Hello, Prodigies! This week, it seems like everyone is out to get the Whitlys (though, really, what else is new?). Ainsley has an eventful first day reporting from the studio, Jessica makes a series of interesting choices, and Malcolm makes a decision that could change the show forever. Bellamy Young carries this episode, providing a window into Jessica’s thinking and the ways her ex-husband’s crimes still impact her. Halston Sage also finally gets an episode showing Ainsley in her element, which adds a lot to the character’s arc. Without further ado, here’s the recap of “Eye of the Needle.”
The episode opens with a college-aged Malcolm (complete with a hilarious hairstyle meant to make Tom Payne look younger) conducting an interview with his father. After some banter, Malcolm asks his father what in the room he could use to kill Malcolm if he wanted to. Martin hesitates initially, saying he could never hurt his son. But after some goading, he starts to name off some methods. But then Martin turns the tables on Malcolm, asking if Malcolm could kill him. Malcolm hesitates before saying no.
In the present, Malcolm, Jessica, and Ainsley are having another family meal. Jessica is glad Malcolm finally took a break, even if all he did was stay inside and read books instead of the getaway she originally planned (relatable). Ainsley has to leave early for work; it’s her first day reporting from the studio at the anchor desk. Jessica and Malcolm discuss the reward she offered for information on the girl in the box, with Jessica mentioning that she has a meeting with a tipster at a carousel. Malcolm, for once exhibiting a sense of self-preservation, insists that he accompany her so she’s not alone when she goes to meet the anonymous caller.
They head to the carousel where Jessica arranged to meet the informant. It’s appropriately deserted and creepy, and when the carousel turns on Malcolm notices something is wrong. He tells his mother not to look as a dead body sitting on a carousel horse comes into view. But Jessica sees the body and screams. He calls in the squad for backup. When they arrive, JT quips “Be honest, did you kill this guy just to get back to work?” Edrisa is thrilled to see Malcolm after his two weeks off. She tries to gently tease him, but it comes across as weirdly aggressive. Malcolm just laughs and says he missed her too. Edrisa also contributes that the victim had his throat slit and was likely killed in another location and moved to the carousel. His fingerprints have been burned off, so it will take some to ID him. The prevailing theory is that the caller wanted Jessica to be the one to find the body.
Meanwhile, Ainsley is trying to have an uneventful first day when the killer calls the station, specifically asking for Ainsley to answer the call. At first, Ainsley hesitates, not wanting to give an alleged killer a platform (glad we suddenly care about that). But the station wants the ratings, and the NYPD will also want the potential evidence the call could provide. She goes on the air, and the killer calls in. He’s your garden-variety pretentious killer, wanting notoriety and taking direct aim at the Whitlys. Ainsley is composed on the air until the caller starts attacking Jessica directly. He notes that Jessica offered a million-dollar reward for information on the girl in the box. He wants that money, or he will kill again.
In prison, Martin turns on the news and is delighted to see his little girl taking on this big assignment. Gil, Malcolm, and the team are informed about the interview and send Malcolm to the station to assist Ainsley. When he starts to tell Ainsley what questions to ask if the killer calls again, she shuts him down. She’s a journalist, and she knows how to do her job. Malcolm theorizes that whoever this is has a specific vendetta against his family, so the team starts looking into disgruntled relatives of Martin’s victims. Jessica wants to pay the killer and be done with it. She’s concerned about even more violence being done in the Whitly name. Gil cautions her, telling her that the NYPD has a policy never to pay a ransom and that this killer could be manipulating her. Jessica pretends to heed this advice, but heads to the bank.
Gil and JT go to visit a store owner who had a relative die at Martin Whitly’s hands and later sued the family. He denies having anything to do with the incident but does note that his brother never got over The Surgeon’s crime. Gil and JT suspect that this brother might be the one threatening Jessica.
Meanwhile, Martin has decided to call into the station, wanting to talk to Ainsley. The producer is thrilled since their ratings have skyrocketed. Dani calls the network out for their willingness to profit off of the murder, but the producer isn’t interested in moral reflection when there are ratings involved. Ainsley reluctantly puts Martin on the air, where he has a lot of theories about this killer. Ainsley asks why they should trust a diagnosed narcissist, and Martin gets the line of the episode when he retorts, “even a broken psyche is right twice a day.” He believes the killer doesn’t really want the money, but before he can elaborate his phone time runs out. But Ainsley isn’t given any relief as the killer calls in again. The killer states that Jessica has thirty minutes to drop off the money where she first met Martin. Malcolm asks Jessica where that spot is, but since she’s secretly trying to pay the ransom she refuses to tell him. Ainsley manages to catch him off guard with a few questions and keep the killer on the line, giving the NYPD enough time to track his location. Gil and the team run to stop Jessica and catch the killer.
Jessica heads to the park where she met Martin holding a bag of cash (the bag might even be worth more than the money inside it). The killer calls her; he’s on top of a nearby building with a hostage. He says he’ll push the man over the ledge if she doesn’t scatter the million dollar ransom around the park. She’s incredulous, but wanting to save the man’s life she does what the killer says. As other people in the park start swarming Jessica to get the money, Gil arrives and pulls her out of the throng. They both notice that the killer pushed the man anyway. The victim is the brother of the store owner, so he couldn’t have been the killer.
They leave the scene, and Jessica promises not to interfere again as long as Malcolm and Gil promise to catch the killer and stop the violence. She’s distraught that everything she tries to do to help has backfired. Malcolm decides to visit Martin, thinking that maybe the killer is related to a victim they haven’t identified yet. As Jessica sits in the car to go home, she gets another call from the killer. He says she passed his first test and now he has a final assignment for her. He tells her to look in her purse, which she had lost earlier but is now sitting in her car. He’s hidden a knife that a metal detector won’t pick up inside, and he tells her to sneak it into Martin’s cell and kill him. Otherwise, Martin’s old nurse Cathy will die.
Malcolm and Martin are discussing the case when Jessica unexpectedly shows up. Malcolm notices she seems off and questions her on why she’s chosen to visit now of all times. Martin is delighted, asking when they last met in person, thinking it was some family activity. She responds that it was his murder trial, to which he says “ah yes, you’re right.” Malcolm notes she’s exhibiting signs of her stress reaction (which it doesn’t really take a trained profiler to figure out, she’s not subtle in her nervous tics). She eventually admits the truth, and Martin and Malcolm begin to try to figure out who this killer could be.
Martin wonders if it was a former patient rather than a murder victim. He insists he never intentionally killed his patients, but he couldn’t save everyone. Maybe this unintentional victim has a family member out for revenge on the Whitlys. Malcolm, who until now has been fairly calm and determined to find a solution, blurts out that Martin tried to kill him as a child. Jessica, who hadn’t known that piece of information until now, is shocked. She thought that was a line even Martin wouldn’t cross. Martin confirms that the plan was to kill Malcolm, but states he couldn’t go through with it. It’s a decision he has paid for ever since Malcolm revealed his double life all those years ago.
He starts to goad Jessica into killing him, stating that it’s what she really wants. But Jessica is no killer, and Malcolm can see that. He flashes back to the college interview, where Martin is telling the story of a man who tried to stab another man in the heart and failed, finding just the right spot where the man could survive the blow. It’s a fine line between life and death and very difficult to accomplish without training. In the present, Martin mentions the man’s name again, telling Malcolm to do what he did. Malcolm somehow remembers the highly specific situation Martin told him about, and Malcolm takes the knife and stabs Martin.
Martin is taken into life-saving surgery as Malcolm watches. He notices one of the surgeons in the room seems out of place, and when the man leaves Malcolm follows. When the man tries to run, JT tackles him. It turns out the man is the husband of a patient who died on Martin’s operating table. Since there was no way for him to know if Jessica succeeded without cameras, he had to sneak into the hospital to see for himself if Martin was dead. He wanted revenge for his loss and to humiliate Jessica, who he sees as not having suffered enough punishment. He chose the other victims based on their proximity to Martin, including the nurse. Malcolm loses his cool, telling the man his father never killed patients and that his family has suffered every day. The man realizes Malcolm is Martin’s son and is at first hostile towards him. But in the end, Malcolm is able to convince the killer to give them the location of the last hostage.
Martin is still in surgery as Malcolm calls Ainsley, telling her to head to the hospital. Their father is dying and might not make it. Gil turns to Malcolm, asking him what happened in that cell. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Malcolm contemplates how to answer.
Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox, with older episodes available to binge on Hulu.