If there’s one way to get this season of Ray Donovan moving with some purpose, it’s a good ol’ murder and cleanup job. “Tulip” uses an intriguing framing device to create tension and intrigue, opening on Ray digging a grave for somebody and then flashing back to “earlier” in the day. It’s a shame about everything else that happens.
“Earlier” means that Ray is in bed with Paige, having decided to stay the night after last week’s ambiguous ending. Ray’s eager to leave and is also thinking through all the problems this could cause, but Paige seems more relaxed.
She makes Ray coffee, kisses him on the cheek, and gets right back to business. She tells Ray they only have until tonight to get the Napier deal done, which involves paying him $90 million for his land. If that deal gets done, Paige will finally get her NFL team.
Ray tells her that he’ll take care of it. His plan? Use his bribed contact in Fish and Game, Helen Miller, to obtain a poisonous snake filled with baggies of black tar heroin, put it in Napier’s bag before he boards an airplane, have Napier arrested for trafficking, and then let Ray get him out of it in exchange for lowering the price of the land.
No seriously, that’s his plan. Ray Donovan is so ridiculous and contrived this season that this reptilian-based plan isn’t even close to the most ludicrous thing to happen in “Tulips.”
Needless to say, the plan doesn’t go so well. Ray enlists the help of Lena and they manage to get to the airport, but when Helen has a sudden change of heart and reaches for the bag, Lena punches her. The bag falls to the ground and, of course, the snake gets out and bites Helen. She needs to go to the hospital, which means no drug trafficking charge for Napier. On to Plan B, I guess.
Meanwhile, Finney is breaking ties with Varick, his ex-lover and husband of his daughter, in case you needed a reminder. Varick is obviously hurt, so he breaks into the Finney house and confronts Finney. In front of a giant painting of Paige with a dog, the two argue about their love, Finney denying he ever felt anything.
When Varick’s pleas get more urgent (“We can get married! They do that these days!”), Finney picks up a fire poker and hits Varick in the head, killing him. Remember when I said Ray’s zoologically-inspired plan wasn’t the most ridiculous thing in this episode? That’s because Finney murdering his gay ex-lover in front of a huge painting of his daughter, who also happens to be his gay ex-lover’s ex-wife, is the most ridiculous thing in this episode.
Murder is on Ray’s mind too as Father Romero comes to the Fite Club and tells Bunchy to give Ray a call. When he shows up at the Fite Club, Romero gives him a box full of evidence meant to implicate Bunchy in the murder of his abuser. Obviously Ray’s not too happy, but he’s weighing his options.
NEXT: Everything in its right place[pagebreak]
Another flash-forward to Ray digging the grave sees that he’s not alone. He has Avi with him, the two having mended their relationship to some extent. It’s still unclear who they’re digging the grave for, but the two are working together again, so Ray really must have needed his help.
While all of this craziness is going down, Mickey is getting in deeper with the Armenians. They torch Darryl’s car and it’s clear there’s only more pain to come. A police officer gives Mickey the chance to stay alive. She says she knows he has a history of cooperating with police, so she urges him to do it again. Mickey refuses though, for now.
Because just about every Donovan is completely lost, Bridget is still going after her teacher. Greg, as she affectionately calls him, tries to go back on his text from the other night, but Bridget’s persistent. She finds his address on a magazine and heads to his house after school. Gus tries to get rid of her, but she decides to stay. She kisses him and tells him that they share a connection.
He agrees, but he pushes her away. He tells her that she’s just lonely, and that being with him won’t change that. She seems to agree, but that doesn’t stop her from cuddling up with him to find some sort of comfort. I’m just going to throw this out there: Ray and Abby aren’t very good parents.
While Ray is busy thinking about what to do with Romero, he gets a call from Finney begging for help. He needs Ray to get rid of Varick’s body. Ray’s initially reluctant, but when Finney reminds him about Terry, he agrees. Or rather, Ray agrees when he realizes he can exploit this and get Finney to agree to pay Napier’s price, therefore securing the NFL team for Paige.
Ray can’t do the job alone, so he calls Lena, who in turn calls Avi. With the team back together they quickly clean up the house and get rid of the body, with Ray and Avi digging the grave out in the desert. Out there, Avi talks about killing the reporter last year, the one that meant a lot to Ray and then strained their relationship. He tells him how it was the only thing to do, to keep Ray’s family intact. He’s right, and for now the two are on the mend.
While just about every Donovan and Finney is in trouble right now—Ray still has Romero to deal with, Bridget is getting herself in bad situations, and Mickey, despite eventually agreeing to meet with the cop, is backed into a corner—there are two who aren’t totally screwed.
Abby and Terry spend the day together, and it’s one of the few genuinely believable and compelling storylines of this season, perhaps because of how simple it is. This third season has been horribly contrived, but this brief and touching storyline feels grounded in actual character motivation. Abby and Terry both need someone right now, so of course they bond.
Abby takes him to get his haircut and then shows him the room she made for him. She makes him feel at home and puts out a plate for him at dinner, even though he says he’s not staying long. That’s just the Donovan bravado talking though. Terry’s going to move in with them, and it’s what both him and Abby need. They need someone to talk to.
Ray comes home and sees Terry asleep in the room, reading a bible with an inscription from Ray and Bunchy’s abuser in it, once again leading him to mull over Romero’s words about repenting. For now though, Abby just wants Ray to come to bed, because she’s going to keep hoping that things get better.