‘Prodigal Son’ Recap: Malcolm’s Past Comes Back to Haunt Him in Season 2, Episode 3 “Alma Mater”

16 Min Read
Phil Caruso/FOX

This week’s Prodigal Son took Malcolm back in time, unwillingly. After a headmaster’s death at his Alma Mater, Malcolm gets flashbacks of his unpleasant time at the school while trying to figure out who exactly the killer is. Through a series of flashbacks, we see what Malcolm’s boarding school life was like and we finally find out the origin of Malcolm Bright. Plus, JT’s worries about fatherhood comes to a head. Keep reading on to find out what happens in “Alma Mater.”

Courtesy of Phil Caruso/FOX

Malcolm and Gil get to Remington Academy, Malcolm’s alma mater, where Headmaster Brumback was murdered. They get to the pool where Brumback is, his office placed perfectly in the water. Gil asks Edrisa about the pool. It’s a real trip, all the contents of a staugy office setup. Brumback was bound to the chair, carefully positioned, it really completed the whole vibe, according to Edrisa. She can’t be sure if it was death by drowning, so she swims away to investigate some more. Malcolm suggests a student might have done it, considering who Brumback was. A regular kid might not have done it but a kid at Remington could have.

Going all the way back to 2005, a teenaged Malcolm is visiting Martin, telling him that he needs a break, try something new and be something new. Martin realizes he’s going to change his name, no longer wanting to be Martin Whitly’s son. Malcolm doesn’t want to be The Surgeon’s son. Martin wonders how he’s going to complete this transition, what he’s going to call himself. Malcom…? “Bright. Malcolm Bright.” Martin wishes his son luck, “those bastards at Remington won’t know what hit them.”

In the present day at Remington, Malcolm and Gil meet with Professor Delaney, interim Headmaster. Delaney says that Jessica has assured the board that the investigation will remain discreet, surprising both Malcolm and Gil. Jessica comes up behind them, saying she needed this handled delicately or Malcolm would have said no. But Malcolm thinks he might say no now. Jessica begs him, her family helped build the school, if there was a press report that the Headmaster was killed in her grandfather’s aquatic center, how soon will it be they connect it back to her? Malcolm gives in, telling Delaney they’ll need to review the Headmaster’s recent schedule, phone records. Malcolm will go and profile.

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Malcolm finds Dani in a hallway and he looks at a door at the end of it. Dani looks at a picture with the Class of 2006, Malcolm’s year. Those were class photos of graduating seniors, he didn’t make it to the end of the year. Malcolm gets a flashback of being locked in a tight space, somebody leaving, and Malcolm calling out, “Who told you?” Dani points out that his hand is shaking and Malcolm says that some neuroscientists believe the body can store memories. Tremor, he wasn’t born with it. It didn’t happen until years after his father’s arrest. Brumback expelled him, put his name in his little black book. Malcolm asks Dani if the Headmaster’s desk is still in the pool, which it is, and he goes back, getting a flashback of him in Brumback’s office. His hand shakes again and he falls into the pool. After getting his bearings, he swims to the desk.

In a classroom, Gil and Delaney have gathered three students and a sloshing sound can be heard out in the hallway. Malcolm comes in, soaking wet, but pleased, carrying some evidence, along with some drenched belongings. He tells the kids they’re there because he found Headmaster Brumback’s black book. The book is reserved for expulsion-level offenses, and their names appear on the last page, dated yesterday. After telling their stories on what happened, one of them, Louisa, says none of what they said is a motive for murder. Not necessarily, Malcolm points out they’ve all exhibited psychological markers: Lack of empathy, paranoia, grandiosity. “It’s called survival.” Malcolm has one more question: did they all talk about this before they got there? They don’t talk; jock, stoner, perfect. They’re not friends.

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Once dry and in sweats, Malcolm says they’re all lying. Lack of empathy isn’t enough to get you to murder, and while Malcolm doesn’t know if they’re murderers, he does know they’re all friends. When Malcolm brought out the black book, they all exchanged glances, they’re hiding something. Jessica comes in, saying those students are innocent. Gil tells her she needs to stop interfering in his case, but Jessica says she can provide valuable insight. She tells Malcolm that he is allowing his unfortunate experience at Remington to cloud his judgement. She knows these students; Louisa, Anton, Molly, they come from impeccable families. So did Malcolm and he was expelled. And just like him, Jessica says none of them are capable of murder.

Meanwhile, Edrisa passes by the science lab and makes a quick detour, seeing a box that’s the property of the Physics Club. She opens it and sees bottles, Anton and Molly standing in the doorway. Edrisa turns around, seeing Anton and Molly, telling them she used to be in Physics Club. They tell her she’s in the wrong place and Louisa comes up from behind, punching Edrisa in the stomach. “Welcome to boarding school, bitch.”

At the precinct, Edrisa tells Malcolm and Gil what happened. According to Delaney, Remington doesn’t even have a Physics Club. Gil figures that whatever they’re up to is off the books. Malcolm pulls back the label on the water bottle, revealing test answers. If Brumback knew the label was a crypt sheet, they could kiss their Ivy League futures goodbye. Edrisa mentions that it wasn’t a drowning; Brumback was dead before he hit the pool. Whoever killed him used a poisonous bacterial agent. It wasn’t three kids, not together. Edrisa’s money is on Louisa, girl’s got a heavy fist, she’s the brains. Gil says that her father is a top hedge fund manager. If they bring her in for interrogation, there will be a high-priced lawyer at her side. Then they don’t bring her in. Malcolm knows of another interrogator that has been dying to talk to her. Jessica ends up talking to Louisa, finally getting some useful information.

Malcolm visits Delaney in his office, telling him that Louisa identified Anton as the ringleader. They’re there to arrest him. Delaney tells Malcolm to take a seat and after noticing his hesitation, asks him if he’s still claustrophobic. He gets another flashback, a clearer one this time. Him and a student are talking and the student opens a broom closet, telling Malcolm he knows who he is. He pushes Malcolm into the closet, closing the door, despite the pleas and the cries. Malcolm has to steady himself while thinking back to that day. He asks Delaney, when Nicky Covington locked him in the closet, who told him his real name? Delaney defended him to Brumback, Malcolm should have never been expelled. Malcolm begs Delaney to tell him and he says it was his dad. He called the dorms and left a message using his real name. A helicopter is then heard outside and Malcolm rushes out, finding Dani, who, over radio, tells everyone the suspect is on the run.

Courtesy of Phil Caruso/FOX

Malcolm meets with Martin, cutting right to the chase and asking Martin why he did it. “Why did you betray me?” To get more specific, Malcolm says that he told them his name, destroyed his last chance of a normal childhood. All with one phone call. Martin is a narcissistic psychopath, and a terrible father. Malcolm was in that closet for three days; no food, no water, trapped. Was it because he changed his name, because he left? Or because he is nothing like Martin and he can’t stand it. Martin says he’s made mistakes, but not this. He’s never called Remington Academy. He loves his son, still does. Malcolm is the one person Martin cannot hurt. “Analyze my sick, deviant mind.” Martin brings up the case, which is why Malcolm is there. Malcolm tells him that Brumback was poisoned, Martin points out that the compound can be used as a bleach to save old paper, reduce browning, deterioration. Malcolm realizes that it’s Professor Delaney.

Malcolm gets back to Delaney’s office, saying he talked to his father. He tells Delaney he’s been profiling his father all his life, he’s telling the truth, which means Delaney is lying. Delaney told Brumback Malcolm’s real name, he was just a kid. Delaney says he wasn’t just a kid, he saw everything. Having someone so observant around, not so convenient when you’re running a cheating ring. For 20 years, Delaney gave students the exam answers. Money, privilege, they leave the school promising anything they want and he is stuck there. So why shouldn’t he get his piece? The same compound that killed Brumback is the one that Delaney uses to restore books. Malcolm’s profile was wrong. He wanted to punish those students so bad, he missed what was right in front of him. Delaney killed Brumback.

Meanwhile, Dani and other officers get to Anton’s place, finding him and telling him he’s under arrest for murder, not to mention boarding a chopper to his daddy’s handy real estate tac shelter. Anton says he didn’t kill Brumback. Dani tells him he extorted two young girls, he’s a cheater, a bully. Molly comes out, saying Anton didn’t extort anyone. She’s scared. They had to get off campus, knowing they’re next. Dani asks who they’re running from.

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Delaney tells Malcolm he’s wrong, he helps kids cheat, he’s not a murderer. Delaney collapses, telling Malcolm the sandwich, she made it. Louisa locks Malcolm and Delaney in the room. She killed Headmaster Brumback. Louisa says her father taught her that you don’t let someone like Brumback stop you from doing what has to be done. Malcolm figures this is about getting away from there. College is a means of escape, somewhere far. Oxford. They call her a legacy there, same as Malcolm. Then he knows it’s a lie, she’s a prisoner. “Running away won’t solve anything.” Louisa will never have to see her father again, but she will still be his daughter, and she’ll still be a killer. Delaney is dying and when the air runs out in there, Malcolm is next. He shouldn’t have come back. Louisa apologizes and walks away. Malcolm tells her he gets it. He killed someone too.

It’s revealed that after that weekend, Malcolm punched Nicky, making him have an asthma attack. Malcolm gives him his inhaler, which is empty. He never told anyone the whole story, how he swiped his inhaler and emptied it. No one ever found out what he did to Nicky, Headmaster Brumback sensed it. The killer inside. That’s the real reason he expelled him. But Brumback was wrong, he’s not his father. Malcolm ended up saving Nicky, not killing him. He stalled. Malcolm needed time for Delaney’s iron to heat up. He creates a fire, turning on the pressure system and the alarms. Louisa leaves the school, but not before Gil and officers arrest her.

At the precinct, Malcolm tells Gil he knows, he doesn’t have to say it. Gil wonders what the hell is the matter with him. Dani comes in with news, but Gil tells her to give them a minute. A whole minute? Can’t they just jump to the end where Gil says, “A fire? You started a fire in an airtight vault? Have you completely lost it?” Malcolm so magnificently imitates. And then Malcolm reminds him that he arrested Louisa, they solved the case, solved Delaney’s life and nearly died of asphyxiation. “All in a day’s work.” Dani interrupts them, saying they’ve got a baby and shows them the picture of little JT. “Just when we needed some good news.”

Malcolm apologizes to Martin, he accused him of something he didn’t do. These are words Martin did not expect to hear. Martin knows that he is a little problematic. “Problematic doesn’t get you chained to the wall.” Martin meant problematic in the sense that he’s not all bad. Malcolm should have owned his last name. The rich, dashing son of a killer. He’s Malcolm Whitly. “You’re my boy. Don’t forget that.” After Malcolm leaves, Martin goes over to his Bible, revealing security clearance cards that he swiped.

Courtesy of Phil Caruso/FOX

Malcolm Danger Count: 3

Catch Prodigal Son every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on FOX!

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By Megan
Megan has been passionate about writing since she was little and has been passionate about all things pop culture and nerdy since almost as long. Joining Nerds and Beyond in 2019, she also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Megan is constantly binge-watching shows and finding new things to obsess over. 9-1-1 and Marvel currently reign as the top obsessions. You can find her on Twitter @marvels911s if you ever want to discuss some certain firefighters.
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