Episode 9 of Panic Season 1 begins with Ray warning Heather and telling her she needs to figure out the real story here before it’s too late. However, drama encircles Dodge and Natalie, as the former realizes Natalie has spilled the truth about Dayna – hence why the judges used this against him. Dodge tells her to stay away from his family and drives away.
Back at the station, Langley sits down with Melanie and learns that Jimmy had the code to the safe back home. It turns out she found a training gun in the place where the real gun would have been, along with a note confirming that Jimmy killed himself.
James Cortez doesn’t know yet and it’s hinted that Melanie only found the gun because she “missed her son.” This is basically interpreted as suicidal thoughts.
As Dayna and Dodge talk back home, it soon becomes apparent that Natalie could well be one of the judges. She’s told Dayna that she was “studying” but now it seems obvious that she’s actually been planning everything from the start.
Bishop leaves a gift for Heather in the form of a book. She thanks him for his thoughtful gift when they meet up, as Bishop reveals that he’s going to be leaving in 7 days. The pair hug, as Heather despairs and wonders just what she’s going to do without him.
Meanwhile, Ray confronts Luke and tells him about the hit and run. He knows about what happened but there’s a problem. Luke was sitting in county lockup three years back so there’s no way he was involved. In order to prove it, Ray asks Natalie to bring up the police files to see if this rings true.
Anyway, day turns to night and each of the different finalists prepare for their individual challenges. Heather is up first, and she has to contend with an escape room, with 30 minutes to crack the codes and leave.
Only, in the midst of all this, she receives word that Lily has gone missing from her sleepover. All of this seems to be linked, as she heads over and finds a note leading to the tiger enclosure. It was foreshadowed this would occur, and now it becomes clear why.
It’s apparently not part of the game but it sure seems like it. Anyway, Heather heads in and bravely heads in to throw raw meat to the tiger. It works too, allowing her to save Lily from a nasty fate. Locking the gate, the pair manage to survive this frightening encounter.
Diggins catches up with Heather, admitting that Panic is a dumb game but admitting that it’s their dumb game so it makes it special. Either way, she hopes that it’ll be enough to get her through.
Back home, Melanie shows James the note Jimmy left behind but he has doubts that this is actually a suicide. With a rifle propped up against the wall, it’s certainly an uneasy scene. Even worse, someone seems to have released the tiger again, despite the gate being shut. As we cut to the woods, it’s currently galivanting around.
Well, Dodge confronts Natalie about her being a judge, questioning just what other lies she may be concocting. One of those, however, seems to be linked to what happened to Dayna 3 years back. So what really happened? Well, all of this links back to James Cortez, who was the one originally pinning the blame on Luke.
Back at the station, Myra is questioned over the notes she left behind for Abby. It turns out she also told Jimmy’s parents about the pregnancy. She couldn’t leave the Panic game because Luke had money riding on her and she was coerced into continuing. She was scared, but so too was Luke it seems.
Someone is operating at a higher level than him but who? Well, everything links back to Cortez. He’s the one involved in all this, and his nickname was Doc Magic back when he was at school. As we soon come to learn, sheriff James Cortez is the one in charge of the betting ring and even worse, he’s the one forcing Dodge’s hand to make him win against the Hall family.
As everything starts to come together, Natalie races up to see Heather, revealing that Luke Hall has been beaten badly and they had to use ID prints to identify him. Cortez was the one who beat him down to an inch of his life.
We then cut across to Bishop, we find out what was inside that lockbox. It turns out it was the Panic money, and Sarah Miller has found it. She’s currently on the run.
The Episode Review
Panic’s penultimate episode brings up quite the dilemma as it turns out that police have been involved in all this since the very beginning. However, it also brings up some big questions around exactly how long Cortez has been involved.
Does this date all the way back to 2012? The game has been around for a long time it seems but no-one knows about its inception or how it came to be (unless I’ve missed something of course)
However, this episode does bring some revelations to light, revealing that Cortez was the one behind everything and that he’s the real ringleader here. It’s perhaps the best narrative explanation too, given the police ties needed to cover up a substantial amount of evidence and keep everything ticking along with red herrings and fake-outs.
There are still question marks hanging over this but it seems like Bishop is the bagman in all this, in charge of controlling the money, while Natalie is one of the two judges. Cortez oversees everything through betting. With a tiger on the loose, lots of drama and everything riding on this final 40 minute chapter, Panic sets up a tense finale to follow.