Last week on Ash vs. Evil Dead, the show put its unique splatstick spin on Hellraiser. This time out, it took on the Monkees' Head. The Pre-Fab Four's film, a free-form psychedelic-era artifact (written by Jack Nicholson!), is as good a touchstone as any for the far-out trip Ash J. Williams went on this week — that, or the "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" dream sequence from The Big Lebowski. Our working theory was that tonight's episode, "Brujo," was going to offer AvED's version of New World witchcraft. Instead, it showed us El Jefe's brain on drugs. As the man himself might put it: Groovy.
We do indeed meet Pablo's uncle, the titular Brujo who taught him of the great men who turned back the forces of evil years ago in days of old when magic filled the air. (All apologies to Led Zeppelin.) But the show's stab at his occult-based religion is pretty straightforward stuff — mutter a few spells in Spanish, purchase a few home furnishings from the Yellow King's garage sale, and there you have it. The relative spends more time fuming at his nephew for turning his back on the faith and insulting Ash for being an oblivious, out-of-shape moron than doing anything revelatory.
It's when our hero imbibes the Brujo's hallucinogenic ayahuasca concoction and inhales a few second-hand puffs of potent weed that the fun really begins. After a vision of the witch crunching down on a gooey human eyeball — because hey, why not — Ash is launched on a voyage into his inner self, which appears to consist primarily of bad TV and softcore porn. Snippets of shows he watched as a kid (Felix the Cat, Flipper, I Dream of Jeannie) give way to more adolescent and adult fare: Charlie's Angels, aerobics videos, beer, drugs, Playboy, Whitesnake songs, and a disproportionate volume of ladies' wrestling clips. (Who knew he had an Andy Kaufman side?) The idea of a psychedelic experience rooted in trash culture consumed over the course of a lifetime clearly seems rooted in someone on the writing staff's experience.
But spliced into the Saturday morning cartoons and sex stuff are more ominous visions. For one thing, there's an Indiana Jones–style roadmap that shows Ash's life since his first cabin-in-the-woods encounter long ago: a non-stop tour of dead-end Value Stop jobs nationwide. For another, there's the ground-zero location of the franchise itself, shown in flashbacks from the original films, complete with Deadite-corrupted girlfriend. And when Williams finally crash-lands into his unconscious, he finds himself being buried alive, eyes sewn shut, surrounded by scarecrow-like replicas of himself and his late lover.
But the voice of the Brujo reminds him it's still his trip, so he hijacks it, wresting himself away from the hellhole in the woods in favor of his preferred destination…Jacksonville, Florida? Ash's spiritual center is located in the Sunshine-State city he'd planned to vacation in before the trip to the cabin changed his life forever. In his vision, it's an Emerald City-esque wonderland, under a gorgeous sunset sky, where he can relax on a pier with a beer in each fully-intact hand and his talking lizard Eli by his side. "I've always wanted to spend time in a city so nice they named it Jacksonville," he says in the line of the night.
Unfortunately, he's not the only tourist there. Eligos, the Chatterer-like entity he summoned last episode, was not vanquished by a smack with the Necronomicon Ex Mortis after all. He's possessed Kelly — and made her look supremely badass with blacked-out eyeballs in the process — and is now using her to infect El Jefe's mind. After a "SURRENDER ASH" warning in the sky that comes straight out of The Wizard of Oz, he finds himself warped back to the cabin, then to the bookstore where the creature was unleashed, then to the Value Stop storeroom, with the demon and its talking-doll familiar from the pilot hot on his trail.
Once again, he's able to get things back on track when he remembers the vision is his to control. The problem is that for every move he makes against Eligos inside his mind, his unconscious body assaults Kelly in the real world. Pablo and the Brujo intervene forcibly, leaving Ash out for the count and the demon in control of their friend. Looks like next week will be Round Two.
But the main event may be yet to come. At the very beginning of the episode, we rejoin Amanda Fisher, the cop left stranded in Books From Beyond and at the mercy of its undead owner. Before he can force her to blow her own brains out, fate intervenes in the person of Lucy Lawless, or at least the still-nameless character she portrays. A relative of several of the casualties of Ash's earlier cabin misadventures — his girlfriend, her sister — she's out to settle the score with the man she blames for their deaths and the Deadite invasion in general. Her secret weapon: His severed, possessed, recently reanimated hand, which has been wriggling unpleasantly in the trunk of his car.
Like the big cloud of evil that chases our heroes at the beginning of the episode — per Williams, a "drafter," the spirit responsible for all those eye-view tracking shots — it's a blast from the franchise's past. But even without it, the show's got enough great ideas of its own for the future to look pretty freaking bright.
Previously: Hellraiser Too