Hi. Welcome to my recap and reaction to The Chosen, the crowd-funded, first ever multi-season TV series about the life of Jesus and his disciples. You can find my prior posts about the show HERE.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Simon double-crosses Quintus, and does not fulfill his promise to turn over the Jews who have been fishing on Shabbat. As a result, he is facing severe consequences, including prison, for his large and unpaid tax debts. Meanwhile, Andrew believes that he has seen the Lamb of God, though his excitement cannot break through Simon’s sense of impending doom.
The night before he is slated to be arrested, Simon, Andrew, Zebedee, James, and John fish all night hoping to catch enough to square Simon’s debts. They catch nothing. As they give up after sun up, they meet Jesus a the docks. With Matthew the tax collector looking on, spying on Simon on behalf of the local Roman Praetor Quintus, Jesus tells Simon to cast his nets one more time – which he does reluctantly – and Simon catches such a haul in his net that he is able to square his tax debt with the Romans. Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow him, and they agree to do so.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode opens with Simon, on a row boat with Roman soldiers, looking for the Jewish merchants fishing on Shabbat. When Simon realizes where the merchant vessel is, he has a change of heart about turning them in, and guides his own boat – filled with Roman soldiers – into a sandbar.
After they return to land, the Roman soldier in charge accuses Simon of guiding them into the sandbar, on purpose, and makes his point by slashing his ear with the end of his sword. The soldier then tells Simon that he should consider the cut a kindness because Quintus will do much worse to him. He advises Simon to think of Eden, his wife. At the mention of her name, Simon threatens him not to even walk down the same road she does, and he receives a punch to the gut for his threat. The soldier warns him to make good on his promises before walking away. After the Romans are gone, Simon screams up at the sky in frustration.
Later, he calls a group of other Jewish men together for a business meeting. Once they are gathered, Simon confesses to them that he made a deal with the Romans. When the others get angry over this, Zebedee tells them to look at the cut on Simon’s ear and to use their brains, arguing that obviously Simon did not give them what they want. Simon continues and says that he owes a lot in taxes and that the Romans were set to take his boat and his house. He explains further that Quintus was willing to forgive his tax debts if he gives up the fleet of Jewish merchants fishing on Shabbat.
Simon tries to convince Zebedee that his position with the Romans is valuable because it means he knows their plans. Zebedee in turn tells him that he is finished and that the Romans are playing him. When Zebedee stands to leave, Simon tells the other man that he knows he was the one fishing last night and that he knows which shore he was fishing on. Zebedee and the others return to the table with this pronouncement. At this point, Simon explains that he and the Romans were practically on top of him the night before and that he only managed to save them by tricking the Romans into rowing into a sandbar.
Simon suggests to Zebedee that they should turn over his catch, to him personally, so that he can surrender it to Quintus. He suggests that Zebedee could stay off the sea, at least for a while, on Shabbat and he adds that he can then tell Quintus that the problem is solved. Zebedee tells Simon that they owe him a debt but that he cannot repay that debt by stealing from the mouths of the men who sail with him.
Matthew returns to meet with Quintus. The Praetor tells Matthew that everything that grows in Judea, the fruits and olives, are immaculate, but he says the people are not. He then points out that Jews worship one God but yet are all divided.
Quintus: You see, people complain we Romans run the world, but I know a dirty secret. You people want to be ruled. You want an excuse to complain.
Quintus asks Matthew if he understands that and when Matthew says with trepidation that he does not know, Quintus laughs and says that of course Matthew does not, as he is a single-minded machine and those things are beneath him. He then asks Matthew where his escort is. Matthew explains that he did not want to enter due to Matthew’s lack of social grace. Quintus interrupts him to say that his escort believes that Matthew will get him killed. Matthew agrees. Quintus laughs and tells him that will not happen today because today he is in need of Matthew’s mind.
Quintus tells Matthew that he may have been right about Simon, as he may have double-crossed him. He then also admits that he has few sea worthy troops here and that what happened might have been an accident. Quintus then assigns Matthew the task of following Simon, keeping tabs on where he goes, with whom he meets. and what they talk about. Matthew tells him that this request may prove difficult but Quintus then replies that Matthew is resourceful and goal-oriented. Matthew tells Quintus that tax collectors are hated by Jews more than Romans are hated. Quintus tells him to go in disguise if he must. Quintus orders Matthew to write down everything he learns and asks if his booth is protected. Matthew tells him that it is and that his dog guards the booth while he is away. The explanation causes Quintus to laugh about Matthew’s eccentricities and he tells the tax collector that he is a priceless treasure.
Shmuel meets with Nicodemus and other Pharisees regarding John the Baptist, explaining that he witnessed a long line of people waiting to be immersed into the river by a man in camel skins. Shocked, Shmuel tells them that the camel-skin wearing man called it a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sin. Nicodemus asks Shmuel what the man said, whether he advocated for violence or revolution. Shmuel says he did not advocate for violence, but that he did call the Pharisees snakes
Shmuel: He ranted like a mad man about how worthless we were!
Nicodemus asks him to continue, and the other Pharisee tells him that the man asked tax collectors not to take more than they are supposed to and that he asked people with food and clothing to share with those who have none. Nicodemus tells them that there was a man fitting this description who came to Jerusalem and condemned Herod personally. When one of the other Pharisees asks Nicodemus if they should bring him in for questioning in front of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus tells them that if it is the same person, he will not answer to the Sanhedrin. He also adds that this man seems to reject anything having to do with tradition and anyone with influence.
Nicodemus asks Shmuel if the crowds say that this man performs miracles. Shmuel is uncomfortable and tells Nicodemus that he does not know.
Simon returns home and finds Eden with her brothers. One of them asks him what happened to his ear but instead of answering, Simon asks them what is going on and why they are here. They then tell him that they are brothers and that if he needs anything, he needs only to ask. Simon replies that if this about what is going on at the docks, that he does not know what they have heard, but that there was only a misunderstanding. Eden asks him about the docks and Simon replies that he lost a lure. He asks again what is going on and she tells him that her mother is sick.
One of Eden’s brothers explains that Eema is coughing in fits, is unable to sleep, and that she is spitting up blood. Simon says he does not understand and starts to say that they saw her recently, but Eden cuts him off to say that they have not seen her in a month. Simon starts to apologize but again looks around and asks Eden suddenly why her brothers are there. To answer his question, he hears Eema coughing from the other room. Simon immediately begins to protest that she is staying with him as Eden’s say that they cannot take her in. Simon firmly tells them that the answer is no, which causes all three men to begin arguing loudly. Eden finally cuts them off and tells her brothers than if Simon says that it is a bad time for him, it is a bad time, but she tells Simon that it is not a bad time for her. Simon asks Eden’s brothers to give them privacy so that they can talk.
Once alone, Simon finally tells Eden about their tax debts and how he needs a miracle or else he will be in really big trouble. He tells her he might go to prison and that they might lose their house. He tells her that if he does not catch a ton of fish, or get some help somehow, he will be arrested. Eden says they might kill him. He agrees that they might. He tells her that he must spend the rest of the week, doing nothing else but fishing, in the hope that he might somehow catch enough to fix their problems.
When Simon says that this is why they cannot take in Eden’s Eema, she tells him no, and that God is with her even if he is not. She adds that Simon cannot tell her what to do before asking him where his faith is.
Simon: Eden, faith isn’t going to get me more fish.
Eden: I’m not talking about tonight. I am talking about long before tonight.
Eden calls out Simon for gambling, working, and trying to do everything himself. She calls him out for fishing on Shabbat without even thinking about their God, first. He tells her that it is permissible to work on Shabbat if a life is at stake and he tells her that their lives are at stake. She tells him that this is true because he has not pursued the Lord faithfully.
Eden: That is why you are stuck and you feel desperate and now you’re off to try to fix it yourself again!
She starts crying and tells him to go, and she adds that she does not want him here tonight, anyway. Simon apologizes but he goes. She tells him as he goes that she is glad he was honest with her.
After this, Simon goes outside and is frustrated and angry. Just then, though, his brother Andrew runs up, panting for breath, to him to tell him that it has happened and that they are saved. Andrew tells Simon that he has seen the Lamb of God with his own eyes. As Andrew tells Simon that it happened by the Jordan, as John the Baptizer pointing him out, but Simon is unimpressed by the news.
Andrew: Don’t you even care?
Simon: Was he a big man?
Andrew: Big? No.
Simon: Did he say if he would bail us out of this debt to Rome?
Simon continues on, cynically asking about who he saw, before he tells Andrew that Eden’s Eema is now living with them. He asks pardon, angrily, for not jumping out of his sandals because creepy John pointed at someone. Andrew approaches his brother and correctly points out that he is scared. Simon tells him that he has lost everything and burned every bridge. Andrew has not lost his enthusiasm, yet, and tells Simon that none of it matters if the Messiah has arrived.
Andrew: Anything is possible.
Simon clings to his cynicism and tells Andrew to go help Eden, because her brothers are trying to cook and it’s smelly. He leaves to fish. As he goes, Andrew notices that Matthew has been watching them. Matthew – very awkwardly – pretends to not have been watching them. Simon then sees Matthew out on the street and asks if he is following him now. Matthew admits that he is, as a matter of accountability.
Simon: You’re here to make sure Quintus knows where to go when it’s time to hurt me.
Matthew corrects him to say he is keeping track of how Simon settles his debt. Simon finally notices that Matthew has mental health issues and asks if he is a little off. Instead of responding to that, Matthew advises him to turn himself in. Simon tells him that he is pursing every option. Matthew says that it is not possible to settle his debts mathematically, but Simon just answers him by asking “what if?” Matthew tells him that he will be subjecting his family to needless anguish, and when Simon points out that he uses big wrds, Matthew tells him that nobody listens to him as they do Simon. He confesses that he knows Simon has a singular talent in that respect. Simon pretends to take solace in his circumstances by acknowledging this compliment.
Matthew asks Simon if he can assume that he is not going to the authorities. When Simon tells him that he is going fishing, Matthew asks if it changes anything to know he only has until sun up. Simon is surprised, thinking he has until Shabbat to settle his debt or make good on his promise, but Matthew tells him that Quintus is convinced he double-crossed him and that he is coming. Simon, looking very concerned, tells Matthew that he is still going fishing.
Nicodemus is eating with his wife and she tells him that their trip to Capernaum could not have gone better if they had planned every moment. She points out that the success of this trip will afford him new opportunities, and he replies by informing her that they will stay another fortnight until his research is concluded. She is surprised that he cannot do this research in Jerusalem, where the archives are located, but he tells her firmly that the matter is decided. A few moments later, their dinner is interrupted by an apologetic Pharisee, who informs Nicodemus that he brings news regarding the heretic John and says that the Romans are taking him into custody. When Nicodemus asks how he knows this, the man tells him that Shmuel told him and he adds that he believes Shmuel told them where to find John.
Nicodemus: We do not lightly turn Jews over to the Romans. Did the Sanhedrin order this?
The other man tells him no. Nicodemus suddenly looks thoughtful and says that he wants to question the Baptizer himself. He tells Yusef, the visiting Pharisee, that he will discuss what has happened with Shmuel himself. The other man bows and leaves.
Simon sets out alone to fish at night. He has no luck at all. Matthew watches him from the shoreline taking notes about his efforts. Simon casts his net, over and over again, catching nothing, and he eventually begins to scream so loudly in frustration that Matthew’s dog whines about it from the shoreline, causing Matthew to confort the dog by saying that people bark sometimes, too. Simon begins to quote from Scripture.
Simon: “I will make your descendants as many as the stars in the heavens.” And then what, huh? Make the chosen as many as the stars… only to let Egypt enslave us for generations. Bring us out of Egypt, part the Red Sea, only to let us wander in the desert for forty years! Give us the land, only to let us be exiled in Babylon . Bring us back, only to be crushed by Rome! This is the God I have served so faithfully my entire life.
Simon speaks upward to God and says that if he did not know better, he would say that God enjoys yanking them around like goats. As he is yelling, someone yells out ot him. A boat full of men row up to him and asks who is talking to, causing him to reply “apparently no one.” Andrew, Zebedee, and Zebedee’s sons James and John find out that Simon finally told Eden everything. He says in answer to how she took it that it is his last night as a free man and he is fishing. Andrew questions him about it being his last night and Simon replies only with “Quintus.” Zebedee informs everyone that htere are only so many hours in the night and that they need to get to work.
Nearing daybreak, Andrew suggests to Simon that in the morning he may be able to hide in the merchant caravan and escape to Egypt. One of the other men points out that Egypt is a Roman province now and Simon adds that Eden hates Egypt. Simon confesses that his hope is that if he lets Quintus and his boys to take out their frustrations on him, that they will eventually allow him to have visitors.
In this bleak moment, Andrew starts to tell Simon again about the Messiah. Simon shouts him down and asks not to hear it. Simon tells him, to the discomfort of everyone who can hear him, that they do not need a Lamb, they need fish.
In the morning after the sun is up, defeated, the two boats return to the shoreline. Matthew is still there with his dog. Zebedee announces that sometimes the sea bests them all and that it was not his night. Simon responds by saying it is time to be done. They row toward the docks and find a group of people, led by Jesus, gathered there. As the boats hit the land, Andrew recognizes Jesus as The Lamb of God he saw pointed out by John the Baptizer.
Just as Andrew is excitedly telling Simon that it is him, Jesus asks them if he can borrow their boat for a moment. He wants to stand on it so that the people he is teaching can hear him better. Andrew tells him quickly that he can, but Simon says he must go and that he has no time for this today. Jesus insists that he stay a few moments longer and he tells Simon that he has something for him. They share a look that causes Simon to reluctantly agree to wait.
From the boat, Jesus tells the crowd one more parable about fishing. He asks Simon to hand him a net. He tells the crowd that the net gathers all kinds of fish when it is cast into the sea. He says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like what happens next, noting that after the catch, the fishermen row to the shore, sit down, and sort out the fish. He says the good fish are thrown into the barrels and the bad fish are thrown away. He tells them that so it will be at the end of the age. He continues teaching and finishes by saying that the parables he tells make sense to some, but not to others, and he advises everyone listening to be patient. He dismisses the crowd, telling them that he has business to attend to with his new friend.
Jesus turns to Simon and the others and tells them to cast their net back down into the water for a catch.
Simon: I don’t have a quarrel with you Teacher, but we’ve been doing this all night. Nothing.
Jesus just responds to this by staring at him. Simon finally agrees to cast his net one more time. After a moment, Simon looks at Jesus as if to say “see?” when Jesus nods back. Just then, Simon’s boat nearly tips off as the net fills to a near breaking point with fish. Jesus watches them, smiling, and laughing, as the fishermen struggle to get the net and its contents back into the boat. Zebedee, James, and John run back over to help Simon and Andrew with the net as Simon calls out for help.
As Matthew stares on in astonishment, from a distance, the men finally manage to get the fish into Simon’s boat. The catch is so large that it nearly sinks the vessel. The group of fishermen laugh in disbelief and overwhelming joy. Andrew tells Simon that he told him.
Simon jumps out of the boat and falls down on his knees in front of Jesus, weeping. After getting confirmation from Jesus that he is indeed the Lamb of God, Simon tells him to depart because he is a sinful man. He apologizes for his lack of faith until finally Jesus tells him to lift up his head.
Simon: What do you want from me? Anything you ask I will do.
Jesus: Follow me.
Simon: I will.
Andrew walks up to stand with Simon as Jesus looks over to James and John and tells them to follow him also. Zebedee, their father, says he will take the fish to market and settle up Simon’s debts. His sons asks if he is sure and what he will tell Eema but Zebedee laughs and says that they have just been called, by the man they have been praying for their entire lives, and they are asking him what he will say when they miss supper. He tells them to go and to go now.
As the group of men walk away from the shoreline, Simon asks Jesus if he is sure that he does not want to do what he just did, a few more times. Jesus laughs and tells him that fish are nothing and that he has much bigger things ahead of him. Jesus tells them that from now on he will make them fishers of men.
Jesus: You are to gather as many as possible, all kinds, I will sort them out later.
After they go, Matthew approaches Zebedee on the shore and tells him that the catch is worth a lot. Zebedee agrees and says that it’s amazing. Matthew looks deeply shaken and says that it’s impossible.
Nicodemus visits John in his cell as eerie music plays in the background.
John: You are supposed to be the powerful one, yet you are more afraid here than I am.
Nicodemus asks if he is the one they call John the Baptizer. John tells him yes. Nicodemus tells him that he has questions for him, about miracles, and John smiles.
I really enjoyed this episode. This was the fourth of the show so far and the third in which Jesus was barely featured. The title of this is “The Chosen” which implies that it is as much about the disciples of Jesus as the man Himself, and the story-telling thus far follows that implication.
I have had trouble connecting with Simon before this episode but I finally got there in this one. Shahar Isaac (Simon) was really good here and I deeply related with his portrayal of this situation. We meet a Simon who is desperate and at a breaking point, with seemingly no good choices that he can see, and the harder he works, the worse that things seem to get. I think if you’ve lived long enough, you can relate to these low moments. Simon also has an extra layer of difficulty in trying to reconcile his situation with his faith. Again, this is very relatable. It is challenging, in difficult moments, not to respond to bad circumstances in the same way that Simon does, but counter-intuitively, we can see with hindsight that if Simon had responded to his troubles with more humility (and a willingness to ask for help) he may not have hit this low moment in the rough way that he did. Eden’s critique of her husband rings true, especially after-the-fact, though it is easily understandable how Simon ended up where he did spiritually and financially.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of Matthew in this episode, too. Despite in some sense being the weapon that Quintus is using against Simon, Matthew comes off as compassionate for Simon’s situation – offering him unsolicited advice that he clearly believes to be in Simon’s best interest – and he does it in a way that Simon seems to see it with its good intentions attached. He obviously has ill will toward Matthew, but in the subtext of his comment that Matthew is “a little off,” Shahar Isaac showed us subtly that Simon also sees some good in Matthew, too. I like their dynamic and I look forward to seeing more of it.
Speaking of Matthew, I go back and forth on the decision to give Matthew what appears to be Asperger’s Syndrome. His brain working a little differently serves as an explanation for why Matthew would choose to be a tax collector and it shields Matthew from being unlikeable. Paras Patel’s portrayal of how Matthew deals with the disorder presents us with an unavoidably lovable Matthew. It also sets up a unique (and interesting) struggle for a “machine” minded logical Matthew on screen to come to terms with the miraculous Jesus. However, I also think we lose something in presenting Matthew this way. The audience watches it now and kind of dismisses his culpability for that choice. It’s hard not to find everything he does as endearing (we’re all Quintus in that respect, I think.)
Lara Silva as Eden again really stands out for me. She is a wife everyone should hope to have and her chemistry with Shahar Isaac is strong. I think her monologue to Simon about losing his faith could have come across as eye-rolling and corny but it did not. She deserves a lot of credit for her sincerity and authenticity.
I again also love Erick Avari’s Nicodemus portrayal. He really balances intellectual authority with an almost childlike curiosity and hopefulness. Unlike the other Pharisees, he seems hopeful about his eventual confrontation with Jesus. As most of the fishermen and their families have been overtly desperate for the coming Messiah, Nicodemus is the same – and that makes him unique among the religious leaders who seem destined to view Jesus as they view John (i.e. a threat to be brought to heel.)
On a note other than the story and acting, I loved the visuals in this episode. The nighttime fishing scenes were beautiful. The miracle catch of fish at the end also looked fantastic on screen.
Overall, I’m just really impressed by this show. They’ve done a great job adapting the Gospels into a very well-written fictional story that fleshes out the characters into real, relatable people, the characters are being brought to life by excellent acting, all of this is being done while the script remains very faithful to the actual source material. Each episode has been great and this may have been the best offering yet.