Revenge – Recap: Blackout Days
Recap and review of Revenge – Season 3 Episode 14 – Payback:
Well thank God they didn’t make Emily (Emily VanCamp) and Conrad (Henry Czerny) a thing. Turns out she just blacked out, met him at the South Fork Inn bar, and formed some elaborate, undisclosed plan. It’s an interesting turn, to say the least, but I’ll admit that I groaned at the prospect of Emily’s blackouts becoming a long-form story arc, especially so soon after the amnesia plot. But Revenge takes things in a different direction by making her blackouts not the result of an isolated, singular trauma, but rather by suggesting that this is the onset of the same genetic condition that plagued her mother. Emily has been acting out in rash ways that recall her mother’s attempts to drown her as a child. In essence, Emily is losing control of her life in spectacularly chaotic fashion, and there’s no real guarantee that she’ll ever get that control back. I mean, yeah, she likely will, since it wouldn’t be all that satisfying from a story perspective for Emily to continue to lose entire hours of her life, in perpetuity. This is because the blackouts have the effect of distancing the audience from Emily, since we don’t know what she’s doing, or what deeper impulse is causing her to do it. And it’s simply not the wise direction for the story to take, long-term. But in the short-term? I say go for it. Emily is never more interesting than when she’s vulnerable, and never more formidable than when her back is to the wall. That alone made “Payback” a compelling hour of TV.
So Emily meets with Nolan (Gabriel Mann) to discuss just how badly things are spiraling out of control, and it’s here that he shows her footage from the South Fork Inn security cameras that show what she’s been up to. It isn’t long until she learns that she’s got into contact with a lawyer: Stevie Grayson (Gail O’Grady), the first Mrs. Grayson. Apparently, Stevie is going to help Emily process her divorce from Daniel (Josh Bowman), yet this was a connection set up by Conrad — though to what ends, we can’t be sure. As the security footage shows, Conrad took Emily to a hotel room, and then left her there alone until the next morning. The episode operates at a certain level of vagueness and obscurity, as we never really know all that happens during Emily’s various fugue states, even though we’re given brief glimpses into what has happened. And it’s fitting that the blackouts go so wildly out of control as the episode rolls on, as it lends a manic quality to everything that’s happening. During one blackout, Emily wakes up to find herself throwing herself at Aiden (Barry Sloane), who rejects her outright and sends her on her way.
When Nolan finds her on her porch, she realizes she’s lost an entire day of her life to the blackout, and doesn’t remember a thing. As if on cue, another blackout comes, and she wakes up at a birthday gala for Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), once again with no memory of anything that had happened. However, Nolan apparently captured video of the aftermath of her blackout, and in her fugue state she launched into a tirade against Nolan, saying a whole heap of horrible, hurtful things. I’m not sure it was necessary to go that far in illustrating how severely these blackouts change Emily’s personality, but I definitely see what the script is going for, as we’re given a sense that “blackout Emily” isn’t the calculated, put-together Emily we know and love. She’s an Emily without filters or inhibitions, and it’s an Emily that is exponentially more dangerous, not only to her friends and foes, but also to herself.
Case in point, Emily finds Takada’s sword hilt among Aiden’s things and realizes she must have planted the sword in Aiden’s room during one of her blackouts. This means Aiden is likely in danger, since Niko (Stephanie Jacobsen) would stop at nothing to avenge her father, no matter whom was revealed to be the killer. And Emily is right on the money, bursting in just in time to save Aiden and engage in a fairly well-choreographed little action scene. I like that we’re being given a brief reminder of just how capable Emily is when it comes to physicality, as her characterization has mostly been centered on the keenness of her intellect, and the shrewdness of her scheming. Ultimately, Emily spares Niko after Aiden pleads for her life, and I suppose that’s the end of Niko, at least for now. And Aiden, too, who leaves for London after a long talk with Emily in which she apologizes for planting the sword.
In an amusing touch, Aiden is utterly incredulous about her blackout excuse, yet the sincerity of Emily’s reactions convince him she’s telling the truth. This is why it’s important to have an actress of the caliber of Emily VanCamp, since not every actress would be able to sell a storyline like this. Her mixture of fear and anger at her lack of control makes Emily’s plight all the more vivid and relatable. There are even tender moments here, as Emily admits that the reason she tried to push Aiden away was because she could never give him children or a normal life. Aiden, for his part, says he never wanted any of those things anyway, he simply wanted her. However, she never gave him a say, and so this is where they must say goodbye, for now. And it isn’t until she meets with a neurologist that Emily learns the true depth of her situation, as it’s becoming likely that the family history of mental illness is coming to haunt her. This is a surprisingly effective route for the story to take, as it relies upon things we’ve known about Emily for years (that her mother has a history of mental illness, and once tried to drown her). It recontextualizes a single incident and makes it freshly relevant to Emily’s situation, so that all the background we witnessed in season 2 wasn’t for nothing. It’s affecting her now, and illustrating the difficulty of making revenge plans when you can’t really rely on yourself anymore.
The other big story this week centers on Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and Patrick (Justin Hartley). Apparently, Patrick setting fire to the gallery was to provide a context for hiring Jimmy Brennan, his birth father/Victoria’s rapist to fix the place. Of course, this is simply so Patrick can get him alone to kill him, but that whole plan goes about as well as you’d expect, since Victoria is vehemently against Jimmy being anywhere near her family (particularly after he appears at Charlotte’s party and speaks directly with the girl of honor). Worse, Jimmy’s stories of a regretful past, and mistakes he wishes he could undo, drive a wedge between Patrick and Victoria. Mother and son get into an argument, and Jimmy appears, overhearing the whole thing. It’s only then that he pieces together who Victoria is, and begins to spin a tale of a teenage seductress who used him and then fled with his child without so much as a word. Victoria is absolutely furious at Jimmy’s gall to imply that she was the aggressor in their encounter, yet Jimmy clings to the story. Yet this ignores one big factor: whether or not Victoria was the aggressor, she was still just 15, and he was considerably older, meaning he was imposing his will upon a girl who couldn’t legally give consent due to her age. I can only imagine this was intentional, in that it paints Jimmy as someone who, while repentant, still isn’t all that great of a guy.
Ultimately, Jimmy gets aggressive with Victoria, prompting Patrick to step in. One bad thing leads to another, and suddenly, Jimmy is bleeding to death on the floor as a result of Patrick slamming his head on a counter. Victoria stands over him, refusing to call an ambulance, and rubbing it in with the phrase he spoke to her (“Relax, honey”) while raping her all those years before. So now Patrick and Victoria harbor a murderous secret, although the script makes it hard to feel all that bad for Jimmy, even though he’d shown signs of repentance. But hey, Patrick felt pretty bad about it, so it’s not as if the show is taking a morally dubious approach to the whole thing. Patrick recognizes that what they’ve done is wrong, even if his entire plan in the first place was to kill Jimmy. The series doesn’t always succeed in its approach to moral relativism, but in this case, the show tries to wipe Victoria and Patrick’s hands of the entire business by having the police rule the death an accident. They can begin putting the incident behind them, but whether they actually do or not depends on whether Patrick can overcome his guilt. If nothing else, it should give the Patrick character something to experience pathos over.
As for the rest of the episode, the plots are fairly middling. Stevie is revealed to be the rightful owner of Grayson Manor since Conrad bought it before they were divorced, and so she kicks everyone out until the court proceedings can determine who’s in the right. Meanwhile, Margaux (Karine Vanasse) has to travel to Paris to meet with her father to get the 4-1-1 on what Conrad is up to, which leaves Jack (Nick Wechsler) in distress. But whatever distress he experiences as a result of Margaux’s departure pales in comparison to the bombshell at the end of the episode. Stevie, who’s basically been making waves all over town, comes into the Stowaway and begins inserting herself into Jack’s life. When he responds that his personal life is none of her business, she corrects him by letting him know that it actually is her business: she’s Jack’s mother! I really hope they’re not trying to imply that Conrad is Jack’s father, but simply that Stevie had an affair with Jack’s late dad, and Conrad forced her to cut off all contact. I’m probably reading a lot into it, but then, not many primetime soaps invite speculation like Revenge. Still, I’m wondering how necessary a bombshell like this will actually turn out to be, given that the show already has so many different plots in the air at the moment. I’ll be interested to see how this all turns out, since subtlety has flown out the window in favor of soap opera excess…and I’m actually kinda digging it.