Last week, Ace Bernstein made what could have been perceived as a Freudian slip, telling his number two, Gus, that he was going to give his young financial whiz, Nathan Israel, his “marching papers.” Did he really mean marching papers, or did he mean marching orders, as he specified in a later scene? The ambitious Nathan had been plucked from obscurity to serve as Ace’s go-between with some unsavory characters for a multi-million dollar effort to buy the Santa Anita racetrack. Putting this young amateur in the path of the immoral Mike Smythe and his minions seemed almost cruel, so which was it: marching papers or marching orders? The difference potentially could be huge, and go a long way toward revealing whether Ace is some Andy Dufresne, an innocent con with a brilliant scheme for revenge, or if he’s some sadistic Keyser Söze.
Early on last night, Gus volunteered that he thought that Nathan was holding his own. (Where he would get that impression, your guess is as good as mine.) Ace seemed to agree, saying only, “He’s standing up all right,” horse lingo for a foal’s first baby steps. But is Ace even confiding in Gus any more? Last week, he seemed uncharacteristically suspicious of his driver, what with the Wait to Go Greek cake and their uncomfortable late-night chat. Ace might have crossed Gus off his list. Perhaps that’s why he insisted Escalante install a webcam in Pint of Plain’s stall, so he could check in on his horse at all times without having to go through Gus. Or am I being paranoid?
There were also aftershocks in the show’s other adorable bromance. The four Degenerates running Foray Stables are struggling with the all-for-one ethos. Well, at least Lonnie is. He’s always been the odd man out, winning his share of the Pick 6 jackpot only because he had some money to put up in a pinch when Jerry had gone bust. He’s not a handicapper like Marcus or Jerry, or even Renzo. But he’s getting tired of being treated like the village idiot, and announced plans to put a claim in for his own horse. “I’m entitled to a life like everybody else, instead of just listening to conversations I’m not a part of,” he told the gang at the diner. Turned out, he’d done a little homework on this filly, Niagara’s Fall, and he suspected her trainer was gaming the system just like Escalante had with Mon Gateau. The other three didn’t object once they crunched the numbers — maybe Lonnie isn’t so dumb after all. “I also like her because she’s gray,” Lonnie then added, confirming their original assessment.
Jerry is going his own way too — back to the gambling tables. This time is different, he assured an agitated Marcus: it’s a non-cash game to win a ticket to the World Series of Poker. His nemesis, Leo, was there, but so was Naomi, the casino dealer who batted her eyelashes at him when he was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Hey, handsome,” she said when they crossed paths on the floor. They sat at the same card table, and Naomi came out strong — too strong. Her aggressive bid spooked the other players, costing her a chance at a bigger pot. Jerry read her every tell, and he put the finishing touches on her day with a three-of-a-kind. She wasn’t happy about losing, but she didn’t hold it against him. She sidled up to him on his way to a dinner-break nap in his car, and asked if would “like some company for that?” He would, actually. They skipped the nap, though.
Dr. Jo quickly retracted her warning to Escalante to stay away from her; she’s pregnant with his kid and last week’s bitter exchange was apparently ancient history. Unfortunately, she approached him again to break the baby news while an electrician was loudly attempting to install Ace’s webcam, upsetting all the horses in the barn and most especially its manager. The couple’s subsequent heart-to-heart was interrupted by some lowlife whose nephew was pissing in public. Jo, who we already know has a heart of gold — not only does she think Escalanate is redeemable but she gave money to that bereaved mother last week — acquiesced to the creep’s demand that she pay him $10 dollars in order to speak to his nephew, a frightened wisp named Eduardo. Escalante bolted in disgust, “You be a babysitter and I’ll go watch my barn be put on the Facebook.”
Meanwhile, Rosie took advantage of her pillow talk with Leon to float the idea of asking his agent, Joey, to approach Walter about whether she’s still Gettin’up Morning’s jockey. (Called it!) Leon didn’t exactly warm to the idea, but if he had expressed any misgivings, well, his night could have been ruined. The next morning, Joey was sympathetic to Rosie’s plight, especially after Walter had so publicly admonished her, but… What’s in it for me? he asked. He’s had an opening ever since Ronnie bolted, and this is a logical solution for both of them. Deal. Joey quickly checked in with Walter to take his temperature about the mount. “Is there any particular goddamn time you need me to decide,” Walter grumbled through gritted teeth. I don’t think Joey cost Rosie her job, but he and Walter don’t seem like people who would ever be pals. Ronnie ultimately won his job back, but for how long? His recovery is dead on arrival, and let’s be honest, his redemption (or self-destruction) story doesn’t seem like one of Luck’s essential threads. This can’t bode well for Gettin’up Morning.
Ace and his new windbreaker went on safari with Claire to the prison rehabilitative horse farm, but I can’t pretend to care too much about this relationship. I had privately hoped that Joan Allen’s character would turn out as unscrupulous as the others but hearing her talk about ponies again made me think her ultimate purpose is as a sacrificial lamb. You see, Nathan let slip to Smythe & Co. that Ace had a new girl. It was his first mistake in his delicate negotiating, but sadly for him, not his last. Smythe had turned up the heat, doubting the kid’s identity and his forthrightness in their double-dealings. Nathan argued that Ace was sincere in his goodwill, but Smythe cut him off. “I’ve known Chester Bernstein, son, since before your bleeding journey from your Irish mother’s womb…” he lectured. “You being privy to his intentions is not a likely premise.”
NEXT: Niagara Falls… Slowly I Turn