We open to the Fun Fair while "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." plays, this show has the best soundtrack ever. Mayor Kline gives a speech to rally the crowd. The camera pans over to Karen Wheeler, she's with her husband Ted and their little girl. They reach the top of the Ferris Wheel to watch the Fireworks. Their daughter notices that the trees are moving, but her clueless parents aren't listening to her. Ominous synth music plays as the trees move violently. Cue opening credits.
While the fireworks are going off, the Party is still at the cabin, discussing what Eleven saw. Nancy hears a noise that the others don't at first. But then as the others start to hear it, Nancy confirms with Eleven that when he told her he'd kill everyone, it was "here in this room?" Eleven nods and Will senses the Mind Flayer. The party runs outside and sees the Mind Flayer, now completely made from human goo and close to thirty feet tall coming from just up the road.
At the mall Dustin crashes the cart everyone is riding in. He and Erica manage to get Steve and Robin into the elevator, but Steve and Robin are acting crazy because the drugs are still in their system. When they finally get out of the elevator they're immediately cornered by the Russian guards, Dustin and Erica push Steve and Robin through a side door. Steve and Robin are completely oblivious to the danger they're in.
Back at the cabin the party prepares for battle, Nancy gets a shotgun, Jonathan gets an axe and the kids board up the windows. This is one of the few scenes that I had structural problems with. The Mind Flayer was too close for them to have as much time as they did to get ready for him. They stand in a loose circle, waiting for the Mind Flayer to appear. A clawed tentacle bursts through the wall and makes for Eleven, Jonathan hits it and Nancy shoots it, neither seems to do much. Eleven grabs it with her mind and severs the claw, which crawls away on its own. Two more clawed tentacles burst through and Eleven does her best to hold them still in the air, it's clearly straining her. She severs the claws from those as well, but another tentacle bursts through the roof and grabs her by the leg, quickly pulling her upwards and into the Mind Flayers mouth. That's right, this one is the tongue. Mike grabs her and holds on for dear life as the others also take hold, trying to pull Eleven back. We get a glimpse of the creature's mouth and it's full of razor-sharp teeth made from bones. Nancy shoots the creature in the face, but it isn't doing much. Lucas however, grabs the axe and severs the tongue, saving El. The claw is still attached to her leg and Mike rips it off, El screams in pain. She manages to use her mind to rip the Mind Flayer's head in half, and before it can reform the party escapes in the Station Wagon. One of the things that's really awesome here is that no one is acting selfish, instead everyone is prioritizing everyone else's life over their own. Eleven is more worried about the gang when the creature attacks, Mike and Lucas do their best to Save El, etc.… And this is how they're surviving and avoiding the typical horror film clichés. They all care about each other.
The Scoops Troop race down the hall and hide inside a theater playing Back to the Future. Dustin tells Erica to keep a watch on Steve and Robin while he leaves to try and contact someone.
Hopper and Joyce are speeding back to Hawkins with Murray and Alexei in tow. Alexei informs them they need two keys, like a nuclear launch. The keys are in a vault and to get in the vault you need Planck's Constant (this will be important later). Hopper and Joyce start arguing again, and Murray finally loses it; in a nice callback to season 2 he calls out their personal issues and tells them to just have sex and get it over with. When Alexei asks what Murray said, he tells him. Alexei asks, "they haven't had sex?" and both he and Murray begin to crack-up. This entire scene had me in stitches.
The Party stops at small market (the same one Eleven stole egos from back in Season 1) and break in, grabbing alcohol and bandages. The wound on Eleven's leg looks bad, its punctured in a couple of places almost like a bullet wound. This is "the bite" the episode is named for. Jonathan and Nancy note that the creature looks like the thing at the hospital and figures out its made up of people. Lucas and Will search the mart and find fireworks display, they start taking stock. This gives Mike and Eleven a bit alone time in the aisle, talking as Mike keeps pressure on the wound. He tries to tell her he loves her, but can't spit it out, which calls back to Season 1. He's explaining how he feels but can't say the word "love." Before he finishes, Dustin comes over the walkie-talkies, but Dustin's battery is low, and Mike can't understand him. Dustin returns to the theater, but Steve and Robin have run off. It turns out they're just outside getting some water from the drinking fountain, while trying to figure out the plot of Back to the Future while high. Robin says, "I'm pretty sure that Mom was trying to bang her son." The whole exchange is hilarious. They stare up at the mall lights, which makes them sick and they run into the bathroom, throwing up in the toilets.
Joyce and Hopper arrive at the fun fair to grab the kids, since that's where they believe they are. Kline notices Hopper and runs to his car, pulling out his car phone (remember when those where a thing?) and calls Russian Terminator.
Back at the store, El's leg has been bandaged and she's doing her thing. Mike and Lucas get into an argument over Coke Classic versus New Coke. Mike comments, "how do you even drink that?" Lucas likes it better. Yes, it's blatant product placement, but this is how you do it. It fits with the era and the exchange itself is hilarious. And really, who hasn't gotten into arguments with their friends over which pop/soda is the best? The only thing off is that they use The Thing as a comparison, and when originally released the movie was a complete bomb. It wasn't until several years later that people came to realize it was actually a masterpiece of cinema. So, it's highly unlikely that a group of Midwestern kids would love the movie that much. And yes, I know there's a poster of it in Mike's basement, that's unlikely too. As the kids leave the market, we pan back to the blood on the floor from El's wound. It begins to movie like the flesh creature.
In the theater bathroom, Steve and Robin are coming down from their high, having vomited most of it up. But enough of it is still in their system that they can't lie. They actually start to have a deep conversation about love. Steve pours out his heart to Robin, acknowledging that he has feelings for her. As he's pouring his heart out, Robin gets this look on her face, it's a combination of guilt and sadness, because she's about to drop a major bombshell. She admits that she likes Steve a lot, but she can't return his feelings because she likes girls, and she thinks that once Steve knows he won't want to be her friend anymore. The reason she was obsessed with Steve in high school is because she had a crush on the girl who had a crush on him, and she couldn't figure out what was so special about Steve Harrington. It takes Steve a second to process this, but he's totally cool with it. He doesn't judge, he doesn't get grossed out or angry. He accepts Robin for who she is and that she can't love him in the same way. And in the 80s especially, that a straight teenage boy from Middle America accepts a gay friend is both astonishing and heartwarming. Good guy Steve, the hero America needs. It's also a fantastic bit of acting from both Joe Keery and Maya Hawke. It's a wonderfully heartwarming scene in a dark episode. Dustin and Erica burst in to the bathroom, finding Robin and Steve.
Billy enters the market that the party has just left and finds El's blood, most likely using it to track her.
Back at the fair, Alexei is explaining to Murray how to destroy the machine. Having bonded, they leave the car to have some fun at the carnival. Alexei wants to try a game, but Murray informs him the games are all rigged (I promise this is important later). Joyce and Hopper finally spot Karen Wheeler and try to ask about the kids, but Karen doesn't know where they are, and they get stuck in one of the carnival rides, the Gravitron.
At the mall a reunited Scoop Troop tries to escape from the theater, but they get spotted by the Russian guards.
Alexei wins one of the carnival games and is ecstatic to learn the games aren't rigged. He wins a giant Woody Woodpecker. He gets a taste of American freedom, only to be shot by Russian Terminator as he strides by. To quote a friend of mine, "never has a grown man winning a Woody Woodpecker doll been so heartbreaking." Even though he's a minor character, Alexei's death hurt. Murray can only watch as Alexei is shot and tries to warn Hopper. Hopper notices that they're being closed in on by Russian agents. Hopper leads the Russians away from Joyce by running into the Big Top, one of those old crazy houses from county fairs. Hopper takes out an agent and steals his gun. The Russian Terminator finds the body of his comrade and continues after Hopper. Then, in one of this season's most cathartic moments, Joyce punches Mayor Kline in the face and then kicks him in the nuts. Even funnier, from off-screen someone yells "Yeah Lady!" (which I somehow missed first go around). In the Hall of Mirrors, Hopper gets the drop on Russian Terminator, emptying several shots into him. Unfortunately, he's wearing a bulletproof vest and survives. Hopper manages to escape, jumping into the back of the car as Joyce and Murray bring it around the back of the fair. Hopper still has a walkie-talkie, and Murray translates when a voice says, "We've found the children."
Cut to the mall, the guards are searching for the Scoops Troop, who are hiding behind a counter. Before the commies can light into them, they get hit by a car. Eleven and the rest of the Party has arrived at the mall. Everyone is happy to see each other, and quickly realize they're talking about two separate things when Steve mentions the Russians and Jonathan has no idea what he's talking about. El collapses, her leg is in excruciating pain. When the party removes the bandages, they see that the wound is black, and something is moving inside of it. El screams in pain, cut to black Cue end credits.
The Duffer brothers are really out to put us through the wringer emotionally, aren't they? Killing Alexei, infecting Eleven, Robin coming out, Steve being the ultimate good guy, Mike trying to stammer out how he feels to Eleven, which is a call back to Season 1 when he asks her to the Snowball, trying to explain that he wants to be more than just friends. One more episode to go, and emotionally, it's going to be a doozy.