Revenge recap: Emily vs. the psychiatrist
- TV Show
A little bit of continuity goes a long way with a soapy melodrama. I was worried that the first few episodes of Revenge seemed oddly walled off from each other: In episode 3, nobody seemed to remember the Leering High-Powered Hedge Fund Dude who threw $2 billion down the drain in episode 2. So it was immensely pleasing to see that, at the start of last night’s episode, events in the Grayson household picked up right where we left off. Kind Conrad suspected Queen Victoria had been using his personal laptop to destroy the political career of the Baby Daddy Senator. Victoria thought he was being ridiculous, but the suspicions were driving a wedge in their already-troubled marriage. When Conrad said he was heading off to San Francisco, Victoria deadpanned, “Business…or pleasure?” (Aside: I’m from San Francisco. I love San Francisco. But unless Conrad is a fan of fresh fruit and Fernet Branca, the answer is probably “business.”)
Turns out that Conrad was just using the San Francisco trip as a cover to check in on another pleasantly-unforgotten plot point: His adulterous flame Lydia Davis, who has set herself up in a nicely-adorned Manhattan apartment with Conrad’s blackmail money. (To Conrad’s credit, he did seem at least half-serious about catching the flight to California, before Lydia flashed him a look that said “I’m not your wife, and isn’t that awesome?”)
Meanwhile, next door at Casa Thorne, Emily had trained her Sniper-Scope of Convoluted Vengeance on her next unsuspecting target: Doctor Michelle Banks, a Super-Psychiatrist for emotionally troubled Hamptonites. (Fans of Louie no doubt recognized the actress portraying Dr. Banks; Amy Landecker, played a woman on a date with Louis C.K. and the mother of Louis C.K. last year.) Emily had been seeing Dr. Banks for a year, feeding the shrink stories about her difficult orphaned childhood and her resulting inability to connect to people. The fact that those stories were completely false didn’t make Dr. Banks’ words any less true: “The early exposure to impermanence makes it difficult for you to trust in your adult relationships.”
It quickly became clear why Emily was seeing Dr. Banks. In a flashback, we saw little Amanda Clarke in a juvenile institution that looked like the bleakest corner of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with a younger Dr. Banks playing Nurse Ratched. (Aside: The date on the video of young Amanda’s session said “9/18/93,” thus adding further confusion to the Revenge chronology. Rather than tie myself into a knot about the timeline, I’m going to follow my colleague Sara Vilkomerson’s “The Immortal Dog is a Reference to Homer’s Odyssey” Theory and just enjoy the mythic discontinuity.)
Dr. Banks was apparently waging minor mental warfare with young Amanda, claiming that her father was a bad man. But Dr. Banks wasn’t always a horrible person. In fact, she might have actually been a pretty good shrink: Someone who cared about helping kids in trouble, who didn’t mind the long hours and bad pay. But all that changed when she met Victoria Grayson.
We saw Victoria, in a flashback, approach the psychiatrist with a bargain. She’d pluck Dr. Banks out of her horrible monochromatic asylum. She’d give her “a private practice with a steady stream of the right kind of clients.” Why, Victoria herself would become her client — and even a common humanitarian like Dr. Banks had to know that Victoria Grayson would bring all her wealthy friends with her. And all Dr. Banks would have to do is commit one angry young girl to an institution for, oh, the entire remaining decade of her pre-adult life. What’s wrong with that?
Emily’s first three Vengeance targets were all specific evil-rich-person archetypes: The Cheating Wife, the Shady Financier, and the Corrupt Politician. Dr. Banks was a little bit different, someone who could have lived an essentially middle-class life, but did one single sinful action in order to achieve a higher station. And in this episode, that sin was coming back to haunt her. In some ways, the moral universe of Revenge feels not so far removed from Breaking Bad — albeit frothier and heavily mediated by a singer-songwriter soundtrack and ridiculously attractive people — where every bad deed eventually must be punished, one way or another. Which could cut both ways: Right now, Emily is the Avenging Angel, but she’s got some bad karma coming her way sooner or later.
NEXT: Who knew that housewives in the Hamptons had so many embarrassing secrets?Watching the first half of last night’s episode, I was a little bit worried that Revenge was digging itself into a repetitive groove. Yet again, the Emily-Daniel romance plot seemed to be moving forward slowly. (She was going to cook him dinner.) Yet again, the big Vengeance Plot looked to be climaxing with one of Victoria’s Hamptonite get-togethers, an event put together by Ashley, who seems to be the only party planner on the East Coast. (The event in question was Victoria’s annual mother-daughter charity luncheon, which I am required by law to henceforth christen “Mothergirl.”)
But the mark of an exciting TV show is the ability to shake up the status quo early and often, and on both counts, Revenge delivered. For one thing, the climactic Vengeance revelation happened relatively early in the episode. Dr. Banks took the to Mothergirl stage to introduce a fabulously well-meaning clip show about the importance of donating to special-needs children…and the clip show suddenly morphed into a parade of horrifying revelations taken straight from Dr. Banks’ therapy video camera. Quick, which was the better embarrassing revelation: “I drove my children to summer camp loaded on painkillers and vodka” or “How can I explain to my husband that I slept with his sister!” (On the Ryan Murphy Scale of Ridiculata, I’d rate the former a 6 and the latter an 8.)
Victoria’s therapy-video revelation was comparatively tame, but nevertheless damaging. She admitted that she occasionally wished she hadn’t had a second child. Said second child, the oft-bikini’d Charlotte, ran off in an angry huff into the waiting arms of Declan Porter. (Aside: I’m enjoying how Connor Paolo seems to be testing out his townie accent — we heard him mention his “mudda” a couple times last night.) Cue up a line for the Madeleine Stowe sizzle reel, delivered straight into Dr. Banks’ uncomprehending face: “I am going to destroy you. I am going to ruin you.”
Nolan strolled onscreen and put the finishing touches on the Vengeance Plot, telling Emily, “The good Doctor will never practice again.” When he said that line, the episode was only about 3/5 finished — a good sign that the Revenge creators are moving beyond the revenge-of-the-week subplots.
An even better sign, I think, is the fact that Tyler, Daniel’s Harvard buddy, has suddenly emerged as a real threat to Emily’s plans. Emily swung by Casa Grayson to ask Daniel if he had any food allergies. She found Daniel in the poolhouse, and he politely informed her that Daniel was allergic to shellfish. He also politely lied to Daniel and said that Emily had canceled dinner, and then he politely stole Daniel’s phone and politely deleted all of Emily’s phone calls.
NEXT: You’re not an alcoholic! And to prove it, I’m gonna get you wasted!I don’t know exactly what Tyler’s game is. There are some vague intimations that he’s re-enacting some form of Talented Mr. Ripley with Daniel. When Emily asked Tyler about his history, he said he was from “Nowhere,” a fact which he explained (somewhat unconvincingly) by saying “My family has estates all over the map.” That’s a bad lie. A genuine rich person wouldn’t hesitate to mention the ranch in Wyoming, the mansion in Monaco, and the penthouse in Dubai. I’m intrigued by the notion that Tyler is, like Emily, playing some kind of long-con game with the Graysons. And, not to be overlooked, Tyler is just a really funny character. Best line of the night: “Danny tells me you’re an orphan. That sucks.”
Tyler’s lie worked out better than he could have hoped. Emily made a nice dinner, complete with some expensive wine. She was all alone, until good ol’ Jack showed up with flowers. She invited him in, shared some wine, shared a few giggles…and didn’t notice Daniel lurking outside, wondering why his awesome new girlfriend was hanging out with Mr. Five-O-Clock Shadow.
Which meant Daniel was in the perfect mood to be convinced by Tyler to get inebriated and have a night on the town. The Harvard lads swung by Jack’s bar and made a spectacle of themselves. They had a few shots. They played pool with young ladies who had a gift for innuendo. (“Eight-ball, corner pocket.” “You mean…this pocket?”) The sons of Harvard finished up the evening singing “Whooahh, that Crimson!” while reminiscing about their favorite Final Club memories and having their brilliant ideas stolen by a wormy freckle-faced engineering student. But seriously, Harvard is a clown college.
Seeing her son drinking again was the least of Victoria’s worries, though. All her talk about ruining Dr. Banks came back to haunt her when Banks went missing — kidnapped by Emily, we discovered, and held captive in a shipping container. The police questioned Victoria, everyone suspected her of foul play. The Empress of the Hamptons was clearly rattled.
(It’s interesting to contrast how Emily approaches her little vengeance plots, which are mostly about ruining careers, with her plot against Victoria, which seems much more all-encompassing. It’s almost like she wants to destroy Victoria’s entire world slowly, until Mama Grayson has nothing left, and then deliver the killing blow. (Aside: Emily’s roundabout way of knocking Victoria down to size is actually very similar to how supervillain Bane slowly broke down the Batman in the iconic ’90s comic book storyline Knightfall, a comparison I’ll address more as the season develops.)
Victoria asked the family’s personal investigator/on-call badass Frank to spend the night. There seemed to be an implication of repressed attraction between the two of them. (Start debating whether they’ve hooked up before, or will hook up soon.) Meanwhile, in a flashback, we saw a moment which might very well be the origin of the Victoria/Emily animosity. Victoria broke into the Clarke household to steal Papa Clark’s laptop; when Papa Clarke suddenly appeared, she pretended that she had come to see him and promised undying love. Young Amanda saw all of this, and Victoria saw Amanda — which, one can surmise, is why she tried to have the young girl committed.
In the present day, Victoria went to sleep scared and alone. Her daughter hated her; her son was being tucked into bed by his untrustworthy friend; her husband was in the City, enjoying an adulterous bottle of wine. One mansion away, Emily was also going to sleep alone, having crossed one more face off the Hit List.
All in all, I got a big kick out of this episode, and I’m intrigued to see if the show continues to develop away from its baseline procedural-ish structure. What did you think of the episode, viewers? Any theories about what kind of game Tyler is playing? Are you worried that Ashley will develop a reputation as “That party planner whose events always end in reputation-destroying scandal”? And I’m not the only one who immediately went to hamptonsexposed.com after seeing this episode, am I? (Shoplifting: Boooring. More semi-incestuous bisexual cuckoldry, please!)
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich