In “Gem & Loan,” Ray Donovan explored partnerships and alliances. It also created a partnership, for this hour at least, between two of its more disparate parts: the family drama and Ray as a fixer. Ray Donovan is at its best when Ray’s job intersects with his family or other storylines that viewers are already invested in. It also was a rare episode where everyone, by the end of it, was more or less content. Hit the jump for why “you’re a real pisser.”
“Gem & Loan” may be one of the best-connected episodes of Ray Donovan yet. It made Ray’s world feel very small, despite the many twists and turns and characters which played a part in the first season. “Gem & Loan” was also focused — there was no Bunchy, almost no Terry, Daryll or Conor. And while each of these characters are great, it was nice to give them pause in order to allow other stories to have a chance to deepen.
There were two main arcs coursing through “Gem & Loan.” In the first, Bridget wants to switch schools to Bel Air Academy, and secretly took an entrance exam that proved she certainly has the intellectual chops to do so. But Ray’s history with Stu Feldman (and his absolutely insane former Mouseketeer girlfriend) puts Bridget’s place there into question.
One of the better parts of the fixer plots is the show’s portrayal of Hollywood, and Ray’s encounter with Stu did not disappoint. Stu has always represented the worst, most petty and self-absorbed part of the studio system, and it was extremely gratifying to see Stu brought low by his own attempt to scheme the situation. Stu’s trade with Ray is that he wants to have sex with a porn actress named Lexi Steel, the “Meryl Streep of gangbangs.” It’s a scummy request that goes perfectly with Stu’s scummy personality. When Ray inquires with Lexi’s manager/husband over the possibilities, he finds that letting Stu handle it himself might be the best policy. And of course, Stu fucks it up royally, with Ray coming in behind to clean things up.
But even better than Ray’s plan (and his getting Lexi a part in a Tommy Wheeler movie — again, such a tight world), is that he kept the ransom money. When he dropped it off with his bookkeeper to launder through the gym, it betrayed many small things about Ray: despite his expensive tastes, his money isn’t unlimited, and he’s strapped for cash now that the family is buying a new house and Bridget is going to private school. It was a little moment of domesticity and financial affairs that actually spoke volumes.
In the second major arc, Mickey’s history refuses to stay buried. Ray is also playing a game of keep-away with Kate McPherson, the Boston journalist, regarding his father. Cochran is doing the same to keep Kate away from Frank, and from learning about the truth of the coverup (which Ray has been pretty forthcoming to Cochran about). And despite her suspicions, Kate might have been more easily put off by those tactics … had she not caught sight of Mickey’s name in the credits of Sean Walker’s film “Black Mass.”
Again, it was beautifully cohesive how Kate watched his film (on a TV marathon, of course) just as Claudette was being called in to sign a statement about her whereabouts the night of his death. All roads here lead to Mickey, and eventually, back to Ray. Though Kate is only interested in the Sully angle, she clearly knows there’s a lot more going on, with the potential for an even bigger story. Her second meeting with Ray shows a respect forming between the two, and the idea that maybe both can use one another to get what they want.
“Gem & Loan” did a nice job of keeping the past relevant, but still allowing the characters and the plot to move forward and develop. It was an episode about alliances and relationships, and counsel being given (even with Mickey and his new coughing friend, and Abby being tempered by Deb regarding the nosey neighbor). Ray Donovan is always ultimately about connections, and “Gem & Loan” was a great way to illustrate that.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Cochran clearly has aspirations of fame and attention, watching his 60 Minutes interview with such rapture. This could play into his story with Ray; his political desires will either sink him, or allow him to strike a deal.
— It seems like Ray and Kate might end up with some kind romance going on … I’m ambivalent about it. But it might make Abby wake up to the realities of his emotional distance, despite the gifts he gives to her.
— “God sees every sparrow that falls” – Ronald.
— Where was Conor?
— I thought that the secret of Ronald working for Ray would take longer to play out, but as soon as Mickey spotted the watch, Ray seemed to give up and have Ronald start running Mickey around on errands for him.
— Great little character moments with Mickey in this episode, per usual — from his peeling carrots and getting out his glasses to read about medical marijuana, to him weeping about having a friend, and scrubbing the floor for Claudette.
— Not sure where things are headed for Bridget with Marvin, or with Abby and her anger and insecurity issues, but they are little plots right now that just make the overall story that much richer and more complex.
— “$800 later, they chop off her hair and she looks like my kid Jaime. I almost fucked him the other night” – Stu, regarding his girlfriend’s new style.
— I enjoyed the tone of the entire Lexi Steel plot, especially moments like when her husband asked Lena if she did porn, and when Lexi dropped her whole “oh yeah, baby” act as soon as Stu set the camera down. “Camera down! Camera down!”