Aquarius may be set in a time of change, but no one here is very good at changing. Sam tries, but he keeps falling back on old habits—and that’s more than can be said for Charlie, the one advocating for the biggest societal shift of all. He still hasn’t let go of the beating he got from Sam, so if Emma wants to stick around, she’s going to have to make herself useful. In Charlie’s eyes, sex is pretty much the only use young women have. This should go well.
Charlie orders Emma to keep a visiting music producer happy, but she drives him away by waxing poetic about Charlie’s vision when the producer would rather be kissing her. As punishment, Charlie gathers his growing brood and makes everyone take acid with him. The family that trips on acid together apparently does not stay together, because Emma drops the unused drugs in the dirt and leaves. She’s got enough on her mind with her own family.
Ken’s been tapped to chair Nixon’s California campaign, and all he cares about now is surviving the vetting process—which would be a lot easier if he didn’t have to answer for Emma. (It would also help if he weren’t a generally terrible person with at least one literal skeleton in his metaphorical closet.) He shows up at the compound to tell Emma that in California, a minor can be emancipated just by leaving home, as long as the parents don’t object. “Is this what Mommy wants, too?” Emma asks, betraying her feelings. Ken claims that it is, which shakes her enough to question whether she actually wants to be with Charlie. She’s out to clear her head, but I’m not convinced that she won’t be back.
Everyone’s circling back to old habits today. Grace can’t let go of Sam, even after he kept secret the fact that her daughter was living with a pimp and possible murderer. The two agree that there’s no good reason for a lawyer of Ken’s caliber to take Charlie’s case, which Sam is still investigating. While Dunphy looks into Caroline Beecher, the young woman who disappeared after agreeing to name Charlie’s clients, Sam reaches out to an old contact—and possible old habit—of his own. Nurse Martha Kendall is a former prostitute who hasn’t heard of Charlie, but she agrees to see what she can find out about both Caroline and the woman who reported her missing.
Because one on-the-side investigation just isn’t enough, Sam also agrees to do a favor for his old priest, Father Mac, who’s worried that the pastor in his parish is skimming money from the weekly donations. Sam can’t tail Father Rowe since he’s already met him, so he gives the case to Joe Wilson, the ex-cop we last saw failing as Emma’s babysitter. No hard feelings; he just lost a person. For someone so “brusque,” Sam really doesn’t like having bad blood with anyone. He even goes out of his way to mend things with Cutler, who’s still mad at him for sleeping with Opal. Cutler is the one having an affair here, but Sam is the one who sets it right.
NEXT: Not a crook
This need to make nice is one that Father Mac shares, and it backfires in an awful way. Joe discovers that Father Rowe is using the money to gamble, but Father Mac wants to talk to the pastor about it privately first. Not long after, the precinct gets a call that a priest was found strangled in the vestry at St. Finnian’s. Father Mac is dead. Sam, sure that Father Rowe is responsible, has the cops bring him out to get his reaction, but before Rowe can even feign surprise, Sam attacks him.
Looking for comfort, Sam sleeps with Martha. He asks her to tell him the story of her first day at the hospital, because that was an accomplishment for her—I like how genuinely proud Sam is of Martha—and he could use a happy story. That story is interrupted when Grace knocks on the door. She wants to know if there’s been any progress with Emma, but it doesn’t take long for her to figure out that Sam has someone over. Because these two have reached a point where they’re incapable of holding anything against each other, Grace just backs away. Sam thanks her for her patience, and she thanks him for his.What went on between Sam and Grace in the past that makes them so forgiving of each other now?
In any case, Sam may be making more progress than he knows. Martha was a nurse for a year before she stopped being a prostitute. “I didn’t change all at once,” she says. “I don’t think it sticks if you do it that way.” At least Sam isn’t trying to bury his past entirely. That’s Ken’s business. Ken drives out to the desert and uncovers a body buried in the rocks. Is it Caroline? Is it Louise, the woman who reported her missing? Martha knew Louise before she “skipped town,” which in this case probably means she was murdered. Did Ken kill her or just take care of the body? Whatever the answer is, Nixon isn’t going to like it.
Bits and pieces: