Wed. Oct 4th, 2023

Photo: Greg Lewis/Paramount+/Greg Lewis/Paramount+

“Truth is the Shrewdest Lie.” I love when they broadcast the thematic crux of the episode loud and clear in the title — the blunt utility of it. It matches the tenor of these “special ops,” wouldn’t you say? That’s “ops” plural, you understand, thanks to that asshole Kyle. This guy done shit-eating-grinned his way through to the completion of this whole Wild West side quest. Is it even a side quest anymore? Right now, it feels like a centripetal illusion wrapped in reality, casting wide, inevitable ripples of regret in all directions.

We open on Cruz the morning after the whole mess in the Hamptons. She doesn’t remember what happened after she was drugged, and straight away, we get to cringe and also kind of laugh inappropriately at Tucker being like, don’t worry, we got there just in time to stop that guy and give him the old Special Op Stomp. “Marine, I wouldn’t bullshit you on this. Now let’s get the fuck out of here.” The uncanny ‘90s action-thriller-on-cable vibe to some of these transition scenes remains a well of perverse entertainment for this millennial viewer.

The ongoing soapy vibes of this whole Kate in the hospital arch? Not so much (no accounting for taste, I reckon), but here’s where it all seems to come to a head. Joe and Kaitlyn arrive at the hospital just in time to get the news from the attending doctor. Kate’s surgery went well; the femur is saved. They’re not sure how it’ll affect her long-term. It also looks like her body rejected the pregnancy, so everyone gets to sigh in relief without offending anyone in America. Joe wants to be there when Kate wakes up. Can she have two hours? “Yeah,” Kaitlyn says. “But you can’t have three.” Ooof, that’s an icy good line. Kidman hits it like a pro.

Not much leading up to this Joe and Kate conversation could’ve prepared me for it being the episode’s highlight, but here we are. Saldaña gets plenty of room to cook, and cook she does. When she gets through to Kate in a way Neil couldn’t in the previous episode, you believe it. On the surface, Joe’s sentiments are the standard fare of, like, a network TV parent teaching their kid a lesson, with a bit of jingoistic bullshit thrown in for good measure, “you are sacrificing your time with me so I can save the country” and all that. But there’s an emotional wisdom behind her words, a simultaneous air of compassion and regret. “Your mom’s a soldier,” she says, almost like she’s holding back the whole meaning of that but expressing it anyway. “Life snuck up and took a bite out of you. And now I’m just here to give you advice.”

Damn, those two hours come and go quickly when you’re a spy with a modern soap opera family. After a quick hug from younger daughter Charlie (did we really need this younger daughter in here?) and an awkward “I love you” / “….I love you too*” (*but I’m only gonna say it after you’ve pointed out that I didn’t say it back initially) with Neil, Joe and Kaitlyn head over to HQ for another spicy brief with Westfield and Kyle. Both men come in incredibly spicy, though, when Kyle argues that actually he didn’t violate U.S. Code 1385 (delimiting their ability to operate on U.S. soil) with his “degree in constitutional law,” Kaitlyn’s the one who brings the real heat. “You keep giving answers to questions he hasn’t even asked, so SHUT THE FUCK UP. When we want to hear you speak, we will tell you to fucking speak.”

But the satisfaction of this verbal spanking is short-lived. Naturally, this smug fuck is going to get his way. It was a risky venture, carried out with reckless abandon on our Texan homeland no less, but the ghouls in command can’t pass this up. They’ve got a make lemonade out of this op for CYA’s sake anyway. Like Westfield says, the intel is actionable. So the behavior, however diabolical, is rewardable. Kyle’s cartel mole’s got ‘em set up with six Islamic terrorist notches they can all add to their belts at a fully surveilled safehouse in San Antonio. For her part in defying Westfield’s authority, Joe gets the bigger slap on the wrist. “Ops are planned here, not on the back of a fucking napkin,” says Westfield, as if that were ever really true.

Next stop: Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio. The team’s already there suiting up and shit (showed up like they owned the place hours earlier, former grunts taking in the spoils of the jet-setting assassin’s life where they can), and straight away, Joe clocks Cruz at the weapon’s bench. What’s she doing here? Can’t have her on the news coming out of a safe house. “I was told there are six targets in this house,” Bobby tells Joe. “With you, we’re just six. What are we in the business of fair fights now?” Nice. The point is, this is a “two-squad job, minimum,” and they need Cruz so they don’t have to rely on San Antonio SWAT to have their back. “It’s not what they do.” So many shots fired at San Antonio SWAT in this scene, dude. Seems aggressive.

Joe reluctantly acquiesces, and Kyle gives everyone the lowdown. Their targets should arrive at the safe house soon, and they’ll hit the house at 4:00 a.m. One four-person team will enter from the front, another from the rear. It’s a capture-only mission, non-negotiable. Or at least it’s supposed to be until they see the targets show up at the safe house with explosive vests in tow. Looks like this waystation might actually be the endpoint for these guys.

So now the plan is to take them all out, quietly, in the safe house. As Kaitlyn tells some lady from the FBI, there is no time to run this up the flagpole, involve Homeland Security, etc. The task is now to neutralize the threat immediately, get the bomb squad in there, then evacuate the neighborhood and detonate the bombs in place.

And that’s pretty much how it all goes down in the next scene, an eerily quiet little nail-biter that showcases how little our crew is in the business of fair fights. Joe and Cruz compete over who’s protecting/proving themselves to whom, and Cruz wins the round for charging a suicide bomber in the safe house, taking him our right before he puts his thumb on the detonator. On the way out, a local police officer lays a “Well played, agent” on Joe. “It’s not a game, sir,” she replies. In her mind, Joe is at a crossroads with her job, the role she’s chosen for herself. But the intel remains actionable — the nagging infernal truth, wrapped in a web of lies. Is it all too little too late?

One special op wraps just in time for the other to come back into view. Cruz needs to re-establish contact with Aaliyah, who is somehow still chillin’ on the beach in the Hamptons. Aaliyah gracefully demands a FaceTime call, and I don’t know about y’all, but this was my first inkling of a romantic interest on her part. “We are Lady and the Tramp, you and I.” Whoa, she’s also outed herself as a Disney adult. That aside, this turn here sure does shed some light on Aaliyah’s actions — her guarded emotional positioning around her engagement and the way she seeks new friends and spars with her assigned friend group. Personal necessity has made her a shrewd operator in her circles, with heightened instincts for both survival and strategic risk-taking. She and Cruz are meeting through a window of opportunity that’s only going to get more volatile for both of them.

• Interesting turn, the way Neil seems to be pulling back from Joe just as she’s ready to draw him back close. He definitely seemed rattled by his little convo with Kaitlyn and certainly wasn’t convinced by her argument that “the nation” depends on his wife. Even when he tells her Joe “still takes his breath away,” he doesn’t seem convinced that’s enough.

• That’s all pretty believable, and the ambiguity of it tracks emotionally. It’s Neil’s reaction to the San Antonio op that struck me more as vague. First of all, I just couldn’t believe that Joe would go all the way back to the hospital without noticing there was blood on her face. Secondly, is Neil really that scandalized by the notion that Joe was part of the San Antonio explosion he sees on the news? “Did ISIS come to Baltimore Joe, or am I married to a fucking hitman now?” Mother fucker, what do you think being in the CIA is? Do you even go here?

• When Westfield says to Kyle, “Down here. I want you close enough that if I yell, you can feel my fuckin breath.” Hahaha … gross.

• Something about Joe holding Kaitlyn’s marriage in high regard really throws Kaitlyn for a loop. “What do you think about becoming a station chief? Somewhere you can take your family? We have to think of something because my marriage shouldn’t be your goal.” I guess that’ll happen when you’re a U.S. intelligence demon married to an American oligarch — a cursed union so emblematic of the whole mad scene as to be painfully obvious and *chef’s kiss* simultaneously. When Kaitlyn arrives home from San Antonio, Harold gives her the all-seeing eye’s cold shoulder. “A little heads up would’ve been nice. Do you know what this has done to oil prices?” But Kaitlyn’s in no mood for work talk. She’s going to have their daughters over for dinner, play house and feel human for a change. Eerie stuff.

#Lioness #Recap #Season #Episode

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *