Damages: Season 3 (5): “Careful, she’s a big responsibility.”

So what is it with Patty and birthdays? Here she is about to become (what, 50? 120? we’re never told) let’s just say a year older, and she’s mentally freaking out about it.

Nice excuse to crowbar back in dead former characters – Uncle Pete’s turn this time: her long-time parent substitute and one-time fixer, now haunting her dreams with horses and cakes that ooze blood. Mmm … blood cakes.

Whatever the cause of this birthday trauma – and I’m guessing it’s something to do with daddy and horses as a metaphor for something else (maybe ponies, who knows) – she’s not giving anything away: even denying point blank to potential new recruit Alex Benjamin (Tara Summers) that it even is her birthday.

And it’s here that Damages make their only casting stumble so far – although maybe it will turn out to be inspired in the long-run – by bringing in Ms Summers who played lovely, sensitive English lawyer in Boston Legal.  Maybe they wanted her so they can play her against type and make her out-Patty Patty.  Can’t be done.

I always thought Damages great casting tricks were to take left field choices – Martin Short being Season three’s has-been actor make-over du jour – and show them how to do simple and powerful straight acting.

Martin Short’s acting revelation as disturbing lawyer being further enhanced this week as he admits to feeling he’s been left bereaved by the suicide of his dad substitute Louis Tobin. His solace is to lay his head in the lap of a hooker and stare at the ceiling. Insert your own pay-off line here. But this was touching and memorable emotional weirdness. If it were up to me I’d give him a Grammy or something.

The person I’d want to turn up the acting volume a notch is Tobin junior. Played as flat as a pancake by Campbell Scott, I’d first of all taken this to be cleverly essayed emotional numbness arising from the shock of his whole life crashing around him after his dad’s billion dollar Ponzi fraud was exposed.

But he’s given that same unremitting flatness every scene going. And it’s not as if he got Clint Eastwoodesque menace underpinning it. It’s more like being harassed by Clark Kent. Maybe in real life he’s so flamboyant they’re worried he’ll play it at 11 and the scenes will come off as high camp, so they’re tuning him right down. Two up boys next time.

New kooky and unpredictable elements introduced to the broth this week were:

  • Tobin’s sister: as unhinged as B&Q after a bank holiday weekend, she’s clearly going to do someone mischief before the season’s out. At father’s sparsely attended funeral: “Those investors knew what he was doing, it’s them that should be in the ground.”
  • Man with the hidden Tobin money: Stuart Zedeck a man so mysterious he has his own mysterious menacing man representing him. I’m betting it’s going to turn out to be Alan Alda in a great casting twist, since I’m sure he has a contract that says he can only play nice (he even played a nice Republican presidential candidate in West Wing for god’s sake).
  • New position for Tommy: being dragged bleeding backwards through a door, cartoon style by unknown assailant. That’ll be a regular player in the fast forward 5 months plus scenes, alongside the dumpster shot.
  • Danielle Marchetti’s love child: what can’t Patty Hewes do with this one ….

Main complaint: too many plot twists for me to even start explaining. You need to watch it.

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