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"Because I'll Destroy You": Conspiracies and Double Crosses on "Damages"

Once again, FX's Damages managed to surprise the hell out of me. No mean feat, that.

This week's episode ("Hey, Mr. Pibb!"), written by Aaron Zelman, found Ellen and Tom traveling down to West Virginia (and listening to some bluegrass) in order to locate journalist Josh Reston (Matthew Davis) as Patty attempted to use her resources to track down Christine's ruby ring in order to free Daniel Purcell from prison. Straightforward, no? The truth is that the episode was anything but, offering several reveals that made me question my knowledge of characters' motivations and histories as well as shattering one alliance that seemed to underpin the entire season.

You've already read my advance review of "Hey, Mr. Pibb!" but now that the episode has aired, we can discuss everything together.

The Visitor. I'm now referring to Ellen's mystery guest in the chair as The Visitor until we're more fully aware of this person's true identity. This week, we gained a valuable clue to that end as we were treated to a split second shot of The Visitor sitting down in the chair opposite Ellen, a shot that revealed a patterned skirt. So The Visitor is apparently a woman then and my theory is that Ellen's victim isn't Patty (too obvious) but Claire Maddox. Whoever it is brought a suitcase full of money with them to the meet at Ellen's apartment and, after shooting him/her, Ellen dashes off with the money in hand. Interesting... Could it be part of a payoff to silence Ellen about Ultima or is it a personal matter, as it would seem from Ellen's line of questioning in "I Lied Too."

Daniel Purcell. After seeing this episode, I am now more than ever convinced that Daniel did kill Christine. Despite the dream sequence at the episode's beginning, in which a dish-washing Daniel sees a hooded attacker sneak up behind Christine, the flashback with Purcell and Darrell Hammond's chapstick-wearing mystery man, and Kevin Walker (the stringy-haired blonde guy) seem to indicate that he did kill Christine. After all, Purcell had the cut on his forehead and we clearly saw him and Christine arguing the night of the gala. Did he accidentally kill her in one of his violent rages, freak out, and call Suttry's people for help?

We now know that The Deacon (a.k.a. Chapstick Freak) took the ring off of Christine's hand, hired Kevin Walker to pawn the ring and got him to get himself arrested in order for Purcell to ID him in the lineup, and told Purcell to go back inside and call 911. They also arranged for a large sum of money (likely millions) to be deposited in Purcell's bank account after he testified on the record that they had not falsified the toxicity report... and blindsided Patty. Was all of it payment for making the murder go away? It certainly seems that way; hell, Purcell faked fleeing just so he could be arrested and have the set-up seem more convincing. It even seemingly convinced dogged Detective Huntley (Tom Noonan), who had serious doubts about Purcell's innocence. (Although, consider the scene between Huntley and Patty in a different context: did he drop by personally to see HER reaction to the news?)

Still, I did not for a second expect Purcell to dump the water sample that Josh Reston had managed to steal and that Ellen managed to smuggle out of West Virginia. Nor did I expect him to double-cross Patty on the witness stand in her motion against Ultima. I'm not entirely sure why Patty would ask Purcell to run the test on the water himself instead of having an independent third party test the sample. As for Purcell, he's made his choice, to provide for his daughter Erica's future, even if it means letting people die in West Virginia as a result of Ultima's toxic runoff. Was it payback for the botched custody case against Patty for their son Michael? Patty did say that she would destroy Purcell if he attempted to face her in court, so was it revenge?

Patty. It was interesting to see a softer side of Patty in this week's episode, as she weighed the consequences of telling Michael that Daniel Purcell was his father. The scene at dinner, in which Michael analyzes Phil's dream (one of two dreams in this episode, it's worth noting), was a fantastic way to show Patty's idealized domestic life, a scene of true familial happiness, and a reminder that she had kept this secret from Michael for far too long. Echoing that scene is the shot of her on Purcell's balcony as she watches her son and the father he never knew walk together on the dock. Because Patty so rarely removes her armor, this betrayal is really the cruelest cut.

Stomping down those courthouse steps (in a fantastic scene of simmering rage), Patty knows that she's been used from the start by Purcell and Ultima and been discredited in the process. The look of absolute malice exchanged between her and Daniel Purcell in that courtoom is a signal to let the true game begin. She once promised that she would destroy Daniel and I have a feeling that she will follow through on that pledge.

Claire Maddox. Despite being romantically involved with Purcell, she's clearly keeping things close to the vest. I loved the scene in which she confronted Walter Kendrick (John Doman) about whether Ultima was involved with Christine's murder and advised him to sever ties with Wayne Suttry as soon as possible. Something tells me that Kendrick won't be doing that and that not even Claire is entirely aware of just what is going on here. Still, the smug look on her face when Patty was blindsided by Purcell's testimony was priceless. After all, not all cats--even ones who look like they've eaten a canary--have nine lives when Patty Hewes is involved.

Kevin Walker. Clearly, he got involved in this massive conspiracy for the money which his strung-out wife Liza is claiming she needs for medical bills. And, sure enough, there was no happy ending for Kevin as he's stabbed to death in prison. Now that the conspirators got the end result they wanted, there's no reason not to tie up some loose ends. Buh-bye, Kevin, courtesy of Mr. Kendrick.

Ultima. It's clear that Ultima's runoff is toxic and it's affecting not only the livestock (showing a 30 percent increase in fatalities near the coal plants) but the residents of this backwoods berg as well, who are showing triple-digit increases in leukemia rates. The town, including the police and the newspaper, are clearly under Ultima's heel and it's only a matter of time before Josh Reston gets killed investigating this story. But at least now we know why Purcell suddenly stopped taking Reston's calls: he flipped sides.

I'm curious to see what you all thought of this week's episode. Were you surprised by the reveal about Daniel Purcell's involvement in the conspiracy? Do you think he killed Christine? And was it an accident? And just how will Patty enact her revenge? Discuss.

Next week on Damages ("I Agree, It Wasn't Funny"), Patty questions Ellen's motives for returning to the firm after David's death; Patty tries to stop a corporate merger that she thinks is connected to the murder of Christine Purcell.


Anonymous said…
Dang, Patty managed to out-Caruso-Caruso when she put on those sunglasses at the end. That was the Patty Hewes Death Stare -- the same cold look she had when she had Saffron the Dog capped in the pilot.

It's amazing how well Purcell played Patty. Knowing that she only let him be aware of Michael's existence after he threw the case for her, he set up a situation where he's extricated from jail, gets the money from the company AND finally gets to know his son.

And the scary part is, he seems to have genuinely loved his wife -- but still allowed her to be killed.

Interesting that the way Purcell plays Patty is similar to how Ellen played her at the end of last season. In fact, it's almost identical -- though Ellen was innocent.

That seems to be Patty Hewes' Achilles Heel. If you give her what she wants, she'll give you what you want. And if you screw her...God help you.

Looking forward to how this all goes down. But when will we see more Frobisher?
Unknown said…
I believe Reston said there's a 30% increase in fatalities for every quarter mile closer to the plant they are. Does that mean it's 100% next door and 0% 3/4 miles out?

I was glad to see Tom and Ellen weren't stupid enough to try and drive the sample out of town.

I'm afraid I predicted or saw coming every major "twist" in this episode. I think Damages suffers from Predictable Twist Syndrome. This is something many shows have, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. There are only so many ideas out there, I guess. But it's no fun watching it.

Predicted: Purcell killed Christine himself or conspired with the murderer.

Predicted: Kevin was hired/paid to pawn the ring.

Saw coming: Purcell torpedoes Patty's Ultima case.

Saw coming: Purcell dumps the water sample.

I wonder if The Visitor is so obviously not Patty that it's actually Patty. In that case, Ellen's not shooting her but merely firing the weapon. For effect? To scare her? To frame Patty for shooting someone who's already dead in the room? That would make sense since Ellen's so frustrated with the Fibbies lack of action.

Damages is trying to be too clever and complicated for its own good. Don't get me wrong; I love a complex storyline. But Damages seems to be unnecessarily obfuscating their plot. Flash-forwards, flash-backwards, unrelated threads, jump cuts, and twist after twist. Guys, sometimes it's enough to just tell a good story. When nothing is ever what it seems, there's little point in becoming invested in anything. Damages is almost to the point where I don't care.
Anonymous said…
I really liked this episode and while some things were a little predictable (as soon as Purcell agreed to test the water sample I knew something was amiss) I still find it a really enjoyable ride. The town that Ellen and Tom visited was extremely creepy and it was so depressing that they finally did get the water sample out only to have it destroyed by Purcell.

I don't think that Purcell got joy out of hurting Patty. I think he just wanted to protect himself and his daughter - at any cost. Of course, betraying Patty is probably the least safe thing he could do!
Oskar said…
I believe Reston said there's a 30% increase in fatalities for every quarter mile closer to the plant they are. Does that mean it's 100% next door and 0% 3/4 miles out?

No. You're thinking of percentiles (sometimes referred to as points, for instance in polling) not percent.

Say that right next to the plant, 50% of all life stock dies from unnatural causes. Then, quarter of a mile out, 38% would die. Another quarter mile out 29% would die, and so on. Each increase is thirty percent (.29*1.3 is approximately .38 and .38*1.3 is approximately .5, I'm rounding off a little bit).

Anyway, I suspect that Purcell didn't play Patty as well as we think. I too thought it was incredibly weird that she would give him the sample to test, and not a third party. That's simply not something she would do. In fact, it seems incredibly stupid, why not get an independent lab?

I think she was testing him. She replaced the water in the bottle with tap water, and the original water is now safely in some beaker somewhere. She wanted to see whether or not he was loyal.

Patty wouldn't be played like that. Who ever heard of Faust tricking Mephistopheles? She's on top of this, you'll see.
Jon88 said…
We know the Deacon took the ring off Christine's hand? How? For all we know, he supplied the ring himself. And saying "Daniel did kill Christine" is, I think, inaccurate. He is certainly in on the scheme, but it's not at all clear that he performed the physical act. Indeed, it's pretty unlikely that he did.
ZucchiniFlower said…
I believe Daniel killed his wife. She had been pressuring him to make a decision. You said 'if that co. is making people sick, you have to stop them', and he slammed the door on her as she sat on the front steps.

I don't think it was premeditated. He probably tried to explain to his wife that he needed to protect Erica at all costs, but Christine kept pushing him, and he flew into a rage.

Patty noticed the ruby ring on Christine's finger at the charity event. So it was probably removed after her death. At first I did not understand how they already had a patsy lined up to take the fall, if the killing wasn't premeditated. But he obviously is the same guy who had already ransacked Daniel's office.

Seems that Daniel lied in court to protect himself from a murder charge more than for the money. Did he give Patty the Josh Reston lead to redeem himself in his own eyes? Or did he give her that name before his wife's death. I can't remember.

I, too, think Patty would not be so inept as to give Daniel the real water sample. However, why would such a sample be admissible in court without a chain of custody? Is it because of the proprietary chemical in it that isn't available to Patty and her crew? And are civil proceedings so different from criminal re: chain of custody?

Was Daniel surprised when Patty told him his son now knows everything, or was it an expected result of his manipulation? I looked for a glimmer of a reaction on his face when she first told him, and didn't see a thing.

I have to say, the way Patty watched her son prior to deciding to give him the info about his father, reminded me of how Glenn Close watched her friend interacting with Glenn's child on the phone in The Big Chill, prior to offering up her husband and his sperm. Was it an homage?
ZucchiniFlower said…
I watched the dream again in slow motion, and the man in the hood is Daniel himself. It's a clear view of him at the swing set, but I only saw him when I viewed it frame by frame.

And yes, Daniel gave Patty the reporter's name in the jail. I would hate to think he wants Patty to find him so he could be killed by UNR. Maybe it was just to set up Patty for her humiliation in the court room.

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