Claws Nails Viral Marketing
Desna drums up business for the clinic while proposing commune living to Jenn and making her peace (ish) with Virginia's pregnancy in our EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP of 'Cracker Casserole'!
Previously: the season premiere.
Now: a gorgeous montage set to "I'm Every Woman."
TNT press gallery photos of taloned hands resting on hips, pointing guns, and clutching cash intercut with shots of Florida life -- beach, flamingo, speedboat, alligator -- sweeps us through the window into the Sims kitchen, where Desna is eating breakfast (furious that we don't get to see what this queen serves herself for the most important meal of the day, by the way) and reading the English translation of The Kremlin Konnection. She's made it to Chapter IV: "Risk Is A Dick -- Ride It!" Not sure if it's the writers who are confused about socioeconomics or Zlata, but why would this kleptocrat be nodding to Communism by using a hammer and sickle as the ornament on every chapter of her book? If Workers Of The World were to Unite, it would really fuck with Zlata's money.
Anyway, we go from there to Jenn's house -- which, as we know and she doesn't, is Jenn's house FOR NOW -- where her mother Brenda, whom we're meeting for the first time, clips coupons. She's a blowsy blonde who looks moderately like Jenn but sounds exactly like her, so: amazing casting there. Evidently, Brenda has been around for a while, because Jenn has to tell her to quit putting tuna in boxed mac and cheese and feeding it to her children for dinner. Brenda waves her off, saying she's there to look after Jenn's kids and help her get her marriage back on track. Irishing her coffee with a flask, Brenda adds, "And when I go to my Million Moms meeting, I promise I will not leave my grandbabies in the car if it's over 100 degrees." I definitely believe that this woman would be hypocritical monster enough to support the bigoted aims of that particular organization; the show loses me when it suggests that she would actually bother to attend a meeting in person. Jenn helplessly rolls her eyes...
...but soon gets the welcome distraction of Desna coming to the door. Desna tries to prepare Jenn by telling her she's brought bad news, but then gets interrupted by Brenda sashaying up to greet "Danita" and compliment her denim jumpsuit (which does, of course, slay). Wearily, Desna corrects Brenda on her name, which she's told her "eight million times." Brenda takes off to get Desna some fried bologna, ignoring Jenn and Desna and ALL OF US telling her not to, but at least leaves them alone. Jenn comments that Desna doesn't usually "do drive-bys unless the shit hits the fan," and that "it feels a little early for turds to be blowing around." "Actually, it's not," says Desna. "It's about this house. We need to talk." That foreboding pronouncement claps us into the title card...
...after which Jenn is saying she doesn't want to hear that Bryce wants the house because it's "Dixie Mafia booty." "Everything is someone else's booty," drawls Brenda. Jenn suggests that Brenda might be missing Judge Jeanine, which sends her hustling out again so that Desna can privately tell Jenn, "It's not Bryce, it's Zlata." Jenn confidently says that Zlata doesn't own the house, but Desna says that she does, technically, having taken over all of Uncle Daddy's assets. "Uuuuugh, that bitch," groans Jenn. She asks what Zlata even wants with it, so Desna carefully explains, "Essentially, I am her lieutenant now." Jenn gets the picture: "Oh, no ma'am. Ma'am. Ma'am! She wants to give you my house." "She wants me to live like a boss," says Desna. "But you've already got a gold necklace that says 'Boss' on it," Jenn babbles. She pleads that her children -- Desna's godchildren -- are in a good school district for the first time; Desna knows. Jenn orders Desna just to tell Zlata this isn't going to work, to which Desna counters, "I saw her shoot her sister in the face; I ain't telling that woman jack." Jenn defiantly says she'll tell Zlata, then, but at Desna's dubious eyebrow, she doesn't quite withdraw her empty threat, saying that Zlata's trying to pit them against each other. "I don't know what she's trying to do," says Desna, "but I know that Dean and my black ass is coming up in this house." "And we're going to live like some Boogie Down Brady Bunch?" "I guess!" says Desna. Jenn cracks up as Desna adds, "It's either that, or get get got, okurrr?" Jenn, resigned, gives her an "okurrr" back, and they pull snaps on it...for now.
Then we're outside the clinic as the Hussers exit the front door, Uncle Daddy bitching that he can't take much more of being broke. Never mind the two weeks Gregory's apparently making him wait for anything to happen: "In twenty-four hours, she, uh, what, she murdered her sister and made my baby boy here marry a Commie." Again, while I don't know Olga's political beliefs, I don't think there are a lot of Communists in five-inch Manolos. Bryce suggests that they put pressure on Gregory to speed up his timeline, but Uncle Daddy doesn't think the Haitians feel any kind of pressure at all, so they've got to do something. Roller says he hears him: "But we've got to be smart about this. Zlata got armed guards! Plus little Olga told me she got people all the way up in the Gremlin." heeeeeeee hee hee hee. Bryce surprises me by knowing that it's actually the Kremlin and telling Roller so, but Roller's point is that they have to be smart before Zlata takes them down. (I'm writing this off an advance screener, by the way, and I'm curious to know whether there was ADR on any of Jack Kesy's dialogue on the air version, because he really sounds like he's lost his hold on his Dixie accent and is just fully talking like the Australian he actually is.) Uncle Daddy pouts that Zlata can't bring them much lower than she already has: "We're driving a station wagon like a bunch of Indigo Girls!" I assume it's just a "station wagon" because Subaru wouldn't pay for product placement even though the Outback logo is clearly visible and would have made that joke funnier. Bryce proposes getting "intel" they can use against Zlata, but Uncle Daddy's not trying to spy on her: "I want to get some automatics and blow her fricking head off!" Bryce insists that they could get usable material if they could bug her. "Yeah, how we finna do that?" sniffs Roller. "You finna work," Bryce tells him. "You ain't up in the big house for nothing!" And this is why Bryce is only in middle management: no plan is good if it hinges on Roller being competent. It is perhaps with the eventual failure of said plan in mind that both Roller and Uncle Daddy leave Bryce's high five hanging.
At the shop, Polly is still in her dancer character as she urges the two aspiring peelers getting pedicures that they need names that will make women wet: "They should highlight your skills, you know? Brad, since you can grind like nobody's business, I should like to name you after my great-uncle's first film: Sweetback!" Quiet Ann quietly cracks up. "Melvin Van Peebles is your uncle?" asks the other dancer -- the foxy Latinx guy from the lumber yard with the long curly hair, who we learn is named Jeff when Polly, after saying she's Van Peebles's grand-niece "once removed," rechristens him "Double X L" due to "that anaconda." Sweetback and XXL are stoked enough to high-five on it, so maybe if Bryce is looking for support and affirmation, he's running with the wrong crew. Quiet Ann notices as Virginia drifts into a back room to take a breather, and follows to ask if everything's okay. Virginia says she's "just not in the mood for Dancer Diaries" (and by the way you KNOW there was a draft of this script where Polly made her own A Chorus Line out of her recruits' various backstories). Quiet Ann nods and gets right to it, asking whether Virginia's told Desna about "that bun baking in [her] microwave." Virginia shushes her, even though it seems like everyone's figured it out but Desna, and says she hasn't told her yet. Quiet Ann just gazes at her knowingly, to which Virginia rhetorically asks why they must tell Desna everything: "I mean, don't you get tired of her controlling our every move?" "Yeah," Quiet Ann admits, reminding new viewers that it's because of Desna that Quiet Ann broke up with Arlene: "But Dean is her brother, it's bound to get out." Virginia says she'd rather slit her wrists than tell Desna that her brother got Virginia pregnant. "Desna warned you about falling on Dean's dick," says Quiet Ann succinctly. "You've got to tell her." Obviously I am ride or die for Desna forever...but if Virginia's not planning to carry the pregnancy to term, Desna kind of never needs to know? Really? Kind of? FINE, FORGET IT.
Back at Jenn's house (for now), Brenda is stalking Jenn through the halls and down the stairs, expositing about Jenn's having cheated on "the father of one of [her] babies" and scolding her for letting "Dashika and Devonté" move in. Jenn, on behalf of us all, orders Brenda, "Keep that shit to yourself," saying she asked Brenda to come and help her. Brenda claims she is, but that this isn't right: she demands to know what the story is with this "Commie skank" (rrrr) and grabs Jenn's chin to remind her that she's a Husser: "You don't take orders from the KGB!" This is when the front door opens and both little girls come racing into Brenda's arms. Jenn sends them upstairs to wait for "Meemaw"; "Nana," Brenda corrects, before opening her arms to "Brycie-boo" and purring at him to come home to his wife. When Brenda's flounced off, Jenn repeats that she's sorry, and Bryce says Jenn should have thought of that before she slept with "the rabbi." Over Jenn's shoulder, Brenda yells, "You slept with a Jew?" Okay, we get it, she's gross: must she be on the fringes of EVERY conversation reminding us? Jenn wants to go to counselling or talk to a priest. "That's a good idea, God can help," Brenda mutters. "Can he help me forget the rim job you gave Hank?!" Bryce snaps. Jenn tries to play dumb. Bryce says Zlata showed him a video. "No, she didn't," says Jenn confidently. "He cries when he comes?" Bryce counters. "I guess she did," says Jenn after a moment, chuckling a little to keep from crying. Bryce sadly heads for the door as Jenn follows, apologizing more, and Bryce predictably says she is sorry -- she's a sorry piece of shit: "Every time you wonder why your life went to hell, why don't you look in the mirror!" He storms out, leaving Jenn to show off her perfect chin quaver.
And then Zlata's making her first visit to the clinic, trailed by Desna and a very anxious-looking Dr. Ken. As they walk through, Desna informs Zlata that traffic tends to slow down midweek "until the pillbillies get their government cheques." Come on, Desna, don't punch down. "I think your guards are scaring away the foot traffic," adds Dr. Ken tentatively, and around her mouth full of (literal) nuts, Zlata says, "They cause more pain. Is good." "Really good," adds Boris, folding his arms. Zlata pointedly looks at the door to the back, and Dr. Ken nervously fumbles the pass code a couple of times before getting them in. As they pass the pill cage, Desna says that they work with the best sales reps: "No one beats the deals we get." Hey yeah, wasn't Uncle Daddy supposed to meet with a supplier at a restaurant he didn't like? What ever happened with that? Anyway: Zlata enters Dr. Ken's office, which he says he's just had saged and decorated with crystals and Buddhas. "We need privacy," says Zlata curtly, so Desna has to glare him out. "In two weeks, we open new clinic," says Zlata when he's gone. "In five months, four more. We need to keep up foot traffic, A.S.P.A." Desna chuckles briefly at the mangled idiom before promising that they'll hit their target numbers. "Did you know that black women are largest-growing entrepreneurs in this country?" Zlata asks her. Desna did not. Zlata reaches one curious hand toward Desna's hair before Desna, with a warning look, brushes it away over her shoulder, and Zlata goes on with her lecture: "But they don't get the loans white men do. Do you know why?" She smacks one hand down on the other to punctuate her own answer: "Because men sleep on women! They count us out. But I don't count us out: I see how you inspire your girls. I see how you care for your brother, and you get stuff done." She then tells Desna that she's "a goat." "You get our numbers up," Zlata says in closing. "I'm a goat," Desna quizzically repeats when she's gone. Yeah: the Greatest Of All Time!
Cut to Desna coming into the shop to say they've been ordered to get the numbers up at the clinic. "Or what, she'll put a cap in our ass?" chirps Polly. "I love it when what you say and how you look don't go together," drawls Desna.
"Well, I'm not putting on that pill costume again," says Quiet Ann. "That thing gave me vertigo." Polly chimes in to agree that a Lycra suit she wore to shill for the clinic "broke out [her] coochie." Jenn says their real problem is the "Russian renegade," and reports to Desna about the video Zlata showed Bryce. Desna doesn't have to admit that she already knew about that before everyone else is gasping in shock, Polly saying Zlata displays all the signs of a "classic psychopath": "She displays an inherent lack of empathy, extreme narcissism, and no evidence of actual human emotion." Jenn concurs that Zlata's trying to pit the Nail Artisans against each other AND destroy Jenn's marriage. Desna, trying to stop Jenn from inaccurately centering herself in all this drama, says that Zlata's "trying to strip the Hussers of all their dignity," whereas Desna's trying to get them through this before Zlata ruins everything they've worked for. "Oh yeah, God forbid she wreck this field of dreams," cracks Jenn. Desna says that they're in the weeds now, so she needs ideas. Quiet Ann suggests hiring a marketing person and putting up billboards. Desna, apparently having never learned the first rule of brainstorming, says that never works, and turns around to Virginia, quietly restocking nail polish: "Shanghai. Cat got your tongue? Come on. Ideas." "I'm pregnant," Virginia blurts. The other Nail Artisans' ears prick up as Desna asks, "What did you say?" "With Dean's baby," Virginia elaborates. Polly audibly gasps. Desna narrows her eyes. "Run," breathes Jenn. Virginia takes a half step backwards. "RUN," Jenn repeats as Desna launches herself at Virginia.
"I Get Around" starts playing as we get a delightful echo of the Desna/Virginia scrap in the series premiere, only even more athletic: instead of Desna running down Virginia a few paces outside the shop door, Virginia gets a decent running start and slides across the hood of a car driving through. Virginia also has the advantage of sturdy block heels on her platform boots, but it's not as if we didn't already know Desna could haul ass in stilettos, and before very long, Desna's shoved Virginia down onto the hood of a parked car to choke her. "I CANNOT BELIEVE YOUR MIXED ASS WASN'T ON THE PILL!!!" screams Desna in genuine anguish as the song quickly fades out. Virginia squeals that she was, but that it made her feet swell so that she couldn't put her heels on. "Then why didn't you jimmy up, Virginia?" Desna demands. Virginia cries that "they" ran out of Magnums (at the store, I guess?). "So y'all was riding BAREBACK???" Desna says, aghast. "You could've gave my brother anything! Herpes, or AIDS--" "I promise you, I am clean!" Virginia gasps. ...not even HPV? Girl, come on. "BITCH, you was giving happy endings behind a Steak n Shake!" sputters Desna. "Your little ass is a lot of things, but clean ain't one of them. I cannot believe you did this to Dean!...I cannot believe you let him do this to you!" I'm really glad the writer of this episode -- showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois -- gave Desna that last line; after the physical comedy they wrung out of the scandalous reveal, they let Desna relate, woman to woman, to someone she has come to love and regard as a protégée, and whose life she doesn't want ruined with an unplanned pregnancy she knows Virginia can't handle. Virginia, talking fast, says she and Dean are going to "take care of it," and that Dean found an abortion clinic in Sarasota: "It's no big deal!" "Yes, IT IS, Virginia," yells Desna. "Do you know what this is going to do to Dean?" Virginia says that he's the one who made the appointment, but Desna doesn't care: "I asked your ass to do ONE thing, and that was to stay away from my brother. You couldn't even do that." "I love him, Des," says Virginia faintly. "Shit," says Desna, stalking off as Virginia calls after her, "WE JUST MADE A MISTAKE!" More than just the one, but I can understand how feeling like you're in mortal danger from Desna might cause your speech to be a little imprecise.
Desna goes from this fight to the Sims house, where Dean is in the process of packing up his room. She quietly tells him he doesn't have to take all his stuff to Jenn's, but he stops her to say that Virginia already let him know she told Desna about the pregnancy. Desna wants to know why he didn't tell her: "How could you keep something like this from me? We tell each other everything!" Dean disagrees, since Desna still hasn't told him what the deal is with the Russians she works for. He stalks out past her with a box, so she has to follow him to insist that the two things aren't the same, but Dean thinks they are: "Secrets are secrets, Desna, and you promised you were always going to be honest." She says she is, but lies by omission when she says the Russians took over the shop and the clinic: "That's all!" And she wants to be sure that Dean knows what he's doing about all this. "We're not ready to have a kid," says Dean, CORRECTLY. Desna asks if it's because of genetics: "Because you have autism you'll pass it on? Because it doesn't mean that!" Dean says that's not it. Desna says she has a good job now and could help them, but Dean says he and Virginia don't want that. Desna gets it, but wants to make sure he's thought this through. "I am not dumb!" Dean yells. Desna protests that she didn't say he was. "This is our decision, Desna," he snaps. "You stay out of it!" Honestly, only Dean can talk to her like that, so it helps that he's really right about this.
Later, Desna's enjoyed a lot of ice cream and cake and fallen asleep (or sugar-crashed) on the couch in front of the TV, but wakes up to a loud commercial for a local dental concern called Plaque Don't Crack. Desna takes a bite of cake and considers.
The next day, Jenn runs into Polly in the parking lot outside the shop, tired after staying up all night getting the house ready for Dean and Desna to move in. They agree that they need to keep an eye on the psychopathic Zlata, but Polly says there's a silver lining to everything -- like, in the case of the house, that Desna's will be empty, and therefore she might let Polly move into it and "pop one off" whenever she wants. Virginia's been thinking along the same lines, and is looking forward to fucking Dean in Jenn's pool. "Sounds like fun," says Jenn bitterly. Virginia says Jenn will find her silver lining too, but Jenn is distracted by the sight of Hank walking along outside the Messianic Center. On jeans alone, he's got Bryce beat.
Cut to Olga riding a bored and distracted Roller, eventually getting hers, sliding off him, and reaching for the YooHoo drink box on her nightstand. She asks if he wants to play a videogame. He's surprised and maybe a little intrigued when she mentions Assassin's Creed, asking what she would know about it. "I know I'm about to whoop your ass," she purrs. He "pfft"s that, scratching his junk, but before she can make with more flirtatious trash talk, Bogdan starts crying. "He wants the tits," she tells Roller, promising she'll be right back. As soon as she's gone, Roller quickly throws a robe on and grabs the bug out of his pants. The electronic bug.
Elsewhere in the house, Desna is telling Zlata, "I know it's a bold idea, but a commercial might be just what we need." "A commercial for an illegal business?" Zlata scoffs. Hey, last week you were celebrating the fact that it WAS legal -- which it (extremely technically) is! Zlata doesn't like the idea, but Desna persists, saying they can advertise the clinic's pain management services, which are legitimate. Zlata says that Russians, unlike Americans, "disrupt quietly." She slides open the pocket doors to her office, revealing Roller, who grunts in surprise as he hurries to hide what he was doing, all in an extremely suspect manner. Zlata instantly pulls a gun on him, at which both Roller and Desna try to calm her down. Roller says he was just getting a copy of her book, and the audiobook for the baby (who I'm sure does have much to learn about risk) (and riding dicks). Zlata tells Roller not to go in there without an invitation, and Roller says he understands. Apparently this shock was enough to shake up Zlata's thinking, because she tells Desna to go shoot the commercial and change Zlata's mind. Since Zlata's still holding her gun, Desna quietly asks if she's sure, and Zlata coos, "I don't me-cromanage. But it better be good. You know how I feel about failure." That Zlata is still gesticulating with the gun probably helps Desna remember.
At the Messianic Center, Hank brings a coffee to Jenn, sitting at a table to the side of the dance floor. She asks whether he ever wishes he could "press rewind on life," and he says he does: "So we could do it all over again." That's not what she meant, of course, and tells him that ever since they hooked up, her life's gone to shit. "God doesn't want us to be unhappy," Hank tells her. Jenn scoffs about his bumper sticker wisdom before reminding him that she's married, and that she has to save her family. Hank asks if she'll at least dance with him. She asks if he heard anything she said, and he tells her he gets that they're just friends, but that she had previously agreed to enter a square dancing competition with him, and it's this Friday: "I might not be able to work on the Sabbath, but they can't stop me from dancing." Jenn blinks. Her shoulders shiver. (They don't. But she is wearing one of those dumb shirts I hate.)
Desna having gone, Zlata's sat down with her feet up on her desk, Roller sulking across from her, to ask him what job might be interesting for him. As he ponders the question, she Freudianly clips the end off a cigar. He claims to have always been good with numbers. "And Desna," she adds. "That's true," Roller replies. "She does have that effect on people, doesn't she," says Zlata. Speaking for the world: yes, she does. Roller, better with numbers than he is with words, just nods.
In the back of Quiet Ann's van, Virginia blows on her elaborate nail art while Ann parks. She readies a catcher's mask for herself as Dean, in a Kevlar vest, asks Virginia where her protection is. Breezily, Virginia says it's fine: "I've got my flats on." Quiet Ann doesn't seem to think that's sufficient, but there's no time to argue: Ann masks up, Dean puts on hearing protection, and Virginia opens the side door of the van...which is when we hear and then see that they've arrived at the clinic, the entrance to which is jammed with protesters.
The hilarious "My Vag" by Awkwafina starts to play as Virginia falters, but Quiet Ann and Dean surround her and usher her in; when people get too close, Ann blasts them with a water gun. One particularly aggressive redheaded Sarah Huckabee Sanders type bellows, "You will burn in hell as your baby gets its wings!" Dean has an answer for that one: "I was an unwanted baby and it sucked!...Me and my sister got tossed around from family to family and nobody wanted us! We lived on food stamps, and we were abused, and not one of you was around to help us! You only care about babies in the womb -- you don't care about them when they come out! If you did, you'd be fighting to end human trafficking in Libya, and Sarasota!"
Harah Suckabee Handers doesn't seem to enjoy hearing Dean tell it like it is, though she quickly recovers to resume screaming psychotically. Still: no one is more right about everything in this episode than Dean is.
At his desk, Dr. Ken takes a break from trimming his bonsai tree to yelp at Desna and Polly that he can't do a commercial for an illegal clinic: "I'm a father now!" Desna replies, "I may have made this sound like a request, but it's not, Kenneth: it's an order. You're doing the commercial....So cut down on the fried foods, 'cause HD sees right into your pores." "It's true," whispers Polly with an apologetic grimace, sidling out with Desna. "But that's not possible!" yells Dr. Ken after them. "I use a serum!!!" You need a consult at Aveda, bb.
As they're leaving, Polly asks Desna if she and Marnie may move into Desna's current home. Speaking of whom: remember in the premiere how there was that total non-sequitur exchange between Polly and Dr. Ken about how worried Polly was about Marnie? Because Marnie's not even in this episode. It kind of seems like maybe that scene in the Season 1 finale where Polly saves Marnie from being trafficked was supposed to be redemptive for Polly, but now Marnie's just around and the writers don't know what to do with her. Anyway, Desna immediately agrees, seeming pleased to be able to give anyone good news about anything. It doesn't last, though, as Desna says she's looking forward to going back to the shop and talking through ideas for the commercial, but Polly says it'll just be the two of them and Jenn: "Quiet Ann and Virginia are at the...thing?" Desna, shocked, can't believe "the thing" was today, that no one told her, and that Dean and Virginia chose Quiet Ann to take them, not Desna. Polly, squinching up her face, says that might be because Quiet Ann is quiet, whereas Desna is "judgy-judgy." "Wow," says Desna, turning on her heel. "You're super-pretty, though!" Polly quickly adds. "You are, and girl, you got a body-oddy-oddy to die for!" These are just facts.
At the abortion clinic, Virginia is gowned and waiting on a table, Dean standing beside her and Quiet Ann in a chair against the wall, giving them space. Dean holds Virginia's hand, and she smiles and thanks him for standing with her today. "Women have the right to choose," says Dean, extending his rightness streak. Dean abruptly says he's going to go across the street to the art store to get some pencils, and Virginia looks sad until he remembers to turn back, lean toward her, and look directly into her eyes, as we almost never see him do with anyone. Virginia smiles, and Dean takes off. Seeing Virginia trying to collect herself, Quiet Ann gets up to reassure and soothe her by stroking her arm and cheek. Virginia, through tears, bravely says she's okay: "It's just hard." She asks what they're saying about her at the shop. Quiet Ann takes a deep breath...
...and we cut to a black screen, where a rectangle containing Desna slides up in the top center spot. "This girl is having an abortion," she states. Jenn slides into the slot left of her, saying Virginia will be fine: "I had two, I didn't think twice about it." An older lady in florals I incorrectly profiled as a shitty old reactionary takes up the bottom center slot to opine, "At least she can get one. Back in Texas, they were illegal. I had to go to that nice lady in the deli for mine." A younger patron slides in next to Texas to judge, "Oh my lord, you are all going to Hell." "Where's my dad going?" asks Polly, appearing to the right of Desna. "He raped my babysitter. Thank God she could have one." "Polly, you never told us that!" squints Desna. "You never asked," Polly replies. Another patron in her twenties appears under Polly to say she thinks women should have the right to choose, "but some need to choose a condom. I shouldn't have to pay for it." Before I can yell at the TV, Quiet Ann shows up dead center to say -- quite loudly, for her -- "You're not paying for anything." Another twentysomething shows up to the left of the sixtysomething to scoff, "My tax dollars are." "That's some alt-right bullshit," says Quiet Ann, correctly. The last space, to Quiet Ann's left, is taken by a thirtysomething, who comments, "At least these women can have kids." "It's about a woman's right to choose what she wants to do with her own body," says Desna.
Quiet Ann chuckles ruefully as she says, "Yeah, I got pregnant when I was real young, and I didn't want to have a kid, but my parents were against abortion, and they made me. And I got attached to that kid. Sofia. And one day I got home, and Sofia was sent to California to live with some church friends. I never saw her again." "I'm so sorry," says Desna hoarsely. The whole thing is set to joyful salsa music, which makes Quiet Ann's story all the more heartbreaking. (Notable, perhaps, that she doesn't say how she got pregnant; maybe that's a story for another day.)
Back with Virginia, Quiet Ann says simply, "People got your back, girl." Virginia smiles that she needed to hear that, but then gets pensive: "What if it's, like, the next Obama? Or like, that guy who's always dreaming?" After a beat, Quiet Ann guesses, "Martin Luther King?" "Yeah," Virginia confirms.
"Girl?" says Quiet Ann. "It's not, you're fine." Virginia giggles. It's sweet.
Back at the shop, Desna's just watched a YouTube video called "How To Direct A Movie," and based on the knowledge gleaned from two and a half minutes of user-generated footage is ready to hand out assignments. Given that the director has to boss everyone around, consensus is that Desna should do it. The producer hires everyone but doesn't get credit; Polly thinks that should be her, and to support her case tells a story about a cook in prison who collected compliments for Polly's family's baked ziti without identifying where the recipe came from. "Don't you hate that?" murmurs Brenda, whose manicure Polly's doing. "We women should be lifting each other up instead of knocking each other off the monkey bars." "Why it gotta be monkey bars, Brenda?" Desna snaps. Brenda snorts: "Oh, goodness, everything offends you people." "'You people,' really?!" says Desna, coming at her. "Oh, Dorita," sighs Brenda. Everyone yells until Polly advises them to "leave the racism to the hipsters" (?) and gets back to her assignment list: Dean can handle the art department, Quiet Ann can be cinematographer, and Brenda can make costumes: "You are gonna die when you see the dress I made Jennifer for tomorrow night." And death is arriving swiftly, as Jenn comes out from the back in a denim, tulle, and oppression number.
"You just gonna let the Confederate flags fly, huh," says Desna. "Shit, I thought it was British," says Jenn, clearly a lifelong resident of the American south who would certainly know the difference. "You look amazing, Jennifer," says Brenda tearily. "When Bryce sees you at the soiree, he is going to fill up your whole dance card." Jenn tells Brenda she's actually going with Hank, and Brenda attacks: "Jennifer! Bryce is, is, a-- a white knight in Levi's! He raised a baby who wasn't even his!" Jenn knows; she's just going with Hank to avoid a breakdown (hers or Hank's?). So Brenda's going to help by going home and making her cracker casserole, which earns her Jenn's thrilled and hilariously sincere gratitude. Polly returns to the list once again, offering Jenn the job of gaffer, but Jenn says she studied creative writing in community college, so she could write the script. Brenda -- possibly topping up her flask with nail polish remover -- says Jenn knows full well she didn't go to community college, so a flustered Jenn is forced to admit that Brenda's right, but that it can't be that hard to write a commercial: "It's just words and I know words." Not "Union" or "Jack," I guess.
Post-procedure, Virginia has just finished getting dressed when Dean returns, and says he lied about getting pencils: he got her a Ring Pop instead. She giggles as she takes it, while Quiet Ann looks on, touched. Virginia says she loves Ring Pops, and he says he hopes she loves them as much as he loves her. Quiet Ann's smile fades to shock as Dean then kneels down and tells Virginia, "I want to spend the rest of my years with you." Virginia doesn't seem like she knows where to look as Quiet Ann breaks in to ask whether Desna knows about this. Dean says he talked to her about it a while ago and that she gave him her blessing. Quiet Ann catches Virginia's eye and shrugs, as Dean goes on to ask, "Will you marry me?" Virginia responds by nervously sticking the Ring Pop in her mouth. (As someone who also received an unexpected marriage proposal when I was about Virginia's age, I can relate!) And then?
"We're getting married, everybody!" Dean calls out triumphantly to the now-jubilant protesters. (Will Dean and Virginia ALSO stay married for 21 years and counting? I hope we get 21 seasons of Claws to find out.) "God is good!" cries Harah Suckabee Handers. "He heard our prayers!" "We still D & Ced that shit, BITCH," snaps Virginia, because we live in an era in which female showrunners don't cop out on abortion storylines, and characters are actually permitted to make decisions about their reproductive lives that make logical sense. I guess God IS good!
An Old Hollywood-ish fanfare welcomes us into prep for the commercial shoot at the clinic. Desna asks Quiet Ann where Dr. Ken's mark should be, and after noting that they can still replace him, she says where they're standing will work. Virginia, doing makeup, tells Desna she was thinking of a soft dewy look and a natural lip. For Dr. Ken? If what I'm hearing about his pores is true, you're going to want some serious concealer. Desna warns Virginia to take it easy lest she pass out, but Virginia says she's fine. Desna gets closer to say she knows terminating the pregnancy was hard on Virginia: "But when I see you going down the wrong path, Virginia, I just want to slap you back on. My brother has a lot of potential. But so do you." Virginia, moved, thanks her, and says no one's ever looked out for her the way Desna does. Apparently her "potential" is in a field that doesn't involve reading the room, though, because she then grins that she's got good news: "Dean proposed." "You stupid BITCH," snarls Desna, easily grabbing Virginia by the throat and squeezing. "WHY WOULD YOU HAVE AN ABORTION AND THEN GET MARRIED? WHAT KIND OF GHETTO SHIT IS THAT?" Quiet Ann pulls Desna away, and Dean gets between them, yelping at her to stop. Desna demands to know why Dean didn't tell her he was getting married. He sputters that he told her a couple of months ago and she said it was okay, but she yells back, "I HAD A GUN TO MY HEAD." Dean repeats that she said it was okay, and that Virginia is his life: doesn't Desna want him to be happy? Desna turns her attention back to Virginia, soulfully telling her, "Do not hurt him. Do you understand me?" Virginia and Dean both say she won't. Desna then tells Dean, "It's time to man up, baby." They hug, though when Virginia tries to get in on it, Desna makes it known that they're not quite there yet.
Toby, who'll be working the clapper (though not the way he works the clapper with Uncle Daddy, HEYO) comes in just then to tell Desna they need to get going. Jenn asks whether "No Pain, No Gain" or "Stop The Pain" is a better catchphrase. Desna doesn't know, and bellows for Polly, who's gone all in on her producer character with a beret, megaphone, and jodhpurs. Desna can't with Polly's look and just tells her to get Dr. Ken out of his office.
Back at Zlata's estate, Boris is practicing his putting when Zlata brings in Roller, and says she wants Boris to show their new family member the ways of Georgia. "No," says Boris immediately. Zlata drops her smile as she beckons Boris over to say she knows he and Roller "almost killed each other last month at an amusement park," but that it's time to make up: "Show him the lay of the land. It's an order." Planting a rather long kiss on Roller's mouth, Zlata goes on her way. Boris sizes up Roller before telling him, "Take off clothes." Roller lets out a dry, very Dean Norrisy chuckle at this, telling Boris, "I ain't like my Uncle Daddy, playboy." Boris, ignoring him, walks into the next room, a handgun tucked into the back of his track pants, just waiting to shoot his butt off.
In Dr. Ken's office, Confetta is touching up Dr. Ken's makeup while warning him, "The camera adds ten pounds. In your case, maybe twenty? So you might want to suck in your gut."
Dr. Ken looks appalled by all of this, and he should: everyone's giving him advice that does him no good with days to go before the shoot, never mind minutes! "I still can't tell which is your good side," she says, cobra-ing back and forth. "You might want to just look straight ahead? Oh, and PS, I forgot my nose hair trimmers, so: good luck." Love too get my painkillers from a doctor with spider legs in his nostrils. Confetta departs just as Polly comes in to grab him. Dr. Ken claims he's panicking because he's not feeling Jenn's script, and Polly sadly says she probably should have written it herself, since she was a ghostwriter on Thelma & Louise. Dr. Ken blows past that enormous lie, breathlessly saying that the text isn't "fresh," as if freshness is an issue he ever addresses with his pill patients. Polly tells him to change it, but Dr. Ken gasps that he can't, doing a pretty good Jenn impression as he guesses what her complaint will be if he does...
...and sure enough, when they go out to Reception, Jenn is aghast that they're trying to rewrite her script: "I spent twenty-five minutes on it!" Fanning herself, she says that if she'd known Dr. Ken was going to do this, she would have spent her time practising her square dancing moves "instead of trying to spin hay into gold." Dr. Ken is not so sure "gold" is a word that describes her finished product: "There's no 'I' in 'pain'?" Polly intercedes to say that the YouTube clip taught them all that notes are "part of the Hollywood process." Jenn gets real: "Polly, we're just a couple of blue-collar bitches in Palmetto trying to shoot a commercial on a jizz-stained porno camera." But enough about Cocoon. Also, after this exclamation from Jenn, everyone currently near the camera looks very alarmed.
Finally, Desna comes over to yell at them, reminding them that Zlata already thinks they're going to fail. "Uh, who cares what the Antichrist thinks?" Jenn demands. "Your ass should care what she thinks!" Desna yells. "If you don't do it, you're going to be writing our obituaries." She orders everyone into their places, and when no one -- not even Polly -- says "Thank you, places," you know that whatever YouTube video they've been using as a reference is trash.
The Indigo Girls -- jk, Bryce and Uncle Daddy -- are parked outside Zlata's house, not making a cash deposit or doing anything else that seems especially useful. Uncle Daddy asks what Bryce thinks will happen with him and Jenn, and Bryce says their marriage can't compare to what Uncle Daddy had with Juanda. This turns the focus back on to Uncle Daddy and his grief, and he can barely get out two words about his marriage before he starts crying, saying that he didn't even have hair on his head for as long as he was married to Juanda. We understand that they're trying to hear what the bug is picking up when a radio comes to life in the car with the sound of Roller yelling. Believing the Russians are torturing Roller, they leap out of the car to go see what's up...but he and Boris are just getting very serious massages. Wah waaaaaaaaah. Uncle Daddy growls that Roller played them.
Back to the shoot, where we find out the reason Quiet Ann wanted to replace Dr. Ken is that he sucks on camera. A supercut of his failed line readings ensues. As the person who has to read these recaps for the Epic Old-School Recaps podcast AND edit out all her own narration fuckups AND burps, I empathize. "That'll teach his ass to go off-book," drawls Jenn. That just means he's performing without his script in hand, so: again, YouTube has failed the Nail Artisans Of Manatee County. "Zlata is going to kill us, y'all!" squeals Polly. Desna asks for water and some space, and suddenly Brad -- excuse me, SWEETBACK, one of Virginia's drama studio recruits -- is at Desna's side with an airplane bottle of vodka, smiling that he thought he'd be proactive. Off he goes in his bright red Lycra catsuit; Desna watches him go and, when he makes his way back to his Hammer & Pickle colleagues, execute an exuberant spin. This gives Desna an idea!
Then we're in the clinic, except all the patients and staff? Are fabulous.
Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations" provides the soundtrack for the butt-shaking dance party that starts in the clinic and, eventually, spills out the front doors into the parking lot, with Hammer & Pickle dancers in sexy nurse outfits and Dr. Ken in sequin-trimmed scrubs. He throws pills at the camera! He gets cash from the ATM outside and makes it rain! The dancers mime fucking the asphalt and twirl their stethoscopes! A butt close-up transitions us into the dancers shaking it in front of a green screen, with giant pills and fireworks projected behind them. Eventually there's also...a guy in a blue union suit and clear globe helmet dancing like a robot? I don't know. I do know that there's no way all these amateurs could make a video with production values this high in a matter of hours, and kind of expected a smash cut from Desna's fantasy of how good it could look to the janky reality. But this is such a delight that I am willing to suspend my disbelief. And honestly maybe I don't entirely disbelieve that Desna, no matter how inexperienced, actually could pull this off through the sheer force of her will.
As the commercial ends, we pull back to see that it's playing on Desna's laptop, the Nail Artisans Featuring Dean excitedly watching behind her. Desna orders them all to quit celebrating: they haven't actually done anything because no one's sharing it. It seems she spoke too soon, though, as Virginia checks her phone and says that they just got retweeted. "We're going viral, y'all!" she cheers. "Just like my sex tape!" Not sure one RT qualifies as going viral, but they all just learned video production in a day; they can learn social media best practices tomorrow.
Then Roller's sauntering into Uncle Daddy's...and immediately getting punched right in the fucking face by the man of the house. He continues attacking Roller as he yells that Roller's supposed to be getting him intel. Jack Kesy sounds Australian AS HELL as Roller gets Uncle Daddy off him and barks back that Boris told him everything: "They're opening ten clinics by the end of the year, and they get the coke from the Colombians." "What kind of Pablo Escobar bullshit is that?" Uncle Daddy demands. Roller says they bring it on fishing boats. Uncle Daddy says that if the feds catch them running coke for Colombians, they'll "get [their] salads tossed in South Bay for the rest of [their] lives." Roller adds that the good news is they don't have to use bugs, because Roller's been inducted into the crew. We'll know it's true when Boris starts wearing his tracksuit jacket open to the navel like his newest colleague.
Then the doorbell rings: it's Brenda, looking coy over the promised cracker casserole. "Don't you look like a hot cup of tea," flirts Uncle Daddy. She says she's there to see her favourite son-in-law. So far so good, what could go wrong?!
In other "so far so good" news, a bunch of people with dubious injuries are lined up outside the clinic; the woman using the ATM seems to have just stuck a maxi pad to her neck. Desna steps out just as Zlata's car pulls up and Zlata calls her in, smirking that Desna's bold idea worked, and handing her an envelope full of cash. "I took a page out of your book, Zlata," Desna preens. "I found a dick, and I rode it like a boss." Only way Desna knows how to do anything. Zlata laughs: "Pussy power, girlfriend! I love!" ...Okay, this season ends with Desna in fear for her life because she doesn't want to have sex with Zlata, right?
At Uncle Daddy's, Bryce is going to town on the cracker casserole. "People always forget about the recipes on the back of the Ritz Cracker box, but I don't!" she replies -- low-key one of the best lines AND line readings of the episode. Brenda brings them each a drink as she leans in to say they need to chat about Jenn. She kind of seems like she's coming on to Bryce, but still technically on message!
Elsewhere, the square dance competition is about to start, with the Nail Artisans plus Dr. Ken gathered to cheer on their girl. Some old bag rolls up to tell Dr. Ken, as sexily as her arthritic bones will allow, that she needs to see him about her aching back, and Dr. Ken tightly gives her his card. Everyone teases him about his fan after she's moved on, except Polly, who offers to give him an under-the-table handjob. Unsurprisingly, he agrees.
When we cut to Jenn, we see she's wearing the costume Brenda made, though she's wisely put regular blue fabric with a star print where the stars and bars used to be. She's psyching herself up, which is probably a good idea given that they've ended up as Team 13...but then she looks across the dance floor and sees a head with Bryce's very fade. Soon he turns, so she sees it's not Bryce -- just a guy with, in a needlessly cheap gag, a huge gap between his front teeth -- and Jenn tries to shake it off as the caller takes the stage. Jenn takes a belt of liquid courage from the nearest glass and hits the floor with Hank. At first, she's having a great time, but before long she's hallucinating Bryce in Hank's costume AND very insulting calls on the mic: "Now promenade like it's your job / You fell on his dick like corn on the cob! / Now allemande left with with the corner maid / You screwed up your marriage just trying to get laid!" When she lets go Bryce's hands and continues the routine, he turns back into Hank, but the caller can't stop needling Jenn: "Why'd you go and shatter his world? / He raised your other kid like his own little girl!" Jenn's been keeping up with the routine until now, but starts to stumble enough that the Nail Artisans can tell she's struggling. The caller is a beast: "If temptation falls and you give a rim job / Say 'sorry' to your husband before you break down and sob!" Jenn dances under a bridge and back up to Bryce: "What happened to 'til death do us part'? / You took a knife and stabbed his heart! / Look at you now, all alone / Remember, Luther Vandross sang 'a house is not a home'!" By now, Hank and Bryce are trading faces second by second and Jenn is spinning out for real. "You messed this up, poor little girl / Now you'll have to use Tinder like the rest of the world." A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH. The nightmare ends, and with it Jenn's participation in the contest. Shalom, y'all!
Over to Uncle Daddy's house, where Gregory, Roller, and Uncle Daddy are gathered around the fire pit in the back yard, Roller having apparently just finished telling Gregory about the Colombians. Gregory looks slightly concerned, but we don't get to hear his response...
...because then Quiet Ann's van's pulling up so that Jenn can get out and declare her love for Bryce.
In the back yard, Uncle Daddy is ranting about Zlata's connection to the loss of his wife and businesses. Gregory calmly sits forward and asks Uncle Daddy rhetorically why he thinks all his people abandoned him: "You've got to stick to the plan. I will take care of this." Hearing Jenn screaming, Uncle Daddy picks up his phone, showing a closed circuit camera feed from the front door she's pounding on.
Finally, Roller opens the door. Jenn asks where Bryce is. Roller says he's upstairs, and Jenn shoves past him, ignoring Roller's warning that Bryce isn't feeling well due to her mother's "questionable" cooking. Oh, if only that were Brenda's sole failing...
...because Jenn flings open Bryce's bedroom door to see Brenda blowing him. "You filthy little skank," breathes Jenn. "No," slurs Brenda, "I was just prepping him for you!" No, bitch, even if that were true, it would be worse!!! Jenn attacks Brenda, who is at a significant disadvantage due to how drunk she is. Bryce, when he tries to intervene, also gets a solid punch in the face from Jenn.
Downstairs, Desna uses this rare moment of quiet (for her) to call Gregory and say she wanted to make that dinner up to him. In the yard, Gregory stands and says he'd love that, asking what she's doing later. "I'm doing you later, if I'm lucky," she cracks, prompting squeals from Polly and Virginia, and while you'd assume that Gregory would hear that in real life as well as on his phone, figure out that Desna's on the property, and scramble to hide from her rather than have her find him there without a reasonable explanation for why he even knows the Hussers...none of that occurs. Which is weird? What does happen is that Desna hears Jenn laying waste to her mother and husband and goes to investigate.
Up in the bedroom, Brenda's actually holding her own pretty well, straddling Jenn on the floor and smacking her around, until Bryce manages to pull Brenda off Jenn. When she gets to her feet, she hauls off and punches the nearest person, who ends up being Desna. This is unfortunate for Brenda, as Niecy Nash does a full-on jungle scream before staggering toward her; then Bryce is on the floor getting the shit slapped out of him by Jenn, while all the other Nail Artisans go ham on Brenda. Soon Toby, in bondage gear, runs in to try to do what he can to break it up (which is...not much), and I guess Gregory slipped out in all the chaos because then Uncle Daddy and Roller are storming in on what has turned into an uncontrollable brawl. We don't get a full breakdown of who dragged off whom...
...but some time later the Nail Artisans, battered but unbowed, are making their way down the stairs. In! A dignified! Way! Once they've gotten outside, Jenn starts stammering apologies for her disgusting mess of a mother: "I just didn't think she'd do something like that." She breaks down as she continues: "She made me this outfit! She did my makeup! Why would she do that? Why did she do that? Why would she do that? WHY DID SHE DO THAT???" Jenn collapses onto the front step as the rest of the Nail Artisans surround her with love and, I hope, take care not to poke her in any newly tender areas with their dangerous, dangerous nails.