This week’s episode of Graceland, “Aha,” picks up right where “Sense Memory” left off. In response to Ari’s call, Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) meets the new villain of the season, who immediately points a gun at him and demands answers about the previous night. Following his own plan, Paul responds with a clear alibi and argues that he has no idea what took place after he left Ari (Rhys Coiro) at the bar. Then he proceeds to help the Armenian retrace his steps in order to get clarity as to why he was drenched in blood, has no bullets in his piece, and so on.
Right off the bat, Ari tells Briggs that there was a pack of cigarettes that did not belong to him in his pockets, while he has no recollection to how his car got wrecked. The two struggle to open the trunk of the vehicle, where they encounter empty red tanks and a receipt proceeding from a purchase at a gas station. The pair head to the address on the piece of paper and are met by bullets. Mike (Aaron Tveit), undercover as a clerk, is the gunman, who aside from pulling the trigger, lets out that Ari was there the night before, got upset because he couldn’t find his brand of cigarettes, and beat him down while threatening to castrate him. He also offers that Ari paid with Layla’s credit card. Ari doesn’t fully believe the whole story, and decides to use his own tactics in order to get information, which, fortunately for Mike, doesn’t happen as Martum Sarkissian (Peter Stormare) arrives at the scene, worried because his daughter has been missing.
In a flashback, Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) and Mike are at a dingy motel room, where she is applying makeup to Agent Blue Eyes in order to make the story about the beating believable. Moreover, the two have a sweet exchange of words regarding the trials and tribulations they have been through, especially Mike. The scene hits all the right notes and mixes the mission with the camaraderie aspect of the show well. Additionally, through another flashback, Johnny (Manny Montana) and Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) call the Head of the Armenian Mafia, pretending to be Layla’s phone provider, and give the worried father the location of the last place where her phone was active. Both flashbacks act as the behind the scenes to Briggs’s scheme, which so far has been executed to perfection by the newly solidified team, a treat that the audience of the show surely welcomed.
While conceding Sarkissian’s order to follow him, knowing that Layla (Maryam CnÃ©) is MIA, and connecting the dots on the paper so far, Ari begins to panic and believes that he might have killed Layla. His memory is too blurry to make a definite assessment, though. Back in the car, the psychopath confides in Briggs (who throughout the episode, honors his cover without a flaw) that he had met Layla at the bar. She was wearing a provocative red dress and had ask him to take her to the dessert to have one of their furtive adult playdates.
As Sarkissian, his goon, Ari, and Briggs drive to a cabin, they find that the house is empty. However, they follow footprints and marks on the ground in the woods that lead them to the remains of a bonfire with bones in it, right next to Layla’s red dress. The conclusion all men extract from the fool-proof planted evidence is that someone killed the mafioso’s daughter. Briggs then brings up that maybe the man who had crashed into her was responsible for the crime, only to get punched and have a gun put against his head. Luckily, he wiggles out of trouble, which is a constant for the 90% of the episode. In parallel, as Markum is devastated since he believes his daughter to be dead, his bodyguard finds a single cigarette and motel key, which reads “aha,” close to the bones.
Through flashbacks, the audience gets, once again, to know how the scene was fabricated. Johnny and DJ made it look like a a body had been dragged, that the tires had been burned, and placed monkey bones and the key–all of that happens while they discuss the moving parts of the plan they set in motion, and the end result they hppe for. Johnny questions the fact that they are actually orchestrating Ari’s execution; n turn, Jakes, or the most reliable source of reason in Graceland, points that it was Logan who propelled the domino effect that got Briggs in the situation he is in. He also points out that Ari had it coming and that they are doing the best they can with the cards they were dealt. It is almost poetic that the gray areas the agents are always navigating are put into open discussion through dialogue when the flashback elements are all shot in black and white, an aesthetic that not only is appealing and unexpected considering the brightness characteristic of the show’s imagery but that also works well narratively, enhancing the juxtaposition of the scenes.
Thanks to a convincing staging performed by Mike and Charlie, Ari and Paul go to the “aha” room and discover a gory scene. There is blood everywhere and bullets in the mattress, elements that make a compelling case about what Ari had been fearing. He is now under the belief that he has slaughtered Layla. Paul takes the opportunity to become essential to his target and helps him clean up the room, yet Ari decides that they can’t leave DNA there. Therefore, his master plan is to burn the place. He walks to his car to get gasoline and matches, but first he tries to light up a cigarette. That cigarette costs the Graceland team the whole plan as it propels the villain to have his key “uh-huh” moment.
Flashbacks strike again. At the bar, Jakes drugs Ari with GHB, while Paige (Serinda Swan), wearing Layla’s red dress and posing as the Sarkissian princess, lures the man out of the establishment. Once Ari passes out, the whole team stages the car crash, the ticket, and the tanks in the trunk, and Paige is the one who burns the man’s fingertips, only she makes a mistake. All the while, Colby (Evan Jones) has been with Layla, who had also been sedated, and the retired agent is the one who provided Paige with the dress.
Back to the present, Ari realizes that with the wrong burns, the whole bogus putting together of the night falls apart. He makes a call to Markum that Briggs cannot decode, since he does not speak the Armenian language. However, the agent is soon aware that he is in hot water. Ari points a gun at him and takes him to another location, where Paul finds his friend Colby massacred in a bathtub. Briggs falls to the floor as his cover is in pieces. Ari lights a match and announces that the two need to talk.
“Aha” was a very compelling and thrilling episode. Every scene was vital to the installment, and all the moving parts were meticulously put into motion. In spite of the plan costing Colby’s life, strategically, it was a good idea; after all, it was the smallest of details that doomed Team Graceland. It was nice to see the group effort and Ari at a disadvantage. Now the problem is that the fire has been fueled. Ari is a blood-thirsty lunatic, and he will seek revenge, no doubt. At the same time, Colby is a great loss, and a death that will be on Paul’s conscience.
[Photo credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network]