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Financial Candyland: Following the Money Trail on "Damages"

"Follow the money."

Whistleblower Deep Throat suggested that tack to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to do just that in the 1976 film All the President's Men, based on the Watergate scandal that eventually took down Richard Nixon.

The same applies to the twisted Ponzi scheme enacted by financier Louis Tobin this season on Damages but Tobin has hidden his money trail rather cleverly. So well in fact that rottweiler attorney Patty Hewes and her crack team of investigators are no closer to uncovering his fortune's whereabouts than they were when the season began, a fact that leaves Patty's position as the court-appointed trustee in the case in serious jeopardy.

This week's episode of Damages ("Don't Forget to Thank Mr. Zedeck"), written by Aaron Zelman and Mark Fish and directed by Timothy Busfield, may have lacked the jaw-dropping plot twists of last week's stunning episode but that doesn't mean that we didn't receive any further clues about the overarching mysteries of the series' third season.

This week, the action was focused once more on the money trail as Tom and Patty attempted to uncover the hidden millions--or even billions--that Louis Tobin squirreled away somewhere, Joe sought proof of his father's arrangement with the mysterious Mr. Zedeck (Dominic Chianese), and Ellen discovered a possible link between Louis Tobin's death and Danielle Marchetti's.

So what did I think of this week's episode? Let's discuss.

While "Don't Forget to Thank Mr. Zedeck" focused on smaller discoveries and less shocking developments than the last two episodes, this week's installment did offer us some more clues and continued to build on the sense of doom and dread that have circled around this season.

Tom. Wisely, the writers have placed Tom Shayes front and center in this episode as we see the fallout from his involvement in Tobin's Ponzi scheme, an investment decision that has not only wiped him and Deb out but also his own parents and hers. A conversation between Tom and his father-in-law reveals just how desperate the situation is, as Deb's cancer-stricken mother is now likely to lose her medical coverage. Tom is trying to keep it together however he can but he's still not willing to jeopardize his role on the Tobin case by telling Patty that he's been compromised and has lost everything. Likewise, Deb isn't quite getting the severity of the situation, even when Roger Castle presents the reality of the financial hit they've taken.

But there's also a personal sense of vengeance enacted by Tom against their own financial adviser, Eric Nichols, who has a daughter at the school where Tom and Deb's daughter Megan attends. Nichols seems positively unperturbed by any of the Tobin case developments and he continues to flaunt his wealth despite the fact that many of his own clients have lost everything. Despite the dark path that Tom is on (one that, as we know, gets him killed in the future), I couldn't help but cheer when he started to beat Nichols in the school hallway. He's going to get their money back but we all know what dumpster that leads him to...

Patty. Tom's attack on Nichols does result in some new information as Tom believes that he's put together just how Louis Tobin was moving money after Patty receives some intelligence from a felon she put behind bars: Sterling Bittle (Wallace Shawn). Antigua is a hotbed for financial malfeasance and it's likely that Tobin was able to stash hundreds of millions down there. But there are a few complications: one someone would have to have traveled down to Antigua frequently to make the deposits at an offshore bank account and none of the Tobins nor their known associates have made the trips necessary. Plus, the account would have to have been opened by a resident of the Caribbean island where the bank is based. Hmmm...

I loved that Patty was more than willing to meet with Sterling and that he was willing to help her, despite their history. But there was also more than a glimmer of shared respect between the two of them, despite being on opposite sides of the law here. Sterling not only tells her about Antigua--for a price, of course--but also manages to set her up with his architect. An architect that just happens to be Patty's would-be paramour Julian Decker (Keith Carradine), who is willing to redo Patty's palatial apartment and expose what's going on under the "modern lines." (Metaphor much?) But he told her that it was "a lot of responsibility," a line that echoed her recurring nightmare in last week's episode.

Alex Benjamin. While Patty was desperate enough to go to Sterling Bittle for help, she knew that it would come with a price tag and she was all too willing to use her wannabe associate Alex to carry out Sterling's demand for a "conjugal visit." Alex, meanwhile, followed through on her testament to do whatever it took to win this job at Hewes & Shayes but she seemed outright nervous when it came to visit Sterling. Fortunately, she wasn't there to have sex with Sterling but rather to smuggle in some caviar, which he then wanted her to watch him eat in the conjugal visitation room. (I wouldn't have put it past Patty, however, to have prostituted Alex outright.)

While Alex proved that she was willing to do anything to win over Patty, Patty hadn't quite finished with her yet, sending her to Coventry and refusing to even let her wait in the lobby. Despite Ellen's admonishment to "run away," Alex is determined to get this job... and she eventually does, much to Ellen's chagrin. (You could see the blatant disappointment on Ellen's face as she realizes that Alex is doomed to be Patty's catspaw.)

Zedeck. Joe, meanwhile, finally made the acquaintance of his father's "partner," Mr. Zedeck, an owner of a chain of dry cleaners who makes him jump through a number of hoops in order to obtain proof that he has access to the Tobin fortune. But like Patty with Alex, Zedeck is testing Joe and Joe fails his game miserably. After participating in a series of rendezvouses, dead-drops, codes, and dry cleaner pick-ups, Joe doesn't receive a box of cash but rather a sable for Marilyn. Disgusted and frustrated, Joe believes that Zedeck is playing him and returns the coat.

It's a misstep. The coat was intended as a gift for Marilyn, a sign of support and friendship. By not giving her the coat (and failing to heed the woman at the dry cleaners' instructions to "be sure to thank Mr. Zedeck"), Joe throws the old man's gift back in his face, proving both that he is ungrateful ("how sharper than a serpent's tooth," as Shakespeare would say) and untrustworthy.

For his part, despite his abhorrence at Joe's behavior, Zedeck does produce some verifiable proof after scaring the daylights out of Joe by appearing in his hotel room. But Zedeck has left a present for Joe in the bottom drawer of the dresser: a suitcase filled with crisp bills. It's clear that Zedeck, who claims to be an old friend of Louis', did have an arrangement with his father. But why the mindgames, the tests, and the subterfuge? It's as Roger Castle says, however they moved the money, it was all done in person and not on the phone or via email. Just like Zedeck's first meeting with Joe at the end of the line in Queens, in fact. No paper trail means no money trail, after all.

Ellen. I'm really liking Ellen this season; she has a confidence and forthrightness that she didn't have in Season Two, a real sense of empowerment that's absolutely tangible in every scene. As the DA's office begins to investigate the possibility that Louis Tobin was murdered and they interview Richard Renfro (the man that Joe Tobin assaulted), Ellen uncovers a link between Louis' heart attack and Danielle Marchetti's death, one that implicates the involvement of the Tobins' family physician, Dr. Brandt.

They learn that both Louis and Danielle were killed by an overdose of potassium and while Brandt admits to giving the idea for the mixture to Louis as a way out, he can't explain how Danielle could have died the same way. But Ellen knows that she was murdered by someone... but has no idea that the killer is Carol Tobin.

Danielle Marchetti's daughter. I had assumed she was younger than she actually was and mistook her uniform for that of a private school student. But it turns out that the unnamed Ms. Marchetti is a flight attendant for a private airline.... and would be able to move money around to Antigua without anyone being the wiser, considering that Louis Tobin was very careful not to establish paternity (her birth certificate was left incomplete) and to keep the girl a secret from everyone, it would seem. It also makes the choice of Louis Tobin and Leonard Winstone to use the Farmingdale Airport to get Danielle out of the country all the more fitting, since it seems to be the locus through which her daughter is traveling. Interesting...

Four Months Later. Not much in the way of answers from the future timeframe this week but we did learn several important facts. One, that Tom had not only uncovered proof of the Tobin's secret fortune but had in fact managed to get his hands on some of his own lost money, placed in a duffel bag that Tom has at the apartment (which Ellen sees) and which is later found in his car by Detective Huntley after his murder.

Two, we now know that Tom was alive for two hours BEFORE Patty's car crash, it's possible that he was driving the car when it crashed into her. But why, really? I can't think of any motive at this time that would explain why he would want her dead but it's also possible that Tom's car--and the cash--was taken before his murder by someone else who also wants Patty dead.

Three, if Tom and Ellen have uncovered proof of Zedeck's means of procuring and securing hidden funds, it's enough of a reason why they would want to have Tom permanently silenced. And it also places Ellen in jeopardy as well. (I still maintain that Patty called Ellen after learning of Tom's death and that she had warned them from launching their own private investigation into the money.)

Four, it's unclear whether Patty knows about the money or not. Ellen makes a point of asking Tom whether Patty knows and Tom says that Patty won't be a problem. I think this is another red herring intended to make us think that Tom willingly attempted to kill Patty in the car crash but I don't think that's the case at all. There's still a big missing piece that we're not seeing that will tie together all of this disparate threads. Hmmm....

"I like where this case is heading," says Huntley. Me too.

What did you think of this week's episode? Is Zedeck far more dangerous than he seems? Will Ellen and the prosecutors realize that Carol murdered Danielle Marchetti? Just what is going on with Patty and Julian? And do you still agree with my theory from a few weeks back that Tom was waterboarded? Discuss.

Next week on Damages ("You Haven't Replaced Me"), Patty sends Tom out of the country to follow the money trail of the Tobin fraud; Ellen must choose between Patty and her new boss; Leonard Winston leaves the city under mysterious circumstances.


rockauteur said…
Definitely a great episode though one fault to your recap: the doctor didn't admit to creating the mixture, just giving Tobin the idea for it.

Is there more to David Carradine that means the eye? Something seems shady there with him too that I can't put my figure on, besides just wanting to date her.

I thought the producers should have "gone there" in terms of Alex sleeping with Sterling. I was a little disappointed that she was only smuggling in a jar of caviar. I think it would have been more daring and more shady of Patti to ask her new recruit to prostitute herself to get the job. That would have been the ultimate test of ambition.

Interesting that Ellen new about the duffel bag of cash - wonder if its the same cash that Joe now has in his possession.

Also - I forget: why did Danielle choose that dumpster to dump all of Louis' possessions in, leading Tom to set up shop in the nearby apartment building? Did she leave near there too? I can't recall.
Jace Lacob said…

Have amended that to indicate that; you're right: he admits to giving him the idea for the potassium overdose but pulls back from admitting that he made the mixture himself.

As for the dumpster, we still don't know how that stuff ended up there. I'm thinking because it's out of the way. I do think that's WHY Tom picks that apartment specifically but we don't know its significance to Danielle or the Tobins yet.
Barbara said…
I'm now into your water boarding theory. When we first saw the apartment, I thought that Tom had been hiding out there---maybe the wife had kicked him out upon learning of their ruination, or that he used the place as a vantage point, hours on end, for some reason. (As if the water bottles were some form of ironic "calendar" of the hours spent there.) In last night's shot of the place, the bottles were not visible, which leads me to think that they were brought in specifically for an event---the torture of someone deemed to have information.
I'm also in agreement with you about Danielle's daughter. In that shot where Mrs. Tobin greets her, she is seen wearing clothes that I took to be a school uniform. She certainly looks young enough. Now we know that it was a flight attendant's uniform--but how old is she? Very early twenties? So Danielle and Louis carried on a twenty plus year relationship (of one sort or another)? Therefore, the relationship she had with Joe was when? I thought Danielle told him that it wasn't during their time together...Way creepy...
cgeye said…
Not David (God rest his soul), but his bro Keith, who was one of the Big Bads on DOLLHOUSE this season.
AmericanGirl said…
Yes, the role of Julian Decker is played by the inimitable Keith Carradine, not his late big brother David. If you haven't seen his performance as Sp. Agent Lundy in Dexter season 2 it is highly recommended.

As far as Julian Decker's place in Damages goes, I have to assume that he has an ulterior motive here. First, he is linked to Patty in more than one way. He was at a dinner party that she attended and now is the architect that is recommended to her by Wallace Shawn's character (who, by the way, did a movie called 'The Moderns' with Keith Carradine back in the 80's). More importantly, though, everyone on Damages has had an ulterior motive to date. I'm not sure why they'd stop that trend now.

Either way it would be nice to see Ms. Hewes get some lovins. All work and no play will make Patty a dull gal.
kallie said…
I also thought that Danielle's daughter was wearing a private school uniform but, now that I know she's older, I wonder if she's actually Joe's daughter and Danielle just kept it a secret from him?
Unknown said…
Kallie - That's what I've thought all along. Marchetti's daughter is with Joe and Louis has been keeping the secret from him for all these years. Based on her age, there is no way Louis is her father.
esme said…
I think Joe, not his dad, is Danielle's daughter. Joe doesn't know this. Tobin used his granddaughter to launder money in return for taking care of her and her mother.

that's the sense I get from that storyline... the whole situation came from Joe's behavior when he was drinking and his dad took up the slack.

it's so unsettling to know that Tom is going to die this season. a very timely storyline, too.

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