Ray Donovan Recap: Playing With Fire

Ray Donovan

Season 5 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Michael Desmond/Showtime

The Donovan family drama has reached a boil and Ray is feeling the heat. The penultimate episode of this fifth season ends in a place Ray Donovan has been before, although it feels different this time. Any chance at reconciliation between Ray and Mickey is gone. In next week’s finale (and perhaps season six and beyond), these two heads of the Donovan family will be mortal enemies eager to take one another down. This could be a fantastic development: Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight are the two best actors on the show (with the possible exception of Eddie Marsan), and seeing these two alpha males go head-to-head could make for riveting TV.

But for now, Ray Donovan is dreaming. Two dead people — the maniac who almost killed him in last week’s episode, and an Australian version of his wife — are hosting a cheesy shopping-network show. Ray is in the audience, although it’s a different Ray. He’s smiling and wearing a cheesy leather jacket with a black T-shirt underneath. Ray has weird dreams. He even imagines a character named Uncle Tobias, the relative who molested Abby, dressed like a hobo clown and played by Marsan. The “real Ray” is in the audience now, and he watches as the fake Ray is pressured to put his hand on a lit stovetop. Is Ray ready to punish himself?

Back to reality, Ray! Bridget Donovan has been arrested and Ray goes into fixer mode, willing to do whatever it takes to get her out. He first goes to the doctor on whom Bridget drew a gun, but she refuses to drop the charges. Meanwhile, Daryll is worried about the potential charges coming down on him, both for the Jay White debacle and the Frank Barnes murder, and Mickey has a prophetic line: “We’ll worry when we have to.” That should be on his tombstone someday.

While Lena tries to keep Bridget strong as she’s being processed and charged, Ray is working behind the scenes. He goes looking for Frank Barnes, presuming that his corrupt contact can break Bridget from behind bars. No one has seen Frank. Of course, Ray is instantly suspicious of his father because Frank went missing on the day he was supposed to arrest Mickey. He goes to Abby’s and confronts Mickey, learning that Frank is dead. Ray responds in the way he does at least half the time he’s in Abby’s place: He punches a family member. Ray moves on to Daryll, who looks like he is crumbling under the weight of guilt and fear. Pooch Hall is very good in this scene, arguably the best of the episode. He tells Ray that he shot Frank, and Ray demands he give up the location of the body.

Meanwhile, Terry is in New York to track down Damon, who is training with his father. Damon is dismissive of Terry, castigating him for not being there when he needed him, while his once-estranged father stepped up to help. Terry is abrasive and unforgiving of the old man, making Damon choose. He chooses Terry, for now. While Ray is cleaning up things in L.A., Terry goes to talk to Smitty and reveals what Bridget did for him. He’s playing emotional fixer to Ray’s practical one.

After being confronted by Mickey about exactly what he’s planning, Ray convinces his old man that he’s going to sell out Avi for the murder of Frank Barnes. It sounds plausible, but the filmmaking stresses that Mickey should be worried about this plan. We cut to the body being raised out of the water as Mickey tells stories about his father, Michael, who gives the episode its name. And Mickey Donovan has been dreaming too. In his dream, he’s walking the dog at Fenway when he gets hit square in the face with a ball. Is Ray the ball? Who’s the dog? All of the Donovans have weird dreams.

While Smitty is going to the hospital in New York, Bridget is getting released in Los Angeles. She wants to go immediately to the airport, and Ray reluctantly agrees to take her, setting the stage for the long-needed father-daughter fight. Bridget throws Ray off by revealing that she knows he slept with Natalie James while Abby was dying. She rails against him and God before going back to New York to spend time with her dying boyfriend. In a sense, she’s atoning for what her father couldn’t do by being there when someone she loves is dying.

Mickey and his date and son are about to have dinner when a SWAT team knocks on the door. They arrest Mickey. Ray didn’t sell out Avi or even reveal what Daryll did to Frank Barnes — he sold out his father. Not long after, Ray comes home to find Daryll sitting at the table, their meals still on their plates. He tells Daryll that he’s going to play along: He’ll get the gun that he used to shoot Frank and take it to the police, telling them that he saw Mickey plug the cop. Mickey will be gone, out of their lives forever. Daryll seems unhappy, but resigned. Honestly, this probably makes the Four Leaf nightmare go away, too, if you think about it. Daryll knows Mickey going away might not be the worst thing for him, but he still can’t believe Ray sold their father out. Ray sees the pan of simmering red sauce on the stove and turns it off. He pauses and puts his hand on it for a millisecond, bringing up a red palm. You’re playing with something hot, Ray, and you’re gonna get burned.

In the final scene, Mickey Donovan uses his one call to reach Ray. “You fucked me for the last time,” he says. “I’m gonna get you, Raymond.”

Other Notes

• In a rather brief subplot this week, Teresa returns mostly to reveal that she cheated on Bunchy. The show is basically writing off a character they didn’t know what to do with anymore.

• After Bridget angrily leaves the car, Ray flips on the radio to hear “Fade Into You,” which we know he associates with Abby, although I think it’s telling that the show doesn’t go into flashback and Ray turns it off. Has he put Abby behind him?

•This episode was directed by Carl Franklin, a masterful filmmaker who made One False Move and Devil in a Blue Dress, two films you should definitely check out if you have yet to see them. He’s also done great TV work on The Leftovers, House of Cards, and other shows.

•The final music cue is often a telling one for this show. The title of this week’s choice could describe what’s happening to the Donovan family: “Drowning” by Mick Jenkins featuring BADBADNOTGOOD

• What do you think will happen in the season finale? Will another major character die?

Ray Donovan Recap: Playing With Fire