All the puzzle pieces have fallen into place: DWL’s appearance at the South Georgia State Fair in next week’s Heels season finale promises to be even more dramatic than Jack Spade could have planned.
Another pivotal father-son flashback opens “The Big Bad Fish Man” and shows Tom and Jack wrestling, sometimes literally, over control of the DWL. Jack approached the league’s biggest sponsor, Eddie Earl, for some funds to help zhuzh up the Dome, a move Tom sees as Jack maneuvering behind his back. Carol tells Tom that Jack is also trying to talk Ace into skipping out on his football scholarship to join Tom and Jack in the family business.
All this infuriates King Spade, who calls Jack an operator, and Tom knows one when he sees one. As for Ace, Jack thinks they need a young, fresh new face in the DWL because it’s flailing and likely to go under unless something changes. Tom knows this. That’s why he doesn’t want Ace to join them in the “fucking homemade quagmire.” Jack argues that Ace doesn’t go to class, can’t learn the plays, is basically uncoachable, and he’s at a Division II school anyway, so why not get him in the ring? Tom snaps and challenges Jack to pin him; if he can get a three-count, he’ll sign the DWL and the Dome over to Jack. Jack tries and fails and instead ends up on the ground. “You don’t come for my shit, boy,” he warns Jack.
This explains why Tom favored Ace and determined to see him get out of Duffy and away from the family business. It also explains why Tom was so at odds with his oldest son: Jack is in many ways just like Tom.
This all brings up Wild Bill’s accusation that Jack is the reason Tom took his own life, something he says in a rant toward Willie. Bill has no filter, of course, and is speaking in anger, but it’s still a curious thing for him to say. Bill also told Jack previously that there were a lot of nuances to his friendship with Tom and that he had offered his help to Tom and the DWL, which Tom rejected. Does that mean Tom had confided his feelings about Jack trying to control the business to Bill?
Back in the present, Jack’s experiencing those concerns himself, as Charlie Gully is trying to raid Jack’s pool of talent and put him out of business before the state fair exhibition. Rooster defects to the Florida Wrestling Dystopia and is put in a match where he finally gets the championship belt he wanted so badly. But as Gully tells Ace, Rooster is just the bait … Gully really wants Ace, “the fish.” After a night of wooing Ace with scantily clad women, hootch, drugs, and pretty words about how great Ace could be as the star of his league, he agrees to make his debut at the FWD event in Tallahassee.
In Duffy, Willie’s running auditions at the Dome, because with Rooster gone, Big Jim retired, and Bobby injured, Jack needs bodies for the state fair matches. One dude, dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis, pitches himself as The Dad, and though Bill quickly dispatches of him in the ring, Willie signs him up because she saw little else. Except for Crystal.
Encouraged by her DWL pals, especially Bobby, Crystal shows up for the auditions and jumps into the ring with Bill. She can’t lift him, but she impresses everyone with her acrobatic moves against the veteran. Willie dismisses her but later tells Jack that Crystal has “it.” She thinks they should not only sign her up for the state fair, but they should feature her in the main event. Jack says no, he doesn’t want to see ballet. Willie pushes, saying the crowd loves her. She even suggests that because people love the drama and the fights between women on The Real Housewives, they’d like fights between women in the DWL ring. He’s against it. Crystal apologizes for her part in the disastrous match between Ace and Bobby, but Jack says he can’t have Crystal anywhere near Ace at such an important event. Noticeably, Willie wonders why no one is concerned about how she feels with Wild Bill around all the time.
Crystal and Ace have mostly made up, though, and it’s Crystal that he calls from Tallahassee when his nerves and indecision about abandoning the DWL and his brother get to him. But Crystal turns around and tells Jack.
Despite the interruption to his movie night with Staci and Thomas and Staci’s insistence that he allows Ace to do what he wants to do, Jack hits the road for Tallahassee, where he interrupts Gully’s hype session in the ring and knocks Gully to the mat with a vicious punch. “Don’t come for my shit, boy,” Jack tells Gully.
Jack spots Ace backstage, they lock eyes, and before anybody makes any other moves, a bloody Gully yells out to the crowd and his FWD staff, “Somebody get that motherfucker!”
To be continued in next week’s season-ender, “Double Turn.”
Meanwhile, Jack has no idea how much trouble he’s in on the home front, too. Staci has been growing more suspicious of just how far her husband will go to whip up a crowd and use his own brother’s emotional fragility to carry out one of his DWL scripts. After Jack leaves for Tallahassee, Staci finds a basket of tissue packets in her bathroom. She confirms at the Piggly Wiggly that Jack ordered a mess of them right around the time of his match with Ace. You know, the match that ended with Ace crying and the crowd throwing tissues at him in the ring and cementing Ace as the DWL heel.
That’s certainly one way to get back at Tom.
Notes From the Squared Circle
• Willie’s deep conversation and mutual apologies with Bill aside, his return to Duffy has her in a terrible state, and Ted confronts her about it. She implores him not to, but their intense, sad discussion leaves their marriage on shaky ground, her feelings for Bill bubbled up to the surface, and her nursing of those giant cups of whiskey all day is officially a problem.
• Gully’s staff reminisces about Wild Bill’s valets, like “Bunny Bombshell,” and how they were attractive but quickly replaced if they gained weight. Now we know why Ricky Rabies’ valet, Vicki, told Crystal she lives on a diet of tuna for lunch and gummy bears for dinner. For all his cheesiness, Gully tells his staff that wrestling has mistreated women for years, and he wants the FWD to be a “beacon of hope” for women, his Playboy Mansion–like party palace aside.
• The use of REO Speedwagon’s “Roll With the Changes” to open and close the episode is the best Speedwagon-ing since Johnny and Daniel bonded over “Take It on the Run” in the “Different But Same” episode of Cobra Kai.
• Why yes, the Fiona O’Malley listed in the credits as the portrayer of Charlie Gully’s daughter Lucy is the real-life daughter of Gully portrayer and Heels showrunner Mike O’Malley.