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Animal Kingdom - Bleed For It - Review: "J and Smurf's Expository Adventure"

Hello again, all! I hope you're ready to look at another great episode of Animal Kingdom! If you're not, too bad, you're going to anyways. Unless you just leave the page. Which you're welcome to do. But please don't. I like the company! So, moving along...

Keys to the Kingdom
Last week, we got to see quite a few developments with our favorite band of criminals!

Craig's apartment burnt down after he and Nicky left a lit joint on the couch to go have sex. Craig is now out of an apartment, while Nicky is living it up at Smurf's place on Smurf's invitation. Sweet deal for her! (?)

Deran, with the help of Pope and Craig, pulled off a heist that netted Deran the money he needed to buy a bar. Good for him. He needs something.

Baz restarted his affair with Lucy now that his wife, Catherine is "gone" (she's super dead, but he doesn't know). He's also been single-parenting his daughter, Lena. That is, if you call yelling at her for no reason, not spending time with her, and bringing a strange woman into her mother's bed parenting.

Pope met a nice woman at church. Which looks like a weird statement until you add in that he was at the church with the boys to scope out how to rob it in a few weeks. Her name is Amy and she's very nice. They could be happy together. If she can get over that fact that Pope brutally murdered Baz's wife, Catherine. She doesn't know yet, but give it time. Pope also started stepping up in terms of taking care of Lena. Pretty much any time Baz was being a bad father, Pope hopped right in and fixed it. Guilty conscience or trying to be a good guy? Probably a bit of both.

Smurf got busy freezing out her boys from her business. She changed codes and passwords, and replaced a couple locks on some properties to make sure they can't access anything. She also went to a woman named Gia and told her not to do business with Baz. She previously had a visit from a man named Javi telling her that a man named Manny was going to die soon. He was right. Smurf was invited to a wake and asked J if he would accompany her.

And let's not forget about J! He was...um...around, I guess? Doing stuff? Things, maybe? He earned some trust with Smurf, helped scope out the church, and had an interesting encounter with his ex-girlfriend that his uncle, Craig, is hooking up with. He didn't really do much last time.

This Week's Prey
We start this week with J and Smurf on the way to Manny's wake, a man Smurf has not seen in twenty years. We instantly know this will not be a simple "aw, such a shame" wake when Smurf tells J he'll need to watch her back. J aptly responds with, "At a funeral?"

Also not normal for the past two episodes this week is Baz's parenting. He's off in Mexico for a job (and for Lucy) and needs to make sure Lena gets home after school since Smurf is gone. Instead of saying "I gotta go, I have a daughter who I love very deeply," he calls Pope (who is at the church for Amy's bible study, but more on that in a bit) and asks him to take care of her until he gets back. He says he'll be home tomorrow, but we all assume that's a lie. Lucy's brother, Marco, comes by to scoop up Baz for a job, which we hear Smurf would never have allowed, and the two set off.

Checking in at Deran's new bar, he shows a potential bartender around while Craig does nothing but hit on her. She's attractive and has experience, so they obviously want to hire her. Deran shows her out while they have a brief chat about the liquor license he's trying to get. She mentions somebody she knew who ended up not getting their license because they had a record. Deran is unsettled by this, because of course he has a record. Craig then goes to pick up some tools at Smurf's house where he runs into Nicky, who has the house to herself. He's fairly stand-offish the entire conversation, but Nicky can't take a hint to save her life. She asks him to stop by later and he says he will. When he gets back to the bar, he listens to Deran stress about the liquor license and his business plan, then offers nothing of value to the situation. He then picks up a sledgehammer and bashes one of the walls in, which I hope is not load-bearing. Also, it was the wrong wall. Craig should just not be at the bar. He also suggests that Deran bribe the inspector to give him a liquor license, justifying it by reminding him Smurf bribes people all the time.

Over at the church, we see quite a different Pope than we're used to. Not only is he attending these bible studies, he is actively participating in discussions and making fairly decent points. After the meeting, Pope and Amy get a little time to talk to each other. She invites him to bring Lena to a children's softball game, then gives him her number. She's totally into Pope! He brings Lena home later and teaches her about keeping things in order, because Amy is going to come over to take them to the softball game. A bird flies into the back doors and struggles on the ground for a bit. Lena tell him that the birds get blinded by the sun and that if they don't get back up when the crash, "Mommy hits them with a brick" to put them out of their misery. Wonderful thing for a child to know. Pope reluctantly picks up a brick and prepares to do the deed. He tells Lena she doesn't have to watch. She responds by stepping back slightly, but is still clearly watching to see the bird get crushed. Miraculously, the bird flies away just as Pope is about to smash it

J and Smurf pull up to the wake at house in the middle of a desert, and are treated to everything you'd expect at a wake. Good food, people laughing, children running and playing in the yard. Classic. Clearly this is one of those celebration of life wakes. Smurf also brings a gun in just in case. When they walk in, they run into Jake, someone who worked with Smurf when they were in Manny's crew back in the day. We learn that before Manny got sick, his crew wanted to kick Javi out, but now Javi is running all kinds of jobs and feeding people to dogs. I can't imagine why they didn't like him. J sits down alone to eat, and Javi comes up to have a conversation with him. Javi asks the question we're all asking ourselves, "What is Smurf really doing here?" When J can't offer an answer, Javi goes to find Smurf, who gives him money for the wake. While she picks up a necklace, Javi comes over and sniffs her. Totally normal. He starts talking about the past, about the family they used to be. He shows some resentment and tells her he heard her tell Manny to throw him out when he was a kid.

Out in Mexico, Baz and Marco pick up some supplies the boys are going to need for their church heist, and Marco tells Baz about a bracelet he wants to try and sell. Baz later has a conversation with Lucy about the bracelet, and Lucy mentions that she thinks Marco is in trouble. Baz offers to be the one to sell it because neither of them really trust her brother.

Smurf and J settle into their motel room wear we learn that Javi worked with her and Manny for a while before Javi stole from them. Jake comes by for a chat, and Smurf sends J to stand outside of the back door, where he clearly hears everything anyways. Jake learned that Manny's memory was going towards the end, and he started using a tape recorder and saying everything he could remember about anything. Those tapes are probably pretty important. J asks about Smurf's relationship to Manny, and we learn a lot. Manny found her when she was coming out of juvie, brought her onto his crew and taught her everything she knows. She reminisced about her favorite job they'd pull where Manny would put a gun to her head in convenience stores and demand everyone's wallets, then walk out of the store with her and their newly acquired money. When J asks what happened to make them not see each other for twenty years, she does a classic Smurf redirect and makes J swear that if she ever gets into the state Manny was in, he'll "put a bullet in grandma's head" and J has no qualms about agreeing to this. She then kisses him on the mouth and strokes his face, which is a little uncomfortable.

Smurf should really be worrying about what's happening at her house, though. Nicky thinks that she can just do whatever she wants in Smurf's house because she's alone. She wanders around carrying a bottle of vodka and pouring it into a glass (without the cran!). She rifles through drawers, checks out the closet, and finds a machine gun under the dresser. She holds the gun up and pretends to shoot it as if it were a pistol. Anyone else rooting on her to actually pull the trigger and be completely shocked by what happens?

Pope and Lena settle in for a quiet night at home as Pope prepares some warm milk on the stove. They have a nice banter about the milk until Lena asks "Is Mommy dead?" Pope was at a loss for words. Because, you know, he totally murdered her. Suffocated her with a pillow. In her own bed. In that house. He tells her there's no reason to think that. Even though there is. Because she's dead. Because Pope killed her. Lena also asks why her daddy isn't sad about mommy being gone. She doesn't understand that he is sad, which hopefully is why he's being awful. Pope assures her that daddy is sad, and then goes back to stirring the milk. After Lena is in bed, Pope stares at the burning metal pot on the stove, then grabs the handle with his bare hand and holds it up for a minute before throwing it into the sink and turning off the stove. Perhaps someone is feeling a little guilty about that whole murder thing?

J and Smurf head out to a diner to grab a bite to eat. J tells her to go grab them a seat while he grabs something from the car. After Smurf sits down, we see a gun enter the screen. J has put on a mask and is ready to help Smurf relive her favorite job. It goes perfectly and they book it back to their motel room where things got pretty uncomfortable. They roll around on the bed in the money for a second while Smurf praises him for being such a natural. She then sits on top of him, tickles him, and is uncomfortably close to his face. She rolls back over and calls him fearless, to which he responds "Just like you" and they hold hands. Beautiful grandmother/grandson bonding moment, or creepy Norman Bates-esque encounter. This is yet to be seen.

Craig and Deran hang around the bar while Craig is bombarded with texts from Nicky. He says he's done and heads out to go break up with her. He doesn't find the Nicky he's expecting though. She's a bit drunk (she's switched to wine now) and starts talking about Pendleton. She's deduced that they managed to get her father involved and that they paid him, which she believes is why he decided to leave. She calls her dad a coward, then reminds Craig that he would have either burned alive in the fire or been arrested for drugs if she hadn't been there. I would argue that there probably wouldn't have been a fire at all without her, but what do I know? She then demands to stop being treated like a kid (which, really, she is) and then asks what Craig wanted to talk about. Clearly seeing that breakup wouldn't go well tonight, he tells her not to tell Smurf about the bar. Then they go have sex. By the way, do we know if she's 18 yet?

The next day, Deran meets the inspector at his bar. He tells a few lies, then looks him in the eyes and confesses that he has a record. As he explains that he stole a car when he was younger, he pulls out his envelope of cash, debating whether to hand it to the man. He takes the high road and decides against it, successfully gaining his liquor license. Before the inspector leaves, he thanks Deran for not trying to bribe him like a lot of people do. Way to go, Deran!

Amy shows up with food at Baz's house while Pope is watching Lena try to make pancakes on her own. He's much better than Baz at the father thing. She asks to speak with Pope outside, and we learn a bit about Amy's past. She used to have a problem. She drove a car drunk with her son in it and hurt him badly. He's okay now, but she ended up losing custody, and she's been working on trying to forgive herself. She told Pope because of how close he is with Lena, then asks if he can move past it. Clearly he can, because he's murderer, but he doesn't tell her that part.

Baz shows up to talk to Gia, the woman Smurf told not to do business with. He asks about selling the bracelet and she says she'll see what she can do. He then mentions he'll be getting up to 400 credit cards soon that he'd like her help with. He quickly finds out Smurf won't let her do business with him, and it's the same story with a few other people. He goes back to Gia's store later and waits for her to leave. He then goes inside to her assistant, Monica, and talks business with her instead. He encourages her to take steps towards making a break from Gia, using his experience with Smurf as persuasion.

We end this week's installment with Javi, everyone's favorite probably psychopath. He enters Manny's old room and rifles through the tapes Manny made, then looks away ominously. This probably won't be good.

Animal Instincts
This season is gaining more momentum. I really couldn't tell you where this story is going or what many of these characters are thinking, which is exciting for me. It's keeping me invested and on my toes. I'm glad we're starting to see a few more J scenes. I understand he was pretty much in the spotlight the entire first season, but now he's barely even on the stage anymore. It was a very drastic shift. Not that the boys need any help carrying the show forward, it was just similar to instantly going from the dead of summer in Florida to the middle of a Blizzard in Colorado; very sudden and confusing. The writers have their reasons, though, and I trust that they're going to do great things with him. Hopefully those things don't involve incest with his grandmother, but we'll see.

I really enjoyed everything we learned about Smurf's past with Manny. Not only did it (mostly) solve a mystery, it did wonders for Smurf's character. We have more of an understanding of her now. I'm also happy to see Deran and Pope attempting to make positive steps forward in their lives. Pope falling for Amy is certainly going to change him. Hopefully for the better, but if it ends badly it won't be pretty. One thing I know for sure is I'm excited to see where it goes.

Favorite Sights
Our Pope is religious now!
Nicky just wandering around Smurf's like she owns the place.
We got some more J time!
Shout out to Shawn Hatosy (Pope) for making me feel hopeful for a murderer!

And that wraps up another week! How did you feel about the episode? Are you also rooting for a happy Pope despite the murder stuff? Sound off in the comments below!

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