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Ace Forces Escalante to Swap Jockeys - Recap

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The episode begins with Ace, the cold-blooded architect of suspect business ventures of all shapes and sizes, in love. He can confront the man who ostensibly sent him to prison, and silence a corporate board with a steely stare, but the fact that Claire LeChea was late for their meeting had him totally discombobulated. He can’t wait to hand her, a giant six-figure check so her do-gooder prison program to unite convicts with retired thoroughbreds can get off the ground. But she is late. And hasn't called. Ace has had eyes for her ever since their meeting in the elevator. Gus comes to Claire's defense. "What are you, her lawyer?" Ace replied. Although, a more pressing issue forces Ace to put his game face back on. Escalante had entered Gus's prize horse -- in other words, Ace's horse -- in tomorrow's race without letting them know.

Leon was slated to ride. When Gus calls him on the phone for an explanation, the trainer explains that he only entered the horse as a favor so the track could announce a field of five horses and thus make the race official. He had no intention of actually running the horse... well, maybe there's like a 10 percent chance the horse could run. Ace sees right through Escalante's game. "For some people, lying is like breathing." The pair dresses for business and confronts Escalante at his barn. The trainer introduces them to their horse's vet, Jo, who seems eager to get away from Ace after shaking hands. Ace knows Escalante from his vegetable-stand days; does he have a history with Jo also? Once she fled, Ace cut through the bull, forgetting or not caring that he can't officially be associated with the horse.

If that horse runs, it better have a top jockey aboard, he says, not some unknown bug who might conveniently push the odds higher. Escalante doesn’t appreciate Ace's insinuations and answers with his own about the horse's ownership. Ace calmly says if Escalante doesn't agree to swap jockeys in the next 20 minutes, he would be fired. Escalante fires back that they could take their horse right now and storms off. Meanwhile, Jo tries to reason with Escalante about keeping the promising colt, but her comment that he was mostly angry because he'd been "caught with his pants down" only makes his blood boil more. "Be smart with me, I throw you the f--- out too," he bellows. When Ace and Gus return, Escalante relents, providing a list of the five top jockeys -- and another of the five top white jockeys. Ace wants Pint of Plain to have the best jockey, the best shot for success... tomorrow and long-term. Meanwhile, back at the run-down motel, Kagle knocks on Marcus and Jerry's door.

For once, he isn't in uniform... because he is fired from his job at the track. Someone sold him out, telling his bosses about his little loan-sharking operation. Getting no sympathy from his nemesis in the wheelchair, he asks to chat with Jerry alone. The pair ended up at the diner, and Kagle tells the saddest of sad stories -- which culminates in him dead broke and being arrested for taking a dump in the street -- before asking for money. Despite their previous conflicts when the roles had been reversed, Jerry digs into his pocket and passes him a grand as an interest free loan. Although we soon find out, Jerry is practically busted himself. Marcus had sniffed through his journal, learning that Jerry has already gambled away $286,000 dollars. So what's with Jerry's generosity? He confides to his diary that he fears he needs mental health treatment.

Maybe he just finally hit rock bottom. Jerry bolts the hotel after clashing with his roommate, leaving Lonnie and Renzo to take an agitated Marcus to the hospital, where the doctor questions whether he was taking proper care of himself. "My problem isn't compliance," he shoots back. "My problem is I'm about to die." The doctor thinks stress is the real issue, not the cardiomyopathy or the fall from a tree at age 11 that put Marcus in the wheelchair in the first place. He prescribes some valium and asks, "Do you have someone you can talk to?" "A horse," he answers. Meanwhile, Ronnie fires Joey as his agent, and Leon is bumped from Gus's horse. In California, a jockey agent can only represent two riders at the same time, so clearly Joey's not earning much these days. Gus gives Escalante $5,000 to give to Leon as a consolation kiss-off. Joey spends whatever money he had left at the bar, leading him to drunk dial... an ex-wife? He leaves long messages for Lynn, asking her to dinner, asking about their squirt kid.

Meanwhile, Valium proves effective and ultimately cathartic for Marcus, who is glassy-eyed in the motel when Jerry returns from the gambling den. "I feel like I'm drunk...," Marcus mumbles. "I think I'm queer for you." Jerry's reaction, however, is extremely understanding, extremely kind -- if not 100 percent politically correct. He isn't dismissive or uncomfortable delving into the complexity of his friend's emotions, though he seems to believe Marcus's feelings for him are just those of an extraordinary friend. Turns out Jerry's own concern about Marcus's coughing fit brought him home before he could lose more money at the poker table. The only relationship on the show that might be tighter is that of Ace and Gus. Meanwhile, Ace is reflecting on being stood up by Claire and Gus is busy gushing about his horse's debut. Both boys didn't have to wait long to get what they wanted. Claire comes calling the next morning, apologizing for her poor etiquette. Ace examines himself in the mirror, but doesn't bother to remove his bathroom robe to greet her. Ace hands her a check -- made out to her -- for $100,000 more than she originally requested.

Unlike Gettin'up Morning's heroic dash last week, Pint of Plain's race had hints of trouble from the get-go. Pint of Plain's jockey seems to hold him back after a clean start, and as a result, the horse falls behind the leaders. The cameras alternate between the horse's face and the hooves of the horse directly in front of him. When he fails to make up ground on the backstretch, it was probably being hinted that the colt was thrown off his game by having dirt kicked in its face -- a fatal flaw in any race horse. But it turns out that Pint of Plain has no such defect.

The cinematic focus on the pounding hooves is made clear when a shoe flies off the front horse and gashes Pint of Plain in his right hind leg. The horse reacts in pain, but he responds like a champion. He cruises to victory -- but there is real relief only when he makes it back to the barn and a calm Jo explains plans for x-rays and an ultrasound. Ace isn't about to leave his prize and joy alone, though, sending Gus and Claire home and curling up against the stall for the night. "How are we supposed to pretend any more it's not his horse," wonders Jo, as Ace drifted to sleep. The episode ends.

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