Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 Review: XXXIII

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Whoa! If the last chapter was the lit fuse for a huge explosion this hour, BANG!

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 wasn't just an explosion. It was a suspenseful, tense, edge-of-your-seat, thermonuclear detonation.

The writers, actors and director threw more curveballs at the audience than Dodgers' ace lefty pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to opposing batters. 

But instead of a strikeout, "XXXIII" was a grand slam.

Something's Not Right... - Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5

The writing was poetry and the performances were epically Shakespearean. Seriously, how well played was the gamesmanship between Long John Silver and Billy Bones?

That had everyone guessing until almost the last minute what Silver would decide: backstab Flint and reject his deal with Eleanor, and side with Billy, or sell out Billy as a traitor and stay the course with Flint?

What side did you think Silver would take?

And how effective were Madi and Israel Hand in steering Silver to his fateful decision? 

Yeah, Silver's come a long way from years ago, lying his way on board Flint's ship, saying he was an experienced cook. But Silver's strong persona has been largely a fiction Billy helped create.

Rational leaders turn to advisors in crisis moments. It was seriously entertaining to watch Madi to twist one of Silver's arms with her mouth and Israel Hand — whose own allegiance remained in doubt until the last moments — twist the other with brute force.

The Madi-Silver dialogue had a mild, comic edge because as much in love as these two are, it was their first fight (guess we'll have to wait 'til at least the next chapter for any make-up sex).

Madi: The damage done to this alliance was caused by Billy. It may be that the only way to repair this damage is to remove that which caused it.
Silver: Remove him?
Madi: It will be the only way to regain the trust of those slave communities uncertain about what this alliance stands for. And you know as well as I, Billy cannot exist alongside Capt. Flint for long. Sooner or later one or the other must go.

The Hand-Silver exchange was unexpectedly and hilariously harsh. If Israel Hand tells you to man up, as he told Silver, better brace for impact. Did you see those open-handed pimp slaps coming? Even better, did you expect Hand to drop pearls of wisdom afterward?

Worry ain’t a good look for a king. Not in a kingdom like this...where loyalty is in short supply.

Israel Hand

Of course, as we watch Black Sails online, we get our customary moment of spoken self-reflection from Eleanor Guthrie, who plays the damsel in distress or femme fatale (sometimes both at once) depending on her mood and circumstance.

This time, it's Flint who humors her.

As Eleanor launches into an alternately whiny-aggro, "why me?" condemnation of manipulative men in her life, Flint delivers the sassy rebuttal question she can't answer. He asks her about her own husband, Gov. Rogers' motives.

Eleanor: ...I thought I knew who I was...a daughter who usurped her father...a woman who had taken control of a wild place...but always with a man behind me, doing his damnedest to bend it all to his benefit. My father, Scott, Charles, you...so many goddamned men here...too many goddamned men here...
Flint: Woodes Rogers. He’s really so different from the rest of us?

Speaking of that, nothing says marital tension like a couple of warning cannonball shots. How nice was that visual metaphor? When Rogers wouldn't listen to his wife, Eleanor told him to talk to the hand by nearly blowing him out of the water.

If there's a more stubborn television couple than Gov. Rogers and Eleanor Guthrie, who is it? Their spat became so much more than "I know what's best for Nassau," that their respective one-upmanship will ultimately cost lots of lives.

Rogers can't help his paternalistic and possessive ways any more than Eleanor's spirited rebelliousness. He demonstrates as much when he confides below deck, in Eleanor's servant, who thought she was on her way to Port Royal and then home to jolly old England.

I know she has no love for Flint, nor any sympathy for his cause. I fear the instincts that have awoken in her are more insidious than that. She has begun to believe again that disorder in Nasaau is inevitable...that civilization is powerless either through lack of will or capacity to do anything about it. Civilization has a number of faces. To think them all powerless to alter Nassau’s future is a terrible mistake.

Gov. Rogers

That look she had when she emerged, realizing Rogers is sailing her and everyone else into Havana, the heart of enemy territory, was priceless. It was like she was in the batter's box, seeing Kershaw's curve but knew, even with a bat in her hand, she was frozen.

Then those sweet, colorful surprises just kept on coming, one after the other, like an epic fireworks display. But props to director Alik Sakharov and writers Robert Levine and Jonathan E. Steinberg for not firing all their bullets too early or all at once.

Rogers dropping Blackbeard's severed head on the dock as a gift to the Spanish authorities was a fun start.

But then learning Rogers was talking face-to-face with the brother of one of the victims of his Acapulco mass execution? The event Rogers recently bragged about to his former right-hand man?

That was an "oh, SNAP!" moment.

The Deal Is Going Down - Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5

Maybe Rogers really didn't write a check with his mouth — letting pirate Capt. Jack Rackham live — that his ass can't cash.

No matter what you think of the wisdom of Rogers' move, we all can agree Rogers showed some serious cojones.

He rolled in to Cuba (without the Urca treasure the Spanish still demand); popped in unannounced on the brother of a man he executed; then had the chutzpah to ask him for help in defeating an enemy in his own colony.

And Rogers did all that while speaking in that smooth-as-silk voice of his, in Spanish and English, with smug, James Bond cool.

Silver was the only other major player who better sold an idea to someone.

He eventually got Billy so convinced he'd won him over. Billy was practically salivating knowing Silver was even gonna let him do Flint himself. You almost feel sorry for Billy the moment when he realizes he's been hung out to dry, waiting in vain for Flint outside a tunnel.

You almost cry for Billy when his pal, Jacob Garrett breaks the news to him.

Garrett: Long John Silver... all he had to do was open his mouth...say your name...and everyone listened.
Billy: What was it that he said about me?
Garrett: He said the reason Flint’s fleet never got warning about the barricade in the harbor wasn’t because Mr. Featherstone didn’t relay it...it wasn’t because Max intercepted it...he said it was because you never sent it in the first place.
Billy: And they all believed him...
Garrett: I don’t think that anyone actually believed it. You weren’t indicted based on the facts, or our suspicions of your motives. He just said it. I think no one had the balls to defy him.

But then you realize Billy hit a nerve earlier in the hour when he tried to get Silver to honor the "bro" code. Billy tried to get Silver to break the promise he gave to his beloved Madi about committing to a war to help her Maroon brothers and sisters and free the remaining slaves.

Madi made sense, but it took Hand to literally smack some sense into Silver.

And just when we think Hand will finish off Billy — Silver, never shy about comeuppance —  sends him to a party at a slave plantation where he'll be, to put it mildly, eagerly awaited.

Still, there were two more fun surprises left.

First, who figured the fresh fugitive Jack Rackham would show up on the beach where the Urca cache was to be delivered, to face Flint and Eleanor, then privately tell Flint his deal was doomed?

Capt. Jack Rackham: I watched him defeat Edward Teach, in battle...outnumbered and through sheer force of will, saw his bloodlust with my own eyes. That man will never surrender his position here. He will never allow himself to be defeated by you, or I. Not because we bribed him, not because Eleanor Guthrie told him so. He simply will not allow it to happen. I don’t know where that man went or what designs drew him there. But this I know: Woodes Rogers will be returning. And this fight isn’t nearly over.

Second, we really didn't think Rogers smooth-talked the Spanish governor into helping him out, did we, when Max looks at the horizon with the binoculars?

Trouble on the Horizon - Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5

In that brilliant ending shot, we're still thinking that Rogers somehow got one Spanish ship to sail on his behalf.

But ELEVEN?!

That's what we see when the camera pulls back.

That last salvo is the kinda thing that leaves the screen smoking and the fallout lingering for another six long days.

Was this the best Black Sails hour of this season, so far? Ever? If so, can the show's creative team top it, before the series ends?

What was your favorite moment? What moment or development surprised you the most?

Keep the comments coming!

XXXIII Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (8 Votes)

Gil Griffin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 Quotes

Garrett: Long John Silver... all he had to do was open his mouth...say your name...and everyone listened.
Billy: What was it that he said about me?
Garrett: He said the reason Flint’s fleet never got warning about the barricade in the harbor wasn’t because Mr. Featherstone didn’t relay it...it wasn’t because Max intercepted it...he said it was because you never sent it in the first place.
Billy: And they all believed him...
Garrett: I don’t think that anyone actually believed it. You weren’t indicted based on the facts, or our suspicions of your motives. He just said it. I think no one had the balls to defy him.

Capt. Jack Rackham: I watched him defeat Edward Teach, in battle...outnumbered and through sheer force of will, saw his bloodlust with my own eyes. That man will never surrender his position here. He will never allow himself to be defeated by you, or I. Not because we bribed him, not because Eleanor Guthrie told him so. He simply will not allow it to happen. I don’t know where that man went or what designs drew him there. But this I know: Woodes Rogers will be returning. And this fight isn’t nearly over.