It took a bit too long to get there, but the sixth chapter of the new season of Ozark ended with the best scene of the season to date as two people who desperately needed a moment of kindness and human contact in their lives took it, and then Marty Byrde learned the truth about Rachel Garrison. The episode was strong overall, adding an emotional undercurrent that this year has been lacking as the Byrdes said good-bye to Jimmy “Buddy” Small, someone who has literally saved their lives and inspired all four Byrdes in different ways. He was an unexpected part of the family. At the same time, Petty tried to bring his dragnet down on the Snells and learned how tricky and smart the heroin kingpins can be. On top of the world last episode, it’s now easier to see how Petty’s investigation is going to crumble, mostly under the weight of his own ego.
Poor Buddy. Dragged out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night to burn a poppy field, Buddy never makes it home. As Wendy rambles about moving to Australia’s Gold Coast, Buddy passes away, probably at least a little happy that he had saved the Byrdes’ asses one final time.
The Byrdes all respond to the loss of Buddy a bit differently. Wendy is typically showy, buying Buddy a mausoleum and giving a speech at his funeral. Jonah takes it emotionally, contacting some of Buddy’s old acquaintances from Detroit and calling him the only real friend he’s ever had. He ends the episode burning the deer head that Jacob Snell had stuffed for him. Why? Maybe he’s just emotional, or maybe losing Buddy has taught him a different kind of respect for life and death. Of course, Marty Byrde just swallows his emotions. That’s all he ever does. It’s going to kill him someday.
Meanwhile, Agent Petty storms the Snell plantation, annoyed that someone burned the poppies the night before in what Jacob called a planned burn, but ecstatic when a dog finds bones on the property. Could they be the bones of Grace, preacher Mason’s missing wife? Mason rushes back to the Ozarks, eager to give the authorities his son’s DNA to prove what he already knows — the Snells killed his wife. Wendy Byrde knows this is a bad idea. Let’s say they prove that it’s Grace on the Snell property. If the Snells killed Grace, what does Mason think is going to happen to himself and his baby if they need to protect that secret? Luckily, it doesn’t matter, as they swap out the bones and make it look like it was just a Snell burial ground that the Feds unearthed. Jacob and Darlene leave custody, threatening to sue Petty in a civil case for desecrating their ancestors. As often hot-headed as the Snells are, they do make it out of predicaments with a surprising amount of southern ease. It probably helps to be on their home turf.
It’s not the only setback for Petty this week. Perhaps riding a bit too high on his recent success, Petty tries to pressure Charlie Wilkes into turning into a witness against the Byrdes, forgetting that people as powerful as Wilkes don’t get pressured, they do the pressuring. Somewhat predictably, they have dirt on Petty — it’s not hard to find given he often does stupid shit like shooting up bars — and so Charlie fights back. Petty turns off the camera and he makes an interesting offer: Not only will Charlie be safe from prosecution, but so will Wendy. He’ll tell Petty what he knows. The question though is how much does he know? The answer is not as much as he thought, as he later goes to Wendy upset at the revelation that the Byrdes have been working with the Mexicans for a decade. They’re not just loosely involved in an illegal operation, they’re a major part of it. He tries to get Wendy to run away with him. Wendy declines.
While everyone seems to be weighing their options when it comes to the FBI investigation, Ruth Langmore is just trying to overcome the trauma of her torture at the hands of Pearce and her men. She’s bruised and emotional, unsure who is really on her side, confiding again in Rachel, who’s at least partially responsible for this entire mess. Wyatt and Cade want to protect her — Marty seems too busy to care. In the end, she tells Cade she’ll help him with his illegal operation. Has she given up on the relatively straight business of Marty Byrde, ready to embrace the Langmore Curse?
All of this builds to the best scene of the year to date as Marty Byrde drowns his sorrows in the Blue Cat, sharing a drink with Rachel Garrison. The two talk about how he buries his emotions. Even on the day his daughter was born, he was thinking about death. Joy comes with worry for Marty Byrde. He tells Rachel that he won’t leave her hanging — even if his operation goes down, he has failsafes in place to protect Rachel. “No one’s ever gonna know what you did to help me,” he says. Rachel kisses Marty; he pauses, assessing the situation as he so often does, and then kisses back. It’s actually kind of a tender scene — two people who so desperately could use some kindness in their lives — and Bateman and Spiro have chemistry. Realizing this can’t happen, they back off from the heat of the moment as Rachel unbuttons her shirt, although it’s not for sex — it’s to reveal the wire underneath.
• The song Buddy would approve of that Rachel puts on the jukebox? “Love Is an Illusion” by Ronnie Walker, a nice oldie bookend to “Shotgun” by Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, which plays in the opening scene.
• It’s nice to see Frank Cosgrove at Buddy’s funeral, and one wonders if he might not feature more heavily into future plots. He’s going to be a part of the casino operation and could be an interesting third part of a power triangle with the Snells and the cartel.
• This was the longest episode of the season so far at 65 minutes, a crazy amount of time for a TV drama. While it’s a testament to the writing and the direction by Phil Abraham, who also helmed last week, that it actually moves at a pretty nice clip, I’m a believer that no TV drama should ever be that long and that Ozark could take that jump from good to great if it would tighten up in a few places, especially episode length.
• Petty didn’t really get what he wanted from the Langmores, Snells, or Wilkes this week. Is he running out of options? What’s his next move? It’s likely to be a dangerous one, as Petty lashes out when he feels failure on the horizon. It’s starting to feel like Agent Petty won’t make it out of this season alive, not only because he’s reckless but because he wouldn’t have much of a role to play in a third chapter, would he? They can’t do a third C.I. plot. It should be fun to see him go down in flames. The main question is who will he take with him?