‘Revenge’ Recap: Did This Show Just Get Good Again?

Margarita Leviva on Revenge

Was this the episode we’ve all been waiting for from Revenge’s sophomore season or what? Finally, our favorite Hamptons sudser has managed to rebottle some of the narrative rocketfuel that made its first year so electrifying. And it only took the death of one major character to do it! Now, mind you, I think the idea of killing off characters has become a sorely overused plot twist in much of television. It’s a way of artificially generating drama and shock, for one. There’s also a callousness behind that plotting that’s fundamentally inhumane: as author Aaron Allston has noted, we don’t even call it “killing” these characters, we say we’re “killing them off.” (See: The Walking Dead.) The way Revenge handled its latest death, however, was both an organic development of its ongoing narrative and a humane, moving send-off. Perhaps most importantly, though, it was a bit of desperately-needed pruning when it came to the plot—as this was one character who truly had nothing more to contribute to the show.


Yes, the “Sacrifice” of the title was referring to Amanda. Or rather Fauxmanda. A character I’m happy to be rid of because at least I won’t be subject to writing ridiculous words like “Fauxmanda” again. I almost feel guilty for saying that, because her death was actually very moving. Still, I’m not gonna lie…”Mommy Fauxmanda” never did it for me. I preferred bikini-wearing, tire iron-wielding stripper Fauxmanda. But then again I’m a 26-year-old straight guy, so take that perspective with a grain of salt.

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“Sacrifice” finally brought us back to where Season 2 began: with a male hand submerged in the hold of the sunken Amanda. It shows how far Revenge’s buzziness has evaporated that, while last season all anyone could talk about was “Was that Daniel Grayson who was shot on the beach?” this year no one gave a s*** about the mystery. You’d be forgiven if you had even forgotten what exactly the mystery was. Well, it turned out to be like a small-screen version of Dead Calm. Which you could say is a surprising choice except that one of Revenge’s executive producers, Phillip Noyce, directed Dead Calm. If you’ve never seen the 1989 nautical thriller (you’ve really missed out) its about a married couple (Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman) menaced at sea by a shipwrecked psycho they rescue who promptly turns on them. If only Billy Zane could have been playing Nate here instead of Michael Trucco, then we’d really have an episode!

Newlyweds Jack and Amanda were laying in bed together, both experiencing some intense post-coital exhaustion. Jack decided it would be fun if they went up on deck, where it was cool and presumably they could resume their now-legitimate lovin’ by starlight. He didn’t have a care in the world. Declan and Charlotte were looking after Baby Carl. He’d bought back the Stowaway. And Nolan was tending bar. Of course, as soon as they left the hold, Nate’s hand crept around the doorway. He’d been hiding there for hours and hours, just waiting for the right time to strike. And he’s incredibly pervy since he’d basically just been watching (or at least listening to) Jack and Amanda schtuping this whole time.

NEXT: Victoria and Daniel put on an incredibly hammy performance for the Initiative’s hidden camera.

Back on land, Victoria, Conrad, and Daniel were coming up with a plan to cover-up the murder of Helen Crowley. Which would be hard to do since Helen’s chauffeur was still outside in his parked limo and waiting for her. But Victoria’s never one to be without a plan, so she put on Helen’s scarf and glasses and got in the limo…playing the role of the Initiative henchwoman herself. I really thought she was just going to kill this driver, but, it appears she didn’t. She just needed to make it seem really convincing that she was Helen so no one would suspect she died at Grayson Manor.

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In fact, much of this episode was about “acting,” in a sense. Victoria playing the part of Helen. Victoria and Daniel staging a charade for the Initiative’s hidden cameras. Jack acting all wrathful toward Amanda in front of Nate. The next morning after Helen’s death, Victoria began planning her next performance: having the staff return to help prepare the annual Labor Day Party during which Conrad would announce his gubernatorial bid. They would also begin work on pinning Helen’s death on Amanda, much to Daniel’s horror. But, I mean, she had blackmailed them, so what’s fair is fair, right?

The newlyweds woke up fully clothed topside on the Amanda. Before you knew it, Nate had a gun on the blushing bride and told them that the fact Conrad backed out of the Stowaway deal had cost him a fortune. Assuming that Jack was the one who spooked the mogul, he wanted to force him to call Conrad and get him back in the deal. When Amanda got Jack to herself for a moment she told him that they’d have to kill Nate, because he surely would end up killing them.

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Luckily for them, Emily just happened to be looking at a wedding photo taken the previous day of Jack and Amanda on the boat. And who should be peering menacingly out of a porthole? Nate. Way to go with the whole hiding thing, buddy! Emily and Nolan immediately took to the high seas to rescue the couple. Though how Emily would be able to explain her mad fighting skills to Jack is a problem for which solving would have to wait, I guess.

Daniel and Victoria staged that ruse in his office for the Initiative’s hidden cameras. He shouted at his mother that Helen Crowley had never represented any kind of danger or conspiracy and that all her company had done was double their fund. In a final show of flamboyant outrage, he called security on his own mother. Now Madeleine Stowe and Josh Bowman are fine actors. But Victoria and Daniel Grayson? Less so. I was really hoping Conrad would pull a James-Mason-in-North-by-Northwest and say something to Daniel like, “You rather overplay your part. It seems you need less training from Harvard Business School and more from the Actors Studio.” Count me unconvinced by the Graysons’ little charade. But apparently it had its intended effect on the Initiative. They mostly seemed to buy it. Meaning that perhaps Daniel and Victoria are such great actors, I can’t even tell their great actors.

NEXT: It’s the annual Grayson Labor Day Party! Where you’re not having fun if someone hasn’t left in a body bag.

Speaking of Conrad, he received a phone call from Nate, and they conferred about how Amanda had blackmailed the tycoon into leaving the Stowaway deal. Connie pretty much told Nate to kill Amanda, and if he did, then the deal would be back on. Yeah, Conrad Grayson is that malevolent. Silly Amanda pulled a gun on Nate—as if the thug needed any more convincing to kill her—but it wasn’t loaded. But before he could kill her, she revealed that she had access to a laptop with the intel she used to blackmail Conrad…something that could make Nate even richer than if he worked as a partner with him. She revealed that Jack was a patsy, a lovable schlub she used to get close to the Graysons to put into motion a plot to avenge her father. Jack overheard all this, of course. Suddenly, he pops out and accuses Amanda of using him. In the midst of their hostage situation he decided to have a full marital squabble. “Save the rest for divorce court,” Nate said. Jack told Nate that the laptop was down in the hold. And somehow the thug bought it, went down into the interior first, allowing Jack and Amanda to close the hatch behind him and trap him. But this ex-con had claws. He fired his gun through the bulkhead, and at least one of the rounds found its final resting place in Jack. There was only one hope for him…to get him on the Amanda’s motorized dinghy. But the flesh and blood Amanda wouldn’t be going with him. “What are you doing?” Jack asked. “Saving you.” She cast him adrift and prepared for a final showdown with Nate.

Back at the dock bar, Aidan had lured Padma to a meeting. If she was telling the truth and was in fact being manipulated by the Initiative, she could be another lead back to the terrorists. And maybe, just maybe they could even help her rescue her kidnapped father. After all, Aidan knew all too well what it was like to be in her position. Of course, Helen Crowley may be dead, but there was immediately another Initiative member to take her place.

And what better place for the new baddie, a weaselly henchman named Trask, to make his Hamptons debut than the Graysons’ annual Labor Day party! Yes, this is the fete that last year featured a Fire & Ice theme, included the announcement of Daniel and Emily’s engagement, and saw Tyler gunned down on the beach. I kind of think of the Graysons’ annual Labor Day party like Kyle & Mauricio’s yearly White Party on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: an event that’s supposed to be fun but inevitably turns out to be horrifying. Conrad set up one of the best lines of the night when he told Victoria that it was gratifying to see her in her element. “You mean in the midst of a crisis with blood on my hands?” his wife asked. That’s the kind of zing we haven’t gotten from Vicky in awhile. Glad to see she can still be a Pez dispenser of bitchery. Anyway, Trask confronted them at the party, meaning that Connie and Vicky had to tapdance once again. Surely Amanda Clark must have killed Helen, since her mother was married to Gordon Murphy, the Initiative’s white-haired agent who betrayed them and pulled Victoria off the bomb-rigged airplane that was supposed to be her doom. I’m not sure how much Trask bought it. He obviously hadn’t been convinced enough by her improv skit with Daniel to wave off attending the party.

NEXT: Farewell and adieu to ye, Fauxmanda.

No matter how you looked at it, though, Amanda was doomed. She flooded the boat with Nate still stowed away. But he popped up like a homicidal Whac-a-Mole and opened fire. One of his shots must have hit the Amanda’s propane tanks, because suddenly gas started leaking into the hold. Thankfully, right as he prepared for a killing shot, Emily appeared and shot him herself. She and Nolan had already rescued Jack from the skiff, and Nolan was taking him back to a hospital on the mainland in his own boat. Now Amanda would be saved too…except that Nate was determined that if he was going down in flames, so would she. So he pulled out his lighter and ignited the propane, blowing up the ship. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if Amanda had simply followed Emily. But no, she had to go back and pick up some necklace thing.

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Amazingly, Revenge cut away from this high seas drama to show us one last bit of Padma intrigue. She called Helen’s cell, and Trask picked up. He told her that her orders are still very much in effect, and just in case her resolve should be shaken, he gave her proof that her father’s still alive in the form of a package. When someone says “You can verify the fingerprints,” it’s never a good sign. Yep, a severed finger was in the package, presumably belonging to Padma’s father. I’m still calling bulls*** on this one, folks. Any fan of The Big Lebowski could tell you how easy it is to get a severed toe or finger. This could just be Padma’s double-cross ruse to make Aidan think she’s being set up by the Initiative, when in fact she’s pulling the strings. I bet Padma’s the type who could get a finger by 3:00, even with nail polish…if it weren’t supposed to be her father’s finger.

Back to the scene of the nautical disaster. The Amanda had foundered, and her fake namesake wasn’t doing much better. She thanked Emily for giving her the one thing she’d never had: a real family. She also made her promise to look after Jack and the baby. The she flashed back to when Emily left her in juvie and gave her her necklace, saying that she’d take it back someday when they were reunited. Well, that was the necklace Amanda was reaching for when the ship blew up, and now she gave it back to Emily.

It was a moving scene, but one that was inevitable. Amanda had truly outlived her usefulness as a character, and her departure here represents some much needed pruning to the plot. Her death also validated Emily once again. It made us applaud her for her efforts in trying to save Amanda, and hopefully her death will now steel her anti-Grayson/anti-Initiative resolve. It also allowed the Graysons to pin Helen’s death on Amanda, without Conrad actually having to kill her. Amazing how neatly everything was tied up. Here’s hoping that this gives Revenge exactly the adrenaline shot it’s been looking for all season and Emily the focus she’s been lacking for so long.

Do you agree that “Sacrifice” could bode well for a Revenge course correction? Was there anything else Amanda could have added to this show? Will Jack ever recover from his heartbreak over her death? And do you think I’m right that Padma actually provided that finger herself to make it seem like she’s being set up? Sound off below and see you back in March when Revenge returns!

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

[Photo Credit: ABC]

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