Graceland: Los Malos

Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network
Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network

 Warning: Spoiler Alert

FBI Agent Mike Warren, refers to himself as the “Patron Saint Of Lost Causes,” as he attempts to put together enough evidence from the rubble of the task-force he headed, to put an end to the Solano Cartel and put the bad guys away for life in the seventh episode of the USA Network Original Series “Graceland.” The agent had everything lined up to show that Cal-Coast Bus-Lines was smuggling vast quantities of heroin over the Mexican border into the USA and had the syndicate’s leader’s son Carlito heading to implicate himself as well, before a call from a member of the task-force, warned off Solano and blew-up the evidence at Cal-Coast.

In the previous episode Warren had identified the Solano Cartel mole in the ranks of law-enforcement as LAPD Lieutenant Sid Markham, the head of department’s Gang Task-Force and this week, we find out that Warren’s suspicions were spot-on, as we relive the events of the previous 72-hours through his perspective. We see Markham’s second in command at the scene of the attempted bust of Cal-Coast, call his boss to alert him that Carlito needs warning, he’s being set-up and the Lieutenant tells his man that he’ll inform Solano and to make sure the other officer gets Cal-Coast supervisor Lawrence into custody, before anyone else grabs him. Although Lawrence was in the squad car, Warren took him to a safe-house during the turmoil of the explosion’s aftermath.

We then see Lawrence head to his house to grab cash stored there, before he hightails it out of the country, but Markham and his fellow officer surprise him inside. The supervisor tells the cops he gave up no information implicating them and Markham then shot him at point-blank range in the heart, instantly killing him. The second in command pulls out a chain saw to decapitate the corpse and make it appear as a gangland slaying.

Warren had two options at his disposal; one would be remaining silent and hoping Markham developed a false sense of security and the FBI could catch him in an illegal act. Instead, he went with the alternative, tracking the officer down to a diner where he’s eating breakfast. Mike tells the cop, that he’s making a courtesy call and for the Lieutenant to get his affairs in order as the agent’s aware he’s Solano’s mole. After playing innocent at first, Markham tells him that no kid from Washington will tell him how to do his job, Warren repeats his statement and leaves the diner.

All the members of the house have involvement in different aspects of the case, Paul Briggs is going undercover as a policemen on Markham’s team. The Bureau set up his cover as a cop transferring from the Texas border and a previous stint in Chicago, so his credentials are solid and beyond reproach. He will try to ingratiate himself with the Lieutenant and attempt to get involved with any business for Solano.

A quick aside on the dynamic of the house this season compared to the first year the network broadcast Graceland; Warren was a rookie fresh out of the Academy, whose assignment was to find out if Briggs was dirty. All the members of the house loved him except for Paul, involved in a hornet’s nest of illegal activities, culminating in the accidental shooting of Warren’s supervisor FBI Agent Juan Badillo. Briggs was able to pin Badillo’s murder on Cartel hit-man Jangles and though his conscience bothered him he got off scot-free. Once he and Charlie were able to get his widow Kelly Badillo her compensation from the Bureau, the storyline has gone unmentioned.

As pointed out on these pages previously, Mike’s lack of management and people skills, have him on the bad side of most of the house, however Briggs relationship with Warren’s vastly improved since Mike’s return. Whether he’s always there for Warren this season’s a charade on Paul’s part, or he’s actually gained affection and respect for his fellow agent’s unknown. Also what the show-runners have decided to do about Briggs past transgressions remains a mystery.

With Carlito gone without a trace, Johnny Tuturro’s assigned to investigate whether Lucia Solano’s involved with any of the criminal activities run by her family. Johnny goes to the house and gets greeted by a stranger who tells the agent to leave when he asks to see her and gets the door slammed in his face. He knocks again and he tells the guy he’s friends with Carlito and the stranger grabs him roughly and drags him inside. The guy and his partner have arrived to take possession of a military grade weapons shipment that Carlito had promised them and Lucia, told the duo, that a friend of her brother’s was on his way with the guns.

The pair beat the stuffing out of the agent and then one holds a pistol to his forehead, while telling his partner to fetch the girl. Lucia tells them that Johnny’s not the friend with the weapons and the guy with the pistol replies that Johnny’s unnecessary and threatens to pull the trigger. Tuturro tells Lucia to open the safe and offers the pair the brick of cocaine inside in exchange for their lives. But the one with the pistol tells them that the drugs are their price for waiting for the weapons and they still hold Johnny and Lucia prisoner.

Mike takes Dale to where Paige’s staking out the facility, where the sex-trafficking operation’s holding the group of foreign young women to sell into prostitution. Mike tells Paige that they need to keep the operation intact until they can prove the Solano’s involvement. Paige talks about what the girls are going through while being imprisoned and when the conversation hits an impasse Warren leaves.

Seconds later Jakes and Arkin recognize the red car that pulls into the building’s parking lot’s the one the operators use to bring prospective buyers to the facility.  A few minutes pass and the buyer and one of the young women wearing hoods get into the car to drive them back to the hotel where the meet’s arranged. After the operator leaves, Paige and Dale stop the man and the young woman for questioning and the buyer pretends the girl’s his daughter, but the young woman denies it. Dale takes away the young woman, while Arkin handcuffs the man, a large guy in his sixties wearing a suit sans tie. The man tells Paige the girl wanted a life with him and the agent punches him repeatedly in the face, until Jakes pulls her off.

Briggs gets introduced to Markham and his team by the precinct captain as Detective Paul West, and the agent sounds convincing talking with the officers. The second in command calls the contact number for West’s former department and Jakes puts on a Texas accent and praises the phony cop to the heavens. With everything checking out, Markham and company welcome their new colleague.

Simon, the man that Lucia’s father sent over to handle the gunmen finally arrives and the duo are coked out of their heads. He demands that the pair untie Lucia and Johnny, then takes them over to a suitcase filled with semi-automatic weapons and one pistol.  Simon pulls the pistol killing one of the pair then trading shots with his partner leaving all three men dead. Johnny tells Lucia that he’ll take her to a hotel, but she responds that the pairs associates will easily find them. He then tells her he has a place to hide her and they leave the house.

Briggs watches as Markham negotiates a deal with a low-level dealer named Randy, telling him that he’ll drop all charges if Randy sets up a buy with another cartel, the Santana family. He secures the dealer’s cooperation by talking about all the bad things that could happen to Randy’s young teenage brother, if the dealer’s in prison. In a follow-up meeting with his team, Markham asks for volunteers for the mission and Briggs eagerly raises his hand.

Johnny takes Lucia to his mother’s house, after being out of touch for three months and it turns out that Tuturro’s mom’s unaware that her son’s a FBI Agent. He asks if Lucia can stay at her house overnight and she reluctantly agrees. The three bond over dinner as the mother tells stories about goofy things Johnny did as a kid.

Warren’s trying to incriminate Markham by finding about money he’s salted away at banks and Charlie has narrowed his accounts to two banks in Los Angeles. One bank’s where the department direct deposits the officer’s checks and Warren believes the other bank’s where the Lieutenant has the money from Solano deposited. To gain access to the bank records, he passes a counterfeit hundred-dollar bill to a pizza shop that’s a customer of the bank, knowing that the Secret Service are investigating a rash of counterfeit bills in the area.

Markham’s ready to send Randy to make the buy from the Santanas, when he tells the dealer he needs to wear a wire and Randy refuses when he sees the listening device is a large old-school device. While they argue, Briggs volunteers to wear the wire and take Randy’s place, he tells Markham that he’s dealt with the Santanas in Texas and can pull it off, even showing the Lieutenant he can speak in the Spanish dialect that’s used where the family emanates from. Markham goes along with the plan and Paul takes off to try to make the buy.

When he gets to the store that’s a front for the drug business, he gives the man the password, but the guy refuses to talk with anybody but Randy and tells his bouncer to escort Paul from the store. The second man lifts up Briggs’ shirt and they see the wire and when he’s asked if he’s wearing a wire admits it and tries to arrest the pair. He gets into a hairy brawl with the first man, but overcomes him and cuffs the assailant. Markham later congratulates his new officer for handling the situation so well and tells Paul he wants him on his team.

The Secret Service contact Warren and he and Charlie go to the bank to allegedly investigate the counterfeit bill, but in reality want to access the bank’s records of Markham’s accounts. As Charlie asks their guide to have a look at the counterfeit bill, Warren accesses Markham’s information and prints it out. It turns out he owns a bunch of safety deposit vaults, most likely filled with cash. Charlie says that Markham’s probably cut off contact with Solano with such a large nest egg and Warren’s warning and Mike suggests that they set up a bank robbery by real criminals, apprehend them and make the contents evidence and unavailable to the Lieutenant, which could prompt him to team back up with Solano.

Jakes drives to Tuturro’s mother’s house to give Johnny something and he realizes that the agent’s hiding Lucia at the house. Dale tells Johnny he’s nuts and could be putting his mom in grave danger and to get her out of the house immediately Johnny, reluctantly agrees and Jakes drives away as the agent heads into the house. He sees Lucia sleeping on his childhood bed and touches her, startling her and waking her. The two then kiss as the episode concludes.

Graceland can be seen Wednesday nights on the USA Network.

Tyrant: What The World Needs Now

Photo Courtesy Of Vered Adir/FX
Photo Courtesy Of Vered Adir/FX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The summit meeting that nobody ever expected took place in the sixth episode of the FX Network Original Series Tyrant, as Abbudin President Jamal Al Fayeed sat down and negotiated with rebel forces leader Sheik Rashid. The opposition leader had been in exile for 20-years until the President’s brother Barry/Bassam Al Fayeed talked him into returning in the previous episode. The President wants to clear the square in the capital in a peaceful manner and willing to grant concessions to the Sheik, to achieve his goal. Jamal has doubts about whether the meeting should take place, but his brother convinces him that’s their best move.

The Sheik and his son Ihab, head to the palace in a limousine, part of a large motorcade including security. The father tells his son, that he’s counting on him to act like a statesman during the meeting and that they must stay on the higher road despite what the President’s staff states. Barry’s giving the same speech to his brother, telling him that if the Sheik offers any new proposals, he should respond by saying he’ll take that under advisement.

The Sheik arrives at the palace and has his picture taken with his two sons and his brother Walid Rashid. As the photographers finish, the Sheik tells his brother to head home and Walid’s confused and disappointed telling the Sheik that he came to help in negotiations, as he has dealt with the regime for the last decade. The Sheik tells his brother that he made friends with the people who betrayed them and once again tells him to go home.

After going through a procession line, Jamal, Barry and their father’s closest adviser Yussef, meet behind closed doors with the Sheik and his two sons. After some tense but amenable small talk, the President offers the same concessions that he earlier proposed to Ihab Rashid. The Sheik, thanks his opponent for his kindness, but then tells the President that he’s looking for a promise of open and free elections, monitored by the United Nations. The inner battle between what the Abbudin leader wants to say and knows he should say, register on his face for about 30-seconds, until he says he’ll take it under advisement. When Barry asks the Sheik if he will order his supporters to clear the square, Rashid responds by repeating the President’s last statement.

Jamal walks out of the meeting, fuming and berating Barry for setting up the situation they find themselves in and the brothers head into the meeting room of the President’s top advisers. The President asks the brother’s uncle General Tariq Al Fayeed, what damage would be incurred by the occupants if the military clears the square and Tariq responds most likely about two thousand injured and 200 deaths. Jamal, replies that there would be 200 dead the next day and then his regime would be at war with the citizens and the General reminds the President, that his military’s quite adept at winning wars. The President asks his advisers if anyone has a better alternative and the room remains silent, he then tells the group, he needs an hour to collect his thoughts and exits.

As Jamal sits in his office he receives a text from Barry, saying that he has another option and he’s behind him. The President turns around in his chair and sees his brother in the courtyard behind him and lets him into the office. Barry’s alternative, strikes his brother as insane at first blush, but as he gives his reasons, leader of Abbudin becomes intrigued. The younger Al Fayeed tells his brother, to agree to free-elections and then explains how any elections are at best a year to 18-months away. Worst case scenario; Jamal gathers his funds and invests them in Swiss banks, by an island and live out his days in the lap of luxury, with nobody asking for his head.

However Barry tells his brother he believes that he can win an open election and use the office to his advantage, by building hospitals and schools for the people, to help win them over. He tells Jamal, that his citizens don’t know him, but he’ll have plenty of time to win their love and respect before the elections are held and win easily. If he does win, his regime’s stronger than ever and he wins respect on the world stage, for himself, the Al Fayeed family and Abbudin. The President asks his brother for some time to think it over, but it’s pretty apparent Jamal’s leaning towards his brother’s suggestions.

The graphic on the screen tells us that three weeks have passed and Jamal wakes up feeling amorous and wants to make love to his wife Leila, but she rebuffs his advances, as she’s angry at her husband for agreeing to free-elections. Jamal asks her if she’s watched TV, that commentators are referring to him as a “beacon of hope” in the Middle East. Leila responds with a snide comeback, leaves the bed and the room, while her husband lies there frustrated. Seconds later, Yussef calls the President on his cellphone with the news that “60 Minutes,” has requested an interview with him.

Jamal enters his morning meeting with his advisers, asking about the funding for the new schools and hospitals he wants built and his finance minister responds, they have yet to get the money to start the project. When Jamal questions what the hang-up is, the minister replies that normally they would fund such a project with war bonds, but with free elections on the horizon, questions about the military’s stability have arisen. Tariq’s second in command, tells the President that the amount of young men not reporting when they receive their induction to the draft has risen dramatically, as well as the incidents of enlisted men attacking officers. Tariq, then follows up asking his nephew, to call off the elections and let he and the military handle the citizens.

The President asks the General if he’s heard that he’s been approached by the world-renowned TV show for an interview, then asks his uncle and the finance minister if either of them had ever been contacted by the show, to which they both sheepishly respond they haven’t. He then tells his advisers he’s on his way to an emergency meeting with the Norwegian attaché and when he returns he wants to hear nothing but positives from the group.

The meeting’s neither with a diplomat or a Norwegian, as Jamal’s come to visit an attractive American young woman with blonde hair, who maybe the President’s former mistress. After getting attention from the woman that Leila denied him, he asks her if she thinks the people of Abbudin love him and she responds like Barry did, that they have yet to know him, but once they did he assured him they would love him.

Barry enters Leila’s quarters and her crew of makeup people and hairdressers, leave the two alone in the room. The younger brother comes off as patronizing his sister-in-law, as he tries to tell her what to say in the TV interview and she cuts him off at the knees, telling him she’s been dealing with the press since turning 18. She then starts smirking at Barry and asking him if he truly feels important and the man pulling the strings? She says he comes across as self-satisfied and Barry excuses himself for the intrusion and leaves the room.

We watch the interview unfold, with segments from Jamal’s mother, Leila and the General, all speaking of the President in glowing terms. The President’s handling the questions posed to him in a stately and dignified fashion and the session looks like a home-run for the Al Fayeed regime. Then the interviewer plays a clip of the Sheik talking about his opponent, calling him a lion and he’s afraid sometimes that he’ll walk away headless when they meet. However, he then tells the reporter, that the real difference maker, maybe younger brother Bassam, an American, who he calls the lion-tamer, ticking Jamal off.

Barry arrives at the Sheik’s house and the elder Rashid, apologizes for not getting up to greet his guest, but his health has him restricted to sitting. We saw evidence of his ill-health earlier in the episode as he had to head to the bathroom during their first meeting at the palace, due to a coughing jag. Barry asks why the Sheik made the remarks about the brothers relationship and Rashid admits that he did it to cause friction between the two Al Fayeeds. He then tells his guest, that he reminds him very much of Barry’s father and calls him one of the most brilliant statesman in history and that Barry’s his father’s son. That statement, would have angered Al Fayeed six weeks earlier, but he accepts it as a compliment. He then tells the Sheik that the true intention of his visit’s to extend an invitation to attend the ceremony, which will change the constitution and allow for free-elections.

Jamal’s back with the woman and he tells her he believes he’s unlovable, his father liked him sometimes, other times not. His mother loves all her children no matter what and his brother pities him and thinks that’s love. She asks about his wife and his expression tells her to quickly change topics and she tells him that she loves him.

The ceremony’s about to take place at the palace and the Sheik arrives, accompanied by both his sons and works the room like a Vegas entertainer, which the President takes notice of. Right then the American Ambassador to Abbudin John Tucker, greets the President and remarks that Rashid’s a force of nature. Visibly disturbed, Al Fayeed excuses himself and heads to the visitors rest-room. Seconds later the door opens again and Yussef guides the Sheik into the facility. The Sheik starts to refresh himself at the sink and the President remarks that great minds think alike.

Jamal standing across the room says to Rashid, that the people truly love him and the Sheik responds he’s a benign old man, which creates the love, however he loves them right back. The President then asks his opponent, if he’s got love for Barry and the Sheik responds that he admires the younger brother very much. He then tells Jamal, that he wakes up joyous every morning realizing that Barry’s not his opponent in the upcoming election, then collapses into another coughing jag.

The President seems concerned initially, patting the Sheik on the back and telling him to cough it up, but the anger soon surfaces and he shouts, “Old man, cough up a lung,” then hits the Sheik hard between his shoulder blades, causing Rashid to fall to his knees in a stall.

Jamal, loses control knocking the old man’s head against the toilet and Rashid blacks out. The President feels the Sheik’s neck for a pulse, but we can’t tell by his expression if Rashid’s dead or alive. He leaves the rest-room as the episode draws to a close.

The story will pick up again next Tuesday on FX.

Murder in the First: Win Some Lose Some

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Warning: Spoiler Alert

This week’s episode starts off with English going to visit Chris Walton (the guy who confessed to the Niers murder weeks ago) in prison. Very cryptic in nature. English seems to want to find some new wrinkle, but his attitude as an investigator is making that difficult.

Preparing for another court appearance, Blunt simply cannot help himself from trying to control the situation. Daniels, essentially, is the best criminal lawyer money can buy. Yet despite Daniels’ repeated claims that putting Blunt on the stand is a bad idea, Blunt insists. It’s his life after all.

During the actual trial scene at hand, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. It should have been earlier, but as a viewer I am by nature biased. Siletti is in over his head. He keeps trying to get something to stick but he keeps coming off as petty and over matched. Ivana West was a clever witness, but Siletti is in over his head.

“Your Honor, the defense calls Erich Blunt”. This somehow feels like a colossal mistake. Well. Either he’s better at selling his own story than I gave this character credit for, or there is a serious problem with the suspect list. Blunt came off sincere and not at all the arrogant S.O.B. that the has a reputation for. However, there is still a part of me that remembers seeing how he has been candidly in previous episodes. Something is missing one way or the other. A small something or a huge something.

During the cross-examination, Siletti did what Siletti does and tried to force something (many somethings) to stick. And for my money was highly unsuccessful. Blunt was not what I had expected. Granted, it goes back to his character make up and is not outside the realm of possibility. Well played Bochco. With that said, it probably will not go over exceedingly well. The standoff between Blunt and Siletti at the end will not endear Blunt to the jurors. It was a nice moment for Blunt personally but might not have been the best play.

I do not like Hannah Harkins. The fact of her rape aside. I just don’t like her. I’m worried there is something on her end that will come back around.

Closing arguments should prove to be something. As I watch Siletti I am more and more concerned that this will not go the State’s way. He’s throwing around buzz words as opposed to facts. Hoping that the sound of what he is saying will justify what he is saying. I’ve got to say, just from an etiquette standpoint, I am really opposed to Siletti’s tactics. He is all but lying in an effort to connect dots that aren’t there while doing so two feet from Blunt. I imagine to illicit a response from Blunt.

To be clear, neither side has an iron clad case. However, Daniels does not come across as a hack. I may just be one real solid detail away from rooting for Daniels and Blunt. Almost, let’s not get carried away.

Outside English’ place, sounds of love can be heard from outside. Pretty obvious, what is happening. And then the woman in question said, “I love you”. Now personal feelings aside, English just buried his wife not that long ago. He is clearly conflicted on a few levels. Dropping the magic 3 little words to a man this lost in his own head on the night of the first official date is a bit much. The woman’s tantrum was a little bit her own fault.

Outside a different law office, Bill and Mrs Wilkerson have a civil conversation (by comparison). It is revealed that the video of Bill and Cindy was sent by an anonymous email account. Hmm, curious. Considering Blunt has the technology to do such a thing with moderate ease. And that Blunt to Bill to his face, “we have each other’s backs, right?”

At Blunt’s residence Erich and Herzberg watch a news discussion on the impact of Blunt’s testimony. There is a nice but not important back and forth with Blunt and Herzberg when Bill Wilkerson shows up. Blunt instructs Herzberg to go home, Bill’s here to babysit. As I have the TV paused, Wilkerson’s expression suggests that sending Herzberg home might not have been the best idea.

Bill in his frustration and reacting to the conversation with his wife, asks Blunt about how a deleted video could resurface. Blunt is what he is and indulges that conversation on the tech side explaining how the data could be moved to the cloud and accessed anywhere. And then Blunt suggests that Bill owes someone a thank you for this because he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife if he loved his wife. Then Bill comes out and asks, to which Blunt immediately denies it. And in that moment or two. In the time between breaths, I actually thought, “come on Erich, just come out with it. This has your finger prints all over it.” And he did. And to my utter surprise, Wilkerson did not attempt to assault Blunt.

Back at the precinct the next day, Chief Koto gets word that the jury is back and English and Mulligan decide to go with him for what must be the verdict. This is seriously stressful. I actually feel invested enough that I don’t know that I’m prepared for what is to follow.

In an artistic approach, they decided to fade out the voice of the court reporter reading the verdict. Almost in an effort for we the viewer to experience the verdict in real-time as we witness the responses from the various characters in the court room. And that reaction is NOT GUILTY. Regardless of what happens going forward, this result is the fault of the DA’s office. They were not prepared and jumped the gun. They were not ready, and the prosecution’s case appeared to be built on hearsay and wishes.

Pardon me while I run around my living room shouting obscenities.

So with most of the court room cleared, English and Mulligan decide to leave. On their way out Erich Blunt decides to stop them on the other side of the door.

Blunt: Hey…(looks at both of them separately) You still think I did it.
Mulligan: Yeah, we do.
Blunt: Luckily the double jeopardy rule means there’s only one bite at the apple.
English: A woman’s dead. A child, your child is dead. (English advanced to violate Blunt’s personal space) So don’t get up in my face and gloat.
Blunt: Why not? You’re right. I did kill that dumb b****

To be honest, I really don’t know what’s what going forward. I may need for this to marinate for a bit. However, I will say this. The double jeopardy rule only works on trying the exact same case a second time. The Niers murder is still in the wind. They can still attempt to put Blunt away on Murder. And throwing it in their face as he just did is not going to get the police to slow down. If anything, they are just going to ramp it up after that stunt. Stay tuned, next week could be insane.

Halt And Catch Fire: Hello Comdex, Good-Bye Uniqueness

Photo by Tina Rowden/AMC
Photo by Tina Rowden/AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Cardiff Electric’s team to sell their new personal computer have arrived in Las Vegas in episode nine of the AMC Original Series “Halt And Catch Fire,” as Gordon and Donna Clark, Cameron Howe and Joe MacMillan, have brought the prototype of the Giant to the Comdex Trade show hoping to return to Dallas, with lots of orders for the new product in hand. The crew have to overcome adversities from the time they arrived and just when it looked that they were sailing into clear skies, an unseen storm came into almost capsize their boat.

As MacMillan went to the hotel’s front desk to get the keys to the three bedroom suite reserved by Cardiff, the hotel manager tells Joe that the card the company had used for the room got declined and the hotel received information that funds were frozen due to the investigation into Cardiff by the FBI, that began in the previous episode. MacMillan being a pathological liar, told the manager his name’s John Bosworth, but when he attempts to put the charge on his private credit card, the manager immediately notices the different name on the card and sends Joe on his way.

As the four sit in the lobby attempting to come up with a plan, Gordon looks through the brochure of who will feature booths at the show and recognizes two losers he had met when he and Donna attended the show two-years earlier. Clark tells Joe to head into the rest-room and put on his best blue-suit. They head to the presentation hosted by a duo with the joint personality of a slab of granite, reading notes woodenly and showing the uneasiness they feel. Gordon starts throwing out questions that emphasize the product’s problems and then asks how they expect to compete when IBM releases the same product at a cheaper price? When they ask Gordon where that information came from, he nods his head toward MacMillan standing at the back of the room and they assume he’s with IBM.

Joe plays the part perfectly as he buys the pair drinks down at the bar and the men are besides themselves as they sunk every penny they had into the suite at the hotel and the spread they were going to have for their party that night. MacMillan tells them that IBM needs more rooms and that “Big Blue” would compensate them for the suite and the food and liquor for the party, leaving the men with their funds restored.

Cardiff also lost the booth they had reserved, so Donna and Cameron purchase a new one, far from their original location in prime real estate and far too small for their planned presentation. Cameron grabs some money and tells Donna to go to the suite and get ready for the party. She soon returns with some blocks of Styrofoam, a can of red spray-paint, a briefcase, a large metal chain and a saw. She goes with a simplistic but intriguing presentation, making a wall and a podium out of Styrofoam, spray painting the message on the wall that there’s a Giant in the briefcase that’s wrapped with the chain and puts the Cardiff Suite number as well. It soon attracts a large curious crowd.

With those problems resolved Gordon and Donna encounter yet another as they try to turn on the Giant and the computer won’t boot up. They move the prototype into their bedroom to solve the hardware glitch seconds before the first guests arrive for the party. Two-hours later Joe walks into the room and asks Gordon what’s the status and the engineer responds he’s almost ready. As the main room starts to reverberate with the crowd cheering Giant. MacMillan takes the machine away from Gordon and heads out to the cheering crowd.

Joe MacMillan’s far more than a master-salesman; he’s a showman, a manipulator, along the lines of the famous circus impresario P.T. Barnum, who posted signs throughout his circus, which read “This Way To The Egress.” What the attendees didn’t realize until they found the destination that the signs guided them to was the exit, which is what the fancier word means.

Joe came out teasing the crowd with the Giant and the audience demonstrated their excitement to see the computer in action. MacMillan takes his time working his way to the front of the room, then asks the crowd if they want him to turn it on and the audience erupts. Joe, tells them he could do that, but they’re in Vegas and happen to have the porn convention at the hotel next door. He tells the engineers that Cardiff has hired four big name actresses to entertain at the party and the room explodes in cheers. He then tries the old bait-and-switch, asking if the crowd wants him to pull up some spread sheets before introducing the ladies and the boos drown him out. He announces he’ll wait, if they promise to attend their demonstration at their booth the next day and they cheer in agreement. The four women enter in hot-pants and halter-tops and the booze starts flowing while the music cranks up and dancing begins. Gordon takes the Giant back into the bedroom so he and Donna can finish repairing it.

Later that evening, MacMillan notices Cameron talking with a young engineer from Silicon Valley and trying to talk her into moving there. They debate the pros and cons and then the engineer invites her and his fellow engineers out for pancakes. Joe seems sad she’s left with the group, but quickly becomes engaged with a man named Dennis who owns and operates Computer-Land, the chain that started retail sales of personal computers and tells MacMillan that he thinks the Giant could become a big product for his stores. Joe asks him why he’d be interested in a specialty product from a first time computer manufacturer and Dennis replies to his question by asking MacMillan if he ever sold cars? Joe responds he never had and the older man replies that’s how he started in sales and that taught him to sell station-wagons a dealership needed a sports-car in the window.

The four head down the next morning to present the Giant, when they notice a large crowd gathering around one booth and the buzz of excitement can be felt throughout the hall. As they get closer, we hear a familiar voice and see a look of shock on Donna’s face as she sees her former boss at Texas Instruments Hunt, talking about his new personal computer; a stripped down basic version of the Giant. It’s far more simplistic, has a plastic case, but it’s faster and cheaper than the Giant. As he unveils drawings of the “Slingshot,” a complete rip-off of the Cardiff machine, we see that former engineer of Gordon’s and the Clark’s next-door neighbor Gary’s Hunt’s lead engineer. When Hunt asks the crowd if they have questions, Donna pounces on him and starts to attack him, until Joe and other men pull her off him.

When the four get upstairs to their suite, Gordon tells MacMillan and Howe to wait outside and after Donna enters he slams the door behind them. He then repeatedly asked his wife if she slept with Hunt and she tells him no, but she kissed him and she wanted to sleep with him, because he treated her well while Gordon took her for granted. Clark then berates his wife for allowing him to pump her for information and tells her for all his shortcomings he never even thought of breaking their vows.

We move to the bar and see Hunt apologizing to what at first seems like Donna, but it’s actually Joe he’s talking with. MacMillan threatens him with a lawsuit and Hunt counters that by the time the case hit the courts, the “Slingshot,” would be in its third generation. Joe may have finally met somebody with even fewer moral convictions than he possesses the revulsion he shows is for both of them as he walks away. He gets into the elevator, Cameron rushes in at the last second and Joe takes her hand as the doors close.

They arrive at the suite to find a tipsy Gordon has reconfigured the Giant, so that the machine’s now faster and cheaper than Hunt and Gary’s machine, however he had to remove Cameron’s interactive operating system to accomplish it. Howe breaks into tears and tells MacMillan to make him put it back the way it was, but Joe’s first a survivor and realizes that Gordon’s changes will make the computer salable. Cameron leaves the suite in tears, despite Joe’s pleas to come with him to demonstrate the Giant.

Joe and Gordon present the computer to a large but underwhelmed crowd, who expected a game-changing machine and once again MacMillan makes lemonade out of lemons. He tells his audience that the bottom line, speed and reliability make the Cardiff computer great. He tells his audience that if they want a friend get a dog, play with their kids head to the park. The purpose of the Giant is to get the job done right and quickly and for its cost it blows away the competition. The crowd slowly and then loudly applaud the speech. Dennis tells Joe that he’s thinking of ordering 60 thousand units at nine hundred dollars a machine and MacMillan responds that the order is a start; the retailer then ups the offer to 70 thousand units and Joe responds they’ll talk as the episode comes to an end.

The story will pick up again next Sunday night on “AMC

The Musketeers: The Exiles

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Warning: Spoiler Alert

This week I definitely should not have read the description before watching. I am not a connoisseur of Alexandre Dumas nor can I claim to be a Musketeers historian. However, anyone who has seen or read their fair share of Musketeer lore should be able to immediately see the clues in “Aramis protects a young mother and her baby”. It is significant. I will spare any overt spoilers pertaining to the previously mentioned cryptic few sentences on the off-chance any of our readers have not seen the episode. We will move forward in the usual manner in an attempt to preserve the experience.

Aramis and D’Artagnan approach a small church on horseback discussing their duty at hand. All they know is that they were sent to escort a mother and child to Paris. They seem to be completely in the dark as to why. Aramis tells D’Artagnan that its best to not get involved. In the church there are two unsavory men questioning what appears to be a priest. Another priest hides under the stairs protecting a large book. Priest one is stabbed, left to bleed out on a floor covered with torn pages (presumably documentation of some sort). The men depart the church in pursuit of the child in question before Aramis and D’Artagnan arrive.

Once they arrive they find the situation more grim than they had expected. D’Artagnan enters the church to find the slain priest. The two men approach the mother (who has knelt by a grave *hint*) and takes the baby from her. Just then the two Musketeers pounce into action but they can only save the woman. The man with the baby gets away. Aramis instructs D’Artagnan to trail the men at a safe distance to figure out where they are headed. Instead of gratitude the woman advances on Aramis at knife point.

The woman saying, “I am faithful to my husband Felipe…” is really all you need to know. If you’re picking up what I’m putting down all of the tumblers should be falling into place revealing a great deal of the rest of this particular story. If not, nothing to worry about, it will be revealed in due time.

After some initial probing by Aramis, we discover that the grave the young woman knelt next to is indeed the grave of “Felipe”. Felipe, father to the kidnapped baby. The woman trots toward the church yelling for Father Duval. Aramis strongly recommends she not enter. Only so much grief a person should go through in a 3 minute span.

Athos and Porthos lead a charge (ceremonious one at that) through a small forest. On the other side is a royal gathering of some sort. I would suggest that it feels like fox-hunting if I knew any better. Just then, Athos notices an unidentified group galloping their way. All of the guards including the two Musketeers circle around to protect the King and Queen. Once tempers cool (momentarily) the King emerges from his tent. An older woman identifies herself as King Louie’s mother. Louie’s reaction is not warm to say the least.

“You were banished for life on pain of execution. You tried to steal my throne. Now I’m obliged to cut off your head and place it on a spike for all of Paris to ogle”. – King Louie

Back inside the tent, the Cardinal and Captain Treville attempt to calm the King’s nerves. The Cardinal even suggest showing restraint as beheading one’s mother is rarely received well by the people. The King goes on about how she was warned never to show her face in Paris. Then the King turns his gaze toward Treville then back to the Cardinal. “But we will find these assassins Cardinal, we can’t have people running around trying to kill my mother, not unless I tell them to.”

I normally wait for the story to develop before sharing some of the more enjoyable examples of writing, but this time I really can’t help myself. This exchange between Athos/Porthos and Vincent (Mother’s right hand) is worth showing.

Vincent: The King’s mother comes to you in peril and you treat her like a common criminal. So much for the chivalrous reputation of the Musketeers. I’m disappointed.
Porthos: On the bright side, you aren’t dead yet.
Vincent: You think I’m frightened of the King’s toy soldiers?
Porthos: For a glorified boot boy you’ve got an awful lot to say…
(Vincent begins to draw his sword)
Athos: DRAW IF YOU WISH. It will be our duty to kill you…and incidentally, our pleasure.

Vincent and ‘Mother’ claim they are being pursued by assassins and cannot risk going it alone. The Cardinal reiterates that the King is busy with issues of state. Curious since I think this all takes place during some form of Royal recreation.

Aramis has put the woman on his horse and they walk so that Aramis can try to piece together clues. At one point a group of villagers approach and make a scene. A large man says a few unkind things and spits at her feet. Aramis asks what just happened, and the woman replies with “ignorance and superstition”.

D’Artagnan has successful tailed the baby kidnappers to their holding destination. It is not Paris.

Meanwhile, Porthos, Athos and Treville escort Marie (‘Mother’) and Vincent to an unnamed location. She tries to appeal to Treville, who is having no part of it. Just then, Porthos picks up on some movement just beyond the tree line. It’s an ambush. A poorly executed one. Everything was fine, until one of the assailants was thrown from his horse and Vincent tried a little too hard to kill the man before Athos could secure him for questioning. The first 15 minutes of this show is clearly a hall of mirrors.

Returning to the scene of the crime, Porthos and Athos survey the area for some indication of what just happened. Each detail points firmly in one of two directions. If this was actually a genuine attempt on Marie’s life it was the worst hatchet job ever. Or it was a diversion.

In the palace, the King, Queen and Marie attempt an uncomfortable couch session. An opportunity for Marie to try to explain herself from before (when she tried to steal the throne) and allow for the King to believe her lies. There was some good emotion portrayed by the actors, but painfully awkward to sit through.

As Marie makes her way to a bedroom, she is attacked. Well not really. The attacker simply wanted to ravage her in a moment of passion. As it turns out unrequited passion. The ‘attacker’ was Vincent.

In a dark quiet room Aramis and Agnes (the baby’s mother) sit and discuss Aramis past love and eventually what Felipe was like. At this point, I hate to beat the dead horse, but if you’re still in the dark you should start doing the math. She speaks of Felipe and ‘Mal-figured’ with the warmest heart she’s ever known. She even mentions how Felipe’s mother showed up to visit once (*hint*). Even mentioned how Felipe’s public demeanor changed once Henry (the baby) was born. The village people one day decided to beat him to death.

D’Artagnan and Constance stand outside the holding location looking for any sort of tip that might help them get in. Constance says she can fight and D’Artagnan laughs it off.

Constance: Because you don’t trust me…?
D’Artagnan: Because I would never forgive myself if you were harmed.

I am generally not a fan of the almost romance. The ‘Ross and Rachel Effect’. The idea that the moment the two people in question become a legitimate item is the moment the show is dead. I struggle with the idea that you can’t have both. Or that one results in the other. However, the show runners at The Musketeers may be the first people who I believe are doing this right. Since day one, there has been something, a spark, something that suggests a developing attraction between D’Artagnan and Constance. The beauty of it is that it is not in the forefront. This little thing is surrounded by action, corruption, etc. I am willing to gladly accept that their flirtations, concerns and overall behavior between themselves adds a nice quality to the show and yes, when it becomes something real, the show could be over. But that’s the beauty of it, it is presented in a way that fits like a glove.

While still outside, D’Artagnan is confused when he sees women leaving the compound. “Wet nurses” Constance said. They are using wet nurses because Henry is “feeding”. D’Artagnan’s head turns slowly enough that Constance gets immediately why the wheels are turning in his head. She resists but eventually goes along with the ‘pretend to be a wet-nurse’ plan.

About the same time Constance enters the compound under the disguise of a wet nurse, Porthos and Athos begin to tail Marie and Vincent who have departed the palace at an odd time for a walk. Once there, the two are invited into the compound minus the gunpoint welcome that everyone else gets. If their suspicions weren’t peaked by that notion, they would be when they noticed D’Artagnan and Aramis looking onto the same site with similar curiosity. Porthos identifies the woman as Marie De Medici. Agnes identifies her as Felipe’s mother.

Meanwhile the ‘not dead’ priest finds his way to an audience with the Cardinal where he presents his relevance to the story. Felipe was born deformed. Why was France cursed? But alas, there was a younger twin boy name Louie. IT’S THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK!!!!! but in reverse. Instead of restoring Felipe to the throne, Marie is trying to use the existence of Henry, the new heir to the throne as leverage to remove Louie and place her in power until such a time that Henry can take over. It’s not that it’s a stretch to use this storyline, it’s that it is brilliant in manner in which the decided to use this storyline. Felipe is always Louie’s slightly older brother. In this variation banished for his appearance and power of France handed down to Louie skipping the order succession. I love the subtle and not so subtle changes to the story that make it fit this show. Art is found in the nuance.

At the right time, minus Marie and Vincent, the Musketeer elect to storm the compound to get Henry and Constance out of harm’s way. Side note, I love how all of the rooms in all of the homes in France are conveniently large enough to accommodate the inevitable sword fight. Now jumping back to the recon scene with D’Artagnan and Constance, he was reluctant to let her play an active role for fear she could be harmed, despite her claims that she can fight. Fast forward to the present scene. Aramis is consoling the child and Constance is forced to defend them with the sword. It’s not as graceful as if it would be if the roles were reversed, but she wasn’t wrong. She turns the corner in time to run into D’Artagnan. He almost quotes Hannibal Smith from the A-Team verbatim, “Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?”

All four Musketeers reconvene with Treville. Treville has recently had a conversation with the Cardinal on the identity of the child, Marie’s intentions, and the Cardinal’s ‘need’ to secure that baby. While Aramis appeals to Treville, Treville is uncharacteristically cold. He turns to Aramis and says, “I’d go with you myself but I’m busy. Damn paperwork. It’ll take me the rest of the afternoon…at least” Only thing missing is the (wink, wink).

Vincent returns to the compound to find the baby missing. Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan return to their own holding place to discover Aramis, Agnes and Henry are missing from there as well. They venture out to search for them. Aramis is trying to convince Agnes that she must leave Paris. She is expendable and worst case, so is Henry. He believes he has secured her safe passage.

Back at the palace, Marie suggests that the King go out and restart his ‘hunt’ that was interrupted at the start of the episode. Presumably to get him off the grounds as to make for a smoother coup. Luckily for us the Cardinal has pieced everything together about Marie and has the stronger hand by a significant margin. 3/4’s of the Musketeers are still trying to find Aramis, who they believe is trying to get Agnes and Henry out of the country. With the Musketeers at full strength, all looks promising. Until Vincent shows up with his merry men on horseback. Aramis convinces Agnes to walk away without Henry for a smoother get away.

They use barrels of brandy to create a bomb like diversion. Agnes looks back to see a massive cloud of smoke. Out of which rides Aramis holding Henry wrapped in blankets. He is immediately cornered on a bridge. In the struggle the baby is flung from Aramis’ arms and lands in the river a respectable distance down. Agnes comes running and screaming. Aramis will not permit her to dive in after the baby. She is inconsolable.

In the palace, Marie parades herself in front of the Cardinal in Queenliest best. She outlines the vague manner in which they will present the new heir and offer a choice to every one of allegiance or death when they storm the palace. So faced with a decision, the Cardinal calls for Captain Treville.

Treville: My condolences your majesty.
Marie: What are you talking about?
Cardinal: Such a tragedy. There will be no coup. No regency. No power. Just a sad deluded old woman with nothing. Your grandson Henry, he perished.
Marie: You’re lying.
(The Cardinal pivots to reveal Vincent in the distance. He looks and shakes his head side to side as if to gesture that they lost)

With the Musketeers present, the Cardinal informs them that the assassin looking to end Marie’s life was Vincent. Treville adds that is exactly all the king needs to ever know. Elsewhere, the Cardinal goes through an begins burning all of the documentation pertaining to the legitimacy of an heir named Henry. The priest who could present an eye-witness account of the birth is murdered.
Amidst the mist Aramis rides toward Agnes.

Agnes: What more could you want from me? Why drag me here now?
Aramis: I know you’ve endured hell. I’m sorry you had to suffer so terrible a blow. I apologize. I should have told you the truth, but if you had not been convincing as a grieving mother they would’ve seen right through it. This was the only way I could see you and Henry having any kind of life together.
Agnes: What life?
(Behind Aramis in the distance the other three Musketeers and Constance emerge)
Agnes: Henry? (soft cries in the background) Henry? Henry…? Henry.
D’Artagnan: You didn’t want to give him back did you?
Constance: Was it that obvious?
Porthos: It’s not every day you get to save the king’s life.
Athos: He’ll never be king, but he’ll be happier than the man who is.
Aramis: You didn’t actually think I’d take something so precious into battle.
Agnes: You kept him safe. Delivered him to me, as you promised you would.
Aramis: Take this (hands her a pouch we assume has money in it) make a new life together far away from France. Felipe would not want you to be alone forever.
Agnes: I have my son…I’d ask you to come with us, but you already have a family.
(Agnes looks to the Musketeers and Constance. They share an embrace)
Agnes: Thank you.
(Aramis turns and mounts his horse)
D’Artagnan: I think you’re losing your touch.

I would love to drop the mic there and walk off stage left. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one thing. It is only speculation, but I cannot fathom that this Marie De Medici storyline is over. Nor is the Henry storyline over. They found a brilliant way to incorporate a very well-known storyline into their story without compromising what they’ve already built. And it would absolutely be a shame to not tuck some of that away to bring back later.

Ray Donovan: Gem And Loan

Photo:  Suzanne Tenner/Showtime
Photo: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The Donovan family’s moving up in status, as the title character of the Showtime Original Series “Ray Donovan,” agreed in the previous episode to move his family to the toney suburb Truesdale and in the third episode, he committed to do his best to get daughter Bridget into the prestigious Bel-Air Academy. However the Hollywood “Fixer For The Stars,” has a lot on his plate, including keeping Los Angeles FBI Bureau Director James Cochrane off his tail, and Ray’s father Micky out of trouble; which is a fulltime job itself.

We join Ray, his wife Abby, Bridget and the principal of her high school as the episode opens and the school official has exciting news to share with Bridget’s parents. She took the entrance exam for the Academy and scored in the upper percentile making her a prime candidate academically for the private school. However, being Hollywood one needs to have a benefactor go to bat for your family to get your child in the exclusive school and the contact that could help the Donovan family, Producer Stu Feldman, (Josh Pais) has blocked previous efforts due to his immense dislike of Ray. Donovan promises Abby, that he’ll try to make amends with the producer and gets in his car to head there.

As Ray drives to the producer’s house, his phone rings and Cochrane’s on the other and demanding that Ray get to his office immediately. or terrify his family when a SWAT Team knocks down their front door to take Ray away in chains. Although the local Bureau Director is far from being a physically imposing figure, he refuses to exhibit fear and talks down to everybody. Ray doesn’t react well to such treatment and calmly tells Cochrane as he enters the office, that if he ever threatens his family again, Donovan will kill him. Cochrane shows no reaction to the threat, instead starts talking about an outside threat, who’s out to prove that former Public Enemy Number One Patrick “Sully” Sullivan wasn’t killed by the FBI.

That “outside threat,” that Cochrane refers to as the “Boston Globe’s Lois Lane,” is Globe reporter Katherine McPherson, who strong-armed her editor in the previous episode to let her fly to the West Coast after Cochrane’s televised ceremony when he presented medals to the two agents credited with taking Sully out. McPherson checked sources close to Sullivan in Boston, and noticed discrepancies from the FBI account to what her sources told her.  She asks to speak to the agent that shot Sullivan and Cochrane refuses, she then asks about Micky Donovan and Cochrane tells her he has no knowledge of anyone by that name. Ray tells the Bureau Director to relax and he calls his chief aide Avi to watch the reporter and to keep her away from Micky.

Micky’s new parole officer Ronald Keith, has gotten him a job washing dishes and slicing carrots on the morning shift of a greasy-spoon on the wrong side of town. He tells his supervisor he’s taking a break and then heads outside to wear the other workers gathered, passing around a joint. Micky’s tempted but tells his fellow employees he’s on parole and being tested, but one of the guys tells him that he just needs a prescription for medical marijuana. Keith walks over to the group and tells the other guy, that Micky can’t go that route and realizing Keith’s a parole officer, scatter.

He puts an ankle bracelet on Micky and tells the ex-convict that he’s only allowed to go to his home and his job or the bracelet will shock Micky and alert Keith. Just then Micky gets a call on his cell phone and his former girlfriend and mother of his youngest son Daryl, Claudette’s on the other end. She tells Micky that she needs to see him and Donovan responds that he’ll meet her at a fancy restaurant at 6:00 pm. Keith tells Micky that if his bracelet signal shows up there, the old man’s heading back to the joint. He tells Micky to have her meet him at his apartment, but he tells the officer that he’s too embarrassed for her to see him like that.

Ray arrives at Feldman’s office and the producer’s befuddled why Donovan’s there. He asks his assistant whether they had a scheduled meeting and when told that he doesn’t, hesitantly invites him into his office. Feldman and Donovan have a history from the first season of the series, as the producer hired Ray to tail his mistress and they ended up in bed together. The Producer invited Ray and family to a party at the producer’s, arranged to bury the hatchet, Feldman told Abby about her husband’s affair and told her Bridget would be black-balled from Bel Air Academy. Donovan got revenge by breaking the producer’s hand and this meeting’s the first time they have seen each other since.

Donovan asks for Stu to help get Bridget into the academy and Feldman starts complaining about his mistress, she’s started a recording career and chopped off all her hair ala Miley Cyrus and the producer’s desire waned when she altered her look. He tells Ray that he’s obsessed with bedding a porn-starlet, whose know as the “Meryl Streep of Porn,” according to him. He’s made financial offers but keeps getting refused, he tells Donovan if he can arrange to grant his request he’ll assure Bridget gets into Bel-Air Academy.

Avi calls Ray and tells him that McPherson, showed up at Terry’s gym and Donovan tells his right hand man to make sure she doesn’t get away. Avi pushes her car ahead in the street-side parking spot, then puts his car behind her so close she would be boxed in. The reporter goes upstairs to talk to Terry and tells him she’s writing a book about Sully and heard Micky’s named mentioned as a close associate and she wants to talk to him. The oldest Donovan brother says his father’s not at the gym and he’s unsure of his whereabouts. She thanks him, heads to the car and finds she’s trapped.

Ray heads over to talk with the porn producer about Stu paying for a night with the actress he fancies, when the producer informs Ray that actress is his wife and she’s not a prostitute. She only has sex with other professionals of the industry and requires a detailed health check. Donovan walks out with an autographed picture of the actress and a definitive NO, from the producer. He then heads to Feldman to give him the picture and the response and Feldman, insults Ray and tells him that he hopes Bridget enjoys public school. He says he knows the way to get his fantasy fulfilled.

Donovan pulls up to Terry’s gym and sees the reporter seething out front, wondering how long she’ll remain trapped. Ray plays dumb and asks if he can help, when she explains the situation he tells her that his brother owns the gym and most likely somebody inside has boxed her in. She asks if he’s a Donovan and he responds he is as they head upstairs. After a charade, they find Avi in the shower and he apologizes and tells the reporter he’s moving his car.

Micky’s back at his apartment trying to remove the ankle-bracelet with a plastic knife when a fellow tenant of the building walks into his apartment’s open door. The man introduces himself to Donovan, he’s Shorty, another ex-con who got released when he contracted lung cancer as the state didn’t want to pay for his treatments. He tells Micky he’s got some tools and comes back with a screwdriver, which Donovan uses to break the bracelet, Shorty says he’ll wear it with some duct tape wrapped around it, so Keith will believe Donovan’s home. They realize the plan’s not going to work when the parole officer arrives seconds later, having been signaled that Micky removed the device.

Keith tells Micky that he’s got one last chance, if the ex-con spits on the sidewalk he’s heading back to prison. Micky notices Keith’s fancy watch and recognizes it as one of Ray’s. He asked Keith where did he get it and the officer responds that he bought it at the Gem And Loan Pawn Shop in Beverly Hills. When Micky inquires about the price, Keith responds that the question session’s over. Micky then asked if Keith had to pay with more than money for the time-piece, such as a piece of his soul and Keith silently walks out.

Feldman has the porn starlet and her husband meet him at one of his sets, and the couple gush over the facility. He introduces himself as an actor in the industry and provides them his health information, then tells the husband he’s going to shoot their scene with a hand-held camera, which the producer says he likes the concept.

Stu is actually having sex with this woman in front of her husband filming her with a hand-held camera, when his passion overcomes him and he puts down the camera, tipping the wife off that he’s a phony and calls over her husband, who socks the Sleazeball in the head while still in the act. The husband demands to know what’s going on and Feldman tells him he’s the biggest producer in Hollywood and  the husband kicks the producer in the skull knocking him unconscious.

Back at the gym, Ray’s trying to charm the reporter and steer her away from talking with his father. He says Micky’s old and fragile, he did bad stuff but paid his debt to society by serving his sentence in a maximum security prison. Micky just wants to live out his days in peace and he’s forgotten most of the past. Although McPherson acts amenable, she’s not buying anything that Donovan’s telling her, she says goodbye and heads for her friend’s apartment where she’s staying while in Los Angeles.

Back in his car, Ray’s phone rings and Feldman’s on the other end, tied to a chair as the husband stands menacingly above him. He tells Donovan to go to the safe in his office and get $200 thousand to pay the couple. He tells Ray that if he comes with the money he will guarantee that Bridget gets into Bel-Air Academy.

McPherson’s watching a Sean Walker marathon with her friend on TV at her friend’s apartment and as the credits roll, a name catches her eye; Consultant: Micky Donovan. She then calls the parole office saying that Micky applied for a job at her coffee shop and she couldn’t make out his address and phone number to contact him.

Ray and his other assistant Lena, arrive at the porn producer’s house with the money in a satchel. He and Donovan go to another room to count the money, when it’s verified he’ll release Stu. As the husband starts counting the money, Ray tells him that he doesn’t want the money as it would reflect badly on his wife and himself. He asks Ray, what he suggests and the camera goes black. Feldman and Lena are in the car when Ray climbs into the driver’s seat and tells Stu they are heading to his studio.

The next scene takes place back at the studio filming a scene as box-office megastar Tommy Wheeler’s (Austin Nichols) filming the climactic scene of his next big movie with the porn-starlet as the woman he rescues. The mainstream exposure she’ll receive is worth far more than the money, which Ray has kept and is getting laundered so he can use it to pay for the new house and Bridget’s school.

Once again Ray’s phone rings and this time it’s Keith telling him that someone at the parole office gave McPherson, Micky’s address and phone number and she’s headed their as they speak. They concoct a plan to get Micky to the restaurant to meet Claudette while Ray waits for the reporter outside Micky’s apartment. When she arrives he tells her his father not coming back that night and offers to buy her a drink.

Mickey and Claudette meet at the restaurant, and she tells Micky that she had to sign a sworn statement earlier at the Beverly Hills Police station that she was with Donovan on the night Sully murdered Sean Walker, as Micky was with Sully when he killed the movie star. He tells Claudette that he didn’t kill Walker and asks her to stick with the story.

Ray and Katherine are pretty loaded at the bar and he tells her that she reminds him of Bridget, because she’s so bright. The reporter then rambles on drunkenly how she knows that Cochrane and Ray are hiding thing from her that she’ll eventually find out Ray tells her that if Sully was with them he would look at her and say “Katherine McPherson, you’re a PISSAH!” McPherson responded in kind and they both laughed as the episode concluded.

 The story will pick up again next Sunday night on Showtime.

The Last Ship: Lockdown


Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Warning: Spoiler Alert

This week’s episode of Last Ship starts out in a way that almost makes you wish you still had last week’s episode. Or at least that I wish that I still had last week’s episode. We see Jeter and Slattery changing into clean uniforms while they watch someone carry away their dirty ones. It took me a second to recollect exactly how last week ended so I could piece together what’s happening now. Then I remembered the ‘Seal Team 6′ like way the episode ended.

At dinner with just Chandler, Slattery and Jeter, they discuss just how much of the Nicaragua mission the rest of the crew should be privileged to. Seems like a no brainer. Keep moral as high as possible, everything is on a need to know basis. Chandler brings up a great point. If they start keeping secrets now, just how far does the rabbit hole go?

Every time Lt. Granderson says, “Captain on the Bridge” I’m reminded of Star Trek. That’s neither here, nor there, so back to the story. Despite the consensus from Chandler’s command team, he decides to tell the entire crew all that happened in Nicaragua or at least as much as they needed to know. He also managed to raise the level of expectation on Dr. Scott’s monkey trials.

Meanwhile over in Lt. Green’s quarters, which is now also Tex’ quarters making meeting a college roommate for the first time seem comfortable by comparison, Tex finds his way to a sensitive subject. Tex is for lack of a better term, a horn-dog. So naturally when Tex noticed Green’s reaction when around Lt. Foster, we had to know this was coming back around. Tex took what he observed and in a very Tex way all but came out and acknowledged that not only he figured out the Green and Foster situation, but that the secret is safe. Green is still sticking to his stubborn claim that his involvement with Foster compromises his ability to do his job, which is BS.

In Lt. Granderson and Foster’s quarters, Granderson is reading and Foster is doing Pilates. This may seem like a silly observation, but that seems to be a metaphor for men vs women. Men, laying down doing as little as possible. Women, reading and exercising when they don’t have to. So, while exercising and reading, Granderson and Foster are discussing what they can piece together about the mission which is not much.

On the deck Tophet and ‘Bacon’ Cowley (the sailor who drew the misfortune of being forced into chess with Tophet) are basically not playing chess. Bacon is at the board while Tophet is digging about the time it will take to travel home. At this point it should be obvious that they are not going home as of yet. The game eventually does begin but not without Tophet trying to squeeze information out of Bacon that Bacon has no desire to give, even if he could. Right about the time I think these two might become the most unlikely of friends, Bacon reveals his ability to just not care about anything pertaining to Tophet.

Chandler pays Dr. Scott a visit. The scene can’t be more than 3 minutes long but unveils a world of potential hurt. There is a little awkwardness as Dr. Scott tries to explain what’s happening with her process. While Chandler tries to reiterate her tone of optimism a few nights previous when she brought tea to celebrate her progress. In the end, she should-be less enthusiastic when conveying science to a military man and he should not have gotten the crew’s hopes up as high as he did. In the end, Chandler figures that the dead monkeys need to be tossed over and should be done so at night. “If anyone asks, you’re just disposing of hazardous waste.

Here’s the fun part. In the cold open, Chandler told his XO and Master Chief that the only reason morale is where it is, is that the crew believes that they were all in the dark about the virus in the Arctic. And that they can’t start keeping secrets now. Problem is, by suggesting Dr. Scott dispose of dead monkeys overboard at night as to avoid being noticed, we are in fact keeping secrets. Capt Chandler just firmly planted his feet on the proverbial “slippery slope”.

Shortly after, Chandler, Slattery and Jeter walk alone on the deck of the ship. Chandler brings them up to speed on the stage 1 failure. They respond just as you might assume. The plan of action for the immediate future is no action at all. Dr. Scott will be discreet in disposing of the monkeys and they will simply attempt to buy some time in order to figure out exactly what’s happening on the vaccine end.

Back in Tophet’s ‘cell’, he and Bacon play another game of chess. Tophet probing for some sense of clarity on where they are headed. Bacon suggests maybe Brazil or Venezuela. Which triggers Tophet to bring Bacon into the scientific ramifications. As if that wouldn’t be enough good Samaritan work by Dr. Tophet, he decides to paint the captain and the present scenario into a corner. Creating one mind thinking outside of optimistic.

Outside it’s almost dead monkey disposal time. Dr. Scott doing her part as instructed. During a shift change, it should’ve been an easy proposition. However, just at the right moment the watchman’s relief just happens to look over and see Dr. Scott dumping something over the side of the ship. While she’s out dumping cadavers, Chandler and Slattery speak on the ship’s phone about the status of the vaccine. Clearly, Dr. Scott is annoyed by being talked about.

In a rec room of the ship, Tex and three others are about to play a card game. During which time the sailors try to lay out details that could lead them to a conclusion of some sort about exposure. Tex does his best to deflect and get them to ‘relax’. Just then Lt. Green walks in the room drinking from a water bottle looking like he just ran the gauntlet. Without any real indication of anything, my ‘spide-sense’ kicked in. Oh, he’s about to pass out or convulse or something…

Dr. Scott: If he did have the virus, we’d all be dead anyway. So stop panicking.

At present we believe that Green is not infected with the virus, but is clearly infected with something. After applying at mentality better suited for the common cold, Dr. Scott interjects that the spread of this particular virus doesn’t work that way. Chandler asks about the mutating nature of the virus and is it plausible that the Nicaraguan strain may have gone undetected? Not being completely sold on the answer, Chandler calls for Slattery to lock down the ship until someone knows more. Remember that slippery slope? Footing seems to be getting a little shaky.

During the lock-down, Lt. Foster disobeys the restriction and makes her way to the lounge where at least Green and Chandler or sequestered. Despite the initial outrage, Foster reveals that she had lunch with Green. So if he has it, she has it. This is curious, because on the surface it seems like a basic observation. However, the Green Foster storyline just might advance if her display is interpreted as something more than a casual coincidence.

In a room with Chandler, Dr. Scott, Lt. Green, Lt. Foster and three other sailors. The latter three get excused when we discover that Lt. Green’s condition is not the virus responsible for killing 80% of the world’s population. Then Chandler looks to Dr. Scott and says, “Dr. Scott would you excuse us for a moment?” Lt. Foster looks up. She might as well be going to the Principal’s office.

Most normal short-sighted people would start in with, “What the hell? There’s no fraternizing on a military vessel.” Instead, Chandler starts in a way that is pure Capt Chandler. Full disclosure, I would not have fared well if I were in Lt. Foster’s shoes. That was deep-rooted, well thought out and shades of parental disappointment.

I don’t know (in the moment) if these two (Dane and Mitra) have the acting chops for this or if they were just ideally picked to play these roles, but every now and again there is a moment. A moment that brings texture to the scene. This scene is a lovely back and forth where Dr. Scott believes she needs to appeal to Chandler’s sense of logic in order to get the job done. Chandler chooses to share the gravity of the situation. Essentially insinuating that she has done nothing to earn his trust. Neither of them is completely right or completely in the clear.

I am really starting to question the motivation of Dr. Quincy Tophet. When the lock-down was lifted, Bacon looked particularly ticked. So now we find him below with Tophet probing Tophet (a nice change of direction) about what he knows, what he thinks and what it all means. Long story short, in episode 1 (or maybe 2) Chandler told the crew that they were in the safest place on the planet-the ship. Tophet disagrees.

Bacon: But they wore the suits.
Tophet: So did Frankie Benz and he didn’t make it back. Accidents happen. I imagine you’re not the only one feeling out of sorts about all of this?
Bacon: No. There’s a lot of grumbling. A lot of grumbling.
Tophet: At the beginning of this epidemic, your Captain told you all that this ship was the safest place on earth. I’m afraid nothing could be further from the truth. Your ventilation systems, everyone living on top of each other, think about it. This is the strongest, most powerful virus to every hit the planet. Now you have teams going out into infected areas to get supplies every week. A makes-shift lab that was never designed to support production of a vaccine. Dr. Scott playing God down there with no real idea of what she’s doing. This vessel is a death trap.

Later, while Dr. Scott was stewing in her own stress filled moment, Tex tries to lighten the load. There is a great moment that flies under most people’s radar at on the West Wing season 4, I think. (specifics won’t matter if you haven’t seen it yet) Charlie is frustrated with Zoey and the demands his job plus racially motivated death threats is putting on their relationship. Will Bailey says to Charlie, “If I were you, I’d be the one person in her life that his hassle free”. Which may very well describe what Tex may end up being for Dr. Scott. Yes, his motivation to some end involves a romantic relationship of sorts with Dr. Scott. However, in the meantime, he provides the one source of unapologetic support. He doesn’t question her motives, expertise or anything else. He just believes she will succeed. And that little glimmer of optimism might just be what she needs right now.

In typical fashion, they manipulate the emotional spectrum beautifully. After the optimism of Tex, we are greeted by the bad news from MC Jeter. 16 enlisted men want off the ship. Which presents a world of hurt. If they let them leave, it sets a horrible precedent. If they refuse, it could make the situation unimaginably bad. A destroyer needs a minimum crew just to operate. If it wasn’t apparently clear based on previous scenes I’ll just say it, this feels creepily like the handy work of Quincy Tophet.

Can we get a Tom Chandler save the day speech maybe…?

Chandler: I’ve made some mistakes the last few days. In the ways I’ve handled information. I kept you in the dark about our mission because I’m trying to protect you from the truth. Which is painful. That was a poor decision on my part. I am your Captain. I am your leader. You have every right to be disappointed in me. But that does not mean that you should give up hope. Because this mission’s not about me. And it’s not about you. It’s about them (signals to Slattery). (Lt. Granderson in the ‘searching for survivors room’ turns up the volume on the board to broadcast).
Survivor 1: My name’s Henry, I’m up in Portland, Maine. We’re not sick, but we’re running out of food. If anyone knows any good hunting grounds in the area, we sure could use a tip.
Survivor 2: I’m calling out to anyone in Georgia, if you’re healthy, there’s a safe haven up in Dalton. There’s only 19 of us but we’re making it day by day.
Survivor 3: I am Juan from Ohackah, we are very sick here. Does anyone have the cure?
Chandler: That is our problem. In there is the solution. (Jeter opens a lift gate to reveal Dr. Scott working) Come with me.
(Chandler escorts the entire crew into the lab)
Chandler: You all have seen Dr. Scott, but you have no idea what it is she’s doing here or even who she is. She has dedicated her life to research on treatments and vaccines for Malaria, Ebola, and half a dozen other viruses. But she wasn’t chosen for this. She fought to be here. Fought the politicians and the bureaucracy and convinced them to take a chance on her. And she was right. When all of the scientists were failing, she knew what had to be done. Just so we all understand who we’re working with here, Dr. Scott can you explain what’s happening?
(Dr. Scott tells a nice story about Yellow Fever and claims she does not have the answers, but nothing will stop her until she does)
Chandler: It’s easy to believe in people when they are succeeding. But that’s not what we’re about. We have to believe in each other when we fail. If we have to go back to Nicaragua for more monkeys we will. If we have to go to Puerto Rico we will. If we have to go to Bangladesh to find a Bengal Tiger, that’s what we will do. Now what I can promise you is that whatever we do from here, we will do together. And the Chiefs and Officers of this ship will share with you what we have, good or bad. Now it has come to my attention that there is a group of you who may no longer want to continue on with this mission. Your enlistments are up, I will not hold you here. As a matter of fact, you have our gratitude for your services. And we have calculated what you are collectively entitled to in back pay. $148,673. Enough to buy you one used rig with a full tank. Plus food, water, and medical supplies. We have determined to set a course for home. Again. But for those of you who still wish to leave us, report to the focsul at 0700 and your boat will be waiting.

(That will probably be the longest transcript I will post, but the scene carries a certain tone and may signal a shift of direction. Important when detailing the what before analyzing the why.)

In a short follow-up scene we find Tex approaching Chandler. Tex being the ever-present voice of optimism, logical or not, tries to put Chandler’s mind at ease. Side note, has anyone else noticed that NO ONE accepts a Cuban cigar from Tex? Tex’ approach is very much, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”. Chandler’s concern is, “If they leave (the 16 mentioned earlier), hope leaves with them.”

Chandler makes his way the deck where the 16 may choose to depart on the vessel he claims they are entitled to. As all 16 have served their term of service, they are free to leave. As he makes his way onto the deck, this viewer was hoping for an empty deck. However, once again, they are a step ahead of me. All 16 men are present. The instigator of the gaggle that brought us to this point, turns and marches a folded American flag and presents it to Capt. Chandler, “Sir, we all respectfully wish to re-enlist”. Then they all raise their right hand and ‘pledge to protect the constitution of the United States of America’ as they did when they first enlisted and the country was still intact.

Chandler walks into the room where Green is recovering. He excuses the medic and is left with only Foster in addition. He looks at Lt. Green and says, “He’s one of the best I’ve ever served with. A true leader. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going him his ass when he’s well enough”. As many father figures do, he asks Lt. Foster what her punishment should be. She responds with something in the four-week duration. He smiles and says, “two weeks ought to do it”.

Chandler leaves Foster and heads directly to Tophet. “I hear you and Bacon have been doing some talking. (He picks up the chess board) No more talking.”

Make sure to tune in either to the show or my recap of the show next week. Promos are designed to bring you back, and this group is very good at that. Although I don’t believe it’s true, “cease all rescue attempts, this is my final transition” from the Captain almost demands our attention.

Graceland: The Unlucky One

Photo Courtesy Of USA Network
Photo Courtesy Of USA Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

It’s the morning after the night that everything burned to the ground in FBI agent Mike Warren’s task-force’s case against the Solano family, in the sixth episode of the USA Original Series “Graceland.” All the members of the house are having bad mornings, but for Paige Arkin, the situation’s dire, as she goes undercover to infiltrate a sex-trafficking operation also controlled by the Solanos without any backup due to a snafu that Jakes found himself in. Just as Paige called an audible changing the game plan, Dale’s pulled out of his truck by two policemen, as he had violated the restraining order when his son Daniel visited him in the previous episode.

Paige gets taken to the facility where the operation’s hiding a group of young foreign women, who are being held to sell to buyers to use as prostitutes. She’s taken the place of the original drug mule transported by Cal-Coast Bus Lines from Mexico, after swallowing ten balloons filled with heroin. The young woman vomited up nine of the balloons but the tenth burst inside her and she died from an overdose, Paige then swallowed the remaining nine and took her place. The man in charge at the facility asks her where the last balloon is and Paige tells him that’s all she swallowed. He then brings her into a room and demands she undresses then takes her picture to post on their website. She’s then brought in to where the rest of the young women imprisoned, including the young Ukrainian woman she had tried to help weeks before. Arkin believes that agents will rescue them shortly, unaware that Jakes ended up in a jail cell.

Warren’s disgusted that an inside source tipped off the Solano family and destroyed all the evidence and warned Carlito Solano to steer away from the pick up he was driving to. However his superior from the Bureau’s headquarters Jess, walks into the house referring to Mike as the conquering hero. The agent looks at his friend with benefits, as though she lost her mind, but she spins it as a great victory for the FBI and will win them great favor with Bureau Director. Warren refuses to perceive the situation in that manner, saying that any evidence that could have locked up the Solano family no longer exists. Jess leaves but first asks Mike to come back with her to his position at Bureau Headquarters with her, he tells her he’ll think it over.

Mike still has one card to play, as he is holding Lawrence the Cal-Coast supervisor involved in the smuggling operation that kept a steady flow of heroin coming over the border from Mexico and Warren believes that Lawrence knows far more than he’s admitted. The supervisor does concede that the Solano family control a member of law enforcement that informed them the bust would go down, allowing them to destroy all the contraband. The agent also inquires about the sex-trafficking operation, but Lawrence denies knowledge, so Mike leaves the prisoner handcuffed to a chair in the safe house.

The phone rings at the house and Briggs answers to find Dale on the other end, explaining he’s in jail and asked if anyone had heard from Paige. When the response is no, he tells Paul that he believes Arkin’s in danger as he believes she may have gone undercover to try to bust the operation. Mike immediately freaks out but Briggs takes control, saying he and Charlie will find the recorder in Dale’s truck with Paige’s messages and Johnny goes to bail out Jakes with Mike insisting on going with him.

The tape’s found letting the team know that she took the young women’s place and Johnny and Warren greet Dale when released. Warren decides that Jakes doesn’t feel sufficiently guilty, so he tells the DEA agent that if Paige’s harmed it’s on him. We have seen evidence throughout the season that Mike’s severely lacking in management and people skills and once again handles the situation in the worst possible way.

When they get back home, Mike seeks out Paul finding him on the beach. He tells Briggs he’s holding Lawrence prisoner and he’s sure the supervisor has information on the sex-trafficking operation, but he won’t confess anything to Warren and asks Briggs for help in the situation. The two arrive where Lawrence’s held and he asks Paul who he is and the agent responds that he’s the man going to set him free and the supervisor gets excited. However, Briggs tells him before he can unlock the handcuffs, Lawrence must provide some info on the operation and once again the supervisor denies knowledge. Paul tells him he’s got one more chance to answer and Lawrence repeats his statement.

Briggs then grabs the gym-bag he brought with him and tells the prisoner he brought his old mistress for him and pulls out a large bottle of liquor and Lawrence begs for mercy as he’s a recovering alcoholic, sober for the last 16-years. Paul laughs derisively, then hands Warren a towel and tells him to put it over Lawrence’s face and hold back his head, then starts pouring the alcohol into the prisoner’s mouth through the towel. They remove the towel as the supervisor spits out the liquor and gasps for air and Paul questions him again and without an admission tells Mike to put the towel back on the prisoner’s face, but the other agent questions Briggs if they should proceed further. The look in Briggs’ eyes tell Warren that’s not an option and they torture Lawrence again.

Paul’s methods pay off as Lawrence agrees to cooperate and tells the pair he has to set up a meet in order for them to gain access to the operation. He contacts the people in charge and sets up a meet with them for the next morning at a local hotel and then they will transport him to the facility. The agents fear releasing Lawrence until they get Paige, so they leave him at the safe house. Briggs and Warren head back to Graceland to plan out the rescue with their housemates. Before they get into the car, Mike says he didn’t realize how brutal Paul would get and Briggs calls him out asking what did he expect when he asked for his help?

Arkin realizing that no help’s coming any time soon tries to escape with the Ukrainian girl, but the attempt fails as they run out to the yard of the facility and Paige tries to scale a chain link fence. As she climbs the boss comes out and whacks her in the thigh with a baseball bat and she falls to the ground with a badly bruised thigh.

Back at the house the five sit down to strategize, but nerves shot and tempers short. They finally agree to have Mike go undercover as the buyer and Jakes will follow the car that transports him to the facility. The next morning Mike’s met by the boss and a guy wearing a cowboy hat, searched and then they put a hood over his head and he gets into the car. Shortly after they pull out, Jakes starts his truck and trails the trio.

The young women get lined up and each given a placard with a number on it, Warren’s brought into the room and the hood’s removed and we see Paige smile with relief. Looks like things are going to wrap up nice and tidy, but there’s still 20-minutes of airtime left, so we realize things won’t run all that smoothly. Mike tells the boss that he wants to purchase Paige but she plays like she’s afraid to go with him. The boss starts to get ready to pummel her, but Warren tells him she’s scared and he wants some time alone with her, they head into a room that the boss monitors them on a security camera.

Mike informs Arkin that all the evidence against the Solano family no longer exists and tells her he wants to keep the operation running a while longer so he can pin the sex-trafficking on the family. Paige vehemently disagrees and says that he should take the Ukrainian woman in her place, but his emotions won’t allow him to agree and she slaps the agent across the face. At that point Warren exits the room and says he’s going to buy her but she’s uncontrollable, to which the boss responds by punching Paige in the face.

The two get driven back to the hotel each wearing hoods and then the men drive off. Mike and Paige enter the vehicle he’s driving and he apologizes for not following her wishes but gives her his word that they’ll shut down the operation and rescue the young woman she’s concerned about. Paige tells Warren exactly how much she values his word in unflattering terms.

They arrive at the house and all the housemates embrace her, as Mike feeling unwanted heads to his room. When she settles into her room, Jakes comes in and tells her he can’t express how terribly he feels and gives her a music box that belonged to his mother. The box has a ballerina on it and Dale tells Paige that he thought she’d like it as the Ukrainian girl’s a dancer. She breaks down crying and asks her friend that if they can’t save this young woman, than what are they accomplishing, Jakes holds her and tells her he lacks the answer.

Mike arrives where he’s holding Lawrence, removes the handcuffs and hands him an envelope with a forged passport and traveling money. He tells the supervisor to leave and to stay out of contact with his associates. Lawrence leaves cursing Warren out as he does.

Jess arrives and tells Mike she’s returning to Washington and asks if he’s joining her, when he admits what we’ve known all along, that he’ll remain at Graceland. She says that she truly thought his goal was to become Bureau Director and he replies that he thought that as well. Jess tells him that if he doesn’t return with her, their benefits end and Mike acknowledges he’s aware of that. She then wishes him good luck addressing him as Agent Warren and leaves.

Mike’s with Paul when his phone rings and he tells the person on the other end that the news he’s getting is terrible. He gets off the phone and tells Briggs that Lawrence was found dead at his home and he gets in his car and drives to the crime scene. When he arrives a detective gives him a hard time until Warren identifies himself, the cop feeling foolish introduces himself as the head of the LAPD Gang Task-Force and says that Lawrence’s murder was the work of a cartel. Mike asks him if he has any idea who set up the hit and the detective names the Solano family. He then gives Warren his business card including cell number and tells him to call him anytime.

The final scene’s a conversation between Briggs and Warren and Mike says he found the Solano’s inside informant, the detective he had just talked to. He tells Paul that the cop’s second in command was at the bust, in fact he was standing right next to him. Briggs replies that Mike’s taking on a huge fish and Warren responds they’re going to reel him in shortly.

Graceland can be seen Wednesday nights on the USA Network.

Tyrant: Hail Mary

Photo Courtesy Of Vered Adir/FX
Photo Courtesy Of Vered Adir/FX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Bassam Al Fayeed fled his homeland Abbudin  at age 16, ashamed and mortified by the actions of his father, then the nation’s President. He moved to California, cut off contact with his family for 20-years and did his best to wipe away any trace of his background and to fit in the USA, where he became a doctor, married an American woman also a doctor, and have two teenage children. Five weeks ago he took his family back to the land of his birth, for the marriage of his older brother’s son. Now called Barry, he had mixed feelings about returning and wanted to leave as soon as the wedding conclude. However, within hours his father the President died and older brother Jamal was critically injured in a car accident, forcing his family to remain in Abbudin.

Jamal recovered and assumed the Presidency and Barry asked his wife if they could stay in Abbudin for a while to help his brother with a smooth transition. Now Special Consul and Adviser to the President, the younger brother has been very proactive since his return and in the fifth episode of FX Original Series “Tyrant,” the question’s become whether he’s still Barry, or is he Bassam? Is he the American doctor who wanted to stay away from the trappings of leadership, or his father’s son, born with a destiny to rule?

Anti-government leader Ihab Rashid and his followers have taken over the square of the Capital, protesting and calling for the end of the Al Fayeed regime. Barry’s childhood friend turned blogger critical of the Al Fayeed family Fauzi Nadal, set up a meeting between Ihab Rashid and Barry, however the younger brother realizes that the protester plans to use this meeting to get publicity. He’s not going to take it seriously and will call for Jamal and his family to give up power and leave Abbudin. Barry tells Fauzi to call Rashid and to cancel their scheduled meet on Rashid’s terms and to set up a private meeting between the two foes.

As Barry suspected Ihab’s telling his top aides that their side’s winning so why negotiate? He’s going to tell the American that anything less than Jamal’s resignation is unacceptable. Just when he’s about to tell his aides about how he’ll call the shots, his phone rings and Nadal tells him Barry’s decision and the young man shows his anger. He starts screaming to his aides about the treachery of the Al Fayeeds when Samira Nadal, daughter of Fauzi and one of Rashid’s most loyal followers tells the leader that he’s playing the same game that his opponents are.

Nadal drives Barry to a parking garage and heads home, while United States Ambassador to Abbudin John Tucker is waiting there for Al Fayeed. Barry tells Tucker, that negotiations with Ihab Rashid will be fruitless and he wants to talk with his father Sheik Rashid (Mohammad Bakri‏) the man that tried to negotiate a lasting peace with the former President, but some of his over-zealous followers ended negotiations with an act of destruction. The Sheik has been in exile for 20-years and the United States arranged for his safe relocation. Barry asks Tucker to try to set up a meeting with the former leader and the Ambassador tells him he’ll give it his best shot.

Barry heads back to the palace and tells his wife Molly about his plan and she gets quite concerned for the safety of her husband and the future of their nuclear family. He responds with his standard line of just trying to help Jamal, but Molly questions his intent and asks if he’s really enjoying being a player on the world stage, more than he admits to? He tells her he’s going for his daily run; avoiding answering.

In the midst of his run guarded by four security men, his phone rings and Tucker’s on the other end and they are leaving as soon as Barry gets outside the palace gate. The two drive to a deserted area and a Jeep pulls up with four of the Sheik’s aides, including his other son, they tell the pair that Barry will go to the Sheik’s compound, but Tucker will remain behind. The Ambassador protests, but Rashid tells him that he wanted to kill Barry where they stood, but his father wants to meet with him. A black hood’s put over Barry’s head and they drive off in the Jeep.

The vehicle stops, Al Fayeed’s taken out with the hood on his head  and there is sound of excessive coughing, when the hood’s taken off the Sheik is in front of him and apologizes for his coughing, the price of surviving the former President’s chemical gas attack on his village 20-years earlier. One of the Sheik’s men tries to shoot Barry, but his son shoots the attempted assailant first. The elder Rashid tells Barry, that yesterday he was his enemy but today he’s his guest and insists on eating before talking.

Back at the palace Jamal and his uncle General Tariq Al Fayeed, are discussing why Jamal ordered Tariq for his troops to stand down when they were ready to storm the square and the President responds that Barry’s having a meeting with Ihab Rashid and the General tells him that his brother has not been near the protest leader. He then plays surveillance audio of Rashid’s boasts of having Jamal resign and leave Abbudin, the President tries calling Barry and gets his voicemail and hangs up.

The meal’s over and the Sheik tells the Special Consul to the President to walk and talk with him. Barry tells the Sheik he realizes how close he got to negotiating peace with his father and that the elder Rashid’s the one to broker a deal with Jamal. The Sheik responds that it’s now time for the next generation to take over and Al Fayeed responds the younger generation may become responsible for many unnecessary deaths. Rashid replies that he’s without fear of death as he’s seen so much of it and starts to walk away. Barry stops the Sheik in his tracks when he says he doesn’t believe his words, he’s survived 20-years in exile, which proves he retains hope.

The Jeep returns to where Tucker’s waiting and drops Barry off and the Ambassador immediately realizes that Al Fayeed didn’t get the response he wanted. Barry tells him that the Sheik asked to sleep on it and then demurred when he woke up. Barry heads to the Palace and sees Molly and tells her that she might have been right with her assessment, then thanks her for putting her life on hold for him. Jamal’s hosting a formal dinner at the Palace but he and Tariq burst through the doors to the living quarters and Jamal accuses his brother of being a traitor. Tucker walks in right then and tells the President that he might want to watch what’s going on in the square.

As the troops are given the orders to clear the square, the protesters rush the lines, standing nose-to-nose with the troops. Ihab is on the stage talking to his followers and praising them in advance for being the first martyrs sacrificed to overthrow the Al Fayeeds, then he sees something and he goes silent. Striding to the stage is the Sheik, who embraces his son’s head, then takes the microphone and talks to his followers who react as if they’ve seen a deity. He tells the crowd, he’s been exiled from his homeland for 20-years, but he’s returned, it’s time to forget about past atrocities and look ahead to a bright future. He then says he demands a meeting with President Jamal Al Fayeed, who gets angry that his opponent made a demand, but he realizes that the meeting could save the country from further bloodshed.

The story will pick up again next Tuesday on FX.

Murder in the First: Suck My Alibi

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Warning: Spoiler Alert

So our saga picks up after a less than stellar episode on the whole, while revealing some critical information. Last week we heard opening statements as well as some testimonies that could be interpreted in any number of ways. Mark Strauss (estranged husband to the deceased) did very little to come off as anything other than an optional second suspect. So naturally, he ends up dead from what looks on the surface like a suicidal overdose, I became very suspicious. It was too convenient and too clean. The note that was typed into the computer is a little much for an addict. The apartment was too clean. Something has to be awry, it’s too easy.

Tonight’s episode starts out with English reading the ‘suicide note’. As per my previous hesitation, its way too cohesive. Mark Strauss if nothing else, exhibited an habitual inability to convey steady thoughts. He thinks and speaks like an addict. Short and choppy. No way those are his words. Operating on the premise, the team including the DA decide to keep Siletti (ADA and lead prosecutor) in the dark about the details. This feels like thin ice though. If it gets out that there was a suicide note and SFPD intentionally kept it off the books, the whole case is done for.

In the judge’s chambers, the question at hand is, “should there be a postponement of the trial until such a time that SFPD can identify the death of Mark Strauss as whatever it is?” Smart move on Daniels’ part, but it won’t stand. Siletti makes the claim that Mark Strauss’ death is nothing more than a witness who completed his testimony has died. Daniels naturally disagrees. However, the judge agrees to move forward, allowing the state to finish its case. Which Siletti thinks should only take another three days. At which point, if they have not proven their case, allows for Daniels to file for a mistrial. Interesting little set up. Once again it seems, the state is all in.

Bill Wilkerson (Erich Blunt’s private pilot) takes the stand. The state runs through a basic line of questioning asking Wilkerson to recount the events he was involved in that lead to him and the landlady finding Cindy Strauss’ dead. All very straight forward until Siletti asked about Blunt’s reaction when Wilkerson gave him the news. This is peculiar because in an earlier episode when Wilkerson’s wife was flying off the handle, Blunt stepped up for Wilkerson. And there was an odd moment where Blunt insinuates that they have each others backs. Wilkerson didn’t do a great job selling his sincerity, but the testimony (to this point) looking like Wilkerson has no intention of ‘taking one for the team’ is intriguing.

Oh Warren Daniels…no pleasantries, no gentlemanly banter, just straight to the affair. After mentioning the affair with Wilkerson and Strauss, Daniels heads right into Blunt and Strauss. Then just that quickly moved to the physical nature of the meeting between Wilkerson and Hertzberg and Wilkerson’s wife and attorney. His wife repeatedly hit him. He repeatedly told her to stop. Then he hit her. Convenient that Herzberg was there to witness it. With that out-of-the-way, there appears to be a discrepancy between the time of death and the text message Wilkerson received from Strauss assuring him that all was OK. Her time of death was approx 8:15pm. The text came at 9:02. And as Daniels will do at every opportunity, suggests that Wilkerson may have killed her then sent himself the message after the fact from her phone. So much for having each others backs.

Almost immediately following Wilkerson’s testimony, English and Mulligan escort him upstairs to ask him some questions pertaining to the death of Mark Strauss. Regardless of Wilkerson’s involvement or lack of involvement, I get the impression that there’s only so much further he’s going to get pushed before he pushes back. The first question was “where were you last night”, which he replied, with Erich. Come to find out that the security system that runs 24 hours a day in Blunt’s house gets directly routed to SFPD. No intermediary. Which could prove to be helpful in more than one area.

Tonia Pyne speaks. Associate counsel for the defense. This is interesting because it’s the first time she has brought anything to the table. Daniels is not in the room. She cross examines Mrs. Wilkerson as to her whereabouts as well as her husband’s during the window of 7-9 pm. Pyne is a well-trained lackey. As she follows the same line of questioning that Daniels had earlier with Wilkerson. Suggesting that it were possible for her to leave her house and kill Cindy Strauss and get back without anyone noticing. Just as Daniels did before, their plan seems to be blame everyone else and aim for a mistrial.

Back at the precinct, English is grabbing some coffee while reading a document. A voice claims that there’s no work allowed in the break room. That voice belongs to former Capt Salter and current head of security for one Erich Blunt. He came to the precinct to drop off a copy of the security footage that allegedly shows Blunt and Wilkerson in Blunt’s home all night.

Salter: Blunt and Wilkerson were home all night playing Call of Duty.

English: Thanks. What about you?

Salter: What about me what?

English: Where were you the night Mark Strauss died Jimmy?

Salter: So now it’s Jimmy? (He pulls a paper out of his pocket) I was at the hospital with my mother. I slept there. Talk to nurse Roberts. Nurse Wynn. And nurse King. I’m there most every night, because she’s dying. And I know you can understand that. I’ve been in your shoes pal. I know what it’s like. You try to do good, you try to make a difference. Then you arrest a guy like this. Now you’re dealing with the press and the politics. Then the pressure builds and builds. All of a sudden, the whole world’s looking at you. God damn, you drop to your knees every night and pray that you got it right. Because now, it’s not just your ass on the line. It’s your partner’s, the lieutenant, the Chief, the DA, but what if the truth is he’s innocent? And you’re wrong? That’s scary. Take it from someone who’s been in your shoes Terry, you’re in a deep hole on this one. I strongly suggest you stop digging.

English: Well, I have to get to the bottom of this so, I gotta keep digging. Look at this kid. So close to two murders. Do you really think his hands are clean? I mean, you’re the one that taught me, there is no such thing as coincidences. And if you were in my shoes, you’d be all over this kid. All over him. But instead, you sold out and now you’re working for him. Guess you found that retirement gig. Here’s what worries me, what are you going to do when this kid goes down? What are you going to do when you realize you’ve been protecting a murderer? And that your hands have blood on them too? That you are the one who’s thinking was compromised by self-interest and not me. The door swings both ways Captain Salter, you can’t be on both sides of it.

Later at Blunt’s office, English and Mulligan look to question Ivana West (Blunt’s second in command and acting CEO) about her whereabouts during the window of Mark Strauss’ death. This becomes a series of question and answer about what can and cannot be manipulated by a computer savvy type. It all ends with West giving them her ‘root log’, apparently an incorruptible history of actions and locations that even a person of Blunt’s intelligence could not change.

Hannah Harkins is the next witness. Harkins, you’ll remember, was the former employee of Blunt’s who filed a lawsuit that was settled out of court as a part of her claim that she was drugged and raped by Erich Blunt. In steps Daniels to shoot down any relevance that Harkins could potentially provide with his (at this point) typical approach. Again, suggesting ‘reasonable doubt’. He paints a picture of the economic circumstances that were about to take place around her. Suggesting that she made up these allegations to prepare herself financially.

Back at the precinct, English and Mulligan preset the root log to Kami Keefer, the police tech expert (who still has a crush on Mulligan). She claims to fake this root log, it would take upwards of a week to fake. They are running out of time to nail down exactly what Mark Strauss’ death was. When Mulligan asks English for his advice when she takes the stand in the morning, he says “Talk very slowly”.

With Mulligan on the stand, Siletti takes her down the typical path. Asking leading questions about why they suspected Blunt and where he was arrested. The latter of which paints Blunt as a rich kid with the physical ability to break Strauss’ neck based on his status as a black belt in Krav Maga. Daniels goes in on Mulligan bringing up the forced temporary leave that caused her to miss the arrest of Erich Blunt. Daniels keeps digging and digging and in the end they are in a figurative standoff. Mulligan did not waver.

That night at the precinct over some Chinese takeout, English and Mulligan are pulling at straws. English finds the use of “shouldn’t’ve” to be suspect. People don’t generally type out that particular contraction. It also appears in the typed suicide note of Mark Strauss in almost the exact same usage. This is curious to say the least. This absolutely puts her in their cross-hairs. The question is, “does the second in command, someone who appreciates Blunt’s genius, and has on some level affection for him, have enough to gain by killing either or both Strauss’? Or would she actually have the stones to pull it off?”

The very next scene involves taking West in for questioning. At first she seemed drunk or worse. Upon further review, her look may have just been disguised disbelief that her alibi may not have worked. And to the previous latter question, I am quickly starting to believe she has the stones to pull it off. Now the previous question becomes more critical.

English: Where were you two nights ago?
West: I already answered that question.
English: That’s right, you were working.
West: Yes. I was working my ass off trying to save the company of the guy you are railroading.
English: So saving his ass meant taking out Mark Strauss?
West: I’m out of here (as she stands up to leave)
English (his hand to her shoulder sitting her back down): Nope. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. Sit down.

I love when Mulligan gets in her zone. When she believes she has what she needs, she really seems to enjoy it. I’d love to quote this one, but the text doesn’t do it justice. Mulligan walks in with a hair sample from Ms. West and a hair sample from Strauss’ apartment. Mulligan moves into the room with the confidence of a snake circling a mouse. “I really have to say, you did a nice job cleaning up the place. But that’s the funny thing about hairs. They’re so thin and easy to miss.” Matching hair samples. Fingerprint on Strauss’ laptop. And now a flash drive with surveillance footage of West accompanying Strauss into his apartment, then leaving later without him.

Staring at irrefutable evidence, and looking rather shocked, West responds in a way that again answers the second question from before. “I’m not saying another word without my lawyer”. The text on its own doesn’t quite say it. Her delivery and body language once again suggests that yes, she has the stones to do this. It’s not enough. The DA claims that short of a confession, they have to disclose the suicide note. At the eleventh hour, English gets an idea. They don’t need West to confess to murdering Strauss. They just need her to confess to writing the suicide note.

English lays out a couple of options that West is resistant to. And eventually he says enough to get here to talk. Namely suggesting that he doesn’t believe she killed Mark Strauss. And then like a person with controllable split personality, she spills the beans on the entire night. Her performance is different. It’s almost as if she experiences a sexual response to giving up this information. She even goes as far as saying that she was “prepared to kill him” but didn’t have to. This woman is evil. They get the confession they need as it pertains to the suicide note.

More importantly than the initial win here, is the response after the fact. It seemed almost too easy. West seemed to flip a switch and went from angry suspect demanding her lawyer to cool, calm and collected as if she were pulling the strings instead of English. English’ response seems equally strange. His demeanor changed about halfway through. Almost as if he realized he crossed some moral line in the sand. Even afterwards, while Mulligan struggles to erase the hard drive on Strauss’ laptop, he offers to do it. Quite violently I might add. As if to take the bulk of the burden of what’s happened.

I hope I’m wrong on this one. Some good shows will walk you right up to this sort of decision. Even less force you to actually make the decision. A great example of this is the Walter White/Jane Margolis situation on Breaking Bad. Some would agree that ‘situation’ (no Breaking Bad spoilers as of today) forces the viewer to either accept who he/she is going forward or reject who they are as a certain character. As if said character has crossed over the point of no return. I hope that is not the case here.