While this chapter of Bloodline explains just how Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz) might get away with the murder of Marco Diaz (Enrique Murciano), it’s best appreciated as a rare episode that focuses on the women of the Rayburn family: the barely keeping-it-together Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek) and the shattered Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini). Both do some of their best work of the series here, even if the episode at times feels like a bit of wheel-spinning.
“Part 26” opens with one of several flashbacks to the life of Marco Diaz, this one at the Rayburn Inn party, where he bonds with the man who would eventually kill him. Hearing Kevin say, “This one’s a keeper” about the man he will murder is downright eerie. We realize this isn’t Kevin’s memory, but Meg’s, flashing back to the man she once loved. Will this nightmare end up breaking Meg first?
It also seems likely to ruin Eric’s (Jamie McShane) life. The cops, looking for him as a suspect in Marco’s murder, break down his mother’s door. We know Eric is on the run, but he probably hasn’t gotten too far on his little boat. John (Kyle Chandler) will eventually use Eric’s sister, Chelsea (Chloë Sevigny), to track him down, but not until suspicion starts to build around the case, most of it courtesy of Aguirre (David Zayas). As he notes while Kevin is still in the hospital, “A cop who is about to offer immunity to a witness gets murdered by that witness.” It already smells fishy.
Ozzy (John Leguizamo) probably smells pretty bad too. Pulling himself together in hiding, he knows the Rayburns are “behind this shit.” He’s a loose end, either the last one that John must tie up or the one that will destroy him.
Meanwhile, Sally is doing a remarkable job of keeping herself together, making ceviche for Marco’s wake and barking orders at Meg, who is just in a daze. We get more flashbacks, including the day that Marco first spotted Meg in a bar. It’s a nice, long scene that gives Murciano and Cardellini rare character work in a show often weighed down by plotting. It’s funny how often flashbacks like these work to release tension, often presenting happier times before the Rayburn family tree set itself on fire.
As Meg continues to wade deeper into her grief, John works to keep Kevin alive and out of jail. He senses that Roy Gilbert (Beau Bridges) doesn’t have the purest motives, but he has to work with him for now. Both men tell Kevin to keep his mouth shut, which he mostly does in a hospital-room interrogation from Aguirre. The smart cop notes a few inconsistencies in Kevin’s report, which is super detailed in some places, but totally vague in others. Why did Kevin go there so late? What were Marco and Eric arguing about? Where’s the ceramic dolphin of death? It does seem like an oversight to suggest that Eric would flee with a weapon used in a crime of passion, but that dolphin probably had so much of Kevin’s DNA on it that they had no other choice.
Meanwhile, John continues to move pieces around, getting the gun that shot Kevin from Jim Shakowski (Paul Tei), the coroner who moonlights as a fixer. Planting that weapon on Eric should make for a more airtight case. It surely helps that one of the men behind this cover-up has direct access to the body in the morgue, which is something Marco’s family has been trying to get.
It looks like Kevin will avoid that morgue, which makes his pregnant wife Belle (Katie Finneran) comfortable enough to buy Roy Gilbert’s façade as a kindly benefactor. Sally, however, looks sick, knowing she has signed her son over to the devil. She yells at Roy for initiating a plan that includes shooting her son, and it alludes to an interesting subtext to these scenes: Is Roy trying to essentially take the patriarch role in the Rayburn family through force? It doesn’t seem like Sally will let him.
Either way, there may not be much of a family for Roy to take. Meg is furious at Kevin: She saw Marco’s body and knows what her brother did, which is knowledge she’ll never fully forget or forgive. Meanwhile, Sally needs to talk to someone, going to a priest to confess. There’s so much to admit that it’s hard to know where she’d even begin.
While Sally and Meg deal with the emotional tumult of Marco’s death, John is facing the practical elements of covering it up. He finds Eric in the mangroves, throwing him the gun that shot Kevin, which Eric naïvely pulls on John, and then asks if it’s loaded. Of course, it’s not. Eric doesn’t even know or think that Kevin killed Marco, instead presuming it was John himself, further covering up the murder of Danny.
Finally, Aguirre tells John that they found O’Bannon. He had Marco’s gun (which John gave to him). Apparently, Marco once floated a theory that Eric killed Danny, and now the poor guy is going to be framed for ALL of it: the deaths of Danny Rayburn and Marco Diaz. Although Aguirre senses “it’s just a little too neat.” Eric is telling people that John framed him, but no one believes it. Meg covered for John, giving him an alibi. These people can’t get through a day without a major lie. And it’s starting to eat Meg alive. The last we see of her, she’s on the water, even though we saw in that first flashback that she doesn’t like boats. She’s got to get away from the Rayburns, no matter what. She remembers something she once said to Marco, something that turned out to be a lie: “We have all the time in the world.”
• As we get closer to the endgame of Bloodline, I’m fascinated by moral gray area the show inhabits. Will the Rayburns get away with their crimes? The opening credits include a song about drowning and ominous storm clouds — yet another reminder that it can’t just end with a happy, reunited family.
• The great Mario Van Peebles directed this episode, son of the legendary Melvin and director of New Jack City.
• Ozzy pulls the valet-car trick, speeding off to someplace safer than the Keys. Reminder: Always make sure the guy who takes your keys is wearing a uniform.
• Bloodline can feel a bit testosterone-heavy, so it was nice to see Meg and Sally get so much screen time.