Brakebills is thrown into chaos when Penny is violently attacked by someone who was considered a friend; at the same time, Quentin tries to find a connection to the Beast; and Julia considers giving up magic for good after entering a rehab facility.
In the Cottage, Eliot mixes two elaborate drinks, puts them on a tray, and carries them outside to the barbeque, where Mike is cooking. He offers one to Mike, who says "I'll take a beer if you've got one." As they are about to kiss, suddenly Quentin and Alice walk in, they've just arrived from Brakebills South, still in their warm-weather uniforms. They happily accept the drinks Eliot had made (for Mike and himself). They all introduce each other; it seems Mike graduated a few years ago. Quentin says Brakebills South was ... eventful, and Eliot realizes that Quentin and Alice had sex, an observation that embarasses them both.
Alice and Quentin get to her room, they kiss, but she wants to talk about what's going on, what happened at Brakebills South was from stress and such, but now... He doesn't love her, he won't say that, so they should spend some time apart. "So we can know what's real and what's fox."
Professor Sunderland is in the classroom, lecturing, when Penny pops into existence in the midst of the classroom, soaking wet; he apologizes and leaves, but she tells him there's a syllabus, he needs to study astral projection. He replies with the spirit he got from Professor Mayakovsky: he needs not to fear his own ability, but to practice it. She asks what else is going on with him, she knows about him and Kady; he offers to Travel with her, and maybe suggests more with her besides. She is flustered and interested, but declines.
Dean Fogg speaks to the first-years, their first semester gave them fundamentals and tools, it's time to use them. This semester, their course load will double, study groups are mandatory and assigned.
Quentin finds that Alice was assigned to study with another student, Gretchen; after talking with Gretchen, he meets Alice and says he has switched with Gretchen, they are now study partners. Penny is the third member of their group.
In New York, Mike and Eliot are asleep; a moth flies in, lands on Mike, and we can see Mike's eyes glowing. He gets out of bed, walks (undressed) out of the apartment, and finds in the hallway a bunny rabbit. It walks to him, and he picks it up, looks at it intently (are they talking?), and then he rips its head off, reaches inside its body, and pulls out a dagger.
Julia is at what looks like the rehab centre her sister found for her, writing a letter to Quentin, saying she's giving up magic, but can't think of anything more worthwhile to write. Marina walks in, and says, about Hannah, she was just protecting herself from a thief. But she apologizes to Julia, says they're kindred spirits. But if Julia says she's giving up magic (as her letter says), that's fine with Marina; if Julia comes after Marina, she'll kill everyone Julia cares about.
At Brakebills, Professor Lipson is taking the magic gloves off of Dean Fogg's damaged hands; she examines the hands, and says they are good to go. He tries a spell, but it doesn't go well. The healer recommends physical therapy exercises; Dean Fogg says he taught himself magic at four years old, and will do so again.
At the Cottage, Eliot is agitated and asking Quentin for advice on what to wear, which is beyond Quentin's awareness; Quentin asks why Eliot is so worked up about Mike.
At the rehab center, Julia is part of a group session with the chaplain, Richard. He says people can change everything about their circumstances, but what they need to change is themselves, to get clean. They need to lean on something bigger than themselves. Julia says what you lean on is a crutch. We need to accept the world as it is. He says, why not make the world what we want it to be?
Quentin, Alice, and Penny are outside in the Brakebills forest, their task is to look at a list of ingredients and figure what the spell does, Quentin has no idea what a plant he's holding is for, Penny says it's a healing spell he saw in the Infirmary, but Alice says they are both for healing and for exotic curses. Penny is irritated at Quentin and Alice making eyes at each other, and says everyone at Brakebills South could see them as foxes outside the windows. After Alice walks away, Penny says that Quentin needs to show her some interest or he'll lose her.
At the Cottage, Eliot has cooked something for Mike; Mike remarks on how Eliot has been doing lots of things to endear himself to Mike, but Mike is uncertain how the relationship can go, he doesn't seem like he could be interesting to Eliot. Eliot reveals that he was from Indiana, born on a farm, his parents were farmers; becoming the snazzy, urbane, aristocratic Eliot was a great creative project, only Margo knows. Mike accepts Eliot as he is, and they kiss.
Dean Fogg is practicing magic with his hands, and it's not working, he throws down his dark glasses in anger.
Penny and Quentin are outside, trying to get the position of a star and getting a plant to grow. Quentin asks what happened with Penny and Kady; Penny isn't open to the question, like he doesn't know or care where she is. Mike walks in, and asks where the Cottage is. As Quentin turns to point, Mike charges at Quentin and attacks him with the dagger. Penny overpowers Mike, but Mike stabs Penny. Quentin throws battle magic at them, which throws Mike away from Penny, and Mike runs away. Penny is badly hurt.
At the Infirmary, Penny is being brought in, Professor Lipson says the stab wound is deep but not impossible, but they need the knife. Quentin says Mike has the knife; he explains to Dean Fogg who Mike is. A while later, Alice arrives in the waiting room, and says that Dean Fogg and Professor Sunderland found Mike, trying to open a portal.
Dean Fogg is in an underground room with Mike, who is bound; the room was made with walls to prevent spell casting, a "clean" room. Dean Fogg asks where the weapon is, and Mike says he doesn't know, he says he was in Brooklyn, and now he's here, he doesn't know how.
Outside the clean room, Dean Fogg meets Eliot and Quentin, and explains there are procedures for dealing with magic crimes, investigation will happen, but it depends on whether Penny lives. Quentin recalls that there was something wrong with Mike's eyes, they didn't look human; Dean Fogg isn't sure on just what went on.
Penny wakes up in the Infirmary, where healer Faye says the surgery was successful. Penny gets out of bed, ready to search for Mike, and collapses. Faye notices unusual black growth spreading on his abdomen. Professor Lipson examines it and says the wound is cursed, it's growing under the skin. She really needs the knife to even determine what is happening.
Penny and Quentin are alone, trying to figure anything out. They both think it could be the Beast, it would make sense except Mike isn't from Fillory. Quentin offers to call anyone Penny needs, parents, etc; Penny says no, and no, if Kady cared, she'd be here.
At the clean room, Eliot convinces Professor Sunderland to let him talk to Mike. Mike tells him, all the stuff they said he did, he doesn't remember.
At the rehab center, Richard meets Julia, who says no, she doesn't want to buy a Bible. He asks "What safe house were you in?" He recognized her stars, and said he sees them often. He denies being a hedge witch, calls himself classically trained: at Brakebills. She says she came here to get away from magic; he says magic isn't a vice like heroin you need to get away from, it's a gift. Magic is a set of tools, left over from Creation, and the tools were left for us to find. He offers to show her, and leaves her a spell.
Penny in the Infirmary is still in bed, still hearing the voice asking for help. Alice brings him his homework, mostly so he can talk to someone besides a Healing student. He says Kady had stuff to do elsewhere, so he's good. But he does say not to bother following a loser obsessed with kids books. He shows some pain, and Alice offers to help; Penny asks her to get the bag of pills under his desk, he needs the medications to not hear the voices. At that point they notice that his wound is bleeding, and whatever is inside him is growing visibly.
Quentin arrives at the Infirmary, and Alice says what Penny is growing is from the fourth Fillory book; Quentin fills in: it's like when Jane was attacked by a Lorian assassin with a Virgo Blade, and Rose vines grew from the wounds, a talking bear said that the vines would grow until they got to the heart, but Jane survived... Quentin thinks he knows how to fix this.
Still at the Infirmary, Quentin has made a little doll, like a voodoo doll, with some of Penny's hair on it; in the books, Jane always had her doll that looked like her, and the Virgo Blade's curse would accept the doll as a substitute. Alice burns the doll, and nothing worthwhile happens.
Dean Fogg visits his office, where he finds Jane waiting; she apologizes for coming uninvited, saying she was raised by wolves for a time. He says the knife Penny was stabbed with is a Virgo Blade from Fillory. She knows of it. He says it is her mess, she should clean it up, then get away from his University.
Jane and Quentin cross paths in the hall, and he says it's the Beast, from Fillory, which is real; she says, of course Fillory is real, the books are child's drawing of Fillory, the real thing is stranger. She tells him the Beast wants control of Fillory and all the doors that lead there; there are ways besides Travelling, in the book she gave him. About Penny, she tells Quentin that the doll wasn't special because it looked like her, it was special because it was from Jane's mother, the only reminder of Earth, her most precious possession.
Julia, in her room at the rehab center, draws a circle on the floor, and says the spell that Richard gave her. When she stands up, the magic activates and leaves her floating suspended in the air with a blissful expression.
Quentin goes to the Infirmary, to ask Penny about his most precious possession. He's unconscious, so he and Alice go and search his room. Alice finds his bag of pills (Adderall?) and says they must be it, he has voices in his head all the time, the pills make them stop, so they are probably precious. They argue about what's precious; for her it's a quilt that her grandmother made her, for him it's the first edition of the first Fillory book. Quentin finds a candy bar wrapper and says it may be it, it's from Brakebills South, the last place he saw Kady (it was the one bit of comfort Kady gave Penny when they were silent and working on nails). Alice doesn't think Penny cares about Kady any more, but Quentin is sure he does.
At the Infirmary, Alice burns the candy bar wrapper, as Professor Lipson and the healers watch. Immedately the vines in Penny start to evaporate, and Quentin takes Alice's hand.
At the rehab center, Julia asks Richard what was that spell he gave her, it didn't feel like a casting, more like a casting was being done to her. He says it's not a spell, but a prayer, to a local harvest deity, friendly, and usually pretty shy. He says it felt good; she says it felt dangerous. He says she treats magic like a drug because the people who taught her act like drug dealers, and there are other ways to live. He is a good Magician; there are others who make the world a better place; Julia can join them, or be a dealer, or stay here. She asks if he can get something into Brakebills for her.
Jane enters the clean room, where Mike is still chained. She says, even with these wards, she can see right through him. She says it was very clever, targeting someone outside the campus, a graduate, but it won't work next time. He can't hide in Fillory forever, there will always be a door. He says she's "still the same determined little Jane Chatwin", and that he picked the Virgo Blade specially for her. He says he can leave any time he wants, but he was waiting for her. At that he hits her with his stool, knocks her down, and strangles her. Then, covered in her blood, he leaves the clean room, to find Dean Fogg, who throws magic at him. "Mike" throws magic at Dean Fogg and knocks him out, and Eliot arrives. Eliot immediately casts a spell that kills Mike.
Quentin comes to Dean Fogg's office, to ask what they can do. Jane was the only one who had answers. Dean Fogg says there are no answers, they have no idea of what is next. Most likely, "the Beast comes back, you die, your friends die, we all die. And all of this will have been for nothing."
Quentin arrives at the Cottage, where Alice is pacing back and forth. She asks if he is OK, obviously very concerned about him. He comes over and they kiss at length, and go upstairs.
- 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
- Anne Dudek as Pearl Sunderland
- Jesse Luken as Mike McCormick
- Mackenzie Astin as Richard Corrigan
- Esmé Bianco as Jane Chatwin
- Rose Liston as Young Jane Chatwin
- Kacey Rohl as Marina Andrieski
- Keegan Connor Tracy as Professor Lipson
- Valerie Tian as Healer Faye
- Nesta Cooper as Gretchen
- United States of America
- Brakebills South (mentioned)
- Fillory (mentioned)
- Loria (mentioned)
- Healing Gloves
- Henry Fogg's Glasses
- Virgo Blade
- Reidlinger Stones (mentioned)
- Eliot Waugh's Flask
- Fillory and Further
- Voodoo Dolls
- Alumni Keys (mentioned)