The Magicians – Season 1 Ep 7
Since the beginning of my recap journey through The Magicians, one of the episodes I was most looking forward to revisiting was this one, The Mayakovsky Circumstance. In my mind this particular episode was one that stood out as something I really enjoyed upon the first viewing, and one I anticipated to enjoy just as much the second time around with a more critical eye having this recap in mind. So imagine my surprise when I found that the opposite happened. It’s not that I hated the episode per se, it had some redeeming qualities. What I found is that I walked away with a meh feeling; it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either, in the words of Homer J. Simpson, ‘it was just ok’.
Last week ended with the core four up and turning into geese and this week we see the geese flew south for the winter – Brakebills South (I’m not proud of that joke, but it had to happen, don’t @ me). I guess Brakebills South is a reward for completing the trials, reward being used in the loosest sense of the word because the institution is run by a teacher known as Mayakovsky. He’s infamous among the students, and it doesn’t take long for us to find out why. Within his first 10 seconds on screen it’s pretty evident that a ‘teacher’ is the last thing someone with his sort of temperament should be be. Mayakovsky is a brash, harsh, and brilliant magician with the thickest of Russian accents which is either on point or completely ridiculous, and Bryan F. O’Byrne, the actor who portrays Mayakovsky completely chews up the scenery in every scene he’s in, but oddly enough I don’t see it as a bad thing. That’s not to say I couldn’t understand if somebody else wasn’t feeling it.
Everything learned at Brakebills proper so far was more of the magic 101 course, their tutelage under Mayakovsky begins their introduction to real magic, and lesson one is simple: Cast a standard spell to drive a nail through a board straight, the only catch being that they can’t rely on their voices to do so. In a move reminiscent of the iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Hush, their voices are taken away.
There isn’t a whole lot of Julia in this episode, so I’ll just get everything that happens to her out of the way now. In her first scene she’s being held in an interrogation room at the police station and her sister comes and takes her back to her apartment. They speak about their mother who would have no problem committing Julia if she doesn’t get her act together as that’s apparently what happened to her dad. Her sister wants to protect her, but she wants Julia to go to rehab and Julia agrees. That’s pretty much the long and short of Julia’s arc for now and it spans literally two scenes so there isn’t much to say about any of it except that she is missed.
Back at Brakebills, Margo and Elliot are preparing to go off on a spring break of sorts to Ibiza, only since this is The Magicians there is a caveat; they need to bring a gift to the organizers of the party or else they won’t be invited next year. Their solution? Magical gin. The premise seems like a light one, and there is defiantly a lot of hijinx and comedy that derives from them as always, but there’s also some more going on here that actually turns into something more complicated than just the usual comc relief. They go to the library because the spell they need is in Arabic, and while there they meet a guy named Mike who offers to help them and has a instant attraction to Eliot, something Margo isn’t a fan of considering she’s being ignored. Margo shouldn’t strike anyone as the kind of girl who is at all used to being ignored, but I think her instant distaste for Mike goes deeper than that because if Mike has Eliot’s attention, then she doesn’t. There’s no surprise that because of this conflict arises, and it’s the first time we get to see a little bit beyond the surface of their friendship — they aren’t just close. They’re practically codependent on one another. Mike isn’t just business as usual for Eliot who genuinely likes him.
Back at Brakebills south, the core four get a new assignment to mind control an insect, something that Quentin has a hard time doing. Penny, as a psychic has no problem doing it, which is how Mayakovsky finds out he’s a traveller and takes the ward tattoo off of his bicep so he can travel as Mayakovsky sees it as a gift rather than a curse.
Penny shoots his shot with Kady and it works. She drops the mental wards that have prevented Penny from getting in her mind like he does with everyone else, and lets Penny in so he can know the truth, not only about how she feels about him, but about everything with her mother. Needless to say they make up, hookup, and devise a plan to steal magic so dope from Mayakovsky that they can essentially buy Kady’s freedom from Marina with it.
After they successfully mind control fireflies, Quentin and Alice are forced to get naked and go out into the cold. Through a series of pretty cool shots we see that out in the wild, Quentin and Alice turned into foxes, and not only that, they hooked up. It was a no brainer from episode one that they were going to be set up as romantic partners, you could see it coming a mile away, and yet while them getting together doesn’t exactly seem rushed, it still feels rather abrupt somehow.
Because they weren’t as precise as they should have been with their comprehension of Arabic texts, instead of making magic gin Margo & Eliot summon a genie also known as a ‘Djinn’ in Arabic. Almost immediately it attacks Mike and they both disappear. With the help of Todd, a gem of an underclassman who is introduced in the episode as someone who wants to get an invite to Ibiza from Eliot and Margo, but who they deem unworthy pretty much right away, they figure out that since Margo uncorked the genie she is it’s master. Not only that, but she doesn’t have to speak to command him because he can read her mind. It’s a pretty cool detail that I’ve never heard of when dealing with genies in any other pop culture medium, so I don’t know if it’s common with genie lore, but it’s nifty all the same. Margo wished that Mike would go back where he came from and suck on some other knob, so they find him where they first met him literally sucking on a doorknob. After that Margo puts the genie back in it’s bottle.
Penny and Kady are successful in stealing the magical item from Mayakovsky to buy her freedom, but he catches Kady with it almost immediately. When she dropped the mental wards Mayakovsky was able to read her and he tells her that her mom died. He got word from Brakebills and points out to her that she is free from Marina. She can’t go back to Brakebills as they would punish her harshly, and she can’t ask Penny to run away with her because it’s imperative that he learns how to control his gifts as a traveller, so she breaks his heart all over again and leaves.
Eliot decides not to go to Ibiza so he can spend time with Mike who he’s pretty much U-hauled with within a matter of hours. He and Margo sort of make up/sort of don’t, but it’s enough for now and she takes Todd with her instead. The episode ends the Brakebills south storyline with the core four (minus Kady) leaving, having successfully completed the course, and back at Brakebills proper, Mike reveals himself to be in some way involved with The Beast, or maybe even The Beast himself. Who knows?
The Mayakovsky Circumstance wasn’t a bad episode but it wasn’t a great one either. The episode MVP for me goes to Arjun Gupta who plays Penny as the scene where he realizes that Kady left him is nothing short of devastating. Seriously, I dare you to watch it and not get at least a little bit of secondhand heartbreak. As usual with this show, the last few minutes is what makes you want to hit the next episode button immediately, namely in this episode, what the heck Mike’s deal is. If I had to give this one a rating it’d maybe sit at a 2.5/out of 5 for me, not too bad for a bottle episode, but there’s much better in this series to come.
What was your favorite part of The Mayakovsky Circumstance? What would you wish for if you had a Djinn of your own? How petty would you be on a scale of one to Margo? Let me know in the comments down below!
Missed an episode recap? Check out the previous episodes here!