American Gigolo season 1, episode 7 recap – “Atomic”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 23, 2022 (Last updated: January 27, 2024)
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American Gigolo season 1, episode 7 recap - "Atomic"


“Atomic” brings all the plot threads together just in time for the finale, while also continuing to crack a window into the past lives and psyches of core characters.

This American Gigolo season 1, episode 7 recap for the episode titled “Atomic” contains spoilers.

When does the present start being the past? That seems like a question with an obvious answer, but it isn’t remotely obvious for Julian Kaye. He lost 15 years of his life in an endless, unchanging present, and when he returned to the outside world it was only the past waiting for him. He hasn’t had time yet to adjust to his current reality, let alone consider what his future might look like, and despite everyone telling him to leave his pain and trauma behind, those things seem more relevant now than they ever did.

American Gigolo season 1, episode 7 recap

I raise this because it’s the subject of a conversation between Julian and Isabelle in the opening scene of “Atomic”. We saw at the very end of American Gigolo episode 6 that Isabelle was waiting for him, but we didn’t know why. It quickly becomes clear that, after some of her conversations with Detective Sunday, she wants Julian to keep his nose out of the whole Lisa Beck affair, and in “Atomic” we begin to see why.

American Gigolo has used flashbacks often, but usually in a dreamlike way to make suggestions about characters’ pasts and psyches. There’s a little of that here, but these jaunts back to the childhoods of Julian and Isabelle are much more explicitly informed by the plot and contain actual reveals that begin to tie together what have seemed like related but parallel storylines.

We see, for instance, that it was Isabelle who “discovered” Lisa Beck’s body and then trailed the blood pooling from her slashed wrists all over Olga’s mansion on the bottom of her little white shoes. She found Julian and led him back to the corpse, like the creepy kid in a horror movie, or like a cat showing its owner the bird it has dragged inside.

There’s more context to this, but it’s revealed a little later, which is as just as well since it incorporates what’s going on in the Stratton household, where Richard is still reeling after what he learned about Michelle’s extramarital activities and what he suspects about Colin’s parentage. These sections deploy flashbacks too, but for a different purpose; we see scenes we’ve already been made privy to – Richard and Colin building that watch together – being reappraised by Richard, to whom they suddenly mean something new and upsetting. Leland Orser plays Richard differently in “Atomic” than he has in previous episodes; he’s softer and more vulnerable and genuinely seems to be wounded.

He also remains in quite a predicament, because McGregor is ransoming Colin off for a sizeable sum of money that Richard has instructed Panish to withdraw and transport. He still isn’t entirely sure he can guarantee Colin’s safety, and now he’s faced with the possibility that, even if he does, Colin will never look at him as a father again.

And then there’s Detective Sunday, who is so focused on the case that she misses her date with Paloma, who turns up at the precinct to ask why it slipped her mind and gets a few mouthfuls of backstory from a deadpan Rosie O’Donnell. Paloma, for what it’s worth, seems very understanding, but she must take less priority than recent developments, which have revealed that Janet Holmes, the woman Sunday pushed Julian to confess to killing, was the sister of Lisa Beck.

Before she died, Janet made some calls. Julian, who Sunday summons so she can share this latest information, recognizes one of them as a former client named Gail St. John. He goes to see her alone, and she reveals that Janet was looking into Olga’s activities, obviously stemming from Lisa’s mysterious suicide. This explains a lot. It gives Janet a reason to be killed, and Julian a reason to be framed. He doesn’t take the news well, understandably, accusing both Isabelle and Lorenzo, who gave him the Janet Holmes job, of complicity.

All that remains is to tie this into what’s going on with the Stratton family. When Julian earlier told Lorenzo of what he’d learned and witnessed so far, Lorenzo told Isabelle, who had another flashback of the night of Lisa Beck’s death, revealing that McGregor, of all people, was present for it. She makes a call and, at the end of the episode, we see her turn up at the motel where McGregor is holding Colin, just as Julian himself turns up at the Stratton residence.

It’s quite the closer and bodes well for a finale that should tie up some of the loose ends still remaining and give us the full picture of what happened the night Lisa Beck died – and why that particular part of Julian’s past might define his future.

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