You know, apart from Belikov dying, I don’t know if we needed last week’s episode at all. Sure, it was nice seeing Ray actually connect to a (typically doomed) human for once, but ‘Norman Saves The World’ is so plot-driven, propulsive and, dare I say, progressive, it not only stands alone as a good episode of television, but it casts last week’s adventure as nothing but wheel-spinning. Which is a good thing! Ray Donovan is hopelessly bland without the humor and urgency we know it’s capable of. This week, we’re back on track.
For the second time in three weeks, the opening scene is a montage set to a character from the show covering a famous song. Tonight’s performer is Hank Azaria, returning as the Ed Cochran. As Cochran sings, we see a hit being taken out on Mickey, no longer under the Russian’s protection since, y’know, his son killed their leader and stuffed him into a box. Cause and effect and all that. One of the Armenians gets himself nice and arrested, and Ray’s still hanging around with a big bag of money. Ray Donovan loves big bags of money.
Turns out THIS big bag of Money is for Cochran. Ray needs some help in his increasingly convoluted plans to free Mickey, and turns to the former FBI director to negotiate a deal: if they deliver the body and murder weapon of a cold case involving Sherman Radley, a high-profile TV star, Mickey can go free. Sure, whatever. This kind of thing happens all the time I guess.
Another of Ray’s big ideas is to put his father into protective custody while they nail Radley. For this to happen, he’s going to put Mickey in the prison’s “gay wing”. Cochran’s delighted: “you wanna pass your dad off as a homo? I love that plan.” Azaria is always a joy, and seeing him back in such an obviously fun, untethered role is a blast, and Cochran’s energy helps paper over the relative simplicity of the case-of-the-week A-plot.
The “Mickey pretends to be gay” angle is a tough sell, but the whole thing ends up being kind of… great. Ray calls around the various Donovan siblings and briefs them on what they need to say when the prison contacts them about Mickey’s sexuality. Terry is absolutely bewildered, Bunchy less so. In fact, he says, Mickey’s been with men before! He outs his pop to Terry in the most eloquent, sensitive way a Donovan can: “he mighta blown a guy or somethin’. He was kinda proud of it. Said it was like bein’ ambidextrous”. Terry nods, trying his best. It’s the most Eddie Marsan’s had to do in a while, so I’ll take it.
For the most part, the caper goes off without a hitch. Terry and Bunchy play their parts well, and all seems well until the Donovan’s house phone rings and Conor picks up. Oh, Conor. Last week you were firing live rounds into a children’s bouncy house, this week you’re upending a sophisticated plan to keep your grandfather alive. Were we ever so young? “YOU’RE the homosexual!” Conor yells to the investigating officer, before hanging up. I swear to God, the finale of this season better just be Ray slowly feeding Conor into one of those cartoon-style log splitters. This kid sucks.
Anyway, Mickey’s gay petition seems dead in the water as the officer drops his file into the “denied” box, then appears to have second thoughts, and heads to Mickey’s cell. We’ll catch up with that later.
Meanwhile, Ray and Ed’s investigation is in full swing. They pick up Radley’s agent, Nick, under the pretense of allowing him a chance to sign Tommy Wheeler, one of the hottest commodities in the city. Nick and Tommy’s meeting is regrettably cut short but some good ol’ fashioned WATERBOARDING. Is this the first time we’ve seen waterboarding in Ray Donovan? I can hardly believe that’s the case. A show as dumb and as brash as this seems like it would break out some lighthearted Zero Dark Thirty torture, like, once every two episodes.
The torture proves successful and Nick gives up the name of the person who had the victim, Fiona Miller’s, body moved: Ezra Goldman. Oh snap!! His former employer being the brains behind the operation, Ray knows there’s only one guy who could have done it: The Texan. Old friends reuniting all over the place! What fun!
While Ray stakes out the Texan in his nice suburban home, Ed pays a visit to Radley. Turns out old habits die hard and Cochran’s as much os a snake as ever. Lena calls Ray from the studio where Radley is shooting his “Big Momma’s House”-style sitcom and warns him Cochran is fucking him over. That’s all part of the plan, Ray assures her.
I had hoped, going into the final standoff, we might get a different kind of resolution. Just this once, Ray might get fucked over and his instincts might be just a little bit off. As he creeps up to the restaurant, hearing bullet shots, I thought for a second, “whoah, maybe Ed AND The Texan are setting Ray up for a trap. Maybe Ray’s gonna get his for ignoring the advice of literally all the people he pays to give him advice.” But nah, he’s as superhuman and untouchable as ever. He subdues both Ed and The Texan, finds the body, and leaves The Texan to bleed out under the illustrious roof of Radley’s failed crab restaurant. Victorious once again.
Back in prison, the Armenian’s attempts to kill Mickey prove woefully inadequate. I don’t know how much this dude is being paid to be a professional murderer but he is… bad at it. His first attempt, poisoning Mickey’s soup, is foiled by a different person eating the soup. In fact, this plays to Mickey’s advantage in a scene I can’t figure out for the life of me what I think of it. Is it tone deaf? Is it horrifying? is it… funny? Mickey’s cellmate and best friend, having eaten the tainted soup, goes into cardiac arrest. Mickey calls for help until he sees the officer investigating his sexuality approaching, at which point he stops calling for help, drops trou, positions himself behind his dying buddy and pretends to fuck him. Of course, his “lover” dies in the heat of passion, and Mickey is moved, at last, to the safe haven of the “gay wing”. Hey man, love hurts.
With Ray victorious once again, and Mickey safe and seemingly on the verge of release, the dominos are nicely set for a fall. This season hasn’t been afraid to be fun, but I also hope it’s not afraid to be brutal. There’s only so much more things can go according to plan before the whole affair becomes a little bit dull.
Oh, over at the boxing gym, Damon wins a fight and Hector does a photoshoot, then yells at Marisol for leaving rehab and getting high. The gym storylines continue to be boring and pointless, but at least they can be summed up in one line.