Claws Sends Desna And Dean On A Journey Into Their Past
When the Simms siblings blow town, everyone else in Palmetto pretty much spins their wheels in our latest EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP!
Previously: the first five episodes of Season 2.
Now: a shattered Desna departs Zlata's house, weeping for the life she's not going to have with Gregory, and is still in a daze as she sits in the hospital waiting room with Polly and Virginia and Quiet Ann and the Hussers that did not get shot earlier tonight. Weirdly, Polly asks if Desna's okay, like, even though they don't know what's going on with her engagement, they do know her best friend's husband just got shot, so maybe she's a little upset about it? Desna hoarsely says she's fine, and Uncle Daddy snorts, "She doesn't look fine," like, ARE YOU FINE, DUDE? It's not like you're all sitting around the shop getting a polish change, damn. Anyway, Desna can't sit anymore, and Roller follows her to the far side of the waiting area to take his turn asking how she is, and as if, all at once, she remembers the many hints Roller's dropped about Gregory over the course of the season, she narrows her eyes and asks, "Did you know about Ruval?" Roller takes a beat before admitting, "Pussy doc's his own Mafia kingpin, D. I wanted to tell you." Barely keeping her voice down, Desna says she can't believe this shit, but they can't get into it because then a nurse appears yelling for a crash cart for a patient who's flatlining, and I guess Bryce is the only person who got shot in Palmetto tonight because he is, indeed, the flatliner in question. Jenn comes out shrieking from around a corner, presumably from his room. At first, she runs straight to Desna, sobbing helplessly, as Desna says she thought Bryce was stable. Jenn doesn't answer at first, catching her breath, and then having an epiphany, telling Desna, "You did this. You remember how you said that we could trust Zlata?" She turns to the other Nail Artisans standing in the doorway to get them to agree with her; wide-eyed, they all nod. "I was wrong, Jenn!" cries Desna. "This is your fault," says Jenn. "All of it. All of it. ALL OF IT!" With no good answer, Desna turns and quickly stalks out. Maybe if Jenn had been more understanding, Desna would be on her way to get her some clothes that aren't covered in her possibly dying husband's guts.
After the title card, the sun is rising, and Desna is hurrying into Dean's room at the commune to wake him up and tell him they have to go. "Did Bryce die?" asks Dean, confused. Desna ignores that one (rude, since the answer very well could be yes!), asking about his go bag, but Dean says he hasn't had one since he was fourteen, and asks what's happening. Desna intensely says they're getting into her old car and getting out of there. Dean wants to know why they're not taking the Maserati, which he says is much more fuel-efficient -- fact-check: extremely untrue, but it's just to set up Desna to tell him, "I don't want nothing that bitch gave me."
Back at the hospital, the Hussers are waiting impatiently for an update on Bryce. When the doctor comes out, she says that Bryce's "ballistic trauma" preceded the coma he is currently in: "The next few hours are critical." "Russian bitch," growls Roller, stomping off. Wondering how this development is going to affect Roller's relationship with Olga, on the heels of the progress they made supporting each other through Bogdan's recent illness? You're going to have to keep wondering, because Olga doesn't appear in this episode at all!
Over to the Russian bitch: in her formal dining room, she asks Gregory how the wedding's coming along. He says it's fine: "I just have to work out a few things with the venue." It's probably only been about twelve hours since the proposal, but sure, that makes total sense. Zlata hisses at him to hurry up: "After you are married, everything Desna has will be community property." Mafia ties aside, this wealthy doctor wouldn't want his fiancée to sign a prenup? Sure, sure. Sure! (Long shot theory: Zlata's endgame is still to elevate Desna, and she's planning to double-cross Gregory so that all he has will be community property, which Desna will get when Zlata kills him? LOOK, I SAID IT WAS A LONG SHOT.) Gregory tells Zlata he knows the plan. Zlata says that's good: "So now all we need to do is go to the hospital and kill Uncle Fatty. If we don't do it right now, he's going to come for us." Gregory smiles indulgently as he takes her shoulders and coos that she's "always business." "What can I say," she grins. "I love my work."
A bright yellow convertible comes screaming around a corner, soon disgorging Roller, and since "Cracker Casserole" made it clear that Uncle Daddy's current whip is a Subaru station wagon, I'm going to guess this car is Olga's. Roller lets himself into the manse, which is in no way the sprawling estate Riva spirited Jenn's daughter to in the Season 1 finale and that Roller and Olga were married on, so I guess Riva also had a pied-a-terre in town. ANYWAY: Roller comes pounding on the door; Zlata hisses at Gregory to hide and then lets Roller in, only for him to come straight at her and slam her head down on the table. Gregory remains hidden (the camera not even cutting to him to let us know whether this bothers him at all), leaving Zlata to bellow for Boris instead; he hauls ass from upstairs and breaks it up, wrestling Roller to the floor while Zlata lectures, "Don't be foolish, I'm your family now! I have men going to hospital killing your Uncle Daddy right this moment, and if you don't want to join him in graveyard, I suggest you leave here at once!" "I'm finna kill both of you," Roller grits. "Boris," says Zlata testily, "explain to Roller what will happen if he kills me." "I will kill your son," says Boris. "Psycho," says Roller, throwing Boris off him and struggling to his feet -- briefly, Boris soon getting the better of him again and holding him in a headlock. "Explain to me," Zlata asks Roller, "why do Americans make such big deal out of killing babies?" Because there's no sport in it? BUT I KID, and come on, Bogdan's going to be fine and is also not real! "It's your grandson," Roller chokes. "So?" laughs Zlata. "Olga can have more. She gets pregnant like fat man goes jogging: once or twice a year. Now stop this shit." Boris lets Roller go, and yet somehow, I don't believe this is over!
Cut to Desna and Dean in the good old Lexus with its "NAILD IT" license plate, speeding along the highway. Dean is getting increasingly anxious about how fast she's driving, while she ignores him, her mind flicking through recent events that all look different given what she now knows about Gregory and Zlata. Eventually, Desna pulls onto a turnoff for a beach, parks there, and wades into the ocean, ordering Dean to stay in the car (which he does not). Desna wades in up to her knees and then falls, wailing, Dean coming up behind to help her back up. "I can't do this anymore," she gasps at the water's edge. Dean doesn't understand what's going on; he just wants to go home. Desna seizes on this remark, putting her hands on his face and telling him that's what they're going to do. Dean says that's good, because he has rehearsal with Polly, but that's not the home she means: "We're going somewhere else. Come on."
Desna and Dean end up driving through a tidy neighbourhood, though when they pull up to their destination -- a light blue bungalow -- she's distressed to see that the windows are boarded up and there's a For Sale sign on the lawn. "Why are we at Miz Wallace's house?" Dean ask-sposits. "She said if I ever needed her, Dean, to come find her," Desna tells him. "I think that's just one of those things that people say," Dean suggests. But Desna is undeterred, pounding on the front door before going around back, pulling a board off a window, crawling inside, and ordering Dean -- over his objections -- to follow. Two people of colour breaking into an abandoned house? Should be fine.
At the shop, it's business as usual, other than that (obviously) Desna and Jenn aren't there. Quiet Ann asks whether anyone's heard from Desna or Dean, and Virginia's like, "Nope [shrug]" -- and again, I must ask: are they still engaged? Because if so, she seems extremely blasé about her fiancé's unexplained and very sudden disappearance. Less blasé is Zlata, storming in at this point to ask where Desna is: for the first time, she missed their morning meeting. Quiet Ann badly lies that Desna's sick; Polly says she thinks she ate something that didn't agree with her, and Virginia builds on the story but adds too much detail: "Trust me, girl, you do not want her here. We all share a bathroom, and she--"
Zlata holds up a hand to silence Virginia and turns to the next obvious subject: "How is Hoo-ser boy doing?" This is delivered as though she were just a curious acquaintance and not HIS SHOOTER, and the Nail Artisans answer it the same way, Polly chirping that he's "hanging in there." Zlata finally acknowledges the reality of the situation, taking a couple of slow steps forward (making the Nail Artisans back up), and murmuring, "You can't blame scorpion for stinging." Which is true! The second scene she shared with them was the one in which she shot Riva in the face, so they can't really act like they didn't know what she was about just because she kept showering them with cash, besides which they really had no choice but to participate in her schemes since the alternative was to get killed. "Tell her to get better," Zlata orders, of Desna. "We have work to do." The Nail Artisans glare at her departing figure until Quiet Ann gets a text from Jenn, asking them to take care of her girls because her babysitter flaked. It's not clear why both Polly and Quiet Ann are required to keep an eye on two children who barely come up to their hips, but that's the contrivance that is setting up Virginia's storyline this week: while Polly and Quiet Ann are out, Virginia's in charge of the shop. And she's very confident she can handle it! Until the door opens and a woman leads in like a dozen little kids for a manicure birthday party. (Have you ever been a patron at a nail salon when this happened around you, by the way? Sometimes they're cute and sometimes they're reeeeeeeal dicks, and either way, on those days you should tip your own technician like triple what you normally would.)
Back at Mrs. Wallace's, Desna strokes her fingers through the thick layer of dust on the kitchen counter before wandering to her and Dean's old bedroom. Dean, climbing onto the bottom bunk, finds one of his old drawings in the slats under the top bunk and comments, "This is when I was in my abstract phase!" He asks Desna what she's looking for, and as she finds her way back to the hallway, she's vaulted into a memory of Mrs. Wallace -- played by the great Aloma Wright, probably best known as Laverne on Scrubs -- taking care of wee Desna and Dean as well as a chubby little baby. Wee Desna peevishly asks why Wee Dean messes with his food like that, and Mrs. Wallace says it's because he's his own person and they love him for it. Wee Desna starts singing to the baby, Corina, from one of the few somewhat appropriate parts of "Super Freak": "She's a very special girl / From her head down to her toenails." Already thinking about pedis. "She loves you," says Mrs. Wallace. But this happy memory is about to sour, as a knock comes on the door. "They let me out," says the young woman, backed up by several social workers. "Here for my kids." Mrs. Wallace tersely says she wasn't expecting them until after dinner, so I guess she was planning to give the Simms kids five minutes of preparation for this traumatic experience? Not great, Mrs. Wallace! Miss Simms ignores Mrs. Wallace and barges inside, Wee Desna moaning, "Oh no, it's Mom." As Miss Simms approaches them excitedly, Wee Dean and Desna run around the other side of the table and straight to Mrs. Wallace, who reluctantly tells them it's time for them to go. Wee Dean says he doesn't want to, but Mrs. Wallace gently reminds him that they knew this day would come. Wee Desna says they want to stay with her, and Mrs. Wallace kneels to say, "Whenever you feel it getting dark, just know you got a light inside and it's burning bright. You ever start to feel that light going out, you come find me; I'll be right here." The children are still protesting as their mother hustles them out. "Where are you, Mrs. Wallace?" asks present-day Desna melodramatically.
Desna and Dean walk out the front door, Dean saying he still doesn't know why Desna brought them there. Desna tearfully says that Mrs. Wallace made them feel safe even when things got bad. Since she's not there, though, Dean would like to go back to Palmetto, to which Desna intones, "They used me, Dean." He asks whom she's talking about, but before she can answer, she notices a neighbour working on her flower bed and goes over to see what she knows about Mrs. Wallace's whereabouts. The neighbour doesn't know where she is, but says that Mrs. Wallace's daughter Corina works at the nearby middle school. "What if Mrs. Wallace is dead?" asks Dean. Desna, darkly, says she can't be. I mean, it would be just Desna's luck if she were, but let's be optimistic, I guess!
At the shop, Virginia is predictably overwhelmed. Fortunately, Toby and Scarlet are standing right outside eating tacos, so Virginia is able to conscript them into helping her.
Polly and Quiet Ann, meanwhile, deliver trays of food and a change of clothes to a frazzled Jenn. Seemingly regretful about how harsh she was before, she asks whether they've heard from Desna; Quiet Ann says they haven't, but quickly adds that Jenn should worry about herself, and that they'll be fine with the kids. Jenn wishes them good luck getting the girls out of the gift shop, and when she turns around...Hank is there, with a teddy bear, doing what friends do: "Show up in a time of crisis." Jenn curtly says she told him they can't be friends. His face falls, but they can't get into it then, as Roller comes down the hall toward them and attacks Hank until a couple of security guards pull him off. "I told you not to show your face around here," growls Roller, like, he did? In a deleted scene? Jenn tells Hank to go. "Next time I'm going to put a slug in that little hat of yours," threatens Roller, as Hank checks the blood on the cut Roller's just opened on his eyebrow. "I said go on," says Jenn, before Hank can respond, and after a dark look at Roller, he does. Turning back to Roller, Jenn insists she didn't tell Hank to come or know that he was coming; Roller grabs her by the arm and tells her to make sure Hank doesn't come back.
After commercials, Bryce is still unconscious, Uncle Daddy praying at his bedside with the gaudiest goddamn rosary I have ever seen.
Roller enters with Jenn and tells Uncle Daddy they have a situation with the Russians. "Not now, boy," Uncle Daddy mutters. "God and I are conversating." Jenn backs Roller up, saying that Zlata is coming for him; Roller says she could be there any moment: "They don't care that you're in the hospital, they will kill you right here." "I don't give a shit," says Uncle Daddy. "Y'all either pray with me or get the hell out." Roller and Jenn, duly chastened, take each other's hands, and make a circle with Bryce and Uncle Daddy as the latter begs all the members of the Holy Trinity to let Bryce live: "He's got a wife, some diverse-ass babies who need him. Plus I can't bear to lose another piece of my heart." Ghost Juanda decides to sit this one out.
Then we're at a park with Quiet Ann, Polly, and the charges that for some reason they still feel they need to double-team. Polly spots a book group dampening a couple of trees with their discussion of a knockoff Fifty Shades Of Gray, clocks them as potential Hammer & Pickle customers, and heads over to do some marketing, adopting a very Silver Lake accent to talk up the show and especially the dancers: "They've been tested, they've been trained in social etiquette by yours truly, and, um, unlike your husbands? They service all your needs. Okay?" She leaves them with a stack of cards and takes a call from Sweetback, who's one of Virginia's gay recruits from the acting studio and thus, apparently, needs some very basic instruction in the mechanics of sex with women. Quiet Ann hears Polly's euphemistic yet filthy side of the conversation but, despite her own expertise in sex with women, apparently has no notes.
We're still in Bryce's prayer circle when Dr. Ken opens the door and very casually asks Uncle Daddy, "Commit any cool crimes lately?" In their unmarked van outside, Arlene and Lucy listen to Dr. Ken's chill-free rap: "I've just been wondering what you've been up to! Any gangster-like activities I should know about?" As Uncle Daddy tells him to get lost, Lucy snits, "I hate this guy so much." "I literally can hear him sweat," says Arlene. We cut back to the hospital room, where Dr. Ken observes that they look like they could use some appletinis, and suggests relocating to a nearby T.G.I. Friday's to talk. This offer, somehow, proves resistible.
Virginia seems to be holding her own at the shop; when the one boy guest complains that he's bored, Virginia lectures Toby and Scarlet to quit fucking around and sends the boy over to Toby, promising that he'll end up looking fierce. "Fierce like a tiger?" asks the kid. Exactly like that!
At the park, Quiet Ann takes Polly aside to say she thinks it's weird that, even given very recent events, Polly's still psyched to be working for Zlata. "It's a conundrum, I agree," says Polly carefully. "But the boys and I have a great thing going. They are making bank!" Quiet Ann makes Polly think through the fact that "a huge percentage" of said bank is going to end up back in the garish handbags of the person "who just put Jenn's husband in a coma." Polly knows: "But shit is finally starting to turn around for me!" Quiet Ann reminds Polly that she didn't want to get Arlene fired from the police force (so...it'll probably be a huge relief when she finds out she didn't!), but that Arlene's "a rent-a-cop" (nope) because of Quiet Ann: "But that is the deal we made, Polly. We put the crew first. Bros before hoes." I know Quiet Ann can't get through a conversation without bringing up her treachery against Arlene, but I don't see her point here. Is she saying the deal they made was to be loyal to Jenn and thus, by extension, the Hussers? Because the Hussers themselves were cooperating with Zlata up until last night, and changing their minds about it didn't really end well for one of them. Their deal is, at this point, not to do anything that's going to end in their own murders. Right? Like, surely Quiet Ann isn't suggesting that Polly try to quit on Zlata and get herself shot, so is it just that she thinks Polly should behave as though she's more conflicted about it? (I mean, honestly, the point of this exchange is probably just to reiterate Quiet Ann and Arlene's backstory for the benefit of new viewers, which, fine, but it's rather clumsily done.) Anyway: Polly wishes there were a way for her to be loyal to Desna "and do the madam thing." Quiet Ann says there isn't: "We've all got to stick together." Uh, may I just point out, on the sticking together tip, that Desna herself has fucked off to parts unknown, so again: work on your argument, Quiet Ann.
Speaking of Desna: she and Dean are at the middle school, which they both attended in their own youth, apparently not very happily. Dean sees a familiar tree and climbs up, reaching into a hollow and finding one of his old G.I. Joes, improbably unfaded despite the forty years that have passed since he put it there. This sends him into a memory of a couple of boys seeing Teen Dean up there and calling him "Re-Re." Teen Desna comes up behind them and orders them to leave Teen Dean alone; in a stroke of casting genius, Teen Desna is played by Niecy Nash's own daughter Dia, and when I say "daughter" I actually mean clone.
One of the boys shoves Teen Desna and she falls to the ground, looking concerned about her indigo manicure. In the present, Desna calls Dean down from the tree, because school is out and they need to go find Corina. Seeing him return the toy to its notch, she asks why he's not going to keep it; he says he doesn't need it anymore.
Outside the hospital, Uncle Daddy is pouring booze from a flask into his store-brand Mountain Dew as Roller repeats that Zlata has him "marked" and that it isn't safe for him to stay there: "I lost Auntie Mama, I ain't finna lose you too." As long as Bryce is in a coma, says Uncle Daddy, he's not leaving. "My daddy was hard-headed like you," Roller reminds Uncle Daddy. "Look where it got him." Uncle Daddy insists that he's not going anywhere.
Also staying put is Jenn, who's thankfully had a chance to change clothes and is keeping vigil at Bryce's bedside, fondly telling the story of the time she was relapsing at a bar when her favourite song came on the jukebox: "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" by England Dan & John Ford Coley. (Nice callback to their debate in "Russian Navy," where this fact was noted in the crawl.) She looked up just then as Bryce walked in...also relapsing. "I just couldn't believe it -- that we chose the same bar to relapse in, together," she chuckles. Kismet is, indeed, a funny thing. Jenn's voice breaks as she adds, "And sure, you'd done enough crack to support a small Mexican village, and I smelled like a hobo jungle, but it didn't matter. We held each other so tight, and you said, 'Baby, I'm pretty sure there's a good chance my heart's going to explode in a few minutes, but right now I feel on top of the world.'" Whether because of Jenn's touching story or the sensation of her hand on his arm...
...something in Bryce stirs. At the sight of his boner poking up under the sheet, Jenn decides not to let the opportunity pass: instead of calling for a medical professional, she wriggles out of her underwear.
Corina, now the middle school guidance counselor, knows who Dean and Desna are, and tells them her mother loved them and saved all the birthday cards they sent her. Desna says they loved her too, and really want to see her. Corina is sure Mrs. Wallace would love that: "She's over at Temple Glade if you want to swing by and say hello."
Back at the hospital, Jenn is contemplatively riding an unconscious Bryce and quietly singing "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight." Bryce shows that the hard-on wasn't a fluke as he also moves his hand, sliding it up to Jenn's leg. Encouraged, Jenn takes both his hands and holds them to her breasts, which is what's going on as Bryce's eyes flutter open and he joins Jenn in singing the chorus. Jenn can't believe Bryce is awake, and screams for the nurse before covering his face with kisses. Roller and Uncle Daddy enter as Bryce is...like, fully still inside Jenn. "Hey, that's some magic pussy!" yells Roller. Aw. This reminds Jenn of the compromising position she's in and she climbs off. But: reanimation accomplished! What else would we like Jenn to revive with her magic pussy? Please, Jenn, go have sex with The Last Man On Earth!
While I had feared that Corina's friendly and casual manner was a misdirect and Temple Glade was going to turn out to be a cemetery: good news! It's a seniors' residence, and Mrs. Wallace is there, very much alive. A nurse brings over her visitors, whereupon my next concern was that Mrs. Wallace greeting Dean and Desna "Look at you!" without actually saying their names meant she didn't remember them or thought they were someone else; everything's fine there too. Rather gauchely, Desna immediately makes Mrs. Wallace start doing emotional labour for her, announcing, "I'm in trouble, and I need your help....I loved a man who didn't love me back." "Men can be dogs," says Mrs. Wallace. Desna reminds Mrs. Wallace of what she told Desna about coming to find her if things got bad: "I feel like my light has gone out." Mrs. Wallace doesn't know what she's talking about, and when Desna repeats this remark that has been incredibly meaningful to her for years, Mrs. Wallace shrugs, "Honey, I'm old. I barely remembered to put my panties on today....That's just some bullshit you tell little kids." Desna is stunned, but Mrs. Wallace adds, "The fact of the matter is, you were a shitkicker -- from a line of shitkickers, if I remember correct. You don't need me to teach you to fight back! You've been fighting since the day you was born. Sounds like you just need to remember who you are, hm?" And maybe to get a pair of boots more conducive to kicking shit than the footwear we're accustomed to seeing her in.
Roller's outside the hospital having a cigarette when he sees a large black SUV pull up and Boris and two other henchmen climb out. Might it not be helpful for Olga to be observing events from somewhere near Zlata and pass information on to Roller? Is Olga's allegiance not to Roller but to Zlata? Too bad we're not going to find out because, as I already mentioned, Olga's not going to join us for this episode! Oh well! Anyway, Roller maintains a discreet distance as he follows Boris & Co. inside. The challenge for them is, as Boris notes, that just about 1 in 2 guys in Palmetto is bald, heavyset, and partial to loud print buttondowns. Boris spots a very Uncle Daddyesque guy waiting for the elevator, quickly walks over, jabs him in the neck with a needle, and shoves him into the elevator as soon as the doors have opened -- but, whoops, it's just some unlucky stranger.
At the shop, the birthday party's breaking up, the lone boy very happy with his fierce manicure. Virginia asks the birthday girl, "Did your mom like your nails that I did?" Her client reports, "She said I look like a prostitute!" "Happy birthday!" crows Virginia. When the shop is empty of patrons again, Toby suggests that they go for drinks, but Virginia says she'll catch up, staying back to leave Desna a voicemail letting her know she has a new appreciation for what Desna has to go through being in charge. Does she also say she's worried about Dean, her fiancé, and hopes they're okay? No, she does not. And it's still strange.
So Roller goes straight from witnessing the attack on the Uncle Daddelgänger to the original Uncle Daddy, with a proposal: they go to Chip, give them what they've got on the Haitians and Russians, and skate for all their own crimes. Uncle Daddy refuses, saying the Hussers have never been snitches, so Roller tells him to enjoy looking over his shoulder for whatever time remains in his life. Uncle Daddy's stalking off when Roller adds, "She said she was going to kill my baby, Clay." This stops Uncle Daddy. (Is Olga aware of this threat? WOULDN'T IT BE INTERESTING TO KNOW.) "Kill my grandson?" Uncle Daddy asks. Roller confirms it. Uncle Daddy pulls out his phone, calls Chip, and sets up a meeting.
The camera slides from this conversation to an overhead view of the ground floor, where Gregory's also on the phone, asking someone if they've heard from Desna. "She must really be sick," says Zlata, sitting in a car outside the commune. "Maserati has not left the house." She suggests that he check on her, and he says he will as soon as he can. Zlata is confident they've got Desna exactly where they want her.
Desna, however, isn't confident about anything, as she sits on a bench outside at Temple Glade and ponders how she ended up where she is. The shot goes blurry at the edges as two pairs of toes appear before her: it's Teen Desna and Wee Desna, and they want to double dutch. Desna doesn't think she knows how anymore, but she lets them talk her into trying, and it turns out she's still got moves (as if we had any doubt). Desna flashes back to Mrs. Wallace's "light inside you" speech, and then forward to what happened when her mother came to collect Wee Desna and Dean, which is that Wee Desna stood in the doorway and read her mother for filth: "I should thank you for walking out on me, Mama. 'Cause it made me strong. You let life take you under, but that won't be me, ever." We then see what happened when the boy shoved Teen Desna: she got straight back up and punched him in the face. All three Desnas end up back on the bench, her younger incarnations crowing that Desna's still got it after all: "You're just going to have to turn that shit up," says Teen Desna. Dean rouses Desna from her reverie; she stands, smiling, and tells him they're going home.
And after a commercial, Desna's changed from her sensible track suit into a knockoff Versace jumpsuit, done her hair and makeup, and hit the hospital. Greeting her in the hallway with a hug, Jenn apologizes for their confrontation earlier: "You know I didn't mean a word I said." "You probably meant a few of them," Desna smirks, and Jenn laughs without denying it before asking why Desna's in this getup. "This is my armour," Desna tells her. "I can't let anybody know what's up! I'm getting played, Jenn....By Zlata and Gregory." Rather than ask, you know, exactly what that means, Jenn just says it's awful. Desna adds that Jenn was right -- all of this is Desna's fault, and she's going to fix it. But Gregory and Zlata can't know their spot has been blown: "I'm just the blushing bride." This is all well and good, but the headline is that Jenn and Desna aren't in conflict anymore, and thank god.
Desna's hugging Jenn when she looks over her shoulder and sees Gregory approaching. Gregory has heard Jenn's good news, and Jenn thanks him for his support as she heads off to check on Bryce. Left alone, Gregory asks after Desna's health, and she tells him she's feeling much better. Zlata then texts to summon her to a make-up meeting, and Desna tells him she has to go. Gregory leans in for a kiss...
...but Desna bites his lip instead. At his surprise, she tells him, "You haven't seen my freaky side." He says he likes that she can be bad. I bet he'll stop liking it very soon!
In the van, Dr. Ken listens to Arlene and Lucy's recording of his awkward and ultimately useless encounter with Roller and Uncle Daddy earlier. "I HATE MY VOICE, IS THAT REALLY WHAT I SOUND LIKE?" he bellows under his headphones. Lucy tells him that, unfortunately, he does. Dr. Ken takes off the headphones, apologizing, and Arlene tells him, "In all my years working on these sting operations, you're the single worst informant I've ever seen." Dr. Ken isn't interested in this fearless feedback, instead asking whether he and Polly will have to move to a new state. "What makes you think Polly's going with you?" Arlene asks. "You're the only one working on this case with us. That means you're going to Witness Protection alone." "But if we were married, would that make any difference?" Arlene says it would, but they're not. Still seems to give Dr. Ken an idea, though!
Desna meets Zlata in her office at Hammer & Pickle. Testy pleasantries are exchanged about the improved state of both Desna's health and Bryce's. "I'm happy for Yennifer," says Zlata, gesturing with the gun she's just finished cleaning as she adds, "I got my point across. Everybody win." "I don't really give a shit about everybody, Zlata," says Desna. "I care if we win. What are you going to do about Clay?" Zlata assures Desna that she's got a plan. "Good," purrs Desna. "That man disrespected you. He deserves to be taught a lesson." Zlata is pleased that Desna agrees with her, and Desna gravely tells her, "I've got your back, Babushka." As Desna's on her way out, Zlata (improbably) takes a call from Chip, on speaker. As Desna stands in the hall eavesdropping, Chip tells Zlata about his imminent meeting with Uncle Daddy. "Finish him," Zlata orders. Desna takes note!
Roller drives Uncle Daddy to the meet in that yellow convertible.
Desna walks out of Hammer & Pickle and calls Uncle Daddy to warn him about what she just heard. Uncle Daddy hangs up on her just as Chip pulls up and gets out.
We keep getting shots from behind some crates or something, off to the side, but if some unseen person is witnessing what ensues, we don't yet know who. Anyway, Chip asks what Uncle Daddy wants to talk about, and by way of answer, Uncle Daddy whips out a sawed-off shotgun and uses it to shoot Chip in the chest. Chip flies through the air onto his car windshield, extremely dead. "Holy shit," says Roller blandly, apparently not having been read into this part of the plan beforehand. "So much for going straight," mutters Uncle Daddy. Yes, we know. You're bi.
Polly is pensively sorting through a small bin of banana hammocks and jock straps when she gets a call from Desna, and moments later she's opening the door to Desna, Uncle Daddy, and Roller, Desna having apparently arranged for Uncle Daddy to stay there for a while. Why none of them would think Desna's old house, currently occupied by one of her closest confidantes, wouldn't be, like, the second place Zlata would go looking for Uncle Daddy, I am certain I don't know, but sure, why not. Polly's fine with it as long as Uncle Daddy doesn't hog the remote: "I've got to watch my stories." "Children or Hospital?" asks Uncle Daddy appraisingly. "Both!" says Polly.
Uncle Daddy approves, but: no one on the writing staff felt like checking if All My Children was still on TV? Because it hasn't been for almost seven years. (And don't even try me with "This is a timeline clue!" when it's been quite clear all season that Trump is also president on the show.) Anyway, Uncle Daddy's surprised Desna even told them Zlata was planning to move against them, and Desna tightly tells them she caught Zlata and Gregory together: "The two of them are up to some shit, and I've just got to figure out what it is." "I told you that Ruval's a double-crossing son of a bitch," Uncle Daddy tells Roller. Desna demands to know what the two of them aren't telling her, and with Uncle Daddy's nonverbal sign-off, Roller admits, "We made a deal with Ruval to take out the Russians." "And you've been sitting on that this whole time?!" Desna screeches. Roller tries to defend himself, but Desna's not about it, barking at Roller for all his "family" talk and turning to drag Uncle Daddy for all his bitching about wanting to take the Russians out: "You owe me. So y'all gonna help me do it. But we gonna do it my way." Oh -- the way that's probably going to be well thought out and effective? Cool, that'll be a fun change.
So because I've watched a lot of primetime soaps in my day, I was pretty sure where the Bryce storyline was going was that, after his coma, he'd have either moderate amnesia that would cause him to forget Jenn's infidelity, or else a more serious case that would cause him to forget Jenn entirely. But when we see him again for the first time since he awoke, he's totally fine and normal; he and Jenn are giggling about something as she helps him drink some water, and then Baylor and Brienne are running in with Quiet Ann right behind them. Great? As Jenn takes a happy photo of Bryce and the girls cuddling up in bed, the camera pans over her shoulder to the window so that we can see Hank, standing in the parking lot outside, watching like a creep.
Desna has just parked at the commune when Roller pulls up behind her to apologize about Gregory, but she's still not interested in hearing it. Roller insists that he wanted to tell her, but that he had to protect Uncle Daddy. Desna gets Uncle Daddy's bullshit, she says, but she thought she and Roller were better than that, and instead of pleading his obligations to Olga and Bogdan, he agrees that Desna did deserve better from him. Desna stalks up to the door, where she sees a large gold dress box has been left for her. A fancy printed card reads, "A beautiful dress for a beautiful woman. Compliments of Matilde Ruval."
Desna does not look very complimented -- or very hopeful that her taste and Madame's are going to align.
Polly and Uncle Daddy are enjoying a snack of saltines and cheese spread with their SOAP, SINGULAR, when Dr. Ken comes over. He's surprised to see Uncle Daddy there, but when Uncle Daddy says that surviving these "substandard accommodations" will require some "pharmaceutical assistance," he produces a vial of something from his pocket and ushers Polly away to speak with her in private. When they're alone, Dr. Ken tells Polly, "I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've decided I want to spend the rest of my life with you." He hasn't even knelt all the way down before Polly is stopping him. "But doesn't that sound nice?" asks Dr. Ken. "You and I, moving to some small town somewhere, and maybe we could change our names...." Polly wants to know why they'd do that. He doesn't have an answer, and as we see that Arlene and Lucy are listening to this too, Polly says she likes what they have, but that she's not interested in moving to a small town with him when she's finally having the kind of life she always dreamed of. She...is? Oh dear. Dr. Ken is upset about this response for a number of obvious reasons even before Polly -- totally being recorded on his wire -- announces, "I'M A CRIMINAL, Ken, and I am really good at it." The disbelieving look Lucy and Arlene exchange over this is a hilarious refutation of Polly's claim. Dr. Ken tries to shut Polly up, but he can't, and she goes on enthusing, "I've got a whole bunch of male escorts who look up to me now!...And I understand that what I'm doing is against the law, I know that, but it's my calling. I am a madam." In the van, Lucy's like, "'Madam'?" Will they have the time or interest to pursue this source of revenue? Guess we'll see!
From Madam to Madame: we go back to the commune, where Desna is pulling the dress out of its box and holding it up to herself in the mirror.
I have to say, I wouldn't have expected Madame to pick out something strapless, or body-hugging, or covered in this Davids Bridal-calibre lace. As she looks at herself, Desna's mind flicks through various moments in her relationship with Gregory, and her relationship with Zlata.
And then we're outside with Desna in the back yard as she flicks a lighter, sets the flame to the dress, and drops it in a fire pit. As the tat is consumed, the camera goes in tight on the glow reflected in Desna's eyes.
If the next episode opens with Zlata and Gregory spontaneously combusting from the power of Desna's mind, literally no one will be surprised.