Right from its very first episode, Mistresses has been a gasp-inducing delight. But somewhere, somehow, amidst the steamy shower sex and the fake dead husbands and the unopened paternity test results and the much-discussed “lethal doses of morphine,” ABC’s deliciously tawdry summer soap has proven it’s also got heart to go along with its cojones.
Anyone doubting that sentiment need only have witnessed the penultimate scene of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” in which wonderfully wayward Joss comes to the tearful realization that her big sister Savi is, was and always will be the true mother figure in her tumultuous life.
Still, might I suggest you grab a Kleenex and dab at those “allergy-addled” eyes of yours? Because, after all, this is a recap of freakin’ Mistresses, and earnest tears will not be tolerated. Instead, let’s cut to how “cahoots happened” for our four central characters — and then delve into key questions that loomed as the episode came to its conclusion. (And please forgive me if I’m a tad more pithy than usual, as a nasty summer cold is dragging me lower than Karen’s street-smarts IQ.)
SAVI & JOSS | We open with a flashback/dream of a teenage Savi and little Joss on the beach, as their mother wades into dangerously deep water to try to catch the attention of a lifeguard. When his whistle finally blows, Savi wakes, and the premonition can only mean one thing: Mama Janet (JoBeth Williams) has come to town. (Yes, yes, I know Savi’s slight case of Miss Cleo-itis is big news, but can we talk about the magnificent pairing of her flawless morning cleavage and that chartreuese, brown and blue swirled duvet cover? Whatever deal with the devil Alyssa Milano’s got going, I not only support it, but I covet it, too.)
Sure enough, Janet arrives at Savi’s to find Harry packing up some of his kitchen utensils — and he spills the beans that he’s moved out. Savi, meanwhile, still hasn’t opened her envelope the ominously named Genzide — and Harry’s all, “Click, dialtone, goodbye,” on the phone with Savi when she says she still doesn’t know who’s the baby daddy.
Joss recruits Savi for lunch with Mommie Dearest — I love the waves of antagonism, humor and sisterly love in every Joss-Savi scene, don’t you? — where Janet announces she’s moving to Rio while whipping out a Brazilian flag from her purse. (That trick requires some serious planning for a woman who doesn’t even call a day in advance before she blows into town!) During a late night mother-daughter chat, Savi takes a swipe at Janet for the way she drove away her father by having a baby with another man. “That baby was Joss,” retorts Janet — which I’m pretty sure is a detail we’re hearing for the first time. (Someone correct me in the comments if I’m wrong!)
Joss being Joss, she hijacks Savi’s house the next day and throws a Brazilian-themed farewell party (with Harry on the guest list!), but after one (or three) caipirinhas too many, Janet tries to play the role of marriage counselor and fails in spectacular, Michele Bachmann-on-a-gay-pride-parade-float fashion. She loudly announces that financial trouble and infidelity are the only two reasons for divorce, and then — eyeballing the kitchen that’s the size of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan — discounts the former theory. ”It’s no big surprise that men can’t keep it in their pants!” says Janet, aiming to heal the wounds, then realizing that Harry’s not the one who strayed.
A subsequent confrontation in the yard opens all the old resentments Savi feels toward her mom. ”You never judged me because that would’ve required some attention!” she sighs, recalling the time she had to buy a special necklace for Joss’s 7th birthday because Janet had taken off to Cabo with some random guy. It’s an emotionally raw moment — with Savi finally unburdening some of her youthful baggage, and Janet realizing her flawed version of her history as a parent might need a copy editor. As the scene ends, we see Joss’ face, and have to assume she heard the whole exchange. Poor innocent Joss — a sentiment I never thought I’d type when I started recapping this series!
What’s nice about Mistresses, though, is how familial slights and fights don’t mean that everyone stays mad forever. Janet apologizes to Savi the next morning, going so far as to tell her, “I am absolutely in awe of the woman you have become.” But Savi Full of Guilt doesn’t want to hear it. “A cheater?” she asks. No, says Janet, “A woman of great character who’s facing a mistake.”
Speaking of mistakes, though, Joss — who’d invited herself to accompany mom to Rio and help her get settled in — gets blown off the morning of the trip. Via phone. So that Diego the Bartender can serve as traveling companion. Joss is welling up with tears five seconds into the conversation, and when the click finally comes and the dream of a South American maternal oasis have died, she needs her big sister’s arms to comfort her. “Now I understand why you’ve always been so freakin’ tough on me,” Joss says to Savi. “Becuause that’s what mothers do: Make sure you grow up right.”
Savi responds by going to her purse and getting that damned Genzide envelope. She’s not going to have a relationship with Dom, and she doesn’t want Harry to come back to her solely for the baby, so “there’s no good answer” in the paternity results. “Will you keep this?” she asks Joss. “There’s no one in this world I trust with it more than you.” Oh man, I’m not the only one who cried here, so somebody had better fess up in the comments!
Key questions: How ridiculously good were Alyssa Milano and Jes Macallan this week? And how nice was it to see the Savi-Joss fued finally cleared up? Do we buy that Savi — or any human being — would be able to go for days without tearing open that blasted piece of mail — especially when, in nine months, it’s gonna be abundantly clear if the dad is Savi’s blonde Aussie hubby or her African-American coworker? Also, Joss is totally gonna read the Genzide letter and discuss with April and Karen by season’s end, yes? (Because somebody has to do it!)
KAREN | Karen might just as well toss a Molotov cocktail into her Architectural Digest-worthy home, and another one into her chic psyciatrist office (as long as sexy Jacob’s not in the building), because it would certainly be faster and less painful than the current course to self-destruction that she’s so deliberately plotting, no? The episode opens with her weeping to Savi, April and Joss that Elizabeth Grey knows — and probably knew all along — about Karen’s affair with the ice queen’s late hubby, which has Karen wondering if maybe Elizabeth plotted Thomas’ death. (Joss’ response — “He was gonna die soon anyway,” which makes it not exactly the worst kind of murder — is perhaps the most sensible point made during the entire discussion. Or at least the most hilarious.)
Karen ends up hiring a crappy private detective to determine if Elizabeth is a black widow — umm, given her thriving practice, couldn’t she have found someone whose office didn’t likely reek of three-day-old corned beef and cigarette ash? — and can’t even tell the dude whether the Lady Grey is her friend or foe. (Spoiler alert, Karen: With friends like that…oh, grrrl, you’re already tuning out, aren’t you?) Karen listens to Corned Beef George, who suggests that maybe it’s a good time for her to directly confront Elizabeth, but unbeknownst to her, Elizabeth is meeting with her attorney (Hot Dom). Remember how she wanted Karen to fake her notes to paint Thomas as suicidal — the better to absolve wifey from an arrest for assisted suicide, even if it meant forfeiting Thomas’ multi-million insurance plan? Well now, it looks like Elizabeth fed Karen a dubious date to begin her falsified notes. And — BAM! — as the episode ends, Elizabeth’s attorney slams Karen with a subpoena in a wrongful death suit. (I wish Elizabeth had been been watching the scene play out through a pair of binoculars, then cackled and rubbed her hands together, don’t you?)
Key questions: Why hasn’t Karen gotten a good, solid attorney referral from Savi? Given all her terrible decisions, she probably made a sex tape with Thomas that’ll leak any second, no? And heck, if she’s going down in a blaze of self-induced crises, should she consider a romance with Sam Grey, the only man who might be able to convince Elizabeth not to send her to the poorhouse — or jail, even? Finally, how fabulous was Karen’s teal skirt/turquoise blouse combo at the farewell soiree? (Might as well be handsomely appointed while booking one’s one-way ticket to hell.)
APRIL | April decides that despite her supposed former deceased hubby rising from the dead — and trying to stop his triflin’ baby mama from extorting her insurance money — she’s proceeding with her relationship with Richard, trying to enjoy some of the fun of new love without sucking him into the vortex of her as-seen-on-telenovelas drama. Except that Paul hasn’t left town, and uses Karen to send a message to April: He’s not going back to the swamp her crawled out of till they have another face-to-face. And guess what? When April has another showdown with the creep, it turns out he wants to see Lucy!!! (BECAUSE THAT WOULDN’T BE TRAUMATIC FOR A GRADE-SCHOOL AGED CHILD, NOW, WOULD IT?) (Apologies for the all caps…it just came out like April’s “SON OF A BITCH!”) Later, we leave April as she invites Richard into her (gorgeously furnished) home for a game of “Let’s Talk About Ex” (not a Salt-n-Pepa song). Let’s hope that truth bomb doesn’t immolate all the adorable chemistry building between our happiest Mistresses couple.
Key questions: Raise your hand if you let out some kind of holleration when April stops Paul in the doorway and hisses, “I didn’t invite you in”! (BURN!) If you were in April’s shoes, would you spill the full story to Richard? And what’s the best way for our home-furnishings gooddess to hang on to her store, her home and her child — without anyone learning that her idiot hubby’s alive and asking for a refund on the insurance money?
Quotes of the Week
“If somebody’s rockin’ a killer pair of Tom Fords, I take notice.” –Joss, explaining how Elizabeth could’ve uncovered her husband’s affair simply from finding Karen’s shades
“I’m like a dog who knows when an earthquake is coming.” –Savi on her ability to predict her mother’s infrequent visits
“So you’re a homeless lesbian with a crappy job and a withholding older sister? Fill me in over lunch!” –Janet, after getting the Cliff’s Notes version of Joss’ latest adventures
“Y’know, this game’s not bad when you’re just a little drunk.” –Richard to April, re. playing hide and seek with their daughters
OK, for the NINTH straight week, I’ve passed the 1,000-word count on an article about FREAKIN’ MISTRESSES! Let me turn it over to you: What’d you think of the show this week? What key questions do you have? Sound off in the comments! And follow me on Twitter for all my recaps, commentary and exclusive clips!
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