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Universal Remote: The Nine Circles of Hell on "Damages"

Murder will out.

It always does in the end and secrets, long buried, have a nasty way of being unearthed when you least expect it.

This week's penultimate episode of Damages ("Look What I Dug Up This Time") ratcheted up the tension as we finally learned the truth about what happened to Christine Purcell the night of the gala, Ellen made her move against Patty and dragged Tom Shayles into the FBI's orbit, and Patty confronted Phil about the damage he had done to her and engineered a face-to-face with Walter Kendrick himself.

I wondered just when things would start to come together and last night's installment did just that as the Purcell's dog literally dug up the past, a charred universal remote that unleashed a domino effect that threatens to topple UNR's entire case and send at least one man to prison.

We now know what's been withheld from us for so long: just what happened that night between Christine and Daniel after the gala. He told Christine that he was going to go along with UNR and take their money after they threatened Erica and he had to abandon his moral principles in order to protect their daughter. Christine was furious and refused to go along with this plan, even at the cost of their daughter's safety. She threatens to call the EPA and report to them what UNR has been doing with the Aerocyte in West Virginia... and when Daniel advances towards her, she throws a universal remote at his head, cutting his forehead. (Aha!) He then proceeds to strangle her and then, realizing what he had done, goes crazy and runs out of the house with the bloody remote, calling Wayne Suttry, and leaving Christine for dead.

Or did he? It would appear that Mrs. Purcell didn't die as a result of Daniel's efforts to strangle her but was still clinging to life when The Deacon arrived at the couple's brownstone apartment. In fact, she whispers "help me" as The Deacon removes her ruby ring and sets the stage for a robbery. So while Daniel did attack Christine and attempt to kill her, he was unsuccessful. Which means then that UNR and The Deacon finished the job, snuffing out Christine's help even as she pled for help. That scene gave me the shivers as the inhuman Deacon calmly bent over her body and silenced her for good.

Daniel, meanwhile, has been haunted by the guilt that he killed his wife... or thinks he did anyway. It's clear that he has no knowledge that UNR actually, er, finished killing her and he's plagued by the realization that he needs to atone for his actions or he'll end up in one of the nine circles of hell, as Daniel recounts to an incredulous Kendrick before he turns himself in at the police precinct. Burning that remote in the backyard 5 1/2 months earlier was an effort to pretend that what happened didn't really happen. That object was a reminder of what had truly transpired and he sought to destroy it and assuage his guilt after the murder. And yet there it is again, unearthed by the family dog: a twisted object that no longer resembles what it one was. Much like Daniel Purcell himself.

It's guilt that propels him to help Patty. Kendrick betrayed him as much as he did Claire Maddox. He made the deal with the devil in order to ensure that the damage in West Virginia would get cleaned up and Kendrick went back on his word. Which is a good thing as Patty might have the GPS coordinates that Kendrick passed along to Finn Garrity but no rubric with which to break the code. Which is where Daniel comes in and he's able to break the cipher, realizing that the first set of numbers refer to the plant location where the brownout would occur, the second to the military time of the brownout, and the third to the day of the week when the event would take place. (A rather canny code system, really.)

The problem is that because Patty and Co. stole the car and obtained the GPS data illegally, none of it is admissible in court. Which could be a problem as the entire case hinges on Kendrick manipulating the energy market by shorting out the power and driving up demand and passing along the details to Garrity in advance. So how can they get around this? By bribing the judge, naturally, and he's only too eager to please as Ellen makes it clear that Patty will take care of him for allowing the data to be entered as evidence in the trial.

So why does Patty pull Ellen off of the bribing of the judge? After all, this is the woman whom she once tried to kill for knowing the truth about Ray Fiske's suicide, who caught Phil cheating on her (though she seems to view this as a kindness rather than a betrayal), and whom she has shown no compunction about using in the past. Could it be that Michael's words do hit home? He says that people either leave Patty (like Phil) or die (like Ray or Uncle Pete) and that she'll ultimately be alone. Does she finally find some compassion in her heart for Ellen? Does she want to protect her and not use her, as Ellen believes? Could it be that Patty Hewes is actually human?

The scene between Patty and Phil as she learns just how much he has betrayed her while being used by Dave Pell was absolutely riveting. Glenn Close's performance was stunning as she threw that mug against the wall and turned on her lecherous husband, realizing not only that he bet against her by buying UNR stock but that he had been used and duped the entire time: that Phil had been told to warn her against pursuing the UNR case and been tipped about the FBI investigation against Patty and nominated for the Energy Secretary chair by the same person: Dave Pell. And that he had invited Pell into their home and had him sit at the table with Patty and her friends. Phil had crossed that line in the sand and their marriage is truly over for good.

This week, Ellen showed that Patty had rubbed off on her in more ways than one, engineering a plan that would bitterly use Tom Shayles, just as his wife is giving birth. Ellen rather brilliantly (and viciously) concocts a scheme around the botched infant mortality payoff that forces Tom to flip against Patty. And not only does he agree to wear a wire but Ellen and the feds force him to tell Patty that he refuses to bribe the judge in the UNR case, that he can't right now. And, oh, does Patty go ballistic, screaming "I understand" in a fashion that makes it abundantly clear that she really doesn't understand at all... and firing Tom on the spot. (Which is rather foolish as Tom could fire back with an unlawful termination suit alleging that Patty fired him because he wouldn't participate in an unethical and illegal action.)

Ellen has turned into just as much of a master manipulator as her mentor, really. She is far too willing to destroy Tom's life and job in order to position Patty into a corner. And we now know why Tom was fired from Hewes & Associates, although he does go back to try to warn her about what's coming.

As for what's coming next, I'm still not sure. Tom helping Ellen obtain the gun would seem to be either an effort for revenge against Patty for firing him or part of the FBI's plan. Yet Agent Werner is definitely shocked when Ellen pulls out the gun and shoots in the hotel room. So just what are they trying to do in the hotel room? It's clear to me now: it's a sting operation to catch Patty on tape instructing Ellen to bribe the judge and handing over a suitcase full of cash to make the payoff... but why does Ellen suddenly transform the meeting into a murderous rampage? Why fire the gun then? What does she learn between now and then that escalates things so terribly?

And how do things come together with Wes? It's obvious that his feelings for Ellen prevent him from following through on his orders to kill her, though he has the perfect opportunity to do so in the woods. But rather than pull the trigger, he hands her the gun and tells her to fire away at a tree... and then packs up his stuff from his apartment and moves into Ellen's hotel room. Is it an effort to protect her from Messer, whom Wes tells he needs another try at killing her? Or is he going to make his move? Likely the former over the latter, I think.

Still, I can't believe next week's episode is the season finale and there are still so many dangling plot threads to tie up. I have a feeling that the ending will leave us quite breathless next week and dying with anticipation for Season Three. Let's just hope the break between seasons is mercifully short. Or more merciful than any of the characters on this gripping series, really.

Next week on the 90-minute season finale of Damages ("Trust Me"), Patty pulls out all the stops to win the cast against UNR while Ellen's quest for revenge reaches a dramatic conclusion.


Melissa said…
Close is so amazing on this show, her two scenery-chewing scenes (with her husband and Tom) could have so gone over the top but instead were flawless. Emmy is going to have a really hard time this year between her and the amazing ladies of Big Love.
rockauteur said…
It's never been definitively stated that Patty had Ellen killed; there's a reason that Patty has never shared a scene with Ellen's attempted killer, hired by Uncle Pete to take Ellen out... It did seem that perhaps Uncle Pete targeted Ellen alone, without Patty's consent... but hopefully we'll see how that plays out next week with the red folder.

Now that Wes is staying with Ellen - is this when Messer makes his move to kill her? Or is there where Messer decides to wipe out Flight of the Conchords to stop his wife's fetish? Oh wait, wrong show. If Messer does indeed make his move while Wes is there... that's an interesting end to that plotline left dangling in the wind for next week... I just hope he comes clean to Ellen at some point... And still - what's in the present David left for Ellen?
AskRachel said…
@rockauteur I thought we definitely knew that Patty tried to have Ellen killed and that was why she had the mental breakdown at the end of last season.

Glen Close was excellent in this episode but I also have to hand it to William Hurt who can be so emotionally raw (like when he thinks he's killed his wife) that it gives me goosebumps!

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