After making a devil’s bargain with William, Ruby steps into the charmed shoes of a white woman, but her transformation only fortifies her resentment of the racial divide. A betrayal by Montrose unleashes Atticus’ pent up rage, leaving Leti deeply disturbed and sending Montrose into the comforting arms of his secret lover.
Ruby wakes up in the body of a white woman. She stumbles to get to her feet and rushes to the mirror to get a better look. She initially believes that she’s dreaming. However, it’s anything but. She makes her way back to the South Side on foot, trying to make sense of what’s happening to her. She bumps into a young black boy as two officers pull up. Given Ruby’s appearance as a white woman, they assume the young boy meant her harm and throws him to the ground. Ruby comes to the boy’s aid and insists that she’s fine. The officers offer to get her some place safe and put her in the back of their patrol car. Ruby realizes that she’s being taken back to William’s and tries to explain that she’s not safe with him, but they simply suspect her of having a mental illness. So Ruby is brought back to William, who takes her inside and sits her on to a plastic tarp. Ruby appears to be undergoing some type of transformation, bone cracking and unbearably painful. Ruby says that she doesn't want to die. William replies: “He would say the metamorphosis isn’t death.” He then cuts Ruby open with a kitchen knife and frees her of the shedded skin.
Tic and Leti discover that Yahima is missing. Montrose says that she’s gone. However, Tic realizes that his father killed her. And so, Tic savagely attacks Montrose to the point where he has to be forcefully removed. Tic rushes down into the basement in hopes that Leti took photos of Titus’ pages, which Montrose also destroyed. Leti follows him with a baseball bat in hand. Tic asks if she took photos. When she doesn’t respond, he raises his voice and leaves.
William explains to Ruby that a butterfly lives a full life before it dies. And a caterpillar emerges from the same cells, yet different. William wanted to apply this process of metamorphosis to humans. But his research was theoretical and laughed at by the academic community until he met Hiram Epstein, who merely wanted to understand the universe. So he created magical doorways. He goes on to explain that the potion he gave her simply mimics metamorphosis and it wears off after a time. Ruby is shocked to learn that magic exists. She recalls how when she was walking down the street, the people were scared for her. They treated her like an actual human, though the pain was unspeakable. She describes it as feeling as if she was being unmade. William assures her it gets easier after the first time and leaves a vial of metamorphosis potion and a clip of money on the nightstand for her.
Ruby drinks the potion and goes out into the world as a middle class white woman and reaps all the benefits being so. She even takes a stroll through the park after getting free ice cream and reads the paper.
Leti finds Tic tending to the wounds on his hand following his altercation with Montrose. Leti reveals that she did take photos of the pages, but she didn’t have a chance to develop them yet. She wonders if Tic would’ve killed Montrose if she wasn’t there. He replies that he’s imagined it enough. Mostly after his father would beat him. He thought the violence in his father could never be in him, but he found it in the war. He tells Leti not to be scared of him and pulls her close. The two move to the couch and proceed to have sex.
William finds Ruby singing in the bathtub. She questions why he chose to share his powers with her. He asks why not her. Although, he does admit that he will need a favor from her when the time comes, but he assures her that it’s a small favor. Until then, she’s free to come and go as she pleases. He wonders why she didn’t use any of the money he left. She explains that she enjoyed her entire day using the only currency she needed: whiteness. She doesn’t know what’s more difficult: being colored or being a woman. Most days, she’s happy to be both, but the world keeps interrupting, and she’s tired of being interrupted.
Ruby drinks another dose of the potion and applies for a job at Marshall Fields under her new alias, Hillary Davenport. She meets with the manager, Paul Hughes. He’s impressed with her resume but wants to know more about her personally. Paul then asks how she feels about working alongside coloreds. Ruby says she’s fine with working with anyone that’s qualified. Though, he assures her they aren’t race crusaders. Unfortunately for Ruby, the metamorphosis potion is starting to wear off. Paul offers her an assistant manager position, which she accepts. Ruby then runs off as she begins to transform, unaware that she left her potion in the chair, which Paul mistakes to be simple perfume. Ruby runs into the back and escapes into the elevator, where she begins to shed her white skin.
Montrose visits Sammy at the Cabrini Green projects. Sammy sees his swollen eye and asks if it was the “ofays or the n***ers this time?” Montrose doesn’t reply. He simply unbuttons his pants, turns Sammy around, and has sex with him.
Paul approaches Ruby as she readies for her first day. He kisses her hand and wishes her good luck. Ruby then approaches Tamara, who went missing from her station, which angered one of the customers. Ruby insists that she isn’t in trouble. She recalls Tamara saying she applied for the job on a whim, however, it would seem her employment upset several former employees. Ruby reminds Tamara that they can’t take her educational achievements away from her, but Tamara never even finished high school. She only had a 7th grade education and is completely under qualified, which upsets Ruby.
Ruby heads into the back with Madge, Barb, and Cathy, who try on clothes and dance to the radio as if there isn’t work to be done on the floor. Ruby asks if Paul has ever come on to any of them. They laugh hysterically as Paul is a family man. Ruby then starts to dance, much to their amazement, given her rhythm. They agree that hopefully no more under qualified coloreds like Tamara start working with them. Madge, Barb, and Cathy then ask Ruby if she can convince Tamara to take them to a bar on the South Side. Ruby questions why they would want to go there. However, knowing that she’s been makes them want to go even more.
Ruby, Madge, Barb, and Cathy exit the store as the day comes to an end. William waits outside for her. He asks how was her first day at her dream job. He then reveals that he’s come to call on her for that favor. He needs her to attend Christina’s party, but as herself.
Ruby works as a server at Christina’s party for the Order. Captain Lancaster is in attendance. He claims it was a unanimous decision by the members that he takes the reins of their social club. Unfortunately, there had been rumors of defection following Hiram’s death. Admittedly, some did abandon the Order, but it’s only made them stronger.
Christina tasks Ruby with hiding a mysterious talisman in Captain Lancaster’s office. Ruby is initially reluctant to agree, but Christina explains that William is the rightful heir to the lodge. Captain Lancaster tried to kill him to take his seat. They shot William in the back and dumped his body in the river. Lancaster believes that he succeeded but William survived with Christina’s help. And with Ruby’s help, William will have his revenge.
Tic has a dream of the ritual at the Sons of Adam Lodge. He recalls staring down Hanna as they ran towards the exit of the flaming building. Suddenly, Tic finds himself on fire. He then awakens from his sleep and continues to decipher the Language of Adam. He managed to decipher his initials A, S, and F, as they’re carved into his Sons of Adam ring in the Language of Adam. He also deciphered another seven letters. Successfully translating 11 out of 26. Assuming the Language of Adam is analogous to English. There’s one symbol in particular that repeatedly shows up in the body of the text, which suggests it’s similar to Chinese hieroglyphics. Leti remarks this would’ve been easier with Yahima’s help. She understands why Montrose let her go, however, Tic reveals that his father didn’t let Yahima go. He killed her. Leti starts to suspect that the Language of Adam is evil and the devil’s tools. She fears that it’s corrupting them, but Tic insists that it’s not inherently evil.
Ruby sneaks into Captain Lancaster’s office and places the talisman in his desk. She hears banging coming from the closet and decides to investigate. Inside the closet, she finds a reanimated corpse. She is sickened by his mere smell, but is forced to hide in the closet with him as Lancaster enters. Lancaster is upset that the Order is reluctant to accept him as an official member. He realizes that it’s going to take Horatio Winthrop’s pages to get him in. They’ve fortunately managed to convince the county sheriff of Kentucky that it would be in their best interest to protect the Winthrop Observatory from possible vandals. Lancaster knows that Christina is after the orrery and plans to have her bring it right to him.
Ruby scolds Tamara for not matching the shoes with the dresses properly and tells her that the only way for her to be a credit to her race is to be better than mediocre. They are joined by Paul, who asks if everything is okay. Ruby claims that everything is fine and that Tamara was simply offering to take them all to the South Side.
Montrose sits quietly as Sammy and his drag queen friends get dressed and prepare to head out to a nightclub.
As promised, Ruby, Tamara, Paul, Madge, Barb, and Cathy head out to the South Side and party at Sammy’s bar. While the others are distracted on the dance floor, Ruby sneaks out back as the potion is about to wear off. She crushes the vial in her hand and allows the metamorphosis to occur, shedding her white skin and returning to her true form. She grabs a coat and takes cover as Tamara exits the bar with Paul right behind her. She watches as Paul tries to force himself on her. Tamara bites his lip and flees.
Montrose watches as Sammy performs at a drag queen club. He is mesmerized by Sammy’s performance and the atmosphere of the club. He displays moments of happiness and kisses Sammy for the first time.
Ruby sits on the couch, covered in her own blood, with another vial of the metamorphosis potion. Christina comes from out the basement and locks the door behind herself. Ruby questions why it’s the only door in the house that locks and what’s in the basement. Christina claims that she’s been where Ruby is, but Ruby insists that Christina couldn’t possibly relate to who she is. In addition to that, Ruby has learned that white people are disillusioned with themselves. They want to be black meanwhile black people want to be white and have the privileges of being so. Christina explains that William’s invitation wasn’t just to be white — it was an invitation for Ruby to do what she wants. That’s the currency of magic: unmitigated freedom. She asks who Ruby truly is when she’s uninterrupted.
Ruby goes into Paul’s office as Hillary and gives him her notice of resignation. She claims that she’s been attracted to him since they met and that quitting is the only option in order for them to have sex. She takes his tie and binds his hands. She then takes his belt, pulls down his pants, and wraps the belt around his neck. She stuffs her underwear in Paul’s mouth before shoving the heel of her shoe in his ass multiple times. His screams are muffled and go unheard as she sheds her skin and transforms back into Ruby.
Tic joins Leti in the bathroom as she soaks in the tub. She has been trying to say a prayer for Yahima. Leti’s mother’s faith was real. It’s why she dragged her and Ruby to church every Sunday. But it never made Leti a true believer. Tic blames himself for bringing the bad into Leti’s life. He tells her about a girl he knew back in Korea. They were romantically involved, but it ended in a strange way. Tic isn’t sure if what he felt for Ji-Ah was love. He never had a good example growing up. His parents were enduring, but unknowable. Growing up, Leti felt that love wasn’t special. Her mother fell into it every two seconds, and Ruby is the same way. Leti didn’t want to be with a man if it didn’t mean something. Tic looks Leti in the eyes and tells her what they have is special.
William returns home. Ruby questions what’s in the basement as he and Christina constantly go in and out. William falls to the ground in pain and goes through a metamorphosis of his own. He sheds his skin, revealing his true form — William is actually Christina.
Tic continues his efforts to decipher the Language of Adam. He comes to a realization and rushes to the nearest phone. He frantically calls Ji-Ah and asks how she knew. She tells him that he should’ve listened to her. He asks her what she is. Ji-Ah doesn’t reply. She hangs up the phone instead. Among the words from the pages, Tic managed to decipher “D-I-E.”
Notes and Trivia
- The episode title, Strange Case, is a reference to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
- Several characters in this episode display a different side to themselves, specifically, Ruby, William, Montrose, and Tic.
Behind the Scenes
|"Sundown" • "Whitey's on the Moon" • "Holy Ghost" • "A History of Violence" • "Strange Case" • "Meet Me in Daegu" • "I Am." • "Jig-A-Bobo" • "Rewind 1921" • "Full Circle"|