Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017: Year In Review

After a long hiatus for which I have no excuse, Shortstack is back! Overall, last year was a pretty good one for pop culture. Here's a summary of where my love for it took me this year:

I went to my local theater a lot last year. What I didn't catch in theaters, I saw via Redbox. My brief impressions of everything I saw.

  • Power Rangers: Didn't quite live up to my memories of the original from the 1990's, but it wasn't unwatchable.
  • CHIPS: Still can't believe I watched the whole thing; no wonder Erik Estrada wanted nothing to do with it.
  • King Arthur--Legend of the Sword: Came out the day I graduated nursing school, so I dragged my boyfriend and family to the theater after the ceremony. Extremely disappointing, even though Charlie Hunnam was frequently shirtless.
  • Kong--Skull Island: Absolutely loved it.
  • Wonder Woman: Boyfriend Redboxed it. Pretty good, but I still prefer MCU.
  • Dead Again In Tombstone: Another Redbox find. I love Danny Trejo, but found it hard to keep track of what the hell was happening.
  • Ingrid Goes West: Aubrey Plaza at her darkly comedic best.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy--Volume 2: Endlessly quotable with a kick-ass soundtrack and A+ casting in Kurt Russell as Peter Quill's estranged father.
  • Star Wars--The Last Jedi: Boyfriend took me. Prior to this, I'd never seen a Star Wars movie all the way through and had zero interest in doing so. I spent the rest of that weekend binging the original trilogy (not gonna lie, the Porgs helped).
  • Spider-Man--Homecoming: Tom Holland is 1,000% more likable than Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire.
  • Logan: The ending made me bawl in the theater.
  • Thor--Ragnarok: It's rare for a sequel to be almost better than the original. Really enjoyed the Hemsworth/Ruffalo bromance.
  • Kingsman--The Golden Circle: Elton John's performance alone was worth the price of admission. A worthy follow-up to The Secret Service. Although I'm not happy they killed JB.
  • After 6 amazing seasons, Longmire had its last roundup. Walt and Vic (finally) hooked up and admitted their feelings for each other. Henry got the happy ending he deserved. 
  • Bates Motel also ended with the expected amount of murder and mayhem. (RIP to yet another Kenny Johnson character, the incestuous Caleb Calhoun). The last man standing in the Bates clan was Norman's illegitimate half-brother Dylan.
  • Kenny Johnson wasn't gone from TV for long before being cast in the revival of S.W.A.T. as team driver and third-generation SWAT cop Dominique Luca. Add in Shemar Moore of Criminal Minds and you have a recipe for sexiness. There's also solid writing by The Shield showrunner Shawn Ryan.
  • Sneaky Pete, Amazon's original series starring Giovanni Ribisi as a charming con artist quickly became something I recommended to all my friends.
  • Santa Clarita Diet. Though I am by no means a fan of the zombie genre, I couldn't resist after hearing Timothy Olyphant was attached to it. He and Drew Barrymore are fantastically hilarious as husband and wife trying to cope with Drew's sudden appetite for human flesh.
  • Vice Principals had a solid series finale. I only wish there was more of Walton Goggins as the delightfully foulmouthed and psychotic Lee Russell to look forward to.
Celebrity Encounters: 
Golly days, it might be easier to list who I didn't meet last year. My local comic con, though in a midsize Southern city, attracts some high-profile talent.
  • Theo Rossi AKA Juice from Sons of Anarchy and Shades from Luke Cage. "How you doin', doll?" the first thing he said to me in that New York accent made my knees go weak. I told him Juice was in my top 5 favorite Sons and he asked who else. I listed off Jax (of course), Opie, Chibs, and Kozik. "Really?" said Theo, "I don't hear a lotta people say that." Turns out he's also a big Shield fan and Lem was his favorite character too.
  • Robin Lord Taylor AKA Penguin from Gotham. My cousin and I both cosplayed as Penguinettes (complete with Cobblepot for Mayor buttons), which he thought was absolutely adorable. He was so flattered I have a cat named Oswald that he almost cried. 
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan. At an absolutely disastrous out-of-state con, measures meant to cut wait time made it worse. My cousin and I waited 4 hours (!!!!). When he heard how long we'd been waiting, Jeffrey said, "Fuck! I'm sorry, girls" and hugged us both.
  • Dee Wallace AKA Patricia of The Frighteners. Very sweet, mild-mannered little old lady. She did a guest role on Supernatural and gleefully described Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as "yummy."
  • Traci Lords AKA Wanda from Cry-Baby and a vampiress in Blade. And also porn, per my dad. When I brought up Blade, she said, "That heatseeker guy [Kenny Johnson] was actually like super-nice? I don't know what happened to him? I think he's on some cop show now..." 
  • Walter Jones AKA the original Black Power Ranger and Rondell Robinson from The Shield. Told him I was a huge Power Rangers fan growing up, but I really liked him as Rondell. "Oh yeah!" he exclaimed, "I was a beast on that show!" Walter danced me around his booth to "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder, making him one of my more memorable con meetings.
  • Danny Trejo. I love Con-Air, so I wore a fake cop badge and an Air Marshals Put the Bunny in the Box shirt to meet him. I also carried around a pink stuffed bunny in a box labeled POE. Danny's first question was, "What's with the bunny?" I told him what I was referencing.
    He laughed and smiled, telling me this was the first time anybody had ever thought of bringing a Con-Air bunny. He asked where I got my shirt so he could get one just like it. Danny also insisted on the bunny being in the picture and signed the shoe box as Johnny-23, his character from the movie.
2018 is already shaping up to be good. Got some fun plans in the works and will update my blog more often. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

S.W.A.T. Means "Pamilya"

....And "pamilya" means "family."

Last week, we learned more about newbie Jim Street's background. His mom, Karen, is serving a prison sentence for killing Street's abusive father. She had made numerous domestic violence calls; nothing was done. She unsuccessfully argued self-defense, after which Street wound up in foster care.

This episode opens with Luca blasting Motley Crue's "Kick-start My Heart" as he cruises down the road in Black Betty (AKA the S.W.A.T. truck). The team is on their way to Venice Beach to take down a heroin dealer. Tan shows everyone a picture of Luca curled up on a couch, using his SWAT jacket as a blanket and surrounded by suitcases. "Not again," Chris comments. Hondo isn't thrilled about "Sleeping Beauty" living in the break room, but there's more pressing matters at hand.

The raid at the heroin house nets a surprise for the team: roughly 10 terrified Filipinos locked in a back room. Hostage Javier has a serviceable knowledge of English. Before he can say much, Javier starts foaming at the mouth and keels over from a heroin overdose. Hondo is able to give him Narcan and get him to the hospital.

Father Guzman, a Filipino priest, cautions Hondo that the survivors probably won't talk to the police, even though they aren't illegals. The hostages from the house are all licensed nurses with green cards. Hondo guesses they were forced to swallow balloons of heroin to cover the cost of airfare.

A homicide detective is also interested in the case. He's working the unsolved murders of several Filipino nurses who were found gutted. They were probably killed because they couldn't pass the drugs. The murder victims and the near-misses from the house all had their green cards sponsored by the same employment agency, which recruits staff for local nursing homes.

Street goes to visit his mom (played by Sherilyn Fenn) in prison. Last time I saw her was on the original 21 Jump Street, trying to solicit Johnny Depp to kill her dad for molesting her. Karen has a favor to ask of her little Jimmy. Her friend Deidra is getting out of prison next week and will probably stay with her abusive ex. Can Street warn the guy to stay away? He agrees to help Deidra.

There's trouble in paradise for Luca. His third girlfriend in as many years kicked him out of their apartment, hence his sleeping at work. Street snarks, "So you break up and the girls get your apartment? You need a new lawyer." A thoroughly un-amused Luca pleads to his teammates for a place to crash, but they all have their reasons for saying no:
  • Tan took him in following the last breakup, during which time Luca ran up his grocery delivery bill.
  • Deacon has a new baby. Also, on another occasion Luca slept over, he let Deacon's son stay up all night playing video games; the kid was too tired to go to school the next day.
  • Luca ate all the food in Chris's fridge.
  • Hondo needs his sleep and lovingly describes Luca as "a frat boy his first day away from home."
Luca is upset with them, seeing their refusal as breaking SWAT code, a more sacred version of bro code. As a third-generation SWAT legacy, he takes tradition seriously. Luca is this show's "married to the job" cop, never wanting to settle down with anyone. It's not his fault the girls don't heed his warning.

Street's visit to Deidra's ex (a bad Channing Tatum knockoff named Trey) doesn't go as planned. He's still in uniform and Trey takes his picture. Things get heated and punches are thrown. Street ends up with a black eye and in handcuffs. Fortunately, the uniforms call Hondo as a professional courtesy so Street won't lose his job.

Street explains the ass-kicking was a favor to his mom's friend; he didn't feel like he could say no. Hondo advises him to choose a path: SWAT officer or loose cannon.

Hondo learns more about the drug traffickers. They'd force the nurses to swallow heroin in the Philippines, kidnap said nurse's family member, and have that person swallow heroin too. Both groups were threatened with their loved one's death if anyone talked to the police. Javier was just trying to get his son back.

The culprits behind the heroin muling operation turn out to be the nursing agency's owner and his Filipina wife. Both initially expressed horror, plead ignorance about the drugs, and swore they would never be involved with exploiting Filipinos. The SWAT team intercepts the couple before they flee the country on their private plane. They also rescue Javier's son Paul and the other hostages from a locked shipping container.

Hondo is disappointed in Street's conduct. He tells the rookie he's not getting off without punishment. His sentence? Rooming with Luca until the big guy finds another place to live. Luca is all grins, excitedly chattering about teaching Street to surf and kicking his ass at PlayStation. "We're gonna sleep at some point, right?" the rookie asks worriedly. I wouldn't bet on it...

Hondo visits Mama Street in jail and lets her know how badly her little "favor" could've screwed up Street's career. He found out Deidra's story about Trey the abusive shithead was a lie. Karen's real concern was Deidra could horn in on her turf of smuggling and selling contraband in the jail. Hondo doesn't appreciate Mama Street taking advantage of her kindhearted son.

Shemar Moore always plays the kind of guy who sees himself as a big brother to his younger, more vulnerable team members. Hondo fits in that category, especially when he issues a stern warning to Mama Street: "You mess with him, you mess with me. My family."

Friday, November 3, 2017

Rolling With "S.W.A.T."

This concept has had a couple of iterations over the years: a TV series that only lasted from 1975 to 1976 and an early 2000's movie starring Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson. (I really like both those actors, but that was a resounding "meh" for me).

This show has really been hyped by CBS because it features headliner Shemar Moore of Criminal Minds fame. He's definitely talented, but longtime readers of this blog know who my favorite star is: Kenny Johnson. Add The Shield showrunner Shawn Ryan into the mix and it's a recipe for success.

With much anticipation, I sat down with a bowl of popcorn to watch this week's premiere episode.

The show opens with LAPD's SWAT team involved in a high-speed chase. The bad guys they're pursuing abandon their vehicle and attempt to carjack a family. In the process of saving them, a black teenager gets caught in the crossfire. He is seriously wounded by team leader Buck.

The consequences are swift. The next morning, a televised press conference is held and Buck is removed from the team. Next in line for his position is David "Deacon" Kay (Jay Harrington). However, due to the racial nature of the shooting, Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson (Shemar Moore) is promoted to team lead. Hondo protests his colleague being passed over, but is told he's running the team whether he wants to or not.

The rest of Hondo's team consists of driver Luca (Kenny Johnson), K-9 handler/token female Chris (Lina Esco), and new recruit Jim Street (Alex Russell). (He looks so young I'm surprised they don't call him 21 Jump Street). We learn that Street isn't the greatest team player. Chris is in the process of finding a new four-legged partner, as her last one has retired due to hip problems. Luca remains a muscular mystery.

During a community rally, two white people are shot as retaliation for what happened to the teenager. Racial tensions escalate and it's up to Hondo and the team to defuse the situation.

I appreciate that the pilot didn't go straight into info-dump mode. It just scratched the surface of most of the characters, letting us see how they work as a team.

The character we know most about so far is Hondo, who faces the pressure of bridging two worlds. As a resident of his old neighborhood asked, "Are you black or blue?" He also has a forbidden romance with their captain, Jessica. Baby Girls in the audience will appreciate the shirtless boxing scene and steamy shower romp. (The episode also features Kenny Johnson boxing in a muscle shirt and arm-wrestling Street).

Like its predecessor The ShieldS.W.A.T. mixes action with a dose of humor. A group of women in a beauty shop watch as the SWAT Team strolls in to chat up one of the stylists. The parade of gorgeous men causes one woman to remark, "One for each of us." Chris appears at the tail end of the line, so another patron adds, "And one for Denise."

I definitely enjoyed it and will be a faithful viewer.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Top 10 Quotes: "The Frighteners"

Wow, have I neglected this blog! Life as a new nurse has gotten in the way. Coming back with this slightly late Halloween-themed post.

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1. Milton: You are violating my territorial bubble!

2. Cyrus: I could complain too, ya know. I would like some new clothes. You get to dress nice. Here I am still looking like Linc from The Mod Squad.
Frank: You died in the '70s. It's a bummer.

3. Ray: (after Frank runs over one of his lawn gnomes) My Budzo! I've got your license plate number, you bastard!

4. Cyrus: Ah, the old express bus to hell. No lines, no waiting.

5. Ray: I'm gonna sue your ass!
Frank: Let's not get litigious, all right? Send me a bill.
Ray: (reads Frank's business card) "Frank Bannister, Psychic Investigator"? How come you couldn't see the corner coming?

6. Old Lady Bradley: You don't know who my daughter is, do you? Patricia's not to be trusted.
Lucy: I beg your pardon?
Old Lady Bradley: I can have her locked up any time I want. They said she was an accessory after the fact. I know the truth. It was cold...blooded...murder.

7. Lucy: (sees young Patricia in a documentary about the Fairwater Sanatorium murders) That's her! I was in her house this afternoon.
Ray: Oh, that's terrific, honey. We've been in town for 3 months and you're making friends with the Manson family.

8. Judge: When a man's jawbone drops off, it's time to reassess the situation.

9. Frank: Persistent residue of the departed. Always a problem this time of year.

10. Ray: They shoulda fried her when they fried Bartlett.
Lucy: She was fifteen years old. You know, she just fell in love with the wrong guy. (pointed look) Could happen to anyone.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Strike Team Gets "Postpartum" Depression (The Shield: Season 5, Episode 11)

Thank you, Kurt Sutter and Shawn Ryan, for creating one of the single most gut-wrenching hours of TV I've ever seen. Emmy-worthy performances by everyone in the cast, especially Kenny Johnson and Walt Goggins. Have some tissues ready, folks. 

Previously on: Lem saved Kavanaugh's life during a raid on a Salvadoran grenade-smuggling ring. Guardo, who was in charge of the operation, got away. Kavanaugh repaid Lem's kindness by redoubling his efforts to have Lem locked up. Vic had revenge sex with Kavanaugh's ex-wife Sadie.

Lem, who's been getting progressively sicker from his ulcer, struck a deal that would make him eligible for parole in 18 months. Antwon menaced Vic about how there are One-Niners in every California prison who'd love a piece of Lem; the only way to buy him protection was for the rest of the Strike Team to help Kern Little rob a police warehouse. Things went south and Antwon went back on his word. 

Vic dropped this bombshell at Lem's going-away party, hours before Lem was supposed to turn himself in. The new plan is to smuggle Lem into Mexico. Lem didn't want to, but Vic said that it was the only way to keep him alive. 

The police chief gave Kavanaugh 48 hours to tie up loose ends in the investigation, so the Rat King went knocking on the door of the former Mrs. Mackey.

"Why are you here?" asks Corinne. Kavanaugh wants her to know he always liked her. He's sorry he couldn't tell her right away that he was IAD. Kavanaugh complains that he's exhausted and hasn't been able to eat lately. Neither has Lem, so I'd call that karma. Corinne, in a tank top and sleep shorts, says uncomfortably, "I'm gonna put on a robe."

Shane is sitting on the courthouse steps, smoking. Ronnie and Becca are there too. She wonders what's going on; Lem's half an hour late. "If I was going to jail for 18 months, I wouldn't be in a rush either," shrugs Vic. He's sure Lem will show up.

Corinne wants Kavanaugh to leave. When she turns around to unlock the door, Kavanaugh presses against her and tries to untie her robe. Corinne shouts for him to stop, which he actually does. He asks if Corinne sees how lonely Vic has left the two of them. Corinne isn't lonely; they both need to move on with their lives.

Kavanaugh grabs her by the shoulders. If he takes on Vic and wins, he needs to know she'll be okay. No mention of the children. Corinne doesn't want to be without Vic. Just then, Cassidy comes out of her room. Kavanaugh hastily lets himself out. Corinne is visibly shaken.

Lem has found himself in a trailer, just like his white trash relatives Ronnie mentioned two episodes back. He's trying to cook soup, but the hotplate won't turn on. There also seems to be something wrong with the filthy toaster oven.

Outside, there's a loud bang and Lem almost jumps out of his skin. He grabs his gun. The ruckus turns out to be a neighbor moving some especially heavy trash. Lem sighs; he's cracking up and he knows it.

Vic has just found out Kavanaugh spent all morning at Corinne's: "Did he try to touch you?" Corinne wonders why he'd ask that. Vic gives her the news that Lem didn't turn himself in and pretends to have no idea where he is. Kavanaugh wants to hurt Vic through her, which Corinne already knows. Vic advises her not to let Kavanaugh in if he shows up again. I doubt she'll have any problem listening to him on that front. Corinne tells Vic to be careful.
To quote Severus Snape
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Kavanaugh, sitting in the clubhouse, asks, "Where's Lemansky?" Vic repeats he doesn't know. Kavanaugh chuckles that, once again, Lem got screwed. He warns Vic that he, Shane, and Ronnie could get in major trouble themselves for aiding and abetting a fugitive. IAD will be keeping tabs on all of them until Lem is caught. The Rat King creepily whispers, "Thank you for bringing me back into your life."

The rest of the Strike Team has a powwow in the weight room nobody seems to use. Shane talked to the federale who helped make gangbanger Doomsday disappear. Lem will meet the federale in Tijuana and go to a safehouse in Ensenada. Ronnie immediately sees a problem with this plan: "That's wall-to-wall wetbacks. Surfer boy will be a little obvious."

The federale's brother lives on a goat ranch in the mountains of San Ignacio, Belize. He's only asking for $2,000, plus a favor to be determined later. The guys can wire money to Lem via Guatemala. Shane will set Lem up with cash to use in the meantime. Their main problem now is how they'll pull off getting Lem to Tijuana with IAD watching. "We do it how we always do: right under their noses with a goddamn smile," Vic replies.

Claudette pulls Vic to help her with a case. Half a dozen Crown Vics were blown up with hand grenades in a parking lot. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. They're joined by Agent Gallagher of the DEA. Shouldn't the ATF be handling this? Agent Gallagher explains the cars were government-issue; they've been running an investigation out of a nearby travel agency.

Agent Gallagher isn't impressed that Guardo escaped. When he sasses the newly appointed Captain Claudette, she gives it right back to him. Claudette also warns Vic, "That renegade shit's not gonna fly on my watch."

Unable to cook anything, Lem tries to get some rest on the couch. That isn't working out because a neighbor's kid is crying and someone else has their stereo up too loud. He tucks his gun in his back pocket as he goes outside. It doesn't take him long to find the trailer housing the screaming kid. The door is locked and nobody is home. Not a problem for Lem; he just jerks the screen door right off the hinges.

Lem follows the sound of crying to the kitchen, where a young black boy is sitting against the cabinets. There's broken glass and milk all over the floor, plus a little blood. The boy's sister is on the other side of the room. "Where's your mommy?" asks Lem. The little girl replies, "Gone."
This picture of Lem and the kid gives me all the feels.
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Lem asks for the little boy's name, but he's crying too hard to answer. "Wendell," says the sister, pronouncing it Wen-dell. Lem wets down a dish towel. "It's gonna be okay. It's just a little cut," he reassures the kid. I wonder if this situation is giving him childhood flashbacks; a softhearted guy like Lem wouldn't estrange himself from his family without a good reason.

"What the hell is goin' on in here, guys?" demands a pudgy white man. He calls for his wife Lisa. "It's okay, I'm a cop," Lem says out of sheer habit. The man notices the revolver sticking out of Lem's jeans and shouts, "Lisa! A gun! Call the police!" Not a word about whether or not the kid is okay.

Lem has wrapped the dish towel around Wendell's hand, instructing the sister, "Hold this tight until someone gets here." He sprints back to his own trailer, grabs his gym bag, and leaves. Neighbors have run into the street. "That's the guy," says Lisa's Hubby, "I told you somethin' wasn't right with him."

At a pool hall, Vic asks a shady guy what he knows about Crown Vics getting blown up in a DEA parking lot. When the guy doesn't answer, Vic breaks a pool cue over his knee. The guy explains his gang's second-in-command Osorio was busted by the feds; they were sending a message. He's the third guy to tell them that today. According to Vic, that "means it can't possibly be true."

Ronnie gets a phone call and hangs up, looking tense. Kavanaugh might've found the trailer where they stashed Lem. The sheriff's department was just called there for a disturbance. Vic doubts Lem has been arrested; they would've heard.

Shane starts, "Maybe they found him and he was--" Vic cuts him off: "There's no way he'd eat his gun." Shane reminds him that they told Lem not to contact them, no matter what. Vic just needs them to pull together so Lem can go to Mexico tonight.

Kavanaugh is already at the trailer park. A neighbor identifies Lem from his mugshot. He tells Kavanaugh he heard a noise, went to check, and found Lem with the bleeding kid: "Said he was a cop. The whole thing seemed weird, so I had my lady call the real cops."

Next time the neighbor saw Lem, he was running away: "Funny thing was, big guy like that with a gun and all, he still looked awful scared." And with damn good reason.

Emolia is at the Barn, claiming she has information on the car bombings. Claudette tried to pass her to DEA, but Emolia would only talk to Vic, even though there's bad blood about her testifying against Lem.

Guardo was supposedly hired to guard a Colombian cocaine shipment coming via Mexico: "Guardo's a crazy shithead. Anything to blow something up." The contact is Aldo, a Mexican grocery importer. Emolia doesn't know when or where the drop-off is.

Vic doesn't trust Emolia anymore, so he wants her to cite her source. Emolia won't say unless she gets paid upfront; she needs the money so she and Sebastio can live with her sister in Seattle. Shane asks if Lem is going to Seattle too: "Oh, that's right, he can't because he's gonna be in prison."

Well, he got the Washington State part right. Wrong city.
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Shane thinks this is some way for Emolia to pay Vic back after everything he did to help her. Emolia rolls up her sleeves, revealing bruises on her arms: "I slept with this scumbag Ignacio to get this info for you." Two of Ignacio's friends then raped her. "If you made different choices from the beginning, none of us would be ripped up right now," says Vic.

Becca meets Lem in the park. He's incognito, Captain America style with a ballcap pulled down over his eyes.
It doesn't really work for Lem either.
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Lem links arms with Becca, saying, "Make it look like we're on a date." She shakes loose; she can't help him flee the police. "All right, make it look like a lovers' quarrel then," he shrugs.

Becca advises Lem to turn himself in. That turns out to be exactly what he wants to do. But first, Lem wants assurance he'll do his time someplace without One-Niners: federal prison back East. She explains that going fugitive invalidated the deal he had. Lem is willing to plead to federal charges if he has to, admit to everything.

"You can't serve them your head on a platter," says Becca. Lem points out, "Kavanaugh's not gonna stop 'til he's carving me up." She can tell the feds about the money train heist, which he claims to have pulled off alone. He has nothing to say about Vic, Ronnie, or Shane.

Becca asks a logical question: Why did he run in the first place? Lem argues that he's not running, even though he is. Becca knows Lem doesn't have a chance in hell of getting a new deal unless he gives up the others: "You have to think about yourself. This one time."

She might be able to spin the facts as the Strike Team spreading drug money around to prevent gang wars. Lem shakes his head. The Armenian money train was armed robbery, plain and simple; people died because of it. He can't give up the others because they'd all end up doing life. "Open your goddamn eyes to who we are!" Lem snaps.

Becca blinks. She didn't know people died. Lem reminds her, "This is all attorney-client privilege." He'll turn himself in as soon as she makes a deal that involves doing time back East. He'll call in a few hours to see how that's going.

Dutch burns his fingers and spills his drink while trying to get it out of the coffee vending machine. Claudette assigns him and Billings to interview a woman who was assaulted. Dutch doesn't want to work with him. Claudette tells him that's too bad because Billings is his new partner as of now.

Dutch walks outside with an ice pack on his hand while Billings whines about being unfairly demoted: "No respect. Claudette is even moving my desk where everyone can get a good gander Caesar lying in a puddle of blood." Dutch raises an eyebrow: "So in this story, you're Caesar?" Dutch wants to drive, but Billings declares he gets carsick.

Dutch wonders why Billings doesn't transfer if he feels like he got such a raw deal. It's a matter of convenience; Billings is used to his commute routine and counting down his 56 months until retirement.

Vic and the guys go to a grocery store. Aldo is an idiot and has a charcoal grill crackling away inside. To quote Lou from Rescue Me, "Someday, science is gonna be able to isolate the gene that makes people think barbecuing indoors is a good idea." Vic has heard rumor Aldo imports more than Mexican sausage. Aldo says all his goods are legal, which Vic doubts.

How about he and the guys hang around a while? Aldo tells them closing time is 7:00. Vic has a hunch he'll stay open late to take delivery of Colombian cocaine. He's willing to keep Aldo's name out of it if he tells them what time the shipment arrives; they'll bust the Salvadorans afterward.

By the way, how is Aldo at export? Vic needs a package overnighted to Mexico. "How big?" asks Aldo. Vic replies, "About 6'2"."

Vic pays a visit to the hospital, where Danny is holding a bouncing baby boy, named Lee after her dad. There's a long beat as they both look at the newborn. Vic asks if she needs anything. Danny's mom is flying in from Maryland tomorrow and her two brothers are coming over the weekend: "I got more help than I know what to do with." Vic hands over a wad of cash, her cut from the baby-daddy pool. When it comes to newborn Lee, Vic:

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Danny lets Vic hold Lee. Vic says everyone decided to give Danny the money, almost $3,000 in total. "When he's old enough and he asks, I'll tell him," Danny promises. Vic agrees to that.

The guys see Becca talking to Kavanaugh and Edgar-veda. "You think of any scenario where that's a good thing?" Shane whispers. Upstairs, she says Lem wants to turn himself in. Kavanaugh tells her she's obligated to disclose his whereabouts if she knows. Becca is aware of that. "Curtis knows where the Barn is if he wants to turn himself in," adds Claudette.

Becca tells how Kavanaugh plotted with Antwon to jeopardize Lem's life during incarceration. This would pressure Lem into testifying against Vic and the others. Becca wants Lem protected until that accusation can be investigated. He'll take the same deal he had before.

Edgar-veda says that's a no-go; Lem ran. Becca says Lem has promised to plead to new charges in exchange for serving his time in federal prison. By the way, IAD's investigation against Lem is now in the hands of the police committee due to Kavanaugh's misconduct.

Kavanaugh still wants to be the one who finds Lem. He orders surveillance teams to be put on Vic and the others. "You burned your bridges with the chief," says Edgar-veda. Claudette can't spare any manpower.

Vic follows Becca to the parking lot. He has to know if Lem is okay. "Privileged information," she says tersely. Hasn't Vic done enough damage? Should they discuss the armed robbery of the money train or Terry's murder? Becca knows what really happened: "I let you touch me. It makes me sick." She no longer finds it hard to choose between being Vic's friend or Lem's lawyer.

Tori the assault victim didn't see her attacker because she was trying to cover her face. Hey, It's Her! Ally Walker played loved-to-hate-her ATF Agent Stahl on Sons of Anarchy. Dutch remarks that this is a rough neighborhood even in daylight. Tori volunteers as a tutor at the nearby community center.

Billings asks her to come to the station and look at mug books, even though she didn't see anything. Dutch pulls him aside; it'd be better for her to call if memories come back. Billings inquires, "Why don't you figure out another way to get her phone number?" He tries to throw the nonexistent clout he had as acting captain.

A witness comes forward. She saw Tori arguing with someone; the guy took Tori to the ground and started hitting her. Their suspect parks up the street in his green cab, waiting for fares. Billings wants to ask why Tori didn't mention an argument. Dutch would rather talk to the suspect first. He's on the phone trying to find out who owns the precinct's vending machines.

Lem calls Becca from a payphone. She lets him know his offer is under consideration, but there was no hint at whether it'd be accepted. Lem asks her to get a message to Vic. Becca can't without breaking the law, so Lem changes his mind. She warns him that Kavanaugh will be merciless, like he doesn't already know.

At this point, only one other option exists for Lem: witness protection. He says no way. Becca sighs, "Curtis, you're the one with a heart, but now use your head." This isn't about head vs. heart to Lem; it's about not betraying his family.

Ronnie thinks Lem held out as long as he could. "He'd run before he would rat," Shane disagrees. Well, how else did they find out about the money train? Vic calls it an educated guess. They know Lem would find a way to tip them off if they were under suspicion. "Or he wouldn't if his deal meant us going down," says Ronnie. Shane won't believe that until he sees it.

Vic is sure Lem is avoiding them to protect them. They'll meet him at midnight and get him to Mexico. "On whose nickel?" asks Ronnie. Dirty federales don't take American Express. Shane pulls out a check Mara wrote when he told her that Lem was in trouble. The first truly unselfish thing Mrs. Vendrell has ever done. $5,000 should be enough to "keep him in burritos and beer" for a while.
Vic tells Ronnie to cash the check, keep half, and wire the rest.

When he's gone, Vic theorizes Lem could've opened his mouth about Terry. That would give credence to what's otherwise a rumor. "Terry was a decision that we both made." says Shane. Vic forced him to and he feels bad about it: "Lem's gonna hafta hide under a rock for the rest of his life. That's on me too." Shane asks how "skewering Lem" helps anybody; Vic had to do what he did.

Vic asks Edgar-veda what was going upstairs. Edgar-veda wants to talk later, but Vic is running out of "later." Do the two of them still have an alliance against Kavanaugh? Or does Vic need to break out his flamethrower and start scorching the earth?

Edgar-veda gives Vic the details: Lem wants his original deal back, but Kavanaugh won't allow that. Additional charges will be filed because he went on the run. The Rat King was put back on the investigation when Lem became a fugitive. Claudette plans to call the D.A., but for some reason, she wants to give Kavanaugh the opportunity to find Lem. Edgar-veda refuses to get involved with aiding and abetting.

Dutch's suspect Gilbos claims he was driving his taxi at 8 AM. Dutch knows he was seen arguing with and then punching Tori. Does he just go around beating women on the street or did they know each other? Gilbos doesn't answer. "You just like knocking the shit out of random strangers. Works for me," says Dutch, starting to leave.

Gilbos calls out that picking up a prostitute "doesn't mean I deserve to get rolled and robbed." Tori set him up. As soon as he was ready to, uh, get down to business, two black guys came and beat him up. Dutch knows Gilbos he's lying; Tori is a volunteer tutor for at-risk kids.

"That whore flagged my cab. Offered me anything in the book for a C-note." Tori's not only a very conservatively-dressed hooker, she's not a very pricey one. She even had Gilbos pick out a motel. The guys stole his wallet and a chain Gilbos' mother gave him. Tori should be arrested, not him,

"So did you find him?" asks Tori. Dutch confirms they did. Tori's glad to hear it. Will they call her if she needs to testify or whatnot? Billings talked to the community center director; Tori really does volunteer three afternoons a week.

Dutch comes right out with, "Are you a prostitute?" Tori scoffs, insulted he'd even think that. Dutch informs Tori she's now a suspect in an assault/robbery. Tori wants a lawyer.

Out on the grocery store loading dock, cocaine is being put in the van. There's no sign of Guardo yet. Shane observes that an El Camino full of Mexican chicks has driven past the Strike Team van twice. Vic is fairly certain they aren't connected to Kavanaugh. Ronnie has successfully wired the money and set up a meeting in Tijuana. Lem himself is the last piece of the puzzle.

Dutch tells Claudette he's filing for a transfer so he doesn't have to work with Billings. Claudette thinks they can work things out. Dutch only stayed at the Barn because Claudette was his partner. Now that she's captain, it's time for him to go elsewhere. Claudette knows she can't change his mind and agrees to help with the paperwork.

Billings has more background on Tori. She has an M.B.A. and was an account manager for a brokerage firm until she was fired 6 months ago. They let her go after she quit showing up to work. Tori has no arrest record.

Wallis, a black man in a velour tracksuit, enters with Officer Paula, saying he's Tori's lawyer. Claudette looks doubtful about that. Wallis asks if he can see his client or if he has to file for dismissal. Claudette tells Officer Paula to escort Wallis upstairs. She'll check his credentials.

Ronnie says the DEA is tied up doing a sting in Compton; it'll be a few hours before they get there. The guys don't have that long because they have to meet Lem. The Barn has no available backup. Vic wants to go in. Shane thinks that's a bad idea; there are at least 6 guys. Vic argues they can't leave Lem hanging.

Ronnie and Vic go one way, Shane goes the other. Vic breaks down the door. A few of the drug dealers get hit with the butt of Vic's shotgun. "I got rabbits!" Shane yells from the back of the house. "Let 'em run!" Vic calls back.

Shane opens a box that ostensibly contains pork rinds. Underneath the bags, he finds hand grenades. Vic says Claudette can deal with booking the Salvadorans; they need to pick up Lem.

Dutch is still on hold with the vending machine company. "Tyrez Wallis is no more a lawyer than I am a figure skater," says Claudette. In mock surprise, Billings exclaims, "Really?"

It's time to go back upstairs to talk to her, but Dutch is too busy threatening whoever's on the phone: "I want the name of the owner of these machines right now or you will be sitting in a holding cell for as long as it takes me to track it down." Overreact much?

Dutch hangs up and approaches Billings: "You own those machines? Isn't it illegal for department employees to profit from things like vending machines? Especially when you use your position as acting captain to create a de facto monopoly?" Billings sees it as a gray area. Is Dutch gonna snitch on him? Dutch smiles that he hasn't decided.

When Claudette opens the interrogation room door, Tori and Wallis are having sex doggy-style. "Attorney-client privilege?" Claudette asks lightly. Dutch looks upset.

Vic tells Claudette the bomb squad is investigating a threat made to an abortion clinic; they'll pick up the grenades later. Claudette reminds Vic he was supposed to fill her in on every step. He says there wasn't time because the smugglers were about to split up into two vans.

Gallagher arrives to congratulate Vic on the bust. Guardo must really be feeling the heat and you won't like Salvadorans when they're angry. "Better watch your Crown Vics," the DEA agent advises.

Vic pays Emolia. She'd be happy to find out where Guardo is. Vic says for another tip, there would need to be another buyer. Emolia apologizes for her crossroads deal with Kavanaugh: "I did it for Sebastio. You'd do the same for your kids." Shane has heard enough: "Take your rat money and your retarded rat-baby and get on the first bus--"

Emolia shoves Shane against the lockers. Hell hath no fury like a mother whose child has been insulted. Vic grabs Emolia by the arms: "I showed you mercy once and it ruined my friend's life." She shouldn't expect mercy again.

Edgar-veda says the police committee is amenable to a deal, but they want the maximum sentence of 10 years. If Lem turns himself in immediately, he'll be parole eligible in 4 years. Lem will be placed in protective custody, but they can't guarantee a location unless Becca's allegations turn out to be true.

Kavanaugh talks to Edgar-veda in the observation room. Lem's new deal doesn't mention giving information on the rest of the Strike Team. This could be IAD's last chance to nail Vic to the wall. The Rat King wants Edgar-veda to scare Vic into leading them to Lem or catch Vic in the act. Edgar-veda knows Vic won't be that stupid; IAD is on high alert since Lem went on the run.

Kavanaugh knows the Strike Team might've robbed the Armenian money train. Edgar-veda can make Vic think that Lem gave it up so he could get witness protection. IAD will follow the guys and catch them trying to get Lem out of the USA. The guys won't get a lot of prison time for harboring a fugitive, but they will lose their badges. Lem didn't talk; Shane and Ronnie might not be as strong.

"Lem's talking," Edgar-veda tells Vic in the parking lot. Vic calls bullshit. Edgar-veda mentions the money train, which would explain Corinne having $65,000. "He's tired, he's scared, and he wants his freedom. And he doesn't wanna die at the hands of Antwon Mitchell." Not to mention he's sicker than a dog.

Vic knows Lem isn't a rat. Edgar-veda lies the D.A. gave Lem no choice but to roll on the Strike Team. Edgar-veda himself could get in trouble because he was captain back then: "You get a message to your boy and tell him to shut the hell up." Vic would, but he doesn't know where Lem is.

Edgar-veda shouldn't have told him all this, but Kavanaugh threatened him. Vic knows everything he does, so it's time for him to clean up this mess.

Dutch will drop the soliciting charge if Tori talks about Wallis and Spank's involvement in robbing Gilbos. "Spank wasn't there when the cabby got rolled," she says. Dutch thinks she's afraid and offers protection. Tori isn't scared. She loves Spank for "dragging me out of a superficial, empty everything." She was nothing before they met.

Billings heard Tori had a nice condo. "You equate a roof over your head to love?" she asks. Dutch understands her not wanting to be away from her boyfriend, but what does she think will happen when she's in jail? He'll just "set his sights on the next piece of Century City ass that comes his way."
Tori slaps Billings in the face, saying things like "How dare you? You don't know us!" Dutch pulls her away and gets her back in the chair.

Next door, Dutch announces that Tori gave up Wallis. Why would a smart, educated woman with a good job get mixed up with a scumbag pimp? Wallis explains he finds out what a woman needs to fill the hole in her heart and keeps filling it until she can't live without him, then takes it away: "That makes me God."

Tori was an easy mark; her fiance left her for a younger woman: "I just kept telling old girl she was still the prom queen like back in the day. Sooner or later, all bitches break. If you're born a woman, I can make you my ho." Who does this guy think he is, Velvet Jones?

"Call 1-800-I-Wanna-Be-a-Ho."
(Photo credit)
Can he leave now that he's given the detectives a free course in "pimpology"?

Vic, Shane, and Ronnie hang around quietly in the weight room. Shane asks if anyone else believes Lem made a deal. Vic says, "Maybe he felt like he had no choice." Becca could've talked Lem into it. The big guy has no clue about his new home on a goat ranch or the money they're wiring. Edgar-veda told Vic about the new deal. Shane thinks the ex-captain is bullshitting them.

"We aren't gonna know what's inside Lem's head until we see him face-to-face," says Vic. They don't need an exit plan; they just need to tell him about Belize. "And if Lem is talking, it's because he believes that Antwon has marked him as a dead man behind bars." Once Lem knows about the plan, he'll go along with it, just like he always does. (And look at how much good that's done him).

They'll go to the rendezvous point and assume Lem made a deal if he doesn't show up. If he does, they'll make sure he's onboard. "He'll be on board," Vic says confidently. Lem trusts them and Vic still trusts Lem.

Kavanaugh, waiting in the parking lot, realizes the guys are taking different cars. He'll follow Vic and have his associate trail Ronnie. There's nobody to keep an eye on Shane, though. Vic calls Ronnie from the road to let him know they're both being tailed. He'd better get a hold of Shane.

Shane's ringtone is, of course, "Dixie." Ronnie tells him that he and Vic are being followed. They have to lose them without looking like they're trying. Whoever loses their tail first will pick up Lem and hide him someplace until they can get back together as a group. Shane sighs, looking nervous as hell.

Lem's generic rental car is parked on a dusty hill outside of town. He hears an engine approaching and hilariously tries to duck behind the front end, but relaxes when he recognizes Shane's truck. "I'm glad it's you," he says, giving Shane a hug. Shane tells Lem they have to get going; the Rat King is tailing Vic and Ronnie. Lem should meet him at an abandoned body shop on Mission.
(Image credit)
Claudette has been reviewing Tina's file and Julien's T.O. reports. She wants to know why Billings ignored the recommendation for dismissal. Billings felt Julien was too hard on her. Claudette lists off the problems: excessive force, contaminating crime scenes, and failure to identify an undercover officer. It's more like a sixth chance than a second.

Billings knows Tina's fieldwork has a long way to go, but the kid has good instincts; that's why Dutch is mentoring her. Claudette clearly had no idea about this. "She's very intuitive," Dutch puts in. Claudette picks up the phone to have a union rep to start the dismissal paperwork. Billings cautions her against doing that.

The former acting captain comes clean about the locker room camera and the pictures of Tina in her underwear that got leaked. He and Dutch handled it. "Uh, all did was find the pictures," says Dutch. Billings scoffs, "You helped cover this up for a shot into Tina's panties." "Asshole," Dutch retorts, even though it's true. Claudette is free to spend her first few weeks as captain watching over a "full-time lawsuit" if she wants.

At the former body shop, Shane parks curiously far away. Lem gets out of his car for a final look at Los Angeles: "Never thought it'd come to this." "Hasn't come to anything yet," Shane replies. He's going back to get Vic and Ronnie, then Lem will be on his way to Mexico.

Lem doesn't relish the thought of ending up like Gilroy. "You're not a miserable drunk," Shane points out, "It's gonna be different." Lem refuses to go anywhere. Shane asks if he really wants to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder for Antwon.

"How the hell am I gonna live in Mexico?" asks Lem. Shane explains about the goat ranch in San Ignacio. They hired a federale to take Lem there. "It's beautiful, man. It's gonna be peaceful," Shane says almost dreamily. I'm starting to have Of Mice and Men flashbacks. Ronnie set up a bank account and "Mara and I even kicked in 5 grand for you."

Lem still says no. Shane swears they'll keep skimming off drug busts so they can wire him money. Lem sighs, "I can't do that." Shane tells Lem to trust them; this will work. Lem wants to take the hit alone.

Shane informs him, "Kavanaugh, Aceveda, the D.A., there's no other deal to make." They'll force Lem to give up the Strike Team. "Maybe not now. Maybe a year from now." And we're in Casablanca territory.

Lem needs to take his one chance to get out of this. "I got it figured out," Lem assures his friend. Shane gets hostile: "Why did you even come back here tonight if you weren't planning on leaving?" Lem wanted to see the guys, his only family.

"Don't do this, man," Shane pleads. Lem is (finally) starting to get suspicious and asks where Vic is. Shane says Vic will call when they lose their IAD tail. All is quiet for a few moments. Shane sighs that Mara is pregnant again, almost 3 months. Lem is happy for him.

"Yeah, it's another mouth to feed," Shane says gloomily. Mara might have to go on bed rest, so he'll have to step up as far as finances go. "I hope I get to see the little guy," says Lem, then adds, "Or girl." Shane repeats "girl" over and over like Lem just predicted the future.

Lem doesn't want Shane to worry about him. "Yeah?" Shane sniffles, his eyes wet, "It's all about family, right?" Distant sirens spook both of them. Lem asks what Vic and Ronnie will do if they can't lose the tail. Shane guesses they might double back to the Barn; he can call and find out. He pats Lem's arm and affectionately grabs the scruff of his neck, then tells Lem to move his car.

Shane, knowing Lem's weak spot has always been his stomach, asks conversationally, "Did you get enough to eat today?" "No, man, I'm hungry," Lem replies. I bet he is after going all over town on foot. It just so happens Shane brought along some food. How thoughtful!

Lem gets in his car. Shane goes to his truck and fiddles with something beside him. He brings a paper bag to Lem's window. Lem pulls out a plastic-wrapped sandwich and smiles, "My favorite." Shane starts double-timing it back to his truck. Lem turns and calls, "Shane? Shane!" Suddenly, the car explodes.

(Image credit)
Shane manages to duck the debris. He walks over to the car and peeks inside. Lem is in really bad shape but not quite dead yet. Shane kneels beside the window, whispering, "I'm sorry." You are not, you duplicitous bastard! "I'm so sorry, buddy." Shane starts blubbering crocodile tears and walks away. "Lem! You know I'm sorry." Oh, you're sorry all right. A sorry excuse for a friend.

Shane approaches the car, sees Lem is dead, and kicks the tailgate of his truck. You gave him a fucking grenade sandwich. What did you think was gonna happen? Shane gets in his truck and keeps on crying.

Vic and Ronnie are waiting at the original rendezvous point. "What are we gonna do if Lem doesn't show?" Ronnie asks in a quivering tone. Vic says, "He will." No, he won't, thanks to Shane. Speak of the devil and he appears. Shane lies that he had to shake off his tail. They lean against Vic's car to wait for Lem, Shane acting like nothing happened.

Dutch lets Wallis out of the cage. The pimp lucked out; the cabby couldn't ID him and Tori won't testify. Wallis promises to bail her out. Tina tells Dutch that Claudette wants her to spend more hours shadowing him.

Dutch thinks Tina will be a great detective because people won't realize how smart she is. A pretty face can make people assume you're not intelligent. "I know, right?" Tina giggles. Dutch adds, "But you're not nearly as smart as you need to be." If he's mentoring her, Tina better make sure his time is being well-spent.

People start rushing out of the Barn. An indistinct voice raises the worst kind of alarm: "Officer down."

"He's not coming." Ronnie has no idea how right he is. Vic thinks maybe Lem had to hide; one way or another, he'll get a message to them. (Not without a fucking seance). Vic wants to wait as long as it takes.

"Kavanaugh could be at our houses right now," says Ronnie. They have to leave. Vic sends Ronnie and Shane home. Shane the Betrayer wants to wait a while longer. So they do. Vic's phone rings.

Claudette stands beside the car, looking sadly into it. "Your transfer's denied." she tells Dutch, "I need my best detective on this." Dutch knows the weapon was a grenade. With Guardo the Salvadoran weapons smuggler still on the loose, Claudette wants Dutch to start there.

"Oh my God," Tina sobs, "Why?" The other cops are outwardly stoic. The rest of the Strike Team arrives. Vic is horrified by the sight of Lem's body. Shane pretends this is the first time he's seen the carnage. Ronnie puts a comforting hand on Vic's shoulder. In shock, Vic wanders toward the back of the car.

"You happy?" demands Kavanaugh. Vic charges at the Rat King and they grapple. Vic slams Kavanaugh into a car, shattering the driver's side window. Tina shouts, "Stop it!" The two men start wrestling on the ground. Shane and Ronnie grab Vic; some uniforms more or less drag Kavanaugh away.

Vic, gasping for air, announces, "We're gonna find whoever did this...and we're gonna kill him." Shane gets a we're gonna do what now? look on his face, but no one sees. End of Season 5 and the most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching episode of the series. I cried several times writing this recap.
RIP Curtis "Lem" Lemansky
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"I'm Robbing Boats" (Parody of Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat")

This is the product of too much caffeine, too little sleep, and a bad-ass episode of TNT's Animal Kingdom. I take no credit for the original version. Spoilers dead ahead.

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Aw shit!
Get your Glocks ready; it's about to go down!
Everybody in the place hit the fuckin' deck
But stay on your motherfuckin' toes
We runnin' this, let's go

I'm robbing boats, I'm robbing boats
Everybody look at me 'cause I'm about to rob a boat
I'm robbing boats, I'm robbing boats
Take a good hard look at the motherfucking boat

I'm robbing boats, motherfucker, take a look at me
Fancy wedding on a boat on the deep blue sea
We're coming on deck; we don't write demand notes
You can't stop us, Eric, watch us rob this boat

Take a picture, trick
#wheresbaz, bitch
We gonna rob this boat 'cause they're so rich
I got my wetsuit and a cell phone jammer
When they hit Catalina, time to drop the hammer

I'm ridin' on a jetski, doin' flips and shit
And Pope is splashin', gettin' everybody all wet
This ain't a game, bro; this is real as it gets
We robbin' boats, motherfucker, don't you ever forget

I'm on a boat and the engine's dead and
We shakin' down guests for their cash and
Can't call the cops 'cause we in a dead zone
We're the Cody bros and bad is bred, yo

Fuck banks, I'm robbing boats, motherfucker
Fuck with me, I'll pistol-whip ya like my brother
I pull cash off the bride's dress, motherfucker
Marco, what the hell'd you do, motherfucker?

Hey, Smurf, if you could see us now
Bags of swag on the starboard bow
We ran this whole job on our own somehow
Toast to success
Now it's time to fuckin' go

Craig said, "Let's go rob a boat"
We shoulda left Marco at home
Hey, Deran, look at me
Never thought I'd see the day
With a boat wedding comin' my way
Believe me when I say
I fucked a bridesmaid

I'm robbing boats, I'm robbing boats
Everybody look at me 'cause I'm about to rob a boat
I'm robbing boats, I'm robbing boats
Take a good hard look at the motherfucking boat

Monday, August 7, 2017

If You Want Something Bad Enough, You'll "Bleed For It" (Animal Kingdom: Season 2, Episode 3)

"When we get there, I'm gonna need you to watch my back," Smurf instructs. J wonders why he'd have to do that at a funeral. They're gonna pay their respects and leave; Smurf hasn't seen Manny in 20 years anyway.

The New Canticle mission drive is holding at $87,000. Baz calls Pope from Mexico, asking for a favor. He won't be back stateside in time to pick up Lena from school. (Shocker). Baz promises he'll be home the next day and Pope agrees to take care of Lena.

Baz is snappy with Lucy, nervous about their first job without Smurf. Lucy's brother Marco arrives. He thought Smurf didn't want him involved in their jobs. Baz explains that he and the boys kicked her to the curb.

Amy asks Pope to lead the Bible study discussion.

A woman looks nostalgically around Deran's bar: "My friends and I used to sneak in here before we were legal." Deran wants to keep the place as "a good beach dive: good, cheap beer, no bullshit." He plans on opening up the main barroom and taking out the drop ceiling. "In a week?" asks Craig. That sounds too much like work to him.

The girl (Heather) asks if they're both the owners. Deran says it's his bar. "Technicality," pipes up Craig. Deran shows the girl a couple of firepits out back, which remind her of San Onofre "back in the day." "That's what I'm going for," says Deran, "Those Friday nights before this place got taken over by all the Newport money and tourists."

Heather announces she had sex in the bar's bathroom once with Jeff, a name Deran seems to recognize. "Oh, you're hired," says Craig. Deran gives him a really-bro? look. Craig wonders aloud if Heather is a sink girl or a stall girl. "Jesus, man," says Deran. Craig can tell Heather's a sink girl. Deran dismisses his brother with: "That's good, thanks, bud." Most awkward job interview ever.

Back to business, Heather says she's been a bartender for 7 years and offers to text Deran with her references. She can start next week if the place is open. Deran only has a temporary liquor license; the state inspector is coming the next day to issue the real one. "My ex tried to get one and couldn't, but he had a record," says Heather. Deran bites his lip.

"Later, sink girl!" Craig calls as she leaves. He nods to Deran. "I like her."

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At New Canticle, Pope argues that God's unconditional love isn't the point of the verse they read. It's more about God's faithfulness and that He will never give you more than you can handle. "We can bear anything if we have to," says Pope, an expert on that subject. Amy steps in before it gets too heated; the beauty of the Bible is that it has meaning to each individual.

On the surveillance monitor, Nicky sees Deran's Scout pulling through the compound gate with Craig at the wheel. She joins him in the garage, where he's loading sledgehammers and assorted tools into the truck. He tells her about the bar.

Nicky informs him Smurf and J will be gone overnight, so she and Craig could have the house to themselves. Craig thinks he'll be pulling an all-nighter gutting the bar.

After Bible study, Amy invites Pope to bring Lena to a church-sponsored kids' softball game the next day. She gives Pope her number, offering to pick them up.

Smurf and J arrive at a house way out in the desert. The long dirt driveway is lined with cars; the backyard resembles a less luxurious version of the Cody compound. Smurf takes a revolver out of the glovebox, warning J that Manny's crew is full of scumbags. When she exits the truck, we see Smurf is wearing a pair of black Chuck Taylors instead of her usual heels.

In the living room, they run into Craig's dad Jake. Hey, It's That Guy! Jack Conley appeared in another TNT series, Saving Grace, as Ham's gay brother Nick. Smurf introduces her baby daddy to her grandson. Smurf and Jake were part of the late Manny's robbery crew before he left California. They met when Smurf was 17 and Jake describes her as "sexy and tough as shit." She sends J to get them beers.

When J opens a cooler in the backyard, its owner aggressively slams the lid down again. The kid is one of the few white faces and really sticks out.

Jake exposits that Javi is now running Manny's crew, even though Manny wanted him gone. Javi beat one of his own guys to death and let his dogs, uh, dispose of the remains.

Craig returns to the bar to find Deran on the Internet, reading up on liquor licenses. Craig suggests they do after-hours parties. "And what? Get shut down immediately?" says Deran. He doesn't think his brother understands the gravity of the situation: "It's on me if some asshole gets drunk and gets in his car."

Craig puts on goggles, grabs a sledgehammer, and smashes it through a wall that's hopefully non-load-bearing. "Stop! Stop! What are you doing?" cries Deran. "Are you kidding me, man?" He points behind him. "I said that wall!" Maybe letting your cokehead older brother help remodel the place wasn't such a great idea?

Pope enters Baz's place with Lena, who asks when her daddy is coming home. "Tomorrow, hopefully," answers Uncle Pope. The kitchen is littered with empty beer bottles and Pope shakes his head disgustedly.

Craig asks why Deran is so tense, even though he literally just explained that. Deran worries his record will keep him from getting a liquor license. Craig shrugs, "Plenty of ex-cons have bars." If the inspector gives him any trouble, Deran can always bribe him.

Craig gives Deran a sledgehammer and a pair of goggles (safety first, after all). Deran hefts the hammer and mutters, "All right, you stupid mermaid" before smashing the wall with a mermaid painted on it.

J is just sitting down with a plate of homemade Mexican food when Javi joins him. He seems jealous that Smurf took in J (not like he's her grandson or anything). As far as J can remember, Smurf's never mentioned Javi. J says he's sorry about Javi's dad. "Manny wasn't my dad," says Javi, though he doesn't elaborate. It occurs to me Javi looks like a scarier, less attractive version of Theo Rossi.

Smurf goes into Manny's room, which has a hospital bed, IV pole, oxygen tank, and other medical supplies. Javi comes in. Smurf gives him an envelope of money.

Javi walks right up to her and creepily sniffs her hair: "I always loved that smell. Reminds me of those Sunday nights out by your pool. You'd bring out all that food and I'd eat 'til my stomach hurt...just to see you smile." So did Manny, Jake, and Javi's dad. "Back when you called us a family."

Javi remembers the night his dad took off; Smurf and Manny fought about what to do with him. Smurf practically growls, "You were a 10-year-old kid. You don't know what you heard." Javi heard Smurf tell Manny to throw him out. He calls bullshit that Smurf just came to pay her respects. Smurf calmly strolls out with a big, ugly turquoise necklace.

Down in Mexico, Marco asks if Baz wants to help him fence jewelry his crew steals from tourists. Baz can't; he has enough to deal with. He loads his Jeep with propane tanks and tools.

Lena looks up from her coloring to see Pope straightening stacks of magazines on the coffee table: "Why are you doing that?" Pope tells the kid the importance of keeping your things in order. He asks her if playing softball sounds like fun and Lena agrees to go with him and Amy.

There's a sudden thud from outside. Pope opens the door to see a pigeon lying motionless on the porch. "The sun blinds them. If it doesn't get up, Mommy hits them with a brick," Lena tells her uncle. They watch as the bird starts to flop around. Pope asks, "How long does it usually take to know if it's gonna get up or not?"

The pigeon raises its wing as if to defend itself. Pope picks up the designated pigeon-killing brick and tells Lena not to look. Before he can hit the pigeon, it awkwardly takes wing.

Lucy tells Baz how much her son Carlos likes having Baz around. Baz hopes the kid doesn't get used to it. She disapproves of Marco trying to play big with Baz; she thinks he's in trouble and might sell the bracelet someplace he shouldn't. Baz agrees to take it back to California with him.

Smurf and J indulge in some vodka in their hotel room. She explains Javi's dad pulled jobs with Manny's crew until he ripped Manny off. Javi's dad supposedly ran off with his ill-gotten gains. Smurf shoos J outside when Jake arrives. The kid tries not to overhear what they're saying.

Manny had dementia and his doctor advised him to record things, just whatever came into his head. All he did near the end was talk into a tape recorder. Smurf seems disquieted by that.

Nicky is disappointed that one of her girlfriends can't come over. She pours herself some vodka and starts snooping through Smurf's room. She tries on jewelry, discovers money in a drawer, and discovers an Uzi under the dresser. Oh, this isn't gonna be good!

"Don't get that gross skin on it," Lena requests as Pope heats some milk on the stove. Pope promises he knows what he's doing. Smurf used to warm up milk for him when he couldn't sleep "except she used the microwave, which was cheating."

Lena asks the heartbreaking question: Is Mommy dead? Pope lies through his teeth that there's no reason to think that. Lena wants to know why her dad isn't sad. "Your dad is sad. He's...secret sad." Pope, Lena is young, not mentally challenged. He goes on, "My dad left when I was little and I'm okay." That is a matter of opinion and mine is that Pope is fucked in the head.

J asks if Manny ran the crew or if the boss was Grandma Smurf. She chuckles that she was only 16 when she met Manny. He took her in after a 30-day stint in jail for shoplifting and taught her everything she knows. Her favorite scam was going into a store with Manny following like he didn't know her. Then he'd put a gun to Smurf's head: "Everybody would stop and stare at the skinny little blonde girl. They'd try to save her...with their wallets."

J wonders how Smurf went from being so close to Manny to not speaking to him for decades. She plays it off as "shit happens." Smurf repeats what Jake said about Manny spending his last days babbling nonsense: "That ever happens to me, I want you to put a bullet in my head. Swear." J takes her hand and promises, "I'll put a bullet in your head." Smurf proceeds to kiss J on the lips, stroke his face, and calls him a beautiful boy.

Craig and Deran take a break from bar demolition to have a beer. Deran doesn't want Smurf to know about the bar until they open; he's afraid she'll find a way to take the place away from him. Craig's phone buzzes. He announces he's breaking up with Nicky (a likely story). Deran thinks it's about time.

After Lena is in bed, Pope heats up the pan again and grabs onto the bare metal handle like the fucking lunatic he is. He stares at his burned palm, then wraps it in a towel.

J pulls into a diner parking lot: "Told you we'd find something open." He asks Granny to get them a table while he gets something out of the truck. Smurf takes a seat at the counter. Enter J, wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. He orders the waitress to empty the register, then demands the customers' phones and wallets. J holds the gun to Smurf's head and takes her outside.

Laughing and cheering, they jump in the truck and drive away. Smurf tosses the bag of phones out the window. Back at the motel, Smurf dumps the money onto the bed, praising J for a job well done: "You're a natural! Not like the other boys...I had to teach them everything." She pulls J down on the bed and they start wrestling, which is all kinds of creepy. "You are fearless." "Like you," J smiles.

At the Cody compound, Craig gives Nicky the famous "We need to talk" line. Nicky cuts him off, asking what happened with Camp Pendleton and why her dad became "besties with Baz for, like, a second." She thinks that whatever he did with the Codys is why he transferred to Guam.

Nicky gives Craig a Smurf-like guilt trip: He'd be dead if she hadn't pulled him out of the fire and in jail if she hadn't flushed the drugs. She wants him to stop treating her like a kid and takes a slug of wine. Craig acts like what he wanted to say was "Don't tell Smurf about Deran's bar."

Nicky toys with a strand of her hair: "I'm tired and drunk and I'd kinda like to have sex." Craig is only too happy to oblige.

At the bar the next morning, Deran is as cleaned up as he ever gets: hair in a ponytail, button-down dress shirt covering the tattoos on his biceps. He shakes hands with Brian the liquor inspector, who immediately starts asking questions. How'd Deran pay for the bar? "Savings," he replies, which isn't a total lie. His other occupation is property manager for his mom's rental houses.

"I have a record," Deran blurts out. He stole a car when he was 22 and served 5 months in jail. Deran reveals more of his background. He used to be a competitive surfer, even qualifying for the West Coast Championships. By the time he was 20, he thought he had a real shot at getting sponsored, "then it just flamed out." Deran was afraid he'd never have anything of his own again and started doing "a lotta stupid shit."

Brian asks if Deran knows the definition of moral turpitude. "I'm guessing it's not a good thing," he chuckles nervously. Brian explains his job is to assess how likely Deran is to commit future acts of it: "Don't give me a reason to turn you down. And thank you for not giving me some story about being wrongly accused or trying to bribe me. You wouldn't believe how many people we turn down for that."

When the inspector leaves, Deran does a kind of restrained happy dance. Deran is my favorite character and I'm so happy to see him have a chance at a legitimate business away from his toxic mom. I hope Smurf doesn't find a way to make it fail somehow so he has to move back in.

At the motel, Smurf leans way too close to a sleeping J and whispers in his ear, "Come on, baby. Time to go home."

Amy arrives with a bag of picnic food and asks to talk to Pope in private. She wants to come clean about something. Amy lost custody of her 8-year-old son Christopher because she got into a DUI crash with him in the car. He wasn't hurt, thankfully. She didn't want Pope to hear it from someone else and understands if he can't see past it. Oh, I wouldn't worry about Pope judging you; DUI is nothing compared to murdering your adopted brother's baby-mama.

Amy notices Pope's bandaged hand. He fibs that he burned it helping Lena make pancakes. He suggests they eat Amy's picnic food on Baz's porch instead of going to the softball game.

Baz shows Gia the emerald bracelet he brought in from Mexico. She isn't sure what she can get for it, but she'll ask around. Baz tells her he'll be bringing in credit cards a few weeks from now. Gia balks. "Smurf told you not to work with us, didn't she?" Baz guesses. He and the boys could bring her a lot of business. Gia is sorry, but she can't help him.

Pope hears Baz's key in the lock and turns to his niece: "Remember what I told you." "Don't talk about the lady from the church," Lena repeats. She runs to give her dad a hug.

Outside, Baz shows Pope the tools he bought for the church job. He tells him the bad news about Gia and Smurf's fence in San Pedro. They can't find a new trustworthy buyer for the credit cards in two weeks. "Gia was hustling antiques on the Strand before Smurf found her," grumbles Pope. Baz suggests they make a new fence instead of finding one.

Deran, pulling down brightly painted ceiling tiles, asks how the breakup went. Craig is all "yeeeaaahhh, about that." Deran isn't surprised.

Baz sweet-talks Gia's business partner Monica. Loyalty to Smurf got him nowhere. Does Monica honestly expect any different? Also, does she know anyone who can handle 400 credit card numbers?

At home, Smurf places the ugly turquoise pendant on her bed amidst the stolen cash and wallets.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Javi opens a cigar box and finds Manny's tape collection. End of episode.