Lydia wakes up from her coma with some convenient amnesia, while the real Emily Thorne makes her Hamptons debut

By Darren Franich
Updated March 29, 2015 at 10:41 PM EDT
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S1 E8
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  • ABC

Emily Thorne is nothing at all like Emily Thorne. Emily — our Emily, the star of Revenge, the one that used to be Amanda Clarke, the serene philanthropist orphan who is secretly the vengeful daughter of a wrongfully accused man — is still, after eight episodes, essentially a cipher. We know she hates the Graysons, but we don’t really know what she wants to do with them. (Destroy their empire? Put them on trial? Bury them alive and screaming in the catacombs underneath Sagaponack?) We don’t know her true feelings about Daniel. We know she feels something for Jack, but it’s not clear if it’s love or just regret. Nolan is her only confidante, and with him Emily acts cold and unyielding. Is that her true self? Or is that just another character she’s playing? Emily Thorne is, in a sense, the model of the contemporary workaholic, spending every waking moment focused on her bloodthirsty goal. She may not have a real personality. A good thing: It would only get in the way.

Contrast that with the original Emily Thorne — the girl who was born with that name, though I’m henceforth going to refer to her as Amanda Clarke in the hopes of preventing confusion nosebleeds. If Emily Thorne has no personality, then Amanda Clarke has entirely too much personality. When Emily put her under house arrest at Casa Nolan, she was so taken by Nolan’s backyard pool that she seemed fully prepared to swim naked in broad daylight. “Shy little thing, aren’t you?” deadpanned Nolan, who offered her one of his house bikinis. She grabbed one, tore off the price tag, and tossed it casually onto her jacket…which was still covered in Frank the Security Guy’s blood. That’s the kind of detail that the fastidious Emily would never let slip. And where Emily uses her feminine wiles almost abstractly — she doesn’t flirt, she subtly lays the foundation for men to flirt with her — Amanda has no qualms about walking up to a dude she just met while dripping wet in a red bikini, handing him a bottle of sunblock, and saying, “Whoever you are, wanna make yourself useful?”

At the beginning of last night’s episode of Revenge, it seemed like the two girls were old friends. Amanda apologized for killing Frank, but tried to make it clear that she was only doing it to protect Emily. In a flashback, we saw the two of them back in the bad old days at Allenwood, fighting in a cafeteria until both their pretty faces were beaten and bloodied. Warden Stiles strolled in to stop the fight, and threw some gravitas in their faces: “This. Stops. Now.”

I thought we were being set up for a nice little flashback subplot about the two girls learning about everything they secretly had in common. Certainly, in the present day, Amanda seemed positively devoted to Emily. She still remembered all the old stories; she was like an Amanda Clarke megafan, capable of recalling even the most distant factoids. She remembered all the tales of Little Jack Porter: “All the stories you told me about him in juvie, I feel like I already know him,” she said. And Emily seemed equally devoted to Amanda. She offered to set her up with a shiny new bank account, refilled every month with shiny new deposits. She was going to give Amanda a new new identity, which would prove that there can be three acts in American life. (So nuts to you, Fitzgerald!) But Amanda was hesitant. “I like being Amanda Clarke,” she explained. “It’s our connection.”

I’ll get back to that in a second. But let’s focus first on the ensuing flashback. We saw young Emily, when she was Amanda (argh, nosebleed!), talking to the Warden. The Warden told her, “You’re smarter than most of these girls. Especially Emily Thorne.” She leaned in to pass some essential knowledge. “Violence is a shortsighted solution when it really comes to handling your enemies. All Emily’s really looking for is a friend.” And here it is, the Inception moment: “You get her trust, and you have her work for you, instead of against you.”

Cut back to the modern day, and Amanda is saying, “You’re the closest thing I ever had to a sister.” And Emily hugs her close and tells her the same thing. But we know the truth. Amanda isn’t Emily’s oldest friend. She was just her first mark.

NEXT: The duality of man. You know, the Jungian thing.

The arrival of Amanda Clarke in the Hamptons is important for a lot of reasons, not in the least because it adds a further complicating variable to our understanding of the flashforward murder that kicked off the series premiere. Still, the most interesting thing about Amanda is that her presence has foregrounded a fascinating sense of symmetry among the main cast of characters. Amanda Clarke is literally a body double for Emily Thorne. They traded names, and occupy exact opposite levels of the American stratosphere: Beach house and strip joint.

Amanda might have more selfless intentions, but as far as identity thieves go, she’s kin to Poolhouse Tyler, who has spent the summer trying to become Daniel. He walks around in Daniel’s suits; he happily accepted Daniel’s spurned internship; he’s sleeping with Ashley, and given what we now know about Ashley’s lust for social climbing and Daniel’s capacity for poor decisions, it’s possibly to imagine an Emily-free alternate reality where Daniel understandably fell for the hot Brit who spent the summer walking around his house in designer heels. (In that alternate reality, by the way, all of Ashley’s parties turned out perfectly.)

On last night’s episode, Tyler told Daniel that he was helping Papa Grayson transition his home office into the city. Tyler couldn’t have been happier. He could see his whole life stretching in front of him — a few years of playing Smithers to Conrad Grayson, tracking down the ledger for the offshore accounts, working every weekend, handing envelopes filled with money to pregnant ex-girlfriends. But Tyler overplayed his hand, and Daniel — feeling like a bad son — walked into Papa’s home office and said he wanted to become the Good Son again. “Maybe I can give the family business a shot,” said Daniel. He said it so casually, as if taking the reins of a Fortune 500 Company would be a nice break from tending bar.

That casualness drove Tyler mad. Like Emily Thorne, Tyler has to work every minute of every day just to pretend to be someone who belongs in the Hamptons. He fled to the Poolhouse to share an angry tumbler of gin with Ashley, who was having her own problems with Mama Grayson. Queen Victoria had commissioned Ashley to box up all of Lydia’s things: “My party-planning gig has become an internship at U-Haul,” she said. She told Tyler that she was booking a flight home, where she’d presumably find a quiet British job serving tea at cricket matches. “People like us are disposable to people like them,” said Tyler. “The rules of the game aren’t written in our favor.”

Tyler convinced Ashley to stay. A few weeks ago, back when Ashley was boring, I would have been annoyed. But I think we can all agree that this new Ashley is much more interesting. In the middle of last night’s episode, Ashley told Emily something that sounded like a throwaway line, but actually speaks volumes about the character: “A life like yours is what I always wanted.” Emily has worked for her entire adult life to craft the persona of “Emily Thorne,” and now Ashley wants to be Emily, too. It’s enough to give you vertigo. (Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, of course, is one of the most famous films ever made about body doubles. It was later referenced extensively in Brian De Palma’s film, Body Double. Argh, nosebleed!)

NEXT PAGE: Why the Declan/Charlie romance is secretly important, bad accents and all.

Based on the comment boards and ambient office chatter, it’s clear that there’s one plotline on Revenge that pretty much everyone dislikes: The burgeoning romance between Declan and Charlie. This is partially just because Connor Paolo is continuing his brave exploration of the outer frontier of linguistic pronunciation. (Last night, when Declan tried to explain that his dear departed father was a more conservative Christian than the Bishop of Rome, the line that came out sounded like “Ou-ah dad was mo-ah Catt-o-lick den da Poop.”) The bigger issue, though, is that the Declan/Charlie romance is the only plotline on the show that is completely unadorned with lies or treachery. Neither of them is pretending to be anything. Declan is a boring poor kid; Charlie is a boring rich kid; they are adorably boring together.

But I don’t think Declan and Charlie are supposed to be interesting. They’re supposed to be a kind of control group: They’re an angelic vision of goodness and truth, and their happiness is a torment for everyone around them. After all, Declan isn’t the first Porter to fall in love with a girl beyond his station. Jack has done that twice. (With the same girl, though he doesn’t realize that.)

Remember, Jack named a freaking boat after his first love, the little girl who lived in the beach house next door to Declan’s rich crush. So there was something woundingly symbolic about the moment when Declan asked if he could borrow the U.S.S. Amanda for a night of consummation. Declan is living the life Jack always secretly imagined for himself. Meanwhile, Daniel — the cooler, richer, more clean-shaven version of Jack — is sleeping with his beloved. (By the way, do you think it’s intentional or just gleefully accidental that stringing along Emily’s two romantic interests gives you “Jack Daniel”?)

Back at Casa Thorne, Emily was finalizing her plans to send Amanda off to Paris. She gave her a new identity, and for some tormenting reason, she chose her mother’s name: Kara Wilkins. “I thought it was appropriate,” said Emily. (Did she actually think that? Certainly that name would raise eyebrows in some corner of our Homeland Security complex, right? Or did she just know intuitively that Amanda needed to feel some vague connection to Emily?) But Amanda didn’t go to Paris. She took Jack up on his earlier offer and swung by the Stowaway. “Last call was an hour ago,” Jack said. “S’okay, I know the bartender,” she retorted.

He poured her the drink she taught him how to make: The Black Dahlia. (Aside: I’m sure you’re all aware of the story of the Black Dahlia murder. Here’s the Wikipedia page if you’re not, although reading James Ellroy’s novel would be better for your soul. The Dahlia murder was mysterious and unsolved. That clearly has reverberations in Revenge, which began with a mysterious yet-unsolved murder. Here’s a potentially interesting fact: Dahlia murder victim Elizabeth Short spent most of her young life believing that her father had committed suicide, but she later discovered he was actually alive. Possible fodder for the “David Clarke is still alive” conspiracy theorists? Hey, in television, no one is dead until you see their mouth bleed. End of aside.)

Jack said that he assumed Amanda was halfway across the Atlantic. “I am,” said Amanda, “in a parallel universe.” That’s such an awesome line, I’m choosing to overlook the fact that an undereducated stripper just said the phrase “parallel universe.” We left the two of them flirting over their murder-drinks. Jack still doesn’t know her name, which leads one to ponder: What if Amanda reveals to Jack that she is “actually” Amanda? His old childhood love interest, magically returned as a drink-mixing bikini-modeling cool chick? That would turn the central love triangle into a love quadrangle. Although since Amanda really loves Emily, and Emily really loves Jack, and Jack only loves Amanda because he thinks she’s Emily who is actually Amanda, I think it would technically be a double-reverse inverted love annulus. (Argh, nosebleed!)

NEXT: Misery’s child{C}As I predicted after the last episode, Lydia woke up from her coma with extremely convenient amnesia. But the doctors assured Mama and Papa Grayson that “given proper care, expect a full mental recovery.” The Graysons stared at the doctor blankly, doing some mental calculations and clearly deciding that “proper care” was probably not in their best interest. “It’s a good thing I was here when she woke up,” said Conrad. “Oh, it’s a miracle,” deadpanned Victoria. (Although she was mostly sidelines this episode, this was another great showcase for Madeleine Stowe: I loved when she returned home to find both Ashley and Charlie doing walks of shame, and she said, “Well, seems you’re not the only one flaunting last night’s dress.”)

Lydia couldn’t quite place Emily…at first. But then she remembered something. A picture of Lydia and Victoria in happier days, with a sneering brunette Emily Thorne on the sidelines. But Emily got Nolan to doctor up the photo, leaving Lydia feeling like a woman who’s beginning to go insane. Can you blame her? Lydia spent the episode in her own private remake of Misery, with Victoria in the Kathy Bates part as the adoring host who seems to just want her dead. First, Victoria showed Lydia the speech she almost gave at the Open Arms dinner that would have condemned the Graysons — as if to say, “Don’t cross me again.” Then, Victoria carried on a loud argument with Conrad at the doorway…an argument where Conrad happened to mention the whole Frank-trying-to-kill Lydia thing. Lydia heard everything. Victoria removed the phone from her room.

The end of the episode featured a flurry of activity. Jack and Nolan decided to be friends again. Daniel departed Casa Grayson for good, moving in with Emily. (He left because his mother was so suspicious of Emily. Should have listened to your mother, dude.) Victoria put the Open Arms speech through the paper shredder…and Poolhouse Tyler reassembled the speech, learning all the Graysons’ dirty little secrets in the process. Emily turned Frank’s phone on and left it at the Grayson house — something guaranteed to cast suspicion on the family. Daniel was awake when she came back into the house, and he seemed to suspect something. In some ways, this was just a scene-setting episode, a way to move all the chess pieces into alignment, but one of the hallmarks of a good television show is the ability to make a chess-piece episode just as interesting as an action-episode. (The past season of Breaking Bad was basically 10 chess-piece episodes followed by a three-act climax.)

Two Final Notes:

“You like Gears of War 3?”—Nolan, welcoming Amanda to his nerd castle. Roll with me on this, but I have a theory that Revenge is actually an estrogen-pumped stealth remake of the Gears of War franchise. Both of them feature a protagonist who spent years in prison because of the sins of their fathers; both of them are variously seeking to avenge those fathers; both of them discover, along the way, that their dads were either literally or figuratively in bed with the enemy. What I’m trying to say is, when the season finale of Revenge rolls around, prepare for Emily to reach into the hidden corner of her arsenal to grab the most powerful weapon of all: The Chainsaw-Gun of Slaughterous Reparation.

–Here is Amanda’s recipe for a Black Dahlia: 3 oz. vodka; 1 oz crème de cassis; a little blackberry liqueur; add ice; shake; and finish with an orange twist. I tell you this because, if you’re of legal drinking age, the Black Dahlia is clearly the drink you have to mix for yourself before watching next week’s Revenge. To happiness!

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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Revenge

Welcome to the Hamptons, a glittering world of incredible wealth and privilege, where smiles hide secrets—and nothing is colder than revenge.
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