Ah, the dreaded flashback episode, meet the even more elusive flashback within a flashback episode wherein no real bombs are dropped and all our favorite characters play middle school play dress up. All sarcasm aside, Revenge’s latest outing certainly wasn’t the most shocking or sensational episode we’ve seen all season, but it accomplished something very important: It made us feel deeply for Emily/Amanda and the unfair consequences her father’s demise had on her. But why would a show as meticulously crafted as Revenge deliver an entire episode devoted to filling in a few small blanks and building Emily/Amanda’s character? If nothing else, it seems to be an indicator that Emily/Amanda might let herself get a little angry in the final two episodes of the season – and we wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.
Relegated to wander the episode without the guiding hand of Emily’s sophisticated literary quotes and flowery definitions of various duplicitous terms as narration, we’re plopped into a seedy New York night club where Emily VanCamp is donning her best stripper wig to signify the darker, tortured Amanda of 2002 – not to be confused with little girl Amanda or Sophisticated Lady Emily/Amanda. As she’s beating the crap out of her deadbeat boytoy, Nolan Ross’ goon pulls her out of the club and our favorite alliance is born, only Nolan is simply out to get her to read her father’s journals – Amanda gets to the revenge part all on her own.
Jack, who’s shaved his beard and is donning a Halloween “Authentic Dazed and Confused Stoner Wig and Knit Cap” combo he got at Spencer’s Gifts to indicate his 2002 youth, is just moving into the space above the Stowaway partially in thanks to Nolan’s haphazard land acquisition (and partially because Jack’s pop can’t afford their house and their mother isn’t coming back). His status as a boyfriend (to the bartender who pours Amanda her ridiculous “vodka tonic, hold the tonic”) pushes Amanda a little deeper into her droopy disposition, further helping her vengeful conclusion come episode’s end.
Now comes the time to piece it all together – and get a little weird in the process. Amanda (in 2002) breaks into her old home, which is secretly owned by the Graysons, in order to grab her father’s infinity box and have a little reminisce about New Year’s Eve with her father when she was a child. Later, Victoria does the same, having her flashback within a flashback to the first time she met David Clarke, which just so happens to be the same New Year’s Eve.
Jump back to the episode’s time frame (2002) in which Amanda has scored herself a catering gig at the Graysons’ New Year’s Eve soiree – a party that’s actually serving to uncover the betrayer who left a bloody note with David Clarke’s name on it for Conrad. Trusty Frank is there to help scope things out, but they seem to think they’ll solve the mystery in a manner of dinner party hours (and fortunately for them, to our surprise, they’re not wrong.) As Amanda tries to stay inconspicuous and keep out of pictures (which as we know was a failure on her part – hello, Lydia’s favorite picture of her with her frenemy, Victoria), we learn a little more about the players in Conrad’s gruesome scheme, including the one man who wanted desperately to prove David’s innocence: Roger Halsted.
Amanda has yet to establish her knack for stealth and covering her tracks because she waltzes right up to Roger, tells him who she is, and demands the truth so she can wave it like the American flag. It works, because later, in the hubbub over his sudden drunkenness (thanks to Amanda swiping Conrad’s best scotch for him), he falls on her in what looks like an inappropriate drunk accidental groping situation, but he’s actually slipping a note into her pocket. She later finds it, and rushes to the pool house without having the courtesy to show the note to the camera so we can be in on the secret too. But when she gets to the pool house, she finds Roger in an apparent suicide in the bathtub. From her scared little girl reaction, we can deduce that this is her first bloody experience – despite her affinity for kicking the crap out of deadbeat players in nightclub bathrooms. As she flees the party, we see her on the phone with Nolan, crying her eyes out as the last flashes of Amanda the little girl die out and she gets angry enough to become Emily, the mistress of Revenge.
Next: The softer side of Victoria Grayson.
But it’s not just Amanda who’s showing her softer side in this flashback. We also see Victoria is not as devilish as she lets on. Just like she did last week when Conrad “cleaned up” another situation, Victoria is indignant when she hears of Roger’s “apparent suicide” which occurred without so much as a note to pass on to the living. “How convenient for us” she says with all the ire she can muster (and with Madeleine Stowe, that’s a lot of ire). She also confesses to Lydia (who we’re happy to see once more, even if it’s only in a flashback) that she and Conrad were hoarding David Clarke’s property for emotional reasons and that, coupled with her constant flashbacks within the flashback to the night she met David, opens Victoria up as a trapped, emotionally wounded victim. Whereas when Conrad tells Lydia the same truth, his motives are a little more related to sex and power than the desire to come clean with a dear friend.
And seeing as this occasion is the night Conrad first starts his (apparently years long) affair with Lydia, Victoria is also losing what’s left of her softer side on this conveniently fateful New Year’s Eve. With the loss of her last tie to David comes her cold, hard heart, trapped in Conrad’s scheme. And after he told Ashley last week that “this thing” is bigger than Victoria, it seems more and more likely that she’s a hardened victim and not the evil mastermind we assumed she was at the outset of the season.
Finally, the series pulls out of both layers of flashback into the present, which also happens to be New Year’s Eve. Amanda is back to being Emily and looking fabulous as she and Daniel prepare to head to the Graysons’ for a soiree. Once again, she’ll have the same treacherous crowd at her fingertips, but this time, she’s armed with the knowledge to take them all down. Plus, when we learned Mason Treadwell was the one sending threatening, bloody letters to the Graysons in 2002 order to drum up drama for his next book, it became apparent that while this group is tied together by a sinister secret, none of them trust one another and when the diamond-encrusted chips are down, they’ll each choose themselves every time.
Of course, Revenge is setting up this potential mess of intrigue and (hopefully definitely) big, shocking moments to occur at yet another lavish Hamptons party. What better way to take down the smug bastards who ripped your father from you than to beat them all at their own impeccably dressed game at the one event where they’re sure they’re insulated from justice? Well played, Emily.
What do you think Emily is planning for the big New Year’s Eve party? How long can she stand being with Daniel, when she’s so clearly acting the part of doting fiance? How much did you hate Jack’s 2000s look?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.