Revenge recap: Emily Thorne, meet Amanda Clarke
Frank uncovers a secret from Emily's past, the Graysons hold a miserable anniversary dinner, and everyone lies to everyone -- except for the lying liars who tell the truth
It’s a stunning testament to the general bananagrams insanity of last night’s episode of Revenge that one of my favorite characters got killed off and I don’t even mind. The ensemble cast of this show is like HYDRA: Cut off a head, and two more takes will take its place. So last night’s fast-paced hour alleviated the loss of one character — farewell, Frank the Passive-Aggressively Romantic Security Guy — by introducing two fascinating new characters: Warden Stiles, who is apparently the Mr. Miyagi of Vengeance; and the real Emily Thorne, who — as played by breakout that-girl Margarita Levieva — quickly revealed herself to be a Homicidal Psycho Proletariat Stripper. Also last night: one awesome character revealed his mysterious past and became even more awesome; the most ridiculous character somehow achieved whole new levels of ridiculousity; and the single least interesting character magically sprouted motivation and began to seem vastly more interesting.
Also, freaking Shakespeare was quoted. And it wasn’t even a famous line. It was a (relatively_ deep cut from Hamlet: “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” Emily quoted that line, and it handily sums up how the central conflict of Revenge has subtly shifted. When this show began, it was about how one woman built a new life for herself on a foundation of lies. By the end of last night’s episode, it was becoming clear that everyone on the show was like that. (By the way, am I the only one who likes to picture Emily in her long years of Vengeance-Plotting staying up really late reading Confucius and memorizing Shakespeare?)
All of the main characters are trying to build a new life for themselves by leveraging an assortment of falsehoods — white lies, half-truths, identity theft, Federal-court perjury. That’s especially true of Mama and Papa Grayson, who have converted one big lie — David Clarke’s guilt — into a lavish billion-dollar lifestyle. The Graysons began the episode engaged in their annual wedding-anniversary photo-op for that famous gossip rag The New York Times. (I loved the way the interviewer stressed that they weren’t just getting the front page. They were going to be above the fold.) “If you had to sum up your quarter century of marriage,” asked the interviewer, “What would you say is your secret?” “Love and respect,” deadpanned the philandering Papa Grayson.
All season long, Emily has been chipping away at the Grayson’s Body Armor of Falsehood. Last night, though, a pair of Grayson minions tried to strike back at her. Tyler took a subtle tactic: He stage-whispered Emily’s name and address to the Times reporter. Frank was somewhat less subtle. He strolled into Casa Thorne and announced that he knew all about her troubled past. “Two years at Allenwood Juvenile Detention. Conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.” This wasn’t Emily’s actual troubled past, of course. She’s running a long con, Sawyer-style — instead of giving herself a spotless history, she’s given herself a shady history that is just embarrassing enough that no one would think the truth is even worse.
Frank promised to find out all of Emily’s secrets. He’s a simple man, an uncivilized man. Like Ned Stark on Game of Thrones, he doesn’t realize that it’s probably best not to loudly announce to your enemy that you intend to ruin her. Frank’s an old-school guy, so he straightened his tie and walked straight up to Victoria and gave her a promise: “I’m gonna redeem myself with you, Victoria. Or I’m gonna die trying.”
NEXT: Famous last wordsLet’s get one thing straight here: Nolan Ross is an absolutely ridiculous character. Even if you happily accept the immortal-dog dream logic of Revenge, you have to admit that nothing about Nolan corresponds to anything that even roughly approximates reality. Roll with me on this for a second, fellow viewers: We’ve been told that Nolan is an internet billionaire. Since he worked with Amanda’s dad, and since Amanda’s dad was imprisoned in the early ’90s, and since he was already a magnificently wealthy man when Emily/Amanda emerged from captivity in the early ’00s, we have to conclude that he struck it rich in the first dotcom boom — pre-Facebook, pre-Google. So, on a purely logistical level, it’s insane to suggest that he would have been headquartered anywhere other than Silicon Valley.
And here’s the thing: It’s not like Nolan is one of those dotcom billionaires who sold a catchy concept, cashed out his stock options, and fled to a life of leisure before the bubble burst. We’re meant to understand that he’s an extremely public figure, a major power broker: Back in episode 2, the mere hint that he was going to invest in a cellular company turned Wall Street upside-down. So what’s he doing hanging out in the Hamptons trying to fit in with the old-rich families who are only rich because their great-great-grandfathers built the Transcontinental Railroad? If this were real life, Nolan would be above all this; he’d be a workaholic CEO who dresses in jeans and never talks to the media and spends his vacations on a tropical island snorting crushed Ketamine with his college buddies.
Nolan has a lot in common with the fictionalized version of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, a great movie built on one glaring fallacy: the idea that a brilliant young engineer would have any interest whatsoever in the uber-WASPy Ivy League Old Boys’ Club. (This fallacy was explored in-depth in an essay by a Harvard alumnus, which I would urge you to read skeptically, keeping in mind that Harvard is a clown college.) But it’s a compelling fallacy, the notion that the next wave of billionaires secretly wants to destroy and become the old wave of billionaires. In this sense, Nolan is a kind of cartoon extreme vision of The New Rich. Imagine if, in the second half of The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg grew his hair out, engaged in some hippie bisexual orgies, and then tried to hunt down the Winklevi with a machete, and you’ve got Nolan Ross.
Nolan got his first genuine subplot last night, which illustrates this point perfectly. Emily needed him to take care of the Tyler problem. “My first solo takedown?” he squealed. “I’m in.” Nolan strolled up to Tyler and mumbled something about a restraining order and Leslie Montgomery, and demanded that the Poolhouse Judas meet at Nolan’s house that night. Turns out that Tyler’s been working as a professional boytoy. I loved the relish Nolan put on the line, “Seems you made Leslie…a very nervous…man.” (To quote Killface: “It’s a man’s name!) Tyler admitted the truth: “A couple years ago, my family lost everything. The Barrels went from the Penthouse to the street overnight.” Tyler pointed out that Nolan was living a lonely life here in his glass house, and then they made out, both of them thinking they were playing each other, both of them getting played.
NEXT: Happy Anniversary! I want a divorce.Connor Paolo was yet again pioneering exciting new accents for Declan to try on: When he showed Charlotte his method for catching oysters, he said “This is how we do it on the docks!” and it sounded like “Dis izz how we due it on da docks!” Then she invited him to her parents’ anniversary dinner. “To ya perr-entz annie-verz-surry dinnah?” he said. (For Paolo’s own analysis of Declan’s accent, check out his interview with EW’s Sandra Gonzalez.)
It was a big night for the Porter brothers. Since Daniel name-checked the Stowaway in the Graysons’ Times profile, the bar had suddenly developed a fashionably horrible clientele. “One Cosmo, one sugar-free Margarita,” mumbled Jack. Emily strolled into the chaos to give Jack a peace offering: A Mariner’s Compass. She thanked him for fixing the porch swing. He offered her a shaved-ice Appletini, but she had to make her way back to Casa Grayson for the Anniversary Party.
And she wasn’t the only one. Declan strolled in wearing a gauche tan-gray jacket. “Happy Annie-verz-surry, Mizzuz G!” he said to Victoria. Mama Grayson flashed him a look that said, “I am a Goddess, and you are a Dickensian Orphan, and I am choosing not to squash you with my brain powers.” The hot topic at the dinner table was the pair of Grayson-centric Times pieces. Ashley — who was allowed to sit at the table at the invitation of Tyler — mumbled something about how the piece about the Graysons’ marriage was “very inspiring.” Emily admitted that she couldn’t even look at the piece about her and Daniel’s relationship. “Dat’s funny,” said Declan, “Needa could my brudda.”
Ashley decided to propose a toast to Emily and Daniel: “To the Hamptons’ very own William and Kate!” Clearly deep into a glass of expensive wine, Conrad mumbled, “The Duke of Cambridge wouldn’t be caught dead working in a dive bar.” Declan felt insulted. He didn’t work in a dive bar; he worked in a fashionably, Times-approved dive bar! He made an angry socialistic speech about how the rich should burn in hell, and also casually mentioned that Emily was totally vibing on his brudda, and then he stormed off. Declan Porter: Social Assassin.
The table cleared, leaving Queen Victoria and King Conrad all alone at an empty table. Victoria couldn’t take it anymore: “We’re drowning in lies, all of us.” Earlier in the episode, Conrad had told Victoria that, despite all their problems, “I’ve never really loved another woman like I’ve loved you.” (Turns out that he was married when they first met, which gives his dalliance with Lydia a cruel ironic knife-stab.) Now, in the fit of an argument, he accusingly told Victoria that she had never looked at him the way she looked at David Clarke: “Not once.”
Victoria told Conrad to get out of her house, and he happily complied — fleeing to the cold embrace of Lydia’s hospital room, where his mere presence somehow rousted her from her coma. (How much would you wager that Lydia has convenient amnesia?) The Grayson children each retreated to their respective significant others. Charlotte drove out to Poorville to tell Declan that she loved how honest he was. Daniel cruised over to Casa Thorne to tell Emily that he was falling in love with her. They kissed, but in the warmth of Daniel’s embrace, Emily caressed the arm of her porch swing, and dreamed of another man. A man with perfect stubble, a man who doesn’t vaguely resemble Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A man she could have loved…in another life.
For me, though, the most exciting development in this corner of the Hamptons had to do with a character who, up until now, has seemed peculiarly useless: Ashley, the Bad Luck party planner. Arriving back from his dalliance with Nolan, Tyler offered his apologies for missing the party. Ashley, apropos of nothing, suddenly developed an entire inner psychodrama: “I’ve wanted to be a player in the scenes, not lurking behind them. I don’t get to sit on my ass and watch my inheritance grow like every other spoiled twentysomething around here. My loyalties lie with Ashley.” Tyler was so moved by this revelation that he told her his own truth about his father’s bankrupt company. There was no real reason for a smooth operator like Tyler to do this, and there was something oddly moving about seeing these two people — who are both hustlers in their own way — suddenly find common ground. Revenge seems to be suggesting that — in a world that runs on falsehood — the only way to make a connection is to find someone whose lies perfectly complement your own.
NEXT: Requiem for a Security GuyFrank the Security Guy did his best Sam Spade impersonation at the Juvenile Center. Warden Sharon Stiles (CCH Motherfreakin’ Pounder!!!) was there to answer all his questions calmly but firmly. After their meeting, the Warden called Emily to chastise her. “What’s the first thing I taught you?” she asked. “Never underestimate your enemy,” said Emily. “And never let your guard down,” completed the Warden. (I’m looking forward to the flashback where the Warden plays Sean Connery to Emily’s Christopher Lambert. Highlander is so cool.)
Sure enough, Frank broke into the Warden’s files and found a picture of the real Emily Thorne: A young sandy-blonde woman with murderous eyes. Next, we saw him inside of a strip club. “Fast Company” by the Eagles was playing on the soundtrack. The girl onstage was dressed up as a sexy policewoman. Frank asked for a private session. “You look like a cop,” she said. “So do you,” Frank responded. He asked her a few questions, and she admitted the “truth”: She was Amanda Clarke, “Time Magazine’s daughter of the devil, in the flesh.” Frank said he knew the truth: She was the real Emily Thorne.
Real-Emily gave Frank the scoop. She was Fake-Emily’s cellmate in Juvie, and she took a boatload of cash in return for pretending to be Amanda Clarke. Unfortunately, she didn’t make extremely wise investments — presumably, she put half her money into cocaine and gave the rest to the Big Idea Boys at Lehman Brothers — but even without the cash, she was still pretending to be Amanda. Why? “When I became Amanda,” she explained, “I became somebody. You’re not the first person to come looking for Amanda Clarke.” It’s an interesting, peculiarly modern notion: It’s better to be a fallen rich person than a plain old poor person. A stripper is just a stripper, until you find out she’s the daughter of a disgraced billionaire, and then you might pay extra for a lap-dance.
Frank offered Amanda some cash. He was victorious. He called his lady love, Queen Victoria, and told her that she was right. “Emily Thorne is not who she claims to b–” he said, before he was suddenly cut off by the chance meeting of his forehead and a tire iron. Witness the Cruel Dawn of Fake Amanda Clarke, smashing Frank’s noble head in and stealing his cell phone. (In our Revenge feature running in this week’s magazine, the show’s producers seemed to confirm that Frank is genuinely Dead-dead, not fake-Lydia coma-dead. So put that grain of salt in your pipe and smoke it.)
Thanks to Frank’s information, she knew exactly where to find her old cellmate. She knocked on the door and hugged her old friend. We saw a flashback to their meet-ugly, when they attacked each other in their cell like a pair of wild cats. Now, though, they seemed to be best friends…so much so that Amanda/Emily had no qualms of killing Frank the Security Guy and leaving his corpse on the side of the road. Add a new weapon to the Revenge arsenal, alongside the Sniper Scope of Convoluted Vengeance and the Sawed-Off Shotgun of Haphazard Retaliation: The Tire Iron of Overzealous Reprisal.
And that, my friends, is how you do a freaking hour of television. Revelation, retribution, death, a web of lies tangling all our characters…exciting stuff! How do you think the arrival of Amanda will impact Emily’s plans? Will Lydia strike back against Emily…or the Graysons? Are you as intrigued as I am by the revelation that Ashley might actually have a brain in her gorgeously beautiful head? Did anyone happen to catch Daniel’s side-stomach tattoo? (I wonder if it’s a Mickey Rourke poem.) Lastly, can we all agree that the Stowaway looks like an awesome bar? People, they have shuffleboard.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich
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