Things don't go as planned when Emily tries to express her gratitude to Sam during a night at the opera.
“Alright folks, let’s go see what this opera craze is all about,” says Edward, as he brings his family into a world that lies several social strata above them. While Lavinia is excited, her parents could not be less enthused, especially when their daughter in law shows up dressed to the nines. Sue and Austin have reserved a box, much to the chagrin of their benefactors, who have purchased the cheap seats.
To escape a lousy view, Sue convinces Sam to let Emily join his box. Seated, she begins to profess her appreciation for him, but Bowles does not return the affection. “We have a problem,” he says, divulging that the letter Emily wrote to his wife “made her feel extremely uncomfortable.” “You wrote the craziest sh*t in that letter,” he says, and Emily is forced into shock.
Moreover, Bowles speaks of the “rumors” circulating him and how it can upset his wife. ‘The romance,” he says “it’s between you and yourself.” At the opera, Emily is entranced by Adelaide May, who at one point shifts into Sue and begins to recite the episode’s titular poem.
When Bowles leaves, Emily notices his backstage pace and uses it to meet May, with hopes of meeting a fellow artist, a kindred spirit in translating private emotion into art. But May is a professional; she’s an actor. “You just saw the most moving performance and yet I felt nothing,” the singer tells Emily, who has trouble contemplating performance bereft of underlying emotion.
May seems content that her impact is transient, but she nevertheless invites the fan to the stage. There, Emily has a vision of being cheered on by an enormous crowd and reiterates her desire to be published. “Everything that’s exposed… goes stale,” says May, who has suffered.
The singer gets to the heart of why Emily wants to be famous and promptly turns into Sue once again. “What is it that you crave?” Sue/May asks. “You crave meaning, you crave love” and the two make out passionately on the stage.
Emily, realizing her true desire, remains on the stage where a janitor tries to kick her off. “You don’t even know who I am,” she responds, and for the first time, she’s content about that.
- Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson
- Jane Krakowski as Mrs. Dickinson
- Toby Huss as Edward Dickinson
- Anna Baryshnikov as Lavinia Dickinson
- Ella Hunt as Sue Gilbert
- Adrian Enscoe as Austin Dickinson
- The episode's title and themes are based on "Split the Lark — and you'll find the Music -" Poem #861 by Emily Dickinson.