Castle Rock S2E9 is called “Caveat Emptor,” a Latin phrase that means “let the buyer beware.” Pop previously referenced the principle when describing his shop, the Emporium Galorium, while delivering his own eulogy in episode four. In other words, if a customer makes a purchase at the shop and finds that the merchandise doesn’t function, well, you should have checked before you bought it, buddy. Its appearance as the title of the penultimate episode of Castle Rock’s second season is foreboding.
The episode opens on the four hundredth anniversary parade, last seen in episode seven, as Pop flees in the opposite direction from the statue of the hooded figure and the rest of the crowd stands transfixed. The next scene shows Pop hurrying up the stairs into his office, where he opens his desk and extracts a bundle of letters. Each of them is addressed to the late Alan Pangborn, with Warden Lacy’s office at Shawkshank State Penitentiary as the returning address.
Pop opens one of the letters, revealing cursive script, scrawled-out diagrams, and artwork depicting the Kid, who Lacy had kept imprisoned in a cage Block F (when visiting Shawshank in episode seven, it was revealed that the cage is now empty and the whereabouts of the Kid – who may also be Amity’s “angel” – are currently unknown). As Pop reads the letter, some realization seems to take place.
Next, we cut to Warden Lacy’s widow, Martha. After last seeing her in the previous season, she now appears to be living in an assisted living facility rather than in the home she shared with her late husband. Martha is blind, but she is able to use her white cane to navigate the hallways effectively enough, and when she arrives at her room, she can tell that someone is present: the audience will recognize the deputy, who we know to be in the service of Augustin and his people. A close-up shot focuses on the framed photograph of Martha and her late husband sitting on the dresser as it is splattered with blood, indicating that the widow has joined the warden in the great hereafter.
The Johnny Cash version of “Danny Boy” begins playing as a crane shot surveys the empty streets of Castle Rock, which Pop navigates in his pickup truck. Meanwhile, at the Marsten House, Augustin is looking at a wanted poster for the Kid when one of his people enter to inform him that “she’s awake.”
“Martha” enters, looking considerably more healthy than she did when she was walking the halls of the assisted living facility. Augustin remarks that her vessel was blind, and she replies, “so I gather,” and Augustin says that it’s a gift to whatever part of her is left, but he needs something in return: a memory about the man who her husband kept imprisoned. But “Martha” replies that all she knows about the Kid is that the Warden recorded all of his struggles in letters that he sent to Pangborn, which have now fallen into the possession of the collector, Pop.
Meanwhile, Pop locates Nadia (and Chris’s body) at the hospital. Pop carries Chris’s body to a hospital bed, then asks Nadia where Abdi is. As they leave the hospital, Nadia attempts to call her brother again, but the cell network is still down. A rider on a motorcycle approaches and Pop draws his weapon, but the rider removes their helmet and reveals themselves to be Chance.
Chance tells them that she isn’t one of them but that they’re coming, and killing anyone who hasn’t fallen under the thrall of the statue of the hooded figure. Nadia, Chance, and Pop get into Pop’s pickup and flee as Augustin’s people pursue them. While it appears that they’ve evaded them at one point, they reappear and manage to shoot out one of the pickup truck’s tires.
Nadia and Pop draw their weapons and begin to exchange fire with Augustin’s people… but in the midst of the shootout, a large construction truck appears and smashes into the side of Augustin’s people’s SUV, incapacitating them. Abdi is revealed to be the driver, and he reunites with his sister. The four of them enter the Emporium Galorium and Pop triggers a switch that drops heavy shutters over the windows and doors. Abdi asks why they’re trying to kill them and Pop replies, “Let’s live long enough to talk it out” before the opening credits roll.
Castle Rock S2E9: “Caveat Emptor”
After the opening credits, some time has passed and night has fallen. Pop tells Abdi, Nadia, and Chance about the letters between Lacy and Pangborn, mentioning that Pangborn placed an emphasis on remembering because everyone else seemed so focused on forgetting. According to Pop, Pangborn had mentioned the first settlers of Castle Rock, who had disappeared without even leaving bones. Pangborn said that the first settlers hadn’t gone anywhere, had never left Castle Rock: they were still there. Pop connects this history with the murals he found inside Marsten House, correctly surmising that the two groups of people are one and the same, despite the four hundred year gap that should separate them.
Abdi wonders aloud why they weren’t affected by the sound like anyone else, but no one has any idea. Pop says that the Emporium Galorium should be safe if they keep a perimeter, pulling a sheet of what Chance describes as “a lot of bombs.” Pop says he figured someone would come for him someday, so he wanted to be prepared. He instructs the other three to take the bombs downstairs and put them by the doors and windows, warning them to be careful. While the others place the explosives, Nadia cleans the guns while trying to ignore the imposing memories of Chris.
Pop and Nadia are wondering in disbelief at the situation when an alarm alerts them to an interloper in the basement. The four defenders of the Emporium arm themselves and head down to the point of ingress, their weapons drawn. After a few tense moments, they locate Annie, Jamal, and Evelyn.
We’re not the bad guys
Pop looks at his reflection in a chrome toaster after a particularly bad coughing fit before turning his attention to the three interlopers. Nadia insists that Augustin’s people control the streets, and there’s no way the three of them could have made it into the Emporium unless it’s what they wanted. Annie insists that the bad guys are outside, and they’ve got Joy, so they need to stop wasting time.
Chance points out that the bad guys look “just like us,” which causes Annie to round on her for being after Joy, then implies that Chance might be one of them. Pop asks Annie how she escaped from Augustin’s people and Annie says she killed some people, and when Pop asks how she got to the Emporium, she replies that she killed some more people. Evelyn, who worked at the hospital with Jamal and Nadia, says that she’s uncomfortable with the interrogation, but Nadia insists that they have to be sure.
Annie shouts that she doesn’t care who Augustin’s people are or what they’re doing, all she wants is a gun so that she can go rescue her daughter. Pop says they’ll “use the Army manual,” prompting Abdi to nod. In the next sequence, the three interlopers are divided and questioned individually.
Evelyn says that she was at the Mellow Tiger when “everyone heard a noise” but her, prompting them to leave. Jamal says he was at the Somali Mall when a similar occurrence took place. Annie tells Pop that she didn’t hear the sound, but Joy did, and fell in line with the crowd. She grows increasingly agitated and Pop keeps his gun trained on her.
Annie insists that she’s telling the truth, and says that the whole mess was caused by his “cock-a-doodie nephew.” She tells him that she did kill him, explaining that she dumped him in the “wrongest” place. Annie tells Pop about the tunnels underneath the construction site, and Pop hands her a notebook and has her sketch a map.
Next, Pop asks Jamal if he thinks that she’s one of them, and he says he thinks she’s bipolar, but not one of them. Then Pop asks him what happened to the diamond stud earring Jamal wore when administered Pop’s chemotherapy medication, pointing out that there wasn’t so much as an indent in his ear: the piercing has completely healed. Pop stands and asks why they didn’t just storm the place, but is overtaken by another coughing fit. “Jamal” seizes the opportunity and begins beating Pop. “Jamal” is about to kill Pop with a sledgehammer when Nadia appears and shoots him in the shoulder, incapacitating him.
In the next scene, Nadia is pulling out vials of Haldol, the medication that allowed Chris to temporarily seize control of his body during the events of episode eight. Nadia explains that they retain the memories of “the other one” when the medication is able to temporarily bring them back, which is when “Jamal” wakes up. They question him and he doesn’t answer, so they say they will get the information from Jamal, and the entity who has taken over Jamal’s body replies that it’s immaterial, as Amity will be returning the next day at dusk no matter what they do.
Elsewhere in the Emporium, Evelyn struggles to come to terms with the supernatural happenings in Castle Rock as she sits with Chance and Annie. A few beetles crawl into the Emporium and flit around the rafters, interrupting the conversation. The three of them approach the window and are alarmed at what they see outside.
Meanwhile, “Jamal” says that they are powerless to stop the four-hundred-years in the making arrival of Amity. Pop deduces that there must be a reason Augustin sent an assassin after him rather than simply breaking down the door of the Emporium. The beetles make it to the room where “Jamal” is being kept, and the prisoner ominously announces Augustin’s arrival.
Augustin calls Pop’s name over a walkie talkie, urging him to “come back.” He offers Pop a deal. Outside, Augustin’s people surround the Emporium.
Pop and Augustin taunt each other about their respective ages over the radio, and Pop establishes that he has some grasp over the nature of the person who has taken control of his nephew’s body. Pop learns Augustin’s name before demonstrating that he knows the reason Augustin is here is to learn the information contained in Lacy’s letters to Pangborn. Augustin says the deal is that Pop surrenders the letters and everyone inside the Emporium is free to go, unharmed. Pop questions why Augustin would make such a deal when everyone
Meanwhile, inside the Emporium, Nadia pulls a train schedule from a corkboard and asks Abdi if he remembers their game as she points out that the train is scheduled to pass through in fifty-five minutes. The game they played as kids, Nadia explains, was to run in front of the train just before it passed (Stand by Me?). The train is mile long and bisects the town, so if they can pass in front of it and leave their pursuers on the other side of the tracks, they’ll get a head start on their escape. Pop expresses skepticism at the idea that he’s in good enough health to take part.
Meanwhile, Annie seizes the distraction to enter the room with the imprisoned “Jamal” by herself, demanding details about where Joy is located. To intimidate him, she points out that she’s “put down” a lot of his brothers and sisters. She picks up the sledgehammer and menaces him with it, delivering a riveting monologue as she crosses the room and lays her hands on the needles Nadia has laid out.
“Jamal” responds by bringing up some of the memories his human host has of Annie, voicing her fears that she’ll be separated from Joy because of her behavior and condition. Annie’s anger flares, and plunges the pair of needles into “Jamal’s” eyes, killing him. Nadia screams at Annie, saying “Jamal” was meant to help them, and Pop holds her back as Annie leaves the room.
Pop picks up a couple of the vials before leaving the room himself, stopping in one of the aisles of the Emporium to retrieve another object. He walks to the front desk and begins fiddling with the object, and as he does so, the camera pans over to focus on the aforementioned sign on the Emporium Galorium’s counter: “Caveat Emptor.”
Pop returns to his office and trades barbs with Augustin over the radio once again. As they speak, we cut to a series of shots of the various wares for sale inside the Emporium Galorium. In the foreground of one of these shots is a Sun 660, the Polaroid camera that is the subject of Stephen King’s novella “The Sun Dog” from the Four Past Midnight collection, a story that features Reginald Marion “Pop” Merrill and the Emporium Galorium.
Augustin tells Pop that he knows everything Ace felt, including love for Pop. But Augustin continues that when Ace was small, Pop hit him, “a lot.” Pop defends himself, saying that Ace was bad a lot and that in Pop’s house, you pay your debts (but, according to “The Sun Dog,” while the debt may hurt, it’s the interest that breaks your back).
Augustin continues to twist the knife, saying Pop had no children of his own but managed to mess up four of them anyway. Pop comes back by saying that he knows what information Augustin wants from the letters Lacy wrote: to know more about the man in the cage and where he might be now. Pop says that Augustin won’t get the letters, because Pop burned them.
Augustin replies that he doesn’t need them, because if he turns Pop, he’ll have all the information Pop knows, including what was contained in the letters.
Later, Abdi tells Pop not to let Augustin get into his head. Pop presses Abdi about fucking up the four of them, and Abdi says that he did. Pop defends himself, saying he did what he could to protect and feed him even when he didn’t feel like it (which was often). Abdi says he’ll say what Pop always wanted to hear from his ungrateful mouth: “Thank you for liberating me.” Then he storms out.
Pop finds Nadia retrieving her old sneakers in one of the aisles of the Emporium and attempts to share a moment with her, but Nadia denies him the opportunity to make his peace. She tells him that if she survives the night she’ll never think of him again before leaving Pop by himself in the aisle.
Pop returns to his desk and makes good on his threat to burn Lacy’s letters, setting them aflame inside a metal trash can. Augustin continues to mock him over the radio as we see Pop fit a vest with blocks of C4 explosive, which he then puts on, telling Augustin he’ll have a hard time resurrecting him if he’s blown himself to bits.
Augustin gives the order and his people attach chains, then he uses Ace’s pickup truck to yank the metal shutters off the front of the Emporium.
When Augustin’s people push open the front door to enter the Emporium, they activate the first bomb, sending a pair of them flying. Inside, the survivors grab there supplies and weapons flee into the basement, toward the back exit. Augustin directs his people to enter the smoking and damaged Emporium and they pour into the wreckage (there’s a brief glimpse of a typewriter among the debris).
In the basement, Chance is attacked by “Timothy,” but Annie shoots him in the back of the head before he can hurt her. Elsewhere, Abdi and Pop each dispatch one of Augustin’s people. The survivors make their way to the basement, with Pop and Abdi bringing up the rear. But then Pop unceremoniously closes a door between himself and Abdi, citing the need for more time, and then heads back the way they came.
The rest of the surviving group heads deeper into the basement, toward the point where Annie, Jamal, and Evelyn entered earlier, fending off Augustin’s people with their bullets. When they have nearly escaped, Evelyn is shot and killed.
At the front of the store, Augustin and the deputy enter as Pop changes the batteries in the device he pulled from the Emporium aisle earlier in the episode. When Augustin confronts Pop, Pop holds the device aloft, telling him to be careful: it’s the detonator for the vest of explosives he’s wearing. Pop speculates that while Augustin was able to return from the grave, it isn’t a trick he could repeat: if the “Ace” body is killed, then Augustin dies, too. It’s apparent from Augustin’s reaction that this assumption is accurate.
Augustin tells him not to detonate the vest, and Pop asks why not, especially since Augustin spent the last hour telling him he was a piece of shit. Augustin says that Pop isn’t a good man, but he is a dying one, and Augustin can offer him a way to avoid the grave. Meanwhile, the sound of the train horn can be heard outside.
In the basement, the survivors are able to shoot their way to the exit.
Upstairs, Augustin offers Pop a deal, an agreement to allow Pop to avoid death. But Pop says no deal and clicks the detonator…
…and nothing happens. The device doesn’t work and the vest doesn’t explode. Caveat Emptor. Pop laughs bitterly and collapses into his chair coughing. Augustin smirks at Pop, who reaches for his marijuana pipe.
Meanwhile, Annie, Abdi, Nadia, and Chance make it across the railroad tracks just before the train passes, allowing them to escape from their pursuers (at least for the moment).
Pop lights his pipe and inhales before Augustin shoots him in the face. Nadia tries to hail him over the radio, but there’s no response, and the episode ends on a shot of a tendril of smoke rising from Pop’s pipe, fallen on the floor.
That’s it for Castle Rock S2E9, but The Beat will be back to recap the Castle Rock season finale next Wednesday at 19:00, and season two is now available for streaming on Hulu.