‘Ray Donovan’ Recap 2×11: Balls of Fury

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan.

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan.

Is Ray Donovan a good man? That’s obviously the question at the heart of the series anyway, but unlike a to-and-fro character study like Tony Soprano’s, or a slow, inevitable metamorphosis like Walter White’s, the show’s intentions seem at odds with Ray’s behavior. There are only so many times you can get away with the “I’m doing it for the family” thing, and Ray’s free passes are just about done.

This is demonstrated again and again in this week’s episode, where Ray forces mostly everyone in his sphere to betray their own convictions, their lifelong principles, while refusing to budge an inch himself. It’s frustrating, makes for compelling viewing, and I have no idea whether it’s on purpose, or whether it’s the result of sloppy, plot-obsessed writing.

We begin right in the thick of things, with Marisol’d body being found and identified by the LAPD. This isn’t much of a surprise in itself, but the expedition of the body’s discovery leads to a neat braiding of Ray and Terry’s stories, something that’s been missing for far too long. Often it feels like the gym exists in a separate universe, completely removed from the world of Ray’s weekly adventures. That’s finally addressed here, with Hector firmly on Ray’s radar, and Ray’s convictions to keep Terry as far away from trouble as possible.

In the almost entire absence/pointlessness to Bridget, or Abby, or Conor this season, Terry’s been fitted neatly–albeit a little late in the game–into the show’s emotional and moral filter going into the endgame. Bunchy originally took up that position earlier in the season, but he deserves his happy ending for now.

Terry’s been on the fringes all season, picking up little pieces of good news here and there: becoming a member of the Campos team, for one. Gettin’ it in with that cute lady cop, for another. It was all a little too smooth sailing, and now in the space of an episode he’s seen a dead body, found out his brother was in some way responsible for a murderous coverup, and literally collapsed to the ground. Being a Donovan, it seems, is nothing but poison, no matter how good you are. Even Mitch, the walking id of the Donovan clan, makes sure to protect his son from any kind of reckoning. “Does Terry know?” he asks Ray, of the Hector plan, “good. It would break his fuckin’ heart, Ray.” It might be too late for that.

So! It turns out when Hector promised to give Ray anything he wanted in exchange for a clean dump of Marisol’s body, he got his favor called in sooner than he probably expected! Ray’s going to use the $2 million from Bill Primm’s casino, force Hector to take a dive in the sixth round of his comeback fight, and collect huge winnings on betting on the unlikely outcome. The $60 million payout, along with the return of Dmitri’s art, releases Avi, and Ray from Dmitri’s wrath. Sounds simple and easy!

First thing’s first, though: get the kids outta the way. Conor and Bridget have been fighting a losing battle this season, re: actually existing, and the show finally gives them the out. They’re bundled out of the city with Bunchy, Theresa, and baby Maria. It’s a welcome turn, since none of these people are going to affect the outcome of the season going into the final episodes, but it’s also a bit of a cop-out. A shrug of a plot point that begs the question why this wasn’t done much sooner beforehand. Ray has a short conversation with Abby about how much he loves her and the kids (something we only ever really hear about when he is in the same room as them. The chemistry between Liev Schreiber and Paula Malcomson has been downright awful this year) and then heads to the airport to collect the bag o’ cash from Mickey.

Almost immediately, Ray’s picked up by the feds, forcing Mickey to take a flight to Vegas in order to place the bets. So begins one of the most aggravating sequences in Ray Donovan history, in which Mickey somehow gets through airport security with $2m cash in his carry-on bag, then falls for the charms of Sugar, a younger Sylvie lookalike who happens to be a well-connected Vegas stripper. On discovering Ray’s bookie dead on the toilet (I know, I know. I didn’t write it.) there’s only one thing Mitch can think to do: have Sugar, who shared a cab with Mickey from the airport (frugal!), hook him up with someone else who can place such a large, obvious, dumb bet. Sure, she says. No probs.

OK, it is dumb, but also quite a bit of fun, no less than when the placing of the bet comes down to a game of ping pong between Mickey and Vegas’ slimiest millionaire criminal, Jack. “He’s an Instagram star” explains Sugar of Jack’s wealth beforehand. I’m sure Jon Voight didn’t have to go too method with his blank stare on hearing that.

Mickey wins the ping pong game and the bets are placed, of course. He flies back without incident and hands Ray the slips. Good to go.

Ray’s been busy himself: after being interrogated by his old friend at the FBI, Frank. Frank wants Ray to flip on Dmitri, something Ray’s far too busy being a man of astounding virtue to even consider. “I’m not a fuckin’ rat,” he tells Frank, maintaining his principals at the exact same moment he’s forcing a professional boxer to obliterate his career, his own brother to reckon with his employer being a potential murderer, and his own wife to say goodbye to her children for an indeterminate amount of time. Nice one.

He’s released just in time to meet with Dmitri at sundown, delivering the slips and the art, and finally getting Avi back. Avi’d really been through the wringer by the look of things, and I hope his unwavering faith in Ray has perhaps been eaten away a little bit. Steven Bauer is a wonderful presence on the show, and a little more nuance to his character would go a long way.

Alas, nothing gold can stay. Instantaneously on being reunited with his right-hand man, Frank pulls Ray in once again. This time there’s a trump card: Sonia. She’s flipped already, Frank tells him. She’s given them everything. “You’re fucked, Ray.” Fucked, indeed.