Rectify Recap: Janet’s Reno


Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Abigail Spencer as Amantha Holden - Rectify _ Season 4, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/Sundance
Abigail Spencer as Amantha. Photo: Jackson Lee Davis/SundanceTV

Why walk on eggshells when you can crush them? In the final moments of “Yolk,” Janet stalks newly freed Trey Willis in the aisles of Freshway Market. As he momentarily idles his cart to consider varieties of red meat, she sneaks over and methodically crushes his carton of eggs, one egg at a time, before scampering off and then striding across the parking lot. It’s not exactly a quid pro quo for how his actions have resonated with ruinous consequences for everyone she loves, but at least he can’t have his omelette and eat it too.

Food features prominently in tonight’s episode, beyond the titular reference (which is itself a sly homophone for the yokes, or connections, that are so tenuous among the Holden-Talbots). After eavesdropping on another of Ted and Teddy’s bits of performed morning patter, Janet retreats to the bedroom until she has the house to herself. Suddenly, she is consumed with cleaning out the fridge. Then, in the middle of the night, while waiting for Ted to come home with Amantha, whom he had to scoop up after the latter’s weed-induced driving mishap, Janet starts making Daniel a cake. It’s impulsive and cathartic, if not entirely thought-out (the part where she determines to visit her son in Nashville comes later). It’s not unlike a certain someone we know who endeavored to tear up the family kitchen some time back, as if the first step toward getting himself unstuck was one that would — by all procedural rights — typically come far down the line.

Teddy couldn’t possibly intuit all this, the loss his stepmother feels after being torn from her baby yet again. He means well by offering to help, even with mundane chores, but there’s a part of him that wonders why she never makes a cake for him, and another that wants to feel slightly less emasculated. Teddy’s a tad more sympathetic since splitting with Tawney — to the audience at least — but he’s not quite evolving the way his estranged wife would prefer. She’s late to their “date night” that evening, and you can tell she’d rather not be there at all. Between cramming for tests and tending to the sick and elderly downers like an old man at a nursing home, Tawney has very little energy left to humor Teddy’s awkward, patronizing attempts at support (e.g. reassuring her, “You’re one smart gal”). The diner sequence is brutal, set in a neutral space that’s neutrally lit and less likely to trigger old feelings than neutralize any hope at discovering new ones.

It’s that kind of day for Teddy and Amantha. Yes, her could-have-been-worse car accident was a major “buzzkill,” though so was sorting out employee schedules and whatever else being the newly ascended manager at Thrifty Town demands. Not that she’s ungrateful. Or at least she does her best not to seem so around Billy Harris, an old classmate (boyfriend?) who proudly pays the bills by doing yard work around Paulie. Billy happens upon Amantha while she’s waiting for Ted in the dark. In a moment of quiet menace, the kind that Rectify has always deployed in a very discerning way, we sort of see Amantha from the as-yet-anonymous pickup driver’s perspective. It’s a fairly rote fake-out by director Kate Woods, but nevertheless foreshadows Janet’s watchful, unexpectedly predatory eye during her climactic near-miss with Trey. And the resulting exchanges between Billy and Amantha are the season’s first bits of welcome light banter. “Where the hell did you get a flashlight that big?” she taunts. “At the flashlight store,” he drolly replies, as if he were Steven Wright playing Ron Burgundy.

Sullen Amantha will take the good humor anywhere she can get it these days. And her half-brother Teddy is desperate for an audience. She’s wary of her mom’s moroseness, and he’s overwhelmed by his father’s omnipresence. It’s enough that, when Teddy cracks wise about having turned his truck in for a Prius, Amantha nearly busts a gut. There’s not a whole lot of laughter in the lives of those touched by Hannah’s death, not since Daniel’s life was entangled with hers being taken. But something’s changing. Daniel is beginning to feel unbound and determined; Teddy’s becoming his own man again, albeit by sub-leasing his half-sister’s apartment; Jared is making his own statement by pitching tent outside the house, though it most assuredly is “not a fad”; Janet is headed to Nashville, refusing to let state lines stand between her and Daniel the way bulletproof glass and cell doors did for so many years; and even rage-filled Bobby assures Carl he won’t take any foolish retribution out on Trey. In fact, he’s fed up with being weighed down by tragedy, even if his mother is in an unshakeable state of disconsolation. Amid all this, she is the one who has lost both her yolk and whatever yoke she had to hope. She pleads with Carl to promise he won’t come to her home one day and say that Daniel Holden is innocent after all. It’s unclear if even Daniel would want that, or for that matter, if he’d want his mother knocking at his door.

Apart From All That:

  • Jon may not give anyone a choice re: Daniel’s potential post-conviction relief.
  • Make that two appearances by Dennis Boutsikaris on as many shows under the guise of a high-powered attorney.
  • Jared and Ted Sr. are a lot alike, aren’t they? No wonder Teddy feels so alienated.
  • If Franky at Thrify Town typically has “zero else going on” outside of work, and Teddy has “nowhere to go” when not selling tires, maybe they can be BFFs?
  • Alesha vs. Peanut: It’s on.
  • Some (i.e. Amantha) see a sunset and think of nuclear devastation; others (Jared) simply think it’s rad. Never change, Jared. Never change.
  • My favorite little line, courtesy of Janet, in response to Amantha questioning Jared’s love of camping: “I don’t know that he does.”
  • Second favorite: Tawney patiently reminding cranky Zeke that “this would be my first time” hearing about his stupid plaque.
  • Please don’t go searching for his plaque, Tawney.
  • Apart from a moment or two that are a bit too leading, Gabriel Mann’s score here is spot-on. And amplifying the original supermarket muzak (actually titled “Freshwayzak”) for the closing credits is the perfect button on an episode that feels like a bizarro CW show in the very best way.

Rectify Recap: Janet’s Reno