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Don't Talk to Strangers: Games People Play on "Damages"

"You hired someone. You haven't replaced me." - Ellen

This week's episode of Damages ("You Haven't Replaced Me"), written by Todd Kessler and directed by Glenn Kessler, offered a tantalizing number of confirmations as well as a new power struggle emerging between Ellen Parsons and Patty Hewes, just as the contentious duo agree to work together on the Tobin case.

Patty and Ellen's relationship has been the spine of the series, with the dynamic shifting from that of mentor and protege, to adversaries, to something approaching a twisted friendship based on both mutual respect and distrust. Compared to the meek and naive law associate Ellen was at the start of Season One and the dark angel of vengeance she became in Season Two, we're seeing a very different Ellen here, one who has learned at the feet of the master manipulator and who isn't afraid to remind her that she knows her methods and her secrets.

What we see in this week's episode, from Ellen's growing smile in the first scene (when Patty awakens her at nearly 4 am with an invitation to a dinner party) to Patty's knowing smirk (when she realizes Ellen has gotten to her), is another round of mind games between them, each one launching a calculated attack to remind the other that they are in power, each determined to knock the other off-balance.

At the heart of their relentless game of one-upmanship is newly minted associate Alex Benjamin, a pawn caught between two queens, who both Ellen and Patty are willing to use to achieve their ends. Ellen should have some sympathy for poor Alex. After all, she warned her not to take the job with Patty Hewes in the first place (the same thing that Hollis Nye had warned Ellen about, ironically) and if anyone knows what it's like to be forced into the role of Patty's protege, it's Ellen, who was nearly destroyed, body and soul, by her former employer.

Yet, just as Patty is willing to cast Alex in the role of prop in this game, using the unaware Alex in a tableau designed to injure Ellen (who is meant to feel that she's been replaced), so too is Ellen willing to do the same to Patty, going so far as to ask her lover, reporter Josh Reston, to write a piece on Alex, only to have Alex embarrass herself by taking the puff piece to Patty in an act of mea culpa. It's an effort to prove that Patty isn't invulnerable, that there are chinks in her armor that can be exploited, and that Alex isn't a threat to her.

What is the point of this never-ending game? Why, to prove which one of them has the sharpest claws, of course: which one of them wields the power and which one can take things the furthest. Patty doesn't want to bake cupcakes with Ellen, she wants a worthy opponent to do battle, a mind as cunning as hers, an enemy she respects.

For all of Patty's flaws, she cares about the case and about meting out justice for the victims, just as much as she does winning. Her pursuit of the Tobin fortune is about finding the money at any cost. Ellen's ADA boss Curtis Gates, however, doesn't care one jot about the hidden cash; he's under significant amount of pressure to pin a crime on the Tobin family and he needs results: he needs a Tobin behind bars and their picture splashed across the front page.

His myopia is staggering to Ellen, especially since Ellen knows that Tom is a victim of Louis Tobin's greed. She could have helped Gates out. After all, she knows that Carol Tobin visited Danielle Marchetti the day of her death (thanks to the ID she got from Danielle's doorman) and should be considered a suspect in Danielle's murder.

But, after Gates' outburst, Ellen keeps this little gem to herself, lying to Gates, and instead gives it, wrapped in a ribbon, to Patty. In the seventh episode of the season, the halfway point, it's only fitting that Patty and Ellen's partnership should once more be reforged, though Patty has come to see that Ellen has changed significantly since they first met. It's all about leverage and Patty has the best shot at getting the money back for the victims.

Tom Shayes. This week, Tom was a man on a mission, heading to Antigua to shadow Tessa Marchetti and uncover just how Louis Tobin was able to move money and keep these transactions under the radar. Given that we learned last week that Tessa is a flight attendant, we have the means of how a courier was able to go to and from Antigua without anyone being the wiser. Tom meets a bank clerk who seems willing to help him gain access to Tessa's account--in exchange for visas for his family, including his seriously ill daughter--but he's silenced by a shadowy finance minister (played by The Wire's Michael Potts, a.k.a. Brother Mouzone) who happens to be in Zedeck's pocket.

This is a significant problem because the judge overseeing the Tobin case--Judge Reilly--believes that Minister Horatio Emmanuel is a friend of the US government and their best shot at gaining some valuable information about Tessa's account and the hidden money. Hell, Patty even goes down to Antigua to see him face to face. But if Emmanuel is going to obstruct their investigation, the team might be back to square one again... Which could explain why Ellen and Tom launch their own investigation into the hidden funds in the future.

Tessa Marchetti. We got an iron-clad confirmation (from both Zedeck and Winstone) that Tessa Marchetti is definitely the daughter of Louis Tobin and not Joe, as many viewers have surmised. Working as a flight attendant, Tessa is the ideal courier to be carrying funds for the Tobins and Zedeck. She's family, which means that she can be trusted and she's a citizen of Antigua, having been born there (she has a dual citizenship with the US). But the plot thickens: Tessa appears to be unaware that she's involved in any illicit or illegal. She believes that the forms she's signing at the Royal Bank of Antigua are necessary to exchange her paycheck into US dollars--which involves her signing three forms each time--which means that she's been duped. But who set up this arrangement? Louis Tobin? And why hasn't Tessa been curious about what she's been signing? And is she actually signing a bank transfer order? Just how is Zedeck carrying out this fraud?

Joe Tobin. Joe is shocked to discover that Louis and Danielle had a daughter, a fact that he learns from Zedeck... who makes him aware that someone in the family is whispering secrets into Patty's ear. Joe's reaction to what Zedeck tells him is clearly felt; hell, it's written all over his face. But he proves far better at maintaining a poker face when Ellen confronts him at a cafe and tries to catch him off guard by telling him that both Louis and Danielle died from potassium overdoses and that their deaths were suspicious.

Given that Joe saw and took the the mixture that Dr. Brandt had prepared for Louis, he knows that someone in his family killed Danielle. And, given Carol's instability, she seems the most likely suspect, no?

Meanwhile, Joe is able to give Marilyn some hope for the future by giving her the sable that Zedeck had given him, telling her that Louis had a plan to ensure their financial stability. Sigh. If only Marilyn hadn't already tipped Patty Hewes off about how Louis managed to hide these funds. Hindsight, however, is 20/20, as they say.

Leonard Winstone. Meanwhile, we learned a great deal more this week about the Tobin's loyal retainer, Leonard Winstone. It turns out that Leonard isn't quite what he appears to be. Despite the fact that he has served the Tobins for 27 years, he hasn't come clean to them about his real identity. Leonard always thought of himself as a member of the family; he went so far as to tell that prostitute that he felt like Louis was his father and Carol remembered Louis telling the family when he hired Leonard that he was now "one of the family."

Patty plants a suggestion in Leonard's head, however, that he's not a Tobin, he's just the servant who cleans up their messes and takes out the garbage. If he wants to act like a Tobin, she'll punish him like one... but she gives him one last change to salvage what's left of his career. His encounter with Patty shakes Leonard considerably and he makes up an excuse about a sick friend from law school to get away from Joe for a day in order to see someone.

But Leonard, as we learn, has reinvented himself. His real name is Lester Wiggins and he would appear to have been raised in an environment very different than the Tobin's palatial Manhattan mansion. In fact, his relations with his actual family is so strained that he's unaware that his mother Barbara died five months earlier, only learning of her demise after he attempts to visit her in the nursing home where he's been paying for her care.

So why didn't he know? That would be because his father Albert Wiggins (the always magnificent Bill Raymond, also of The Wire) made her funeral arrangements but just kept cashing the checks that Leonard sent. And he doesn't want the checks to cease now that Leonard knows his mother is dead, opting to blackmail his son into silence. He knows just who and what Leonard really is and he knows that the Tobins don't know...

Three Months Later. The truth about Leonard Winstone is a crucial reveal this week, given his past, and an identity that he discarded more than 20 years ago. In the future-set timeframe, we see Detective Huntley show Ellen the Chanel bag that Patty had given her, a bag that was found, splattered with blood, in the homeless man's shopping cart. As for how it got there, Ellen claims that the bag was stolen. While I was at first loath to believe Ellen's story (too convenient) there is a ring of truth about it, considering that forensics uncovered partial prints on the bag. Prints that happen match those of a petty thief and drifter named Lester Wiggins who was booked in 1984.

We now know Lester Wiggins to be the true identity of Tobin family attorney Leonard Winstone, so just how did he manage to reinvent himself and become a valued employee of the Tobin family and a hotshot attorney? Did he ever go to law school? Or was he able to steal someone else's identity and charm his way into the Tobin's good graces. But there's something amiss there. After all, Leonard supposedly has been working for the Tobins for 27 years, which would put his start date in 1983, a year before his arrest as Lester Wiggins. Odd, no? Was Patty mistaken about how long he's worked for the family? Or is there something else going on here? Hmmm...

Meanwhile, also in the three months later storyline, we catch a glimpse of a hand (Tom's? Leonard's?) flutter back to life in the apartment where he was seemingly murdered. There's blood on the wall and, voila, there's that handbag that Ellen claims to have been stolen and which we know that Leonard Winstone touched.

Which makes me wonder if Leonard wasn't present at Tom's murder, after all. Tom knew his killer and let him into the apartment, though if the bag was stolen from Ellen, it may have contained a key to Tom's apartment. But why steal the bag? Was Leonard after something that he suspected--or knew--that Tom and Ellen had? Information that would be worth killing for?

And whose blood is it on the handbag? Is it from the same source as the blood splatter on the wall? We know Tom was stabbed but did he fight back? Was he able to injure his attacker, or one of his attackers? Is it Leonard's blood, given that the police's DNA database doesn't go back that far? Hmmm...

What did you think of this week's episode? Agree with the theories above? Or do you have some theories of your own? Discuss.

Next week on Damages ("I Look Like Frankenstein"), Carol Tobin vanishes, forcing Patty and Ellen to track her down; Arthur Frobisher (guest star Ted Danson) returns to launch his new foundation.


Bella Spruce said…
Great episode. Martin Short was fantastic and I love the mind games between Ellen and Patty. I also like that Tessa was unaware of her involvement in all of this and that, by the look on her face, Patty didn't buy Horatio Emmanuel's "nice guy" routine for one minute.

So far, this season has been excellent!
Hannah Lee said…
I was wondering how they would get Ellen and Patty working together again and think that they did a really nice job of that in this week's episode. At first, it seemed like Ellen was working for the "good guys" but, after Gates' confession that he just needs to throw someone in jail, I can see why Ellen would turn to Patty...especially as she knows that Tom's future depends on Patty recovering the money. I hate to think what Gates will do, though, if he finds out that Ellen has been meeting with Patty behind his back.
Jace Lacob said…

I wondered the same thing: will Ellen be able to keep her job once Gates inevitably finds out what she's been up to? After all, she withheld vital information in a criminal investigation. That alone could get her disbarred.
Chris said…
Jace, are we sure that was Tom's hand? My immediate reaction was that it was Leonard Winstone's but I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Jace Lacob said…

It's definitely possible that was Leonard's hand... We know that someone threw Ellen's back away and dumped Tom's body. But what if they thought Leonard was dead and then he got up and walked away? After all, we haven't seen him in the future timeframe... What if he does betray the Tobins, after all?
IntlWomanOfMistery said…
How was Tessa born in Antigua if last week Tom found out she was born in Brooklin?
abbytaz said…
I think Tessa is lying about her dual citizenship. Tom should have been smart and asked her to show her Antiguan Passport. This would have solved the problem. I believe someone else maybe on that account with Tessa, someone who is a resident of Antigua. Tom or Roger said this is a requirement to open a bank account there. So who is the other person?

I'm also glad Ellen went to Patty with the information and are working together to solve the case. I'm curious how far Zedeck will go to protect the Tobin funds and risk himself being exposed. If I had to speculate who killed Tom I guessing Lenny with Zedeck's thugs. Lenny has so much to lose and seems to be the fixer of the family.

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