'True Blood' Recap: Time for a Shift

Eric and Jason take on new roles, Bill's motives are questionable in 'You Smell Like Dinner'

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Despite some truly stellar moments in "You Smell Like Dinner," the pace was slower than we liked as True Blood's momentum started to kick in and the season's big plotlines shifted into focus: Jason's werepanther relationship is about to get even more intimate, Sam's new shifter friends may not all be what they seem and a great witch/vampire war is brewing. And that's just what we do know. We also know that the moments when Bon Temps is a world full of supernaturals interacting — not just pockets of supernaturals minding their own business — are the moments when the best scenes occur. What we don't know? Who's really pulling the strings. Here's how the different supernatural species fared in the second episode of the season:

Werepanthers
After trying to sweet talk his way out of being tied to a bed in Hotshot ( "It's not that I don't appreciate all the lickin', 'cause I do," he tells his teen werepanther captors. "But I'm more of a Band-Aid kinda guy."), Jason realizes the severity of the situation when Felton (not actually missing, so it seems) barges in with a gun. Later on, he is reunited with his girlfriend, Crystal (also no longer missing), who promises to help her and Jason be together forever. But how? The answer: Since Crystal is torn between needing to help "propegate the bloodline" (something Felton isn't succeeding with) and wanting to be with Jason (how sweet!), she and Felton will obviously change Jason into a werepanther. It's the sort of luck that always seems to befall poor Jason, who might actually have been better off had he not tried to reform his womanizing ways. This is possibly what he was thinking as Crystal and Felton shifted and began to bite him. Or maybe he was just blinded by the pain. Either way, this sets Jason (and, by proxy, Sookie) up for a fun-filled fourth season.

Shape-Shifters
Last time on True Blood, Sam and his shifter friends frolicked through the woods as horses. We pick up post-shift, as Sam tries to hit on schoolteacher Luna, who runs away when the conversation gets too personal. But she shows up to Merlotte's the next day to apologize and seduce Sam (in no particular order) and succeeds in being more open later that night, when the shifters play "What Have You Shifted Into?" Luna reveals she has shifted into her mother, who died during childbirth. She shares the legend of the Navajo Skincrawlers: shifters who could take the form of any other animal, including humans — but only if they killed another human first. The moment gets more intense at the scent of another shifter, Sam's brother Tommy, who leads Sam on a chase only to reveal that a) he doesn't actually have a limp and b) he just wants to be closer to his big brother. We sense something bigger at play, especially with the reveal of the Nightcrawler myth and Sam and Tommy's resolve to improve their relationship, but it's slow-coming.

Humans
Andy's V addiction leads him to Hotshot, where Felton recognizes the signs of withdrawal Andy is displaying and gets another Hotshot resident to supply Andy. Arlene continues to freak out over her baby boy, especially as Sookie fawns over him, Terry tries to calm her down, and the baby appears to burst a vessel in Arlene's eye after a staring contest. At the moment, these appear to be two peripheral plotlines, but we can't help but wonder what the baby really is: a demon? A witch? Rene reincarnated? It's a True Blood world, so the possibilities are endless. A refreshed and grinning Tara returns to Bon Temps to welcome back Sookie (who first mistakes her essence for that of what appear to be demons) and see Lafayette and Jesus, who drag Tara to a coven meeting ("Hooker, you gonna come or what?" "I guess so.") Sookie's vision begs the question: is all what it seems with Tara — excuse us, Toni?

Witches
Lafayette questions whether or not reviving a dead bird is black magic, but Jesus talks him down enough to go to another coven meeting. Marnie reveals their next goal is to bring back a person. "What the fuck?," Jesus asks. Our thoughts exactly. But their plans shift — and we see the true strength of Marnie's power — when Eric arrives on some serious vampire business.

Vampires
Jessica's inner maturity/immaturity battle rages on. She and Hoyt get heated as they leave Fangtasia and run into the vampire protestors and Hoyt gets beat up trying to defend his girl. "You two lovebirds go on home, alright," advises Pam dryly. "Let these good people practice their constitutional right to be fucking idiots." The lovebirds have another heated argument of their own when Hoyt tells Jessica he doesn't "want any of that shit" when she offers him her blood. So, what's a 17-year-old vamp to do but go back to Fangtasia and get it on in the ladies' room with a fangbanger? We're rooting for the Jessica/Hoyt relationship, but have to wonder when the downside of Jessica staying 17 forever will take its toll on Hoyt.

In a wee little bit of foreshadowing that poor Sookie took for granted, Eric offers her his protection against the vampires once they realize her blood smells like "freedom in a blonde bottle." We like the Sookie/Eric dynamic that comes about when Eric's cockiness leads him to be up front with Sookie about the dangers that lie around her, whereas Bill always sought to protect (and, you know, mislead) her. Example:

Eric: "There are two Sookie Stackhouses. One who still clings to the idea that she is barely human, and the other who's coming to grips with the fact that you are better than that."

Sookie: "And what do you think's gonna happen when I do come to grips with it? Do you think my legs are just gonna magically open for you?"

Eric: "Well, that was saucy. That must be Fairy Sookie talking. I like when she comes out. The more likely you are to let her speak, the more likely you are to go on living."

This little exchange leads Sookie to Bill's house, where he says he's not powerful enough to make Eric give up her house, despite being king. He tells her maybe he can come up with a workaround, and Sookie asks how he became king — but stops before he can answer, woefully telling him, "Every time I found out something new about you, I wound up wishing I didn't know it." Such is the interaction of once-lovers.

But we still learn the answer to Sookie's question in the episode's flashbacks. London, 1982: Bill is a punk (or Sid Vicious reincarnated?) out to feed on a bartender. After he opts not to drain his victim, but glamour him instead, the American Vampire League's Nan Flannigan — who has been tracking Bill and is intrigued by his decision — emerges from the shadows. "They might be dinner, but they don't deserve to die," he tells her. She tells him it's the dawn of the True Blood era, and Louis Pasteur is a vampire seeking to synthesize human blood! Oh, and she wants him to be a vampire spy. Fast-foward to his battle with Sophie-Anne Leclerq, and we find out that it was Nan pulling the strings on the showdown, which ended with snipers shooting wooden bullets into Sophie-Anne and Nan appointing Bill vampire king of Louisiana. Bill refuses to share what makes Sookie so special, and Nan threatens Sophie Anne's fate if he's lying to her. We like where this plotline is going, even though it now makes us question Bill's motives more than we already were.

Back in the present day, Sookie tries Pam for help against Eric, but Eric's progeny offers the same advice as her master, with some of her own BS-free context: "Did I miss something? Are we girls now? Have we joined a book club and read some queer chick lit memoirs, now we're bonded together by estrogen or sisterhood or some other feminist drivel?" Pam asks as she applies her makeup while wearing a slinky glittery red one-shoulder mini dress (we love the complex ironies of Pam). "With what you are, fairy princess, you need to be somebody's or you won't be at all. Eric is handsome, he's rich, and in his own way he cares about you. He really does."

Bill tasks Eric with getting the witch coven out of Bon Temps (both vampires remember the witches' role in the vampires' fate during the Inquisition and neither wants to wait to see what happens in Bon Temps). Eric shows up at the coven meeting, where Lafayette, Jesus and Tara are among those gathered, and in a moment of true Eric cockiness, tells the witches this is the last time they'll meet. Marnie tries to negotiate, he bites her, Holly starts a spell — but Lafayette, the powerful link in last week's magic, doesn't join in right away. When he does, Marnie is embodied by an older witch (seemingly from the Inquisition) who casts a spell. The lights go out, Eric leaves in a daze and Marnie has no recollection of what happened. Neither, as it turns out, does Eric: On her drive home from work, Sookie sees Eric (bare, except for his jeans) wandering along the side of the road. And he doesn't remember who she is.

Missing in Action: The werewolves and the fairies (save for Sookie).

Favorite Couple: Lafayette and Tara's revived relationship ("Hooker!") gives us plenty of laughter and sass, while Bill and Nan's complex history is full of intrigue.

Losing Species of the Week: It's the werepanthers. We can't help but feel dirty at their twisted rationale for converting Jason.

Winning Species of the Week: The witches win this one, because they don't seem to actually realize the strength of their own power but can still render Eric Northman useless. And what, really, is Lafayette?

Previously
• Let's Do the Time Warp