Luck 1.4: "Another Two Round-Eye Suckers."

We enjoyed two introductions last night on Luck. The first was the long-anticipated albeit brief appearance of Ace's longtime partner/rival Mike Smythe (Michael Gambon). Their shared scene kicked the tension up yet another notch in an episode that exemplified fatalism. Most if not all of the pieces have now fallen into place, and the destinies of several characters seem locked in.

The second was the professional debut of Gettin'Up Morning (I'm not counting the previous race because of Ronnie's fall/jump). If the scene between Ace and Mike was notable for how much was held back, the horse race was the series' biggest emotional watershed to date, triggering feelings of triumph (Walter), elation (Rosie) and doom (Joey).

Plus, it looked really badass.

Also, I'm an idiot, because I just last night realized that Leo Chan, Jerry's poker nemesis, is played by Dennis Dun. Dun, as any aficionado of fine '80s cinema knows, played Wang Chi in Big Trouble in Little China.

Jerry could use a little Chang Sing magic, 'cause he keeps losing his ass. Leo is in his head so far we may as well call Jerry "John Malkovich." I'm starting to wonder why Jerry just doesn't sit at another goddamn table when he goes to the casino. After one particularly egregious loss (Leo with a hole 6-2 bluffs Jerry and his pair of Jacks), Leo invites Jerry to a private game back at his restaurant. If any character on this show is telegraphing a messy demise, it's Jerry.

Or maybe Marcus. Or Ronnie.

Jerry's luck, or lack thereof, holds at Leo's restaurant, though the so-far sympathetic dealer seems like she might be willing to throw him a charity fuck. Renzo, Lonnie and Marcus eventually track him down and extricate him from Leo's game by telling him Marcus is gravely ill. Jerry knows this is a lie, but is also still dimly aware that he has issues greater than appearing in Iron Eagle II.

Rosie shows up bright and...rosy for her first day with Gettin'Up Morning. I guess Walter's rehearsed plea worked. She moves into her jockey digs (a separate room from the men's locker room) and meets her valet. The racetrack is the center of most of last night's early action, as the foursome (well, minus Jerry) are eager to check out their new investment, while Joey wants Turo to give him assurances that Leon will get a shot at Mon Gateau's next race. Walter likes what he sees of Rosie's early paces, and heeeere's Ronnie, doped up and hung over and responding angrily to Joey's suggestion he looks doped up and hung over.

Leon's situation isn't improving. In spite of his efforts, he's still gaining weight. Maybe he isn't done growing. At any rate, he's not getting any mounts, and Joey isn't happy about it.

[On a side note, those establishing shots of Santa Anita are almost otherworldly. It's like they dropped a race track in the middle of the Lost World.]

But when all was said and done, last night was Gettin'up Morning's time to shine, even after a bad start, when she falls behind six lengths at the get-go. Walter spends the entire race looking like he's about to have a heart attack. In spite of the start, Rosie brings her in a winner in one of the most exhilarating scenes I can remember. Even the cynical Marcus has a smile on his face at the end, though this was likely because Gettin'up Morning wasn't racing against their horse. If you never really liked or thought about horses, it's hard to come away from Luck with the same nonchalance. These really are magnificent beasts.

It's a troublesome victory, however, as the horse has something called an exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). Jo checks him out and advises him the problem is not sufficient to "read him his Last Rites." Walter's luck holds up. This time Turo also plies Jo for info about the horse for (most likely) gambling reasons. Jo keeps her mouth shut. For now.

Oh, and Rosie and Leon are getting it on as well. For all their character flaws, every romantically involved character thus far is pretty good at hiding his or her relationships.

And at long last, Mike appears. It's a tense meet, in which the normally (usually) unflappable Ace has a difficult time concealing his anger. Why is this? Because not only does Mike show no remorse whatsoever for Ace taking the fall and not ratting him out ("How's your grandson, Ace? I hope he appreciates what you did for him."), he also clearly doesn't consider Ace his equal partner in crime. Of course he wants in on the Santa Anita takeover, and of course he thinks Ace is up to something. Has Ace plotted far enough ahead to outmaneuver him?

Ace agrees to give some $220K to Claire's foundation, even though she appears to rebuff his "friendly overtures." Then he meets with Nathan, who is either going to be instrumental to Ace's plan to screw Mike or collateral damage. Ace's comment about not envying Nathan "for what's coming down" would seem to indicate the latter. The man's capacity for revenge is great indeed if he's about to pay some guy a million bucks just to be a pawn. In their final convo, Ace and Gus discuss the former's interest in Claire. "I've been confused about my behavior for some time now." Interesting. And a bit suspect?

Next week: Marcus goes to the doctor, and Ace has suspicions about Turo.

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