Ray Donovan 1.07 “New Birthday” Recap

by Shilo Adams / August 12, 2013

ray donovanAs Ray scrambles around the house to get ready for a quickie trip to Boston, all in the name of seeing Sully, Abby confronts him about his behavior lately, claiming that he’s scaring her and expressing frustration that he’s never let her go back to Boston, with or without the kids. Before Ray can get on the road, or even have a word with Bridget and Connor, Marvin comes storming into the house, upset that Ray never told him what happened to his mother. Seeing the gun tucked into Marvin’s pants, Ray quickly gets him out of the house and brings him back to Re-Kon, who tells Ray that Marvin found out about his parents through a text from a cousin. He then asks if Donovan was the one who did it and prompts the father to forbid Bridget and Marvin from being around one another.

Van Miller has a meeting with Frank, the FBI agent in Ray’s pocket and a man who nearly put Lee and Ezra away a few years ago. He informs his colleague of new evidence that could tie Sean Walker to a murder from 20 years ago and Lee, Ezra, and Ray to the cover-up that eventually landed Mickey in prison. Frank calls Ray and tells him everything that Miller said, which he’s supposed to sit on until the trip to Boston is over. Even though Avi offers to take out Mickey on his own and Sully is said to be in Belfast, Ray still goes forward with plane ride to Boston and makes it there in one piece. Elsewhere, Mickey has found a seat at a screening of Sean Walker’s latest movie, this one about a murderous priest, where he’s gotten a consultant credit; the question portion of the screening, taking place directly after, finds him bulldozing his way to the microphone and pitching a movie idea to the action star. The idea? An actor goes to Boston to film a movie and ends up shooting a woman. He frames a working Joe for the crime and eventually becomes a big movie star, while the blue-collar guy spends 20 years in prison. Through pressure from the enthusiastic crowd, Sean agrees to buy the idea and Mickey gives him his contact information.

While Abby goes over to Marvin’s and lets him know that she would be willing to listen if he ever needed someone to talk to about what happened to his mother, Ray arrives at Flanagan’s, a bar filled with guys affiliated with Sully. However, they repeat the same Belfast legend/lie that has been propagated for years and Ray later gets into a fight with four guys, the ringleader being a man who asked Ray if he recognized him. Ray ends up with what looks like a broken rib and some internal bleeding from the ambush and spends his evening icing himself down in the hotel. That is, until his former brother-in-law Gary arrives and the two see each other for the first time since Bridget’s death. After a little small talk, Ray tries to ask questions about his sister’s death (why did she kill herself, did she ever talk about how Mickey was as a father, etc.) and Gary rejects the idea of bringing up old history, as he can’t afford to go back to the place he was after she committed suicide. Tired, Ray gives Gary money to take his four teenage sons to Fenway Park, something he’s never gotten to show his own son, and the two part ways.

At the gym, where Bunchy is sleeping after deciding he doesn’t like his house anymore, Daryll and Potato Pie watch a boxing match (and trash talk each other the entire time) and Mickey receives a phone call from Sean Walker. The actor says that he’ll be sending a car for Mickey tomorrow; the two end up having a brief meeting, complete with talk of old movies and a run-in with Japanese tourists, where Sean makes the terms of their agreement clear. Back in Boston, Ray stalks the ringleader of the guys who jumped him and follows him to the hair salon, where it’s revealed that he’s named Tiny and in charge of guarding Mrs. Sullivan, Sully’s foul-mouthed mother. She insults Mickey and refuses to tell Ray where her son is, so Ray gets in one more shot on Tiny before leaving to find his next lead. He ends up by Bridget’s grave, where he meets a woman with a white dog not on a leash. It turns out that this woman is Sully’s wife and she leads Ray to the empty church where her husband is, facilitating a meeting that could determine Mickey’s fate.

Defying her father, Bridget goes to see Marvin on his “new birthday,” an event to commemorate the new start he’s getting under Re-Kon’s care, and the two duet on a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”. For her part, Abby is spending time with Ezra’s wife Deb and they commiserate over the deteriorating state of their marriages; while Ray hates his father for allegedly killing the girl he was with after Abby’s parents forced them apart, the same girl that Sean Walker actually killed, Ezra named their (male) dog after his deceased former wife and Deb overheard him saying that he never really loved her earlier this season. A little tipsy, the two end up going shopping and Abby decides to wear a pair of boots she was trying on out of the store without paying, sort of as a punishment for Ray not buying her the “right” things. Security eventually catches up with her and Deb, as they couldn’t control their laughter (or their bladders, as Deb peed on herself), and they’re sent to jail.

Ray’s meeting with Sully is brief and mostly consists of the offer to come to Los Angeles and kill Mickey being made. (Ray would do it, but despite everything that Mickey’s put him through, he just can’t bring himself to pull the trigger on his father.) Being that he’s still number one on the FBI Most Wanted List, Sully uses the opportunity to leverage an expensive set up after the job is done, as well as remind Ray to pay his respects to Colleen while he’s out there. Elsewhere, Marvin and Bridget end up making out in his room after playing around with the music. She moves to go down on him before deciding that she’s not ready just yet; he tries to guilt her with her father’s role in his mother’s death and then physically tries to force her back down there, only for her to get up and leave the house.

Ray gets home from Boston and bails Abby out of prison, but he’s not mad about what happened or the $6,000 the shoes will set him out, following the fines and whatnot. No, this is one of the first times in the entire series where the two just seem happy to be around one another. They arrive home and while she goes upstairs to find something to help his ribs, he talks to Connor, who informs him that Bridget arrived back home from Marvin’s acting really weird. Ray rushes upstairs and it doesn’t take much from Bridget’s mouth before he’s furiously storming over to Marvin’s, where he apprehends the young boy and takes him on a drive. Bridget tried to stop him and even blamed Ray for what Marvin did, but she can only watch from her bedroom window as her boyfriend is being driven to parts unknown by her father.

The episode ends with Sully kissing his mother goodbye and setting off for Los Angeles; Frank, who called Ray again about Miller going off the reservation, being mailed his colleague’s roadside sobriety test; and Marvin begging for his life at a stop light.

Additional thoughts and observations:
-Was this the best episode of Ray Donovan to date? While the show is still not all the way there yet, it’s noticeably improved since the pilot and the mystery behind Ray’s past (and hatred of his father) finally starting to come together is promising, though I still hope that we find a way to get rid of Mickey this season. Just awful.
-A high school putting on a steampunk version of The Wizard of Oz – pretentious, kind of awesome, or both? Also, what did you think of Bridget’s singing voice?
-No Lena (again), no Frances, no Lee. I missed two of the three, but I’m glad that the show is learning how to use its assets better and don’t mind a shrunken cast if we get things like Ray’s Boston trip out of it.
-If you were responsible for sending an innocent man to prison for two decades after you killed someone and pinned it on them, would you work with them in the movie business? Get it together, Sean Walker. Nothing good can come of this. Also, please don’t let the movie end up being made, because a Ray Donovan movie inside the Ray Donovan series would make my head explode.
-Initially, I didn’t like the cliffhanger, mostly due to line they ended it on, but I’m all for the show getting darker and picking a side in the “Is Ray a good guy?” argument.
-Should Ray Donovan find a way to eek out some good moments with Abby and Ray, I think I would be able to handle the (repetitive) arguments between the two. It was very nice to see them acting like they could stand each other at the end of this episode; they don’t need to be on good terms a lot or for a long time, but every now and then showing why they got married in the first place (and presenting them as a couple with some semblance of a connection still remaining vs. making her the prototypical Nagging Wife) is more than fine by me.
-Interestingly, Liev Schreiber is a physically imposing actor and they decided not to make Ray a scrapper. Granted, there was no way for him to win the fight in the bat, but I assumed with this type of actor and a character with a rougher background, they would have him be able to throw hands pretty well. Maybe his lack of fighting skills is (both literally and figuratively) a way to keep his hands dirty and explains why he’s such a fan of the bat.
-James Woods! Or, should I say Peter Griffin? Ooh, a piece of candy.
-I kind of hoped that the footage from Sean’s movie was a part of the episode, if only for the amazingly over-the-top soundtrack.
-Next week on Ray Donovan: Ray, Bunchy, and Terry toast the anniversary of Bridget’s death.

Shilo Adams is a contributing editor for ScreenFad whose work has appeared on TVOvermind, TVHackr, and KSiteTV. You can e-mail him at sda2107@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @shilo_adams.