Ray Donovan S6E8 Recap: Who Once Was Dead

At the end of last week’s episode, “The 1-3-2,” Ray Donovan was laying in the middle of his living room, hungover and beaten to a pulp. Ray is loyal to those who deserve it, and yet he had sold out his boss, Sam Winslow, as well as Anita Novak, the woman running for mayor of New York that Ray has taken a liking to. The walls keep closing in on Ray this week with “Who Once Was Dead.”

The episode begins within the subconscious of Ray, who is standing in a pristine stairwell that climbs ever upward. The sound of classical strings attempts to find its way through a soundproof wall in Ray’s head. Ray looks above, wondering what might await him up there. He walks into a bedroom where Bunchy is in a uniform, speaking without a Boston accent. Mickey is in a fancy high-rise office, looking clean-cut in a suit, justifying all of his selfish behavior. 

We’re here for a good time, not a long time, and Mickey is making the best of both. The images and voices in Ray’s head all reach for what might have been, until he wakes up. 

Samantha’s new fixer is standing over Ray. Before Ray can explain his actions from last week, this messenger demands the keys to Ray’s apartment, his car, and oh yeah—that three million bucks that has been floating in the ether for much of the season. Ray responds with a “f*ck you,” which is answered by a glass bottle broken over his head.

Two-hundred miles away in South Boston, Bunchy is running down a city street, in pursuit of Aunt Sandy. He steals a bike to keep up with her, then flies through her back window when she halts at a stop sign. Undeterred, almost unfazed, Bunchy calls her a f*cking c*nt and wrestles her into the backseat of her car, demanding the whereabouts of the three million dollars she stole from him and Mickey. Darryl finally catches up to this fracas, having no clue what is going on. Sandy wants to know how in the world Bunchy found her. “Divine intervention.” Hard to argue with that.

Left to his own devices, Terry returns to the bar from last week where the brawl went down. I failed to mention last week that Abby’s niece was the bartender, encapsulating every look, feel, and accent of Paula Malcolmson. I thought it was a subtle nod to the most significant casualty of the series so far, but forgive me Father, for I have sinned. Terry didn’t return to the bar to drink, Terry returned because he wanted to live out his lost, lingering fantasy of holy matrimony with Abby by bedding her niece. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Ray’s own brother was infatuated with his wife, and Abby’s niece obliges Terry and we viewers for a visceral, sexual reminder.

Bunchy trashes Sandy’s apartment and demands to know where the money is, which is safe and sound in the refrigerator. Sandy only spent twenty grand of it on a gift for Maria. Right. Sandy begs, pleads, and cries for Bunchy to bring her back to Long Island. Bunchy calls Theresa and wants to make all in the world right. He wants to give all the money to his ex-wife and their daughter — a selfless act to atone for all of his bad decisions. The problem is, the money was never his to begin with. Before Bunchy can drive away, he wants to know if Sandy was telling the truth about Maria’s gift. Bunchy opens the bedside drawer, and right next to a pink studded dildo, I’ll be damned, is a velvet case holding a silver chain inscribed to Maria.

Elsewhere in Boston, Terry is living out his earthly fantasies with Abby’s niece, absolutely killing the vibe by muttering, “I love you, Abby,” in the middle of intercourse. The deed is done, and Terry wants to take things a step further. He is headed back for fight night in New York, and wants his new female companion (who is half his age) by his side while he continues to show everyone he’s still got it. Abby’s niece is a little more realistic, owning up to the fact this was a mere act of platonic experimentation. Abby’s niece pries into Terry’s subconscious, while they wonder how life would have panned out if Abby had chosen another Donovan. Both participants seem able to accept the incredibly awkward and fleeting fun for what it was.

Alright. Deep breath. I don’t believe for one second that Mickey Donovan could have escaped the cops on foot last week, but here he is at Aunt Sandy’s house, seeking refuge at the only safe place he can think of. He grabs a bottle of liquor, pulls off his ridiculous wig and mustache, and heads down memory lane. A box full of his brother’s personal effects from ‘Nam is still taped shut, and he pulls out item by item to remember the long-lost Cormac Donovan. A dog tag hanging around Mickey’s neck pits his brother’s legacy of service against his own eight decades of selfish BS.

If Mickey hadn’t spent so much of his life in jail, a spin-off series following him around the sixties, seventies, and eighties would be MONEY, amirite?

Ray picks himself up off the floor, showers, and takes a long hard look in the mirror at his bruised and battered face. He packs up his life in a few suitcases and traces that three million dollars in Boston that he’s going to need to pay Samantha back. He calls up Lena to fetch it, and she tells him to get screwed. Ray has ruined her relationship with Justine, and she’s done being his gopher. Ray looks up at the TV to see Anita claiming she had nothing to do with the orchestrated Central Park attack. Everywhere he looks this episode, he will be reminded of the pain he has caused. Before the self-flagellation, Emerson Lake knocks on his door.

Emerson is still a bit of a mystery to us viewers. He’s got Mac wearing a wire, and he really wants to nab mayor Ed Ferrati and link him to the cops. Ray needs more time to produce hard evidence against the mayor, and Emerson isn’t budging. If Ferrati isn’t exposed soon, Ray’s best buddy Mac will be going down with the ship. I can only guess Emerson will be Ray’s ace of spades this season, but I could also be dead wrong. It might be Mac, after all, who is nowhere to be found this week.

Bridget reports for her internship at the Novak campaign, and quickly realizes she has been terminated. Ray’s dirty deeds from last week are still rippling outward in the Donovan pond. His actions have real consequences, and sometimes in this series, consequences are white-washed with a rapidly moving plot. Not this time. Bridget puts Anita on the spot, wanting to know if her termination has anything to do with her father: “Did you sleep with him?” What do you think, honey? Bridget walks out of the office shattered, wanting, yet failing to carve out her own identity. She heads to the bar to lick her chops and down two shots of Johnny Walker black. Like father like daughter.

I’m still waiting for Bunchy to not make the wise choice this season. He is headed back to New York with Aunt Sandy and Darryl in the back seat. The back window of Sandy’s car that Bunchy flew through is now covered by a trash bag. Classy! Note the bewildered look on Pooch Hall’s face, in utter astonishment of Aunt Sandy’s chatty nonsense. 

Ray tracks down Sam Winslow to plead his case. He’s going to fix all of this, and most importantly take down Mayor Ferrati and ensure that Sam secures that precious land where the Arthur Kill prison stands. Ray promises it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Once he sorts this all out, he still thinks Anita can be elected mayor. Sam will have none of it, demanding her three million back, today btw, and then for Ray to get the hell out of town. Good luck, Mr. Donovan!

Time out. Taking an eagle-eyed view of this season, I’m not entirely certain of what Ray is fighting for. Why wouldn’t he pay his debts and just leave town? What does he have to prove? What does he have left to lose? His best buddy, Mac? I need Ray Donovan, if not Ray himself, to send me a few signs here so I can invest in something along with the protagonist, other than simply defying the odds and kicking ass. God knows he’s incapable of forcing or convincing any of his family to love him.

The dominoes continue to fall anyway. A few weeks ago, Ray was suggesting to Lena to take her old girlfriend, Justine, out to a nice dinner and rekindle a lost love. She seemed like a nice girl, but Ray paid her to have sex with a vulnerable member of the press, and to then pose as an assault victim to make Anita Novak look like a hero. Now, Justine is a public disgrace, exposed as a fraud. Sam has her new fixer arrange an apparent suicide, when Ray finds her hanging in a shower. Aside from Ray’s own guilt, Lena indicts Ray over the continued pain he is bringing upon everyone he loves. She reminds him that Conor joined the Marines to escape his wrath, and that every other Donovan wants nothing to do with him. She reminds Ray he will die alone, and that he deserves it. Lena storms out, but not after promising to avenge Justine’s death and kill Sam Winslow.

Look on the bright side, err, the laptop, Ray. That three million dollars is returning to you like a boomerang, headed back to New York. 

Bunchy, Darryl, and Aunt Sandy return to Sandy’s house in Long Island, where Mickey is waiting with a gun. Why he doesn’t kill Darryl and Sandy when they walk into the living room is beyond me. Mickey announces, “I should kill the both of you’s,” but would rather lay a guilt trip on them both, reminding Darryl that the last thing he would ever do is rat on his own family.

The razor-thin line that separates Mickey and Ray this season runs right through this scene, because just outside on the street, Ray has traced his money to the car Bunchy is sitting in. Bunch pleads with Ray to let him keep the money, but Ray kicks the crap out of his own brother and leaves him lying in a pool of blood. At least one of Ray’s problems looks to be solved…

The Lord continues giving and taking from the Donovan’s. Terry is back at fight night, getting his head beaten to a pulp by a giant Englishman. He cranks up that pacemaker attached to his brain, and laughs like a maniac before receiving the knockout punch, erasing his perfect record.

After Ray returns the money to Sam, Bridget calls. She summons him to the bar she has been at all day and lets him have it. She wants a career, a life of her own, and a healthy family life. She will never get that with Ray’s shadow looming over her. Psst, Bridget, you will probably also not get all that by marrying that halfwit drug dealer, Smitty. Ray hugs Bridget goodbye, and for a moment, sees a vision of Justine. The lingering thought of Ray’s selfishness killing his own daughter is too much for him. He lumbers out of the bar, in absolute denial. The flashing lights of Times Square overwhelm him. He sees visions of Natalie James, the young starlet he was involved with last season, and then Justine wandering through the crowd. He is right back at the top of that building he jumped off last season, at least mentally and spiritually, with a whole lot of blood on his hands.

After collapsing to the ground, Ray sees himself as a policeman, whom he attacks, then returns to the same dreamscape that commenced the episode where he continues second-guessing his entire existence. Ray wakes up chained to a bed in a mental hospital, accompanied only by the sound of a deranged young woman singing a solemn hymn next door. Wherever we go from here, it’s hard to imagine a happy ending.

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Written by Brad Dukes

Brad is the author of An Oral History of Twin Peaks and China Beach: A Book about a Tv Show about a War. He is a contributing writer for 25YL

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