A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 8: “Brinkmanship”

“Brinkmanship” keeps things moving forward with a new venture for Kaan & Associates.  It sets the wheels in motion for Clyde and lets him make a move with his proposal for the McClintock empire.  At the same time, the episode allowed the characters to air out some of their grievances by letting them confront their issues head on.  We see who can’t admit their problems and those who refuse to talk about them altogether.

Brinkmanship- Julian Zannino

We begin on the beach.  The pod plus Marissa meet up with the jet-setting billionaire that Clyde’s been speaking of for weeks: Mr. Julian Zannino, played by Balthazar Getty.  In Clyde’s mind, once Zannino is on board, Marissa will climb back atop the McClintock empire and pay Kaan & Associates a hefty sum.  At which point, Jeannie assumes, Marissa will also dump Clyde.  It could happen.

The pod explains to Zannino that Marissa’s family, mainly her brother and sister, put her on conservatorship in order to get MediaWolf’s online revenue.  MediaWolf, as it turns out, is second only to the Huffington Post as far as online hits in this sector.  Okay, why have I never heard of this website?

So why do they need Zannino?  He’s a powerful enough name to scare McClintock into doing whatever he requests.  He doesn’t have to buy anything- his presence alone should do the job.  From there, the family will want to give whatever they have to in order to make sure their paper doesn’t slip from their control.  It wouldn’t be a risk to Zannino’s investors, so he’s in.

Brinkmanship- Chantelle 'shrinks' Marty

At House Kaan, Jeremiah, Chantelle and Roscoe prepare for a camping trip, but it’s really just to get Roscoe out of the house to clear his head, since he’s still busting Marty’s balls about breaking up him and Lex.  Chantelle attempts to get in Marty’s head and wonders when he’ll start trusting Roscoe’s choices, but Marty’s unimpressed.

Brinkmanship- Doug asks Caitlin out on a not-date

Back at the office, Doug times his exit to coincide with Caitlin in his never-ending attempts to bond.  He invites her to an outing that he, and apparently several others, is going to: an art exhibit by Terrell Moore at the Hauser Gallery.  Caitlin’s up for it, but as soon as she leaves, Jeannie calls out Doug’s bull, telling him that no one else planned to go and he’s trying to skirt around just asking her out on a date.  Doug balks at this, stating that it’s natural for coworkers to share interests.  But not dating, it seems like.

Brinkmanship- Team Meeting about MediaWolf

During the team meeting, everyone discusses the proposed meeting with Zannino and the McClintock family.  It won’t be hard to make it seem as if Zannino is looking for new business.  However, Will dug through MediaWolf’s financials and found something noteworthy: the site had depleted revenues for web traffic, but also the same amount of makegoods for the Chicago and Indianapolis based newspapers.  So the siblings are pumping MediaWolf’s tit, which counts as an abuse of conservatorship access.

Marty in particular is interested because it’s another way in.  Another, as in besides Zannino.  But Clyde got them Zannino, so they don’t need another way in.  Marty thinks otherwise, since there’s no guarantee that Zannino is on board.

Brinkmanship- Jeannie talks with Marty

After the meeting, Jeannie meets up with Marty, whose busy trying to sort out the business with DollaHyde.  Marty believes that Zannino is a wild card: if he screws them, Marissa will screw them too.  Jeannie doesn’t think so.  She wants to know why, given everything the pod’s been through so far, Zannino rattles him.  In her mind, Marty’s only doing this to screw with Clyde.  Time to move on.

Pretty rich, coming from Jeannie, but she says she isn’t holding any grudges with him.  Seriously.  No, she actually says ‘seriously,’ as if to punctuate the statement.  Marty reminds Jeannie that she’s a partner, so she’s free to go about this any way that she likes.

Brinkmanship- Sarah and Doug meet at restaurant

Doug, meanwhile, awaits Sarah’s arrival at a restaurant.  She finally shows up, telling him that there was a long line at the gynecologist’s office.  The doctor noticed a surge in her LH levels, meaning she’s at peak fertility for the next two days.  In addition, she booked a ticket to Chicago.  But don’t worry, Doug.  She won’t interfere with your little crush on Caitlin.  No.  Sarah’s just there for the sex.

But Doug doesn’t trust the word of this doctor.  After all, he went to medical school at Tufts.  Tufts!  He doesn’t want her to come only because he’d be working the entire time.  Instead, maybe they should just have a quickie in the bathroom.

Yeah, no.

With the place to himself, Marty fixes himself a drink before making a phone call.

Next thing we know, he finds himself doing something he hasn’t done in awhile: have sex with Monica while facing her.

Brinkmanship- Marty invites Monica over

Post-sex, Monica walks out in one of Jeremiah’s kimonos.  Marty asks her opinion on the whole Lex situation.  Monica believes that Marty made the right call, but also counters Marty’s claim that Lex led Roscoe by the nose, telling him that she used to do the same thing to him.  The conversation goes silent for awhile until Monica admits that she wants people to stop screwing with her.  But Marty laughs.  Monica loves to hobble the ladder, but blames other people when it falls.  Marty, though?  He has everything he could ever want, but he’s still unhappy.  Hell, he must be in a rut if he called Monica.  Maybe there’s just no fixing them.

Brinkmanship- Pod and Sarah at airport, discussing art

The next day at the airport, Doug sees Caitlin and Sarah bonding.  Sarah not only likes Caitlin, but she heard about the art gallery plans.  As much as she’d like to join in, she’s really tired and wants to bail.  Luckily, Doug did say that several others planned to attend, and they now just happen to be Clyde and Jeannie.  Naturally, Sarah’s in.  Hey, the more, the merrier.  As the pod boards, in a brief moment, Clyde thanks Marty for the opportunity to redeem himself, but Marty credits Jeannie.  We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Brinkmanship- Meeting with Suzanne and Joel McClintock

But for now, the pod plus Zannino meet the McClintock siblings: Suzanne, played by Melinda Wade, and Joel, played by Patrick Carlyle.  They make their proposition: Zannino owning the McClintock paper would help connect it with agribusiness folks and elected officials.  The offer would be enticing to stockholders, but Joel points out that if this was true, Zannino would have already made the deal.  So why’s he there?

Doug explains that the pod knows the McClintock clan wanting to keep everything in the family, but Marissa is the only one who can keep Zannino at bay.  Marty suggests that the two of them go to the board and say they will be stepping down for personal reasons.  Then, ask that Marissa be voted the new chairwoman.  The siblings reject the idea of their junkie sister leading the empire, though this same junkie sister also led McClintock into the black.  The pod spills about Suzanne and Joel moving ones and zeroes from Marissa’s books to theirs.  If the siblings want MediaWolf to thrive in the digital age, Marissa is the best person to make that happen.

Zannino leaves to take a phone call.  When he’s done, Marty’s there to congratulate him on the deal.  Julian believes that Suzanne and Joel will bite, but Marty knows that MediaWolf is vulnerable to a buyout.  If Julian bought it, there’d have to be some restructuring, but he’d have to pay a hefty fee for Marty’s help.  Julian sounds on board until he throws it back in Marty’s face, calling Marty the type of person who would screw over a friend for a couple of extra bucks.  He’d be there for them, but then pull the rug out from under them.  Pretty much.

Brinkmanship- Caitlin, Doug and Sarah at art gallery

At the art gallery, Doug pulls the awkward trope of trying to be friendly with his crush and the woman who wants to share her life with him.  You know this fun game.  Whenever Caitlin and Sarah appear to bond, Doug interjects, which doesn’t do anyone any favors.

On the plane back, Sarah is furious.  Not just for Doug’s stunt, but she knows that he’s been withholding orgasms.  Yeah, she knows what a hot load feels like.  Gross.

Brinkmanship- Sarah tells Doug that they're through

Doug takes his seat next to Caitlin, who asks if anything is wrong, but he plays it
off and goes to get a drink.  When he returns, there’s Sarah.  And not only is
she still angry, she’s now upset.  She asks him, point blank, if they should end their relationship.  Doug admits that everything’s just moving too fast for him.  So Sarah leaves him with this: until he can get his act together, they’re through.

Brinkmanship- Clyde and Marty talk

Back at home, Marty enjoys some time to himself before he receives an unannounced visit from Clyde, who’s there to talk.  He lets everything loose, telling Marty that he pushed him.  Marty fights against this claim by saying that there’s honor among thieves.  They, as in the pod, screw other people, not each other.

Clyde’s not defending what he did, but Marty sold him out.  They both screwed up, but Clyde’s been willing to admit it.  He can take ownership with what he did and is offering Marty a peace offering so they can start over.  Can they?

Marty smiles and congratulates Clyde on a job well done.  Time for a drink to celebrate.  Just no getting naked.

This episode served a few purposes: it let Doug confront his insecurity and fear of fully committing to Sarah head on, it put Clyde’s plan with the McClintock empire on center stage, and it helped transition between the DollaHyde and MediaWolf storylines.  For the pod, the episode was about confrontation.  But rather than through self-examination, the gang has someone else put their problems on full display and tell them what they have trouble admitting to themselves.  For my money, it was an effective way to get these characters to see why they’re so screwed up and that despite how much better they believe they are than the people they try to screw over, they’re still just as flawed.

Brinkmanship- Doug and Sarah about to end relationship

Poor Doug.  The man has a beautiful woman who wants to spend time with him and he’s unable to commit.  Now we’ve seen Doug and Sarah discuss this before and I had hoped that he would grow out of this fear, or at least realized that he can’t commit to Sarah and have feelings for Caitlin at the same time without creating a giant mess.

Sure, Sarah is just as much at fault for not telling Doug earlier that she had stopped taking birth control, but she was in this for the long haul.  Doug isn’t and probably never was.  He’s been trailing, and I don’t understand why.  It’s not like Sarah is out to change Doug’s character and make him a different person- she just wants to be sure that he’s as committed to this relationship as she is.  And from his actions and her ultimatum this week, it’s clear that he’s not.

Brinkmanship- Sarah watches Doug and Caitlin

It’s like Doug paid no attention to what Clyde told him back in “Soldiers:” he’s got a wonderful woman that wants to have a family with him.  Despite being the butt of many jokes, Doug has a comfortable life, but his own actions lead to problems.  He can’t accept Sarah moving so fast even after Clyde gave him the confidence to commit to starting a family with Sarah.  If Doug has these problems, he should have just talked to Sarah and confront her head-on.  And if he’s too stupid to realize how good he could have it, he probably doesn’t deserve her.  If that’s the case, Sarah was right to end their relationship while Doug makes up his mind.

And not like Doug’s going to wind up with Caitlin, who clearly doesn’t share his enthusiasm for their bond.  She sees it more as it is: a friendship.  As such, she treats Sarah as a friend and not competition.  Why Doug feels that Caitlin and Sarah can’t get along baffles me.  What’s Caitlin going to say?  “Hey, Sarah.  Just so you know, Doug’s been talking to me a lot lately.  Should I be worried?”  Caitlin’s smarter than that and she’s not going to suddenly find a romantic interest in Doug, the way that he does for her.

Plus, Doug doesn’t hit on Caitlin, so Sarah forming a bond with her isn’t going to cause a problem.  And what’s worse is that it’s clear that Doug does care for Sarah, but at the same time, he’s very distant.  It’s frustrating to watch him screw up one of the best things to happen to him, but I hope that Sarah breaking things off at least shocks Doug into getting his head together.  Caitlin isn’t going to be a sudden lifeline, and Doug’s feelings for her are clouding his judgment.

Brinkmanship- Jeannie is reminded that she's a partner

Jeannie is mostly here for observation this week.  She made her mark last week with the DollaHyde deal, but this week, she’s just here to watch things play out.  She revels in Marty having to deal with the mess, but she also calls him out on his sudden interest in Will and just wanting to screw with Clyde for as long as he can.  She also gets to call out Doug for his keen interest in Caitlin, but she’s then knocked off her perch when Marty points out that she isn’t always capable of moving on.

When she adds “seriously” after telling Marty that she’s not holding anything against him, it lets on that she, in fact, is.  After all, she wouldn’t have played Marty the way that she did if she didn’t still harbor some anger due to how he treated her at the end of the last season.  Jeannie should really embrace her parity, though.  Like Marty says, she’s a partner and doesn’t need his approval for anything.  It’s strange that she’d still go to him to talk about Clyde’s arrangement with Zannino.

Brinkmanship- Zannino calls Marty out

On a side-note, I’m very interested in how Zannino will play a role for the rest of the season.  Balthazar Getty plays him well and Zannino comes off as a rich, executive type, even more so, given how he’s apparently friends with some guy named Jeff over at The Washington Post.  You’ve probably never heard of him.  But also, Zannino isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Marty, so we know he won’t roll over and just take orders.

Brinkmanship- Clyde and Marty on plane

As for Clyde, I’m glad he had his moment to shine this week.  From his first meeting with Marissa, he’s had his eyes on the McClintock empire and we saw his plan play out.  Despite the risks the pod may take, Clyde’s glad to just have a chance to win back Marty’s approval.  I also like that he’s got a thing going on with Marissa, since maybe she’ll distract him from doing stupid.  Even though, as Jeannie pointed out, Marissa may just dump Clyde for Zannino, Clyde’s at least with someone who shares his sexual fantasies.

His confrontation with Marty accomplished two things: first off, it put the two of them back on good terms, but more importantly, it showed that they’re not all that much better than they believe they are.  Sure, it’s bad that Clyde screwed over Marty by going to Monica, but it’s no better than Marty selling out Clyde and not giving him a chance to redeem himself.  Even with the McClintock deal, Marty’s made it clear that he wanted as little as possible to do with Clyde’s terms, which explains why he credited Jeannie with the pod going forward with the plan, rather than accepting the credit himself.

Brinkmanship- Marty talks with Zannino

But Clyde’s right about Marty: he can’t just say “Come on” and expect a problem to go away.  Marty is someone who will do whatever he can and step over whomever he needs to if he wants his way, even if that someone is a close friend.  Julian Zannino had Marty pegged down to a tee when he said Marty would sell out a comrade for a few extra bucks.  It was also very telling for Zannino to wish that he was never Marty.  It really shows how much Marty sees this all as just business, though I did like his line about telling Clyde that there’s no honor among thieves and that consultants don’t screw over each other.  And yet, that’s exactly what he’s been doing to Clyde all along: trying to skirt around his hard-earned plan with plans of his own, as seen when he tries to talk Zannino into buying MediaWolf.  Rather than trust Clyde, Marty would prefer thing his way.

And really, this is nothing new.  We’ve known this about Marty’s character for a long time, but it felt refreshing for so many people in one episode to call him out on his crap.  He’s slowly approaching the deep end.  Calling Monica was certainly indicative of that, given how much those two repel.  Despite this, Monica seems to be one of the few people Marty can confide in right now.  Since Monica’s in a rut, meeting with Marty felt like a pick-me-up for her character.  In turn, she confronted Marty’s false sense of security by reminding him that he may have everything he wants, but he’s still unhappy.  He hasn’t learned yet to embrace his flaws.

As for Roscoe, he seems to have gone back to being a rebel and attacking Marty for breaking him away from Lex.  Again, I’d feel bad for Lex if he weren’t presented as a bad apple from the start, but I could care less about him/her now.

“Brinkmanship” bridged the gap between the DollaHyde and MediaWolf storylines and set the stage for the remainder of the season.  While it would seem haphazard to jump from one big storyline to the next, the McClintock empire was established episodes earlier and, as such, this felt like a seamless transition to this plot.  Though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Lukas and Dre just yet.

The episode confronted the insecurities that weight down the pod and forced them to confront the very flaws that make them so interesting to watch.  While it helped reestablish the bond between Marty and Clyde, it showed the falling out between Sarah and Doug, who needs to assess if he’s truly ready for commitment.  Maintaining and even starting a family is hard, whether it’s Doug and Sarah, Marty and Roscoe, or the entire pod that’s grown closer as a family.  There will be stumbles, but until someone has the courage to confront their issues head on, their problems won’t go away.

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