Despite the violent sex with Lorena and the pledge of fealty to Mississippi's vampire king in the previous episode, I'd have wagered that Bill Compton was orchestrating an elaborate ruse, most likely in service of Sophie-Anne. But with this week's episode, "9 Crimes," I'm no longer so sure.
It isn't Bill's cold-hearted telephone breakup with Sookie, his "procurement" of the sad stripper-philosopher -- "I know the truth about love. It's a hell I'll never get out of alive." -- or even the ease with which he rats out his (former) queen and sheriff. It's that, when he senses Sookie is in danger, he ignores the psychic distress call and simply steps into Russell Edgington's waiting limo. This is the same Bill Compton who risked punishment by killing another vampire, and even braved the burning rays of the sun, all to protect Sookie Stackhouse. Where did your love go, Bill?
Sookie handles the cruel rejection surprisingly well, responding with a disbelieving (and hilarious) "shut the fuck up" to Bill's steely declaration that "I left my life in Bon Temps, and I'm leaving you" before she settles in for a marathon cry. But rather than trudge into self-pitying Tara territory, Sookie decides she'll track down Bill, if only to force him to reject her in person. So she goes all Sydney Bristow, calling Alcide's hairdresser sister Janice to give her a trashy makeover so she can blend in with the crowd at Lou Pine's. Janice's presence also serves another important purpose, allowing Sookie to discover (by telepathy, naturally) that Alcide's ex-girlfriend -- the Dickensianly named Debbie Pelt -- is addicted to V and about to be initiated into the Nazi werewolf pack. That's enough to ensure Alcide's continued involvement in the Case of the Missing Vampire.
Bill's cooperation with Russell has immediate consequences: His revelation that Eric and a financially strapped Sophie-Anne -- now that vampires have gone public, the IRS wants its cut of her fortune -- are selling V triggers a raid of Fangtasia by the Magister and his thugs. Under torture, Pam shouts out that Bill is behind the V trafficking -- a claim backed up by Eric, who assures the Magister he's been gathering evidence on the missing Mr. Compton. An unconvinced Magister gives him two days to produce Bill, or else Pam dies.
In Bon Temps, events waver between the excrutiatingly boring (the plodding saga of Sam and his no-good family) and the batshit insane (Franklin Mott's courtship/kidnapping of Tara), with Jason's plot to blackmail newly appointed acting sheriff Andy Bellefleur falling somewhere in between.
The Sam and Jason storylines have been marching in place for the past couple of episodes, so there's really not much to say about them. But the Franklin/Tara thread ... now that is something else. In case there were any doubts, "9 Crimes" establishes our vampire PI as a straight-up psychopath -- one who glamors Tara, pumps her for information, feeds on her, ties her to a motel toilet and then brings her daisies (which he duct-tapes in her hands). "I'm not a gad guy, Tara," he tells the unwilling object of his affection, "I just want to make sure we have a chance. ... I've been so lonely, but now you're mine, everything's changed." Indeed. So he takes her to the home of his employer ... one Russell Edgington. (While it makes sense that the king would have a "Plan B" for securing Bill's cooperation, I'd hoped Franklin was working for the Magister or even Sophie-Anne. Of course now that Tara is in Mississippi, we'll soon know for sure whether Bill is putting on an act.)
Russell, however, isn't home; he is, after all, one busy vampire. He, Lorena and Bill go out on the town to celebrate -- and to test his new ally. The limo pulls up outside a strip club, where the king prods Bill's story that he worked for 35 years as Sophie-Anne's "procurer," finding young bodies for her to feed on. "You said you were a procurer," Russell says. "Procure." While Bill chats up the forlorn stripper Destiny/Camilla/Anne, Russell leaves on "an errand," reappearing at Lou Pine's, where he presides over a werewolf initiation rite chock-full of religious undertones. Oh, hell, they're overtones: Russell was a priest holding a werewolf communion, providing the sacred blood -- in shot glasses, no less! -- for them to drink. Unlike Sookie, the German-spouting king knows when to make an exit: right before Cooter's clan begins its frenzied mass transformation.
• The worst part about the Magister's raid of Fangtasia isn't Pam's torture (sorry, Pam), but that the phone call abruptly ends another wonderful Eric-Lafayette scene.
"How about I kill all of your brother-cousins first."
"Let's go, RuPaul."
"Boss-man, have you seen this face? It ain't nothin' but art."
• Speaking of Eric, how weird is it that he's dreaming of Sookie now? The sequence provided a great exchange, though:
Sookie: "Can all vampires fly?"
Eric: "Can all humans sing?"
• My long-simmering hatred for Lorena is rewarded with a great line from Bill -- "It's been a long night. I need to sleep. Now get the fuck out." -- and a punch to the face.
• Alcide: "No matter how well you think you know somebody, they can just turn around and kick you right in the nutsack.”
A distraught Sookie: "I don't have a nutsack!"
• I'm happy that Sam hires Jessica as a hostess -- she's dismayed to learn she'll be eternally too young to serve alcohol -- but I'm annoyed that her brush with her former life involves a ludicrous caricature of a Christian on his way back from protesting a "baby-killing factory." I have no problems with taking shots at Bible-thumpers, but True Blood goes to that well far too many times. It would've been more interesting to see Jessica confronted with an old crush or a fang-banger wannabe.
• Jason's confrontation with the high school's star quarterback Kitch Maynard has its moments ("fucking weird name"), but I've had enough of introspective Jason. At least he's no longer hallucinating about bullet holes in people's foreheads.