Teen Wolf: “Motel California”
B+

Teen Wolf: “Motel California”

B+

Teen Wolf

“Motel California”

Season 3, Episode 6

Although it ties everything together in the last scene (featuring—whoo-hoo!—the long-awaited return of Michael Hogan, sitting in a wheelchair in an underfurnished room and spitting up what looks like black bile between lines of exposition, as Grandpa Argent), for most of the hour, this episode appears to be a self-contained break in the storyline. It opens with a Rob Zombie-esque shot of a pickup truck rolling down a road, with enough orange-brown dust blowing through the air to create the atmosphere of an acid flashback. It’s 1977, and the driver of the truck pulls into a motel so remote and creepy-looking that even Norman Bates’ mother would know better than to try to make a living from it. He checks into his room, goes inside, takes out a shotgun, and blows his head off.

Thirty-six years pass, and it turns out that our heroes are still tooling around in their school bus, trying to get to the big meet that they never made it to in the last episode. If you had asked me to guess what might happen in this episode, I probably would have guessed that it would include a scene, set in 1977, involving the suicide of an unfamiliar character, way before I would have considered the possibility that the school bus would still be touring America’s back roads. I thought that we’d already reached the point last week where making the meet would seem like a write-off, but that Coach can be like a dog with an old shoe. Our heroes check into the motel for the night, and it quickly becomes clear that this is a haunted motel, dedicated to messing with everyone’s heads.

Lydia, as you might expect, gets the worst of it. While all her friends hurry to their rooms, she stands in the courtyard, staring at the building with her Walter Keane eyes growing larger and larger, and says, “I don’t like this place.” Coming from you or me, a statement like that might just mean that the beds are hard and the Wi-Fi is hinky. Coming from Lydia, it amounts to some Amityville shit. Sure enough, there’s a sign that reads “198,” and the batty old crone who runs the joint informs Lydia that this represents the number of guests who have snuffed themselves on the premises. Lydia begins to hear voices, while Scott and the other werewolves zone out, act weird, become despairing and zombified. At one point, Scott wanders into the bathroom where Allison is showering, and, as she demurely peeks her head out from behind the curtain, he tells her that he hopes that, despite their recent difficulties, he hopes they can still be friends. Boyd, who has no naked ex-girlfriend to impress with his pledge of eternal friendship and thousand-yard stare, instead smashes open the vending machine when it won’t give him his candy. At some point in all this, the number on the sign changes to “201.”

Putting their heads together, Lydia, Stiles, and Allison figure out that 201 minus 198 equals three, and that the motel must be planning to claim the three werewolves who’ve checked in—Scott, Boyd, and Isaac—as sacrifices, by driving them to suicide. (Technically, there are more than three werewolves around, because the alpha-pack twins are also along for the ride, and one of them—the gay one, presumably—even makes out, pretty hot and heavy, with Danny. But they’re bad guys, so we won’t even include them in our little arithmetic games.) Before long, Isaac starts to hear the voice of his mean ol’ dad in his head, haranguing him, and he hides under the bed. Proving either that he is made of sterner stuff or that he isn’t—I can’t decide for sure—Boyd tries to cancel out the voices in his head by running a tub of water and lying down in it with a safe across his chest. Stiles and Lydia try to save him, but can’t unplug the tub or lift the safe. Then Stiles realizes that heat seems to snap the wolves out of their trances, and Lydia sends him out to the bus to fetch some emergency road flares, so they can give Boyd a life-saving jolt. The scene is very slackly directed, and padded out with many shots of Boyd’s unconscious, wide-eyed face under water, so that by the time Boyd finally comes flying out of the tub, you could be forgiven for having noticed that they could have just grabbed a Dixie cup and bailed the water out.

The episode mostly cuts back and forth between the shenanigans at the motel and the bed where the hot English teacher has laid out the wounded, shirtless Derek, who, as she cannot restrain herself from acknowledging out loud, sure would have one bodacious physique if black blood weren’t pouring out of the several jagged openings in the chest and six-pack region. Most of the humor in this episode comes in their lusty exchanges, though damned if I can tell if any of it is meant to be funny. Given the garish extent of Derek’s injuries, the hot English teacher’s laser focus on whether or not they’re forming a relationship would be creepy if she weren’t so, well, hot, and when she suddenly blurts out, “I’ve been hurt before,” Derek gets major points for not replying, “I’d sympathize, but I look like I’ve been through a threshing machine here.”

This is the silliest Teen Wolf episode in quite a while. I kind of loved it; the silliness is very ripe, that motel setting is a peach, and did I mention the last-minute cameo appearance by the charred, twisted remains of Michael Hogan? And given the choice between sitting poker-faced through something that’s supposed to be funny and laughing my guts out over something that’s meant to be dramatic, always go with the latter. When the voices get to Scott, he repairs to the parking lot to stand in a puddle of gasoline, holding a lit flare. His friends try to reason with him, but he’ll have none of it. “We were nothing,” he reminds Stiles, apropos their pre-werewolf years. “We weren’t popular! We weren’t good at lacrosse!” In the end, he laments. “There is no hope. Not for me. Not for Derek.” Cut to Derek, who is expressing his hopelessness by pressing his lips against the hot English teacher’s mouth so hard that they both have to breathe through their ears.

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