02/13/2012 10:17AM

Luck Episode 3 recap: Ace Bernstein takes the reins

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Depending on who you asked, Luck may have stumbled out of the gate in its pilot episode thanks to hazy plot lines and inscrutable dialogue. But the show worked its way back into the race in the second episode, clarifying key plot points such as Ace Bernstein's need for revenge, trainer Walter Smith's quest for redemption and the four musketeers' new ambition.

Sunday's third episode has Luck riding hard out of the first turn and into the backstretch. It begins with Ace Bernstein walking slowly on a treadmill, a workout that gets interrupted by a surprise visit from his parole officer. Ace may be a big-time mobster working on his next score, but right now it's time to pee in a cup for the man. This is the second straight week that we've had to see Ace going through this particular bit of humiliation, perhaps emphasizing the privations he's willing to endure silently on his way to his ultimate prize -- payback.

Ace then attends a board meeting at his own company where he's upstaged by a young derivatives trader named "Nathan Israel." Ace quickly identifies Israel as a man who can be the lynchpin to his plot to take down his nemesis.

Back at the racetrack, their Irish shipper Pint of Plain is getting breezed by Lizzy (Chantal Sutherland) when a loose horse nearly derails the whole enterprise -- and no doubt sends a shudder through Sutherland's many adoring fans. The Four Amigos succeed at buying the claimer horse Mon Gateau from the trainer Cowboy Mulligan and bring him back to Escalante's barn. Mon Gateau is injured, however, and will have to be brought along by Escalante, who will probably wait for the steam from his last two victories to dissipate so he can win another big bet on him. Ronnie Jenkins falls off his mount and breaks his collarbone again -- "I break this collarbone more than I get laid," he quips -- prompting Smith to regret his decision to send exercise rider Rosie off to Portland Meadows with Gettin' Up Morning's debut days away.

The brutal life of the jockey gets spotlight treatment as bug boy Leon Micheaux passes out in the sauna and Jenkins goes on a bender after his fall.

But the show is not really about the jockeys or the trainers or the horseplayers. It's about Ace Bernstein's every step on his slow walk to revenge. It's also about the majesty of the sport of kings and thieves. Once again we are brought back to the hotel room with Ace and Gus for the final scene, where Gus recalls the image of Pint of Plain's workout and mutters, "That's some beautiful [expletive] horse." Must have been for him not to even notice the jockey.

-- Jacob Luft

More coverage:
Decoding 'Luck': Anorexic jockeys, Nick Nolte's feelings
'Luck' recap: The Four Amigos Pony Up
WSJ: ‘Luck,’ Season 1, Episode 3, TV Recap
The Oregonian: 'Luck' recap: Portland Meadows is mentioned, if you can hear it