Revenge recap: Lydia's fall from grace
How can you not love Frank the Investigator? As played by journeyman character actor Max Martini — who, according to his IMDB page, should be familiar to anyone who has watched any television in the last decade — Frank radiates terse calm, ninja badassery, and pure military discipline. He’s not too different from Emily. They’re both trespassing in a society where they don’t really belong. They both keep secrets. They’re surrounded by leisure, but they can never stop working. There’s an undercurrent of barely-restrained passion between Frank and Queen Victoria — it’s unclear if they have a past or a future — and you certainly can’t blame Victoria for her roving eye. Sure, she’s married to a multi-billionaire who can buy her a luxury automobile just because. But Frank looks like a man who could punch a bear in the face and then wear its skin as a sweater.
On last night’s episode, we got some inkling that Frank is more than just a blunt instrument for the Graysons. He admitted to Victoria that Conrad’s jet never left the hangar. Then, he showed her a transfer receipt for ten million dollars, “From Conrad’s account in the Caymans to Lydia.” Victoria really didn’t have time for this. For one thing, every event she’s hosted this summer has ended scandalously. For another thing, her son was off the wagon.
She was right in the middle of chastising a hungover Daniel when Conrad strolled back into the house, fake-yawning from his fake-trip to San Fake-cisco. “It’s gonna take an act of God to resuscitate the market!” he exclaimed. Like a father from a ’50s sitcom, he tried to solve all the house’s problems in one swoop. He told his son, “It’s clear your summer could use some structure,” which meant it was time for a punishment internship at the family business. Tyler chimed in, noting that his internship for the summer had actually fallen through. “Well, once again, Stern Investments’ loss is Grayson Global’s gain!” said Conrad.
King Grayson was feeling pretty satisfied about solving everyone’s problems, and he asked his wife how she let everything fall to pieces during his fake business trip. “I had my hands full,” said Victoria, biting down on a venomous strawberry. “Perhaps you can tell me where your hands have been.”
Speaking of Lydia! Next door, at the House of Vengeance, Emily received an unexpected visit from her house’s former owner. This was not the Lydia of yesteryear, sheepishly departing the Hamptons after her public shaming and skulking around the shadows of Manhattan doing her best Andy Serkis impression. This was a new, proud Lydia. She wanted her damn house back. And she wasn’t going to let “a nosy troublemaker with a penchant for turning my world upside-down” stop her. She swore to find out Emily’s dark secret. “We all have our South Fork Inn,” she said, referring to the local Adultery Hotel, “And I just made it my mission to find yours.” Only five episodes in, and Revenge is already tweaking its basic structure: This week, the poor sap on the business end of the Sniper Scope of Convoluted Vengeance…was Emily Thorne.
NEXT: With Arms Wide OpenLast night’s episode served as a helpful mythology info-dump, with a plot that focused on the event that caused Papa Thorne’s downfall: The crash of Flight 197. We already knew that Emily’s father had been framed for embezzling cash to the terrorist group that brought the flight down. Last night, we learned that there were an estimated 246 passenger fatalities — “Plus unaccounted-for persons on the ground” — and that the flight was brought down by a group of political radicals called “The Americon Initiative.” In the wake of the disaster, having put forward Papa Thorne as the villainous big-business scapegoat, the Graysons founded the Victims United Outreach, which aids and counsels the survivors of terrorism in over 60 countries around the world. In a flashback, we saw a guilt-stricken Victoria begging her husband to help the Flight 197 survivors. “Endowing a charity could serve to improve the company’s public image,” agreed Conrad, who always has his eyes on the ball.
Now, this was a lot of information to take in. The Graysons don’t exactly seem like the type of people who fund violent anarchists because they believe strongly in Marxist-Socialist philosophy, so there are only two possible conclusions: 1) Conrad somehow accidentally funneled cash to Americon, and they used Papa Thorne as a patsy, or 2) The entire Flight 197 crash was a pre-planned catastrophe, intended as a frame-up for Emily’s father and with maybe some even more insidious purpose. I initially figured that Flight 197 was just a MacGuffin, a handy plot motivator, but now it seems like we’ll be learning more about it in the future. (Aside: I like how, once again, Revenge is rooting the dirty deeds of its wealthy cast in decidedly old-fashioned anxieties. The notion of an anti-corporate, All-American terrorist group feels almost purposefully out of date post-9/11 — it’s a return to the Timothy McVeigh homegrown supervillain — but it’s still a potent myth for anyone who came of age during the Weather Underground‘s bombing campaign. While you’re pondering Flight 197, it might also be worthwhile to ponder: Is Revenge pro-anarchist? End of aside.)
Ashley the Curiously Over-Employed Party Planner had followed galpal Emily’s advice, and announced in Queen Victoria’s living room that the upcoming Open Arms Gala would celebrate the work of a noted humanitarian: Queen Victoria! All the assembled real housewives clapped…and Lydia suddenly materialized out of thin air, clapping for her old friend. “I thought you’d decided to summer elsewhere,” said Victoria, adding a daggerish lilt to the word “summer.” Lydia said she was sorry. “I’m not quite sure which apology I should be aiming my forgiveness at,” deadpanned Victoria. The gauntlet was thrown down.
Emily was plotting her own counter-attack against Lydia. Earlier that day, she’d sent Lydia a box full of her things…including a fake Vengeance case file and the seal figurine spy camera that Nolan had planted in her house earlier that day. Emily casually mentioned to Victoria that she had found among Lydia’s possessions a signed copy of Dr. Banks’ book — you remember Dr. Banks, she was the shady psychiatrist who was the victim of last week’s Sniper Scope of Convoluted Vengeance. You could see the wheels turning in Victoria’s head.
That night, Conrad paid a visit to Lydia’s Grayson-sponsored penthouse. Lydia laid it out plain: She wanted Conrad to facilitate a detente between herself and Victoria. “Between my mistress and my wife?” Conrad moaned. But Lydia just wanted to get her life back. (Aside: I think there’s an interesting contrast to be drawn between Lydia’s master plan and Emily’s. They both had their lives destroyed — they were even kicked out of the same big beach-house. Lydia’s mistake was that she tried to recreate her old life. Emily just wants to watch the world burn. End of aside.)
NEXT: When Emily was Amanda
She showed Grayson her best imitation of a courtroom confession. Grayson stormed out, smashing a picture of a 2003 New Years’ Party against the floor. In a coincidence so madcap that I would have been bothered if I didn’t already think of Revenge as a retelling of some dream-logic ancient Greek myth — see also Sammy the Immortal Puppy — Lydia took a long look at the photo…and noticed a much younger Emily Thorne, her hair brunette, her vengeful eyes fixated on Queen Victoria.
Thanks to Nolan’s uncannily well-placed seal-camera, he knew that Lydia was onto Emily. Emily admitted that she’d briefly worked for a catering company to scope out the Graysons, back when she was still Amanda Clarke. She asked Nolan to hack into the catering company’s database and delete her name. At first, I couldn’t figure out why Emily treated Nolan so badly — after all, he seems to have no real purpose in life besides trying to help her. But I’m starting to think that her terse treatment of the tech billionaire is very purposeful. Weirdly, she seems to be constantly putting him in the position of proving himself. That has to hit all sorts of prickly psychological issues, since he still holds grudges against all the rich Hamptonites who wouldn’t buy into his company, which if I recall correctly is called Shmacebook, or perhaps Shmoogle.
Concurrent to all this activity, by the way, we saw Daniel try to mend fences with Emily after his wagon-jumping evening. Daniel tried to get Emily to understand that he wasn’t just some jockish Harvard dude with a predilection for bad decisions. He’s a man who has feelings. Massive feelings. “My dad now sees me for what I really am. Scared.” It’s not clear if Emily decided to get back together with Daniel because of her master plot, or because she’s genuinely starting to care for the big lug. (Last night, I realized that he looks like a glammed-up clone of Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a similarity that made me laugh uproariously every time Daniel flashed his serious-Grayson face.)
It is clear, however, that Poolhouse Tyler is up to no good. Somehow, though, he managed to snake his way out of a fight with Daniel, proclaiming that he was just looking out for his fraternity brother’s best interest. “Remember when I dated Claire Sedgeline? Whose idea was it to have that pledge hit on her, to prove that she’d cheat on me?”(Aside: It’s my duty as a recapper to point out that, in the real world, there are no fraternities at Harvard Business School. Although Biz School in general tends to be a neverending frat party, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that a few Harvard Business Students would found their own unofficial fraternity, the better to facilitate a popular bi-weekly “Playboy Club” party. But seriously, Harvard is a clown college. End of Aside.)
All of these various plot strands intersected during the Open Arms Gala. Lydia was all set to deliver a speech honoring Victoria and Conrad. Victoria received a phone call from Frank the Investigator, who had broken into Lydia’s penthouse. Frank discovered the Vengeance packets that Emily planted there; he also discovered Lydia’s speech, which would have revealed the whole sordid reality about the Flight 197 controversy — in full view of the 197 victims’ families! (I loved how, immediately after Victoria hung up the phone, Emily picked up her own…and sent Nolan scurrying over to the same penthouse on her own espionage mission.)
NEXT: Rise and fall and fallVictoria gave Frank instructions: “I’ll handle her from this end. You handle her from yours.” Then she walked over to Lydia and made some sort of peace. Whatever she whispered in Lydia’s ear, it was enough: Lydia grinned as she ascended the podium, introducing them as two of her oldest friends. She seemed genuinely happy — her old life was within reach! Then Victoria walked over and set her straight, with an extended speech so awesome that it’s worth printing it in full:
Then Victoria hugged her. And, as a final cruel punchline, she exited: “Goodbye Lydia. My husband’s waiting for me.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tear open your enemy’s stomach and replace her heart with a live grenade. Boom!
Lydia was already dead inside. Then she went home to her oft-visited Penthouse and met Frank the Investigator, who finished the job. At first, I thought that Lydia’s death might have been an accident — it certainly wasn’t a professional kill — but thinking back on the episode, and the specific way that Victoria told Frank to “handle her,” I’m starting to wonder.
Meanwhile, Emily and Daniel had to swing by the police station to get Charlotte and Declan out of prison — Charlie had been speeding down the road in her mother’s regifted apology car. Daniel was walking around 100 million dollars lighter after his trust was frozen, and he inquired about a position at Jack’s bar. Jack agreed, so now both of Emily’s boyfriends will be fratting it up on the poor side of town. Daniel felt great. He was going to live like common people, and do whatever common people do, so naturally it was time to sleep with common people. Specifically, it was time to take Emily up to bed for what he no doubt thought was a triumphant love-making session. In actuality, he’s just falling into Emily’s trap.
All in all, an exciting episode. Now that there’s blood on the dance-floor, it feels like we’re moving into some next level of terror — we’re beyond the level where the absolute worst thing that can happen is a destroyed reputation. Fellow viewers, what did you think about the episode? Are you intrigued by all the background mythology about Flight 197? Do you think Frank intended to kill Lydia — and, in turn, do you think Victoria intended the same thing? (Given her big line about “my hatred burning through,” it seems unlikely, right?) By the way, the song playing at the end of the episode was Little Dragon’s “Twice.” Check out this weird, haunting shadow-puppet video made by Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyholm, if only so you can say you watched something Swedish today.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich
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