The winter finale of Stumptown finds Dex reunited with one of her high school nemeses, a redhead formerly known as “Perfect Penny”, who knew our heroine as “Dirty Dex”. Both have grown beyond their high school personas, though they each still have some of the character quirks that earned them their nicknames, proving we are all works in progress. And that it’s easy to use words to mislead, which happens a lot this week. From the interrogation room techniques the police use to the way the drug dealers try to misdirect Dex, there are many ways to lie, including to oneself.
Penny brings Dex the case of the week, which involves her daughter being expelled from an expensive private high school for dealing drugs. Meanwhile, Dex tries to sort out what really happened at the end of her night out at the casino with Liz.
Dex wakes up the morning after the end of episode 8 with Liz in her bed. Liz is naked, Dex is not. Dex doesn’t remember what happened. She asks if Liz always sleeps naked. Liz says she does sometimes. She remembers doing shots in the kitchen then going to bed on top of the covers.
Liz says that there’s no point in mentioning it to Grey, since neither remembers anything physical happening between them. Then she backtracks and wonders if she should tell him, since they aren’t 100% sure nothing happened.
Dex doesn’t want Ansel to know that Liz is there, so she shows Liz how to safely jump off the second floor balcony into a bush. This is apparently a specialty as an escape method for Dex. She encourages Liz to include a roll to get out of the bush at the end of the jump, mostly as a flourish.
There is no metaphorical significance to this escape at all.
Later, at the bar, Liz tells Grey that she and Dex had a tame night that ended early. Grey is shocked, because Dex’s gambling nights usually end more dramatically than that.
With a jump from a second story balcony, for example.
Dex follows Liz’s lead and tells Grey that his girlfriend is a sweetheart, but the whole night’s a blur.
Dex is meeting a new client, who turns out to be one of her high school enemies, nicknamed “Perfect Penny”. Dex’s nickname was “Dirty Dex”. Penny is there with her husband and teenage daughter, Jennifer, who found a baggie of 200 Adderall pills in her backpack at school. She turned them in to the principal and was promptly arrested.
New Seasons High School said they’d gotten a tip she was a drug dealer. 200 is the number that makes possession a felony, so it’s unlikely Penny would incriminate herself that way, but the DA is arguing that she’d been warned of the tip and thought she could circumvent it by turning herself in.
If she was really a dealer, it would make a lot more sense to get rid of all of her drugs before she was picked up, rather than prove she has them.
The school wants nothing to do with them. Jennifer has been expelled and her place on the volleyball team, which was on track to lead to a lucrative college scholarship, has been given to another girl, Alyssa Frank. They do have a deputy principal at New Seasons who’s on their side.
Miles discovers that Alyssa Frank’s dad, Bill, is the most important defense attorney in Portland. Dex can’t find a record of the tip that reported Jennifer was a drug dealer. Miles thinks that the call came from inside the school and someone tried to have it expunged to cover it up. Maybe Bill Frank.
Miles invites Dex to Dante’s for karaoke. She’s not ready to go out drinking again yet and thinks karaoke probably shouldn’t be done sober. Miles refers to Liz solely as “Grey’s girl”, like she’s an object.
He finds the report on the tip off call and interrupts Dex as she’s about to confess to him what happened with Liz. The tip off call came from inside the school, that’s basically all he can confirm. She takes in the interruption and the case in front of her and declines his invitation rather than continuing to try to be honest with him.
He gets a little hard edged, but asks her what she’ll do next. She replies that she’s going to work the deputy principal who’s sympathetic to Jennifer.
Ansel is doing computer searches at Grey’s desk.
Grey finds Liz hiding in the store room. He feels like she’s avoiding him. She tells him she’s scared because she’s developing real feelings for him and she’s scared he doesn’t feel the same way. He assures her that he has feelings for her, too, so she can stop hiding.
Deputy Principal Stella Markham tells Dex that Jennifer is being framed and she’ll do anything she can to help. She hires Dex to be a substitute teacher in one of Alyssa Frank’s classes. Stella and Jennifer warned Dex that the students are rude and entitled, and they are.
Alyssa skipped class to work on French, so Dex has to search her out. She pretends to also be a psychologist who’s checking in with how students are doing after Jennifer’s arrest and uses that as an excuse to question Alyssa. Alyssa figures out that Dex isn’t a psychologist, but she leads her to question the volleyball coach, MJ Glenway.
MJ is also a former New Seasons student, so she empathizes with the students, but she thinks Jennifer is guilty. She warns Dex off trying to help Jennifer.
Liz asks Grey to help her apartment hunt and says that she wants him to like the apartment too, since she expects he’ll be spending a lot of time there. Ansel notices them talking and tells Grey that Liz seems as happy as she did when she had her sleepover with Dex.
Ansel asks Liz if it’s hard to get a credit card. She tells him it’s easy, he just needs to go to the bank and ask for one.
Grey asks Liz if she slept with Dex. She promises to answer his questions, per their policy of radical honesty. She says that wanted to tell him what happened, but Dex told her to lie. He asks straight out of they had sex and she says she doesn’t remember most of the night, since she was riding the Dex train. She swears she’s not throwing Dex under the bus, it’s just that she woke up naked in Dex’s bed. She didn’t mean for the night to end that way, but she can’t be sure that Dex felt the same way.
Technically, almost all of that is probably true. She was naked and she can’t know what Dex wanted. Dex was the one who planned the evening. But Liz was the one who wanted to keep it from Grey, not Dex, and she just purposely misled him by painting pictures in his mind of herself riding Dex.
She’s contrite and offers to get her stuff from his place. He asks her why he shouldn’t break up with her. She says that she doesn’t want to lose him over one stupid mistake.
Dex visits Penny at home. They start by revisiting their high school insults, then Dex asks how Jennifer fit in at New Seasons. Penny tells her that the school has benefits, but you have to follow their rules. It’s also has its problems, which get hushed up to protect the powerful people involved. Penny is afraid that they won’t be able to help Jennifer, because she was forced out to protect someone else. But Penny admired the way that Dex stood up to everyone, even the teachers, in high school. Dex promises her that she’s even better at holding people accountable now and she’ll do everything she can to help Jennifer.
Penny tells Dex that Jennifer discovered that many of her friends were using a scary amount of speed and she was worried about them. Penny passed the information on to the principal but nothing was done. Then Jennifer was dropped from her extracurriculars- it was a warning to keep their noses out of the drug business.
Dex asks to speak to Jennifer. Penny says she’s at her father’s house this week, since they’re divorcing. Penny isn’t perfect anymore. Dex and Penny admit that they actually were intimidated by each other in high school, but also learned from each other.
Dex fills Miles in on what she learned from Penny, and he fills in Cosgrove. Once Miles has had a chance to work the case a bit, he meets Dex at Bad Alibi. The mayor’s kid goes to New Seasons, so they have to tread carefully. Miles’ search for suspicious drug activity flagged a student named Rebecca Braylander, who stole her physician mother’s prescription pad and filled 12 prescriptions for Adderall last month. Dex suggests they pick up Rebecca on prescription fraud.
Before she can explain the rest of her plan, Grey pulls her aside to ask if she had sex with his girlfriend. She explains that they woke up in the same bed, but she doesn’t remember having sex. Grey tells her that Liz said they did have sex. Dex tries to tell him that Liz wasn’t so sure of that when they woke up, but he’s already made up his mind that he doesn’t believe her. Asking her questions and waiting for an answer was just a formality. He orders her to leave the bar and find someplace else for her work meetings.
Miles hears Dex’s argument with Grey and judges her without asking for her side of the story. He walks out of the bar without saying anything to Dex. She hangs her head in shame, because obviously the whole thing is her fault for daring to get drunk in public in the presence of a potential sexual partner.
Liz watches the scene unfold and smiles to herself. Her plan is working out exactly as she hoped.
After the commercials, Dex chases Miles out of the bar. She tries to explain what happened the night before, but he’s hostile to her and continues to walk away, informing her that they’re all business now. And that they never had the “exclusivity talk”.
Because she’s not his girlfriend. They’ve been out on a couple of dates and had sex a few times. She doesn’t owe him anything.
Back in the bar, Grey pouts and tells Liz he misses stealing cars as a form of working out his feelings. She gives him a thoughtful look before she walks away.
Her work here is almost done.
Ansel hangs out in Tookie’s food truck. He asks why security deposits are so expensive. Anyone who had a college roommate can answer this one. Tookie gives a long answer that’s too specific to be hypothetical, involving an indoor BBQ, a roast pig and the use of tikki torches.
Dex waits for student drug dealer Rebecca Brylander in the New Seasons parking lot, while Miles and his sometimes police partner Kara Lee wait nearby in their car. Rebecca tries to brush Dex off, saying she’s late for her trapeze lesson. Dex brings up the drugs, moving quickly from asking to buy Adderall to accusing her of stealing the prescription pad from her mother. Dex secretly drops a listening device into Rebecca’s car as they’re arguing. She wanted to upset Rebecca, so the student would be too distracted to notice what she was doing.
And she made the accusation to prompt Rebecca to call her drug connection, who turns out to be MJ Glenway, the volleyball coach who warned Dex not to dig too deep. Rebecca and MJ say enough during their conversation to implicate both of them, so Miles and Kara bring Rebecca into the station.
MJ takes off from the school and rushes home. Kara and Miles bring a team to arrest her, but she’s already gone, apparently with her passport. While they’re figuring out their next step, Miles asks Kara for dating advice. She agrees that sleeping with someone of the same gender is still cheating.
Miles is now spreading outright rumors about Dex, based on what amounts to a game of telephone. Miles hasn’t even asked Dex what really happened. He’s a police detective, he should know better.
Grey jumped to conclusions rather than asking Ansel any questions to clarify the situation, like the obvious, “Did you hear your sister and Liz having sex?” As if Ansel is a child who can’t tell and doesn’t know what sex is. Grey was ableist and a terrible friend to people who he says are his family.
Cosgrove takes a friendly approach when she speaks to Rebecca and her lawyer, treating Rebecca as one of the victims in the case. Rebecca defends MJ as the cool teacher who’s just trying to help the kids get through their stressful high school years. She confesses to putting the pills in Jennifer’s backpack, on MJ’s instructions. MJ told her that Jennifer would ruin them all and that the pills should come from someplace other than MJ’s usual source.
Dex tries to talk to Grey, but he says that the fact that he can’t be sure whether she and Liz had sex or not is worse than knowing for sure that they did. He accuses her of seeking out chaos as a way of avoiding dealing with her issues from the past. He says that she’s a time bomb who hasn’t processed her past, “from your parents to Benny to the war, so you just seek chaos in your life.”
Dex tells him he’s wrong, that she’s working things out and settling down. She points to her moderately successful business as an example. He replies, “Which, I think we both know, you’ll screw up soon enough… You saw that I was finding happiness and you were finding calm and for someone like you, calm is, it’s the enemy. Because that’s when things get quiet and you know, feelings come in. It’s fear or questions. And so a person like you, who hasn’t processed their past at all, when they hear that quiet coming, they light a really big fire so they don’t have to deal with it.”
Dex says that she doesn’t want chaos. Grey accuses her of purposely destroying her relationship with Miles and his with Liz in one move. He tells her to leave the bar, for good. He doesn’t want her around anymore.
Wow, what a friend. Didn’t Dex save his life about two weeks ago, when his past came back to haunt him, putting both Dex and Ansel’s lives in danger? He’s talking about himself in this speech. He’s the one who brought Liz and Kane into their lives. Liz is the main architect of the current chaos.
Grey could have gone to Miles for help with the Kane situation when Jack came back to town, but he didn’t. He kept secrets and used money he owed to a gangster to start his bar, knowing it could come back to haunt him. He also made sure that Miles heard when he accused Dex of cheating. He’s the one who’s blowing up both relationships.
Maybe he wants to date Miles, in which case, Liz did him a favor.
Liz listens to the entire conversation from a spot that’s just out of sight.
Miles and Kara follow MJ’s cell phone to a neighborhood that’s known for frequent drug activity. They spot her car and call for backup. As they wait, Miles broods about Dex, telling Kara that he’s cheated on previous girlfriends, so he’d be a hypocrite if he blamed her.
MJ spots them as she’s walking to her car and decides to run. A chase ensues, first in cars, then on foot. You have to admire MJ’s commitment, if nothing else.
Dex has Sue Lynn show her the surveillance video from her night out with Liz. As they watch, Sue Lynn makes undermining comments that apparently meant to be helpful. They discover that all night long, Liz was pouring her own drinks out while encouraging Dex to drink more than she would have. Sue Lynn correctly makes the point that Liz didn’t actually pour the drinks down Dex’s throat. Liz could only con her because she put herself in the position to be conned.
Dex asks for a copy of the video and Sue Lynn agrees to email it to her.
Sue Lynn: “Dex, we got our issues, but from an outside perspective, it’s time.”
Dex: “It’s time for what?”
Sue Lynn: “Clean up. Make your bed.”
Dex: “What, like literally?”
Sue Lynn: “Literally. Anyone can make their bed. It begins a path to order. Once you’ve got order, you can start to forgive yourself. Besides, stumbling drunk with another man’s girl, it’s not a good look.”
Sue Lynn is a dark goddess if there ever was one, and the queen of mixed messages, so this might be the kindest thing she’ll ever do for Dex. She’s been the leader of her tribe for 30 years, through personal tragedy and scandal, and has avoided being brought down by the schemes of her rivals. She’s trying to tell Dex that she needs to learn how to keep her own life clean if she’s going to make it in a dirty business, both for the sake of her own sanity and to keep herself from becoming a target, the way both Kane and Liz have recently made her and Ansel targets.
Sue Lynn gives us some telling information about herself in this conversation as well, especially when combined with the previous episode. She’s already walked the road she’s prescribing for Dex, perhaps more than once, and it involved forgiving herself. Last week, she forgave a young man who brought death to young people on the reservation. This week she encourages Dex to find some inner peace, suggesting she’s ready to allow Dex to move on from her part in the tragedies of Benny’s life.
She also admonishes Dex not to cheat with other people’s partners, which is an unfair accusation, but a very personal one for Benny’s mother. And it’s part of this show’s consistent attitude that, since Dex is bisexual, everyone is a potential sexual partner, therefore no one is a real friend. Unless it’s someone old enough to be Dex’s parent and/or not conventionally attractive, which is an issue in a lot of other ways, starting with ageism, sizism and ableism. The show and/or Dex are going to need to get over that.
Cosgrove and Miles pretend to work on MJ while she’s alone in an interrogation room with them, but end up telling her she’ just a dirtbag.
Miles and Dex tell Penny and Jennifer that their investigation will result in a huge public scandal for New Seasons. Jennifer can expect a reinstatement offer, but she doesn’t plan to return. Penny and Dex apologize to each other for everything that happened when they were in school and are both glad to be adults.
Dex tries to tell Miles that she doesn’t think she did what he’s assuming she did, but she admits it was questionable. Miles interrupts her, again, and tells her that their relationship should be strictly professional from now on. She accepts his unilateral decision and says that she’s going to try to be better in the future.
After Dex leaves, Kara tells Miles that he’s an idiot. A unilateral decision to break up with Dex isn’t the same thing as communication. But she doesn’t actually say that, sadly. She tells him to express his feelings instead of just brooding, because, according to Kara, women find sensitive men attractive.
Kara doesn’t suggest that Miles listen to Dex, which is what women actually find sexy in a partner. If he did, maybe he’d believe her when she says her night out with Liz wasn’t a date and they didn’t have sex, so he has no reason to brood or feel hurt.
Grey watches the security video from the casino and confronts Liz. She admits that she lied, but says it was because she was trying to save their relationship. She tells Grey that he cares more about Dex than anyone else and no other relationship will work out until he deals with his feelings for her. Grey breaks up with Liz and throws her out. He blames her for the things he said to Dex.
Grey is all about blaming everyone else for his problems this week. But just as Liz didn’t pour the drinks down Dex’s throat, she didn’t put words in his mouth.
Dex takes a shower and literally makes her bed, with military precision. Grey tries to call her, but she doesn’t answer. As she finishes with her bed, Ansel tells her he wants to move out. Then Miles knocks on the door and tells her he’s “not cool with how the day went.” He wants to talk. Grey pulls up outside her house while Miles is still at the door.
It’s going to be a busy night.
I’d love to see some statistics on how trapeze skills improve your chances at anything other than getting into Cirque du Soleil or a traveling Renaissance Faire.
I hope Dex tells Miles that he has to wait until tomorrow while she and Ansel work out his living arrangements. Then in the morning the first thing they do is work out whether Ansel is still working for Grey and their friendships can survive Grey’s betrayals. It’s hard to see how they can get past the terrible things Grey said to Dex and the way he disregarded his friendships with both Dex and Ansel in order to believe Liz’s lie and punish Dex.
Tookie is an underused resource on this show. I vote that in the second half of the season, Ansel works at the food truck instead of the bar and is Tookie’s roommate. Tikki torches are optional but recommended. Dex can meet clients at Tookie’s tables and when it rains, she can work out of a Starbucks, like everybody else.
I’ve left off complaining about Dex’s lack of female friends for a couple of episodes, and the situation has only worsened. The lack of female friendships isn’t even restricted to Dex. In Stumptown, women can love each other sexually, but otherwise, friendship and loyalty are strictly for male-female and male-male relationships.
But the writers and director are probably patting themselves on the back because Dex and Penny passed the Bechdel test when they talked about lice.
Now that Dex’s life is more stable and enough time has passed, she has started processing her issues. We saw that in the last episode, as she talked with Naomi and Sue Lynn and visited Benny’s grave. The show is building up to a big reveal about the war and Benny’s death in the second half of the season, so for now Dex is interrupted every time she gets close to saying it out loud, or anything related to it. But it’s on her mind. She’s not repressing it anymore.
I haven’t wanted to go here, but there is the slightest chance that Benny could be alive, without Dex’s knowledge. Either he seemed dead from a terrible head injury and has had amnesia for a long time, or Sue Lynn knows he’s alive, but kept it from both Naomi and Dex. This show is based on a comic book, after all. Or Dex was pregnant, but gave the baby up for adoption and Sue Lynn has had the baby all along.
Sue Lynn is the Nick Fury of this show, I’m sure of that. All conspiracies involve her somehow and it’s hard to get anything over on her. Which would make Hollis her Maria Hill. Lol.
I think that Grey can see how much Dex is improving. He might be afraid that when she processes her stuff, she won’t need him anymore, so he’s going to push her away first. Because the things he said to her in this episode were vicious. He blamed 4 people’s problems all on her, then threw in Benny for good measure, like Dex is some kind of seductive demon who incapacitates the good sense of everyone around her. He said things that he knew would hit close to home and have nothing to do with the current issue, like saying that her business would fail.
Images courtesy of ABC.