Ozark Recap: Family Business


Blue Cat
Season 1 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


Blue Cat
Season 1 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Jackson Davis/Netflix

The second episode of Ozark is primarily about getting the Byrde operation off the ground (even as Marty considers leaving it all behind), heightening the marital drama between Wendy and Marty (sending Marty to some pretty dark places), and placing the chess pieces like the Langmores, the Blue Cat Lodge, and Lickety Splitz on the board.

“A family is like a small business,” Marty tells his bewildered kids as the episode opens. This family has torn down its former establishment and has to put up a new one. As Marty searches the Ozarks for fronts for his money-laundering scheme, he has his first run-in with the Langmore clan, which unfolds in one of the best character introductions of the modern-TV era. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), a genius surrounded by idiots. The fact that Ruth and Marty’s first true encounter takes place with the kind of heightened stakes that could get Marty killed makes perfect sense. This dynamic has been life-or-death from the very beginning.

Wendy goes house shopping while Charlotte and Jonah stay at the motel. What do they tell the kids? Wendy, who was just caught cheating, already has the nerve to accuse Marty of throwing a pity party, pointing out that her lover Gary was collateral damage to Marty’s choices. Well, sorta. She notes that Gary was a good man, not like Bruce. The good and bad will die if they get around the Byrdes. Marty points out that he might have caught Bruce skimming if he hadn’t been distracted by his wife cheating on him. The only joy in his life recently? Hearing Gary hit the pavement. Wendy hits him. (He deserves it, honestly.)

It’s Sam! Kevin Johnson’s put-upon local has no idea what he’s in for when Wendy Byrde shows up at his realty office and wants to look at houses. While Wendy is shopping with him, Marty looks for investment opportunities around the Ozarks. He keeps striking out. For example, he gets a storage space in town but not an investment in the entire operation. He also gets a bit of a warning about poor planning from the proprietor that he should probably heed.

While Wendy looks for a place to live and Marty looks for a place to launder, Charlotte meets Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan) when he tries to hand her a Bible. It’s not a bad pick-up line. However, the religious angle doesn’t work on Char nearly as well as the financial one. Notice how much more attention she pays to Wyatt when he says that his dad is a lawyer and that they’re going wakeboarding later with his brother, Three (Carson Holmes).

Marty finally gets to Lickety Splitz with its owner, who steadfastly refuses to call it anything but a “titty bar.” He looks for fetish workers, like the topless, very pregnant woman on stage or “plain Janes with a work ethic.” The owner figures out that Marty is interested in looking for money laundering. Leave it to the titty-bar owner to be the one to figure out Marty first. He offers to work with him. A dumbstruck Marty knows that it’s a very good, cash-heavy front, but it’s not great to have someone who already knows his deal.

Sam finally gets Wendy to the right house, where she meets Buddy Dieker (Harris Yulin), a man who will play a major role in their lives, and not just because he lives in the basement. The irascible codger has only about a year left to live and is renting out the rest of the house while his final minutes tick by on the bottom floor. It’s creepy but gives the Byrdes the kind of house that they’re accustomed to living in and surrounds them with just a bit more death.

Speaking of death, Marty is thinking about his own. He’s eating a sandwich on a cliff called Sweetwater Bluff when he stands, dropping the sandwich off the edge. He watches it fall. Does he want to join it? Maybe.

While Charlotte speeds around the lake with the Langmores, Jonah gets bored watching Shark Week. He heads out for a walk and meets a boy named Tuck (Evan Vourazeris). It’s another seemingly random event that will basically save Marty’s life. The premiere had the brochure. The second episode has Tuck’s knife. More on that later.

Wendy is trying to decide if she wants a grumpy old man living in her basement. We learn that Buddy is 82 with a bad ticker that won’t be replaced. He doesn’t mince words, which Wendy kind of admires. He calls tampons “period plugs,” which Wendy kind of hates. When Buddy refers to Marty as “the Decider,” it almost feels like a challenge that will make Wendy more likely to say yes. She is the decider in this family.

The cops come after the boat and Charlotte learns the very hard way that Wyatt and Three don’t come from a wealthy family. They throw Charlotte overboard, leading to a meeting between Wendy, Marty, and Sheriff Nix (Robert Treveiler), who basically wants them to pay up. The Byrdes play hardball, and Marty hears about Ruth Langmore for the first time. She’s tough, she’s 19, and Marty knows she’s probably robbed them already. He panics and rushes to the motel to find an empty suitcase under the bed.

Marty doesn’t hesitate. He rents a boat and finds his way to Ruth and the rest of the Langmores, eavesdropping as the gang discusses how Wyatt lured Charlotte away so Ruth could steal the cash. Marty rushes in and meets Boyd (Christopher James Baker) and Russ Langmore (Marc Menchaca), two more branches on this sketchy family tree. Marty is seriously outnumbered, but don’t forget that he doesn’t have much to live for at this point. He’s already been contemplating jumping off a cliff. What could the Langmores really do to him?

And the truth is that Marty’s dead anyway if he doesn’t get that money back. He starts to negotiate. What could the Langmores do with all that cash? He tells them about Omar Navarro, the head of the cartel, and that stealing his money is a very bad idea. If they keep the money, they’ll have to kill Marty. His strategy is to lay it all out on the line. These people are in TOO DEEP.

Ruth’s business savvy kicks in. She calls some of Marty’s bullshit and notes how his death may help everyone, including the drug addicts he essentially enables. Marty pushes back by suggesting that even if he dies, someone in this dirty crew will break. It’s a great scene that’s even better in retrospect when considering how much will happen between Marty and Ruth. Everybody but the pair leaves the room, and Ruth gets her first of many great scene-enders: “Almost got that done, didn’t I? Why do I have this feeling we both know that you’d be better off dead?”

A quick trip back to Chicago reveals that Petty is moving to the Ozarks soon to chase after Marty Byrde, leaving his partner Trevor Evans (McKinley Belcher III) behind. He doesn’t seem to care much about what the relocation will do to their relationship.

Marty wakes up early the next day and kisses his kids on the head. Is he ready to jump? Did he take Ruth’s words to heart? Marty learns about the Blue Cat through Jonah, who tells him about meeting Tuck after Marty finds the new knife. It’s a crumbling lodge that could use money like Marty’s. But he’s still planning to jump. He tells Wendy about the $1 million in life insurance and that there’s money in a storage unit. Email Del. No one else can find the money. Wendy does keep encouraging him not to do it, although Linney deftly leaves the door open just enough to allow us to wonder if she doesn’t know it’s the best plan for her.

After a call to his detective about insurance investigations related to possible suicides, Marty bails. He comes home, shocking Wendy, and goes to the Blue Cat, where he meets Rachel Garrison (Jordana Spiro). She turns him down but reconsiders when she sees Marty defend Tuck against some bullying bar-crawlers shortly after that. Marty has no idea how much the Blue Cat will change his life.

In the final scene, Wendy shows the kids their new house (and their new roommate). Almost as if the day’s emotion has torn down all of her defenses, she drops the hammer on the children: “Your father is laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. I shit you not.”

Dirty Laundry

• It’s incredible to consider how many of these people have no idea that meeting Marty Byrde has essentially signed their death warrants. Ozark has had a higher body count than even fans realize.

• But not Sam! Other supporting players may come and go, but Sam is still around in season four. He may actually have the longest trajectory from first to the last episode outside of the Byrdes and Ruth Langmore herself.
It’s funny to see these early characters reflected in later ones, like how there are echoes of Del in season four’s Javi and Petty in Mel, the private dick sniffing around Helen’s disappearance.

Ozark Recap: Family Business