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Revenge Recap: All Press Is Good Press

REVENGE - "Confidence" - The Graysons are back in the spotlight and at the center of a media storm once again, while Emily's past continues to haunt her, on "Revenge," SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

The key to revenge, Emily explains, is to “exploit your opponent’s weakness.” Just make sure you’re the only one doing the exploiting. And that your opponent isn’t exploiting someone else. And that the weakness you’re exploiting is truly your opponent’s. You know what? Screw it. This is going to be a total crapshoot anyway: As Revenge continues to shift its alliances and double-cross its double-crossers, the only thing we can really be sure of is that revenge is seriously messy.

In “Confidence,” Emily is undermined by Aiden, who really pissed her off when he saved her life at the end of last week’s episode. We get glimpses of their past relationship in flashbacks to Takeda’s snowy Japanese training center — the maze is straight-up The Shining, but Takeda is much mellower than Jack Torrance. It turns out Aiden and Emily were lovers, because that’s what happens when pretty people are stuck together for too long. And when Aiden made a classic Luke Skywalker mistake and left training early to find his sister, he left Emily behind. Which also might explain why she’s so steamed.

On the one hand, Aiden is a welcome presence here: His own maneuvering clashes with Emily’s plans and makes for an extra explosive conclusion. (No actual explosions this time.) Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit annoyed: This is Emily’s show, and it’s hard not to get territorial when Aiden starts screwing with the Graysons. Like, come on, dude, it’s not Emily’s fault you screwed up your own revenge plot. If we wanted to see your machinations, we’d be tuning into Revenge: The Aiden Years. I’d watch it, if only because Declan would not be involved.

While we’re on the subject, Declan is now mired in some sort of Hamptons robbery gang. It’s the weakest plot Revenge has ever tried to inflict on us, and we’re just going to close our eyes and not acknowledge it until it goes away.

So back to people who matter. Victoria is capitalizing on her fifteen minutes of sympathy by planning a major press event to talk about her lengthy imprisonment. Behind the scenes, Victoria’s not playing the victim: She bans Emily from the premises, stands up to Conrad, and generally reasserts herself as the ba—ass we know her to be. While Conrad points out that Victoria’s double-cross has made her a target for the White-Haired Man, we know he’s already out of the picture. What a joy to see the Head Bitch in Charge at the top of her game.

But then, this is Revenge, and no one reigns for long. “Confidence” pulls the rug out from Victoria with such force that she actually falls on her ass. What we see, in fact, is the full implosion of the Grayson family, and man, they are as good at dysfunction as they are at formal wear. Aiden anonymously returns Victoria’s passport along with a threatening note ostensibly from the White-Haired Man, thereby exposing her as a big faker to Daniel. And Emily, operating on a different but equally anti-Victoria wavelength, has Amanda hand off David Clarke’s journal to Charlotte. Emily’s modified a few sections, but the gist of it is the same: Victoria is a Very Bad Lady.

As thrilling as it is to see Victoria regain control, it’s an equal delight to watch it all fall apart around her. And if you guessed that she’d turn things around by the end of the episode, you’ve probably been watching Revenge from the beginning. Also, you have a high tolerance for roller-coaster twists and turns, which is useful, because “Confidence” had even this seasoned viewer feeling a little queasy.

It’s the good kind of nausea, though. The episode moves forward (and up and down, and side to side) at a breathless pace, but that’s half the fun. When it looks like Victoria has been bested — loathed by her ex-husband, her son, and her daughter — she turns the tables on everyone. You know what they say about press, right? It’s all good, especially if you’re a cunning manipulator and know how to completely change the story. Suddenly Victoria’s press conference isn’t about her kidnapping, it’s about her “oops baby” with a terrorist. “Charlotte is the blessed consequence of my affair with David Clarke,” Victoria announces, shortly before also welcoming — wait for it — the fake Amanda Clarke to the stage. The Graysons are “stronger than ever,” Ashley marvels, and the viewers are left recovering from whiplash.

The united front might be phony, but it’s still powerful. That’s more than can be said for the sparring team of Emily and Aiden. If the two worked together, Emily might know that her mother, whom Aiden full-on interacts with early in the episode, is alive and well at the motel where the White-Haired Man was staying. Instead it takes Em the entire hour to learn that Mommie Dearest and the dead guy on her floor were an item. Yes, Gordon Murphy, a.k.a. the White-Haired Man, is your new dad now, Emily. Or he would be, if Aiden hadn’t killed him.

In an episode this stuffed with flashbacks and betrayals, it’s once again easy to overlook some of the less essential story lines: Nolan’s CFO Padma becoming suspicious of his relationship with Emily, Jack breaking up with Amanda, that godawful subplot about Declan’s life of crime that I promised I wouldn’t bring up again. This isn’t necessarily a problem — yet — but Revenge is going to have to find a way to fully bring Nolan and Jack back into the fold soon. Declan, not so much. Declan can get life in prison for his petty crimes. Sorry, Declan.

At the end of “Confidence,” Aiden reminds Emily that Victoria only thinks she’s righted the sinking Grayson ship: Amanda is now integrated into the family, and Daniel is gunning for his own revenge against Victoria. But who knows what next week will bring; there are more scheming players and opponents than ever, and with so many agendas at play, it’s hard to imagine any one person getting what he or she wants. Revenge: It’s a dish best served with Dramamine.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/ABC