Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

This week in Sleepy Hollow, there's nothing like a demon-infested home for the holidays, as Abbie and Ichabod march into a haunted house like they're new around here, and find out more about themselves than you can shake a stick monster at.

Haunted-house episodes are a genre of their own; they have the built-in creep factor of a shelter turning on you, and are thematically ripe with ghostly responsibility (family, old sins, some other ghost's problems you've been reluctantly dragged into since you picked up an amulet on the street because you lack the common sense of a waffle). Sometimes they're a trick to sustain, because the scariest parts of a haunted house are its hostile geography and the inevitable separation of any entering party into its freaked-out and flashlit components as they SCULLAAAAY for each other for two minutes in the middle, but with enough interaction, they're good silly-spooky fun.

And Sleepy Hollow, a show that loves its genre seriously so much, throws itself wholeheartedly into the entire business (except for missing an opportunity to bring back its early monster-of-the-week music cues, robbing us of twenty seconds of "Come On-A My House"). It also tries maybe a little too hard to include everyone in its thematic bounty, but we'll slam that door shut when we get to it.

Lena Gilbert, rich lady, steps out of a car and decides to run into the old family estate even though this house is clearly crawling with bad ideas.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

I feel you, Doomed Bodyguard. Lena may think she's on House Hunters, but you know just what genre you're in.

He's right; choking vines in the house immediately swallow Lena. Victim ahoy!

Back at the precinct, it's Thanksgiving! Abbie got Ichabod some fries to celebrate. Ichabod is ashamed of the speed at which meals are taken (eh, times change), mortified by McDonald's (fair cop), and horrified by Abbie's assumptions about the first Thanksgiving having cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. His face pulls in on itself in sheer disgust.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

"The Pilgrims didn't have any sugar to make a sauce, let alone a pie!"

History note: Probably true. The Pilgrims, thanks largely to the agricultural outreach of the Wampanoag, held a celebration around 1620, with a feast that likely included duck, seafood, venison (probably courtesy of the Wampanoag), squash, corn, and a heaping helping of the dramatic irony of what this holiday would become after the genocide of the Native American nations. Ah, awkward holidays.

But of course, the real point of the holidays is to feel alone and overwhelmed, and Ichabod and Abbie get to remind each other that they're two fundamentally lonely people; that's a little odd for Abbie, since Jenny spends her screen time this episode trying to throw a Thanksgiving dinner that Abbie is flat not interested in — but lonely people make for better haunted house stories.

Speaking of which, they have a case! Lena is brought to their attention by Irving, who long-sufferingly suggests you're not supposed to lose billionaires. (Tom Mison nails the pauses in his incredulous fact-checking: "Meaning...she has a billion...dollars.") And since Lena wrote "Katrina C." on a notepad before she disappeared, the case is theirs. Abbie suggests it's a coincidence, but Ichabod accurately metas that "when the two of us are involved, rarely is a coincidence a coincidence." They have faces about it right in line with the way they feel about it most of the time.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Turns out she's a descendent of Continental Congress member Lachlan Fredericks, who owned a big house up the road from somewhere. Ichabod, of course, knew him.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Cillian Murphy, financial backer of the Revolutionary War.

Upon pulling up at the house, Ichabod reminisces about the time he made a visit with Katrina, whose hair is the most complex thing about her so far.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Turns out everyone at Fredericks Manor was free; Katrina coos that "they choose to work here" for fair wages and protection, and the place was a known sanctuary. Except not for Lena, obviously, or for these two when they breeze over the threshold into a suspicious house that has already eaten at least one person that they know of. That is some first-season X-Files amateur move, you two.

They find the bodyguard clawed to death, and bloody handprint skids on the floor, and only THEN does Abbie call for backup, at which point all of us sit back and laugh and laugh as the doors slam on them one at a time. It gets worse as, while following a ghost that appears to Abbie, they demonstrate that knowing about haunted houses doesn't give you any bright ideas about handling them, because they walk through dozens of doorways in leisurely single file as my blood pressure ticks up and up.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

(Abbie's feelings about haunted houses are my feelings.)

As they leave plenty of room between them while entering doorways, Ichabod chats about meeting Fredericks and house matron Grace Dixon, who chat with Katrina about the house as sanctuary. Ichabod wraps like he knew all along, "In retrospect, it might also have been a sanctuary from supernatural evils." Monologue foul, Ichabod.

But at least they find Lena!

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

AW JEEZ. (I'm easy to creep out, be quiet.)

As soon as they yank her out of there, Ichabod sits her down and gives her his coat, which she accidentally side-eyes (she may be falling prey to a house vine demon, but that coat is so 232 seasons ago), and uses his condor arms and Romantic Lead Face to soothe her out of her impending panic attack so they can start getting the hell out.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Irving, meanwhile, is wondering why Abbie's not taking his calls, which seems oddly oblivious for a guy who sent Abbie to a suspicious house where someone disappeared. You called backup last week, sir! Have you forgotten how?

Nah, he hasn't forgotten; judging by Jenny in his office, he hasn't forgotten a thing. Not the guns she stole, not the melodious sound of her voice, not her sparkling eyes, not her Thanksgiving invitation, not her jokes about stealing more things, not his ex-wife.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

*needle scratch*

But he's thrilled to see his daughter, Macey (Amandla Stenberg, the honestly cutest), who he greets with a dad-hug and, "My little bean!"

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Family!

Back in the Completely Avoidable Haunted House, Abbie, the three of them compare notes about family history (Fredericks was a warlock! Katrina was Ichabod's "relative," thanks to a good save from Abbie) and get chased by sound effects. Into the house tunnels, quickly! Abbie: "Go ahead, I'm right behind you." ABBIE, ARE YOU NEW?

Ichabod manages to escort Lena to safety, but then offers the vine monster a hand out of the tunnel by accident (I laughed), and loses Lena in a flurry of crows. Abbie's fared a little better, since the ghost of Grace Dixon is guiding her into a nice safe flashback. It's Katrina! And she's having a baby.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

It would be great news, except for those crows flinging themselves into the windows outside. (Crow lump circled above.) They imply the baby's in danger, but my horror-ology studies suggest that baby is probably his own bad news. Only the next few episodes will tell us for sure!

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Smile while you can, Katrina.

Macey, meanwhile, honestly-cutestly confronts Jenny for being a coward about dating her dad. (Show, please, I'm ready to ship it, it's just that a lot's going on right now!)

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

Macey assures Jenny a lot that she's cool with not seeing her annoying dad all the time; I call shenanigans, and so does Jenny, who knows from not seeing your family much. I'm excited at the implication we will be seeing more of Macey.

Said dad is sitting down with Cynthia, who points out that for a guy working in a small precinct, he's been absentee. Irving, of course, can't explain, though he wants to make things up to Macey; Cynthia portents that "What happened, happened, and we're dealing with it," but lays down the law about custody. (This is more interesting to me than some of the haunted house – I like the real world intruding among people either aware of or able to dedicate themselves to this investigation of the creepy-crawly.)

Speaking of, Abbie and Ichabod reunite when he grabs her in a dark hallway.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

"Portrait of Abbie About to Punch a Dude in the Face For Doing That Thing You Should Never Do, What is Wrong With You," oil on panel, 2013.

Abbie immediately puts on her game face and drops the news about the baby. Ichabod, staggered, insists it's not true: "She would have told me." Oh, buddy, if Katrina has a definable character trait, it's Doesn't Tell You Stuff.

(Tangent alert: I've talked about this show's hold on its subplots and mythologies, and my issues with how Katrina's been presented. I realized this week that to some degree, they're the same thing; in weaving together everything possible, the easiest link to the past is Katrina, whose involvement feels retrofitted to what every week requires, like when she jumped from Quaker to gentry to make room for a love triangle. Even this week, which arguably gave her the most to do so far – seeking sanctuary while pregnant, fleeing with her infant son and Grace Dixon in an uncertain break for safety – still makes Ichabod's rage the primary emotional focus. And sure, he's a lead, but ostensibly so is Katrina, and right now she's still a walking backstory. I hold out hope she's a double-blind and is just evil as all get-out.)

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

(Katrina, seeking sanctuary among the Spanish moss-draped houses of New England.)

In the house, Abbie explains the vine monster, the birds' attack, and how Fredericks opened the front door without looking and was immediately impaled because of course, but when Ichabod drops his second-ever Abbie ("Abbie...what happened to the baby?"), she has no answer for it. That's for the finale, sir.

Nicole Beharie is wonderfully resigned to delivering all this, and Tom Mison adequately staggered by the news, and they're so caught up in their subplot that it takes a reminder scream from downstairs for them to remember there's a woman trapped by blood vines. Time to shoot roots until they bleed and rescue her (via the passage Grace took Katrina and the baby through). But Ichabod's pissed, and comes back into the house to hack the crap out of this vine monster as payment for his missing son.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

(A moment of appreciation for the person inside this latex thing for three to six days.)

Also, did I miss something with the blood vines? Is it Ichabod's family blood? Lena's ancestor's blood? Moloch's blood? Has he weakened anything but the actual demon with all this bloodletting? Was it important that there be blood? Were sprays of sap and groundwater not as exciting?

For me, the most interesting part of this is Abbie's second moment of pause with Ichabod in two weeks when he warns her, "Do not follow me." She trusts him, but not blindly (she's not the type), and I'm enjoying her wariness; so long as it doesn't sideline her to Concerned Partner, I'm in.

Since it's the holidays, though, of course they make up afterward; she finds him in the Batcave, mourning the world's last hair tie, lost in the desperate flight for life inside the haunted house.

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

They trade holiday anecdotes, in which Ichabod talks about his father's hopes for him and his for his son, and Abbie talks about not having a family (except Jenny back home cooking turkey for nobody), and they pore over Lena's Fredericks House effects until more family emerges: Abbie's a descendant of Grace Dixon, world's most helpful ghost.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On an episode level, it provides good reason for Abbie to make connection with Grace, even if a lot of her time this week was witnessing things to tell Ichabod, a missed chance between character who probably would have had a lot to discuss about the idea of sanctuary. But I hope Moloch didn't choose them for their bloodline. This show loves itself some destiny, but Abbie and Jenny's selection by Moloch is creepy because of the randomness with which they were chosen – it's ruined their lives in some ways and made them stronger in others, and it's cool just as it is. (Also, if we're going to go there, note that Abbie is now the descendent of a free woman who lived in a tiny utopia among widespread slavery. That's lucky!)

At least one person is thrilled about it, though: Ichabod literally could not be happier their fates are entwined by precedent (their fates being entwined is his second-favorite thing next to free water), and in an angle that looks either like them toasting their cups or them each grabbing one bulb from that lamp, they see us out with a holiday toast:

Sleepy Hollow's haunted-house episode traps us in a maze of plot twists

"To family." "To finding family."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! No pie!