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If I think about this episode using the least amount of brain possible, it wasn’t bad. Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but a slight improvement on last week. Let’s have at it, shall we?

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

The camera opens on what looks like a younger version of Geri the Cleaner from Toy Story 2, magnifying lens attachment and all. He appears to be checking a man’s dark blonde rumpled hair for ticks, but clarifies by announcing in Russian, “He’s not concealing anything.” (For those of us who need them, this portion of the program is helpfully subtitled.) Blondie’s a prisoner, and one who has apparently escaped from other prisons before; here, his captors warn him, there will be no escape. After all, as the guard threateningly warns him, “Not even Gregor the Great can escape a bullet through the head.” Blondie/Gregor smiles an awfully cocky “Я знаю, что вы не знаете,” (“I know something you don’t know”) smile, then gets strapped in a straitjacket and locked in a cell. Dear Russian wardens: This is The Cape. Everyone has a crazy circus talent, and you just called him by the honorific “the Great.” Do you really think a straitjacket will stay on him for long? The camera is above the action a little here, and the instant Gregor is alone, he looks up and smiles a funky smile, just so we can see the gap in his teeth on the top right side.

Gregor escapes — shocking! — but we don’t get to see his derring-do, just the aftermath of lifeless security guards, an open grate, and something tiny on the floor. I’m surprised Young Geri didn’t think to look in the prisoner’s mouth, or if he did, failed to notice that one spectacularly yellow tooth. Warden holds up the tooth in question from where it was discarded, and notices that the root looks remarkably like a tiny pick-lock or key. One surviving guard, examining the open grate, interrupts our focus on the tooth to exclaim, “He’d have to dislocate every bone in his body to fit through here!” (Thanks for not showing that, NBC. Also, ew.)

Oh, and before Gregor peaced out, he wrote KOZMO on the wall in big red letters, which must have taken a great deal of dead security guard blood. The moral of this story: Don’t lock ex-circus folk up in straitjackets. You may as well just give them a sandwich and send them on their way.

OUT OF THE PAST

We’re in the train yard with the less fortunate denizens of Palm City. It’s cool, though; someone’s playing a trumpet, and there are some cheery fire barrels. Vince is skulking around with a knit cap and a flashlight, looking for evidence. This is where he was framed, chased down, and “killed,” so I can’t say as I blame him. He helpfully flashes back to the day in question, his mind’s eye zooming in on a PHILLIPS name stitched onto a corrupt cop’s uniform. Also helpful: Phillips’ custom license plate, reading FILIPS. Now we’re stalking The Cape as he stalks the cop who wronged him. Phillips is just driving along when he hears a large THUD on the roof of his car — a THUD that sounds very similar to the sound of a man leaping onto the roof of one’s car. (At this point in my notes, it says “STOP BEING BATMAN.”)

Phillips stops the car, but before he can open the door to confront his hop-on, his door snaps off. That’s right: Snaps. As in, The Cape has used his titular cape to rip the door off of the car. Phillips is pissed that the Blue Book value on his vehicle has plummeted so quickly, and starts shooting at the doorsnatcher. As I watched The Cape shield himself from the bullets with the car door, I grudgingly acknowledged that it wasn’t a bad idea to whip the door to himself for just such a purpose. All my grudges were gone, though, once The Cape begins his fighting banter: “I open the door for you and this is what I get?” He says it like he’s so clever, poor thing.

So this eponymous cape is handy for dangling people by their feet off overpasses, which is just what our hero proceeds to do. He’s dangling with all his righteous Cape might, trying to get Phillips to come clean to everyone about the frame-up, but Phillips ain’t talking, even when The Cape lets one foot go. The Cape gets very frustrated indeed, and drops the other foot. Phillips lands on a conveniently timed truck, and this is where the show got interesting.

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The Cape didn’t appear to see the truck. He might have, during the split-second my eyes were on my notes and not the screen, but I don’t think he did. Would he just drop Phillips head-first off an overpass, with no convenient truck to catch him? Is our hero considerably darker than we’d thought? Orwell seems surprised, too, as she pops up over The Cape’s no-doubt-very-high-tech headset, asking, “I thought you were just going to talk to him.” The Cape, still frustrated, snaps, “I didn’t like what he had to say. So I dropped him off an overpass, but I didn’t hear him land, so he may not be dead, which is good, I guess, because I don’t kill people, but that made me really interestingly ambiguous back there. I should be careful not to do that again.” Orwell informs him that the rest of the police force is speeding to him, and she uses her techno-talents to help him escape.

Unrelated: Summer Glau looked like she was trying to channel Angelina Jolie in this scene. Costume, hair, posture, facial expression… just me, then? Okay. Moving on.

Look, it’s Trip! Vince and Dana’s son is standing in the front of a classroom, where the teacher is introducing him to the class. She tells them his name, and that he’s new, and assures, “I think you’ll all want to friend him.” I’m sorry, I must still have the internet in my ear from work. What did you say? I really hope I misheard her here.

Trip’s maybe-Facebook-savvy teacher takes him to his new desk, and is speaking with him with some degree of delicacy. Apparently, being the son of a masked killer (or so everyone thinks) isn’t the fast track to popularity in school. Trip finds this out the hard way, as he lifts the lid on his desk to find a handful of chess pieces inside. The children laugh as they see his crestfallen little face. Really, kids? His dad is supposedly this huge scary villain, who got chased down and exploded on live television, and you’re going to make fun of him for it? Who laughs at the son of a costumed killer, even if he is dead? Man, kids are dumb.

The scene shifts, and we’re back at the circus. Vince is using the cape to slice the heads of mannequins lined up for the purpose, which I find very difficult to swallow. He’s shirtless, as is his wont, and sweatier than a dozen drunken Sulus. Max is watching, offering bon mots such as, “either you wear the cape or the cape wears you,” when Gregor shows up, like we knew he was bound to sometime. We know he’s looking for Max, as he grandly announces, “I’m looking for the ringleader of this merry band of misfits.” How charmingly unrealistic!

Max leaves Vince to greet the newcomer. “Gregor Molotov!” Since we didn’t already know he was dangerous and Russian, the writers decided to give us this helpful clue. Molotov like a Molotov cocktail, get it? With the danger, and explosiveness?

“Max Malini! Or should I say ‘Kozmo?'”

“I don’t use that name anymore. What brings you here?” So Max is Kozmo, eh? I bet there’s some exposition a-comin,’ delivered with a hammy dramatic flair.

“You know why I’m here. I came for my cape.”

Oooh, cape snap!

KOZMO THE UNKILLABLE

Max is denying any knowledge of the cape’s current whereabouts, and Gregor totally is not buying it. “You promised me that old rag would change my life. Twenty years in prison, that’s what kept me going.” Max continues to feign ignorance, so Gregor gives up — for now. Max says Gregor can stay for a day, but then he’s got to skedaddle. Then Vince reappears, demanding the truth about Kozmo and the cape. Here comes that ol’ exposition! Thanks, Cape, for being so reliable. It makes me feel like we’ve known each other for years.

Apparently, “Kozmo” is like “The Dread Pirate Roberts:” a name and legend (and cape, in this case) that get passed down and assumed by various people. Gregor was next in Kozmo line, but when Max saw how the power warped his supposed successor, he changed his mind. Max took the cape back, and ended Kozmo for good. Of course, he actually said, “I killed the unkillable,” then swallowed the last little bit of scenery he’d been chewing. Don’t talk with your mouth full, Keith David. It’s rude.

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Seems like a good time to visit Dana, see how she’s doing at her new job. Join me, won’t you?

The crazy skewed camera angle tells us how crazy Dana’s job is, but they didn’t need to go to all that trouble: She’s about to tell us herself. By “us,” I mean “her boss;” she complains that in ARK’s new police state, arrests are up 200%, which means no one has a shot at a non-shoddy defense. She’s swamped! Too many cases! More crazy camera tilting!

After a brief and unfunny discussion of a public urination case, Dana’s boss leaves her to her daunting stack of case files. She sighs and flips one open, only to gasp aloud when she dramatically spots the scene of the Chess showdown, pointing at it in the file and voicing the words, just in case we weren’t looking:

“Palm City freight yard.”

Well, looks like Dana’s pretty busy. Who haven’t we had any screentime with yet? Hrm. How about Peter Fleming? Old Pete is video-chatting someone up on his fancy floating holographic screen, asking if there’s any better news and fiddling with a little wooden chest. We find out he’s looking for his daughter. Oh, so Fleming has a family. Huh. It’s odd, because we haven’t yet met a wealthy, dark-haired, mysterious young woman with an aversion to revealing her name and an affinity for fancy floating holographic screens. (We find out for sure later, but really, if the showrunners were hoping for this to be a revelation, they were out of luck.)

Marty comes in to interrupt Fleming’s parental reverie. They’ve locked onto Orwell’s signal! They found him! Except Marty uses fewer exclamation points, because by the time ARK forces got there, “the place was toast.” Fleming pronounces Orwell a threat to Palm City’s cleanliness and safety, and so orders a doubling of the Find Orwell Task Force. In case anyone had any doubts as to the level of dislike Fleming has for the shadowy blogger, he thoughtfully orders, “I want Orwell gone… permanently.”

Cut to Orwell: “This won’t work out.” She’s in Vince’s lair, as she bailed on her own hideout moments before the ARK team showed up. She says she needs a place to stay for 24 hours, and that their working relationship isn’t working. After all, he almost killed that cop. Vince gets defensive and turns the argument around on Orwell, asking who bankrolls her crazy tech? Who the hell is she, anyway? (Oh, I know! I know! Pick me, TV, I know this one!) She snaps back, asking if he really knows who Max is, and if he knows that Gregor has left a big body trail in his wake. Vince assures her that Gregor won’t get his hands on the cape, and looks damned unsure of himself as he says it. Anyway, to bed. Vince allows Orwell to stay, saying “The Comfort Inn it is not,” and hitting the hay in his wooden suspended hammock-y bed, which does look pretty kickass. He pulls out the latest issue of The Cape comic and begins reading. Across town, Trip’s doing the same thing, and both their voices are heard reading in unison. (From my notes: “Show, don’t tell, kiddies. Heavy handed.”)

Gregor goes out into the exotic underworld of Palm City, wearing a conspicuously ugly hat so we know he means business. Vince is following him, in a less business-like hoodie, and sees Mr. Molotov buying a bottle of booze in a paper bag. Once Gregor exits the liquor store, he bumps into a passerby and we see it isn’t Gregor at all! To whom did he give his ugly hat?

Gregor has escaped indoors, and is now in the middle of a poker game. He takes some ribbing for playing so well, but says he’s not looking for trouble, just a cape. The gentlemen sitting at the table with him look uncomfortable, then begin to offer up information: “Some stories going around.. about a cape…” “Does things. Unnatural things.” “They say it could kill a man.”

Gregor presses on: “Who has it? He have a name?”

“The Cape.” “He’s a hero, like in the comic books.” Man, I wish this hero and his main shtick were two different words. This conversation just sounds silly.

Anyway, this was all the info they have, but it didn’t really help our pal Gregor a good deal. He agrees with my assessment, and kills his new poker buddies with some rapidly flung playing cards to the jugular. Some of these deaths are much less realistic than the others. I’m looking at you, big guy.

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SECRETS OF THE CAPE

Vince is still wandering the back streets, looking for Gregor. He overhears a street vendor describing, “a real bloody mess,” and goes to investigate. Gregor, meanwhile, hits up the same vendor for a hot dog “with extra kraut.” Now he has a snack to enjoy while watching Vince examine the crime scene! Everything’s coming up Molotov.

Meanwhile, back in Vince’s lair, Rollo the little person comes in to find not Vince, but Orwell. He offers to show her around the circus, as everyone’s getting ready for tomorrow’s performance. “You’ll get to meet all of Vince’s freaky peeps,” he promises. Orwell takes him up on his offer, and the two of them buzz around the grounds on a little motorcycle, which gives Rollo an opportunity to growl, “Hey, you clowns, get out of the way,” to a pair of clowns. Yes, Cape, that is indeed a most amusing witticism.

Hold on just a second.

So these folks are the Carnival of Crime, right? They’re not just a particularly theatrical group of thieves, though, they’re an actual circus. No one considers that, perhaps, the people behind the fantastical bank robberies of last week’s episode might be the very same group of fantastical folks parked right outside town, getting ready to put on a show? Headdesk.

Orwell and Max meet face to face, and the former introduces herself as Julia. Vince bursts into the tent, brandishing a bottle of vodka and insisting they show Gregor off in style. At the resulting party, Gregor decides it’ll be fun to dislocate his fingers and try to make me vomit from a distance through the magic of television. Gregor thinks it’s funny, and boasts, “straitjackets call off me as easily as a prom queen’s dress.” Prom dresses fall off you easily, huh? He asks to read Orwell’s palm, mentioning that he used to do this “in the old country,” (of course he did!), and says she has daddy issues, an identity crisis, and jail time in her past.

Now’s a good time to cut away from this to revisit Dana, don’t you agree? She’s in jail, interviewing the client who was in the Palm City Freight Yard, and yes, the man did witness Vince’s framing, start to finish. There are more crazy angles here, which tell us about Dana’s inner turmoil and such. She leaves her client and runs into Marty, asking him to help her find the witnesses. If her client saw it, other people must have, too, and Marty’s just the person to help. Right?

Back to the circus. Things are getting tense at this little goodbye party, as Gregor tells the ancient history of the cape. Egyptian priests used it for sacrifices, alchemists used it to muck around in people’s minds. Some think Merlin wore it, others think Jack the Ripper, as he was known for his cape-snapping style. Vince starts talking about the murder at the poker table, noting that the playing cards were an awfully magician-y weapon to use. Pardon the pun, but Vince is showing his hand here, and it’s just odd. Gregor comes back, arguing that as a cop, Vince is, “just me with a badge.” Vince vows to return Gregor to Russian prison, which pisses Gregor off so much he straight disappears. Well done, Vince. Allow the villain with the dislocate-tastic bones to escape, so he can regroup, and attack again.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Vince is in his lair, getting ready to suit up as The Cape. Orwell warns him that Gregor is likely setting a trap somewhere, and drops the bombshell that her palm reading was totally accurate. Gregor “knows things.” Vince belatedly realizes that, if Gregor knows very much at all, he knows about Trip and Dana. Well, crap.
Dana’s walking alone through a parking garage, which is a scary situation sometimes, but a whole lot scarier if the camera keeps following you right over the shoulder, because then you just know someone’s there. Luckily for Dana, that someone is her boss, who hits on her a little and offers enthusiastically to take Trip to a ball game. Vince, who is watching, is very sad, and hopefully a little worried that this man we all just met is so eager to take his kid out for the day.

Back at the circus, Orwell is watching Raia, the circus performer who really never speaks so I had to look up her name to write this, performing with aerial silk, which is actually pretty cool. Max walks up behind our mysterious blogger friend and comments on how beautiful Raia and her performance are. He then asks Orwell to join the act, inquiring whether or not she has any special skills. Orwell says she can hotwire a car and burn through a firewall in under a minute, which gives Max the perfect opportunity to say, “I thought I was mysterious.”

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Max doesn’t have much time to bandy one-liners about, though – he’s got a show to do! As he puts on his red ringleader coat, he mutters “The show must go on… but the gut must come off.” As he struggles to button the coat, we catch an ominous glimpse of Gregor in a mirror.

In the center ring, the show’s getting ready to start. Max’s face is obscured by his top hat, but as he tilts up his head, we see it’s not Max, it’s Gregor! Oh, noes! Gregor the Great begins to introduce his version of the circus, which involves the tiger tamers being gobbled up by their own tiger, “morsel by morsel.” The evening will be capped off by the death of Max Malini, and our garrulous leader is seen suspended in a water torture cell. The audience is cheering and clapping, which is scarier than both these predicaments combined. (My notes: “DUMBASS crowd cheering all of this.”)

“Where is a hero when you need one?” cries Gregor, and right on cue, The Cape swings in. He goes to rescue Max, but instead of running to the cell and pushing it over, he grabs the cell with the cape and pulls. Really? That was easier and more efficient than just pushing it over to spill the water out? Either way, Max is now free — mostly drowned, but free. Gregor snaps the cape off Vince’s back, and renounces the name Gregor the Great, rechristening himself Kozmo.

He snaps Orwell up in the arm of his cape, and pulls her closely to him, taunting that no one will miss her when she’s dead. He knows, after all: He read it in her palm. The Cape jumps down behind him, asking, “Do you ever shut up?” (Still need to work on that fight-based banter, huh, Vince?) Kozmo redirects the cape to entwine Vince, talking about his control of the fabric in a weirdly sensual way. The cape is an extension of his body, constricting like a muscle, tightening… “This is how a snake eats.” The biology lesson isn’t over, though; Vince gets the upper hand with the cape and the tables turn, prompting him to ask, “What happens when the snake swallows his own tail?” Is a snake that dumb, or is it just Vince?

The Cape leaves Gregor/Kozmo alive, but the temptation to end it is there. Explore this more, NBC.

The episode’s villain defeated, Vince and Orwell leave the circus tent together.

ONE MAN, ONE FIGHT, ONE RIGHT

Orwell’s at the freight yard, taking photos as ARK cops round up any and every bum who may have witnessed Vince’s framing. Vince asks to take some himself, and snaps a few photos, including some of his old vanity-plated pal Phillips.

Marty gives Dana a call, and for once, Dana is allowed to be perfectly upright in a shot. No crazy camera angles, hooray! He says they found no one at the freight yard, no evidence of anything, and caps it off with an insincere apology. As she hangs up, someone slips a manila envelope under Dana’s office door. Inside are photos from the freight yard and a note: “‘Don’t lose hope…never lose hope.'” Thanks, mystery photographer, but some of these are sort of blurry. Way to go.

Trip’s at home, working his little fists into a punching bag and wearing his dad’s old fatigues. The Cape shows up, compliments the kid’s hook, then says with great solemnity, “I know things, Trip.” Poor Trip tells him of his troubles at school, saying, “They call me the son of Chess.” (Who are these kids? What kid talks like that? Sheesh.) The Cape bounces all over in the ensuing conversation: “You know, in my comics, I lost my family,” and “You know The Cape motto: One man, one fight, one right,” and “Your dad didn’t get those medals for valor, he got them for keeping his cool.” Trip looks down at said medals to process this one, but the enigmatic Cape has already disappeared by the time he looks back up.

Across town, Peter Fleming is looking at the little wooden chest, which is obviously a music box. Just open it already, would you? Thanks. The ballerina inside has dark hair and a white tutu, and is spinning the way music box ballerinas do. Then we see Orwell, dressed in white, up in the aerial silk at the circus, spinning. (From my notes: “Orwell, all in white! Dark hair! Spinning on fabric! Hot damn!”) Quelle surprise, right? Fleming smiles and shuts his music box, and so ends episode 3 of The Cape.

Stick with it, though, because next week Rollo’s gonna rob a train, and there’s a costume party, and The Cape tells Peter Fleming, “I’m gonna end you.” Woo-hoo!

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