iZombie: Love & Basketball

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This episode of iZombie begins right where we left off, mid-liplock, with Major and Liv in a long-awaited makeout reunion in the threshold of her apartment. Liv slams on the breaks, worried that she’s already lapsed her judgment long enough to transmit zombism to Major. It’s honestly a really refreshingly open and grounded discussion about sexually transmitted diseases and waiting to get tested, only the disease in question results in eating brains and not a persistent itch, which is terrific. It does end the makeout session and land Major on her couch to crash.

The following morning, she runs a series of basic tests to be sure he isn’t waking from the ultimate slumber. Major tries to brush off all the “no sex” and implied “just hand stuff” as Liv overreacting, but she’s not taking a chance. She watched him die once and she would clearly like to avoid doing so a second time. He agrees to her terms albeit under duress and before the conversation can continue, she’s off to investigate the murder of a security guard downtown with Clive and Ravi.

Also carried over from last episode is the poor, newly undead drug cutter who had previously gotten in good with Jesus but through torture and zombifying means is back to strike a deal with Blaine. He refuses to eat brains so he will do what he can to recreate the drug and create a cure. The guy was unstable before he was kidnapped and turned into a zombie, so this seems doomed from the start.

Liv snacks on this week’s brain and starts running stat counts with Clive about the Knicks’ dwindling season. This once again begs the question why Liv doesn’t explain the “I take on characteristics of the people I research” but instead waves off her newfound sports knowledge as an odd coincidence. The fact that she thought the same Knicks mug she’s poking fun at Clive for having on his desk was labeled to store knickknacks and was caught stuffing it with paper clips. Clive hardly buys it, but he’s more concerned with having potentially overstepped his bounds and asked Suzuki’s widow whether he could’ve been suicidal in the days leading up to his death. They’re interrupted by nearly an entire boys’ basketball team there to offer their help in finding their dead coach’s killer. Suddenly the basketball stats make a little more sense coming from a night watchman and Clive takes down their tips, promising to get them retribution. One kid asks if Washington allows the death penalty, so you know exactly how eager they to get justice.

Gilda, on the other hand, is helping the long-term injustice Max Rager has planned get further underway. She follows up with a colleague, a doctor in charge of researching zombies that haven’t eaten brains in months. She needs the blood of a coherent zombie — one that hasn’t gone so incredibly feral — in order to know for sure the effects their dosed energy drinks will have on the world. It’s still somewhat unclear what their endgame is other than turning a lot of people into brain-starved maniacs, but we’re inching closer by the episode to finding out exactly what. The doctor suggests Gilda get some of Liv’s blood to test or ask their resident zombie hunter, Major, to do her dirty work for her, per-kill. When she brings this up to Major, afterwards, he considers it but not before he gets a stronger tranquilizer to use on the zombies he’s taking down. The last one woke up in his trunk and made all kinds of depressingly specific pleas for his life and for those he cares about. We knew that was a particularly hard egg for Major to crack, resulting in him adopting Minor, but it’s the first time we’re seeing him go into detail about exactly how horrific it’s been.

Running down the lead they were given by the basketball team, Liv and Clive talk with a former teammate who was no longer on the team because of an altercation between his father and the deceased coach. Liv has some telling flashbacks where we find out that the reason for this fight was the coach stepping in to prevent the father from smacking around his son. It’s very upsetting imagery and for much of the episode ends up as a mostly dead-end, but it eliminates him as a suspect soon after.

Later, when he’s wallowing over reliving his last kill, Major is teetering on the edge of falling off the wagon he’s only been on for twenty-four hours. Liv shows up just in time to give him a rousing Coach Taylor-style speech. It’s a very goofy scene but helps bring some levity back to the show while Major is still discreetly holding an opened and ready to be snorted tab of Utopium beneath the covers.

In a similarly outlandish but enjoyable moment, Clive takes a ride by the meathead abusive dad from earlier’s house, afterhours. It’s dark and he drives up half on the guy’s front lawn, but when he comes out ready for a fight, Clive brings it. There hasn’t been a ton of action on this show for people other than the zombies, but this was really terrifying and intense. He tells the dad that he has hand-delivered a business card to his son’s teachers and will know if he touches him ever again. The dad taps out and we’re left wondering if they’re reminding us that Clive is a way bigger threat than the show sometimes allows us to acknowledge. It’s a much scarier place to view the police officer from a team other than his own.

The next morning, nursing a bruised hand and an overexerted ego, Clive is called into his boss’ office to be reprimanded. He thinks it’s for the stunt he pulled the night before but instead it’s because he called Suzuki’s widow and news got back to his captain. He promises to leave it alone.

Liv has the bright idea of giving Major some purpose again and brings him to substitute for the dead coach’s basketball team. It’s a great reminder that although we think of the Major and Liv beats as being primarily romantic, they were best friends first. She isn’t trying to make him feel better with irrelevant hobbies or distractions. The very next day she’s found him something that will instantly gratify the side of him that is desperate to help people and shape young minds. They work equally well together, co-coaching the team and performing like a comedy routine while shouting out calls and criticism of the players.

Meanwhile, Ravi is back at the lab preparing another recently deceased for their autopsy when one of Blaine’s minions drops off a glass container full of liquid “cure” for him to test. He’s flabbergasted and intrigued, ready to start work immediately.

Later, since Gilda hasn’t gotten a zombie blood sample to give yet, she decides to take matters into her own hands. While she regales Liv about her recent romantic tryst with Major as Liv tells her that she also had a rekindling of affection the other day (unbeknownst to either women that they’re talking about the same guy, at first). Once Liv has gone into more detail and explains the circumstances, namely that it was with her ex which Gilda knows to be Major, does her expression darken. Liv is chopping vegetables to skewer and as she’s talking to Gilda, the other woman plays dumb as she accidentally stabs Liv, a small amount of blood resulting. Liv has already healed so her immediate worry is Gilda wondering why there’s no wound, so she doesn’t dwell on the slip of her roommate’s hand when she rushes off to bandage it up. Gilda uses this opportunity to wipe up some blood and hold onto the napkin as a sample although it’s clear that she enjoyed stabbing Liv a little too much after hearing that Major has unceremoniously ended their fling.

Looking back into the trail of the coach’s potential murderers, a crowdfunding site was the source of an anonymous $4,100 on the day he died, leading Clive to assume the source might have had a hand in the killing. Up until that point, the campaign had only raised $900. While running down leads, Dale interrupts Clive’s investigation with an unrelated but game changing piece of encouragement. She is clearly taking a liking to the fact that Clive is a dogged investigator and wants to share with him an insight into his methods being worthwhile. She confirms first that he was the first person on the scene after the Meat Cute massacre before telling him that he’s not crazy for pursuing it so long after it’s been declared resolved. The first of the men she is investigating, Alan York, the astronaut that mysteriously disappeared last season (whom the audience knows Blaine killed to supplant a wealthy client’s whims of wanting to experience being an astronaut after consuming his brain), is related to the case beyond his esteem and vanishing. Upon investigating the crime scene, they found a hair belonging to York in the sink at the restaurant. Clive is understandably stunned.

Ravi is readying his research to test to cure on a series of rats when Clive stops by with a new break in the case. They are dragged to another morgue and autopsy the body of one of the unidentified men who were seen in the lobby of the building where our dead basketball coach was killed. Dragged, specifically, because Ravi absolutely loathes the other coroner and makes it less than subtle. They trade jabs back and forth as Clive and Liv excuse themselves to agree that the man was killed with a blunt object other than the hammer he was found with on his person. The man is considered likely to have had the hammer on him because he was an enforcer for a local gambling syndicate. They visit a higher up in one of the companies that is located in the building where it all happened, asking him if he knew anything about this potential squabble between the dead man and the would be assailant. In the process, an employee mentions punching in the wrong code on the copy machine and it occurs to Clive that they could check and see who used the machine late enough in the day when their victim was killed, which narrows the suspect pool down considerably. They discover that one of the men they question likely had gambling debts, based on Liv’s memory of him screaming at a basketball game being watched along with the victim. He quickly cops to a murder, but not the one they’re thinking. The enforcer who was also killed was done so in self-defense and when he called a company “cleaner” to cover up the first murder. He had no idea that the security guard would be killed in the process and although he claims to feel bad that it happened, probably never would’ve come forward unless they caught him red-handed with the bat he used as the murder weapon still on display in his office and blood flecks still visible on the reverse side of his window blinds. Some cleaner that guy was.

What happens next is something that both must be discussed but also fails to be fully understood without seeing it in person. The short story being: things go wrong, a fight ensues. It will be described in more detail, but short of a short story, it can’t be captured as vividly as it is on screen. Beforehand, it should be noted that up until this point the show has done a very calculated job of showing many of its main actors in action scenes, perhaps for this exact reason, and just as it was shocking with Clive earlier in the episode, it is downright alarming to witness.

Ravi is preparing to inject the rats with (what they hope) is more tainted boat party Utopium, just as he did last time, to turn them all into zombies. It is only once he has zombie rats to work on that he can formulate a cure based on their reaction to his synthesized dosing. Blaine picks this incredibly inopportune time to drop by, humorously humming to the beat of “Friday, I’m In Love” as he approaches Ravi to grab a bottle of the cure to go. It’s easy to forget that Blaine is human again because David Anders — when the scene calls for it — can exude such a threatening physical vibe that it still feels supernatural. Blaine has always seemed a little more intelligent than this, but he apparently thought Ravi would have things ready to go within a day. Before the other man can do more than guffaw at that prospect, the god-fearing drug cutter from before grabs the needle and stabs himself with it. Although he calls for him to stop, they let him stab himself, and immediately he disintegrates into a mummified looking heap of blood and dead tissue. They both watch as their main bet on getting another copy of the boat party Utopium wastes away in front of them. It’s maddening to watch, but also exhilarating because how can they dig themselves out of this hole. With little time spent wondering about that dead end, it occurs to Blaine that in the interim they did just discover an instant zombie killing formula. Ravi worries what that could do in the wrong hands. They stare at the unused Utopium for a long second and thus the scramble to get to it first begins.

There’s something about the fight that really just resonates with the characters, with the cheery music of The Cure’s “Friday, I’m In Love” playing in the background, and with the realism in it all. Again, you’re reminded how out of character it is for Ravi to be scrapping with someone in addition to being reminded that Blaine is human and able to be bested by Ravi. There’s also the way that they fight being so realistic, like a pair of dogs going for a bone. There’s no obnoxious fist fight or kung-fu sequence. Half of the scene takes place crawling across the morgue towards where it sits on a counter. They just tear one another down the entire way, grabbing limbs and shoving one another into walls and cabinets, angling to outpace one another for the mightiest of prizes. The acting is also so powerful because what could be goofy — and is in some respects — comes across as so real to both these men, their desperation and ruthlessness amounts to them crawling across one another to get their first. Find this scene and watch it, for the first time or the fifteenth, and it will not disappoint. In the end, Ravi manages to shove past Blaine in time to grab another bottle and shatter it on top of the cure and presumably ending testing until another version can be created.

Major attempts to take out another zombie but loses his edge when he sees the man rush over to greet his two young children. He lies to Gilda later on that the last handful of names haven’t been zombies, lucky him, and he’ll get working on the next bunch soon enough. She’s skeptical, but he assures her that even someone as unlucky as him can hit a good week. He does tell her that he’d like to end whatever it was that went on between them and she shrugs it off.

Later, Major flushes the last of his Utopium and commits to getting better. A part of that is him wanting to be with Liv and knowing the risks, but wanting to go ahead anyway since he is a better man with her in his life.

As the episode comes to a close, Suzuki’s widow stops by the station and surprises Clive by agreeing with him that her husband might have been suicidal. That’s not all, though, she also found a Tupperware container in her husband’s beer fridge that had an uneaten piece of brain. Clive is now dangerously close to putting the pieces together.

Stray Observations:

  • “Do you have any open sores in your mouth?” “How hard do you brush your teeth?” Liv Moore, romantic.
  • Why DIDN’T the Seahawks just give the ball to Marshawn?
  • “Who told you I choked the guy? Was it that fairy — what’s his face — from Child Protective Services?” Says everything you need to know about a guy in less than twenty words.
  • “All of our problems could be solved by condoms and rock salt.” Oh, Major.
  • It’s so easy to dislike Gilda/Rita/Whatever but then she throws out zingers like, “Zombie killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?” and I’m back to finding her charmingly evil.
  • This is the second episode this week to employ the very true to life excuse of laughing at impertinent times as “remember a funny cat video” and losing their cool. Watch Supergirl, everybody!
  • I’m going to pretend them saying “rag tag group of kids” was a Hamilton reference. Probably wasn’t considering when this was written and filmed, but don’t tell me how to live my life.
  • Gilda on her sex noises: “I’m loud. I’m like a cartoon character getting murdered.” See? How can someone 100% hate that kind of specificity in their sex stories?
  • Ravi thinking naming the rats after the 1986 Celtics meant the Celtic FC in Glasgow was so delightful. He was so excited to have a friend to talk football with for that briefest of seconds.
  • Originally thought the other morgue guy was just being hyped up as terrible like Leslie Knope hates libraries (although that’s obviously well-deserved), but then he yelled “Quotas!” in Ravi’s face. Nope, never mind. This guy is just a scumbag.
  • Hearst College exists in this universe and it’s amazing. Now all they need is Party Down Catering to take care of their office holiday party and our lives will come full circle.
  • Said it before, will say it again: David Anders is so charming. “I don’t know why I bother.” said by so many other people would not be half as hilarious.
  • Um, Major. Glad you’re sober, but flushing Utopium seems like a Bad Idea given how random the dosing seems to be with bad batches and the water system of Seattle being so close to the ocean. Everything about that seems like unwise.
  • “Never tell me the odds.” This season has been such a drag, we could use some “Major and Ravi devolve into thirty minute Star Wars” conversations to lighten the mood.

Photo Courtesy of The CW

About Maura Kate

Maura Kate is a twenty something from the “generic M. Night Shyamalan exterior shot” area near suburban Philadelphia. She co-hosts a podcast called The Televoid (@thetelevoid), where she watches all the worst episodes of TV so you don’t have to. She tweets from @maurae.