The strongest Revenge episodes go one of two ways: Emily either systematically takes down someone drunk on his or her own power, or she spends most of the hour making a “How did someone as pretty as I am wind up so royally screwed?” face as the plans she once considered redwood-solid crumble around her like so much day-old coffee cake.
This week’s installment fell into the latter category, and not a moment too soon.
Maybe it’s just the Red Sharpie fumes talking, but if I can’t see Emily gleefully orchestrating the downfall of those who deserve it, I very much enjoy watching her hustle to get back in control. This week, she works overtime to turn the Hamptons tide her way and still doesn’t have the upper hand by :59 past the hour, but the episode achieves something sorely lacking this season: a compelling lead-in to next week’s outing. So without further ado, let’s review all the ways Emily gets messed with in “Illumination.”
ELI LIES | The episode picks up directly after last week’s cemetery run-in with “Amanda’s” foster brother Eli. Emily and Aiden hang out at his “safe haven” – which I thought would be some posh underground bunker or something but just turns out to be his house – where she explains that she and Eli lived together at the place she set on fire, and that he was her “protector.” His motives now, however, seem a bit less noble. Emily runs into him at Grayson Manor, where he obviously recognizes her as Amanda Clarke but ably covers. Victoria (who looks amazing in a sleeveless forest green dress, by the way) doesn’t notice anything amiss, and invites him to the inaugural benefit for the Amanda Clarke Foundation. Eli says he’s staying in town for a while, so he’ll accept. Emily’s face says, “Are you freaking for real?”
Nolan – for good reason – fears that Eli is Tyler all over again. “Tyler was sick. Eli is a wildcard,” Emily assures him. And that wildcard soon makes it clear that he knows that Emily, and not Amanda, is his foster sib. “I spent years trying to track you down,” he says, adding that he found a stripper “trying to pass herself off as you” and then ran into a lot of dead ends. Again I say, ha! Emily’s airtight, carefully crafted backstory is once more proven holier than my nana eating a Fillet-O-Fish every Friday in Lent. Last episode, Charlotte nearly leveled Em’s past with a Google search. Just think what would’ve happened if this curious con man (who, by the way, has the Graysons believing he’s a rare book dealer and Columbia University grad) hadn’t gotten lazy once he arrived at the Beaver Dam.
I THINK I’M GONNA LIKE IT HERE | Feeling guilty – the fire she set wound up getting them separated – Emily offers to wipe Eli’s criminal record and give him starting-over cash… provided he takes his clean slate to another state. He agrees, and at the foundation’s kickoff party, he easily accepts both the crime-expunging and Emily’s $100,000 check. But after working the room for a while, FauxBro (TM Nolan Ross) finds the Hamptons to his liking; he agrees to co-chair the foundation with Victoria and – in a great moment – makes a grand gesture of donating to the new charity the bank check Emily gave him. (I actually laughed out loud at how spun Em looks in that moment. Your move, Ms. Thorne?) Em enlists Ashley in spreading some rumors about Eli’s unsavory nature, but that makes Queen V only like him more. (Side note: What was up with that totally-devoid-of-bitchery exchange between Victoria and her former assistant? I didn’t like it one bit. God wouldn’t have given you claws, ladies, if he didn’t want you to disembowel each other in casual conversation.) Later, Eli informs Em that he’s sticking around because he’s curious about her, her money and exactly what the heck is going on. (But mostly her money.)
JACK ON THE ATTACK | Jack’s still mad at Emily. Jack’s still mourning Amanda. And Jack’s really confused about how he wound up in the hospital when the last thing he remembers is bleeding out in the Amanda’s dinghy. Declan helpfully contributes that Nolan told him that Jack and Amanda had safely reached their Nantucket hotel, which makes the bar owner very suspicious of his towheaded pal. In fact, Jack’s pretty much suspicious of everyone and everything these days. (Side note: I’m not complaining, but where was this cynicism every single time Amanda lied to his face? Better late than never, I suppose.)
When Porter learns that a man sold a “tall, sandy-haired” guy his motorboat the night of Amanda’s death, he confronts Nolan… who thinks quickly and makes it look like Kenny Ryan bought the boat. Nolan and his shiny suit implore Jack not to go after the remaining Ryan sibling, saying that he’s lost enough to that thuggish family. Jack seems to agree and even hugs Noles, but I’d bet anything that Jack doesn’t believe a word Ross says. Thoughts?
THE REAL DEAL | The Initiative, its past sins and its future plans apparently have evolved from frightened whispers to Grayson family breakfast table conversation. (Way to make me not scared of it anymore at all, Revenge.) Victoria and Conrad think Daniel should sic the international terror syndicate on Aiden to save himself, but Daniel thinks maybe he should trust Mr. Mathis. A lot of Daniel drinking and being petulant and getting played by about 10 different people takes place, but here’s the lowdown: Daniel learns that the Amanda Clarke Foundation is merely someplace for Conrad and Vicky to hide their fortune should another federal investigation freeze their assets. Daniel, disgusted, tells Emily all about The Initiative and his parents’ plans – which gives her An Idea. (More on that in a minute.) Finally, Aiden takes Conrad’s seat on the Grayson Global board of directors. The best moment of all comes when real-life Brit Joshua Bowman has Daniel deliver the word “bloke” as an American doing a terrible British accent. (Watch it again if you have the chance. It’s a triumph, how cheesy he makes Daniel seem. Well played, sir!)
THE FALCON GIVES EM THE BIRD | If Nolan can use Carrion to hack into the Amanda Clarke Foundation’s account, Emily posits, she can destroy the Graysons financially. (As far as revegendas go, it’s a bit under-researched, but it doesn’t involve her mother and/or a Ryan brother, so I’ll allow it.) So she invites her fey pal over for a little funky poaching. It’s all going well until he runs into a firewall he can’t get past; he realizes a “hacker legend” who goes by the name Falcon is working for the Graysons… and it’s the same person who was the lynchpin in their framing of David Clarke. With a clear enemy, Em seems revitalized. “Let’s go hunting,” she says.
Now it’s your turn. Are you wondering what’s going on while Padma’s in a “holding pattern” with The Initiative? Even if you don’t like Declan, don’t you have to admit that Charlotte’s ignoring him was both harsh and out of nowhere? What are your initial thoughts on Eli? And are you as excited as I am that Mason Treadwell is in next week’s episode? Sound off in the comments!