The Righteous Gemstones S3E7 Recap: “Burn for Burn, Wound for Wound, Stripe for Stripe” — It’s an Abduction, You Dumbass

Eli Gemstone sits solemnly in his living room.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S3E7 “Burn for Burn, Wound for Wound, Stripe for Stripe” (written by John Carcieri, Jeff Fradley & Danny McBride and directed by Danny McBride)

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Wow, a lot goes down this week. Not unlike last season’s “And Infants Shall Rule Over Them” in the hospital as Eli recovered from an attempt on his life, “Burn for Burn, Wound for Wound, Stripe for Stripe” is one of the most exciting, hilarious, and compelling episodes of the season.

We open on Judy loudly entering a pharmacy to get something for BJ’s injuries following his brawl with Stephen. Driving back home, Judy is distraught, not even feeling sorry for herself at this point and just angry at herself for the choices she’s made and the damage it’s done to her marriage.  

The Redeemer shows up behind Judy at a stoplight, before the monster truck starts to crush her car and she’s forcefully abducted. Elsewhere, Kelvin is at Keefe’s woodworking shop, knocking at the door attempting to reconcile with his friend, before he too is kidnapped by masked assailants. Finally, Jesse is confronted by Chuck in the Gemstone parking garage. Jesse seems to catch on quickly, pulling a gun on his cousin before being subdued and tranquilized. 

All three of the abductions are suspenseful, and I think McBride, as this week’s director, really has a skill at balancing suspense and humor. As soon as the Gemstone siblings are reunited in the silo on the Montgomery compound, they begin to bicker with each other, and it’s as funny as ever. 

Jesse Gemstone steps out of his car in the Gemstone parking garage.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

When Peter, Chuck, and Karl visit the bound Gemstones in the silo, Peter and Chuck mock and laugh at the siblings, but Karl seems to be not entirely on board with imprisoning his cousins. Karl has consistently shown to be more loving towards his extended family, and it’s likely he will be a key player once things finally come to blows. 

I loved the scene where Eli confronts May-May over the hostage situation, and May-May, unaware of the situation, takes offense to Eli’s claims and decides to leave. Eli coldly rebukes her as law enforcement rolls up. However, in their next scene there isn’t any elaboration on this interaction and I would have liked to see a little more of Eli and May-May clashing over how they feel about their respective children, as well as Eli essentially keeping May-May incarcerated on the Gemstone compound, but in a half-hour episode, I know things need to keep moving. 

In what has to be one of most abruptly hilarious moments of the season, Baby Billy and Tiffany storm into the house, launching a wailing Baby Lionel in his stroller down the hallway out of frame. Aunt Tiffany has fashioned weird dolls of the kids, and Baby Billy is fixated on Bible Bonkers still getting picked up in case Jesse dies. Also of note here, Gideon and Amber dismiss Keefe from helping, but BJ insists he stay, calling them family on account of Keefe being Kelvin’s friend. 

It’s not remotely surprising that Jesse, Judy and Kelvin being forced to lead a church service for the cult does not go well. The siblings’ dysfunction, as well as their failure to inherit their father’s charisma in preaching, is plainly obvious in their embarrassing performance. This lets Steve Zahn as Peter deliver another terrific monologue about fear, and the uselessness of Daddy’s money were they to be bitten by the snake. 

Members of Peter's cult sit together.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

That speech against money is surprising, though, given that Peter is ransoming the Gemstone kids for $5 million each, and that he is absolutely furious when Eli refuses to pay up at May-May’s suggestion. Peter’s frustration also lends credence to May-May’s claim that he doesn’t actually intend to hurt his niblings. Although one of Peter’s cult members floats the idea of killing one of the Gemstones, I’m still not entirely convinced that he himself would go through with it. 

I was hopeful last week that the siblings would eventually reconcile, and sure enough, they do here. Granted, it’s in their weird, messed up way of interacting, but in calmly debating who would be executed and why, they end up admitting that they love each other. The scene is yet another example of how, as raunchy and vulgar the show can be, it’s also capable of genuine sweetness. Trapping the siblings together in the silo makes for some excellent scenes of them just airing out their grievances at each other, and finally coming together. 

I thought for sure my theories about May-May were confirmed with how suspiciously she was acting this week, especially as she watched the family pray together for Jesse, Judy and Kelvin to be released safely, but it turned out that she was getting on the phone with Karl to help the Gemstone kids escape. The siblings sit alongside each other on the bed, softly singing along to the gospel song and expecting one of them to be killed once the service is over. However, when the door opens, it’s May-May and Karl there to liberate them. 

I think it’s notable that Peter, once he’s caught his prisoners again, is unable to shoot May-May, directing Chuck to do it instead. Chuck himself hesitates as well, asking his father in disbelief if he’s supposed to shoot mama. I think at this point Peter is beyond redemption, but I’m holding out hope for Chuck. But regardless of whether or not Chuck was going to end up shooting May-May, Gideon rolling in to interrupt with The Redeemer was an awesome moment, as was his subsequent destruction of Peter’s compound.

With everything else going on this season, my biggest concern is how the Gemstone kids will react to Peter framing Eli’s refusal to pay the ransom as him not caring about them. I don’t know how much bearing that will have in the final two episodes (which will air consecutively next week), but I have no doubt that whatever happens in the finale, it will be eventful. 

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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