Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)

“People always go looking for unicorns when we’ve got rhinos.”

Though tonight’s episode is titled “Sunday” and unfolds over the official day of rest (in many Western countries, anyway), it’s one of the most eventful entries in Lodge 49 so far. Following the discovery of Wallace Smith’s reliquam corpus—which is most definitely not a mummy, according to Blaise’s assessment of the late Sovereign Protector’s accidental DIY embalming job—Scott and Connie throw a pancake breakfast for the Scouts (boy, that’s digging deep for future members) while Ernie and Dud search for Larry everywhere but in their own backyard. There’s a flashback, some misdirection, more lodge lore, parking-lot jousting, coffins, and a seal who wanders up on dry land to interrupt Dud’s big speech about facing down death.

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At this point, it’s anyone’s guess how they all fit together (obviously, we can discuss your theories in the comments), but the magic of Lodge 49 is that it can inspire belief in their cohesion without being beholden to it. A lot appears to happen this episode, including the discovery of evidence that could point to the identity of the one true lodge. But in some respects, everyone is just treading water: Scott runs point on an event for perhaps the first time, but he fails to win over the scouts (or any of his fellow Lynx, for that matter); it turns out Connie and Ernie are reliving an adolescent romance; Liz finds herself at work on her day off; and even Ernie and Dud’s big quest ends just yards away from the lodge. On another show, the day’s events would amount to a waste of time—but time is one of the few resources these people have. And if the eponymous lodge represents limbo or is a kind of way station between this world and the next*, time itself could be immaterial.

Whether or not we’re dealing with a literal limbo, or just one of the various states of irresolution that can eat up years of our lives, Lodge 49 spins character gold from what could be seen as a spinning of wheels. As curious as we might be about Larry’s whereabouts or what Lodge 1 will have to say about Wallace’s reliquam corpus, one of the most compelling moments from “Sunday” comes after Dud is waylaid by what IMDb tells me is a sea lion puppet. There, in the middle of a freeway, Dud reveals for the first time what it felt like to cheat death (hey, that’s what I’m going with until this show says otherwise).

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Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)

I could feel the death inside of me. All I could feel was just the darkness waiting for me down below. I forgot who I was. I was just a thing that was gonna die—and it didn’t matter. And I thought of my dad and if that’s how he felt.

Wyatt Russell makes a subtle change to his almost halting delivery; where Dud is occasionally searching for words, his hesitation here is marked by fear. Dud was still in denial at the memorial mass, but when he says “and I thought of my dad and if that’s how he felt,” it comes across as tacit acceptance of his father’s death. His admission is one of the few instances of forward momentum so far, which drives Dud all the way to Gloria’s (Jocelyn Towne) house, where they promptly make out.

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The highway breakthrough also highlights the lived-in dynamic between Russell and his co-lead Brent Jennings, which grounds Lodge 49's more surreal moments. They don’t miss a beat even as a sea lion barks in the background, though their expressions register how preposterous the situation is. Yet the full emotional impact of Ernie reassuring Dud he survived the snake bite “for a reason” still lands in the middle of all that chaos, including a grocery store run that turned into a quest for Larry. Telling someone that big things are in store for them is harmless enough in most contexts—but to someone like Dud, it’s a double-edged sword. He’s desperate to find meaning, and as Ernie sees later, he’s still convinced he’ll find it in the lodge and Wallace Smith’s writings. Dud remains on the hunt for a unicorn, while Ernie urges him to appreciate something real yet still awe-inspiring, like a rhino (no, really). Russell and Jennings’ great character work buoys this latest variation on a theme; Dud still wants to be squire to Ernie’s luminous knight, but their (respective) growing knowledge could make that dynamic unsustainable.

Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)

This pattern repeats itself in Liz’s storyline this week, as the Shamroxx server can’t find anything better to do on her day off than go to work. Faced with the prospect of a sunny day at the beach in southern California, Liz immediately changes plans and heads to the restaurant, where she indulges in one too many “friendship drinks for joyful times” before besting everyone in the joust. As she beams while wearing an aluminum foil crown, Liz looks more like the Queen Of Swords than someone drowning in debt. But a daytime reverie takes us back to when she first agreed, almost unthinkingly, to co-sign her father’s business loan. Two steps forward (if that’s what you can call drunkenly sparring with your co-workers in the parking lot of your workplace), two steps back—that’s the Lodge 49 shuffle. It’s a familiar albeit lively dance, one that keeps the show going. But maybe progress is like the Sunday sunlight Dud refers to: “brighter, but more empty.”

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Stray observations

  • Somehow, every single one of Dud’s “This place is great”s sounds sincere.
  • “You still doing that Dungeons & Dragons shit?” “No, there’s no gaming component to it. Is there?” Could we have just stumbled upon a way to further stoke my interest in this show?
  • Man, Blaise really got screwed over by that news station’s editing.
  • Director Jake Schreier proves he can handle Greater Los Angeles sprawl as well as the more closed-off spaces, switching expertly from last week’s solemn stroll through an office graveyard to various stretches of open road.
  • There’s clearly some significance in the distinction between a mummy and a reliquam corpus, which is essentially a husk.

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