John Smith Makes A Shocking Decision About His True Loyalties In The Man In The High Castle’s “For Want of a Nail”

Credit: Liane Hentscher/Amazon Prime

What Comes Next?

Celebrating their victory, Elijah and Mallory indulge in a night on a goose feather bed. In the morning, they agree that the large bedroom should be stripped and retrofitted for ten people instead of two. An air raid siren sounds and they rush downstairs to take cover with everyone else but no bombs fall. Instead, the Reich has dropped leaflets encouraging the white people of San Francisco to rebel against the BCR. 

Along with an impending invasion, the BCR has to deal with Kido. He’s still locked in the gas chamber room. His would-be lynchers still want him for themselves. They reason that if the Reich does invade, the Nazis will put Kido back into power and throw the entire BCR into camps. But the BCR is set on putting Kido on trial and they’ll do the same to anyone who attempts a lynching. 

Kido watches as Japan leaves the Pacific States with even their TV station going off the air. He hallucinates watching baseball with his young son. It’s a pleasant fiction until the boy says he wants to be a professional baseball player. Kido snaps that he’ll go into the army instead. Perhaps wishing he could change the past, Kido backtracks and tells his son he’ll help him become a great player. Then the hallucination ends and he’s left alone.

Childan and Yukiko have crammed a suitcase full of artifacts in preparation to leave. A gang of thugs enters looking to beat up Yukiko because she’s Japanese. Childan thinks he chases them away with a baseball bat but Yukiko is actually behind him brandishing a gun at the men. The newlyweds quickly head to the docks but the sergeant there believes Childan’s letter from the Crown Princess is a forgery. The couple bribes him with money and priceless antiques and Yukiko even gives up her wedding ring but in the end, he’ll only let her on the boat, not Childan. Despite her protests, Childan urges her to get on the ship without him and he watches it leave from the abandoned dock. 

Helen and John Each Hit a Critical Breaking Point

John and Wilhelm arrive in Berlin. I was sure John had killed the other man during their shared drink last episode but apparently not. They go to the Fuhrer’s meeting but John is sent away while everyone else talks strategy with Himmler. It’s obvious the German commanders want to replace John with Wilhelm. 

After searching John’s home office, Helen finds the films from the alt-world with her, John, and Thomas happy together. She cries and laughs at the sight, then calls Juliana. They arrange to meet at 11 am. With Martha and guards in tow, Helen goes to the doctor’s office. The nurse is able to shake off Martha by telling her she needs to wait in the lobby during Helen’s exam. Taking a series of back doors, Helen eventually meets Juliana and tells her about watching the film. She can’t believe it’s real but Juliana reminds her she’s seen others like it where the Allies win the war. Juliana reveals the Reich has built a portal to these worlds and John has used it to visit Thomas. Helen can’t believe that either, still holding onto the promise that the couple made to never lie to one another. But Juliana points out that John didn’t tell her about the films. 

What the Resistance needs is intel on when John will next be on the train to the portal and where he gets on or off. Helen can’t sanction the murder of her husband even when Juliana points out that John will be leading the Reich’s invasion of the Pacific States. Either he dies, or everyone else does. 

Martha gets tired of waiting. After discovering the exam room is empty, she follows Helen’s same route but Wyatt is there in disguise to try to stop her. Their fight is ruthless, with him being slashed and stabbed, and just as she’s about to kill him, Juliana intervenes. Together, they overpower Martha and kill her, much to Helen’s horror. Helen rushes out of the office with her guards, who don’t seem to question Martha’s absence. Juliana and Wyatt throw the body in the incinerator. 

Back in Berlin, John is finally in the meeting. The Reich is planning an aerial assault on the Pacific States, which he says will reduce everything to rubble. Invading is one thing, he points out, holding the territory is another. Himmler begins to question who should lead the “conquest” of America. A German general suggests only a German could do it but John counters that only an American can control the American Reich’s army. It’s the wrong thing to say. The General reminds everyone that John hasn’t been controlling America and wonders if he can’t or won’t leading Himmler to ask John where his loyalties truly lie. 

At home, Helen hears Bridget crying. Their loyal maid signals that Hoover is listening to everything and shows Helen where all of the bugs are planted, even admitting to helping Hoover. The man himself walks into the meeting in Berlin with an entire file on the Smiths. He plays tapes of Helen and John discussing Himmler after their dinner together. They have recordings of Helen and Jenny talking about the Neutral Zone, Jenny and Henry in the park, even Helen and John in the Neutral Zone. It’s all so, so damning for John but he’s stone-faced at the war table. Himmler orders him to be brought to his chambers. 

Helen discovers John is not booked into a hotel in Berlin. She tells Bridget they need to get the girls. It looks like the Reich’s plan truly is to murder John. He arrives at Himmler’s office and surrenders his gun. Himmler is distraught. He considered John a son, someone he saw himself in. The Fuhrer condemns John for not doing more after Himmler was shot and yells for John to defend himself. Finally, he speaks. John says he never loved Himmler and saw him only as a mediocre man and a tyrant. He’s sickened that Himmler thought they were alike. As he speaks, Himmler coughs more and more violently, eventually reaching for his oxygen mask. John grabs it and smothers the Fuhrer.  

When John opens the office doors, all of the guards are dead. A few soldiers loyal to John have killed them. Returning to the war room, he finds all of the commanders dead except Wilhelm, who has killed them all but saved Hoover for John. John stabs Hoover with so much strength his shoes squeak on the floor. And now we know the nature of the drink shared between John and Wilhelm. John gets North America, Wilhelm gets the rest of the Reich. They salute one another. “Heil Goertzmann!” “Heil Smith!”

Stray Observations:

  • This entire episode was one stressful, pulse-pounding moment after the next. I don’t know what the finale will be like, but wow this was incredible. 
  • I thought maybe John would kill Himmler and frame Wilhelm somehow using his glass from their drink. I never expected them to be allies. 
  • During the scene where Helen watches the film of her happy alt-world family, my viewing companion noted how sad it was. “Even if they wanted to be those people now, they never could. It’s been too long; they’re so damaged and traumatized. They will never be that carefree, not in this universe.”
  • While Juliana is sleeping, she either senses the portal going haywire or somehow causes it to overpower before waking up. 
Stephanie Coats
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