As Marty works the Mexican cartel, Wendy works the Ozarks, trying to keep her foundation alive by getting in Ruth’s way. They’re almost better business partners when they’re in different parts of the world. Marty sees the potentially vicious side of his future turned into a bloody reality, while Wendy feels pressure from everywhere, and she does what she does best: lashes out.
The episode opens with a poignant flashback to Ben’s last day on earth. Just seeing Tom Pelphrey’s face again reminds one how good he was in season three — robbed of an Emmy nomination. The scene unfolds on the road trip at the end of his life. At a restaurant, he thought Wendy had gone to the bathroom, but she’s not in there. She’s gone. It’s the assassin for the cartel who pulls a gun on Ben, and he starts begging for his life, then for him to relay Ben’s message to Wendy that he’s sorry. It’s an echo of the monologue in the car from his last episode, but somehow even more painful. “You think she’d be proud of me now?” he asks about Wendy even as she’s the one who sent him to his impending death. He should be furious at Wendy, but he has nothing but forgiveness for her. It’s a scene that shows that we don’t really know people or how they will respond. That and the coldness at the center of Wendy’s heart. His final words: “This is a dream.”
Back in reality, Marty is on his way to Mexico, recalling advice from Omar about how to win over the Navarro cartel and make them both trust and fear him. He can’t show an ounce of weakness or they will join forces with a rival. He tells Omar’s people that Javi is dead, on the orders of Navarro. Marty’s plan is to take over until they can get Omar out of prison. He confidently reassures a skeptical Camila (Veronica Falcón).
The parallel tracks of Marty and Wendy in this episode, along with really confident direction, make this one of the best of the season. While Marty is playing power games in Mexico, Wendy is doing the same, trying to talk Ruth out of working with Clare Shaw. It doesn’t go well. And then Wendy meets Sgt. Guerrero’s replacement, a schmo named Deputy Wycoff (Brad Carter). She plays to his ego by encouraging him to turn his “acting” sheriff status into a full-time one with some big moves. Cut to the lawman at the Lazy-O, talking to Sam, who explains some of his “female conflicts of interest” before pointing him to Jonah’s room. What’s Wendy’s play here? Pressure Jonah? Wycoff wants to ask him a few questions, but Jonah doesn’t seem too rattled. As it heats up, Nathan interrupts the conversation, protecting his grandson.
Wendy knows she can’t put the pieces back together without Jim Rattelsdorf, who is still wigged out from Javi’s violent outburst on Marty from the mid-season finale. But Wendy plays hardball. “You’ve worked your whole life for this,” she tells him, playing to his ego. She wants whales for a casino event that will get all the money she needs. He agrees to make some calls. Say what you will about Wendy Byrde, but she can still be very convincing.
While Mel is hot on Wendy’s trail as he investigates Ben’s disappearance, Wycoff is tailing Ruth. After spotting his men, she gives the acting sheriff a piece of her mind. “Wendy is playing chess, and you’re playing fucking Candyland,” she says. However, Ruth does need help to get around this roadblock and goes to Frank Jr. to get it. He says that he didn’t think she’d be a Darlene Snell; he thought she was more of a Marty Byrde. “I ain’t neither of them,” she says. That’s for sure. And she later gets around Wycoff by using Frank to help move the product while she serves as the decoy.
Marty is auditing some books when he discovers that decimal points were dropped three times in a row — someone cooked the books and is skimming from Navarro. While the accountant responsible for the cooked books is getting beaten by a soldier named Arturo (Reinaldo Faberlle), someone tries to kill Omar in prison. Omar gets the advantage and chokes out his assassin, but he falls into a coma from the blood loss. Wendy calls and tells Marty, who knows this information can’t leak. It has to be impossible to take Omar down. They need to find out who did this. “We do what Navarro would do,” says Marty. And just then, Camila walks out and lights a cigarette. Was she behind it? Taking out her own brother? Marty believes it was Arturo — he was jealous of Javi, and they caught him cheating the cartel.
Marty is in full gangster mode already. Does Marty know at this point that it’s likely he can’t leave Mexico without killing Arturo? Marty oversees the torture of Arturo, hoping to get a confession out of him. He uses every piece of information at his disposal: Arturo was skimming, jealous, and didn’t know why Omar picked Javi over him. But Marty needs a confession and he needs to know who else was involved.
After hearing from Ruth that Clare no longer needs the Byrde drugs, Wendy gets a bigger blow from Jim after he cancels their bigwig casino event. Shaw is pulling their contributions from the rehab venture. Wendy calls Clare, threatening that she shouldn’t make the people Wendy works for unhappy.
Speaking of unhappy, Arturo is in a world of pain as he’s waterboarded into admitting he ordered the hit. Yes, Arturo says he messed with the books, but it was just to take the profit that he thought he deserved. After more torture, Arturo finally gives in, confessing to something he clearly didn’t do. A crestfallen Marty calls Wendy. What can he do now? The guy who killed Ben, seen in a flashback in the prologue, bookends the episode, prepared to take out someone else who made the mistake of getting in the orbit of Marty and Wendy Byrde.
Marty looks at Father Benitez. He looks down to watch Arturo get killed. He knows he has to look.
• Charlotte recounting the history of Sam Dermody is amazing: “I don’t know what’s wrong with him now.” His mom got hit by a truck; he fell in love with a stripper; he had a gambling addiction. Poor Sam. But he’s still here.
• Jonah’s line about why he works for Ruth made me laugh for some reason: “We’re friends. I like math.”
• Veronica Falcón strikes an imposing, often silent figure. The Mexican actress played Camila Vargas on Queen of the South for three seasons and was on Perry Mason on HBO back in 2020, if you’re wondering how you know her.