A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 2: “Power”

And this is why you don’t piss off your employees.

“Power” is an aptly named episode.  It focuses on, as have past episodes, the struggle to attain power by any means, how to screw over other people in order to hold onto it, and how it can be taken away from you.

Power- Sandra Joy's Lecture on Power

The episode begins with Marty attending a seminar by Sandra Joy, played by Salli-Richardson Whitfield, who lectures an audience about power.  She didn’t persevere due to the egg, but the power of the ostrich, or something.  She corrals the audience into chanting “The power is in me.”  Even Marty almost joins in.  Almost.

Power- Sandra and Marty in Bed

And then cut to Marty and Sandra in bed, with Sandra taking control of the situation, even grasping Marty’s neck.  Marty admits to finding her speech inspiring, but she laughs.  To her, people believe what they want to believe, but it’s all horseshit.  We’re all just passengers on God’s kamikaze rocket ship.

Power- Jeannie and Marty's Dream

Then Marty awakens to find himself in a post-apocalyptic future.  He spots Roscoe busting a move before a car lands right on top of him.  But before he can even register that, he spots Jeannie standing atop some wreckage and pointing a gun at him.  Too bad she doesn’t pay attention to the wrecking ball behind her.

Well, that was another dream.

Power- Roscoe Throws Down a Challenge to Marty, Reveals About Lex

Back at home, Roscoe managed to get the makeshift basketball court he wanted last episode and tests it out in a little one-on-one with Jeremiah.  When Marty arrives, Roscoe gives him the good news that he made point guard, but even better: he’s met someone on the team named Lex.  And guess what?   Lex got game.

Power- Jeannie and Doug observe Col. Selby from afar

At Galweather Stearn, Doug and Jeannie watch a group of men from afar.  Jeannie tells Doug that they need to get on their account, but Doug is hesitant.  After all, he pooped next to one of the men and saw that he has an ankle holster.  Because that’s what you pay attention to in the bathroom.  Jeannie has been looking at the account roadmap in the Department of Defense project and has a restructuring idea.

Power- Jeannie Meets Col Selby

Even though the DOD has been data mining for years, Jeannie is sure that her idea will help increase profit margin, and she makes that case known to one of the men: Col. Gil Selby, played by John Carroll Lynch.  However, he has no response, leading Jeannie to retreat for the moment.

Power- Monica reveals solution to pod about Colossal Foods fiasco

Over at Kinsley Johnson Partners, Monica is in a rage over the Colossal Foods issue.  Rather than being in Phoenix to bill Colossal Foods, they’re stuck coming up with a solution.  They need a deck to end all decks.  How?  Simple: someone in the pod other than Monica will take the blame for the Power Point fiasco.  Oh, and Christy is still convinced that Clyde is a rapist, so there’s still that.

Power- Julianne Demands Jeannie Tell Her Who Hates Her

At Galweather, Jeannie meets up with Julianne and butters her by talking up her self-confidence and expertise as a mentor.  Despite keeping people on after Galweather Stearn’s fallout, it’s good to know that she’s in good company, even when there are a lot of people working there who don’t like Julianne.

Whoops.  Did Jeannie say too much?  Well, who dislikes Julianne?  She presses Jeannie for an answer and she gives it: Gil.  Yup.  He’s leaving money on the table during the DOD project when, in fact, there could be much more to help the company.  So about that idea Jeannie had for Gil earlier…

Power- Sarah tells Doug she's stopped using birth control

To my delight, Jenny Slate is back as Sarah, who breaks the news to Doug that she stopped taking birth control because she wants to have a baby.  Doug is both surprised and nervous about the surprise announcement, which Sarah thinks is him wanting to back out of having a baby.  Hey, you sprung the news on him.

But they’ll talk later.  Doug tries to relay his issue to Jeannie, but she’s having none of it.  Benita, however, looked at the DOD models.  Gil has been using a statistical methodology that’s been outmoded for years.  If they ran an industry standard data mining application, they could lower head count and bill two, maybe three times as much.  It sounds simple, but they would need to run a beta first.

Power- Lex. Just Lex

Out on the courts, Marty and Roscoe shoot some hoops before we’re introduced to Ethan, played by Emmett Carnahan, and then Lex, played by Ben Taylor-Klaus.  To be frank, Lex is a wigger in a Kobe Bryant jersey, but he can ball.  He and Roscoe play against Marty and Ethan and come out victorious, though Marty can’t even tell if Lex is a boy or girl. Roscoe tells him that Lex is a ‘boi’ and a ‘grrl:’ born a girl, identifies as a boy.  Marty is thrown.  Quite frankly, so am I.

Power- Jeannie and Jeremiah bond over Scotch

Jeannie, successful in having Gil thrown off the DOD project and now having to watch her back, unwinds by sharing some scotch with Jeremiah.  He manages to get into her head by having her talk about her past: she denies her own greatness.  Growing up, she heard that her father wasn’t a criminal, her brother was an all star athlete, and she was roadkill.  Roscoe’s just glad that she’s alive.

Power- Clyde rants at Bar while Doug tries to calm him down

At a bar, Doug calls Clyde again when he finally arrives.  More frantic than usual, Clyde orders a drink but is in no mood to wait.  He rants on and on about Monica and how she’s driving him up the wall, but then he takes his anger out on the bartender.  Clyde just wants out and has an interview with Booz Allen, but before the rampage can continue, he receives a phone call from Monica, informing him to be back at Kinsley Johnson.  Like a neutered man, Clyde complies without argument.

Power- Monica on the war path again

And at Kinsley Johnson, Monica is still on the war path, but she has a plan: the pod will pull an all nighter.  No, not the normal all nighter that consists of takeout food and blowjobs.  This one will include after work hours on existing accounts and spec proposals for businesses they’ve analyzed.  By 10 a.m., they should have a new account.

But Clyde isn’t having it and makes it known, countering everything that Monica throws at him.

Power- Christy on the edge

Christy, however, still taking verbal abuse from Monica, begins whispering and then stating very loudly that she is strong and in charge.  Monica gets right in her face, against Clyde’s warning, and so, the unhinged Christy, screaming “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” makes the most logical move to retaliate against a fire-breathing bully.

Power- Monica Stabbed

She stabs Monica in the thigh!

Now I’ll touch on this moment later, but for now, Monica lets out a blood curling scream, Everett faints and Christy is taken away in cuffs.

Still ranting while on a gurney, Monica thinks Clyde conspired for this to happen.  Clyde, at this point, is practically begging to be fired, but no.  Monica is going to keep him there for the rest of his mediocre career.  Again, poor Clyde.

Power- Marty and Jeannie unwind

Jeannie and Marty discuss their plan to screw over Colossal Foods and Free Range Foods.  Jeannie isn’t in favor of a scare tactic that would clue Colossal onto the fact that she’s not working fair for them.  Marty congratulates Jeannie on her work with the DOD contract, as she’s led folks at Galweather to believing she has true power.

Then Jeannie asks Marty about his new pod.  He says he’s glad to be on his own, but that it would be worth it if for one thing.

This episode centered about the gain or loss of control.  With the pod splintered, they have to fend for themselves and use what they’ve already learned in the world of management consulting to get ahead.  But because they’re not together, they all lack something that they once had as a group.  It’s actually an interesting way to see just how well they can all fend now that they’re on their own.

Marty, while still given a great performance by Don Cheadle, isn’t all that integral this week, as most of the bigger events involve other people in his life.  Aside from his family life, he’s a background character this time around and we don’t even see the other members of his pod in this episode.

Power- Marty's Dream

So this is the second dream sequence Marty has had and it’s just as odd as the first.  At least with the first, he was back with his pod.  Here, he’s in some futuristic world and is unable to protect Roscoe and Jeannie from being killed.  Though I find these moments visually interesting, I wonder if they speak to the lack of control and power Marty may have in his life.  This feels like a natural progression based on the fallout of last season where the pod fell apart.  However, it’s too soon to tell where all this will take Marty.

He hasn’t lost his confident strut, certainly not.  Marty is still as calculating as ever, but because he’s playing on his own terms, he has to be more careful.  Otherwise, he’ll find himself in bed with a motivational speaker that has her hands firmly grasped around his neck.  Though Sandra Joy’s seminar didn’t add anything to the plot, it did have that one moment in bed where she tells Marty that people want to believe they have power, but they don’t.  We’re all on the same crash course for destruction, so we may as well just go with the flow of things.

Well, if we aren’t dealing with Marty and his pod this week, I am glad the episode put focus on his family life, particularly his relationship with Roscoe.  Given how the two were on thin ice last season, I’m happy to see them getting along and making jokes.  Definitely feels like Roscoe is happier here than he would have been, had he lived with Monica.

Power- Marty is REALLY Confused about Lex

Marty’s reaction to Lex being a ‘boi’ is as funny as it is awkward.  And it doesn’t seem strange for Roscoe to be attracted to someone like this.  Heck, Roscoe’s introduction had him trotting out into the kitchen in purple tights in a skirt.  It’s not a stretch that he’d fall for someone who was born a girl but identifies as a boy, strange as it is.  That said, Lex is a wigger.  He talks like he came straight out of Compton and could maybe play well against some Blacks.  I’m stereotyping, yes, he might as well start dropping beats.

Power- Marty is Just Confused about Lex

And I can’t help but laugh at Marty’s facial expressions as he tries to figure out just who Lex is.  These scenes are much calmer and filled with less tension than the executive business scenes, so it helps strike a good balance between the drama and comedy of the episode.  However, it does speak to Ms. Joy’s comment about people believing they have power when they really don’t.  As the show has progressed, Marty has less and less control over Roscoe.  Before, if he wanted a situation involving Roscoe resolved, he could just pay the school a visit and hash it out that way.  Now Roscoe is into a girl turned boy and calling Marty a “dumb shit” without an inch of remorse, indicating that power over Roscoe will soon be out of his grasp.

Power- Doug and Sarah discuss baby possibility

Then there’s Doug, who lacks any control in anything.  It’s understandable that Sarah dropping the baby bomb on him would be shocking, even more so considering he never knew she stopped taking her birth control.  Oh, by the way, Sarah saying she stopped using birth control through the use of a goalie metaphor was pretty good in my opinion.  Or, at least, it was a metaphor I hadn’t heard before.

But anyway, Sarah is one of the best things to happen to Doug in a long time.  He’d be hard pressed to screw that up, so what he ought to do is man up to her instead of being hesitant and afraid.  If he was so protective of Sarah and confronted Clyde, who hit on her, you’d think he would do what it took to preserve their relationship.  Now that doesn’t excuse Sarah revealing her secret out of nowhere, but it does mean that Doug needs to be more assertive in this relationship.

This at least gave Doug something new to do, since at work he’s either a. trying to get Jeannie to reminisce about the old days or b. hating on the new pod.  Yes, Benita and JC are odd, but I doubt Doug is in a position to judge anything that’s seen as weird or strange considering he found out a man had an ankle holster because he noticed it while in a bathroom stall.

Power- Clyde gets a phone call from Monica

And poor Clyde yet again.  It’s unfortunate to just watch him and the rest of the pod crumble under Monica’s heel.  Sure, Clyde may be used to dishing out and receiving a bit of verbal abuse, but Monica pulls no punches at all.  This definitely isn’t the cool and confident Clyde we’re used to seeing because Monica is able to put him in his place.

The scene with Doug and Clyde at the bar, while embarrassing for Clyde, was fun to watch not just for the banter, but I get the feeling that Clyde was just happy to be anywhere that didn’t involve work or Monica.  Talking with Doug was a relief and he could be his usual, jokey self, even if he was on edge.  He could be comfortable, yet rude, but when he receives a phone call and the volume in his voice becomes more subdued and subservient, we know right away that he’s on a short leash.

Power- Clyde begs Monica to fire him

And it’s not as if Clyde can’t grow a pair and call Monica out on her crap.  He threatens to walk out of the all nighter.  After Monica has been stabbed, he just wants to be fired, but Monica declares that she will keep him around.  It makes me wonder why Clyde doesn’t just quit, but remember that he only sought out Monica at the end of Season 2 because he thought it would be better than working for Marty, and now he sees how wrong he is.  For me, watching Clyde plead with Monica just to fire him shows that he’s at a low point and just wants an out.  But Monica has his balls in a vice, so as of now, he’s trapped.

Power- Dawn Olivieri as Monica, tempting fate

As for Monica, however, yes, it was a glorious moment to see her get stabbed after so much of her crap, but this speaks more to Dawn Olivieri’s performance and how much hatred one can have just watching Monica rant.  However, just as Marty tells Jeannie, despite Monica’s nicked artery, she will be back in force.

Power- Christy unhinged and about to stab Monica

The problem I have with the scene is that Christy’s attack on Monica felt a bit too soon.  We’ve only had two episodes and very few scenes to get to know Christy and she’s already performed this violent act.  This is something I would expect to happen later on in the season, but this came out of nowhere, as if the episode needed some big, dramatic moment.  Again, while Monica may have it coming, the scene would have felt more natural had we gotten to know Christy more.  Sure, there’s probably more off-screen moments of Monica abusing the pod, but we as an audience have gotten to know Christy for a grand total of less than a full hour.  So the scene, while humorous, didn’t have the weight it could have had if we’d spent more time with Christy and seen her interact more with Monica.

Power- Col Selby confronts Jeannie

Then there’s Jeannie, who I save for last because she had the most to do this week.  In a way, Jeannie is becoming more like Marty in that she’ll say and do what she needs in order to get ahead.  Unlike Doug, Jeannie isn’t interested in dwelling on the past or getting the pod back together.  She wants to make a name for herself and will have what she wants.  She’s coming into her own and Kristen Bell plays her with such sophistication that it’s always a treat to see her on-screen.

Getting Col. Selby thrown off the DOD project is an example of Jeannie doing what Marty has done well for two seasons: say what you need to and watch everything play out.  The student has become the instructor, as Jeannie, Clyde and Doug were practically Marty’s kids throughout the first two seasons.  Now that Jeannie has her own pod, she’s putting her skills to the test and she succeeds.  This may make her a prime target for Selby and the Pentagon later on, but for now she can rest in the fact that she scored a victory in gaining the DOD contract.

Power- Jeannie and Jeremiah

I think Jeannie’s scene with Jeremiah may be one my favorite moments with her in the show so far not just because we learn about her backstory, but because Jeremiah is more approachable and personable with Jeannie.  With Marty, it’s mostly business.  Roscoe sees Jeannie almost as a mother or sister figure, but Jeremiah can get into Jeannie’s head in ways that Marty can’t because he doesn’t try to put a work or business spin on things.

Jeannie admitting to Jeremiah that she doesn’t buy her own greatness also goes back to Ms. Joy’s point about people believing they have power when they don’t.  Jeannie may have convinced the people around her that she has great influence, but it’s all a façade.  That said, it’s clear that she has untapped potential.  Giving her control of her own pod could have been one of the better things to happen for her character because, like Marty, she gets to operate on her own rules.  Even better, she’s good friends with Julianne, who is much higher on the management consulting food chain, so she has access to great power.  Now I just wonder how this will affect the temporary partnership she’s forged with Marty.

“Power” was another fun episode that showcased the old pod trying to get on with their lives, but someone, in the case of Sarah or Monica, or something manages to throw a wrench into their otherwise not so normal careers.  It illustrated what happens when they come across great influence and strength, but also how that can be taken away.  Good laughs, one big surprise, and more setup for later in the season.  Good episode.

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