“The Insubstantial Pageant” revealed a lot about the nature of the island, though it did it gracelessly though oodles of exposition.
This recap of The I-Land Season 1, Episode 3, “The Insubstantial Pageant”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“The Insubstantial Pageant”, an entirely Chase-centric The I-Land Episode 3, reveals the true nature of the tropical retreat and its inhabitants. Well, maybe. It certainly revealed at least part of that truth, but who can be believed and trusted still remains to be seen.
We begin where we left off, with Chase (Natalie Martinez) waking up in a sterile room and being tended to by a woman in a red jumpsuit who a name badge identifies as Nurse Golding. She believes she’s paralyzed and is promptly drugged and knocked out. When she wakes up again, it’s to Doctor Conrad, who explains that the chair she’s in contains a magnetic forcefield to keep the prison population in place. Not paralyzed, then, but apparently incarcerated, which isn’t much of an improvement.
Taken by armed guards to the plush office of a man in a Stetson and a Texas Sheriff’s badge who introduces himself as Warden Wells, Chase is informed of her “military training”, though who she is and why she’s in prison remains elusive. It’s explained that the beach is a simulation, which would explain why Chase woke up without the head wound inflicted by KC (Kate Bosworth) bonking her over the head with a branch. All the survivors are prisoners here, sent to the island to see how they might fare if they were given a second chance. The intention is to send Chase back in.
When Nurse Golding returns with a “sleeping aid” and another contingent of armed guards, so begins a recurring theme of “The Insubstantial Pageant”: Chase battering the prison’s security staff. She attempts an escape but fails, waking back up in solitary confinement, contained by a wall of red cushions possessed of the same magnetic technology as the doctor’s chair. She keeps dreaming (or remembering) about the room with the red chair and the blood on the floor and the older woman who turns slowly towards the camera. Later in The I-Land Episode 3, Chase sees herself shoot that woman, but we don’t know what it means yet.
Taken before a squabbling panel of doctors and experts in various disciplines, more about the island simulation is explained to Chase. The resident sociologist discusses nature versus nurture, intimating that this is a new kind of rehabilitation from which Chase has, apparently inexplicably, woken herself up. Warden Wells later expresses his disgust at the idea, believing it a waste of money on “criminal scum” like her who don’t deserve it, but it’s a necessary evil to secure the facility’s government funding. He even mentions that the president of the United States “herself” has a vested interest in the outcome, so it’d be better for everyone if Chase just went back inside and put up with all the freaky stuff that the simulation’s “neural architects” have in store. He also mentions that if you die in the simulation you die for real — because of course you do. When it’s time for Chase to go back in, she batters the security team again.
Privately, Chase is approached by the enigmatic psychiatrist Dr. Weiss, who is going “against protocol” by revealing that she thinks the Warden has been tampering with the experiment’s data. During a transfer, Chase assaults the security detail for a final time, sneaking into a facility where she finds all of the inhabitants suspended in swirly green vats, plugged into the simulation. “The Insubstantial Pageant” ends with her re-entering the simulation, and waking up on the island.