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Emancipation: The Ones Who Got Away on "Damages"

"Consider this the carrot. Believe me, you don't want the stick." - Patty

Damages has done a phenomenal job at keeping secondary and tertiary characters spinning within the orbit of Patricia Hewes, the ruthless and Machiavellian litigator who seems to view mere mortals as nothing more than pawns in her latest grand scheme, whether that be her partner Tom Shayes, her former protege Ellen Parsons, or her own son. In fact, Patty's modus operandi seems to be to push reality into line with her expectation of it. When people don't behave how she anticipates, it throws off her entire worldview.

On this week's episode of Damages ("I Look Like Frankenstein"), written by Daniel Zelman and directed by Chris Terrio, two people from Patty's past returned to the series with some emotional baggage as well as efforts to free themselves from the, well, damages that they suffered at the hands of Patty Hewes.

Even as Michael Hewes attempted to build a new life for himself as an artist and a soon-to-be father, Patty sought to sink her claws into his life once more in order to do what she felt was best for him... or to pay him back for betraying her so easily. Likewise, Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, once again at his conflicted finest) sought to achieve redemption through environmental philanthropy, turning his attentions towards improving the earth (and his own soul), even though he can't escape his own villainous past nor his enduring reputation.

So what did I think of this week's episode? And what did we learn about the overarching plot this season? Let's discuss.

I'm glad that Danson's Frobisher returned to the series after a far-too long absence. While the plot of Season Three clearly doesn't have anything to do with Arthur Frobisher--at least not yet--his presence is an intriguing one as it connects this season to the two that have come before. Patty Hewes destroyed Frobisher's life and he in turn destroyed Ellen's. While he was a minor presence in the series' second season, Ellen was nearly corrupted body and soul by her quest for vengeance over the man who killed her fiancee.

But while Frobisher achieved a Zen-like calm last season, it's Ellen who appeared to have achieved some peace within herself. As she tells Tom at the cafe, she can't return to work for Patty without risking losing herself in the process. By maintaining a distance, she can keep her boundaries and keep herself from falling into the abyss once more.

Frobisher himself has seemed to come out the other side. He's attempting to be good by doing good, an important distinction that makes me wonder just how much altruism actually exists inside of him. Is all of his wind power campaigning a true effort to save the world or to save himself? Are the two mutually exclusive? He tells his son that old reputations die hard (despite the fact that his crimes pale in comparison to the Tobins'), that he can't change people's perceptions of him and that's why Hollywood actor Terry (Craig Bierko) doesn't want to become the foundation's pitchman.

But everyone, Hollywood especially, loves redemption. Frobisher's book--"My Long and Windy Road" (and that's windy as in "wind")--details his fall from grace and his struggles to put his life back together again, a puzzle not unlike Detective Huntley's game with Ellen. Terry, upon reading the book, wants to option it and star in a film based on Frobisher's life. In exchange, he'll star in the foundation's webisodes, commercials, and PSA's. Which begs the question: did Frobisher engineer this from the start? Did he know that Terry would want his life rights? Is he looking for a grander canvas on which to paint the story of his redemption? Is it possible that he's just as conniving as Patty?

The Tobin Case. Patty and Tom quickly learn that Horatio Emmanuel will be no help to them when it comes to Tessa Marchetti's banking records but they have an ace up their sleeve already: Tessa herself, who turns over her banking documents to the firm. The problem: the records she has only show paltry checking and savings accounts and certainly no proof of millions squirreled away by the Tobins. And, interestingly, Tessa tells them that she didn't spend Thanksgiving with her mother but instead was upstate with friends and that her mother spent it alone. So what does that mean about Louis' story that he left his heart medication at Danielle's apartment? What really happened that night? Tessa promises to help Patty in any way that she can, though she's clearly in the dark about everything.

Just how are Zedeck and the conspirators managing to keep this information secret? I'm still puzzling that one out. Zedeck, meanwhile, promises Leonard and Joe that Patty won't be able to find the money trail due to the Antiguan bank laws and Emmanuel will help them as well as he's financially motivated since Zedeck and Louis Tobin cut him into their scheme. He doesn't want this money found either, after all.

Carol Tobin. It now appears that Joe himself gave Carol the potassium compound that killed both their father and Danielle Marchetti and that he knew exactly what he was doing when he gave her the vial. While I had assumed that Carol had killed Danielle out of malice, it seems far more engineered and premeditated than that. Danielle had pled the fifth at her deposition and hadn't toed the party line like Joe had demanded of her, so he... what? Got his sister to silence her permanently so Patty Hewes and the DA wouldn't be able to uncover anything?

And just where is Carol then? She's gone off the grid again, just like she has in the past. At first I worried that Leonard had gotten rid of her, but Marilyn's concerned tone and Leonard's decision to hire that security firm to locate Carol allayed any suspicions on that end. In the end, we learned that Joe himself had hidden Carol away from prying eyes in a building owned by Leonard, a building that he easily recognizes once the firm tells him where she is.

That building would just happen to be the one located by the dumpster where Louis Tobin's boots and Danielle Marchetti's burner cell phone were discovered and where Barry the homeless man makes his place of residence. Leonard's arrival at the building triggers a memory in Barry: he's the man who dumped that stuff in the first place on Thanksgiving. Interesting...

Joe Tobin. To say that Joe is toying with things he doesn't understand is an understatement; he's virtually unrecognizable from the man he once was, a man whose soul purpose seemed to be to restore his family's good name and distance himself from his father's crimes. Yet, each episode, Joe seems to be plunging further down the rabbit hole, engaging in crimes that grow increasingly bigger. His attempts at emancipating himself from his father's legacy have resulted in him exceeding Louis' nefariousness, replacing greed with rage and financial crimes with mortal ones.

Ellen. I loved how Ellen's face blanched when Patty mentioned her old hotel room (where she was living during Season Two), stating that she likes her new place so much better. I couldn't help but wonder just why Ellen did tell Patty that she was going to be a grandmother, sensing that Michael and Patty didn't talk. Did she do it to injure her former mentor, to catch her off-guard and unawares? Patty's face turned deep crimson as she struggled to extricate herself from a moment of weakness, pretending that she did know about the baby and was still getting used to the idea of being a grandmother.

Like Michael, Ellen has attempted to emancipate herself from Patty, to forge a new life that's separate from her influence but she can't help but be drawn back into Patty's world, teaming up with her on the Tobin case and supplying her with information that she's concealing from Gates. She's walking a tightrope though, one that's growing narrower and narrower with every step. Her efforts to get Tom to see just what Patty did to her and how she had to get away might be the first stumble into the darkness below. Especially, with what we learn from the future timeframe...

Patty. Patty, meanwhile, nearly goes to Michael's art show--called, only fittingly, Emancipation--but stops herself from going inside. She doesn't want a confrontation but seems more willing to destroy Michael's happiness from afar, summoning Jill to her office to attempt to pay her off. Why is she going to such lengths to split these two up? Because Michael didn't turn out the way she wanted him to? Because he's happier without her? Because he left her behind? She has information about Jill's past, her divorce, and her husband's sole custody of her children because the state of Colorado found her to be an unfit mother.

It's this final revelation that sets Jill's chin quivering. She clearly doesn't want Michael to know this, not when they're expecting a child of their own, and she doesn't want Patty's dirty money. But Jill's confidence in their relationship is shattered, as evidenced by her attempts to get Michael to leave her, to return to a "normal" life of college and parties, to put fatherhood out of his mind. But he's not going anywhere.

Michael might be emancipated from Patty, he might be about to become a parent himself, but he's never free of her influence. Especially now that she feels betrayed by him and was made to look weak and foolish (exactly what Patty fears most) after their last meeting, where he blatantly lied to her and misled her. If anything, she's more dangerous and vindictive than ever...

Three Months Later. I loved the scene between Ellen and Detective Huntley (the always great Tom Noonan) at the police station where he ripped up a scrap of paper into little pieces and then attempted to get Ellen to solve the puzzle and bring all of the various strands of knowledge together for him. She doesn't quite manage to do that but we learned quite a few things this week that are drawing the plots closer together.

Here's what we learned now:
-Ellen and Tom are definitively not in a romantic or sexual relationship. In fact, the two were attempting to start their own law firm, likely without Patty's knowledge. Did she find out that they too were going to emancipate themselves and leave her behind?
-The apartment where Tom is going through those files is in the same building where Joe hid Carol from the D.A., a building that's owned by Leonard Winstone.
-Leonard appears to have betrayed the Tobins at some point and is working with Tom and Ellen. As a proof of his friendship, he delivers Tom a bag of cash--likely part of the Tobin fortune--in order to help Tom's financial situation. (The guy did lose 70 percent of his net worth, after all.) "It's all here. I'm a man of my word," says Leonard. Hmmm....
-We know Leonard was at the apartment the day that Tom is killed and that he touched Ellen's bag. The dumpster behind the apartment building is used as a garbage dump by Leonard (as seen when he throws out the Tobins' stuff earlier), so it's likely that he threw away Ellen's bag. Thus, the fingerprints and the fact that Barry found it in the trash.
-The car that hit Patty was registered to Tom Shayes but the address was that place in Brooklyn, which again is owned by Leonard. Why would Tom put that place down as his address? Answer: he wouldn't. But someone looking to frame Tom for a crime might.
-We see the driver of the car that collides with Patty but not his face (just a set of gloves) as the person braces themselves to hit her. Afterwards, the driver escapes. Perhaps an employee of the security firm Leonard likes to hire for these sort of things?
-It's definitively not the Statue of Liberty bookend from Season One that's glimpsed on the passenger seat but rather a Statue of Liberty bobblehead, something that I can't see Tom Shayes having in his car. Is it a callback to that prop from Season One, a coincidence, or an intentional message to Patty or Ellen?
-Why was Ellen so freaked out that someone other than Tom's wife Deb knew what they were up to? Did she too think that Patty had Tom killed? Hmmm...

What did you think of this week's episode? How does Frobisher fit into the overarching plot? Will Patty ever let Michael, Tom, or Ellen go? Agree with the above theories or conclusions? Discuss.

Next week on Damages ("Drive It Through Hardcore"), Carol Tobin is forced to reveal the truth about Thanksgiving after Patty tracks her down; Ellen's family life becomes chaotic; Frobisher begins making his movie.


wackiland said…
And in the "don't waste this actor on a one-time-guest-shot" department: Craig Bierko? Definitely something up with the Frobisher story....hmmmmmmmmmmmm
abbytaz said…
Another terrific recap on the amazing show Damages. Thank you Jace.

Yes, many reveals in last night's episode. I also noticed Ellen's right hand is bandaged up. I wonder if she was mugged, Ellen mentioned her bag was stolen. So if she were attacked, her hand was cut and she tried to defend herself by grabbing the bag that would explain the blood on it. Maybe her attack was arranged through Leonard and the "Security Contractor" (Sarah Wynter) who then gave the bag to Leonard to be disposed of or sent to Tom as a warning and threat for getting too close.
AskRachel said…
I have no idea where the Frobisher storyline is going but I'm just thrilled that he's back!

Another excellent episode (and recap)!

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