Welcome back to another episode of Boob(s On Your) Tube! This week, Mey wrote about Janet Mock’s appearance on Daytime Divas. Valerie Anne recapped Wynonna Earp and Orphan Black. And Kayla started recapping The Bold Type. I’m going to have to catch you up on Younger and The Fosters next week; I have a pinched nerve in my elbow, which has rendered my left hand pretty useless, but my doctor prescribed me some meds and a brace that makes me look like a robot and I should be able to type normally again next week. In the meantime, I’ll let Carmen and Natalie lead the way!
Written by Carmen
With all of the outside turmoil that the Bordelons have faced, I never paused to think about the possibility that the siblings would ultimately be their own undoing.
Today Charley becomes the first black mill owner in the state of Louisiana, and she’s desperately trying to keep everything under control. Her hair and outfit are flawless, her words are carefully chosen, but her smile is tight and tension ridden. The opening ceremony is lavishing! Politicians, business leaders, and farmers look on as Charley dedicates the mill to her father and “those farmers who work the land with dignity; we honor you by creating a place that treats you fairly”. To this end, each member of the black farming collective has brought a small amount of their crop to put into the hopper simultaneously, so that the first cane bundles the mill produces sugar from will be of their combined strength and unity.
Unfortunately, their symbolic gesture combined too much cane for the grinder. The mill will have to be momentarily shut down while workers clear out the choke. Remy reminds Charley that this is common, she should let the workers do their job, but Charley is already lost in her own thoughts of imperfection and panic. She takes off her designer coat and starts to clear out the choke by hand. Her breath quickens and sweat grows on her brow, her voice raises to hysterics. The mill employees, Remy, Micah, and Nova look on, frozen, until Nova reaches out for her sister.
Nova grabs Charley from behind. She holds her in the fiercest of bear hugs and whispers “C’mon sis, they got this” over and over as Charley’s cries continue, first in wails with mouth agape, and then in whimpers. Nova moves them together away from the group, never letting go of their hug. She takes off her head wrap, and uses the fabric to clean Charley’s hands. The lasting image of the ground up cane’s bright, lush green is breathtaking in DeMane Davis’ overhead shot.
I’ve written before about how much of myself I see in Nova. But, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge parts of myself in Charley as well. The parts that I am least proud of; the parts of me that always strive for untenable perfection, the parts that don’t know how to let others in. Those parts of me that believe that imperfection is ugly and asking for help is weak. I’m often quick to shun Charley because I don’t want to deal with those truths. Watching the Bordelon sisters love each other is a healing balm. We need more of it.
The entire family comes back together to honor the engraving of Earnest’s name on their family headstone. The Bordelons have a plot behind their farm and a standing marker with the names, birth, and death dates for their elders dating back to the Civil War. Together they pay tribute to Earnest as he joins that hallowed tribe. After the ceremony, they all sit down together at Vi’s dining room table for a family meal, and that is when the final bomb of the episode goes off.
Blue tearfully realizes that Kenya isn’t really Kenya, but a replacement bought by Darla. In consoling his son, Ralph Angel promises that he won’t lie anymore. Earlier in the episode, the two had encountered a store clerk that Ralph had robbed early in the first season, and he is still shaken from the memory. He wants to be honorable. So, he sits down at the family table and releases his last major secret: he has a handwritten addendum to Earnest’s will proving that their father actually left the farm to Ralph Angel’s sole possession.
That news is not taken well by either of his sisters. The tensions boil over. Every resentment and family secret gets laid bare. No one knows how to cut and draw blood like those you keep closest to your heart. Ralph Angel accuses Charley of never being around while their father was alive, too busy living in wealth and luxury in California. Nova counters that Ralph was in jail while Earnest was forced to take part time work as a janitor “to keep your son [Blue] in clothes and food”. Ralph’s next truth perhaps cuts the deepest, he turns to Nova and hurls, “You fighting for every brother locked up except your own.” Vi watches, heartbroken, as her nieces and nephew use their words to injure each other in the cruelest, darkest of ways. The camera pans to each and every one of our Bordelons, shell shocked and tears streaming down their faces.
WELL DAMN THEN. Just like that, my favorite television family just broke apart.
Written by Natalie
Previously on Claws, Desna gets stiffed on the money she’s promised by her boyfriend, Roller, and then, along with his mistress, tosses his stiff body into a boat and sets it on fire. Virginia regales Uncle Daddy with a sordid tale of kidnapping by someone named Titus. Jen tries to convince Desna to train her husband, Bryce, the ins and outs of the pill mill business and the training goes so well, Bryce promptly gets jacked for $88,000 of drugs. And Polly returns to the salon, fresh from her “vacation” upstate, sporting some new hardware around her ankle.
We pick up this episode where the last one ended, with Roller sliding into Desna’s bed. For a moment, things feel as good as they used to — his body against hers, the quiet affirmations of affection between them — but things quickly turns menacing. Roller squeezes Desna’s neck tightly and threatens her — promising that Uncle Daddy will soon figure out what she’s done. Desna fights back, slapping and yelling, and wakes up with a start.
Dean’s pounding on Desna’s bedroom door, having heard her cries, and she assures him that she’s okay — it was just another one of her nightmares. Convinced that his sister and her eyebrows are okay, Dean returns to bed and Desna collapses in tears against the door.
Over at the salon, Quiet Ann’s stocking shelves, while Polly entertains a client with a story about her soldier uncle turned fortune teller. In strides a new client, Sally Bates (Gina Torres), who recognizes Polly as “Heather Milton.” In the blink of an eye, Polly’s entire demeanor and voice changes — much to the shock of Quiet Ann — and she greets Sally warmly.
Polly Heather tells Sally that her husband, Otto, died a few years back and to escape the boredom of her lush life, she decided to write a book about a nail salon. Polly Heather’s slumming it at Nail Artisans of Manatee County purely for research purposes. Sally loves the idea and asks Polly Heather if she’ll give her a set of designer tips. Within seconds, and thanks to some prodding from Polly, Sally overhears stories about Virginia’s kidnapping, Roller’s murder, the search for Titus, the clinic and Bryce’s recovery.
“Everyone here’s so colorful,” Sally proclaims. “Your book’s gonna be a bestseller. I mean, it’s just like…a multi-ethnic Steel Magnolias.”
(Sidenote: They pronounce Titus, not like TI-tus, as in Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but like tit-us. I swear, it makes me laugh every single time. Clearly, I have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy.)
Back at home, Dean’s stretching and getting ready for his first session with his new trainer, who can “bring out the Jackie Chan in any man.” He spots a brochure with a picture of an old white couple on the back and that launches him into a full-blown panic attack.
“I thought the Coombses were in Tallahassee,” Dean shouts. “I-I thought they were in Tallahassee.”
Desna, recognizing the couple, quickly hides it from Dean’s view and rushes to calm her brother down. It’s a dance they’ve clearly rehearsed several times before — Desna repeats that he’s okay and tells him to put his hands up, as she puts on his favorite song, Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love.” Dean paces around the room, his hands in the air, tears streaming down his face, singing along, while Desna picks up a call from Uncle Daddy.
Unsurprisingly, Uncle Daddy, who set up the clinic’s robbery in the first place, is calling in Desna’s debt. She doesn’t have it, so he suggests a weekly payment plan instead. He hangs up before she can respond and Desna returns to comforting her brother — swaying along as Osborne hits the chorus, On the wings of love, only the two of us, together flying high.
With Dean’s nerves still frayed, Desna cancels his appointment with his trainer and brings him with her to the salon. Turns out, those white folks on the back of the brochure were one of Desna and Dean’s foster parents who treated them like animals.
“I still want to cut their eyes out,” Dean says, as Desna reminds him that the Coombses can’t hurt them anymore. Once at the salon, Dean resist getting out of the car until he hears Virginia’s voice. He promptly gets out, greets her in Vietnamese and walks back into the salon, hand-in-hand, with her.
I didn’t mention much about Dean in my introductory piece on Claws, but it’s worth tackling here: like Quiet Ann, Harold Perrineau’s portrayal of Dean is a fraught one — a step in the wrong direction and nuance could easily give way to the garishness that occasionally pollutes the show. Already, though, I’m encouraged by Perrineau’s portrayal — first, because Perrineau seems committed to the work of getting it right, but also because Claws is striving to build Dean into a fully formed character. Far too often, TV uses disability as a means to teach us about the caretaker, not the person with the disability, and Claws has avoided that thus far. Yes, Dean grounds Desna, but the show’s giving him interests — art, bodybuilding and learning Vietnamese, apparently — that are independent of Desna.
Desna heads to the clinic to talk to Bryce and Dr. Ken (Jason Antoon) about a way out from Uncle Daddy’s thumb. She wants to increase foot traffic in the clinic, selling ten times more at a slightly higher price. Traffic at the clinic’s slowed dramatically and Ken can’t imagine selling the high volume Desna wants without publicity and more money to cover the cost of the drugs. Desna hands Ken $20,000 to order the pills and promises to bring in new customers. As Desna walks out, she steps over Roller’s ghost who reminds her that that was his money.
Back at the Salon, Sally and Polly Heather make plans to meet for two sets of tennis at the local country club. Afterwards, Desna rallies the girls to come up with a way to increase foot traffic to the clinic. Polly, with her voice returned to his natural timbre, recommends incentives, while Virginia recommends the rubber-glove day that Uncle Daddy used to drum up business at the strip club. Quiet Ann suggests stealing customers from the other pill mill in town, Peter Pain, and Jen talks about the time she stood outside a car wash in a bikini to raise money for an abortion. In the end, Desna decides that they’ll use Jen’s idea, but instead of bikinis, they’ll break out the Vanity 6 costumes they once used for karaoke.
“Wait, wait, wait, hold up,” Virginia says, interrupting the girls’ excitement. “Who is Vanity 6?”
The others respond with disbelief — in the same way that I do when my nephew suggests that “Steph Curry is the best basketball player ever,” as if Michael Jordan never existed. Desna says, as I probably should, instead of arguing with a nine year old, “I cannot with you right now.”
Brabkeb mentioned last week that Claws‘ producers seem to think that the humor of the show’s gaudier moments, grounds the show. And, I agree with them, in part, humor can ground a show…but it’s not the kind of humor that comes from sitting in a silk robe, watching your boy toy perform with a team of synchronized swimmers (which happens later in this episode). This is the kind of humor that grounds Claws — relatable humor between these five incredible women — and I’m astounded that the producers don’t get that.
Continuing his trend of popping up at the worst possible time, Uncle Daddy and Bryce come through the salon’s backdoor requesting Virginia’s services outside. The young nail technician walks outside, petrified that the truth’s been discovered, only to see Bryce drag a man out of the car that Uncle Daddy believes killed Roller. The businessman, who works for Titus Industries, once had beef with Roller over an invoice two years ago.
Virginia is frantic, crying out that he’s not the one who kidnapped her and murdered Roller. When Daddy turns the gun towards Virginia, the girls jump to her defense — Desna, shielding the entire crew with her wingspan. A short while ago, these same women were literally dragging her out of the salon, now they’ve got her back as she faces a gun. It’s quite a testament to how their bonds have grown.
Sometimes, when you’ve done something wrong, you imagine that the worst thing that can happen is someone finding out. It’s not. If you have a conscience, the worst thing that can happen is watching innocent people being held responsible in your stead…and that’s the lesson Desna and Virginia learn, as Uncle Daddy pumps a slug into the man’s chest. Bryce and Chip (Elvis Nolasco), the crooked cop on Uncle Daddy’s payroll, take the body, while Jenn, Polly and Quiet Ann scrub the parking lot of his blood. Desna promises a dumbstruck Virginia that they’re going to sell the drugs and get away from Uncle Daddy.
Bryce is not meant for this life…maybe drug addicted Bryce was, but sober Bryce — the one that who imagines himself as the Tony Robbins of Palmetto and who wants to spend his days taking his girls to Chuck E. Cheese — is not meant for this life. And so, it’s not surprise that, as Bryce watches Chip saw the businessman into pieces, he hurls up his lunch. He’ll get his turn soon enough, a smiling Uncle Daddy tells him, the gators can’t feed themselves, after all.
As promised, Polly Heather meets Sally for tennis at the club. Sally laments that her husband hasn’t died yet and that she’s been forced to take care of him as he battles Alzheimer’s. As they walk, Sally’s kegel ball falls out and she concedes that she’s “trying to keep [her] kitty tight” for her Cuban lover. Sally invites herself over to Polly Heather’s place for a swim and lunch the next day, but Polly Heather says her home is under renovation, so they relocate the party to Sally’s place. Polly Heather can even stay in the guest house while her home is being renovated, an offer that Polly is elated about.
Later, the girls are working at the race track in their Vanity 6 leopard print, trying to drum up business for the clinic. Their effort is interrupted by Jen’s daughter who calls to let her mom know that “Daddy Bryce came home, and he’s acting funny.” The girls rush to Jen’s house to discover a despondent Bryce, stained with the businessman’s blood, burning a grilled cheese sandwich. The stakes raised even higher, Desna revisits the ideas for attracting people to the clinic, ultimately going with Quiet Ann’s recommendation to poach customers from the competition.
Desna awakes the next day with Roller’s ghost next to her, filing his nails. She closes her eyes tightly and covers her ears, hoping to shield herself from her recurring nightmare. Meanwhile, Jen wakes up in a chair outside, watching over Bryce and her kids, as they sleep together on a lounge chair. And then there’s Uncle Daddy, relaxing poolside in a silk robe and gold chains, watching his boy toy, Toby, perform with a synchronized swim team.
When I talk about Claws‘ unnecessary garishness, this is what I mean. There is no storyline that’s served by watching this pool scene — it’s completely immaterial to everything else that’s going on. Sally’s escaped kegel ball could easily fall into this category but, at least that leads to an important revelation about her. The audience wouldn’t be missing anything if they left the synchronized swimming scene out completely.
Jen shows up, looking flawless, to talk to Uncle Daddy about Bryce. She reiterates that he’s not Roller and warns that if Daddy pushes Bryce too hard, it could cause problems for the Dixie Mafia. He promises to take her words under advisement.
Desna, Jen, Virginia and Quiet Ann are promising Peter Pain clients the moon to get them on the bus and over to the clinic. Dr. Ken hovers nearby trying to limit Desna’s promises but to no avail. But the plan works and the clinic has a line stretching out the door. Once the numbers are in, and after Desna’s seed money is repaid, their debt to Uncle Daddy is down to $15,000. Bryce stores the day’s profits in the clinic safe and notices Dr. Ken’s gun.
Polly skips out on the outing to spend the afternoon with Sally. She’s able to avoid the dip in the pool by not bringing her suit but Sally insists on massages by the pool before they sit down to lunch. Everything is going swimmingly until Polly’s ankle bracelet starts beeping. Her secret exposed, Sally demands to know who Heather really is and, while cornered, we get the most honest version of Polly we’ve seen since Claws began.
“I’m just a little girl from Saluda, North Carolina,” she cries. “My dad worked in a factory that makes car interiors, and my mother, she taught learning-disabled children. I may not be a blue blood from Hilton Head or whatever, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a piece of the pie, right?”
Unmoved by Polly’s admission, Sally quickly asks her to leave, even threatening to call the police.
“We’re both con artists,” Polly says, “It’s just, only one of us knows it.”
It’s a heartbreaking scene, beautifully acted by Carrie Preston, only eclipsed by the scene that follows — Polly sitting at the back of a crowded bus, her face stained with tears, sobbing as she calls Desna. She can’t do it anymore, Polly cries, sounding almost borderline suicidal. They meet outside the salon and Desna comforts Polly. Ever the caretaker, Desna promises her that everything will be okay and that they’ll achieve their dreams together.
When Polly finds out that Desna’s $15k short of repaying Uncle Daddy, she has an idea. The crew rushes over to Sally’s place where she’s having a tryst with her Cuban lover. Polly films the scene, Sally’s boy toy in a horse’s mask and Sally as a Britney Spears impersonating dominatrix. Polly blackmails Sally with the scene, earning the crew the extra $15k they need.
As Desna goes to pay the debt, Toby tells her that Bryce figured out who killed Roller and he and Uncle Daddy have gone looking for them. Desna rushes back to the van and tells Quiet Ann and Polly to take Jen back to her house to wait for Bryce. Meanwhile, Virginia and Desna, scared that they’ve been found out, rush home to get Dean, pack a bag and get out of town. Her fears are compounded when Roller’s ghost shows up, assuring her that Bryce doesn’t believe her story about where the seed money came from. She yells at Dean to hurry and get a bag pack.
A call from Jen alleviates her anxiety: Bryce thinks Dr. Ken killed Roller and he’s on the hunt for him, hoping that this will finally rid him of his ties to Uncle Daddy. Desna, knowing that Ken couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight, tries to warn Ken, but he’s too busy trying to break up his freaky ex-wife’s engagement party. Desna rushes out to try and stop Bryce from making Ken into alligator food.
But Bryce was not meant for this world…and he thinks his only way out is to kill whoever killed Roller…so he grabs Dr. Ken, puts a pillowcase over his head, tosses him in his trunk and peels away from the party.
Bryce is not meant for this world and everything he does after he stuffs Dr. Ken into the back of his Camaro only confirms that. He ignores Desna’s phone calls and drowns out the sound of his phone and Ken’s screams by turning up his radio. Once he gets to the swamp, the recovering addict takes a long pull of vodka to calm his nerves. He pulls the hooded doctor from the trunk and walks him deeper into the marsh, ignoring Ken’s bargaining efforts. A flock of birds startle the pair, giving Ken enough time to pull off his pillowcase hood and escape from Bryce’s clutches.
Meanwhile, Desna’s rushing to track Bryce down, as Ghost Roller sits in the backseat of her car, taunting her. She picks up Jen, who knows where Bryce might be, and they arrive at the swamp just in time to hear the first shots go off. They run towards the sound of the gun shots.
Bryce fires into the air, hoping to scare Ken from his hiding place, and starts reciting a Tony Robbins quote to psych himself up to do what needs to be done. Ken exposes himself when he hears Desna’s call only to be face to face with the barrel of Bryce’s gun. Desna and Jen arrive just in time and work to convince Bryce not to pull the trigger. Jen tells her husband that Ken didn’t kill Roller and begs him to think of their children. Convinced that killing Ken is his only way out of the Dixie Mafia, Bryce brushes aside her pleas and steadies his gun in Ken’s direction.
Desna steps in front of Ken and begs, “Bryce, we are not murderers, okay? This is not you. You’re an Abundance Life coach. You inspire football players and addicts…Bryce, you’re not gonna be able to live with yourself if you do this.”
Slowly, Bryce’s resolve starts to crack, his eyes fill with tears and he hands Desna his gun.
Back at the salon, Polly’s re-opened another revenue stream at the salon, waxing, because AmWay rejected her application…which feels like the most unreleastic thing that’s ever been said on this show. Desna fills the girls in on what happened at the swamp and Polly urges her to get away from those people”When God gave out crazy, the Hussers got a second helping.” Desna assures her that she’s tryingshe’s repaid Uncle Daddy and she’s going to look at a new salon today.
Meanwhile, Bryce and Jen are walking out of an Abundance Life meeting. Though his debt to Uncle Daddy’s been repaid, Bryce won’t commit to breaking away from the Dixie Mafia until Roller’s killer has been found. Jen urges him to let Uncle Daddy’s thugs handle it and even offers anal sex and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to entice him break away, but to no avail. Bryce assures her that he’ll be okay and that they’ll manifest the life that they’ve always dreamed of.
Uncle Daddy’s crooked cop, Chip, shows up in Palmetto Plaza, with his partner, Detective Arlene Branch (Suleka Matthew) in tow. She spots Quiet Ann settling into her perch outside the salon and introduces herself. Aviators, leather jacket, confident stance and flirting by means of historic trivia? I’m sold on Arlene already and so is Ann, who watches the detective intently as she walks away.
Desna’s touring a shop with Mandyit’s not as a nice as the one Desna previously fell in love with, but it’d be a step up from their current location. Her tour of the salon is interrupted by a call from a neighbor, who spotted Dean up on a billboard on University Highway.
When she arrives, Desna finds Dean, spray painting “evil people” on a billboard featuring their old foster parents, realtors who’ve just moved to the area. Desna tries to talk him downexplaining that this isn’t the right way to handle this, but Dean persists, wishing the Coombses dead for what they did them as children. It’s not until Desna plays her trump card”Virginia was asking about you!”that Dean relents. He agrees to come down as long as he can draw one testicle on their face first.
Back at the salon, Desna explains what happened to the crew and Polly suggests that she take Dean back to the doctor. Desna would but Dean refuses to go and she refuses to put him into a group home, worried that it’d be a repeat of what he’d already experienced in foster care. All she has to do, Desna maintains, is get Dean away from here.
Jen picks up the flyer of the salon Desna visited earlier and everyone is underwhelmed. Where are the chandeliers, the big ol’ throne chairs? Quiet Ann, who’s been calmly massaging Desna’s shoulders the entire time, adds, “Des, you always told us not to lie to you. You are better than this.” Before Desna can respond further, she gets a text from Uncle Daddy, asking for a meeting with her and Virginia (who he called “Saigon,” much to my chagrin) at She She’s. Jen agrees to tag along to stop her family from doing anything else crazy.
Turns out, Chip’s trip to Palmetto Plaza yielded a new clue in the search for Roller’s killer: multiple people saw Desna and Virginia fighting over Roller on the day he was killed. Virginia and Desna admit to the disagreement but rather than offer details, Desna asks what the confrontation is all about. When Bryce chimes in that they’re just trying to figure out who killed Roller, Jen chimes in, in defense of her crew.
“Well, it sure as hell wasn’t them. You are letting Uncle Daddy and his oki-doke ideas mess with your head,” she says, chastising her husband. “First Dr. Ken, now my best friend? She’s the godmother of your goddamn children.”
It’s great show of friendship and loyalty from Jenone that almost leads to blows between her and her mother-in-law (Dale Dickey)but I can’t help but imagine what the truth might do to Desna and Jen’s friendship down the road.
Virginia adds another lie to the ones she’s already told, in an effort to placate Uncle Daddy. Because it dovetails with his pre-existing theory that Roller was killed and robbed by his drug dealer, Daddy seems mollified and tells the girls they can go.
Outside, Desna confronts Virginia about her lie and the $50,000 she stole from Roller’s safe. Virginia refuses to back down, telling Desna that they had to say something and that by taking the $50k, she made it look like a robbery. Desna tries to school herthe more lies you tell, the easier it is for you to be found outbut Virginia is not having it.
Desna comes home to Roller’s ghost sitting on her bed. He taunts herdoes she actually think she’s going to get out of Palmetto? She assures the ghost that she’s on her way to having her own salon and that she’s getting out from under Uncle Daddy’s thumb. When he laughs at her, she grabs him by the neck and chokes him until he passes out.
But, what greets Virginia when she comes home is, arguably, scarier: Polly baking cupcakes in her otherwise empty apartment. When Virginia tells her to get out of her house, Polly grabs a chef’s knife and imagines peeling Virginia’s skin off (“it wouldn’t take but a minute”). Sufficiently scared, Virginia accepts Polly’s invitation and sits down at the kitchen table.
“You can’t con a con (wo)man,” the saying goes, and Polly, the ultimate con artist, is not fooled by Virginia for a second. She knows that Virginia’s just pretending to be stupid because it lets her hide in plain sight, but inside, Virginia’s constantly plotting and is smarter that people believe.
“If whatever screwed-up thing you did gets Desna in trouble, I will cut a bitch,” Polly warns, the knife pointed in Virginia’s direction. “Are we clear?”
Virginia doesn’t answer right away so Polly punctuates her threat by tossing the chef knife into the ceiling. The second time Polly asks, Virginia responds back with a quick yes.
Desna tries to convince Dean that the Coombses are no longer a threat to them and, to an extent, it works. By the time Dean shows up for his training session with Monty (Arturo del Puerto), he’s not scared, he’s just angryhe wants to hurt someone. Instead of hurting someone to repay them for the hurt they caused, Monty suggests Dean confront them and tell them what he’s feeling.
Dean cuts his training session short and Monty takes him to Desna’s salon where he asks to go confront their old foster parents. Desna tells Dean that it’s not a good idea and, perhaps, they should revisit the doctor instead, but Dean is determined. Eventually, Desna gives in and they go to an open house that the Coombses are hosting that day.
When Dean and Desna are finally face to face with their foster parents, the Coombses don’t recognize them. Dean doesn’t share his feelings as much as just listing a string of their abuses and they are AWFUL. Mrs. Coombs (Sara Botsford) recognizes them eventually”Little Butterball Desna and Ricky Retardo,” she calls themand defends her actions as part of her work out save them. Mr. Coombs (Michael Cullen) pulls the cloak of respectability around themthey’ve got commendations from the governor, they’ve had dinner at Mar-A-Lagoand kicks them out of the house.
Outside, Desna tries to comfort Dean, promising him that she’ll always protect him, as she always has. Dean lashes out at Desnashe doesn’t protect him, he protected her. Desna begs for an explanation as Dean battles himself over whether or not to tell her.
“They had sex with me,” Dean admits, devastating Desna in the process. “They told me if…if I said anything that they would do the same thing to you.”
The next morning, Desna’s wakes up to the sound of gunshots. It’s not a dream, it’s not Ghost Roller, it’s Dean, practicing his marksmanship in the backyard with a gun he bought at a sporting goods store. This is Florida, he says, he’s going to stand his ground. He doesn’t feel safe anymore with his abusers in town. Desna promises to protect himshe’ll get an alarm, she’ll put bars on the windowbut she can’t let him keep the gun. For the second time in this episode, Desna’s trying to talk a man into putting down a gun.
Desna leaves her brother to meet Virginia and suggests they pin Roller’s murder on her foster parents. Virginia resists the idea at first, unwilling to give up her $50,000 score, but she relents after hearing that, unless Desna does something, Dean might go after the Coombses on his own.
The plan is simple enough: plant Roller’s money and coke in the Coombs’ house and sic the police on them. But who’s going to break into the house and plant Roller’s stuff? As it turns out, Virginia knows just the person.
When Desna and Virginia pull into the parking lot, Polly’s waiting for them. Desna’s quick with her refusal to involve Polly in their scheme. Polly tries to blackmail her way into the scheme, telling Desna that she’ll go to the police with what she knows, including the knowledge that Virginia killed Roller. Still, Desna is worried: one thing goes wrong and Polly’s back in prison.
“I am not gonna get in trouble,” Polly assures her. “After everything that you’ve done for me? You’re like my sister, Des. You got to let me help you.”
Once Desna relents, Polly asks if she’s sure about setting up her old foster parents. She wants the Coombses to pay for what they did to Dean. They need to be in jail, Desna says; she doesn’t want to risk that happening to another child.
Her ankle bracelet jammed by her hotel neighbor, Polly seeks into the Coombs’ house. She searches their drawers, pocketing some jewelry and a JimmyJane vibrator, as she looks for the perfect place to stash Roller’s bag. She shoves the bag in the air return and slips out of the house just as the Coombses are arriving home. Later, Desna uses a burner phone to call the police.
Uncle Daddy’s crooked cop gets wind of the call and tells his boss that they’ve got a new lead on who killed Roller. Daddy sends Chip and Bryce to take care of it.
Back at Nail Artisan, Mandy reports that Desna can put a deposit down on the underwhelming salon she saw earlier or she can try again with her dream salon which is back on the market. Refusing to break her promise to Dean or herself, Desna pushes to get the dream salon.
As soon Many leaves, the girls get the party going, celebrating Desna’s new salon with a choreographed dance routine to Patty Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade.” All the ills of the world are forgotten, as the girls work their way down the Soul Train and tossing glitter, as happy as we’ve ever seen them.
Meanwhile, though, Chip, Bryce and some Dixie Mafia henchmen show up at the Coombses and start beating them up. When one of the henchmen finds Roller’s bag in the air return, Chip pulls out his gun to shoot the couple, but Bryce pulls him back. Bryce is not meant for this world but when confronted with “proof” of the Coombses’ guilt and without Jen or Desna to talk him down, he’s baptized by the fire. He sinks five slugs into Mr. Coombs’ back and three into his wife’s.
Uncle Daddywho, really, has perfect timingcalls and interrupts the girls’ celebration. He tells Desna that Roller’s killerssome drug dealers, using high-end real-estate as a frontare dead, “thanks to some mercurial angels led by my handsome nephew, Bryce.” Daddy apologizes to Desna for any pain he caused and asks her to relay the message to Virginia as well.
The look on Desna’s face and on Polly and Virginia’s when they learn the news suggests they hadn’t even considered this possibility which, given what happened to the Titus businessman, seems ridiculous. Jen dissolves into tears upon hearing that Bryce was the triggerman. Still, at home, Desna is finally able to reassure Dean that they’re safe and that the pain caused by the Coombses and by Roller is finally behind them.
Only what she doesn’t know is that far, far away in a shack on the water, the Real Roller wakes up, the wounded, but definitely not dead, captive of some bizarre woman who calls him Mr. Emerson.
A lifetime of soap watching has prepared me for this exact moment. Rule #1 of soaps: if you didn’t see the body, the character isn’t really dead. I’m not at all shocked but I am worried about how short-lived Desna’s moment of peace will be.
Written by Natalie
If you’ve ever taken a writing composition course, you’ve heard the expression, “show, don’t tell;” it was your professor’s way of telling you to focus less on exposition and more on creating an experience for the reader. Apparently, Doubt‘s writers slept through freshman comp because this show does a lot of telling. A lot. It tells you that, repeatedly, Sadie’s (Katherine Heigl) mother (Judith Light) is in prison for killing a state trooper. It tells you, repeatedly, that the firm’s namesake, Isaiah Roth, is someone committed to using the law to tackle social issues. But it took until the show’s sixth episode, for Doubt to show itself to be the show it keeps talking about…
Peter shows up at Cameron’s door early on Sunday morning — now, I’ve found most of Peter’s antics more cute than creepy, but this? Showing up on the doorstep of someone who didn’t give you their address? CREEPY. But he comes bearing news about a high profile case, the stabbing of a beloved baseball player — which Cameron brushes off until Peter name-drops the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Once Cameron hears the SRLP is involved, she springs into action, inadvertently kissing Peter on the cheek on the way out.
Cameron can’t defend Delilah Johnson (Alexandra Grey) herself, much to Delilah’s chagrin, because, “that’s one too many trans people at the table,” so she calls Albert (Dulé Hill). The admission is one that, to anyone that’s ever been othered, needs no explanation but annoyingly, the show makes Albert (and, later, Cameron) give one anyway. When they go to meet Delilah in central booking, she, still battered, bloodied and bruised, explains what led to the stabbing. It is a slightly fictionalized version of what happened to Cece McDonald.
Delilah was coming home from a trip to the drug store when she’s harassed by a drunken Sokas. She had the audacity to respond back, so he lunged at her, grabbing her breasts. She escaped his grasp, only to have him attack her again, this time putting her in a choke hold. After that, Delilah can’t recall what happened, only that she came to, covered in blood, with her knife in her hand. Albert’s surprised that Delilah had a knife — “I always have a knife,” she says — but Cameron, clearly, is not, a fact Albert seems to pick up on.
Albert’s able to secure bail for Delilah and when the DA calls for a meeting, he assumes it’s to respond to public pressure to #FreeDelilah, but it’s not. The prosecution’s found video of the incident and in it, Delilah attacks Sokas as he’s walking away, after the initial assault is over. All of a sudden, it becomes a little more difficult to argue that the stabbing was self-defense. Delilah laments that she can’t remember Sokas walking away but reveals that that’s part of her coping mechanism.
“When someone comes at me, I get this surge of adrenaline and I think, ‘This? I know this, this is bad.’ And after, it’s all a blank,” Delilah explains. She’s had this experience multiple times before, dating back to her father, and they began the same way her encounter with Sokas did, with bigoted insults.
The prosecutor offers her a deal, five years probation, no jail time, which Delilah accepts. But by the time they go to announce the plea agreement, news breaks that Kevin Sokas has died of sepsis, and Delilah’s now being charged with murder. The prosecution rushed the deal so that Delilah would be on the record, having admitted to causing Sokas’ injuries, before he died. It’s a shady tactic but legal.
When the case goes to trial, Albert’s able to do what Cece McDonald’s counsel wasn’t allowed to do in her case: Sokas’ history of abuse is made public and an expert witness is allowed to educate the jury on the transgender experience, particularly the PTSD that comes from facing the threat of violence so regularly. Albert’s associate, Nick, finds a higher resolution version of the video, which shows Sokas threatening Delilah as he walked away. In Delilah’s mind, the attack was starting all over again.
Admitting that she overcharged, the prosecutor offers Delilah another deal — manslaughter 2, two to six years — and begs Delilah to take the deal. Fearing how she’ll handle two years in a men’s ward, Delilah declines and opts to go to the jury and her optimism is rewarded, as she’s found not guilty.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s recruited to help Sadie and Tiffany in a religious arbitration between the subtly named New Testament Rehab Center and the Hollanders, parents of former client who died there. Apparently, she’s the only lawyer at the firm who speaks Jesus. New Testament is alleging Eddie Hollander committed suicide but the parents think he overdosed after the rehab center failed to secure their pharmacy. On the first day of arbitration, the facility persists in claiming that Eddie committed suicide, while Sadie and Tiffany force an admission that only a cheap padlock stood between an addict and a room full of drugs.
Sensing that Luke Ensler (Joel Johnstone), the former minister who is in charge of the rehab facility, isn’t fully committed to his attorney’s strategy, Cameron leverages her knowledge of Scripture to push him to tell the truth. He does, revealing that Eddie wasn’t suicidal and had plans for after stint in rehab, and that he lied because his lawyer told him that he needed to in order to keep the rehab center. Ultimately, the minister overseeing the arbitration awards the Hollanders $500,000 in damages and orders the rehab center shuttered, temporarily, while it undergoes review.
Boosted by her arbitration win and being asked to take over as Sadie’s mom’s defense attorney, Cameron summons the courage to call Peter. This time, an unintentional kiss becomes an intentional one and it serves as a prelude to their first date. It doesn’t even strike me, as it happens, how consequential the moment is…both for Cameron, who’s realized that she deserves more than being someone’s secret, and for the audience, who’s witnessing the start of a love story starring a trans woman of color.