That's what I'm talking about. A summons from Guillermo means Nancy needs to ditch her new full-time bodyguard, Cesar. She visits Guillermo, taunts him about prison rape, and then he explains to her that -- without a ring on her finger -- she's going to end up in a landfill. Realizing that the baby isn't really half the ace in the hole she thought he was, Nancy makes post-mortem arrangements with Dean Hodes and attempts to piss off Esteban enough to kill her ahead of schedule by getting drunk, smoking cigarettes and eating sushi, informing the chef that she jumped off a bridge when she was ten.
Esteban responds by demonstrating for Nancy that she is not in control of their arrangement -- or her own body -- in this or any other way. It's a comment on how far gone she is that she actually thinks they're doing it, and doesn't realize she herself has been raped until about ten seconds after he's slapped her ass and left. Suddenly, prison sex isn't so funny. This is what you call rock bottom.
In other news, Celia has taken to organizing Rudolfo's revolutionary weaponry by caliber and blade length, and ends up begging to stay with him in Mexico, while Silas and Doug are ambushed in the national park by a sexy dude who takes their pot but lets them live. And up in the Oakland Hills, we finally meet Jill Price-Gray, Nancy's amazing sister. It's wonderful enough to watch Mary-Louise Parker act each week, but seeing Jennifer Jason Leigh riffing on it is even more delightful. I cannot wait to see them together. So Andy and Shane are entertained by Jill, her unappreciative husband Scott, and their spooky twin daughters. Eventually, of course, Andy and Jill get afternoon-smashed and do it, calling out the names of their respective underappreciators, and since Shane's apparently still working on becoming Jack the Ripper, he takes some phone video.
Next week: Everybody returns to Ren-Mar HQ to create lives for themselves after this little failed jumpstart, and the season proper begins. While the act that proceeded it was, needless to say, unforgivable, I think the slap on the ass was a good thing: at the least, we won't be dealing so directly with Nancy's self-destructive tendencies for a few weeks. She's now officially out of illusions.
Which will be welcome rest, especially considering the dizzying way this episode puts gender in a paint can and makes an insane milkshake out of basic gender facts -- pregnancy, rape, breasts -- until nobody knows who's on top anymore. What's more daring than being "daring" is simply presenting the truths: Nancy's power resides in her Caucasian femininity, which is most powerfully expressed through this pregnancy. She parlays this into a power play by questioning both Guillermo and Cesar's masculinity, only to have the empowerment and survival factor of her pregnancy/femininity taken away first by Guillermo and then by her own daredevil tendencies. Then -- while Celia/Rudolfo, Jill/Andy and Silas/Doug perform their own complicated gender dances, north and south of the border -- Esteban reasserts his masculine primacy in the grossest way he can (followed up with A Camp's "Love Has Left The Room," in case you were thinking this was meant to be a grey-area occasion), which is the only avenue he feels is available to him, which is why prison rape happens to begin with.
All of which subtext, and even the point of the episode, is lost because the writers forgot one simple fact: viewers are so intrinsically excited about getting self-righteous whenever rape is mentioned or implied that their brains stop working, trivializing the entire concept for their own propaganda and taking on the brutal history of the word to make themselves feel like heroes. God forbid somebody use the word "retard" next week and we can have another conversation about how defending the story is not defending the acts in the story. But it's also fascinating because, in all the years of this show, we've never really gone into Nancy's side of the family, her childhood, or exactly how fucked up she was before she even married Judah. Looks like we're going to take that black box apart this season, and I can't wait. I've always wanted to understand her.
When Nancy comes downstairs in her flowy shirt, there's a gun on the kitchen table next to Cesar. Nancy feels caged. Everybody's gone, it's just supposed to be her, and there's Cesar looking hard and bored with a gun. She asks what he wants, and he says he's just there to keep her company. She assures him that she doesn't need company, but he thinks Esteban would disagree. She calls Esteban immediately from inside the cage and tries to get her control back: flirting, humor. "I never imagined I'd say this in real life, but: Call off your goon. Call me, we need to talk." There's barely a quaver in her voice. You'd have to be looking for it.
No answer immediately forthcoming, she asks Cesar to level with her: Is he her bodyguard? Is he her killer? What's Esteban going to do, where's his head at? She can't strategize if she doesn't know where Esteban's head is at; she needs definites and definitives if she's going to figure this one out. She's Houdini: stick him in cuffs, tie him in chains, drop him in the lake and he's fine. Leave him in the desert, all alone, and he's a goner. Nothing to push against, nothing to use. Cesar tells her nothing; no definites and no definitives. Uncertainty is a cage. He doesn't evince entirely a lack of enjoyment. "You look a little green," he says; he suggests ginger.
Nancy leans against the windowsill and stares out at the patio furniture: a little Jesus bobblehead, like Guillermo used to spy on her, that disastrous day she tried trafficking. It's a sign and a signal; she doesn't know what it means because it doesn't matter what it means. He burned the world for her; he hates her now. It's something to push against. She smiles at it, watching her from the table, and picks it up: "I Miss You, Blanca. Come See Me Now." He'll have facts. And if he doesn't have facts, he'll at least fight with her. And if he doesn't fight with her, he'll still be in a cage. She can go look at him.
"Fire has always been and, seemingly, will always remain, the most terrible of the elements." -- Harry Houdini
Cesar shakes his head at the bobblehead and she gently ribs him about what he terms his "selective" religious stance. The whole Thou Shalt Not Kill thing, for example. "And I support gay marriage," he says. It's a punchline but it's also a fact. She can use it later. She's barely thinking about him; she's thinking about getting free of the immediacy of him, the oppressive existence of Cesar that pulls her thoughts off-base and makes it hard to deal, and how to go see Guillermo in jail. In the cage where she put him, how she can go look at him in it, without Cesar coming along to ruin everything. Distractedly, she claims to have errands -- "mani-pedi, stretch mark cream" -- but of course he has her keys. He's there to keep her company.