The Righteous Gemstones S3E8 Recap: “I Will Take You by the Hand and Keep You” Is All About Forgiveness

Jesse sits at a restaurant table.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S3E8 “I Will Take You by the Hand and Keep You” (written by Scott MacArthur, Danny McBride & Edi Patterson and directed by Jody Hill). 

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.

After a very Jody Hill-esque opening reuniting the Gemstones in the hospital after being rescued last week, things are pretty much back to normal in The Righteous Gemstones S3E8, “I Will Take You by the Hand and Keep You.” Almost immediately, Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam DeVine) confront Eli (John Goodman) on his choice to refuse to pay their ransom, on account of Eli banking on finding the good man he once saw in Peter (Steve Zahn). They’re having none of it: berating him repeatedly, loudly accepting Karl (Robert Oberst)’s apology, and looking in any direction that isn’t that of Eli. Writing and performing immature adults is a skill that these three are exceptionally good at, as we’ve seen time and time again. They might not be ready to forgive Daddy, but much of this episode is spent with them reconciling with their own loved ones. 

Eli and May-May (Kristen Johnston) get an excellent exchange in which Eli apologizes for the hurtful things he said to her before she risked her life to rescue his kids. May-May counters that they’ve always had a tendency to be prickly towards each other, to “not blow smoke up each other’s butts,” and Eli pulls her into a hug. The Righteous Gemstones is one of my favorite comedies, but what really makes it sing is the dramatic and emotional moments that give our characters depth. 

Peter is clearly losing control of his cult, who are at the point of openly disagreeing with and ridiculing him. Transporting the U-Haul filled with explosives with his convoy, a pit stop finds Peter and one of his more frustrated followers, Marshall (Sturgill Simpson), get into an immature screaming match over who is more of a woman. Leading the group in prayer, Peter continues to not-so-passive aggressively assert his role. It’s funny to see that Peter, who in the past was so meek, is now just as immature as Jesse’s default mode. After relocating once again, this time beneath a highway, Marshall takes control of the militia and ejects Peter and Chuck (Lukas Haas), and they set off in the U-Haul. 

Chuck and Marshall stand behind Peter as he stands at works at a bench.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

Sitting together in the bathtub, BJ (Tim Baltz) tells Judy that when she was captured, he would pray to God that he would strive to be a good husband if he ever saw her again, and wonders if he wasn’t enough for her. Judy counters that he is the best husband—more than enough—and fully owns up to getting lost in the glamor of being a star, and BJ forgives her. They pledge to always have each other’s backs, and then, in what is clearly just par for the course for how they make up for things, get into some very upsetting and hilarious roleplay right there in the bathtub.

It’s hard to pick a favorite relationship in the show, but Kelvin and Keefe (Tony Cavalero) are up there. Keefe’s always been a highlight for me: his strange physical mannerisms and hand motions, his style of speaking, and his blistering sexual tension with Kelvin of which the latter is completely oblivious make him one of the most disarmingly hilarious characters. As Keefe gives his friend a massage, they illustrate the importance of communication; Keefe was under the impression that he had simply been pushed aside for Taryn (Maggie Winters), and his relieved smile when Kelvin apologizes and says he’s not dating her and prefers to lead the youth group with Keefe is just so sweet. 

Finally, we’ve got Jesse apologizing to Amber (Cassidy Freeman) for the hurtful things he said to her regarding The System, her marriage counseling service. He admits that he was afraid of losing attention and having to “share the stage.” This might be the sweetest of the reconciliations this episode, because Jesse is by far the least likely to actually admit he was in the wrong. Of course, it’s still Jesse, so he does make enough time to throw in some swears and insults, including referring to Eli as a “money-hungry bitch.” 

Eli sits in the office of his children.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

Gathering his siblings at the restaurant they usually attend with everyone else post-Sunday service, Jesse continues to lambast their father for refusing to pay the ransom, claiming that he only cares about the money. It’s a meandering monologue, but his goal here is to tell his siblings that he wants them back as a unified trio for their first church service since getting rescued. Kelvin and Judy agree to come back, and, in a breakthrough and a callback to the season’s first episode, hold hands. They all agree it feels incredible (maybe a bit too incredible for Judy, who reliably has yet another crass comment to cap the scene). 

Eli sits before his children as they berate him for his refusal to pay their ransom. Eli states that he only cares about the money insofar as it supports the kids, because they are the most important to him in his life. When they roundly reject that claim, he praises that they’ve united with each other, and even if they hate him, the fact that they hate him together makes him happy. He exits the room, leaving the kids extremely confused over who “won” the argument. 

The biggest moment comes just before the Gemstones start the church service, with Jesse and Judy kissing their spouses, while Kelvin briefly rests his head against Keefe’s before heading down the hallway. But then—Kelvin kisses Keefe! He turns around and kisses him on the lips! Even better, the reactions from Judy and Jesse seem less like surprise, and more like “It finally happened!” The siblings emerge on stage before a roaring crowd, with Jesse excited that they can “play the victim” following their kidnappi—excuse me—abduction.  

As the ATF descends on Marshall and the militia courtesy of a phone tip from Peter, images of them slapping cuffs on the militia, tasing them, and breaking them apart are visually juxtaposed nicely with the Gemstones once again joining hands in front of the church, united with each other. If there was any suspicion that Eli was being facetious when speaking to his kids in the meeting, the look of joy on his face as he watches them lead the congregation confirms that he was sincere. Meanwhile, Peter and a clearly worried Chuck continue to drive the explosive-filled U-Haul towards the church. The finale is going to be a big one. 

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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