‘Ozark’ Season 4, Episode 12 Recap: ‘Trouble the Water’

Ozark

Trouble The Water

Season 4

Episode 12

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

Photo: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

The creators of Ozark use music very carefully. Opening with “Right Down the Line” fits the ’70s van that Charlotte Byrde is driving, but this is also an episode about personal lines. How far will someone go morally to protect their own self-interests? And how will they sleep at night when they know they have crossed those lines? It’s a really fascinating episode in how the threads tie together with similar, life-changing questions. Will Ruth allow an innocent man to stay behind bars to protect her future? Will Sattem betrayed everything he knows about the Byrdes to regain his past? And are Marty and Wendy really willing to enable widespread election fraud to accomplish their goals? Maya has one of the most resonant lines: “If you succeed, God’ll still know. There’s no escape.”

After bailing Marty out of jail for his road-rage incident, Wendy confronts him about what happened with Omar and Camila at the hospital — when Wendy surprised Marty by putting Javi’s mother in power. Wendy wants Camila close and engaged, but Marty knows it’s not sustainable to funnel shipments to the FBI under her nose. “We are so close,” says Wendy. She’s been using those words a lot lately — three times this episode — so close. A big question arises: What happens after they escape? She tells him that she’d understand if he wanted to leave. Is she fishing for resilience? Marty doesn’t give it, walking away in silence.

Mel’s arc in this episode starts when he tells Nathan that they are never going to find Ben. He’s dead. And Wendy knows more than she’s telling. Meanwhile, Ruth meets up with power broker Charlie Wilkes, who connects her with a judge who can purge her record so Ruth can buy the Belle. Rachel calls her a “goddamn redneck success story,” which she should put on her business cards. Later, the judge seems to take to Ruth, but Ruth is distracted by another problem when Deputy Wycoff tells her that they’ve arrested someone for Wyatt’s murder. The evidence? Stolen property that the former Snell employee was trying to pawn. Ruth pauses. She knows the guy is innocent, but it might lead to Javi’s murder if she reveals how she knows. Just as Ruth might go straight, she’s confronted with one of those lines: Would you give up your future to save an innocent man?

While Sam is finding God at the Lazy-O, Nathan makes a major decision: He wants Charlotte and Jonah to come home with him, and he’s going to legally petition to have custody. It’s an interesting play. If you take Nathan at his word, he believes that Wendy had something to do with her brother’s death, and that makes for a dangerous environment for his grandkids. Now, he also has an abusive, controlling past with Wendy Davis, which shouldn’t be discounted. It can be both — something he thinks is in the best interest of the kids and a power play. Are the Byrdes going to end this show split up?

After hearing about the custody play, the political animal that is Wendy makes a major move by going to Senator Schafer to get Mel reinstated to the Chicago police force. The problem is that they already have a favor in play in getting Omar off the SDN list, and politicians like Schafer don’t give out two. It’s one or the other unless they’re willing to help with that election-fraud thing. The Byrdes aren’t willing to go there and decide to use their connection on Sattem instead of Navarro. They will need to pull other strings, and Omar will have to show patience, which is not in his skill set.

After the Byrdes bribe the head of the police union with enough money to buy a boat to sail to Wisconsin, Marty gives Mel the good news: He’s needed in Chicago immediately! He can’t possibly make the custody hearing! “You people are good,” he says. It’s an amazing power play: giving someone who could ruin your life everything that he’s ever asked for. Mel could break up a family that he honestly believes should be broken up or go back to Chicago. He calls his sponsor and says that the Byrdes are like “nine to 9.5” on a ten-point scale of evil. Yep.

It somehow gets worse for Marty and Wendy when they arrive to discuss the plans with Omar and find Camila there. The SDN list isn’t in motion. Omar demands action and more money being spread around — turn up the laundering. Wendy calls to give Schafer what they need in Michigan and Wisconsin. To get Omar out of prison, they’re going to commit election fraud. Amazing. The Byrdes have already changed the Ozarks forever, but this final move could change the world.

Ruth goes to see the guy who stole Wyatt’s guitar and who might go up the river on some pretty shoddy evidence. He just stole the ax for drug money. She’s trying to decide the risk involved in saving this guy’s life. Ruth is also looking at a potential version of herself, and that’s when she gets scared. This guy knew her family name, and he too lost branches off his family tree. He grew up in the same area. Ruth could have easily been him. But she walks away looking like she won’t let that happen.

Mel is twisting himself into a pretzel about his decision, and Maya draws the line. If he goes back to Chicago, she won’t see him again. She’s done with these morally gray men. And she knows he will regret it. Maya calls to give the Byrdes a hard time as the episode cuts to Nathan waiting in court for his detective BFF. Sattem didn’t even give him a heads-up. He’s checking out of the Lazy-O, and Sam says he was thinking about going to Gamblers Anonymous. Mel responds by saying how much he owes to AA, but he’s lying to himself by defying his sponsor’s advice and his own conscience. We’ll see if it backfires.

While Mel runs back to the Windy City, the power play doesn’t work. Despite no hearing, the judge has an appeal in front of her and plenty of evidence. Charlotte can choose her own welfare, and Jonah can go with her. There’s no reasonable argument against it if he can live in a seedy motel. “We’re going with Grandpa,” says Charlotte, throwing Marty’s words about Wendy back at her. And Wendy falls apart. Imagine Wendy giving up all she has worked for her abusive father. She’s on her knees, begging. Why? Because ALL of this was worthless if she loses her family. Wendy has told herself over and over again that she could do anything to protect them. What was the point if they leave her? She gets in the car, catatonic, and then smashes her head into the window. Blood trickles down her face. Her expression doesn’t change.

• Sam humming “Wade in the Water” is kind of adorable. Think about all the chapters that Sam has had over the years. Will he be one of the few Ozark characters to actually get a happy ending? What about a spinoff?

• Director Amanda Marsalis helms a lot of this season, including four of the seven chapters in part two. Before this, she directed the season-two finale and a chapter in season three. A TV vet, she has directed Westworld, Veronica Mars, The Umbrella Academy, and more. She’s doing an excellent job in this stretch.

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