Sunday, December 5, 2010
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Episode Guide--Season 1, Episode 7: "The River"
The action picks up two weeks after the tragic death of Dora Mae, and the Dreifuss family is still hurting from the loss. Samson manages to take away some of the sting from mom Rita Sue when he informs her that he privately took care of the murderous Stangler. But for the bereft Felix, the carnival grounds are now hellish environs; after drowning his grief in alcohol, he admits to Jonesy that "Every which way I turn, I see my little girl." Indulging the dreams of his remaining daughter Libby, Felix agrees to pack up and drive off to Hollywood, but reneges on the promise because he can't bear to leave behind his stubborn wife Rita Sue. Sofie, too, had planned to make the journey (once again illustrating her discontent with carny life), and the burgeoning friendship between Sofie and Libby allows the show's writers to sneak in another intriguing bit of backstory. During a discussion about birthdays, Sofie reveals to Libby that "The day mama had me was the day she took sick."
Romance, meanwhile, continues to blossom between Ben and Ruthie. The odious Prof. Lodz intervenes and incites a confrontation between the prospective couple by telling Ben that Ruthie had slept with Scudder back in the day. When Gabe steps forward to defend his mother, Ben pushes him down and accidentally breaks the strongman's arm. Guilt-stricken, Ben subsequently heals the injury in a river (a paradoxical miracle that sends the local fish population floating belly-up to the surface). Ben swears Gabe to secrecy about the mended arm, but bearded lady Lila catches wise and runs to share the news of Ben's deed with Lodz. "He did it on his own?" the Professor blurts, both impressed and incensed that the "boy" has succeeded without the benefit of tutelage.
The Brother Justin parallel storyline was overshadowed in the past two episodes by the Carnivale's experiences in Babylon, but here it moves center stage. Standing at a bridge railing contemplating a suicidal leap, Justin has a vision of washing ashore and begging help for his injuries from two strange siblings (the sister asserts that her father is an evil man, and is paranoid about pursuing assassins). Justin's sister Iris fills in more detail when she relates to reporter Tommy Dolan that the boy and girl (Alexsei and Irina--i.e. Justin and Iris) were Russian immigrants who washed up on a riverbank following a train-wrecking bridge collapse that killed their mother. The two children were alive but not necessarily safe, because "a man was sent [by their own father?] to kill them." Emerging from his reverie, Justin enigmatically gasps, "I killed him," and later makes a telephone call to his sister, chastising Iris that "You always knew what was inside of me." Justin's mysterious interior promises to form a major plot point as Carnivale's first season pushes toward its conclusion.
Following the high drama of the previous two installments of the series, "The River" is a meandering, catch-your-breath kind of episode. Still, it manages to reel viewers forward by tantalizing them with tidbits of cryptic (but no doubt crucial) information.