Monday, May 31, 2010

 

Treme No. 6: Shallow Water, Oh Mama



By Edward Copeland
Davis gives a colorful launch to his half silly/half serious campaign hitting the neighborhood on the back of a flatbed truck with loudspeakers, signs that say "Davis Can Save Us" and "McAlary A Desperate Man for Desperate Times as well as a bevy of strippers. He even gives a shoutout to his new friends, the gay neighbors he used to terrorize but he now has embraced since they pulled him off the street unconscious. He also sells copies of his campaign album. It's a fun beginning to a mostly fun episode. Forgive the tardiness in the recap, though actually only one episode of Treme has aired since this one, since it took a week off for the Memorial Day weekend. Still, given my unusual situation, I will have to wait until the series' conclusion to recap the season.


Delmond Lambreaux, Albert's son, takes his Crescent City Carnivale tour to Arizona where some of his fellow players suggest some other New Orleans standards but Delmond, who resisted the whole idea of this tour in the first place, insists that they stick to the playlist. Rob Brown is fine in his role and I see his connection to the show more clearly than Sonny and Annie, who I've decided bore me to the point that I'm not going to bother to cover them anymore, but his scenes don't have the same charge than the others do. A great show such as Treme can have weak links, but I have more faith that Delmond will pay off down the line than Sonny and Annie ever will, especially now that it's turning into a rather typical melodramatic story of an abusive, drug addicted man jealous of his more talented girlfriend.

In her continued search for clues to the whereabouts of David Brooks, Toni travels to Port Arthur, Texas, where she has tracked down one of the two remaining former New Orleans cops who were on duty when David was apprehended. The ex-officer expresses reluctance at first to cooperate but eventually admits that he did stop David for running a red light. Toni smiles a satisfied smile for making some progress and is almost prepared to leave when it dawns on her that no one is usually jailed for running a traffic light. She turns around and the ex-cop realizes she isn't done and she asks why he took him to jail for a traffic violation. The former officer says he had to because he had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear. Toni realizes the original would be lost, but wonders if the officer's carbon might be somewhere. He admits that the reason he quit the force was the eight days after the storm he spent living out of his patrol car, scavenging for food and supplies. Having had enough, he just abandoned his patrol car in Lake Charles and if the patrol car is still there, his arrest log should be as well.

Antoine pays a visit to his former musical mentor who lost his trombone during Katrina and gives him the gift of the brand new instrument that the Japanese benefactor purchased for him. Now that he's recovered his own bone, he's more than satisfied to keep using that. The old man is reluctant at first to accept such an expensive gift, but Antoine encourages him to take it and keep moving straight ahead.

Creighton picks up his agent Carla at the airport (played by Talia Balsam, the real-life Mrs. John Slattery who plays his ex-wife on Mad Men) and he tries to beat her to the punch, certain that she's been sent because his publisher wants their advance back for the long overdue book on the 1927 flood. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. They still want that book, but they are interested in a different kind of book. His YouTube rants have made him hot and they want to incorporate the current New Orleans plight into the story. Creighton rejects the idea and promises that they will have the manuscript in six weeks, but it will only cover the 1927 flood. Later, a still annoyed Creighton spots Sofia with one of Davis' campaign bumper stickers. At first, he can't believe it's the same guy who has been giving Sofia piano lessons, then he gets mad that Davis is turning such a serious matter as an election into a joke.

Davis, meanwhile, brings his coterie of strippers with him as he shows up to a televised candidates forum. He's disappointed to learn that the format doesn't allow him to sing one of his campaign songs, but he does prove entertaining with his campaign platform, which includes Greased Palm Sunday which will give a new meaning to transparency by televising bribes live on television. When he watches the broadcast later at a bar, he encounters a local pol who is intrigued by McAlary's unorthodox campaign and offers him some help to gain more traction. A surprised Davis asks if that means the man thinks he has a chance to win to which the pol replies, "No way."

Despite the rave reviews and usually packed houses, Desautel's, still faces financial struggles causing Janette no end of heartaches. Janette even finds herself hiding out from suppliers who are now insisting on cash payments for supplies and she knows she doesn't have enough cash to pay the employees for the week. She asks Jacques (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) if he thinks, if she asked, the staff would be willing to work a week without pay in hopes of keeping the restaurant afloat. Jacques says that all she can do is ask. Kim Dickens just breaks your heart in these scenes as her passion runs into the brick wall of financial realities and how it will affect the livelihoods of people she views as family. Later, after the dinner crowd departs, Janette gathers the staff and is about to ask them the week-without-pay question, but she can't bring herself to do it. She realizes the futility of one week without pay toward solving long-term problems. She tries to be strong, but tells the staff that the restaurant has to close indefinitely. She hopes that if she can get things back in order, she'll be able to re-open soon, but if they find new work and can't return, she understands. Much later, alone at the restaurant, Janette has a glass of wine, ignores a ringing phone and exits her restaurant with her knives. Dickens' performance has been good throughout the entire run of the series, but this scene marks the best she's been, even besting anything she got to do on Deadwood.

Even though Antoine and his "bone" have been reunited, Batiste still is finding it hard to find paying gigs and he's drowning his sorrows at a bar about it when Kermit Ruffins offers him a spot at the Mardi Gras Ball. It comes with a catch: Antoine will have to wear a tuxedo. He even manages to land a spot for his aging mentor, Nelson. When Antoine shares the news with Nelson, he tells him the catch is that both of them will have to undergo a medical checkup, though it's really just Antoine's concern for his old friend. The nurse who looks them over tells Antoine that he needs to lose weight, but she just thinks Nelson is depressed. "Ain't we all," Antoine sighs. When he gets home, he has more to be depressed about. Desiree didn't take his tux to a dry cleaner, she put it in the washing machine, so Antoine ends up at the ball as the only musician not in black tie.

Like a bloodhound hot on an escaped prisoner's trail, Toni's quest takes her to Lake Charles in pursuit of the ex-cop's patrol car. She fudges the truth, telling an officer there she's come to pick up the unit which relieves the officer who has been waiting for it to be picked up for months. Toni scrounged through the patrol car's back seat and finds what she's looking for: the carbons and proof of David Brooks' arrest. She then begins to leave, telling the officer someone will be back the next day to finally retrieve the vehicle.

The lack of housing for his tribe still is burning Albert up as he and his second chief, Franklin, sift through costumes. Albert heads out later because Delmond's tour has brought him to New Orleans so Albert goes to see him. At the club, Delmond notices his father paying more attention to people coming to wish him well than to Delmond's music. Between sets, Delmond let's his father know what he thinks about his lack of respect. Albert tells his son he can't stay for the second set. The following day, as the tribe continues to work on costumes, the councilman's aide arrives with what he thinks is good news: the councilman has secured a FEMA trailer to house the tribal member. Albert tosses him out.

Relaxing at home in Baton Rouge, LaDonna gets a call that her mother is having trouble breathing, so she's off to New Orleans wishing once again that she could convince the old woman to move to Baton Rouge. When she arrives at the hospital, she can't answer all the nurse's questions about her mother's medical history and when the nurse suggest her mom's pharmacy could help, LaDonna informs her it is closed.

Back from her Lake Charles triumph, Toni shares her good news with Creighton while Sofia comes in to show off her parade costume. She asks her mom what she is, but Toni is puzzled. After several guesses, Sofia says she's sperm. A shocked Toni asks her husband when exactly he abandoned his role as parent. Creighton explains the Krewe du Vieux centerpiece will be a mockup of Mayor Ray Nagin masturbating. Creighton offers to make Toni a costume, but she declines. She has to face the police and City Attorney with her new evidence afterward and that could make things more difficult.

We get a glimpse of where Davis McAlary sprang from as he visits his family to discuss his campaign. He comes from money. His parents are racists who do their best to hide it and are down on his platform, mainly for the class of people their son surrounds himself with, but Davis insists that the city is broke and the city is broken and someone must make a stand. One relative on his side is his fun, martini-swilling Aunt Mimi, played by the great Elizabeth Ashley, who is completely on board with her nephew's plans.

Before the parade takes place, Toni manages to get an early meeting with Assistant District Attorney Renee Dufossat and shows her the new evidence, including that the warrant David was arrested on was outdated. She proposes that the two of them make a joint motion for an emergency rehearing, but Dufossat brushes it off. Toni is appalled. Doesn't Renee care that an innocent man has been languishing in jail for six months? The ADA's hands are tied: the new policy is that there are no joint motions for emergency hearings. The outrage is enough to change Toni's mind about the parade that night and she joins her husband and daughter in costume ahead of the float of Nagin pleasuring himself beside a sign that reads "Mandatory ejaculation." Another thing written on the float pleads, "Buy us back Chirac." Despite the horrors the city has endured, the fun of Carnival has returned. My writings about Treme will too as well once the season has ended. With more than half its season over, Treme certainly has proven itself as one of the best dramas airing, but I've got the feeling this HBO drama will meet the same Emmy fate as David Simon's previous dramas, The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, which filmed in Baltimore. Somehow if a show doesn't base itself in New York or Los Angeles, it's looked down upon by those voters who tend to mimeograph the previous year's nominees. Hope springs eternal, but I stopped dreaming of Emmys doing the right thing a long, long time ago.



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