I don't think I've ever experienced more critical whiplash in all my years of watching television than I have over the last year. Ringer is a show that has achieved near consistent levels of banality, but it's surely something worthy of scientific investigation that, right before the show is launched into the cancellation abyss, it pulls out of its butt something so ridiculous and so terrible that it becomes sort of, kind of... great? It's Called Improvising, Bitch! was the abject soapiness that this show has seemed to avoid for so long -- a frenetic, hilarious mess that wound up crazily entertaining, like Showgirls-awesome.
I can't help but feel that this episode worked so well because the story remained somewhat linear. While we had a glutton of flashback sequences to explain away hidden motivations and secret lesbian scheming, this episode was very much about a bunch of people held hostage by a sexually-ambiguous crazy-woman. There was nothing too convoluted, no extraneous over-plotting, just a simple story of revenge and the individuals caught up in it. Catherine hasn't been a hugely consistent character, and I'm not sure how her Wild Things fake-rape plot fit into the grand scheme of things, but Andrea Martin was a hoot here. The sapphic team-up with Olivia came out of left-field (and it's depressing to see Sarah Michelle Gellar of all people headlining a show where lesbians are portrayed as man-hating money-grabbers -- Willow Rosenberg is weeping in a corner), but I actually got really into the story. The hostage crisis, Machado's involvement, Olivia's dithering allegiances -- it all came together in an exciting nuttiness.
Unexpectedly, the story did bring to mind that the twin angle to Ringer was presumably never the end-goal for this season, that our collective desire for a catty reunion between Bridget and Siobhan was never going to be fulfilled in an interesting way. I'm sure Bridget will figure it out next week, but I'm also sure it'll happen just before the end credits roll. Surprisingly, though, that didn't bother me much here. Ringer has always been a series that wanted to delay and deny instead of excite within the moment, leaving the far majority of its episodes feeling stagnant and annoyingly vacant. But the trashy events depicted here showcased that it's not a problem when the twin hoodoo is kept on the back-burner, as long as we have truly exciting subplots to distract us with. Obviously the show could never have major finale-sized twists every week, but there was a real sense of urgency here that could have easily been spread out through each hour.
Tying into that urgency, Scott Nimerfro's script really sparkled. Siobhan was suddenly the sniping, underhand badass with the Joan Collins 'tude -- blackmailing Russian call girls and getting bitchy at dinner parties. It was Sarah Michelle Gellar embracing the Kathryn Merteuil within, instead of it being meekly suppressed by uninspiring dialogue. There was naturally the hackneyed stupidness, but there seemed to be a sense of knowing irony to it this week (or maybe I was just projecting), what with Siobhan protesting as she got shoved into that closet, or Andrew effectively screaming 'stop holding us hostage at our Manhattan penthouse apartment, ex-wife!' down the phone. This was Melrose Place levels of badness, where everything's so confidently nuts that it becomes wildly exhilarating and almost endearing as a series. God forbid, could I actually wind up missing this show? A
Guest stars Zoey Deutch (Juliet Martin); Jonathan Banks (Tobias); Matthew Del Negro (Agent Grady Torrence); Dylan Neal (Washburn Milter); Gonzalo Menendez (Agent Roy); James Madio (Sketch); Dasha Flynn (Oksana); Andrea Roth (Catherine Martin); Jaime Murray (Olivia Charles)
Writer Scott Nimerfro Director Janice Cooke