The students are distracted by personal issues when their focus should be on training for the upcoming Welters Tournament.
Quentin meets Dean Fogg in his office and asks what will happen to Julia. Dean Fogg says he won't do anything to her, he's not the magic police, what she and the hedge witches do is not his business, nor Quentin's. "Hedge witches tend to crash and burn, all on their own."
Outside the bodega, Julia runs into Pete and says she wants her spells back; Pete says no, they're locked in Marina's filing cabinet, and he won't help, he doesn't want Julia hurt. Marina is the boss, it's not fair, but Pete can't help.
Dean Fogg is visiting what looks like Alice's family farm, trying to convince her to come back to Brakebills, there's a lot of the world he'd like to show her. She says she wasn't even invited to Brakebills, she had to sneak in; the Dean says he was wrong, he felt responsible for what happened to her brother and didn't want to hurt her family more. But she is far too gifted not to teach further.
At Brakebills, Margo is telling Eliot that they are going to win the alumni week "Hunger Games". It is a lawn party with many alumni, offering themselves as mentors to the students there; one magical physician is describing her specialty to Quentin. Alice is there, with her aunt Genji, who Margo and Eliot say everyone knows, she runs a fabulous camp for magicians. Alice and Quentin say hello, but are still awkward about it.
Penny is in a classroom mixing potions, while hearing a distant voice asking for help. In walks Stanley, an alumnus, who announces himself as Penny's mentor; Stanley is also a Traveller, "a terrible, life-destroying burden"; he shows Penny his artificial leg, his real leg was lost as the result of traveling to the top of Mount Everest. He says that Penny is the first Traveller in 35 years. He recommends Penny start training with Astral Projection, which is safer, but even safer is a tattoo like Stanley shows him, that binds your body to Earth.
At the Cottage, Eliot and Margo are advising Quentin to attract a mentor, they can help. And to be impressive, they recommend Welters, the magic game Brakebills students play. It's played on a big square, you use magic to take squares; Margo is hot to have a team from the Physical Kids, and wants to win. Quentin gets a message: His father's sick.
Quentin arrives at his home, and Ted Coldwater, his father, welcomes him, and immediately tells him he has brain cancer, there are some treatment options, he doesn't currently have any serious symptoms, but it's there; he says Quentin's mother doesn't know. But really, Ted is worried about Quentin. he's scarcely seen him since he went off to school; he's sure he's studying Finance and doesn't think that Quentin is really a Finance guy. More than that, he wants to fix what's broken between them.
Eliot and Margo are separately talking to Alice, each saying they hadn't gotten a mentor yet, and hoping for Alice to put in a good word with her aunt.
Julia is at home, and James come home; she has been being "normal" to him, apparently working on a paper, baking, and he's relieved. She says it's that she's not high all the time.
Quentin comes home to find his father throwing up, but his father declines to go to the hospital, they'd just send him home. Ted now says he has one of the most severe kinds of brain tumor; there are treatments, but he's choosing not to pursue them, his doctors agree its type and location leave no chance of real success, he doesn't want to be left worse off than he is now.
At an alumni party at Brakebills, Quentin approaches the magical physician who had spoken to him earlier and asks for help for his father. She explains cancer is not like other treatable illnesses, it's a part of you. He guesses there were experimental treatments; she counters with the question of why Dean Fogg hasn't fixed his eyes: it requires an enormous amount of energy, and the cost is too much. She gives him some journal articles, but a cure may not be possible and will require far more energy than he can raise.
Eliot is at the Cottage, setting out cupcakes labeled for Aunt Genji; Margo shows him a bottle of sake she got for her. (Clearly, they are competing for Aunt Genji's attention.)
Julia kisses James as he leaves their apartment, and then she back to the web: she is researching spells. She tries a spell, following the recipe, and fire happens, catching her fingers on fire.
Julia is at Pete's apartment as he bandages her fingers; he admonishes her on using Google Magic. He advises her to find something else to do, but she is drawn to magic and can't keep away, there is nothing else for her, she needs his help. She kisses him passionately, slips off her sweater, and says there are other hedges and safe houses, she wants to know them. They proceed to make love.
Margo, Eliot, Quentin, Alice, and Kady arrive at the Welters tournament, playing against five nature magic students. It is on a grid perhaps half the size of a basketball court; the squares on it have patterns, and you use magic to place markers, but the patterns and context change the magic you need, so it takes skill. One Nature student tries to place a marker, but her magic fails. Margo tries, and her magic works, Other things happen, but Quentin is mostly thinking about his father's cancer. Margo wakes him up to make his play. He tosses the marker to a square, adds magic, and casts a mighty spell that somewhat destroys the playing hall, but Alice helps to get the spell under control, and the marker is properly placed: they win.
At the post-game party at the Physical Kids Cottage, all are celebrating, and especially congratulating Quentin on his great spell. He is not celebratory, his father is still sick, and none of this matters. Margo says yes, his spell worked because he was so worked up about his father, magic comes from the pain people feel like Eliot said earlier. So he should apply his misery so it does the most good.
Julia walks into a club, talks to the attendant and says that Pete sent her. He asks to see her stars; she demonstrates a spell, causing a cloud. He welcomes her, and she starts looking through their loose-leaf binder of spells. She is unimpressed, she knows more than this, and walks out.
Kady and Penny are relaxing after sex. He reaches for his pants for cigarettes, and a sheet of paper falls out, that she examines: A symbol, mostly an anchor. She asks what it is; he says it's to keep him from Traveling to death. She says Traveling is freedom, but he says it's not freedom if he can't control it.
Julia and Pete are talking in a New York bar; she's not satisfied with the hedge witch house she examined. He says it's the number 2 in New York, to do better she has to go out of town. He suggests a place in the Mali desert, they have wonderful magic, Julia and Pete could go there together... Julia is not interested, she loves James. Pete doesn't think she'll stay with James, he's not a magician. She says she can at least tell James about her magic, but Pete says that's against Marina's rules. Julia says Marina's rules no longer apply.
Penny is in the Psychics Cottage, in a meditation tent. He hears a distant voice, a woman asking for help; he says "I hear you", and the voice says "please, come for me". He meditates a moment, asks "where are you", opens his eyes, and he's in an unfamiliar place, indoors. He hears her screaming nearby; he follows the voice to a door with a symbol of two rams' heads on it. He extends his hand to open the door, and his hand passes through it: wow, he's done astral projection. He walks right through the door and finds himself in another room, where there is a woman chained with many chains to the walls, pleading for release. He speaks to her and waves his hands, but she doesn't seem to see or hear him. Then the door opens, and in walks The Beast; she responds with hysterical crying. The Beast calls her "Victoria", and asks if she is ready to talk. The Beast seems to turn its "face" towards Penny, and says "Go home", and Penny is immediately back in his Cottage, awake.
Penny walks into a bar, where Stanley is there drinking. Penny complains that Stanley lied to him, he's not the first Traveller in 35 years, he found Victoria in a dungeon, and also found her in a Brakebills list from 2013, she was part of the third-year class that went missing. Stanley had figured she was dead. Penny asks if Stanley can get her back; no, Stanley doesn't know where she is, Penny did, and it's not Stanley's problem.
At yet another party at the Physical Kids Cottage, Quentin finds Eliot and asks what he knows about "Cancer Puppy". In a lab somewhere, Eliot gets a puppy out of a cage: Gerald is usually called Cancer Puppy, the school's unofficial mascot. He's had magic to extend his age, he's 150 years old, though still a puppy, and with age he got cancer. Quentin wants to try to cure him, as he discovered a spell that might work, with a lot of energy. They mix ingredients, Quentin waves his hands, there's a squeal and...
Dean Fogg, in his office, is asking Quentin "You killed Cancer Puppy." The spell he was using was of a class forbidden to students, and also everyone else. The best magicians in the world couldn't do that spell, but Quentin felt he had to try. Quentin asks the Dean why he didn't fix his eyes; the Dean says his glasses show him outlines, and he can live with that, if he had to choose between his eyes and his hands, he'd rather be able to cast. Quentin asks what's the point of magic if you can't fix real problems. The Dean says we can fix some things when we can.
Quentin is back at his father's house, where his father has fallen asleep in front of the TV. He wakes him. Quentin says his father was right, Quentin doesn't care about Finance; his father says he just wants Quentin to be happy. Quentin takes him to the table, where there is a model airplane kit that his father had shown him earlier, that Quentin had broken part of when he was a kid. Quentin waves his hands in a spell, and the pieces rise off of the table and assemble themselves into a complete plane, floating in the air. Quentin says "this is where I've been. I'm a magician."
In a restaurant in New York, Julia comes up to James and addresses him familiarly, says she's been trying to call him, but she has things to tell him...and he stops her, and asks "Do I know you?" He thinks she's confused him with someone else. He leaves.
Julia storms into the bodega and asks Pete what's up, what did he do. Pete says Marina did it. But it wasn't to hurt Julia, it was to save James. Julia hasn't taken any of their advice, and she needs to stand on her own.
At Brakebills, Alice and Aunt Genji are talking, Alice isn't interested in any of the things people might want to mentor her in, she doesn't know what she is interested in. Aunt Genji says then this is the perfect place for her. Eliot and Margo meet them, and Genji says the thought of mentoring them exhausts her; Eliot says maybe next year.
In the Brakebills classroom, the professor tells students to pair up for some work; Quentin and Alice find themselves paired. Alice asks if anyone can fix his dad; he has no answer. But he's glad she came back to Brakebills.
In his Cottage, Penny is drawing for Kady a drawing of the seal he saw in the door of the dungeon in that place Victoria is in. Kady says he should show it to Quentin and Alice, they're involved.
In the Physical Kids Cottage, Penny is explaining what happened, to Quentin, Alice, and Kady. Quentin immediately recognizes the drawing of the seal: it's the seal of "Ember". He pulls out one of his Fillory books and shows them the same seal. "Penny, I think you were in Fillory."
- Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater
- Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker
- Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice Quinn
- Arjun Gupta as Penny
- Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh
- Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson
- Rick Worthy as Henry Fogg
- Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz
- David Call as Pete
- Michael Cassidy as James
- Spencer Garrett as Ted Coldwater
- Denise Crosby as Genji
- M.C. Gainey as Stanley
- Charles Mesure as The Beast
- Keegan Connor Tracy as Professor Lipson
- Patricia Isaac as Doctor Meers
- Edwin Perez as Eugino
- Amitai Marmorstein as Rick
- Hannah Levien as Victoria
- Megan Peta Hill as Natural Student
- United States of America
- Mali (mentioned)