Thursday, June 24, 2010


Treme No. 7: Smoke My Peace Pipe

By Edward Copeland
It's been awhile since I've been able to recap Treme episodes, but I have my hands on the first season's final four episodes, so the wrapup should be imminent this week or next, beginning with the seventh episode, "Smoke My Peace Pipe." If you want to refresh yourself over previous recaps, the index is here. "Smoke My Peace Pipe" really is a change of pace for the leisurely paced series. There are many important developments to be sure, but for the most part each scene is very brief, some barely lasting a minute in length.

That is not the case with the opening scene which sees Tim Reid return in his role as a judge, hearing the new evidence Toni (Melissa Leo) has found in her tireless search for the LaDonna's missing brother, an innocent man lost in the penal system ever since Katrina hit. The judge declares that in his 22 years as a New Orleans official, he's always tried to defend the city against charges of overwhelming and incompetence but he has never seen a case as egregious as the one of Daymo Brooks. He even stops the assistant district attorney before she can stand and make the parish's usual excuses. He calls the incident an embarrassment and apologizes to Ladonna and her mother (Khandi Alexander, Venida Evans) and orders the city, state and penal system to produce David within 72 hours or face contempt.

Following the credits, that's when the editing pattern of lightning-quick scenes begin to take place in "Smoke My Peace Pipe," an episode whose story and script were co-written by the late David Mills. This attention-deficit-disorder rhythm sort of keeps you at arm's length from much of the episode, which hasn't been the case with Treme so far. The performances still are top notch and the episode features some fine moments, but it weakens the overall effort. On the plus side, whenever Sonny or Annie show up, it's for a mercifully brief period of time each time and you are soon back with characters you actually care about.

Albert (Clarke Peters) with the help of some members of his tribe breaks into the sealed off projects and enters one of the residences that belonged to the mother of another tribe member's mother. As he expected, aside from dust and a little mold, there's little damage to be found. He tells his compatriots to call the TV stations and reporters first and then the police. Later that night, a TV crew finally arrives, followed quickly by police who attempt to arrest Albert and his friends for trespassing. Albert insists that they aren't trespassing because they have the permission of the residence's owner to be there. The police say it doesn't belong to her anymore, it's the property of the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Still, the police relent. Later, they take note of another squatter who has returned to the projects and flown a banner that reads, "My home." As Albert's standoff continues, an officer from the community relations division visits and tells him that there has been no outcry from voters to reopen the projects and if he doesn't leave by tomorrow, the police are down indulging him and will charge him with criminal trespass. The following day, Albert tells his friends that it's time for him to go. The police enter to arrest him and order him to kneel. He puts out his hands and says they can cuff him, but he will not kneel. The cops draw the blinds and proceed to beat Albert.

Creighton's unfinished book keeps giving him (John Goodman) nothing but frustration. He reads to his classroom from a book about a different New Orleans flood and how the author preferred a decimated New Orleans to his native Ohio in the best shape. Back at home, he lugs his large box of pages and notes for his book to the guest house in hopes of finishing it once and for all, but he finds himself mostly staring at a blank computer screen. Toni comes in every now and then to try to convince him to take a break for dinner or brings him a morning cup of coffee only to be rebuffed and told that all he's putting out is shit. Later, frustrated, Creighton returns to what has satisfied him the most of late, his YouTube rants, turning this time to one on the impending city elections. There is "no way a shared sense of purpose is going to survive a New Orleans election," he tells his world wide audience, adding that New Orleans is its own worst enemy.

Antoine (Wendell Pierce) gathers several of his fellow jobless musician friends to play in the arrival terminal of the New Orleans airport. One woman asks if they are there to greet someone special and Antoine asks if she's from New Orleans. "All my life," she answers. "Then we're playing for you." After Antoine divides the money they collected, some of the players are upset that he saved a cut for his mentor, Danny Nelson, who wasn't even with them, but he tells them it was his idea. He doesn't tell them that currently Danny is in the hospital barely hanging on to life, where Antoine later visits him even though Nelson doesn't know he's there. Antoine pulls out an iPod, places one earpiece in Nelson's ear, the other in his own, and listens to music with his friend. The next time Antoine's makeshift group plays the airport, he's embarrassed to run into the arriving musician Troy Andrews who joins them in a jam and tells Antoine he needs to be heard. When Antoine returns to the hospital again, he finds the Danny's bed is empty and that his friend has died. At his funeral, Danny's daughter tries to return the expensive trombone to Antoine, but he insists she keep it, looking at her young son and suggesting there could be other musicians in the family.

With the restaurant now closed, Janette (Kim Dickens) is selling off the trappings of Desautel's down to the tablecloths. Ironically, her loan from the Small Business Administration finally has come through, albeit too late, so she has purchased a trailer with a grill and a smoker with plans to be a "guerrilla chef." While Janette hopes she'll find some cashflow this way, Davis (Steve Zahn) gets some unexpected money when he delivers more of his CDs to a music store and gets a check for the ones that have sold so far totaling $2,500. The local pol Morial visits Davis later at home and urges him to move to the next step by focusing on local and federal issues, particularly how they want to keep the African-American population driven out by the storm from coming home so that a purple state can go true red, i.e. swing state to solid Republican, but Davis seems obsessed with the idea of how to write a song around the word infrastructure. Not everyone wants Davis to continue his unorthodox campaign. A judge buys him lunch and shows him polling numbers that shows he's cutting into the votes of the people his people want to win and, if he's prepared to drop out, he'll have a get-out-of-jail-free card the next time he finds himself in legal trouble. Later, Davis discovers for the first time that Janette had to shut down her restaurant and arrives at her place with food and wine and asks why she didn't tell him and assures her he's not there just to get laid. At Bacchanal, the two team up, with Janette manning the grill and Davis running the register and selling more of his CDs.

Toni and LaDonna sift through a new photo file of prisoners in search of Daymo but he's nowhere to be found. Toni gets a bad feeling and asks if they have a list of inmates who died in custody and they find his cousin's name, awaiting family identification, and wonder if Daymo assumed his identity. The cousin, however, is alive and Toni suggests that perhaps David took another name entirely and that they were going to have to go to the morgue. The so-called morgue is a series of refrigerated trucks. It's one of the longer scenes, and the best, in the episode. As the official opens the back of the rig, the stiffening of Khandi Alexander's shoulders at the sounds is a wonder of using your body for acting. The news is not good as LaDonna positively identifies the man as Daymo. According to the death certificate, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling off a top bunk. LaDonna refuses to deal with any details right now. She won't ruin her family's Carnival. She does drop by her mom's and lies that they have no news yet, but pours herself a stiff drink.

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Hey - in the scene where Albert won't kneel down for the cops to cuff him, what does he say right before they close the curtains and beat him? I mean, I know what he means, but what are the exact words he uses? The so-called "Indian shit", according to the police officer he swings at?

Would be appreciated if you knew... I always understand no humbow, and that can't be right...

I just heard him say that they could cuff him, but he wouldn't kneel for them.
Well, he says three words, merely breathing them, sounding like "no whoom bow". Should mean something like I won't leave, I won't give in. I heard them before in connection to the Indians, but it's hard to google something like that, if you know what I mean. Well, thanks anyway. If a revelation strikes you some time, please send me an email!

(reinerschwebke [at] gmx [dot] de)

Thanks for the recap as well!

Charles Silver gave me a answer, that I will live with. As it turned out, it really was "no humbow"!

Quoting Facebook / Charles Silver on Treme's wall:


Your transliteration is accurate. He said "No Humbow" = (I will) not bow (down) ... I will not kneel ... I will not recognize or submit to you or your so-called authority.

It is a call for Respect, human being to human being. It encompasses many qualities including dignity, majesty, pride, certitude in one's own authority as a human being, and, ... See Morecan imply the necessity of resistance in the face of injustice or oppression.

My Indian Red is the very spiritual and moving song sung at the beginning and end of all (Black) Indian ceremonies and events. Lyrics include:

I've got a (Big Chief, Big Chief, Big Chief***) of the Nation
Wild, wild creation

He (She) won't bow down, down on the ground
(Refrain: on that dirty ground)
Oh how I love to hear him (her) call my Indian Red ...

It includes verses which are sung to recognize each role in the gang/tribe hierarchy, i.e., Spy Boy, Flag Boy, Wild Man, Big Queen, etc., usually culminating in the Big Chief verse.

It is from that term that the quote "WON'T BOW DON'T KNOW HOW" expressing this idea comes from.

See also:

Thank you, Charles!

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