TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 4, Episode 9: “SHTF”
Directed by Janice Cook
Written by Eliza Clark
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ambo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Exit Strategy” – click here
By the pool, Pope (Shawn Hatosy) talks with Angela (Emily Deschanel) about the old days. He reminisces about his sister Julia. Angela talks about J (Finn Cole), trying to make sure the uncle is looking out for his nephew. She also asks about Smurf (Ellen Baskin), suggesting maybe Janine took off so no one would see her “at the end.” Is there something pushy about the way she tries to force him into a leadership role? Like she’s encouraging it, just not in a totally honest / positive way.
Deran (Jake Weary) and Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) are dealing with their shattered life. Adrian’s resigned himself to the fact he’s probably going to have to do time behind bars. In the meantime, Deran gets a text from J and has to leave. He keeps insisting that, no matter what, or where Adrian ends up, he’ll do anything to protect him. The boyfriend only worries about the Cody family way of operating. “Not his kid, okay?” is a chilling thing for him to have to say out loud about Agent Livengood (David DeSantos).
Back at the house, J comes bearing most of their score. He comes clean about Mia and Tupi. He doesn’t particularly tell his uncles the extreme measures he took to solve the situation. The brothers are concerned about Trujillo retaliation. Deran’s also back to treating his nephew like shit again. Pope questions J if there’s any other loose ends. Then he makes clear there are no more chances if things go wrong again. After that, he finally tells Deran about their mother’s cancer diagnosis. What’s interesting to see is how lost the boys really are without their mom, how hurt they are by her taking off without a word. Craig (Ben Robson) is told the truth, too.
Speaking of Mama Smurf, she’s out looking for more hardware. She goes to see an old face— Jed (Chris Mulkey). In parallel, back in the day, younger Janine (Leila George) went with Colin (Grant Harvey) to his brother’s place. His brother Jed (Joseph Morgan) was what you’d call a survivalist, living off the land and preparing for the day when it all went to shit. In current day, Janine’s buying merchandise from him.
Angela talks too much to J, letting him know Pope talked to her about the recent job and that she thinks Pope will take charge once Smurf is gone. J’s already starting to run things through his head. Is Angela purposefully sowing seeds to tear the family apart? Is this like long game vengeance for what happened to Julia? Either way, J’s got a tracker on grandma and he’s inviting Angela to go for a ride.
Craig doesn’t exactly believe Smurf is dying. He thinks their mom is trying to test Pope. Deran attempts to speak reason to him. Because he has other things they’ve got to do, like sending “a message.” Let’s hope he isn’t talking about Agent Livengood. That’d be a seriously fucked up idea. And, yes, that’s EXACTLY what he’s doing.
In 1977, Smurf and Colin had dinner with his brother’s family. Jed’s wife Laney (Sarah Hunt) was barely allowed to speak. He was busy talking about the world going “pear–shaped” and stockpiling gold for the day when the banks go tits up. The guy was obviously a controlling man, ordering his wife around with only a few words and forcing her to finish her meals like a child. Not the type of thing Janine liked to see. Probably why today she has a contentious working relationship with Jed. She gets a look at the finished bunker over 40 years later, as well as the guns she’s there to purchase.
Back in the day, Colin confided in Smurf about his abusive father, who beat the hell out of his kids and wife. Jed “got the worst” of it, leaving him a wretched man. Janine comforted Colin. It’s more than evident how he— who’s definitely the father of Pope and Julia— passed down a tortured legacy via his bloodline.
Deran and Craig follow Agent Livengood to a cop bar. Naturally, Craig advises against it. He’s suspicious, knowing something isn’t quite right. He figures out Livengood is a cop. He has no clue the guy’s DEA. He doesn’t want any part of this, especially when his brother won’t be honest with him. The family’s truly coming apart at the seams in every direction.
Angela finds herself at an old stomping ground when J takes her looking for Smurf. They wind up at a taco truck, where she and Julia used to score heroin. She’s almost given a chance to redeem herself, in that she could easily buy drugs but chooses to walk away with only food. She and J talk about his mother a bit, and Smurf, too. He admits, at least somewhat, to wanting the “keys to the kingdom.” He’s pretty raw with her, in spite of seeming more friendly. Is he trying to get Angela back on heroin? Well, it works.
At the bar, Deran receives a visit from Dt. Pearce (Gil Birmingham), poking around about old dead friends, such as Colby and Ox. The detective’s trying to extend an olive branch, in hopes the criminal might crack under pressure. He makes sure to mention Adrian’s predicament with the law, laying it on thick.
Craig has to go visit Renn (Christina Ochoa) in the hospital. She had her baby, after passing out in a bathroom bleeding. She takes this chance to say what we were all thinking: “I think he‘s yours.” We, as viewers, could sense this, but now it’s actually out in the open. How’s he going to react?
Right now, he does with a smile. That night, he gets to hold his child.
Back in ’77, Jed and Colin got into a brutal argument, resulting in a fist fight. Janey got punched in the middle of it trying to stop them while their child watched on. Colin got him and Janine out of there, on the road again. This is the moment she chose to tell him about the pregnancy, and that she was keeping it.
In present day, Smurf returns home like everything’s normal. Pope is a bit pissed. But mama’s got a job, and she’s joining her boys this time. “You boys have been having all the fun for way too long,” she says. (Wonder if they’re going to hit Jed in search of his gold. You can bet on it.)
One of the best Animal Kingdom episodes. There’s so much going in it’s tough to unpack it all. Mostly, we’re seeing how Smurf’s taking her last days on earth as a time to close old wounds. She’s worked with Jed all these years to get guns, but maybe, with only a limited amount of time left, she’s decided that he needs to get what’s coming to him.
One way or another, the shit’s going down— big time!
“Exit Strategy” is next time.