Skip Bolen / TNT

Claws Adjusts To Life Under New Management

Desna tries to make the best of the new Riva regime with no help from the Hussers in our EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP of the Season 2 premiere!

Previously: Season 1 of Claws! Oh, the glorious acrylic-tipped times we had.

We open Claws Season 2 in the only appropriate location: Nail Artisans Of Manatee County, after hours. As is now her lot in life, Desna's running a meeting in which she has to tell the Hussers, sitting in her pedicure chairs, how shit is -- specifically, that the two weekly deposits they want her crew to do are insufficient. Dr. Ken backs her up, saying that the safe is overflowing with cash. Desna notes that the last time she checked, clinic revenue was down, and he confirms that it is, slightly. Desna wants to know, in that case, how the safe can be so full; Dr. Ken demurs, but when she barks, "Speak on it!," he reluctantly admits, "Because the Hussers are sleeping on the job!" Uncle Daddy pretends to snore. Desna orders him to stop as Dr. Ken adds, "Some weeks, they don't even come in." Pointing one dangerous-looking index talon, Desna decrees that the Hussers will start collecting cash from the clinic every day. Roller whines that it's too much, but Desna ignores him, saying they need a new wholesaler and telling Uncle Daddy she's lined him up with someone from Boca who's offering "a competitive price on Oxy." Uncle Daddy blusters about the location she's picked, saying he prefers some joint that has a lobster omelet, but she tells him that's too bad: Nova's at 9 AM. "You know, Desna, something tells me you're getting off on how shit's turned out," muses Uncle Daddy. "Welcome to the new normal!" she spits. "The Russians got y'all by the short hairs, okay? Y'all pull up, or Riva's gonna take you out! So y'all will be at the clinic first thing in the morning to turn this shit around. Are we clear?" Dr. Ken nods, while the Hussers settle for looking put-upon without actually trying to fight her. "Good," says Desna, "'cause I got some other shit I could be doing right now." "Well, la-di-dah," sniffs Uncle Daddy. Indicating her vintage Versace jumpsuit lewk, Desna replies, "I know you didn't think all this was for y'all, did you?" She imperiously adjourns the meeting, and as they all file out, she continues pointing to the door, presumably so their dumb country asses don't get lost on the way.

"Other Shit" is a very rude nickname for Dr. Gregory, but that is, indeed, what Desna goes on to do, in a surprisingly explicit early-morning montage.

TNT

RIP the lamp Desna knocks off Gregory's nightstand in her ecstasy, but I'm pretty sure he feels it's worth it. Once they've gotten through like fifteen rounds, Desna says she needs to go check on Dean before she goes to work. Sitting up, Gregory asks what he needs to do to get her to "stay put." "I can think of something," she chuckles as he leans in to kiss her and fondly tell her to go get Dean...without actually getting off her.

When Desna gets home, Dean is stirring a saucepan on the stove. Chipper, she asks what he's making, to which he snaps, "Why should I tell you anything?" "Well, good morning to you too," she drawls. He mutters something else, so when she impatiently asks what's wrong, he complains that she's "coming and going at all hours." Desna says she spent the night at Gregory's: "Dean, I am an adult woman--" "I am not talking about intercourse!" he yells. "Virginia said something about some crazy Russian lady." Doesn't Dean probably know about her following the events of the Season 1 finale, for which he was present? Desna deflects by saying that Virginia has a big mouth, and Dean reminds her that she'd said she was going to make better life choices. Desna claims this is different: "She's not that bad!" But Dean is still worried. She promises him that she has this under control, and Dean allows himself to be convinced, for now.

Next, we see Desna striding into the shop, casually asking whether the Hussers made it to the clinic yet, but Jenn ignores the question, preferring to tease Desna about her visible afterglow and freak on her. Polly joins in, grinding on Desna's other hip and crowing, "Paging Dr. Do-Me-Right!" Polly claims the satisfaction is "dripping" off Desna, at which Jenn's client pipes up to announce, "My husband hasn't gone down on me since LeBron left!" Into the screams that ensue, Desna admits, "I do wear it well." Marnie -- who's had a Lilly Pulitzer makeover befitting her new status as Polly's ward -- looks up from her book to ask whether the patrons know "there's this super-rare type of dolphin with a big horn like a unicorn?" "SOUNDS LIKE DESNA MIGHT'VE FOUND HIM, HONEY," says Jenn's bawdy client. Desna gloats that she did. This is Marnie's cue to take off -- where to, we don't know, but Polly tells her to call when she gets out, so...summer school? Quiet Ann takes a break from the pedicure she's giving to complain that she and her cop ex, Arlene, just broke up, and Arlene's already "at Gertrude Stein's with the softball team," showing Virginia the proof on Instagram. It's been weeks, if not months -- lesbian life goes on, Ann, damn! Virginia comments that Arlene looks very happy for a cop who just got fired, and Polly adds that stalking her on Insta isn't healthy. This is what I hear every time I text Adam Grosswirth an especially embarrassing Debra Messing selfie. ANN AND I ARE ONLY HUMAN.

Suddenly, Jenn notices that it's almost 11: "Roller's baby mama" is about to arrive. "Flight Of The Bumblebee" starts playing as the Nail Artisans leap into action to make the place acceptable to Olga and Riva. This involves: putting beige smocks over their sassy outfits; switching all the trashy American magazines for trashy Russian ones; putting antimacassars on all the furniture; setting out a decorative matryoshka; replacing donuts with a tray of caviar (from which Jenn reflexively helps herself to some on a toast point before immediately gagging on it and groaning "WHY" exactly as I would); putting a Russian mix CD on the stereo; hanging a portrait of Putin and Trump on the wall; and finally arraying themselves at the reception desk for the arrival of said baby mama and loudly greeting her in Russian. Olga would have definitely preferred Us Weekly.

After the credits, Virginia steals a look over her shoulder at Olga, sitting by the door nursing her baby; the confluence of this event plus the tray of caviar in front of her turns Virginia's stomach, and she carefully walks toward the back, Ann taking note. "Where is Roller?" crabs Olga. Desna says he's doing a run for Riva, but that turns out to be wishful thinking as Roller and Bryce walk in one second later. "You ain't going to say hello to your baby mama?" Desna flirts. Roller looks back at Olga but declines. Desna asks if they finished the cash runs already, but Bryce says he couldn't open the bank account he was supposed to because there were too many digits in the provided tax ID number. Desna, aghast, says that the bank has been open for an hour and a half; they're only coming in to tell her about this now? (To be honest, I question how serious Roller ever was about opening a bank account today, given that all he has on under his open jacket is six or seven gold necklaces.) Roller grunts that the bank is open all day, and they were "out of slips" anyway. Desna starts to reply to these trifling excuses, but stops herself and orders Roller into her office instead. "Busted," murmurs Quiet Ann as he passes, to which he dismissively buzzes his lips in reply...

...and as Roller wanders off, Jenn comes over to Bryce, tentatively asking what time he's going to pick up the girls that night. Not looking at her, he says it'll be the time he already texted her. Jenn asks if they can talk, and Bryce pouts that she can talk to her "boyfriend." Jenn hisses that Hank's not her boyfriend, to which Bryce snips, "Oh, so you ruined our marriage for some random dick." Jenn replies that she's tired of being judged by "Vanilla Bryce" -- apparently a known trigger, because it makes him feint like he might hit her, but she saunters away before he can fight back at all.

Desna leads Roller into her office, asking rhetorically if he heard anything she said the night before. He asks what their incentive is. "Death, asshole!" Desna exclaims. "We need to take these Russians out, reset back to one," says Roller. "To when I was working for you?" scoffs Desna. She turns around and leans over her desk to retrieve something as Roller claims, "It was working just fine." "It was working for YOU," she counters, and...I mean, it definitely was and he clearly hasn't stopped thinking about it, as he grabs her by the hips and leans into her butt.

TNT

Desna's only human, so she doesn't look too pissed as she takes Roller's hands off her and turns back around to face him. "You still with that pussy doctor?" asks Roller, classily. "None of your business," she purrs. "Ruval ain't right for you," says Roller, though he stops short of diming out Gregory's non-medical pursuits. "And you are?" challenges Desna. Roller: "Shit, if that desk could only talk--" "It would say 'thirty seconds or less,'" Desna finishes, like she apparently didn't with him, OHHHHHH. Roller insists that she misses those days, but she says, no, he does, and they're over, and he needs to get going because Uncle Daddy's money's not going to wash itself. She hands him a sheaf of deposit slips and flirts past him.

Roller and Bryce make their way toward the clinic, but of course the Messianic Center is right there in between, and Bryce decides he has time to go in and fuck with Hank, whooping around in a mockery of the square dancing arts. Hank stalks over so the two of them can "what" at each other for a while before Bryce takes a poke at Hank, misses, and gets dragged off by Roller. Hank threatens that if Bryce does this again, he'll call the police, which gets Roller's attention: he gets in Hank's face and warningly orders him to "go honky-tonk." Not since Philip Jennings's boot-scooting trips to that western bar has dancing to country music seemed so pitiful.

At the clinic, a white-lipped patient knocks on the plexiglas to inform Confetta, the nurse, "My FUPA hurts."

TNT

Extremely unimpressed, Confetta tells her to sign in and wait for a doctor while, behind her, Bryce and Roller cross through Reception, sniffing the air. When they let themselves into the back, the smoke alarm starts going off -- and with good reason, as they see when they open Dr. Ken's office door and find him dropping handfuls of cash into a trash can fire. "What are you doing?!" asks Roller, shooting it with a fire extinguisher, as though the answer isn't quite obvious, but Dr. Ken is prepared to spell it out: "Our safe can only accommodate $30K! I don't have room anymore because you two MORONS haven't been making DEPOSITS!" Bryce, missing the point, yells that they can't even pay their bills and Dr. Ken's in there burning money. Dr. Ken asks what happens if the feds show up: "How do I explain $100,000 IN ONES?!" Roller just repeats Bryce's complaint, which is that they're selling off their property just to put Happy Meals on the table. Dr. Ken, furious, hands them each a trash bag of cash and tells them to do the job they're supposed to do, before slipping on loose bills on the floor and falling backwards into like four more very full bags of junkie cash. Bryce and Roller trudge out, uselessly.

Back at the shop, Jenn's client is telling her about a woman who traded 160 pounds of venison for a seat on the Myahatchee school board. No one knows about it except Jenn's client, so she's going to make sure this unethical woman knows she knows with the new deer manicure Jenn's just finished giving her: cute little hooves on all the fingers except the middle ones, of which the right is a doe and the left is a stag, WITH 3D ANTLERS.

TNT

It's incredible. The client calls Jenn an artist and is correct. She's on her way out when she sees Desna back on the floor and offers her two cents: "I liked the way you had the place before." "You and me both, girl," says Desna distractedly, phone to her ear. After a moment, she hangs up and complains that Uncle Daddy's not picking up: "It's like he just refuses to accept my authority!" No "like" about it, from what we've seen. Jenn, still technically a Husser, says he's still in mourning, but Polly says Riva doesn't care about that. (Uh, one of her guys killed the woman Uncle Daddy's mourning, so: yeah, no, she really doesn't.) "Leave Ms. Putin to me," says Desna. "We got a understanding." Jenn tries shutting Desna up by making the universally recognized "cut" gesture at her neck, but Desna misses it, saying "I will handle her" just as Riva walks up behind her and says they need to talk. "Girl, I was thinking the same thing," says Desna, leading the way back to her office -- this time not to be sexually harassed. Probably.

Once the door is closed behind them, Desna launches into a rote apology for the Hussers' failure to keep up with the deposits, but Riva impatiently cuts her off: "I'm not here about smurfing." Riva's family wants more profit, and for Desna to facilitate Riva's plans. Desna, however, refuses: "I can't be moving no cocaine, Riva, and neither can any of my girls! I mean, the money laundering is bad enough." Riva points out the hypocrisy of Desna being party to supplying opioids to "desperate rednecks" but drawing a line at cocaine, to which Desna says one is legal and the other isn't. "Keep fooling yourself," says Riva pityingly, before telling her to get the Hussers to come to the nursing home. Desna doesn't know what nursing home she's talking about; Riva, over it, snaps, "It's where they cut it. Hussers pick up product and deliver to She She's, where strippers sell it. Tonight is important night. We are trying to book Milo Yiannopoulos to DJ at baby shower. They need to do it by 8. No exceptions, Desnya." Riva flounces out, and Desna says, "Shit," because she knows there's no way around it, and also no way she can trust the Hussers to do it.

On her way out, Riva curtly tells Olga, "Your mother is coming." "Why?" asks Olga. "Her stupid book," snaps Riva. "I don't want to see her," says Olga. "That make two of us," says Riva, the broken syntax really just highlighting how dumb it is that these two native Russian speakers aren't conversing with each other...in Russian? I'm not going to bitch about it every time it happens in this episode/probably this season, but assume it always bugs me, BECAUSE IT DOES. Anyway, at the door, Riva turns around and tells Desna, "The Hussers better be there." Desna says nothing. Olga gets up and follows Riva all the way outside before turning around and coming back inside, because she definitely knows she forgot something but can't think what. Silently, all the Nail Artisans point to the baby carrier, with the baby still in it; Olga nods, retrieves it, and stalks back out. Bogdan must feel so lucky to have a mother who treats him like my husband treats his keys. When the Russians have gone, Desna informs her crew, "She wants us to run logistics for her coke business." When you put it that way, it sounds like a good learning opportunity and résumé builder! Quiet Ann says that's "way above [their] pay grade," and when Virginia says she could use a raise, Polly has to tell her, "Not like that!" Desna declares, "We ain't touching jack," and explains that the Hussers are supposed to run it through She She's, so now she has to go "light a fire under [Uncle Daddy's] pasty ass." The way this show abuses a queen like Desna is truly appalling.

Speaking of Uncle Daddy: after commercials, we're in a tight closeup on his face as he goes TO TOWN on a jelly donut. Like, I have been known to make a mess of myself with a pastry in my day, but I don't think I've ever gotten strawberry filling on my forehead. As he (ineffectually) wipes powdered sugar off his mouth, we get a closeup of his left pinky nail, which is adorned with the most beautiful and heartfelt possible tribute to the late Juanda: her tiny portrait, in a tiny gilded frame.

TNT

Whichever Nail Artisan gave him this one really outdid herself. Uncle Daddy brings his Juanda nail to his lips and kisses it before dissolving into tears. The camera then switches to a wide shot so we can see that Uncle Daddy is on his wicker throne in the middle of his lawn, surrounded by the world's gaudiest yard sale. Uncle Daddy looks up to see a kid pawing through a box and gets up to go yell at Toby for putting those things out; they were Juanda's and aren't supposed to be for sale. In response, Toby yanks the chicken cutlets out of his polo shirt and snaps, "How about we sell these too? Those weren't Juanda's." But Uncle Daddy can't smooth things over with Toby because the kid is trying to sidle off with his box, and it's onto this very undignified battle that Desna enters, rightly judging.

Desna manages to get Uncle Daddy away from the lawn and onto a little pier so she can tell him about Riva's latest proposal. "I had something special at that clinic, Des!" says Uncle Daddy soulfully. "Legal drugs! Now she wants strippers selling coke? Just like the bad old days." Desna doesn't love it either. "She shot my wife, Des," Uncle Daddy whispers. "AND kidnapped your granddaughter," Desna reminds him. "That part. Which is how we all ended up working for her. So have the drugs to She She's by 8, and we can live to bitch about this another day." "I thought you wanted out of this life," drawls Uncle Daddy. "I made a choice," says Desna, adultly. "We all did." She turns around and sashays off, yelling back, "By 8! And I'm not asking you."

And then we're over at the Simms house, where Virginia is coming out of the bathroom. Dean is waiting for her in the hall, and asks whether she wants some "fizzy water." Startled, Virginia says she'll have some in a minute, and touches her stomach, claiming, "Food poisoning again." "Oh," says Dean. "Or pregnancy. Probably that one. Probably six or seven weeks." Virginia doesn't try to deny it, instead asking Dean how he knew. "Oh -- well, you're always puking," says Dean. "And the bridge of your nose is two millimetres wider. And you're extra-moody. And you've been complaining about sore breasts." Wow, Virginia, you might as well have already switched to maternity jeans for how little you're trying to hide it. She says she was going to tell Dean, and he says he knows: "I was being patient." He takes her hand. She thanks him. THIS FEELS VERY UNRESOLVED.

From there, we head back to Gregory's, where he and Desna are having a dance party to Cameo's "Word Up" while making dinner.

They obviously couldn't play the track while they were actually filming the scene, but the editors didn't quite sync up their singing along to the song as it plays for us, and I am trying to be understanding, but yes, it is making me itch. Desna assesses the situation: "You fine. The D game is on point. You're making me dinner in a whole suit. And you know all the words to 'Word Up.' You cannot be that perfect!" Oh, the tragic irony of it all. "I'm afraid I am," says Gregory, too smooth to betray a thing like all the other shitty liars one usually sees on TV. Desna then has to tell Gregory that his chicken isn't meeting his standards of perfection in that it seems to be burning. He takes it off the burner, claims it will be fine after he scrapes off the burnt part, and asks Desna about her day. She says it was okay: "But my boss is giving me a real fever." "Start the revolution," Gregory suggests. Desna gives him a long look, and goes back to her chopping. "If you don't like the ruling party, just stage a coup," he adds. Desna pinches his chin, but doesn't try to set him straight on that one either. He asks if she has a five-year plan, and of course she does: "World domination. One manicure at a time." For Desna? That sounds like a one-year plan at most. She and Gregory clink on it, but then Gregory gets a message he says is from the hospital, and steps away to deal with it...

...which is when we see that it's actually Uncle Daddy, whining at Gregory about when they'll get to take out Riva. "We move when I say we move," says Gregory. "Be patient." Uncle Daddy claims that he's been patient, but that she wants him to start running coke. "This is a longer game, Clay," Gregory purrs. "You need to play your part." "I ain't doing shit," Uncle Daddy wheezes, throwing his phone away, which is when we see he's placed this call while sitting ringside at a lube wrestling match still in progress in a kiddie pool in his house, and the reason I know it's lube and not canola oil is that the BARREL of lube is right next to the pool. "More glitter, Mr. Husser?" offers an eager combatant. "Always more glitter, boys," Uncle Daddy replies. Even in difficult circumstances, the man stays on brand.

At Riva's dinner table, a henchman leans in to whisper in her ear, at which Riva intones, "She's here." Olga, holding Bogdan, looks unprepared yet resigned as the she who is here sweeps in, crowing, "Hello, lovely family!"

TNT

This is Zlata, Olga's mother. She grabs a chicken leg off a tray from a passing servant, shrugging, "Food on the plane was shit." Olga shushes her, indicating Bogdan, and Zlata gets up to plant an insincere kiss on the top of her head, and even more insincerely pretend to care about the grandson she's meeting for the first time. Riva asks how long Zlata's staying, and she airily replies that it depends on the book tour. This is when Boris comes in to tell Riva that the "fat man" didn't go to the club, and that he thought Riva had told Desna to handle it. Icily, Riva says she did. Zlata asks what's going on: "Anything I can help with?" Everyone else ignores her, Riva pulling out her phone to call Desna and immediately getting her voicemail. Enraged, Riva picks up a wine glass off the table and smashes it on the floor. Zlata watches and plots.

Over to Polly's hotel room, where she, Marnie, and Dr. Ken are perched at the end of the bed, about to tuck into her "cheeseburger soufflé," which she promises is "heaven," and which Marnie -- approvingly, somehow -- compares to "a cheeseburger, like, already chewed up." Polly hasn't taken a bite herself before her phone is ringing with a call from "Mrs. Putin." Polly thinks Desna has a "hot date" tonight, but of course Polly will find her and bring her to Riva. "Desna's in deep shit," she says, hanging up. Desna lives in deep shit, Polly, but she makes it look gorgeous.

Desna is, in fact, still on her hot date, chilling poolside as Gregory tells her he wants to take her on his boat: "And bring Dean. I'd love to spend more time with him." "Yes and hell yes!" says Desna. "He would love that. I would love that." I'm not sure Dean would love that, but it's still sweet. Unfortunately, this is when Polly busts into the yard, apologizing for interrupting their "pizza party," but explaining that Riva was trying to reach Desna "about that leak in the salon." Desna picks up her phone and sees all the calls she missed. Apologizing more, Polly says they have to go, immediately. As Desna hustles past him, Gregory asks if he should save her some dessert; she says he should, and pledges to make it up to him. If that's anything like the montage we saw earlier, I don't see Gregory feeling too slighted.

Back to Riva's, where Zlata is demanding that Olga talk to her. Olga tries to stay hard, but can't keep it up, cracking and squealing that Bogdan's father is ignoring her. "He's just dumb guy," says Zlata, petting Olga's hair. She adds either that men are distractions or need distractions -- Franka Potente's accent is very burbly -- to which Olga complains that it's just as Riva says: Zlata has answers for everything. Zlata asks what else Riva says about her, and Olga says, "That you were only too happy to pass me to closest relative to become sex marionette for oligarch." "ENOUGH," bellows Zlata. Bitch, you asked! Zlata grabs Olga's arms and breathes that Riva's turned her against Zlata, and insists, "I've always loved you. Always." Riva drifts in at this point, saying she has to go "make a change in middle management." Zlata says she'll join her: "Like old times." Can't wait to see if these two sisters work together as well as the Olsen twins.

Off we head to the retirement home. Desna strides through a common area, trailed by Polly and Quiet Ann, as a woman accompanies herself on the piano to a bouncy tune and seniors play Bingo. (Seems like the caller and the live musician would fight each other for their elderly audience members' attention, given how many of them are probably hard of hearing, but sure.) The Nail Artisans cross through the kitchen and into a back room, where a dozen old ladies in shower caps and underwear are cutting Riva's coke -- you know, Tuesday in Florida. Polly and Quiet Ann have almost finished collecting kilos and loading them into empty adult diaper boxes when Riva strides in and loudly introduces Zlata as her sister and the author of The Kremlin Konnection. "Is Russian answer to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg," says Zlata proudly. "Oh, controversial, but I loved it!" coos Polly, over Desna's shushing. "Where is fat homosexual," drawls Riva. Polly, a good ally, corrects her -- "Uncle Daddy's bi!" -- but Desna silences her with a finger (well, almost; Carrie Preston hilariously has Polly turn to Quiet Ann to back her up) and tells Riva she talked to him, and that he's a mess: "I mean, you killed his wife, and it's gonna take a minute, but we are going to pick up his slack." "Deposits were never made today," Riva states. "Something has become very clear: you cannot control your people." Zlata tries to break in to tell Desna about the chapter in her book that revolves around this, but Riva orders her, "Stay in your lane!"

Seeing things escalating, Desna quickly says they'll take the product to She She's, but Riva holds up a finger to stop her as Zlata, FINALLY speaking Russian, accuses Riva, "You've been busy turning Olga against me, you dry bitch." "You make easy work of it," Riva replies, also in Russian. "Blaming everyone else for your mistakes while you piss away our family's money with infantile schemes. The Kremlin Konnection? Isn't that a little corny?" Zlata glares. Desna understates that Riva seems to have a lot of shit to talk through with her sister, so the Nail Artisans are going to head out...but that's going to have to wait, because while Desna's talking, Zlata opens her purse, pulls out a handgun, and points it at Desna. Everyone freezes. Zlata declares that, in Georgia, they don't tolerate failure from subordinates. "Riva?" gasps Desna. "You just gonna let this bitch put a gun in my face?" Riva's smirk would indicate that she's not fighting Zlata on this one. Quiet Ann speaks up to ask Zlata -- politely -- to think about what she's doing. "We find out where you live," Zlata threatens Desna, "and we bomb the entire block. We sell your children to brothel, along Chechen border. We cut off one limb at a time until you're completely gone. That's what we do in Georgia." Sounds chill? Zlata goes on: "The only thing is, sister, we're not in Georgia anymore." She turns to Riva so fast that Riva doesn't even have a chance to drop her shit-eating grin before Zlata has blown her brains onto the wall behind her...and onto the Nail Artisans who probably regret having clumped up so close to Riva. There's a lot of shocked silence as we cut between the still living people covered in viscera and Riva, on the floor, blood pooling around her head. Only Zlata is perfectly composed as she turns to Desna and announces, "I choose lane." None of the Nail Artisans has anything to say to that -- other than Polly, muttering indistinctly to herself -- so Zlata wraps it up: "Thank you, ladies. Is great meeting you. Get goods night's rest. We start tomorrow." Olga wanders in from somewhere, sees Riva on the ground, and slides her lollipop back in her mouth as she turns back around and strolls out after Zlata. Once the Russians have gone, Quiet Ann grabs her head in horror, and Desna gathers up Polly, still muttering affirmations to herself. Not sure there's a New Age philosophy that can get you through this one, Polly.

The next day, we return to the shop just as the retirement home delegation has finished telling Jenn what happened. (Jenn seems hung up on the report that Zlata actually shot Riva in the face, and not the neck or the throat or something, and those who witnessed it don't seem that psyched at having to keep repeating the extremely gory details.) Polly, distressed, can't fathom what kind of monster could do such a thing to her own sister, but Desna supposes it's just what the Russians do "when you don't make your quota." Polly, still spinning, says she was up until 3 AM trying to get "Riva's brain matter" out of her hair: "I used every bit of my conditioner!" She hysterically laughs, which immediately turns into tears and high-pitched squealing that she doesn't think she's cut out for this. The rest of the Nail Artisans surround her to talk her down, Virginia fanning her with a circular polish sample display and Jenn waving "stress relief" essential oils under her nose. Polly is especially freaked out, since she just got her "tennis bracelet" off (that would be her ankle monitor, for those just tuning in -- a condition of her probation after serving time for identity theft), but Desna tells her she needs to get her shit together: Zlata is on her way and, as Quiet Ann reminds Polly, "They shoot the weak where this bitch comes from." ...Also the strong, as we just saw. Polly devolves into nonverbal squeaks, so Desna asks her to "put on one of those preppy, happy Polly personalities where everything is fine, baby! Just until we get on the other side of this, okay?" Polly can't manage that yet, taking a few deep, loud, painful, asthmatic breaths and freaking Virginia the fuck out.

TNT

They get Polly to sit, Virginia urging her to "think of something real white" WHICH IS HONESTLY NOT THE WORST IDEA. But Desna shoos her off and tries to help Polly through some visualization: "Right now, you are at a barbecue in Hyannis Port, and all the Kennedys are there, huh? Even the shitty ones!" MAYBE DON'T SHUT VIRGINIA UP IF YOU'RE JUST GOING TO RUN WITH HER SUGGESTION, DESNA. Polly, her eyes closed, grins at the thought. Quiet Ann breaks in to say that Gore Vidal is there too, "mixing drinks in a crisp seersucker suit." "Do they have canapés?" Polly gasps hopefully. "Polly, they got all that shit," says Desna. "Are you good?" "Right as rain," Polly beams serenely. No one seems that happy about the psychological trickery that got her here, but at least she isn't going to get herself or any of them killed in the next few minutes.

And right on cue, the bell at the door jingles and Zlata enters, carrying a standee of herself in a bell-sleeved pantsuit with a shitload of pearls at her neck. Live Zlata turns slowly toward Desna, who tensely awaits whatever horror is about to happen next.

...But after a commercial break, Zlata is warm and ingratiating, asking if they got some rest. "Not too much," Desna murmurs. "I would never have killed you yesterday," Zlata claims. "I just had to distract her. I like you." Desna looks wary: "Thanks?" "Riva was toxic," says Zlata. "My whole life, she turned everyone I love against me." She tolerated it when it was their brother and parents, but when Riva turned Olga against her, Zlata couldn't take any more: "Olga's my one good thing I have." Desna gets it: "My brother is that for me." Zlata is pleased that she and Desna understand each other. Zlata says she saw herself in Desna the night before, when Riva was "barking" at her: "I said, 'This is bad bitch like me, who has been underestimate for far too long.'" Desna gives a polite quarter-smile at this compliment as Zlata exhorts them all, "This is going to be incredible, guys!" She calls to Olga to "bring the money," and Olga saunters over to give each of the Nail Artisans a brown envelope full of cash. "This money is just the beginning if everybody is doing their job," says Zlata. "Too often, we women compete for coveted position in male power structure, instead of fomenting fun-time sisterhood to show the boys that we can be just as bad and have more fun doing it." Suddenly, there's also a henchman with a tray of champagne flutes; Virginia preens as she takes one. "So, we will change around the Slavic menopause look in here," Zlata grins. "We will continue coke operation. We will discuss expanding of clinics, but for now, we will talk about something more fun." A tired woman in a fur coat appears with a tray of hors d'oeuvres as Zlata announces her new idea: "I want to start all-male revue, like Magic Mike movie. So maybe, we change name of She She to Hammer & Pickle." Jenn cracks up, seeming actually tickled and not like she's laughing at Zlata's concept. Zlata then nominates Virginia and Quiet Ann to find male dancers, a task one of them is definitely likely to excel at, and the other of whom looks faintly nauseated.

TNT

"I don't want a lot of road on those assholes," Zlata notes. "Fresh guys." She asks who will "train" them, for which Polly eagerly volunteers: "I was in the Bolshoi as a girl -- I was a little child dancer." "Polly," Desna says warningly, but Polly doubles down on this fraudulent backstory. Zlata's sold! What about Jenn? Trying to be casual, Jenn says, "On account of my daughter being kidnapped last month, and losing my husband to a life of organized crime -- not to mention a velour tracksuit and a fade haircut -- I think I'm just gonna stay right over here, focus on my nail work?" Zlata accepts Jenn's wish to lean out: "Salon needs to remain legitimate appearance. Is good idea." She turns back to Desna and suggests that they go "talk to the boys -- how do you say? Hoosier, Hussy-er?" "Hussers," says Desna hoarsely. Zlata cheerily agrees and heads for the door, Desna gaping a moment before following.

In the van, Quiet Ann flicks through pictures of Arlene on Instagram, morosely liking them from what I pray is a dummy account. Outside an acting studio, Virginia is pitching Zlata's revue to a couple of nattily dressed hipster types, promising "no touching" and saying it's how Channing Tatum got his start. The guys don't look convinced, maybe because one of them can't imagine what kind of choreo might incorporate his chunky glasses.

At She She's, Zlata dramatically walks down the stairs from the stage to inform the Hussers that they work for her now. Uncle Daddy is offended that she's treating him like "some kind of party bottom [she] can pass around" ("Yes, I think exactly this, yes," Zlata confirms), and demands to know where Riva is. "My sister suffered a massive heart attack," says Zlata, "after I shot her in the face." Roller chuckles, calling Zlata "my kind of woman," but Uncle Daddy tells him to shut up before turning back to Zlata and sarcastically guessing that the two of them were "real close." Zlata's done with small talk: "My sister had no vision." She's looking to change the business model, having read on the plane about the opioid epidemic: "Highly addictive product, guarantee repeat customers, is perfectly legal." She asks how they get around insurance companies, and Uncle Daddy snits, "I ain't telling you shit, you filthy bitch." Desna, wearily, breaks in to tell Zlata it's better if the patients don't have insurance: "It's too much paperwork." "Cash only at Suncoast, baby," Roller agrees. Zlata wants to know how they've never been busted, and Uncle Daddy grandly says, "It's called skill, woman. My family been running game up and down the panhandle since you were a little ba--" "BAH," Zlata stops him, holding up her hand. "Let her answer." "We're careful," says Desna. "We never prescribe more than 250 pills per scrip [which holy shit still seems like a lot, unless she means they never give more than that, over several refills, to a single patient?], never see a patient more than once every 28 days, and we train the patients, too -- not to doctor-shop, to get someone to give them more, or deal in the parking lot." Uncle Daddy insultingly mimics Desna's answer, but Zlata shuts him up again and asks where they launder their money: "Bahamas, Cayman Islands?" Bryce says he and Roller "wash all the profits here in Manatee County, so we can oversee all the cash flows," though he falters before the end of his sentence under Uncle Daddy's betrayed glare. "Anything the clinic nets in excess of $30K a day, we funnel through local accounts," says Desna. "Deposits under $10K, to avoid suspicion." Zlata looks impressed -- more by Desna than by any Husser, one may reasonably surmise.

Then we're back with the talent scouts as they pull the van up to a lumber yard where a number of well-muscled gentlemen wait to be hired for day labour. "Hey!" asks Quiet Ann. Calling out in Spanish, she asks, "Do you have dicks?" Guess she's a gold star lesbian. "How are your dicks?" All the guys grab handfuls and grunt. "Yes, but can you dance?" she asks. The guys show off their moves, impressing Virginia. "How many you think we can fit in the back?" Quiet Ann asks her, switching back to English. Virginia: "All of them." Better to have and not need than need and not have.

Smash cut to She She's, where the guys have stripped to their underpants and are thrusting their pelvises through their audition. Polly has gone full Debbie Allen in a wrap skirt over a leotard, striding through her dancers with a stick and giving extremely Pollyish notes in a haughty, not-at-all Pollyish accent: "Stay loose! Feel the music! Pretend that your pelvis is a bowl of grits -- don't spill it." Aaaand I'm off hot cereal.

In the back, Zlata and Desna wrap up their day's business: Zlata wants to open more clinics, and wants Desna to "spearhead this project," not the Hussers. Desna says she'll help, but that Zlata has to leave Desna's crew out of it. "We need all hand on decks," says Zlata, but Desna protests that she has to look out for her girls: "Some of them have done time, all right? I don't want them going back inside." She folds her arms and waits for Zlata to fight her, but Zlata says again that she really likes Desna: "You stand on what you believe. And whether you see it or not, you wear crown like boss." WE ALL SEE IT, IDIOT, WE'VE BEEN SEEING IT FOR A WHOLE SEASON ALREADY. "Now you need to show HOOSE-sers that you are boss, because they don't respect you," Zlata urges Desna. "You need to teach them a lesson, like I say in my book. Let's go show them who's boss! Yes?" Desna doesn't speak, but her slow smile gives away how Zlata's growing on her, too.

In another back room, Boris sets Bryce in a chair in front of a TV; behind him, Desna and Zlata watch through a window in the door. Two beefy henchmen take their places behind each of Bryce's shoulders. "Watch this," Zlata purrs to Desna. The screen comes on, and we see Jenn setting up her phone's video camera, hiking up her skirt, and telling Hank, behind her, "We have to be fast." Bryce leaps up, but the henchman to his left sits him back down, and they both hold him and force him to watch as Hank rails Jenn from behind. "Is this happening right now?" whimpers Bryce, kicking his legs in protest. At the window, Zlata snickers, while Desna looks horrified for Bryce, like he didn't screw over Jenn in his own way. "Where did you get that?" Desna gasps. "The cloud," Zlata replies. "But that was months ago!" Desna tells her. Bryce, living through his own Cockwork Orange nightmare, screams.

Then we're outside, as Zlata lights the rag in a Molotov cocktail and hands it to Desna. Reluctantly, Desna takes the bottle and throws it, which is when the camera pulls back to show us they're at Uncle Daddy's house. A fire explodes in a front room, but just to be sure, Zlata throws a second cocktail. "This is gonna work," says Zlata. "And tomorrow? We get Roller. At 1 PM, bring the girls to my mansion dressed for garden party. It's going to be beautiful." Desna seems like she's cooled on Zlata since all that queen boss talk earlier, but she doesn't argue, and as they wander off, the front door opens and Uncle Daddy runs out, trailed by Toby, who's calling 911. Uncle Daddy screams after Zlata, "You crazy bitch! You can burn my house down, you can take everything I've got, but I'm never gonna work for you, you crazy bitch!" I think Zlata would be just as happy to kill you, bro, but by all means, try fighting back.

The next day, two black SUVs pull up the long drive at what was, until very recently, Riva's estate; the doors open, and out climb the Hussers and the Nail Artisans. Apparently Uncle Daddy doesn't have Desna's number, because this is his first opportunity to yell at her about setting fire to his house. "Maybe if you would do what you were supposed to do, we wouldn't be here," Desna hisses back. Guys, I feel like too little is being made of the fact that virtually NONE of this would be happening if Roller hadn't knocked up Olga, BUT NO ONE ASKED ME, and also Zlata's about to make that point for me, in an extremely dramatic way. A servant dressed as a cossack opens the doors, and out come Zlata and Olga. Zlata says it means so much to Olga, and to her, that they could all be here, "and hold space for this sacred event." The Nail Artisans look at each other quizzically, so Zlata spells it out: "We will have wedding now." The Nail Artisans react accordingly, giving us all kinds of face.

TNT

Roller, a moron, crows with excitement while the other Hussers ask who's getting married; the Nail Artisans AND THE REST OF US know exactly what Zlata has planned. Roller pretty quickly catches his snap and starts protesting, but he's too slow: a trio of female servants are already taking Olga's robe and putting a dress over her slip while several henchmen grab Roller and keep him from running away while also trying to dress him for the ceremony. "Desna, you've got to do something," gasps Polly, and while it is incumbent upon all of us to prevent forced marriages between literal children and adult men...this isn't really Desna's fight. Uncle Daddy tries to talk Zlata out of it, like, maybe the time to kiss her ass was yesterday, my dude. Desna does approach Zlata to appeal, quietly, for her not to get her daughter "messed up" with someone like Roller, but Zlata reminds her, "You said yourself, they only respect family. Now we are family." Uncle Daddy says Zlata can't force a man to get married in the United States of America, while Roller actually does try to make a run for it. Alas, he is much slower than Zlata's bodyguard, or maybe she just has an easier time running in pants that fit.

And then, as we all knew it would, the wedding is happening, to the strains of "Happy Together."

Olga rides down the aisle on a white horse; I never knew someone could look imperious blowing kisses, until now. Roller follows on his own horse, and while he seems to have made his peace with a shotgun wedding, he has drawn the line at wearing a shirt to participate in it. The couple meets at the altar, where a crown is held over the bride's and groom's heads. "You will be good daddy," Olga predicts. Roller effortfully exhales. As everyone watches with varying degrees of horror, Roller appeals to the priest: "You're a man of God. Sir, please, this shit isn't holy." To this, the priest produces a gun from his vestments and points it at Roller's face. Resigned, Roller places the ring on Olga's finger, and Zlata hurries up to the altar to fold back Olga's veil and tell her she looks beautiful. "I know," says Olga. "Like me," says Zlata. "No," says Olga. "Let's party!" Zlata calls to her guests. Sure, but first, a bunch of them are going to have to shoot their guns in the air while others -- including the groom -- dive for cover. Normal wedding stuff.

Quiet Ann finds an empty room and waves in the rest of the Nail Artisans, Desna sighing, "That was crazy." Polly wants to know what they're going to do, but Desna doesn't know. "Is it wrong that I cried at a forced wedding?" asks Jenn. Lady, you're only human. And Olga did look beautiful! Virginia thinks they should run, since things are only going to get worse. But Desna doesn't think there's anywhere they could run that the Russians couldn't find them: "Even the priest had a damn gun!" Quiet Ann says they've got to stick together, and they put their hands in to seal it. Polly, stressed, goes to find Dr. Ken, and as she leaves the room, Roller enters to talk to Desna, who can't help smirking at him. Gregory's not the only one whose D's on point, I guess.

Speaking of: cut to a doorway, and Polly and Dr. Ken desperately undressing each other as they skitter past. But Dr. Ken notices that she seems preoccupied, and she says she's worried about Marnie. Dr. Ken assures Polly that Marnie's tougher than both of them put together, and asks her to let him take care of her. Polly agrees, and almost fully clothed sex ensues.

"You're an old married man now," Desna tells Roller as he fills her glass. He scoffs, asking her how they're going to figure this one out. She doesn't know, but thinks he'll have to ride it out for a while. If Zlata would do this to him, Roller muses, he wonders what she'll do to Desna. Sarcastically, Desna wonders why Roller's suddenly concerned about her well-being. Advancing on her sexfully, Roller claims he's always concerned about her, but she tells him to stand down -- and just in time, as Olga comes running in looking for him to come feed her cake. "Do svidaniya, Roller," says Desna, toasting his departing figure. And I thought I was done with Russians after the finale of The Americans! Here's hoping Zlata doesn't try to win Olga over by cooking her more dishes I have to Google by spelling their names phonetically.

A traditional Russian band plays traditional Russian Tetris music as the reception continues. Standing on a second-floor balcony overlooking the party, Desna asks Jenn how long they have to "do this," and Jenn promises just one more: they're watching as a sexy broad in a skimpy white dress approaches Bryce and tries to chat him up, only to be rebuffed. Desna calls him a "good boy," and Jenn is relieved: "That's the second one, Des. I think he does love me still, and that's the proof right there." Desna says he would be crazy to let her go. Jenn just misses him so bad. Desna says it's going to take a little time, but Jenn moans that she hates time: "I'm gonna go stand near him." Desna begs, "Please do it in a dignified way," which phrase Jenn finishes with her, claiming she knows. Reader, she does not.

Making her way outside, Jenn passes Zlata and compliments her on a lovely event. "Oh, you lovely," says Zlata. When Jenn has gone, Zlata stops Desna and directs her to look out at the party, saying it's what control looks like. Desna says it looks like chaos to her. "Look closer," says Zlata. "Powerful families united. Evil sister eliminated. Daughter moving in direction of forgiving mother's past misdeeds. It's looking pretty good to me. But, I think about you." "...Okay," says Desna, guardedly. "I know you like Yennifer very much," says Zlata. "Me too -- but, still, she works for you. Don't forget." Zlata holds out her hand, presenting Desna with a furry key chain. "Yennifer's house belongs to you now," says Zlata. "I will let you tell her." Desna immediately refuses, so Zlata opens Desna's hand and shoves the keys in it: "You worked your ass off. All she did was get knocked up by hillybilly." "I'm great where I am, but thank you," says Desna, respectfully but firmly. When she tries to hand back the keys, Zlata seizes her wrist: "None of this is elective, dear Desna. We all have to do what we have to do. This is beginning of wonderful friendship." Desna looks away, but Zlata throws her arms around her anyway, saying, "We're sisters now." Desna's body submits to the hug, while her face starts calculating what she'll have to do not to fuck over her girls or get her own house fire-bombed -- the delicate dance we all must learn to survive this economy.

Also Available As Part Of The Epic Old-School Recaps Podcast

Almost all readers liked this episode
What did you think?

Discussion

Explore the forums or add a comment below.