Skip Bolen / TNT

Claws Plots A Strike Against Zlata

The power struggle between the Dixie Mafia and the Russian Mafia is interrupted by a ghost, a brawl, a proposal, and raining men. We examine 'Vaginalologist' in our latest EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP!

Recapper's Note: literally the second after I finished writing this recap, from a screener, on Friday, July 6, I refreshed the press mste page to see if Episode 6 had been posted yet, and suddenly the screener for this episode was gone? It went back up an hour later, so if it got pulled down so TNT could correct any of the content that I recap here but that doesn't line up with the version that aired on July 8...I don't know, but it's not my fault and I am therefore resisting my Canadian instinct to say I'm sorry!

Previously: all of Season 2 to date, plus a couple of reminder shots of Quiet Ann dosing Arlene's tea in Season 1.

Now: we're at the grand opening of Suncoast Rejuvenation 2, the first of the four new clinics Zlata's planning to open. Uncle Daddy has shown up to pout about it/annoy me yet again by inaccurately describing Zlata as a "Commie." (The Hussers tend to alternate this slur with "Putin bitch," the latter probably being a lot closer to the facts.) Uncle Daddy goes on to slag Desna as "that dashiki Barbie," at which Bryce scolds him for being offensive, though I actually think Desna would cheerfully accept that nickname...


...particularly given that she's shown up for this event in a gorgeous West African print skirt and heels high enough to be at home on any Barbie's crazy feet. To placate Uncle Daddy, Bryce kindly suggests that they go to Cracker Barrel after this: "That always makes you feel better." Uncle Daddy mumbles his assent. Zlata and Desna meet on the front steps, Zlata making sure Desna knows Zlata's noticed and appreciates Desna's hard work. Desna's worried that she hasn't been able to get in touch with Dr. Ken, who's supposed to cut the ribbon. "Stalin would never have put up with this," Zlata observes. True and also yikes?

We jump to Zlata's remarks as she stands behind the ribbon and praises Desna as a "great lady who makes all this possible." Adding, "You earned it," Zlata hands the moderately large scissors over to Desna, who cuts the ribbon to applause from all the drug seekers waiting to rush the front door. Would a Mob boss and her lieutenant really put themselves out front at the grand opening of a pill mill? Or call attention to the business by holding a grand all? Never mind! "Oops, you earned this too!" Zlata sing-songs, pointing out to the parking lot, where Roller is pulling up in a candy apple red Maserati convertible. "What?!" gasps Desna. "You playin'." "Russians don't play," Zlata replies, and Desna doesn't bother arguing any further before hurrying out to her new ride. She's trying to wrap her mind around what has just happened as Roller gets in beside her, joking, "I know that face. Don't cream the seats. It's quality leather, baby." "I do look good in red," Desna replies breathlessly/correctly. "I thought your man supposed to buy you gifts," Roller needles. Desna asks if Roller can't just be happy for her; Roller says he just thinks things are moving a little fast, and Desna orders him to "zip it": "I don't say nothing about your little mail-order bride." Hilariously, Roller just nods at this. Then Desna gets serious, turning to Roller and asking if Bryce was serious at that AA meeting when he mentioned the Hussers' plans to join forces with "the Haitians" and fuck Zlata up. Roller dismisses it as drug talk on Bryce's part, but when Desna tries to nail him down by getting him to agree that Uncle Daddy's not coming after her at this golf game, he admits, "I didn't say all that." "Shit," breathes Desna. Intensely, Desna tells Roller she owes Zlata, but Roller tells her to keep her mouth shut: "Let me remind you of something. When you wanted out, Uncle Daddy let you out." As I recall, he did so while also fucking her out of money he'd promised her, but, I guess, sure? "Zlata's Zlata, okay?" says Roller. He does a little "cuckoo" gesture with his finger before adding, "Uncle Daddy's family. Your family." And that's why you consider very carefully before agreeing to be a friend's kid's godmother, Desna!

So as we all know but Desna doesn't, the reason Dr. Ken's been unreachable is that Arlene and another officer of the law -- whom we're about to learn is FBI Special Agent Lucy Chun -- arrested the hell out of him in the last episode, so now we cut over to the three of them in an interrogation room.


Dr. Ken...has looked better. And like, maybe he was the best unethical doctor the Hussers could find back in the day, but he is clearly not cut out to withstand this kind of pressure -- particularly since Lucy and Arlene can counter his claims that "everything is above-board" with the tale of his prescription of opioids for postpartum pain "in an octogenarian." Remember Old Lady Mush Mitten? Her. Since Dr. Ken can't really answer that, he sputters that he thought Arlene was fired. "Do I look like I'm fired?" she shoots back. Not in that climate-inappropriate leather jacket, you don't. She exposits that Sarasota PD's been working with the FBI before smoothly segueing to a strong suggestion that Dr. Ken save himself by telling them whom he works for. I'll skip the "hilarious" prison rape joke/threat that, as a queer woman, Arlene should really know better than to make, but the upshot is that Dr. Ken is facing a 30-year sentence if he doesn't co-operate. He helplessly shakes his head before Arlene opens the interrogation room door just in time for Dr. Ken's elderly patient to cross past and give him the finger. "Old lady played you like a fiddle," Lucy tells him. "She's with us." Aaaaaand that'll do it: before Arlene and Lucy can leave the room, Dr. Ken screams, "Okay, okay! It was the Russians!!!" Oh, Dr. Ken. The Russians weren't the ones who had you burning cash in your office. Don't squander this opportunity to implicate the right people!

After the title card, Polly and Marnie are about to part ways outside the shop, Marnie apparently deciding to push her luck by wearing her head scarf to school again and Polly apparently deciding not to try to stop her, instead trying to ingratiate herself by suggesting that they go to a Lilly Pulitzer sample sale that weekend. You know: Lilly Pulitzer, every young white black separatist's favourite designer? Marnie is still calling bullshit on everything Polly holds dear, as politely as she can: Marnie's going to be spending Saturday at a pan-African book fair with Malik; no, Polly can't come; no, Marnie doesn't want to eat the flavourless energy bar Polly packed her for "breakfast" even after Polly talks up its benefits: "These are perfect to start your day, full of protein and amphetamines!" She also ignores Polly's request for a hug, though if it's any consolation to Polly, given that Marnie's on her way to get a "shrimp breakfast burrito," Marnie's punishment for rejecting her maternal efforts will probably be diarrhea.

In the shop, Jenn notices Quiet Ann check her phone and beam at what she sees; Jenn guesses that Quiet Ann has reunited with Arlene, and when Quiet Ann confirms it with an adorable giggle, all the Nail Artisans rejoice. It's into this chorus of cheers that Desna enters asking what's going on, at which Jenn immediately changes the subject to "that new whip [she] just pulled up in." Virginia, on brand as always, demands to know whom Desna had to blow to get it; Desna imperiously says that Zlata gave it to her. All four Nail Artisans turn to regard her suspiciously, Virginia asking, "You eat from the tuna can?" Desna smirks but doesn't answer. In case her question wasn't clear, Virginia makes the universal sign for cunnilingus...

TNT Jenn snits, "Shut up, 12-inch fashion doll." Jenn then drops to a lower register to ask, "But are you eating from the tuna can?" "Mother is strictly dickly, okay?" Desna assures her. Desna goes on to pontificate that the car is evidence of "how bosses are supposed to treat you": "Zlata recognized my hard work? She rewarded a girl." That Desna doesn't anticipate the questions this is going to inspire from the people for whom she is their boss suggests that she might want to take another quick pass through Zlata's book, and sure enough, Virginia wants to know what they need to do to get cars: "'Cause we work hard too." Desna sputters that she's Zlata's lieutenant ("Yeah, we know," drawls Jenn, rolling her eyes) and that it's a management thing. In that case, Polly replies, she's owed a car too, since she's managing the dancers at Hammer & Pickle. "Take it up at a morning meeting," Desna advises her. The subject then changes again -- to the dozen red roses Gregory sent Desna. She's opening the card when Polly asks whether she intends to tell Zlata about Uncle Daddy's plans to come after her. "Girl, you need to think twice about helping her," Jenn adds. Desna tries once again to tell them all that Zlata is "not that bad": "She's smart, she gets it, and she just wants to see women rise up!" Virginia coughs a reminder about Riva, and...yeah, Desna doesn't really have a great answer for that, so she says she'll "try to talk Uncle Daddy out of his stupid plan." Uncle Daddy definitely doesn't have a smart one to replace it with, but sure, give 'er a go. Also just as a sidebar: eventually can we get an episode told from the point of view of one of the many Nail Artisans clients who overhear these open and detailed conversations about ONGOING RACKETEERING OPERATIONS?

Back to Dr. Ken, who's taking a dainty cup of liquid antacid as Arlene pushes a rather unwieldy piece of A/V equipment at him, saying that if he helps them take down a big fish, they'll put him in Witness Protection. Dr. Ken can't believe they want him to wear a wire, like what did he think they'd accept as evidence, line drawings? "So, is this, like, deep cover?" asks Dr. Ken, his generally wild eyes getting even wilder. "Like can I be a secret agent?" "Whatever helps you get through the day," says Lucy, exhausted. Dr. Ken says he'll need a lot of Tums and "a badass nickname." "Donnie Brasco?" says Arlene. "This shit just got real." Dr. Ken foregoes the cup and starts sucking down store-brand Mylanta straight from the bottle.

Speaking of indigestion: Uncle Daddy either didn't go to Cracker Barrel or left some room, because now he's at the shrimp place at the plaza sucking down fried food across from Desna. She's winding up her pitch as to why he should give up any plans to topple Zlata: "There's no version that ends with you breathing." Uncle Daddy confidently replies, "Oh, I got a version for you: I shoot her in the head and she dead, how's that?" Given that his eyes are barely open right now, I am not as certain as he is about his marksmanship. He further tells Desna that, this time next week, she'll be working for him again and "living the high life," as though there was ever any chance he'd have bought her a Maserati -- which is pretty much what she tells him about the thought of returning to doing all the work and failing to receive her bonuses. Desna tells him the idea of killing Zlata on a golf course -- "her turf" -- is idiotic, to which Uncle Daddy wonders, "How does that Soviet [nope] titty milk taste? Is it creamy?" Desna tries to make him understand what he's actually up against, but he doesn't "give a piss" after their murder of Juanda and appropriation of his businesses: Zlata deserves to die, and Uncle Daddy wants to be the one to do it. Desna finally admits she doesn't actually care if Uncle Daddy lives or dies: "It's the collateral damage I'm worried about." Uncle Daddy gets up from the table, intoning, "The South done lost once. It ain't finna do it again." One might think he'd be slightly concerned about the nimbleness his plan requires given how effortfully he just...stood up from a seated position? And also that the "South will rise again" rhetoric might not work so well when it's directed at A BLACK WOMAN.

So Desna goes back to the shop and announces to everyone that she talked to Uncle Daddy and that he's refusing to change course. Virginia asks whether Desna's actually sure she cares if Uncle Daddy gets himself killed: "I'm just saying, Uncle Daddy ain't give you no car." Desna doesn't get a chance to answer this because just then her actual benefactress enters with a screech about Desna's new car in the parking lot, apparently not taking notice of the contemptuous look Jenn, Polly, and Virginia share at her arrival. Desna takes her cue and says she loves it. Zlata is even more excited to announce that "it's gonna rain at Hammer & Pickle" with "featured dancer Dean." This is news to Desna, who doesn't think he's ready for that. Polly says he's "damn good," and Zlata eagerly tells "Jailbird" to get over there and run a rehearsal. Desna has apparently been reading my recaps, because suddenly she shares my concerns: "Dean doesn't do well with big crowds and loud music!" Zlata thinks that's exactly why they should do it: "To give him power over his fears!" Desna doesn't know why Zlata even cares about putting Dean in the spotlight, so Zlata lays it out: "You're smart, hardworking, and loyal. Loyalty's hard to find. Loyal person is family. I do anything for family. You are family." "Huh," sniffs Jenn. "Wasn't Riva family?"


Turning sharply with a scowl, Zlata mutters, "Riva was blood. Blood makes you related." "Hm," says Jenn dubiously. Taking Desna by the shoulders, Zlata concludes: "Loyalty makes you family." Aaaaand all this talk works on Desna, who fights through her doubts and says, "I heard a rumour, okay?" "Is true," says Zlata, rolling her eyes. "I feed raw hamburger to President at sex party at Mar-a-Lago." lol at the idea of this President at a sex party, but anyway, apparently everybody already knew that one because this confession goes unremarked upon as Desna resumes: "The Dixie Mafia, they're planning to attack you at your golf game next week." Zlata frowns, then smiles: "See, this is why you're #2! You take care of me, I take care of you. I will handle it." Desna wants to arrange "a sitdown" with all affected parties "so that nobody gets hurt," and after a beat, Zlata shrugs and agrees. "So you're just going to talk, right?" Desna checks. "Yes, talk," beams Zlata. "Just talking." Desna looks relieved. Surely everything's going to get better from here!

Over to She She's -- which I guess actually has officially been rechristened Hammer & Pickle? -- where the guys are in extremely '80s aerobics looks for their "It's Raining Men" rehearsal. Reeeeeally not sure why they'd try to come for Channing Tatum like this, particularly given what we see: Polly is, as ever, very enthusiastic and has even memorized Debbie Allen's speech from the opening credits of Fame, but Dean is extremely herky-jerky and uncomfortable. Again: this performance is tonight. Good luck, Polly.

Uncle Daddy is filing his nails in a parking lot when Gregory rolls up. Uncle Daddy is kind of pre-cucked before they even start talking because Gregory made him wait before coming by. Then Uncle Daddy announces, "Me and my boys -- we want to move on this Russian skank." "What boys are these?" asks Gregory dismissively. "So you rounded up some swamp critters to help you? We move on the Russians when the time is right, not when you say." I'm not sure why Uncle Daddy had to summon Gregory to tell him this considering that it's what Gregory has been telling him literally this entire season, and Uncle Daddy hasn't even said anything in response before Gregory adds, "You don't look well, my friend. You smell like roadkill and you look like a big, fat, greasy balloon ready to pop."


Fact check: true. "A pink balloon," says Gregory, even though to my eye Uncle Daddy looks surprisingly grey for someone who lives in Florida and definitely doesn't use sunscreen. "You should really be on a statin." "Oh yeah?" mumbles Uncle Daddy. "That's your professional vaginologist opinion?" Did they...just not get any takes in which Dean Norris said the actual episode title ("Vaginalologist")? And then did he refuse to loop it? And if so why wouldn't they just change the episode title to what he actually said??? Anyway, Gregory doesn't bother responding to this, so Uncle Daddy furiously reminds Gregory he'd said they could move when the clinics opened, so Gregory has to remind him that they're waiting for all the clinics to open, and that there are still more to come. "What if I don't like that deal?" grits Uncle Daddy, to which Gregory shrugs and knocks on his car window; out comes a henchman with two very large guns. "Maybe we dissolve our deal," Gregory suggests. Outmatched, Uncle Daddy says nothing. "Let's not discuss this again," orders Gregory. And like: for real. Asking the same question over and over again just because he doesn't like the answer he gets? Does Uncle Daddy have to act like a four-year-old in every way?

Back at the shop, Desna's tidying up Roller's eyebrows and complaining that she's not ready to see her brother "up on that pole." Jenn, distractedly, says he's going to be great, while Dean's actual fiancée, in the room, weirdly says nothing? Anyway, Roller's flicking through his camera roll, which like the camera rolls of all new parents is filled with photos of his baby; Desna, looking over his shoulder, has him go back to one in which Bogdan's sucking on a pacifier that looks like a grill and giggles, "You wrong for that!" The other Nail Artisans exchange looks at Desna and Roller's unabashed flirting; only Quiet Ann looks heartbroken that Roller gets to be this happy about a baby he denied for the first several months of his life just because, as Roller puts it, he failed to wear "a love glove." Desna gets a message that she needs to go deal with something at the new clinic, and asks Jenn to finish Roller's treatment for her. Jenn starts by roughly yanking out a rogue hair in the middle of his cheek -- a strange prelude to asking for his help talking Bryce out of divorcing her. Instead, Roller tells her she needs to accept that she and Bryce have both changed. Jenn looks annoyed by this advice, but declines to respond by further abusing his face.

Cut to an elegant waterside resort, where Uncle Daddy's brought Toby for drinks, and where, judging by Uncle Daddy's bleary manner, we're joining them well into their date. Despite the conservative venue, Toby -- bless him -- is being entirely himself in a mesh top and armwarmers and some kind of leather harness and a tight black miniskirt, and telling a self-pitying Uncle Daddy that he hasn't lost his mojo. Uncle Daddy's not ready to give up his pouty mood, though: "I mean, I used to have it all. Power, money. Wife, and a live-in boy toy. Now look at me. Might as well be a fart in a fan factory." I'll just pause here so we can all remember this evocative turn of phrase and steal it for our own use at a later time. Toby puts his hands on Uncle Daddy's neck and tenderly kisses his head before asking what the "Haiti-ans" said. By way of answer, Uncle Daddy mumbles that he's sick of people pissing in his mouth and calling it "mango liq-war." Toby tells him to hold that thought while he goes to the "tinkle-torium," but Uncle Daddy stops him to say he's got to pay the toll: a kiss brief enough to be appropriate for a public place but long enough to gross out the boring straight dudes in their boring straight blue checked buttondowns. Obviously there are plenty of reasons to be appalled by Uncle Daddy, but none that these goons would be able to divine by observing him across a hotel lounge, TODDS.

Turns out the fire Desna needs to put out at the new clinic is that its doctor, Stephanie Carmona, has just heard that her best friend from med school (not Dr. Ken; you just know that guy has no friends) got arrested for working at a pill mill after one of her patients ODed, and now Dr. Stephanie is too paranoid to come out of her office. Desna: "Can I invite you to think differently?" Oh Jesus, did she go straight from Zlata's book to Silicon Valley snake oil?! Desna calmly tells Dr. Stephanie, "This is a chance for us to tighten our game." Dr. Stephanie babbles that she has kids and is a pillar of her community, but Desna counters, "You came from a hospital that was being pimped out by Big Pharma, turning away patients because they didn't have insurance....How is this worse?" TOUGH TO ARGUE WITH THAT, THIS COUNTRY'S HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM IS IMMORAL, HASHTAG MEDICARE FOR ALL. "You scale back the scrips, turn pillbillies away for a couple of weeks -- make a big deal of it!" Desna advises. "Refer 'em to a good treatment facility; I'll explain the dip in profits to the Russians!" Dr. Stephanie doesn't know. "Look, if you go down, girlfriend, I go down," says Desna. "And I'm not going to let that happen! I've got your back, okay? This is when we drink a tall glass of act right, and ride out the storm." She turns around and walks out, calling over her shoulder, "Get it together, Stephanie." Oooooh, Desna. I hope this lady's known you long enough for this pep talk to have worked on her, because she still seems pretty squirrelly to me.

Given Dr. Stephanie's meltdown, this is a logical moment to check in on her counterpart, Dr. Ken -- and here he is, at Polly's, when she wanders in still singing "It's Raining Men." But he's not alone! With him is his mother, Marilyn, whom Polly is now meeting for the first time. Now, if you were new to the show or even just forgetful, you might think this is a law enforcement officer posing as Dr. Ken's mother to back him up while he tried to get Polly on tape incriminating herself or others -- but no, that's just his mom, who already appeared in the show in Season 1. What does she have to do with Dr. Ken's current mission to get usable evidence with the wire he is presumably wearing right now? NOTHING WHATSOEVER! So just put a pin in what you know about Dr. Ken's arrest, because it's not going to come up again for a while. Polly is stunned to be surprised by her boyfriend's mother (much as Desna was, in precisely the same scenario, two episodes ago -- get a new move, guys), but (also like Desna) Polly quickly recovers and greets Marilyn graciously. Marilyn felt it was time they all had Shabbat dinner together so that she could get to know Polly and her "new granddaughter." Polly and I are both touched by how welcoming Marilyn is being to Marnie, but says she's not there. Except, Dr. Ken having called her, here she is! And she's brought Malik, introducing him as her boyfriend. Polly asks when that happened, since Marnie didn't tell her they were "official." "I don't tell you everything," says Marnie curtly. Dr. Ken and Marilyn both take note. Polly then says she has to get to work and asks if they could do it another time, but when Marnie says they can just have dinner without her and offers to help Marilyn in the kitchen, Polly announces that she'd never miss family time, quietly asking Dr. Ken, "Just how fast do Jews eat?" Sounds like a question for Jenn, OHHHHHHHHHH!

Back to the lounge, where Uncle Daddy is even drunker, Toby's still in the can, and the Todds are being assholes about Uncle Daddy and Toby, now having moved on to mimicking their expressions of physical affection. "Clay I knew would have shown those boys pain already," says a familiar voice. Uncle Daddy looks up, and the customer sitting in front of him spins around in her seat: it's Juanda, looking exactly as she did when she died. "The Clay I loved would've cleared that debris right up -- with a quickness, too. Would've told them there's clits bigger than their inverted baby pecker niblets." New band name, called it. Uncle Daddy, misting up, says he hasn't been himself lately: "It's been real bad since you've been gone." Ghost Juanda knows, briefly touching his cheek before turning back to the gifted mimes by the bar: "Look, they got them a woman. Is that a SKORT she got on? The skort is the hysterectomy of casual separates." If I ever meet Emily Silver, the scribe who brought us this episode, I will DEMAND to know how long she was sitting on that extremely accurate burn before she got to use it in this script. "We both know that, now go on and tell her!" Juanda urges as Uncle Daddy cracks up at her turn of phrase. "You tell all of them they are in the presence of a great man -- maybe bend a couple few over the ice machine in the back. You know what they say about those who protest too much. Teach 'em the error of their ways." Uncle Daddy starts to get up, but Juanda holds him in his seat, her palm on his chest: "The voodoo doc is right about your heart. I see everything up here." Uh, I don't think it requires supernatural insight to suspect that Uncle Daddy is punishingly hard on his internal organs, but maybe if he hears it enough he'll actually believe it. Uncle Daddy is reaching out to touch Juanda's face...

...when she turns into a waiter, asking if Uncle Daddy wants another drink. Uncle Daddy slurs that he should keep them coming, at which one of the Todds at the bar bitches, "Why'd you gotta keep serving these homo...whatever he is. Hey! Stop throwing your lifestyle in our face." Uncle Daddy starts fiddling with a large tooth pendant as another Todd off to the side gets off his stool and declares, "You picked the wrong bar, ya bald-headed faggot." Uncle Daddy wraps his fingers around this fucking shiv, smiles, sweeps all the martini glasses off his table and goes to work. As a brassy cover of "Get Happy" plays, Uncle Daddy takes on all comers (not like that) (yet) as the bar descends into an all-out brawl. At first I assume this is a fantasy sequence, since I would think the Todds are all talk, but we later see the aftermath, so I guess Uncle Daddy really is smashing bottles over their heads and burying his tooth pendant in their foreheads. He's about to break a bottle of Glencallan single malt before Juanda stops him, telling him to save it for something special. "Baby, I miss you," says Uncle Daddy tearfully. Juanda drifts away from the bar, and Uncle Daddy resumes his rampage, smashing a bottle of some kind of well swill and jamming it into his opponent's cheek. Toby finally comes tottering back from the bathroom and picks his way through the fallen bodies. "Woohoo, we're back, bitches!" he crows. "Hells yeah we are, boy!" growls Uncle Daddy. "Screw them Haitians: I'm taking care of business myself." He grabs the scotch and heads out, mojo restored and possibly doubled.

Then we're in a large bathroom at the Simms/Husser commune as Desna and Dean prepare for the night's festivities by removing unwanted hair: she's shaving her legs at her sink while he waxes his chest at his. He reports that Zlata has said "It's Raining Men" Night could be a monthly event if the début goes well, adding, "She's so sweet." I guess we can add this to the list of topics he and Virginia never discuss. He asks if Desna likes Zlata, and she says she does, but worriedly checks that he's not going to be nervous at the show tonight. Dean says Virginia told him to do what she used to: picture the audience in their underwear. Desna says she's proud of Dean, and tells him to look around at the big house they're living in now: "No more black mold!" He complains that they haven't moved into the "dual masters," which would each have their own bathroom, and Desna tells him to appreciate that they're moving up in the world. Speaking of moving up in the world: Dean remembers that he and Virginia invited Gregory to the show. "TO THE STRIP CLUB IN PALMGHETTO?!" Desna gasps. Dean's like, yeah. Desna lets Dean know that she and Gregory had plans later that night, so if Gregory has to leave early, it's because he has a C-section in the morning. Dean understands...and then asks Desna to wax his perineum. Desna is a very attentive and supportive sister but, thankfully, has boundaries, so she gives him a hand mirror on her way out.

Uncle Daddy's changed his bloody shirt to meet Bryce at the shrimp joint, grousing that Roller is ignoring their messages to spend time with Olga and Bogdan: "That boy needs to be with his family." HMMM IT IS ALMOST AS IF ROLLER HAS TWO FAMILIES WITH COMPETING INTERESTS AND THAT HE WILL BE FORCED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THEM. "Get him on the phone, shit's about to go down," Uncle Daddy orders. Bryce is surprised to learn that they're "going early," and Uncle Daddy says he "called in some fellas from the Carolinas" who are en route. The location will be the strip club, he adds, because there's no point in waiting: "Can't let our foredaddies down." If this isn't already a slang term for older gay guys who are uncircumcised....


Cut to Zlata's, where Roller is ignoring Bryce's call because he's busy getting puked upon by Bogdan. Olga worries that Bogdan feels hot, so Roller grabs his phone to call the pediatrician without even glancing at his missed calls. Daddy mode activated!

And then: Marilyn is wrapping up the blessing at Shabbat dinner. She sits and asks whether anyone else would like to add one. Marnie says she would; Malik taught it to her. Polly breaks in to say she'll do it, since her daddy was a preacher, and Marnie's like, "Since when," and Polly sinks to her teen level (which, to be honest, might just be where she lives) and shoots back, "Since the Southern Baptist First Denominational Holy Mother Church Of All Saints said so!" I may not know much, but I do know there aren't a lot of Holy Mothers in Protestant churches; Marnie's not sufficiently informed to poke holes. Marilyn warmly encourages Polly to let "the child" say her prayer...which turns out to be a snatch of lyrics from "Fight The Power," delivered with little rhythm but a lot of enthusiasm. Polly joins in with even MORE enthusiasm, knocking over the Shabbat candle and lighting the table on fire. When it's out, she recovers by pretending nothing happened and changing the subject to how good Marnie would look with red hair. Marnie, predictably, says she prefers her natural hair colour, but Polly starts rhapsodizing about what a difference it would make: "Once you go red, everything changes -- I'm talking mo' money, mo' honey, all the 'mo's." "I don't want to look like you," says Marnie firmly. An awkward pause ensues, which Polly tries to end by asking who wants dessert. "We're still eating dinner," Marnie points out. Marilyn continues watching the tension crackle between Polly and Marnie, but Polly ignores it, suggesting that she and Marnie do makeovers later -- maybe starting with a streak of red hair to see if Marnie likes it. I assume more dialogue was cut here that had to be bridged with Marilyn's reach of a line: "Like a sister? Do you have a sister?" Polly does't answer, so Marnie tells Marilyn Polly has a twin sister. Polly says that she's "a marketing exec, at a Starbucks in Seattle." A marketing a single location? Is Polly suddenly a much worse liar or did Carrie Preston screw up her line? Polly calls her sister "a stick-in-the-mud" and says they've never been that close. "I always thought twins were inseparable," says Marilyn to Marnie, as sotto voce as she can with that baritone voice of hers. Polly sharply says they're not inseparable, and also that she has to go. But before she can get out the door, Marilyn stops her to ask why it's so important that Marnie look like Polly. She denies that it is; she just wanted to have girl time. "The therapist in me is telling me that that's not what it's really about," says Marilyn. "It's easy to lie to ourselves, isn't it? Means we don't have to face what's really there." Polly pretends not to know what she's talking about, so Marilyn tells her that if she ever wants to connect with Marnie, she needs to figure it out. Obviously Polly has a lot of issues she's not dealing with, but like...half of this is just standard teenage girl shit -- and considering all the stuff Marnie probably survived with her biological mother that we don't know about, she's got a pretty mild case of it.

Then Bryce swings by the shop to pick up Brienne and Baylor, and to deliver divorce papers to Jenn. She still wants to start over, but Bryce doesn't think they can come back from the things they've done, and Jenn puts on a show of bravado as she pretends to accept.

We're supposed to believe Desna would spend hours getting ready for Dean's show and her subsequent date with Gregory and then ride around in his convertible with the top down and not so much as a scarf over her hair? There's just no fucking way. But whatever: over her protests that they're going to be late to the club, he's brought her to the beach, and tells her to take off her shoes. He walks her to a secluded but lovely spot and tells her to trust him. "Oh shit," she says, poetically, as she gets it. Gregory tells her he'll do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true, and then kneels, pops open a box with a giant door knocker of a diamond, and says, "Marry me, Desna, and make my dreams come true." Desna dances from foot to foot and squeals at him to put it on her before yelling, "Yes, yes!" and kneeling with him to cover him with kisses. What a lovely moment for the two of them, affirming their love! Now to take a big sip of coffee the remaining fifteen minutes of the episode.

Gregory and Desna walk into Hammer & Pickle together, Desna obviously exhibiting zero chill showing off her ring to the other Nail Artisans. Jenn is slightly stiff congratulating Gregory (and I love that she has southern manners enough to know that you congratulate the groom and wish joy to the bride), but everyone else is as thrilled as you would expect them to be if they weren't conflicted about Zlata and Desna's friendship. "Leave it to you to get everything AND three carats," says Jenn after inspecting the ring; after a moment of resounding silence at this snotty remark, Jenn bleats, "Ruffles are going to add ten pounds to this Maid of Honour." "The Doritos don't help," says Quiet Ann. Desna then turns her attention to Quiet Ann and her date, Arlene, saying it's good to see them together and that they look happy. "Yes," says Arlene. "Insanely happy. We're finally right back where we need to be." ...'Kay. Still waiting for the other Croc to drop on these two.

Zlata then gets on the mic to tell everyone it's about to start raining men, and everyone squeals into their seats. Dean's backup dancers stride out in yellow slickers with matching hats and umbrellas. Dean comes out last and immediately puts his hands up to cover his ears against the screams from the audience before turning around and running backstage again. Desna says she knew the crowd would get to him; Virginia says she thought the quickie in the bathroom earlier would calm him down. "Maybe it was too quick," drawls Desna. She hands Gregory her drink, but Virginia stops her from going backstage: "You've got to let him do this. On his own." Desna doesn't like it, but she stays put.

Meanwhile, Bogdan is in A STATE. Olga is freaking out in the usual way of new moms while Roller is being a very Roller kind of new dad, on the phone screaming at the pediatrician, "WE ARE DOING OUR BEST!!!" The upshot is that Bogdan has the flu, and since he can't keep anything down, all they can really do is try to cool him down so his fever breaks. Olga cries with frustration and exhaustion, and Roller gently tells her, "We got this."

Also in A STATE is Dean, complaining to Polly that it's too loud on stage. (There is a growing awareness of how to make live theatre more accessible to people with autism, but I'm not sure such efforts have expanded to include exotic dancing venues, never mind the exotic dancers themselves.) Polly tries to get Dean to wear his protective earmuffs, which he'd rejected as "not sexual," saying that they are on him. She exhorts him, with a lot of lofty but meaningless language, to go out there and do the show "for the boys," but this just makes Dean panic more. Polly drops "the scary voice," which seems to be a good start; she takes his hand as she tells him she can only guess how hard this is for him, but that she's known him a long time and knows he can do it: "I know deep inside you know you got this too. Don't be the one to hold yourself back. You shine your light. You blind them bitches!" Dean laughs a little at this, and Polly sends the rest of the boys back out. As they go, Polly gets on the mic: "Ladies and gentlemen, it's a hot, balmy night out there in Palmetto. Hammer & Pickle is ready to cool you down and heat you up because tonight? It's raining men."

Okay, so Dean comes out and -- without the hearing protection -- absolutely slays his performance. Logically, there is no way to square this with how clumsy he was at rehearsal EARLIER THIS VERY DAY, nor with the way he inhabits his body in his day-to-day life, but since there's also no way to square that with Dean's ever wanting to become a stripper in the first place? I have to think Harold Perrineau just thought it would be fun to do, and he actually can dance, so I guess who cares about logic. Also it eats up a couple of minutes of screen time, and as a recapper, I can't be too mad about that.

While Dean's heating up Palmetto's panties, Bogdan's been cooling off: his fever has broken, his parents are relieved, and Olga's seeing Roller in a whole new light.

Dean comes out in his civvies after the show to the praise and congratulations of his loved ones, though the subject quickly changes when he notices Desna's ring. She takes him aside to tell him about the proposal, and that she accepted. She promises him that nothing will change between her and Dean, but he tells her, "Change is inevitable." Desna agrees, but says she loves Dean, and that the two of them will always be together. Dean smiles and leans forward so the two of them can touch heads. Can't wait for him to continue being happy for her for a long, long time!

Dean and Desna rejoin the group in time for Zlata to come out and tell him he can do the show every month. "It's the best night of my life!" he says. Polly excuses herself to deal with an unwell Dr. Ken, so Zlata turns to Desna and Gregory: "It's the best night of their lives for other people too! Congratulations, bride and groom!" She orders some celebratory Veuve Cliquot bottles on the house, and Zlata and Desna blow kisses to each other. What could possibly go wrong?!

Bryce, Uncle Daddy, and the fellas from the Carolinas are mustering in a parking lot, still failing to raise Roller on his phone. "Let this be a lesson to you, boy!" bellows Uncle Daddy onto Roller's voicemail. "Don't answer your phone, you're going to miss all the fun!" Then it's time to go kill some "Siberian shitholes," and I swear I'm not trying to be pedantic, but how many times has Zlata said she and Riva are from (the other) Georgia?! Honestly.

In the Hammer & Pickle parking lot, Arlene and Quiet Ann are fooling around in the van, Arlene saying they're bad friends because they should be inside celebrating Desna -- totally the kind of thing Quiet Ann should expect to hear from Arlene about the woman on whose behalf Quiet Ann, as far as Quiet Ann knows, lost Arlene her job. COME ON, QUIET ANN, GET OUT OF THE FOG OF LOVE AND START NOTICING SOME SHIT. Anyway, Arlene sees Gregory walk out of the club and says that if he's leaving, they've probably celebrated enough: "Take me home."

Apparently Dr. Ken's illness wasn't just a cover story to get Polly home early, as we cut to him emptying his guts into Polly's toilet when she comes back in. They're the only ones there, Marilyn having gone with Marnie and Malik (which he weirdly pronounces "Malick," like the director?) to get frozen yogurt. "She's slipping away," says Polly predictably, like, she is, but a trip to Pinkberry probably isn't indicative. Then Dr. Ken's phone pings with a text from Lucy reminding him that the clock's ticking, which just turns his stomach again. "Ooh, that Jew food repeats on you, doesn't it?" coos Polly. Okay, guys? You really should try to keep these jokes to one or fewer per episode from characters we're supposed to like.

Virginia is walking out with Dean and his fellow dancers, making plans to hit Carvel and spike their shakes, when Uncle Daddy strides up, liberated Glencallan in hand. "Got something special," he tells the doorman, who follows him in for a taste.

When they enter, Jenn and Desna are the only Nail Artisans left, chatting and giggling in a doorway off to the side. Zlata is on the stage, starting her karaoke take on "All By Myself." "Y'all havin' fun in my club?" growls Uncle Daddy, the bottle in his hand making this look like just another impotent pouty bender. He rants about his family having been in the area since Jackson sent "those crying red-faced Indians on their merry trail" and so forth, and this worthless doorman is just standing behind a railing watching Uncle Daddy disturb his new boss's soulful ballad when Bryce and the rest of the Husser posse steal in behind him, pull him down, and knock him out with a rifle butt to the head (or kill him; it happens below our line of sight). A Carolinian takes out another Uncle Daddy-distracted guard. In a back office, Bryce shoots a henchman in the head. As the song ramps up to the chorus, Uncle Daddy draws on Zlata, who doesn't move as one of her other henchmen runs out from the back, with a gun; Uncle Daddy shoots him instead of her.

Zlata remains on stage -- lip-syncing to what I'm pretty sure is the Céline Dion cover of "All By Myself" -- as chaos erupts around her and Jenn and Desna stay low just outside the showroom. A bunch of redshirts on both sides get it. Eventually, Uncle Daddy shoots another Russian henchman who's onstage to protect Zlata. As he collapses onto his knees, Zlata takes his handgun -- which is equipped with a laser sight -- and efficiently head-shoots the three Carolinians still standing. Bryce is, I guess, in shock, because he just stands out in the open and watches them get shot before Zlata chooses a spot just under his right nipple and shoots him there instead of in the head.


Pays to be opening-credits cast, apparently.

Uncle Daddy drives with Desna in the shotgun seat and Jenn in the back cradling Bryce's head and trying to keep him conscious as they speed to the ER; he's still awake as personnel spill out, a doctor quickly diagnosing a "sucking chest wound" and calling for an OR. As Bryce is wheeled inside on a gurney, Jenn stops burbling apologies to Bryce to ask Desna, "Do you think he's going to live? Do you think he knows I'm sorry?" Desna says yes, and Jenn follows Uncle Daddy in after them. Left alone, Desna flashes back to the moment she asked Zlata if she could set up a sitdown and Zlata cheerfully agreed. I'm not sure what this is supposed to tell us except that...Zlata kept up her side of the deal?

Desna gets a Lyft from the hospital to Zlata's manse; when there's no answer to her knock, she lets herself in and soon hears Zlata's voice...and then Gregory's. Unable to parse the evidence her ears are supplying, she creeps around a corner to get close enough to see the backs of their heads. "Soooooo tell me again," coos Zlata. The camera comes around in front of Zlata and Gregory on the couch, both looking more casual than we have ever seen either of them before, including when Desna woke him up at his place in the middle of the night.


It is actually so unsettling to see Zlata this undone that, later in the scene when we see she's in garish knockoff Hermes-print leggings, it's kind of a relief. "PLEASE tell me again," Zlata begs. "Again?" laughs Gregory. "I went down on my knees...." Zlata screams with laughter. "Little beach, sunset," Gregory continues. "Hallmark Hall of Fame," she cracks. "The whole thing!" says Gregory. "'Can I get some schmaltz on top of the schmaltz?'" Zlata hoots. "And she said yes," says Gregory. "Oh God, can you believe it?" gasps Zlata, as we see Desna's face screwed up in pain. "She really thinks you love her!" Gregory pets Zlata's head, telling her, "You look beautiful without makeup." It seems like he's about to kiss her, but instead we see from Desna's vantage point as Gregory gets up from the couch, bottomless. He plops back down and murmurs, "You know what you're going to do for me?" She knows, and Desna watches as Zlata gets up and positions herself on the floor between his knees, Gregory stretching both arms out to his full wingspan and leaning his head back in triumph. Desna covers her mouth in horror and cries. Hurry up and get it out, Desna: you're going to need a cool head as you plan how both these people are going to die.

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