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Did Euphoria Just Reveal Something Heartbreakingly Terrible About Nate? 

Judging by the first few moments of this week’s Euphoria, you’d think the episode that followed Rue’s hellish descent into heroin withdrawal and narrow escape from a drug den would focus on the teen’s thank-God-I-survived next steps. But it turns out that the bulk of the hour is spent on something almost as harrowing: the fallout of the Cassie-Nate-Maddy triangle.

As is to be expected at this point, Nate spends the episode acting in ways that are worrisome, terrifying and manipulative. But there’s also a moment in which something awful and heretofore unaddressed seems to come to light… and how did this show just get EVEN DARKER?

Read on for the highlights of “A Thousand Little Trees of Blood.”

NOT-SO-JOLLY RANCHER 

|Let’s deal with Rue first. She’s alive. She’s back home. But as withdrawal has its way with her, she’s very bad off; the first shot we see, she cries and snots all over the dining room table as she tries to unwrap a Jolly Rancher candy. Her mom is hoping to get her into a rehab facility as soon as a bed opens up. In the meantime, she cares for her howling, writhing, nearly incapacitated daughter while Gia cries as she witnesses her sister’s torment.

Rue has mixed feelings about what she screamed at her mother (“I wish I could say I didn’t mean any of it,” she voiceovers), but she truly regrets what she said to Ali, “reducing someone’s life to a moment, an ugly moment, and punishing them for it.” So she works up her nerve and calls him. He’s short with her at first, but once she gets out her apology, he instantly forgives her and then, off her surprise, quotes the Quran: “The hour is certain to come, so you must forgive graciously.” She sobs in relief and thanks him, then pops another Jolly Rancher.

Ali eventually comes over to cook dinner for the Bennett women. But after he arrives, he jokingly banishes Rue and her mom to another room, which gives him some time to talk with Gia. He lets her know that it would be totally understandable if she were angry with Rue, but she maintains that she’s not. When they all sit down to eat, Rue says she wants to go to rehab, get clean and make amends with everyone in her life. Gia expresses a little bit of doubt, which her mom shuts down quickly. But Ali sides with the younger sibling: After all, Rue has let herself and everyone else down multiple times. Gia asks Ali if it’s possible for Rue to get clean, given the very small odds of that happening. He says he doesn’t know, but there’s hope — but it’s Rue’s job to find it.

Before he goes, Ali tells Leslie to “let Rue be Rue and shower that little one with love. She’s been waiting on it.” And that night, Gia crawls into Rue’s bed, where the sisters talk about how Rue doesn’t really know what’s going on in Gia’s life anymore. “I’ll tell you when you get back,” Gia whispers. In the bedroom down the hall, Leslie gets a call that there’s no rehab option for Rue right now. “Please don’t do this to us,” she says, crying and getting increasingly upset. “My daughter’s going to kill herself!”

A NEW DAY 

The morning after Cal’s big speech also is the morning after Maddy learned that Cassie and Nate were a thing, but Nate is unaware of the drama: When he works out, he doesn’t look at his phone, so he’s blissfully ignorant of the zillion calls and texts from Cassie. And actually, Rue voiceovers, he’s feeling great, “because, after an 18-year d–k-swinging contest with his dad, Nate has finally won.” His mother is also feeling rather exuberant, dancing to En Vogue in the kitchen as she drinks, smokes and bakes.

He joins her in a midmorning cocktail, where she advises him, “Whatever you do, don’t marry anyone you meet in high school.” They debate whether Nate is an angry guy vs. just being angry at Cal; Marsha highly doubts her son’s assertion that all of his vitriol was Cal-focused. The whole conversation is unsettling, particularly when she brings up Maddy — whom she doesn’t like — and admits that she was proud of Nate when he manhandled his then-girlfriend when things blew up at the carnival in Season 1. But when she jokes that he didn’t have to go as far as choking Maddy, Nate gets deadly serious, angrily pointing out that the charges were dropped and seeming to equate that with negating anything he did.

And then things get even harder to watch. Marsha muses about how she can’t understand how Nate is so angry, “because you were such a sweet little baby.” She recalls that around age 8 or 9, he “darkened” from a kind and gentle kid into something much more concerning. “It was such a drastic change,” she points out, that she sometimes worried if he’d had a head trauma that she didn’t know about. “I feel like you’re trying to say something without saying it,” he says menacingly. She says no, and backs off, but the seed has been planted: Oh God, in addition to the emotional and physical abuse, did Cal sexually abuse Nate, as well?

‘I THINK I ACTUALLY WANT TO MURDER HER’ 

Maddy is being 100 percent Maddy in her response to her best friend and her boyfriend hooking up: plotting Cassie’s murder and carrying Cal’s disc around in her purse — though we don’t know her plan for the incriminating footage. Meanwhile, Cassie is loudly, tearfully and so very annoyingly protesting her innocence to her mother and her sister, both of whom don’t really see things her way.

After Samantha comes home while Maddy is babysitting, they wind up sharing a bottle of wine in the pool. Maddy tells her employer everything, and is shocked when Samantha admits that she went through something similar in college — but she was the Cassie in that situation. Across town, Nate breaks into Cal’s desk, finds his father’s revolver, and takes it with him when he gets in the car.

He’s waiting for Maddy in the dark in her room when she comes home; he says nothing until she changes her clothes and happens to notice him, and the way this scene is shot gives me anxiety-induced hives just remembering it. He points the gun at her and demands the disc. She says she doesn’t have it. They wind up on the bed and he puts the weapon to her temple and then his, pulling the trigger at random a couple of times until she begs him to stop, sobbing, and confesses that the disc is in her purse.

Once the disc is in his hands, he apologizes and says he was just joking, that there never were bullets in the gun. I’m not sure she can hear him, curled into the fetal position and wailing on the bed, but he doesn’t seem to care. He says goodbye and leaves.

UNEXPECTED VISIT 

But he doesn’t go home. Instead, he calls Jules, then texts when she hangs up. “It’s about my dad and you. I want you to be able to protect yourself,” he writes, which piques her interest. So she pockets a box cutter and warily climbs into his truck.

Nate apologizes for everything he did. “You didn’t deserve it. I was trying to protect somebody that didn’t deserve to be protected,” he says, telling her about Cal’s habit of taping his encounters and how his dad had a breakdown and moved out. She clearly wasn’t expecting any of this, and after asking a few questions about how many people have seen the video, she thanks him. “For what it’s worth, everything I ever said was true,” he says before she goes. “Same here,” she replies.

After Jules leaves, he calls Cassie and tells her to pack a bag: She’s coming to stay at his place. So she does.

AROUND SCHOOL 

Kat breaks up with Ethan, lying that she has a terminal brain illness and then using his skepticism about that proclamation as evidence that he’s a terrible person and they shouldn’t be together. (Side note: UGH, Kat.)… Lexi goes to Fezco’s house and they watch Stand By Me together, then sing along with the title song a little, then hold hands. Neither is aware that Fay’s boyfriend has shown up and tipped off his lady that he’s cooperating with the police, who are investigating Mouse’s death.

“Euphoria” is now streaming on HBO Max, with new episodes airing every Sunday night on HBO! 

By Kimberly Roots 

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