I’ve been confused about my behavior
So, I love that they have continued having the episodes end in Ace’s bedroom with Gus. They do it so well and with slight variations so that it doesn’t seem like a gimmick. Rather, it feels comforting. This week we had Ace getting defensive about his potential attraction to Claire, which is something I’ll talk about shortly. First I want to start with the last line of this week’s episode: “I’ve been confused about my behavior for some time.” (Ace) I thought this was a great last line. It works very well for Ace and his complex emotions between his hatred for Mike and his desire to get revenge as well as his love for the horse racing culture and now you throw in a woman that he seems to have some interest in; it leads to a confused set of emotions and decisions.
While this is obviously a universal thing that all people deal with on some level, it seems to be a major factor for our main characters. Jerry seems to know that his gambling addiction is ruining himself. He doesn’t want to go to far, but he can’t get away from the huge pull of the poker table. Obviously, Leo is psychologically tormenting Jerry with his bluffs and his ability to raise the stakes and make things a one-on-one battle back at his restaurant/lair.
Leon is obviously plagued by the confusion he feels between needing to take care of his own body and needing to make weight. Watching him run in the garbage bag like track suit was somewhat heartbreaking. We also have Walter who seems to be basically crazy in the way he idolizes his horse’s father. His emotions seem to be all over the place. He has an almost crippling nostalgia for his past horse, he has some sort of pride for Rosie being able to win the race, and he is obviously terrified of losing his new horse. I thought he was going to have a heart attack during the race this week. He seriously does not look healthy. It doesn’t help that he sounds like Tom Waits with lung cancer.
That was a kind of ramble-y way to say that Ace’s last line could apply to several characters on the show. As for Ace in particular, I love how vulnerable (this is a relevant term here because we are talking about Ace who has shown almost no vulnerability in front of anybody except Gus) he is around Claire. He is like anyone else who has the beginning sensation of a romantic interest. He tries to make jokes that are terrible (unless money laundering is punch line that lands a lot better amongst millionaires, maybe I just don’t get it). He over prepares for their encounter (he had an entire breakfast buffet prepared and Claire didn’t even want to eat). I thought it was really nice to see Ace reacting the same way that regular people do when trying to be cool around somebody. It was a great way to humanize him. His anger has been the only other visible source of emotion. I thought we might get to see more of his anger when Mike brought op Ace’s grandson, but I guess Ace needs to play it cool so that he can really get revenge on Mike. However that is going to work. I’m still not sure what Ace is planning to do. Am I missing something?
The life of a jockey definitely did not seem glamorous this week. Unless you are Rosie who manages to wow all of the men at the race track with that incredible come back. But for Leon and Ronnie, things just get worse. For both of them, Joey seems to be just about the worst. The way that Joey goes after Leon about gaining weight with no regard for his health is terrifying. I loved how they set-up the climax of that argument at the gate with the bars. It made it much more intimidating. Also, Joey is awful to Ronnie and his addiction. I haven’t spent much time studying the appropriate ways to deal with someone who is battling addiction, but I’m pretty sure belittling them because of their addiction is low on the list of effective strategies. Also, this is probably just because of casting, but Ronnie seems a lot heavier than Leon and no one seems to care. Have you noticed that? It probably just has to do with Gary Stevens and the fact that he isn’t tiny like Leon in the weight category.
This is starting to get kind of long, so I’ll wrap up. I would love to hear your thoughts on Nathan Israel and what Ace has planned for him. It seems like Ace is warming up to Nathan, while still exerting his dominance over him (Nathan still has to write down everything he does in a notebook, but he if he writes what time he takes a dump, Gus is going to slap him in the back of the head). Maybe you should also talk about that amazing montage during the race. I don’t have much to say except, “Wow. That was beautiful.” Also, this episode didn’t seem to have many Milch-isms. Did you notice any that bothered you?
Looking forward to your response!
I’ll totally take your suggestion and start with the mid-point horse montage. In retrospect I worried that is a bit over the top or maybe I was a chump for crying, but I did tear up and I loved every moment of it. I think it was the moment I started to really care about the show – not just think it was interesting or beautiful. But I suddenly realized what the stakes were for everyone involved. It might just be a small sub-culture, but the people involved live and breath for a moment like watching Gettin’ up Mornin’ come back from behind. I loved Rosie’s prayer over-dubbing the race preparation scene – here we see in action how this kind of luck and skill is almost (or not even almost, *is*) religious for the people involved. I loved Walter’s face – his teary eyes are what made me tear up too – the way his entire life seemed to be on the line watching that horse. Then I absolutely loved how all these other characters who’ve never really watched that horse, get taken into the magic of the moment. And it wasn’t just a come-from-behind-to-win-it-all story. For one second everyone at the track was united by the realization that they were in the presence of an extraordinary animal and it brought everyone so much beauty and joy it was contagious. This is what is at stake in the show – this beauty, this joy, this glory that most of the world has forgotten (and digression: but it is fascinating how many movies there have been in recent years about horses – Seabiscuit, Secretary, War Horse. These are all stories about horses that capture an entire country’s imagination. It is almost impossible to imagine that now. So it makes our characters that much more sad. They are the last people left to see this beauty and joy and they are kind of the losers for holding on).
I also loved how as soon as that race was over, Marcus started faking his illness to try and get Jerry back. It was like something in that magnificent horse and the moment of beauty they all shared reminded him that he could not just sit by and watch is friend fall into the pit of addiction and despair. Like an intense religious experience, he was suddenly motivated to go out and save his friend. I also really loved the speech at the hotel about how Jerry isn’t whole. There doesn’t seem to be any judgment there – Marcus even says whoever created Jerry made him that way. In fact, all of our characters aren’t really whole. But maybe together they make a whole. Which is also why the horse those four own and the whole world of horse racing matters so much to them – it is the glue that holds them together.
As for Nathan Israel, I think he is in for the ride of his life. I don’t feel very sorry for him; he seems like a smarmy asshole. And like Gus said, he is going to make out great in all this. Even if he is humiliated and belittled, he is going to earn $1million and end up learning more than most people do in twenty years by working with Ace. We have to assume he is already a bit sketchy in his moral principles to be working for Ace’s firm to begin with. He strikes me as exactly the ass-hole eighth-grader that Ace pegs him as. But since he seems to kind of want to be an asshole, maybe Ace can at least make him an adult asshole. But like you, I still don’t get the end game of Ace’s revenge plan.
I loved your reflections on Ace and Claire. You are absolutely right – it was the most human we’ve seen Ace, trying to impress this lady. And also being deeply confused by his own motives. I wasn’t sure what to make of his speech that sexual attraction has been out of the picture for him for a long time. But it definitely made me realize how vulnerable he must be feeling if he is starting to feel attracted to Claire.
And speaking of vulnerability, we now have two romantic pairs on the scene: Escalante and Jo and Rosie and Leon. It is going to be especially interesting to see what happens with Rosie and Leon if she keeps winning and he keeps struggling just to stay in the game. Though, watching the abuse and starvation the jockeys go through to make weight, it really reminded me of your first observation: why aren’t most jockeys women? I’m sure it is just because it is an all male world that doesn’t want to change – we’ve seen how nearly impossible it has been for Rosie. But I’ll be excited to see more of that.
After this episode, I feel like I am really in the game!