Percy Jackson and the Olympians episode 4, "I Plunge to My Death," opens with a flashback to the time Sally took her son to swim lessons and he refused to participate. He clung to the wall as his mother urged him to at least try but he wouldn't. At first it seemed like she was concerned about being embarrassed as the other parents successfully navigated their children through the pool water, then she brought up that she'd paid for the class, but Sally's real worry was that Percy would miss out on a skill that he needs.
While he was unaware of the danger his existence presents, Sally wasn't. Her desperation, and mild agitation, stemmed from her desire to make sure he knew how to swim in case she isn't there to help him. Noticing how upset she was getting, Percy reminded his mom to breathe just like she's always saying he should do. Sally took a breathe and it settled her. She embraced her son who went on to say that she'll always be here but, as we saw in episode 1, that would turn out not to be the case.
When they pull back from their hug, young Percy finds himself in the desert, transforming the flashback into one of the nightmares he's prone to having. The mysterious figure holding the lantern once again appears and tells Percy that a forbidden child attracts attention but a forbidden hero attracts doom. Then he warns that "she" is coming. Presumably, as shown in the episode 4 preview, the figure is referring to Echidna and the Chimera.
Percy wakes up on the train with Annabeth and Grover. It's nighttime. He asks Annabeth about Thalia since they were close. He wants to know what she's like but Annabeth isn't initially forthcoming. He explains that he wants to know because Thalia was the last forbidden kid before him and that she must have dealt with the same things he's dealing with.
Annabeth tells him that she was tough and that she knew she was a forbidden kid, but she didn't care. Luke had been quick to warm to Annabeth but Thalia was slow to accept her. She made Annabeth earn their closeness. Seeing their similarities, Percy asks her if that's why she gives him a hard time. Annabeth says, "Yeah, maybe," but that's not the end of his point.
Percy has been questioning how the magical realm works since he was introduced to it. He doesn't understand why they have to "prove" themselves in order to be acknowledged. The gods only listen when they're given offerings, he has to show his mettle against Clarisse to get Poseidon to claim him. That's not the kind of environment he grew up in nor how Sally Jackson raised him. Love, affection, and attention aren't transactional to Percy.
But, as Annabeth tells it, gods and humans aren't that different when it comes to their behavior. She provides him with an example: the circumstances on how she wound up wandering on her own before meeting Luke and Thalia. At one point in her life, Annabeth had a loving father. Like the rest of Athena's children, she'd been born from a thought in the goddess' mind and then given to one of her partners. He'd treated and cared for her like the gift that she was but then he met someone.
Annabeth's father had children with his new partner, and she didn't see his daughter as a gift. She saw her as a problem and treated her as such. Our heroine ran away from home at the tender age of seven. Based on her experience, the gods aren't the only ones who have a transactional or self beneficial mentality, everyone does. The difference is that the gods at least have rules. If you respect them, they're always be on your side, no matter what.
Breaking up the tension and somber tone of the conversation, Grover groans at being woken up by their talking. He, apparently, gets grouchy when he hasn't gotten enough sleep and this is the first time Percy has been privy to his friend's tired irritability.
Echidna and the Chimera make a dramatic entrance
In the early morning, while the trio are in the dining car, something smashes into one of the train's windows. They're unaware of it, their conversation is focused on Percy's questions. He wants to know how they're going to find the Underworld since none of them have been to Los Angeles, but Grover hasn't a clue. He, however, isn't concerned about it at the moment because that's leagues ahead of where they are in their journey which is basically at the very beginning. Grover wants to cross that bridge when they get to it, right now his mind is on the two days it'll take to get to the city of angels which he says leaves them plenty of time to fulfill their quest.
Percy's second concern lies with the Oracle's statement that they're fail to save what matters most. Neither Grover nor Annabeth have mentioned it since he told them, and he thinks they should be taking it more seriously. Before he can speak more on it, Percy gets distracted by the sight of centaurs outside their window. It's at this point in "I Plunge to My Death" that we're treated to another theme of the series, the way humans impact the lives and existence of other living beings on the planet.
Grover explains that they're used to be herds of centaurs but a few thousand years ago Pan, the god of the wild, disappeared. In his absence, with no protection for the natural world, humans have been chipping away at nature. This has affected the centaurs. Brave satyrs, like Grover's uncle Ferdinand who unfortunately had a run in with Medusa, have gone on quests to search for Pan but none have returned.
Back to the topic of the prophecy, Annabeth reminds Percy that the Oracle didn't say the mission would fail, she said they'd fail to save what matters most. That could be interpreted in many ways. She warns him that the harder he works to understand fate, the harder it will be to understand. He's got to let it come to him when it's ready.
The kids' conversation is interrupted by an officer who asks to see their tickets. When he sees that they're in Cabin 17B, he shows them the damage that has been done. The window has been broken, yes, that very same window that something crashed into from outside the train. Though they insist that they didn't break the window or destroy the room, he doesn't believe them because there's a witness who says she heard the window smash and then children's voices.
Rather than go back and forth with the officer, Annabeth asks if they're under arrest. When he says that she doesn't want to take that tone with him, she asks again. This time firmer. Her actions get them seated at a table under the watch of another officer while the first one continues to speak to the witness. Our young heroes deduce that the first officer isn't a monster but there's still the mystery of why someone would tear apart their room.
Grover suggests that maybe they were looking for something but Percy knows they don't have anything so that theory doesn't make sense to him. Snarkily, Annabeth reminds him that there are people who think that he stole Zeus' master bolt. It turns out, however, that that's not the sole reason they've gotten caught up in this situation.
The witness comes over to talk with them, sending the second officer on so that she can't be overheard. She is all smiles and politeness in front of the authorities when her true intent is insidious. Side note: Suzanne Cryer would be perfect to play The Woman in White in an adaptation of N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became, I'm just saying!
The witness says that they're going to have to bear the burden of their parents' actions. When Percy asserts that they've sent all the monsters that have come after them packing, she reveals that those monsters were her children. Horrified, it dawns on Grover and Annabeth that they're speaking to the Mother of Monsters, Echidna. In her bag is another one of her children who is anxious to get out but she keeps calming the growling creature who will later be revealed to be the Chimera.
Echidna tells the trio that it's interesting who is considered a monster. They're family after all considering her grandmother is their great grandmother. To be honest, I'm not sure who she's referring to since Echidna's parentage is disputed and the family tree of Grecian mythological beings is a tangled one that's often debated depending on whose account is being treated as the authority. In any case, think of her as their second cousin set to terrorize them.
Echidna sees it as her purpose to stand in the way of demigods who she refers to as monsters because she believes them to be more dangerous, disruptive, and violent. She also reveals to the trio why she's talking to them like this. She needs them to be scared and confused because it leaves behind a scent that her little one can track and, as she's a good mother, she wanted her child to have the tools she needs to learn, grow, and hunt. Rudely, Echidna tells them that they wouldn't know what a good mother does (I beg to differ. Sally is a good mother!).
The monster unzips its carrier and attacks Percy first, stabbing him in the shoulder with its tail and leaving behind a stinger. Annabeth leaps forward and stabs it back in retaliation, giving them all the chance to run for it. As the officers give chase, Echidna soothes her child and lovingly admonishes her for getting ahead of herself but she promises that they'll work on that.
While Percy, Annabeth, and Grover know it's a beast chasing them, to passengers on the train Echidna's pup looks like an actual, adorable puppy. Annabeth manages to lock the officers in another train car, giving her and Grover time to look over Percy who has been stung by the Chimera. They safely make it off the train but it's clear that the hunt isn't over. Annabeth takes them to an Athenian temple built by one of the goddess' demigod children in St. Louis, it happens to be the Arch.
Percy faces off against the Chimera
Annabeth, sounding like a knowledgeable tour guide, explains that the monument's construction is an example of how you show Athena your love because it honors perfection. The Arch is held up by symmetry, it's also earthquake proof which means Poseidon can't destroy it. Though humans think of it as a monument used to house American history, like that of the Native people of the area and the bison, that's not how Annabeth sees it. Grover, however, is struggling with the depiction of animals being hunted by humans and goes off to try to get tickets for another train.
Feeling bad, Annabeth says she shouldn't have snapped at him. To lighten her mood and make her laugh, Percy does an impression of Athena which manages to lift Annabeth's spirits and make her smile. He also says she was right, that they needed to find a safe place and her mom had one waiting. He refers to it as luck since they happened to be in the right city but Annabeth questions whether it was luck or fate.
With a sigh, she goes on to say that she's aware Percy thinks she's only telling herself that Athena cares about her because it's easier. But he disputes that. Annabeth is skeptical so Percy elaborates. He tells her that he's only been a demigod since last Saturday so he's not the person she should be listening to. This prompts Annabeth to suggest that he say hi to Poseidon since a temple is a temple but Percy decides not to. Poseidon has been absent his whole life and he's had chances to fix that but hasn't.
Percy says that Annabeth has done more for him in the few days that they've been on this journey than the sea god has ever done. If he has to stick with someone it's going to be her, though he cuts himself off before he completes that sentence. Annabeth cheekily tells him to be careful because he was about to call her a friend, she makes a comment about the Oracle laughing at them before Percy collapses. It looks like the effects of the stinger from the Chimera's tail are starting to sink in.
To help him, Grover and Annabeth execute the latter's idea. She knows water is supposed to heal Percy so they throw fountain water on him. It's not working. It's unclear if it's because it isn't naturally running water but there's no time to figure it out because Echidna has arrived causing chaos in the form of a massive car crash.
Annabeth says they need to get to the highest point of The Arch where the altar is. There she'll ask her mother for help. Grover is caught by surprise at her suggestion as is Percy considering Annabeth was firmly against getting help before but, boys, she's allowed to change her mind! Before the lift doors close, Grover notices both Echidna and the Chimera are in the Arch. He questions how that's possible and once again we're treated to Athena's special brand of pettiness.
Apparently, as Echidna told Annabeth, she'd been let into the sanctuary because the heroine's impertinence wounded Athena's pride. The act of sending Medusa's head to Olympus was a step too far for the goddess so now she's revoked her protection from her daughter because she's embarrassed. A good parental move this was not.
With no other choice, Annabeth reasons they're going to have to fight it out with the two monsters up at the Arch's peak but first they'll need to clear it. She pulls the fire alarm to send the humans on their way and directs Grover and Percy to follow them. They protest but she insists that they won't make it if she goes with them. The Chimera is the demigod killer and someone needs to stay behind to give them a fighting chance, she's decided that it's going to be her.
Percy, however, doesn't accept that. While standing in the stairwell with Grover's help, he offers Annabeth his sword. She thinks he's extending it to assist her where he can by providing a weapon with a longer reach, but it's a trick. Percy pulls Annabeth forward into Grover and closes the door on his friends. They want him not to do this but he doesn't think Poseidon would help him anyway so Grover taking him down to the river and then making their way to Hades to retrieve the bolt wouldn't have worked.
Since he believes he would have died before he could complete the mission, he wants to ensure that they'll be able to make it. Looking half dead and seriously unprepared to face off against the magnificent Chimera, Percy raises his sword. Echidna tells him not to fight it, that this is his end but he fights anyway even though he knows it'll anger the monster.
The Chimera lets loose a stream of fire like a dragon and then is helped by Echidna who opens a hole in the Arch. All her baby has to do is disarm Percy and knock him toward the hole and that's exactly what she does. He, however, is clinging to life with his hands, holding onto a steel beam. Echidna laments that there isn't a soul who cares enough for Percy to give him a chance and she watches as he falls to what would be his death if Poseidon didn't intervene.
He sends a jet of water to catch his son and softens his landing into the river. Percy's foot is caught and he can't swim to the surface. Further in the river he notices a sea creature coming toward him. She tells him that she was sent by his father and that she's been told to tell him that it's alright and that he needs to breathe. Percy panics as he realizes he's about to lose air but the creature continues talking.
She says Poseidon is here and has always been here. That it's been hard for him to stand back and see Percy struggle. It's been hard for them all (presumably those under the sea god's domain). He's proud of his son, and Percy needs to trust him and himself. She encourages him to breathe again and when he does, our hero learns he can breathe underwater.
"I Plunge to My Death" left me on the edge of my seat and I can't wait to see what happens in episode 5, "A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers." See you next week for another Percy Jackson and the Olympians recap!