The OA for Lent—Episode 3: Champion
“Why do Russians love beets so much?”
“Beets survive the frost.”
“Of course, something always survives.”
Most of Episode 3 takes place in Hap’s mine where we feel acutely the imprisonment and isolation felt by The OA, Homer, Scott, and Rachel. They are precisely like lab rats, kept locked away in clear cages, with water flowing beneath, and food pellets dispensed each day. We still don’t know why they are there or what Hap’s intentions may be. We don’t know what happens after the gas. It is only at the end of the episode that they learn that they all have one thing in common—they have all survived NDEs.
The mine is like a tomb—a place of darkness, despair, and as we shockingly discover with August, death. The plot of this episode is driven by their attempt to escape the mine. They try and they fail. And yet, in their attempt, they are drawn closer together. Whereas at the beginning of the episode The OA describes them as “the living dead. Right next to each other but alone,” by the end of the episode they are sharing more of themselves and what they would do if they escaped. Even in the face of their failure, something redemptive has happened.
The rock cavern of Hap’s mine reminds us of the tomb in the Jesus story. Following his crucifixion, Jesus’ dead body is laid to rest in a small stone cave. What, to all accounts seems like the end of the story, a place of darkness and despair, becomes the birthplace of new life.
This episode foregrounds another overarching theme of the entire series: family, and what constitutes one. The families of origin in the series are all broken. BBA can’t return calls about her dead brother’s estate. Steve doesn’t feel his family is on his side. Buck’s dad calls him Michelle. Alfonso’s mother is a drunk. The OA loses her beloved father, is sold off by his sister, and, even before her disappearance, struggled with Nancy and Abel.
Early on in the episode Steve says, “Families suck.” The OA responds, “Yeah. Not, all of them though. Not the ones you build out of strange pieces. And they work. They don’t look like they should, but they do.”
Against the background of these broken families or origin, we see two new families taking shape: the family of five misfits gathering in the abandoned house to hear The OA’s stories, and the four test subjects trapped in Hap’s mine. Each group, in their own way, become a family and find in each other hope.
“Something always survives.”
- “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.’” (Jonah 2) This is part of Jonah’s prayer when trapped in the belly of the great fish for three days (prefiguring Jesus’ three days in the tomb). Read the whole prayer in Jonah 2.
- “Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. … Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Daniel then said to the king, ‘My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’” (Daniel 6:16–23) Daniel prayed to God when he was thrown into the lion’s den. God protected Daniel throughout the night and both were vindicated in the morning in the eyes of all.
- “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen) Sacred Scripture of a different sort from the late Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet.
- Finding Hope in Failure
After the failed escape attempt, Homer says to the others, “We tried to escape and we failed, but we did it together. We could do it again. We could get out of here.” He salvages the smallest sliver of hope amid their despair. Previously quiet, cold, and isolated—as The OA said, “We were like the living dead. Right next to each other but alone.” But they came together for a common cause. Have you had a moment of failure only do discover something positive that came from it? What did it teach you about dealing with failure, perspective, and perseverance?
2. Feeling Trapped
The OA says, “The first time you fall asleep in prison, you forget. You wake up a free woman and then you remember that you’re not. You lose your freedom may times before you believe it.” Have you ever woken up in your life and suddently felt trapped—in a job, a relationships, by others’ expectations, by your responsibilities, by decisions you once made? How did you manage to hold on to who you were in these midst of it? How did you escape? If you are feeling trapped now, how might you escape? Who can help you? What resources are at your disposal?”
Food plays an important role in this episode. The OA makes sandwiches for Hap and the others. The group savors those simple sandwiches, the first real food the captives had eaten in months. The OA cooks the stew her father taught her to make in order to poison Hap. It connects her with her father and later she says, “I’ve never made anything from my childhood before” and “Its hard to eat. It reminds me of home.” Cook a meal this week that evokes for you your childhood or a special relationship. And savor the smell, texture, temperature, and taste of it.
2. Write a Note
As part of their escape plan, they write messages on a Verizon bill to try to get help. They debate about what should go on it. Homer wants to write a message to his son and send his championship ring. Rachel wants to put her brother’s address. The OA includes her parents address. Scott warns that they are wasting valuable space. They try to describe where they are being held. This week, write a note to someone you care for and say those things we rarely take the time or opportunity to those that mean the most to us. How can you make the most of the space on that note or card?
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