Season 1 Episode 7

We Are Not Animals

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Sep 11, 2007 on DirecTV

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  • Full Review of "We Are Not Animals"

    "We Are Not Animals" is the seventh episode of Damages, and with it, we're now beyond the halfway point of the season. The episode primarily focuses on two key storylines: the first involves the working relationship of Ellen and Tom, with the trust and camaraderie between them deteriorating; at the same time, Gregory is in mortal danger, pursued by a man known as 'The Executive' who wants him dead. The main story arc regarding Frobisher's legal battle doesn't advance much this week, and it's understandable if people are starting to itch for some payoff as the situation has been finely poised for a while now, waiting for that moment that will really shake things up, but there's plenty to like about this episode. It's fascinating to watch how much control Patty has at work, and Gregory's scenes contain plenty of suspense and effective fake scares as we're now concerned about his safety.

    Perhaps the most intriguing moment, though, is when – in the future – Ellen theorises that Patty was the one who sent a hitman to take her out. Her reasoning is solid. Patty let Ellen stay at her place for the night, the mysterious man seemed to have a key for the apartment, and there's the quick and efficient cover-up that happened immediately afterwards to consider. If this is true and Patty was responsible for this, it further hints that the Frobisher case is even larger than initially expected. In last week's episode, "She Spat at Me", Lila was seen in the future lying about having a long-term affair with David and presenting his keys that she stole as her own, all for the purpose of seemingly pinning the crime of David's murder on Ellen. The fact that Lila stole those keys nearly four months before David's brutal death implies that this was planned well in advance. What possible motive is there right now to plot Ellen's downfall?

    Interestingly, David's death and the attempt on Ellen's life might not be related to each other. It seems superfluous to plan for Ellen to be killed AND framed. It's true that Ellen was slightly unfortunate to leave her prints on the murder weapon when she was looking for David, but what remains clear is that a lot of effort went into trying to get her to take the fall and out of the picture. The mystery is being set up rather nicely, and with only a handful of episodes left this season, I'm reassured that answers will come soon. If there's one thing that bugs me a little about the 'future' scenes, it's that the detectives haven't attempted to look into the bloodstains on Ellen. Surely that'd be cause for alarm. Results would support her claim that someone was attacking her.

    In the present, Patty – possibly frustrated of the tough time she has controlling her son, Michael – subtly manages to manipulate Ellen and Tom into doubting each other. By casually asking Ellen if Tom had approached to hire her when he was out on his own, Patty causes confusion among the pair as they ponder how she could've known about Tom's offer. By the end, Ellen makes a peace offering to Tom to put the unrest to bed; she's sick of the mind games and wants to know that they can trust each other.

    In the world of Damages, this course of action smacks of naivety, and Tom proves this correct by phoning Patty and pledging his loyalty to her and not Ellen. Truth be told, there isn't much surprise in this outcome. Tom has always been comfortable being Patty's 'number two', having been with her for ten whole years. He badly pined to work for Hewes & Associates again when he was unemployed, and went back there despite being offered a lucrative partner role with Cullen. And Patty knows she can trust Tom. She knows she's in control of him. This is all reaffirmed in the future, when Tom tells Ellen he has no idea where Patty is – which is may not be the entire truth, as he gives Patty a ring moments after leaving the jailhouse and tells her not to come back. The one thing that differs, though, is that Ellen has wised up. She gives the pretence that she fully believes Tom's words, but afterwards, she tells Nye that Tom's "full of s***" and to follow him.

    Gregory's fate is also a major part of the episode. He turns to Ray for help after realising that he's an assassination target, and Ray delivers by discretely putting him in a dingy hotel room. On a show where most people involved in the Frobisher case are ruthless or manipulative, Ray provides a welcome breath of sincerity. Though Gregory killed would surely guarantee his client's victory, he doesn't condone murder (telling The Executive "we are not animals", referred to by the episode title), and appears genuine when he says he's sorry for Gregory's current predicament. When Gregory is subpoenaed and summoned to a hearing with Patty, Ray's advice gets through to him, as Gregory doesn't turn up and flees after knocking out his bodyguard. The would-be witness isn't out of harm's way yet, as he is followed by one of The Executive's men, but for the time being he's still alive, which is more than I anticipated. Throughout, there is plenty of suspense where it's easy to believe that he's going to get whacked at any second. For me, the two scenes that showcase this the best are when Gregory uses the vending machine and when he's getting ready for the hearing. Both times, the build-up is abruptly ended by a loud 'thump' noise, making for successfully devious scares.

    Because Gregory doesn't turn up for the hearing, Patty is understandably angry. She has had a lot of setbacks in trying to win the case against Frobisher, and this latest one seems to have put a severe dent into her already slim chances of success. At least her personal life is looking up after she convinces Michael to return home. Michael has always seemed to relish frustrating his mother and rebelling against her attempts to control him; he taunts, "You wanted complete control of my life, so you took away my free will. Some pretty terrific parenting, real mother-of-the-year type stuff." However, when Patty hands him parental divorce papers, he's unwilling to cut all ties, and admits defeat by turning up on her doorstep. He even makes more of an effort, asking Patty how the case is going. Earlier on, Patty was picking up dead leaves from Ellen's neglected hydrangea plant. Perhaps this symbolically refers to Patty and Michael's mother-son relationship. They've struggled to get along and their long-running battle against each other was on the verge of irreparable damage (the withering plant), but throwing away the dead leaves – showing attention to the plant – could easily represent a clean slate.

    Despite a lack of story progression, the episode provides an interesting study of several character relationships. The interactions between Patty, Ellen, and Tom are especially significant and affect the events leading up to and on the day of Ellen's arrest. In a nice touch, these scenes are effectively juxtaposed with the future. "We Are Not Animals" is largely reliant on dialogue and less on making things happen, which may disappoint some people, but it'd be foolish to discard it as an irrelevant and filler chapter of the season.