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'Revenge' Recap: Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

By Christian Blauvelt, Hollywood.com Staff

"True power comes from within," Emily said in the typically sullen voiceover that stated the theme of Revenge's midseason premiere. I disagree. True power doesn't come from within. True power must be taken. Just like how I took this Revenge recap away from Kelsea Stahler!

Okay, not really. Kelsea handed off Revenge to me, your new recapper Christian Blauvelt, because she's taking over our American Idol recaps in a few days. I formerly cataloged all the sudsy drama in the Hamptons in my Revenge recaps for EW.com, so here I am, at your service. It's fitting that I'm taking over with this particular episode, because Revenge itself seemed interested in hitting its own reset button this week.

"Power" began with Daniel Grayson being accosted by Helen Crowley, the smirking, dark-suited, stiletto-heeled mistress of the Americon Initiative who seems like a cross between the Evil Queen on Once Upon a Time and Cora on Downton Abbey. She told Daniel that if he kept digging around in the more shadowy corners of Grayson Global, he might find a fortune, just like he did when he discovered his company's claim on NolCorp.

Daniel wasn't the only one whose turf was being encroached upon by sinister forces. Jack had just given Faux-Manda a seaglass necklace as a wedding present—it was something new, borrowed, and blue!—when she told him that she thought the Ryan brothers were bad news. No kidding. Jack had all but discovered as much himself, but when you consider that Amanda, who likes to pal around with strippers from a club called the Beaver Dam, thinks the Ryan brothers are bad news, that means they're really bad news. Declan had also sniffed out their villainy and gotten Charlotte—who's decided to take up residence with the wharf rat on the Amanda—to distract Nate, or as I like to call him Mr. Starbuck (it is Battlestar Galactica's Michael Trucco, after all), while he snooped around among the goods they were stowing in the back of the Stowaway. Charlotte was talking to Mr. Starbuck about how damaged people can be by their experience in prison, and Nate agreed, saying that he himself had spent a nickel in the slammer in his youth. He had been left holding the bag for his associates who were "purveyors of recreational curiosities." Declan discovered that such curiosities could now be found in the back of the Stowaway, in the form of coke-stuffed coffee beans. You know, for when you really need a buzz. Yup, the Ryan bros were using their bar as a front for their true moneymaking enterprise.

While the reputation of the Porter boys was about to be ruined forever, Victoria and Conrad sought to salvage what was left of theirs. As is often the case, a charity fundraiser would prove useful for that objective. Remember, what Bert Cooper said on Mad Men: "Philanthropy…that's true power." (He said it a lot more cynically that it may come across in print.) They wanted to invite Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Barnes and his wife, Patricia, to their house for dinner to discuss a fundraiser for their not-for-profit, the Liberty Foundation, an org that investigates claims of wrongful convictions. It would make sense for Victoria to pledge a huge sum to the Liberty Foundation since Conrad himself had been wrongly accused of a crime. "If they sold stock in irony, I'd be richer than the Sultan of Brunei," said Conrad, who really is getting all the best lines these days.

NEXT: Nolan forgets that no one has said "bros before hos" since 2002, and Aiden comes face to face with the Initiative.[PAGEBREAK]Of course, this bit of charitable giving would work neatly into Emily's own plans. Turns out, Barnes was the presiding Judge at her father's trial. And she had a letter that her father received from someone with "unparalleled access" to the court that alleged corruption and jury tampering, possibly from Judge Barnes himself, that assured David Clarke's wrongful conviction. Unfortunately, that letter was unsigned. Now that he and his wife would be visiting Grayson Manor, Emily would be able to get out her red marker for some payback. Hell yeah, it's crossing-out-headshots time!

Luckily, Emily would have one-on-one access to Barnes because Victoria wanted one-on-one access to her. She paid a visit to Casa Clarke to suggest that Emily re-declare her love for Daniel, because her son had become drunk with power, ambition, greed, and anger ever since their breakup, and Victoria wanted him to become the kind of man he'd aspired to be when he was with Emily. She thinks he only turned to Grayson Global to drown his heartbreak. It was just the opening Emily needed. She and Aiden quickly staged a loud, very public breakup at the restaurant where they knew Daniel would be. Conrad was there too, having sauntered in like a sleepy cat in plaid shorts and a yellow golf shirt. They were both very much aware of Emily and Aiden's fireworks, and, like the gentleman he used to pretend to be, Daniel extended consolation to his old fiancée. Remember, Aiden was denied a place on the Grayson Global board, so Emily still had the best shot of infiltrating the company from within…but to do so would require rekindling her romance with Daniel. Aiden would continue to try to get back into Daniel's good graces, himself, but Nolan wisely noted that "Bros before hos only works if he's not still in love with the ho, bro." Emily would be the ho in this situation.

Speaking of recent hostile-takeover victim Mr. Ross, Daniel wanted Nolan to hack into the Grayson Global database using his tech expertise and look for rogue programs. Aha! Now he had the access they needed to investigate the company's ties to the Initiative, and neither hos nor bros were needed. He found surveillance video of Helen Crowley making a phone call and leaving a voice password: ingredi, the Latin word for "enter." Aiden called the number that Nolan showed him Crowley had dialed, and who picked up? Crowley herself! She had been awaiting this call from Aiden all along, and now she was inviting him to meet her at an abandoned building. When he arrived, he discovered that she's the kind of woman who's typically flanked by snipers and says things like "You're in deep, Mr. Mathis. I hope you know how to swim." She told him that they still have his sister, Colleen, and she's alive. But if he continues his investigation, he will never see her again. Cold. But though the scene was moodily suspenseful, rather than feeling worried for Aiden I just kept wishing Helen Crowley were played by Kate Mulgrew.

NEXT: Patricia Barnes has an alarming rate of equestrian-related injuries, and Declan proves that young people on TV can only eat breakfast food.[PAGEBREAK]At the Grayson dinner party for Judge Barnes and his wife Patricia, Emily tried to provoke a reaction. She had deduced that the author of the letter to her father was Barnes' old court clerk, James Palmer. A court clerk who died three days after the guilty verdict was rendered...in a subway accident. Pretty mysterious. But even more mysterious was Patricia's odd reaction when Emily asked the Judge if he'd ever lost any sleep over one of his verdicts. "No, that would be my job," Patricia said. Immediately, her husband grabbed her hand. And not in a loving way. In a fierce, controlling way. He then declared that they would leave. At once. If his suggestion to Conrad "I think a man of your acumen, wealth, and guile belongs in politics" didn't already label Barnes a villain, that hyper-controlling gesture hinted at a greater darkness. Emily wasn't going to let that go, so she investigated Patricia's history of injuries by downloading her medical records. She had a long spate of broken bones, all of which occurred after 10:00 p.m. and which she attributed to horseback riding. Hmm.

So what should Jack and Declan do about the fact that their bar is a front for drugrunners? Well, luckily Porter the Elder had a friend in the Montauk PD. And maybe if he called that friend and asked him to suddenly raid the Stowaway all their problems with the Ryan brothers would be solved. Problem was, Mr. Starbuck had already seen Declan sniffing around their stash, so he merely moved the drugs, and an unlicensed gun, out of the bar and onto the Amanda. That was where Charlotte was making a breakfast dinner for Declan. (Walter White Jr. has already shown us that young people on TV only ever eat breakfast foods.) I suspect Declan was hungry for something else, though, so Charlotte said she would help him relax. Of course, the best way to relax is to cuddle up with your girlfriend...then have drug-sniffing dogs from the K9 unit of the DEA burst in. The cops quickly found the drugs, and Declan found himself in handcuffs, though not in handcuffs the way he might have wanted. If only Amanda had been there with her tire iron. Not surprisingly, Jack had to play the hero and he immediately declared that those drugs were his, not Declan's, even though they didn't belong to either and were obviously planted there by the Ryans. Thirty seconds more and Jack could have tried to explain as much to the coppers. But why be logical when you're trying so hard to be noble? It's just like the question facing Revenge's writers regarding this storyline: why be entertaining when you can doggedly pursue a tedious subplot nobody cares about?

At the fundraiser, Emily went to apologize to Patricia. By "apologize" I mean make Patricia feel even more guilty by saying that Amanda Clarke gave her this letter her father had received from an unknown insider at his trial saying he'd been the victim of jury tampering. And because she'd been torn away from her father, Amanda spent her youth in a series of foster homes, some of which were abusive environments…just like how Patricia is being abused. The guilt and the regret was simply too much for her. Patricia threw out the speech she had written extolling her husband and instead said that he'd rigged the verdict in the David Clarke case. And if that weren't enough, she then dramatically took off her coat, to reveal her arms all black and blue. Those bruises could only have come from her husband. Just like that Judge Barnes' all-but-guaranteed spot on the Supreme Court vanished. After all, as Patricia herself had put it, "The greater the power, the greater the chance for abuse." Oh, and it was she who was the insider who wrote that letter to David Clarke. Her husband thought it was poor James Palmer, and Palmer ended up paying the ultimate price.

NEXT: Does this mean Revenge is hitting the Reset Button? And, if so, is moving forward by looking backward really an effective long-term plan for the show?[PAGEBREAK]So Emily ended up putting a red X over the judge's face. This was one of the more cathartic, satisfying bits of vengeance she's ever enacted, because it not only meant exposing and disgracing a tyrant, it meant empowering a woman who'd been silenced for too long. And to make it even better, Barnes was played by the third 24 alum we've seen on Revenge this season (after James Morrison and Joaquin de Almeida), Geoff Pierson, who played President Keeler, the doomed Commander in Chief who was assassinated on Day 4 when Air Force One was shot down by terrorists.

Of course, Conrad was immediately spinning his involvement with the Liberty Foundation, saying how thankful he was that Barnes had been exposed for the man he really was. But it was because of the Grayson connection to this debacle that Daniel decided the company needed a new director of its philanthropic endeavors: Emily. And instead of discussing salary, he sealed his job offer—and her acceptance—with a kiss. A kiss which Aiden saw. Remington Steele, as Nolan called him (Nolan's become the Hamptons' turned-up-collar version of Sawyer), will not be a happy man.

Oh, speaking of Nolan, his old CFO/lover, Marco, is indicating that he wants to reignite his relationship with him. Despite helping to turn NolCorp over to Grayson Global and thinking that Nolan accepted money from a terrorist. Apparently, this Marco may actually want to help Nolan bring down Grayson Global, and he gave him a flashdrive with a program, Carrion, that he said had some of the most powerful coding he'd ever seen. Nolan, who'd designed it and abandoned it, called the program "cyber plutonium." But it could be an effective weapon against their enemies. Yep, we've got ourselves a new MacGuffin.

The implication of "Power" is clear. Revenge's writers are, in their own way, trying to hit the reset button on the show. They have Emily brandishing a red marker, putting X's over photos of her targets' faces. And they have her romantically entangled with Daniel once again. It's just like Season 1, folks! Forget about that dead-end storyline with Ems' mother. We're moving forward by looking backward. The question is, is that a viable strategy? Will repetition of what worked in its early days help us slough off our frustration with Season 2? I'm not entirely convinced, especially since the least compelling Season 2 storyline of all, the Porter boys' Montauk dock-bar politics, is still alive and well.

I'm hoping, though, that Revenge will prove me wrong. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and see you next week!

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

[Photo Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC]

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