“Slashdance” opens with Richard Ramirez banging on the door where Brooke, Ray, Chet, and Rita are hiding. Unable to break the door down, he instead smashes through the windows. Ray suggests that the four split up, but everyone else protests. He remarks that it’s just natural selection, and Ramirez busts in, stabbing Ray repeatedly. However, Chet knocks Ramirez out and drags Ray away with the others. Meanwhile, a flaming bag of poop flies into the cabin with Trevor, Montana, and Xavier. Xavier refuses to run or fight, claiming that it’s karma coming for him. However, it proves to be two pranksters dressed as Mr. Jingles. The real Mr. Jingles shows up, killing the pranksters and taking their ears. Later, in the woods, Mr. Jingles happens on another impostor while Ray tries to help Chet get off of a wooden spike impaling his shoulder. Brooke is shocked when Nurse Rita injects her with something, knocking her out.
Flashbacks reveal that one week ago, Rita met with the slain psychiatrist about wanting to meet with Mr. Jingles, doing so under the name Donna Chambers. The psychiatrist tells her Jingles won’t say a single word; in response, Donna/Rita prattles off the names of killers she’s gotten confessions from. Finally, she’s escorted back to speak with Mr. Jingles. She discusses her theories about what causes serial killers. Rita/Donna believes that these killings are brought on by trauma and social unrest, a notion that prompts Jingles to speak, wanting to help her prove it. Donna/Rita wants to get Jingles out of prison so he can do just that. She also informs him that Camp Redwood is being reopened. He says he can’t go there because even seeing Margaret’s photo makes him want to kill her. He asks why Rita cares so much, and if someone has hurt her; she simply states, “I have my reasons.” We’re introduced to the real Nurse Rita, a young, preppy blond Donna met at the gas station. As Rita drives away, Donna is shown to be in her back seat. In the present, Ray panics as Chet loses consciousness. Another flashback shows Ray at a frat party full of booze, sex, and the unexpected death of a hopeful initiate named Chan. In trying to dispose of what he believes to be Chan’s dead body, Ray accidentally kills him for real. Chet remarks that the story is messed up, and Ray decides to run away, leaving him for dead.
Meanwhile, Trevor, Montana, and Xavier find the real Nurse Rita, surprisingly unharmed, and untie her. It’s all for naught, though, as Jingles shows up and kills her for real. They run into Ray, who lies about what happened with Chet. Xavier and Trevor insist that they find Brooke, Margaret, and everyone, but Ray again insists that they just run away. Trevor gives Ray his keys, telling him to go for help. Xavier and Trevor happen upon Chet, surprised to see him still alive. Chet tells them the truth, and Xavier helps him off of the wooden spike. Trevor and Xavier carry him away as Jingles’ jingling is heard. Trevor shoves Jingles into the pit of wooden spikes, but it proves to be one of the impostors. Ray and Montana are approached by Richard Ramirez; Ray gets on Trevor’s bike and rides away, leaving her behind, but Jingles kills him in his tracks. Montana pulls Ramirez in for a kiss, asking why he hasn’t killed “her” yet.
“Slashdance” has to be 1984’s most revealing episode yet, while still keeping plenty of secrets and questions for the coming weeks. I have to admit that they totally blindsided me with Donna and Montana, especially the latter. I had been thinking that Margaret had some secret connection to Mr. Jingles, but it never occurred to me that it could be “Nurse Rita.” It’s bizarre that, as a psychiatrist, she’s willing to risk everyone’s lives to study this killer. I’m really intrigued to see where that plotline goes. This might be reaching, but maybe Dr. Donna is yet another cover, and she may have some other motivation that isn’t clear at this time. This is a really trivial nitpick, but I didn’t like it when Donna was arguing with the hospital’s head psychiatrist and said “aka” a billion times. This is likely for the benefit of the audience, some of whom may not know who these killers are. It’s still irritating, nonetheless. At first, when Montana kissed Richard Ramirez, she was trying to seduce him so he wouldn’t kill her. Her desire for him to kill “her,” presumably Brooke, gives the impression that their meeting in aerobics was no accident. Of course, this begs the question of why Montana would want Brooke dead and how she even knows who she was. Could she have been dating or related to the best man at Brooke’s wedding? She’s certainly done well masking her intentions with befriending Brooke and the unwanted kiss last week.
I was surprised how little Brooke was in “Slashdance” since, up until now, she’s gotten the most focus and been the apparent leading lady. However, it’s more than a fair trade to get so much backstory on the supporting characters and villains. It’s really interesting that in “Slashdance” Chet and Ray essentially trade places, Chet turning out to be a nice enough guy and Ray a self-interested coward. Ray’s flaws were hinted at in “Mr. Jingles,” albeit to a much lesser degree. I’m impressed that Trevor insists that they save Margaret and Chef Bertie, two people he’s shown no affection for previously. Of course, we don’t know the whole story, but there are a surprising number of likable characters in 1984.
Sets, lighting, and costuming continue to be exemplary in “Slashdance.” The flashbacks in this episode don’t have the surreal feeling of Brooke’s wedding sequence; they seem to go for more of a sterile, unsettling atmosphere. For example, in Ray’s story about the frat party, you know something terrible is bound to happen, but it feels entirely different from Brooke’s personal tragedy. 1984 proceeds with excellent musical selections in Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and especially Hall and Oates’ “Maneater.”
“Slashdance” is my favorite episode of 1984 so far because it reveals the most about its characters while still leaving several vital questions unanswered. Ray’s death is all too satisfying, and the flashback scenes are very effective. The acting, visuals, and dialogue are spectacular in “Slashdance,” with stand-out performances coming from DeRon Horton, Billie Lourd, John Carroll Lynch, and Angelica Ross. I genuinely can’t wait to see where this season takes its characters.