The fourth episode of the final season of Ozark centers on disintegrating relationships — Javi and Marty, Ruth and Kerry, and Wendy and everyone. Any of these crumbling dynamics could be the one that takes down the Byrde empire. Pick your team and place your bets.
“Ace Deuce” opens with an absolutely nauseating press conference in which Wendy Byrde leans deeper into the mythology she’s setting up around her dead brother to help her politically and personally. She claims in a press conference that the Shaw rehab centers were inspired by his battle with addiction, something she’s made up to help her causes. Mel hears this from his car and looks suspicious, smelling Wendy’s bullshit. “My hope today is that all families will be safe,” she says. Well, not her brother or the Pierce family. And the Byrde family seems to be in trouble too.
The sense that Wendy is dragging her family down is amplified by little details this season, like Charlotte skipping SAT prep to cover the office at the Belle while her mom spins lies. Meanwhile, Ruth has some management needs, which lead her to the perpetually doomed Sam Dermody (Kevin L. Johnson), who will come manage the Lazy-O motel. There’s no way this ends well after how everything went down at Lickety Splitz, although it’s hard to find consistent help in illegal money laundering operations. You take what you can get.
Meanwhile, Javi is lamenting the FBI seized three recent shipments to Marty on their way to the deal with the Shaw family, when Marty gets a call from Charlotte. See, Ruth left Sam alone at the motel to go party with Kerry and his clients at the Belle. At first, they won’t let Ruth in, but Charlotte calls Marty, who allows it. Two major events happen at the Belle. First, Ruth is at the bar when she sees news footage of Wendy’s speech about Ben, spouting lies about the man Ruth loved. You can see the fire in her eyes and watch as Ruth considers just lighting the Belle ablaze. Even Marty knows this is wrong and tells her to stop lying about Ben.
Second, Ruth doesn’t notice how often Kerry goes to the bathroom to get high. What starts as a slight sniff in a stall leads to heroin all over the counter. She’s drinking, he’s snorting, and then he’s falling down the stairs. He overdoses in the lobby of the Belle, but he’ll be fine. Ruth saves him, and the Byrdes show up to see the aftermath. Somebody almost died from illegal drugs at what is supposed to be their “clean” front. This could be a problem. Oh, and Wendy would be dead if Ruth’s looks could kill.
Ruth makes the wise decision to tell Darlene about the Kerry overdose before she hears about it from someone else. Ruth tries to assuage Darlene’s anger and assert that it won’t get back to them, but Darlene fires a shotgun blast into Kerry’s chauffeur to eliminate at least one potential loose end. Given how much time the season has spent on the Darlene/Ruth/Wyatt dynamic, what follows is more interesting than the murder itself when Wyatt is forced to go with Ruth to dispose of the body. Yes, Darlene will put Wyatt by her side when she feels it helps her, but she also uses him to do the dirty work. Aligning Wyatt with Ruth at this moment feels like a power shift, and, interestingly, Wyatt ends up literally near his cousin for more time during the rest of this episode. It seems likely that he would pick Darlene if it comes down to a crucial decision, but that may change.
While Wendy is playing the Ben card yet again with a reporter as she tries to soften the overdose story, Mel is in a small town investigating this thread of lies. He finds his way to someone who would know about Ben’s past, his father, played by the great Richard Thomas of The Waltons fame. He knows that Wendy is lying and that Ben didn’t have a drug problem. He later calls Wendy, and you get the impression that they haven’t spoken in years. Given how long Ben has been dead and that dad didn’t even know he was in the Ozarks, they don’t seem like a very in-touch family, which could explain Wendy’s lack of parental skills. Wendy rips the phone off the wall when her dad yells at her. Very mature.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Guerrero goes to meet with Ruth Langmore. What was she doing at the Belle? She’s looking for Kerry Stone’s driver too. Ruth plays dumb and later tells Wyatt that Guerrero is fishing for information. The law woman does the same with the Byrdes, and Wendy throws Ruth under the bus. After the sheriff leaves, Marty points out that if Ruth goes down then, Jonah might go down too. Wendy doesn’t dismiss this idea, seemingly willing to punish her son for his decision to align with Ruth. “He won’t serve time; we have connections,” she says. Yikes.
Javi wants the body cam footage from the recent busts and discovers that Maya was there at the first one. He yells at Marty about it and claims there will be no more product for the Shaws until they can find the mole. Everything could derail, but Marty has an idea. He goes to Ruth with a six-pack and a deal. Will one of the foundational relationships on Ozark hold everything together? “I thought you were clever,” he tells her. He wants to help her but also needs her product. As she says, “It’s another Marty Byrde scheme.” It might be the last one.
• Kerry and Sam talking about paella made me hungry.
• I loved Mel jamming out to “Ça plane pour moi” by Plastic Bertrand during his investigation. And he knows all the words!
• To make sure I’m getting names and details right, I watch Ozark with the subtitles on, which produces gems sometimes like this after Darlene shot the driver: “[Wyatt whimpers.]”
• Richard Thomas! The Waltons kind of became a punchline for cheesy family television, but he actually won an Emmy for his work on that show and has been a staple on TV ever since. He has an underrated range, selling characters on family fare like Christmas vs. the Walters and appearing in more serious dramas like The Americans and Billions. It’s good to see him here.