“Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” Episode 4 Recap

February 15, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

This episode of “Feud” was all about acceptance. In fact, it made me wonder if perhaps the previous episodes of the series had tones that specifically referred to the stages of grief. I don’t think that’s the case, but I could believe it. In this case, the acceptance came in the form of Babe Paley (Naomi Watts) making peace not only with the cancer that will soon end her life, but also with Truman Capote (Tom Hollander). And Truman also experienced his own moments of clarity, finally grasping that he is in fact an alcoholic — and it is killing him — and that his behaviors have left a great many people destroyed in his wake. Will that stop him from creating more collateral damage as he enters the last act of his life? There are at least three more episodes of this series, so I’m guessing not.


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The focus of the show shifted back to the twin pillars of Babe and Truman. Babe received discouraging news about her cancer prognosis, and I will once again commend Naomi Watts for the internal acting she is doing in this role. Even when silent, she relays so much about what is going on in Babe’s head as she gets dressed to the nines in order to lay on a radiology table, or later as she dances with her husband (the late Treat Williams), in what was, I think, one of the most heartbreaking and honest scenes in the show so far. There is so much restraint in Watts’ performance, and that can’t be easy given the incredibly big emotions that character was wrestling with at that point in her life. But she was a grand lady of her day — arguably one of THE grandest — and restraint and dignity are required for this role. Watts is absolutely nailing it.

Then there’s Truman. In my recap of the premiere episodes, I complained that I thought Hollander’s portrayal verged on too broad as he took on Capote’s later, messier years. I still stand by that, but I thought his performance was tighter in this episode, even as Truman vacillated between getting on the right path, and being tempted back into depravity and ugliness via the most destructive of all influences — a bad dude with a huge dick. I think part of my issue is that I find the scenes with Truman and John O’Shea (Russell Tovey) genuinely difficult to watch. The casual violence, misogyny, and homophobia are repellent, but I guess that’s a testament to the work being done by the writers, director Gus Van Sant, and the actors in question. I find myself wanting to turn away from these awful moments, as a once-brilliant, charming man is repeatedly crushed by this boor of a man. But it’s an important part of Truman’s life, and seeing him go back to John even after his confidante Jack Dunphy (Joe Mantello) has done everything possible to pry Truman out of this abusive cycle is powerful and deeply tragic.

Overall this was a depressing episode of the series — well executed, but still undeniably a downer — yet it still had a few fiery moments. The brief verbal slap fight between Slim Keith (Diane Lane) and Truman was pitch perfect. Lee Radziwell (Calista Flockhart) coming in and stepping directly on Slim’s neck as she revealed she knew that Slim had been sleeping with Bill Paley (!) was a glorious dramatic moment, and boy was Flockhart great in it. And I enjoyed seeing Truman interact with John’s daughter, who comes to him for help in getting some kind of footing in life after both of her parents devolved into absolute disasters. And then we had Truman’s brief sidewalk reconciliation with Babe, a wonderful moment of healing that was necessary not only for both characters, but also for the viewers.

Notably absent this episode were any scenes featuring Truman interacting with the phantom of his dead mother (Jessica Lang), or any more interactions with Demi Moore’s Ann Woodward. Although I enjoy all the actors involved in those scenes, I think the episode was stronger without them.

There were elements of this episode that almost felt like the end of the story. I genuinely don’t know where we go from here. Truman seems committed to finishing his book about the Swans, even as he desperately seeks to reconcile with them. Babe seems poised to wind down her remaining days as gracefully as she can. Slim has been brought to heel by not only Lee’s admonitions but also the revelation that Babe knew about the affair with Bill — that’s a dynamic I’m eager to see explored. And we still have barely touched the Radziwell story, and Slim all but teed up a big scandal this episode, asking Lee how she’ll feel when the Lee Radziwell chapter of Truman’s book is splashed all over the street.

Miss Our Previous Recaps?

Episode 3

Episodes 1 & 2

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