- "Quentin, do you really think that the magic that we teach means that you just get to fly above right and wrong? Magic does not solve problems-"
"It magnifies them. I know that too. Believe me. I don't need to be taught what magic is or isn't. I need to be taught magic so that I can decide what it is or isn't for me."
- ―Henry Fogg and Quentin Coldwater
Quentin wakes up in a mental hospital and must set his panic aside to seek the help of the one person he least trusts. Julia is hurt after her fallout with Quentin and commits to learning more powerful spells with the Hedge Witches.
Quentin Coldwater awakens in a dorm room at Brakebills, but soon realizes something is wrong; his clothes have been replaced with sweats, there's a medical band on his wrist, he's got a new roommate, and there are now bars on the window. Walking through the halls, Coldwater finds medical staff and patients, not Magicians, before running into Eliot Waugh, who asks if he has 'happy pills' before Doctor Jennifer London approaches and dismisses Waugh. London asks to speak with Coldwater in her office, bringing him to what was supposed to be the Dean's office. Coldwater then realizes he's in a dream of some sort, but London tells him that Brakebills was a figment of his imagination. To convince her, Coldwater attempts to conjure a miniature sun in his hands but discovers he's unable to cast magic.
Annoyed, Coldwater reminded Doctor London that she released him months ago due to him not being a danger to others. London then asks if Coldwater remembered why he was ordered by the court to be admitted before calling in Penny, an orderly at the facility, who revealed he'd found Coldwater's medication in the trash. London went on to explain that Coldwater's life as a Magician, studying magic, his life friends at Brakebills, and even The Beast, were all hallucinations he experienced as a result of not taking his medication. Suddenly, Quentin sees a swarm of moths appears as Doctor London tells Coldwater he's been sick for a while, and everything he's been experiencing wasn't real. As the moths attack Coldwater, he collapses on the floor, causing London to call for assistance.
Later, Coldwater is sedated and sitting in the commons area when Alice Quinn appears, placing a playing card in front of his with the Brakebills crest on it and tells Quentin that everything around them was an illusion. However, Quinn continued to reveal that she was, in fact, an alien who crash-landed on the planet light-years ago, and Coldwater was a starship captain meant to rescue her. At that moment, Doctor Henry Fogg arrived and separated the two, saying the deck of cards Quinn stole were needed to play Bridge. When she accused the doctors of kidnapping aliens from around the galaxy to feed on their emotions, Fogg reminded her that she was talking about the plot to an episode from Lost in Space, although Coldwater correctly stated it was from an episode of Star Trek. After dismissing Quinn, Fogg asked if Coldwater was up to seeing a visitor, revealing Julia Wicker had come to see him.
Julia explained that she'd been at Yale for the past few months, and stated that James couldn't make it due to his search for a church for their wedding, showing Quentin her engagement ring. When Coldwater tried explaining they were trapped in a spell, but he was the only one who knew it, Wicker attempted to understand, but Quentin instead decided to show her; focusing, he managed to cast a spell to release miniature fireworks, but quickly realized nobody could see them. As she prepared to leave, Wicker told Coldwater that she wanted to see the fireworks, and Quentin realized she was the one who cast the spell on him, as he hadn't told her the spell he cast was for fireworks.
After meeting with Julia, Coldwater goes back to his room, passing by a plaque for the facility: the Ellsworth Downs Hospital. In his room, Coldwater attempted to recall the name Ellsworth Downs, but the medication he'd been given was affecting his memory. Suddenly, Jane Chatwin appeared at his bed, telling him the answer to breaking the spell was in the Fillory and Further books but disappeared before Coldwater could ask which. Quentin spent the night reading through the books but fell asleep before he could find the answer. The next morning, Coldwater woke to discover his roommate destroying his books, much to his dismay. When he attempted to get tape to mend the pages, he was told they were prohibited to patients. Shortly afterward, Coldwater was in musical therapy when he decided to send a message to the real Penny, getting the other patients to sing a Taylor Swift song.
In Doctor London's office, Quentin was reunited with his father, Ted Coldwater, who had bruises on his face. When Quentin asked if his dad was in an accident, Doctor London explained that he attacked his father, showing him footage of himself hysterically proclaiming his dad to be the Beast. Ted explained that it all occurred during a dinner to celebrate Quentin's acceptance to Yale, when he suddenly attacked his dad and tried to kill him with a knife.
Later, Julia visited again but realized Coldwater was becoming overwhelmed by the spell, promising him it'd be over soon. As she departed, Wicker passed the real Penny, who arrived to stop Coldwater from singing Taylor Swift. Realizing that Penny wasn't a projection, Coldwater informed him of what had been happening and tasked him with finding his body to wake him up and break the spell. Back in New York City, Julia returned from the spell, realizing that her body felt more energized than before. Marina Andrieski explained that she was becoming accustomed to channeling higher amounts of magic, brushing off Wicker's concerns for her friend as they were just getting started with Andrieski's plans. Marina then informed Kady that her part of the plan was coming up soon, and told her to return to Brakebills.
Back in the hospital, Quentin lifted the keys to the nurses' station to steal the tape needed to mend his books. After repairing them, Coldwater was able to recall Jane Chatwin's encounter with the Madness Maker, a trickster magician cursed to perform game magic, but realized he hadn't mended the page that revealed how Chatwin broke the curse. At that moment, the nurse arrived, having realized her key was missing, and reported Coldwater to Doctor London.
In the Physical Kids' Cottage, the real Eliot and Penny were looking for Coldwater's body when Kady arrived, revealing that Quentin was in a closet under a pile of clothes and explained that he had crawled in the previous night. When they were unable to wake him, Eliot decided to call Dean Fogg. Arriving in a brush of trees, Julia and Marina waited for the school's wards to drop, as Marina revealed that in order to break their spell, Dean Fogg would have to lower the school's protective wards to summon a Matarese, a demonic spirit from the Underworld, allowing anyone to walk onto the campus.
As they entered, Marina revealed that she had previously attended Brakebills but was kicked out three months before her graduation; however, when someone attends the school that long their memories cannot simply be erased, so they instead locked them away in a vault in the Dean's office. Placing a totem on Quentin's chess, Fogg summoned the Matarese and told Penny he'd need to guide Quentin back to consciousness. When Penny arrived, Doctor London was preparing to perform a transorbital lobotomy on Coldwater, but Penny told him that none of what he was experiencing was real and freed him. However, Penny was suddenly evicted from Coldwater's mindscape as Julia arrived, having been warned by Kady that Coldwater may never wake again.
- Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater
- Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker
- Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice Quinn (illusion)
- Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi / Penny Adiyodi (illusion)
- Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh / Eliot Waugh (illusion)
- Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson
- Rick Worthy as Henry Fogg
- Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz
- Kacey Rohl as Marina Andrieski
- Tembi Locke as Dr. Jennifer London (illusion)
- Spencer Garrett as Ted Coldwater (illusion)
- Rose Liston as Jane Chatwin
- Valerie Tian as Faye (illusion)
- Matthew Beairsto as Madness Maker
- Jagen Johnson as Quentin's Roommate
- Kevin Li as Professor Li
- Ellsworth Downs Hospital
- New York City, New York
- Madness Maker's Castle (flashback)
- Brakebills University, New York
- Attack on Brakebills University (mentioned)
- Fillory and Further
- Henry Fogg's Glasses
- Healing Gloves
- Matarese Totem