Season 3, Episode 11
Airdate: Sunday, September 20, 2015 at 9:00 pm ET/PT on Showtime
“They don’t want me to go, Ray. You know why? Because I make them feel good. You don’t make people feel good; you make them feel small and shitty.” – Mickey Donovan
After watching “Poker,” it is clear the title has a double meaning. Yes, it refers to the fireplace poker Finney (special guest star Ian McShane) used to murder his lover/son-in-law Varick Strauss (Jason Butler Harner) in “Tulip.” But it also relates to the game both Finney and Ed Cochran (guest star Hank Azaria) play with Ray (Liev Schreiber) in this week’s episode. Also involved in his own game of chance is Mickey (Jon Voight), who obviously has no intentions of following the edict to leave town that Ray issued last week in “One Night in Yerevan.”
Finney will do anything to save his own skin, even if it means he joins forces with Cochran. Although, he doesn’t really have much of a choice. “Unless you want to go to jail, you’ll do exactly what we agreed to.” Cochran has a huge bone to pick with Ray and not even the large sum of money Finney tries to bribe Cochran with stops him. After all, Ray not only humiliated him last season, he cost Cochran his dream position with the FBI. If you watched Ray Donovan last season, you will appreciate how far Azaria has gone with his character. He does a splendid job of taking last season’s Cochran from a law-abiding citizen able to bring down even the most powerful people to this season’s lowly employee who thinks nothing of breaking the law in order to get the revenge he so desperately wants. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Azaria were to receive an Emmy® nom for this role next year; he absolutely shines.
Rich men have been known to wield an immense amount of clout within their local police departments in real life. Such is the case in “Poker” with Finney, “a friend of the department.” Even though Detective Jeff Barker (guest star Pat Healey) suspects Finney is lying, Chief of Police Thomas Gibbs (guest star Tim Powell) couldn’t care less; he is only interested in one thing—arresting “the knuckle dragging thug” Ray. Ray works quickly to discredit Cochran by enlisting Lena (Katherine Moennig) and Avi’s (Steven Bauer) help. The plan Ray puts in motion is a thing of beauty and suspense, especially as time plays a critical role in keeping Ray from being thrown behind bars. The part I love the most is what Ray does with the fireplace poker.
In addition to getting rid of the evidence, Ray has one last plan up his sleeve, to not only nail Finney’s coffin shut but to put Cochran in his place, and it involves Paige (special guest star Katie Holmes). With everything the viewers have learned this season about Paige and her father, I’m surprised she agrees to do as Finney initially asks. Then again, power has a way of going to people’s heads. But Ray has a way of making people do what he wants and that’s exactly what happens in “Poker.” Paige’s final scene with her father showcases Holmes’ wonderful acting skills. Not only does she expertly keep Paige’s emotions in check during the myriad of double entendres, she successfully convinces Finney of her love and devotion for him.
It seems Mickey has no choice but to leave town as Ray insists. As I said in my review of “One Night in Yerevan,” Mickey’s never been one to give up without a fight. He comes up with a scheme that can only be considered genius that involves his grandson Conor (Devon Bagby), Bunchy (Dash Mihok) and his new bride Teresa (Alyssa Diaz)—who are fresh off their honeymoon—and Daryll (Pooch Hall) to ensure he remains in L.A. He’s a sly one, that Mickey. What I appreciate most about this plot point is how director Colin Bucksey draws it out throughout the entire episode. It isn’t until the end of “Poker” that the audience understands why Mickey invites everyone to attend his “going away party.”
Abby (Paula Malcomson) made a huge mistake last week when she promised Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) she wouldn’t tell Ray the reason for Bridget’s suspension from school. A parent should never collude with a child against the other parent. Not only does it put them in the position of being found out, it teaches the child it’s ok to lie. And with the amount of lying Bridget has done this season about her relationship with Mr. Donellen (Aaron Staton), Abby is digging herself a hole. Terry does his best to help Abby, which leads to an uncomfortable moment between the two. “That didn’t happen.”
Speaking of Abby, her attitude about Ray and Paige is beginning to annoy me. I enjoyed the brief respite that had Abby and Ray getting along and working together as a family. Now, however, writers Michael Tolkin and Brett Johnson see fit to bring that side of Abby back when she accuses Ray of sleeping with Paige. It’s obvious Tolkin and Johnson utilize this plot point as a means of furthering Abby and Terry’s romantic feelings for each other. While I’m not crazy about this story line, I appreciate the means Tolkin and Johnson use to further it.
After two weeks of lackluster episodes, “Poker” hits the mark with its brilliant dialogue, expert direction, and intricate plot points. It’s a penultimate episode that perfectly sets up next week’s season finale, “Exsuscito.” Will Finney truly go down for Varick’s murder? Will Bridget carry through on her threat to leave if “anyone lays a hand” on Mr. Donellen? And where the hell are the writers and producers taking Abby’s relationship with Terry? I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions and more!
Tune in to the season finale of Ray Donovan Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm ET/PT, only on Showtime.
What did you think of “Poker?” Leave me a comment below or tweet me @SeasideTV. I can’t wait to discuss it with you!
Stay up-to-date with the series on the official Ray Donovan website: http://www.sho.com/raydonovan.
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Follow the series on Twitter @SHO_RayDonovan. And follow cast mates Liev Schreiber (Ray) @LievSchreiber, Pooch Hall (Daryll) @iam_POOCHHALL, Dash Mihok (Bunchy) @dizmihok, Devon Bagby (Conor) @DevonBagby, Kerris Dorsey (Bridget) @kerrisdorsey, Kate Moennig (Lena) @katemoennig, Steven Bauer (Avi) @thestevenbauer, and Eddie Marsan (Terry) @eddiemarsan.
Photos courtesy of Michael Desmond/Showtime © 2015 Showtime Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
© 2015, Linda. All rights reserved.
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