Damages: "The Dog Is Happier Without Her"
B+

Damages: "The Dog Is Happier Without Her"

B+

Damages

"The Dog Is Happier Without Her"

Season 3, Episode 2

Cherish every moment, few and faithful Damages fans. The ratings for last week’s season premiere were, perhaps expectedly, not en fuego. FX certainly seemed to see it coming; whereas last season was preceded by a marketing blitz to turn to the show’s critical acclaim and Emmy love into actual viewership, the run-up to this season was much more muted. Maybe the ratings would have been better with a bigger push, but FX seems to think that money is best allocated elsewhere. Considering this is the second of the two-season pick-up the show received at the end of season one, and that Anastasia Griffith (aka Katie Connor) suggested in a red-carpet interview that this might be the last season, I’m looking at every episode as a countdown to a series finale.

It’s a shame, really, because I’m still really enjoying the direction this season is going. In this episode, we learn more about Tom’s death, and quite a bit of shocking information about his life as well. As we’ve known since last week, Homeless Man (for the record, the character is actually credited as such) knows more than he’s telling. After Detective Huntley shows he means business by slapping away a donut that Homeless Man is nibbling like an oversized squirrel, Homeless Man tells us that Ellen is “Tommy’s girl,” which is confirmed by a forward-jump in which Ellen pays an awkward visit to Tom’s wife. This is exactly the type of revelation that works in shows like this, the kind that seems shocking for five seconds, but then makes you say “Oh, yeah, that totally makes sense.” Tom and Ellen have always had an easy rapport, even when Patty’s scheming put them at odds. And if shared adversity is as much of an aphrodisiac as television and movies have led us to believe, it’s almost harder to believe they didn’t seal the deal sooner.

I wondered how Ellen would be sucked back into Patty’s life, and feared it wouldn’t be handled correctly. By pulling Ellen further into the Hewes & Shayes side of the Tobin case as a result of Tom’s request for help, she gets dragged into Patty’s mud without Patty having her fingerprints all over it – a shrewd choice by the writers. And the circumstances for Tom’s request would elicit sympathy from even the hardest of hearts. He finds out from the firm’s diligent investigator that his money, along with that of his parents and in-laws, were invested in a feeder-fund for Louis Tobin. Tom isn’t just advocating for Tobin’s victims, he’s one of them. There was a nice episodic feel to this story thread. When Tom was handed the file that contained the information, I assumed from his reaction shot that it would be episodes before we found out what was in the folder. Instead, it’s revealed later in a heated argument between Tom and his wife. It’s those kind of domestic squabbles that send men running into the frail arms of former co-workers.

Speaking of domestic squabbles, Patty and Phil were at loggerheads over how the apartment would be split in their pending divorce. Patty wants to keep it, ostensibly because she doesn’t have any other souvenirs from that wild ‘n’ crazy time she tried to have Ellen killed, or maybe she just resents Phil. She doesn’t resent him enough, though, to resist calling him when their dog isn’t eating. As difficult as it is to completely sympathize with Patty, I did feel sorry for her during the scenes with the dog. The one constant companion in her life (excluding Tom) isn’t responding to her anymore, forcing her to call Phil for help. Later, when Phil returns Corey with the spring back in his step, they wind up getting drunk and Phil asks her to reconcile. I was half-expecting It’s Complicated sex-with-the-ex to ensue; instead, Patty emasculated him as only she knows how. I don’t know quite what to make of Phil’s olive branch other than to say it seemed sincere. Maybe he realized his girlfriend, who outright demanded he keep the dog, was hen-pecking him just as much as Patty was. Some improvement.

Meanwhile, in the Tobin family, Joe was still struggling to reconcile his ethics with his desire to keep his family and his lifestyle the way he’s grown accustomed to it. His arc is reminding me of the Catherine Zeta-Jones character in Traffic; he thinks he knows what type of person he is, then suddenly becomes a case study in Moral Relativism for Dummies. After a conversation with a Wise Black Guy outside a 12-step meeting, Joe becomes clear that he’s not willing to sacrifice his family if it means helping out strangers. So he reverses his earlier actions, refusing to cooperate with Patty, lying to her about not knowing the identity of his father’s mystery mistress. Of course, Joe knows Danielle Marchetti all too well. Apparently they had a romantic dalliance of their own at some point. This was implied more than anything, but if his family name crumbling didn’t send Joe back to the sauce and finding out about Danielle did, it has to be pretty deep. After Danielle’s cat escapes, she runs out to chase it and Joe backs into her with his car. The sequence felt as cheesy and clumsy as that sentence makes it sound, but I wanted Joe’s hands dirty as soon as possible, so I'm just going to accept it for now.

Then, even more details about Tom: three weird little wounds on his body, but he actually drowned! And Ellen wasn’t nearly as shocked by the whole thing as she should have been. I must say, I’m far more interested in the Tom mystery than anything relating to the Tobins at this point, but that will probably change.

Stray observations:

- I loved the scene between Joe and Patty in the park. It shows how black and white Patty’s thinking can be. She refuses to believe that he wasn’t somehow complicit in her father’s fraud. In Patty’s view, people are either allies or enemies, there’s no middle ground.

- “Girls have secrets. Men have honor.” If your naming convention is going to be random bits of dialogue, why wouldn’t you go with this one? I’m starting to think they name the episodes by horizontally shredding the scripts and pulling out a scrap lotto-style. I’m looking forward to the pivotal, game-changing episode “INT. – PATTY’S OFFICE – DAY.”

- I promise to stop griping about this, seeing as how we might flashback to it who knows how many times. But humor me once more: Patty calls the Tobin Mystery Phone herself, from home, and then identifies herself? Oy.

- Phil’s lawyer in the arbitration is Hollis Nye’s associate, the one who offered Ellen a job in the pilot before she ended up at Hewes & Associates. Fun!

- Seems a little early to assume Danielle is the recipient of Tobin’s phone call, doesn’t it?

- “If you’re really looking for companionship I can give you the name of a great breeder.” Ouch!