I sat down to watch this week’s Dirty Sexy Money all prepared to lament the downfall of basically every character in the bunch — how they’re all  cynical, selfish, twisted, irredeemable and without honor. And then they all seemed to turn around and sprout consciences. Black may be white, up may be down, cats and dogs may be living together, but it definitely made for some interesting viewing tonight.

Shared custody of spoilers ahead…

First I want to commend everyone on these boards for totally calling the casualty of the Chase Alexander shoot out at Patrick’s "inauguration." I thought you were just being bloodthirsty, but you were right: Carmelita was the one fatality of the Day. Nick’s shoulder was grazed by one bullet, and Jeremy fell and hit his head, triggering amnesia — but poor Carmelita, the one person who consistently had a conscience and principles, was cut down. Now it’s a month later, and we’re learning the story of what happened from a cheesy TV magazine show.

Nick and Karen are watching at a diner, when she broaches the subject of her now-single status and Nick’s soon-to-be single status. And just as Nick thinks she’s going to pounce, Karen proposes that they be friends. Real friends. And she’s going to commit not to fall in love with him this time. I’m thrilled to see that Karen’s regained some self-awareness and they’ve broken her out of the dingy haze that she’s been walking through for the past few weeks.

We also learn that Chase, who’d been shot by a cop, is in a coma, and according to the specs of his living will he’s due to be taken off life support in a few days. But his wife, Janine, wants to fight it, and Nick is being dispatched to talk to her. Your husband didn’t want to live like this, Nick tells her. "My husband didn’t know what he wanted once he got involved with the Darlings," she snaps. All she really wants is for her daughters to have their father as they grow up. But as Nick is on the verge of convincing her to take Chase off life support, Chase opens his eyes. We learn later that they’re only open for about a minute and a half, and there’s no way to know if he was actually conscious. Simon is very concerned that Nick gets the court to honor Chase’s living will, and threatens Nola if Nick isn’t successful.

Nick and Lisa’s divorce proceedings are moving along, as is the acrimonious beginning to their custody mediation. She’s shocked that Nick’s asking for 50 percent custody, retorting that since Nick works for a guy who he was recently convinced killed his father, his definition of appropriate doesn’t count much. Nick stays calm in that maddening guy way, and each time she tries to drag the conversation back to them, the lawyer quite rightly refocuses it on what’s best for Kiki. Why they’ve made Lisa into such a harpy, I do not know. On one level, she’s got every right to be mad, and even the self-righteous nastiness is somewhat understandable. Yet I just want to pop her in the jaw.

Speaking of marital bliss — or lack thereof — things aren’t so terrific with Brian and Andrea. Having improved from her experimental treatment, she’s home and she’s happy, and she’s starting to daydream about their long-term plans. Brian looks uncomfortable to say the least. She starts seeing that discomfort for what it is when he doesn’t tell her about the "meet the pastor" night at the church, much less invite her. Andrea gets the message, and though she loves him and they both love their son, and while he may have saved her life by marrying her, she finally gets him to admit that he wants out of the marriage.

Nick shares a fantastic scene with his daughter — it’s about time the kid got some screen time; we haven’t heard hide nor hair of her in forever. They’re walking to school talking about the divorce, and Nick’s trying to get her to understand that it’s for the best, even though he and Lisa love each other. Kiki is desperately worried that she’ll end up never seeing her father again, and he tenderly does an excellent job of reassuring her.

Which haunts him in court. He’s making a good case for the court to honor Chase’s living will when Janine’s lawyer puts their eldest daughter on the stand. I know my dad hurt a lot of people, she says, but he’s still my dad and I don’t want him to go away. Nick doesn’t have the heart to go after her on cross, and definitely doesn’t have the heart to take away this kid’s father. He explains this to an incredulous Tripp and all but accuses him of killing Dutch. They can put Letitia on trial, but we both know who really did it, he says.

Nick’s decision to rest their case sends Simon into a new flurry of threats against Nola. She has to be the one to pull the plug on Chase, or she’ll never see her brother again, he says. This feels weird. Simon’s always been a shifty, mysterious guy, but it seems like a great shift to have him suddenly become a homicidal maniac.

As part of her new "let’s be friends" stance, Karen’s bugging Nick about letting her help take care of Kiki while he has her for the weekend. She’s no mother, but surely she can babysit, she says. Thanks but no thanks, he says — until he’s interrupted at Brian’s church night by a tip from amnesiac Jeremy, to whom Nola has intimated that she’s going to do Chase in. When Nick rushes to the hospital, he leaves Kiki in Letitia’s care, and Karen finds her on the church’s playground, on the swingset. Natalie Zea is brilliant in this scene, and her interaction with the daughter is spot-on. She never works too hard to make friends or get on the kid’s side, and she doesn’t offer up too much cozy advice. She listens. She says very little, and lets Kiki take the lead. She doesn’t react when Kiki tells her that Lisa hates her, and only offers up her own perspective about her parents’ marriage when Kiki asks her opinion about Lisa and Nick splitting. "You’re nicer than my mom says," Kiki tells her. "Not really," Karen replies, as they start to swing.

Nick goes to the hospital and surprises Nola as she’s getting ready to pull the plug on Chase, and escorts her from the room. While they’re gone, Patrick — who again, was not inaugurated because only presidents are inaugurated — sneaks into the room unnoticed (what are the odds?). He tells a comatose Chase that he wants to kill him because he killed Carmelita, the only person he ever really loved. But he knows she’d say that too much dying has already gone on, so he stops himself. Another conscience born.

After sitting through the welcoming ceremony, Brian realizes more than ever before that the real value the parish sees him having is that of a cash cow. There was an outstanding $1.6 million balance on the pipe organ, and just that day that exact amount came in from an anonymous donor, in honor of Brian. He’s lamenting the state of things to Nick, and points out a plaque on the organ that reads Mark 1:11 — the verse: "And there came a voice from Heaven saying thou art my beloved son, and I am well pleased." Tripp didn’t make the donation, and Brian hazards a wild guess that Dutch may still be alive. Nick isn’t buying, but Brian reasons that the whole building is dedicated to the idea that everyone thought a guy was dead and then he wasn’t. It’s not an unheard of thing, he says.

The church ceremony also makes Brian think about Andrea. He comes home to find her packing, and realizes he doesn’t want her to go. He’s valuable to the church because of his money, he says. But Andrea’s different. She refused child support for Brian Jr. She didn’t cash the checks he sent to Brazil. She’s the only one who wants him for who he is — which is definitely an idea that he’s not used to. "I jumped into this marriage for some wrong reasons, but I’m staying in it for some good ones," he says. Aw.

Karen drops Kiki off at Nick’s after taking her out for ice cream — and in addition to telling her father she loves him, Kiki utters the name "Aunt Karen." Predictably, Lisa’s head flies clean off when she hears that Kiki’s spent time with Karen, and vows to take him to court to sue for full primary custody.

Jeremy, meanwhile, is working through his very unusual case of amnesia. The scenes of Letitia working with him with flashcards to jog his memory. Of course, ne’er do well that he is, Jeremy’s been faking the whole time. But he did it for Nola. Now that he has a sense of what she’s up against with Simon, he’s trying to use the opportunity of this faked condition to help her find her brother.

At the last, it’s Tripp who reminds us that not everything is as it seems. Donald Sutherland takes a breather from his mustache-twirling routine to stop and talk to Nick. He hasn’t been able to get Nick’s accusation out of his head, he says. But Dutch was his best friend. And since his death, since his betrayal, there have been times when Tripp’s wished he had the opportunity to kill Dutch. But he didn’t do it. And Nick says, at least, that he believes him.

What did you think? Are these flashes of conscience among the Darlings (and Nick) just a temporary thing? Are you relieved that they’ve woven the question of Dutch’s death back into the story? How do you think the mystery of Dutch and of Simon’s schemes will be wrapped up?

Posted by:Lisa Todorovich