Reread Featuring Bookburners

Bookburners Reread: Episode 8, “Under My Skin”

Well we might have seen the birth of a new relationship last week (Sal and Grace’s friendship, I mean – but ALSO #TEAMGRACEMENCHU #ishipit #letmebelieve) but Episode 8 starts with a return to familiar territory: Liam and Sal sexy time.

It seems they’ve apologized and made up from the Fight of Episode Six and are back to adding the “play” to their work life balance.

 

…That is until Sal starts asking about Liam’s tattoos and asking about his religious dedication in a not-all-that-understanding a way. Liam gets defensive and angry. Sal gets angry right back and storms out.

Oh those two… In any case, it was an intimate look into Liam’s feelings on his own life – It can’t be understated how much his demon possession has affected him, and one way it exhibits is in a rather fatalist attitude towards his own life (and thereby, his own potential for long term relationships). Sal is unimpressed and undeterred and basically calls him out on letting fear rule his life.

After the fight Sal gets a call from Asanti – THERE’S MAGIC AFOOT. And it’s in…

Las Vegas, to be specific. They leave tomorrow.

That night Liam comes to make up with Sal, mission research and Bolognese ingredients in hand. He explains that the dustup is surrounding a partially aired reality TV show about competing tattoo artists. They watch some episodes and it’s your standard trash TV with colorful characters.

Then he tells her that all of the people getting tattoos in the show have died in the months since filming.

Apparently there’s a delay of some weeks between the filming and the deaths, and all the clients are scattered across the country making it hard to connect the dots – but when the deaths started wracking up in such a consistent pattern, the producers stopped production and airing.  But even so – the deaths continue. Leading theory: cursed ink. Main question: who’s the culprit?

From watching all the footage they can, Sal and Liam determine that their most likely candidates are the two contestants who made it to the finals: Mama Tat, a loud and assertive personality; and Gardener, a quiet loner. The two certainly developed a bitter rivalry during filming – but all their clients were always happy as clams.

They don’t see the final episode so don’t know who actually won, but they do learn that the final challenge involved the two tattooing each other.

On the plane the next day more information comes to light: while all of the deaths were from random accidents or seemingly natural causes, the victims all appeared sickly, emaciated, and drained – more evidence for the poisoned ink theory. They make a plan for when they land: Grace and Sal will scope out the tattoo shops belonging to Mama Tat and Gardner (both Vegas locals) while Liam and Menchu will track down a man who got tattooed on the show, and given what they know of the death pattern, is a day away from his own demise.

 

Sal and Grace’s first stop is Mama Tat’s place – now a massively overbooked hotspot due to her appearance on the show. An artist as popular as her has no time for nosey questions but Sal butters up the receptionist enough to get a tip on where they might find Mama that night.

Over with Team Menfolk, Liam and Menchu have tracked down the businessman: he’s in a hospital, dying of some vague heart ailment. They check out his tattoo and it’s changed color from black to red and started to burn. Death reports from other contestants start rolling in – they are running out of time.

Grace and Sal hustle to the hospital and find Liam holding the man down while Menchu prays over the the guy’s tattoo which has now bubbled and looks primed to burst. Grace, badass as ever, uses a knife to slice into the growth and out of it pours…

“…a childlike horror made of ink. It reminded Sal of a monkey crossed with an octopus, throwing tentacles about that tried to wrap around the chair leg, Menchú’s cassock, and Sal’s ankle. Its grip was weak, and it called plaintively, its mouth full of sharp teeth, its eyes red.”

(Shout out to Ferngully for 1) being awesome and 2) providing this too-perfect gif)

Grace slays the creature with a quick beheading. Turns out the guy was extremely lucky: the tattoo he’d gotten on the show was an ancient protection symbol from Cambodia. It’s inherent power had kept the demonic ink from seeping into his body and killing him (at least for a while), but as the deadline approached the evil ink had been desperate to escape – hence the bubbling and tentacle monster.

Now that the ink is gone, the wound magically heals super quickly and the guy seems like he’ll be totally fine.

Well, sort of – they saved one person out of six that died that day. They ponder this after leaving the hospital and posting up in a diner in the hopes of running into Mama Tat. On schedule she appears and they explain the whole “everybody from your show is dying” thing. She immediately fingers Gardner, declaring him creepy and bigoted: she is trans and he’d made his disdain known.

They explain that her life is likely in danger now too, considering Gardner tattooed her in their last challenge together, and that they are going to track him down tonight to get to the bottom of things. Mama Tat takes everything really well, all things considered.

After she leaves, there’s an illuminating exchange where Liam displays some transphobia of his own and Sal shuts THAT sh*te down right quick.

(It’s an interesting moment – sometimes even “good” people hold backwards views and sometimes their friends/lovers/coworkers need to stand up and correct them. I lost a bit of respect for Liam here, but gained some for Sal.)

Anyway, they head off to Gardener’s shop on the edge of town, which they find to be just as popular as Mama Tat’s, but a complete opposite in vibe. It’s like a morgue, full of gaunt, morose customers. Clearly something dark and demonic is going on.

They go into find Gardner mid-tattoo on his latest victim. Without much ado he immediately turns on them: he felt the death of the ink monster they slew earlier. Before Sal can finish saying “We just want to talk.” He sprouts black wings and starts his attack.

It’s a tough, messy fight: the demonic ink is everywhere and any touch could be dangerous. Liam gets marked by a flailing tattoo gun before Sal manages to find the book and stab it. With the destruction of the book, Gardner implodes in a fountain of ink.

Later, back in Rome, the job might be done but scars – like tattoos – linger. Liam’s been distant ever since their return and eventually Sal goes to talk to Menchu about it, where she finds Liam at rock bottom. His brush with the demon ink was too close – the fear he’s lived with since his first possession is taking him over.

That night he comes over and breaks up with Sal. He’s too beaten, too scared, too wounded.

When he leaves, resigning himself to loneliness, Sal realizes he’s determined that fate for her as well.

UGH SAD FACE FOREVERRRRRRRRR.

See ya’ll next week – until then you can find me at the bar, where I will live in hope and continue shipping #SaLiam.

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