In the first episode of season 2B, Jay sat at a press conference and gave a sarcastic speech about how blessed he was just to be able to get in the cage with Ryan Wheeler, and how once it was all said and done, he would thank Ryan for the opportunity and return to the humble life to which he has become accustomed. But the reality Jay now has to face is that despite winning the fight and upsetting the champ, his humble life might not have changed one bit.
However, that reality hasn’t set in at the beginning of this week’s episode. While Nate picks up Christina from rehab and takes her home, Jay is enjoying a life of sex, drugs, and room service in Ava’s hotel suite. They’re enjoying it so much, in fact, that she books it for one more night. These two will do whatever they can to draw out the high, knowing that what waits for them outside those hotel walls is a life full of lows.
Currently experiencing one of those lows? Alvey, who’s meeting with Garo’s lawyer, Foxy Roxy, to find out what his next move should be with his lawsuit. The bad news is Roxanne advises him to settle. (Oh, and she charges $650 an hour.) The good news is she agrees to go out on a date with Alvey, despite the fact he’s the kind of guy who let his insurance lapse.
From Roxanne’s office, Alvey heads back to the gym, where Alicia is accosted by a couple guys from Ociatomic, some unknown athletic apparel company. They offer her $2,000 to model their clothes for a couple of pictures. She tells them she’ll think about it, but as soon as she puts on those god-awful yellow workout pants, Alvey shuts it down. Not only are the pants giving him a headache, but he tells her it’s a sketchy situation. Plus, she’s got other things to worry about, such as an upcoming fight. It seems Garo’s interested.
Bringing Christina home, Nate asks about Jason. Christina says he was arrested and will likely lose his license (and his wife). But as for her, she’s not looking to press charges. Much in the way Nate didn’t want to press charges against his attackers in season 1, Christina is ready to move forward. Proof? When Nate leaves her alone in the house, she finds her old heroin stash and flushes it down the toilet.
Meanwhile, Nate heads to the gym, where he runs into Will, Bob’s hot assistant. He’s once again trying to get Nate to accept another $10,000 in exchange for the promise that he’ll never hear from Bob again. Nate finally gives in, but the money’s not the best part. Inside the envelope, Will has left his business card with an invitation to dinner.
When Alvey enters Nate’s office moments later, Nate quickly hides the money before informing his father he’s been cleared to fight. It’s official: Nate is fully healed. And it’s perfect timing, considering Alvey just got a call about him. With that, Alvey promises his youngest son he’ll look into the fight and lock it in if it’s a good match.
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But for now, Alvey has to get to therapy, where he goes from having a “good day” to having to address his alcoholism. When his therapist asks about his drinking, Alvey gives us a glimpse into his childhood, where he lived with a “vicious” father who drank a fifth of vodka every day and couldn’t hold down a job. As for Alvey, he doesn’t consider alcohol his problem — he considers it his relief. And when he mentions his upcoming date, his therapist points out his tendency to reach for external coping mechanisms in times of pain — alcohol, women, fighting. But as Alvey puts it, “Isn’t that how f–king people live?”
At the end of the day, Alvey’s just a man doing the best he can. After all, he has people who rely on him — like Ryan, who’s spending his day ignoring Mario Goldsmith’s phone calls, at least until Keith gets back from his all-too-quick run. As Ryan’s assistant, Keith takes it upon himself to answer the phone and put Ryan in touch with Mario, despite Ryan’s wishes. But because these two are the best, Ryan decides not to fire Keith…yet.
NEXT: Jay learns about Christina’s attack
Ryan agrees to talk to Mario, who meets him at his house. From the get-go, it’s very obvious Mario knows about Ryan’s injury and wants him to talk about it, but to his credit, Ryan tries to talk about the fact Jay won the fight because he was the better man. But eventually, Ryan gives in and admits he wasn’t 100 percent. He recognizes that it’s not an excuse, but yes, of course he wants a rematch. And in this moment, you see the two sides of Ryan: Jay’s friend…and then Jay’s competition.
Speaking of Jay, Nate finally tracks him down at the hotel and interrupts his “vacation” to tell him about Christina. In an instant, Jonathan Tucker beautifully navigates the emotional change in Jay, speaking volumes without saying a word. With the reality of the outside world — and the fact his post-victory life isn’t so different — smacking him in the face, Jay rushes to his mother’s bedside.
The first thing Jay asks Christina is for the guy’s name, but she asks him to allow her to move past it. From revenge to guilt, Jay then apologizes, simply saying, “I thought it was a good place,” but Christina assures him she’s doing well. She’s not going to backslide; he can finally stop worrying about her. And yet Jay still leaves the room a literal ball of nerves and anger, his fists clenched at his side.
Nate agrees to take Jay back to the hotel solely so that he won’t track down and kill Christina’s attacker, and by the time he gets there, Ava has had the maids come by and clean the room. When Jay arrives, Ava gives him a valium because he needs rest and sits him down to eat. As she prepares to put a napkin in his lap, Jay is overcome with emotion. He’s so used to being the caretaker, the tensed-up version of himself he was just minutes ago in the hallway outside his mother’s room. But here’s a woman who is putting Jay first, who is taking care of him for a change, and in another breathtaking and wordless performance from Tucker, his face says it all as he’s overwhelmed with emotion. At this point, it almost feels like this show is writing to Tucker’s excellence, knowing full well he can do so much with so little.
After Alvey gets a heads-up from Ryan about his interview with Mario — which will definitely piss off Jay — he heads out to grab drinks with Roxanne, who used to be a prosecutor in Chicago before deciding that dealing with murderers and rapists was too depressing. But since felons can’t serve on a jury, Alvey wouldn’t know about any of that — and seeing that Alvey beat someone up when he was 19, he’s managed to stay away from courtrooms.
It’s clear both Alvey and Roxanne are having a good time when Alvey’s phone rings. It seems Alicia went to that photo shoot anyway and, not so shockingly, it’s sketchy. She’s currently surrounded by men who want her to take her top off, so Alvey leaves Roxanne with the bill — she’s got a job — and the promise of a second date before picking Alicia up.
The great thing about this scene is that fans would expect Alvey to make a big entrance, either out of anger or just to scare these guys. Instead, he very simply says “c–t” as he walks past the photographer, finds Alicia, and walks out. It reminds me of the series’ opening scene, where Alvey beat up a few gangsters, shook it off, and continued his jog. These guys are nothing to Alvey. He has better things to worry about.
After the fiasco, Alicia doesn’t want to return to the gym alone, so she asks if she can stay at Alvey’s place. He agrees, and after she takes a bath, he pours her a drink. Nowadays, Alvey sleeps on the couch, so he tells her she can take the bed. And after a moment of laughter where they both acknoweldge the awkwardness of the situation, they call it a night.
The final minutes of the episode show Jay — still reeling from the day’s emotions — fully allowing himself to be cared for by Ava, and Nate taking a step toward self-acceptance when he calls Will about dinner and leaves him a message.
For a show about a very violent, very in-your-face sport, this show handles subtlety better than anything else I watch on television. Jay’s entire emotional journey in this hour was done without words, a testament to both Tucker and the writers. Then there’s Alvey, whose comment about no longer sleeping in the bedroom speaks volumes to his emotional state. Or Nate, taking a giant leap with just one phone call.