-like Dustin (“I’m pretty sure it’s ‘gum-bo,'” Steve tells Robin) who is missing his collarbones believes he can fit into the tiny space. But one push of his butt from Steve into the vent (brotps doing it for themselves), and it doesn’t seem to be the case. However, remember Erica? She is both small and still thinking about ice cream.
The group is now at the Hawkins pool, spying on Billy. They realize that Billy wearing an actual shirt is very out of character for him. When Max says that lounging at the pool is the “least Mind Flayer thing ever,” Will explains that isn’t necessarily the case: it waits in the back of the host’s mind before wrestling to the surface and taking over their body. Rather than waiting for the next attack, Will leads the boys to the sauna inside the locker room. The plan is to trap the Mind Flayer inside and fry him.
At the mall, Erica is currently inspecting the air duct. This girl is both cunning and smart: she very well knows she’s able to fit into the tight space, but seeing how the mission is dire, there must be a way she can reap the benefits. After Erica gives a brief primer on Capitalism 101, Robin reluctantly agrees to provide Erica with a lifetime supply of Scoops Ahoy ice cream, in return for her vent crawling skills.
Hopper and Joyce are still playing hostage with Mayor Larry and have now taken him to his house for more answers. All of the properties that Stockwood has bought are located in southeast Hawkings, right near Jordan Lake and the powerplant. Putting on their theory caps, they work out the power outage is linked with the broken magnets. There also may be some flirting between these two on the agenda: the way Hopper tilts his head and gives her the slightest smirk is enough for us to jump on board the Jopper ship.
Nancy is having a heart-to-heart talk with her mother in their kitchen. It is a beautiful moment between the two about the struggles women face in the world and the idea of not succumbing to what another person thinks we’re capable of. These people can be found anywhere. For Nancy, it is her previous work peers, and for her mother it’s her friends. The point is, the power comes when we believe in ourselves enough so we’re able to persist. It’s what Nancy is planning to do, voicing that she’ll finish her investigation and publish the article.
Back at the pool, the circle is gathering the items they need in order to trap shirted Billy… one of which is a lifelike dummy El grabs from Mike after he takes it from her hands. (These two are still in a squabble.) Mike admits to having lied about his grandma because Hopper “made him” do it. El points out that he may be right because she should be spending more time with girls seeing as the two sexes are “different species,” something she overheard Mike saying the other day.
At the mall, Operation Child Endangerment (Can you guess who thought up that name?) is in action as Erica crawls through the air vents with the others talking to her via a headset. She eventually makes it to the target room and, seeing no boobytraps, enters where the boxes are lined up on the table. She opens the main door to let her cohorts in. “Free ice cream for life,” she reiterates.
Billy is standing in the locker room, drying himself off from his shower when he hears noises coming from the opposing rooms. He walks out to the hallway and realizes he’s locked in and it’s Mike’s voice. Hunting him, he is lead into the sauna room where the lifelike dummy is sitting, this time with a voice recorder strapped around its bodice. Before he’s able to work out what’s happening, El slams him against the wall and closes the door. Billy gazes over to his sister in horror. Then the heat is turned up substantially.
Over at the hospital, Nancy is bringing flowers to Mrs. Driscoll. Sure, she had to lie again to be able to see her but that all comes with being an undercover reporter, right? Mrs. Driscoll begins to have breathing problems. Her heartrate starts spiking, and Nancy starts to get very concerned.
Inside the secret room, Steve opens a box to see what’s inside. Before he does though, he tells everyone to back up, just in case. Dustin lays on the friendship feels and tells him, “If you die, I die.” Steve pulls out what looks to be some sort of DNA, in glowing green goo. As they’re looking over the vials of whateveritis, the ground shakes, the lights flicker, and the room starts to free fall. They’re in an elevator that’s dropping hundreds of feet.
In the sauna room, Billy tells his sister to let him out, spitting and slamming his fist against the small glassed-over peephole. He falls to the ground and begins to weep, saying over and over that none of this is his fault. The Shadow made him do it. Dacre Montgomery is incredible in this scene: he almost convinces us that Billy crept his way through and is trying to let his sister console him, when really it’s the Mind Flayer trying to manipulate the one person who cares about Billy the most.
Will feels the goosebumps on the back of his neck, and Mike warns Max to step back. Billy breaks through the glass and he is able to reach the pipe blocking the door. Lucas takes him out with his slingshot.
The lights flicker, and the black outline on Billy’s body grows with each movement of his body. So, too, with Mrs. Driscoll in the hospital, as if they were connected. Nancy is frightened and calls for assistance, watching on as the other’s eyes turn to black.
El holds her friends back as Billy charges for the doorand successfully breaks through. He stands there for a minute and El takes advantage of this opportunity to use the pipe to push him against the brick wall. Blood runs down her nose, and the screams between Mrs. Driscoll and Billy grow with momentum to the point where he’s able to lift the bar and throw it across the room. Lifting El by her hair, he begins to choke her out. Mike hits him over the head once, but when he tries again, Billy easily grabs the bar and stops him. Then it’s really on.
El lifts Billy into the air with all the strength she can muster, moving around so her back is finally to Mike, protecting him. Then she throws him over to the brick wall, and his body smashes through. Distraught and tired, El collapses into Mike’s arms. Billy runs away.
If we think things can’t get crazier than that, we’re about to be sorely mistaken. “The girl, was it her?” Heather asks Billy. “Yeah, it was her. She knows now. She knows about me.” The two sit in a cage, Heather with a cloth about to place it onto Billy’s cut when he halts her by grabbing onto her wrist. As the camera pans out, people appear, dozens of them… reminiscent of Billy’s first interaction with the Upside Down, and each person is linked to the Mind Flayer.
Catch tomorrow’s recap of episode five “The Flayed,” and watch the latest season of Stranger Things on Netflix now!