For the last nine episodes of Quibi’s The Stranger, I’ve been left wondering a very simple, but important question: “Why?”
Why is Carl E doing this? Why did he choose Clare? Why has he become so obsessed with her?
And we finally got the answers to all of those questions in the “4:00 AM” hour, where Clare just experienced her biggest breakthrough to date.
We started the episode with a phone call between Clare and Carl E, where he was busy trying to fuck with her mind. To make her thing she’s crazy. He even brings up the situation with her high school teacher, which effectively ruined her life, she says.
Turns out, Clare wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t making it up. Her high school teacher slept with herShe was in the right the entire time. And no one believed her. So it was easier to admit the lie — that it never happened — than to continue to beat a dead horse.
But how does Carl E know this? How does he know, not only about the teacher, but about how the teacher was guilty of sleeping with an underage student? How does Carl E know so much about Clare?
He says it’s so easy to know anything about anyone know a days on the Internet. He’s been following her entire life — online life, “which is the only one that matters.”
So, Carl E is like your basic sociopathic stalker: He preys on his victims via the World Wide Web, finding girls with tragic stories in search of redemption. They think they can change, he’s determined to prove to them that they can’t.
Which brings us to the “why’s” with Carl E.
Clare inadvertently led Carl E right to her…by accepting a friend request from him, the perfect reminder of why my Instagram and Facebook remain private. Because there are psychos out there that wouldn’t hesitate to try something.
Immediately, Carl E noticed Clare was different from the others. Oh, yes, there were others. Of course there were. This doesn’t seem like his first rodeo. He’s too well prepared and skilled at this by now.
“I will break you,” he tells her. “No one beats the math.”
The math, in this case, being the statistics that say that people with troubled pasts, like Clare, are determined to lead a bleak, meaningless life or commit suicide. Basically, they’ll amount to nothing.
But why the focus on Clare? It’s because she’s the one person that has defied his algorithm. She fought back. She has the fighting spirit he never saw coming. And that, inevitably, should lead to his downfall.
The problem right now isn’t Clare’s safety, it’s JJ’s. Carl E kidnapped him and stuffed him in his trunk. So, turns out Carl E isn’t a figment of Clare’s imagination. He’s real, JJ. Just sayin’.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came with the revelation that the police actually believe Clare. In fact, it was all a ruse. The phone call to Carl E — keeping him on the phone, as Clare did so masterfully.
I’m shocked — SHOCKED — that they actually believe her. Typically, in these stories, the heroine has to overcome the complete ignorance of people around them that are supposed to be smart. But, it turns out, the police believe every word. And they know exactly where Carl E is.
But will they get to him in time? After all, he knows how to hack cameras. And the police had a camera trained on her as the female cop came in and said — “It worked. We got his location.”
But with three episodes left, this thing is far from over. Although, for the first time, perhaps I see a scenario where Clare comes out of this the winner — even though no algorithm could predict it.
The Stranger airs new episodes weekdays on Quibi.