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Palm Royale Recap: Order in the Dellacorte

Photo: Apple TV+

“In Palm Beach, an untold secret is like a loaded gun. You never know when it will go off or who it might hit,” Maxine says in her Forrest Gump–like voiceover, setting the scene for the episode ahead. But do you know what else is like a loaded gun? A loaded gun. And those seem to be floating around Palm Beach this week almost as much as secrets are — then again, it is Florida.

We entered the world of Palm Royale by way of Maxine, watching as she scammed her way into this glossy, exclusive world as an outsider. But as she now begins to get settled, Maxine isn’t feeling like quite as much of an outsider — in fact, the more we learn about this community, the more it seems as though Maxine belongs there not in spite of her grift but because of it. While we can’t know for sure, it seems like Maxine’s cards are now all out on the table (she even eventually comes clean to her husband), which gives us the chance to instead turn our attention to the cards of those around her. The more we find out about what the other women of the Palm Royale have been hiding, the more even Maxine’s playing field seems.

For example, the episode begins with Evelyn ransacking Norma’s care-facility room (just as we saw Maxine doing), looking for the key needed to access Norma’s sacred rolodex. It’s during this attempt that Evelyn realizes that Norma’s eyes are open and tries to communicate with her via blinking before patting her down for the key. “You’ve got a bony ***, Norma,” Evelyn mutters, a gift to hear delivered by Allison Janney.

Of course, this search is all for naught since we know that Linda stole the rolodex from Robert’s pool house in the last episode. She manages to stow it away when Maxine stops by the bookstore in a panic, as Maxine tends to do, after finding out the inheritance she was counting on to get out of the financial and legal hole she dug herself into won’t be coming after all. “Palm Beach is just a shell game, and you’re playing like one of the natives,” Linda tells her. “Down here, you’re only a criminal if you get caught, and probably not even then.” Spoken like someone who just stole a rolodex.

Despite that reassurance, Maxine does quickly find herself in court — though thankfully not for any of her crimes … sort of. Rather, Robert has petitioned to be Norma’s conservator. “He who is the nurse gets the purse,” the judge explains as if we didn’t watch all of the Britney Spears documentaries. The issue unresolved without proof to support either of their accusations, their bickering continues outside the courtroom, where Maxine nonetheless tries to enlist Robert’s help in finding the rolodex. The plea comes as a surprise to Robert, who noticed it had been swiped and was certain that Maxine already had it. But if she doesn’t, there’s only one other person who could have taken it: Linda.

When he runs into her at the care facility and asks her why she stole it, she doesn’t try to hide her theft, explaining “I have a secret in that rolodex, and I can’t have it get out.” As for all of the other secrets in that venerated gold rolodex, Linda assures him that she plans on destroying it, freeing not just herself but everybody else from their kept secrets. As we’ve already established, secrets are more valuable than money in Palm Beach, and if that’s what Norma’s keeping in there in addition to phone numbers and addresses, that could explain why Evelyn, who feels her footing as queen bee slipping, wants it so desperately. Or perhaps, just like Linda, she knows there’s a secret about her in there. It sort of feels like this rolodex is the burn book of 1969.

Robert is apparently content with the rolodex being in Linda’s custody, and she invites him to come meet her ailing father, played by noted Dern patriarch Bruce. Now, I’m not a stickler for period accuracy, but it felt particularly jarring to see Bruce Dern’s character greet Robert with a fist bump. Was fist bumping a thing in 1969? After painstaking research (one Google) it appears possible, but it was popularized by basketball player Fred Carter in the 1970s. And what are the odds a character who appears to be roughly 1,000 years old is the first to get in on this hot new craze? I’ll happily suspend my disbelief for now, but if he daps somebody up next week, I’ll be circling back on this.

When the episode takes us to Raquel’s Old Havana Nights gala, which secretly doubles as her husband’s welcome home from prison (more crime!), the show earns its Bond-esque “Royale” title styling. Maxine’s on edge because Douglas, whom she hasn’t yet told about the truth of their financial situation, has gotten far too comfortable in their new life — quitting his job, signing up for Perry’s shoddy business investments, and gambling away their nonexistent money. Then, while ordering a drink from Robert, they spot Norma’s ruby necklace that Maxine pawned on Raquel. “I wonder what the judge would make of this?” Robert tells her, which kicks off a farcical race to the necklace, with both of them attempting to navigate a rumba to get their hands on Norma’s jewels.

When Robert comes out on top, Maxine hatches a back-up scheme: calling the police to accuse him of stealing the necklace, landing him in jail and landing Maxine with her dream role as Norma’s sole conservator. The only condition is that Maxine and Douglas house Norma in the mansion rather than her care facility. As they get her situated, she lets out a garbled yell in her “twilight stupor,” which sounds not too unlike Burnett’s famous Tarzan yell. “The poor dear can sort of moan and yodel,” Maxine explains, which is also a great description for the Tarzan yell. While Douglas is at first unsure of this new arrangement, Maxine drops the exciting news that while they won’t get an inheritance, as long as Norma stays alive they can collect a salary. I thought they were going to start dancing around singing, “We’re in the money! We’re in the money!”

Meanwhile, Robert is able to turn to Linda, who takes him in. “Seems to be the way for people like me,” he laments, and Linda picks up what he’s putting down, discreetly recommending he check out the ***-studies section at the bookstore. I suspected that Robert was ***, on account of him taking a strong liking to Laura Dern, but “people like me” could have also been referring to the fact that he’s Hispanic, which thus far hasn’t really explicitly come up. Given the show’s 1969 setting and themes of privilege and exclusivity, it’s surprising that race hasn’t been more central to its focus on class and financial differences. The closest we’ve come is earlier in this episode, with Evelyn turning her nose up at Raquel’s Havana nights party and spreading gossip in a way that reeks of microaggression.

When Robert does go to check out those books, he finds notes with phone numbers scribbled in the front cover — Linda, an ally, is trying to get him some action. Nervous, he closes the book and leaves, but it reminds me of what Bruce Dern’s character told him earlier in the episode: “My biggest regret in life is that I never did a ******* thing.” Perhaps it was easy for Robert to bury and neglect his own truth when he was living to serve his country or to serve Norma — but now forced out of Norma’s life, he might be forced to live for himself. His loyalty to Norma likely came from her ability to protect him from this truth, and now without her he has to confront it head on, even if he’s not dialing up any of these phone numbers for a good time just yet.

And speaking of phone numbers, Linda’s back to flipping through the magical rolodex, pulling out the card for Penelope Rollins. On the back of her card, in pretty cursive handwriting, it reads, “a.k.a. Linda Shaw, attempted ******.” And I don’t think Linda lives on Attempted ****** Street.

The pieces regarding this cryptic note start to come together when Maxine and Evelyn go to raid Norma’s safety-deposit boxes, where they of course discover that there’s no rolodex. But what Maxine does find is just as interesting: a gun and a sole invitation to the wedding of Penelope Rollins (Linda) and, based on Maxine’s reaction as she storms back into the mansion screaming, presumably Douglas. It appears that the 1949 wedding we saw interrupted by a gunshot during a brief flashback at the beginning of this episode was between Linda and Douglas. We also know, thanks to the flashback at the beginning of episode two, that 1949 was also the year that Douglas met Maxine at the Miss Chattanooga pageant. So could that meeting and Maxine’s subsequent pregnancy have had a role in Linda’s wedding gone awry? And if so, would that explain why Evelyn despises Maxine?

Shiny Sheet Headlines

• Maxine doesn’t feel quite as much like our local criminal now, huh? We’ve got Evelyn raiding Norma’s room, Linda stealing, and Raquel’s husband back from Sing Sing. I think we all do crime.

• Why does this show keep reminding me of Legally Blonde? Last week I said that Maxine’s nail technician Mitzi was a Paulette-like confidant, and now Maxine is in court trying to take down a *** pool boy?

• Speaking of that courtroom scene, shoutout to the incredible visual gag of the gallery being full of young men with rich elderly women waiting for their own conservatorship hearings.

• Carol Burnett slowly waking up from her coma is helping the show’s unique tone click into place. Wiig’s sketch-comedy sensibility needed an ally, and who better than Burnett? Seeing the goofy minutia of her comatose ****** expressions, her wacky groans, and, at the end of the episode, her and Maxine barking back and forth feel key to the vibe the show is going for.

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