Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities continues today with another set of episodes, the first one following a mysterious case in a town in Pennsylvania. “The Autopsy” stars F. Murray Abraham, who you might know from movies like Amadeus, Scarface, or more recently The Grand Budapest Hotel. You can also catch him in the new season of The White Lotus, premiering on HBO on Oct. 30.
Like the two previous episodes, Cabinet of Curiosities episode 3 deals with death and mystery as pathologist Carl Winters (Abraham) comes to town to help his friend, a police sheriff named Nate, in investigating a series of disappearances and deaths.
As the episode opens up, we’re taken to an underground mining site where workers are disturbed by a man named Joe Allen who runs around holding a strange sphere that’s beeping and making animal-like noises. Suddenly, there’s an explosion, which seems to have a connection to that otherworldly ball.
Carl goes to meet with the sheriff, who tells him that nine men are dead, plus one “inhumane” man, a.k.a. the one who caused the explosion. His name was Joe Allen. Nate explains that investigators say there is “presumptive evidence” the explosion was due to a bomb, but they need to figure it out for sure.
Nate then narrates what happened to give Carl all the details. He recalls townspeople starting to go missing, with search parties in the woods finally leading to something. They discovered what looked to be a burlap sack up in a tree, and when they opened it up there was a body inside. Nate said there was knife work involved and there wasn’t a drop of blood, causing him to realize this was no animal’s doing. Nevertheless, he asked two local hunters to stick around to watch out for whatever could’ve done this.
Upon Nate’s return to the woods, he realized the two men were gone, but there were two new bags. He explains that the corpse they found belonged to a man named Abel, and we then get to watch what happened before he disappeared.
One night at a local bar, Abel was enjoying a drink when he realized he recognized the man sitting next to him. He was convinced it was someone named Eddie Sykes, someone he had worked with that abruptly stopped showing up. But the man denied he was Eddie, instead saying his name was Joe Allen. He told Abel he must be confused, but Abel wasn’t having it. “Why are you doing this?” Abel asked, to which the man told him he’d explain, but just not there. Joe was able to hypnotize Abel with his eyes, convincing him to leave the bar with him.
As it turns out, Eddie Sykes had gone missing after going out hiking to watch a meteor shower one night, and when he showed back up in town, he started going by the name Joe Allen. The police decided to go to his place, but despite him being at work, they still found a few interesting things. For one, he had a passport with the name Joe Allen, but his social security card still said Eddie Sykes. Nate also found the sphere warbling in a box which apparently Joe had found while out watching the meteor shower.
The officers headed out to go find Joe at the mines, and Nate brought the sphere with them. When they arrived, it didn’t take long for them to find him as Joe snatched the sphere out of the cop car and started running with it. This scene turns into the one we see at the start of the episode.
Nate tells Carl he was most confused about how Joe knew the ball was in his car. Now that Carl knows the whole story, they head to the morgue to go investigate the bodies from the mines. On the drive over, Carl breaks the sad news that he has stomach cancer and was told he only has six months left to live.
When they arrive at the morgue and start looking at the bodies, Nate tells Carl he’s having weird thoughts about the whole situation, and Carl urges him to go lay down and get some sleep. Now alone, Carl begins his autopsies, recording himself on tape as “preliminary remarks” for Nate.
The first body he looks at was one that was furthest away from the explosion, and as he opens him up, he concludes that everything looks normal — except nothing he sees indicates there was a bomb. The next two bodies he examines are very strange, however, but before he can get to them, something creepy happens. There’s a shift in the air and when Carl looks over to the door and catches himself in the window reflection, he sees himself saying to run away.
“Run from what?” Carl questions before continuing with the next autopsy. He discovers that the hearts and lungs of the next two bodies have their blood drained, which is highly abnormal. The doctor then starts having strange thoughts of his own, wondering if all the blood is in Joe’s stomach. Only one way to find out.
But before Carl can perform the next autopsy, the lights go out for a few seconds before turning back on. He then starts to hear weird noises, like snarling and moaning, coming from Joe’s body. Joe gets up, moving in an animalistic way, and he crawls through the room toward Carl. He’s finally able to stand up and walks over, finding a knife and picking it up. He uses it to cut his mouth open, and the first words he utters to Carl are: “help me.”
This entity begins to explain to Carl that he’s “a traveler” trapped in Joe’s body, and he’s starving. The doctor realizes that this thing needed to destroy the sphere, its ship, and tried to kill itself with the explosion in the mines. The traveler tells Carl he can smell the cancer in him and he can take it out, walking closer and closer to him.
Suddenly, Carl wakes up naked on the table and realizes what the traveler means to do. He needs a new host. The entity has been draining the bodies of blood in the morgue for nourishment, though because they’re dead, the blood isn’t good. The traveler wants to transfer itself from Joe’s body into Carl’s; it just needs to create an incision to do so. Using Joe’s hands, the traveler manages to pull itself out of his body, and we see it’s an extraterrestrial-looking creature with tentacles. Creepy!
What happens to Carl in Cabinet of Curiosities episode 3?
As the traveler starts to enter Carl’s body through an incision it made in his side, Carl realizes what he has to do to stop it from continuing to take bodies. He starts cutting himself, slitting his own throat and slicing both eyes in an attempt to kill himself. This way, the traveler will not be able to survive. Carl’s body soon bleeds out and the creature no longer has a host, but not before Carl informs the thing that he’s been recording everything. The tape’s run out by now, but there’s still enough for Nate to hear of what’s happened.
Nate then returns with coffee and is horrified by what he sees. Carl’s body is on the floor, all bloody and cut up everywhere. When Nate turns him around, he sees a message written in blood on his chest: “Play tape burn me.” As the episode comes to a close, Nate turns on the tape and starts listening to find out what occurred that twisted night.
“The Autopsy” is a pretty entertaining mystery throughout, and the end will have you locked in. F. Murray Abraham does a fantastic job in the leading role.
Check out Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities episodes 1-4, now streaming on Netflix.