If the first two episodes helped set up the season, "Scratches" puts the pedal down and hurtles it forward -- to Dallas, to be exact. While the wheels are in motion on several fronts, they also managed to slip in a theme of control -- makers controlling the vampires they've turned, Steve and Sarah controlling Jason, and MaryAnn trying to control just about everybody else.
We start off with the scene that was previewed at PaleyFest, with Sookie stomping off into the forest after a fight with controlling Bill (they really like make-up sex,) and meeting up with that bullhead beast.
Bullhead (who may or may not be MaryAnn) takes off running with her fingernails like Flo-Jo and gives Sookie some cat-scratch fever. This attack was probably meant to take Sookie out of the picture, but instead sets off a chain of events that leads to a pair of ruined pumps (poor Pam), the release of Lafayette and a road trip to Dallas, where much of this season is set to take place.
Meanwhile, in crazy Christ cult, Jason's haunted by thoughts of Eddie (Stephen Root, back ever so briefly) casting some doubt in his involvement with the vampire hate group. But as it is with much of religion, Sarah knows the way to control Jason is through both guilt and sex -- guilt about not protecting his loved ones, and sex via some serious flirtations. As Rev. Steve points out, "Sarah doesn't just whip out her pudding for anybody."
Speaking of control and sex, Bacchus Babe MaryAnn is throwing a party and has slipped her guests a roofie, or whatever it is that she's calling "juniper." Before you know it, shirts are off, pupils are mydriatic and some sort of orgy* is going on. Tara finally notices things are off, but MaryAnn still has some sort of control over Eggs, and uses his sculpted body to keep her from straying too far.
*For being an orgy of sorts, though, the scene didn't feel very sexy. Call me crazy, but I like my sexy without blown pupils, thank you very much.
Another one MaryAnn might just have some control over is Daphne, who, by no coincidence, shows up the moment that Sam is getting ready to blow out of town. Does the poison from the scratches give control to MaryAnn, and if so, do we assume that was MaryAnn's endgame with Sookie via bullhead? Eric has his sights on Sookie as well, and one wonders if and when either realizes they're not alone in their goal. Regardless, the shot of Daphne's scratches provides a great cut to the title song "Scratches," by blues diva Debbie Davies, who delivers the lines, "Who been making those scratches, all over your back?" Bullhead, that's who!
One final thought: Just how sweet are Jessica and Hoyt together? You have to give Alan Ball credit as he started to set them up last season, with Hoyt asking Sookie if she knew a vampire he could date. She's led a sheltered life and he still lives with his mom ... heck, even Bill, ever the over-protective father figure, seems to cave in to the idea of them dating by the end.
In attempts to get True Blood posts up the night of airing, these playlists will appear a tad incomplete until updated on Monday. UPDATED!
Playlist: True Blood - Episode 2.03
1. "Spell of Wheels" - Peter Case - Sam is angry when Daphne comes up short
2. "Me Cai" - Pacifika - MaryAnn cooking in prep for party
3. "Shooting the Rapids" - Stock music from 5 Alarm - Terry drives off angry
4. "Willin' to Crawl" - Johnny Neel - Tara and Eggs talk at beginning of party
5. "What's a Man to Do" - The Mule Newman Band - Sam warns Tara via phone message
6. "Sex and Candy" - Marcy Playground - Jessica walks into Merlottes, talks with Hoyt
7. "When the Fire Starts to Burn" - Stock music from Black Toast Music - Jessica reveals to Hoyt she's a vampire
8. "Ice Ages" - DJ Acucrack - Sookie negotiates with Eric
9. "Power (Voodoo Version) - King Britt Presents Sister Gertrude Morgan - Andy shows up at MaryAnn's party
10. "Destiny Complete" - The Angel - Tara notices what's going on at the party
11. "Scratches" - Debbie Davies - Closing credits
Previously: Keep This Party Going (Episode 2.02)