'Special Ops: Lioness' Episode 3 Recap: Bruises and Bathing Suits


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Feb 23, 2024

'Special Ops: Lioness' Episode 3 Recap: Bruises and Bathing Suits

Cruz faces down intense scrutiny as she settles in with her mark. If you thought things felt dangerous for Cruz on the last episode of Special Ops: Lioness, hold onto your hats and/or tiny bikinis:

Cruz faces down intense scrutiny as she settles in with her mark.

If you thought things felt dangerous for Cruz on the last episode of Special Ops: Lioness, hold onto your hats and/or tiny bikinis: This week's episode, "Bruise Like A Fist," feels just as fraught, if a bit more subdued. Think of it like a set of brass knuckles wrapped in an elegant velvet glove, maybe. Directed by Anthony Byrne (of the action-packed Peaky Blinders) and penned by Taylor Sheridan himself, Episode 3 is a glaring look at the high-stakes life of an undercover agent. On and off duty.

This week viewers also got a glimpse at Kaitlyn Meade's home life, some more mother-daughter sparring at Joe's house, and a heart-pounding covert op down near the border. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about what went down this week, plus some of the questions and predictions we have about what's to come.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Special Ops: Lioness season 1, episode 3.

William Gray/Paramount+

The easiest way to break this week's episode down is by character and location, so let's do that. When first we see Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira), she's cruising to meet Aaliyah (who, by the way, is played by 1883 veteran Stephanie Nur) at a vacation home somewhere near the Chesapeake Bay. Remember, she got a phone call in Episode 2 that broke up that bar fight, inviting her to fly out. She's wearing satin and driving a Mercedes, but she still looks pretty rough, something she intends to pass off as the result of a car accident. On the phone, Joe (Zoe Saldaña) is running her through her paces, quizzing her about her backstory, what she should do around the people on the trip, and what the proper way is to address a commanding officer. Cruz seems to be taking it all in stride. She's nervous, sure, but it does seem like she thrives in situations where she's out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Once Cruz gets to the house, she's instantly under intense scrutiny. Security's running her face, and her car's plates, and Aaliyah's catty friends are giving her the business. Her pal's not into her sleek tank bathing suit, either, telling her she'll need to put on something a bit sexier. When Cruz steps into the suit, though, she realizes that it'll show not only her old scars, but also all of her recent bruises. When Aaliyah looks in on her, she sees it, instantly knows it's not from a car accident, and calls a doctor.

The doctor isn't fooled either. He tells Cruz that, as a medical professional, he's required to report signs of abuse. She thinks fast on her feet, though, and tells him that the bruises have already been reported where they happened, in North Carolina, and that she's on this trip because she's trying to rebuild her life and find a new set of friends. He seems to buy it—as do the members of security that are no doubt listening in—because he lets her skate by to hang out with Aaliyah down by the water. They do a little bonding while the rest of the hangers-on are out at a club, and they seem to have a genuine connection. We learn a little about Aaliyah's social situation—her parents have picked her friends and her fiancé, and they control both where her wedding will be and pretty much every other aspect of her life—and then the two say goodnight.

Fast forward however many hours, and Cruz is awakened by the rowdy crew coming home. She spies on them a bit before going in search of water. She runs into Sammy in the kitchen, who she's heard pretty questionable things about already, and he puts the moves on hard, despite her giving no sign of interest. She responds with a swift karate chop to the neck, and then heads back to her room as he recovers. He gets pissed, though, and follows her, trying to get in through the locked door. As Cruz prepares to defend herself with a pen, we see security catch on. They come to escort Sammy away, then check in on Cruz. When she lays down, she sees the almost too-obvious red light of a recording camera shining out of the vent above her bed.

The next morning, over breakfast, Cruz is informed that Sammy's been sent back home to the Middle East, where Hassan says he can "grow up." Aaliyah and the rest of the gang then tell Cruz they're going on an adventure, and despite the fact that they appear to have no packed bags, they head off for parts unknown on a private jet, a move that leaves Joe and the rest of the team scrambling. We won't find out where they land until next week, but one thing's for sure: Cruz is pretty much entirely in the hands of her friends and/or captors for the foreseeable future.

Greg Lewis/Paramount+

After Joe lays down the rules with Cruz, she has a quick chat with Kaitlyn Meade (Nicole Kidman), once again, at a very crowded restaurant in DC. Joe tells her boss that Aaliyah seems to have access to a lot more money than expected, and that the mansion where they're all vacationing is owned by Kudra (?) Petrol, a company we later learn is heavy into the oil business, owned by the Saudis, and "makes more money than Google and Amazon combined." Kaitlyn is a little iffy about what's going on with Aaliyah, saying she thinks that Cruz could be walking into a trap, but Joe sort of brushes it off, saying she'd rather run an extraction on American soil than in Dubai or Jordan.

Outside the restaurant, Joe is approached by some dude named Kyle (The Young and The Restless' Thad Luckinbill), who appears to be a similar breed of shady government operative. He asks Joe if he can borrow her crew for an extraction he needs to do down near the U.S./Mexico border. While it seems like absolutely nothing good can come out of the whole situation, especially considering it's entirely unsanctioned, Joe agrees to lend him three people, saying he'll owe her big when she most needs it.

After a check-in with the extraction gang holed up to monitor Cruz, Joe heads home, where she catches her sassy eldest daughter Kate (Hannah Love Lanier) making out in the dark with some guy. She blows up their spot, calls his mom, and then goes at it with her daughter. She eventually finds out from her husband Neil (Dave Annable) that "we have rules about that," meaning that what Kate was doing was fully allowed in the house, even if Joe hadn't been consulted.

Greg Lewis/Paramount+

When Joe's three crew members roll into Texas, they meet up with Kyle. He eventually spills that what they're doing isn't sanctioned (shocker), and they realize they're heading into a hostile situation. They start trailing their extraction target's prison transfer in an old SUV before one of them realizes that there's another tail on the sheriff's van. They slow down to let that vehicle pass, and then, just as that car—presumably full of cartel members—goes to take the van, they deploy an electronic shutdown, effectively stalling out the transport. The bad guys blow past the van and end up getting T-boned by a semi.

Kyle and the gang roll up on the van and grab the passenger, telling the cop driving that while they might look like bad guys, they actually just saved his life. "Leave us out of your report," they say, before rolling up on the semi-driver, who yells, "I don't see shit!" They make him lie face down in the dirt and then investigate the cartel car, where they finish off one guy who's still moving. They get the original target thrown in the old SUV and roll off, with one of Joe's crew members saying, "I've done some stupid shit in my life, but that tops it."

Of course, the drama is far from over, since a pickup truck comes flying in to try and drive them off the road. They fire at the driver, and the truck veers off the road and then quickly zip off to their vehicle swap in an old barn. They leave the old car in the barn, torch the whole thing with a grenade, and then speed off in a brand-new black SUV. While Joe's crew seems to think this is going to make the national news in seconds, Kyle assures them it won't, saying, "Shit happens here every day and no one hears about it. The administration won't even admit there's a border. This story stopped when we got in the truck." I don't believe that's entirely true, because why would we even meet Kyle and go on this adventure in the first place if it wasn't going to have implications down the line, but we'll see!

This entire storyline is easily reminiscent of Sheridan's first major screenplay, Sicario. The Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt film, which follows a battle with a drug cartel on the border, is what put him on the map. We know he can write a Western, but let it be known, he mastered the military thriller first.

Greg Lewis/Paramount+

I'd be remiss not to mention the brief glimpse we get into Kaitlyn's home and work life this episode, including some backroom-type dealings she has with a slimy member of the congressional foreign relations committee and an icy morning coffee she shares with her husband Errol (Big Little Lies' Martin Donovan). He appears to be some big-time mover and shaker in either the financial or global political world, and overall I came away from their sort of emotionless back and forth, thinking that their relationship was more of a transaction than a love match. Similar to Joe and Neil, we're seeing that it seems nearly impossible for the powerful females in this line of work to maintain a meaningful relationship. Not that what Joe and Neil have isn't meaningful, but let's not forget about the "open marriage" mentioned in Episode 1.

We're three episodes deep into Lioness now, and while we're getting a better sense of who everyone is and what's to come, there are still a lot of big question marks. Here's what we're still wondering, plus a prediction we have about what's to come.

New episodes of Special Ops: Lioness premiere Sundays on Paramount+.

CruzAaliyahJoeSammyHassanKaitlyn MeadeKyle KateNeilErrol