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True Blood Recap: Meet the Vampire King of Mississippi

Was it just us, or did the first five minutes feel like a three-for-one genre special? Bill flinging a bloody werewolf ear into the sky in a spray of blood? Ripped from the pages of horror movie. Courtly organ music as the vampire king rides in on horseback sporting a crested blazer? Tally ho, period drama. A naked, cursing were-man named Cooter? Okay, that’s classic True Blood. But consider the scene a good primer on what to expect from this episode — camp that veers into farce, mounting sexual tension, new faces, rapid-fire plot development, and a whole mess of histrionics. Oh yeah, and half our cast meets their new love interest! (Sorry, Lettie Mae, better luck next time.)

Welcome to Were Country
Even without the Masterpiece Theater soundtrack and the silk ascot, Mississippi’s vampire king Russell Edgington (played by character actor Denis O’Hare) had a good chance of being the foppiest dude in the Delta. Turns out he’s also the one that hired the biker crew to kidnap Bill.

Thanks to Cooter, who is awfully sensitive about his nickname, we get our first glimpse of the werewolf-to-human morph sequence we’ve been dreading. It went by in a low-budget CGI blur (sulfur-colored contact lenses are the new black) — and looked just dated enough to make us feel like we were watching Charmed.

The king commands Bill to join him at Plantation Photoshop on a hill. Except for the ubiquitous sentinels in black shirts and pants that look like mall security, it’s meant to evoke either the Medicis or the Colonial South. As the king admits, vampire politics are “medieval” and he seems to rule with an even bigger sense of entitlement than the queen. At the house, we meet Edgington’s lover Talbot (interests include: collecting antique beds from Hungarian serial killers and perfecting his cruelty-free blood bouillabaisse).

Bill refuses the king’s offer to make him sheriff of area two (“the world’s only cactus plantation”). If the king’s looking for dirt on the queen of Louisiana, then he’s got the wrong vamp.

By the time the sorbet’s served, Bill’s already pretty worked up. Lorena saunters in and he snatches a lantern off the mantle and flings it at her head. Immolating another guest during the dessert course? Tsk, tsk.
Bite count: one werewolf ear, one stray appendage, whoever drained the volunteers for the “cruelty-free” meal.
Body count: three members of the Fuck You Crew. Possibly Bill’s C-list maker, although we bet they’ll douse Lorena with water just in time to spoil our fun.

Sibling Rivalry
Sam’s baby brother escorts him into the family home at gunpoint, but his biological parents (momma’s a shifter, daddy’s “just regular”) just want to hear that they made the right decision. Tommy and Sam play a few rounds of who-had-it-worse. Tommy grew up with hillbilly redneck ex-felons. Sam’s life was never the same after he started shifting at 15-years-old — an interesting parallel considering that’s when some mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, start.

The brothers decide to go for a run (as dogs, of course). Tommy has a laugh when he sees Sam’s shift into happy-go-lucky collie. He morphs into a snarling pit bull and then the two scamper through the woods until Tommy tries to get Sam run over by a truck. You’re gonna need a rougher spirit animal if you want to survive in this family.

Human Behavior
We’ll ask again: What is it about Sookie Stackhouse? Snoop Dogg is writing her love songs and Eric turns into an awkward teenager — eyes darting every which way but straight — when she stops by Fangtasia to get the story on Operation Werewolf. Sookie tells him not to underestimate her. Eric snaps back, “Don’t underestimate yourself. Your life’s too valuable to throw away.” Could the secret to her “value” be hiding in that folder in Bill’s armoire?

It must be hard to be the only all-human couple in Bon Temps. While she’s stuck in the bathroom with morning sickness, Terry reads Arlene his top ten reasons why she can trust him with her kids. (His willingness to parent someone else’s children bodes well if the baby’s Renee’s.) “No. 1: I’m a nurturer. I found a baby armadill-ah by the side of the road and I nursed it and now it sleeps under my bed.” Aw.

Come to think of it, this was pretty much Terry’s episode. First there was his killer tool belt–and-aviator ensemble — followed by his admirable tracking skills when that biker werewolf (who wanted to nab Sookie in time to watch Let’s Make a Deal) stalks her outside Merlotte’s.

Hey, Jealousy
Jason Stackhouse’s entire identity rests on two things: pleasing the women who fall into his lap and trying to do the right thing. So shooting Eggs and leaving those co-eds unsatisfied is sitting pretty heavy on his conscience. When he sees Andy getting accolades for his heroic deed, Jason starts getting green around the eyes. You poor, sweet, abdominally blessed dimwit. Doesn’t he realize how quickly he’d be vilified if they knew Eggs was only trying to confess?

After a sloppy night at the bar, Andy takes him home in his patrol car. But when the two stop by a meth-lab bust, it’s Jason who makes the collar. Not before seeing a mystery blonde crouching into the darkness (like some kind of animal, eh?). We’ll bet Andy’s generosity lasts right up until he sees how much better Jason fills out the uniform.

Nazi Flashback Theater 3000
The season’s first flashback — a glorious nod to Inglorious Basterds — doesn’t disappoint. The year is 1945 and we’re in Ausburg, Germany. An Allied soldier rescues a feral-looking redhead in the corner. When she turns into a wolf and starts eating his face, Godric and Eric jump down from the rafters in S.S. gear (leather-brimmed caps, heavy trenches, the whole nine). Breathe easy, they’re on our side, just in disguise. In exchange for some of Eric’s blood, the redhead reveals her master is one of them. All signs point to the king.

Once Eric realizes he’s basically left Sookie at the mercy of a gang of “well-funded, highly trained” weres “fueled by vampire blood,” he goes over to Gran’s house and spills the beans. The brand on their necks is a Runic symbol dating back much further than the Nazis. Eric commands Sookie, “You're going to invite me in so I can protect you. Or have passionate primal sex with you.“ Option two! For God's sake, Sookie, PICK OPTION TWO!

When they hear a growling in the darkness, Sookie caves and lets him in. (Nazi allusions aside, the whole thing’s starting to feel kinda Twilight-y, which we were hoping to avoid.) Eric and the wolf start snarling at each other. Sookie whips out Terry’s gun and fires a shot.
Body Count: depends where the bullet ended up.

Cleaning House
Hoyt’s haircut isn’t fooling anybody, least of all himself. He’s one bad night at Merlotte’s away from moving back in with his mama. He comes by Jessica’s with a plan: They can fight their natures together. But unless Jessica gets rid of that body soon, she’s literally going to have a skeleton in her front closet.

While she’s out renting a chainsaw, a stranger breaks into Bill’s house. But we can only see as far as his cowboy boots and jeans. Is it Eric’s foiled kidnapper? He rifles through some drawers until he finds a hidden compartment with a folder. Inside is a Stackhouse family tree tracing Sookie’s lineage, a newspaper clipping from her grade-school spelling bee (she won!), and what looks like surveillance photos. Whoa. Does this mean Bill’s been watching Sookie since she was a child? (Oh, hey there, plot of The Time Traveler’s Wife.) Or was he just doing a background check on his bride-to-be?

Jessica returns from the hardware store too late. Cowboy Boots has already absconded with the corpse.
Body Count: one vanished trucker that will no doubt come back to haunt Bill when it’s least convenient.

Family Ties
Add another job to Lafayette’s lineup: rescuing his hopeless cousin. He catches Tara just in time to make her spit out the pills. Then he drives her over to a clinic to visit his mama, played by Alfre Woodard, a crazy, bigoted old coot who says charming things to her male nurse like, “This is Jesus. He’s a Mexican, but he ain’t rape me yet.” The day trip was a lesson for Tara: There’s some darkness in their blood line — if she doesn’t watch herself, she could end up in the next room.

All the dialogue in this subplot — about the cruel hand of genetics and surviving by sheer will — makes emotional sense. It’s just such a chore to sit through. When you start forcing Lafayette (the show’s Greek chorus and one of favorites) to repeat Buddhist aphorisms, it’s time for an exit strategy. Jesus to the rescue!

And those cowboy boots belong to ... Tara’s new True Blood–swilling partner in crime. A bit of friendly advice: No relationship that starts with confessing suicidal ideations and progresses to beating up guys in the parking lot is going to make you feel better. But then again, Tara’s death wish needs an outlet. And Boots looks like he’s willing to oblige.
Bite Count: We doubt it’ll be long before Tara’s beggin’ to get bit.

Photo: HBO