Harshly awoken by the feeling of an unusually rough mattress, Michael gives in trying to fight for a comfortable position in favor of starting on work as the sun begins to rise. Joining Tessa and Austin in stowing the firewood in whatever cover they can find, Michael wishes them a good morning and asks about their sleep. Placing the blame on their early wakeup call as per usual, Austin and Tessa help form a line, tossing the spare wood to each other as if it were a conveyer belt.
From her own quarters, Liz emerges into the center of the cape, cutting off the line between Tessa and Michael and stealing one of the chunks of wood, rolling it beside the firepit. “We’ll keep that there for tonight’s fire” Liz says, ultimately suggesting that they go out looking for firewood today. “We’ve still got some deer curated, we’re set for the next few nights… What we need right now is a way to keep feeding the fire once we run out of firewood” Liz states, suggesting a few people head out to the vacated town and bring back whatever flammables they can find.
“It’ll take more to keep the fire going than one block of wood will, but it’s our best bet” Liz admits, reminding the trio just how sparse wood is found laying around in the arctic circle. “I’m up for it” Austin says, volunteering to bring Warren and Natalie along. “Harper, Len and I will head out to reach Rena and Marlhy in a little bit” Tessa continues, heading off to wake them up before she is approached by Michael, who asks to speak to her privately.
Walking to the coast and away from whatever can be found, Michael asks Tessa in secret what she thinks about Len. “I think he’s a guy trying to win a bunch of money, why do you ask?” Tessa replies, watching Michael become conflicted, as if he were trying to figure out whether or not to hide something from her. Having seen that look from many people before, Tessa steps out ahead of the man, telling him to tell her, in full, what he is thinking. “It’s nothing” Michael replies, “I’m probably just over-reacting.”
The response not good enough for her, Tessa refuses to forget about it, telling Michael to tell her exactly what he was intending to. Worried that he’ll say something that jeopardizes Len’s place in the group unrightfully, Michael looks around to make sure the pair are alone and away from any audio or visual equipment before responding. “When you guys went for the fire last night, I figured I’d bring all of your bags back to your rooms. I figured it was the least I could do after what you guys risked to get across the lake.” Pausing for a second to take another glance backwards, a sort of paranoia showing, Michael turns back around to face Tessa, telling her to keep this a secret.
“When I picked up Len’s bag to bring it into his hut, this orange bottle fell out of one of the side pockets. I picked it up and took a quick look at it, but before I could read anything, he ripped it out of my hands and took his own bag into his hut.” Obviously surprised at what Len was hiding, Tessa’s even more confused when Michael admits that it took the appearance of a medication bottle. “I don’t know what medication it was or what it was for, but those bottles are the only one’s I’ve ever seen look like that” Michael continues, admitting that he believes Len is hiding it from the group.
“Have you seen anything off about him?” Tessa begins, rattling off a few things it could be ranging from a required medication to a drug addiction. “I don’t think it’s required, he wouldn’t be able to get it refilled out here” Michael begins, hinting at the notion that he’s not supposed to have it. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel like he would need it unless he had a supply stashed away somewhere. And while I know we were allowed to bring some things, I know meds aren’t one of them” Michael concludes, visibly distressed.
After a few moments of silence, both competitors trying to pull explanations from their minds, Michael tells Tessa not to worry too much about it. “He hasn’t murdered you guys yet, so that’s a good sign. Let’s just treat this like it’s nothing when we’re around him until the time to ask him comes along. If I see anything else out of place, I’ll let you know.” With that, the two return for the cape and both Len and Harper eagerly await getting on the journey back to the cabin. “Ready to head out?” Tessa asks, grabbing the bag from her doorway and joining the trio in beginning their venture, winking to Michael on the way as he gets together a party to head into town.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Wake up!” Rena shouts, practically rolling Marlhy over on the couch as she hands her a cup of coffee. “I thought the coffee machine wasn’t working properly?” Marlhy says, managing to string together one coherent sentence as she wipes the exhaustion from her face. “I didn’t say it would be good coffee” Rena replies, holding her cup up and clinking it with Marlhy’s before taking a swig as she walks onto the cabin patio.
“Anything during the night?” Marlhy asks, watching Rena turn around and rest her elbow on the dining table. “Yeah, someone came in while you were sleeping and I tied them up and stuffed them under the couch. Sorry, did I not tell you?” Rena sarcastically replies, earning an unamused grin from Marlhy, who refuses to buy the statement for anything, but does check beneath the couch in case Rena is as crazy as she can seem at times.
“So what now?” Marlhy asks, watching Rena peer out at the camp on the other side of the lake. “Tessa and the others will come for us and try to figure out what to do next. After that, who knows?” Rena replies, unable to see anyone through the binoculars, assuming most are still asleep. “Who do you think the person that lived here was?” Marlhy asks, genuinely intrigued by the concept of not being in Barrow alone, though also amused at the idea that the producers were spying on them.
“If I had to put money on it” Rena begins, scanning the room quickly in search of something out of place, “I’d say it was a producer. I think we caught them off guard and they had to vacate to keep from jeopardizing the game.” Wiping away her eyes and tilting her head down, trying to keep from looking too far into the sunlight, Marlhy ponders the wonder of what happens when people start getting greedy the longer the game goes on. “What do you mean?” Rena asks, with Marlhy reminding her that whomever is left ends up splitting the money.
“Some people aren’t going to be happy with having to take less money because more people stuck around” Marlhy says, reminding Rena that it still is every competitor for themselves. “Eventually, when we’re close enough to the end, it’ll start being a burden to have too many people left. Fewer people means more money for everyone else.” With that, Rena nods and returns to her spectating of the cape, trying not to let Marlhy’s assumption of the game affect her spirits.
“Let’s talk about something else, okay Mar?” Rena asks, saying enough for Marlhy to stop whilst she’s ahead, allowing Rena to continue her lookout in peace. Watching the girl take specific interest in trying to spot anyone or anything on the other side, Marlhy begins to take her own guess as to the reasoning behind Rena’s fixation. “What do you think about Tessa?” Marlhy asks, addressing the elephant in the room, unknowingly putting a smile on Rena’s face, who responds with a simple, “she’s cool.”
Figuring that she’s captured Rena on a hook, Marlhy digs a little further, trying to gage the level of interest that Rena takes in the topic. “You like her?” Marlhy asks, smiling as she notices the girl begin to blush, not wanting to go too into specifics in hopes of not blowing the little cover she has remaining. “I said she’s pretty cool” Rena replies again, noticing a prying smile on Marlhy’s face in the reflection of the girl in the window. “Yeah, I guess she is pretty cool” Marhly replies, watching Rena nod without vocal response, playing it off as best as she can.
Despite having her sights fixated on what remains across the lake, Rena can feel Marlhy staring daggers into her back, trying to tease her as far as she can before it stops being funny. Rather than continue the joke, however, Marlhy drops the metaphors and leaves nothing to the imagination, asking Rena what she thought about Tessa outright. “It’s clear that you’ve got eyes for her!” Marlhy says, watching the grin come across Rena’s face despite her best efforts to conceal it.
“Everyone in the camp has already figured it out, hell, I’m pretty sure the both of you notice it too” Marlhy says, watching Rena turn towards her with her eyebrows raised, pointing out an internal concern. “What are you afraid of?” Marlhy asks, standing from her seat and taking a moment to gain her balance, touching onto the floor with the original feeling as if she were at sea, rocking back and forth. “I’m not afraid of anything” Rena starts, watching Marlhy take a seat beside her and join her lookout party. “I didn’t come here to find the love of my life, I came here to win money” Rena says, immediately countered by the question of why she can’t have both.
“Because it’s a game, that’s all it is at the end of the day. The more people that drop, the more money we all get. I don’t want to let anything get in the way of that if it doesn’t have to.” Knowing that the statement made makes anyone sound like an asshole, Rena brushes off the concern in favor of using it to remind herself that the game at hand doesn’t spare room for people that let their feelings get in the way of winning. “It’s not like I want to push people away, but if I’m going to be here for the next year, I need to remember what I’m up against.”
Looking at Rena at trying to gage what the girl truly feels, Marlhy asks whether or not she would try to persuade Marlhy to leave the game if she had to. “It’s not like I hate you or anything, Mar… But I’m sure you’ve seen it happen all the time too” Rena begins, handing the girl the binoculars. “People go in to win, they start jelling together as a family and it impedes their better judgment. And in this fucking place, losing your better judgment can get people killed, and that’s not what I signed up for.”
Disliking Rena’s outlook on the competition, Marlhy ultimately accepts that Rena’s coming from a genuine place, and not one harboring malicious intent. With the sun finally fully rising above the horizon, the two girls finally earn a few moments in the warm light, allowing it roll across their skin like warm water. “I’m not going to sabotage anyone or try to push them out of the game” Rena says, watching Marlhy turn towards her, less judgmental than she very well could have been.
“I don’t want to jeopardize my place in the game or anyone else’s. But if I don’t keep reminding myself that this is a game, I’m gonna forget about it and it’s going to cost me everything” Rena concludes, watching Marlhy nod to her and place the binoculars to her face, staring out at the cape.
Not feeling like it to the phased skin, the sun above makes the baron wasteland feel like a sauna despite the temperature still being below freezing. To most, it would be a rare winter day with more sunlight than usual, but for the competitors in Barrow, it’s like an oasis just begging to be recognized as such. Beneath the sauna-like sunlight, Austin, Warren and Liz traverse through the near knee-deep snow in an effort to reach the long-vacated central residency.
“Most of what’s left is probably stripped and pulled already” Warren calls out, making it clear that the producers cannot be trusted to make the game as easy as it would appear to be. “Everything we do is more difficult than it we thought it would be, so I wouldn’t expect this to be any different” the kid continues, earning a smirk from Austin. “Of course, they’re gonna do what they can to defy our expectations, but that doesn’t mean they thought everything through” Austin replies, reminding Warren that, regardless of what remains in the home, most of the wood-comprised homes can be burned with their materials alone.
“Anything you find, literally anything, can and will be burned” Austin declares, making it clear that the group will not drop their group campfire tradition without a fight. “I’m fully on board with that!” Liz exclaims, fist-bumping Austin as Warren nods in compliance, giving in and letting his hopes rise just a slight amount. Fighting through the snow and refusing to acknowledge the cold after being exposed to it for long enough, the group fights through until a grouping of buildings can be spotted in the distance metaphorically calling their names.
“Just over there, keep pushing!” Austin shouts, knowing the annoyance of lugging whatever they return to camp with, but comforted by the warmth it will bring everyone at the cape. Kicking up the snow beneath their feet and fighting their way through the fluffy snowfall, the trio finally reach the vacated lot and climb within the first abandoned shack front they can stumble across. Though not offering much warmth, the intact windows and isolated walls offer a good enough reprieve for the group to take a seat and get whatever snow they can out of their clothes.
“It’s all still intact!” Warren shouts with enthusiasm, the group having forgotten about the aforementioned fear in the excitement of being freed from the tundra’s environments. “We got a fuckin’ break!” Liz exclaims, standing up and laying a firm high-five into both Warren and Austin before settling down on the couch. “Alright, let’s gather our bearings for a little bit. We’ll figure out a plan and take it from there” Austin states, laying out the groundwork and letting Warren and Liz get situated.
A busy body, Austin deviates from the group, opting to check out the rest of the home, finding very little worth in the remnants. “I’m gonna go check out some of the other homes, keep the blood circulating, y’know?” Austin says, assuring the group that he’ll be back in a couple of minutes to put together the next few steps. Through the rear entry, Austin begins a walk through the group of homes, all scrunched together with some slots of space offering very little room to maneuver through.
After few squeezes, Austin finds himself staring down a decrepit trailer with a broken front door, almost pleading for the man to avoid it and move on. As curiosity takes over and the reliance on instincts kicks in, Austin makes the slow ascent up the stairs and into the run down trailer cabin. Scattered around the room are what remains of the previous tenants, ranging from shattered plates and bowls to overturned furniture.
Despite not noticing much out of place at first, Austin catches the sight of the sunlight above reflecting off of something in the corner of his eye. In the corner of the room, a kerosene lantern with a gold finish sits unharmed upon a rundown nightstand. “What are you doing here little guy?” Austin asks himself, walking over and picking it up, initially singing his hand on the heated golden finish.
After managing to grab it by a cooler side, Austin realizes the distinct differences between the lantern and what remains of the remainder of the property it finds itself within. Trying to inspect the lamp, Austin notices a few tiny words engraved on its bottom. Despite the appearance of being nothing more than a manufacturing label, Austin takes a hard interest in the number “2012” at the very end.
“I thought they said this place had been abandoned since the mid-90’s?” Austin asks himself, realizing the producer’s story of events doesn’t line up with the proof in his hands. Figuring this may not be the only piece of a bigger puzzle he needs to solve, Austin looks around the room, flipping furniture and looking through dormant papers in hopes of spotting something else out of the ordinary. “Damn it!” Austin mutters to himself, looking at the mess he further worsened without results worthy of the effort.
Calling it a day on the search, Austin walks over to the front door to leave before looking back to the lantern and returning it to its original position. Once returned, Austin leaves the home and returns to the group, catching his breath and telling them of the plan. Once on the same page, the trio begin to start moving, and Austin keeps his findings secretive, choosing to withhold the information for now whilst he does his best to further inspect it later on.
“Miss us?” Tessa asks, knocking at the door and reuniting with Rena and Marlhy and taking a seat wherever one is available. “Find anything?” Len asks, resting against the couch and letting out a sigh of relief as the plush of the cushion makes up for the tension in his back. “We couldn’t find anything” Rena admits, “We looked everywhere but there was nothing to be found.”
“No one came in the night” Marlhy adds in, watching the disappointment start to loom over Tessa’s face. “Not many would live out there without proper shelter, so unless he’s got a hut out there, he’s gone and he isn’t looking to come back.” With that declaration, Marlhy convinces herself that the future of this cabin lies in the decision of whether to take it for their own or not. “Well it’s not as clean-cut as that” Harper replies, reminding everyone that Barrow still falls under the jurisdiction of the United States.
“If whoever owns this place comes back, this is still their cabin” the girl states, reminding everyone that this is still a game more than it is a test of survival of the fittest. “Until he comes back, though… This place belongs to us” Harper adds in, returning the hope to the group. “How do we know this isn’t another one of those challenges from the producers?” Len asks, noting that this could all be something for them to figure out.
“If this was one of their side missions, the Neptune Box would’ve gone off by now” Rena states, “if this was the work of the producers, they’ve would’ve left something for us to figure out.” Looking around the room, it takes Rena very little time to find someone thinking on the same wave length when Tessa speaks up. “The only reason the producers have side missions is so the whole game won’t be us just trying to do nothing and survive. They know some people will start going out of their way to solve the side missions, so it keeps the story moving along and makes for good TV.”
“So trekking around a lake four times doesn’t make for good TV?” Len asks, only to watch Marlhy walk towards the front door and open it, waving her hand around the air as if to point something out. “No cameras, no microphones” Marlhy declares, “they didn’t mean for us to find this place. They had to vacate it before they started influencing the game.”
“Then why would they let themselves get caught?” Harper asks, a result of her trying to recall loose ends to tie up. “My theory is that this place was for one of the producers to keep an eye out for us from afar. I don’t think he expected us to notice the light from so far out, and when we did, his cover was blown” Rena says, pulling the group together. “Listen, this place has running water, a hot shower, solar electricity and I’m pretty sure there’s a boat in that closet over there” Marlhy exclaims, telling the group that this place can be their safe house over the next year.
“I’m on board already” Rena says, finding Harper coming to an alliance with the pair that have spent more time in the home than anyone else at the cape. Looking to the man resting on the couch, Rena patiently awaits his response, excited once he stands up and walks over to the two, bumping fists with them in place of a handshake. “Tessa?” Rena asks, watching the woman tuck her hands in her pockets and come to an agreement, keeping the home in possession of Neptune City.
“Now for the main course” Rena begins, pointing the four towards the locked door off to the side of the room. Walking over to it and pulling on the handle to show everyone the way it’s been locked, Rena tells the four that there is something inside to help them through the game. “It’s locked from the inside, so whatever’s on the other side must have been important to whoever was here” Rena says, correcting Harper when she suggests it to be an empty basement.
“No, I was thinking of something more along the lines of an emergency failsafe” Rena says, suggesting that whatever remains beneath is crucial towards the game. “If we get in there, we might have a better idea of what the producers are thinking with this thing” Tessa suggests, standing behind an effort to gain access to whatever rests beyond their sight.
Still sorting through the rubble of what remains left behind, Liz gathers the lighter objects such as wooden boards and plastic containers into big garbage bags. “All of this junk and not much of it can be carried across the fucking tundra” Liz mutters to herself, angrily toppling heavier furniture over as they litter her way. Sifting through old newspapers and plastic bags, Liz gets the feeling that something is out of place, but can’t figure out how to put her finger on it.
Scanning the room of the mostly-intact trailer cabin, Liz pokes her head into one doorway after another hoping to find something that doesn’t look like it belongs. “You good in there, Liz?” Warren asks, pounding on the trailer door to make sure the slamming of furniture was just that. “Yeah, just looking for something I could’ve missed’ Liz replies, turning into a darkened room and becoming mesmerized by it.
Entering through the doorway and feeling the air grow colder as she walks further on, her eyes grow accustomed to the lack of light well enough for her to notice something bright at the end of the room. Seemingly muffled by something in front of it, Liz walks carefully, making sure to avoid tripping over anything laying dormant in the middle of the floor before reaching out. The sensation of something soft and flimsy allows Liz to assume it to be a blanket, allowing her to reach for a corner and yank it down, allowing a flood of light to bathe the room like never before, blinding Liz for a few seconds.
“Holy shit!” Liz shouts as her vision returns in full, scared shitless by the sight of Warren looking in at her, having taken notice of the blanket coming down as he walked by. “What’s up with you?” Warren asks, jokingly shaking his head and walking off with a smile as he lugs a bedsheet or flammables over his shoulder. “Apparently a lot” Liz mutters to herself, regaining herself before returning to the interior of the home and walking into the living room. “Okay, Warren. Knock it off” Liz says humorously, watching the figure in the living room staring out at the front door.
“Warren, fuck off” Liz says, awaiting a response that still fails to come as the figure remains stood, idley staring at the door. “Warren!” Liz calls out again, this time louder than before to no response, beginning to worry the girl, who’s now begun to grow anxious. “This isn’t funny, Warren!” Liz shouts, walking towards the figure with the intention of pushing him away, only to stop in her tracks with the sound of Warren’s voice shouting back to her from a few trailers away.
“Warren!?” Liz shouts, this time louder than any other call she’s made before awaiting a response from either the figure before her or the voice across the camp. Without hesitation, Warren asks, “What!?” from a few homes away, his voice distinct and clear enough for Liz to realize that Warren is not the man standing in front of her. With her eyes bolted open, knowing the head of the figure before her does not match that of Austin’s, Liz takes her chances in hoping that the figure did not hear her before hurrying for the opening in the previously-blackened room and leaping from it, leaving behind her collectibles.
“Warren!” Liz calls out, running away from the trailer as if she were Wiley Coyote before rushing into the young man and hurrying into his arms. Curious as to why she was calling him, Warren asks what she needed before Liz tells him that they are not alone at the camp. “What do you mean there’s someone in there?” Warren asks, splitting his focus between Liz and the trailer in which she had just come from as the girl does her best to adequately explain herself in spite of the fear rumbling through her body.
“Stay here, alright?” Warren demands, calling for Austin and telling him to look after Liz as he storms towards the trailer. Refusing to take the front entry, Warren climbs through the window and charges out of the room. “Hey motherfucker, what are you-” Warren shouts, fully expecting to storm at some random freak only to find an empty living room with nothing other than Liz’s bag of collectibles dropped into the corner of the room.
Calling for the girl, Warren shouts as loud as he can that there’s no one inside the trailer, baffling the girl and surprising Austin, who doesn’t take to the idea that Liz would be on to fain something as outlandish as this. Cautiously returning to the trailer, Liz is followed by Austin, walking around the corner to the front door of the cabin and joining Warren in his search for the mysterious wanderer. “There’s no one here, Liz” Warren repeats, looking in each room and guiding his flashlight around to no use.
“I swear” Liz says, pleading with the two to believe her when she says that he was standing directly in front of the doorway. “Calm down, we’re not calling you a liar” Austin says, putting his arm on Liz’ shoulder in an effort to calm her down as he looks to Warren for any sign of this figure. “As much as I’d like to say it looks like someone was here, all I can see is Liz’ trash bag” Warren says, admitting that the signs of a mystery man don’t exist.
“I’m telling you, he was here!” Liz says, standing in the place of the silent figure pleading with the two to believe her. “Liz, we’re not calling you a liar!” Austin say as Warren pulls Liz into his arms to calm her down, noticing the pupils in her eyes dilated, clearly indicating her fear. “We’re just looking for something to say he was here before we go back to the camp. They won’t believe something on face value without a reason, alright?” Austin asks, assuring the girl that they know she’s telling the truth.
“Let’s head back with what we have and we’ll come back tomorrow to look for him, okay?” Austin says, leading the pair out of the trailer with Liz’ findings draped over his shoulder. Both men knowing the fear in Liz’ eyes, voice and movements to be genuine, Austin and Warren look to each other with widened eyes, telling each other that they need to figure out what Liz saw before it comes back to bite them.
Fighting through the snow to return home as the sun begins to set, the trio depart the trailer park and leave behind whatever can be left to return for another day. Scattered in no particular order, as if they were just dumped in their spot and abandoned, the trailers sit lifeless and empty, just waiting for a reason to be put to use. Amidst the messy order of trailers, one broken and battered one stands out from the rest when seen directly above, sticking out like a red button in a sea of blue lights. Within the broken trailer, the sound of clicking resonates and the flicker of a flame burns from within it, fighting off the darkness of the night sky as the moonlight engulfs the seemingly vacated tundra of Barrow.