He may go on to be one of America’s most infamous cult leaders, but in the age of Aquarius, Charlie Manson is not a very effective gameplayer. He spikes Sam’s drink to “open his mind,” then leaves him to wander to Grace’s front door at the worst possible time: while she’s busy entertaining Richard Nixon. Grace sends Sam away, Shafe takes him home, and by the next day, all Sam has is a fuzzy memory of the evening and the sense that he’ll have to apologize to Grace — which should just make him even more motivated to bring her daughter home in the long run, right? What exactly has Charlie accomplished here?
To be clear, I’m glad that this didn’t play out as I’d feared. Given Charlie’s M.O., I was expecting the night to end with sex that Sam was in no state to consent to. But the fact that Charlie is so useless does back the show into an interesting corner. Why hasn’t he been caught? He’s not that smart. He’s not even that charismatic. All Charlie knows how to do is put the right people in compromising positions, forcing them to help him. This is not a revolution — it’s blackmail, pure and simple. Information, not love, is the currency here, and there’s nothing unique about the fact that Charlie knows how to use it.
Sam owes a few people favors after his acid trip, but no one cashes in faster than Joe Moran, who grabbed him as he was walking into oncoming traffic. Joe shows up at Sam’s door the next day to reveal that his real name is Jose. He’s actually Cuban, but he’s been posing as Irish (by not correcting anyone’s assumptions) since he got back from the war. Even his wife and kids don’t know the truth. Somehow, a reporter by the name of Salazar does know, and with a recent string of robberies against Mexican-American cleaning ladies, Salazar thinks it’s time for more Latino voices in the department. He’s coming forward with Joe’s story whether Joe is ready or not.
As if this situation weren’t delicate enough, the latest robbery turns to murder, prompting Salazar to send the story to print a week earlier than expected. Joe’s wife kicks him out, hopefully because she’s upset about the lying and not because she’s as racist as her father apparently is. Sam volunteers to let Joe crash with him, but revealing his alcohol stash might be a miscalculation — Joe shows up drunk at the precinct with a loaded gun. When Sam tries to grab it, Joe trains it on his own head.
The rest of the cops file out of the room, but Sam stays behind and offers to keep his friend company. For someone with such poor impulse control issues, Sam is good in this type of crisis. He keeps a calm front as he tells Joe that he knows what he’s going through: Sam’s father killed himself. Joe finds that hard to believe. Sam’s father was also Jewish. That has Joe intrigued. Sam explains that he knows what it’s like to hide his heritage for fear of being treated differently: “I’m with you on this, Joe. I’m not Ukranian. I’m not Irish. I’m not a Jew. I’m an American.” Joe hands over his gun, which Sam passes to Charmain as he and Joe walk out together.
NEXT: Those meddling kids
Emma might not have a gun, but she’s dealing with a similar identity crisis back at the Spiral Staircase. She hates her father, she can’t let go of her mother, and she isn’t happy with Charlie unless he’s always telling her how special she is. To that end, she brings ex-boyfriend Rick to the compound, figuring they can use him for his prominent car-dealer dad. Rick tries to escape on the basis that he has a history test tomorrow, which is both adorable and sad. They’re just kids! Charlie throws him into a bed full of girls with body paint on them.
Rick finds another reason to stay at the Staircase when he runs into Shafe, who’s currently working to cement his undercover relationship with Lucille, Charlie, and drug kingpin Guapo. Sam suggests that Shafe deputize Rick in order to keep him from ruining the operation, but Rick can’t even keep his cool long enough to say the oath properly. He may just become the comic relief of the Charles Manson plotline (I can’t believe that’s a thing).
As for Emma, she has Charlie’s gratitude, but she’s still attached to her life outside. To convince her to let go of her past, Charlie sends Sadie to tell Emma a story. Apparently, Sadie’s mom was neglectful and dismissive, and even as she was dying of cancer, she rejected Sadie’s attempts to comfort her. (Is this a true story, or is Sadie the Sam of this hostage negotiation?) “I am my mother,” Sadie says. “I gave birth to me. You have to prove to yourself that your mother is no better than a stranger, that you don’t care if she lives or dies.” Emma reluctantly joins her friends in looting Grace’s jewelry while she sleeps.
But that’s the problem with choosing your own identity: You’re not the only person affected. Sam is still looking to find his son through Shafe’s friend Robbie, but the cop tracking Robbie finds someone else instead: Sam’s father. He was lying about the suicide after all. He wasn’t lying about his dad being Jewish. Sam has the cops haul in his dad — conveniently leaving out the fact that they’re arresting his father — and confronts him in the interrogation room. This should be a functional family reunion.
Bits and pieces: