1x01. "Milfay"

written by Daniel Knauf
directed by Rodrigo Garcia

original airdate: September 14, 2003
running time: 57 minutes

The carnival is approaching the outskirts of Milfay. Jonesy rides with Samson, and asks his friend if he has spoken to Management about Ben. Samson says he has and that Management said the boy was "expected." Jonesy asks what that means, and Samson smiles, saying that he's given up asking the very same question. Later, in Lila's trailer, Lila and Professor Lodz, the blind mentalist, are playing a game of Gin. Across from them, Ben is asleep but sweating and tossing in his feverish delirium. Lila asks Lodz to read the boy's dreams, and after some coaxing, Lodz complies. Lodz places his hand on Ben's forehead, and what he sees causes the mentalist to thrash violently. A man running through a cornfield, pursued by another man, heavily tattooed. A World War I soldier walking through a battlefield. Many soldiers dead in a bunker. A soldier cocks a rifle. A soldier, minus several limbs, writhing. More dead soldiers. And more.

Lodz collapses in Lila's arms.

Ben wakes to unfamiliar surroundings. He looks down at his ankles. The shackles have been removed. In a nearby trailer, Sofie is combing her mother's hair. Apollonia stares vacantly upward, her eyes and mouth wide open. She's catatonic, but Sofie is carrying on a conversation with her. They're "talking" about the newcomer.

SOFIE: "Mother, please. Every time we pick up a new-- Well, he's just a boy."
On the table behind them, several tarot cards flutter from into the air.
SOFIE: "I don't suppose you're going to pick that up."

As Sofie gathers up the cards, she looks out the window and sees Ben leave Lila's trailer. Then, she looks at the card she's holding in her hand: The Magician, reversed. Outside, as Ben gets his pants off a clothesline, he stares rather rudely at the Gecko, a speckled-skin man with dreadlocks. When the Gecko calls *Ben* a freak, Ben's caught off guard and steps backward into a tall and deformed Giant. The Giant slaps him out of the way, but into Apollonia and Calladonia, who scream at him, annoyed. Ben trips and falls into mud. He looks up at everyone, laughing at him. Meanwhile, Samson joins Lodz in Lodz's trailer. Lodz tells Samson that during the previous night he read Ben's dreams, but that the dreams nearly killed him. Samson spots a bottle of absinthe and dismisses what Lodz has said as "Hogwash." If the boy was dangerous, Samson reasons, Management would know. "Would he?" Lodz asks.

Ben is walking down a country road. Sofie pulls up in a truck next to him and offers him a ride. Ben flatly refuses, calling the carnies "a pack of freaks." Sofie drives off in a huff. Ben approaches a railside encampment where victims of the Depression have made their homes under tents and tarps. As Ben gets a drink from a watery runoff, he spots a dirty and quite frail woman rocking a baby in her arms. The baby's father, who is sitting nearby, tells Ben that the baby is dead but his wife won't give it a proper burial. Ben cautiously approaches the mother of the dead baby.

BEN: "Ain't that a pretty baby you got?"
MOTHER: "Ssh. He's sleeping."
BEN: "What's his name?"
MOTHER: "Michael."
BEN: "Like the archangel."
MOTHER: "... He's dead. Isn't he?"

Ben takes the baby from her and hands it to the father. The woman seems enormously relieved. Now she can let go. Ben continues walking into the town of Milfay. He sees Sofie's truck left unattended at the gas station, and upon hearing yelling and a clamor from within, he walks inside the station. Two gas station attendants are forcing Sofie up against a truck, ripping her clothes. Ben knocks one out with a piece of wood. Sofie takes care of the other one. Ben drives Sofie back to the carnival. Seeing that her blouse is torn open, he offers his jacket to her so she may cover herself. She thanks him.

They pull into the carnival grounds and Jonesy sees them get out of the truck. He follows Sofie into her trailer and they argue. Jonesy insists they she cannot go into towns they visit without asking for trouble. Sofie slaps him and says that she wasn't asking for anything but a tank of gas, a soda and ten minutes to herself. She tells him to leave. At the same time, Samson follows Ben to the crops at the edge of the carnival grounds, trying to convince the boy to stay. He offers Ben a position within the carnival and even though there are no wages, Ben accepts after Samson makes a valid point: that breaking rocks as a prisoner of the State also pays nothing. They sit at a table and as Ben hungrily devours a steak, Samson tries to get a little information out of the boy.

SAMSON: "What's your story?"
BEN: "I was born on a farm. You saw it. I was raised there. Started working it. Then the bank come, they run me off. That's the end of story. You satisfied now?"
SAMSON: "Do I look simple to you, Hawkins?"
BEN: "No."
SAMONS: "Well, that's good because I'm not. I've been to New York City. I've been to Chi-Town and The Big Easy. I met Caruso and Dempsey. I made eyes with Theda Bera. On a bad day, I've cracked tougher nuts than you."

Ben gets up from the table, annoyed.