Smith and Rockwell Finally Battle it Out
The episode begins with Perfect Nazi Specimen, Hans, passing a field test by shooting three fleeing men on a gun range. Himmler gives him a Lebensborn pin.
John Smith visits Dr. Ryan, his wife’s therapist, and instructs him to only talk to Helen about Thomas. Dr. Ryan swears by doctor-patient confidentiality but just to make sure, John threatens his family if he breathes a single word of Helen’s sessions to anyone else. During Helen’s next session, she recalls screaming for Thomas to not turn himself in and she knows neighbors and friends heard her. She calls herself weak for grieving but Dr. Ryan counters that those who conceal their feelings are the weak ones.
Having finally amassed enough evidence to take down Smith, Hoover reports to Rockwell that they have paperwork showing the plan to kidnap Thomas in South America to avoid euthanizing him. Hoover ambushes Helen and produces the button that fell off in Alice’s house during their fight. Agents searching her closet find a coat with matching buttons, one missing. Scrambling, Helen says she and Alice argued but that she left. Proving that this is all an attempt to rattle her husband, Hoover doesn’t arrest Helen. She immediately freaks out to her husband when he arrives and things are made worse by a sudden summons from Himmler for a meeting.
Before the meeting, John bursts into Hoover’s office, eyes ablaze. Hoover’s offer is this: John will take an early retirement, Hoover will smooth things over with Rockwell. They just want John out of the way. If he refuses the deal, he and his family will be executed for treason. So John walks into a meeting with Himmler, Rockwell, and Hoover, his face expressionless. As Rockwell lays out all the many charges (treason and murder among them), John says nothing. He hardly reacts at all except perhaps mild surprise at the depth of Rockwell’s research. But when Hoover is called upon to present the evidence to back up these claims, he says Rockwell is “confused.” There is no evidence. And indeed Rockwell’s briefcase is empty.
Himmler is enraged. To accuse a senior officer of these crimes is treason itself. Rockwell is taken away spitting and cursing. We flashback to John and Hoover’s meeting where John hands over a file containing something powerful enough to blackmail Hoover onto his side. Himmler sends Hoover out so he can have a one-on-one with John wherein he reveals he knows all of John’s secrets and is protecting him. He had John’s aid, Eric, killed because Eric also knew those secrets. Himmler calls Helen a liability and warns John to keep her in check or Himmler will do it himself. See, Himmler has big plans for John, starting with naming him Acting Reichsmarshall, and John better live up to those plans.
In a meeting directly after this dramatic showdown, Nicole reveals her Year Zero plan to purge American history, starting with tearing down the Statue of Liberty. In its place will be a Nazi statue. John looks conflicted but masks it in front of the others. He informs Hoover he’ll be keeping his blackmail file on hand should he need it and that he requires Hoover’s file on him and Rockwell’s information on High Castle. Leaving no loose ends, Smith has Rockwell murdered while he is in exile in Havana.
The Neutral Zone
Stranded on the side of the road, Ed and Childan discuss going their separate ways. Ed offers the John Wayne belt buckle and photograph, which he hid in his underwear when they were being robbed. They flag down a passing car and agree that they’ll return to Denver, sell the buckle, and part ways.
In between making Resistance posters, Frank is studying for his bar mitzvah. He’s conflicted about proceeding because he’s not sure he’s worthy of atonement. The Yakuza searching for him in Denver aren’t helping matters. The community gathers to decide what to do with Frank and they vote to let him stay.
Who Lives, Who Dies…
And now the conclusion of last episode’s dramatic cliffhanger. Tagomi stands with his eyes closed, Joe holding a gun to his head behind him. A long few seconds pass. When he’s not dead, and apparently not in another universe, Tagomi opens his eyes, turns around, and sees… No one. Joe is gone and a group of soldiers calls out to check on Tagomi. The next day he calls Juliana to tell her Joe nearly killed him but she doesn’t quite believe him. She thinks she knows Joe. She really doesn’t.
Wanting answers, Juliana visits Joe but takes a gun with her just in case. Joe reports to Himmler that he was unable to assassinate Tagomi because of the soldiers nearby but he swears he’ll follow through. He also tells Himmler that Juliana knows about Lackawanna and spent time with High Castle. When Juliana arrives, she mildly confronts Joe about last night and what deal he cut to get out of prison. He confesses to killing his father, which, however honestly he feels that pain, is a manipulation tactic in this moment and it works. Juliana softens and embraces him.
They sleep together again and she tells him about the Tunnel film. She wants him to see it in case it jogs his “memory.” Joe agrees. While he’s showering, Juliana finds the files on his targets, including Tagomi, information on Lackawanna, and the Lebenseborn pin, the same one the three men who attacked Hawthorne and his wife were wearing. Frantically realizing what we’ve all known for a while, Juliana gathers her things to leave but is interrupted by Joe, who is holding her gun.
He lectures her about the beauty of the Reich and says he knows she really wants to join him because once the Reich takes over every universe, there will be perfection. Instead, Juliana taunts back that she’s watched him shoot her hundreds of times and every time he shoots himself right after. Joe snaps and demands she take him to Tagomi and then to the Man in the High Castle. She rushes into the bathroom and locks the door, searching helplessly for something to defend herself with. When Joe bursts in, Juliana turns swiftly and slashes his throat with a blade. Then she crouches down and watches him bleed out. It’s cold af but he also deserved it and she was defending herself so…
- The incredible subtleties of Rufus Sewell’s acting never cease to amaze me. He doesn’t say a word or make any big movements or expressions during the accusation scene but you can see the sequence of emotions so clearly in his eyes. He says more with a single twitch of an eyebrow than most actors do with full sentences of dialogue.
- Because of the alternate universes, no one is ever really dead on High Castle. But it was still shocking to see Joe, a season one main character, die.
- After staying over at Nicole’s, Thelma says they need to be careful because their relationship could destroy them both. I don’t know about that. Nicole was having orgies in Berlin so she’s probably pretty safe.
- Last episode’s title, Sabra, is explained in this episode. Sabra is a cactus that grows in the Holy Land. Sampson describes it as tough on the outside and tender on the inside, much like their community in the mountains.