Beauty and the Beast – Recap: Gem, Truly Outrageous
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 2 Episode 10 – Ancestors:
After thirty episodes or so, I’ve come to a very matter-of-fact conclusion: “Ancestors” is my favorite episode of Beauty and the Beast, bar-none. There’s virtually nothing about this episode that doesn’t work, whether it’s the Case of the Week at its center, or the character dynamics that fill in the margins. Even Vincent’s gradual turn towards all-out supervillainy manages to become something that doesn’t feel like a fundamental violation of the character. Yes, he’s become twisted by his myopic agenda, his desire to figure out the true nature of his beastly origin. But there’s still the raw kernel of a human being beneath it all, the idea that this is a man that isn’t entirely beyond saving, even if he’s essentially unrecognizable to us now. It’s just such a wonderfully nuanced depiction that contrasts nicely with Catherine’s evolution as a woman who can exist without being defined by the men in her life, whether it’s Vincent, her father, or Gabe. But what works best about this is its thematic import: “Ancestors” is an episode about public and private faces, and in this sense, it takes a story that could have been a run-of-the-mill action/heist drama, and turned it into something far more incisive about who these characters are, and what they’ve become.
So let’s just get this out of the way first: there are few things this show has done that I’ve loved more than the decision to have Vincent (Jay Ryan) appear on The Talk, of all shows. There’s something so weirdly incongruous about seeing Vincent gab with Julie Chen and Sharon Osbourne, as if he’s just another rank-and-file celebrity, that I found immensely entertaining. As it turns out, Vincent is the talk of the town, as his story of being an amnesiac war hero has made him exceedingly popular in the public eye (although one would imagine being a handsome doctor has a whole hell of a lot to do with it too). Vincent struggles as best he can with the fame monster, but once he’s safely off-camera, he snaps at Tori (Amber Skye Noyes) for talking him into the talk show appearance in the first place. Yes, Vincent had grown tired of always running and hiding, but becoming a public spectacle like this isn’t exactly the solution he was looking for. In effect, Vincent has traded one form of hiding for another, as he’s gone from lurking in shadows to hiding in plain sight with a completely fabricated backstory. And to make matters worse, his best friend has just been attacked…
The loft has been ransacked and JT (Austin Basis) has been left battered after a group of thugs tore up the place in search of the shackle Tori’s father looped around the beast skeleton they discovered last week. JT and Vincent are puzzled as to why the thieves wanted the shackle, and not the exponentially more valuable skeleton, which JT has carbon dated to an origin of 10,000 years previous. Nobody is sure why, least of all Tori, but one thing is for certain: the beast skeleton is no ordinary creature. Its DNA shares markers with Vincent’s altered beast DNA, meaning that the cocktail Muirfield injected Vincent with might not have been entirely synthetic. As JT explains, the skeleton is essentially Vincent’s distant cousin, tracing his beastly lineage back to the Pleistocene era. And that’s not even the craziest part, as Vincent’s hunt for the shackle will bring him in uncomfortably close proximity to Cat (Kristin Kreuk).
For my money, one of the smartest things “Ancestors” does — and something that I don’t think the show has ever done this well before — is loop the two disparate story threads together. Vincent and Cat start off in two very different places, investigating two very different crimes, and it isn’t until roughly halfway through the episode that we start to see that these are not just two random, disconnected storylines. It really is a thing of beauty how these two investigations dovetail into one another. Basically, Cat is summoned by a newcomer to the cast, FBI Agent Landon (Elisabeth Röhm), who enlists her to infiltrate a group of thugs. Cat is to go undercover as the mysterious “Mara” and figure out what these thieves are after, a mission that has Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) flipping out, if only because Cat will be placed directly in harm’s way. Hell, the leader of the gang is on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, so Gabe’s fears are well founded. But Cat insists on going through with the undercover operation (humorously, she comes to this decision after receiving a Google alert about Vincent’s appearance on The Talk, which is just plain silly, although too silly for me to really be annoyed by it).
And so, with the two stories set up, the narrative threads slowly start to intersect, by inches. Cat meets with the gang — leader Pete, henchman Shorty, tech guy Ian, and younger brother Patrick — at a local dive bar while Vincent uses his abilities to track the thieves and discover the location of the shackle. Tori joins Vincent in his search, only to become upset when his tracking leads him to the bar where Cat is meeting with the gang. Upon spying Vincent at the bar, Cat decides to make out with Patrick as a means of making Vincent jealous and proving she’s moved on. Tori sees the jealous look on Vincent’s face, and then sees what it is he’s looking at. She then puts two-and-two together and figures that Vincent must have unknowingly been tracking Cat, surmising that he’s still not over her. Of course, this isn’t exactly the case, as the episode smartly doesn’t try to hide that Vincent was right all along: his tracking instincts brought him directly to the thief. It was simply a coincidence that Cat happened to be there too.
Naturally, Vincent takes another crack at infiltrating the gang’s apartment, and discovers Shorty there. Vincent goes berserk and interrogates the thief, demanding to know where the shackle is, and why it’s so important. Shorty reveals that the gang had been hired by a mysterious third party (presumably the same person who hired the goons from last week) to obtain not only the shackle, but an elusive gem meant to fit inside the shackle. Vincent demands to know more about this gem, and Shorty reveals that it’s in the possession of the wife of the Russian consul. But before he can get much more out of the thug, Shorty pulls a gun on Vincent and gets himself killed in retaliation. Treating the cold-blooded murder as an act of virtually no consequence, Vincent searches the apartment and discovers the shackle, leaving him with only the gem still to find…
Meanwhile, Cat and the rest of the gang infiltrate the Russian consulate under the guise of a catering team, with the plan to pickpocket the safe keys from the Russian consul, allowing them to steal the gem and escape. Cat is conflicted about her mission, as she has clear sympathy for Patrick, who is only participating in these crimes because Pete is the only family he has left. It’s a poignant parallel to Cat’s situation, as she only really has Heather and Reynolds, and one is in Miami and the other is in jail. Of course, the parallel only works if you believe Patrick is actually telling the truth about his backstory. As Agent Landon explains during a debrief at police headquarters, she’s never heard of ringleader Pete having a younger brother named Patrick, although Cat says this is because Patrick has remained off the grid. For Cat, this makes about as much sense as anything, particularly because she wants to believe that Patrick is telling the truth. In her eyes, Patrick is a bit of a Vincent surrogate: both men have lost their brothers tragically early (Patrick’s was shot by a cop), both men have a wounded disposition, and both men have an aura of mystery that makes them hard to really figure out. Sure, on the surface they seem normal, but who knows what Patrick is hiding? Maybe he has a similarly dark inner nature that will only come out eventually, as it did with Vincent?
Anyway, I’m getting a bit sidetracked. And right before the best part of the episode too. While at the gala being held at the Russian consulate, Cat runs into Vincent, who’s there to seduce the consul’s wife and obtain the gem for himself. What follows is a smug tete-a-tete between two exes. Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan have never before been called upon to play a scene with this much venom and bile beneath the surface of their characters, but that’s exactly what we get here, and it’s a minor revelation, as Ryan plays the smug jerk to a tee, while Cat plays the jilted, resilient ex-girlfriend beautifully. I kind of wish I had a clip of it, since I can’t really do justice to it with a straight recap. But suffice to say, Vincent warns Cat to stay the hell out of his way, while Cat warns Vincent that he better watch himself, lest she have to shoot him again. It’s a scene just crackling with barely-restrained intensity, and it might just be the duo’s best scene (and I never thought I’d say that the best scene between VinCat would be one in which they’re essentially moments away from clawing each other’s eyes out).
And so we reach the climax, with Vincent seducing the consul’s wife and gaining access to the safe right as Cat neutralizes Pete and the gang, and enters the consul’s bedroom — just in time to find Vincent strangling Patrick. Cat pulls a gun on Vincent, telling him she won’t let him hurt Patrick. But Vincent pretty much calls her bluff, saying that if she doesn’t let him take the gem, he won’t hesitate to have kill Patrick. And so Cat relents, Vincent takes the gem, and, in a devastating moment, Cat plaintively asks him, “What happened to you?” It feels like the culmination of the Vincent vs. Cat plot, as the battle lines have clearly been drawn. This isn’t a cute back-and-forth like earlier, but rather a clear statement of purpose: Vincent is no longer beholden to Catherine, and doesn’t even pay due diligence to the possibility that feelings might still exist.
Cat, however, still has a shred of fondness for Vincent that prevents her from pulling the trigger (although her reticence to shoot could have been due to her desire to keep Patrick from being hurt). Ultimately, Vincent crosses a threshold that will be hard to uncross. Seriously, while I was fascinated with where they took Vincent this week, I just can’t see any possible way for Vincent and Cat to realistically get back together after this. He’s just too far gone, and it’s to the point where getting back together with Vincent would actually do serious damage to the Catherine Chandler character. She’d come across less like the strong, independently-minded woman she’s been since things ended with Vincent, and would instead revert to a shell of her best self. She’d essentially come across as a glutton for punishment. And really, any character who so willfully indulges in bad decision-making is a character that becomes exponentially harder to root for with each bad decision. This is the first episode to ever seriously force me to question the viability of the VinCat pairing. Even if he gets his memories back and reverts to the Vincent of old, I just have no idea how that relationship goes back to anything even remotely resembling what it was.
But hey, even with the fate of VinCat weighing heavily on the plot, the central investigation is thrilling stuff. I completely forgot to mention a fantastic sequence earlier in the episode in which Pete is convinced that Cat is a cop, leading to a tense standoff in which he attempts to ascertain whether she’s wearing a wire or not, all while Gabe and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) freak out on the other end of the comm. Cat smartly tackles Ian, sending them both crashing into the Hudson River, short-circuiting her wire so that Pete’s device doesn’t detect it. Gabe rushes to the scene of the confrontation in the hopes of saving Cat, only to find her gone. All he finds, however, are a set of track marks, convincing him that Cat is still alive. In a rare moment of a man in Cat’s life actually deciding to trust her instead of treating her like a damsel-in-distress, Gabe tells Landon that they’re going to let Cat’s mission play out. Of course, Gabe can’t exactly pretend he isn’t going out of his mind with worry, prompting Landon to ask him how long he’s been in love with Cat. It’s a sequence that’s much better than it sounds, as Ramamurthy gets to flex his dramatic muscles a bit more than he’s gotten to since last season, and Lisandrello even gets a wonderfully understated moment: as Gabe leaves the precinct with Landon to go save Cat, she gives him a look, as if to say, “Bring her back. Please.” It’s all Gabe needs to see, and really, it’s all viewers should need to see to know just how taxed Tess is by her fear for Cat’s well-being.
However, though Cat makes it out of the undercover mission alive, she feigns ignorance about how stole the gem when questioned by Landon. She also pretends not to know what happened to Patrick, saying that he simply got away when, in reality, she helped him to escape (although she doesn’t reveal she’s a cop). Landon is leery of Cat’s claims of innocence, but has nothing to prove her suspicions. Cat doesn’t exactly like being pestered by FBI agents (given how things went down with her father), and so she demands to know what’s really going on with Landon. And so the FBI agent explains the details of the gem: it’s a relic discovered at the scene of multiple murders dating all the way back to the 1800s. Landon’s husband was an archaeologist who rediscovered the gem while on a dig, and was murdered for what he found out. And so she’s made it her mission to figure out the true nature of the gem, which is where Cat comes in.
Apparently, one of the detectives from Scotland Yard who’d investigated one of the murders in the 1800s is a direct ancestor of Catherine’s on her biological father’s side. This means she has a deeper connection with the mystery of the gem than she realizes, explaining why Landon chose Cat for the undercover mission. Okay, well, it doesn’t really explain why she chose Cat, since it’s not like the gem’s powers are only unlocked by genetics. Or are they?! I mean, it almost has to be something along those lines, no? Vincent takes the gem back to JT, who places it in the shackle (which is really a collar for controlling whatever the beast skeleton was), yet nothing happens. Looks like a vital piece of the puzzle is missing, and that piece might be Catherine. Too bad he’s just made an enemy out of her.
And that’s pretty much it. Well, except for one last terrific little moment: Cat deduces that Gabe gave her an opportunity to close the undercover case, instead of calling in the cavalry once he learned she was in danger. To her, this showed a level of trust not often afforded her by the men in her life. And so, as a means of thanks, she lays one on him. It’s a sweet little kiss, and not entirely passionate or anything, but the dopey grin on Gabe’s face says it all. This is a man who clearly doesn’t mind that his big kissing scene was just soundtracked to Five For Fighting. I kind of loved it. It was more or less the perfect capper to what was pretty much the perfect episode of Beauty and the Beast. Sure, it probably had one too many developments that fans won’t like: such as VinCat kissing other people, or Vincent continuing his slide towards villainy. But I feel the good easily outweighed the bad, in a big way. It isn’t just that the plot itself was involving, but also that the subtext proved insightful about these characters. Both Vincent and Cat had to play roles this week, separating their public and private faces (Cat having to literally play an undercover role, and figuratively having to pretend she was over Vincent by kissing some other guy; meanwhile, Vincent had to literally pretend to be an amnesiac war hero). The show doesn’t always tell these sorts of subtextual stories, but when it does, it proves surprisingly impactful. In short, if “Ancestors” is any indication of what the rest of this season of Beauty and the Beast has in store, then I can’t wait.