We need to talk about Jonathan Tucker. From the pilot, Tucker’s performance as Jay Kulina has been nothing short of mesmerizing, but at this point, he’s downright unreal. I haven’t written specifically about it, because honestly, it’s hard to find words to describe the way he fully embraces this character. Every mannerism, every look, means something, making it impossible to look away.
This episode just happened to be a perfect balance of the happy-go-lucky Jay and the beaten down, despondent Jay. And that gives Tucker the opportunity to take this character and make him both hilarious and heartbreaking. But more than anything else, he makes him magnetic. Tucker is the very definition of a scene-stealer, and that’s saying a lot considering that he’s surrounded by phenomenal performances from his fellow cast members.
Okay, I’m done. We can recap now.
“Half of me’s a criminal, the other half … just hasn’t gotten caught.” —Alvey
That line is so significant in Alvey’s journey as a man. Back in therapy — or as he prefers to describe it, back to seeing his “guy” — he’s finally realized what we’ve known all along: He’s not going to change. He isn’t suddenly going to become the perfect partner for Lisa or the perfect father. Instead, Alvey’s convinced he’s going to die alone, because that’s just the way it goes. (And it’s safe to say he won’t be making more investments with Sean Chapas either.)
Meanwhile, Nate is making his way home from a guy’s house (!!!) to sleep away the day and throw himself a pity party because his dad ended his fight. In other words, he’s coping.
From there, we head to the gym, where Lisa is making an appointment with her doctor for some cramps, and Jay is getting Alicia prepped for her (non-sanctioned) fight day with some breakfast and an early morning massage. It’s here that we find out that her last fight was seven months ago. And it ended with her competitor putting her to sleep. Yeah, it’s not great.
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Taking me back to the pilot, Alvey makes his way through the gym giving tips to everyone he sees as he goes, his years of experience informing his confidence, his every glance. He lands at Lisa’s office, where he delivers her mail, and she quickly strikes down his idea that they should attend therapy together. Instead, she asks him to focus on getting Alicia ready while she deals with the baby and the doctors.
With that, Alvey turns his attention to Alicia, sending Ryan into a fit. How come Alicia gets an entire night dedicated to her? Why is Alvey focusing solely on her? Jay attempts to bring Ryan down a peg by calling him a needy little b—h, but Ryan’s well aware of what he is. He just thinks Alvey should know how to manage that by now.
Getting their mind off of their lack of attention, Jay and Ryan decide to give themselves a “nice little Saturday.” And because they can’t go to Cuba, the next best thing is having a pool party at Jay’s house.
NEXT: Jay confronts his mother about her addiction[pagebreak]
Heading home, Jay wakes Nate up — by licking him like a dog, because why not? — and let’s him know about the party before heading outside to do one of his favorite things: cocaine. But how could they make this party even better, you ask? Well, they could invite Keith, and he could have this reaction to seeing Jay in a bathing suit: “You look like an action figure.” The contrast between Jay and Keith only makes everything better (and each of them more lovable).
Jay without Keith, however, doesn’t always make things better. With his heart in the right place, Jay calls and invites Casey to the party in the hopes of cheering Nate up. Instead, the two talk, and we get our first glimpse into how Nate’s feeling as a fighter. Not surprisingly, he’s worried that if it gets out that he’s gay, no gym or promoter will want to work with him. Casey promises not to tell anyone — other than the one friend she already told — but speaks for everyone when she tells Nate that he should tell someone.
Back at the gym, Alicia’s freakout about the fight has led to a back spasm, so Alvey decides to take her on a walk to get a bit of fresh air. He then asks her why she fights, to which she responds that it’s about the money and even more so, the fact that she doesn’t want to have to rely on anyone else in life. As for Alvey, he fights because, “I like to hurt people, punish them. I want to break the guy in front of me, I want to f–king steal his soul, make him question every day of his life.” And that is why this man makes for such a compelling central character to build a show around. (Or one reason, at least.)
Also a fan of hurting people is Ryan, who somehow refrains from hurting the guys that Keith catches recording him at the party. After all, a video of Ryan Wheeler doing cocaine could do a lot of damage But thankfully, Keith has eyes like a hawk, and the phone is in the pool just as quickly as those guys are out of the party.
The party doesn’t last much longer after that. When Jay takes a trip to Patty Palace to try to get some free burgers from his mother, he discovers that she quit her job. He instantly knows what that means and heads home to find her stash. And when he does, he clears everyone out of the house, including Nate.
When Christina comes home, we get one of the most traumatizing — and oddly beautiful — scenes of the series. This time around, Jay isn’t going to yell at his mother. He’s not going to beg her to change. Instead, he’s going to hold up a mirror to her. Swapping places, Jay shoots heroine while Christina watches, so that he can feel what she feels and vice versa. The result is a sobbing mother, an ill son, and all around heartbreak. (But how good were those two?!)
Speaking of heartbreak, Lisa gets unsettling news: The doctor is worried about the size of the baby and wants Lisa to see a specialist to rule out chromosomal disorders. And if the specialist sees fit, she might need an amniocentesis. And because the doctor thinks sooner is better than later, Lisa has to miss Alicia’s fight.
And that brings us to fight night: Navy St. versus Black House. With sponsors in the audience, it’s Alicia’s time to shine … after she finishes crying. When Alvey finds her, she claims she just “can’t find it,” but I love Alvey for simply telling her she “better f–king find it.” If she wants to get out of her car, then she better go take this girl out. Then Alvey says the magic words: “Do your job or find another gym.”
Spoiler: Alicia does her job, beating her opponent until Joe Daddy stops the fight. By the end of the night, Slaughter Water is more than pleased with her. Ryan, however, isn’t too happy when she tells him they should take it easy for a while. But at the end of the day, she’s a fighter, so I’d say she had a pretty good day.
As for Alvey, at the end of the day, he’ll always be a fighter, which is why we end on him working out in the cage. He pauses briefly to listen to a voicemail from Lisa, in which she reveals that they’re having a boy. Alvey gives himself about 10 seconds to enjoy that news before he returns to form, throwing punches in a cage. He’s a father, he’s a criminal, but more than anything, he’ll always be a fighter.