Birds of a Feather is the second episode of the Starz Original Series Counterpart. The episode is written by series creator Justin Marks and directed by Stephen Williams.
Counterpart Creator Justin Marks appears in this episode as Pope's dog walker. He explains, "Sometimes in production, you run out of money. And you have things like non-speaking cast who are very expensive to travel between LA and Berlin. When it came to 'Scrawny Teenager', I shaved a mohawk and put on leather. $60k saved. The only cost? Dignity."
Ken Choi had food poisoning on the first day of shooting his scenes for this episode.
The transition scene from the D2 skyline to the D1 skyline was the topic of "months" of discussions. They finally settled on an "old-fashioned" crossfade.
Actor Sara Serraiocco tells Counterpart Starz Wiki that she did lots of prep work, but did not play the violin on screen, "I studied two weeks with a violin teacher who taught me how to hold the violin and the bow correctly, but I was not as good as Nadia." Scenes of Nadia playing violin included "face replacement VFX" credited to visual effects supervisor Jay Worth (Westworld, The Magicians, Fringe).
The scenes between the theater, the bar, and the courtyard outside were all filmed in different locations and, in some cases, different countries. Creator Justin Marks explains that the interior of the theater was in Downtown Los Angles while the interior of the bar was filmed at the Thirsty Crow in Silver Lake. All exteriors were filmed in Berlin.
Another Los Angeles location in this episode, an art deco building in DTLA called The Eastern, served as the interior of Nadia's apartment.
They held casting for Young Nadia in Italy where they found Alessandra Reggiani. It was only later that Marks realized that the part never required her to speak Italian.
They briefly changed Baldwin's name to Remik during writing. They changed it back after realizing that Remik always autocorrects to "remix".
Emily questions why Howard is spending so much time in Dimension One, but she apparently has a lower security clearance than him and he won’t tell.
Howard notices two burly men enter the bar. He calls them “Bulgarians” and suggests that they’re here to pick him up. Emily explains that she got a call from “Midnight Station” with a rendition order for Howard.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Rendition” in this context simply means “hand over” meaning D2 Howard should be picked up by Emily’s department and brought into the Office of Interchange.
Emily continues to probe about why there would be a rendition order for him. Howard says there’s not. He explains that if he goes with the Bulgarians, he’ll be disappeared. Emily attempts to use this as leverage to learn Howard’s mission, promising to call off the retrieval team if Howard will explain his mission. He can’t, and she says she can’t stop the men from taking him.
As he exits, Howard makes a point to show her that he is unarmed.
The Bulgarians follow him out. Howard puts in earplugs. The men take him to a car and put him in the backseat. Howard notes the contractor closest to him is wearing a handgun in a shoulder holster. Seconds later, there are four muted pops and flashes inside the car. Howard steps out, removes and discards the earplugs and calmly walks away.
D2 Howard has a DogEdit
There is a knock. The name “Silk” is typed neatly on a piece of paper in a frame affixed to the door. D2 Howard opens it and immediately drops to his knees and begins talking to a black dog. He notices blood on the animal’s muzzle and asks the man holding the leash. He assures Howard that the blood belongs to the “neighbor’s dog”.
In addition to returning Howard’s dog, the man brings information about Baldwin. He hands over a file and Howard is disappointed to find only a single folded over newspaper (Movie Listings for the Berlin area) with the name “Nadia Fierro” handwritten in one corner. Howard says there should be more information about Baldwin’s network, a full biography, and any suspected “crash pads” she might have in Dimension One.
Howard explains that he will be going back to the Other Side almost immediately and will need the man to keep his dog a while longer. He asks specifically that he keep the animal away from the neighbor’s dog. The man informs him that Pope wants to see him.
An Audience with PopeEdit
In a church in the heart of Berlin, people cry softly in a candlelit alcove, which houses several mini-shrines with photographs of departed loved ones. A large stained-glass window depicting Mary Magdalene meeting the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb takes up most of the wall behind the altar.
Pope (Stephen Rea) is seated in one of the pews near the front. His dog walker (show creator Justin Marks with a faux-hawk) holds the leash to a small white dog who has just defecated on the floor of the church. Howard sits in the pew right next to Pope who laments that his bowel movements are not regular. Howard inquires about his health, there is nothing to report beyond prostate issues. Howard offers his help, but Pope says he is “quite taken care of.”
An older couple enters the church and makes for one of the shrine-like alcoves. Pope comments that people used to come to “these places” predominately for worship. He says they’re now reserved for “ghosts” as the couple reaches a wall overburdened with photographs, cards, candles, flowers, and other offerings. He says it’s sad what’s become of their world.
Howard begins to relate his encounter with the Bulgarians, but Pope already knows and that they were “Collie’s” men. Howard is worried that if he returns to the Office of Interchange he’ll be arrested for killing three contractors. Pope points out that either he’s taken for the murders or he learns there was no rendition order and someone is just out to kill him and want to cover their tracks. He suggests Howard watch his back and explains that he’s managed to get him a 36-hour visa for Dimension One.
Pope’s dog walker scoops up the poop and follows his boss outside.
Howard is not arrested. He waits to be called to the window in the visa office. He says “44C12” to the man at the window and waits nervously. The man stares at him suspiciously then looks back to the large binder of printed pages in front of him. There are columns of number-letter combinations. The date at the top of the page is 2018.04.18.
The Visa clerk apparently finds the number, reaches into a cubby behind him and removes a visa slip. It includes the number Howard gave handwritten along with “36”. He stamps it with the red Office of Interchange visa symbol and hands it to Howard, reminds him that it’s a 36-hour visa and wishes him “safe travels”.
No Calls from the Midnight StationEdit
D2 Emily Silk is called into Director Bob Dwyer’s office to account for the three dead contractors that were assigned to her “operations team”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bob Dwyer occupies the same office set as D1 Peter Quayle. It is unclear if they hold equivalent rank or if this office is supposed to be a similar-looking room on a different floor.
Emily wants to know why a representative from “personnel” is in the meeting with them. Emily is overtly hostile towards the other woman.
Emily explains that she got a rendition call at 23:30 (11:30 PM). The message said that an agent had been recalled and that Emily should bring him in. Bob asks who she was supposed to pick up. Emily is surprised since he should already know. He explains that there was no rendition order for any agent and nothing went to the Midnight Station. “Our ledger is blank,” he says.
The woman from personnel pipes up and asks if Emily is “having a hardship” and “is everything all right in her personal life.” Emily snaps at her and then ignores her. Bob says they’re going to need “blood and urine” suggesting a drug test for Emily. He says they can test after a “fuck up” because they “can’t afford another Istanbul.”
Emily says none of what’s happening makes any sense. Bob says she should take a few days and they’ll call her. Again, the personnel lady reaches out with an offer of help. Emily tells her to fuck off.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The transition scene at this point begins in Dimension Two and ends in Dimension One. It is presumably the same shot transitioning from the modern skyscrapers of the D2 Berlin skyline to the more modest D1 skyline.
Beyond the changes in architecture, the weather is different between the dimensions. D2 has a “mostly cloudy” day and D1 has a solid overcast. According to creator Justin Marks, the weather patterns on either side can be significantly different at any given moment.
Sometimes I’m Going to Ask for StuffEdit
D2 Howard arrives in Dimension One. He asks after D1 Howard’s wife. Peter Quayle explains that she’s been moved to another hospital for safety and that D1 Howard had been promoted to “Analysis” and is cooperating. D2 Howard demands that his counterpart join them on the mission and says he will withhold Baldwin’s real name unless he gets his way.
In Analysis, a supervisor hands D1 Howard a stack of folders. These are the same folders Howard used when working in Interface. He is instructed to “Take code from conversations. Find word in cipher phrasebook. We translate incoming words, not outgoing words. That goes to outgoing department.” Howard is confused and asks what he’s supposed to translate the words into. He gets no answer to that.
The envelope on top says “I left a dollar bill on the credenza” and is sealed with two green security labels. The cipher phrasebook has a label on the front page “43-V78932-G 4890112-952-7B 18_APRIL_2018”. Howard takes the first envelop and slices it open. The one underneath also says “I left a dollar bill on the credenza”.
Peter Quayle arrives and calls Howard away. He explains that their “mutual friend” requested his presence and warns him not to interfere and not to share anything about the nature of their work. Howard explains again that he knows nothing about the nature of their work. Quayle explains that the current mission is to find the woman who tried to kill Howard’s wife.
Two Completely Different PathsEdit
Baldwin enters a rundown house in a barren field. She is bleeding from the ragged hole in her cheek (See The Crossing (Episode)). She notices an empty birdcage hanging from the ceiling and briefly hears the sound of a bird. Nadia removes her gun from her bag along with a sewing kit and a mirror. She has medical supplies as well and begins the painful process of cleaning and sewing up her wound.
The two Howards sit inside the Stage Theater of the West in Berlin. D2 Howard gently mocks his counterpart about his “promotion” at work. He then explains that they’re waiting for Baldwin’s counterpart who, in Dimension One, is a concert violinist. Nadia Fierro is an Italian who immigrated to Germany in 1994.
D2 Howard notices that he and D1 are wearing the same shirt and snorts. He’s surprised that they even own the same shirt. He then mocks D1 Howard’s “shiny white undershirt.” D1 explains that it’s a Thompson Tee, which is advertised as sweatproof. He says Emily bought them for him because they have the “pit guards for sweating.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Thompson Tee is a real thing. It’s unclear if this is product placement or just a shout out to the product. Robert Herjavec is one of the investors in the company. He found the product on the ABC television program Shark Tank.
D2 Howard explains that “based on the math” the two women share a past of “9-10 years before the timeline diverged” (See The Break). Because they share the same childhood, D2 surmises that Baldwin, hurt and alone in a strange city, might go back to something familiar in both dimensions. The more they learn about Nadia, the better they can understand what Baldwin might do.
D1 Howard asks his counterpart what exactly he does for a living. D2 says he does a lot of things including retrieval. He tracks “defectors” through The Crossing and returns them to the proper side.
D1 Howard presses, wondering aloud how their worlds could be so different. He believes the portal was “discovered” but his other says that’s “imprecise.” D2 Howard explains, “There was one reality, and then it duplicated.” He at first says nobody knows how it happened but then clarifies that somebody probably does but that he doesn’t know because those people aren’t telling.
He holds up his hand and explains that it represents the single universe. He then joins it with his other hand as if in prayer explaining the duplication of the universes. He separates his hands showing where the two timelines began to diverge. He waves his hands around in the air saying that is how different the worlds’ timelines are now. This is how two people end up with two completely different paths.
Nadia is in her apartment playing the violin. Her phone rings and a man on the other end yells at her because everyone is waiting for her at rehearsal. She hangs up.
Arriving at the theater, she makes her way to the stage. The conductor thanks her for being on time, to which Nadia replies, “Whatever.” The orchestra begins to play Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Nadia removes her coat, picks up her violin, removes her shoes, and takes her position, standing on the stage near the conductor. At her cue, she begins to play furiously.
D1 Howard is held rapt by her performance and says to his counterpart that she plays beautifully.
Back in the rundown house, Baldwin finishes sewing up her cheek and hears someone open a door outside. She grabs her gun takes aim at the approaching footsteps. Clare enters. According to executive producer Amy Berg, she is Baldwin’s “handler”. The assassin relaxes.
Clare says the people in charge are asking how Baldwin is doing. She says she’s fine. Clare explains that Howard Silk is after her. She refers to him as a “crosser” and says he knows her real name. Clare says this means that Baldwin will have to kill her counterpart to keep the Howard from gaining information about her.
Baldwin begins to change clothes, stripping down without a second thought. Clare seems uncomfortable at the sight of her bare breasts. Dressed in a hoodie, she begins collecting her kit. Clare hands her the address to Nadia’s apartment. Baldwin seems reluctant to take it. Clare forces it into her hand and says killing her counterpart won’t be easy. Baldwin says it will be for her.
Clare calls her “Nadia” and Baldwin reacts angrily saying never to call her that. Clare reminds her that she and her counterpart share a past. Nadia disputes this saying they share nothing. Baldwin again looks to the empty birdcage and hears chirping. She has flashes of memory, a man taps two fingers on a table, a bottle of vodka, a child plays the violin. She says she can and will kill her counterpart.
In flashback, young Nadia (Alessandra Reggiani) plays from the studies of Heinrich Ernst Kayser. She strikes a wrong note. Her father, sitting in a chair nearby, raps twice on the table with two fingers. Nadia begins again. She falters again. Her father raps the table again, tap, tap. It happens again. He kicks a bottle across the room and rises from his chair. Young Nadia clutches the violin close to her.
Nadia Drinks, Ian Shaw Enters, Howard Does a BitEdit
In a bar across the street from the Stage Theater of the West, Nadia raps the bar twice with two fingers to get the bartender’s attention.
Inside the theater, one of Aldrich’s agents informs D2 Howard that Nadia is in the bar. He suggests that Aldrich and D1 Howard go check out Nadia’s apartment while he approaches her in the bar. He asks for a “mickey” (slang for a drug to slip into a drink in order to incapacitate someone). Howard describes it as “a tranquilizer, Ketamine”. Aldrich reluctantly orders his man to hand one over. He takes a vial of clear liquid from a drug kit. A bottle of blue pills, a bottle of white pills, and other drugs are also visible.
Howard picks up a program featuring the names of all the members of the orchestra. He settles on one of the clarinetists, Jennifer Wilcox, and says her name aloud. He then grabs some flowers from an arrangement nearby and heads out. Aldrich orders his man to follow and keep a close eye on D2 Howard.
In Dimension Two, Ian Shaw and Emily Silk have sex. Afterwards, Emily rummages in her purse and removes a cigarette pack from an official Office of Interchange evidence bag. She takes a cigarette, lights it, and drags deeply. Upon questioning from Ian, Claire says she got the cigs from “confiscated items” at the OI.
She tells Ian that investigators looking into to the death of the Bulgarian contractors didn’t bother to look at her phone logs, which would have presumably shown the call from “Midnight Station”. She says this means they don’t actually want to know what happened. Ian says it’s not about her but whatever bullshit Howard is up to.
She can’t let it go. She brings up the “contractor who slipped across, Baldwin” wondering why there was no inquiry into who she’s working for or who gave her a visa. Ian says whatever the situation, their superiors have made it clear they don’t want it looked into. He suggests they leave it alone. Emily says “Fuck it.” Ian echoes her.
In Dimension One, agents sit in a car outside the bar near the theater keeping watch.
Howard walks into the bar, and, using what seems to a broad imitation of D1 Howard, asks to use the phone. He claims he doesn’t speak German. The bartender doesn’t seem to understand him. Nadia translates for him. Howard pretends to call “Jenn” and begs her not to hang up. He pretends she hung up on him and orders a scotch. He and Nadia begin talking. Howard pretends that he was an awful stage dad because he believes Nadia will relate to that story.
H1 Howard and Aldrich pick the lock at Nadia’s apartment. The agents fan out and begin searching while Howard stands, looking uncomfortable.
H2 Howard orders a round of drinks for himself and Nadia. As soon as the bartender sets the glasses down, Howard palms the liquid “mickey” and, in one smooth motion, pours it into the glass while picking it up and handing it to Nadia.
Continuing his bit, he describes how, as Jennifer Wilcox’s dad, he drove his daughter relentlessly to prepare for a fifth-grade music recital. Nadia is fully engaged. She admits that her own father was a not a good man and died when she was 10 years old. She says he was a “failed artist, nothing but drink and anger.” She says he left her his debt and a house in Köpenick. She says she never sold the house and hopes it burns down someday.
In her apartment, Aldrich’s men find corticosteroids. He suspects they are for carpal tunnel syndrome. Howard asks what they hope to accomplish by “playing with this woman’s underwear”. Aldrich explains that, despite the obvious differences, counterparts still share a common past. You can tell a lot about one from looking at the life of the other. D2 Howard calls and fills them in on the Köpenick house. Aldrich and his men find the address and set out to see if Baldwin is there.
Outside the apartment, Baldwin watches them drive away. She goes inside, takes off her shoes, and searches through her counterpart’s life, finding pictures of Nadia and her girlfriend, a teddy bear, and a poster featuring Nadia playing the violin. On a calendar, she finds the rehearsal set for that evening and leaves immediately.
Aldrich and his men arrive in Köpenick, break into the house and find the remnants of Baldwin’s surgery. They also find a crumpled piece of paper with Nadia’s address. Realizing Baldwin is probably going after her counterpart, they head back to Berlin. Aldrich calls ahead to warn his man in the bar.
Baldwin Continues Her BadasseryEdit
Nadia arrives at the bar. She clocks the two agents in the car and then peeks inside at Nadia talking to Silk. She calls the police and explains that there are two dead men and a woman held hostage at Stahlstraße 22.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There does not appear to be a Stahlstraße in Berlin, although several other German towns have a “Steel Street”.
Inside the bar, D2 Howard admits he saw Nadia rehearsing. He wants to know why she takes off her shoes when she plays. She explains that after her father died, she didn’t have “things.” He asks her what she might be if she hadn’t stuck with the violin.
Outside, Baldwin slashes the throats of both agents in the car.
Nadia explains that she went from foster home to foster home after her father died. She was “lost” and tried on “lives like dresses”. Howard points out that, through all those hardships, she still had the violin. Nadia says, “We cannot escape who we are.”
Both Baldwin and Nadia recall busking as a child, playing violin in the Alexanderplatz train station. Her father sat nearby on a bench with a bottle of Vodka at his feet. He accidentally kicks the bottle and it rolls toward the edge of the platform. He stumbles after it and falls onto the tracks. He calls for Nadia to help him. She does not. Instead, she watches as the train runs him over.
At the sound of police approaching the bar, Baldwin dons a balaclava and takes out her gun. Police burst into the bar. Two officers hustle Nadia outside. Baldwin shoots the police and takes aim at her counterpart. She does not shoot, and, instead, drags her off back toward the theater. Howard sees them go and gives chase.
Aldrich arrives. He and his men fan out into the theater. D1 Howard listens to their radio chatter back in the car.
Nadia begs for her life, Baldwin is abusive to her counterpart, calling her a “little fucking bitch” in Italian.
Aldrich tells his men to take the shot if the opportunity arises. D2 Howard wants to take her alive. Aldrich replies, “Your side’s problems are not our side’s problems.” This exchange prompts D1 Howard to leave the car and enter the theater.
Baldwin continues her verbal abuse, “Look at you, with your skin and your clothes. Everything is so perfect.” Nadia offers to pay her to let her live. Baldwin removes her mask and Nadia laughs, terrified and believing she’s lost her mind. She believes Baldwin is “my true face” and “a creature sent to punish me”. Baldwin says they both watched him die and questions how her counterpart could forget.
Baldwin realizes something and pulls up Nadia’s sleeve. There is a dense network of scars where she cut her arm with a razor blade.
Agents bust into the room and begin firing. Baldwin shoots back. Nadia cowers at first but then makes a run for it.
Police invade the theater.
Nadia runs onto the stage. D1 Howard calls out to her to stop. Aldrich’s man in the balcony asks for permission to fire even though he doesn’t have a clear ID. Aldrich tells him to take the shot. There is single shot and Nadia falls dead. Baldwin comes onto the stage and finds Nadia’s body. She sees D1 Howard but goes to her counterpart instead. D2 Howard urges his counterpart to run. Police make it to the stage and surround Baldwin who surrenders.
Back at D1 Howard’s apartment, D2 Howard grabs a couple of beers from the refrigerator and opens them as he counterpart looks stunned and saddened on the couch. Aldrich enters and D2 wants to know “Is she going to make it.” Misunderstanding that he meant Nadia, Aldrich says the police have her and adds that “the other one is dead.”
D1 Howard grimaces. He leaps up from the couch and punches Aldrich in the face. Then, still breathing heavily and frustrated, he says “She was innocent.”
Aldrich ignores him, he tells D2 Howard to get in the car. He refuses saying he plans to sleep at his counterpart’s apartment. Aldrich balks, and D2 verbal cuts him to the quick. “Let me ask you something you sloppy fuck. Do you have the slightest clue how much you’ve escalated this thing? You let a crosser get into Police Custody.”
Aldrich plays it off saying they’ve dealt with worse. D2 continues berating, “Well, that’s not surprising I guess given this fucking amateur hour.”
Aldrich tells him to get in the car. “No! Fuck you! I don’t answer to you.”
Aldrich quietly explains that just because Peter Quayle is willing to play Howard’s game, he will not. He says he knows what D2 Howard is. Aldrich relents to Howard’s demands but orders a man placed on watch outside. D2 then gets in a parting jab, “Again, terrific work tonight fellas, really fucking clean.”
D2 Howard opens the door on what appears to be a storage room. D1 explains it’s not a bedroom and starts making up the couch for his counterpart. D2 says things got out of hands tonight. He partially blames himself because he says, “There’s too much that I can’t control over here.” He calls Aldrich a “fucking liability”.
D2 Howard then tries to enlist D1 Howard to spy for him from within the operation. He says he’ll talk to Quayle and get a transfer to Strategy where he can be “useful”.
D1 Howard wants to know why he’s involved at all pointing out that his presence is due entirely to D2’s manipulations. His counterpart says he’s trying to help him pointing out that before he got involved Howard was “a nothing, a flatliner, sleepwalking” and seems proud that he brought Howard out of all that.
D1 Howard gets in his face, “Do me a favor. Stop trying to make me in your image.” He leaves to visit D1 Emily in the hospital.
Audience with Pope IIEdit
In Dimension Two, Pope enters the church and is surprised to find Emily Silk waiting for him. He wants to know how long she’s known “her husband’s” signal plan. Emily doesn’t answer. Pope sits in the pew behind Emily and suggests they come up with a signal plan for her saying he’s always thought they should speak more often.
Emily wants to know if her Howard is working for Pope right now. She wants to know because he almost got himself killed and whoever ordered the hit is trying to pin it on her. Since they’re trying to “ruffle” her too, she needs to know what he’s into.
Pope doesn’t answer. Instead, he advises her to leave it alone.
She explains that she already knows about Baldwin is conducting “illegal operations” on the other side and no one is talking about it.
Pope changes the subject and says he’s heard some rumors too, about a “Housekeeping” agent accused of substance abuse. He then echoes what the lady from Personnel said in her meeting earlier, “How’s everything in your personal life, Emily?”
He then asks why she cares about “some poor bastards” on the other side. Emily says it’s her job to keep the peace. Pope wonders when they’ve ever had peace and says “I wonder if there will ever come a reckoning for what they did to us,” (See The Flu). He says in changing times it’s scary to think about how fragile the peace really is.