In the penultimate episode of the latest season of Stranger Things, our heroes meet the Mind Flayer face to face. But can Team Scoops Ahoy make it back to the surface in time to help? Will Hopper and Joyce figure out how to break into the impenetrable lair that Dustin and Erica broke into with ease? And will Lucas ever get the chance to prove to his sister that he is capable of greatness?
Let’s recap “The Bite.”
Spoilers ahead, so beware!
The Fun Fair has arrived in Hawkins, Indiana, and the whole town is celebrating the 4th of July. Mayor Kline thanks the townsfolk for showing up and kicks off the festivities. Meanwhile, the Wheeler family (sans Mike, who’s still with El) is at the top of the ferris wheel, watching the spectacular fireworks display. But little Holly sees something in the trees. The treetops are moving too violently for there to be no wind. And she knows it.
At Hopper’s, El explains to the others what the Mind Flayer had told her — that he is building an army to stop El and her friends. Everyone realizes that El is the only thing standing in the Mind Flayer’s way and that, with her out of the way, the Mind Flayer can accomplish anything. Therefore, El must be protected at all costs.
Outside, the tree-thrashing Mind Flayer is making his way to Hopper’s cabin, and everyone prepares for a fight.
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Back at the Russian underground lair, Dustin and Erica carry a very stoned Robin and Steve to safety via a cart. They arrive at the elevator that took them down to the lair all those episodes ago, and Dustin programs the elevator to return them to the surface into the Starcourt Mall. During their ride to the top, Dustin and Erica realize Robin and Steve aren’t just idiots — they must have been drugged against their will. Therefore, trying to accomplish simple tasks for them, like locating Steve’s car or… talking coherently, is nearly impossible.
Back at Hopper’s, everyone gathers weapons of all kinds and waits for the Mind Flayer’s arrival. They board up the doors and windows and stand, Avengers-style, and wait. Lamps begin to shake, dishes begin to rattle, and then the fight is on. Paired with Nancy’s shotgun and Jonathan’s and Lucas’s ax work, El’s powers do well to hold off the Mind Flayer. But in the fight, she is injured — bitten on her leg — but she and everyone ultimately escape. When the Mind Flayer tucks tail and runs after suffering a severe ass-kicking, everyone piles into Nancy’s car, and they race off to get El some medical attention.
Back at Starcourt, Team Scoops Ahoy has been spotted by some armed Russians (none of whom are blond, by the way), but they evade them by hiding amongst the safety of a darkened sold-out movie theater. (Back to the Future is playing.) Robin and Steve are sufficiently mesmerized by the on-screen Delorian action to stay put, and Dustin leaves Erica in charge of babysitting them while he searches for help via his walkie talkie.
Hopper, Joyce, Murray, and Alexei/Smirnoff are racing back to Hawkins and are discussing with the Russian how they should go about stopping the laser machine from reopening the gate and closing it for good. But throughout the conversation, Hopper and Joyce continue their bickering and yelling, which finally pushes Murray to the point of offering unsolicited, albeit sound, relationship advice. He suggests they just “GET IT OVER WITH ALREADY” and sleep together. Hopper and Joyce are both horrified at the insinuation (or are they embarrassed to have been found out?), and Murray and Alexei/Smirnoff share a good laugh at their expense.
El and the gang break in to a supermarket and raid the first-aid supplies. El’s bite looks really bad, and she’s losing a significant amount of blood. Max takes over the medical assignments — “I skateboard; trust me.” — and everyone scatters to gather their items. Nancy and Jonathan pair off and discuss the fight ahead of them. They realize that in order to kill the Mind Flayer, everyone who’s been flayed must perish with him. Will and Lucas search for a bowl but are confused when there aren’t any in the cereal aisle. “What else do we use a bowl for?!” Lucas exclaims. When they turn the corner, they see a stack of delicious fireworks, and Lucas starts stocking them up to use against the Mind Flayer — a plan that Max thinks is totally stupid.
Mike waits with El in the first aid aisle. He tells El that she’ll end up with a “bitchin'” scar, which pleases El. Mike then takes the opportunity to apologize for his words earlier that El overhead while she was mindscaping. He tells her that being broken up with her caused him to be angry and to say stupid things that he didn’t mean. He also tries to blame love for his feelings, without uttering the actual word “love.” “You know what they say… blank makes you crazy….” But El can’t guess the word for “blank” correctly.
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And just when Mike is about to confess his love for El by using the word “love,” Dustin crackles in through the walkie talkie. Contact has been made! But Dustin talks too fast and the connection is too shaky for Mike to make out anything at all. Dustin gives up and rushes back into the movie theater to grab everyone… but Steve and Robin are gone from their seats.
The inebriated pair are outside, in the lobby, drinking water from a water fountain as if they’ve never had water before in their lives. They are also trying to understand the plot of Back to the Future, and Steve is very confused as to why “Future” is in the title if the movie takes place in the past. While they get distracted by the lights in the ceiling that are blurred and twirling in their heads, thanks to their impaired mental states, nausea sets in and the pair rush off to the bathroom.
Back at the Fun Fair, Hopper and Co. pull into a parking lot. Hopper and Joyce rush off to find the kids, while Murray and Alexei/Smirnoff wait in the Cadillac. Mayor Kline sees the group is back in town, and he runs to his car to call the “commie bastards” on the world’s largest car phone ever.
Back at the supermarket, El is now trying to mindscape and locate the Mind Flayer. Meanwhile, Lucas and Mike get into a heated, whispered argument about Coke vs. new Coke. Lucas prefers new Coke, and Mike can’t understand why. Lucas compares it to John Carpenter’s The Thing vs. the remake. Sure, Coke is the classic, but new Coke is “sweeter, bolder… better.” Mike is so flummoxed by Lucas’s argument that the two start yelling at each other. Needless to say, El can’t concentrate and gives up on the mindscaping.
The group packs up and leaves. But as they do, we see a small pool of El’s blood in the aisle, and it starts to move and morph. And a few minutes later, a flayed Billy enters the supermarket, seemingly able to now track El’s location, thanks to that bite on her leg. This means the group has nowhere to hide.
In the Starcourt Mall bathroom, Robin and Steve have gotten themselves together and seem to be sober. Their conversation turns to love and past relationships. Steve admits that he was in love with Nancy but is not any longer. When Robin asks why, he says that he’s found someone else that he now likes — someone he didn’t even talk to in school, but he has spent his summer with this girl who’s hilarious and smart and is capable of cracking top secret Russian codes.
While Robin hears Steve’s confession, she seems to have a pained look on her face. He asks her what she thinks about what he just admitted to, and she tells him that he shouldn’t waste his time. If he really knew her, he wouldn’t want to be friends with her. This shocks Steve and he disagrees with her, but she goes on to explain that she didn’t have a crush on him in high school; instead, she had a crush on Tammy Thompson, who had a crush on Steve in high school. Steve can’t quite put 2 and 2 together (“But Tammy Thompson’s a girl…”), but a few seconds later, he realizes what she’s been trying to tell him.
And as any true friend would do, he starts giving her a hard time for liking Tammy Thompson who wants to be a singer but can’t hold a tune. He then starts to mock Tammy’s singing, which throws them both into a fit of laughter. Soon, Dustin and Erica find them in the bathroom laughing hysterically, not realizing that they are actually no longer stoned.
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At the fair, Alexei is wanting to play all of the games, and Murray is explaining that the games are actually rigged. This doesn’t deter Alexei, who just wants to participate in the all American fun. So Murray buys some game tickets for Alexei anyway, and the two venture off. Meanwhile, Joyce and Hopper spot the Wheeler family on one of the rides and rush to them to ask them where everyone is. Mrs. Wheeler says she doesn’t know exactly where everyone is, or at whose house everyone is staying.
At Starcourt, a reunited and sober Team Scoops Ahoy tries to leave the mall without being detected by the armed Russians. But they’re spotted in a crowd, and the chase is on.
Alexei has won a very large Woody Woodpecker stuffed doll at the darts game and races to find Murray to tell him that the games are not rigged after all. From several dozen feet away, Murray sees his Russian friend and cheers his winnings. But Grigori the Russian Terminator has spotted Alexei. With a silenced gun, Grigori shoots Alexei in the chest, and Murray witnesses the whole thing.
Murray runs around the fairgrounds and eventually finds Hopper and Joyce and tells them what happened. At that moment, Hopper sees Grigori and his goons closing in on him. He tells Joyce to get the car and bring it around back. He then leads the Russians into the ‘Big Top’ fun house. After confusing them through the hall of mirrors and evading gunfire, Hopper makes it out of the house (with a walkie talkie from one of the goons) and catches up with Joyce and Murray. As they drive off, they tell Hopper that Alexei has died. They also hear the goons over the walkie talkie say that the kids have been located at Starcourt Mall.
At the mall, Team Scoops Ahoy is hiding behind the counter of one of the food court restaurants. One of the armed Russians sees them in a reflection and calls his men over to them. As they slowly circle the kids, a new car on display in the middle of the mall lobby starts to go bonkers: the horn is honking, and the alarm is going off. The goon looks up at the second floor balcony and sees a teenage girl with a bloody nose. El then throws the car on top of the armed Russians.
Team Scoops Ahoy slowly gets up from behind the counter and realizes what’s happened. And Dustin and his friends are reunited once again.
After the hugs, everyone in the group tries to catch up everyone else in the group. Dustin explains that Robin cracked the Russian codes (“Russians?! What Russians?!” says Jonathan); Steve explains to Robin that El was the one who threw the car (“She threw it with her mind. Come on, catch up….”); and Lucas is confused why his sister is even there (“Blame them. It’s their fault,” Erica explains, pointing to Steve and Robin).
But El walks away from the group, very upset about something. She grabs her head and collapses. When the others ask her what’s wrong, she says it’s her leg. Mike pulls up her pants leg and sees something moving under the bite wound.
Will El and the gang be able to battle the Mind Flayer? Will Joyce, Hopper, and Murray make it to the mall in time to help? And what in the world is that thing moving in El’s leg?!
Stay tuned for our recap of the final episode of season three, “The Battle of Starcourt,” and watch Stranger Things on Netflix now!