When we first met Christina in season 1, she was Jay and Nate’s biological mother, but she certainly wasn’t in any condition to be a mother figure. But when we catch up with her in season 3, she’s found a place where she’s not necessarily a biological mother, but she’s definitely a mother figure. And to be totally honest, she seems to be thriving.
This episode introduces Christina’s new life: She’s essentially the house mother for Terry’s girls — yes, Terry, her one-time pimp. From what I can tell, three girls live there now, and Terry is headed out later in the day to pick up a fourth. Terry then handles the girls’ business life, while Christina cares for their personal well-being, whether that means keeping them fed or talking to them when they need someone — though she also gives them pointers when it comes to work. But the biggest takeaway is that Christina’s clean. Sure, you might argue that she’s back in the life that Jay rescued her from all those seasons ago, but in many ways, she’s managed to carve a new life out of a similar situation. And there’s no one better to help a young girl in the industry than someone who’s been there. Although I have to admit that watching Christina be protective of these girls almost hurts me when I think how desperately her sons probably needed someone to protect them growing up in the world they did.
But in terms of the here and now, Christina has found a place where she seems to belong.
Elsewhere, Alvey asks his therapist to take him off Lexapro. If Alvey’s going to fight again, he needs to feel his full range of emotions; he needs to be who he was. And for those of you wondering why Alvey would want to set foot back in the cage, we learn that he lost his final fight, something that still bothers him to this day. But more than anything, this fight has given Alvey something to look forward to, a very direct goal to strive for — clarity of purpose, if you will — and in doing so, he’s actually feeling optimistic.
Across town, Lisa’s trying to get her hands on a similar feeling by trying transcendental meditation, which unsurprisingly isn’t the answer for her. But it does introduce her to Tim, played by Kiele Sanchez’s real-life husband Zach Gilford, a seemingly nice guy who asks her out on a date. And she says yes, so at least she got something out of it.
From one new guy to another, Lisa returns to the gym to meet with Dominic, one of a few interviewees for a coaching position. An ex-fighter, Dom coached in New Jersey before moving to L.A. four months ago. When it comes to the why of his move, he tells Lisa that he didn’t like how his former boss did business, but moments later, he tells Alvey it was because of a female, which begs the question: What’s this guy running from? Also, why is he packing protein powder in his hotel room? There are a lot of questions surrounding this fella, and the good news is we’ll probably get some answers considering Lisa hires him (because he’s cheap and Alvey doesn’t totally despise him).
Then there’s Jay, who’s fighting harder than anyone currently inside a cage. He’s fighting his true self, and he’s fighting to keep his job. After a second, highly “cordial” run-in with the world’s most annoying tenant, Jay is called into Dan’s office, where he’s disciplined for setting foot inside the man’s house. The tenant from hell? Yeah, he’s now threatening to file a police report. When Jay claims he was provoked, Dan asks, “What are you, a f—ing wild dog?” to which I want to scream, YES! THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HE IS! But instead, Jay calms down enough to grovel. As much as this job isn’t for him, Jay reminds Dan — and all of us — why he’s trying so hard: “I have a daughter. I can do better.” Unable to turn down those puppy eyes, Dan sends Jay home for the day and tells him he’ll get new listings tomorrow. In other words, adios tenant from hell!
(Next: Nate’s secret is out)
Thankfully for Jay, Ryan has a solution to his hard day in the office: a night out on the town bankrolled entirely by Garo. After Garo drops off a new car at Ryan’s house, he invites the champ to a boys’ night out. (Oh, and he asks him not to tell Lisa, which is the first red flag.) Unable to resist, Ryan says yes, and by nightfall, he’s knocking on Jay’s door and offering the new father a chance to let loose.
Although, Ryan seems to be the only one letting loose. While Ryan snorts cocaine off of various women’s bodies, Jay enjoys a bottle of water and an eye-opening discussion with Garo, who reveals the real reason why Dixon dropped out of his fight with Nate: There’s a rumor going around that Nate is gay.
After Jay attacks Garo and makes sure he’s not going to continue to spread said rumor, Jay calls his younger brother to figure out how this happened. Remember that time Casey told her cousin in Anaheim? Well, Dixon trains in Anaheim. And now, Nate’s secret is out, and as Jay tells his brother, it’s only a matter of time until Alvey finds out. But that doesn’t mean Nate is ready to tell his father.
As Nate sits at dinner with Alvey and listens to his father go on and on, warning him not to knock up a woman until he’s ready — kids get in the way of dreams — it’s as if you can see Nate’s internal struggle. He’s had such a great day with his dad. In fact, this episode has some of my favorite Nate-Alvey scenes. They seem to be on great terms, which is why Nate struggles with the idea that telling his father the truth could ruin things between them. Alvey notices that something’s up, but he’s not too incredibly perceptive, so when Nate claims he’s just tired, Alvey agrees to call it a night, though not before Nate lets the news of Maya’s baptism slip. It seems Jay forgot to invite his father. More on that later.
Back at the strip club, Garo makes his move on Ryan: He offers him a $25,000 signing bonus along with a contract for three fights and $300,000. And Ryan signs. So long, UFC.
As for Alvey, he ends the night how he ends all nights — with a drink in his hand. As he puts it, men drink for three reasons: ritual, pain relief, and p—y. And as he calls Jay and tells him he’d like to come to Maya’s baptism and Jay reluctantly tells him that he’ll let him know when they have a date, Alvey takes one final sip. And that sip’s for pain relief.
I’m amazed at how much Frank Grillo and Jonathan Tucker can get across with a phone call. You can feel the tension, the years of unspoken (and, unfortunately, spoken) words between this father and son who are almost too much alike. I’ve honestly never been so compelled by watching two people, in two different places, sit on a phone (except for maybe that one scene on The O.C., and that was for very different reasons).
I really liked this episode. It had a lighthearted quality to it with the Nate-Alvey interactions and with Lisa running around being a boss. But just by the sheer fact that these characters carry around so much with them day in and day out, every scene has weight. With only eight episodes left, I’m reminded how lucky we are to have this show at all.