Hello, folks. I'll be taking over True Blood coverage for Scott Tobias this season, which finds a newly wavy-haired Sookie right where we left her—screaming her head off alongside Tara.
They're staring at a dead body hanging out of a car, and while we suspected and were led to believe those painted toenails belonged to Lafayette, they turn out to be attached to Miss Jeanette, the witch doctor/pharmacy employee who performed Tara's and her mother's exorcism and has now had her heart literally torn out.
Meanwhile, back at the Compton estate, Bill tries to tame young, wild vampire Jessica. In his house, he recycles, and when hungry, he drinks True Blood. She pouts and is generally ridiculous. Prediction: she'll try to eat Sookie by the third episode.
And Sookie has a brother, remember? He's reading a book put out by Fellowship Of The Sun, the new Christian fundamentalist group he's joined. He has a brief flashback so we remember the pain of Amy's death and the joy of their V-fueled relationship.
Done with memory lane and general re-introduction to all of the characters, ridiculousness starts anew. We cut to our first unfamiliar territory of the episode, a dim, blue shot of barely lit bodies. They're in some sort of dungeon, chained up to poles connected to a giant overhead wheel. Lafayette is there, neither dead nor undead. Someone yells "bucket!" and they all stand up to move around in a circle so that the someone can shit into a bucket.
We learn later, after some painful bouts of dialogue between Lafayette and another prisoner, who's a former barfly from Merlotte's, that the dungeon belongs to Sheriff Eric. He descends the stairway in foils, presumably highlighting his blond tresses, but the prissiness is just for show: He's soon tossing about and devouring the guy from the bar. (I was hoping that a detail from this guy's pointless monologue earlier—that his ass is magnetic—would end up up being the saving key to some action sequence later, but alas, it looks like he's dead.)
The other new plotline in this episode is the connection between Sam and Maryann, the rich, magical (?) woman who saved Tara from jail and her mother. Through a series of flashbacks, we see that a young Sam broke into Maryann's place back when he was 17. He crawled in through the doggie door as a beagle, but was soon just an average naked teenager stealing her food and valuable belongings. She startles him, and soon they're having sex in her bedroom. As things get going, she strikes a pose on top of him and starts gyrating in that shape-shifty kind of way. Sam, scared, sneaks out while she's in the shower with her jewelry and a drawer of cash. He later tries to give it back to her, but she's not interested in his money.
So what does she want? She wants Tara to make out with Eggs Benedict. We see her evil side—at least more explicitly than in her creepy self-assurance—when she delivers a backhand blow to poor Carl, the butler, after he stops Tara and Eggs from kissing in the previous scene by interrupting to offer them towels. "No one needed towels!"
Simmering on the back burner of this episode, like Sam's ass to Sookie's fire, is the conflict between the Fellowship Of The Sun and the American Vampire League. Jason's involvement with the former is likely to bring this plot-line to a head this season. Plus, the televised back and forth between the heads of these organizations bears the subtitle, "Opening Shots of Human-Vampire War?" You tell me, True Blood.
Sookie and Bill hit some serious bumps this episode but ultimately end up where they started. She starts by whispering, "I always need you," into the phone, but soon launches two fights with him. The first because he didn't tell her he'd killed a young girl and turned her into a vampire, and the second because it turns out he also killed her Uncle Bartlett. He blocks her exit, tells her that she's his miracle, and confesses his love. She loves him, too, so they have steamy blood sex upstairs. He bites her, of course, but then kisses her, drooling blood down her neck and wiping it across her cheek. Hot.
In sum, this episode was a weak start to the season. It rotated between plot points, checking in on several stagnant characters, filling the hour with seemingly inconsequential dialogue like, "Gee, we miss Rene" or "My ass is magnetic." The campiness of the first season that delivered rollicking dirt sex and a seedy vampire bar went missing. But several seeds are there, and I'm hoping this episode will help us find direction next time.
— Jason Stackhouse seems dumber this season.
— No one likes money from molesters.
— Obvious Pan stuff: Maryann points out the god Pan and his human mother on the tableau by the pool. Pan has goat legs, so he's a shapeshifter, and he was involved with mystery cults. Are we on the right track?
— Is the pose Maryann strikes when riding Sam the same one from the statue he steals? I think so.
— Bill: "I love you, and for that I will never be sorry." Sookie: "Damn you Bill Compton, I love you." Vom.