Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Damages: "Flight's at 11:08"

Illustration for article titled Damages: "Flight's at 11:08"

Looks like we’ll have to wait a week for more details on the untimely death of Tom Shayes. I assumed it wouldn’t be long before we got our first flashback-free episode, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this soon. I was concerned after last week’s episode about how much more absorbed I am in Tom’s death than I am in the Tobin family, but this episode went a long way in evening up my interest levels.

We open to Joe hovering over Danielle, trying to determine his next move. Her ride to the airport pulls up, and he sends the driver away. Then, naturally, instead of calling 911, he calls Winstone instead. Joe’s trust in and reliance on Winstone is amazing. I realize this is the way dramatic irony works, and yet I can’t figure out why Joe doesn’t realize that Winstone is playing him, managing him, and that the elder Tobin is pulling all the strings. In any event, Winstone, in the midst of a terribly matched blind date, learns of the situation and goes into overdrive trying to contain the damage and get Danielle on her flight out, as Patty and Co. try to find and stop her.

I was a little disappointed at first with the pace of the episode; the title and the set-up suggested something a little more brisk, but this was hardly a chase. Instead, we got a little deeper into our characters and their motivations. When it comes to Joe, the emphasis there is on “little” – he is still quite the enigma. He pretends that his interest in going along with the plan to fly Danielle out of town is about preserving the secret family fortune. But he’s far too eager, especially after finding out that she was having an affair with his father at the same time she was having one with him. In my best Rodney Dangerfield voice: I’ve heard of having a type, but this is ridiculous! Joe isn’t quite a full-on villain yet, just a guy with hurt feelings acting out, but his handling of the situation was chilling all the same. His lie to Danielle about her condition and his refusal to take her and her scrambled brain to the hospital were genuinely unsettling. To go from conflicted family man to perpetrator of manslaughter in three episodes is quite the precipitous fall.

Patty, meanwhile, smelled fresh blood in the water and darted towards it. She didn’t have a plan for holding Danielle once she was found, but was more than content to improvise. The scene between Patty and Curtis Gates reminded me of so many scenes on 24, with Jack Bauer running afoul of some fraidy-cat stuffed-shirt when it comes time to make tough decisions. Patty cares little for rules, and her certainty frightens Curtis into taking her theory seriously. But she doesn’t frighten Winstone, who coolly denies her accusations every step of the way, even as she’s accosting him at the airport. Martin Short is more than holding his own opposite Glenn Close.

Tom, the central focus of the first two episodes, gets the short end tonight with some pretty thankless scenes that make him seem less sharp than we’ve been led to believe he is. During his trip to retrieve Danielle, Tom fails to figure out that a car in the driveway plus an icy glass of water on the table means that someone’s probably home. Instead, he’s shooed away by Dr. Carl (aka Uncle Pete 2.0), a creepy old doctor/fixer in Winstone’s employ. Thankfully, Tom figures out everything later thanks to looking at two glasses of water on a dinner table. Seriously Tom? I know you’ve been under a lot of stress, what with losing your life savings and all, but get your head in the game! I must say though, his confession to his in-laws about losing their retirement savings, what little of it we got to see, was pretty heartbreaking.

But it was Ellen who had her heart broken the most in this episode. One of the biggest questions of this season was how, following the tying up of so many loose ends in season two, the show would justify keeping Ellen in Patty’s orbit. A friend with whom I discussed the premiere was annoyed by the whole thing: “Why doesn’t she just leave Patty alone?” That question, as much than anything, is making this season compelling, and this episode went a long way in answering it. A brief encounter outside Ellen’s office showed how the two women are different – Ellen was off to a family dinner, while Patty was on the grind. “Family, your top priority,” Patty spits with a pitying tone, as if to say Poor thing, you still haven’t figured it out yet, have you? What connects Ellen and Patty is that the only thing separating them, really, is time. They both come from less-than-tony family backgrounds, take their jobs very seriously, and won’t hesitate to cross ethical boundaries if it gets the job done. In another couple decades, Ellen could easily be Patty, which is why Patty views her as the daughter she never had.


Of course, Ellen is a bit more hesitant to concede just how much she has in common with Patty because Patty’s cut-throat nature led her to try to have Ellen killed. But when Ellen opts to leave Patty on her own to find Danielle, she ends up disillusioned after a family dinner. Her father’s an irritable jerk, her mother takes the path of least resistance in every situation no matter how dire, and her sister’s become a meth-head. Ellen is learning the lessons that made Patty who she is. Family disappoints you. You find a relationship with someone you choose, rather than someone you’re born to, and they disappoint you too. The only thing that doesn’t disappoint you is work, unless you fail to be the best. So failure is not an option, and whatever staves off failure, killing a dog or a rival or a witness, is worth doing. I can't wait for Patty and Ellen's inevitable reconciliation.

Stray Observations:

- Finally, a reference to Wes! A glancing one – Ellen says they broke up a few months ago – but it’s something.


- “You ever feel blessed? That’s how I feel about the law.”

- Is there a frozen vegetable other than peas that makes a suitable cold compress?


- “What happened to your wake?” “He’ll still be dead at the funeral.”

- "Tonight's been educational."

- I can’t wait to find out what Danielle was doing calling the DA’s office.

- I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Winstone’s Girl Friday (Sarah Wynter)