The episode opens with Harry (Zachary Quinto), plunging into an ice pool in his palatial, modernist waterfront home. The narrator (Victor Garber) tells us that Harry has always been fueled by anger—that his anger is the key to his success. It’s clear that Harry’s uncontrolled temper is certainly the key to his strained relationships with his family: He menaces his wife, and he lectures his slight, sensitive son, Rocco, on the importance of looking out for Number One.
Harry alternately bullies and cajoles Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) to testify on his behalf, if it comes to that. Harry also pays a visit to Anouk (Uma Thurman) and offers her a bribe, which she declines. Anouk notes that she didn’t see the slap anyway—she was distracted by “the whole freaky tableau.”
Hector convinces Harry to apologize to Rosie, Gary, and Hugo. As apologies go, it’s a crummy one—Hector lectures Hugo on the rules of baseball (the altercation that led to the slap); Rosie won’t accept the insincerely offered olive branch; and Harry can’t sustain even the appearance of contrition. The apology, rather than smoothing over the altercation, escalates to a fresh screaming match, a broken chair, and a call to the cops.
Bad behavior abounds. We learn that Harry is having an affair with a dishy employee; another employee is embezzling. Rocco, taking his father’s aggressive advice to heart, attacks another child and gets tossed off the basketball team.
The episode starts with an ice plunge and ends with Harry’s arraignment. Gary, drunk again, attends, and can’t resist inserting himself into the proceedings. Connie quits her job at the clinic but can’t resist texting plaintive messages to Hector that he can’t resist returning.
The Slap is all about people doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing—pressing a bruise, poking a bear, stirring the pot. Each small, petty, human action is a foot dislodging the pebble that launches an avalanche, the kind of mistake that makes the viewer cover her eyes and say “No!” The kind of mistake we’ve seen before—when Orpheus can’t resist looking back, when Pandora opens her jar. Stay tuned for divine retribution.