I’m just going to go ahead and let you know that this was one of my all-time favorite episodes of television, because it was wild fun and seriously emotional and it was perfectly written and acted and shot and I loved every single part of it. And not just because one of my longest-running theories was proven to be correct.
Things to remember before we get into the episode: Doc ran into Bulshar in the woods, Nicole threw Bulshar’s ring randomly INTO THOSE VERY SAME WOODS, we learned Mama Earp once burned down the Homestead barn with Waverly in it and Waverly is pretty convinced it’s because she thinks Waverly is a demon, and last week’s episode ended with Zoie Palmer’s character Jolene glamouring our friends with baked goods that made them trust her implicitly.
We open with Wynonna tying Mama to a post in the barn. Wynonna tells Waverly to go back inside, and Mama is flipping out, begging Waverly not to be alone, but Waverly listens to her sister. Mama tries to explain to Wynonna about a demon who stalked Waverly since she was a baby, and when she burned down the barn it was really an exorcism gone wrong and the demon became bound to her. When Waverly came to her and touched her, the binding was broken and the demon got loose. Mama came back to save Waverly, and she saw the demon, but where the hell is it now?
Cut to Jolene, who is still baking up a storm, giving Waverly a comfort cupcake.
Waverly smiles warmly at Jolene, calling her family, giving her a hug. Jolene gives her a squeeze and Waverly doesn’t see the giant knife Jolene is squeezing just as tight.
Wynonna comes back inside and muses with Doc about what she should do with Mama. For a minute it seems Doc might be coming down from his sugar high, but before he can express any of his confusion over Jolene’s presence, she pops a snickerdoodle in his mouth and he melts back into trusting her.
After Jolene heads out to be on demon watch (I’m so sure) Doc tells Wynonna about being able to hear the third voice on her mother’s therapy tapes and how he had been to hell. He believes Waverly is in danger, so Wynonna is on high alert.
Waverly goes to talk to Mama, who tells her about the demon, about how she saw it over Waverly’s crib, saw it in every photo she took of her youngest girl.
And I couldn’t find proof of this, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t imagine it…didn’t Waverly at one point, when she was talking about forgotten birthdays, mention that there were no baby photos of her? It makes sense why Ward Earp ignored her after Mama went away — he was an asshole and also he knew she wasn’t his — but Mama explains now why Waverly doesn’t have any photos of her from before Mama went away. Mama thought tearing up these pictures, in which the blurry demon face in the background got closer and closer, would help keep the demon at bay.
Waverly starts to leave, unsure if she can believe the mother she barely knows, when she remembers something. In kindergarten, she wouldn’t sit near the mirror because there was always something lurking behind her, something with too many teeth.
Mama tells Waverly she’s tired of fighting off this demon who has been whispering in her ear all these years, and that Waverly is in danger. And then our Brave Little Toaster, of course, as always, reassures her mother. Mama is literally telling Waverly she’s being stalked by a murder demon who specifically wants to kill Waverly and Waverly is still the one doing the comforting. Always. And when she mentions Jolene amongst the list of people who have Mama’s back, Mama is confused as hell.
Also confused is the Revenant who encounters Jolene, who appears harmless at first, wielding only a pie…until she cuts his tongue clean out.
Wynonna unties Mama and Mama learns a lot in a short period of time: Doc Holliday is alive and sort of dating Wynonna, Waverly is “shtupping” a lady cop named Nicole, and there’s a person named Jolene that everyone is treating like family.
Mama is confused but Jolene shoves a treat in her mouth (so many people just let food be shoved into their mouths in this episode) and Mama says they have to get to the Gibson Greenhouse where Waverly was born to bind the demon to Mama again.
Then Jolene starts her mayhem. She picks off the team one by one and pits them against each other, and against themselves, starting by making Doc doubt his usefulness to the team, to Wynonna.
Meanwhile, the Earp ladies go to the Gibson Greenhouse and Waverly asks the question we’ve all been shouting into the ether for what feels like centuries: Who is her real dad? Michelle says his name was Julian and that he was…better. She does this while putting her hand on the statue of an angel.
Meanwhile, out on that one main road that leads from the Homestead into town, Nicole pulls over Jolene, who is driving the jailhouse Revenant’s unmarked car with the little light on top. Jolene gives Nicole a lemon scone and gives everyone awful nicknames and preys on Nicole’s insecurities about being left out of the Earp sisters’ misadventures.
Jolene, knowing her power over Officer Haught is secure once again, casually drops that she needs Waverly because she “can’t physically harm her” and says toodles.
At the Greenhouse, the tongueless Revenant storms in and Wynonna Peacemakers him, and for a brief moment they think maybe they defeated the demon. But then Waverly follows a voice outside and finds Jolene trapped in an occult symbol like the one Mama had been making back in the barn. Jolene pulls Wynonna into it and Jolene grabs her by the throat, revealing her true demon self and growling things at her. Waverly thwacks her with the butt of her gun, but then Jolene turns back into the sweet baker and calls out to Mama and Wynonna, who instantly take Jolene’s side over Waverly’s, the first crack in Waverly’s grip on reality.
When they get back to the Homestead, Wynonna and Mama are drinking whiskey and having a grand old time when Waverly sheepishly creeps in to see if they’re still mad at her for, the way they see it, cold-clocking their buddy for no reason.
They sass her, and Waverly is starting to feel isolated and alone. She tries to apologize to Jolene, who mentions that she called Nicole, and that Nicole is Jolene’s best friend. Another crack.
The ladies all head to Shorty’s, where it’s karaoke night, because as I may have mentioned, this episode is the fucking best. The Jolene haze starting to fade, Mama wonders how the demon in her head could have been a Revenant and also physically in the prison…Jolene tries to shove more treats her way, but Mama and Wynonna are too focused on drinking to want more dessert. Desperate, Jolene diverts their attention to Kate, who is sitting in the corner giving tarot readings, and she outs her as Doc’s wife.
Speaking of Doc, he’s visiting Bobo’s well to tell him Dolls is dead, give him banana liqueur, and asks for leverage on Bulshar. Bobo tells him about Bulshar’s ring and in exchange wants Waverly to visit him.
Back at Shorty’s, Wynonna is wallowing in the bathroom about how Big Nose Kate’s nose is actually perfect and she’s drunk and mad and it’s kind of cute. Jolene starts to put makeup on her and shoves another brownie in her mouth as Waverly comes in to check on her sister. Jolene swiftly pits them against each other, telling Wynonna that Waverly knew all along, and Wynonna jabs the jabbiest jab at her baby girl, calling her “half-sister.”
Waverly leaves, distraught, and even through her special brownie haze, she knows that wasn’t quite right.
All of Jolene’s pitting starts to come to a head as Doc and Nicole show up and the team is all gathered in the same place. Mama fights with Doc, Wynonna fights with Kate, Waverly sees Jolene trying to pull the broken taps move on Nicole.
This is Waverly’s last straw and she launches herself at Jolene, setting off a full-bar brawl.
While the chaos breaks out, Jolene strips off her matronly outer layer, grabs the microphone, and starts singing an upbeat country song, smirking all the while.
Also not for nothing but that entire brawl should win an award for best choreography. It was so much fun to watch.
When the fight gets broken up, Officer Haught throws Wynonna and Mama in the drunk tank. Waverly comes to bail them out, but Nicole tells her they have to stay til they dry out. She also says she’s going to turn Michelle over to the feds, and snaps at Waverly for not mentioning that she had been hanging out with her MOTHER for the past 12 hours. She’s shoving Jolene’s scones in her mouth and being mean to sweet Waverly, and when Waverly meekly asks if she can call her girlfriend later, Nicole snaps at says, “Yeah or don’t.”
It’s very hard to watch poor Waverly’s heart break and her foundation crumble little by little.
Back in what’s left of Shorty’s, Jolene drinks wine and drinks in the havoc she wreaked.
Kate forces her to tap her tarot deck and pulls a card for her, saying that Jolene owes fealty and if she doesn’t pay up soon, she’s going to regret it. Jolene, having no ground to stand on, starts insulting vampires and Kate’s makeup, which is all just her own insecurities because Kate’s makeup is flawless always.
Doc finds Waverly crying and instead of folding her into his arms like he normally would, he is cold and distant, caring only about the location of Bulshar’s ring. Waverly wonders again if SHE’S the demon, if she’s the reason everything is going wrong, if she’s the curse in their lives. And Doc takes another bite of snickerdoodle, shrugs, and says that maybe she is.
Jolene goes back to the Homestead and finds Nicole in Waverly’s room; the scones have worn off and her love for Waverly has fought through and she wants to apologize to her girlfriend. Jolene tries coming onto her again, but Nicole isn’t having it this time. Things are hazing and confusing right now but there’s one truth she knows to her very core: She loves Waverly.
Upset that her charms aren’t working anymore, Jolene shoves Nicole into the dresser, and Bulshar’s ring is there. It burns Jolene’s skin when she touches it, and even more furious than ever, and now a little shook to learn Bulshar has risen, she locks Nicole in a closet. And I would normally make a lesbian-in-the-closet joke here, but Nicole MAKES ONE HERSELF later in the episode which is such a small thing but SUCH A BIG GIFT. I appreciated it so much, as I myself is a lesbian who makes closet/coming out jokes as often as possible.
When Mama and Wynonna wake up in the drunk tank, Wynonna tells Mama about Alice Michelle, and about how maybe she understands now why Mama left them. Because sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. But now that the whiskey AND the spiked goodies have worn off, Mama and Wynonna realize that it’s very unlikely that the very run-of-the-mill-seeming Revenant was the demon tormenting Mama all these years. The demon is still out there, and so is Waverly.
Mama and Wynonna yell for Nedley, and as soon as they mention Jolene, he pulls his “it’s my business to know everyone’s business” card and tells them he doesn’t know this “Jolene” they speak of. They realize Jolene is the demon and yell in unison for Nedley to drop the tart he was about to eat.
Waverly, feeling alone and stuck, goes back to the Gibson Greenhouse, and Jolene is there too, with her giant knife and pointy words. She calls Waverly a demon, tells her she can’t do anything right, calls her an evil changeling, all the things Waverly has worried about since the moment she found out she might not be an Earp. She’s thought all these things before, feared them for months, so it’s easy to believe them when Jolene says it.
Jolene presses the knife into Waverly’s hands and tells her how they were born at the same time, in a way, and Waverly came from the light, while Jolene came from the darkness. Jolene watched as Waverly got everything and Jolene was shunned, but Jolene believes she’s turned the tables and nobody loves Waverly anymore. So she implores her to just do it. Just end all the darkness, all the pain.
And Waverly is feeling lost, alone, broken. She’s thinking about doing it, quickly considering all the consequences, trying to imagine if it’s true, if everyone would be better off without her. But then she remembers Wynonna. Wynonna loves her baby girl, always, no matter what.
And it’s the step backwards from the cliff she needs to start to feel like she’s on solid ground again. She remembers Nicole, and Doc, and Jeremy…even Mama. They love her. Jolene’s last ditch effort to shove Waverly into that darkness is to tell her that she doesn’t bring them anything, but Waverly disagrees. She loves them, that’s what she brings. And she never gives up on them.
Waverly throws down the knife, and Jolene screeches, knowing she’s lost this battle.
I’ve always identified with Waverly the most on this show. A late bloomer, a people-pleaser, genuinely wanting to do the right thing, empathetic to the core, mommy issues, loyal almost to a fault, and sometimes acting out people make assumptions about who we are. Being the optimistic one, being the hopeful one, the one people go to when they want a positive outlook…it can be hard. It might not seem hard, especially because we tend to offer it up so easily, but people like Waverly and me, in order to give you some of our light, we have absorb some of your darkness. We do it willingly, and wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t, but there are days — or weeks, or months — where the balance is off and the darkness weighs us down, but we’re afraid to show it, because we’re supposed to be the ones with the light. So this episode, when Waverly went through one of the most relatable arcs I’ve ever seen on television, and almost succumbed to the darkness, it cut real deep.
I spent the majority of my teenage years with a Jolene whispering in my ear. Pressing blades into my hands, sliding pill bottles across the counter, twitching the wheel of my car, all while telling me I was worthless. That voice told me that I caused more pain than joy to the people in my life, that nobody truly loved me, that if I succeeded at this one thing I would “do something right for once.” I was on that brink more than once. I stood on that precipice for what felt like years. Sometimes she’d win small battles, leaving me with white-hot tears on my face and angry red marks on my arms. And even the night she came the closest to winning the war we were waging, it was my own voice, almost unfamiliar to me at that point, that fought through the noise, that got through to me, helped me fight her off. It wasn’t just the list of people who loved me — I never doubted my father loved me, but he lost a brother when he was young, I knew he was strong, I believed he would be okay if I left him. I had convinced myself that even the people who loved me would be better off without me, but the thing I remember so clearly, despite how irrational it seemed, was that the thought that stilled my hand was how much I’d miss them.
So when Waverly said, “I love them back,” that hit me really hard. Because that was the key for me, personally. Even now, when I remember my Jolene’s words, I tell myself that I have to trust the people I love; if they say they love me, I have to trust THEIR voices, not the one in my head contradicting them. It’s a thing I’ve never talked about before, and honestly don’t know if I would have been able to explain it as clearly without this context. Or maybe I’m not explaining it well at all. All I know for sure is that this show is slowly but surely cutting open all my scars and healing them again, this time a little better than before. And even though echoes of her voice still rattle around my brain now and then, still weigh me down some mornings, I’ve surrounded myself with enough people who love me, and enough people I love, that my Jolene is gone more often than she’s here. Because the thing is, once you recognize Jolene for the demon she is, once you realize she’s not a truth-telling friend, but a manipulative beast, she’s a bit easier to keep at bay. Or at the very least, for me, it becomes easier to get help slaying her.
When Waverly gets to her feet, she jabs Jolene with a shovel for making her feel worthless, for making her doubt herself, for pitting her against the people she loves. Wynonna shows up just in time, and Jolene tries one last time to convince Wynonna she loves her, but Wynonna isn’t listening, not anymore. She loves Waverly the most. That’s all that matters now.
And the thing is, when I say Wynonna came just in time, I mean it. Wynonna couldn’t come any sooner, it wouldn’t have worked. Wynonna just came to help pick up the pieces, be the support system, not the solution. Waverly had to save herself.
Wynonna runs after Jolene to find her caught in the trap Mama set. Before they can shoot her again, one of Bulshar’s trees wraps its vines around her. She calls out, swearing Waverly was going to be a tribute for him, but the tree consumes her anyway.
Mama hugs her girls, finally free of the demon that plagued her, the demon that almost got her youngest daughter, too.
The next day, Nicole and Waverly have a very cute apology party, complete with balloons.
They talk about how love saved the day, and a little about Bulshar’s Boomaring, but mostly they just kiss and snuggle and make up.
Oops I dropped this.
Doc walks into the woods with Bulshar’s ring on his finger, taunting the demon entity like he still has eternal longevity, and Wynonna goes to see Bobo in the well to tell him that Waverly will never come visit him. To tempt her to change her mind, Bobo offers information she might find interesting: Waverly’s father? Julian? He was a literal angel.
A baby bisexual angel from heaven. We have been truly blessed.
See you next week for a very special summertime Christmas episode!