Ambergris
S1 episode 5 Aired on November 10, 2016

By Benjamin Lindsay

Warning: Recap contains spoilers for Falling Water episode 105, “Ambergris”

Five episodes in, and we finally have near-definitive proof that Tess has a son. “Ambergris” opens with a flashback. Ann-Marie Bowen, leader of The Green meets with Charlotte, Tess’s mother, several years before the series’ main events. Charlotte is upset and feeling guilty about a “sacrifice” that had damage on her family. “The greater good outweighs your guilt,” Ann-Marie tells her. That sacrifice is presumed to include giving her grandson to The Green. After some goading, Ann-Marie lets Charlotte see the young blonde boy we’ve come to know as Tess’s son -- at this point just a toddler -- one last time. Charlotte gives the boy one of Tess’s childhood teddy bears, telling him it will keep him safe. The only question now is why this boy is so important, why Tess’s memory of the birth was wiped, and why larger organizations outside of The Green are bidding to own him themselves.

Tess finds the teddy bear.

Episode 105’s opening scene comes full circle by episode’s end when Tess finds her long lost teddy bear in the now-abandoned New York City apartment her son was raised in. Tess finds the apartment after going under and dreaming with Bill, who tells her he needs her help to get over his sister’s death. It’s here that we learn a bit more about Bill’s intentions for the dream tests. As a teen, he and his older sister were able to joint dream and go on one adventure after another together, but then one morning, she doesn’t wake up. Forever stuck in a catatonic dream state (much like Taka’s mother), she eventually dies in a mental hospital at age 16. Bill hasn’t had a good dream since, and wants Tess’s help to fix that.

While they’re under, Tess and Bill end up together in an artists loft in Manhattan. White sheets hang from the ceiling encircling a sculpture that we later learn was made by an artist named Kumiko (Taka’s mother). Their time with the sculpture is cut short when two faceless men enter the scene. Running away and down into the street, Tess spots her son looking down at her from an apartment window. While she goes to see him, Bill stays behind to ward the men off but is turned into one of the faceless men himself before waking. Meanwhile, Tess awakens before reaching her son. Once awake and safe again, Bill doesn’t tell Tess what happened to him when he met the two men in the dream.

Later, Tess and Bill are walking together and come upon the same street from their dream. They decide to enter the building they saw Tess’s son looking at her from. Determining the right apartment, they break their way in to find a long-abandoned space with nothing but a twin mattress on the floor. But it’s the same room the boy, Charlotte, and Anne-Marie were shown in in the beginning. Next to the mattress is Tess’s childhood teddy bear. At this reveal, Tess realizes she and her mother are due for a little talk.

Taka gets ready “to have a real conversation.”

Remember when Sabine was masturbating in front of Taka last week and his mother miraculously cried out? According to her doctor, that was just a random neurological impulse and no sign of improvement for the ailing Kumiko. While in the hospital, Taka visits Sabine at work, who mysteriously explains that their non-physical sexual relationship thus far is all she can give and it’s up to him to decide if they keep going. It’s unclear what that whole thing means (and it’s the last of Sabine we see this episode), but something tells us she’s secretly caught up in this dream business with The Green, too. Is Taka going through the same limited love that Burton is subject to with the Woman in Red?

His meeting with Sabine is cut short when he’s called to the scene of a crime: Andy’s body was found in the Dumpster. A quick ID scan shows that Andy was a felon in Iceland who Bill bailed out and brought over for his dream tests. After some light questioning from Taka, it’s determined that Bill’s hands are clean of this Dumpster death and that after firing him from the study, he properly sent Andy on his way back to Iceland. It’s a brief scene held in Bill’s office, but it marks the first real-world encounter between Tess and Taka; a slight beat of unspoken acknowledgement racks them both. Remember, the only other time they’ve seen each other was in the dream where the Belgian ambassador was killed.

Taka makes his way to the airport to search Andy’s luggage, which was left there when he never showed for his flight. His single suitcase is packed to the brim with “his name is…” fliers with the boy’s sketch on the front. Wrapping up the search, Taka gets a call from Ann-Marie, who asks him how he got his mother to join The Green in the woods for the funeral in 103. When it’s clear Taka doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she hangs up.

She gets a second call from Ann-Marie while flipping through one of his mother’s art books. Earlier in the day, Taka finds himself on the same Manhattan street that Tess and Bill’s arc centers around, and he sees a flier taped to the side of the art gallery with an image of his mother’s sculpture. To learn more about this particular Kumiko sculpture (shaped a bit like a mechanical bull, it’s the same sculpture Tess saw in the gallery), he goes home and opens a coffee table book featuring his mother’s work. It’s here when Ann-Marie calls.

“If you’re ready to have a real conversation, I’m across the street,” she says. Promising that she can help heal his mother (“She’s still in there, lost in her dreams. Don’t let her get away when you can still reach her.”), Taka meets her across the street and gets in the back of The Green’s white van. 

With the help of a crack addict, Burton learns what deal his firm is actually facilitating. 

Burton finally realizes that his international buyers aren’t interested in precious minerals from Mongolia; they’re interested in a young blonde boy he sees being auctioned off in a dream. He comes to this discovery with the help of Isla, the blonde woman working as a negotiator for Mr. Song; she’s said to read minds. She also happens to be a crack addict.

Burton first confronts Isla about her gifts after having lunch with H. Robert, who’s also a buyer in on the Mongolia deal. He reveals that the Belgian’s holdings in the Mongolian minerals are worthless and that it’s something else entirely that the buyers are interested in; the minerals are cover-up that everyone seems to be privy to except Burton. Even when he approaches Helena with the newfound information, she shrugs it off. 

Isla returns to ask for Burton’s help: She needs him to drive her to a seedy part of town to score her next fix -- she can’t do her work properly without it. After the drug deal, she’s taking a hit from her pipe when Burton envisions the Woman in Red standing in front of his car, soaking wet and screaming. The woman has been haunting him ever since he told her to leave in 104. Then to his shock and surprise, Isla comments on the women, saying she’s beautiful. She, too, can see her. Burton presses her for an explanation, but when he gets out of the car to join her in the back seat, Isla flees the scene.

Mr. Song refuses to continue with the deal until Isla is found, so Helena tasks Burton with finding her. He heads to her hotel room, but it’s empty. Ehausted from the day’s events, he promptly falls asleep on her couch and finds Isla in his dream.

“What are you doing here?” he asks her. “Spying on you, dear. They want to know just how strong your dreams are—and my, they are strong,” she responds.

When Burton presses her for information on the Woman in Red, Isla takes a pull from her pipe and blows smoke in his face. In a sequence of several dreams within a dream, Burton sees the woman being bound and drowned in a bathtub. (Perhaps that’s why she was soaking wet when he saw her in the street?) And then he’s in Marcello’s, where he sees a mob of businessmen flashing cameras and placing bets on a young blonde boy standing on a table in the center of the room. Nicholas, Helena, and Woody are all there, too, watching from the corner. Burton pushes through to let the boy down, but when he touches his hand, he has a burst of memory, imagining a past life with the Woman in Red. They’re on the beach. There are fireworks. They are in love.

He wakes up to Nicholas poking him on Isla’s couch, telling him that while he was asleep, the Mongolian deal closed with Mr. Song. He can’t explain it, but Burton knows that what he just dreamed was the truth: They’re not betting on the precious minerals, but on the boy. Burton promptly quits.

Back in his apartment, he sees another apparition of the Woman in Red. “Help me,” she says. “How?” he asks. The question lingers, but before the episode goes to black, the real-life Woman in Red is shown bound and held captive in a cellar. Standing above her are two figures, both wearing bright green running shoes….