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

Damages: "You Haven't Replaced Me"

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You can tell a lot about an upcoming season of Damages by studying its promotional art. Every season features an image of Patty and Ellen, with an obvious visual metaphor for the season-arc of their relationship. In season one, Ellen is literally being torn in two by Patty. By season two, Ellen is preparing to exact her revenge on Patty for the aforementioned bisection. Then, for this season, you have the most striking image of the three: the two women, cheek to cheek, their gazes askew, with the silhouette of a bull’s head and horns below. This season, the poster foretells, Ellen and Patty will be thrown together despite their efforts to go different directions. All season this Faustian bargain between Ellen and Patty has been hinted at, but not until “You Haven’t Replaced Me,” the episode marking the season's halfway point, has it been made explicit.

When Curtis Gates gets pressure from his boss to make an arrest – any arrest – in the Tobin case, Ellen finally understands what Gates has spent the last three episodes hinting around. He could care less about Tobin’s victims or their restitution; he wants to make the type of high-profile arrest that plays well in the press and reflects favorably on the DA’s office. But Ellen is all about helping out the little guy, which is why she gravitated to Hewes and Associates to begin with.

Gates couldn’t have picked a worse time to get snippy, though, since Ellen happened to be sitting on a bombshell, the fact that Carol was at Danielle Marchetti’s place on the day she mysteriously died from the same thing that Louis Tobin mysteriously died from. The reveal was pretty darn clunky (what luck that Ellen just happened to bring a picture of Joe and Carol together!), but the result was the same, Ellen with a game-changing nugget of info and a choice to make between sharing it with Patty or with Gates.

Withholding the doorman’s identification was a very Pattyesque move, and Ellen is guilty of those more and more, especially in her dealings with Patty. This was the first episode in which we saw a full “game on” from Ellen, who decided to step down into Patty’s psychological mud pit and slosh around for a while. Since season one, we’ve seen Ellen needle Patty, asking a question she already knows the answer to, or coloring a seemingly benign comment with eight shades of judgment. But not until the Josh Reston Profile Incident has Ellen gone to so much effort to get a rise out of Patty. Granted, Patty had it coming. Calling in the wee hours to invite Ellen to a dinner party that – oops! – wound up actually being a girl’s night in for Patty and Alex was an especially transparent manipulation. I loved watching Ellen turn Patty’s pawn against her in an equally transparent way, then in classic Patty fashion, feigning ignorance of the charade.

Tom wasn’t around for any of this fun, as he was soaking up some rays in Antigua while trying to figure out if and how Tessa Marchetti was managing the Tobin’s cash cache. As it turns out, she is, but seemingly unbeknownst to her – she just thinks she’s cashing her paycheck. But Zedeck is keeping a thumb on things from New York, thanks to a totally unshocking mole in the Antiguan government. I’ll complain about this in the stray observations.

But this episode mostly belonged to Leonard Winstone, who got his very own “The Hobo Code” style origin story. I’ve gotta say, I’m a little trouble by the subtext in Winstone’s story, which mirrors Ellen’s and Patty’s in the suggestion that working hard and being successful is what you to do to escape those miserable, disgusting, no-count poor people who reared you. But it was hard to quibble with Short’s nuanced performance, with Winstone having to deal with the death of his mother and confront his beastly father, and show vulnerability when Patty reminds him that try as he might, he’ll never be a Tobin. This thread was so deft because it answered a character question (Winstone pretends the Tobins are his family, but who is his real family?) while cueing up an awesome flashback reveal and cliffhanger. Well-played all around. Are we to believe that’s Winstone’s quivering hand in Tom’s bachelor pad? Now we’re cooking with gas.


Stray observations:

  • Now that Carol is a murderer and Marilyn has her sable, the Tobin trio all have their hands dirty in Louis’s graft. Now I can stop feeling almost-sorry for any of them.
  • I felt sorry for Ellen when she had to sit there for the end of Gates’s tense phone call with the DA. I hate when bosses insist you come in and sit while they wrap up a call.
  • I don’t mind a show reusing the same devices. I do mind a show reusing the devices in the exact same way. The government official reveal was nearly identical to the Peter Riegert reveal in season one. This wasn’t a moment that rewarded loyal viewers.
  • I guess the trip to Antigua was to make up for making Tom go to West Virginia last season.
  • Zedeck believes Tessa is Louis’s daughter. I’m still willing to believe the theory that she’s actually Joe’s daughter, but if that’s the case, I hope there’s some deeper payoff there than just the V.C. Andrews dark family secret.
  • I don’t know whether to buy Ellen’s story that the bag was stolen, in spite of Winstone’s fingerprint, if only because she played dumb when Huntley showed her the bag. She’s all “I have one just like it,” and Huntley’s all “No kidding, does yours also have your driver’s license in it?”
  • “You’re not a Tobin, Mr. Winstone. Keep acting like a Tobin, and I’ll punish you like one.” Damn.
  • When Alex said “I like Ellen,you must miss having her around,” Patty’s cutting glance said “Ugh, now more than ever. Please shut your face.”