The following contains spoilers for Season 3 Episode 4 of Apple TV+’s Servant. For our recap/review of last week’s episode, click here.
Now that’s what I’m talking about! The past three episodes of Servant, though admittedly great television, hit a bit of a momentum speed bump. You can only go back to the “Leanne is paranoid, Dorothy is aloof, Julian is suspicious” well so many times. Finally, episode 4, entitled “Ring” begins to bring things to ahead. Director Dylan Holmes Williams, director of an episode in season 1, returns for the first truly stupendous episode of season 3.
The episode starts with Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) doing some sort of jazzercise. Leanne proclaims she’s not a very good answer, something that Dorothy questions. Shying away, Leanne mumbles about her mom’s proclivity for making fun of her dancing as a pageant child. Never one to let a real moment linger on too long, Dorothy skitters off to a meeting downstairs with a safety inspector. Said inspector has been hired to “baby-proof” the entire Turner residence.
He scans every inch of the house, hilariously rattling off statistics about absurd ways in which children meet their ends via household appliances. Sean (Toby Kebbell) hesitates about the whole ordeal when it comes to his kitchen. And Leanne, feeling she is the only protector Jericho needs, objects to the enterprise. She pulls Dorothy away to feed Jericho.
Always looking for an easy way out, Dorothy floats the idea of using a formula to feed Jericho. Leanne rejects this vehemently. He needs his mother, she emphasizes. As though in another conversation entirely, Dorothy laments the lack of success in her line of work. Furthermore, she projects onto Leanne, telling her to find her own place in life, maybe even go back to school. Dorothy talks to Leanne as if she’s not a resurrected, supernatural being. Straight-up delusion, and seeing Free and Ambrose subtly build this tension between them is a treat. Once again Dorothy galavants off, heading to a meeting with the news station she works at.
As Dorothy leaves, Leanne spots one of the homeless people from the prior episode staring into her window. In the other room, Sean is greeted by a visit from a familiar face, his old assistant Tobe (Tony Revlori). Tobe has brought along his new girlfriend, Sylvie, for a proposal: Sylvie, with her immense experience, should be given a shot to assist him in the kitchen. Flabbergasted, Sean politely declines. He then asks Leanne to help him make candy for a catering event that’s going to happen the following day. Ecstatic, Leanne jumps at the opportunity.
Everything comes second to Dorothy, however, and she announces that she’s got a big report coming up. Therefore, Leanne will have to bow out of her duties helping Sean. Characteristically, Dorothy couldn’t care less. The next day, a devastated Leanne is given a passive-aggressive “are we still friends?” from Dorothy on the house stoop as she rides off. So much of what works here is viewing the world through Leanne’s eyes; what she gives up to take care of this family and the duality between the way Sean treats her vs the way Dorothy treats her.
It’s almost disappointing when one of the homeless people shows up, begging to talk to Leanne. Not that her fleeing back into the house isn’t exciting, but the drama is so potent that you want to see these dialogue scenes continue to play out. There’s much more of that in the kitchen. Sean begrudgingly takes on Sylvie as an assistant, Tobe in tow. Sylvie is foul-mouthed, abrasive, and very good at her job. She demeans the ring that Tobe gave her (remember that, it’s important later) and makes a kick-ass side dish at the same time. Sylvie fits right into the Servant universe. Sean sends Tobe off to go give some food to the homeless.
Leanne is drawn into the other room by the security manager, here to install upwards of $3000 worth of safety equipment for Jericho. Sheesh. He exploits the opportunity to make creepy advances towards Leanne. She manages to flee upstairs, yelling into the wall- where a dead Josephine resides- about herself being seen as nothing but a whore. Leanne is a deeply, deeply damaged individual, so it’s almost unthinkable that we could keep peeling pack more fractured layers. And yet, Nell Tiger Free keeps on making it happen. Give her an Emmy already.
Leanne goes back downstairs, where Tobe reveals that the homeless have left. He hops back into the kitchen. Here the berating intensifies. She marches Tobe outside, asking him why he takes such cruelty from Sylvie. She describes his situation as, well, basically her own. She’s bearing a ton of pressure. Really, the entire household. Still, she feels she gets no appreciation, and with the exception of Sean, she might be right. She goes to watch Dorothy on the news. However, when Dorothy is doing an interview, something seems really wrong, and she seems to briefly shift into a sort of catatonia before snapping out of it.
Leaving the room, Leanne walks into a tornado of a situation in the kitchen. The caterers are here to pick up food, the security manager is moving all sorts of things around, Sylvie is screaming, and Leanne manages to spill some sauce. Popping off to Tobe about something, Sylvie doesn’t look and slips on the sauce, catching her ring and finger on a taffy pull hook. The finger is completely severed. Panicked, Tobe tries to salvage the finger, only to run the garbage disposal. Only the ring is left.
Deep breath. Jesus Christ. What a darkly comic and wildly inventive sequence. It feels like karma, and one gets the sense that Leanne might have caused this accident on purpose. Not much time to ruminate on that, as later Julian (Rupert Grint) shows up. He tells them to put on the news, where we finally see what happened with Dorothy on the air: in the middle of the interview, she lactates. “She’s finished” Julian solemnly declares. Dorothy comes home, heavily depressed.
Dorothy confides in Sean that she feels as though something is out to get her. Like she’s not allowed happiness. She may not be totally wrong. I’m not entirely sure Leanne didn’t orchestrate this whole thing, to get Sean and Dorothy to focus less on work and more on the family unit. Meanwhile, Leanne dances with herself. It’s a beautiful, interpretive dance that conveys the essence of who she is. Outside, a gang of the homeless watch on.
Whew. “Ring” is a depressing episode of Servant, but it’s also a high mark. Leanne now has the family under control. The cult is coming for the Turners. And the story could go anywhere at this point. The ideal happy scenario they lived out for the first three episodes is gone. Servant beats on once more into uncharted territory. I’m going wherever it takes me. –James Preston Poole
Episode Rating: 10/10
Season Rating: 8.8/10
Servant seasons 1-2 and the first four episodes of season 3 are now streaming on Apple TV+.