The pieces of Atlas’ 30-year plan start to fall into place in an episode that reveals that Earl Swagger saw it all coming back then. We learn who pulled the trigger on the long gun that killed Earl and that there is nothing Red Bama Sr. (Gerald McRaney) won’t do for Atlas (hint: those two things might be related).
Swagger puts the Bama boys on notice
Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) returns to Texas, furious after Red Bama Jr. (Eric Ladin) put Sam Vincent (David Andrews) in the hospital. Swagger heads to Bama Cattle with a plan. He sets up on his long gun and gets Junior in his scope, but instead of firing he takes out his phone and makes a call saying someone is about to die. Then he strong-arms his way inside, takes out Junior’s protection and starts wailing on him. He gets Junior to spill that Earl had evidence against Atlas. Bama Sr. busts in armed and Swagger stands down. Sheriff Brown arrives just in time, responding to the anonymous call. Bama Sr. tries to have Swagger arrested, but Brown points out that would come with questions about what happened to Sam.
Downey steps out in the field
Back in Washington, D.C. Team Swagger decides to go after Andrew Gold, the President’s Chief of Staff. After a press conference, Harris Downey (Jesse Bradford) approaches Gold and mentions a white nationalist group that Downey alleges Gold supports. Gold recognizes the intel from “Gregson’s famous gossip files” but laughs it off and tells him he sucks at blackmailing. Carlita Cruise (Felisha Terrell) decides she’s on the wrong side and sets up a covert meeting with Jack Long, offering him the decryption card if he gets her off the Atlas kill list. She’s only on it because they’re worried she saw something when she ran protection for Red Bama at the Department of Agriculture, but she says she didn’t. She wants 48 hours to get the card.
Atlas tries to finish the job with Sam
In the hospital, Julie (Shantel VanSanten) and Bob Lee notice the recorder in Sam’s stuff and hear the audio of Junior attacking Sam and asking about his evidence. Later, Sam confirms that Earl made a video confession, but he has no idea where it is. Swagger is talking to Sheriff Brown later when Julie notices a suspicious orderly injecting something into Sam’s arm. She questions him and he attacks her then runs. Swagger chases after him but the operative escapes outside. Later, we learn that while the poison didn’t reach his bloodstream, Bob Lee’s surrogate father has still taken a turn for the worse.
Bama Sr. takes his son to the promised land
Bama Sr. takes Junior to the Atlas campus, a ranch disguised as a nuclear waste facility. Head Atlas honcho August Russo (Raymond J. Barry), is there and is not thrilled about Junior’s tangles with the Swaggers. He reminds Senior that the Swaggers have always been trouble, including when they tried to frame Bob Lee for assassinating the Ukrainian president. Later, Senior tells his son that he was invited to join Atlas as the 11th member after he personally took out Earl Swagger. He warns his son that if he’s in, he can’t protect him, but the young pup is just thrilled to be given a chance. Later, Russo puts Bama Sr.’s words to the test, when he tells him Junior has to for telling Bob Lee about Earl’s evidence. He thinks Red should have known when he brought Junior to campus that things would go this way. Russo offers to have someone else handle it. But Red Bama Sr. has never minded getting his hands dirty. He brings his son a special malt to toast his acceptance into Atlas. As Junior drinks deeply he earnestly thanks his father for always believing in him. His father hugs him tightly and tells him he’s proud of him. Later, Senior buries his son – hands dirty once again.
Swagger follows his father’s bread crumbs
Swagger reviews his dad’s old notes with Sheriff Brown and notices one in which he underlined a name three times, for a routine traffic accident. Earl always made Bob Lee repeat things three times to remember them. He thinks it’s a clue. Swagger and Brown travel to the Department of Records warehouse to check it out. They find the evidence box for the accident file—with a VHS labeled “Phoenix” inside. Then the building lights go out. Knowing they’re about to be under Atlas assault, Brown and Swagger split up and creep through the dark cavernous space. Swagger takes out the assailants and the men get out while they can.
What Earl Swagger knew
In flashbacks, we see the contents of Earl Swagger’s recorded video testimony, which he made for his wife and son and to set the record straight. He feels guilty for ever having been part of Phoenix, which became Atlas. He recounts an operation Katherine Mayfield sent him on, supposedly to attack a weapon supply line. A new major named Raymond Brooks, with special forces, arrived to lead it, and the mission never felt right. Once in Cambodia, they stopped a truck and interrogated the villagers driving it. Earl was angry to find it contained not guns, but drugs. But he was angrier still when Brooks shot two of the people in cold blood. He decked Brooks across the temple, digging a gash that would leave a scar, and left him in the jungle. We see that Ray Brooks still bears the mark…when he’s introduced by Andrew Gold as the President’s nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Earl saw it coming in his affidavit decades before, in which he traced Brooks’ journey on the bench up to Attorney General of Utah then Federal Court. He says it reeks of Atlas. “Whatever it is they’re planning, it won’t end til someone stops them,” he says.