Staci Spade has a squirrel in the attic; her couch is more comfortable for sleeping than her bed because Jack used their new mattress money to buy pyrotechnics for The Dome; the grass in the backyard, long in need of a good mowing, remains so tall that son Thomas can’t properly practice his soccer skills on it. Not that Jack’s helping his son with his athletic pursuits, either.
Welcome to week two of Heels, which flips the script on us — just like Jack did on younger brother Ace in last week’s premiere, amiright — and allows a peek at how Ace might not be a total Spade heel, and how Jack is most definitely not the family’s savior.
First of all, there’s Jack vs. Ace’s championship battle from last week. No one’s very happy with Jack for writing Ace as the match loser. Ace was not only booed by the fans, who minutes before had been cheering him, but he also lost his chance at being signed to a larger pro wrestling developmental league when he started crying in the ring. Jack can tell himself, and anyone who will listen to him, that he did it for Ace’s own good, but, as rival wrasslin’ entrepreneur Gully points out, the reality is that he did it to keep his cash cow in town.
Second, Jack’s behavior wouldn’t earn him any Father’s Day cards nor a wife as perpetually understanding as Staci. He’s brooding, frequently absent, makes promises we’ve yet to see him keep, spends money they don’t have without asking Staci’s opinion (let alone her after he does it), and his reaction to her suggestion that Thomas might appreciate some soccer coaching warrants a truly deadbeat reaction from Jack: “What’s to learn? You run to kick the ball; you run again.”
But the family business, keeping the DWL going and growing, that (and little else) he cares about all the livelong day. And it’s all for the good of his family, including Ace, his widowed mama, and DWL partner Willie, right? Eh, there’s another instance where no one should be fooled by Jack’s claims of total altruism. When he’s later forced to offer a pseudo apology to Ace because his mama is worried a dejected Ace might do something to harm himself — man, are they driving hard at the hoop (if I may mix my sports metaphors) with hints that Jack and Ace’s recently deceased dad might have died by suicide — he ‘fesses up.
“If it’s going to be a normal life, it is not enough. It is not enough for me,” Jack tells Ace, confirming that while he has a wife and son who he loves and who love him, being stuck in Duffy in a 9-to-5 job he hates means his family is not enough. What he’s saying is that he needs the DWL, whether or not it is good for him and his family, whether or not he can make it pay the bills.
Oh, and about that … Jack’s day gig is selling lawn mowers at Leckie Lawn Care, where his boss, Tim, is a snotty 26-year-old who inherited his family business from his grandpa. But before we go feeling too sorry for Jack, it’s worth noting that he shows up late all the time, and when he does take a seat at his desk, he immediately pulls out his laptop to work on his DWL scripts. And yet he jabs Ace for not being able to keep a job at Winn-Dixie. Tim all but tells Jack he’s only employed because Grandpa Leckie liked Jack. Jack should keep tabs on whether or not that Winn-Dixie spot is still available.
But the entire episode isn’t about how Jack is a more complicated guy than we initially surmised; we get a deeper look at Ace, too. The wrestling face still has some heel-ish tendencies outside the ring, but he makes it clear Duffy isn’t enough for him, either. That’s why he wants to move on to the bigger league. Fame, limos, and women are all perks, but what Ace wants most is to get out of Duffy, the way Ariel wanted out of Bomont in Footloose (Ariel remains my “I’m cut out for more than this small town” pop culture hero). In Duffy, he’s just the failed football star who wasn’t good enough to play in college. When it turned out he might just have enough wrestling skills to hot-foot(loose) it out of there, he was more than happy to embrace that opportunity.
Ace, Jack tells Crystal, never wanted to be a wrestler. Jack goaded him into it after Tom Spade died, in the name of boosting DWL. His success made him believe again that he might be cut out for more than this small town until Jack, well, you know … the script.
“I fuckin’ hate you,” a drunken Ace tell his big brother. “You act like you’re some kind of genius, but you’re not. You’re just a lawn mower salesman. You ruined my fuckin’ life.”
When the two sort of patch things up at the end — with a patch made of the slightest material and the thinnest layer of adhesive, think a box of 99-cent store bandages with a name like Band Ayeds — Ace tells Jack he will be scouted again, and he will take the next chance he gets to leave the DWL behind. Jack promises he’ll support that, 100 percent.
“I don’t ever want to get booed again,” Ace demands. “Not ever.”
“Then you won’t,” Jack says. But given the way he keeps his word to the rest of his family …
Notes From the Squared Circle
• Speaking of broken promises, Jack was going to have the attic cleared of squirrels and the lawn mowed. But when Staci (Allison Luff) found out he had passed on an offer by Gully to sell the DWL (again, without considering her), she decides to take matters into her own hands. She takes a gun to the attic — RIP squirrel — and starts up that riding mower herself, complete with one of Jack’s icy cold beers in the cupholder.
• I’ll repeat last week’s hope that the female cast members get more play as the season rolls on. Still need lots more of Mary McCormack’s Willie, and the full story on why she ever went into business with Tom Spade, and why she remains in business with Jack. Was there romance involved? Is that why Jack and Ace’s mother is so bitter about, well, everything, but especially the DWL?
• Also, more of the fantastic Kelli Berglund as Crystal, Ace’s valet, who is far savvier and talented as a wrestler than either of the Spades. She wants out of Duffy even more than Ace, and in a just world, or at least a less sexist regional sport, she would be the one being scouted to move on up. So she sees Ace as her ticket out, but we have questions, like who are those young boys on the trampoline at the trailer where she lives? Her brothers? We learn she grew up with an alcoholic mother, and in that same conversation, that Tom Spade was also an alcoholic who might have been prone to violence. That’s when he would take Ace off to a piece of property owned by one of Tom’s friends — “Luckystan,” they called it — so they could avoid the fray. Score one more point for Jack as a face there.
• We saw the best wrestling move of the season thus far in “Dusty Finish.” When Crystal takes down trouble-making karaoke bar patron Trevor, she does so by jumping up at his neck(!), wrapping her legs around it, and pulling him down to the ground. I believe it is called a headscissors takedown, and it is spectacular.
• Heels has a Crystal and a Krystal. Those fast-food burgers and fries and shakes drunk Ace was so excited about? They’re from an actual fast food chain, with burgers that appear to be White Castle-y in format. Is this accurate, Krystal devotees?
• When Gully offers to buy the DWL, Jack curses and says no way. But he does ask Willie how much Gully offered … does that mean the DWL is really just the thing that helps Jack avoid boredom and that he’s willing to cast it aside if the price is right?
• Heels theme song been stuck in your head? It’s called “Love in War,” and it’s a collaboration between Band of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell and Heels composer Jeff Cardoni. Hear the lush song over the main title sequence here.