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Revenge Recap: To Err Is Human

Oh, Revenge. I hate it when we fight. I know I was a bit hard on you last week, so I guess it’s appropriate that this week’s episode is called “Forgiveness.” I’ll forgive you for a mess of meandering plots, if you’ll forgive me for the way I’ve treated Declan. There, now we both feel better.

I’m not just saying it: Revenge was an improvement this week. We still have a ways to go in terms of getting back to the heights of season one, but “Forgiveness” took steps to bring some of the disparate story lines together. While Revenge’s first season had a clear endgame in sight, season two has felt a little all over the place. Spread out, all the weaker elements — the Nolan/Padma romance, Declan’s thievery, Amanda’s backward swan dive — become more apparent. “Forgiveness” gives us a clear indication that there’s at least some method to this madness.

Now that Kara is out in the open, Emily can start to work through her mommy issues, but that’s tough when mommy totally drowned you. To her credit, Em starts off a bit more herself this week. After a night of hot tears — there’s no crying over spilled Amanda — she tells Aiden she’s not really into him. Of course, that’s after she let him be big spoon. Romantically attached or not, Aiden is less of a free agent now: He arrives at Grayson Global as Takeda’s proxy so he can start to do some digging from the inside. And Daniel has someone new to bitch about Conrad to. (Seriously, he spends most of the episode whining about his dad and generally being World’s Worst Employee.)

Meanwhile, Kara’s resurgence is a shock to everyone — but especially to Victoria “Didn’t I Have You Killed?” Grayson. Always one to keep her enemies close, Victoria invites Kara to stay. Conrad wisely points out that the new house guest is a homicidal maniac, but then, this is the Hamptons and that kind of thing isn’t exactly a deal-breaker. Besides, Victoria is determined to find out what Kara’s role in all of this is, which means keeping a very close eye on her and having some awkward conversations about that time Victoria stole Kara’s husband. (Honestly, could be worse. Remember, Hamptons.)

I was hoping for some actual conflict between the two — we came so close with Victoria clutching the pruning shears — but I’m sure we’ll get more of that in the coming weeks. “Forgiveness” was more about Kara trying to make amends with Amanda, who woke up from her coma mostly intact, minus makeup. The problem, of course, is that Kara’s seeking forgiveness from her fake daughter, whom she never even drowned a little. The emotional resonance of the family reunion is muddled by all the mistaken identity, although Emily does get to eavesdrop on the sentimental “mother-daughter” conversations.

Amid all of this, professional thorn-in-everyone’s-side Mason Treadwell shows up. He’s got some questions about Victoria’s kidnapping and Kara’s reappearance, because, well, he’s the only character on this show who’s really paying attention. Roger Bart is always a welcome presence — even if Emily and Victoria aren’t excited to see him, I’m glad Mason is calling these people on their BS. Plus, it’s nice to see Revenge pull from its stockpile of first-season complications, rather than continue to rely on the new characters that have made season two an occasional headache.

To be fair, the Padma story line is starting to go somewhere other than Nolan’s pants. In “Forgiveness,” Padma tries to get to the bottom of David Clarke’s check to Nolan, which sets off a dramatic chain of events. Unfortunately, it’s all pretty business-y, so don’t get too excited. Basically, David Clarke invested in Nolan’s company on his own dime. Because of David’s exclusivity contract, however, he was technically working on behalf of Grayson Global — which means Grayson Global owns a controlling interest in Nolcorp. What does this mean for both companies? I don’t know. Like Nolan, I’m more interested in sex and revenge plots than facts and figures. Suffice it to say that Nolan is in trouble, and Daniel has a new reason to care about the company he’s been trying to throw away.

It’s Aiden who drops the Nolcorp bombshell on Daniel, and Emily likely won’t be pleased when she finds out. But as he promised, “You’ll soon find out I make a far better partner than enemy.” At the moment, Emily is too distracted by Kara to notice what Aiden’s up to: Her mom’s presence in the Hamptons turns out to be more of a nuisance than a happy reunion. On the one hand, it’s frustrating to have spent so much time on Emily looking for Kara only to have her decide she wants to get rid of her. On the other hand, it’s comforting to see Em keep an arm’s length from crazy for once.

Still, though, something rings false about Emily suddenly choosing to boot Kara instead of trying to find out what she was up to with the White-Haired Man — or, hell, why Kara tried to kill her. (I guess “she was crazy” is a somewhat satisfying answer.) With side characters like Padma and Aiden stepping up their games, Emily looks especially weak. Here, she’s more concerned with protecting Amanda, Jack, and Nolan than she is with her titular mission. Revenge seems to be moving toward the Softer Side of Emily, and while that certainly makes her more human, it kind of goes against the show’s mission statement. I mean, forgiveness is nice and all, but it’s basically the opposite of revenge.

At the end of “Forgiveness,” Emily even tells Amanda the truth about Baby Carl — he’s Jack’s biological son after all. Then Em heads to the beach, where she admits to Kara that “Amanda” wants to forgive her. Hey, when did our sociopathic heroine suddenly develop a conscience? I appreciate the steps forward Revenge took this week, but Emily’s transformation is worrisome. Then again, this could just be a momentary flirtation with humanity — maybe Emily will be back to playing puppet master next week. If that’s the case, I’m sorry I had my doubts. Forgive me?

Photo: Colleen Hayes/ABC