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“Guilt” flips the groups' roles as Carroll’s followers pursue Claire instead of the FBI pursuing Carroll. As is commonplace for The Following the episode is marred with inconsistencies in intelligence, mainly within the FBI ranks, and the constant introduction of new characters. However, “Guilt” turned out to be a fairly enjoyable episode because of the strong focus on Claire and Ryan and the lack of FBI idiocy, for the most part.
First, however, is an update on Jacob’s character. After Jacob’s character “breakthrough” in last week’s episode, Jacob continues down an interesting path. Throughout all of “Guilt” Jacob has hallucinations of Paul. These hallucinations escalate in intensity as the episode progresses. It is clear that Jacob finally killing someone has snapped some sanity within his mind and the hallucinations are representative of that.
Towards the end of the episode, in the midst of some reconciliation sex between Emma and Jacob (Carroll was pushing hard for their reconciliation earlier in the episode), he is forced from the bed to have a conversation with Paul. Paul urges Jacob to kill Emma because of what she forced Jacob to do. Jacob, clearly shaken, doesn’t seem to want to do that and continually stabs the hallucination of Paul in the stomach until finally slicing his neck open. Whether that signifies the end of Paul appearing or not is unknown but Jacob emerges from the bathroom with a crazy look in his eye and returns to Emma to reveal how he had to smother Paul and to threaten Emma’s life. It’ll be interesting to monitor Jacob’s further descent but, at some point, he will have to actually kill “for the fun of it” (as is the style amongst Carroll’s followers). While the hallucinations were an interesting wrinkle they don’t seem sustainable, at least not within the current construct of the show, and they probably will tire quickly if they become a recurring focus.
The episode was mainly focused on Ryan and Claire’s escape from Carroll’s thugs, a group of two new militiamen and Roderick. There seemed to be some dissension within the group as Carroll ordered Roderick to skip his sheriff’s duties to ensure that Claire was caught so that should be interesting to monitor. Ryan forced his way onto Claire’s security detail, despite the fact they really don’t want him to do anything else in the investigation, and he arrives just in the nick of time as Roderick and the boys go to Claire’s “secure” hotel room. Ryan and Claire escape out the back after some more FBI ineptitude and drive off to Tyson’s, Ryan’s best friend and current witness protectee's house.
This trip, of course, induces multiple flashbacks of their friendship and Ryan’s past love life. None hold much importance except that Tyson tells Claire that she was Ryan’s most serious love and that things went south quickly with Ryan’s last girlfriend, Molly. They find out that one of the henchmen put a tracking device on Claire soon after and they prepare for Roderick’s arrival. Tyson and Ryan don’t seem to have that great of a friendship but Ryan’s fear of his “death curse” probably plays into that.
Prior to the climatic shootout Claire and Ryan confess their love to each other in a very manufactured scene. The shootout ensues and Tyson gets shot in the chest after he kills one of the militiamen. Claire gives herself up to Roderick when Ryan goes to check out a sound in the house. Again, Claire is hell bent on seeing her son and the fact that she gives herself up is ridiculous. There is something lost in translation with Claire’s need to be reunited with her son. While having a child kidnapped by his serial killer dad is clearly a traumatic and intense experience her total willingness to be swept away by the cult seems really unjustified, especially since she has absolutely no faith in the FBI’s capabilities. Claire’s need to protect her son, whether because of the acting or writing (or both), also seems incredibly forced. Again, no one would ever want their child to be kidnapped, but it would seem that you would try to find a rational solution in order to secure both of your safety instead of constantly running away from your protectors to be reunited with your son.
The FBI does get some brownie points this episode, though. Despite the foolish actions of the agents protecting Claire in the hotel, Debra and the technology division end up coming across encrypted emails between Roderick and other people. Eventually they decrypt the code and find a recruiting video to join Carroll’s cult. It’s about time something was revealed into how Carroll has accrued so many followers over the years.
The final scene of the episode involves Carroll reuniting with Molly, Ryan’s ex-girlfriend only seen in flashbacks from this episode. Her expanded inclusion seems completely random and means more worthless flashbacks are to come. Her role in Carroll’s group and as Ryan’s girlfriend has yet to be identified. It seems folly to introduce yet another new follower but perhaps her assumed recurring role will add a level of continuity that the show lacks otherwise.