Who’d have guessed it? Turns out there’s a legitimate explanation for how Blair Underwood, a fellow who once played Jackie Robinson, can pass himself off as the Russian orphan-turned-American billionaire Lando–I mean, Simon Elder.And that’s just one of the highlights from this very full pre-Thanksgiving meal at the Darlings. Plot-wise, this episode was more stuffed than a Butterball.
Nick arranges a powwow between Simon and Tripp, with Tripp’s newly estranged son Patrick tagging along for no particular reason (he had the role usually played by Nick’s wife, Lisa, for much of this episode). There, Tripp unloads the backstory: Seems Simon’s parents were African-American servants who worked for Tripp’s parents; Simon’s dad had an affair with Tripp’s mom; Simon’s folks were also Communist sympathizers and since it was the ’50s, they found they had to flee the U.S. for the Soviet Union; Nick’s own dad, Darling lawyer Dutch, apparently tried to get them deported by leaking incriminating info to the State Department; the Elders ended up in a Siberian work camp, where they died and left young Simon an orphan. Oh, and Simon’s a vegetarian and drives–product placement alert!–a Mercedes Maybach. Phew! Got all that? Is it time for pumpkin pie yet?
So, now there’s an explanation for Simon’s apparent grudge against Tripp, whose Darling Plaza he demolishes by the end of the episode (though I can’t imagine that any New York developer could get the permits to raze a building that quickly, let alone one quite so historic-looking). But Simon could also have a grudge against Dutch; perhaps he caused the plane crash that killed Nick’s dad. To further complicate matters, Simon plants the notion that Tripp may have been responsible for the assassination of his own brother, Kenneth. (Foreshadowing alert: Two people implicated Tripp, though they were discredited as suspects in the killing. How long before Nick chases them down?)
addCredit(“Donald Sutherland: Vivian Zink”)
Since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s get back to family business. I realize that the rich are not like the rest of us, but did anyone else find it strange that only Patrick and Karen were invited to the country home on the day before Thanksgiving? (At least one absence is understandable: This episode was shot while Samaire Armstrong, who plays ditzy twin Juliet, was checked into an “outpatient facility.”) But this is a family in which three grown kids turn up for a pancake breakfast during the middle of the week. I guess there’s only so much family bonding one can take.
It’s probably just as well, since the Darlings seem to make a turkey hash of family gatherings whenever they attempt them. Spunky Ellenfinally cajoles a three-way sit-down with senator wannabe Patrick andhis paramour, Carmelita. (I loved it when Carmelita rang the doorbell and Ellen had to tell conflict-adverse Patrick, “What are you going to do, not answer the door?”) The two dismiss Patrick, haggle about joint custody of their man, but in the end Ellen pulls a Cheney and shoots her hubby with a hunting rifle. He lives. Nick, already bogged down in the Darling cranberry bogs of moral relativism, resorts to lying to the press–and to drafting family pal Charlie Mickelson as designated scapegoat for the “hunting accident.” (Actor/realtor Steve Stapenhorst even looks a little like vice-presidential target Harry Whittington, doncha think?) Mickelson ends up pocketing two fat wads of cash, one for each breast pocket of his suit. Who needs silicone falsies? It’s all about the Benjamins.
Benjamins sure come in handy for Rev. Brian. After he bungles the arbitration hearing for the custody of Brian Jr., he takes ex-lover Andrea’s suggestion and turns to the power of prayer. Along with the power of another fat wad of cash deliveredsurreptitiously to the arbitrator in the case. Looks like she’s considerably cheaper to buy off than Andrea, who turned down a cool one…two…three million dollars. (I’m not going to even bother embedding a Dr. Evil clip here.)
Ironically, profligate spender Jeremy is the one Darling who isn’t digging into his wallet. He may still wear super-pricey Clive Christian cologne (“No. 2,” he claims), but he’s stuck on winning over stunner Sofia as a regular-guy valet, not a Darling. (He even invokes the orthographically challenged ’90s band Blessid Union of Souls in explaining his challenge to Karen: “I want this girl to like me for me.”) He crassly seeks advice on playing a non-Richie Rich suitor from chauffeur Clark, who may be my favorite Darling employee since “Rebecca Colfax, Darling family publicist.” (Clark is also played by Shawn Michael Patrick, whom you might remember as that forensic accountant last fall on Brothers & Sisters.) “Where do people like you go out?” Jeremy asks, further clarifying: “Poor people.” Before long, Jeremy’s using Darling connections to get into restaurants–but on the DL. And he’s coined a new surname for himself, the hilariously improbable “Babeison.” (Closed captioning wasn’t an option for me, so I’m just guessing on the spelling of Babe-ison.) The plan works; Clark even plays along as Jeremy’s dad. The irony? Sofia’s never even heard of the Darlings. (What, she’s too busy reading Proust to pick up the tabloids? Or is she just pretending not to recognize him when she’s really another gold-digger like all the rest?)
Speaking of going to great lengths for no good reason, can we talk about Karen’s ongoing plans to seduce Nick? Though the leaning tower of righteousness may be teetering on the truth-telling front, his inevitable affair with Karen seems no closer to getting itself consummated. Sure, Tish schemed with Karen and succeeded in raising Lisa’s jealous suspicions by blabbing about Karen’s one-way smooch with Nick at her abbreviated wedding. This led to a supposedly big tiff between the couple, mostly because Lisa is: (1) an insanely jealous loser; (2) a sad sap who wakes up in bed with an odd Dorothy Hamill do but then spends the rest of the episode with straight bangs; (3) a ridiculous creature who will spend $30,000 on a painting of ants but makes her wealthy lawyer husband paint their own apartment; (4) a supposed art expert who chooses to paint her living room in a color called “flan;” and (5) did I mention the bipolar hairdos? Karen is so not right for Nick, I admit, but she’s a better match than Lisa. What does he see in her exactly? (Or can he just not see anything through his overgrown sideburns?) And just how long do you think we must wait for Nick’s defenses to collapse? I hope it takes less time than it will for me to waddle away from the dining room table today, but something tells me we’ll be waiting a while longer.