An uncompromising professor pushes boundaries both in magic and in the personal lives of his first-year students. Meanwhile, Julia must decide whether she's ready to accept help and what that means for her future as a Magician.
This section needs a rewrite
A flock of geese are flying through snow, approaching a complex of buildings in a snowy valley. Close up, the main building looks rather like the Brakebills buildings, but covered in snow; over the front door it says Brakebills South. Inside, to the sound of opera, a middle-aged man peers out the window and sees the geese approaching. He sighs, finishes his drink, and puts on his hat.
At a New York City police station, Julia listens as an officer tells her that her friend had a brain hemorrhage. Julia is crying, she doesn't know why. The officer says Julia's sister is there to take her home.
At Brakebills South, Quentin and Alice are in a common area, dressed in warm uniform clothes, stunned that they just flew here to Antarctica, remembering the feel of being geese. Penny and Kady, likewise dressed, join them; Kady wants to continue her conversation with Penny, but he's not interested. The middle-aged man appears and is revealed as Mischa Mayakovsky who is commanding and irascible. The students sit at a table. He says he hates all of them. There is a flap, and in front of each of them appears a paper, Quentin reads: "the Hammer Charm of Legrand. We know this." Mayakovsky hates them all, because they don't know anything. Asked, Kady says it's a spell that makes nails go into boards perfectly straight. A clatter as nails rain onto the table. The Professor snaps his fingers, and the students all lose the power of speech; they do not need it. He assures them, they do not know how to do that spell. They will learn.
At the Physical Kids Cottage, Eliot and Margo are packing for a trip to Ibiza. Another student, Todd, wants to go to Encanto Octulo, but he needs an invite from someone who's been there, and Eliot and Margo have, so.... They say it's really not right for him, he wouldn't fit in; he leaves. Eliot and Margo need a gift for the elders paying for Ibiza, Eliza says he heard of a wonderful spell for gin, but he only has half of the spell, they need to find the rest in the library.
At Brakebills South, the students are in their rooms, silently doing the spell with nails, over and over again, trying to get it to work. Days of waving hands over nails and nothing else, no speech, no fun, just nails and boards. Mayakovsky passes down the hall, and commands the students: work!
Julia arrives at her messy apartment, with her sister. Julia thanks her for getting her home, but sister says she's staying until Julia is OK.
In the Brakebills library, Eliot and Margo find something, but it's in Arabic, and neither knows Arabic. Another student, Mike McCormick, is nearby and says he aced Arabic and he's willing to help them. Mike then introduced himself to Eliot, and they shake hands, so firmly that Margo has to interrupt to introduce herself.
At Brakebills South, Alice gets a nail in correctly for the first time. Quentin also get in his first one. They are both amazed. Professor Mayakovsky says, sarcastically, by all means congratulate yourselves. Quentin is angry, waves his hands, and all of his nails rise up, and then implant themselves in the board (successfully!) to spell out DICK. Mayakovsky sees and says it's the first intelligent thing Quentin's said; he slaps him and says next is Bujold's Nail Extraction. After Mayakovsky leaves, Alice comes over and kisses Quentin.
Julia's sister says Julia needs help, like Daddy who was a drunk, James had called a month ago to say he was worried. Julia says James now has forgotten her. Sister says Mom knows Julia got arrested, something about drugs, Mom has to keep this out of the papers, she's on the board of the Met. So Julia is going to get help, or else. Julia says no, she's not getting stuck in a place like Mom stuck Daddy. Sister says she'll help, she's called a place, Julia can go there tomorrow.
At Brakebills South, Mayakovsky is addressing all the students, those that remain have passed; he allows them to speak, they are silent, which pleases him. They will now learn mind control, which few can understand. In front of each student is a jar with a small animal; they will be their subjects. Quentin and Alice ask whether this is unethical, these things have free will. Mayakovsky retorts, how much free will did the cow in their lunch exercise? We have to decide to be the controller or the controlled.
In Mayakovsky's office, he asks Penny if he's a Traveller; finding that he is, he asks about the anchor tattoo, saying it chains him to a rock. He says they told Penny not to travel, it's too hard to control; it's like telling an eagle to fear heights, he will teach Penny to soar, and with Penny's approval, he cuts out the anchor.
At the Cottage, they are assembling the machine that should make magic gin, Margo says there is a lot to do to make it, Eliot and Mike are spending too much time just looking at each other. Finally she tells them, "Just bang! Now!"
Professor Mayakovsky mixes drinks and drinks them, as Penny Travels into and out of a square marked on the floor. Penny reports where he found himself each time: His hometown in Florida; a desert, maybe Afghanistan; a volcano. But Penny survived the volcano.
Mayakovsky is in the lab with Alice and Quentin, with an assistant hooking them up to some equipment. They were the only ones who couldn't do mind control. There are electrified rings on the table, connected to the students; the Professor releases a jar of fireflies; They need to get the fireflies through the rings, if one hits the edge of a ring, it gets zapped, and the students feel the pain. They try to do mind control on one of them, and get it through the rings. They celebrate, and Quentin grabs Alice's shoulders; he's apologetic, they aren't that close. Several flies get zapped, and Quentin is knocked unconscious.
Quentin awakes to the Professor sprinkling water on him; no, it's vodka. Mayakovsky offers to flunk Quentin so Alice can get all the credit, but she declines. They repeat practicing mind control, together as before, it's like with the nails before, over and over, with Mayakovsky's disapproval. They get it done, but Mayakovsky complains, "Where's the joy? The fun?" He can't flunk them, but they need to meet him for a different trial.
Penny is explaining to Kady that he almost died in the volcano, and realized he wanted to know if there was something Kady wanted to tell him. She says there's nothing she can tell him, she has to drop her wards to let him in, so he can see everything. She does, he pauses, and says her mom is the only person in the world Kady loves. But Kady replies, "Not anymore."
At the Cottage, Eliot and Mike are having such loud sex that even Margo is disgusted.
Penny and Kady are relaxing after sex. He wonders, if they could offer Marina some absolutely wonderful magic, Kady could be free. She says it would have to be pretty amazing. He says he's seen it, in Mayakovsky's office.
At the Cottage, the gin machine is complete, Margo complaining that neither Eliot nor Mike really helped. They turn on the machine, it makes lots of noise, and the corked bottle under it fills with a green something. Margo opens the bottle, and the green something pours out ... and standing in the room is a handsome, smiling young man in Arab-style robes. They didn't get gin, they got a Djinn. The djinn speaks Arabic to them. Eliot speculates how cool it could be if the djinn granted wishes for them. The djinn smiles and bows to Margo, speaking Arabic again, then walks across the room, grabs Mike, and they disappear.
In the entry hall to Brakebills South, Mayakovsky commands Quentin and Alice to remove their clothes. (It is vigorously snowing outside.) Reluctantly, they obey, and a moment later they are being pushed outside, naked, into the blizzard, and the door locked behind them.
Quentin and Alice, still naked, enter an outside door to Brakebills South, snow trailing in behind them. They quickly get to his room and find robes to wear; this scene is interspersed with images of two foxes playing happily in the snow, and them (as humans) commenting that "being out there without fur is brutal. With fur, it's nice," and images of the two of them (as humans) having sex, both in the snow and inside.
At the Cottage, Eliot is complaining to Margo about the djinn, it was looking at her, so it did what she wanted. Todd pipes in, the djinn was talking Arabic, it said, "Yes, Mistress, I understand ... I will do exactly that to him." Since Margo uncorked him, the djinn could read her thoughts. Margo says she had wished Mike would go back to where he came from, which they realize was where she first saw him: the Library. Eliot is upset, she lost his boyfriend, though Margo asks what's special about him compared to the last ten. They find the djinn and Mike in the Library, Mike looking like he's trying to do fellatio on an over-large doorknob. Advised by Todd, Margo re-corks the bottle, the djinn pops back into it, and Mike is free.
At Brakebills South, Penny walks up to Kady, holding a bag of something, he gives it to her, and they agree it's small enough for bird flight, they're flying in a few minutes. He goes to make the paste for flying. She goes to her room, and find Mayakovsky, who holds out his hand for the bag; she gives it to him. He says she couldn't read anything from her mind until she dropped her wards for Penny, but now he knows all, she has suffered much for her mother, but her mother is dead, a spell went wrong. He says she is now free of Marina, but also, Brakebills knows everything, she cannot go back. Their punishment would be extreme, he says she doesn't deserve it. He knows she and Penny plan to fly tonight; she needs to consider Penny's future, without training his gift could kill him. She has to decide. After the Professor leaves, Penny arrives at her room, with the paste, but she's not there, only a note: "Forgive me." We then see Kady walking out of the door of Brakebills South, into the blizzard.
At the Cottage, Margo is ready to leave, but Eliot says he's not going; it's not that he's mad, it just that Ibiza isn't Mike's thing, there are a million other things that are Margo and Eliot's, but not right now. Margo calls Todd: He's coming with her.
At Brakebills South, Quentin and Alice make love in his room, they are clearly quite familiar now.
Someplace (New York?), Mike wakes up after sex with Eliot, goes to get a drink, and notices a moth fluttering in the room. The moth sticks to a mirror, glowing a bright blue, as Mike's eyes glow a similar bright blue.
At Brakebills South, the students walk one by one through a portal in the Professor's office, that leads to Brakebills. To the last to go, Quentin and Alice, Mayakovsky gives some last advice: "Go and live to prove me wrong." Last, to Quentin alone, he asks why Quentin chose the fox; Quentin says the fox knows everything it needed was me, to survive and be happy. Mayakovsky says "the fox is in you now, both of you. Feed it."
- 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
- Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz
- Jesse Luken as Mike McCormick
- Adam DiMarco as Todd
- Brían F. O'Byrne as Mischa Mayakovsky
- Lee Majdoub as The Djinn
- Carmen Moore as Homicide Detective
- Daniel Deorksen as Young Associate Professor
- Fei Ren as Orgy Girl #1
- Keisha Haines as Orgy Girl #2
- Zack Lavoie as Orgy Guy
To be added