‘True Blood’ Season 7 Episode 3 Recap: “Fire in the Hole”

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With apologies to those who are truly broken up about what happened on True Blood last night (details after the jump), I’d argue that the only great thing about the show’s giant, unwieldy ensemble is that it leaves enough room some truly shocking character deaths — especially in this final season. Amid all the speechifying and sex and belabored subtext, these moments seem to be the only plot points that can drive this flabby and confused story forward.

So, yes, last night we said goodbye to Alcide. He took a vigilante bullet while attempting to save Sookie from her dumb plan to lure the Hep-V vampires with her irresistible fairy blood, a scheme she believed would lead her to Arlene, Holly, and the rest of the townspeople they captured. In what seemed to be a tribute to Alcide’s most defining character trait — his torso — True Blood prefaced his death with an entire episode of the nice-guy wolfman either shirtless or naked, hunting for Sookie while she babbled at Vampire Bill about not loving Alcide as much as he loves her.

These scenes were truly painful to watch. Somehow, despite the fact that they’ve spent seven scenes starring opposite each other and are, in fact, married in real life, there remains zero onscreen chemistry between Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. This is likely going to be a problem for the rest of the season; with Alcide dead (and Sookie unwilling to have him reanimated as a vampire) and Eric overseas (more about him later, thank god), it seems inevitable that Sookie will at least temporarily reunite with Vampire Boyfriend #1. That would certainly explain all of this week’s heart-to-hearts, including the revelation that Bill is basically a new man — er, vampire — in the aftermath of last season’s ordeal, although of course he still has to live with the guilt of what he’s done to Sookie forever.

Elsewhere this week: Maxine Fortenberry and the vigilante bigots set up a roadblock, kill off Sam’s vampire companion, and inform him that he’s no longer the mayor. Sam shifts into a bird to escape, and has an excruciating conversation about death and faith with Reverend Daniels, who will later bore us with another speech to Willa about how bonkers Lettie Mae saved him (sure, guy), so he can’t have any vamps hanging around the house, tempting her with their psychedelic blood. Back at the roadblock, Maxine shoots and wounds Jessica, and Violet makes good on her temporary truce with Jess by ripping out Hoyt’s mom’s heart. In case you weren’t hip to all the subtext happening here, allow Andy’s fairy-teen daughter, Adilyn, to clear it up for you: “They’re after anyone and anything that’s different than they are.”

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, on to storylines I can still bring myself to care about. First up, Lafayette and James! In a particularly inspired attempt at seduction, Lafayette mixes up some DIY Tuinal and invites James to suck it out of his blood. These two experienced psychonauts have a grand old night, but nothing sexy happens between them, and in the end James reminds Lafayette that he’s with Jessica. Here’s hoping someone clues boyfriend in that Jess is meant to be with Jason, and poor Lafayette could use a happy ending to this silly, endless story, too.

But the big news this week, as far as I’m concerned, is that Eric and Pam’s story is finally going somewhere. When we left them last week, she had just found him — and realized he had been stricken by The Hep V. In “Fire in the Hole,” we learn that Eric contracted the virus in St. Petersburg, after pretty much giving up on life. (“You know how I hate the Russian people,” sneers Pam, who still gets all of the show’s best lines.) Not even the news of his vampire granddaughter (?) Tara’s True Death can move him.

The best part of this week’s Eric-and-Pam story happens in flashback: the year is 1986, we’re in the French wine country, and Eric — styled like a romance-novel cover of the period, complete with half-buttoned shirt — is indulging in a lovely young woman named Sylvie like she’s a priceless bottle of red. Of course, Nan Flanagan shows up to spoil the party. She lectures Eric and Pam about their blatant disregard for the Authority and general irresponsibility to their vampire brethren. And then she tries to get them on board with Tru Blood, currently in development by the mysterious Japanese Yakimono corporation. Eric, predictably, tells Nan to go fuck herself. Not even Pam — deploying lines like, “I am as big a fan of the French vagina as you are, Eric” — can convince him that this is serious. Sylvie wants to stick around for college, he tells Pam. They’re staying, and she should trust him, not the Authority.

This does not end well for Eric, Pam, or particularly Sylvie. Yakimono sends a full-on squadron of dudes dressed in black to the vineyard to capture Eric. They get a hold of both Pam and Sylvie, and make him choose which one to save. Eric begs them to kill him instead, and offers them money to spare both women. (Yakimono’s response seems like a preview of the groan-worthy political commentary we’ll be seeing from this storyline: “You are a wealthy man,” they tell him, “but you are no corporation.” Global capitalism, you guys!) Obviously, Eric ultimately decides to save Pam, and poor Sylvie gets skewered.

Back in the present, still pleading with Eric to give life another go, Pam plays her trump card: Sarah Newlin is still alive. That does the trick. Eric is ready to go after her, but Yakimono — still, apparently, very much a force in these semi-post-apocalyptic times — might just beat him to it. After catching a glimpse of Anna Camp’s delightfully devious bubblehead, now in hiding as a brunette named Numi on a stylish yoga retreat, in the episode’s first few moments, we see her in bed with her charismatic guru.

Sadly, this character doesn’t last long — when he won’t give up Sarah, the Yakimono guys behead him. The last we see of Sarah this episode, she’s watching his blood seep under the door of the wine cellar where she’s hiding. I’m for any plot development that brings Eric, Pam, and Sarah Newlin together, so my fingers are crossed that we’ll get a whole lot of more of this — and a whole lot less of the thoughts, hopes, dreams, and emotions of the Bon Temps human-vampire-fairy-shifter coalition — next week.