Last night I was joined in watching Revenge by a friend who’d never seen the show before. As I explained the show’s various relationships and storylines, a couple things hit me: First, in its eight episodes, Revenge has set up a such an interconnected little web of relationships that any two characters entering a room at the same time implies intense drama, which is just good writing. Secondly, last night’s “Treachery” was a classic soap opera—and that is not a complaint. Like a good bartender, last night’s episode skipped all the filler (trimming out CGI and gadgets for once) and expertly stirred up the intrigue.

An amnesiac invalid who is poised to remember a terrible secret, a possible divorce made spicier by accusations of murder, a trashy mystery friend who’s just come to town; these are classic soap elements, but Revenge‘s cello-heavy musical score and restrained direction keeps things just barely classy. Which is not to say we didn’t get to luxuriate in melodrama last night. Madeleine Stowe’s reaction to Frank’s death included an endless full-face close-up and her reaching for a table to steady herself. Tyler concealed himself mere centimeters behind a door frame to eavesdrop when Daniel told his father he was ready to join the family business. And when Nolan revealed to “Amanda” (now Kara—let’s just call her Kara for the sake of clarity) that he knew she’d killed Frank, he gave us this sumptuous glance:

That is one old-school, solid-gold accusatory stare. God I love this show.

Nolan’s infinity edge pool was the perfect holding pen for Kara, who’s hard body is accompanied by a brain soft enough to steal Frank’s car and drive it to the Hamptons. Emily spent most of the episode cleaning up Kara’s mess and stroking Kara’s hair. Seriously, there was a lot of hair-stroking going on this episode; I don’t often stroke my friend’s locks but maybe I should.

If you tried to stroke Declan’s hair you’d pull back a nub—that thick cap of mink he calls a hairstyle has more body and strength than, well, his body. He’s totally making out with Charlotte now, and someone in this world cares, but not me.

Although Tilda was used sparingly this week, her scenes were among the best. She effortlessly converted Ashley into Emily’s new enemy, and I’m in big favor of this—Ashley has more potential as a villain than some cockney Cinderella. And in one of the more dramatically shot scenes of the episode, we saw Tilda retrieve Lydia’s Gala speech from the shredder and piece it together. This was a prop we had seen a couple episodes ago, so its use was logical AND resourceful, and in two wordless shots Revenge transferred everything Lydia knew about the Graysons to Tilda. Seriously awesome way to show us not tell us!!

Jack, at last, has someone appreciating his Johnny Depp-plus-thirty-pounds flavor. Also, way to work in that Emily used to talk about Jack to her former cellmate all the time. So it’s official that Emily hearts Jack, but it doesn’t matter because she’s a borderline sociopath. Yeah, I said it! She’s maintained an intimate relationship with Kara for several years because CCH Pounder told her it would come in handy?

I wish I had CCH Pounder guiding my life, but that’s SOCIOPATHIC. It’s hard to like Emily when the only authentic aspect of her personality is that she’s being a straight-up bitch to Nolan. But I guess weird, wooden emotionless fem-bots who keep their alibis in the fridge (timestamped salmon! What a ticket out of jail) are right up Daniel’s alley, because he’s moving in with her (just ask Kara).

The most sympathetic person in all this angst is Victoria. She’s taking care of her ex-best friend/invalid (who’s mental status is purposefully being kept ambiguous), she’s lost Frank and thrown Conrad out, she’s been abandoned by both of her children, and she won’t even let herself put on some sweatpants. Even while sadly eating a peach at midnight, she’s dressed up in platform stilettos. Although I have to say, Madeleine Stowe wrings more pure emotion out of biting into a peach than any other actress could with a dozen Comedia dell’arte masks and a monologue from Medea. Also, it’s hard to feel bad for someone with such an organized photo room.

In addition to “Treachery” being my favorite episode of Revenge so far, my first time viewer friend has now season-passed the series on his TiVo. Eight episodes in, that kind of power to engage new viewers and loyal fans really says it all.

Questions:

… So you’ve definitely seen this hotness, right?

… Kara’s pre-drink toast: Does anyone know what language that was in?

… Do you like Ashley better as a villainess, or does she need to chill out and be grateful she doesn’t work at Walmart?

… Is Emily a little coo-coo banana curls, emotionally?

… Is “Treachery” your new favorite episode?

… Is Daniel going to start suspecting Emily of hijinks? (That one eye popped open at the end of the episode!)

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