Ryan deals with the aftermath of his actions, and Nate gets back in the cage
Last week, we watched as the old Ryan beat a man almost to death. And this week, we watch as New Ryan — or more accurately, Ryan’s good side — realizes exactly what he’s done and tries to cope with it.
We start at the police station, where Ryan sits in an interrogation room still covered in the blood of the guy he found invading his home. Alvey’s detective friend enters to get Ryan’s side of the story, and it’s clear from the get-go that he’s on Ryan’s side. He tells Ryan that the guy is alive but in critical condition. Then he starts his leading questions — “Were you in fear for you life? Did you believe they were going to get a weapon?” But Ryan, too shaken up by realizing what he’s capable of to process all of this, much less talk, doesn’t respond. So then we go from leading questions to just straight-up telling Ryan what he has to say.
The detective tells Ryan that he has to know that Ryan was in fear for his life if he wants to go home tonight. So Ryan gives him the statement he wants — he was scared the guys were going to get a weapon — and just like that, Ryan is free to go. But in all actuality, he’s not free at all. The thing this episode does so well is follow Ryan as he’s left to handle this all on his own. It’d probably almost be easier on the guy if he did face punishment, because at least that way he wouldn’t be in charge of coming up with a punishment of his own.
I also have to give Matt Lauria so much credit for his work in that opening scene. The very fact that I feel bad for a character I watched pummel a man last week speaks volumes for his performance. Ryan later admits that he’s scared of himself, but he almost doesn’t need to, because in that first scene, it’s written all over Lauria’s face.
We jump to a week later, and with the victim still in ICU, Ryan’s been avoiding training at the gym. Much like Ryan was worried about getting back in the cage in season 1, there’s a good chance he’s once again wondering if there’s a correlation between fighting and the darker side of himself. It’s a thought Dom tries to steer him away from when he visits him at the house.
Dom’s visit is quickly followed by Lisa stopping by. Actually, the two overlap, a fact that Lisa is NOT happy about. She sits down with Ryan to once again tell him that he was not in the wrong in this situation, but it’s clear that Ryan’s mind is made up on that fact. It’s also made up when it comes to interviews: He went through this with his dad; he’s not doing interviews about this. Period.
(Next: Nate returns to the cage)
So while Ryan avoids the gym and everything to do with fighting, Nate is gearing up for his return to the cage tonight. Typically, his day would start with oatmeal, but when Jay is so drunk/high/hungover that he spills the last of their oatmeal, Nate decides he’d rather head to the gym early… but not before he keeps it VERY real with his older brother. First up, Nate reminds his brother of the “sad” fact that he’s 30 years old and still living this way. And then, when Nate reveals that he has to get to the gym for some interviews, Jay realizes that Alvey conveniently left his oldest son out of the press day. But as Nate reminds him, Alvey’s “second son” is “on a four-day coke bender, and he’s too f—ed up to make a bowl of oatmeal.”
Nate is done cutting Jay any sort of slack at this point, and it’s one of the things I’ve loved most about this character over the years. Nate isn’t going to put up with the crap in his family, but he’s always going to love them. And this season, he’s definitely the most confident we’ve seen him.
By the time Nate gets to the gym, the interviews are all set up, which means it’s time to learn all about Alvey Kulina. Turns out, Alvey’s father and grandfather both fought. And when Alvey was a kid, his father ran a bar. If any patron didn’t want to pay his bill, he was given the option of fighting Alvey. So every Sunday, Alvey would fight grown men, and as he puts it — though he later admits it was a lie — it made him a man.
Nate talks about growing up with Alvey and learning the “family business,” but the truly heartbreaking moment comes when Nate says Alvey always encouraged his sons to be themselves, both as fighters and as men. And yet, Alvey still doesn’t know the real Nate.
Alvey finishes things out, once again talking about his father, who apparently never smiled. The day Alvey left home, all he got was a handshake. He wasn’t sure if his father loved him, and that’s why he spent so much time with Jay and Nate growing up. “They were my shadows,” Alvey says of the way they followed him around the gym. “That’s probably why we’re still so close.” And in that moment, Alvey looks at Nate, both of them acknowledging — without saying anything — Jay’s absence.
Once the cameras are off, Alvey asks if he should’ve asked Jay to come, the weight of that final statement really hitting him. But according to Nate, Jay wouldn’t have shown up.
Instead, Jay is spending his day doing something even better: hanging out with Mac! The dynamic between these actors, from their timing to their ability to jump back and forth between heavy, dramatic content and humor, is one of my favorite things to watch on this show. Generally speaking, everything that happens when you put them in a scene together is gold.
Just like the old days, Jay and Mac are hanging by the pool talking about how Mac has never murdered anybody at work — always good for a nurse — and how Shelby has no interest in a relationship with Mac. But, with that said, Jay decides his mission for the day is to get them some women with loose morals so that they can have an “intimate pool party.”
The bad news is that no one is free to party, and suddenly, Jay is forced to face the fact that his life can’t just go back to the way it was a year ago, pre-baby. And when even Mac admits that he doesn’t want to be doing this forever, Jay slaps him across the face in a moment that is hilarious, but that quickly turns somber when Jay forces Mac to take Maya’s crib for his son. Jay can’t bear to look at it anymore, and just like that, you’re reminded exactly why the overly sensitive Jay Kulina is on a four-day bender.
Jay later leaves Amy a voicemail from Nate’s fight, and it’s all he can do to contain his emotions. He’s hurt and angry and confused, and it all comes boiling to the surface. But she still hasn’t called him back.
Also at the fight is Kayla, who followed Christina there after Christina gave her some tips on how to put on a good cam show. It seems Kayla doesn’t like to be at the house without Christina, and how can Christina turn that down? She’s finally able to a be a mother to someone, so she decides to let Kayla stay, so long as she doesn’t talk to her.
But as for Christina’s biological son, Nate is on his way to walk out when another fighter calls him a “faggot,” and Jay wastes no time in punching the guy in the face. Alvey heard nothing, and thankfully, it’s Jay, so Alvey lets it go. Also, there’s no time: Nate needs to get in the cage.
Long story short, Nate wins in the second round, and he even wins a $5,000 cash bonus for the “knockout of the night,” which unfortunately forces him to take a picture with some half-naked women (one of whom is very tall).
Alvey gets a family photo in the ring with his boys before he and Jay grab a drink after the fight. Alvey asks about Amy and offers some advice about Jay’s rights when it comes to Maya, but Jay’s not looking to talk about that with Alvey. So instead, Alvey apologizes for excluding Jay from the interview. He was wrong, but when it comes to Jay, he gets nervous because there’s no predicting what Jay’s going to say.
Instead of arguing, Jay asks how it went, and Alvey admits that he made his monster of a father sound like his hero. Regardless, he knows Jay should’ve been there and once again tells him he’s sorry. It was, in Alvey’s words, a “business decision,” which, if you’ll remember, was the very same reasoning that Alvey used when he chose to be in Ryan’s corner in the fight when he broke Jay’s heart (and maybe severed their connection more than he realized). But, in this moment, Jay at least lets his father buy him a drink, which, believe it or not, is progress. Alvey even offers Jay a job at the gym, and you know what? He doesn’t instantly turn it down.
The relationship between Jay and Alvey is one of the most complicated on this show, and therefore one of the most fascinating. I love watching those two characters — and actors — balance the many, many emotions at play in every interaction. And I love this show for giving us those interactions (and so much more).