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Long Cons and Lovers: Trouble on True Blood

A very late night on Sunday meant that I didn't have a chance to watch this week's installment of True Blood until yesterday, but it was well worth the wait. (And at least I had a much better evening than poor Tara did.)

This week's sensational episode of True Blood ("Trouble"), written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Scott Winant, ramped up the tension of the previous episodes to deliver an installment that was drenched in blood, vengeance, and a wee bit of madness to boot. In the more than capable hands of Oliver, the fifth episode of True Blood's third season becomes a pivotal chapter in a number of plots, including the psychotic romance between Franklin Mott and the imprisoned Tara Thornton, the reveal of Bill's true feelings, and an uneasy alliance between Eric Northman and Russell Edgington, whose, uh, relationship goes back a few centuries.

But the episode isn't just about the crimson splatter of blood (though there was a fair amount of violence this week) but also about the small moments that deepen the characters and their world. A scene between newly installed Merlotte's waitress Jessica and Arlene becomes a humorous reveal about Jessica's powers... and her intention to put Arlene in her place. A shared cigarillo between Lafayette and Tommy becomes a scene about the power of patience and the potential for love in the most unexpected of places.

In other words: Oliver brought all of the depth and polish of the best of True Blood into an mid-season episode that transformed it into an accomplished exploration of the way these characters tick with chaos swirling around them. (I can't wait to watch it again.)

So what did I think of this week's installment? Let's discuss "Trouble."

Everyone's keeping secrets on Season Three of True Blood, so it's a good thing that Bon Temps' resident telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, is perfectly willing to rip information from the brains of the people she encounters along the way. This week, she finally came face to face with her missing would-be fiance Bill Compton, but it was too late for both of them as Bill was pursued by Russell, Coot, and some hefty bodyguards.

Bill's been perfectly willing to play the role of the jaded vampire, one who has cast off his humanity and shifted fealty from his queen to the Vampire King of Mississippi in order to protect Sookie and keep her safe. That he would go so far as to tell Eric Northman that Sookie is no longer his proves just how desperate he is and the lengths he's willing to go to in order to safeguard his human lover.

But there are a few problems with Bill's impromptu plan, one of a few long cons going on currently. For one, Eric has turned up in Mississippi searching for Bill and claiming that he was selling vampire blood, rather than the other way around. (In order to save Pam, Eric is sticking to this Bill-as-V-dealer cover story Pam hastily concocted.) But Russell knows all about the V trade in Louisiana and knows that Sophie-Anne is behind the illicit sale of vampire blood in order to evade the IRS. Additionally, Franklin has gathered information for Russell about just what Bill was doing in Bon Temps... and it has to do with Sookie's family tree.

Russell believes that Bill was playing a game of "track the telepath," investigating Sookie's genealogy to see if telepathy ran in the family and looking to trace its root for... Well, that's still unknown, particularly as Bill has denied the entire affair. But we know that Franklin did find the Stackhouse family tree concealed among Bill's possessions, which means that Bill was searching for some connection between Sookie's family and her inexplicable abilities. As for what purpose? We know that he's in Sophie-Anne's employ and that Sookie's cousin was seen in her court, so it's more than conceivable that Bill didn't just happen upon Sookie but was watching her for some time (hence the surveillance photos) in order to lure her in. But what does Sophie-Anne want with a telepath, particularly one who can't read vampire minds? Hmmm...

This week saw the return of Sookie's electric fingers power as Coot tried to grab her at Alcide's house and she blasted him backwards with a touch (much as she did Maryann last season). So does this mean we'll be getting to the root of Sookie's powers and find out just what she's capable of this season? It certainly looks that way. I can't help but wonder that that revelation will push Sookie and Bill apart once more. After all, he may have not been entirely honest about the early days of their meeting.

But Bill's possible duplicity pales in comparison to a potential long con being waged by the Mickens against poor Sam Merlotte, who seems to be their latest mark. While Sam was distrustful of Tommy, recent events have pushed the two brothers together and, seeing Joe Lee go off the handle, has suddenly made Sam a hell of a lot more sympathetic to his shifter brother. But I can't help but wonder if that isn't a part of their plan as well. Longtime readers will recall that I picked up on a look that passed between Melinda and Joe Lee when Sam met them for the first time. While Joe Lee is the one banging on Sam's door in the middle of the night, I think it's Melinda who is pulling everyone's strings here. And, a shifter herself, it could have been her attempting to break into Sam's safe a few episodes back rather than Tommy, who was the more likely suspect. Is Melinda looking to rob her biological son blind? Just what is their plan for Sam and how are they willing to go to get what they want? Curious.

Jason. Likewise, I can't help but be suspicious of Crystal, Jason Stackhouse's new love interest. I loved the scene in which Jason paused from washing Andy's sheriff car to catch a glimpse of the mysterious blonde he previously encountered that night in Hotshot... and then took off in the car to pursue her, sans badge, gun, or, uh, shirt. But he did get her name and a promise to meet him at Merlotte's... and Crystal did show up, after which she masterfully dodged his questions and they got busy against a tree. Just what is Crystal's deal? We know she's tied up with the meth dealers (and now V dealers) but she seems far too shifty. Just what is she hiding? Given that this is True Blood, it's likely something dark and dangerous... (I also loved the scene with Jason smearing fingerprinting ink all over his face and shirt during his desk shift. Hilarious.)

Lafayette. I'm loving the burgeoning romance between Lafayette and charismatic nurse Jesus, particularly as Jesus was more than willing to make a fool of himself hanging out for nine hours at Merlotte's on the off chance that Lafayette would want to hang out that night. And while their relationship has been limited to a game of pool, there's a magnetic charge between the two. Lafayette needs a love interest and I'm glad that the writers are having fun with this storyline. I loved the exchange between the two as Lafayette menacingly demanded to know what Jesus had heard about him, only to discover that he's not interested in anything other than just hanging out with him. Nelsan Ellis played a perfect balance between charmed and suspicious but the two had a tender moment as Lafayette admitted that he was sneaking glances at Jesus throughout the night.

Tara. Things aren't going quite so well for Tara, who is still Franklin's prisoner. A daring daytime escape attempt from Russell's mansion was curtailed by the arrival of Coot, who knocked Tara to the ground outside the home after chasing her in his wolf form. It seems that Russell keeps his werewolves close to him, particularly during the day, a mobile military strike force that can protect him while he sleeps. Fortunately, Tara is learning how to manipulate the psychologically unstable Franklin and get on his good side. (Loved how she complained about needing food after Russell's staffers gave her a bowl of day lilies.)

But Franklin has done this before and he has plans for Tara: he wants to turn her the next night and make her his vampire bride. Uh-oh. I'm not sure how Tara is going to be able to talk her way out of this one, especially given the fact that Bill wouldn't come to her rescue earlier. However, I am pleased to see that the writers are not only having fun with this dark storyline but also demonstrating the inner strength within Tara. She's pushing herself not to give into the darkness but to fight to live. For a fighter like Tara, it's a true testament to her determination and grit that she is continuing to struggle and is being intelligent about her predicament. Let's just hope she can figure a way out of this situation fast.

Jessica. I loved the scene where Jessica and Tommy bonded about her being a smoking hot vampire (and Hoyt being a radioactively bombed sixth grader) and there could be some sparks between the two as each has one foot in the supernatural and the other in the real world. Likewise, Arlene's inability to look Jessica in the eyes (lest she be hypnotized) is inverted quite hilariously when Jessica glamours a couple at Merlotte's and commands them not to tip Arlene no matter what. I'm still hoping there's a chance for Jessica and Hoyt to mend their relationship; each of them clearly misses the other and the awkwardness of their first meeting at Merlotte's was heartbreaking.

Eric. This week, we got a glimpse into the life of Eric Northman, seeing our vampire sheriff as a human. While the scene is short (and, true to Eric, features him engaged in coitus), it reveals Eric's disaffected air as a Viking price who wants no part of leadership, turning his back on his kingly father only to have his entire family slaughtered minutes later by a pack of werewolves, who bring his crown to a mysteriously black-cloaked individual outside. An individual who warns Eric about being a hero and then swirls off into the icy darkness. An individual who is, of course, none other than Russell Edgington himself. The fact that Russell has Eric's father's crown in his possession (Talbot describes it as "some random tribal crown") would lead me to believe that we'll be seeing Eric finally get the chance to enact revenge for his father's death as he's now face to face with the vampire who ordered his extermination.

Has Eric been searching for Russell all along? Was that what his and Godric's quest during World War II was about? Was he looking to enact a bloody vengeance upon Operation: Werewolf and the vampire who was their lord and master? Hmmm...

All in all, "Trouble" was a simply superb episode that lingered with me long after the closing credits ran. The wait for next week's installment of True Blood just got that much more difficult, as though the only thing to sate my appetite between now and then is a bowl of flowers.

Next week on True Blood ("I Got a Right to Sing the Blues"), Spurned by Eric, Sookie fears the worst for Bill, whose fate now lies in Lorenaʼs
hands; fueled by a night of bloody passion, Tara executes a desperate plan to stave off Franklinʼs advances; in Bon Temps, Tommy finds it difficult to leave the family nest; Jessica puts Pamʼs teachings into practice; Jasonʼs romance with Crystal hits a snag, as does Lafayetteʼs with Jesus; after revealing his master plan to Eric, Russell visits Louisiana to put it into action.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I liked this episode a lot, too. I was especially glad to see Tara's personality come through her abject terror at times.

It was illuminating for me when Eric was faced with his fathers dying words telling him he was now the King Eric called for help, yet when his father said he must get vengeance he was completely ready to go for that. King - no way, vengeance - yes! Maybe why he is sheriff and not king now.

I am also surprised to enjoy Jessica so much.

Thanks for writing Jace! You have the best commentary anywhere!

Amie
Ramona said…
LOVED this episode. Lots of humor and twists and turns and everything that makes True Blood great.

I agree with your theory about Tommy. He is now seeming more sympathetic but it could all but a lie to get close to Sam. Either way, Melinda is definitely more manipulative than she seems.
Bella Spruce said…
"Nelsan Ellis played a perfect balance between charmed and suspicious..." Absolutely! That scene was hilarious. So happy that Lafayette has a love interest!
Ally said…
GREAT episode. So much going on - I loved it. I am just loving Franklin. I cracked up when Tara said they needed to talk and he said something about, "Every time a woman says that, everything goes dark and I wake up surrounded by body parts."
Ridolph said…
I am going to be so sad when they finally stake Franklin... I liked Frain as Cromwell also; can't think of a part with more contrast to his current one.

Hope that we get more flashbacks with Eric and his maker. Was Eric hunting the werewolves when he was turned? Was his maker also tracking them?

How will Sookie react when she finds out that Bill was a plant? How closely will they track the books?

Rest of the episode was great as well. Can't the week go by any quicker??

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