The Righteous Gemstones S3E1 Recap: “For I Know the Plans I Have for You” — Your Kids Are Going to Blow It

Kelvin, Jesse and Judy stand together at the racetrack.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S3E1 “For I Know the Plans I Have for You” (written by John Carcieri & Danny McBride and directed by Jody Hill).

Now that The Righteous Gemstones has established the family’s tendency to get wrapped up in dangerous and damning situations, the first episode of Season 3, “For I Know the Plans I Have for You,” opens in 2000, where the Gemstone empire is already starting to show signs of the lucrative bombast that drives the family in the current day. Tired of the monster truck rally and beer sales, Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles) sneaks away for a cigarette, only to be suddenly accosted by a furious woman we haven’t met yet. However, Aimee-Leigh has, referring to her as May-May before this woman cracks her on the head with a wrench, bellowing about the façade the Gemstones put up in public. A bloodied Aimee-Leigh escapes when May-May (Kristen Johnston) gets struck by a car on the venue. We’re already hitting the ground running with the drama this season with a surprisingly tense and disorienting opening. 

I missed the opening title card for The Righteous Gemstones between the seasons: a zoom out on the title as a chorus sings “PRAISE” before a gigantic neon cross illuminates behind the title and the chorus repeats, now with a few voices in the minor key. It’s bombastic and just a little bit ominous, and it’s great to see it again. 

Now that Eli (John Goodman) has retired, the Gemstone children have taken over the worship services, and it’s not looking good. The siblings openly clash on stage, clamoring for the spotlight, and people have taken notice. That said, it’s refreshing to see that the post-service brunch bickering has not gone anywhere. Same as it ever was, Eli sits in exasperation as his adult children hurl juvenile insults at each other, and it’s hilarious. 

With the Gemstone empire at risk of losing one of their largest benefactors, racing legend Dusty Daniels (Shea Whigham), the unholy trinity of Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam Devine) are forced to work together and pretend to love each other to retain Dusty’s support before the much more openly functional Simkins siblings take it away. McBride, Patterson and Devine continue to share a delightful chemistry that allows them to play off of each other as argumentative siblings in endlessly funny dialogue.

The Simkins siblings exit their vehicle and walk across the tarmac.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

Jesse might act like an idiot, but he’s shown to be a lot more clever than we give him credit for. When he fires one of his subordinates, Walker, after reading out leaked information in a news article about Amber baking sugar cookies, the latter pleads that several people could have leaked that story—until Jesse reveals that Walker was the only recipient of the “sugar cookie” version of the story, thus making Walker the snitch. That’s some Corleone-level chess strategy on Jesse’s part. 

Judy’s back from her tour and being very distant towards BJ, which can only mean one thing: she’s cheated on him. The obviousness of this eventual revelation seems very intentional, as her flustered shunning of her husband, extravagant gifts as she feels guilty, and gaslighting the poor man into thinking he’s at fault for being suspicious, just feed more into the toxicity that Judy seems to have an unlimited supply of. However, it was a pleasant surprise to see Judy break up with her road tour side piece Stephen in favor of her domestic life. 

Kelvin, for his part, has (kind of) moved on from the body-building cult from last season and is now fronting “Smut Busters,” an organization with an extremely suggestive logo tasked with buying out the sex toys from adult shops. He ignores his cohorts’ protests that the shop will simply restock. 

Kelvin’s probably unwittingly either gay or asexual, and frankly I’d be fine with either. As an ace man myself, I feel like the show mines jokes from Kelvin being a dumbass, but avoids putting him down for his sexuality. To boot, Kelvin is, as always, completely oblivious to any of the sexual scenarios he creates/finds himself in. Keefe (Tony Cavalero), for his part, remains obviously deeply in love with his unaware friend. That being said, I’d also be totally on board with the show never revealing Kelvin’s sexuality and keeping the running joke of him being involved in progressively lewder situations without realizing it. 

I’ve brought this up several times, but one element of The Righteous Gemstones that I will continue to applaud is that the show doesn’t disrespect religion, or faith. Sure, it’ll take pot shots all day at the industry of superchurches, and certainly pokes fun at, for example, Kelvin’s likely queerness, but the humor remains focused on the characters and how they interact with each other. 

Jesse and Kelvin stand over a swimming pool.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

May-May reemerges at Eli’s book signing. Eli aggressively rebukes her, having security remove her as she begs for his help, clearly as a last resort. May-May invokes Aimee-Leigh’s name before being dragged away, and Eli, during an audio recording session, realizes that his late wife would have wanted to try to help May-May, despite their bad blood. Speaking of blood, Eli’s decision to hear May-May out results in a huge reveal for us: this seemingly insane woman is his little sister. May-May’s sons have joined a cult, and she hopes Eli can help get them out. 

The episode ends by tying off/building on a number of threads: Judy walks in on her adorably dorky husband enjoying the VR headset she bought him and moves in to kiss him, Eli drives away from May-May to presumably head out to help her, and Jesse’s goons attack Simkins in a parking lot. To what end? I have absolutely no idea what Jesse’s play is here. Meanwhile, the Smut Busters once again barge in on an adult shop and accost its patrons. None of the Gemstone kids seem to be doing anything of actual consequence to carry on Eli’s legacy—on the contrary, all three of them are riding a proverbial bicycle down a steep incline and shoving a stick into the spokes. 

It’s kind of crazy just how much plot mileage The Righteous Gemstones can get from its half-hour episodes and still nail the pacing. There is a ton of setup in “For I Know the Plans I Have for You” and the trouble the family is going to get into this time around, and I cannot wait to see the zaniness McBride and Co. are going to come up with in the coming weeks.

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

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