Ray Donovan Recap: A Ghost Story

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Photo: Michael Desmond/Showtime
Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan

Sold Season 5 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 3 stars

A very transitional episode of Ray Donovan unfolded in such separate plot arcs this week, I decided to divide my traditional recap up into individual, character-specific sections, pulling the episode apart to see how each story developed. Overall, “Sold” is a bit unsatisfying, although Liev Schreiber does phenomenal work yet again in his flashbacks to some of the darkest days of Ray Donovan’s life.

Ray
Let’s start with the still-grieving Ray, who seeks closure by packing up his wife’s clothes and finally moving forward with the sale of the house they shared together. After going for a morning run (and the often-stylish Ray looks strange in a jogging hoodie), he decides it’s time to put Abby’s closet into boxes, patch up the hole in the wall, and sell the place. Throughout the episode, we get flashbacks to when Abby found out her time on Earth was coming to an end and how the Donovans handled it. These flashbacks feel a little different for Ray in terms of filmmaking, with the camera often panning to Abby in the same room as a way to go from present day to the past, as if Ray is haunted by his wife beyond mere memories. We get a beautiful moment with Ray telling Abby’s doctor that he has to save her, and a bit of a manipulative one as Abby takes out her anger on the wall of the diner they just bought with a baseball bat.

Outside of the grieving arc, Ray is finally reunited with Sam Winslow (Susan Sarandon), who tells him what’s likely one of Hollywood’s biggest secrets: This power player didn’t lose her daughter in a tragedy, but was drunk behind the wheel at the time of the accident. Someone who helped her back then is trying to blackmail her with incriminating information, and so she needs Ray’s help to make it go away.

Mickey, Daryll, and Frank
The eldest Donovan has a habit of getting what he wants in the most unique way possible. This week begins with his frustration over the coverage for his screenplay Four Leaf and ends with a green light for the project, although it comes about in a way that no one could have predicted. After literally slapping around the man who gave Four Leaf bad coverage, Mickey ends up caught in a “Donovan clean-up” situation with Daryll after his son’s client calls him with a problem. It turns out that Daryl is trying to be Ray 2.0, and he’s been presented with his most interesting dilemma to date: A star named Jay White, while preparing for a role with a martial arts expert, decapitated his sensei. Mickey and Daryll help Jay dispose of the body — in multiple pieces scattered in the Pacific Ocean — but Mickey demands something in return. He wants a star to attach to his script.

While Mickey gets involved in his own form of Project Greenlight, Frank is still demanding that he deal with Avi, threatening to expose some of Mickey’s recent crimes. It’s unbelievable that Mickey wouldn’t take this problem straight to Ray, a man who has had issues with Frank before and would try to protect Avi. Let’s hope they iron out the problems with this building arc.

Bunchy
The lesson of poor Brendan “Bunchy” Donovan’s arc is twofold. One, don’t leave large amounts of cash in your closet. Two, if you’re taking large amounts of cash out of your closet, don’t stop off for a sub sandwich on your way to the bank. It’s sadly in character that Bunchy would choose to walk into a public place with $1 million in cash in a duffel bag, and just as sadly in character that he would get held up. Before he knows it, Bunchy’s attempt at a profitable business is over. The cops don’t even believe that he had $1 million in a place called Railroad Subs because who’s that dumb? Bunchy drowns his sorrows later with Terry, revealing that he thinks his wife is spending too much time with a fellow Luchador. Bunchy’s got nothing left. That’s a dangerous place for this sometimes-violent character to be.

Terry
The things that matter to Terry seem to be getting pulled away as well. After his marriage fell apart, which surprisingly gets no development in this week’s episode, Terry returns to the place he knows best: his club. There, he works to train Damon, whom he sees as a son, an important thing to remember when Damon’s ex-convict father comes into the picture. Is Terry nervous about Damon giving money to someone who could potentially hurt him, or is he hurt that Damon may no longer need a father figure? Probably a little bit of both. Terry ends the episode with his brothers at Abby’s place, all of the Donovans in need of a victory in their lives.

Bridget
The only Donovan who isn’t in L.A. this week finally gets some development to her subplot. Remember the guy she met at the hospital and tracked down in New York in the season premiere? As we suspected, there’s a lot more to their story. After learning that he’s in love with her, Bridget breaks her new boyfriend’s heart by revealing that her father may have handed him a death sentence. Bridget tells him that Ray is responsible for the young man’s meningitis, which got him kicked off a clinical trial so Abby could take his place. That’s not the kind of revelation a relationship can survive.

Other Notes

• For a show that always juggles multiple plotlines, “Sold” feels even more divided than usual. It makes  for some tough tonal juggling, going from Abby’s diagnosis to Bunchy’s robbery to Mickey’s adventures.

• The opening music cue is “Freak Hotel (Vox)” by Lapsed Catholic, which is a band name that could have been an alternate title for this show given its dark history with religion.

• The closing music cue is Tony Crown’s version of “Fly Like an Eagle.” Take note of its most relevant line: “Time keeps on slippin’ into the future.”

• Kevin White’s guest-starring role as head-slicing actor Jay White reminded me of how great this TV veteran was on The Shield. Seek that one out if you have yet to do so — it’s one of the best shows of the 21st century.

• It was nice to see Sarandon back after a two-week absence, but her role in this episode is nearly identical to what she did in the premiere: It’s just one scene, one story, in the same location. Let’s hope they get her more involved next week. And out of the house.

• The show has teased it for two weeks now, but I bet Avi comes back next week. After a pair of disappointing episodes, maybe he’ll give this season life again.

Ray Donovan Recap: A Ghost Story