A slower and more methodical episode, but punctuated by some of the most powerful moments of the series so far, not least a final scene that’s truly chilling. Best of all is the performances from Anna Paquin and McKenna Grace here, which are tender, angry, and heartbreaking in equal measure.
This recap of the Peacock series A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 6, “Son of Perdition,” contains spoilers.
An episode elevated by the work of everyone in front of the camera, particularly McKenna Grace and Anna Paquin, who are magnificent in capturing the heartbreak and confusion that has come from being in the orbit of an increasingly monstrous Robert Berchtold.
A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 6 recap
Bob is working at the flower store when Mary Ann and the kids arrive to tell him that Jan Broberg has run away. Jan herself arrives at Jackson Hole in Wyoming where she is picked up by Berchtold who drives her to his new business, the Family Fun Center which he runs with his business partner Tom Bunsen, who he has nicknamed “Bunny”. When they arrive they run into Robert’s son Jasper who is working there as a popcorn server, but the machine is not working right. Both she and Jasper catch up when Robert is summoned by an employee who tells him that “Bunny” killed himself in front of his wife. Robert barely reacts to this news and says they should get the popcorn machine working again.
Mary Ann and Bob are visited by Agent Walsh who tells them that the FBI cannot officially get involved this time as Jan has run away and would not be classified as being abducted and that they’ll have to convince her to come home. He then says he’ll put them in contact with an attorney he knows named Mark who will be able to help them. When the Brobergs visit his office, he puts a call into Berchtold’s lawyer Horstmann and declares that if he doesn’t convince Berchtold to return Jan, he’ll go after Berchtold’s livelihood, his family and find a way to do something about his five-year suspended sentence. Horstmann says he’ll do it immediately.
Back in Wyoming, Jan and Robert are playing cards, but Robert starts caressing Jan’s hand telling her he was transfixed with her from the moment he met her. She becomes uncomfortable and asks to be excused for a moment. As she sits away from Robert, he starts talking to her again, reminding her of the importance of the mission, about what “Zeda and Zethra” want, and the baby they have promised them.
The following evening he takes Jan to a play at the theatre he had talked to her about in the previous episode where he introduces her as his daughter to an actress friend of his called Alice who talks to Jan about acting and using the method in her performance, as well as a breathing technique which will allow oneself to become a character.
The next morning at the Family Fun Center, Robert talks about the future he sees for himself and Jan, living in a house near the ocean, and all the scripts she is reading for acting work that lies in her future. Robert’s brother Joe and his mother arrive. Joe expresses his concerns about the situation but Robert says that since Jan ran away from home and they aren’t in Mexico this time, there is nothing to worry about. As Robert and his mother catch up, Joe takes the time to talk to Jan and asks her how she is. She says she’s having a great time, but Joe wonders if she wouldn’t prefer being back home. Jan replies that Bob is her eternal companion. Robert receives word that Horstmann is on the phone for him. Jan goes to hear what is being said but isn’t privy to the conversation, but when he hangs up the phone, Robert says he needs to hear her say that she’ll be his “eternal companion”. She tells him that she is.
On the day of Jan’s 14th birthday, Mary Ann and Bob are once again with their new lawyer Mark who is demanding over the phone to Horstmann why Berchtold hasn’t sent Jan home yet and that he had promised he would have had it done a few days ago. He tells them that he’ll have it done by tomorrow. Back at the Brobergs’ house, they are paid a visit by Agent Walsh, and, in one of the most chilling scenes of the episode, explains to them that a friend of his at Quantico outlined the type of obsession that Berchtold has for young girls is not one that can be cured and that for all intents and purposes Berchtold could be labeled a psychopath.
For Jan’s birthday, Robert has a party for her at the Family Fun Center with his mother, brother Joe, and son Jasper in attendance, giving her an expensive sewing machine as a gift. He is called away once again to take a phone call from his lawyer who demands that he send Jan away. Robert rationales that he wouldn’t be able to if he had permission to marry her from one of the parents, but Horstmann tells him that he won’t be getting that from either one of the Brobergs. He tells Jan about the situation, but when she suggests that she could explain it to her mum in a way to get her on board, Robert tells her that won’t work as Mary Ann is in love with him too. He manipulates Jan with lies about how he told her mother to stay away from him and how Bob turned up on his porch one night threatening him about the situation. He explains to Jan that maybe going home is part of Zeda and Zethra’s plan and that she shouldn’t worry, nothing will keep them apart. He hands her a quarter and tells her to phone her family.
Bob drives to meet up with two of them, his recently purchased gun in the front passenger seat. He contemplates using the gun but is distracted by Jan asking for a hand. Just before he drives off, Robert goads Bob by telling him he was always good at “giving a hand”. When she gets into the car, Jan notices the gun. When they arrive back at the house, Jan goes straight to her bedroom, and Bob puts the gun into one of his bedside drawers. They ask Jan to join them for dinner but she refuses, saying that she loves Robert and wants to marry him. Both Mary Ann and Bob pay a visit to Mark and ask them what they can do to make sure Berchtold is put behind bars for good. He tells them since there is no physical evidence of sexual assault, they would need Jan to talk about her experiences with Robert.
Over at the Berchtold house, Robert is on the phone claiming to be Frank Tobler. We are not privy to the other side of the phone conversation, but whatever is said doesn’t make him happy and when he hangs up, he puts a line through “Seattle” on a list of other cities and telephone numbers with the name Frank Tobler at the very top. Gail joins him in the kitchen and recounts their first date and how magical she thought it was. Robert barely registers her words and tells her the divorce will be finalized soon, as he needs to live with what makes him happy now.
Jan is upset that her sister is having a sleepover with one of Jan’s best friends. Mary Ann explains that Jan cannot go anywhere without either Mary Ann or Bob. Mary Ann tries to talk to Jan about Robert, but she becomes angry and says that her mother is just jealous. Bob intervenes and tells Jan that Robert will be judged for what he’s done, but this just makes Jan even angrier. In her bedroom Jan cries, and prays, saying she’ll do what is asked of her as long as it keeps her family and those around her safe.
Later that night, Mary Ann is watching television when Jan appears. Mary Ann invites her to join her but Jan simply asks her mother why she isn’t angry like her father is. Mary Ann replies that she loves Jan and that’s the feeling she’s holding on to. Jan walks away back to her bedroom but listens out for her mother going to bed.
In their bedroom, Bob asks Mary Ann did she try talking to Jan. Mary Ann remarks that their daughter is suffering and Bob expresses regret at getting angry with her earlier. He contemplates apologizing to her at that moment but decides to wait until the morning, unbeknownst to either of them that Jan has snuck out of her bedroom and run away once again. The next day Mary Ann goes to wake her daughter up only to find an empty bedroom and a handwritten note from their daughter. They reach out to Agent Walsh, with Bob reading the note to the FBI agent over the phone. Walsh ponders if it was written by Berchtold to simply make it look like Jan ran away again. When Bob hangs up, he goes to explain the situation to Mary Ann, but the phone rings again. Mary Ann answers it only to hear Robert’s voice on the other end. Mary Ann asks if Jan is with him but he says no. He explained that he talked to her and that she has simply run away, that she walked to the highway and hailed down a truck. Mary Ann doesn’t believe him and yells down the phone to him that he is a heartless, vile excuse of a man and will get her daughter away from him if it’s the last thing she does. She slams the phone down, while back in Wyoming Robert hangs up the phone and walks out to the main floor of the Family Fun Center surrounded by young children.
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