The sixth episode of True Detective's second season is as straightforward as the anthology series gets, but don't let that fool you: There's still plenty of gems hidden in the episode, like so many blue diamonds.
"Church in Ruins" is about payoff. Co-writers Scott Lasser (who also co-wrote episode two, "Down Will Come") and Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective's creator) took characters and plot threads that have existed — sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly — since the first episode and forced them to their hour of crisis in a rural California mansion filled with powerful men and high-class prostitutes.
The upshot is, for once, easy to explain: By the end of the episode, Ani, Paul and Ray have rescued their missing person, Vera Machiado (whose last name we only learned this episode), and gathered evidence that almost certainly implicates those presumably involved in former Vinci City Manager Ben Caspere's death, including Catalyst Group's Jacob McCandless and the (presumed) Russian mobster Osip Agranov.
But this is True Detective, so of of course there's more than meets the eye. Like last week when we saw the wooden spoked chandelier and nobody said anything, this week the camera floated by some very interesting, as yet unexplained people and things. Identifying those tiny details, always hidden in plain sight, are what makes season two interesting.
So we'll begin with an examination of the rural California area that's becoming ever more important, move on to a recap of the important events of the season and then embark on our watchthrough of True Detective episode six, "Church in Ruins," where the good guys and the bad guys both dress in black.
Guerneville, California is a small, idyllic, unincorporated area in Sonoma County, about 450 miles north of Los Angeles (and, in True Detective season two, Vinci). Guerneville's official website tells you that it wants to be known as "a small tourist town situated between the Russian River and the surrounding hills."
It also has a reputation as a tourist destination for the LGBT community. A a portion of Guerneville's site is dedicated to, as it calls it, Gay Travel.
We first heard about Guerneville in episode two, "Night Finds You.". They felt like like throwaway lines, and the show treated them as such for hours and weeks. We also heard about it in connection with the commune on which Ani grew up. It's also the last-known location of Vera, the sister of the woman whose house Ani and her partner, Elvis, served a notice of foreclosure on in episode one, "The Western Book of the Dead." In episode five, "Other Lives," Ani and Paul travel to Guerneville to investigate the stone cottage from which Vera, the missing woman, made her last-known phone call. They discover two monumentally important things there, the first of which they acknowledge, the second of which they don't:
Guerneville's geography feels important, too. Characters constantly refer to things that take place "up north," and Guerneville fits that bill. Its location next to the Russian River is almost certainly important, as well. Here are a few examples of what we’ve heard and seen:
Guerneville's connection to the LGBT community could also be a thematic connection to Paul, or we could find out that he may have been there before. He sure seems to dislike it, for unstated reasons.
If you found yourself in Guerneville, hoped into a canoe and paddled down the Russian River, it wouldn't take you long to see a dock that leads to Bohemian Grove.
Founded in 1872, Bohemian Grove is, at its most basic level, a private club for men nestled among 2,700 acres of Douglas firs and redwoods. To conspiracy theories, it's the nexus of pagan ritual, where the influential and wealthy twirl their curly mustaches and plan the New World Order.
The truth, as it almost always does, seems less nefarious. It is, in all probability, a place where deals get made in private, where public figures can act as themselves, free of the scrutinizing public eye, where guys pee on trees. But it doesn't take much imagination to twist a private, wooded retreat for the rich and powerful into something like, oh, you know, a place where men who consider themselves above the law do illegal, depraved things while twisting their curly mustaches.
One other thing to note about Bohemian Grove: It has a bit of a pagan flavor to it. According to reports, the Cremation of Care ceremony has been a mainstay since the 1880s. The ceremony takes place in front of the Grove's Owl Shrine, a 30-foot statue that, again according to reports about this private club, was once voiced by Walter Cronkite through embedded speakers. The ritual's pomp and circumstance includes attendees wearing robes and serves as a kind of introduction to the weeks-long retreat that's held every July.
What does this have to do with True Detective season two? Maybe nothing. Maybe it's a stretch. Or maybe its writers knew about Bohemian Grove and the conspiracy theories that surround it and used those as jumping off points to create a fictional world of the rich and powerful who do Bad Things in Secret — up to and including donning bird masks and murdering their compatriots.
As always, the show's creators begin by telling us what they think we should remember from previous episodes in brief snippets of scenes.
Ray Velcoro sits in The Black rose bar looking at the photograph of Ben Caspere at the party that the missing sister, Vera, sent to her sister. Caspere stands underneath a wooden, spoked-wheel chandelier, one of which we saw at the stone cottage in Guerneville that Ani and Paul visited at the end of last week's episode.
"Casper," Ray says. "This ain't the kind of party that allows cameras. What do you think? Some kind of blackmail?"
"Do you really think we cleared the Caspere case?" Ani asks.
"I'm not a cop anymore," Ray says.
"Follow Blake, " Frank Semyon says to Ray. "He's gotten too smooth for my peace of mind."
"I can do that," Ray says.
After tailing Blake, Ray overlooks the mansion where Blake, Tony Chessani and Dr. Pitlor stand with four young, attractive women at Pitlor's clinic.
"These must certainly be stolen," a man behind the counter at a pawnshop says to Paul Woodrugh. "I told the other policeman the same. He gives me his card, says to let him know if I hear anything."
Paul looks at Teague Dixon's card.
"Can you get a line on an invite to the next party?" Ani asks her sister. It's the kind of high-class party where Caspere would have gone, and her sister, Athena, used to run with a crowd who might be able to get her in.
"It'll be tough," Athena says.
"I need to look into it," Ani says.
"I'm putting together a special investigation," State Attorney Katherine Davis tells Ray Velcoro, "to track down Irina Rulfo." She shows Ray a photo of the woman who pawned Caspere's stolen goods. She was in the employ of the Mexican drug runner and pimp who died at the end of episode four. She didn't die in the attack, though. She's at large.
"What's the real purpose?" Ray asks.
"Uncovering evidence of collusion between Vinci PD and any other state bodies," she says.
"Are you Frank Semyon?" the man from episode four who walked into the Lux and tried to shake him down asks.
"Who are you?" Frank asks.
"We had an arrangement with Santos," the man says, referring to the previous owner of the club who Frank replaced after the incident with the pliers.
"Nobody's seen him."
"We heard, so its time to ratify our arrangement."
"I don't need partners."
"That man that you tracked down was a lie?" Ray's ex-wife Gena asks him. It was not, but he doesn't say so. She walks away angrily.
"He set me up," Ray says, referring to Frank.
Frank loads a gun and answers his front door. It's Ray.
"Got a problem?" Frank asks.
"You and me need to talk," Ray says.
Once again, the creators sliced and dice Leonard Cohen's poem-turned-song, "Nevermind," to create a thematically appropriate cut. Here's how it goes this week:
I could not kill
The way you kill
I could not hate
I tried I, failed
You turned me in
At least you tried
You side with them whom you despise
This was your heart
this swarm of flies
This was your mouth
this bowl of lies
You serve them well
I'm not surprised
You're were their kin
You're of their kind
Nevermind I had to leave my
The story's told
With facts and lies
You own the world
So never mind
It's high noon, and two gunslingers sit across from each other in a kitchen, both with their hands on guns under the table. Ray's here to confront Frank, after learning that the man he killed more than a decade ago for raping his then-wife was, in fact, the wrong man. And Ray is furious because that event changed his live forever and for the worse. He blames Frank because he believes, as he said last episode, that Frank set him up.
"I would have been different," Ray says.
"Of all the lies people tell themselves," Frank says. "I'll bet that's the most common."
"I could have. You fucked me. I sold my soul for nothing."
"If you were selling, it wasn't me buying."
"You wanted your hooks in a cop, so you used my wife's fucking tragedy," Ray is nearly crying now, "to get me to kill somebody."
"I didn't get you to do anything. I gave you a name, and you made your choice. And that choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting. And didn't you use that man to be what you were always waiting to become?" Frank scoffs. "This thing, your wife, those are just excuses. You think you were Superman, previous?"
"I didn't get you to do anything. I gave you a name, and you made your choice. And that choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting. And didn't you use that man to be what you were always waiting to become? This thing, your wife, those are just excuses. You think you were Superman, previous?"
This is True Detective Philosophy 101, exploring different ways to see the world. The worldview that Frank presents — that you are who you are, no matter who you pretend to be — is the precise and exact opposite what Gena and Ray believe — that killing changed Ray from decent to indecent. Their assumption is that the decent is truer and better. Frank sees the decent as a mask, a bandaid. A false face.
Frank scoffs again. "And, hey, own it. You think I'd have done less? If that's the kind of thing that keeps you out of heaven, I don't want to go."
"Who gave you the name?"
"Guy one of my guys knew, as I remember. Told me your story. Gave up the crankhead talking up the rape."
A crankhead is someone who does meth. We've heard about meth before. The top floor of a building exploded during the gunfight at the end of episode for because it was a meth factory run by the now-deceased Ledo Amarilla. There may be a connection here between whoever provided Frank with the information and the meth trade.
"I never heard of the dude until then. Or you. He was scum. I know that." Frank's comforting Ray, in his own way here. It's either touching or Machiavellian, given that he's got a gun pointed at him.
"I never even asked him anything," Ray says. "That guy, I just …"
"You want out?" Frank asks. "You're free. You ain't had the nerve for this for a while."
Ray squeezes the trigger on his pistol but only slightly. He's angry but unsure. Maybe Frank's giving him an out, telling a lie to save his own life. Or maybe he's telling the truth.
"I don't want to shoot out in my fucking kitchen, Raymond. And I don't want to see you die. By me or one of my other guys."
Ray shrugs with his face.
"I didn't set you up," Frank says. "And I ain't your suicide ticket."
They stare at each other. Ray winces at the sound of suicide.
The corner sets expectations: This place is contaminated so don't expect much. What do they know? It's female blood, and she had gonorrhea.
Ani wants a grid search and a cadaver dog. Davis is there and tells Ani to hand the case over to the Sonoma sheriffs. She doesn't know the connection. Ani signals that they should leave the cabin and go talk somewhere quietly.
The gunslingers sit across from each other.
"Blake's been running girls," Ray says, "behind your back outside the clubs." Guess he's not out. Frank's not surprised, and he blames ambition.
"No," Ray says, "it's bigger than you think. He's got a special stable with just Chessani's kid. Eastern bloc girls. Surgery at the Pitlor clinic, make 'em top gear."
Ray asks about the parties. Without missing a beat, he says, "I need you to give up a man who tipped you to my rapist."
Frank nods. "Give me some time. I'll look him up."
"You sure you got time?" Ray asks.
"On the ropes ain't the same thing is bleeding out," Frank says. "You know that. I'm backing the corridor, and we're legit. This past shit you're worked up on, it can go away."
"State's following up, too," Ray says. "On the DL. Want my help looking for the girl who pawned the shit that sent us to the shootout."
"Irina Rulfo," Frank says. "We're looking for her, too. We're looking for her, too. I'm going to put my other hand up now." He points at Ray. "Don't you fucking shoot me, Raymond."
Right puts both of his hands on the table, too.
"You help me find that hard drive," Frank says, "I'll give you the man who put you wrong."
Ray asks who wants it. Frank shrugs, says "corporate guy" and sips his coffee for the first time. "Could be a lot of sensitive footage on that thing." Ray nods. Gets up.
"Where you going now?" Frank asks.
"To see about killing a man," Ray says.
"You sit back down with a gun on me again," Frank says, "don't let me see you come in."
"I'd like to avoid that, Frank."
"Good. You might be one of the last friends I got."
"Wouldn't that be fucked up?"
Ray leaves through the front door and Frank's wife, Jordan, walks into the kitchen holding a revolver. Frank pulls her in close and kisses her on the forehead. They hug.
Ani explains how it's all connected: the parties Caspere attended, the GPS coordinates that place him here, the missing sister Vera and her last call coming from the stone cottage a mile away.
"I'm interested in collusions," Davis says. This is more like she was earlier in the season than she was in the last episode. She's after what she's after, and she has a kind of tunnel vision for it.
"And maybe those parties are where your collusions get sealed," Ani says. "This is important. Somebody died here."
"Somebody dies every second of the day. And they're not all Lucky enough to do it in California."
The Sonoma County Sheriff, Russo, interrupts and says his team can take it from here.
"This connects to a state missing persons case, hm?" Davis says.
"And we'll be happy to share our findings," Russo says.
Paul approaches the trio. "You know of any parties get thrown up here? A lodge a mile back, off the road?"
"No, can't say we have. It's private property and not state forest."
Ani asks about commotion in the forest, And the Sheriff tell Davis that this is his scene.
"So get to it, Sheriff." He walks away. We've got another law-enforcement turf war.
Davis tells Ani to work the girls and the parties and Paul to work the diamonds. She wants to know where they came from, originally. She asked about Ray, and Ani said he's tracking down the Rulfo girl.
Ray sits, clenching and unclenching his fists. He's wearing the same suit he wore last episode when he was in the judges chambers for the custody hearing. He looks nervous.
The door opens and closes. Someone in an orange prison jumpsuit walk forward, Sees ray, pauses. The man with white hair and a white goatee sits down, looking confused. His hair may have once been red, but he's not overweight. Ray picks up the phone.
"What?" The prisoner asks.
"I thought I killed you. 11 years ago. Thereabouts. Maybe I still will."
"That right? Who do you really kill?"
Ray's lips are curling in anger. He's close to snarling.
There was a woman, 29 years old. September 2004. An attorney. Dark brown hair. Underground parking garage downtown.
The prisoner, head cocked, looks confused.
"Yeah, you remember."
"They're saying I did a lot of things," the prisoner says with a slight Southern lilt. "Got a brain condition. I forget things."
Ray scoffs. "Huh," he says and a slight smile starts to appear on his face.
"I feel like I should have my lawyer here," the prisoner says. "How'd you get in to see me?"
"She was my wife. I used to be a cop. You have no idea what you cost me."
"Hey, look, man, I ain't talking to you, whatever this is about," and he moves his arm to hang up.
"You heard what this is about," Ray shouts. "I needed to look in your eyes. It was you. You don't even look like him, either." He's talking so low, he's almost growling.
"Who? My eyes look the same as yours, you ask me."
"They're gonna burn you."
"That remains to be seen."
"I needed to look in your eyes. It was you. You don't even look like him, either."
"You better hope they do," Ray says and leans in close to the glass separating them. "Key on my eyes, dipshit. See if I'm whistling 'Dixie.' If they don't give you life, I will have every inch of your flesh removed with a cheese grater starting with your prick. I'll cut off your nose and your lips. You're nuts, too. Make sure you live. Hell, they give you life, I'm a do it anyway. Like I said."
Ray stands up, hangs up the phone, starts to walk away.
"Hey. Hey, who are you?" the prisoner shouts through the glass. "You got the wrong dude. I don't even know you, man."
"You know me," Ray says. "You just didn't know you did."
Paul leans over a cubicle, and a man tells him that he remembers something about blue diamonds.
We've heard about the riots before — once — when Ray's dad, Eddie, mentioned them in episode three.
"'92, the riots," the man says. "Bad time to be in the insurance business." He pulls up information about them on his computer. "Those could be the same stones. Two and a half million in blue diamonds, Peruzzi cut. That's what you got, I think. Sable Fine Jewelers in Hollywood. There was a robbery. April 30, 1992."
"You got to understand what it was like back then," an unidentified man tells Paul. He has, turns out, red hair. "Fires starting everywhere. Snipers taking potshots at cops. Tanks in the street. 'Fuck the Police' coming out of every," he trails off, shakes his head, and take a swig of his Miller High Life. "A lot of our guys just up and quit."
"The Sable Fine Jewelers robbery," Paul says. "That's two an a half million in blue diamonds."
"Yeah, I was the one you talked to on the phone," the man says. "Double homicide. Husband and wife proprietors. Woman was pregnant. Margaret Osterman. I remember her name." He finishes his beer. There are four on the table. He lights a cigarette. He seems … nervous.
Paul asks why there aren't any suspects, and the man says the place was looted right after the robberies, "so no crime scene integrity. Wasn't no looters, either. Security tape was missing. Those two people were executed. They knew what they were doing. Tactical, like. Then those poor kids."
The kids are Leonard and Laura, and Paul has a photograph of them. They witnessed it. He hands him the photo.
"Christ," the man says. "You had to show me this?" he's acting like he has PTSD. He explains that the kids hid in a display case for a long time, as their parent lay dead. "I had quadruple the case loads. Riots overwhelmed the system. Didn't close fast. Something didn't close fast, you moved on." he's nearly shaking. Paul asked if the kids could help. he says they could barely talk, she was for and he was a little older.
"Men wore masks," he says. "That's about it. Ended up in the foster system."
"You got kids?"
"One on the way."
"Oh, God. Those kids fucked me up. Coming from where they did, going into the system. All that in a city burning to the fucking ground."
Ani practices her knife skills on the cross-like wooden dummy she's set up in her apartment. We saw it briefly in a shot in episode one. She stabs it in the head.
This is called foreshadowing.
"Be at the Kali Klub in Ventura next Saturday at 6 p.m.," Athena, who's leaning on Ani's kitchen counter, tells her sister. "Say you're me. Say you're there to see Bogdan. And you've got to dress like you're worth $2,000 a night. You're going to need somebody's help with that." Ani laughs. "This bus is going to take you up to wherever the part is, I heard. And they're not going to let you take in a phone or anything. They're going to make you turn all that stuff in."
Ani is covered in a film of sweat. "OK," she says, nods and turns back to the duct tape covered wooden stabbing board. She's breathing heavy. She slashes at it. Athena stares on, wide-eyed.
"You're going to be around a lot of guys," Athena says over the sounds of Ani and her stabbing and slashing, "that expect easy sex." Ani slashes and stabs again. "What are you gonna do about that?"
"I'll figure it out," Ani says through gritted teeth, never taking her eyes off the wood. If it had eyes, she's be staring into them, daring it to come after her.
"If those webcam guys were bad, this is way worse," Athena says.
"Thena, I'm police. I know how to take care of myself." Slash.
"They're not going to let you take in a knife. Or anything. They're going to pat you down and make you strip." That gets Ani's attention. "That's what I heard," Thena says.
"That all I need to know?" more stabbing.
"I made that for you. I was thinking about a woman drowning on dry land."
"Oh, I don't really get art." Stab, stab, stab. Thena shakes her head.
"I just don't understand why you work so hard to be alone."
"I just don't understand why you work so hard to be alone."
Ani stabs the wooden man in his junk. The knife gets stuck, making a … oh, you know. She dislodges the knife, walks away quickly and says, "I find it really doesn't take that much work."
"I've been here for 10 minutes, and you're just playing with knives just to keep me away." This is not the slightly vulnerable, caring Ani we saw on the beach last episode. This is her cold and distant, the way she was when we met her at the beginning of the season.
"I was working out when you knocked," Ani says, as if workouts can't be interrupted. Slash, scrape, stab. Wooden throat slit. She smiles. You get the impression that she'd kind of like to be attacked just to get an excuse to use it. "OK," she says, grabs a towel and walks away from her woodman. "Anything else about this party?"
"Just that, whatever you plan, you get on that bus, and it's fuck or run."
That seemed to sober her up.
Back in episode three, Stan turned up dead. He was one of Frank's henchmen. We didn't know him well.
Frank and Jordan are a Stan's widow Joyce's house. Frank praises Stan for how much he loved his family. Jordan hands Joyce what's surely thousands of dollars in a manilla envelope, apologetically. Says it was his, not a substitute for grief.
"That Blake guy's not outside, right?" Joyce asks. No, Frank says and asks if she knows him.
Joyce says that Blake stopped by the house not long after the funeral, ostensibly to offer his condolences. "Asked if Stan had shared anything with me, might help him figure out who killed him." He didn't, Joyce says. She sounds a little bitter when she says Stan wasn't running Frank's operation like Blake was. Frank, as he's so good at doing, spins it, saying it's about skillsets, not worthiness. "I loved Stan," he says.
She starts crying, about her son Mikey who doesn't know what to do without his dad. JOrdan comforts her. Frank gets up, sees Mikey playing catch in the backyard with someone we don't see.
Ray opens a model of a Stealth Bomber. He explained in episode TKTKTK that he and Chad started putting models together … and then just he did. Ray is enthusiastic. Chad couldn't look unhappier as Ray explains the plane's munitions and how it never misses. Chad looks up at a woman sitting just outside the room with a No. 2 pencil, paper and a clipboard, watching them, taking notes. This is a supervised visit like the judge ordered last episode.
Ray catches on, says maybe Chad's not interested anymore, which is fine, he says. Except that it's not, really. They have nothing to do.
"It kills people," Chad says. Ray nods. He puts the model aside and asks if Chad wants to watch TV. He DVR'd the Cardinals. Chad wants to watch Friends, which is always on. "The show that's like 20 years old?" Ray asks. "I had an old girlfriend used to watch it." The woman takes notes. Ray looks at Chad. Chad doesn't look back.
"What all you scribbling over there? There some high drama I don't see," Ray asks.
"Please limit our interaction," she says. "I have a mandate to observe."
Ray hands chad the remote. "By all means, buddy. Find Friends."
Mikey wasn't playing catch with anyone. He was bouncing a ball off a wall.
"Your dad teach you that?" Frank asks. Mikey doesn't answer. "My old man never had time for sports." Frank catches the ball, and they sit on a picnic bench. Mikey sighs on his way there. He's looking down and ahead like Chad. Another grownup trying to connect with a kid who couldn't be less interested.
"Sometimes, a thing happens, splits your life. There's a before and after. I got like five of them at this point. And this is your first."
Frank tells Mikey that Mikey's father was a good good man. "I know that. Everybody doesn't need to keep saying it." It'll be hard, Frank explains, but the part of Mikey that is his father will get him through it, he says. It's actually pretty nice.
"Sometimes, a thing happens, splits your life," Frank says. "There's a before and after. I got like five of them at this point. And this is your first. But if you use it right, the bad thing, you use it right, and it makes you better. Stronger. It give you something most people don't have. Bad as this is, wrong as it is, this hurt, it can make you a better man. That's what pain dows. It shows you what was on the inside. And inside of you, is pure gold. And I know that. Your father knew that, too."
Mikey looks up at Frank for the first time, tears welling in his eyes.
"Pure solid gold," Frank says. "That's what you got."
Mikey hugs Frank, who kisses him on the neck as the boy cries.
Ray asks the woman watching them if she enjoys her job. She tells him again not to interact with her. Chad's in the middle. Ray looks at his son and sees him getting uncomfortable.
He asks Chad if his mom mentioned anything changing. "She mentioned I might not be seeing you as much," Chad says.
"You OK with that?"
"I guess not."
"Look things, if they change, they might tell you things about you and about me. And the things they say, whatever they say, whatever they say, whatever stories you hear, I am your father, you are my son. I will always love you." It's a tender moment, a heartfelt moment, a declaration of a father's love to his son, who he's patting gently on the back of the head now.
"OK," Chad says, takes another bite of pizza and turns his head to watch Friends.
We get the impression, not for the first time, that Ray's a lot more into Chad than Chad is into Ray, no matter how hard he tries.
It's … just not going to work.
Ray storms through his front door with a bottle of booze in his hand. He flips on the light, throws his keys and what might be a bag of cocaine on the coffee table. He's frantic.
He fills a short class with ice, puts two packs of cigarettes down on the counter and loads the New York Dolls' "Human Being" in the CD player. He takes an enormous drink, pours the coke onto the counter and crabs a credit card to make some lines. He snorts, drinks, snorts, drinks. So much for being three months sober.
He gets up, starts dancing. To be fair, he's on coke. Now he's shadow boxing. Now he's doing pullups. Now he's doing coke. Now he's drinking beer.
Well, if you don't like it
Go ahead, find yourself a saint
Go ahead, now try to find a boy
Who's gonna be what I ain't
Now what you need is
A plastic doll with a fresh coat of paint
Who's gonna sit through the madness
And always acts so quaint, I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah"
With your new friend
You're really making a scene
And I see you bouncing around
From machine to machine
And you know they're never real, they're
Never what they seem
And you can try to generate some warmth
And you see just what I mean, I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah"
The high subsides. Ray sits on the floor between his couch and coffee table, sobbing. He calms down, looks at models on the shelf, picks up a plane.
He calls Gena, Chad's mom and his ex-wife. His knuckles are bloody. The models are smashed.
"I wanna," Ray says, mumbling drunk. "I wanna make a deal with you."
She threatens to hand up, but he asks her to please don't go. The whole house is trashed.
"I'm not trying to win, Ray. I really think at this point, we should leave it to the lawyers."
"Just listen. Don't," he trails off. "I won't context custody. Ok? He's yours. I know he'll be happy with your and — and Richard."
"Are you serious? You're drunk again."
"No, listen. Just forget the paternity thing. Don't tell him. Don't ever tell him what happened or where he comes from. He shouldn't have to know. Just — just let him believe I"m his father, and I'll go away."
"It's for — it's for me, Ray. I have to know."
"Please? Please. Never tell him, and I'll stay away. I won't contest a thing. I'll never seem again."
"Sweetheart," Gena says and trails off. This isn't the first time she's lapsed into tender nicknames, remember. She called him babe in episode two.
"Just say yes," Ray says. "Please? Please? Just — just say yes, and I'll leave your lives forever."
Gena stammers for a second before she says, "OK. Yes, Ray, I will — I will do that."
"You swear to me."
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Ray hangs up the phone, having given away the one and only thing that seems to tether him to this world, to any form of decency. The thing that, as he explained to Frank after being shot, kept them together.
Frank released him at the beginning of this episode. Ray is sticking around because he has nothing else.
Frank, Nails and the rest of Frank's gang are in what looks like the basement of an industrial building. Frank is seated, talking to a man who's tied to a chair, which is an interesting callback to the chair we saw at the end of the last episode and the beginning of this one.
"The name is Ira Rulfo," Frank says, referring to the missing former employee of the Mexican drug dealer and pimp. Frank says he's Santa Muerte, which is Spanish for "holy death" or "Saint Death." The man says it’s not a gang. Whatever, Frank says, he was Lito Amarilo's guy, selling cheap Mexican heroin. Where's Irina? The man says nothing.
Nails approaches while another thug holds the man's hand on the table. Nails plunges a metal spike through it and the table.
"There's other appendages, won't heal up that easy," Frank says. Nails stabs him in the upper back. Frank asks where the Mexican prostitutes are. Frank offers him $1,000, "or the next nail goes through your eye."
"They got a place, El Monte," the man says. That's a city in Los Angeles County. Frank lays the money on the table, says "This is gonna hurt." Nails extracts the — hey, Nails! — nail from his back.
Paul explains what he learned about the diamonds' origin as he twirls a knife. He hands the knife back to Ani. Frank says he didn't make any progress on Irina.
"You sure you want to work this party," Paul asks. She says she doesn't want to bring the information to Davis until they "have something. Type of men at this things? I mean, who knows?"
"It's your ass is what he means," Ray says.
"Yeah," Ani says.
Paul says they've got her back and they'll both tail the bus. She says she can't bring a phone or anything in, like her sister said. Paul lays a transponder on the table. Franks says to stick that … somewhere. She shoots him a look. "Like in your shoe," he says.
It cuts to a group of women dressed in evening wear standing outside a club, next to a bus. Paul explains that they'll be setting up a perimeter. He'll get in if he has to.
"Oh, and try not to stab anyone," he says. "Unless you have to."
It's played for laughs. It's foreshadowing.
Ani's dressed to the nines, hair done and colored, pretending to be her sister, trying to get into the party. Someone asks her name. It's Blake. He sends her on the bus. They frisk her and let her on. A man walks down the aisle collecting phones.
"You get back tomorrow," says the man, who has a Russian accent. "Do not be arguing, bitch."
Frank and his thugs break into the house in El Monte. They find votive candles, the kind you'd burn in a Catholic church. It is a shrine to Santa Muerte. It's not just the name of the quasi-gang that Frank said the man Nails, well, nailed in earlier belongs to. It's a real thing.
She's a folk saint, predominantly in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. And by folk saint, I mean that Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte isn't recognized by the Catholic Church, which declared her veneration blasphemous in 2013. She's seen, in Mexico, as a protector of the LGBT community. She's also associated with criminality and illicit drug trade. Here in the real world, Santa Muerte can be found in … houses of ill repute.
Men appear out of nowhere and out walk the two men who visited Frank in the club last episode.
"Didn't know this was your place. That's one off the bucket list," Frank says. "A Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans." He smiles and lowers his gun.
They're tailing the bus.
Frank explains the situation: Lito's dead because the woman sold Caspere's stolen items. He’s he's looking for her. Nothing more. If they know where she is and can put him in touch, they can talk about that partnership they brought up last episode.
"Well, we no longer need to make a deal," the man says.
"I got two protected clubs," Frank says. "If you help, you can push your stuff through there three nights a week for a year. End of the year, we renegotiate, based on mutual performance."
Why does Frank need this girl, the man asks. He wants her to answer some questions. "This guy her man pissed off, he was in possession of something." He pauses. "First year, I don't take a percentage. You keep what you make, 100 percent."
"We'll get her to call you, maybe," the man says.
"It's a start," Frank says. "But we need to meet face-to-face at some point."
The bus stops at a mansion in the California wilderness. A security guard steps out for a smoke, and Paul tackles him while Frank looks out, gun drawn.
Inside, classical music plays while men pour champagne and blue pills into bottles. One by one, the women open their mouths and another woman sprays something into them. What's that? Ani asks. "Like, pure Molly," the woman next to her says. "It's great." It's ecstasy, it's MDMA. It produces euphoric effects.
The woman approaches Ani. "Open," she says. Ani does. She gets a spray.
Outside, Frank and Paul bind the guard with duct tape. Frank sends Ray to get eyes on Ani.
Inside, Ani walks through the house. "Enjoy yourselves, gentlemen," Blake tells the men in tuxedos as the women walk into the room and line up. The men are older. They have white hair. They survey the landscape and mumble about which one they'll choose.
Back at the Vinci Gardens Casino, Frank's bearded henchman, Ivar, tells Frank that he has a phone call. It's a woman. It's Irina.
He asks if they can meet. Says he wants to meet and he can pay her for her time. He asks her how get got the items and if Leto killed Caspere.
"A man gave them to me," Irina says. "Paid me $500 plus whatever I got to pawn them." She says he was a thing white cop without a uniform? Burris? She says she thinks she'd seen him before. "He's like a jefe," a boss, a leader, someone in charge. Lieutenant Burris from Vinci PD? Meet with him, he says, so she can pick him out of pictures.
"I ain't talking to no more white men," she says. She's angry the whole time. "They make me call, I call." Frank picks up the handset, says her people can come with her, so she'll be safe. And he'll give her $1,000. She agrees.
They arrive in what appears to be a rock quarry, Frank, Nails — the whole team. Irina's there, throat slit.
Someone turns a light on. The two Mexican men walk out.
"As promised," the man who identified himself as Gonzalez in the previous episode says, "you've seen her. We take Thursday, Friday, Saturday night at the clubs. No fee, like you said. Next year, we renegotiate. Like you said."
"Why the fuck you do this?" Frank asks. "Why hurt the girl? The fuck is wrong with you?"
This is the kind of thing that makes me believe Frank didn't set Ray up. He's got something of a moral code. Confused and warped, sure. But it's there.
"You heard her," the man says. "Bitch was working for cops." The Mexicans leave.
"Frank?" Nails asks.
"Yeah," Frank says. They leave, too. The body stays there.
Ani walks the floor. Temporary couples are paring up, but not her. There's Blake again, and Richard Geldof, the Attorney General running for governor. He knows Ani.
Her vision is getting blurry as the drugs kick in. She seems confused at the site of Geldof, like she knows him but can't place him.
She's breathing hard, overcome. Ani steadies herself on an end table, stares ahead at a table on which a roasted pig's head sits with a cigar in its mouth, about as unsubtle a metaphor for the fatcats in the mansion as I can imagine. Somebody seems to take an interest in her, is admiring her from across the room.
She turns a corner, and there's Osip Agranov, the Russian (presumed) mobster who was supposed to be Frank's partner once upon a time. There's Tony Chessani. There's Jacob McCandless. There's Vinci Police Chief Holloway.
This is bad.
"Fuck. Shit." She puts her head down and walks in the other direction.
"I've been watching you, miss," the man we saw earlier says with a Texas accent. "You know, I said to myself, 'Now there is a real woman.'" She tries to walk around him, but he's insistent. "Not like these little girls. Oh, they try to make like they understand, but it's just empty eyes. You see, for me, it's just as much about the dialogue." He takes her by the wrist, gently, and starts walking. She grabs a knife off the table she was staring at earlier. "I'd talk to you all day about the oil business, but I'm sure you'd like to do something else."
They encounter another guard while sneaking up to the house, but heh hide form him. Paul is in his element, taking point. He stands next to a window.
"$12 million doesn't fit in a briefcase," Osip says.
"The exchange will be secure," McCandless says as he puts papers into a large wooden desk. "We can enter the money into the system as marketing costs, investment overlay."
"Like you did with Semyon?"
So Osip is still investing in railway land, just not with Frank.
"That was between him and Caspere. And your people's investments are worth considerably more to us. Now please, enjoy the evening. Full moon is the best time to ratify alliances."
The men leave the room and paul uses a knife to poen the door.
She's breathing heavy, either gasping for air or being overcome by pleasure. He's talking as they walk upstairs.
"A nation's strength is determined by two things," he says. "Its energy resources and its capacity for war." Ani looks around. Women strip naked. Old men and young women have sex everywhere.
"Oh, yes," the oilman says. "You care to watch for a while? I do so enjoy the natural state."
She turns and a man who looks a bit like Jesus says, "You're the prettiest little girl I've ever seen."
He does not belong here. He is not here. This is a memory. An awful memory. A memory that explains why she carries a knife, that gives deeper meaning to her conversation with Ray when she explained: "The fundamental difference between the sexes is the one of them can kill the other with your bare hands. Man of any size place his hands on me, he's going to bleed out in under a minute."
"I heard there's a unicorn in those woods," not-Jesus says. "You want to help me look for it?" he asks, all smiles and evil intentions.
"Why don't you partake?" the oilman asks. "And I'll join you momentarily."
Ani affects a Russian accent, asks him to excuse her. "Bathroom. I return."
"You come right back here, now," he says. "Don't make me have to find you, miss." He's smiling like a hyena.
She makes her way down the hall amid the orgy, trying to stand up. There's a black guy, relatively young in the corner, having sex.
She gets to the end of the hallway, and there's a couple having sex on the bed. A man is watching. She looks, closes her eyes, looks again, and it's not-Jesus, staring at her and smiling. She grits her teeth.
They intercut grainy, 8mm film-like shots of not-Jesus leading her into a VW Minibus. Except she's an adult in these memories.
She bursts into the bathroom, gasping, sweating. She bunches her hair behind her head, leans over the bathtub and sticks her finger down her throat … which I don't think will do much. She throws up.
Paul is in the room where Agranov and McCandless were a few minutes ago. He breaks into the desk, again with a knife. Ray's on lookout. Paul takes the papers, stuffs them into his pants and walks outside. A guard is right around the corner, suddenly. "Fuck," Paul mutters.
Ray walks up to him, punches him in the face with brass knuckles. He's beating him senseless, blood splattering on Ray's face.
Ani gets up from the bathtub.
"Vera?" Ani says to a woman passed out in the corner. She moves over to her. "Vera Machiado? Oh my God. I'm a friend of your sister, Dani's. We got to get you out of here."
"No, no," Vera mutters. She can't even lift her head. Ani gets her up, though, and slings her arm around her shoulder, down the hall, through the orgy, and right into the hand — the literal hand — of the oilman. She twists his arm. It breaks. She kicks him in the balls.
"Fucking whore," a Russian man says and grabs her by the neck. Vera collapses on a couch.
Ani pulls out the knife. Stabs. The man overpowers her instantly, slamming her hand against the wall. The knife falls out. He chokes her. He lifts her off the ground and chokes her.
She was right that a man could kill her with his bare hands. Was she right that he'll bleed out in under a minute?
Yes. He collapses. She gasps for air. She grabs Vera, slings her arm around her shoulder and heads down the staircase and out a back door where Paul is waiting. They run as someone inside turns the floodlights on. Frank's getting the car, Paul says and tells Ani to take Vera and go.
Armed men run down the path they were just on. Ani tells Vera to run. She does. The men see them.
Ray, in his new Dodge Charger, speeds down the road. His car squeals to a stop. Bullets start flying as the men chasing them open fire. Vera's in. Ani's in. Paul returns fire outside the car. He jumps in the car.
"Go," he says, calm.
Ray's tires squeal into motion. Paul tells him to kill the lights. Paul starts looking at and explaining the papers he got.
"Fuck. What happened?" Frank asks Ani, who's staring at her hands.
"They gave me something. I don't know. I think I — I think I killed someone. Oh, Jesus. Those motherfuckers." Ani starts crying and looks out the window.
"These contracts," Paul says. "Signatures all over them." He and Ray lock eyes through the rearview mirror.
At the end of the mansion's long driveway, Ray flicks the Charger's lights back on, takes a hard left and fishtails down the road, escaping toward a full moon.
Music kicks in, "Black Grease" by The Black Angels, who sing as the credits roll.
You're a storm, you're so emotional
Moody and controlled, sly and involved
You're alright, you come to me in times
You make me realize I'm not the kindest guy
But I give, give, give, give
I give what I can give
So just give, give, give, give
Give me what you have, dear
A few weeks ago, I speculated (wildly, I said) about the possible identity of the person in the raven's mask. Let's explore that a little more, through the lens of a couple characters.
Blake is one of Frank Semyon's heavies. He's a paid thug. He has red hair.
Based on that information alone (which, I know, isn't great reason), I've long speculated that he's the biological father of Ray Velcoro's son, Chad. We've been told (and I've been operating under the assumption that it's true) that Ray's then-wife, Gena, was raped 12 years ago, got pregnant and had Chad. The man Frank Semyon pegged as the rapist was Latino. The brief glance we got of him showed that he didn't resemble Chad any more than Ray did.
Even Ray points out that the man implicated by DNA evidence of raping Gena doesn't look anything like Chad. He looks confused when Ray accuses him. "Of course he does!" my brain screams. "He's horrible serial rapist! Of course he'd lie!" Except: What if that's misdirection? What if he doesn't remember because he didn't do it?
That doesn't, of course, explain how the DNA evidence implicated him. But there is some precedence. We know that evidence can be tampered with, given that Caspere's blue diamonds disappeared.
Also, Gena doesn't have red hair, either.
And here's another thing I keep thinking: If the identity of the rapist is definitive, thanks to the DNA, then why introduce the paternity test plot device and have Gena insist on taking the test, even if she doesn't need it as leverage against Ray anymore? Her entirely believable explanation is that she needs to know for her own piece of mind. She jettisoned her other stated reason — that Chad deserves to know one day, if he wants to — in episode six with her promise to Ray. But what if she gets the test back, and it lists someone who isn't the man in jail?
More than a decade ago, Frank told Ray that one of his men found the rapist, that he fit the description. The two insinuate that Ray killed him and that Frank helped him hide the body. Now we know that's true. Thus, Frank and Ray's entanglement and Ray's long slide toward corruption and away from decency.
It could be, somehow, that Blake's the father, even if he's not the rapist, but that would implicate Gena in strange way. Assuming that Blake worked for Frank back then (and we don't know that he did because the only identifiable thug in that scene is Nails), he could have provided false information to Frank to cover up either a rape or an affair he was having. Or he and Frank could've plotted a rape to entangle Frank. Or Frank or someone else could have used the man he pinned the rape on as a way to protect Blake, who he knew was guilty. After episode six, that seems less likely. Frank has a moral code, even if he's willing to do some gnarly stuff. I think this would fall outside of that.
And if my suspicion about the shootout is right — that someone wanted Lito Amarillo gone, and pinned false charges on him — then pinning false charges on this man more than a decade ago would have a clear harmonic resonance.
And let's not forget that brief time, after Chad was born, when Gena disappeared and Ray raised her alone. It doesn't make her guilty of a thing, but it is a strange and unexplained detail. Maybe she just bolted because she couldn't handle her reality. That would make perfect sense. Maybe she bolted for a different reason. Either way, by the time she returned, she'd already decided she was done with her marriage.
All of this conjecture fails at this point: There's nothing I can find in her onscreen appearances that makes her come across as anything other than a good and decent woman, wife, ex-wife and mother.
What else do we know about Blake? Not much until recently. He's done three notably strange things this season.
He disappeared for unexplained reasons. Frank was pissed, asking several times that he didn't know where Blake was. As usual, Pizzolatto started building suspicion in the most innocuous way. Here's what I wrote in the episode two watchthrough:
… Frank believes that whoever killed Caspere has his money. And he's desperate. He's got nothing, so he's going to start shaking people down: Stan, Ivar and his cousins, his Glendale people, "fuckin' Blake, wherever the fuck he's been." This may be foreshadowing, not just an information dump.
Frank again asks about Blake's whereabouts in episode three, "Maybe Tomorrow," because he and Stan are missing. Frank began this season with four henchmen: Blake, Ivar, Nails and Stan. Two are missing at that point.
Blake reappears later in that episode, shaken. He tells Frank that Stan is dead. And he's right.
How does Blake know? Was he somehow involved? Is he shaken because his friend is dead or because he killed him? And if the latter, why did he kill him? Under whose orders? His appearance at Stan's widow's house after the funeral only makes him more suspicious.
The second strange thing is that, by the end of episode four, Frank suspects that Blake is trying to move in on his turf. Frank suspects, in fact, that he's the other person that Mayor Chessani said is interested in running the Vinci Gardens Casino poker room. Frank dislikes Blake's smugness and assumes that he's trying to move up the quasi-corporate ladder before he's earned his position at the top. Again, this is Pizzolatto foreshadowing events to come, using Frank's suspicion.
The third and strangest thing happened in "Other Lives," episode five. "I'm going to start listening to the hot feeling I got in the back of my neck," Frank told Ray. "I want you to tail Blake. I want to know what his life is outside of me."
"He's gotten too smooth for my peace of mind," Frank tells Ray about Blake, which is a continuation of the criticism Frank lobbied at Blake in his office in the previous episode, when his distrust was just beginning.
Ray's discovery is damning. He follows Blake to Dr. Pitlor's clinic where he sees Blake, the mayor's son Tony Chessani and Pitlor, the psychiatrist who treated Ben Caspere and Tony's late mother and who hung around Ani's father's commune in the early '80s, with several beautiful women. Ray tails the group to a warehouse, where Tony embraces Osip Agranov, the Russian (presumed) mobster who, earlier in the season, Frank believed would be his business partner, kicking in $5 million to complete his stake in land adjacent to the railway corridor.
The assumption underlying all of this is that, as Frank's confident and employee, Blake shouldn't be working with Tony or Pitlor or Osip. That he is, without Frank's knowledge, implies collusion of some sort with people who may be Frank's enemies.
As episode six proves, Blake is a double agent, working behind Frank's back with Tony Chessani, organizing the wild sex parties. And I'd wager that this isn't a recent development. It probably happened long before Caspere died, which means he was in tight — and probably working against Frank — with the dead man or the men who killed him.
To get ahead, maybe he dons the mask and does the dirty work to eliminate Caspere.
You want a dark horse candidate for who's behind this all? How about the woman who works at The Black Rose, the bar where Frank and Ray hang out. We know almost nothing about her, save that she's into Ray, hits on him and is from a town in Mexico Ray's never been to. Also, that scar.
Eddie Velcoro appears only when his son, Ray, almost dies.
It seems, in terms of the story, like his purpose is to add a bit of backstory to Ray, who's a main character. And by the time the real-world scene ends, Ray walks out with his dad's old badge, setting up a later scene where he gives it to his son, Chad. On the surface, it's a way to say that family is important and complicated — as is law enforcement.
What do we know about the man, based on two scenes with him (one of which was a dream, so maybe it doesn't count)?
I've turned Eddie's pension over and over in my head for weeks now, and I don't have a clear idea what it means. It seems punitive, right? If you do your job well and retire, you get your pension. If you only get half your pension, that sounds like something went wrong. Beyond that, the stories we tend to hear about pensions — particularly for law enforcement officials — don't talk about cutting pensions. They talk about how good (and often lucrative) those pensions are. Everybody else's pensions get cut, dozens of stories from around the U.S. say, but police and firemen tend to escape the worst of them.
My assumption that what sounds like a throwaway line is, in fact, meaningful. I could be wrong. Maybe it's a red herring. Or maybe it's nothing more than a clever line devised to justify Eddie's anger at the police.
The most interesting story I can find online comes from a Los Angeles Times article from last November called "California pension funds are running dry." Here's the most interesting quote:
Vernon's former city manager, for example, was receiving more than $500,000 in annual pension payments. Most public safety workers can retire as early as 50. And some public employees had cashed out unused vacation and other perks to unjustly spike their retirement pay.
Assuming that something similar happened in Vinci, True Detective's fictional stand-in for Vernon as detailed in last week's watchthrough, that could certainly anger Eddie. Though it doesn't name him, that article is referring to Bruce Malkenhorst, a former city manager, just like the late Ben Caspere. The 29-year employee of Vernon had a pension that once totaled $911,000 a year, making him the highest-paid pension earner in the California Public Employees' Retirement System.
I ended an earlier watchthrough with what I called a wild guess: Eddie is the man in the raven's mask. He ferried Ben Caspere to his roadside resting place, and he shot his son. I made a case. Here's something I didn't mention because I only thought of it after: I can't get past Eddie's trembling hand, when he tries to take a drink. I can't get past his age, which doesn't seem to fit with what we've seen of the raven.
Maybe he has Parkinson's Disease. If so, it'd be tough to argue that a shaky aging cop pulled it off.
Or maybe Eddie's shaking because he's scared to death that his detective son just showed up at his house after he shot him — or somebody he was involved with shot him.
One last thing to note about that scene in Eddie's house: Ray's just been shot, and he never tells his dad. They don't discuss it. The closest they get is when Ray said he had a dream about Eddie, and rather than asking what it was about, Eddie makes it about himself, saying the weed Ray last gave him sucked and made him hear his late wife, Ray's mother.
I have absolutely no idea if Eddie was the shooter. Even my best guesses leave plot holes. But it does seem to make thematic sense. And the disgust he felt after crossing that line would explain why he tossed his badge in the trash.
Then again, what if he's not in the mask? What if Eddie's redemption is helping his son right his wrongs, restore order to the badge? There's only one way to find out.
In one sense, "Church in Ruins" was laser-focused. It took its allotted hour and spent almost all of its time building to a single event: infiltrating that California mansion. Of course, it took most of the season to get there.
All the stuff about the machinations of Vinci were absent. My favorite character, Mayor Chessani, was nowhere to be seen. Either was the bloodied Dr. Pitlor.
It started in the first episode during the most banal scene — or at least that's how it seemed at the time. Ani and her partner, Elvis, visited a house, served a foreclosure notice. The woman there, who we only now just learned is named Dani, told the sheriff's deputies that her sister was missing. That led them to Panticapaeum, the commune that Ani's father, Eliot, runs.
We met Ani's sister, Athena, in that episode when Ani led a group of officers on a raid at a house suspected of enabling prostitution and housing women living in the U.S. without legal permission.
There's a bit more in episode two, when Elvis calls Ani to say that the sister's last-known call came from a place up north — Guerneville, California.
And then, more or less nothing for hours of screen time — or so it seemed. The person in the raven's mask dumped Ben Caspere's body, and like the former city manager, the missing woman took a backseat to more pressing matters. Our three law enforcement officers spent their time working to solve Caspere's murder, and these things floated by as seemingly incidental details. Their investigation into Caspere's death culminated in what a newscaster characterized (three months later) as "the so-called Vinci massacre." Ani, Paul and Ray suffered the consequences of that disaster through transfers, demotions and job changes.
Along the way, we learned that Vinci Mayor Austin Chessani's son, Tony, described himself as what amounts to a high-class party planner.
We learned that Dr. Pitlor, Caspere's former psychiatrist he hung out with Mayor Chessani at a commune affiliated with Ani's father Eliot in the early '80s. In Pitlor's clinic, we saw the briefest glimpse of surgery — things other than psychiatry go on there, in other words. In episode five, we learned that Pitlor performs plastic surgery.
We learned that Tony Chessani and Dr. Pitlor have some kind of partnership that involves the Russian women on which he performs plastic surgery — and that this relationship somehow involves the (presumed) Russian gangster Osip Agranov, who was once supposed to kick in $5 million with Frank Semyon to buy some land adjacent to the impending high-speed railway corridor but balked after Caspere, who was acting as the banker for the deal with Catalyst Group, was murdered.
We learned that there's a large swath of California wilderness with poisoned soil and declared unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Episodes before, we learned that Frank Semyon sold a waste disposal business to raise his $5 million buy-in for the railway-adjacent land. In episode five, we learn the connection: Frank's company dumped toxic chemicals from Vinci onto the land to devalue it.
We learned that California Attorney General Richard Geldof, who once spearheaded the secret investigation into Vinci corruption, has a suddenly full war chest and is running for governor.
Dani reappeared in episode five. Booted from her home and living in a hotel with three small children, she received a package from Vera, her missing sister. Vera has been gone so long that she didn't have Dani's new address, so she mailed it to the house the bank took from her. It took a while to get into Dani's hands, but when it did, Dani remembered Ani, thought she could trust her and called her. Dani showed Ani the manilla envelope that Vera sent her — from where and when, we don't know. Inside were photographs of powerful men in tuxedos (including a California state senator and Caspere), women in evening dresses and blue diamonds — the very same blue diamonds, it appeared, that Ani and Paul found in Caspere's safety deposit box in episode three.
Even though she'd been relegated to working in a basement evidence room, Ani started some detective work of her own. The diamonds, which were supposed to be held in evidence, had disappeared. Vera's last phone call came from a stone cottage in Guerneville, several hours north of Vinci, another place that Caspere's GPS records put him. By the end of the episode, our three law enforcement partners were together again, working a new case, which was kind of an old case. State Attorney Katherine Davis has them investigating corruption and collusion that could span from the tiny city of Vinci to the governor's office. 1
Episode six takes all that background, delivered in fits and spurts over five eighths of True Detective's second season, and directs it to a single event: the party in the mansion.
It is, of course, the same kind of party that Vera took clandestine photos at — the kind of party where rich men dress in tuxedos, drink champagne and engage in every kind of sexual depravity with high-priced prostitutes. And although we saw that Ani's sister, Thena, was done with the whole webcam sex thing, Ani figured that she might know some of the women who work at a party like this. So in episode five, she asks for her sister to make some calls. She has by episode six, and that Ani's in.
Ani dresses up, infiltrates the party and finds Vera there. Paul infiltrates a first-floor room and takes documents filled with signatures of men like Catalyst Group's Jacob McCandless and Osip . Before they escape, Ani sees Tony Chessani, Vinci Police Chief Holloway and California Attorney General Geldof there.
They escape, despite all odds, with evidence — though what good some of it will do is unclear, given that Paul straight-up stole the (presumably) damning documents. Their jobs are not done.
For as many questions as "Church in Ruins" answered, either directly or by heavy implication, it left just as many unanswered. Some threads just aren't tied up yet. Here's what remains frayed:
True Detective's writers have no obligation to answer every question, of course. And we learned that in the first season with all the talk of the Yellow King, which seemed more important to viewers than it was to its writers. Still, given how so little can eventually mean so much this season, none of these things seem likely to be unrelated or coincidental.
"Church in Ruins" also solidified something I felt but hand't put into words: Sometimes, True Detective hints at what will happen. Sometimes, it outright says so. Here are a few examples:
That last one is a doozy, especially considering that, this week, Frank broke his strongest ties to this world.
In the second episode, Ani and Ray interview Dr. Pitlor in his office. At one point, as you can see in the image below, the camera cuts to Ray, who says, "They burned out his eyes with acid, doc." There's an abstract painting of a black bird over Ray's shoulder background.
If you've got the volume cranked or you're wearing headphone, you can hear a clock tick in the background. Then a freaking crow caws.
Now, either that’s the most diabolical misdirection in the history of misdirection or … yeah, let’s just go ahead and say it’s Pitlor.