House of Pain

September 3, 2011 in 4.10 Burning Down the House, Episodes, Recaps, True Blood

In this week’s episode of True Blood we learn that heaven is for suckers, target practice will keep you clean, brujos excel at border-jumping, and lightning can strike twice when it’s convenient to the plot…

Sink your teeth into some spoilery commentary after the jump…

Well, it’s Friday afternoon as I finish writing this thing—outrageously late, thanks to an untimely power outage in the wake of Irene, which cruelly forced me to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS to sit down with my stories.

So was this week’s installment worth the 48 hours of Amish-style handwringing I suffered through? Funny you should ask…

Bizarre Love Triangle

Once again, events pick up where last week’s left off, with Antonia directing her slaves to kill the King while humans stampede and Nan goes all Joan Crawford in her blood-soaked pink skirt suit, knocking down news cameras and staking errant vampires with pencils.

Surely, I’m not alone in thinking that the whole scene played like the most awesomely fucked up pantyhose commercial ever.

Meanwhile, Eric is following his magical orders to put Bill out of his misery once and for all, which leaves him slugged with a silver bullet, but undeterred nevertheless. Sookie intervenes to stop Bill from shooting off further rounds and to try to talk Eric down from his rampage. But when that fails, she whips out the sternohands one more time—which we learn, in addition to their other non-descript benefits, are also conveniently able to break spells. HOW ABOUT THAT?

Source: bexitah.tumblr

Anyway, Nan witnesses the spectacle and takes note. Not that this will be important or anything. I’m just saying.

At this point, Eric Northman gets an injection of 100-percent pure SEXY in a matter of seconds, as his past comes rushing back to him and he is stunned with shock and horror, realizing that he totally banged Sookie Stackhouse and referred to Bill as “my liege”—multiple times—all within the span of a few days.

With her spell broken, Antonia checks out, taking loudmouth Roy and the two remaining vampire sheriffs with her… while the now permanently bitch-faced Bill leaves Sookie and Eric to enjoy their awkward moment in peace, so that he may assist Nan in an exercise in much-needed image control.

Which brings us to Bill’s couch, where Sookie’s acting all weird and avoiding eye contact while Eric explains that he remembers everything and nothing’s changed—this just means we get to enjoy our Northman ladyboners without a generous helping of Compton ass-licking now. But alas, Eric’s assurance is not enough for Sookie, who vocalizes the sentiments expressed in the previous day’s trainwreck of a sex dream by explaining that she loves both Eric and Bill.

Eric wants to know how that’s even possible (and frankly, so do I)… but he goes on to tell her HE LOVES HER all the same.

No seriously. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??

At this point, I’m not sure whether to squeal or to instruct my dogs to pee on the cable box before setting it on fire and throwing it out the window. Fortunately, Pam shows up to fawn over her maker before I have a chance to decide—and before Sookie has a chance to make things worse by responding.

I already gave my opinion on this sorry excuse for a “love” triangle last week, so I won’t belabor the point this time around. Even after accounting for the irrational realities of failed romance, this whole false dilemma still insults my intelligence. And I can only hope that, in the end—when this show inevitably insists upon making her tiresome relationship problems the lynchpin of the season yet again—Sookie pulls a Kelly Taylor and chooses herself.

Yeah… that’s right. I just compared True Blood to Beverly Hills, 90210. YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELVES, WRITERS.

On the other hand (and putting Sookie’s groan-worthy reason for not ripping Eric’s clothes off right then and there aside for a moment), at least this uncomfortable dismissal offers an opening for the old I-know-we-had-sex-and-you-know-we-had-sex-but-we’re-not-going-to-say-anything-about-it-so-we’ll-just-keep-eyefucking-until-we-can’t-stand-it-anymore dynamic to take free reign for the remainder of the series.

Source: Snootydoormouse.tumblr

So there’s that.

Bombs Over Shreveport

While all this is going down, Nan and Bill are upstairs having a friendly chat in his office. Nan wants the details on Bill’s secret sternohanded dairy maid, but Bill re-routes the conversation by bemoaning their bigger problems. Fortunately, Nan’s got the spin department fully staffed with roving “glamour squads” tasked with combing the streets of Shreveport.

And now I’m confused, because I was pretty sure those guys got their pink slips the second food-encrusted mountaineer beards started making a comeback.

Anway, Bill tells Nan to stuff her spin, because he’s bombing Moon Goddess to hell and back the next opportunity he has, whether she and the factions at the Authority like it or not. Nan is not happy with this vigilante move—and neither is Sookie, who overhears Bill’s plans from the next room. She demands that Bill think about the humans… specifically Tara, without whom this entire clusterfuck of events wouldn’t be possible.

Eric’s all HO HUM, while Bill explains that he can’t risk potential genocide to save Tara’s ass just because she’s Sookie’s friend—even though that’s pretty much exactly what he did two nights ago in the cemetery showdown. Because, you know, it’s never too late to grow a pair… and let’s face it, the second-to-last episode seems like a pretty good time for WAR.

Consequently, everyone in the Queen Compton mercenary brigade is sentenced to the most painful and degrading of true deaths. Except for Jessica, who still just wants to kill shit.

Kiss and Smell

Speaking of Jessica, her post-coital conversation doesn’t quite go the way she seems to have hoped, and instead of planning her next trashy outdoor sexcapade, she’s stuck assuaging Jason’s guilty conscience. While Jason realizes that Hamberry is history and that Hoyt is a grown ass man who can take care of himself, he’s nevertheless unable to stomach his violation of official Bro Code—stating once again that the truth would KILL Hoyt and that, surely, Jessica’s blood is to blame for his dick’s latest bout of obscenely bad judgment.

So of course, he asks Jessica to glamour away his memory of the evening’s scandalous events—leaving her deeply offended and in search of a snack that knows when to shut the fuck up.

The next day, more delicious awkwardness ensues when Hoyt shows up to rendezvous with the cooler of beer in Jason’s living room after one too many failed attempts to wipe all trace of Jessica’s existence from his life. Not because he wants to get back together with her or anything… just because she smells really good and looks all cute and sleepy when she wakes up at night.

Clearly, the only reasonable course of action is to drink half a case of Dixie and launch a fart marathon from the couch.

This, in turn, sends Jason on a beeline to Sookie’s breakfast table, where she questions his lack of sympathy and asserts that love doesn’t leave in a second when it goes deep. You know, because having lost her virginity to Bill Compton a whole two months ago in Sookie-time, she is now a seasoned expert on matters of the true and abiding heart.

Anyway, Sookie agrees to let Jason stay as long as he’ll help her save Tara from the locked down magic shop that Bill has resolved to blow up at any cost.

Sober Treehouse

Meanwhile, Terry and Arlene are busy staging an impromptu family intervention for Andy, whose secret V stash they discovered within arm’s reach of their kids. After Andy’s failed attempt to convince the two that said “evidential” drug vial had a child safety cap, Terry finally succeeds in dragging him out to Fort Bellefleur for the day.

Which is actually a fort. In a tree. In the woods.

Turns out, that’s where Terry spent most of his time when he returned from Iraq, talking to invisible people and snorting every illegal substance known to man. But Andy watched out for him until he eventually cleaned up—and Terry is now determined to return the favor, with the help of a whole mess of guns.

It doesn’t seem like the best approach to take with an emotionally unstable drug addict. But I won’t judge.

It works if you work it, Andy. Now just pretend that can is a Yankee racecar driver.

So it is that we learn that Andy grew up without either of his parents—and that he’s been insanely jealous of Terry for the majority of his life. But at long last, after a few rounds of target practice and a smackdown over who got the nicest knitwear in the family, the two Bellefleur cousins finally hit a breakthrough. Andy swears he’s quit the habit and is ready to be a good uncle to Terry’s new family… before Terry takes off in his truck to finish up his cousin’s day of homegrown rehab with a nice, long, contemplative walk home.

Was way too much time spent on this little interlude, with only two episodes left until the finale? Ummm… I’m going to say… PROBABLY.

While the simultaneously sweet and funny moments like the ones shared between Andy and Terry this week are without doubt this show’s bread and butter, anything involving Andy’s V addiction this season has for the most part felt like an unnecessary distraction from more interesting plots.

And yet somehow, I now find myself wanting to spend Thanksgiving at the Bellefleur house, in the hopes that someone will throw the green bean casserole across the dinner table at the mere mention of baby booties.

So clearly, the storyline didn’t go entirely to waste.

White Light, Dead Meat

And since we’re on the topic of family drama… TOMMY’S DEAD.

As Alcide races young Tommy Mickens-Merlotte away from Marcus’ bike shop and assures him that his bout of projectile blood vomit is nothing that a few nights at a hospital with a pretty nurse can’t fix, Tommy tells him, shifter to werewolf, that he knows his days are numbered and to take him home… to Merlotte’s.

Sam meets them there in a panic and prepares to launch a search for vampire blood until Alcide insists that Tommy has a right to choose his time—which, while a slightly bizarre thing to say in reference to someone’s teenage brother, at least confirms that Tommy marched into this mess knowing full well that it was a suicide mission, and presumably hoping that it would offer some kind of poetic redemption for his past actions.

Despite the fact that this not-so-shocking development could be seen coming from a mile away, let it not be said that the scene wasn’t effective. I know that, for the first time this season, I began to tear up as Sam comforted himself with talk about angels while Tommy bled out on the pool table.

Tommy’s assertion that heaven doesn’t exist and that hell is a dogfight is a heartbreaking summation of the sad life that this kid had—even if you’re one of those viewers who wanted to punch him in the face. And when he told Sam that he was sorry—that Sam was the best part of his life, and not to forget him right away—I was pretty much done for.

Sam responding that Tommy is his brother—and that he’ll never forget him because he’ll always be in his heart—was the last straw where my effort to avoid the Kleenex was concerned. And I have to commend both Sam Trammell and Marshall Allman for making this scene work so incredibly well.

This is so fucking sad.

Needless to say, when Sam declared that “Marcus Boseman is a dead wolf” I totally believed him—which is awesome, because that plot needs to go somewhere fast. And I don’t mean by having the greasy packmaster bang Debbie because she and Alcide are stuck with the same old relationship problems they always had.

Though that’s definitely a good start.

Cult of Split Personality

Back at the Moon Goddess Emporium, the witches are still on lockdown and looking for a way out—but so far, Holly is the only one smart enough to start scouring spellbooks for an answer. She talks Tara into joining her magical escape plan, when Antonia returns to the shop with Roy and the two vampire sheriffs in tow, caught in a schizophrenic argument with Marnie over the high moral price tag that’s been attached to their new friendship.

Despite Marnie’s protests, Antonia takes a time out to insist that she’s leaving after the previous night’s carnage. She admits that she’s turned into her enemies, and that she only got into necromancy to save the people in her village, whose babies she birthed and whose illnesses she healed.

Marnie, on the other hand, is pretty much the Wiccan version of a troubled teen who opens fire in a schoolyard because she’s tired of being bullied and ostracized. And since Antonia is her ticket to otherworldy power—and all the sweet revenge that comes with it—she’s not giving up so easily.

She has no trouble rationalizing any of the casualties, and somehow manages to convince Antonia to stay… because in the fight against evil, people are going to get hurt.

So the two witches do their little supernatural chest bump again, and the craziness continues. At least until next episode, when Marnie inevitably goes nutty and tries to kill a bunch of people again.

It’s a Latin Thing

Having not yet assessed that Marnie is the real mastermind behind all the recent massacring, Jason and Sookie easily convince Jesus and Lafayette to stake out Moon Goddess with them in an effort to rescue the trapped witches before the firing squad arrives that evening.

Don't worry, guys... I'm a BRRRUJO.

They arrive to find the town completely cleared by another of Antonia’s spells, and Jesus decides that he’s going to march in and attempt to perform the “Mavis Maneuver” with his former teacher, despite Lafayette’s misgivings.

But unfortunately, he doesn’t make it too far, because Antonia has installed the magical equivalent of an electric fence around the shop for protection.

Antonia comes outside and tells Jesus that if he wants to speak with her, he’s going to have to make it across the protective wall she’s put in place—and it just figures that the show would send the Mexican to perform this feat. As it turns out, however, this was a very wise move, because Jesus manages to persevere with the help of the border-crossing demon that services the entire Latin American population.

Behold, the border-crossing demon. And here we all thought Arizona was just run by a bunch of reactionary, racist assholes.

Anyway, once inside, Jesus convinces Antonia to let Marnie out to play, at which time he discovers that yes, she invited this possession—and that, in fact, it’s not actually a possession at all. IT’S A TERRIBLE, UNHOLY UNION.

Jesus telepathically warns Sookie and friends to run—but not before Antonia catches wind of the fact that Tara and Holly have managed to breach the fireknob spell and escape from the shop. They run out while Lafayette and Sookie run in, at which time everyone is beamed up out of the street.

Except Jason, whose only magical asset remains confined to his pants—or not confined, as the case may be. But still.

This, of course, sets the stage for the vampire family demolition squad to arrive in a murdered out van, sporting black SWAT gear and toting a whole lot of heavy artillery in slow motion—making for the most ridiculous (…ly awesome) spectacle on this show since the Fairytown-meets-Thunderdome fireball fight from the season’s premiere.

The BAMF Squad has arrived.

Never change, True Blood. NEVER CHANGE.

In Summary…

So was this episode good enough to make up for last week’s disaster? Maybe not quite. But nevertheless, I really enjoyed “Burning Down the House,” in spite of the misgivings I continue to have about certain three-pointed plots.

Most notably, I appreciate the emotional core that writer Nancy Oliver seems to cut to the heart of in all of her scripts. This episode was an incredibly depressing one in so many ways—but at the same time, there was a strong undercurrent of karma running through all of the storylines, which made so many of the plot developments seem somehow “right” even if they weren’t pleasant.

For me, this episode was all about chickens coming home to roost—about old pain being dredged up and demons being confronted in the name of resolution or relapse. It also illustrated that what you do with the lessons you’ve learned in your life has everything to do with where they will take you—and that our regrets most definitely color our motivations, whether we realize it or not.

Viewers learn, for example, that Marnie’s Columbine-esque resentment toward her tormenters is precisely what’s fueling her desire for power and revenge—and her case for pervasive misanthropy is what convinces the seemingly far less angry Antonia to stay by her side, despite the fact that she realizes that she’s now no better than the monsters she once chased.

Instead of backing down, they’re both prepared to go full throttle—using the seeds of their collective pain to reap a whole lot of rotten fruit.

Andy and Terry, on the other hand, represent a much more hopeful dynamic. The two cousins fight over old childhood wounds—the very ones that fueled the former’s drug addiction, and left the latter even more shattered than he might have been when he returned back from war. But in the end, we see these kindred souls using their pain as the seeds of positive, loving change, in spite of all their past mistakes and in spite of all of the anger that they both have every right to feel.

And in a path unlike any of the others, Tommy decides that it’s his time to die, in the hopes of ending the relentless cycle of misery that he can’t seem to escape—choosing to find comfort not in the dubious promise of heaven, but in the fact that he has, in his own way, settled the debts that he owed to the brother who meant so much to him, and paid for his past crimes with his life.

For the rest of the characters, it’s simply a matter of fighting with memories—whether it’s Jason recalling Hoyt’s childhood struggles and begging Jessica to take away his guilt by withdrawing that evening from his brain bank, or it’s Debbie returning to the same sore spot that tore her and Alcide apart a year before, only to respond to it by entertaining the prospect of another ill-advised affair.

And finally, there’s Eric, whose memory comes very literally rushing back in a single moment, leading to a confession of love… followed by heartbreaking confusion. Because while Eric’s memories offer his character the impetus necessary to move forward, Sookie’s serve the opposite purpose of moving her backward—or at least freezing her firmly in place—proving what a double-edged sword a rendezvous with the ghosts of the past can be.

So with just two days to go until the penultimate installment of True Blood… what did you think of this week’s episode? Sound off below!

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