07/05/2011 08:04 pm ET Updated Sep 04, 2011

True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 4, Ep. 2

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

I'd like to begin the discussion of this week's installment, "You Smell Like Dinner," with a word about nudity. And no, that word is not "delicious," despite the physiques of the cast.

This week, I was struck that the show's relationship to nudity is very complex. Sure, nakedness always comes with a sexual charge, but when characters are naked, they are more likely to drop the conditioning of human society and start spilling inner secrets or behaving like animals. That's a fairly standard metaphor, I guess -- frenzied liberation makes the characters in the musical Hairget naked, too -- but True Blood complicates things by letting nakedness reveal different things in different folks. Not everyone is releasing the same kind of wild honesty.

Take Luna, one of the shifters in Sam's new support group/Run-Like-a-Pony club. Early in the episode, we see her finish a pony run with Sam. They're both lying on the ground, panting and nude. and since they're really into each other, there's obviously frisson. However, they don't get freaky in the dirt. Instead, they talk about their attraction to each other, about their desire to be honest with each other, and about the difficulty of opening up when you've got a lot of big secrets. And when Sam does go in for a kiss, Luna runs away, in horse-form. The suggestion is that Luna, at her naked and vulnerable core, is likely to bolt.

But when she shows up later in Merlotte's, fully dressed, she suppresses that instinct pretty well, giving Sam a level 10 flirt attack. And later, when she's back in the support group, again with clothes on, she shares part of the secret that's got her so scared: she once shifted into her own mother, who died giving birth to her. That's awkward, because in her culture, shifters are seen as evil people who get their power from killing a relative. Oops! Sorry mom!

Anyway: It's interesting that Luna's "naked self" is less honest and forthright than her "clothed self." Her "civilized" instincts force her to open up, while her animal ones make her run like wild horses.

Conversely, Tommy and Sam are honking jerks when they're wearing plaid shirts, but when they're naked together, after Sam catches Tommy spying on the shifter club, they tell each other the truth. Most brothers I know would feel kind of weird to be nude together in the woods, especially if they had just been rolling around and fighting, but for the shifter boys, this condition leads to tenderness. They want to care about each other like brothers, but they realize they'll have to take it one step at a time -- because of, you know, all that shooting and stealing from last season.

Meanwhile, over in the naked times of Hotshot, Crystal and Felton strip in front of Jason and say they want to make a baby with him. Jason, hilariously, is confused by why Felton needs to be there, and he wonders why they won't untie him first. The Hotshotters reveal that Felton's "shooting blanks," and since Crystal is duty-bound to propagate the werepanther species, they need to turn Jason into a werepanther and then mate him with Crystal. I'm sure he would've helped them fill out adoption papers, but they're impatient, I guess.

Anyway, this revelation is the climax of an intense day. The episode opens with Timbo (played to gawky perfection by Dane DeHaan, don't you think?) licking blood off the head wound he gave Jason last week, after he clocked him and shoved him in a deep freezer. Just when you think you've seen every type of homoerotic encounter, you can always count on True Blood to show you a malnourished teenage boy licking the bloody wound of a local policeman who's tied to the bed. I bet even the porn industry hasn't thought of that one yet.

But Timbo's not being overtly sexual. As Jason correctly guesses, he's licking Jason's head because he cares about him. (Cats lick their babies to show love, etc.) That gruesome affection continues when Sheriff Andy shows up to support his V habit by "seizing evidence." To keep Jason quiet, Crystal stuffs part of his shirt in his mouth. There's violence in that, but there's love, too, because Crystal doesn't want her beloved to get away. In their own way, it seems like everyone, even Felton, loves Jason, or at least needs him. They're tying him up and forcibly transforming him into a werepanther not only to protect themselves, but also to show their affection.

Speaking of affection -- and going back to nudity -- isn't it interesting how Bill becomes a fang-bearing, scary-looking monster whenever he's having sex? He always reaches a point when he stops looking sweet and sensitive and sad... and starts looking like a vampire who will bite your face off. That's what happen when he's boffing Katerina, the spy who infiltrated the coven last week. But when Sookie shows up on the grounds, shocked to discover that Bill is now the King of Louisiana, he goes back to his softer self.

That's Bill's major arc: Trying to balance his feral vampire side and his sensitive human side. (I mentioned this in last week's Sucker Punch as well, in case you missed it.) That arc gets more complex when we learn that Bill has become the King not just to sleep with Katerina and boss Eric around... but to infiltrate the vampire government from the inside in order to propagate a new order. We learn this in a flashback to London in 1982, when Bill (looking hilariously out-of-place as a punk rocker in a dank bar) seduces, feeds on, and then doesn't kill a cute bartender. After he lets the guy go, who should emerge from the shadows but Nan Flanagan(!), hair teased out to glory, telling Bill she wants him to help her "mainstream" vampires into society.

Later, in another flashback, we finally see the moment where Bill kills Queen Sophie Ann, or rather, has a group of human soldiers shoot her with wooden bullets. Nan storms in and makes him King, ostensibly pushing her agenda for vampire integration (and the importance of draining humans without killing them.)

So... Good Bill is prevailing, I guess. And lord he has the sense not tell Nan the reason that Sophie Ann was interested in Sookie. Even Nan wouldn't be able to resist the news that homegirl's a fairy... any more than Jessica could resist this week's temptation to have an illicit "feeding" with that cute boy she flirted with in Fangtasia last week. This, after Hoyt gets in a fight with a group of anti-vamp protestors to defend her honor.

But let's go back to Sookie, who almost has to deal with Eric's creepy decision to build himself a sleeping chamber in her house. Obviously, he's right that vampires won't be able to resist her blood -- which he says smells like "freedom" because it lets vampires walk in the sun -- and as Pam points out, he may actually being trying to spare her from constant attack by becoming her "owner" or whatever.

But for now, all that's moot, since King Bill dispatches Eric to check on the coven of witches. Apparently, their ability to reanimate the dead is bad news for vampires. He shows up to threaten Marnie and is about to drain her blood when Tara tries to stop him. She heeded Lafayette's text, you see, and came back home to see Sookie... then ended up at the coven meeting with Fay-Fay and Jesus. So anyway, Eric turns his attention to Tara, which convinces a hesitant Lafayette to start chanting a spell along with the other witches. (Gotta save family!) Because Fay-Fay is obviously a very powerful witch, even if he doesn't know it, his involvement in the spell instantly makes it work. Marnie gets possessed by a Latin-spouting spirit, some very creepy effects make her eyes and face go crazy, and then... boom. Eric gets his memory wiped.

And obviously, the next scene, when Sookie discovers a confused Eric wandering down the road, is this week's Sucker Punch. It may not be the gaudiest moment of the week -- except for Eric's utterly unnecessary (but welcome) shirtlessness -- but it's certainly the most surprising. I look forward to next week, when the entire town has to re-teach Eric how to read.

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