Sunday, January 29, 2012


Luck Episode No. 1: Pilot Part II

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.

By Edward Copeland
The next sequence is one of my two favorites of this entire episode, which surprises me since my anticipation for the series stemmed mainly from Milch's involvement and eagerness to hear his words again and neither sequence involves much dialogue. Actually, this sequence doesn't come in one complete chunk — though I adore the separate pieces. However, I bet it would've been even greater as one continuous piece. In case you started reading the recap with this post, you should click here to read about the first half of Luck's premiere first. The sequence begins with a tight close-up on Leon, perhaps the closest shot of a human face we've had yet on this show. He looks as if he's in a trance, although almost imperceptible movement of his lips indicates a count or a chant. The camera moves to a profile shot and we see that he's in the jockeys' locker room. A quick insert shows another jockey tossing a piece of fruit in his right hand before returning to Leon's profile, only this time we move past it and see that he's staring at what looks like a small shrine, one that would seem to indicate that the Louisiana lad practices Catholicism. The fleeting glimpse and the size of the objects make positive identification impossible, but not all the items that Leon prays to or holds dear can be considered strictly religious ones. The framed picture appears to be of an ascendant Jesus, but I can't be certain if that's a crucifix on the right wall since hanging off it are an upside-down horseshoe and a rabbit's foot. The white plaster praying hands aren't an uncommon sight, but I'm not sure what they used to make the figurine that I presume represents Mary and the Christ child. Leon also has some personal photos in the display as well as an opened package of chewing gum, Tums and what appears to be his own bottle of Milk of Magnesia. We get a brief close-up of the faces on the figurine and the musical score (I assume that was composed by the episode's credited composer, Dickon Hinchcliffe) takes on more prominence as Leon stands and grabs his helmet.

Leon marches through the locker room then stops by the water cooler, placing his helmet and crop on top of it while holding the horse's saddle and colors. The clerk of scales then weighs out Leon. Bug Boy steps off the scale, retrieves his helmet and crop and begins his walk to the paddock in a smooth tracking shot around corners and through the tunnel until he emerges into the sunlight of the open-air track. Outside, Rosie calls Leon's name from behind the fence, "Chicas. Bon temps roullez," Leon says to her. (Treme fans should recognize that phrase from my recaps of that show. Why he's mixing Spanish and French and using the plural for girl, I have no idea.) "Go get em, Jock," she tells him. He continues his walk stepping into the grass of the paddock area until he finds Escalante. "Listen to me. You keep him covered up so he don't go. When you ask him, you take him wide to don't get a stop," Escalante instructs the bug. "Yes, sir. I hope this is the first of a lot of races I get to ride for you, Mr. Escalante," Leon says as Escalante helps him mount Mon Gateau. "Get on the horse, Jock," Joey, who has been watching and within earshot, speaks in a conversation that only he can hear. Leon asks Escalante for a fist bump and the trainer stares at him as if he's lost his mind. "He gonna finish for you. Get him wide. Don't get him fucking stopped," Escalante emphasizes.

"Now this is why the country is in the shitter. Stand-up guys go away while the mugs steer us straight for the falls," DiRossi says to Ace. This is what I meant before. I have complained about this on other series. You can justify the division of the race scene at the track. I just happen to think it would have played better as one continuous piece. However, what is the point of having that tiny scene of Ace meeting DiRossi in his lobby and heading toward Nick's office, interrupting it for the great scene at the track and then stopping the track scene to go back to Ace and DiRossi, now in DiRossi's office. It couldn't have taken that long to get from the lobby to the office. "Far as The Greek, I appreciate the trouble people went to," Ace tells Nick. "He beat a slot. God bless him," DiRossi responds. Bernstein elaborates on how he wanted to make sure Gus showed income and paid taxes when he bought Pint of Plain. "They needed the exercise, those people you put through some hoops. Who we hope that horse gives pleasure to is you, Ace," Nick comments. "Yeah, but I've got to keep my distance from the track…until I feel out my supervised release to see if there's any give on the leash," Ace explains. DiRossi brings up the subject of taking over Santa Anita. Ace seems surprised that Nick expresses interested in the race track now. "Supposed to be close to belly-up, but you knew that," Nick says. "Oh, it's patience and a bankroll," Bernstein responds. "Brains and balls is what I'd say," DiRossi counters. "They're tapped in Sacramento. The local tax base has shrunk in half. If ever there was a time for a casino to get through…" Ace speculates. "Right on the grounds you're saying," Nick seeks to clarify. "There's hundreds and hundreds of beautiful acres with how many tens of millions of people thirty minutes or less? But I can't get in the middle of that yet," Ace spells out the pluses. "No. No no no. No one wants you to," Nick insists. Bernstein sighs. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm still an asset." DiRossi assures him that he not only remains an asset, he's the architect. Bernstein tells Nick that he's "short of temper" and can't keep his thoughts as well as he used to and shows DiRossi the tape recorder that he had Gus get him. When the machine appears, DiRossi looks stricken. "What's the matter?" Ace asks. "Nothing. No," Nick replies uneasily. "It's a memory aid," Ace says. "It's like a good work-around," Nick states. "After I do three years, you suspect me? I take a fall protecting how many people? I've got a tape recorder, you've got qualms. Absolutely not!" Ace shouts and stands, tipping over his chair and ripping his shirt open. "You want to fucking toss me?" Ace yells. "Ace, basta," Nick says. "Basta? What? Are you watching old movies? Don't basta me you fucking guinea prick! Three years! Getting forgetful in everything else," Bernstein rages. "Everyone appreciates what you did, Ace," DiRossi tells him, trying to calm the situation. Ace sets his chair upright. "I tore the buttons off my goddamn shirt. I make a fool out of myself the first day out," Ace declares. "A: You didn't. B: You're with a friend," Nick insists. One of his employees comes in and Nick tells him to pull around back and drive Ace to the Beverly Hilton. DiRossi agrees to delay any talk about Santa Anita Park until Bernstein feels he is ready, but reminds him that having Gus as the horse's owner will offer them an inside view. "I shrunk," Ace blurts out suddenly. "I got to get new shirts." (When Hoffman does the off-the-wall Ace stuff such as complaining about his buttons or he suddenly shrunk, he makes Bernstein more interesting. When he tries to go the tough guy route standing and yelling, he sort of looks foolish.)

The 4th race with the group's single pick, Mon Gateau, inches closer to post time. Joey and Escalante both have taken seats in the grandstand to watch the race. The horses are being loaded into the gate — but Mon Gateau and a couple of the other thoroughbreds prove to be feisty. A man's voice asks Leon if he's OK. "I'm good," he responds. (This is the second half of my favorite sequence that I think they should have played as a single long one. The major difference between the two halves is that the bulk of the first half works almost as if it's an unbroken take, a tracking shot that took Leon from the locker room to his spot atop Mon Gateau. This sequence, which really captures the excitement of a race from the perspective of the spectator with money on the outcome, also adds what common racegoers don't see or hear: the perspectives of the trainer and the jockeys, including words exchanged between the riders, something that I never considered could occur over the hoofbeats or would occur just on the basis of sportsmanship. It's achieved with so many quick cuts, it's nearly impossible to capture everything in one viewing.) The bell rings, the gates open and they're off, It looks from above as if Leon and Mon Gateau got off to a good start — you recognize Leon by his green silks with the big star on the front and back of his shirt. The shots came at you in a barrage as the race starts — above the horses, then in front, as if they're riding toward the camera. A sudden switch briefly shows us the view from the inside rail before taking us behind the jockeys' and their horses' backsides. A thoroughbred's proud mane fills the frame for a split second. We look head-on at a determined Leon before there's an over-the-back shot of two jockeys running neck and neck, side-by-side. Below, we view the rapid movement of the horses' legs on the dirt track. The camera keys in on Bug Boy's face again and he almost appears to be grinding his teeth. The sequence offers us our first shot of the stands as we observe Escalante. "Calmate, pinhead," the trainer says. Now, Mann gives us the first view of the race as someone not in it would see it, with five of the horses in the same shot, a bit further away but close enough that we might conceivably be watching from the outer rail. It stops moving for the first time for the other entries to catch up which, unfortunately, include Mon Gateau. When Leon and Mon Gateau reappear, we go in close again until they ride by and the horse's tail exits the frame. "How's he running?" Lonnie asks. "How's he running, Jerry?" Renzo passes along the question. "Fourth or fifth," Jerry answers distractedly. "Yeah, but how's he running?" Renzo inquires. "Would you please shut the fuck up?" Marcus tells them. Leon has risen to a partial standing position on the horse, but though Escalante told him to go wide he appears at risk for getting pinned against the inside rail. On the bright side, Mon Gateau has moved up in the running order. Escalante watches through binoculars. "Come on, number fucking five," Lonnie shouts. Leon looks as if he's trying to steer Mon Gateau away from the rail but the No. 4 horse and his jockey aren't cooperating. Escalante can see what's happening. "Fucking stupid baby pinhead. You got him trapped on the rail," Turo says with disgust, tossing down his binoculars. "Scooch over. Let me out!" Leon yells to the jockey on No. 4. "Do I look like your fucking daddy?" Leon must have brought Mon Gateau too close to No. 4 because his jockey warns, "Watch it, man!" Escalante has picked up his binoculars again, but removes them. "Conyo," he mutters. "Come on, baby. Come on," Joey roots for his client. "Where is he?" Renzo asks. Leon barely avoids bumping Mon Gateau into the inside rail. Jerry stands up. "Go inside! Go inside!" he yells. Miraculously, though he couldn't have heard Jerry's advice, by switching to that plan and dropping Escalante's, Leon manages to move Mon Gateau past No. 4 and into a challenge with horse No. 2 for the lead. "Come on!" "Come on!" "Go!" The cheering comes from all the faces in the stand with an interest in seeing Mon Gateau and Leon win. "Take it home!" "Oh God! Oh my — yes!" After all that fast-paced cutting, we switch to slow motion and then a freeze frame as Mon Gateau clearly crosses the finish line first. "Oh my God! He won!" Renzo exclaims as he stands and slaps hands with Jerry in celebration. Marcus needs his oxygen mask after the win and exchanges a fluttery finger signal with Jerry to mark victory. "That Cajun can pump," Rosie comments to her friend Lizzie (Chantal Sutherland) about Leon. Escalante stands, looking stunned, but he sits. "Holy cow. That horse run very good," the trainer says as if even he can't believe it. Joey beams like a proud new papa. An announcer in the track's broadcast booth declares, "What an exciting finish for the Number Five horse Mon Gateau. Whoever is the patron saint of long shots, executives all over the track are busy lighting candles to." The track's public face (Don Harvey) enters the booth and looks at a monitor showing the gigantic possible Pick Six payoff of $2,859,540. "Multimillion dollar Pick Six payout distracts schmuck gamblers from track's insolvency," he confides to the announcer. Escalante joins Leon and Mon Gateau in the winner's circle. "Hey Mr. Escalante, we did good," Leon smiles. A win doesn't stop Escalante from criticizing Bug Boy, though he does it while grinning since cameras are taking his photo. "I told you to take him wide," he tells the kid. An offscreen reporter asks the trainer for a comment. "What a surprise," Turo replies before exiting the scene. (If you've never been to a horse race, I don't think the excitement of one ever has been captured better than in this scene. Even coverage of The Kentucky Derby or other real races don't come close. It's really a triumph of direction, writing and editing (the team of Michael Brown, Hank Corwin and Kelley Dixon) and having built the various characters involved up enough to involve us beyond the race itself — and this race didn't even involve either of the show's two marquee name actors, Dustin Hoffman or Nick Nolte. I do wonder how they'll manage to keep the races fresh over the long haul. In the races run in the first nine episodes, they do utilize several of things that can go right or wrong in the running of pari-mutuel horse racing, but I have to wonder if that aspect might get repetitive.)

"I am on some roll," Lonnie declares as the four gamblers enter Top-O-The-Stretch. "Hey, Kagle's got the ticket," Jerry reveals quietly to Marcus. Lonnie has been rambling about how he got the cash from the female insurance agents, though no one pays attention. "They call my prick The Emperor," he announces to no one in particular. "What the fuck?" Marcus responds to Jerry's revelation as the bell goes off and they see on a monitor that the 5th Race has started. "I said Kagle might have our same pick," Jerry rephrases. "I want to gouge your eyes out," Marcus tells Jerry. "I was going for juice. He tells me I don't qualify," Jerry starts to explain. "I'd like to watch you hit by a bus," Marcus says. "I'm walkin' away, he offers fifty for my figures. I figure take the fifty, bet Escalante straight. I wanted to pull my weight in the syndicate," Boyle concludes, handing cash to Becker. "Yeah, and if we win, his ticket cuts the win in half. Do you know Kagle bought the ticket?" Marcus asks. "No," Jerry admits. "Do you know that he did and you're a weak-willed degenerate afraid to admit?" Marcus presses. "No. I don't know if he bought the ticket, Dr. Phil," Jerry replies as Marcus goes for his oxygen. Lonnie and Renzo's eyes have stayed glued to the race on the monitor, so they've missed Jerry and Marcus' entire exchange. Renzo looks at the napkin. "Six horse won. We won the Fifth," Renzo says. "Yeah. Yeah. It's a big hurdle we just crossed," Marcus announces.

At one of the Screen Activated Machines, someone else had bet big on Mon Gateau, though not as part of the Pick Six. Escalante looks around to see if anyone's watching then inserts a ticket representing a $1,000 bet on Mon Gateau to win in the slot. He presses finish on the monitor and from another slot pops a cash voucher worth $13,200. The voucher's date reads April 30, 2010 and sets an expiration date for July 18, 2011. Escalante then puts a #2,000 to win ticket for Mon Gateau in the machine and repeats the steps. This cash voucher reads $26,400. Not bad. The horse's trainer cleared $36,600 for Mon Gateau winning — and Leon didn't even follow Escalante's race plan. As Turo walks away from the terminal, his phone rings. "Who is this?" Escalante asks. "We had an appointment. This is Mr. Demitriou. I'm at Gate A," Gus says. "Oh good. OK. I mean. I come and pick you up, señor," Escalante tells him. When Turo gets Gus back to the shedrow where he can meet Pint of Plain, he's already explained the horse's colic problem. "So is there a more crucial time the horse should shit?" Gus asks. "He better or sometimes even they bite into their stomachs. But your horse ain't walking uncomfortable or looking behind himself," Escalante explains. "So all of that is good stuff?" The Greek queries. "That's all good. I wish that he would take a shit, but I think he's OK," the Peruvian says. "When do we race him?" Gus wants to know. "Not now. He tell us when he's ready," Escalante informs Gus before taking him down to Mon Gateau's stable. "This horse won the Fourth Race," Turo tells him. "No kiddin'," Gus comments. "Twelve to one. What a surprise," Escalante says again. "I wish I'd have known," Gus laments. "That makes you and me both. Believe me," Turo lies. The sight of a small goat staggering around shedrow with sizable testicles distracts Gus for a moment. Escalante hands Gus a carrot. "Give him a carrot, el ganador," Turo says to Gus. "Nah, I don't want to fuck him up," Demitriou replies. "How you gonna fuck him up? That's what they eat," Turo responds, dropping the subservient tone he's been showing Gus so far. "That's his name, this horse, el ganador?" Gus asks. "El ganador means winner in Spanish. His name is Mon Gateau," Turo informs him. Gus holds out his hand with the carrot, flinching slightly when Mon Gateau gobbles it up. "Acting like you don't know," Escalante comments. "No, I never did it before. Swear to God," Gus insists. "I'm gonna call you El Natural," Escalante smiles. "Spare me the hat dance. I'll call you El Bullshitter," Gus retorts, darkening his tone for the first time. "Like many other people," Turo replies. (For the second time, Gus has used this phrase, "Spare me the hat dance." I've asked people and looked everywhere online but can't find a reference to the phrase and hat dance always leads me to the Mexican folk dance of romance. My best guess then is that Gus tells Ace earlier and Turo here to stop trying to win him over.) A man exits Pint of Plain's stable with a shovel indicating the horse's bowels have moved at last. Escalante laughs. "We come out from the woods. You can tell whoever would care."

Joey walks somewhere on the grounds of the track, talking on his phone to Ronnie's voicemail yet again. "Ronnie, I—I'm about to put our hand in on that horse. Walter Smith. Barn Nineteen. If you're on your way. I hope you ain't — ain't pickin' up the phone because you ain't there, ya prick. The kid won. Last race," Joey tells the recording device again. Walter himself sits in a chair in a grassy area with Gettn'up Morning standing in front of him. "You want to go racin' in a couple of week? Huh boy?" Walter asks the horse as Joey comes close enough to overhear him. "You don't know how special you are, do you?" Smith tells the horse. (It's an interesting framing as we don't see Nolte's face yet. Mann holds at a medium shot with Walter's back to the camera but the horse facing it, taking Joey's POV more or less. Then he switches to what could be the horse's perspective, seeing Walter's face close while Joey lurks in the background.) "How you can run. Who your daddy was," Walter continues, making Joey smile. "How they killed him," Smith adds. Joey thinks better of approaching Walter then and exits without detection. "Two thousand miles ain't gonna make any difference, Why didn't I do this? Why did I do that? Why didn't I hear it going on?" Walter asks the horse. Along with why Ace was in prison, what happened to Gettn'up Morning's father provides the other major mystery of the first season, but by next week, both answers should be clear though repercussions will continue.

The syndicate huddles around a monitor watching the 7th Race — the second-to-last race of the day's Pick Six and they've picked every horse in the 8th. Jerry shouts for horse No. 7. "We've got Four. Four's in front right now," Lonnie says. Renzo bites his nails and calls for No. 7. Marcus consults the napkin and sees they can win this race with the No. 1, No. 4 or No. 7 horse, but 7 has the biggest odds. No. 7 pulls it off and wins. "We're gonna win the Pick Six," Renzo whispers in Marcus' ear. Kagle makes a beeline across the floor to the group. "Anyone want to stay low profile with the IRS? Any tax delinquencies, warrants, garnishments, liens, judgments, anything they'll claim? I'll steer you to a beard, He'll claim the take on any tax liability for a small fee," the crooked guard offers. Marcus almost smiles. "You didn't bet?" Marcus says in disbelief. Kagle shakes his head no. "What I don't understand is you had all of Jerry's picks. You could have bought a whole ticket by yourself and you didn't bet," Marcus declares dumbfounded. "Who's going to spend eight hundred and sixty-four dollars for a single to win in the Fourth, especially on that spic Escalante's horse?" Kagle uses as a defense while showing that he's not only stupid and a bloodsucker but racist to boot. "So here we are, with every horse in the last, right? So we cannot lose the Pick Six and it's just a matter of how big the win is in the final race and you, as the saying goes, with the Morning Courier Express," Marcus heckles Kagle. (My best interpretation of what Marcus is saying to Kagle here is that Kagle had the information but he didn't know it, so he just gets to read it in the next day's newspaper. I don't think the name of the newspaper is significant.) "See — he always has to humiliate me," Kagle complains. "No one's trying to humiliate you," Jerry claims. "Yeah, well tell that to whoever put me in this body," the loan shark whines. "Someone called Ronald McDonald," Marcus tells him. Lonnie points to the monitor, which shows the possible payouts ranging from $48,860 to $2,687,632. Renzo would be happy splitting the low amount. "I'd prefer two-point-seven million. It's less an adjustment," Marcus says.

The horses for the Eighth Race start their march toward the gate. Leon rides one of the entries. Rosie watches again from the rail with her friend Lizzie. "You won't get to ride the Old Man's horse," Lizzie tells her. "I'm gonna ask him anyway. Sure, once he tells me no, I'll stop trying to make weight," Rosie says. Leon asks his escort if he's been with the filly he's riding before, but he hasn't. Her name is Tattered Flag and she wears No. 8. It's Leon's first time riding her. "Tie yourself on Bug, he's gonna pop that shit," someone says to Leon and the bell rings and they're off. The oft-called Ronnie Jenkins (Gary Stevens, the last regular to make his appearance) finally shows up taking a seat behind Joey. "Jesus Christ, Ronnie, you stink of reefer and booze. I've been calling you all fucking day," Joey tells him. The group watches and the perpetually confused Lonnie admits he doesn't get it. "We bet every horse. Who do we want?" he asks. "The long shot. The long shot's the biggest score," Jerry replies. Tattered Flag happens to be the long shot, but she's way back in the pack. "Did you get us on the Old Man's horse?" Ronnie asks Joey. "The horse was sired by Delphi. And with you in your present mode, I held off from raising our hand because I didn't think it would be responsible," Joey answers. Jerry recognizes that Tattered Flag's jockey is the one who rode Escalante's horse to victory for them in the Fourth as No. 8 starts moving up fast. "Outside's the upside, Bug," Ronnie yells. As Leon keeps Tattered Flag moving, something snaps and Rosie lets out a small scream and covers her mouth as Tattered Flag stops and whimpers. Ronnie looks sick. "Easy. Easy does it, cher," Leon says to the filly as he dismounts her. The group doesn't seem too concerned about the injured horse — they've moved on to rooting for No. 2, which holds as long as odds as 8 did. "Two's the whole pot," Jerry declares. From the monitor, it appears to Marcus that No. 2 is drifting out, but Jerry corrects him that it's the chalk (term for betting favorite) that is drifting out. Renzo claps and roots for No. 2. Lonnie has no idea what's happening. "Is the Two drifting out or the chalk now?" Renzo asks. "Will someone please tell me what's happening?" Lonnie begs. As No. 2 clearly crosses the finish line first, Jerry grabs his head. "We win. It's over. We won," Jerry exclaims. Lonnie leaps from his seat and begins dancing and laughing in the middle of the wagering floor. Renzo appears frozen solid. "Two-point-eight million and some plus thirty-three percent of the withholding plus fifteen percent consolation (a pool created for bettors who might have had some kind of bet on Tattered Flag, I think)," Marcus calculates out loud. "Humor me," Jerry requests. Marcus removes the actual winning slip from his coat pocket. Jerry reaches out to hold it. "No, no. I don't want to get it all crinkled," Marcus says. Jerry stands and quietly sings "America, the Beautiful" to himself. In an office at the track, a woman hands the phone to the manager who tells someone they've alerted all the tellers to contact them if they find the winner. "Shame on us if we don't make the six o'clock news," the track manager tells the person on the phone. (From this point on, this sequence becomes my other favorite of the episode. It's just so sad each time I see it.)

Tattered Flag lies on her side on the track and Leon gently strokes the injured horse. "You're good right here for now," he tells the horse. A woman arrives and asks Leon how he is and he just tells the doctor to hurry. "Shhh. Look here girl," he says. (The close-ups on equine eyes that Mann has gone to throughout this episode were building to this payoff. I don't know how they accomplished this scene, but this horse's eye does look scared and in pain unless it's one helluva mockup.) Other workers put up green screens to shield the sight from the spectators in the stands. "Look at Leon, cher. Easy girl. Easy girl," he continues to try to soothe the horse. The doctor brings out a large needle. The horse snorts and her eye looks back toward what's going on. "Easy. Good girl," Leon repeats. As the doctor inserts the hypodermic into Tattered Flag's neck, Joey asks the filly to look at him. There's another close-up of that beautiful eye with Leon's hand stroking her below it. Her eye starts fluttering after the needle gets removed and soon it's clear that she's gone. The beautiful untitled track 7 (aka Dauðalagið) by the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós from the band's album () starts playing as Leon gets up and begins his long, sad walk. He passes Rosie but says nothing. Ronnie and Joey meet him. "She was moving good, Ronnie. I wouldn't have been asking her," Leon says with a crack in his voice. "She was movin' great. I was watchin'," Ronnie tells him. "Did you ever have that? The light go out of their eyes?" Leon asks the veteran jockey. "You never get used to it. That's why they make Jim Beam," Ronnie replies. "Go — go on and get — get changed, kid," Joey suggests. "OK, Joey," Leon says and heads to the locker room. "Where do you get off, Ronnie?…Telling that kid to go get drunk," Joey lashes out. "You've got no fuckin' clue. You've never been there," Ronnie gives it back to his agent.

Smith's night watchman returns to the stables as the day comes to a close. "Did you let the girl loosen her hands, Mr. Walter?" he asks. "Yeah, He's a good one," Smith replies as he looks at Gettn'up Morning.

The TV stations turn on their cameras and the track's P.R. flack holds a giant check representing the Pick Six payout in his hands. While he tells the TV viewers about it being the biggest payout in quite some time for some lucky patron, the four who share custody of that lucky ticket discuss their plans behind him. "Do we admit we're the winners?" Renzo asks. "We come forward when we're good and ready and we cash in our own good time. Tomorrow. When we get this IRS shit figured out," Marcus declares. Lonnie suggests that the quartet get hotel rooms with connecting doors so they can watch each other.

What appears to be the signature ending for Luck (much like most Boston Legal episodes ended with Denny Crane and Alan Shore having drinks and cigars on the firm's balcony) finds Ace getting ready to turn in for the night in his suite and going over the day's events with Gus. "Fuckers didn't do nothing. We were in the back room, putting things together from the ground up, learning from those that came before them that had a lot of blood on their hands," Ace says. The camera turns during his speech and we realize that no one else is in the room. "Ace, you want anything from the kitchen?" Gus shouts. Bernstein tells him to check the thermostat and make sure it's set on 67 degrees. "So how did it go?" Ace asks Gus, "Good. The horse moved his bowels. Took that as a positive," Gus replies as he sits in a chair across from Ace's bed. "But generally, how'd he look?" Ace presses. "What do I know, Ace? All four of his legs reached the ground," Gus responds. "Escalante was satisfied?" Bernstein wants to know. "Yeah, Escalante was satisfied. He was grinning, pinching his cheek," Gus reports. "Those screws at Victorville, they could buy Cadillacs what I paid to let his race tapes through the mail room. That horse is all heart. He gets by you, forget about getting by him," Ace tells him. "Roosters and birds, Ace. And goats. You take yourself for being on a farm out there," Gus says. Bernstein lets Gus know that he already knew about this aspect of horse racing. "I saw a goat out there that had nuts the size of pumpkins," Gus shares. "I hope to Christ he was bowlegged," Ace says. "He was bowlegged. How the hell did you know that?" Gus asks. "How else would he walk around," Bernstein guesses. He looks at the clock. "7:45 and I'm falling asleep here," Ace admits. "You had a full day," Gus tells him. "As far as them that did what they — they did to me," Ace switches subjects. "Are they moving the way you want?" Gus asks. "Yes. They are gonna move on that race track," he informs The Greek. "You don't often peg that shit wrong," Gus says. "I think I played it OK. You're the new favorite, Greek," Ace announces. Gus admits that's good, but expresses nervousness since he's working past his own depth. "You don't know your own depth," Bernstein decrees. Ace suggests that he needs to get a girlfriend to see if they reach out. "One we trust or one we don't?" Gus asks. "I don't trust anyone, not even myself," Ace declares. "You I give a pass." (Having this as a semi-set ending works well because Hoffman and Farina have such great chemistry. This could develop into a great show or fade quickly. While most of the actors are good, none of the characters capture my attention as Al Swearengen and many of the other Deadwood denizens did. John Ortiz's Escalante probably comes closest. They need to get to a second season fast to build on these characters.)

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