‘Fellow Travelers’ Episode 3 Recap & Ending Explained: What Terminal Illness Is Tim Suffering From?


The brilliantly promising romantic drama series on Showtime, Fellow Travelers, brings more political intrigue to this week’s episode 3, as some suggestions about political figures in the past are made. The episode maintains the show’s successful use of two different time periods to tell its story, as the estranged lovers Hawk and Tim finally met in 1986, mainly because of Tim’s terminal illness. Fellow Travelers Episode 3 also reveals more about this illness, and new information about Hawk’s life at present is also teased.

Spoiler Alert

What information does Hawk find out about McCarthy?

The 1950s section of Fellow Travelers episode 3 begins with Hawk at the house of Senator Smith, as he has already begun an official courtship period with the employer’s daughter, Lucy. Hawk has some other plans, though, as he tells Senator Smith, for he has some information about an ex-army man who has some pretty serious allegations against Senator McCarthy. Since McCarthy is growing more powerful each day and Smith is a political rival, Hawk presents this opportunity as a chance to dig up some dirt on the authoritative figure. It is for this reason that Hawk decides to go down to Rehoboth Beach, where the ex-army man has been reportedly staying for the past few days.

It is very obvious that Hawk takes Tim along with him for this trip, and it is also at this very time that Lucy understands how her life with the man is going to be. From the 1986 section in the very first episode, it was clear that Lucy knew about Hawk’s romance with Tim, and now, in episode 3, when he informs her that he will not be able to attend a family gathering, the woman gets an idea of how absent her husband will be from her at times. Hawk meets up with Tim and gives him the offer to go down to the beach with him. Although Tim had been extremely hurt and angry at the end of the last episode, after finding out about Hawk’s decision to marry Lucy, he is still too attracted to Hawk to let go of the man. There is immense chemistry and a helpless attraction between the two men, and the younger Tim cannot ever turn down Hawk’s advances, it seems.

After reaching Rehoboth Beach, the men enter a bar, and Hawk goes off to find the contact, Corporal Daniel Cherney, while Tim stays back by himself. He is soon approached by an older man at the bar’s washroom, and Tim has to avoid the situation by stating that he is with someone. The man obviously reminds Tim how he has been sitting all alone at the place for quite some time, and this makes him wonder where Hawk is. As he walks out in search of Hawk, Tim sees the man inside Daniel’s room and suspects that something wrong or immoral might have happened. He confronts Hawk, and the men have an argument once again, making it seem like a staple in their passionate but unstable relationship. Like in the previous two episodes, some steamy scenes follow next, as Hawk takes control of their intimate acts in a rather stern show of power. It is evident that these power dynamics obviously demanded a lot from Tim mentally, and so the man’s utter despair and bitterness at the fact that Hawk had ultimately left him do make sense.

The couple also have their first official dinner date before this intimate moment, even though it has to be a secret one, and their relationship has to be hidden as a bond between an uncle and a nephew. At the restaurant, Tim looks on with love and a tinge of jealousy at a heterosexual couple seated next to them, who can express their emotions to the fullest whenever they want to. Therefore, Tim’s sudden angry outburst, in which he walks out of the place frustratedly, is because of both his anger at Hawk for not acknowledging the special bond that they seem to be growing and also on the world around him. Even if Hawk does agree to be with him, Tim knows very well that they will never be able to become a couple, per se, for they will always have to live a life of secrecy and falsehood. Nonetheless, the man is unable to keep away from Hawk anytime the latter gives him attention, and the two ultimately spend a lovely time at the coast, making memories that they will cherish in the future.

When Hawk goes to meet with Daniel, he finds the ex-army corporal drunk and passed out from pills, clearly indicating that the young man was in a disturbed state. As Daniel recovers from the slumber and is ready to talk, he reveals a rather shocking piece of information about Senator Joseph McCarthy. Daniel says that a couple of years ago, he met McCarthy at a bar and had gone around the town with him, upon the insistence of the man, and they had then rented a cheap motel room. The senator, so sternly vocal against homosexuals, had apparently gotten intimate with Daniel, “sodomizing” the younger man while they were both drunk. Daniel did not mind the act, though, as he admitted to having homosexual urges, but he had expected to grow closer to McCarthy because of their experience together.

Daniel’s mother was sick at the time, and since she was staying by herself, he wanted to move closer to her house. There was indeed an army outpost close to the place, and the young man wrote a letter to McCarthy asking for help in getting transferred to this outpost. He had also mentioned their time together in this letter, and the friendly ask for some help had been perceived as a direct threat against the politician. McCarthy set the FBI on Daniel, claiming that he was threatening him with false allegations, and the corporal was imprisoned for it. To make things worse, the authorities even disclosed Daniel’s queer identity to his mother, resulting in the woman never speaking to her son again.

Hawk had come to meet with Daniel prepared to find such information, and so he had agreed to pay the man to talk to him. As Hawk gives Daniel the money, the ex-corporal hands over a file that contains severe pieces of evidence that can be used against the senator. At the end of Fellow Travelers episode 3, Hawk is seen photographing these pieces of evidence, which include a photograph of McCarthy and Daniel, the bill of the motel room for that specific night, made out in the name of the politician; and the official complaint letter submitted by Daniel. Hawk will surely turn in the documents at Senator Smith’s office, and McCarthy might face some consequences because of it.

What terminal illness is Tim suffering from?

Just like last time out, Fellow Travelers episode 3 also features a number of scenes from the present time of 1986, when Hawk has come to visit Tim at his apartment in San Francisco. The episode begins with the two men remembering the time they had gone to the beach together, and some more serious questions are then asked. Tim asks Hawk exactly why he has returned after so many years, and the man does not have any concrete answer. Hawk replies that he himself is not sure about why he has come, but it is evident that the man still has a soft spot for Tim despite forcibly staying away all this while. He reveals that he will be leaving San Francisco the next day, and so the two still have a few hours to spend together.

Tim’s terminal illness is revealed to be lesions due to a rare cancer known as Kaposi sarcoma, or KS, and although KS in itself is not extremely fatal, the man has also had Pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP, which mostly occurs in patients with AIDS. This confirms that Tim has indeed been affected by the AIDS outbreak, and the man has to be helped by Hawk when he suddenly collapses inside the washroom at his house. He advises Hawk to get tested for AIDS as well, and Hawk initially thinks this advice is because he has touched Tim’s blood. However, that is not the case, as Tim is very well aware that Hawk is still sexually active with men, unlike what he must have claimed to want when parting ways with Tim in the past.

Hawk now gets the hint, and he finally agrees to a blood test the next morning, when Tim also accompanies him to the local clinic. When the nurse privately asks Hawk whether he has had any gay intercourse in the recent past, Hawk admits that he has had such encounters with different men. This confirms that the man has indeed been unable to keep his sexual urges in check, despite staying away from Tim and living life disguised as a happily married heterosexual man.

Does David Schine have to report for military duty?

In the first two episodes of Fellow Travelers, the cast of queer characters had mostly been facing prejudice from the insensitive figures of authority, particularly Joseph McCarthy and his closest associates Roy Cohn and David Schine. Episode 3 takes the suggestions and possibilities from real history and hints at the homosexual orientation of these very men, for there are indeed theories that McCarthy and Cohn were both gay. In the episode, McCarthy’s employee, Jean Kerr, reminds the man how the media often perceives him and his two associates, for McCarthy, Cohn, and Schine were still unmarried at the time, despite being of considerable age.

Later in the episode, McCarthy publicly announces his decision to marry Jean, but the evidence provided by Daniel Cherney clearly suggests his interest in men. On the other side, Roy Cohn is also suggested to have a very personal romantic interest in David Schine, who seems to be playing along only to ensure that he gets favors from the powerful men in return. Schine himself hails from a lot of wealth and influence, but he is shaken when an army officer changes his status from 4F, which is physically or mentally incapable, to 1A, which denotes fit for action, in the army draft status. This is clearly because of the investigation done by Marcus Hooks in the previous episode, and it now successfully creates trouble for Schine.

Roy Cohn is equally angered by this, though, and he digs up dirt on the US Army itself, finding some evidence of going against anti-communist protocols. He is confident that suing the army will surely result in Schine not getting drafted, as the privileged man shudders at the thought of serving under army officers in Korea. In a rather revealing scene, Cohn places his hand on the back of Schine’s head while the two are by themselves in the lawyer’s office, suggesting that Cohn is interested in Schine. The younger man’s irritation at this action and his boastful statement about having a new date, which makes Cohn frown, further establish this suggestion. At the end of Fellow Travelers episode 3, McCarthy publicly announces the lawsuit he is filing against the US Army, and it remains to be seen whether David Schine will be pardoned from army duty because of it.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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