Agonizing over an uncharacteristic act of violence, Scotty MacNeil ends this episode lamenting, “I don’t know who we are any more.” Gen. Arnold Gaines’ answer—“We’re the idiots trying to save the human race”—sounds certain, but in “Right In The Nuts,” crisis shows people who they really are and what they’ll really do.

Advertisement

Paterson Joseph has a gift for portraying buttoned-up, buttoned-down bureaucrats with a flicker of lunacy dancing in their eyes. Here, his intensity is tempered by tenderness as he reminds his life partner, colleague, and co-conspirator to stay focused and let him handle the dangerous distractions. When White Horse delivers his digital ransom note, Gaines promises he’ll handle it. “Strategy, staying cool, scaring the crap out of people? That’s what I do best.”

It’s telling that Ariel constructs this rendezvous with the precision of a theatrical production—the stagey museum setting and his remarks about the curtain rising, the stage-left entrance, his beautiful choreography—only to have it disrupted by a bound-and-gagged teenager. The dreaded leader of Deux Ex Machina isn’t the mastermind he fancies himself, and his ineptitude is underlined when Scotty, not the trained, disciplined Gen. Gaines, takes him down with the crack of a baseball bat.

Advertisement

In the nightclub where Jude and Celine finally have a chance to talk to their most recent candidate for Messiah, Antonia (Branka Katić) and Celine give us a brief etymology lesson: The root of apocalypse is “to uncover, to reveal.” Antonia asks, ”What if the apocalypse is meant to reveal us, to strip us bare to what we are really made of?”

This evening has done that for Father Jude and Sister Celine. Casting off their vestments to appeal to Antonia’s bare-bones practicality, they’re just Celine and Jude. Suddenly they see each other more clearly. There’s no mistaking Jude’s disquiet when Celine walks in (with him still in his bathrobe), her hair tumbling free, a simple sundress showing off her natural beauty. Their revelations go deeper, too. As Celine knocks back shots—the cost of admission to Antonia’s presence—she reveals that she grew up on the very streets of Naples they’ve been canvassing, “stealing, begging, trying to stay hidden.” Jude’s hurt she didn’t tell him, but Celine’s unapologetic. Why would she confide in a man who thought her dossier and her face told him everything about her?

There’s true beauty in the Naples scenes, and not only in Antonia’s urging to discover their true desires in these last days. The dim ease of the nightclub, soft lights on the waterfront, fireworks lighting up the night—it’s a celebration, not a capitulation. In its way, Antonia’s work is also a celebration of life. The world is slated for destruction in 22 days… but until then, people food and rest and care.

Advertisement

This is Antonia, revealed. She’s no miracle worker, and never claimed to be. She feeds the hungry by stealing food from the docks where it sits, spoiling, in the absence of of the right paperwork. She heals the sick by rendering first aid no one else bothered to offer. Katić’s performance is eloquent in its understatement, making Antonia knowing and world-weary without succumbing to cynicism.

Leanne shows who she is—and who she isn’t—at her family’s survivalist compound, stocked with water purifiers and freeze-dried hot dogs. She introduces Rhonda as the friend who broke her out of prison (“she’s a peach!”) but her husband and children have their eyes on the $200,00.00 reward.

Rhonda can’t be one of them, not with a husband named Rajesh. “I stopped seeing the tattoo, but that’s really you, isn’t it?” Rhonda asks as Leanne watches her taken captive. It’s a brutal reassertion of Leanne’s white supremacism, an ugly aspect that got obscured by the character’s swagger and cackling energy, and it’s so effective that I was almost surprised when Leanne busted Rhonda loose, even though the plot demanded it. Leanne knows herself too well to run with Rhonda, though. “You’d be okay introducing me to your son?” she asks sardonically. “You think your husband would shake my hand?” Leanne won’t recant her white supremacism, and she won’t leave her family, but she’s able to send off Rhonda with a wish of good luck, the only kind left in this short life: “You have yourself a real good apocalypse.”

Advertisement

Jamie assumed Mary (Anastasia Hille) would be an albatross, but once her institutional drugs wear off, the former revolutionary’s sharp enough to break into a cyber-terrorist’s hideaway. “I just want to know why Ariel was important and I wasn’t,” he tells Dave, but Mary upends this assumption, too. God told her Jamie was important, Jamie was special, and she gave him up to his divine path. Jamie repudiates this as madness, but when their search triggers the loft’s self-destruct function, he uses Mary’s belief in his holiness to coax her out of danger.

“Right In The Nuts” has two related morals: Don’t be a dick, don’t make assumptions. Father Jude doesn’t get Antonia’s “angle,” but it’s simple. “I help people, I try not to be a dick.” Celine accepts Jude’s apology for the “dick move” he made when they met, and suggests, “Maybe we are done making assumptions about each other, yes?” Dave scolds Jamie, “Everyone’s scared, so stop being a bell-end and stop taking people for granted.”

The bunker keys Ariel and Gaines negotiate over are the key to this series. Each episode opens on the same few seconds, just before impact, and each opening reveals more about bunker. Ariel accepts one key, not the two he demands, and we’ll have to settle for one key, too, while we wait for revelations (and maybe Revelations) to come in the series’ second half. But after two plodding episodes of stage-setting, You, Me And The Apocalypse has found the key and revved its engine. “Right In The Nuts” hits the right balance, moving the plot forward with revealing, character-expanding action. As Leanne tells Rhonda, sending her on her way, “It ain’t steak and milkshakes, but beggars can’t be choosers.”

Advertisement

Stray observations

  • The President, offering false hope: “It’s a work in progress, but we have every faith in a positive outcome.”
  • Antonia’s right earring is a key.
  • Scotty’s text autocorrecting White Horse to White House cracked me up.
  • It’s not clear how Leanne’s family plans to turn in Rhonda without revealing Leanne’s location, since they’re known to be traveling together.
  • Molby, surveilling Ariel, Scotty, and Gaines: “Reporting on mark C, mark F, and mark G. We have a situation… Not Mark. The marks. As in the targets, the subjects… No, there’s no one called Mark!”

Advertisement