Sunday, July 03, 2011
Treme No. 21: Do Whatcha Wanna Part II
BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
We left off on the recap/second season in review with Nelson learning from Robinette that the Florida company who contracted them for debris removal, told him that they are no longer on the list of approved contractors. If you missed Part I of the recap and got here by mistake, click here.
Back at his office, Colson stares at the evidence bag holding the casings from the Seals slaying. He gets a pair of scissors and slices off the bottom of the bag and lets the two casings fall to the wooden cabinet behind his desk. He picks one up at stares at it.# Colson comes out of his office and stops by Prioleau's desk and asks if he ever talked to that witness. "I'll get to it, lieutenant," the detective says. "Don't worry, L T." Colson greets Det. Luis Calderon (J. Omar Castro). Colson always mentions Calderon and they often exchange knowing glances, but Calderon has had a bare minimum of lines. It's always made me wonder what the story was there. Were scenes cut for time that spelled out a relationship between Colson and Calderon that perhaps made Calderon a rare good apple in the homicide department? Or could this be an inside joke of some sort that I'm not privy to? "Something interesting in a couple of cases, Captain. Possible break in the Abreu thing," Colson says, sticking his head inside the doorway to Guidry's office. I'm still not clear why in his first appearances Guidry appeared to be a uniformed 6th District officer and then suddenly became captain of the homicide department when the plot required it. "Abreu — refresh my memory," Guidry requests. Colson enters the office. "Kid found shot inside Robideaux's. One in the head. Close range," he tells Guidry. "What about it?" Guidry asks in a tone indicating he doesn't really care. Colson explains that he got a tip from a legal aid lawyer that it might be connected to a shooting in the Iberville projects. "Same week after the storm. Maybe the same day," Colson says. "The second vic is Leon Seals." Guidry smirks a smile, "A legal aid lawyer." Colson tells him he got cold-called a week ago and motions to Guidry if it's OK if he takes a seat. He sits down. "So I'm workin' ballistics and it shouldn't matter because the casings recovered by the first officer went missing. Well, it turns out the detectives workin' the cases, they never went out to St. Gabriel to recover evidence. The shit's just sittin' there, all bagged up." Guidry listens, but you can read the disinterest in his face even as Colson tells him that when the evidence facility it was at closed, it was all shipped to temporary evidence storage and that he went over to check it out. "It turns out we got a good bullet out of the Abreu kid and a mutilated slug from Seals, so there's no comparison there, but casings — we got casings from both the shootings." That clever boy Terry. That's what he was doing in his office. He was taking the Seals casings he got from Toni and is passing one off as if it came from the Abreu killing. "You just said the casings from Abreu were missing," Guidry says. He's paying attention and his smugness has turned to concern now. "The ones from the scene did, but when the morgue guys went through the kid's bloody clothes, they found this right here," Colson removes a bag from his coat pocket with the casing, "in one of the pants cuffs. It's a clean 380 shell. And guess what — that legal aid guy, he goes to the Seals scene with a witness and he recovers this." Colson produces another evidence bag holding the other casing. "Amazing how anyone working that crime scene would miss it, right?" Colson comments. Guidry says that since a legal aid lawyer recovered it, there's no clean chain of custody, "So fuck it." Colson tells him, "The lawyers can argue about it, sure, but right now, we got good casings from both scenes so I'm gonna send them over to comparison. I mean if the casings are the same, we should be proceeding as if the cases are linked, right?" Colson asks his sniveling boss. "This is good work, lieutenant," Guidry says as Colson gets up to leave. "No, this is shit that should have been done months ago, but neither of those cases were worked at all," Colson replies. "Well, the stuff right after the storm kind of got dumped, ya know. Too many new cases," Guidry admits. As Colson is almost out the door, he turns to toss the grenade back in Guidry's direction. "Oh yeah, that legal aid guy, he says he has witnesses putting police at both scenes. He says witnesses are IDing cops as the shooters. Not that anyone is coming forward on anything. It's probably bullshit, I know," Colson smiles. Morse, as I said earlier, truly was the best decision made for the second season and I wish they had somehow engineered his switch to homicide and the conflict with Guidry sooner. It would have made the Abreu case less abstract and by the end of this episode it appears as if the resolution comes too quickly. I know things don't always turn out the way you want — we learned that from The Wire and just through the process of living our own lives — but there's no explanation as to why things end for Terry the way they appear to in the closing montage. As for not joining these scenes together, Terry's scene in his office is so short and you don't see him do the actual switch that it either would have been better to play it out to where he creates the two bags and then goes directly to Guidry's office or to leave the short scene out entirely. Viewers don't get what he's up to until the Guidry scene anyway, so there's no need for that tiny precursor. It's similar to my thoughts on setting up Jacques' bail hearing in this episode and Sofia's bail hearing in the previous one. Since they aren't showing the actual action of those hearings, there's no need to show the preliminary action. Just cut to the chase afterward. Think how much extra time they would have to expand other scenes or add ones they might have had to cut. We never got to see any encounters between Sofia and that psychologist Dana Weinstein she was supposed to be seeing, though I know the role was cast and I bet scenes were filmed.
Woodrow presents Albert with the $20,000 advance check on "royalties" from the album. "But the record don't come out til next fall, right?" Albert asks. "Advance orders on it are crazy good," Woodrow lies as Del shakes his head in agreement. Albert wants to know where these advance orders are coming from. Woodrow says Sweden and Switzerland while Delmond adds Brazil and Japan. "Japan loves jazz — and New Orleans stuff since the storm. Albert's skeptical, but Del tells him he got a check too and Dr. John and Donald Harrison and the other session musicians have all been paid. "Shit. We got cut another record," Albert says.
Janette returns to New York and The Lucky Peach where Nick razzes her as usual until David Chang tells him to shut up. I have to say that as much as this storyline went off course once the real chefs showed up, Chang is the one with real screen presence and the ability to play a scene. We only saw Tom Colicchio once, so can't really judge him, and though Eric Ripert did get a great line, he was so terribly stiff in front of the camera. Then again, it's hard to follow a real actor as talented as Victor Slezak who had a fictional creation as marvelous as Enrico Brulard to sink his teeth into. That being said, for a nonpro, Chang did well. "Donald Link called me…" Chang tells Janette. "Seems to think you can cook." Janette grins widely and jabs Nick in the arm. "I can cook," she sings.
On a dark Gulf of Mexico, the shrimp boat Capt. John continues its work. Linh's father and the other crew member (Cuc Van Huynh) talk in Vietnamese, leaving Sonny as much in the dark as the nearly black sea and sky. Linh's father calls Sonny over and instructs him to grab hold of what I assume are shrimp-catching nets. Honestly, the scene is so dark, it's difficult to tell. "Pull harder. Pull harder," he tells Sonny." Soon, shrimp, along with some other fish, flood the deck of the boat.
Back at Piety Recording Studio, Del and Donald Harrison listen to how the mixing of the album is going with Mark Bingham (who actually gets to be seen this week and not just heard). "Wow. You got somethin' there," Bingham says. "That will stand. That will stand up most definitely," Harrison concurs. Del tells Harrison that he couldn't have done it without him. Harrison says he'd like to run some of the music's charts past his guys and play them at Jazz Fest. "And bring you and your father up and we can share the set together," Harrison adds. Del tells him he has to run up to New York to take care of some things first, but Harrison's scheduled time at Jazz Fest fits Del's timetable so he agrees to do it.
A tune plays on the radio next to Davis and Annie's bed when Annie suddenly sits up with a start, almost a stifled scream. Davis grabs her and holds her. "I was dreaming," she tells him. "I know," he says. They lay back down. "I'm so scared of my fucking dreams," Annie admits. "I know," he repeats. When Annie was tethered to Sonny in the first season, she was half of my least favorite part of the show. Hooking her up with Davis, despite the similarity of having her be a more talented musician dating a lesser one, definitely improved her character. Her tutelage with Harley also was great. Lucia Micarelli was the only regular cast member who came to the show with zero acting experience, but she has grown better over time, though she's much better with dialogue than facial expressions. She hasn't mastered the art of conveying emotions or thoughts silently yet, but on the whole Micarelli's acting has improved immensely by the end of the second season compared to where she started in season one. (Of course, it doesn't help when she's in a series with the likes of Khandi Alexander, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, David Morse, Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, to name merely the top tier of regulars, for comparison.
Colson learns you can't keep a bad department down, at least by yourself. He calls ballistics to see if they had a chance to compare the casings he sent yesterday. He tells them there were definitely two submissions. "That's OK. I'll look into it on my end," he tells the person on the phone. He exchanges another one of those looks with Calderon (who, if I recall correctly, was the detective assigned to the Seals case). Gathered around Calderon's cubicle are Prioleau and two other men, presumably detectives.
C.J. and Nelson meet, though I'm not sure where they are and from the content of the conversation, I'm guessing it's someplace out of the way. "I called my guy in Baton Rouge. He gives me the bad news. Tells me I'm cut off," Nelson informs Liguori. "Tells me I should see my friend." Nelson gestures at C.J. "I would've called you, but I don't wanna use your phone," C.J. admits. "My phone?" Nelson says, puzzled. "A fella named Pampy Barre got indicted federally last year. He's flipped. Word is he's flipped on Thomas," C.J. tells him. "Something to do with the contract on the downtown parking lot. Sounds like penny ante shit, but who knows? In any event, I know you and Oliver have done some business. I don't wanna know, but what I'm tellin' ya now is we're gonna have to take you and your chips off the table for awhile." C.J. spells out that they will have to take Nelson's contracts and Mid-City real estate purchases and give them to others for the time being. Nelson starts to interject, but Liguori cuts him off. "Nelson, your value to me on the real estate side was your anonymity in this town. If your name comes up in a federal investigation, that's no longer the case. So be patient on this — please. I need you to back away from the table for awhile." The usually smug, glad-handing, happy-go-lucky Nelson looks as if the entire ground has been removed beneath his feet. C.J. gives him a word of caution. "And if Thomas walks up to you wanting to talk, remember — he could be a walking microphone, understand?" Liguori tells Nelson that if they need to discuss something, he will contact him. C.J. also suggests that it might be a good time for Nelson to go home and see family and friends in Dallas.
Delmond puts that incredible LP collection of his into boxes as he's clearing out his New York apartment. It's another one of those incredibly short scenes and this one couldn't be more unnecessary. We already know that Del plans to leave his New York apartment and we all know what packing entails. So why waste the film, the setup and all the other expenses to show us 20 seconds of pointlessness? As a former journalist myself, just like David Simon, I know we lose the ability to do math once we enter that profession, but the pointless 20 second scenes do add up and they would give you more time to show other things. On a positive note, I said it in an earlier recap this year, but I will repeat. In the first season, I didn't see the point of the Delmond character, but I had faith that I would. That faith paid off this year as Del showed his purpose and Rob Brown blossomed as a valued part of the ensemble. I don't know if he is as much the audience surrogate as I first wrote, but he's definitely valuable.
LaDonna goes to another bar looking for the owner, but the bartender (Sam Davenport) tells her she'll be back later. She leaves a note telling her of several items, including her jukebox, she's selling at good prices. When she turns to leave, in the corner playing cards she spots one of her rapists (Brandon Johnson). LaDonna quickly leaves through the bar's other exit and gets in her car. She calls 9-1-1 on her cell. "Police. I need the goddamned police right away," she tells the dispatcher.
A man (Matthew Rauch) has invited Janette for a meeting over coffee in New York. Janette asks how he found her. He tells her it was through Donald Link. "He can't stop talking about what you did with Chang's Southern cooking. He's not the only one," the man says. "So, what do you think?" "Think? I think it's a lot to think about," Janette responds. "I'm talkin' about givin' you a fat salary, week in, week out, with a 25 percent share of the place. I know you've had your own restaurant. I know you're used to being the boss, but for all intents and purposes, this will be yours. Your name on the menu under executive chef, your crew." He goes on to explain more of the costs that he'd be putting into this new restaurant. Also, Link, Susan Spicer and John Besh are willing to back a $250,000 loan and if the restaurant begins to turn a profit, they will let Janette buy them out over time. "You have friends who want you home," he tells her. "What about you?" Janette asks. "Do I get a chance to buy you out at some point?" The man smiles. "I'm in it for the money, so no. If we turn the corner, I turn the corner with you," he answers. Janette says she's just hitting her stride in New York and she's happy at The Lucky Peach. He tells her that she's hit her stride. "Let me think about it," she tells him. He tells her to think fast because a couple of properties in the CBD are up for auction. He recommends that she come down to New Orleans the next day when he goes, but she tells him she just took time off to go there and just got back. "Your call," he says as he leaves.
Ordinarily, I might have attached the previous LaDonna scene and this one, but since she's complaining about police response time, it's appropriate to have something in the interim. LaDonna complains to the dispatcher that he will leave if the cops don't get there, but just as she says that, a patrol car arrives. "The man who beat and raped me is inside that bar," LaDonna tells the first officer (Chima Chekwa) to approach her as a second squad car pulls up. "Hold on. Hold on. Raped you. When?" the second officer (Jerry Anderson) asks. "Five months ago. He been locked up for it. He been locked up all this time, goddammit," she replies. "So he's been charged," the first officer says. "He's been in jail. Both of them. They've been in jail!" LaDonna yells. The second officer suggests that he's out on bail, but LaDonna tells them there isn't any bail and she just talked to the D.A. yesterday. "The boy's supposed to be locked up so go in there and lock him the fuck up," she yells at them. LaDonna gives the officers his description and location. They exchange glances, then go in. From the noises and shouts of "Stop it," he doesn't come willingly and the officers return with the rapist and push him to the pavement. He looks up and sees LaDonna, who bends over so he can get a good look. "Yeah, it's me," she says before kicking him, I can only hope and assume square in the nuts. The first officer pulls LaDonna back, but not before she gets a second kick in. "It's me motherfucker, it's me. It's me," LaDonna wails as she collapses to the ground while the officer still has her in his grip.
Two looming offshore oil rigs can be seen as the Capt. John continues its shrimp-gathering mission in the Gulf of Mexico. Sonny notices plumes of multicolored water that make a trail from beside the boat and lead straight back to one of the rigs. "Oil from the rig," Linh's father says. "Was there a spill?" Sonny asks. "No. No spill, but they leak slow," he replies. "Slow leaks? All of them?" Sonny inquires, puzzled. "Most," he answers. Sonny asks Linh's father how many of the offshore rigs have been placed around that part of the Gulf. "Pumping stations? Some. Drill rigs? A thousand? Ten thousand?" he guesses. "Crazy," the unemployed guitarist turned fisherman says. Linh's father turns away from looking at the rigs and the water and faces Sonny directly. "People do what they want, take what they want and then they go on," he tells him. Sonny looks as if there might be a message to him in that since his temporary boss walks off afterward. Last season, I got so sick of Sonny that I stopped recapping his story until he and Annie finally broke up. This season, I warmed to him a bit when the Cornell rehab story kicked in and I liked that it gave us an entry point to the fishermen, since I knew that was inevitable after Deepwater Horizon. I also welcome an expansion into the Vietnamese community, I just wish it weren't in the form of a would-be romance where the junkie guitar player looks like a lovesick puppy dog. All things considered, I still feel that Sonny's character is very expendable and takes valuable screen time away from others. I continue to be dumbfounded on how they allowed the episode with LaDonna's rape to be ruined by turning it into an editing Ping-Pong match between her scenes that we cared about and pointless Sonny scenes for that six or seven minute section of the show.
Del and Jill exit Bleecker Street Records in the West Village with some new purchases he's made. Jill says he should drop the records off at his apartment before they go out to eat. "We can go back to your place. Grab a bite to eat in Brooklyn," Delmond suggests. "You want to haul those all the way out to Brooklyn and back again?" she asks. Del stammers as he proposes that she keep them for him for awhile. "You want to bring your turntable over too so you can school me on ancient African-American music of the 20th century?" she teases. "Yeah," Del says, trying to maintain the light tone, "my turntables and all the rest of my shit." "Say what?" Jill responds, but that tone has definitely changed. Delmond finally tells her that he has to give up his apartment. He may play smooth jazz with his trumpet, but he's certainly not smooth when it comes to words. He explains that he has to be in New Orleans for as long as it takes Albert to restore his house. "So you're movin' back," Jill says. "Just for a few months probably. I'll be in and out on gigs," he tells her. "So you want me to make a nice home for your record collection and your winter clothes. Is that the plan?" Jill asks, a bit of anger seeping into her voice. Del senses the talk is going off course and he denies that is what he wants, so he tries to steer it back to the idea that he's being a good son and can't afford both the apartment and helping Albert pay for the restoration. "OK, I get that. Your father needs your help. So why don't you just rent storage space like everybody else in New York?" she inquires. "I was just trying to lower my overhead. Forget I asked," Del pouts. "Is this your passive-aggressive way of asking to move in with me? In stages. First your shit, then you every time you're in town. Cheaper and friendlier than a hotel. Get laid, look at your records, then see you next month," Jill theorizes. It reminds me of when Janette met Jill at Del's Blue Note show and asked what did the likes of Del do to deserve someone like Jill. Delmond shakes his head vigorously, denying her accusation. "No, it ain't like that," he declares. "Because movin' in together — that's a full-time, one man-one-woman type of moment and you aren't exactly havin' that type of moment, are you?" she says to a speechless Lambreaux. He's finally able to get out, "Jill" but she tells him softly, "I'm gone" and turns and walks away as another relationship ends on the streets of New York.
Oliver Thomas and Sofia walk out of City Hall. "You need a ride?" he asks the teen. "No, my mom's picking me up," Sofia answers. After that brief conversation, their walk continues in silence. Thomas isn't his usual gregarious self, wearing dark glasses and looking preoccupied. Sofia, who like her mother, really admires the city council president works up the courage to ask him how he is. "Are you alright?" she asks. Perhaps after what happened to her father, Sofia has developed a better sense of reading people because in his final interview before Thomas entered federal prison in January 2008 he told Frank Donze of The Times-Picayune that in the summer of 2007 "the months-long federal investigation that culminated in his guilty plea nearly pushed him to the breaking point, prompting him to contemplate suicide." Thomas keeps walking and doesn't respond to Sofia's query. "It's bad, isn't it?" Sofia says. Thomas stops and turns to the girl, "What?" he replies almost harshly while removing the glasses. Thomas then softens his tone. "What have you heard?" She tells him that Toni had heard something. "It gets around, doesn't it?" Sofia nods her head yes. Then the 16-year-old works up the courage to ask the question that everyone who admired Oliver Thomas and hoped he would become mayor wanted to know. "Why?" Thomas shakes his head. "I can't really say. I don't think I've figured it out. But what I do know is everything we do counts. Everything. It all plays out." The honking of a car disrupts their talk. "Hey look, your mom's here. Tell her hi for me." Sofia just nods and walks to the car leaving Thomas standing and looking sullen. One of the most fascinating parts of this season of Treme is something that I imagine I'm the only viewer who experienced. I'm not sure how I got started making these recaps so elaborate — I've not done that with a series I've recapped before with the exception of a few instances on Boardwalk Empire to explain terms such as Paris green — they became like puzzles. As a result, I might not have known (Yes I would, since I read Dave Walker's Treme page at the Times-Picayune website religiously) that Thomas was playing himself or that he went to prison. I wonder if there were any Treme viewers surprised by this development. The show has become more than mere entertainment for me, it's evolved into a true learning experience. I know more terms in the areas of food and music than I ever did and lots of tidbits about Louisiana history. I almost have the basic layout of New Orleans down in my head and I've never been there and never will be able to because of my condition. One thing concerning the show's depiction of Thomas. It appeared that it showed Nelson giving him a kickback, but based on that same article I linked to, we can probably assume his name won't come up because prosecutors sought a longer sentence for Thomas because he refused to name anyone else involved in corruption.