Well, that’s more like it. After a couple frustrating episodes, Ozark returns to near-prime form with an excellent, tense hour that allows some of the supporting cast other than Julia Garner a chance to shine. Consequently, we get a series-best performance from Jordana Spiro, and great work from Charlie Tahan, Harris Yulin, and Jason Butler Harner. There are times when Ozark kind of feels like The Jason Bateman Show With Special Guest Laura Linney. Not this week.
However, this episode was ultimately about Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrde in that it details how Agent Petty got from watching Dragnet in his hotel room to enacting a search warrant of Byrde’s house. It also served as a prime example of one of Marty’s biggest character flaws: His failure to realize the importance of keeping the people who can get you in trouble happy. He didn’t support Ruth Langmore, and so she ends up talking to Rachel Garrison. It could be his biggest mistake to date. And if he can get out of his current predicament, he’s got the fact that Wyatt Langmore is suspicious that Marty had something to do with the death of his father and uncle. Marty may want to just think about moving again.
Much of this episode consists of the push and pull between Petty and Rachel. The FBI agent is losing it, pushing Rachel to get something soon, but she’s fighting to breathe herself. Petty pushes his luck by coming into the lodge to get a Corona; Rachel has a quickie with a guy she gets to call Marty in the bathroom just so Petty could hear (and we do mean “quickie” — “Rehab” doesn’t end before he does). After Rachel fingers Petty as someone that Marty should worry about more than her, the craziest agent in the South drags her into the woods and points a gun in her face. It’s a testament to the writing that you probably weren’t completely sure that he wouldn’t shoot her. He’s just crazy enough to do something drastic — and the show could use an unexpected turn to shake things up right about now.
But he doesn’t shoot Rachel, and Ruth Langmore finally drops enough information about Marty’s procedures for Petty to get a search warrant. In the show’s final scene, FBI agents storm their way into the Byrdes’ house, gathering the family into the living room and seating them on the floor. And a meeting that’s taken 14 episodes to happen finally does as Petty says “good morning” to his white whale.
Failing to support Ruth Langmore isn’t the only mistake made by a Byrde this episode. Perhaps not really knowing how obsessed Wyatt is becoming with the death of his father, Charlotte Byrde reveals that she was at the Blue Cat the night that Wyatt’s dad and uncle were electrocuted on the boat. And so was Marty. Wyatt is understandably suspicious, confronting Marty about it. His response is typically naïve, ordering Charlotte to stop seeing him. Marty Byrde is very bad at people management — his wife, his kids, his employees. He’s great with numbers, awful with people.
His wife, on the other hand, reads them very well. Her main arc this episode was as a part of the attempted bribe of the official who has to approve their casino plan. She wisely figures out that said official, who happens to be a Deadhead, was in the pocket of the FBI, and she kills the bribe just before it’s about to happen. Imagine if Petty had that to hold over Byrde after they raid his house. He may be in deep water now, but it would be over his head if Wendy wasn’t smart enough to cancel the bribe at the last minute.
She also makes a business move this week when she brings old friend Sam Dermody in to run Lickety Splitz instead of Ruth Langmore. The sweet motivational speaker who Ruth calls “Mr. Rogers” basically falls in love with a stripper the first day and gets sucker-punched by Cade Langmore. Just life in an Ozark strip club. There’s a motif in Ozark of the Byrdes corrupting otherwise good people like Rachel and Mason — will Sam be next?
Speaking of Mason, it’s unsurprising to learn that Wendy set up a fund to try and help the preacher and his son, but Mason won’t take the money. He’d rather die on the street than be helped out by a Byrde. Mason clearly isn’t going away narratively. It will be interesting to see how he plays into the plot over the second half of the season.
It seems unlikely that Buddy will make it that long. After collapsing with Jonah and fleeing the hospital, he seems ready to die in the Byrdes’ basement. The fact that he didn’t pass away this episode means he might have one more major role to play, other than humanizing Marty and Wendy in ways the season kind of needed. Their scenes were some of the best this week.
There are a lot of people orbiting Marty Byrde right now, including a suspicious Wyatt, angry Mason, sociopathic Snells, skeptical Mexicans, dying Buddy, and powerful Charlie. But will any of it matter now that Petty has him in his grasp?
• Wyatt’s ghost of a father sings “The Man Who Sold the World” to his son, a song written by David Bowie, but it feels like the Langmores probably know the Nirvana version. Add that song to the tunes by Amy Winehouse and the Notorious B.I.G. playing at the Blue Cat and a theme emerges of young, mega-talented musicians who died way too young. Death is everywhere on Ozark.
• When Buddy said, “It’s like watching the Detroit Lions sucking,” this lifelong fan winced. It’s true, but painful to hear.
• Speaking of Buddy, we need to talk about Harris Yulin for a second. He’s one of those great character actors who makes everything he does better. It feels like he’s gotten nowhere near the career credit he deserves, and it’s nice to see him doing great work here.
• And speaking of great work, props to Jordan Spiro’s performance this episode. It’s the first episode this season that I didn’t feel was stolen by Julia Garner.
• Wonder what book Jonah was reading to Buddy that Wendy continued? Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. Don’t let your kids read it too young.
• Wondering if Wyatt’s potential destination of Lake Ozark Technical College is real? It doesn’t appear so (although Ozarks Technical Community College is close). Given how it’s treated by the plot — as a less-enticing future for Wyatt — probably didn’t want to insult an actual school.