It is hard to define just what made last night’s episode of Ray Donovan so pleasing. Tulip felt like a lot of things; a touch of Breaking Bad, for instance that opening with Ray in the desert breaking up that hard dry soil with a pickaxe and flashing back to this scenario throughout most of the episode, and a final touch of musical genius. The music playing at the end of everyone’s day, Barbarossa’s Bloodline, overlapping Father Romero praying, Bridget laying her head on Donellen’s chest, Avi driving to Mexico, Terry asleep on the bed; clutching the family bible, Ray coming in seeing his brother and reading the note from the pedophile priest and Abby saying “Come to bed,” shows the masterful touch of director Michael Uppendahl.
Perhaps it has little to do with the dressing. The storyline, continuing from the previous weeks has Ray still juggling the football deal (and now Paige) along with the Bunchy problem, aka Father Romero and this newest episode has him karmically getting one over on Andrew Finney. Tulip feels a lot like “what comes around, goes around.” There is a message here, those who are patient get the brass ring, or if you are Ray Donovan, you jockey things around rather than wait. Ray is, after all, a fixer.
Andrew Finney gives his lover Varick the push after Paige serves him with divorce papers. Daryl’s cadillac goes up in flames, via a good sized explosion, and Ray gets Lena and “Helen Miller Game and Fish” lady to help set up Napier with vipers full of heroin. The last bit is easily the funniest sequence of events in the season thus far.
After injecting the snakes with sedative, the vipers are put into a bag. Helen is to stand by while Lena inserts the bag of snakes into Napier’s golf bag. As the trio stand in the hanger Miller gets increasingly nervous as Ray briefs her on the part she is to play. Helen panics and grabs for the bag. Yelling that she will give back all the money while holding on to the bag of snakes. Lena punches Miller knocking her down. Laying on the floor, with the now open bag of vipers, Helen complains that Lena hit her. A lone viper slithers out and bites Miller on the leg.
*Sidenote* This sequence as completely laugh out loud funny. Stephanie Erb rocked it as the bribed official who “bottles it” (loses her nerve) and gets bitten, beaten and driven away. Sidesplitting does not even come close to describing this comic interlude.
The camera moves back to Ray, working that hard soil to dig what can only be a grave. This is, after all Ray Donovan, why else would the man be digging in the desert? Avi shows up in a small mini-van and he brings a shovel to help Ray. Back at the hanger we see Lena shoving Helen into the back of a car (with Miller complaining nonstop, she clearly believes she is going to die) to be taken to the hospital. The question now is, did she make it or is this hole in the desert going to be Helen’s final resting place after that snake bite?
As the show moves through its paces, other characters become candidates for that hole.
Father Romero shows up at the Fite Club and tells Bunchy that he needs to speak with Ray. Bunch calls his brother and Ray immediately heads to the gym. Meanwhile Varick has gone to see Andrew Finney after his former lover has fired him and booted him out of the company. Back at the club, there is a tense meeting with the cleric who asks Donovan to accompany him outside. As they head to an alley behind the gym Ray tells Brendan to clear the gym out and to lock it up.
The camera heads back to that hole, which now has a body in the bottom of it and Ray takes the box of evidence that Romero was seen with earlier in the show. Is the body in that bag Romero? Ray tosses a book of burning matches into the hole that Avi has poured petrol in.
Back at the alley, Ray takes a gun out and points it at the priest. Father Romero pauses for a split second and then he recounts Ray’s backstory with his family tragedies. He explains, as he hands the box of evidence to Ray, that Donovan has suffered enough. “Excommunication, ” he says, “Is not a punishment. It is a rest.” Romero gets in his car and drives off.
Clearly the burning body is not that of Romero.
Back at Mansion Finney, Varick has accosted his former lover. Andrew tells the man it has been over for a long time. He kisses Varick and tells him that he felt nothing. Paige’s soon to be ex husband starts goading Andrew until he gets angry and grabs a fireplace poker. Yelling that “I’m not f**king gay,” Finney hits Varick killing him.
Before Varick expires, he calls out to Andrew “Oh. Finn.” Back at the gym, Ray tells Brendan that everything is alright with Romero. Bunchy beats himself up, blaming himself and SNAP for whole thing. Ray tells him that the priest is not going to the police. Ray, somewhat predictably, gets a call from Andrew Finney.
The remainder of the episode deals with Ray taking care of the Varick problem and getting Paige’s deal for the football stadium sorted. Abby wins Terry over and he decides, seemingly, to stay with his brother’s family. Bridget goes to Donellen’s house and he is not pleased. The man is on a load of pain medication and not doing at all well. The Donovan girl has found what she wants.
Mickey ends up doing a deal with the cops after the Armenian’s bomb Daryll’s caddy. Avi and Ray sort things out between the two of them while digging that hole and burying the burnt evidence.
The tulip theme appears throughout. Mickey gives Theresa tulips when he welcomes her to the Donovan family, there is a program on television about the flower in the scene where Varick sneaks into the Finney Mansion. At the pool side, just before the cadillac is destroyed, Mickey talks about tulips. He tells about a beautiful girl from Amsterdam who died of cancer. The tulips, like the flashbacks to the grave digging, is an underlying theme of this episode.
Oddly enough, everything works out for Ray and Paige. Donovan uses his new “Varick” leverage to force Andrew to give Paige what she wants, giving him the 3 percent back. Terry allows Abby to woo him into the room she prepared. At the end of a busy day, Terry lays on the bed and looks through the family bible. Abby asks if he is ready to leave and he says he wants to give Ray something.
Later Ray tells Paige that the football deal is back on. She is suspicious. Earlier, Ray had come to her house to get Varick’s passport. Paige was annoyed that the Napier problem was not solved. “It still needs to be fixed [sic],” Paige says. “The passport is the fix,” Ray tells her. At the end of the show she repeats this to Ray. Strangely, she is not overly happy that she has won.
Back at his house Ray finds Terry asleep on the bed and takes the bible. Looking inside he sees the note from the perverted Father Danny. Irony at its finest.
It looks like Ray may have problems with Paige, she too is addicted to the fight.
This episode had Andrew Finney’s daughter getting what she wanted all along, and it was not the football stadium deal, and Andrew himself now owes Ray a great deal.
Performances by Liev Schreiber, Ian McShane an Steven Bauer were all spot on, as was Kerris Dorsey as Bridget. Kudos to Stephanie Erb as the hapless Helen Miller. Her comedic timing was just perfect.
Tulip, with its “back and forth” to that hole and the trotting out of suspects for that body bag was spot on. Add to that the other things on the periphery and it was Ray Donovan at its finest.
Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. This crime and drama show continues to entertain almost effortlessly. Miss this one and miss out.