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Damages: "Burn It, Shred It, I Don't Care"



"Burn It, Shred It, I Don't Care"

Season 2 , Episode 2

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When we left Hewes and Associates last week, Ellen had decided not to kill Arthur Frobisher in his sleep; Patty had taken the infant mortality case bait that the FBI set through Ellen; and Daniel Purcell's wife was killed by home invaders tied to the industry whose environmental scandal he's threatening to expose.  But now (after the obligatory flash-forward showing Ellen shooting somebody), Daniel is in full-on William Hurt method-acting rant mode refusing to tell the police why someone might be targeting him.  And Patty is handing off the infant mortality case to Tom Shayes so she can focus on Purcell.  D'oh!
It's a little hard to have much sympathy for Ellen's entrapment plans, though, when she's trying to help Purcell, who's being stalked by sinister thugs and is a prime suspect in his wife's murder.  And Ellen shows a disturbing willingness to throw Tom under the bus if that's what it takes to get to Patty.  Just who are we supposed to root for?  It would be clever of this show to turn Ellen into an unsympathetic character, some kind of harpy of vengeance, and even cleverer if we start to understand and identify with Patty's motives. 
This episode brings the introduction of Marcia Gay Harden as Claire Maddox, the legal hit-woman for Daniel Purcell's thoroughly creepy boss.  She's in charge of getting the evidence of the company's misdeeds from Patty Hewes (after that weaselly EPA guy takes the information straight to his corporate masters), and she does so by flirting with a judge on the handball court -- a judge with a grudge against Hewes and Associates.  But when Patty gets the warrant for the box of evidence, she knows who commissioned the report that Purcell is trying to expose, because Maddox is their lawyer.  This isn't a double-cross, though -- it's a triple.  Maddox and Purcell have a relationship!  And then in a flash-forward, Purcell is digging and burning, looking more like the perp than the victim.
The FBI's plan to get to Tom is to have the infant-mortality plaintiff ask for up-front money, an advance on the settlement, and threaten to take the case elsewhere if she's refused.  Surprisingly, Tom caves right away and agrees to the transaction on tape.  Later he and Patty engineer a spooky reveal of Tom's impending fatherhood, the fact of which (if not the manner) etches cracks in Ellen's resolve to corrupt and then flip Tom.  But the FBI aren't the only folks taping Tom; Patty knows, too, and pulls the plug on the case just as the FBI are about to get him.
The flash-forwards tell us that Ellen and Wes become lovers -- no surprise there.  And I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that everyone who enters into relationship with these characters is somehow part of the conspiracy.  But when we discover that Wes has a closet full of Frobisher press clippings -- right next to his arsenal -- it does put his so-far benign connection with Ellen in a new light.  And Tom is going to give Ellen the gun she uses to shoot ... whoever.  As with last season's framing story, the scenario's getting more complicated.  I'm not sure I'm interested in Ellen becoming the avenging angel, and I'm not sure I entirely trust the show to play fair with all of these switchbacks, but I do want to see how the characters change.
Grade: B
Stray observations:
- I hadn't been paying attention to Rose Byrne's physique before you all commented on it last week.  But as she reached her bony arm out for a coffee cup early in this episode, I couldn't ignore it any longer.  Sorry, wardrobe department, but putting her in those blousy tops isn't helping at all.
- We finally get some significant Close-Hurt mano-a-mano conversations in this episode, and while Hurt is a little distracted and distant, and Close is a little cold and professional,  these two together have the potential to become electrifying.   I got a chuckle out of the idiosyncratic way Hurt said "Nooooo ... " in his sit-down with Patty at the lake house.
- "A good relationship with the energy industry is the best way to promote a healthy environment."  So ... the EPA aren't the good guys?
- Part 1 of my continuing series, Lines I'm Glad I Lived Long Enough To Hear Glenn Close Speak: "Can someone get some orange juice for Mr. Purcell?"