Back at the station, Cleo the Magistrate hops up on a desk with a megaphone to make an announcement. Instead of a trial, Wynonna will compete for a chance to win a get out of jail free card. The competition? The First Annual Randy Nedley Memorial Chili Cook-Off FOR FREEDOM!
As the prisoners get loaded into Shorty’s, Casey tells Wynonna about the Tops Off Dance Off FOR FREEDOM and that the Magistrate throws them every so often to distract the people from what a shitstorm Purgatory has become.
Waverly and Nicole show up to help and when Wynonna and Haught see each other their eyes flood with relief and they wrap each other in a tight, full-body hug.
And this moment gets me every time I think about it, because they’ve come so far to get here. They went from not even being able to high five each other to this because the last time they said goodbye, they genuinely didn’t know if it was going to be the last time. Wynonna left Nicole with a broken leg to face a horde of zombies, and Nicole watched Wynonna go through a portal to who knows where. They love each other and they’ve been through too much to be afraid to show it. They try to tease each other but their hearts aren’t in it, they’re just so genuinely glad that the other is alive.
And then the Magistrate hops up onto another table kicks off the competition, and it quickly becomes clear that Wynonna is going to need WayHaught’s help.
Doc heads off to the woods to find the People Eater and stumbles upon one of Amon’s missing shipments for the bar. He also does indeed find the People Eater and when it doesn’t stop lumbering toward him after he shoots it, he decides to grab a bottle of booze and make a run for it.
The Randy Nedley Memorial Chili Cook-Off FOR FREEDOM is officially underway, t-shirt cannon and all.
Wynonna asks Nicole how Cleo even got to be in charge and Nicole says she just showed up one day, called herself the Magistrate and elected her own sheriff. Nicole was too busy looking for her lost…everybody to fight the usurpers. Wynonna starts to make a joke about where Nicole looked for them, but Nicole cuts her off and says she let everybody down. Just pure heartbreak and sorrow in her voice. Wynonna starts to realize the gravity of what Nicole must be feeling but before she can say anything Waverly interrupts because they have to get a move on if they want anything resembling chili by the end of the competition.
Waverly is about to add seitan to make it vegan chili but Nicole and Wynonna know they can’t win like that.
Sheriff Clayborne approaches Haught then and says he’s sorry he won the election for sheriff in a voice that doesn’t sound particularly apologetic. He low-key threatens her and preys on her insecurities about the homestead by saying he hopes it’s safe with only a teenage girl protecting it, once again in a voice that implies the opposite. Waverly notices her girl is worried and sends her back to the Homestead to check on Rachel.
When Nicole gets back to the Homestead, Rachel tells her that Doc and the People Eater are coming their way, and Nicole tells her to get her injured tush inside right this instant.
Nicole and Rachel are hiding from the People Eater as it runs around the perimeter of the house and Rachel realizes that “Doctor Mustache” is outside, too, and that they have to let him in. And Nicole freezes. Just. Stops.
And a lot of things could have been going through her head in this moment. Is she considering whether or not she wants to risk her and Rachel’s lives to help a vampire who killed her girlfriend’s biodad? Is she thinking about how she wasn’t the one to save Waverly so how could she be trusted to save Rachel? Is she frozen with the realization that the moment she’s been dreading for months, the one creature she’s been trying to keep away is finally here? Is the burden she’s been bearing alone for 18 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days but put down for a minute when she saw Waverly’s face again suddenly too heavy to pick back up? All of the above? Either way, this poor traumatized thing finally snaps into action and lets Doc in, who Valdez is starting to take a shine to.
Back at Shorty’s the Randy Nedley Memorial Chili Cook-Off FOR FREEDOM is finally finished, and Cleo has recruited Chrissy to help her tally the votes.
Wynonna and Waverly wait patiently for the results, Wynonna leaning on her baby sister quite literally, because she doesn’t want to be separated again, not this soon after getting her back, not ever.
And everyone except Chrissy rejoices when it’s announced that Wynonna won! Wynonna cheers as she’s escorted out of Shorty’s and Waverly is confused; she tastes the chili and it’s disgusting, so she wonders what the Magistrate is up to. As she realizes that Wynonna isn’t so much being escorted as dragged out of the bar, she realizes that this was all a set-up.
Cleo takes Wynonna back to the station to get some keys to take Wynonna to the border because she wants her out of town and out of her hair. Wynonna considers her for a minute and points out that she seemed to know who Wynonna was when they met, and yet she doesn’t seem to be a revenant, and she hasn’t tried to kill Wynonna…so what’s her deal? Cleo’s face darkens just a little for just a moment as she considers Wynonna’s question, something deeper and more complicated going on under those bangs than she wants anyone to know about.
But she shakes it off and puts on that bright smile again as she finds the keys and they head out.
At the Homestead, the monster is approaching and Valdez says that despite everyone giving her a hard time about it, her homemade kombucha seemed to be effective against the monster. And when she uses the same description of its stench as Mercedes did about Nedley’s wounds, Doc starts to put two and two together. Nicole starts to desperate explain how this monster has been tormenting her and she pulls out what looks like a goddamned homemade grimoire and says she found Nedley’s shirt in a trap a while back and is pretty sure this thing ate him. But Doc says that perhaps this monster who has been trying like hell to get to Nicole didn’t EAT Nedley, but IS Nedley.
The Magistrate doesn’t end up taking Wynonna to the border, but instead to the middle of the woods where she intends on feeding her to the People Eater; apparently that’s where the winners of these competitions go, to keep the monster out of town for a little while. Cleo starts ranting about Earps not being able to keep their word, calling her the “daughter of Earps” so it does seem that either she or her family has a bit of beef with one of Wynonna’s ancestors.
Cleo is ready to leave her for dead, but Waverly comes and saves the day, knocking Cleo out and grabbing the t-shirt cannon, ready to defend her big sister with her improvised weapon.
Doc and Nicole come running in soon after with improvised weapons of their own — a lasso and a squirt gun full of kombucha, to be precise — yelling that it’s Nedley and taking down the monster. Wynonna, hogtied in the snow, watches as her baby sister, her baby daddy, and her best friend wrastle a monster that is slowly revealing itself to be her nemesis-turned-father-figure and she can’t help but smile at these idiots she loves so much.
Eventually the People Eater becomes Nedley and he doesn’t seem to remember what happened or what he did, but Wynonna tells him that he survived and that’s all that matters. Well that and covering up his naked body are all that matters.
They take him back to Shorty’s, where Chrissy is over the moon to see her dad alive and well after all. She apologizes to the Earps for losing her way a little and thanks them for returning him safe and sound.
Wynonna and Waverly get it and smile at her, Haught is still staring off in the middle distance. Another person she feels like she failed.
Doc heads back to the Glory Hole, where he negotiates and flirts with Amon. Amon offers Doc blood but instead he asks for a future favor, and Amon accepts with a kiss to the hand, so hopefully we haven’t seen the last of this duo.
Back at the Homestead, Waverly and Nicole are enjoying another evening together, touching each other to make sure it’s all real.
Waverly tells Nicole about Not!Haught in the Garden and how she knew right away that it wasn’t the woman she has memorized tip to toe.
They hear a sound downstairs and Nicole jumps. Waverly reminds her that it’s just Wynonna getting a snack but Nicole is shook. She’s not used to having so many people in the house, she’s not used to being alone to face every near and present danger. Waverly tells her she loves her and wants Nicole to talk about those 18 months but Nicole can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong and has to check the traps to feel better. Waverly understands and asks if she can come with her and Nicole says, “Always.”
Because to her credit, Nicole isn’t pushing Waverly away. Quite the opposite. She’s holding her close. But neither she nor Waverly has really looked Nicole’s trauma in the face yet. She’s holding on by a thread and she’s one perceived mistake away from falling apart altogether, and I just hope Waverly, Wynonna, and Rachel are ready to pick up those pieces.
Chrissy heads out through the border, easily able to pass because she’s a regular human, and notably without her father in the car with her. The border patrolperson says she has to get her supervisor, and when Chrissy whispers, “They’re back,” before driving off, we pull back to see that said supervisor is none other than our sweet Jeremy.
Meanwhile, Valdez is getting ready to move out into the barn and out of Wynonna’s room, but Wynonna says she can stay. Wynonna thanks Valdez for taking care of Nicole for her while she was gone, and Rachel appreciates that acknowledgement and not being treated like a little kid.
Then to really welcome her to the family, Wynonna gives Rachel a gentle ribbing about not stealing her clothes, calling her Smalldez before taking her laundry out to the barn.
But Wynonna isn’t in her new bedroom for three seconds before a bunch of heavily armed men drop dramatically from the ceiling and put a bag over her head, stealing her away, Wynonna quipping all the while.
The end! Can you believe we’re already halfway through this batch of new episodes? Anyone else really stressed about Nicole’s mental state? What the heck is up with Cleo? So many questions, and I can’t wait to not get answers. Next week, we get a little spooOOoooky! See you then!