“Motherland: Fort Salem” Episode 308 Recap: Rules of Engagement

Welcome to this recap of Motherland: Fort Salem, season three, episode eight, “Petra’s Favorite Pen.” Whew we sure are rounding the corner to the end of the show, aren’t we? What a stressful episode. Let’s dive into it.

Previously on Motherland: Fort Salem, Willa told Raelle she is out of her nine lives, Silver took over the presidency and ordered the witch army to invade the Cession, Scylla was taken somewhere that has been lovingly nicknamed The Slaughterhouse, Tally had a vision of Raelle using the witch bomb to end the world, and Alder was on a quest to find all the parts of the First Song.

A quick study, Tally has already learned how to journey to the past. She watches an old timey witch get chased by some old timey guards into an ice cave, and bless her heart she tries to interfere, knowing full well what she’s watching is long past over. Cornered, the witch sings at the guards, her work freezing them, and then eventually freezing herself.

Tally watches as the old timey witch freezes in ice

*wails* FROZEN FRACTALS ALL AROUND

Tally snaps back to reality with a start, and knows what she has to do. She tells her unit she has to go to Germany, and Raelle says what I was thinking: they were JUST all reunited, why are they already separating? Raelle even tries to pinky swear she won’t use the witch bomb to get her to stay, but Tally knows the First Song is too important. And Alder asks the unit to trust her to keep Tally safe.

Abigail wants to go with them, but Tally says that she has to stay behind and help Raelle save Scylla. The three of them rib each other and giggle like they did back at Fort Salem, what feels like a million lifetimes ago. For a moment, they’re just them, just their unit, just sisters. They laugh and hug and it’s heckin adorable.

Tally smiles

Missed that smile!

Raelle and Abigail smile

I hope the finale is just 42 minutes of these three giggling together.

When they get to Germany, Tally says that no matter what happens in the cave, Alder has to prioritize getting the part of the song they came for. Alder, more deferential than usual, says she fears the wrath of the Bellweather Unit if she should return without Tally in tow, but Tally knows they’ll understand, and makes her promise.

Tally has her winter hood pulled up

It’s kind of hard to take her “sacrifice me for the cause” speech seriously when she looks so CUUUTE.

Besides, Tally trusts Alder with her life, and knows that she’ll make the right decision. So they march into the cave, together.

Back in the Cession, the militia finds an injured soldier and Raelle goes to tend to her wounds. She realizes the burns on her arms are days old and asks why her fixers hadn’t healed her yet, and the soldier says all the fixers have been detained; the U.S. Government sent their witch soldiers into battle against their fellow witches without a means to heal themselves. Ruthless.

Raelle heals her up good as new, and as the infection and fever clear, so does her head and she looks up at the fixer above her…and recognizes her. She says there’s a witch in the Slaughterhouse and she’s seen Raelle in her memories. In Scylla’s memories.

Raelle is surprised to hear Scylla's name

“Are you another one of Scylla’s exes or…”

To Petra Bellweather’s chagrin, when she gets back to her Fort Salem office, President Silver is waiting for her. He immediately insults her whiskey that he didn’t have permission to drink in the first place, and then insults her battle tactics, saying they should have won the occupying mission by now. He tells her to turn it up to eleven, turning the tides by any means necessary. Petra grits her teeth, forces a smile, and nods in acquiescence, even though it clearly pains her.

Meanwhile, Tally and Alder find the correct nondescript cave in record time, and make their way through the guardsicle décor to find the witch, still preserved in the ice after all these years.

Back at Marshall Manor, the soldier tells Raelle about how Scylla is a tough as nails prisoner. When she wouldn’t talk, the Oversights forced the soldiers to link with her to look into her mind. But they couldn’t get any of the information they were looking for, any insights into the Cession militia, because Scylla flooded her mind with memories instead. Memories of Raelle.

Raelle listens intently

“Hope you enjoyed that memory from the shipping factory…”

The soldier tells them where the Slaughterhouse is, and Thelma says they can’t go there to save her because it’s outside the borders of the Cession. But Raelle has to try. Abigail declares she’s going too, and Raelle tries to give her an out, but Abigail says that Scylla is one of them now, so she’s going with Raelle, end of story.

Abigail locks eyes with Raelle

It’s always nice when the in-laws get along.

Thelma smiles at them, knowing their minds are made up, and wishes them well on their mission. As Thelma leaves, Raelle looks curiously at Abigail to see if she heard her correctly. Scylla is one of us? Abigail smiles and confirms, cracking a joke to keep Raelle from getting to sappy on her about it.

And so, Raelle, Abigail, and Adil follow the soldier’s directions to the school where Scylla is being held. They can’t use direct work or it will bounce off the Oversight guards’ armor. Abigail can’t make a storm without risking hurting Scylla. Raelle promised not to use the witch bomb. But then Adil has a novel idea: what if they get in the old fashioned way? A magic-free heist!

So Abigail and Adil pretend to be drunk youths, distracting the guards away from the door enough for Raelle to slip inside. Once the guards get close enough, Adil uses hand-to-hand combat and knocks them out; how’s your fancy armor now, eh?

In the ice cave, Alder and Tally have to figure out how to wake the witch up so they decide to try to play the creepy music box made of human flesh for her. That’s sure to get a rise out of her!

Alder and Tally play the music box for the frozen witch

I spend so much time on TikTok I was a bit surprised “Chrissy wake up” didn’t start playing when she opened it.

It works and the witch stirs; she opens her eyes and juts her hand out of her ice prison…and palms Tally’s scalp like a basketball. The witch talks to Alder using Tally’s body as a vessel, much to Alder’s horror, and demands to know where all this caring and protecting of stewards was when she was being hunted like an animal.

Silhouettes of Alder, Tally, and the frozen witch with a grip on Tally's head

Jem Gerrard did an exceptional job directing this episode.

The witch wants Alder to hurt like she hurts so she starts to freeze Tally like Anna at the end of Frozen, and Alder starts to scream.

Just outside the Cession, an Oversight guard is torturing Scylla in an auditorium that technically looks like any other school auditorium but for some reason reminded me of the auditorium in Anna and the Apocalypse. Scylla is standing her ground against the guard when suddenly Raelle appears. Scylla’s eyes practically turn into cartoon hearts at the sight of her.

Scylla looks happy to see Raelle

My hero!

The guard isn’t afraid of Raelle because he has a hell of a lot of confidence in that armor of his, but then she asks him if he’s totally, completely, 100%, ready-to-bet-his-life-on-it sure his armor could protect him against the witch bomb. After all, he has no idea she promised not to use it. She deliciously starts to describe what it’s like to get hit with the witch bomb, and soon Scylla joins in, giving Raelle advantage on her intimidation roll. Realizing he doesn’t get paid enough for this, he caves, unlocking Scylla. He starts to leave but then Scylla bops him on the head; can’t have him rushing off and telling anyone she’s free.

Finally, finally, no more distance or mushrooms or wars or zombie mothers or guards between them, Scylla and Raelle are reunited.

Raelle and Scylla kiss, backlit by the stage lights

“Every time you kiss me it’s like sunshine and whiskey.”

They kiss and revel in each other until an alarm goes off, reminding them they’re still technically on enemy turf. Raelle tells Scylla to “hold that feeling” and they run, finding Abigail and Adil in the hallway and the foursome making a break for it.

In the ice cave, Alder tries to break Tally free from the witch’s icy grasp but has no luck. Desperate, she pulls the guard’s sword from the ice like she’s the next king of Camelot and slices the witch’s arm right off, freeing Tally.

Alder holds Tally

I don’t even ship this because the uneven power dynamics in S1 made me uneasy but I legitimately thought they were going to kiss in this episode.

The ice starts to crack and crumble around them, and Alder wants to run, but Tally wants the song. And I think it’s so interesting here how their roles have reversed over time; they’re more similar than I think either of them realize.

At the Cession border, Thelma faces off with Cadet Cortez, and Cortez does what Abigail taught her and tries to use legitimate military tactics to not fight by saying they’re outnumbered and the strategic thing to do would be to retreat. However, the Oversight guards are on their power trip and demand they stay and fight. When the soldiers refuse, the Oversight starts using their stolen magic to take down the witches, much to everyone’s horror.

Cadet Cortez looks scared and confused

Too good for this world, my sweet cinnamon roll.

General Petra Bellweather sits at her desk, frustrated that her soldiers are dying en masse. Her Oversight echoes a similar sentiment to Silver’s earlier, saying she’s not doing enough, she’s just sitting back and watching this all unfold. So Petra decides to take their advice and start acting. And she starts by boiling her Oversight from the inside out.

Petra sits at her desk, calmly doing a murder with one eyebrow cocked

And she looks good doing it.

At the battle at the order, Cadet Cortez tries to find ways to circumvent the armor by knocking a transformer down onto them, and when that doesn’t work she decides to risk it and throws work directly at them, which of course blows her back. Seeing everyone’s favorite new cadet go down, Abigail gets big mad and makes a storm that rains down knife-hail at the Oversight.

Abigail yells at the sky

“Eleka nahmen nahmen ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen!”

The remaining soldiers retreat, and Abigail rushes to Lupe’s side. She says she doesn’t feel like dying in battle like this is the honor their foremothers told them it would be. She feels like it was all for nothing. But Abigail forbids her to die, commands her to stay alive, but by the time Raelle gets to her side, it’s too late. My beloved sweet baby angel, Cadet Guadalupe “Lupe” Cortez, is dead.

And I. am. SAD.

In the fortress of solitude, Tally tells Alder that while they were linked, she could see the witch’s memories, feel her fear and then her isolation. Centuries alone in the dark. And so she has an idea: what if they trade gifts. The gift of sight for the gift of song. Alder asks if she’s sure she wants to make such a huge sacrifice, and Tally doesn’t miss a beat before saying she’ll do it in a heartbeat, for Raelle, for everyone.

Tally looks resigned, sure

I am legitimately so terrified that this is all leading to Tally sacrificing her life to save the world.

As soon as the exchange is complete, the cave starts to collapse around them, and Alder uses magic to yeet Tally over a growing schism; she must protect the stewards at all costs. Here’s hoping there were some mushrooms growing under all that ice and that Alder didn’t fall down so much as she fell in.

President Silver makes yet another surprise visit to Petra’s office and asks why she’s dressed like she’s leaving Fort Salem. She tells him she’s taking his advice and going to the Cession border herself. He checks in with her Oversight, who seems to be alive and well…until the President leaves and it’s revealed to actually be Silver using Spree magic.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t understand what’s going on with Anacostia and Nicte. In the last episode they had that weird interaction in the diner, and then in this episode Anacostia says she was looking for Nicte? Then Nicte threatens her with bats? Anyway, after some cryptic back and forth and posturing, Nicte eventually agrees to help find Wade by finding the Marshal. All she wants in return is a pardon.

When Tally wakes up, she’s in her bead surrounded by her unit, Scylla included. She doesn’t know how she got there, and honestly neither do they. She just showed up in the garden; perhaps transported via mushrooms? Tally tells them all about the cave and Alder and all that went down with sadness in her eyes.

Tally sits in bed, Abigail Raelle and Scylla sit around her

What if y’all just stay in this room forever?

Abigail has had enough. She says maybe it’s time they turn themselves in to turn the tides of this war. She says, “How many Lupe Cortezes have to die?” She knows they’ll likely be put on trial and executed, but if it will save hundreds of witches and stop the occupation of the Cession, isn’t it worth it? They all barely take a minute before agreeing, tears in their eyes. They started this together, and now they’re going to end it together. The four of them.

Overhead shot of the four girls putting their heads in for a group head

The power of four, who could want more?

So everyone goes outside to meet at the border. General Petra Bellweather on one side, a mob of press behind her. And the Cession militia on the other, loosely forming a barrier around the core four. Abigail says goodbye to Thelma, because their respect for each other has only grown over the last few weeks. (Months? Time is a weird soup.) They shake hands and it actually made me a little emotional.

Abigail and Thelma Bearkiller shake hands

“I can’t take them as chums.”

The four witches get ready to turn themselves in. They don’t trust that they’ll get a fair trial, and it’s not like Tally can give them a sneak preview anymore. Abigail makes Adil promise to not try to break her out or do anything that isn’t above board. His only mission now is to find his sister.

While they’re saying goodbye, so are Raelle and Scylla, in case they get separated as soon as they’re over the border. Raelle says she thought she’d be more scared to be mortal, but she’s not; she feels strong with Scylla. Scylla wishes they had more time, that their circumstances were better, that they could just be together, and Raelle wishes that too. So much, in fact, that she asks Scylla if, when they make it past all this chaos, she will marry her. And of course, of course, the answer is yes.

Raelle and Scylla kiss joyously

All the best shows have a gay wedding season (or series) finale, so let’s hop on that trend!

Raelle takes a ring off her finger and slides it onto Scylla’s, and then kisses her now-fiancée’s hand. They smile and cry and enjoy this moment before rejoining Tally and Abigail. They all hold hands and get ready to face whatever is next. Heads held high. Together.

Scylla, Raelle, Tally and Abigail hold hands in a line and walk slowly but confidently over the Cession border

“Slow motion down the hall as kids all stop and stare, I feel like I’m part of it all for the first time.”

They slow motion walk across the Cession line like it’s the Craft and they’re about to sacrifice a teen boy to the elemental gods, and when they reach Petra’s side, she turns to the press and announces: the occupation is over.

Only two episodes left!! And if the THIRD to last episode was this much of a doozy, I am in no way prepared for whatever is next.


Before you go! Did you like what you just read? We keep Autostraddle majority free-to-read, but it isn't free to create! And yet most readers don't support this indie queer site. Will you be one of the people who do? A+ membership starts at just $4/month or $30/year and they literally keep us from closing. Will you join? Cancel anytime.

Join A+

Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 414 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for that great review! Love the captions, especially. :)

    I just can’t believe how incredibly underrated and underwatched this absolutely brilliant show is! It’s soooooooo good!!

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!