“Pilot” (Episode 101)
September 26, 2019
Tonight saw the series premiere of CBS’s new thriller (horror?) drama, EVIL! Quick synopsis: Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist tapped to work for the Catholic Church to determine whether a serial killer is possessed by a demon or just your average psychopath. She works with priest-in-training, David Acosta (Mike Colter), and Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), a technical adviser who believes in his paycheck above all else. Is demonic possession real or is it just show. Is a matter of science or faith?
Grab your rosary, holy water and sacramental wine, and settle in for the series premiere recap for EVIL … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
Interrogation Room. The scene opens with a conversation between Orson LeRoux (Darren Pettie) and Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers). Orson’s talking about how much he likes sitting in an empty house. Kristen’s asking why he killed three families and is trying to sort out the timelines. She’s recording the interview on her phone and Orson (the suspected murderer) notices a text from her daughter, Lila. Orson’s, “who’s Lila” is fucking chilling. Flipping over her phone (it’s called Do Not Disturb, Kristen!), Kristen gets Orson focused back on the three murdered families. As she shows him pictures from other murders, and we see momentary flashbacks from the killer’s point of view, Orson repeats his “alibi” that he blacked out and had no idea what happened.
Kristen changes tactics and asks Orson to answer 567 true or false statements. We’ll learn in a minute that this will determine his relationship with lying and how likely he is to lie. The questions start off very bland but then she asks, “I like the sound of a woman screaming.”
Orson goes really quiet and he’s got a transfixed stare off into the distance.
Queens’ County, NY, Courthouse. In court, Kristen is testifying that Orson scored an 80 on the MMPI-2 validity scales, which puts him to the deceitful range and makes what he shared during interrogation not credible, especially the part where he said he blacked out.
**This 567 True/False Test is a real thing called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). From psychcentral.com, “[t]he Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a psychological test that assesses personality traits and psychopathology. It is primarily intended to test people who are suspected of having mental health or other clinical issues … the MMPI-2, which has 567 true/false questions, and the newer MMPI-2-RF, published in 2008 and containing only 338 true/false items.”**
The defense attorney cross examines Kirsten, trying to impeach her credibility by raising the fact that she is an independent contractor with the Queens District Attorney’s office (Yeah! Queens, represent!) and as such, always finds defendants sane and fit to stand trial. He switches tactics and asks Kristen if Orson is “possessed?” As the questioning goes on, David Dacosta (Mike Colter) enters the courtroom.
Back to the testimony, Kristen is confused if the defense attorney means metaphorical demons or clinical demons. The defense attorney continues that he has a report from his expert witness, Dr. Leland Townsend, that claims his client has taken on the presence of a demonic presence named “Roy.”
A demon named Roy? Like Primal Fear!? Well that was alleged multiple personality disorder and involved the Catholic Church. I love that movie. I digress.
Interrogation Room. Court’s over and Kristen sees David (still unnamed at this point) in the room with Orson without knowing who he is. She wheels on Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), an associate of David’s, thinking David is the Leland Townsend mentioned earlier as the defense’s expert witness. he accuses everyone present of coaching the witness (which is illegal). David comes out of the room and Kristen informs him that she’s spent hours with Orson and not a mention of a demon. David hands her a rosary, asking her to take it for her protection and asks if she knows the “Our Father” prayer.
Kristen dismisses him and enters the Interrogation Room to question Orson about these alleged possessions. Orson confirms he blacked out and his wife is the one who believes in possession. Kristen gets up to leave but decides that she wants to disprove this possession theory. She makes the sign of the cross on the table and starts reciting the “Our Father.” There is a beat and then Orson flips the fuck out, jumping over the table in a single bound. He begins to choke Kristen on the ground as he is shouting in Latin.
The guards come in and beat Orson off of our heroine. That was intense.
Sometime later, Kristen talks with DA Lewis Cormier (Danny Burstein), withdrawing her diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, wanting further evaluation for hallucinations or delusions. The DA is pressing for a decision. In private, the DA reminds her she’s not at a University but rather on his payroll.
“You’re here, cashing our checks.”
Kristen reminds the DA that she is there to tell the truth. He gives her an ultimatum that he wants her prior testimony as her final decision or he’ll terminate her employment. Dissatisfied with this unethical position, Kristen doubles back to the DA, who is now speaking with the judge, and tells him that he can find someone else to lie for him.
Bouchard Home. Kristen heads home to her four daughters and her mother, Sheryl (Christine Lahti), to celebrate one of the daughter’s birthday. Mama Sheryl tells Kristen the stove isn’t working, so take out it is. She adds that Kristen’s absentee husband sent a pittance in the form of help with the bills. He is away as a mountain climbing guide in Nepal and the venom Mama Sheryl has for her son-in-law is high, understandably. Kristen defends her partner, it’s clear this is not the first time they’ve had this conversation. There is a bit about a creditor calling the house and talking to one of the young girls about them becoming homeless if Kristen doesn’t pay her bills. Which … the fuck?!? Kristen calls this person back and gives her a piece of her mind before unplugging her phones. Before bed, Kristen reads a chapter from The Princess Bride(YAY!) to her daughters.
Late that night, David rings Kristen’s bell (literally) after her kids have gone to bed, thinking it was her office. David apologizes about her encounter with Orson. He wants to discuss a job opportunity. Inside her “office,” David notes the pictures on her wall and deduces that she used to be a mountain climber. Back to the job situation. David works for the Catholic Church as a possession assessor.
“The Church has a backlog of about 500,000 requests for exorcisms and miracle appraisals.”
He and his colleague, Ben, are brought in to investigate “unexplained phenomenon” and make determinations as to the action needed. Why does he need Kristen? Because He wants to hire her because, “possession looks a lot like insanity and insanity looks a lot like possession. I need someone to help me distinguish between the two.”
Kristen is amazed that this is an actual job. She looks at a picture of her family and asks David how much they pay because she still has student loans to pay off.
LeRoux House. David, Ben, and Kristen are interviewing Orson’s wife, Emily (Brooke Bloom). She tells them her husband was always kind of an oddball and often talked to himself, but this one time, someone talked back. Mrs. LeRoux tells David she recorded it with her phone because it happened several nights in a row. The recording sounds like garbled noise and snoring until there is a voice, deeper than Orson’s requesting something of her that gets cut off.
After the interview Ben is canvassing the house with equipment. Kristen asks is this is a haunting. Ben is skeptical about all this possession and demon stuff, believing first and foremost that “it pays the rent.”
Kristen has doubts about why David wants her on this case. She believes in neither Catholicism (she’s a lapsed Catholic) nor possessions. David assures her he wants her skepticism and scientific opinion. In Kristen’s opinion, science can create miracles and can explain all the mysteries, as we learn. David tells Kristen he does this job because he dropped out of school to travel the world and saw remarkable things. He mentions experiences like a shaman transfer his soul to a dying child.
“Science is only good for repeatable phenomenon. And most of life, the most interesting parts … don’t repeat.”
Kristen thinks there could be a medical explanation for Orson killing those people, as his wife divulged he’d fallen and it hit his head, which would be a better explanation for the change in behavior.
Bouchard Home. Later, Kristen watches videos on possession at home. She also Googles types of seizures, but decides she’d rather know more about David Acosta and looks into him. Bow-chick-a-wow-wow, indeed. Kristen’s online stalking is interrupted when she hears footsteps outside her door and shadows outside the windows. You get the vibe she is being watched. Kristen checks on her daughters and all is well. She goes to bed.
Later that night, a dark, growling, demon-like creature, who calls himself George (Marti Matulis, Voice – Euan Morton), visits Kristen in the dark. He is all black with scaly skin, long pointy teeth and glowing eyes. Kristen tells George he is just a night terror and he works hard to convince her he’s real. He urinates on her floor in the corner. George taunts her about wearing sexy underwear for her new boss, David, removing her covers. He takes off her panties and remarks on the Cesarean scar she has as he touches it.
Cut to Kristen screaming and her children come flying into her room. She tells them it was a horrible nightmare, then spots the wet spot on the floor where George urinated. She runs over but is satisfied when she finds the window open and it’s raining outside. Perfect explanation.
Dr. Boggs’ Office. Kristen is with her therapist, Dr. Boggs (Kurt Fuller), and recounts the encounter with George the incubus in all its glorious, gory detail. She thinks it is a night terror and also mentions the new job with where she is looking into demonic possessions for the Catholic Church. She’s making a clear line between this new job and the demon dream as well as her need to pay off her student loans.
LeRoux House. Ben is in Orson’s house tinkering with the dishwasher. He explains to Mrs. LeRoux that a soap clog in the dishwasher tubing was making the sound she heard when she thought Orson heard voices. He recreates the sound phenomena – it’s the same sound from the recording we heard earlier. Outside, Kristen tells Ben she heard whispering in her house the night before for the first time. He dismisses this as a natural result of her new job – the mind is a powerfully creative organ. Feeling chatty, he to Kristen that he got started working with David through a chance job at a parish rectory. Oh Yeah, David is training to be a priest.
Interrogation Room. Kristen and David are talking to Orson. David asks about Roy, the demon who speaks through him and possibly spoke Latin the last time Kristen was there. Orson denies it, but makes them jump in such a perfect moment of comedic timing. Kristen wants to use this time to further evaluate Orson.
David and Kristen are debriefing after the meeting with Orson. David reveals he Googled her and her climbing prowess from days gone by. She admits she Googled him as well. The chemistry between them is palpable and definitely goes beyond an employee-employer relationship.
Bouchard Home. Going to bed that night, Kristen writes … something on a poster board and tapes it to her ceiling before going to sleep. At 4:15am, George returns. He sits above her and asks her the same questions she asked Orson about the mechanic magazine, threatening to cut off her fingers for wrong answers, holding a knife to her fingers. George asks if she was flirting with David even though she is married and she denies it. She lies and George takes a finger. He gently places the detached finger on her chest as he licks the blood from her wound. When his next question is whether she’s sexually attracted to David, she answers this one correctly.
George continues pointing out that Kristen is a lapsed Catholic, a lapsed climber, and she basically quits everything she attempts. Kristen focuses on the sign she taped above her bed and knows from her training you can’t read text in a dream, making George not real. She wakes up breathless and spots her sign.
“Can you read this?”
Kristen is smarter asleep than most people are awake.
Interrogation Room. Orson looks, well, possessed, ignoring her request for further cognitive testing. He starts chanting in Latin. David is able to translate because of his training; Orson refers to 60 demons at work actively. Kristen tries to convince Orson/Roy that she’s not a believe but Orson/Roy responds with detailed information about her nighttime encounter with George.
Orson recounts, in excruciating detail, her exact encounter with George. She freaks out at first and then calms down. She figures out what’s up. She drives like a bat out of hell to Dr. Boggs’ office, demanding to know who he spoke to about her?!? Boggs denies speaking to anyone and then she demands he show her the session notes from her file. They find it’s empty.
Kristen storms back to the jail where Orson is being held asking to see the visitor logs to see who passed Orson her information. She sees the name L. Townsend. Then she heads to the court. She sits in the back and sees Dr. Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson) on the stand, testifying that Orson LeRoux was possessed by a demon named Roy.
Outside the courtroom, Kristen calls Dr. Boggs and asks if he knows a forensic psychologist named Leland Townsend. Boggs confirms a prospective patient, matching Townsend’s description, came in the day before wanting to pay for a session but left without leaving contact information. Kristen tells her therapist that this is the guy who broke into his file cabinet and took all her notes. Boggs tells Kristen that Leland now knows everything that she’s ever told Boggs.
Queens’ County, NY Courthouse. Kristen confronts Dr. Townsend outside the courtroom about the therapy notes and why he gave them to a serial killer?!? Leland tells Kristen that she is in over her head and advises her to leave “this” to the professionals. The professionals being people like David and the 60 … the people who now know of her. He taunts her with what she’s told her therapist where she wished her daughters weren’t her responsibility so she could have her freedom back. Kristen tells Townsend to go to hell. Townsend has a quick retort that he’ll gladly make room for her daughters in the bad place. David joins the tense meeting between Leland and Kristen and warns Leland that he’s got no power here since Kristen doesn’t believe.
“That’s when I’m at my best.”
Townsend, who is having an absolute ball with all of this, taunts David about “Julia,” a woman from David’s past that is a painful memory for David. David gut punches Townsend, dropping him to the ground. Townsend laughs through his pain questioning David’s commitment to a nonviolent, Jesus-like lifestyle.
That was a freaking treat and God Bless Michael Emerson, no one lays these roles better than him.
Later, Kristen finds David in a bar and asks about Julia. He shakes off the reference to his past so Kristen switches gears to a question about Townsend? David makes an ambiguous statement that he knows Leland, “in other guises.”
Be more cryptic, David! *eye roll*
David explains that there people in this world who are connectors. Influencers. People, whose motivation is spreading evil, use their profession to help sow seeds of chaos. This is the realm where the supernatural and the scientific study of psychopaths overlap. David narrates that the world is getting worse because those who seek to do evil are increasingly connected through social media. David continues that he believes Townsend sought LeRoux online, through a chat room, and influenced him to kill. Kristen’s mind is whirring, knowing the cops checked his computer. This triggers a thought with David.
LeRoux House. David and Kristen go to Mrs. LeRoux to listen to her recording again from when she thought her husband was possessed. There’s something Orson said that got cut off in the recording that fits with the their new theory. They play the recording again and the cut off part sounds like David was about to ask Mrs. LeRoux for her computer password. She dismisses their request as not relevant but David presses that he believes someone demonic contacted and influenced her husband.
Interrogation Room. Kristen and David visit Orson in the jail. She has more true or false questions for him and asks about the use of his wife’s computer to avoid detection. Orson denies. Kristen presents photos sent to him by Townsend on a questionable website about necrophilia. She calls him out on his desire to get out of punishment by pretending he was possessed. Kristen taunts him that he’ll spend 18,980 sunsets in jail, missing out on life for what he’s done.
Kristen goes to the DA with the information on the connection between Orson and Leland and hands over evidence on the witness coaching on how to fake insanity through possession. The DA is just smug looking to hear Kristen say that he was right all along. Orson IS competent to stand trial.
Bouchard Home. In Kristen’s office, Ben explains to Kristen that he fixed her pilot light on her stove. This is what was causing the whispering/hissing sound that came with George’s arrival. See? Simple explanation. Science! David has another assignment to investigate, a miracle in a hospital. David and Ben talk about it in front of Kristen, knowing that she’s listening. Kristen wants to be part of it, her curiosity piqued. And, we’ve got a show, folks!
This is an interesting and fairly original concept for a show and I.Am.Here.Fot.it! The Catholic Church has been in a state of turmoil for several years with the global sex abuse scandals and has taken a hit in the public’s perception. With EVIL, we are putting some of the more exotic aspects of the Catholic Church’s sphere of influence into the limelight. Exorcism and miracles are often talked about and because it is not easily explained, it is exotic. Think about the movie The Exorcist. It’s about 45 years old and has an enduring pop culture legacy because it’s weird and is not easily explained. EVIL is a welcome player in the genre.
EVIL is creepy and scary enough without being too scary. I laughed to a friend when I first watched this, that it would give me nightmares. But the creepy action is well-balanced with the more cerebral aspects of the storyline and the character interaction. I thought initially, from the trailers and promo stuff, that George the demon would have a high creep factor but it’s really Leland who gives you the willies. Leland, especially how Emerson is playing him, is definitely well-portrayed as the demon he is alluded to be. The camera angles with him, head-on and close-up, are soul baring and make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. This is all intentional and it’s incredibly effective.
This show is smart and fast-paced. You need to pay close attention to all the little details because everything means something. For example, Kristen’s mom mentions in passing that the oven wasn’t working at the beginning of the episode and at the very end, Ben explains to Kristen he fixed her pilot light in the stove as it was the culprit for the hissing and whispering she was hearing when George the demon appeared. The use of science to debunk some of the paranormal activity in the show is working for me, like Ben and the pilot light causing the whispering noise. Also, when Kristen figures out that her therapy notes were compromised and passed to Orson when he was quoting things she shared with her therapist. She used her scientific mind to problem solve her way out of a paranormal phenomenon.
The little nuggets in this show are brilliant. Kristen reading The Princess Bride to her daughters before bed? She’s of a certain age, as are most of the people watching this show are of that same generation. I heard the words the man in black climbed the sheer cliff face 700 feet up and I knew the passage immediately. I appreciate those generational pop culture references.
Dude. Can we talk about Mike Colter’s voice for a moment? That man has a voice like rich, warm butter and I could listen to him speak all day. Earlier this year, I attended a panel he was on at Awesome Con in Washington D.C. He is so relatable, so genuine, and just naturally funny. You can’t help but like him. Part of the reason why I was so looking forward to this show was to support Mike Colter in his first starring role on a major network series.
EVIL airs Thursday nights on CBS at 10pm (ET/PT). We’ll be live tweeting from time to time so check us out on Twitter!
Thank you for reading along! Leave a comment below for discussion. Follow us on social media for up to the minute updates on EVIL, including recaps and lots of other pop culture news you need to know on Twitter @popcultureview and Instagram @pop_culture_review. You can follow me on Twitter @SheilsMcGangsta. See you next week for the next chapter and verse with the investigation of a miracle!