In the world of the Darlings and Dirty Sexy Money, no one’s your friend and no one’s your enemy — they’re just various combinations of both, and the end result is rarely what you expect. Which is exactly what makes it tiring to watch sometimes. Its charm lies in how it revels in the twisty-turny storytelling, and in watching genuinely pretty people do genuinely unpleasant things.

Hit-and-run spoilers ahead…

Things are looking rough for the Darling family this week — not a disaster like the world’s economy and what my 401(k) probably looks like after the recent Dow drops, but bad enough. Ellen’s dead, Letitia’s been arrested for murder, the company stock has been downgraded, and the board is demanding that Tripp name a new vice chair because they’re convinced that Letitia’s going to the Big House.

Things at Nick’s house really aren’t that much better. He’s stuck with planning Ellen’s funeral, things with Lisa are still tense and he’s not letting go of her kissing Jeremy, and she suggests they have another baby. Because that’s always the cure for marital strife. And of course, Tripp’s scheming to get Nick to take Letitia’s case. No jury will convict her if she’s being defended by the victim’s son, he tells Brian. He starts the wheels in motion by walking into the Bloody Mary-fueled funeral planning session (say that five times fast) and announcing that he’s leaving it to Nick to choose his successor. Oh, good. Not only does Nick have to call Kenny G to play Ellen’s funeral, he’s got to choose among the Darlings to decide the fate of the multibillion-dollar family business.

Separately, we find a smitten Jeremy in Lucy Liu’s apartment, stalling on her request that he leave as she heads off to work. "Just remember," she says, "whatever happens, every moment we’ve had has been completely real, and I like you a lot. I really do." Yeah, it’s never a good thing when you hear that. 

Karen and Simon — over a stunningly beautiful necklace at his apartment — discuss how she thinks that Nick won’t pick her to succeed Tripp, because he sees her as a silly rich girl (albeit one who wears some very snazzy undies) who doesn’t know what she wants. She goes through all of the kids — Patrick’s not into business, Jeremy’s essentially unfit, Juliet’s on an island (the first we’ve heard this season about Juliet’s absence), and Brian’s not even Tripp’s son. Simon reminds her that she has an MBA from Columbia. "I do!" she exclaims, wide-eyed. Now, I’ve made it plain that I’m a big Natalie Zea fan, and her peformance here as she plays along with Simon is great. But even though Karen’s kind of a drunken ditz, she’s far too clever not to realize she’s being manipulated. It feels weirdly written.

Jeremy meets up with Nick on the way into Letitia’s arraignment, and runs smack into his mother’s prosecutor: Nola Lyons (Lucy Liu), who Nick warns him is the kind of lawyer the state pulls out when they want to make an example of someone. At the arraignment, Tripp’s machinations begin. The defense attorney that Nick has recommended for Letitia has had some problems with the paperwork that would allow him to take the case, and needs a local counsel to work with him. Tripp makes Nick take care of it even though his son, the state attorney general, offers to act. Nick says he’s prepared to act as local counsel until the paperwork if filed, and asks that Letitia’s bail be waived and she be released on her own recognizance. Nola protests, asking the judge if she wants to send the message that rich people are above the law.

Bail’s set at $20 million, and Nick’s arranged for it to be paid right away — with the assistance of a line of big guys in dark suits carrying little aluminum briefcases filled with cash. Did the judge seriously think the Darlings couldn’t come up with that? Tripp, annoyed at the defense attorney, notes that the only thing that went well about the hearing was their "shameless parade of wealth." The attorney takes them down a back way he swears no one knows about, which of course is swarming with press. Letitia falls apart. And why Nick can’t seem to see the fix that’s going on here is a total mystery.

Back at the office, Tripp fires the lawyer, and Nick is momentarily able to stick to his guns about not taking the case, saying that if he did, it would look like they’re all in cahoots. The old Brian rears his (its?) head, following Nick into the hallway and berating him for wanting another lawyer to take the case. You owe this family, he says. We’ve treated you like a prince your whole life. Nick calls BS, describing his relationship to the family, quite rightly, as the cleanup crew. "I’m the guy who clears your tickets, plans your funerals, and calls Kenny G — and in between chores I have to decide which one of you spoiled brats gets to inherit the kingdom!" That’s what family is, Brian retorts — we’re all expendible until we’re needed; at least you get paid for it.

Now it’s Patrick’s turn for the Tripp treatment (there are absolutely no bones made about Tripp’s machinations so far this season, where there used to be at least a semblance of an idea that he was sneaky — now he’s just overt). Ellen’s funeral could be a real turning point for you politically, Patrick, he coaches on the eulogy. "Be a human being," he says.

While this is going on, Nola squares off against both Jeremy and Nick. When Jeremy confronts her about the conflict of interest and still wants to see her, she dumps him. And when Nick tries to talk to her about letting Letitia, who’s under house arrest, attend Ellen’s service, she likewise kicks him to the curb. "You’re not Letitia’s lawyer, are you?" she asks Nick. "Because that would be gross."

Trying to get back to his own life, Nick heads back to his office, and in quick succession has two Darling visits — one from Karen, who wears a suit and strikes what are supposed to be serious poses in an effort to lobby for the vice chairmanship, and Patrick, who’s seeking help in writing a eulogy for a woman he no longer cares about. She did, after all, try to kill him twice, so it’s not entirely insane. Nick counsels him to write as though he were talking about Carmelita. Karen, frustrated that Nick doesn’t take her seriously as a possible successor to Tripp, takes Simon up on his offer to talk to Nick for her. But Simon, of course, is double-crossing. When he goes to see Nick, he basically calls her unfit for the gig, tells Nick she no longer trusts him, and then asks Nick not to sell him down the river should Karen ever ask what he says. I can only hope Nick’s getting suspicious, because a blind idiot could spot the ulterior motives on everyone from 1,000 miles away.

Before the funeral, Nick pays a visit to Tripp, armed with a memo recommending the new vice chair of Darling Enterprises. In terms of loyalty and commitment and brains, that’s the person best equipped to guide the company, I feel, he tells Tripp, who accepts his recommendation.

Letitia attends Ellen’s funeral, and Patrick’s eulogy, peppered with remarks about Ellen’s "uniquely American spirit," sounds like a cross between a stump speech and a Tommy Hilfiger ad. Even Karen and Brian pick up on the fact that his description of "Ellen" sounds nothing like her. As Kenny G gets up and begins to ruin "Amazing Grace" with his soprano sax, Nola and a police cruiser pull up to take Letitia to jail for violating the terms of her house arrest. Nick, remarkably cool under pressure, tries to talk Nola out of it, presenting a view of how the arrest will play that becomes more convincing after Letitia faints and Brian picks a fight with the cops. "It is getting a little icky," she admits, and backs down. Jeremy confronts her again, threatening to expose the fact that she slept with the defendant’s son before arresting her.

After the mele with the police, both Brian and Nick end up in lock-up, and in response to Brian’s taunting nick tells him that he recommended Brian to lead the company. "You’re the best person for the job," Nick says. "You’ve been the black sheep in that family your whole life and you’re still willing to do anything for them" — like sabotaging court documents and getting the defense counsel fired. And you’re a pain in the ass, which would be an asset in running a $50 billion global enterprise. Nick asks why it’s so important to Brian that he take Letitia’s case. "Because I know my mom didn’t do it," Brian says. "And if the only way to get her off is for the son of the guy she’s accused of killing to stand up in court and say she didn’t do it, then that’s what has to happen."

Besides, Brian says, we both know who killed our dad. Tripp. "Not that we’ll be able to do anything about it," Brian says wryly. "We all know how that works."  Nola springs them from the pokey; the cops wouldn’t testify and Nick’s not the Darling she wants anyway. I’m not a Darling, he says. "Come on," she replies. "You’re the darlingest Darling of them all."

More pillow talk — sort of. Jeremy shows up at Nola’s with a bouquet of flowers and ends up learning that he’s her little self-sabotage project. She doesn’t lose cases and other lawyers don’t challenge her, so she sets traps for herself. He talks his way in, saying no one will ever find out, and she goes for it. Which seems another big inconsistency for a character who’s supposed to be so tough and smart. Meanwhile, Simon tells Karen the story of his "meeting" with Nick — a colossal lie — while they’re in the bath together. He made the case dispassionately, and after an hour he gave up because Nick doesn’t take her as seriously as he does. Oh brother. Karen, wake up.

Back at Nick and Lisa’s, she gets in a jab about finding a job because she has to do something with her life and they’re not having another baby, and he tells her that he took Letitia’s case. She’s innocent, and it’s complicated, he says. No, she replies — it’s easy, and you can’t say no to the Darlings. He implores her to have some faith in him, because he knows what he’s doing.

Before the Great Succession Naming Press Conference, carried live by CNBC, Tripp tells Brian that because of his efforts Nick has taken Letitia’s case. There are good things ahead for you, he tells Brian. Then Tripp proceeds to take the podium at the press conference, and as Brian begins to stand for the announcement, Tripp names Nick. Again — was that really such a surprise? I mean, to anyone besides Nick?

We end this week in Darlingland at a party at the Darling house, where a floored Nick tells Lisa he’s as surprised as she is, and why don’t they have that baby. She balks, saying she doesn’t think it’s a good idea anymore. What she really sees is Nick getting sucked into Darlingland further and further. It’s not like being a Corleone, but it doesn’t seem all that far off.

What did you think? Did you find any of the "twists" surprising this week? Are you interested in everyone’s ulterior motives? What do you think Simon’s up to with Karen? And how will Brian seek revenge?

Posted by:Lisa Todorovich