Hey, everybody, “True Blood” is back! And, man, when that show comes back, it doesn’t waste any time, does it? I can’t think of the last season premiere that was quite so action-packed. Whether it’s a response to the complaints over the way Season 2 limped to a conclusion after Maryann was finally taken down in the first half of the season finale or simply a conscious effort by the producers to make sure that the viewers are given plenty to keep ’em coming back, I don’t know…and, frankly, I don’t care. At the very least, I have to say that, although the amount of activity was somewhat dizzying at first (possibly because the advance screener I received wasn’t preceded by a “Previously on ‘True Blood'” segment to get me back up to speed), so much happened that I definitely found myself in a position of thinking, “Okay, I reckon it was worth coming back for Season 3.”

I mean, seriously, here’s what happened in the first two minutes (!) of the episode:

• Sookie runs out of the restaurant, frantic that Bill’s been kidnapped, leading the French woman to decry the world’s vampire population.
• Sam’s on the road, heading for Magnolia, Arkansas, looking for some folks named Melinda and Joe Lee Mickens…who are, as it happens, his folks.
• Jason’s having an anxiety attack over shooting Eggs.
• Tara is beside herself with grief, but Lafayette’s trying to console her.
• Hoyt makes Jessica’s heart momentarily melt with the flowers she’s left for him, but although she’s touched, she’s can’t just leave her trucker lying on the porch.
• Bill’s kidnappers are a bunch of rednecks who tell him that he can call them the Fuck You Crew.

Talk about making quick work of playing catch-up, huh?

At first, I thought Deputy Jones wasn’t very fond of vampires, hence her bad attitude while Sookie was trying to get her missing-persons report filed for Bill, but, but, it seemed to me that her real issue was the fact that Bill proposed and Sookie turned him down. Daaaaaaamn…but, really, as a guy, I have to say that my reaction to having a proposal rejected wouldn’t have been terribly far removed from what the good deputy was theorizing. Still, as a law enforcement officer, her actions seemed less than professional, even for Bon Temps, Louisiana. Not that the sheriff was much better when she confronted him about the situation…

Inside Merlotte’s, Andy’s looking decidedly nervous, which is clearly why Terry comes over and gets all philosophical on his ass. There’s a lot of love in this bar…well, except from Arlene, who you’d think would be more sympathetic to Tara’s loss. (I laughed out loud when she said, “I’m sorry you fell in love with a serial killer, all right, but who here hasn’t?”) Arlene, of course, has got her own troubles to deal with, as we learned later in the episode when she exclaimed, “Shit! I’m pregnant again!” This ought to be interesting…and when I say interesting, I think Terry’s descriptor probably comes closer. That was a damned peculiar reaction. Who’s the father of this baby, anyway?

Clearly, Jessica is already regretting her actions with the truck driver, but it’s a little late in the game for that: not only is he pissed, but by the time she begins to be concerned, he’s already teetering on the precipice of death. She’s clearly still a bundle of mixed emotions, though, because as soon as she heard a noise outside, she was up like a flash, dumping him back onto the steps. Am I the only one who laughed when, in reaction to Sookie revealing that Bill’s been kidnapped, a befuddled Jessica asked, “What? I thought you were just going to dinner!” (Like the kidnapping was something that had been added to schedule for the evening…?) It’s clear that people’s shock over Sookie rejecting Bill’s proposal is going to be a running joke…and speaking of jokes, I also laughed at Jessica’s snap decision on how to save her trucker’s life, though I did so because I thought it’d back to bite her in the ass. As it turned out, it didn’t do jack shit, which was somehow even funnier, possibly because it was accompanied by such a God-awful stench. Shame about poor Hoyt’s attempts to reconcile falling on deaf…or distracted…ears, but give him credit for keeping the faith.

I’m glad to see they’re going to embrace the relationship between Andy and Jason. Their scenes were some of the best parts of Season 2, so I’m psyched to see what this brain trust will provide us in Season 3. Already, we’ve got the season’s first instant t-shirt slogan: “Conscience off, dick on!” I question whether or not Jason is going to be able to follow Andy’s instructions, unfortunately. I have my suspicions that his attempts to act “normal” will just cause him to look like he’s hiding something…which, of course, he is.

“I’m in no mood for lesbian weirdness tonight, Pam.” Damn, Pam looks good, and she’s having a lot of fun playing with Sookie, even as she’d like to play with the new dancer at Fangtasia. I’m sure you ladies…and, yes, some gentlemen as well, no doubt…enjoyed Erik’s nekkid strut toward Sookie, but it just made me laugh. Still, you’ve got to admire his confidence. Nice snarky comment from Erik about Bill’s stamina, but it was interesting to hear him comment that he’s duty bound as sheriff to find the people responsible for Bill’s disappearance. Well, sure he is…especially since he’d sent his own people out to kidnap Bill! Pam’s trying to convince him to get the queen involved, but that’s the last thing Erik wants.

The whole scene in the car with Bill and his redneck kidnappers was pretty disconcerting to me, what with the whole trading of blood thing, so it was nice to see Bill end it with one quick neck twist. Hell of a way to stop a car, but it did the trick. Still, Bill might be free, but given the amount of blood dripping from his wounds, it was clear as he was crawling from the wreckage that he’s still a far cry from clear, but at least he had enough strength to send that psychic burst to Jessica, which was pretty awesome.

So Lafayette’s getting Tara hopped up on goofballs or something…nah, just kidding: it’s tequila and Klonipin, which – although I’m not personally familiar with the drug – is apparently used to for panic and anxiety attacks. Whatever it is, I can’t imagine that you ought to mix it with alcohol. Still, if it’s supposed to calm Tara down, she manages to blow off its effects and lose her fucking mind when Sookie reveals that she told Eggs what he did while under Maryanne’s power. Damn, Sookie can’t catch a break, can she? Kids, remember: honesty isn’t always the best policy.

I have no idea what the whole dream sequence with Sam and Bill was about, but I laughed my ass off at Bill’s line, “I hear the water in Arkansas is very hard…” Clearly, Sam’s family isn’t exactly the most savory bunch, given that they were evicted from their last residence, but how interesting to learn that Sam’s got a brother. We didn’t make much headway on this storyline, except to see that, by episode’s end, he’s found his family. Presumably, he’ll actually approach them next episode.

You know who has the best relationship advice? City employees. It was interesting to hear Jason make the comment harking back to the religion he was being fed back in Season 2, but the key line of the scene came a few moments later: “You want to really fuck somebody’s life up? Tell the truth about ‘em. They ain’t never gonna be the same.” Truth and honesty seems to be the theme of this episode. Looks like Jason’s got himself a new roommate…and it’s Hoyt.

I loved the scene between Lafayette and Tara’s mama. She might be the one talking all God this and God that, but he’s the one preaching the gospel: “Do everybody a solid and, instead of looking up at a god who let all this shit happen, you need to keep your eyes on your fucking daughter, ’cause she ain’t right to be alone.” It’s awesome to have the old Lafayette back, the one whose every other line in Season 1 was comedy gold. His scene ender here was genius: “You, me, bridge…? It ain’t never gonna motherfucking happen.”

Zeljko Ivanek, I wonder if I can watch two consecutive hours of quality television without having you show up at some point. I’m beginning to think not. It was good to see him turn up again as the Magistrate, throwing his weight around and emptying Fangtasia for an impromptu summit. I’m not sure which was more interesting: his concerns about the blood uptake in the vampire community, or the Queen’s revelation that she’s in debt up to her eyeballs. “Hell hath no fury like a vampire queen broke,” indeed…

Why on earth would such incredibly hot college students be passing through Bon Temps? I guess it’s appropriate that one of them is following a field of study with an emphasis in canine psychology, since Jason’s clearly back to being a poon hound. I loved that line he offered to his new roommate: “There’s a certain amount of pussy overflow you’re just going to have to learn to deal with!” Atta boy, Stackhouse! Still, for all his attempts at feigning normalcy, Li’l Jason just wasn’t having it. In fairness, if I was seeing bullet holes in the foreheads of my attempted sexual conquests, I’d be a little concerned if I could get it up, but, damn, you can’t say the ladies didn’t give him enough material to work with. It’s scenes like these that provide guys with unrealistic visions of what to expect from their sexual encounters.
Frankly, I think the real boner-diminishing element was Billy Squier’s “Everybody Wants You,” but maybe that’s just me.

If tonight’s any indication, then it looks like Pam’s going to have a pretty decent role this season: in addition to when we saw her at Fangtasia, she also scored another scene with Sookie (during which time she received her call from Erik) and taught Lafayette that he’d better watch it with the backtalk. Note to self: never call a female vampire a hooker.

No matter what Tara’s mama might be saying and despite the Reverend’s best efforts, I couldn’t for a moment picture Tara finding Jesus and turning into a full-fledged Bible-thumper. Eventually, the Rev made his departure, though not before Tara’s mama hits on him in a big way. Talk about your weird moments. It must’ve been good for Mama, though, given how relaxed she’s looking when Lafayette comes home. She just doesn’t listen to that boy, though. He said, “You need to keep your eyes on your daughter,” but the second she stops watching, Tara’s in the bathroom, trying to fix herself a last cocktail, so to speak. Looks like Betty Draper’s got some competition for TV Mother of the Year.

Now that Sookie knows about vampire transmissions, she’s immediately on Jessica’s case to find out if she’s gotten one from Bill. Typically, the importance of the information she’s received has gone completely over Jessica’s head, but Sookie sorts her out, and the next thing you know, they’ve found Bill’s car. So the Fuck You Crew are a bunch of werewolves, huh?

Speaking of Bill, it’s a sign of the level of his desperation that he should, however apologetically, feed on an old woman, but it was a very sweet gesture on his part to leave her with the (false) memory that her son had stopped by and had nothing but good things to say about her. Mind you, I’m not sure if the strength that he found from feeding on Olivia will provide him with sufficient defense from a pack of werewolves, but time will tell. In fact, a week’s time should just about do it.

See you next Sunday!