Things are getting scarier on Ozark. But Marty Byrde has no idea just how scary. While he is appropriately terrified of the new threat in his life that Jacob Snell presents, he’s unaware that one of his newest allies is literally trying to kill him. It’s remarkable to think about how much the arc of Ozark changes in this episode when Ruth’s murder attempt fails. And how much Marty doesn’t suspect it at all. He’s usually a few steps ahead of the people around him, but Ruth is now, and will continue to be, the wild card, the one variable that Marty’s accountant brain can’t reconcile on his books.
Poor Marty is riding his bike on a beautiful summer day, zooming by the construction of the new church, when a pair of trucks come upon him. He tries to wave them past, but they don’t go. One speeds up and reveals Ash in the passenger seat. That truck then swerves in front of Marty, forcing him to crash. The Snells are done talking. They kidnap Marty and throw him in a truck.
While Charlotte and Wendy come upon Marty’s bike and helmet on the side of the road, Marty is getting a lecture. Jacob explains that the Snells grow poppies and have a drug operation that Marty has derailed. “You have disturbed the ecology of our delicate little system,” says Jacob with a perfect southern drawl. And Martin — it’s always the full name with Jacob — learns about the mistake he has made with Mason Young. They “need the preacher on the water.” Darlene jumps in to get very threatening as she reveals details gleaned from Ash’s home invasion. They can get to Marty and his family. And Jacob correctly wonders if the quick retreat from Chicago means that Marty’s boss might actually appreciate Snell doing the cleanup for him. Marty assures the Snells that the construction will stop after Jacob threatens to kill Mason and his pregnant wife if as much as a cross goes up on that property.
During all of this, Wendy is panicked. It grows when she notices a gun is gone from the case, and she’s starting to load another one when Marty comes home. He tells a lie about an accident, but Wendy can see that his hand is shaking. She is shocked to learn that their privacy has already been invaded, and she’s concerned when Marty reveals that the only reason they’re not dead is that they’re scared of the cartel.
Speaking of fear, Ruth carries some into a conversation with her father, Cade (Trevor Long), who is still behind bars but carries so much weight. He’s pushing Ruth to move quickly against Marty. “We got a right to take ’em out,” he says. She senses there’s a longer game to play but will give in to her father. Julia Garner is so good here, changing her delivery and body language in ways that reflect the control Cade wields over Ruth. “You’ll be fine, Ruthy,” he says. “You got me inside ya.” Ew.
Petty’s plan for Russ takes another step when he suggests to his lover that they open a bait-and-tackle shop. Maybe Marty wants to be an investor? So let’s clarify a bit. Petty knows that Marty is a money launderer — Bruce told him. The best way to take him down is to open a small business to become part of Marty’s chain? Wouldn’t it be easier to just try and turn someone like Rachel or Ruth instead of playing games with Russ that require an entire damn storefront? Russ agrees to introduce Petty to Ruth and then there’s some tickling and wrestling.
Wendy informs the Youngs that they need to halt construction, while Charlotte flirts a bit with Wyatt around the idea of a “Fuck the Tourists” party at the end of the summer. Is it already near the end of summer? Interesting. There was a major time jump in the middle of this first season.
Marty’s panic over losing the church and the pressure from the Snells sends Wendy to apply some of her own to the Dermodys. She wants a bonus for all the money she has made for Sam and his mom. She starts by wanting half of the increase in income but settles much lower, at around $25,000. It’s an interesting scene, because it’s a small amount of money given what the Byrdes need to clean for Del, but there’s a sense that Wendy feels like she needs to start playing a bigger role. That is amplified in a later scene with Buddy, wherein Wendy reveals that she worked for one of Obama’s state-senate campaigns, clarifying her past as a political animal. And she starts not with how she loved what Obama stood for — that’s second — but with how good she was at it. She wants that kind of control back in her life, that kind of a win.
In one of the show’s most disturbing scenes, a package arrives at the Byrdes’ home. Wendy sits in the dark, rattled by its contents. “Del sent us something,” she says, and Marty pulls a jar with testicles in it. Who ships that kind of thing? Can you get it on Etsy?
Meanwhile, Ruth is putting what will be a series-changing plan into motion involving her dock and some shoddy electricity. She drops a wire into the water by the ladder, sacrificing a mouse to prove it works. If someone touches that ladder, they die. Ruth plans for that someone to be Marty Byrde.
There’s a kind of poorly developed Charlotte subplot in this episode, in which she ditches both work and Wyatt to party with the rich-kid tourists in a cove. She lets her hair down and sleeps with a guy named Zach before learning the hard way that she is disposable to guys like this. He doesn’t even tell her when he leaves town later in the episode, prompting Wyatt to note the difference between “us” and “them” and to tell Charlotte, “You’re an us now.” She cries shortly after, probably because she knows it’s true. And she misses her toy chest.
Ruth’s plan doesn’t work. Marty makes it ashore just fine and goes home to tell Wendy that it looks as though they will be able to clean enough money for Del. Wendy and Marty get intimate for the first time probably since Chicago, and the camera angle recalls the footage that Marty got of his wife and her lover. Marty seems to realize it, too, and he starts reenacting the footage, having sex in the same position and even spanking his wife, which first sends a shocked look across her face. And then she seems to have a sense memory of when Gary did that. Why would Marty? Does he know? She interrogates him later and then logs into his computer, finding the video. She knows that Marty doesn’t just know about Gary; he has seen it for himself.
After a fight over the dock debacle, Ruth gets slapped by Russ, which leads to bruises that Wendy sees at the Byrdes’ house. She claims she tripped, but Wendy knows the truth, saying that she “tripped” twice before deciding to never trip again.
The episode ends with two explosions in Marty’s empire. First, he comes to the Blue Cat to find Rachel looking at the books, realizing what her new investor has been doing. Voices raise, and she threatens to call the cops. He sweeps the papers off the table and leaves Rachel shaking. As he drives off, Ash shows Jacob something on his phone that Marty also sees for himself. Cut to black as Jacob says, “Jesus, fuck. They put up a cross.”
• The show uses Jacob so sparingly. Darlene would become almost too much of a presence in future seasons, but Jacob comes in only when he’s needed to raise the threat level in Marty’s life.
• “Black Beatles,” by Rae Sremmurd, with Gucci Mane, is a great song for a cove party.
• Wendy says to Buddy that she wants to “drown my stress in quiet,” which is such a great line. Sometimes you just need all the noise of the world to stop.
• I love how Jacob calls his new nemesis Martin. He would probably argue that only kids are called Marty. He doesn’t talk to children.