Saving Grace – Episode 3-4 Review

Following a spate of home invasions, a couple are found beaten, bound and gagged by their housekeeper. With one of the victims dead-on-arrival and the other severely traumatised in the wake of a sexual assault, Grace wonders whether the habitual intruders have added rape and murder to their MO, or if there’s more to the brutal crime scene than meets the eye. Meanwhile, there’s a new Angel in town and he’s determined to lure Grace away from Earl by promising to fulfil her every whim.

The procedural elements of Saving Grace – while far superior to many other shows where the cases can seem formulaic or hardly hold any weight at all, can sometimes take a backseat to the characters’ day-to-day interactions – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when the actors’ natural and effortless rapport is what sets this show head and shoulders above the competition. This week’s investigation, however, was intriguing and well-executed, and the writers thankfully didn’t skimp on showcasing the cast’s phenomenal chemistry, either.

Grace may like to play hardball with her suspects, but her sensitivity when it comes to dealing with victims is second to none – which is no doubt why the team have appointed her the official bearer of bad news. This week, she was spared the grief parade, but had the difficult task of taking the rape victim’s statement instead. Her compassion and warmth shone through as she patiently and quietly listened to the woman’s harrowing account of her attack: how she had been held at gunpoint, raped and tied back-to-back with her boyfriend for over 24 hours, and forced to shoulder his weight when he eventually died from his extensive injuries.

Rhetta quickly discovered that the earlier break-ins and this far more violent attack were unrelated. Her reasoning? The knotted rope in the original cases looked like it had been tied by a “Boy Scout gone bad,” whereas a Brownie would be embarrassed to lay claim to the knots used to restrain Linda Hall and her boyfriend, Roland Tuptin. It emerged that someone had deliberately orchestrated the attack to look like a copycat robbery, so they could procure the contents of Roland’s safe. There were plenty of red herrings to throw us off the scent, including the victim’s housekeeper (a Drama major who was all-too-proficient at putting on an act in the interview room) and Roland’s son (a gambler whose debt could provide a viable motive). However, as it turned out, Roland’s housekeeper wasn’t the only Drama Queen involved in the case – Linda Hall, the supposed rape victim, was heavily involved in community theatre and, in an interesting twist, it transpired that she had hired her colleague and lover to stage the attack so they could eventually flee with the contents of Roland’s safe.

We all know that Grace isn’t beyond staging a pretty convincing performance of her own – especially when it comes to reeling in the bait, and it came as no surprise that Linda fell for her feigned concern… hook, line and sinker. Grace’s astute questioning about Linda’s dubious dealings with the rape crisis centre eventually forced the ‘victim’ to confess that she was the brains behind the entire operation. I might have had issues with the writers propagating elements of the ‘woman cries wolf’ storyline, but there’s no doubt that it happens, and the issue was handled well. 

On a brighter note, the practical jokes were coming thick and fast in this episode, and I relished every moment of seeing the team mercilessly taunting one another. Poor Rhetta, still very much in the red, resorted to buying scratch cards in bulk and – like the good Catholic girl she is – sent up a prayer before attacking them with the zeal of a desperate woman. Grace whooped and hollered when her best friend miraculously snagged a cool $10,000, but her smile rapidly faded when she saw Ham high-fiving Bobby, prompting her to declare in a horrified tone: “You didn’t?! You go tell her. You go tell her right now!” Clearly Ham and Bobby weren’t party to Rhetta’s epic meltdown last week, otherwise they would know better than to toy with her emotions when it comes to money.

Sure enough, Rhetta’s victory lap around the office was cut short when she read the small print: “redeemable through the tooth fairy.” I had to laugh when her first instinct was to blame Grace, who vehemently denied any involvement in the ruse. With all fingers literally pointing towards Ham, Rhetta launched herself at her unrepentant colleague, who promptly hoisted her into the air and twirled her around while she squawked out her protests.

Loyal viewers may remember that Ham has a debilitating phobia of small birds, and watching him cower away from the budgerigar at the crime scene was hilarious – some great acting from Kenny Johnson. Rhetta and Grace could barely contain their amusement as Ham pressed himself against the wall and averted his eyes from the chirping monstrosity, and no prizes for guessing that Rhetta suddenly had a motive to disregard all those sermons about forgiving and forgetting.

Sure enough, the next morning, Grace arrived at work to find her best friend hefting a ladder around the office. Making it clear where her loyalties really lie, she chortled her approval as Rhetta began sprinkling some homemade birdseed outside the window directly adjacent to Ham’s desk, vowing to create a scene that could rival Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’ Grace had already changed Ham’s screensaver to the macabre image of a baby bird with its beak wide open, and had her camcorder on hand to film his hysterical reaction when he nudged his computer back to life. These friends take such a twisted delight in tormenting each other that you can’t help but join in the fun.

Earl’s affection for Grace became more than apparent in his fierce battle of wills with Matthew, a rogue Angel with an appalling track record for saving souls. Matthew was relentless in his attempt to poach Grace for his own agenda and seemed to be more Demon than Angel, tempting Grace with the promise of granting her every request if only she would turn her soul over to God. Unlike Earl, Matthew was eager to show Grace the tricks of the trade and proved that Angels aren’t really bound by a non-interventionist code of conduct – he vowed to whisk Grace off to exotic locations, help her to solve all of her cases (he readily provided her with the information she needed to catch the original intruders), promised to bestow good fortune upon all her friends and family… in fact, he may as well have had “too good to be true” stamped on his forehead as he doled out drinks, handed Ham $1000 for trouncing him in an arm wrestling contest (a nice homage to Kenny Johnson’s previous career as a champion arm wrestler), and helped Rhetta hone her darts skills in exchange for a winning lottery ticket.

Grace’s loving, selfless nature became more than apparent in her response to Matthew’s wish fulfilment list – when asked what she most desired, her first response was, “a hundred million bucks for my friend” and, when she’d had more time to consider her request, she opted (in true Miss Congeniality fashion) for world peace. Her other wishes included Gus, Clay and Rhetta never suffering any ill health or getting hurt – and a lifetime’s pass to the Sooners’ games. It’s interesting that Ham only made her list by extension, but I guess we’re now privy to the three most important relationships in Grace’s life.

Sometimes you have to wonder why a woman who puts everyone else’s needs before her own is in need of redemption – but then again, this episode reveals that both Mother Teresa and Hitler were amongst Earl and Matthew’s previous charges. Now there’s some controversy for you – the best and worst of human nature apparently both warranted their very own Last Chance Angel. Go figure.

Earl is usually so mellow that it’s kind of gratifying to see him lose his composure, and I loved it when he became all territorial and bellowed, “There ain’t nothing you can do for Grace that I can’t!” and it was interesting to hear him voice what I’ve always believed: “Let me tell you something, Matthew – God made her right, just the way she is.” He may as well have started singing, “Don’t go changing to try and please me.” Like Earl, I don’t want to see Grace undergo any kind of radical transformation – or sign her life over to God, for that matter. She’s proof that you don’t have to go to church every Sunday in order to be a good person, and the show just wouldn’t be the same if she were all sweetness and light – her flaws are part of what make her such a richly-woven, complex and fascinating character. Of course, Holly Hunter’s pitch-perfect portrayal plays a major role in that, too.

In another touching scene that paid testimony to their unique and enduring friendship, Rhetta proved that she was more than worthy of Grace’s devotion. When Grace told her that she could be holding a winning lottery ticket in her hands – courtesy of some divine intervention, Rhetta (despite being in financial dire straights) promptly screwed it up and threw it into the nearest bin, telling Grace that she should stick with the Angel who wasn’t trying to bribe her. Grace took her advice, kicked Matthew/Mephistopheles to the curb, and returned home to find Earl smiling at her warmly. Don’t cha just love happy endings?

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