Fallout Episode 103 recap and easter eggs: "The Head"

A gulper tries to get its well-deserved lunch, a Brotherhood of Steel knight is tested and we catch up with Vault 33. Let's recap!
Moisés Arias (Norm) in Fallout. Credit: JoJo Whilden/Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC
Moisés Arias (Norm) in Fallout. Credit: JoJo Whilden/Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

The first season of Fallout is out now on Prime Video, and so far it's been a glorious, whimsical ride through the radiation-laden wasteland. Helmed by Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan, Fallout is a brand new story set in the science fiction world of the Fallout video games.

Earlier this week we gave thoughts on the series as a whole. But now that it's out, we're going through each episode to ferret out all the little details and easter eggs to help you get the most out of your binge watch. We've already examined Episode 101 and Episode 102. Now it's time for Episode 103, "The Head." Read on for our SPOILER-FILLED recap!

Fallout Episode 103 recap: "The Head"

Episode 103 of Fallout begins with a flashback to "The Beginning," where we see Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) film a Western scene he's not very happy with, because his character guns down a man in cold blood. "Do I really have to kill him?" he asks, as the camera shifts to reveal the film set. Howard's conflict is a great counterpoint to show how much he's changed by the time he's The Ghoul.

It turns out that yes, Cooper Howard does need to act out a cold-blooded murder, because the film studio needs a win after firing the writer Howard liked for being a Communist. This feels like it's late in Cooper Howard's career; he's already established and dissatisfied with some creative choices. So what is "The Beginning" referring to? The show fakes us out with a sweet romantic scene between Howard and his wife Barb (Frances Turner), which plays like it could be the first time they're meeting thanks to wonderful chemistry between Turner and Goggins.

But no, Barb and Cooper are already married with a child by this point. Barb gives him a costume, which we don't see in this cold open. It's only later that we learn this is when Cooper first agrees to start doing advertisements for Vault-Tec, which marks a big shift in his life and career. We'll talk about that more at the end of the episode.

Ella Purnell (Lucy) in Fallout. Credit: JoJo Whilden/Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

The hunt for the head

Back in 2299, The Ghoul finds Wilzig's body with the help of CX404 — minus its head, which Lucy (Ella Purnell) took at the end of the previous episode. The Ghoul is coughing and taking some sort of inhaler to help alleviate the symptoms. What is this mystery medicine? "The Head" doesn't answer that question, but it's clear that it's very important for The Ghoul's survival.

Lucy wanders the wasteland with Wilzig's head, oblivious to the fact that The Ghoul and CX404 are hot on her trail. Without any sense of urgency, she makes camp for the night, dining on deviled eggs and musing about the mysterious, dreamy Brotherhood of Steel knight Titus, aka Maximus. The deviled eggs are a nice bit of subtle commentary on Lucy's privileged background, because who wanders a post-apocalyptic wasteland eating deviled eggs?

During this scene, Lucy discovers that there's something special about Wilzig's head when she finds the artifact he injected into the base of his skull. When she tries to touch it, it zaps her, even through his skin. Unable to solve the mystery for now, she puts a tracker into the head, just in case she gets separated from it.

Fallout - First Look
Power Suit and Aaron Moten (Maximus) in “Fallout” /

Next we're off to check in with Maximus (Aaron Moten), who is dragging his armor to a spot where he can get it upright in order to repair it after his clash with The Ghoul. Following the death of Knight Titus, Maximus started pretending to be him in order to take over his armor. In "The Head," we see just how tricky that can be when the Brotherhood of Steel calls for a status report. The way Moten's face changes just before he tries to impersonate Titus on the comm is some great acting. Ironically, Maximus the character's acting is terrible, so he smashes his comm unit before the Brotherhood can realize he's an imposter. But by then, they're already sending him a new squire, since his lie as Titus was that Maximus himself died, and thus they believe the wayward knight is in need of a new assistant.

This sends Maximus on a frantic rush to Filly, where a junk dealer with some cool electronic vocal effects refuses to barter with him to fix the part he needs for his armor unless he has five caps; right now he only has four saved up in his boot. Yes, in case you haven't caught it yet, bottle caps are used as currency in this world. Maximus sells a tooth for the extra caps, and the junk dealer fixes it in about two seconds flat. Hope he didn't sell a tooth he was attached to for that.

He returns to find raiders taking apart his armor, and tells them, slurring his speech from the tooth extraction, to "shtep away from the armor." That sets the tone for a pretty funny fight, but this one isn't all jokes; Maximus gets beaten to hell, and in more than one instance it looks like he might get killed or take some serious injuries. Fallout shifts tones several times throughout the sequence, ranging from nerve-wracking to absurd, keeping things constantly interesting. This includes a great bit where Maximus arms himself with a wrench and toilet seat and uses them to beat the tar out of several raiders, set to the tune of Johnny Cash's "So Doggone Lonesome."

After defeating the raiders, Maximus hardly gets a moment's reprieve before a Brotherhood of Steel vertibird soars over Filly to deliver his new squire: Thaddeus (Johnny Pemberton), one of the Brotherhood initiates who beat up Maximus in the series premiere. Surely that won't make for an awkward pairing at all. Maximus runs back to his suit and just barely manages to get into it before Thaddeus arrives, so he can maintain the illusion that he's actually the deceased Knight Titus.

I love the little interior shots of Moten's face in the suit, which are reminiscent of Marvel's Iron Man. Especially in scenes with Thaddeus, we see him grapple with a lot of emotions over the idea of having a squire who was previously cruel to him. Maximus grins with the power trip of it, and makes Thaddeus clean his groin plate, just like Titus did to him. The cycle of trolling carries on.

Thaddeus also brings some new orders about the target, Dr. Wilzig, saying that the Brotherhood believes whoever controls his artifact will control the wasteland. So clearly, the Brotherhood knows something about whatever scientific artifact Wilzig injected into his head.

While Maximus is fighting for his life, Lucy comes across the ruins of a half-submerged city that actually looks...pretty beautiful? The wasteland is so weird and violent that these rare moments where it's breathtaking serve as a nice contrast. She finds a cute little fawn eating grass by the lake, which is rendered with a great mix of a real deer and CGI. But since everything's so adorable and peaceful, that little deer gets immediately eaten by a huge mutant salamander. It also tries to eat Lucy, but when she shoots it with her tranquilizer gun, it grabs the next closest thing instead: Wilzig's head. It drags it down into the lake. Good thing Lucy put that tracker on it.

But as she prepares to dive into the water in pursuit, The Ghoul appears behind her and threatens to kill her for Wilzig's head, until she explains that she no longer has it. He then sees a big pile of gross poop nearby, and tells her that a gulper got it. For players of Fallout 4's Far Harbor expansion or Fallout 76, that'll be a recognizable creature.

Zach Cherry, Leslie Uggams and Rodrigo Luzzi in Fallout. Credit: Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

Meanwhile, back in Vault 33...

The scene then shifts back to Vault 33, giving us our first look at how things there have changed since Lucy left. Her admirer/cousin Chet (Dave Register) has had his gate duties revoked after helping her escape, and her brother Norm (Moisés Arias) is under scrutiny from the vault's interim leaders, who are holding things down until a new overseer can be elected.

Vaults in Fallout games always have some kind of messed up mystery behind them; things are never just what they seem. We start to get our first idea of what the broader picture is for Vault 33 here, when Betty Pearson (Leslie Uggams) tells Norm that risking danger from the outside puts not only their vault in danger, but Vaults 32 and 31 as well. There's a sign that shows a triangle with the three numbers as its points, with the slogan "Three Vaults, Stronger Together." Betty says she's already spoken with the Vault 31 overseer, and thankfully everyone's unscathed. When will we see Vault 31 or learn more about Vault 32, I wonder?

This leads into another interesting development: Vault 33 has prisoners from the raid, who they haven't punished at all. Norm has a problem with the fact that he and Chet are getting in trouble, meanwhile the raiders are just being help captive in better conditions than they ever experienced on the surface. That gives Betty an inspired punishment idea: to put Norm in charge of delivering their food...which the raiders proceed to throw all over the room while screaming obscenities.

This culminates with a vault-wide meeting where the Vault Dwellers debate what to do with the prisoners. Interim leaders Woody Thomas (Zack Cherry) and Reg McPhee (Rodrigo Luzzi) put forth the idea of rehabilitating them and integrating them into the vault society, which is laughable considering how outright homicidal the raiders are. They claim a raider showed Woody his butthole during an interrogation, which they believe illustrates a desire to communicate. People then start discussing teaching the raiders social sciences, calculus and Shakespeare.

The class blindness of the Vault Dwellers is baffling, and not just for the viewer: Norm scoffs loudly enough to get the attention of the group, and puts forth the idea of killing the raiders since they're murderers. He isn't the only one who holds this opinion; Steph (Annabel O’Hagan) would also be glad to see the raiders executed, since they killed her husband. She's sporting an eye patch now that makes her look like she belongs in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Love that for her.

The grand zinger of the Vault 33 scenes comes at the end of the meeting, when a technician arrives with some private, sensitive information for the overseer. But since there isn't one overseer, and both Woody and Reg are trying to make a good impression in order to secure the position during the next formal election, they push the technician to share his news in front of everyone. Surprise, the water chip for the vault is broken and there are only two months of water left! And that's not even accounting for the raiders! Cue panic.

Power Armor in Fallout. Credit: Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

Tussle with a gulper

The rest of "The Head" is centered around the lake and its watery monstrosity, the gulper. First, we see The Ghoul take a shot at besting the creature, with some unwilling help from Lucy. These two are such an entertaining pair, with Lucy shouting things like "Stop, torture is wrong!" while The Ghoul coldly explains how he agrees, and isn't torturing her; he's using her as bait by dunking her in the radioactive lake.

The gulper emerges from the depths and we get our first really good look at the creature, which is a stunningly cool (and gross) CGI salamander. In place of teeth, it has human fingers inside its mouth — which is fortunate for Lucy, because it gets enough of her into its mouth that she is forced to use The Ghoul's pack to bludgeon it back into the lake. Unfortunately, all of his valuable medicine vials get broken in the process.

For the first time, The Ghoul's composure slips. There's a feeling that he's in serious trouble without the meds, which is only exacerbated by Lucy's naïve proclamation that he can't treat people the way he does because of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." The Ghoul ties her up and drags her off, muttering that the wasteland has a different Golden Rule: "thou shall get sidetracked by bullshit every goddamn time." Showrunner Jonathan Nolan has confirmed that line is a meta nod to the video games, where getting sidetracked is absolutely the law of the land due to the sheer volume of side quests and little things there to distract you from the main storyline. The Ghoul thinks he's got some time before the gulper digests the head, so he's off to find something to aid him in getting it back in time.

But he isn't going to have the chance, because our wayward Brotherhood of Steel members Maximus and Thaddeus are on the trail. After spending a few hilarious and heartwarming scenes together, the two eventually use Thaddeus' radiation tracker to find the "abomination" that they think is The Ghoul. In reality, they've accidentally tracked the gulper.

Maximus proves his mettle when the gulper suddenly attacks, and Thaddeus offers to lead a suicide charge. Instead of sacrificing his squire like Knight Titus would have, Maximus shouts for Thaddeus to get to safety. But after the squire tries to help from afar, the gulper pounces on him and comes very close to swallowing him anyway, all of which happens to the upbeat tune of The Glenn Miller Band's "In The Mood." But Maximus manages to save his squire, killing the gulper in the process, which vomits back up everything in its stomach — including Lucy's boot and Wilzig's head, which CX404 promptly appears to start licking.

The win comes as a shock to Thaddeus and Maximus, and their surprised celebration is a great moment. I love way the show is using the power armor suits for humor. It was such an inspired decision to give them a deep voice and use them for comedic beats as well as action.

Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) in Fallout. Credit: Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

The origin of the Vault Boy

Following Maximus' victory, we skip back to Lucy and The Ghoul as they traverse a string of ruined houses in the desert. Lucy begs for water, but instead The Ghoul drinks it all and dumps what little remains on the ground. There's a lot of nice glaring going on between these two, and Lucy is looking more haggard than ever. Her transformation from naïve Vault Dweller to hardened wasteland survivor is well underway, and Purnell is selling it. This also gives us some important worldbuilding: there's plenty of water on the surface, but almost all of it has some level of radiation. Not ideal for those hoping to keep their insides from mutating, like Lucy.

Lucy smiles up at a pre-war billboard of the iconic Fallout Vault Boy giving a thumbs up and holding a promotional sign for the vaults. The Vault Boy is a symbol of hope for Lucy, but it means something very different for The Ghoul, who shoots its head clean out of the billboard.

At last, we return to the flashback from the beginning of the episode, which reveals that the costume Cooper Howard's wife gave him was a vault suit. He's never done an advertisement before in his acting career, but has agreed to promote Vault-Tec's vaults as a favor to his wife. He poses for photos, and we see the origin of the original Vault Boy. That's right, the model was based off of Cooper Howard — we even see him give the signature thumbs up with a broad smile. And just in case that wasn't unambiguous enough for you, the credits begin with a billboard of that exact Vault Boy pose, with Cooper Howard's face covering half the picture.

This is the third and final episode of the season directed by showrunner Jonathan Nolan. It's been a great run for Nolan behind the camera — Fallout hardly misses a beat in its first three episodes. But there's more to come!

Easter eggs and highlights

  • The broken water chip in Vault 33 is a wonderful nod to the original 1997 Fallout game, which centered around a Vault Dweller leaving their vault to replace a broken water chip so that they could save their community. The entire game ran on a timed amount of days, where if you didn't find a chip or some other comparable resource in time, the people in the vault died and you had to find some other sort of ending in the wasteland. Let's hope things turn out a little better for Vault 33!
  • Thaddeus tells Maximus that the Brotherhood of Steel needs to one day eradicate every ghoul from the wasteland. While ghouls can and do go feral, Fallout very purposely paints them as people who suffer from an affliction. Until they go feral, they're just like anyone else. So this is actually a pretty important clue into the sort of extremism that colors the Brotherhood of Steel and what it might mean if they were to seize total control of the wasteland.
  • Cooper Howard asks if the vault suits really protect from radiation, and after getting a sly nod from his wife, the Vault-Tec workers say that they do. They're lying, which we know because in Lucy's time the vault suit most certainly does not protect from radiation.

All eight episodes of Fallout are available to stream now on Prime Video. We'll be recapping more of them so you can make sure you catch all the little details. Check back soon for more!

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