03/19/2012 12:45PM

Luck Episode 8 Recap: Sleeping with the fishes


The opening sequence of the latest -- and penultimate -- episode of "Luck" answers a key question: Nathan Israel is indeed fish bait. Mike Smythe's goons cut up his body into pieces, put the pieces into garbage bags tied to anchors and send them down to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen or heard from again.

Kind of sounds like what HBO would like to see happen with "Luck," no?

As we head toward what is now the end the series itself, Ace Bernstein's convoluted revenge plot comes into full view as the killing of Israel forces him to accelerate his plans.

Smythe aide Isadore Cohen visits the casino to outbid Ace by making a "gesture of commitment." But the whole transaction is caught on tape, and the casino hands the video over to Gus shortly afterward. ("Serrano's got the disks! Serrano's got the disks!")

As soon as Ace realizes Israel is dead, Ace and Gus go into full-on gangster mode. Watching them work is a thing of beauty. They are like John Stockton and Karl Malone running the pick and roll. Nothing more than a nod is necessary to know which play to run.

Armed with the leverage of Cohen's bribe attempt, Ace heads over to Smythe's yacht to put the hammer down. Meanwhile, Gus has Smythe's other right-hand man, Nick DeRossi, locked up in a storage shed at the racetrack. DeRossi is genuinely worried that he will be joining Israel in the great beyond, but they are just "killing the clock," waiting on how the Ace-Smythe meeting plays out.

Ace tells Smythe he knows that Israel was murdered, but because he feels co-responsible, there won't be any further bloodshed. Ace produces the bribe video from the casino -- prime evidence for a RICO case. He says Smythe is out on the move at the track. Now Smythe is in a position where he will have to disappoint his backers by missing out on this huge score. We're left to assume Smythe's backers are not the forgiving types, giving Smythe a rather large motivation to stay in the track game.

Smythe later tells DeRossi he'll move on the track anyway, after they bump off Ace. But Ace has a jump on Smythe yet again -- pictures and a positive identification of Smythe's hired hitter.

Meanwhile at the racetrack, Jo the vet gets kicked in the stomach by a horse during an exam, putting her pregnancy at risk. She heads to the hospital where she his joined by Turo Escalante later and learns that she'll need a procedure done to try to save the pregnancy.

Trainer Walter Smith continues to be harrassed by Dennis Bowman, the son-in-law of the Colonel who gave Smith the rights to Gettin' Up Morning. Bowman has offered Smith a settlement but Smith refuses. Bowman has an affidavit from a convict that implicates Smith in the death of Morning's sire, Delphi. With Bowman's legal recourses appearing limited -- the track stewards rule against him -- he resorts to dirty old blackmail. But Smith has none of it and gives Bowman the Gordie Howe treatment.

The track rats have a new member -- Jerry's girlfriend Naomi the card dealer -- and Marcus is not happy about it. He stews as she celebrates a winning ticket that she earned by selecting the horse with the pink saddlecloth. "Pink, baby!" she says.

The draw for the "Western Derby" -- a thinly veiled version of the Santa Anita Derby -- is at hand, and Escalante and Smith are chosen for the task. Smith's Gettin Up Morning gets the rail; Escalante's Pint of Plain is right next to him in post 2, setting up a duel between the top 3-year-olds in the season -- uh, series -- finale. On the undercard that day, the track rats' claimer Mon Gateau will be stepping up in class into a $75K starter handicap. But the horse is assigned 112 pounds, which means regular rider Leon Micheaux is out. Rosie gets the mount and couldn't be happier about it. Escalante is pretty happy about it as well. When Rosie's agent Joey Rathburn says, "She won't hurt you none on the odds," Escalante delivers one of his classic deadpans: "Holy cow, I never think of that."

In the only racing action of the episode, Ronnie Jenkins wires the field aboard Emmet's Daddy (paying $15.20 to win). Leon then seeks out Jenkins for advice on how to make weight. "What is the most specialist stuff?" he asks. Jenkins refuses to help, not wanting to mess up his own luck at the moment. He does feel for Leon losing his mount to his own girlfriend, Rosie, though. "Toughest sport played outdoors," Jenkins says.

-- Jacob Luft

More Luck Episode 8 coverage:
I Screen You Screen: Luck recap: An untenable position
HBO.com: Episode 8 synopsis
OregonLive.com: 'Luck' recap: Why did HBO really cancel its horse-racing series?
Buzz Bissinger: HBO's 'Luck' Runs Out as Show Is Canceled After Three Horses Die

James Adams More than 1 year ago
Luck was the best horse racing show or movie ever. The first show that was realistic. The trainer Escalante has the best acting job that I can remember on any show. He could walk on a race track tomorrow and pass for a real thoroughbred horse trainer. PLEASE MAKE AN EFFORT TO BRING LUCK BACK NEXT SEASON.
Jack More than 1 year ago
We all owe David Milch a great deal gratitude for his MASTERPIECE LUCK. This show made MILLIONS of people that NEVER thought about this sport want to come out and get INVOLVED in a DRUG-RIDDEN crooked sport. It was Heart warming seeing Gary Stevens DUING A LINE OF COKE. This show FAILED in the ratings, was OVER-HYPED and the characthers for the most part were SLEAZY, I felt I had to take a SHOWER after every show. Drugs, race fixing, that's what this sport needed. Nick Nolte sounded like he GARGLED with Razor blades, I could ONLY understand every THIRD word..The guy in the WHEEL chair I would push down a flight stairs for fun. And the SLEAZY Trainer who was SUPPOSE to be INSPIRED by Julio Canni, you wouldn't trust with your DIRTY SHORTS. Mr Milch himself bis a BIG TIME track degenerate and this was his VIEW of life in the BACK STRECTH......SHAME ON HIM.......
Steven Simonovich More than 1 year ago
Where can I buy season 1 on Blu-Ray?
Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
Well, I'm catching up (didn't just mail it in) and on my third in a row for "Luck" and watch it utter horror. Hemingway, Kerouac, Fitzgerald, and so many others knew that a sympathetic character carries a story. Well, "Luck" got the pathetic part right. No is nobody to like in this story. Not to beat up on the Irish, girl jockey, but that is the worst Irish accent since "Caddyshack". A classic, and if you remember it - you know from whence I speak. I'm alright. "Luck" was NOT all wrong. But yeah, mostly stereotypical. And I mean that in a bad way. Kerouac started "On the Road" with his father's death( "a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about"). Hemingway made the war injury iconic.Even Thompson had his anti-hero look good next to attacking bats. "Luck" pitted ugly against uglier. Or maybe, "Luck" was just like making your wife scream while having sex because you walked in on her:) Not good.
Mike More than 1 year ago
I think HBO made a big mistake cancelling Luck. I enjoyed it and I think a lot of other people did too. I enjoyed Gary Stevens character, and think he did a great job with it. I think it is his best role to date. I will be sorry to see this series go. But I doubt HBO will be sorry to see me go.
walesfoodmusic More than 1 year ago
thank goodness for the fishes !
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Well I found the nine people that actually watched the show. (drum roll please) Nathan Israel sounds like a legend in his own mind. I mean he brightened up a room just by leaving. What do Nathan Israel and 3 thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean constitute? A good start. And then it was over. What a tragedy, back to reality.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
This could have and should have been a hit. In the end David Milch has made another intriguing crime series: something he's good at. But, otherwise, everything to do with the horses, their handling and the bogus staged races was amateur at best. Maybe I'm a cynical racetracker, but using existing film of training and races, skillfully customized and blended together with the Luck storyline, would have made everything look authentic; PETA would never have got involved and we'd have been spared the embarassment of watching this sad horse-wreck. The bottom line is that comments on this blog have been minimal and this just confirms that very few people have been watching or care, which is not a good formula for success in Hollywood.
Ange More than 1 year ago
I'm really bummed that they cancelled the show. It's getting really good now!
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
I am so sorry this show is cancelled: it is excellent. The characters are engaging and are uplifted and enobled by the character of the horses. And the track scenes really showcase the beauty of Santa Anita and the thrill of racing. Every facet of racing is touched on. In hindsight, I really think showing a breakdown was a mistake (violence to people on TV can be stomached but not animal distress). Also, perhaps the show should have been written to explore, say, an Austrian entrepreneur who saves the track--because Mr. Stronach certainly has been a boon and wonderful asset for racing. He gives a great show to us fans, also . . . e.g., on Sunshine Millions Day.