Daddy Increase Mather wanders around Salem with a following hanging on his every word talking about how depraved and awful Salem had become while Hale, in a moment of utter gall, asks Mary why Mather is there (“because he has seen what his son has accomplished” is a nifty little put down.)
While older Mather is being all righteous, Cotton Mather is enjoying some naked time with Gloriana. Which is ruined when Gloriana realises Daddy Mather is on his way to the brothel. Cotton hurries to hide – hiding under the bed at Gloriana’s suggestion. He leaves his Bible out though and Gloriana pretends she was reading it when Daddy Mather arrives. He leaves her to go harass Mab, the owner of the brothel and, after a little verbal sparring, he finds a secret compartment in her fireplace inside which are witch supplies
Mab has been exposed.
Hale, Tituba and Mary meet to discuss the issue and Hale is very worried that the hunters have found an actual witch – one who can give up their names. Hale goes to convince Mab to be silent though Mary isn’t worried about that – she’s worried about Increase visiting and realising that George isn’t sick but spelled. She plans to send him away (all overheard by George himself).
Mary recruits Isaac to take George to a hospital in Boston. And what a wonderful person Isaac is to help George despite what he did to Isaac. Mary and John share some significant eye contact
In the bar Cotton is drinking his daddy issues with John. Increase arrives for lots of cutting references at his son who is far too drunk to care (and kind of expected them all anyway). In between lecturing his son, Increase hands Cotton his Bible – yes, the same Bible that he let Increase see at Gloriana’s.
Hale goes to Mab who fears he will kill her as is the code of the Hive. But he agrees to spare her and she agrees to be silent – but he doesn’t think that’s worth much since torture is going to be used. Instead he gives Mab a name to give up instead of the actual witches. When he returns home, his daughter Anne is waiting for him in her continued snooping of his life. He doesn’t discourage questions like her mother does (though he does point out she’s being a bit rude snooping in his room) and tells her he doesn’t think Mab is a witch. She praises his common sense
The next day, Mab faces the ducking stool. After repeatedly half drowning her John’s contempt for Increase is cemented (Cotton thoroughly agrees). Mab eventually gives up a name – Gloriana. Cotton protests and tries to tell Increase how wrong they are, how they are persecuting innocents (now it’s someone he values being targeted). He even tells Increase his life’s work is a mistake, he begs, he pleads.
Increase, completely unshockingly, isn’t moved by his son’s performance. He backhands Cotton and has Gloriana arrested. Later Cotton continues to protest, now pointing out that they’re relying on the evidence of an admitted witch. When Increase suggests examining Gloriana for devil’s marks, Cotton agrees (since he’s seen her naked and is pretty sure she doesn’t have any). And he expects Cotton to examine her (while wiping his face with a handkerchief like a parent with a small child).
The examination is violating and humiliating, especially with Increase watching Cotton examine Gloriana while men hold her down. Increase directs Cotton to expose different parts of her body in a ritual, formal humiliation. They find no marks, but to Cotton’s anger, Increase still demands a trial, saying it’s not their decision, it’s the Selectmen who choose. But that didn’t happen when he burned the whole family last episode – Increase does not stick to his own rules
John makes another move on Mary but she pushes him away. They cannot be together, she’s married, her husband is very much alive. He tries to push for any deep dark secret she’s hiding but she’s not cracking.
At the Hale household, Anne continues to speak out over dinner, scorning her father for being “content to see people hang” and not speaking out against the witch panic. Hale objects to the implication he is in league with the Puritans but Anne replies she didn’t mean he was in league of them. Hale, rather more intensely, wants to know what she meant – and she claims illness and a need to rest and refuses to answer.
Cotton turns to John to approach Increase since he’s the only one Increase respects, he begs him in the name of the quasi friendship they share. John goes and Increase says “no”, already predicting what John would say. Instead John gives him some words about misjudging his son, drawing his own father as a comparison (in what I suppose is irony, John’s father would have loved a son like Cotton while Increase would have loved a son like John) and the difference between loving his son’s choices and loving his son. That line seems to hit the mark
On the road, Isaac is distracted by George’s struggles and crashes the cart. While Isaac is unconscious, George manages to uses a piece of broken wood to stab himself in the belly. He cuts himself open and manages to remove Mary’s familiar, the toad, from his stomach. Isaac wakes up and follows the trail of blood to where George is propped against a tree – and George asks for help. Without the toad he can speak.
He appeals to Isaac for help since he has a very bad stomach wound and Isaac reminds George of what little reason he has to actually help the man. George instead offers money if he’ll come back with supplies and medicine and Increase – NOT Mary!
Isaac runs, but in the woods he is spotted by the seer.
In town Isaac goes to John, no knowing what else to do. John advises him to do nothing – the world will be a better place without George Sibley (and, of course, he then gets to get it on with Mary the merry widow). Something Isaac notes
Increase has Gloriana brought before the town and announces she isn’t a witch, that the accusation was a ploy and Gloriana won’t be tried. Instead he banishes her for being a prostitute, driving her from the town. She will be hanged if she ever returns. Cotton manages to kiss her before she is taken away.
Mary wakes up the next day to find her familiar by her bed. She calls Tituba in a panic and they cast a spell to track George so Tituba can find him quickly and deal with him (everyone panics, Tituba gets stuff done).
Cotton goes to his room to mope in a very teenaged style and his dad is waiting for him to lecture him. It seems Increase has ambition and wants to see his son become Governor. He thinks he’s doing his son good by “removing temptation.”
As he leaves the room Increase finds Isaac downstairs and quickly asks how George is and what the doctor said. He quickly suspects something is up and demands Isaac speak. Apparently the truth because Increase dispatches help for George and goes himself. It becomes a race between him and Tituba.
Petrus the Seer and Tituba find George and give him a potion. But Increase arrives before they can move George away and he realises George has been spelled
Mab, in her prison cell, commits suicide. Tituba returns home to warn Mary that George is now under Increase’s care and Petrus’s potion will last only a day. And Anne drops in on John to tell him her suspicions about Hale. The witches’ schemes are all falling apart.
The way Isaac and Cotton examined Gloriana was dehumanising and horrific and meant to be… but, it felt more like the show felt Cotton was the one being humiliated not Gloriana who was being manhandled and exposed. Cotton, because the woman he loves is being treated that way, Cotton because he is the one having to do it. I think the show tried to make Cotton more the victim than Gloriana.
Even John going to appeal for Gloriana’s life turns into an appeal for acceptance for Cotton. Gloriana is a sidenote in father/son angst.
If Cotton cares so much for Gloriana could he not leave the town with her, go somewhere else? Especially since his confidence in witch hunting seems to have rather waned