When Belikov is released from prison, Ray has to reckon with putting a monster back on the streets
Credit: Michael Desmond/Showtime
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About once or twice a season, Ray Donovan delivers an episode so outlandish, so ridiculous and jam-packed with plot, that it’s hard not to laugh. It’s not even that these episodes are necessarily bad, but that the ambition and inflated ego doesn’t match up with the show’s usual tone and focus. “Fish and Bird” is one of those episodes.

Things start off simply enough. Mickey’s for sure turning himself into the cops and taking the fall for the Armenian murders. We get to see him taking mugshots and getting a cavity search while the country twang of Billy Bragg and Wilco’s “California Stars” plays. It looks like Mickey’s finally taking one for the family.

How it will affect the Donovan clan is the big question. Back at home, Ray and Abby once again talk about her cancer and potential treatments. Abby’s decided induced menopause is the way to go, which makes Ray bury his head in his hands in disbelief. Basically, Abby is willingly killing herself. He’s already losing a father, however complicated and harmful, to prison. The last thing he needs is to lose his wife, too.

Things get a little more complicated the next day, as the whole Donovan family seems to be in disarray. Bunchy’s moving in for a while because he has no clue how to take care of a baby, that Russian dude is still lingering outside Ray’s house, and Conor’s pretending to use Ray’s gun in his room before masturbating to videos of bikini-clad women shooting assault rifles. Just another day in the Donovan house. No wonder they all drink as much as they do.

With his family doing their thing, Ray goes to visit Ms. Kovitsky. He assumes that since Mickey’s in prison now, they’re square. She has other ideas, though. She says that until Belikov is released, he owes her. So she puts him to work, sending him to the port to pick up a painting for a charity auction. When he’s there, he gets some insight into just what Belikov and Kovitsky are doing, including the trafficking of young girls. It’s the first hint Ray’s actually considering the implications of letting Belikov out of prison.

As if that wasn’t enough, Kovitsky also needs Ray to come to the auction with her as her bodyguard. While he’s there, he runs into Stu Goldman and his trophy wife, Ashley, who apparently want Ray to get a sex tape they plan on recording out to the media. “It’ll make Ashley feel better,” insists Stu. Ray has no interest; instead, he watches Stu buy the painting he just picked up for $2.7 million.

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In the car on the way home, Ray probes Kovitsky about the charity for breast cancer, and surmises she has cancer as well. She admits he’s right, and apparently her cancer is terminal. But who has time for such things when there’s art and underage girls to be smuggled!? Kovitsky gives Ray another job: Deliver a forgery of the painting to Stu the next day.

NEXT: Everybody’s drunk

Ray goes to pick up the painting the next day, and while he’s waiting for the forgery to be finished with a solid blow-dry, he bonds with one of the young Russian girls recently smuggled into the country. It’s a sweet moment that establishes Ray’s general sense of right and wrong, which will come into play later with Belikov. Anyway, Ray gets the painting and delivers it to Stu, who’s in full-on porno-taping mode when Ray shows up with the painting. Again, Ray refuses to leak the tape to the media. I can’t even imagine what the point of this storyline is.

With the painting job done and Belikov officially getting his release — after Mickey wears down the officers who don’t believe his story about committing the murders — Ray heads back to the gallery. That’s when things get really weird. Kovitsky brings him into a large white room, empty except for a single chair. She says she wants to show him something.

She flicks on some sort of image projection that shows stars and other nighttime nature scenery. She blabs on about the universe and energy and how she’ll join the stars when she’s dead. Then she takes her top off and reveals her breast with a scar. She asks Ray if she’s beautiful, and the two make out and, presumably, much more. Again, what’s the story here? I guess it’s that Ray’s mourning his wife even though she’s not dead yet, but the scene is just so off-the-rails it elicits chuckles more than anything else.

From there, Ray heads to Maria’s baptism, and afterwards everyone heads back to the house and gets super-drunk and irresponsible. It’s a Catholic-guilt thing or something, or maybe a Boston thing. All that matters is everything goes off the rails at this point. Damon and C-Money get drunk on a stolen bottle and take Ray’s gun to go shoot the neighbor’s bouncy castle; Bunchy gets so drunk and upset about Abby’s cancer she has to step in and take the baby; and Ray tries to give his tainted rosary to Bunchy as a baptism gift. Everything is bad, and the Donovans only make it worse.

It’s a shame this episode is so scattered and ridiculous, because there’s good emotional development in a few scenes: Mickey calls the house and talks to Ray, and they both break down crying after Ray thanks him for taking the fall and keeping his family safe. Ray feels like he’s losing everything; his father, his wife, control of his business.

His mental state is what makes the episode’s climax so powerful. When Ray delivers some money to Belikov, he discovers the Russian has killed the girl he had a brief moment with earlier. Again, Ray has to deal with the knowledge that while getting Belikov out of prison helped keep his family safe, it also allowed a monster to go free.

Belikov wants Ray to help him get the body to the port so they can ship it back to Russia to be dealt with. Ray goes with him, but getting rid of the girl’s body isn’t the outcome. He can’t take the injustice anymore, so he shoots Belikov in the face and puts his body in a crate. When Kovitsky calls to see if he and Belikov have sorted out their differences and everything is back to normal, Ray replies with his usual refrain: “Sure.”

Nothing is ever normal on Ray Donovan.

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