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Revenge Recap: Like a Pimp

REVENGE - "Revelations" - Nolan is confronted with a skeleton from his past, and Daniel's leading role is challenged as Emily and Aiden weave their way through Grayson Global. Meanwhile, the christening of baby Carl brings new concerns to light for Jack and Declan, on "Revenge," SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

For those of us who had doubts about season two of Revenge, the winter finale — apparently that’s what we’re calling these now — did a lot to assuage those concerns. A solid finale doesn’t undo everything that came before it, but it’s a pretty effective way to help us forget. Suddenly a meandering season comes into focus, and we can basically dismiss all the unfortunate detours we took to get to this point. Jennifer Jason Who?

I’m not sure if the writers have been listening to our complaints, or if they just decided to clear things up out of the goodness of their hearts, but “Revelations” spelled everything out in the simplest terms. I mean, honestly, how many times did Emily and Aiden need to explain why they’re invested in Daniel’s takeover of Grayson Global? (So that Aiden will sit alongside Daniel on the board and have access to the Initiative, obviously. It’s like you haven’t even been paying attention.) Clunky or not, all the exposition helped. And yes, I finally get what’s going on at the Stowaway.

So here’s the deal, just in case you zoned out while Emily and Aiden were dumbing it down for you: Daniel needs a two-thirds majority vote to oust Conrad as CEO of Grayson Global. In order to do that, he’ll need the support of Salvador Grobet, who is also being courted by Conrad and Victoria. For once, the Grayson adults aren’t motivated by general awfulness — just as Emily wants to get closer to the Initiative via Daniel, Daniel’s parents want to keep him as far away from their enemies as possible. The end result is a delightful tug-of-war over Grobet, where poor Ashley gets to be the rope.

Let’s talk about Ashley, who last week was given just enough backstory to make us sympathetic to this week’s plight. For reasons of her own, Ashley is trying to drive a wedge between Daniel and Aiden, and that’s a problem for Aiden and Emily’s plans. Their sociopathic solution is to send Victoria video of Ashley mounting her husband, assuming that she’ll turn it over to Daniel and put an end to a relationship that no one except Ashley seems to remember is a thing. The revelation that Ashley was literally whoring herself out when Emily rescued her is an important one, since we realize this woman has never really managed to escape the lifestyle.

As Ashley explains to Victoria when confronted with the damning video, she felt compelled to sleep with Conrad after he offered her money and a job. Rather than go to Daniel with the sex tape, Victoria decides to use it to her advantage and further prostitute Ashley in the process. Seriously. In exchange for her silence, Victoria forces Ashley to sleep with Grobet and secure his vote for Conrad. Congratulations, Victoria, you’re now officially a pimp.

(Victoria also gets the episode’s best line: “You have wormed your way into the very nadir of repugnance.” Do any people actually talk that way, and if so, why aren’t we hanging out with them?)

Poor Ashley degrades herself again and again because she believes she has no other choice. What’s interesting about “Revelations,” though, is the way it kind of paints every character in this light: As horrifying as Victoria’s plan is, she’s doing it to protect her son. Meanwhile, Emily and even the Ryan brothers — yeah, yeah, I’ll get to them in a bit — are following through with their revenge plots out of a sense of loyalty to their dead fathers. But post-traumatic brain injury Amanda is the voice of reason, calling Emily on her crap “I’m not destroying lives, I’m righting wrongs” refrain. Regardless of why any of these characters are doing what they’re doing, they’re still exploiting Ashley, and it’s really pretty gross.

See also: Emily’s exploitation of Nolan. Dear, sweet Nolan, who gets to bend over and take it while Daniel — er, takes control of Nolcorp. Nolan also has to deal with the return of his ex Marco, now using the $500 million offshore account as leverage of his own to get back into the company. (Marco realizes the money couldn’t have gone to “Amanda Clarke,” because she’s living above a bar. It’s a whole thing. Let’s put that aside till 2013, as there’s enough other crap going on.) If it’s any consolation, Nolan doesn’t seem too upset: In fact, he’s got a contingency plan for destroying Grayson Global from the inside.

Alas, Ashley is less lucky. Aiden tips Daniel off to her whereabouts, and Daniel sees his girlfriend being all post-coital with Grobet. He blackmails Grobet for his support — yay, happy ending for Daniel and thus Emily and Aiden! — and kicks Ashley out on her ass. Yeah, not-so-happy ending for Ashley. She slept with a creepy old man to save her relationship with Daniel and ended up getting dumped anyway. If this girl wants to go full Tyler and pull a gun on these manipulative monsters, I really don’t blame her. Either way, I hope she manages to stick around — now that she’s been crapped on by every character on the show, I find her much more interesting.

Oh, right, I promised I’d get to the Stowaway. The short version is this: Kenny and Nate Ryan are trying to get revenge against Carl Porter, who they believed killed their father. Now really, was that so hard? I have no problem with Revenge including a secondary revenge plot, especially since I’m sure it will tie into the main story somehow, but there’s no excuse for how long it took to get here. Remember Declan’s brief foray into petty crime? That happened. If it was all just a means to get the Ryan brothers into the Stowaway, I have to believe there was another way. I mean, that’s Emily Thorne–level plotting, and it’s silly when anyone else does it.

Nevertheless, the Ryan brothers storyline is finally not all terrible, and its conclusion could even prove worthwhile to Revenge as a whole. (Not holding my breath so much as crossing my fingers really hard.) And all that aside, “Revelations” reflects a show that has fully regained its footing. Now we wait and see if it can keep from slipping up again.

Photo: Ron Tom/ABC