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The Grifters: Schemers and Dreamers on Damages

Just a word of advice: don't mess with the person who knows all of your secrets.

This week's phenomenal episode of Damages ("You Were His Little Monkey"), written by Glenn Kessler and directed by Timothy Busfield, began to draw together the extremely diverse story strands of the series' taut third season before next week's finale. (It's worth noting here that Damages' ultimate fate is unclear and next week's installment may serve as either a season finale or a series finale. I'm hoping it's the former rather than the latter.)

I can't quite wrap my head around how the writers will manage to tie everything up, with Tom's murder, Patty's car accident, the Frobisher case, the Ponzi scheme, African charities, Wes Krulik, feature films, and dreams all in the mix somehow. Yet Damages has proven itself quite adept at building tension throughout the season and bringing together a slew of clues to offer one hell of a final act. Which means even if the series doesn't manage to return for a fourth season, it still will have gone out on an extremely high note.

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

My admonition earlier was thrown right at the Tobins, who this week decided to make a monumentally wrong-headed decision and fire Leonard Winstone. While Joe Tobin was shocked to discover that Leonard wasn't who he said he was, it really doesn't matter at the end of the day whether his name is Winstone or Wiggins: he's the man who literally knows where you buried the bodies. He's been aware of the fraud since the start and knows exactly how to procure the money that's being hidden in the charity with the help of Stuart Zedeck. He knows that Tessa Marchetti is the daughter of Joe Tobin and that Marilyn withheld this information from her son in a bid to get him to silence her forever.

So the question is: if knowledge is power and this man knows all of this, is it wise to make an extremely powerful man angry?

Yet that's just what Joe Tobin does, having it out with Leonard one final time and sharing with him just what Louis Tobin called him behind his back: his "little monkey," the creature who does his dirty work while he gets to keep his well-manicured hands clean. Leonard Winstone may have been a fraud but he was their fraud, a man so desperate to belong that he convinced himself that he was a valued member of the Tobin family, that he belonged to something bigger than himself. Marilyn first makes it clear what she really thinks about him, saying that he couldn't possibly understand her thought process because he doesn't have a family. It's a gutting scene but it pales in comparison to the one between Joe and Leonard. Joe's hold on sanity or logic expired some time ago: he's been making sloppy, stupid choices that have only shined a greater spotlight on the Tobin family and now he's cut ties with the one man who had made it his life's mission to protect them.

Just what did he think that Leonard would do? Was he so foolish that he thought that the little monkey would just dance away back in the shadows and keep the family's secrets for them? But that's not in Leonard's nature; he's a survivor and a grifter at heart. Scorned by the Tobins, he makes a deal with Tom Shayes to save his own skin at the expense of the Tobins... but he also makes a fatal error that will have lasting consequences: he steals from Stuart Zedeck.

There's a nice parallel in this episode between two very different thefts, both of which will have some nasty repercussions for the parties involved, and between the actions of intermediaries. Ben's appearance at the charity to withdraw the secreted funds and his line about people making their attorneys do things rather than doing them themselves is clearly meant to echo Leonard Winstone's predicament (and also inadvertently allows the former Tobin family counsel access to the funds themselves). Meanwhile, Leonard and Albert's efforts to use the system that Zedeck set up in order to get Tom back some of his lost financial status--tantamount to theft itself--also nicely parallels the theft committed by Jill when she agrees to take Patty's money... and then turns around and spends it on Michael. Ouch. Something tells me that neither Stuart Zedeck nor Patty Hewes will take too kindly to people stealing from them.

Patty. This week, Patty's dreams about the beautiful horse continued as she fell asleep at the office and later experienced a waking dream on the streets of New York City when she glimpses a police horse. In both cases, the horse seems to calm her initially as she's struck by its beauty and majesty but there's a jarring sense of shock when Julian Decker turns up in both cases. In the dream in her office, Julian appears next to the horse as she watches through the ripped-up hole in her wall and he calls her Patricia. Later, she transposes Julian's face onto the mounted police officer. Julian is clearly on her mind but seems to represent something just out of reach.

A reader suggested a few weeks back that Julian was a figment of Patty's imagination, as the only person he interacted with was Patty... and it's not like any renovation work has actually been done at Patty's apartment since their "meeting." But while I don't think that Patty has created Julian out of whole cloth, I do think that he's a figure from her past, someone who meant something significant to her. Otherwise her reaction upon seeing his face on that policeman--leading her vomit--wouldn't be quite so violent.

It's interesting too that these manifestations should come on the heels of the knowledge that Michael is the father of Jill's baby. While Patty had doubts about the baby's parentage, Michael turns up at her office to tell her that the chromosomal test came back clean and the DNA proved that he was the father. He offers to send her a copy of the report and turns on his heel, but it's Patty's surprisingly vulnerable face--a crack in the wall--that's the true kicker of the scene. Her armor has fallen and here we see a woman who has realized that she has lost her child. The anguish she feels is palpable.

So it only makes sense that she would seek to bring Michael back to her the only way she knows how: by getting rid of Jill and breaking his heart. She agrees to meet Jill and pay her $300,000 to go away and never see Michael again, even though she is carrying his child. (Parallels here too between Jill and Michael and Danielle Marchetti and Joe Tobin.) But Jill's not going anywhere: she demands a cool $500,000 and then turns around and buys Michael a flashy ride and makes a down payment on an apartment. But all of this is on borrowed time: Patty is going to find out that Jill is still in the picture and come after her. And I don't think Jill wants to find out the full force of Patty's rage.

Ellen. I loved the scene between Ellen and Patty where she tells Patty that the reason that she didn't want to come back to work for her was that she wanted to make her own choices. While I thought that Patty might react negatively to that sentiment, she seems to respect Ellen all the more for it... as she does Ellen's decision to protect Tom and give him her loyalty rather than Patty. He did, as Ellen says, need it more than Patty at that point. I'm just thrilled to see these two back in the same room together again, with Ellen clearly willing to put aside the awful argument she had with Patty and focus on the case. Could it be that these two have gotten through their first spat as friends and come out the other side? I was also chuffed to see that Patty hasn't forgotten the promise she made to Ellen to find David's killer, to use her resources to put his murderer behind bars. Ellen might not work for Patty anymore but she clearly intends to honor that commitment to her former protege.

Josh Reston. I loved that it was Josh who is able to give Ellen and Patty a major break in the Tobin case, using his contact at the jail to learn that Leonard Winstone had bailed Albert Wiggins out of jail. It's a nice callback to the favor that Ellen did for Josh and a way to balance things out between them. His quick-thinking sends Ellen on a path of discovery, learning that the real Leonard Winstone died in a car accident just a few weeks after graduating law school and low-life grifter Lester Wiggins stole his identity and reinvented himself as a hot-shot lawyer, becoming the family counsel for the well-heeled Tobin clan. But the past always catches up to you and it's Albert who brings the house of cards tumbling down around his son's head.

Arthur Frobisher. I was wondering just how the Arthur Frobisher storyline would play into the overarching storyline this season and this week--even without Ted Danson's presence--it finally began to pay off three seasons of dangling plot threads as Terry Brooks told Patty that Frobisher had implied that he had someone killed and had hired a man--a cop--who would do anything. While Patty laughs off the implications and denies that Frobisher would be capable of murder, she quickly goes to see A.D.A. Gates and Ellen and leads to reopening of the investigation into David Connor's murder. Plus, they've now thisclose to connecting Frobisher to Rick Messer and Wes Krulik. While Messer is dead, it's Krulik who might finally provide some closure to this story. Ellen attempts to reach Wes but can't get a hold of him. But he's the key to finally putting Frobisher away for murder by proxy and laying David's spirit to rest.

The look of shock when Ellen sees the photograph of Messer and his former partner Wes is one that's hard to shake. Given that they were lovers, I am sure Ellen is wondering just if Wes knew anything about David's murder... while being unaware that he's the one that was (A) ordered to kill her and (B) shot and murdered his partner in order to protect Ellen. I'm just hoping that Ellen finally learns the truth about Detective Messer and David's death. With the end of the series possibly occurring next week, it's about time that some of these plotlines were dealt with.

Tom. Poor Tom's life is unraveling before his eyes. Having been forced to resign from the firm in light of his conflict of interest (which was disclosed to Patty by the judge), Tom has a row with Deb on the steps of their brownstone and she kicks him out. With nowhere to turn, he makes a deal with Leonard Winstone, offering him immunity from prosecution in exchange for information about the hidden Tobin fortune. And Leonard is able--thanks to some help from his crooked father (who assumes the identity of Stuart Zedeck)--to offer Tom a bag of cash as a sign of good faith.

Of course, we later learn that Tom himself engineered his entire resignation. Which didn't quite make sense to me while I was watching the episode. Why would Tom make himself unemployed when he's literally got no money and no prospects... in order to risk the chance that Leonard Winstone might talk to him? Especially as this entire affair plays out BEFORE they learn the truth about Winstone's identity and BEFORE Joe Tobin fires Leonard. Given that Leonard was antagonistic towards Patty and Tom, what made Tom think that this was a risk worth taking? Why would Leonard have sold out the Tobins at that point, given that Tom had no leverage over him? It was the odd misstep in an otherwise flawless episode but one that I couldn't put out of my head last night as I went to sleep. Odd.

And then there's the matter of the car, the one that ends up plowing right into Patty's vehicle. Tom is seen late at the office looking on Bing for... something. The search results pull up photographs of the car we saw smashing into Patty, including a shot of the Statue of Liberty bobblehead on the dashboard. But why is Tom researching cheap cars? Why does he in fact purchase it and register it to Leonard Winstone's apartment building? And how does it get from there, with the stolen funds, to the street where the accident occurs? And just who is driving it when it hits Patty? Curious.

While Ellen offers Tom a place to stay, he turns down her offer to instead sleep on the floor of one of the creepy lofts that Leonard owns in an otherwise empty building. Given from what we see from the future-set timeframe--now only Three. Days. Later.--Tom uses it as a makeshift office as well as a meeting place for his rendezvous with Leonard. I'm a little concerned by the presence of homeless man Barry after he sneaks into the loft and wakes Tom up, asking if he can stay there. While I don't think that Barry would hurt Tom--they seem to have something resembling an odd-couple friendship--the fact that he was able to get into the building and the loft so easily doesn't sit well with me.

Three Days Later. And then there are the jumbled flash of images from the future-set timeframe, now just three short days later, scenes that depict each of our protagonists in jeopardy, as Ben pulls a knife, Ellen is confronted by someone, Tom bashes the hell out of someone's face, Patty is involved in a collision, and someone jumps off of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Just what does it all mean? I'm still convinced, as I have been since early on this season, that Tom is tortured--waterboarded--by Zedeck's men in an effort to discover just what he knows about the funds stolen from the charity (after all, Ben will learn that "Stuart Zedeck" showed up to collect some cash and Leonard's the only one who can connect all of the dots) and where the money is. The presence of the empty water bottles on the floor of the flat support this theory as does the presence of water in Tom's lungs without the accompanying waterlogged condition that his corpse should be in had he been drowned. Given that we've seen Ben with a knife, he ends up stabbing Tom, who is able to escape and who calls Deb on the pay phone.

As for the bridge incident, I'm convinced it's either Leonard Winstone (my thought a few weeks back) or Joe Tobin, who learns the truth about Tessa Marchetti and realizes that he's destroyed his entire family rather than saved them. And, like his father before him, he takes his own life rather than be prosecuted and imprisoned for his crimes. In other words: it's the Fall of the House of Tobin.

But I still can't wrap my head around the car accident, however. Unless, Ben manages to find the bag of money, takes Tom's car, and then seeks to silence Patty as well. He orchestrates the accident and jumps out of the passenger side of the car after the impact. But why leave the money behind then? Hmmm...

What do you think of the above theories? Got some of your own? What do you think will happen in next week's season finale? Head to the comments section to share your thoughts.

Next week on the 90-minute season finale of Damages ("The Next One's Gonna to Go in Your Throat"), Ellen and Tom take matters into their own hands in an attempt to win the Tobin case; Patty Hewes is haunted by the price of her success.


Smithy said…
Fantastic episode but I do agree that Tom's "plan" seemed somewhat unbelievable and a little too similar to the first season where Patty pretended to fire him so that he could work undercover.

I also agree that Joe Tobin is making the worst decisions possible. He justifies all of his actions by saying that he's saving the family but, so far, he's made his sister commit murder, he's ordered the murder of his own daughter, and he just let Leonard, the keeper of the family's secrets, go. Badly done, Joe!
Barbara said…
I have great admiration for the storytellers on this show---they've managed, as you point out, to keep strands thoughtfully weaving in and out of three seasons. I'm anxious to see if Wes appears to provide closure for Ellen and a permanent home (prison) for the wonderfully acted Frobisher.

One thought struck me as you recapped (so well!) last night's chapter. Julian must be a stand in for someone in Patty's past, to figure so vividly and alluringly in her dreams. I would think that is would be someone who, in her memory, called her Patricia, and aroused mixed emotions in her. These dream images seem to be peaceful and bucolic---but then, filled with gore. I can't help wondering if this man whose memory is on the edges of her consciousness is connected to the child whose grave she visited back in the first season. She must have been quite young when she had that child, as that pregnancy predates Michael's birth...Was there some forbidden, inappropriate relationship that a young girl had with an older, seemingly kind man that ended very badly? As you would say, "hmmm."
rockauteur said…
Killer episode! Can't wait for Ellen to find out the truth about Wes and David's murder!

Great episode! Can't wait for the Tobins to go down! And why haven't they arrested Carol yet? Thats one way to pit the Tobins against each other!
Jace Lacob said…

Good point. I'm not sure why they haven't at least indicted Carol Tobin for Danielle Marchetti's murder. It's a bit odd... Unless, of course, they can't find her.
Anonymous said…
>>She must have been quite young when she had that child, as that pregnancy predates Michael's birth...<<

If Patty is the supposed to be the same age as Glenn Close, she would have been 25 when she gave birth to Julia -- so, not terribly young.

I'm thinking Carradine might be a stand-in for Patty's father -- who either died in a horse-related accident, raped a very young Patty, or hurt someone else while Patty watched. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
miss egg said…
i like it how Ellen and Patty both have revelations about their pasts through their dreams. specially the speed, Ellen in one episode, Patty all through the season.
Anonymous said…
What was the name of the Actor who played the Mounted Police Officer, dos anyone know?
asjkfhj said…
The actor who played the mounted police officer is Keith Carradine.
Unknown said…
Funny. I NEVER believed that Tom had this convoluted "plan" to have a conflict of interest discovered so he'd be forced to resign. I think he was truly panicked -- emotionally, financially, overreached and got caught. Remember the judge is the one that discovers the conflict. I thought that he made up the story about this being his plan, that Ellen pretended to buy the story and that Patty, well Patty, didn't care because it was working to her advantage. The surprising part was her asking Tom NOT to have the meeting w/Winstone. This seemed truly guilt ridden and goes with the "blood on her hands" image that weaves all through these latter episodes...

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