Bloodline becomes a courtroom drama this episode, complete with the jury-selection process, opening arguments, and cross-examinations. Meanwhile, we can finally see what may be the endgame of John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) as his lies are directly confronted by Chelsea O’Bannon (Chloë Sevigny). In the final moments, Chelsea throws Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini) under the bus, raising the question: Will John have to sacrifice Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) to save his sister? And could he possibly pull that off?
To start, John is ignoring collect calls from Eric O’Bannon (Jamie McShane), in prison awaiting trial. Eric meets with his attorney as a completely broken man. He’s screaming that he just wants to call the Rayburns out for the liars that they are, but his counsel advises against that approach. Accusing a good cop of killing his partner is a strategy that won’t work, and they need only to prove that Eric didn’t do it, not that anyone else did. This is interesting given how much Eric’s attorney changes approach in the actual courtroom, opening by immediately throwing suspicion on the Rayburns, but we’ll get there.
Before then, John and Kevin are still fighting. John catches him practicing his testimony and orders him to put away the script before it becomes evidence. Yes, John can be a conceited prick, but Kevin is SUCH an asshole. John keeps protecting him and Kevin keeps not only doing stupid shit but insulting his brother. Will he go too far for John to keep up the ruse? Especially when Meg gets thrown into the fire?
Another family tie returns this episode to potentially strangle the Rayburns: Danny’s son Nolan (Owen Teague), spotted briefly at the end of the last hour. Why is he back? He has the money that Danny left him and he wants to give it to Chelsea to help with Eric’s defense. This is one of the most fascinating twists this season — that Danny Rayburn’s money could help put his brothers in jail. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to go anywhere as Chelsea refuses. Even Sally (Sissy Spacek) won’t take Nolan’s money later in the same episode. I hope Nolan hasn’t returned merely as a red herring and that he has an impact that, by extension, gives Danny one this season as well.
John will be the first witness and Kevin will follow him (as he has through his whole life). The next act cuts back and forth between the early trial process and a few other things happening in the Florida Keys. We see the jury selection and opening arguments as we also learn that Chelsea is being harassed at work and put on probation. We also get a good scene between Sally and John, reminding us that she now knows about Danny and they haven’t really talked about it. Even if they survive the Marco/Eric trial, they’ll never be the same.
As the opening arguments contrast in the courtroom, Kevin learns from his dentist that he’ll need a root canal. In my favorite moment this season, the dentist tells him that this kind of nerve damage comes from excess stress and cocaine use, which could be the name of Kevin Rayburn’s biography. Importantly, Kevin will either be in total pain when he speaks on the stand or loopy on painkillers. Either way, it should be fun. His stress level rises even higher when Kevin gets a visit from Ozzy (John Leguizamo), reminding us of the odd fact that they have never met before. Ozzy says he just wants to help both Eric and Kevin find the truth. Uh oh.
As Eric’s attorney focuses a surprising amount on the Rayburns in her opening argument (something I don’t completely buy, given that neither John or Kevin are on trial), John goes to see Chelsea. She tells him that her brother is falling apart and shows him a photo of Danny and Eric from when they were younger. It’s a man John killed and another he’s framing back in happier times. John claims not to remember the photo, even if it looks like its very existence is tearing him up. We soon learn that the photo is something of a trap: Chelsea shows it to Eric in prison, revealing that she ripped off a third person in the shot, a young John Rayburn. Of course, he remembered it. Of course, he’s a liar. They’re all lying.
John is flashing back to the biggest lie he’ll ever have to tell — that he didn’t kill his brother — when it’s his time to be on the stand. He’s been a clean police officer for 27 years. There have been no signs of problems in his career, and he’s won several awards. The defense attorney immediately jumps on John, asking where he was that night and about Eric’s accusations that he pulled a gun on him.
He’s washing up in the bathroom when someone who knows him well comes in: Lenny Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor), the family friend and retired detective who knows about many of the skeletons in the Rayburn closet. He takes an interesting approach, appealing to John’s decency, suggesting that this is his last chance to do something right. John Rayburn has no remaining decency.
That becomes clear in the testimony that follows. After facing a few interesting questions and the holes in his story become clear, John Rayburn tells the BIG lie: Marco said he was going to rescind Eric’s immunity deal because he thought Eric might have killed Danny. This lie gives Eric motive. John has no shame. Eric flips out in the courtroom, likely sealing his fate, and we flash to Danny’s body in the surf, the crime that really led to all of these other crimes.
As Sally confesses to her priest, Chelsea makes the only move she has left. She gives a deposition about where she was the night of Marco’s murder, saying that she was with Meg, who was spouting things like, “I’m gonna fix this shit.” She was gonna fix Marco. And then Chelsea drove her to Marco’s house. She didn’t say anything earlier because she was terrified. Of what? “The Rayburns, and what they’d do to me.”
A shattered John, after ignoring another collect call from Eric, comes home to his empty apartment, smoking a cigarette before he even turns on the light.
• Watching on Netflix means nobody sticks around for the closing credits, this episode included the great Cat Power’s “Dark End of the Street.” Everybody should listen to more Cat Power.
• Mikael Håfström returns to the director’s seat and does a good job keeping a fast pace, but the episode felt like another wheel-spinner at times.
• On that note, Bloodline has long been a show about the slow burn — the whole first season was one — but it’s starting to frustrate more as we get closer to the end. I’m still curious to see if this all pays off, but I’m starting to worry it won’t.
• Most of all, I can’t wait to see Kevin’s testimony. No way that goes well, right? It could be historically awful.