Emily nails it: “If we choose to, we can live in a world of comforting illusion. We can allow ourselves to be deceived by false realities.” And maybe that’s the best way to appreciate Revenge — not for the show it is, but for the show we want it to be. “Illusion” is yet another episode in which the good moments mingle with the terrible, so isn’t it just easier to focus on the former and pretend the latter don’t exist? In an alternate reality, Revenge is as flawless as Emily Thorne in that red dress. The truth is a little rougher around the edges.
On the plus side, “Illusion” has Emily getting her head back in the game, working to tie up all those loose ends that have been keeping her (and me) up at night. Right from the get-go, she coaches Amanda about the scar removal, providing her with a story about a plastic surgeon and a benefactor who paid for the costly procedure. More important, Emily plants a key bit of information on Amanda, who passes it on to Mason, who eventually spreads it to the proper authorities. In the Hamptons, gossip is like a particularly virulent STD.
The scoop is that Conrad used to employ Gordon Murphy, the same man who “kidnapped” Victoria. While Amanda’s deflecting from that whole scar thing with the truth about the White-Haired Man, Emily’s removing her Gordon popsicle from storage and framing Conrad for the murder. (At the end of the episode, there’s a flashback to how she pulls this off, but it’s honestly pretty self-explanatory and straightforward, especially by Revenge standards.) Mason stumbles on Gordon’s decaying body and the evidence that Conrad did the deed. Incidentally, if a real killer dropped a monogrammed cufflink at the scene of the crime, he’d be an embarrassment to the entire criminal profession.
But who cares about frozen dead guys and cufflinks when there’s a wedding? That’s right, Conrad and Victoria are finally re-tying the knot, and no one could be happier or more obligated by fear of prosecution. In grand Revenge tradition, the wedding itself is an excuse for all of the characters to don their finest attire, and “Illusion” does not disappoint. (Slight deduction for Nolan and Padma’s matchy-matchy ensembles. Kind of tacky.) Emily wears the aforementioned red dress that is truly stunning enough to be the episode’s special guest star.
One Grayson family member manages to escape the nuptials: Charlotte dashes off to go help Declan reopen the Stowaway. It’s hard to imagine Charlotte choosing manual labor over fancy dress, but she doesn’t want to take part in the massive marital farce. Besides, she’s totally into Declan again — I guess because he gave her his jacket in the emergency room, and that kind of chivalry does not go unrewarded. I don’t so much care about their rekindled romance, but I do worry that Charlotte might end up mired in Declan’s awful story line.
At this point, I’m not even sure how much attention to devote to the Stowaway and Kenny’s nefarious plan to wrest control from Jack. Despite my protests, Revenge is turning this into a thing, and it’s one I can’t just ignore. So, fine, Kenny is still doing very bad things behind the scenes, like getting rid of Jack’s main booze supplier and coercing Declan into taking a bigger role in the bar. It’s still unclear how this plays into the bigger picture, or why we should begin to care about this plot when there are approximately 50 other, more interesting things happening on the show at any given time.
Back at the wedding, everyone dances with one another and it’s lovely, in part because all of our least favorite characters are offscreen. But then the police show up and ruin everything by arresting Conrad for the murder of Gordon Murphy. Ugh, why do our parties always end with someone getting carted off in a police car or ambulance? Emily assures Nolan that Conrad’s arrest will prove instrumental to Mason’s undoing, and she better hope she’s right about that because homeboy is hot on her trail.
Now that Gordon’s death is public information, everyone can quit looking behind their shoulders and blowing up his phone with “WHERE R U??” texts. The Initiative springs into action, immediately bailing Conrad out of jail on the condition that he once again do their evil bidding. Kara takes the news of Gordon’s death particularly hard, which is sad for her but exciting for the rest of us. The only way to move forward with a character this unstable is to push her over the edge, and her final scene with Victoria is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s most dynamic yet. Quick sidebar, though: Can someone talk to her about enunciating? I don’t know if it’s botched Botox, but Kara speaks like someone filled her mouth with marbles and sewed her lips shut.
In addition to the big moments, “Illusion” includes a couple of interesting tidbits that could play out in the coming weeks. First, there’s Ashley’s suspicious comment that Emily and Aiden behave like they’ve known each other forever. Later, when Emily tells Aiden that Ashley was simply an easy mark, Aiden wonders out loud if she was too easy. So perhaps there’s more to Ashley than arm candy. What if — just to throw one theory out there — she were working for the Initiative all along? That having been said, holding one’s breath until Revenge gives Ashley something to do remains ill advised.
More important, Victoria lets slip that Emily Thorne is a “juvie girl,” which gets Mason’s mental gears turning. By the end of the episode, he’s found the connection between Emily and Amanda at last — that means he’s either on the brink of exposing the identity swap or of dying in a terrible “accident.” My money’s on the latter, although it pains me to think of Mason’s demise. And he was so hoping to get another book deal when all was said and done!
For now, at least, Mason is very much in play, which will test Emily’s plan for getting rid of him. And Revenge reminds us, once again, that if we focus on that conflict, we can sort of blur out the stuff we don’t care about. Even now, the Stowaway subplot is fading out of memory. And those dreadful Kara-Gordon flashbacks were already in soft focus …