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True Blood Season Premiere Recap: Picking Up What Pam’s Putting Down

Bon Temps is like one big bad luck machine, endlessly assembling a little more trouble than its residents can bear. It's been eight months for us, but mere seconds for our fang-banging friends, and still everyone's the worse for the wear. Bill’s getting carved up in the backseat of a Beamer. Sookie never got a chance to say yes. Jessica’s trying reanimation techniques. Sam’s searching for his maker. Tara’s distraught. Lafayette can’t console her. Eric’s being questioned by the magistrar. And Jason can’t sex his way out of this one.

The hour went by in a blur of action, hamstrung by some catch-up Q&As on last season. All told, the premiere was a reminder that when done right, True Blood's bag of tricks — dream sequences that read like fan fiction, biting social satire played with sitcom timing, gross out gore, id-channeling sexcapades, camp to shame John Waters — can make for a rollicking hour of television, especially when anchored by pathetically human emotions like loss, guilt, regret, and fear. Plus, thanks to Andy Bellefleur, we already have a new motto for the summer: "Conscience off, dick on, and everything gonna's be alright."

Search Party
Sookie’s enlisting everyone she can to find Bill’s kidnappers, but even the sheriff’s office is all judge-y about why she let him sweat for a minute after he proposed. She makes her way over to Fangtasia in no mood for Pam’s “lesbian weirdness” and, oh my, it’s Eric’s naked backside.

“Sookie,” he says without turning his head from the club’s newest Estonian import Yvetta (Playboy cover girl Natasha Alam), in flagrante (and in chains). Unphased by the full frontal, Sookie demands that Eric tell her where exactly he was six hours ago — basically setting up him for a joke about Bill’s stamina. Eric says it wasn’t him (in fact, his kidnappers got there after the cops showed up.) He offers to help her find Billl “even if I do want what is his,” then gives Sookie’s lavender number a heavy-lidded onceover. This time, she has no comeback.

Address in hand, Sam’s headed to Arkansas to try to find his biological family. While he’s rifling through the phone book, a shirtless Bill knocks on his motel door in need of a shirt and shower, and asks if Sam wants to join. “I hear the water in Arkansas is very hard.” Woah ... what the ... will they ... damn it, another dream sequence. We can’t have been the only ones who suddenly found Bill gobs more attractive. In any case, Sam follows the brother he never knew home from the chop shop. Careful, it doesn’t look like your folks want to be found.
Booty count: One thwarted (potentially explosive) shirtless dream kiss. One shower scene denied. One act of voyeurism. One playmate, in the dungeon, with a vampire. (Cross-promotional deal with the makers of Clue?)

Denial
Eric has bigger problems than his crush on Sookie or whether Bill knows that he and the queen are in cohoots to sell V. The queen stops by Fangtasia (dressed like a nouveau riche Muscovite) with the magistrar. Judging by the amount of V on the black market and the fact that no vampires have been reported missing, the magistrar’s onto the fact his own kind is supplying the trade. Eric and Zeljko Ivanek as the magistrar do their part admirably, but no one needs special powers to tell that queen is lying when she says she’s not involved. Evan Rachel Wood was so good in Thirteen. What happened?

After the magistrar leaves, she tells Eric the best way not to get caught is to quickly unload the merchandise. Besides, she needs to pay off some back taxes. Seems like an awful lot of bureaucracy to contend with for the undead. Couldn’t she just glamour the IRS agent?

Jessica finds a bouquet of flowers waiting for her on the verandah. Too bad she has to deal with the half-dead trucker she dragged home from the rest stop first. She tries to revive him with her blood. Too late, the corpse is already starting to stink.
Bite count: One — Jessica biting herself.
Body count: One misogynist trucker. Crossing our fingers that the queen’s next.

Anger
When we catch up with Bill, he’s trapped in the backseat of a getaway car with some pretty kinky redneck bikers who don’t waste any time carving him up for hits of his blood. “Oh shit,” says their leader, “I got vamp-er juice on my touring gloves.” When the guy in the front can’t reach, one of the fellows in the back spits some in his mouth. There’s something not quite human about their appetites, although in general we do appreciate the symmetry of bloodsuckers being fed on for their blood.

We don’t get any clues about who hired the “Fuck You Crew,” but while they’re high and unhinged, Bill escapes and finds an old lady to refuel with. Nice try, but just because her grandchildren don’t call her and he “glamours” her into thinking they did, doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. Shoving cash in her hand on his way out the door made it even more parasitic. With Grandma’s help, Bill figures out he’s in Mississippi (cue the howling) and it isn’t long before he’s surrounded by a pack of snarling wolves. The same guys from the car, but transformed?

Hey, did you know a vampire can summon any other vampire they’ve sired with a quick shudder, followed by a nausea-induced-GPS to their last known location? Us neither! Jessica uses Bill’s call to her to track him down to that crashed car, where she runs the dead biker’s neck tattoo through some symbology app on her smartphone. Turns out it’s the sign for “Operation Werewolf” (in real life, a Nazi propaganda force operating behind enemy lines at the end of World War II). Swell, more rhetoric about keeping the bloodlines pure. At some point did they become actual wolves?
Body count: One or more dead, gross Operation Werewolfers
Bite count: One sad, glamoured Gran.

Bargaining
And what of Eggs’ real killer? Andy warns Jason that their story about shooting Tara’s boyfriend in self-defense has too many holes it. He’ll have to go about business as usual if he doesn’t want to arouse suspicion. “Oh shit, man,” Andy Jason pleads, “Why’d you tell him a story with holes in it?”

At some point, Sookie’s telepathic powers are going to throw a wrench in their plans. But for now, Jason follows Andy’s advice toward what sounds like a soft-core porn plot: two nubile NYU graduates on their way to California to become vets. Once they’re back at his place, it’s hard for him to concentrate what with the imaginary bullet hole he can’t stop seeing in the center of her head. Jason tries calling in her friend for reinforcement. “I can’t believe I’m doing this again!” she squeals, peeling off her shirt. It’s no use. He can’t shake the image.

Pam makes the rounds of Merlotte’s walk-in freezer to drop off all that extra V for Lafayette to unload. He calls her a hooker, and lives to regret it. Normally we leave naming an episode winner up to the Real Housewives recap franchise. But if we did, the prize would undoubtedly go to Eric’s episode-stealing number two. How do we adore thee Pamela? Let us count the ways. One for your latex-for-dungeon, Greenwich-for-errands outfit changes. Two for your sarcasm. Three because you couldn’t care less.
Booty count: One unsuccessful act of fellatio, one co-ed naked makeout sesh (bullet holes imaged), one abandoned threesome.

Depression
Our first time back at Merlotte’s is in the middle of a comedy of manners. Tara doesn’t like that Arlene’s marveling at the wonders of local law enforcement when Eggs was just zipped into a body bag. “I’m sorry you fell in love with a serial killer, alright. But honestly, who hasn’t?” Good point, Arlene. Tara says he wasn’t responsible for those deaths, even if he confessed, but Arlene’s not buying it. “Oh why, because of society? Because of racism?” No actually, because a Maenad made him do it. Before Tara can start another round of fight club, Lafayette pushes her out the door and grabs a bottle on the way. “We’re gonna steal this tequila over here, but I doubt that’d surprise any of ya’ll.”

Just how messed up is Tara over Eggs’ death? Well for once in her life she’s actually asking for her mama, then lays there senseless while Lettie Mae and the reverend preach about god’s great plan. Tara’s eyes look even deader than when she was one of Maryann’s zombies, and it isn’t long before she’s chugging Klonopin in the bathroom.
Body count: One (no doubt unsuccessful) suicide attempt

More Recaps:
Television Without Pity thinks Sookie's suddenly awesome, Bill's suddenly hot, Pam's suddenly a superstar, and Eric's suddenly out-of-control.
The L.A. Times agreed with us about the fun part and likes it better when the show’s universe expands.
MTV’s Hollywood Crush called it one of the most memorable episodes to date.

Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO