It’s only been a week since the last episode of Rake, but I’m not sure Keegan wasn’t bodysnatched in the interim. Something’s got into him—he takes it easier, yet earns more laughs, than he has all season. The crime of the week is tampering, or more broadly, manipulation—with the show shaking the Kee kaleidoscope to come up with a far funnier, slightly bizarro version. The newly jaunty tone is welcome, if slightly disconcerting.
Part of the weirdness comes from the sure sense that an episode or two has been skipped since last week. The “previously seen” scenes include Kee finding Mikki at dinner with David, the tax attorney who’s going after him. That scene, to the best of my recollection, was never seen before. Other elements, too, indicate a narrative gap, most obviously Maddy accusing Finn of breaking his promise to end his affair with his teacher, where before now she thought Kee was the one involved.
Maybe the show couldn’t resist the temptation to try out this more exciting version of Kee while it remains uncancelled. Kee begins by facing down a burly Russian to come on to a hot guest at Ben’s party, and just takes it from there. Whatever the reason for his confidence, it’s a smart choice, because the new dispensation yields many laughing-at moments in a show that has at times been too laughing-with.
Far from being the guy destined to lose, Kee here has to make a strong effort to overcome his natural tendency to win. All of a sudden, he’s in a bustling office, with Leanne just one among many secretaries working phones outside his swank new chambers. The new client, Lucy, thinks he’s clever enough to get her convicted of tampering with a juror in her daughter’s murder trial. Their initial meeting is loaded with innuendo and Kee’s braggadocio: “There’s nothing I admire more than extremity.” Where was this guy?
Meanwhile, the DA’s office, at the mayor’s behest, is trying to throw the verdict the other direction, with Scarlet and Kee sparring over who can do worse in court (though—strangely given the mojo of this episode—with less sexual undercurrent than usual). The courtroom scenes produce some shining moments, particularly Kee’s thoroughly sexist peroration to a largely female jury. As he successfully undermines Lucy’s case, she keeps him interested with erotic ingenuity. She’s preying on him, but unlike with the juror, it’s presented as pretty much a battle of equals.
Even Ben is showing a lot more brio, bedding (or at least trying to) Scarlet on their (kids’) sofa, then on the (too hard) hardwood floor. It doesn’t work out, but the point is when Kee tells him to be the man, Ben responds. He’s a lot like Kee used to be, actually, with charm but still kind of a goof; the new Kee, though, is much more of an alpha male, not above checking out the competition’s package when he and David are in the bathroom together. But there’s more wit here as well as ribaldry, as Kee trifles with Mikki’s trust just enough in the cousin Angus story. Ultimately, he doesn’t betray her; he doesn’t make her suffer, just squirm.
Kee does screw up by betraying Lucy’s case (over her strenuous objections) and not realizing she would have another dirty trick ready, recorded conversations that could threaten his career. But he’s shown that he can live with the consequences of his heedlessness. This isn’t the Kee we’ve seen quailing at the mere thought of his stalker, but somebody who isn’t afraid to make dangerous enemies (Lucy), or make those enemies worse (the mayor). I like this Kee and his casual embrace of extremity. If he doesn’t survive this season, he can go out on his shield.
Andrew Westney is a Charlotte-based writer and journalist currently reviewing Rake and Helix for Paste. You can (and should!) follow him on Twitter.