Revenge: “Guilt”

M: I’ll start out by apologizing for the delay in the review this week, it’s totally my fault.  I had an 18-hour work day last Wednesday, and have been playing catch up since.  We’ll try not to let it happen again.  Anyway, on to the show. E & C, what’d you think?

C: The soap operaness has, if possible, been dialed up!

E: And the result was totally exciting.

M: I don’t know if I’ll go as far as “totally”, but it was really good!

E: Like the series itself, this episode starts with a death and then works back toward explaining it, which I thought was a rather nice rhythmical repetition.

C: Aaand it’s evident I must have missed the first minute, so I’ll sit this part of the conversation out.

M: Honestly, I was a little disoriented by it at first.  I couldn’t tell for sure because of the lighting if it was Lydia that fell onto the roof of a car at the start.

E: I wasn’t positive it was her, either, but I thought that made it more exciting.

M: Then I got distracted by the fact that the actress blinked right before they cut away.

E: Hee, totally didn’t notice that.  I was too busy trying to figure out if it was Lydia or not.

M: And yes, I know that she probably didn’t die on impact and that blinking would be entirely plausible at that point of near-death, and that that was probably why they didn’t edit the scene differently, but my mind ran through all of that before it moved on to the rest of the episode.  Then there was no indication that the start of the episode was flashing back, so to me it felt odd when Lydia showed up.

E: What?  Sure there was.  How can you notice the blink but not the title card saying “48 hours earlier?”

M: I’m going to go with fast forwarding the commercials on DVR, and going to far.  Yeah, that’s it.

E: Now, unlike Danny’s killing, there’s no grieving for Lydia.  If we care, it’s in a much more abstract “taking human life is still wrong even on delicious soapy TV shows” kind of way.

M: Agreed.  Even though she has been royally screwed over by some evil people that we don’t like, she’s also deserved it and brought it on herself.

C: Yes, I’m not going to lie: I didn’t like her at any point, but this episode actually made me root for her to die. Congratulations, show: your anesthetization of my morals is complete!

E: Well, it’s hard to even pity her a little when she shows up as Conrad’s mistress returning to the Hamptons, determined to retake her position.

M: –and her house, which now belongs to our mostly likable and much more sympathetic heroine Emanda. There was no pang of emotion for her lost status, no hope that she was able to extract revenge the way we are hoping Emanda does.

C: Yeah that’s interesting, isn’t it? She’s doing exactly what Emanda’s doing, but she got kicked out of their world for being a bad friend and floozy, while Amanda and Dad lost their position by being framed… does that really make so much of a difference? I guess it’s all about whose side we’ve been aligned to from the start.

E: It’s almost sympathetic that Lydia wants to renew her friendship with Victoria, be close to Victoria… but she’s happy to blackmail her into emotional closeness.

M: That cracked me up.  Because, you know, forcing someone to like you always works!

C: And you know, sleeping with your BFF’s husband is such a trivial faux pas that one can just stumble into and then move on from!

E: Emily sets up the perfect place for Lydia to do the blackmailing: there’s a charity ball–

C: Like there is every freakin’ week!!

E: –and poor party planner Ashley can work her way back into the Queen’s good graces (after the DVD incident last week) by having the group honor Victims United Outreach, the guilt-assuaging foundation Victoria forced Conrad to set up to help those who lost loved ones in the plane crash they were responsible for.   (Pish, C, we’ve had luncheons, cruises and cocktail parties so far; this is the first full formal event.)

M: I didn’t get the sense that she forced him to set it up, just that they set it up for entirely different reasons.  She wanted it set up to assuage the guilt of bankrolling the terrorists that blew up the plane (which is the eye of the storm for the framing of Amanda’s father).  Conrad did it because it would provide good PR for his company, for whom the patsy worked.  To sum up…  Victoria’s conscience one, Conrad’s zero.

C: Or rather, her conscience 1, his greed 1 – double score.

E: Do you think at some point we’re going to find out why that airliner was downed, anyway, and what the whole point of it was?  Was it in fact terrorism, or was there a corporate motivation?  I vote the latter; if it was terrorism, to what end?  Is Conrad funding terrorism even now?

M: I was actually really glad to get a little more background on that, and think they could do with providing more of it.  I think that it was terrorists, but if I have to be honest, I don’t really think that we’ll ever find out what the terrorists’ motives, because they’re not really relevant to the story.  My guess is that the story will be that Conrad was laundering money for a group that he knew was bad, but didn’t know was as bad as they actually were.  I think it will be that he did it for the money he was making off them, and that’s about all we’ll get for motivation.

C: Okay fine, but that’s a big leap to force the viewer to make. We need more info about what went down sixteen years ago, and if this whole plot is suppose to wrap up by Christmas, we need it in more liberal dollops!

E: Exactly.  I want the dirt.  At any rate, this set up an opportunity for some pretty sumptuous clothes; Emanda in strapless gold, Lydia in a glittering backless column, Victoria in a steely one shoulder heavily decorated with flowers.

M: Oh yes, the clothes.  How did I forget to talk about them before now!

C: You snark, but the clothes at that ball were probably my favorite thing about the episode, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

M: You should be.  😉

E: How much did you love Victoria’s little speech to Lydia, once Lydia had chosen not to expose her former friend?  I can hardly think of anything campier or more awesome.

C: Pure ice from the Queen… it was melodramatic gold.

M: Oh, that was great.  I loved the whole lead up to it, the will-she-or-won’t-she-despite-knowing-she-won’t scene, and then the campiness of the shortest, most bland introduction at a charity event ever.  Classic.

E: And then Victoria turns to Frank for salvation.

M: It’s been clear for weeks that they’re building up toward her sleeping with Frank.  The only question I have on that is if somehow Emanda will have pictures or tape of it when it inevitably happens, or if she’ll just know and somehow get Conrad to come home and walk in on them.  I mean, are there any other options?

C: See, I’m not 100% convinced… I think this show hinges on our expectations that Victoria will do the unethical thing, expectations they’re constantly reinforcing and undercutting. Emanda’s victory depends in large part on how we feel about Victoria when the plans against her come to fruition, and I think they’re going to keep playing with us on that front.

E: Yes!  Ah, Victoria – if only Frank could force Charlotte to love you!  The woman doesn’t remotely know how to talk to her own daughter; she’s certainly not going to prove to Charlotte that she’s happy to have her by simply requesting Charlotte join in her weekly event-planning luncheons.

M: That might be one of the weakest aspects of the show, especially now that the siblings have become cute instead of annoying.  In Victoria we have on one hand, a woman who seems completely incapable of even faking any kind of relationship other than the wicked step-mother from Cinderella; on another (somewhat similar) hand, she’s the woman who is the queen bee of the fiercest social circle in the tri-state area; yet on the third hand (okay, bear with me, I guess I need her to be the multi-limbed Hindu goddess Vishnu for my example) she can convince just about anyone to do just about anything for her; and on the last hand she’s the woman that Emanda’s seemingly wonderful and caring father fell in love with.  They need to add a little bit of the caring side back to her personality to round her out, I think.

C: Yeah, and while they’ve made her torn, they haven’t made her lovable. Especially to her daughter.

E: Charlotte, instead, is finding happiness with Declan, who’s tried to be more helpful around the Stowaway.

M: Like I said, the siblings have moved into the category of completely acceptable plot devices now.

E: How much do you love the idea of Danny bartending for Jack?  Too funny, that.  Danny managed to get himself cut off (of a sort, anyway) when he told Conrad that he didn’t want to work at Grayson International, or follow in his father’s philandering footsteps.

M: I have to say, I saw the bartending thing coming a mile away.  As soon as they showed him notice the “Help Wanted” sign in the window I knew that was where it would end up.

E: Oh yes.

M: I like it, though.  They continue to make Danny a very sympathetic and likable character, and now that I think about it, he’s one of only a few on the show that you can flat out like.  Him, Jack, maybe Nolan…  I can’t quite get all the way there with Emanda because of all the nastiness, but we’re not supposed to get all the way there with her.

C: Yeah, Danny’s turning into a real sacrificial lamb. Every time he does something likable it depresses me.

E: I’m a little shocked at how easily the trouble between Emily and Danny was overcome, though.

M: I wasn’t.  It was completely fabricated and shouldn’t have been a big deal.  Them having Talented Mr Ripley take Danny off the wagon over it last week felt forced, so the easy resolution seemed appropriate to me.

E: Also, I’m a little shocked at the way they fell into bed together.

M: Oh, I’m right there with you.

C: Yeah, I guess they could have showed her scruples a bit more. (Fringe fans, this is making me think of Fauxlivia’s dilemma in season three…)

E: I guess her connection with Jack is so epic and sweeping, it’d be unreasonable for her coming together with Danny to have any of that quality.

M: Wait, you lost me there.  Her connection with Jack is epic and sweeping?  Really?

E: Isn’t it supposed to be?  He named his boat after her.  They’re destined!  Still, I wish there was a little more something leading up to this week’s love scene.  Danny and Emanda’ve had a long, unromantic evening bailing his sister out of jail. I wish there was more than a sentence of intent on his part, especially since they’ve been together for a while with almost no sexual interaction.  Not enough kissing before hand?  Am I being weird?

M: Not at all.  I could see them using the situation of him kind-heartedly bailing his sister out of jail and not telling his overbearing parents about it as a springboard, but instead just having him give one amazingly bad pick up line, and her being fine with it?  That was really weak.  Of course, we know that he would want to (he’s male and as best we can tell, not very religious), and for her it’s part of the plan (which is part of why I can’t just 100% like her), so I can excuse it, but it was pretty weak.

E: I loved the song the show set their tryst to, at least.

M: Eh, didn’t really leave an impression with me, even on further listening.

C: They use the love scene in a very orchestrated way as a counter to Nolan’s discovery that Lydia has been murdered and he has a video of it – or at least, a video that would go a long way to convicting Frank (and maybe implicating the Graysons?). Perhaps the feeling we had of not being invested in the love scene was also caused in part by the fact that Nolan’s situation – totally freaked out, in over his head, crazy to know what to do and not being able to reach Emanda – was the most sympathetic emotion of the montage.

E: When Nolan – so determined to be helpful – rushes over to snag the fax out of Lydia’s apartment, not knowing that Frank has just let Lydia fall off her balcony, and that he’s leaving his finger prints all over a crime scene?  Oh my gosh. I was terrified for him!  I was just plain terrified!  That was some effective theater.

C: Not sure the fingerprints would actually matter (I mean, it’s an apartment – what isn’t covered with ’em?), but yeah: major tension.

M: I thought that might have been the best subplot of the episode.  I really thought that he was going to get snagged by the police when he was in the apartment.  I kept waiting for him to get caught, and was a little surprised and definitely relieved that he didn’t.  I like that she is starting to let him in a little, and thought that his best bit of acting yet was his shock in reaction, and then leaving the voice mail for her, when he watched the video and put it together about Frank.

E: Very neat, to blame Lydia for so much with the box packed full her “things.”  Emily, you crafty, crafty child.  You’re rather lucky that Frank showed up and did what he did.

M: Actually, I think that she planned for that.  I’m guessing she pulled some strings to have Lydia be the one to introduce Victoria at the benefit, thus putting more of an urgency on them finding the dirt on her and forcing their hand.

M: You know what I still can’t figure out?  What Talented Mr Ripley’s angle is.  He’s sneaking around the mansion, sneaking into Danny’s parents private quarters and listening in on personal conversations, manipulating everything he possibly can, and now is working for Conrad?  I’m really beginning to wonder if you were on to something last week when you suggested that he might be the one who ends up killing Danny.

E: Well, the original Ripley’s angle was jealousy, obsession and frustrated love.  I think that could fit.

C: We shall see!

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