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True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 3, Ep. 4

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Welcome to Sucker Punch, the only blog post that ranks the gaudiest moments on this week's episode of True Blood.

(Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

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Ring ring, hooker. Ring, ring. It's your Sucker Punch calling, so pick up the damn phone.

This week's installment, "9 Crimes," features many delights, like Lafayette's flawless telephone greeting, but the real story just might be Destiny-Camilla-Anne. You know, the stripper who Bill "procures" and then devours in the back of a limo with Crazy Lorena & The Mississippi King.

When Bill glamours our young dancer in a topless bar, she says, "I know the truth about love. It's a hell I'll never get out of alive." And damn if that's not a valuable tool for examining this entire season.

See, I've been talking about the show's fixation on power and weakness, but this episode makes me see another dominant theme: The unavoidable sacrifice of love.

In one way or another, almost every character is sacrificing something in order to obtain or protect a loved one. The sacrifice is not always noble and the love is not always pure, but the underlying motivations are the same.

Take Bill: He seduces and eats poor Destiny-Camilla-Anne because he's forcing himself to become a hard-ass vampire again. He tells Lorena that he's acting this way because he's killing his love for Sookie, but it's more likely that he's protecting Sookie. He's sacrificing his own happiness and lingering sense of humanity so that he can shelter the person he loves.

Sookie, meanwhile, is constantly sacrificing her safety on Bill's behalf. Does this make her a perpetual victim, like I suggested last week? Yeah, I think it does. Does this lead to even more dumb behavior in the werewolf bar? Oh yeah. I mean, my girl shouldn't need that many exchanges with Alcide to realize that a group of biker wolves who are high on Mississippi's blood are really, really dangerous.

But still... she keeps putting herself in harm's way because she believes she needs to. She feels it's her responsibility to her beloved. And the terrible irony this week is that Bill senses she's in trouble in Lou Pines, but he doesn't go save her. His sacrifice and her sacrifice fuse together into bad news for everybody. That's one of the consequences of love. Sometimes, it screws everybody up.

Then there's Debbie, Alcide's ex-girlfriend. At the end of the episode, she bares herself to a room full of werewolves, desperate to be inducted into their crazy group. She gets branded with their mark, makes out with Coot, and vehemently rejects Alcide, who is trying to protect her from her new friends. She seems to be sacrificing her dignity and humanity in order to gain the love/acceptance of the pack. And Alcide, meanwhile, is more than willing to sacrifice his pride to try to re-obtain her.

This perspective also softens me a little (just a little!) on the Tara question: The poor girl has spent the entire series looking for love (both romantic and parental) in all the wrong places, and she has given away her strength and identity in the process. There's something terribly human in that desperation. If we sit still and listen to ourselves, I bet we all can remember a time that we were so hungry for acceptance that we sold ourselves out. We went against our very natures in order to get that one kind look, that one approving kiss that we believed would somehow, somehow make us worthwhile.

When I consider Tara from that perspective, I feel for her. Yes, I am getting tired of her endless whining and passivity, but still... I feel for her.

Weirdly, I also feel for Franklin, the meth-head-looking British vampire who's forcing Tara to be his girlfriend. What he's doing to her is abhorrent, but he tells Tara that he's battling his loneliness and emotional emptiness by making her love him. That's just so... sad. And again, yes, he's totally in the wrong, but at what point did this vampire sacrifice his decency in order to obtain love? Have any of us gotten close to the edge he crossed over?

Speaking of edges, Eric and Pam may not be in romantic love, but they are certainly laying it on the line for each other this week. Pam tries to protect Eric from the Magister, which gets her tortured for possibly selling V. Then Eric tries to protect Pam and they both end up fingering Bill. It's all very messy, but we can also see that it's coming from a weirdly decent place. Or at least, partly it is. I also think Eric and Pam are looking to save their own skins, but they do have some kind of loyalty to each other.

Meanwhile, Sam's brother Tommy reveals that he is sacrificing any hope of happiness in order to take care of his stank parents. His broken life is an example of love gone sour, and frankly, that makes me care about this plotline for the first time. This kind of conflict could make Sam's clan more than just a passel of rednecks. (Though I must give props to Redneck Papa for saying that Tommy makes his "butt itch." Hilarious.)

And look... I know this theme of love and sacrifice doesn't relate to every story, but it's interesting to chew on. It's fascinating how often characters are forced to debase themselves for love. It's fascinating how often their love ends up like a prison, like a hell they'll never get out of alive.

Does that make love worthless, then? Maybe, but I don't think that's what True Blood is telling us. At this point in the season, I think it's thrusting us into the dark part of the forest, asking us to face the nasty consequences of love and decide if we still think it's a worthy emotion.

Naturally, I think it is. I'm a softie like that. I even see hope in the way Jason handles Kitch Maynard, the blowhard high schooler who has handily taken over the "Jason Stackhouse" role among the teenage crowd. When Jason confronts Kitch in Merlotte's, warning him that he's eventually going to get replaced by the next Kitch Maynard, there's certainly some alpha dog posturing at work. But there's also a backward bit of kindness: In a way, Jason is reaching out to this kid and trying to warn him. In a way, he's sacrificing his own coolness in order to wake Kitch up the way he himself has woken up. He's showing a strange kind of love to his younger self, even as he's trying to humiliate him. That's complicated and fascinating. That's a Sucker Punch.

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