Simon, meanwhile, is being forced through the woods by three muscular, dirty men. The set-up here is so homoerotic that my gaydar completely shuts down from overstimulation. It's going to take at least a day to reinitialize, so -- sorry, folks, no more gay jokes. Wow, the world looks different when you're straight. Quit being such a wuss, Simon! Kick those guys' asses! He tries to talk them into letting them go, offering to arrange for a ransom. Alpha Hick tells him to shut up. Simon tries to bring up his sister, but Alpha Hick responds by punching him in the head, knocking him down. Yeah, you show him who's boss! In a purely heterosexual way, of course. With punching and spitting.
The shock of the blow causes another flashback to the Tampound (not to be confused with the CamPound). Now we meet Ma Tam. She assures adult Simon that River is fine. Simon insists that River isn't fine, and asks if they've even read River's letters home. Pa Tam is there as well; he takes a letter from Simon and vaguely looks it over. Simon insists that the phrasing in the letters sounds nothing like River. She even misspelled a few words. The Tams look skeptical. Simon explains that River started correcting his spelling when she was three. He's sure that River is trying to send them a message of some sort. He thinks there's a code. The Tams react in disbelief. Pa Tam (whose name is Gabriel, according to the captioning) suggests that perhaps Simon misses his sister just a bit too much. Simon asks if the two of them had a good time at the D'arbanville's Ball this year. The parents don't understand what he's talking about. Apparently, in River's letter she said it was duller than last year's, except none of them has ever heard of this ball, so the comment makes no sense. Ma Tam passes it off as one of the "silly games" that the kids play all the time. Simon insists that River is trying to get a message through to them. Ma Tam tells Simon that he's being paranoid. She adds that if they heard him talking that way at the hospital, it could affect his future. Why would he be talking about it at the hospital? Clunky exposition. Blah. It gets worse. Ma Tam blathers on about how Simon is a surgeon at a great hospital in Capital City. Capital City? I suppose that goes along with the vague "Alliance" and the vague "Academy." I'm surprised that Simon managed to snag a proper name at all. Anyway, Ma and Pa Tam give the whole "rocking the boat can cost your job and your social standing" speech that is used as shorthand for family conflicts in any plot that has ever involved rich people throughout the history of drama. The parents assure Simon that River will be back soon and things will be okay. Ma concludes, "Nothing can keep you two apart for long."