I admit, when I saw the title of this episode was “The Scratchmaker,” I thought I knew what it was about. I was wrong, and I’m just as glad. Liv has more than enough problems already. Her brain of the week is fairly subtle and under control for most of this, which is just as well. It’s a busy episode. It’s also directed by Malcolm Goodwin, AKA Liv’s long-suffering partner in crime solving, Clive.
Blaine starts the episode off in jail, waxing philosophic about his situation and Seattle in general. In Blaine’s absence, business continues at the Scratching Post, and Don E gets an interesting offer from a woman with a profession you almost never hear about any more. One of the pushy guests comes to complain about the picketers outside and ask questions about Blaine. Blaine reflects more as Major comes to visit him. The brain situation is growing desperate, and Major wants Blaine to give him some details. Blaine tries to negotiate, Major tells him he can’t help, and Blaine shuts things down after an odd, but accurate, aside about one of Hollywood’s major stars.
Blaine muses more in voiceover mode as Liv and Ravi talk about Blaine’s situation and a bit about their case. Clive comes in with a clue when Blaine’s narration interrupts again to give a snarky version of the show formula and say this isn’t her story. It’s mine. Dale has Blaine brought to the interrogation room, and the zombie gangster is clearly not impressed. He is curious about her pregnancy, since she was a zombie a while back. Brandt Stone, recurring character/slimy lawyer, comes in, shuts the interview down, and gives Blaine instructions. Stone agrees to pass on a message after checking to make sure his retainer cleared, and it’s a very obscure one. Don E gets an offer from Major, but shows remarkable loyalty to Blaine. Major even has a signed contract he’s willing to leave for Don to go over, when crime boss Mr. Boss returns to make a dramatic entrance.
Major is surprised, since he thought Boss was dead. Boss explains some of the details of his operation, and makes a counter-offer, but at a much higher price. They go and back and forth for a while, and Major leaves with nothing resolved. He did do something really clever while he was there. The lawyer does something also clever to get through the rioters outside, and delivers Blaine’s message to Don. Tanner comes back from errands, late and empty handed, and explains the problems they are having. Clive and Liv come in about this week’s case, and Don is eager to cooperate in exchange for something he really wants. Clive goes to talk to Candy. Major videoconferences with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and explains how desperate the situation is in Seattle.
Blaine meets with Stone again, and gets more bad news. Stone goes through the elaborate fiction of staying in control of his phone while Blaine yells instructions to Don E. Essentially, Blaine’s situation isn’t good. Dale comes in, accusing Blaine of destroying evidence, but Blaine does have a decent story for this particular event. While Dolly Durkin gives another hate-filled press conference, Major gets a whole round of bad news on every front. Don finds a place for the newly-freed Blaine to lay low, and Blaine is as gracious and thankful as usual.
Graham Moss, the teacher/zombie caught between a rock and a hard place, gets pressured to help someone pass Renegade’s (Liv) background checks. He tells what he knows. I do actually feel a bit bad for this guy. Al, the reporter who kicked much of this current mess off, gets back to her office and finds a surprise visitor. Then again, considering how prepared she is, maybe this wasn’t that much of a surprise after all. I don’t really like Al, but she does have guts.
Don E goes back to the office, and is surprised to find Blaine there. Blaine has an idea to raise money, but things go badly when Tanner gets back with bad news. Blaine shows his usual forbearance and handles everything calmly. Don isn’t pleased about what happens here. Don meets with Boss, and does a few different surprising things. They talk about the old days, and Don comes to a decision that’s going to surprise a lot of people. Reilly, the one Graham is forced to help, passes her test and gets past the ritual that apparently no one told Ravi about. I’m not quite clear why one group of zombies is moving against Liv like this, but I have some faith we’ll find out.
While Filmore-Graves plays damage control, the evening news doesn’t sound good at all. I wonder if Dolly has bothered to think this through: if she goads all the zombies into going into full rage mode, the casualties in Seattle will be horrific, and they just might get nuked by Washington. How is this good? We get a big surprise revelation about Al I did not see coming at all. Major pays an unwelcome visit to Dolly, pushes her into a corner, and takes advantage. It’s a petty victory, but a victory. The scene is mostly to reveal a surprising secret about Dolly.
Liv’s new brain finally starts throwing her off, and Ravi isn’t pleased. Major walks in to the middle of it and knows at once what’s going on. Ravi gets a surprise delivery to help with his research for a cure. What starts as a joke about Ravi doing something a bit foolish gives Major a great idea that he follows up on right away. Don E is having business problems, and Candy isn’t really helping. Liv and Clive come in and Don E goes to great lengths to try and get a vision going with Liv. That doesn’t really help, but Candy steers them in the right direction. Clive does something nice for Dale, and the murder of the week gets wrapped up as an afterthought. It’s a disturbing motive, and shows how bad things are getting in Seattle.
Don and Boss’ gloating about their having Major gets interrupted by Candy coming in with news. The two crooks go to Major’s office and get told a few things they don’t want to hear. By the end of it, a new deal has been struck, and we get to see how slick Major is, mostly though implication and soundtrack. Blaine is at the bar when Don gets back, and Don has finally had enough. He stands up to Blaine and tells him off, delivering some bad news. Don leaves, expressing disappointment in one of Blaine’s choices that has led to Blaine’s current mess.
He’s a slimy and very bad man, but Blaine doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. He makes a few visits and sets up a new deal to help himself. Liv uses a prop from Major’s earlier set up, and Clive gets a change in circumstance that is really cool, and shows the writers don’t really know how the police work. Things with Liv and Clive fade out with her making a serious of humorous demands. The show ends with Blaine finalizing his new arrangement and doing some more voice over about where he is and why.
What I liked: The episode being focused on Blaine really worked. David Anders does a great job as the gangster, and you can practically see his fall coming, mostly through his own doing. Don E, who is generally just comic relief, also had a few impressive scenes. Major was brilliant. The revelations about both Al and Dolly Durkins were really interesting and made a few things fall into place for me. I think Malcolm Goodwin did a fine job directing.
What I didn’t: I loathe Dolly in general and the attitude she’s stirring up in the city. I think she’s indirectly responsible for this week’s murder. Blaine deserves what he’s getting, but you almost have to feel bad for him as you see the extent of the conspiracy and forces ranged against him. I really like Boss even less than Blaine. Boss is just as smug but lacks charisma.
I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5. There were a lot of very clever things going on. The end is coming, and they are changing a lot on the way there.