Monday, July 24, 2017

Guest Review: "Lone Hero"

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Lou Diamond Phillips plays a different sort of outlaw than we have seen him play before, a biker who heads up a gang of motorcycle misfits called the Iron Bandits. When we first meet the gang at their clubhouse in Idaho, the first thing Bart (Lou) and his boys do is kill a state trooper. (Note: Lou wears a very interesting pair of bright yellow boxer shorts with a Wal-Mart smiley face licking its chops on the front).

Bart meets our hero John (Sean Patrick Flanery) when the gang rolls into Profit, Montana. John works at the local pioneer reenactment village with his buddies and ex-girlfriend. With the help of another Iron Bandit, Bart robs the bar where John is getting a few drinks after a day of playing cowboy. The biker also nearly beats bartender Smoky to death and threatens John to keep his mouth shut.

Profit is so small that there are only two cops who John, our Wild West show bad guy and real life hero, calls once he cuffs the bikers with the help of a gun that shoots blanks. He's helped by ex-girlfriend Sharon, who is expecting to leave town soon to attend UCLA for the fall semester.

John is everyone's friend at the reenactment village until the Iron Bandits close in on the failing attraction, seeking revenge on behalf of their embarrassed leader. Smoky's friends just want to go on with their lives without any trouble.

John's closest friend is the park's grizzled trick shooter Gus, a guy with a shady past who gives our hero a hand shutting down the bad guys. Though fearless and intelligent, Bart is still a thug and must, in the end, be put down. Bart has killed cops. He almost killed Smoky and doesn't want to leave loose ends, namely John and Sharon.

Most of the movie involves John and Sharon trying to stay alive with Gus's help while the Iron Bandits try to wipe them off the face of the earth. The movie is a basic good prevails over evil tale, which leaves us with a sense of satisfaction. There are a lot of tense scenes that get your adrenaline pumping. Bart's continuous chatter also jangles the nerves.

No lawmen, a reluctant hero, a steadfast older friend, deck stacked against the good guys, and plenty of shooting. Good action, good emotional triggers for a low-budget movie. It leaves the viewer satisfied that all is right with the world.

Monday, June 26, 2017

As Craig Said, "Karma" Is a Bitch (Animal Kingdom; Season 2, Episode 2)

Nicky snorts a line and Craig asks her, "You really wanna do coke before you go to school?" Surprisingly, he doesn't do any himself: "I wanna sleep sometime in the next 100 years." Craig plans on taking downers to sleep until Nicky gets home later.

Nicky straddles his lap and plucks the joint from between his lips. Craig takes it back from her; mixing drugs is an art she hasn't learned yet. "Who needs school when I've got you, Professor Cody?" she purrs. They start kissing. Nicky stands up and pulls Craig toward the bedroom. Unbeknownst to them, the joint is still smoldering on the couch.

Lucy comes into Baz's kitchen, glad she didn't wake him up. He offers her coffee. Lucy would cook breakfast, "but all you have is protein powder." Baz likes Lucy being around. How about they go to dinner later? Lucy gives him a look. "What?" he says, "It's dinner."

It seems Lucy is like Baz's last hook-up; eating together automatically means they're in a relationship. "Maybe I just like watching you eat." says Baz. Lucy seductively bites into a breakfast sandwich she brought over. Baz puts it on the counter and picks her up. "You can eat it later," he winks. Lucy laughs and they start making out.

The bar owner is none too pleased with Deran for not having the $50,000; he promises he will by Monday. She reminds him she has other offers. Deran bets he's the only one willing to pay upfront in cash. "You can offer me a goddamn polar bear if you never plan on giving it to me," she says.

Deran will throw in an extra $1,000 for the wait. The bar owner is going to Hawaii next week to dump her husband's ashes in a volcano and needs the money before she leaves. Deran says she can keep the deposit if he doesn't come through, which is more than fair. "Don't mess with me," she warns.

Pope creepily sits on the edge of Lena's bed, watching her sleep. "Where's Grandma?" she asks when she wakes up. Pope whispers, "She's sleeping, so we have to be quiet." "Where's Daddy?" Supposedly, Baz asked Pope to drive Lena to school. He sends Lena to get dressed, looking under the bed for her shoes.

"Trying to kidnap my granddaughter?" asks Smurf. She'd prefer Baz take Lena to school; Lena hasn't seen him in four days. She glances at her eldest son. "What's she supposed to do with two left shoes?" Smurf tells him how important consistency is for children (says the woman whose kids all have different fathers that eventually abandoned them). She adds, "She barely knows you; you've been in prison half her life."

Pope doesn't take the opportunity to rant about how that was Baz's fault. Smurf gets Lena's backpack ready. The kid comes out of the bathroom, dressed for school. Pope has her shoes, Smurf her coat and backpack.

Nicky practices what I'm guessing are supposed to be "sexy" faces in Craig's mirror, arranging her hair different ways. She hears crackling in the living room. Surprise, surprise, Craig's couch his on fire! She tries to beat the flames out with a throw pillow.

When that doesn't work, she goes to the bedroom and shakes his shoulder. "Craig, there's a fire," her voice is barely audible.

"Morning," J says cheerfully. He has scrambled eggs and toast plated up for him and Smurf. She answers her phone. Nicky frantically tells her about the fire. Smurf asks where her middle child is. "He's passed out. I can't wake him up," says Nicky.

While she's talking, she fills a bowl with water from the sink and throws it on the couch. This does absolutely nothing to the flames, which have now spread to the blinds. Nicky hasn't called 911 "'cause I'm pretty high."

Smurf turns to J, telling him to call 911 and say there's a fire at Craig's address. Smurf asks Nicky if Craig is breathing. "Yeah, he's just sleeping. He hasn't slept in a couple days 'cause we've been...kinda partying." Nicky's still talking a mile a minute.

Smurf instructs Nicky to flush any drugs down the toilet. "It's getting bigger," Nicky sounds worried as she passes the living room. Smurf tells her to take Craig's gun out of his nightstand; when they leave, she needs to remember which bush she hides it in.

Smurf decides it's finally time to worry about Craig himself. She tells Nicky to throw cold water on his face. If that doesn't work, hit him in the face as hard as possible. Nicky's slaps barely make contact, meaning Craig doesn't notice them. She grabs his arm and tries to drag him out of bed; he faceplants into the carpet.

Pope and Lena are at Baz's house. Lena spilled juice on herself and wants to put on a new shirt before school. Pope asks what time Lena has to be at school. "I don't know," the kid shrugs, "Grandma Smurf just says, 'Time for school.'" In all seriousness, Pope says, "You need a watch." (Too bad there aren't any left over from last season's jewelry store heist).

Pope hears distinctly female laughter elsewhere in the house. He sees a bra and a pair of panties in the hallway. "Lena, let's go!" he calls. Lena has also heard the laughter and joyfully cries, "Mommy! Mommy!" She stops dead in her tracks, realizing Lucy isn't Cath. Baz comes out of the bedroom.
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"Lena, this is Daddy's friend Lucy," Baz introduces. He picks his daughter up and carries her outside. Pope fixes Lucy with a dead-eyed glare.

Firefighters walk through Craig's apartment, checking for hot spots. A paramedic tends to Craig. Nicky stands on the sidewalk, a police blanket wrapped around her for modesty since she wasn't wearing pants. Smurf starts chewing Craig out then and there, guessing there was enough cocaine in the apartment to earn him a lengthy prison sentence; he's lucky Nicky was there to save his sorry ass.

Craig gripes that he has a headache: "Why'd you have to get her to hit me so hard?" Nicky's pathetic little slaps didn't cause that; it was more likely clonking his head on the floor that did it. Smurf wishes Nicky had hit him hard, then asks, "Why is this shit still going on? Is that girl on birth control?" "Are you done?" Craig wants to know.

Smurf certainly is not. She tells him he's paying to have the apartment redone. Is she supposed to tell her insurance agent "that my idiot son and the teenager he's banging left a lit joint on the couch?" Craig rather insincerely apologizes. Smurf warns him not ask to move back in. Craig rides off on his motorcycle.

After dropping Lena at school, Baz lays into Pope about not sending a warning text.

J, Deran, and Craig cruise down the street in the Scout. "You smell like a bonfire," Deran observes, "All that smoke inhalation can't be good for you. It kills your brain cells. You don't have too many left to spare." He echoes Smurf's thoughts that it's good Nicky was around. They can talk in front of J because he's aware of what Nicky and Craig are doing. To his credit, Craig says, "I don't wanna be a dick about it."

J says he doesn't care. "You don't care that your girlfriend left you for this genius?" asks Deran. J reminds his uncle who broke up with who. Deran takes the opportunity to rib his brother about getting J's "sloppy seconds."

On a more serious note, Deran asks if J has enough money to move out of Smurf's house. Staying gives Smurf the chance to make J feel like he owes her. The kid shouldn't give Pope and Baz a reason not to trust him. "You stay there, you'll never leave," he advises, "Ask Craig." Craig jabs back: "Hey, asshole, you breast-fed 'til you were, like, 7." He starts trying to grab Deran's nipples through his shirt while he's driving.

Smurf conversationally asks how long Nicky has been living with Craig. According to Nicky, only a few days. Smurf shakes her head: "He sure left in a hurry. He could've given you a pair of pants." Craig told Nicky he was fixing a church's air conditioner with Deran. Nicky didn't know the Codys were religious.

Smurf offers to let Nicky live at the compound. "If it's not an imposition," the teen says with fake shyness. Smurf knows it would make Craig happy. Nicky chuckles to herself.

"You're not staying with me, by the way," Deran informs Craig, "You're filthy and I don't need the DEA banging down my door." "Did I ask to stay with you?" says Craig. Well, not in so many words.

Deran pulls into the parking lot at the megachurch. J gets out first. Craig takes off his necklace and puts on a white polo shirt that reads SANTIAGO VALLEY PEAK H.V.A.C. Deran, already wearing one, ties his hair back into a ponytail. He thinks Craig should have some gum to cover his bad breath. They grab bags of tools and clipboard, doing their best to look official.

Craig and Deran stop at the front desk in New Canticle's opulent lobby. They claim someone called their dispatch center about a funny smell coming from the air conditioner. The secretary doesn't see anything on the schedule. Deran lies that they have to fix some A/C in San Diego later and the rest of the week is booked; they wouldn't be able to come back until at least next Friday.

J heads downstairs. Pope and Baz park outside. The secretary shows Deran and Craig to the rooftop unit. Pope slips into the sanctuary (sidebar: I've been in smaller concert halls) and watches the worship band do a soundcheck.

On the roof, Craig muses, "Churches have all these programs to help people: homeless shelters, giving soup to people who are hungry." Deran asks if he's still worried about karma. Again, pretty sure that ship left port years ago. "If you can tell me that I'm not gonna end up, like, a cockroach, then fine," says Craig.

"Ripping off a church is gonna bring serious karmic vengeance." They should've gone with Deran's yacht wedding idea. Deran would've preferred that too, but Baz is stubborn and he needs money ASAP.

"Maybe that's why your apartment burned down; God knew you were thinking about robbing a church," says Deran. He adds, "Either that, or the lit joint you left burnin' on your couch." Deran is so sassy and I adore him.

Pope notices a pretty blonde woman helping with the sound check. He shyly averts his eyes when she glances his way.

The littlest Cody investigates the vents in the men's room. Baz goes to the church's security trailer, claiming he lost his wallet during Sunday service, giving his name as David Pratt. (Any relation to Chris)? The guard leaves to get the lost-and-found box. Baz takes note of the bank of closed-circuit TV monitors and texts "Go. Now" to J.

J goes down the hall with his hoodie pulled over his head and picks the lock on a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY. J takes pictures of the inside of the room, which is lined with shelves and boxes. There's a safe behind the whiteboard and one cemented into the floor under a rug.

Baz keeps one eye on the monitors and sees what J's up to. "Sorry, no David Pratt," the security guard apologizes. He suggests Baz check the front office and gives him directions.

Someone who works for the church passes by just as J exits the EMPLOYEES ONLY room. J pretends he got lost on his way to an N.A. meeting (if you ask me, Craig should've posed as the addict). The guy tells J where to go and that the meeting isn't until noon.

Pope goes to the lobby and stands before a table of flyers and brochures. They advertise biweekly Bible study, a mission drive, and volunteer opportunities. "I don't actually have any musical ability. I just love hearing them play," says the blonde woman from the sound check. She introduces herself as Amy; Pope gives his birth name: Andrew.

Pope tells Amy he's looking for a new church. Amy asks where he went before. Pope clicks his teeth and says, "Sort of a non-denominational thing." That's also what New Canticle looks like to me; most denominational ones aren't that big or elaborate (at least not here in Kentucky).

Amy would be happy to answer any questions. In addition to being a part-time church employee, she voluntarily teaches Bible study. She'd love for him to come. Pope asks how many parishoners there are. Amy ballparks it around 1,500 for the mid-morning Sunday service.

Next month, New Canticle is having Mission Weekend. The church hosts parties and raffles to raise money for foreign missionary work. Last year, donations reached $300,000. "I'd love to be a part of somethin' like that," says Pope. Amy doesn't notice his odd, almost singsong tone.

Smurf calls her alarm company to get all the passwords and entry codes changed.

The boys map out the church. J shows his uncles pictures of the safe set in concrete. Craig would rather rob a bank now that the church has so many cameras...because that makes perfect sense. Besides, "people we know go to that church. I thought we didn't shit where we eat."

Baz tells him not to think of it as a church: "They're printing money. They got DVDs and T-shirts and merchandise." Craig wants to put it to a vote. Baz flatly refuses to rob another bank. Pope pipes up with, "If we wait three weeks, we can make 300K. Lady at the church says they do a mission fundraising drive." There are car washes, raffles, and "a fair with rides and shit." Last year's proceeds went to a hospital in Angola.

Craig is now even more worried about karma. Deran can't wait three weeks. Baz doesn't want to take the same risk for less reward. "If this is how this is gonna work, I'm done," says Deran. He can pull jobs on his own. "Go ahead. Go rob a liquor store," Baz challenges, sounding a lot like Smurf.

Deran storms out and Craig follows him. Baz sends J home; he and Pope can take over planning from here. Baz tells Pope they need to present a united front when the other guys are around. J can scout, but he isn't ready for a big-time heist. Whether they rob the church now or in three weeks, they need four people.

Outside, Pope asks Craig why Deran needs money so badly. Craig promised not to tell. Pope wants to know how much. Would Deran do something stupid to get what he needs? "He might," shrugs Craig.

Smurf goes to her storage unit, where she pulls a few bricks of cash and a huge diamond ring out of a safe.

Lucy comes home from shopping and packs to go back to Tijuana. She's been in California for several days and Baz never mentioned Lena is living with him. "Sometimes she stays here," says Baz. Lucy asks, "What's that even mean?" What happened to Catherine? Baz doesn't know; she just left. Lucy questions him in Spanish about why he isn't being honest.

Baz pounds the table. He can't deal with Lucy right now; he's trying to plan a job without Smurf and "the boys are ready to kill each other." Lucy thinks this is classic Baz, changing the subject and getting pissed off. "I had to look that kid in the face this morning and say, 'Sorry, I'm not your mother.'"

Baz is sure Lena doesn't even remember that. (I wouldn't count on it). Lucy says that's not the point. They're no good together and need to stay friends with benefits.

Deran leaves his apartment and throws a black duffel bag in the Scout. "When's the last time you scouted Union Bank?" asks Pope. They have at least three tellers now, plus digital security cameras. If Deran uses a gun, he'll do at least 6 years in prison. "Look, I need money. I'm gonna go get some. Isn't that what we do?" says Deran. Big brother Pope has a better plan and Craig's already agreed to help. Does Deran have a ski mask?

Later, Craig and Deran are sitting in a stolen SUV in a beach parking lot. Craig checks out a food truck's menu with a pair of binoculars, wondering aloud, "What kind of an asshole pays 18 bucks for a sandwich?" "Pope says they also sell molly out of the back of the truck," adds Deran. Don't tell him that; he'll just go for the drugs and not the cash.

Smurf goes to a Persian rug store and meets upstairs with a woman named Gia. She seems to be Smurf's fence. Smurf wants to sell the ring, which she stole a few years ago. She tells Gia about the "restructuring" because the "boys are gettin' very careless." Smurf trusts Gia to make the asking price whatever she thinks is fair and adds 5% to her commission.

Baz might be coming to the store soon. Smurf wouldn't dream of telling Gia who to do business with, but caution should be exercised.

The Farm to Curb food truck workers lock it up and drive it away. The boys follow it.

Baz has hired Joe, a PI, to look for Cath. The detective has found nothing in the last two months. Cath was still close to a couple of her former foster mothers, but they haven't seen her in years. No bank account, cell phone, email, or credit card activity. "If somebody wants to, they can get pretty good and lost."

Baz can't believe this: "3 grand gets me 'She hasn't checked her email'?" The PI suggests Cath could've changed her name and left the country. Joe needs another $5,000 to keep looking. Baz asks if Cath is dead. Joe replies, "I have no reason to believe that she is, but I have no reason to believe that she isn't."

Deran and Craig cut off the food truck, which rear-ends them. They jump out in ski masks, guns at the ready. They didn't count on the food truck workers being armed themselves; after all, they have to protect their drug supply somehow. They make a hasty retreat back to the car. Here's hoping Craig doesn't get shot again.

Pope rear-ends the food truck with a stolen tow truck. The food truck's tires pop and it tips over. The workers shoot at them again. "Hey!" Pope screams at his brothers, "Don't kill anybody!" "Tell them that!" Craig retorts. Pope tosses a flash-bang grenade into the truck and steals the money.

Nicky ambles into Smurf's kitchen, wearing a baggy T-shirt and sweatpants. J, doing his homework at the counter, recognizes the pants as his. "You don't mind?" Nicky's tone makes it plain she doesn't care how he feels about it, "I mean, you don't really wear these?"

They chitchat about the fire, how it was scary for Nicky but totally not Craig's fault. (That's actually true). J hasn't seen her at school lately. "I go sometimes, enough to graduate," she says, then asks, "Where is everybody?" J says his uncles aren't around much since they all had a fight with Smurf.

At a picnic table, Deran, Craig, and Pope toast to a job well done. "We never had any trouble when we did simple shit," says Deran, reminding Pope, "You went to prison 'cause of Baz." "No, I went to prison because a guard wasn't where he was supposed to be," says Pope. Deran knows Pope sees the way Baz treats him and Craig.

Pope knows them turning on each other is exactly what Mommy Dearest wants; he won't take her bait. Craig gives everyone their share from the lockbox. Pope immediately hands his to baby brother; he'll kick in whatever else he has to to make it $16,000 and Deran can pay him back after the church job.

Craig also gives Deran his share: "You don't gotta pay me back, man, but I need a place to crash."

Powerpuff Girls is blasting from Baz's TV. Baz asks his daughter to turn it down. Pope comes in and tells him Deran is back in for New Canticle. Baz mumbles, "I've been alone with her for three hours. I'm ready to kill myself." Lucy went back to Mexico.

They resume talking strategy for New Canticle. Lena ups the volume again. Baz loses his shit, smashing the remote and yelling at her. Pope tells Lena to get her shoes so she can go for a walk with him. "I've been asking her to turn it down for an hour!" Baz complains. Pope says, "She's 7. You put her in front of the TV all day. Maybe she's trying to get your attention."

Baz wants to know if Pope has any other parenting advice. Pope knows kids don't like being screamed at. He throws in, "Her mother left. You're banging some woman that she's never seen before in her mother's bedroom. It's not Lena's fault that your girlfriend doesn't like your kid, Baz."

"You don't know shit and you never will," says Baz, adding nastily, "No woman is ever gonna have a kid with you. Ever." Cue the Pope Stare.

Smurf sighs and looks morosely out into the rainy night. She flashes back to when her boys were little, playing basketball together in the pool.

Pope brings Lena to New Canticle and introduces her to Amy. The Bible study teacher shows the girl to the church playroom. "She's beautiful. Has your smile," Amy compliments Pope. He explains that Lena is his niece; he's been helping his brother out since his sister-in-law left him unexpectedly. Amy invites Pope and Lena out for ice cream after Bible study. That sounds good to Pope.

The bar owner tells Deran to turn the fridge way down when the health inspector comes. He shouldn't put off getting a tax ID number "or it'll take forever to get the liquor guy in here." This is gonna be harder than Deran thinks. The woman wishes she'd sold it sooner, but her husband loved the place. Some weeks, he worked 80 hours.

"Sid had a passion for big-titted mermaids," she muses. That is obvious. She shakes Deran's hand and gives him the keys.

Craig has a beer in his burned-out living room, surveying the damage.

Baz goes to Tijuana and knocks on Lucy's door. He wants to apologize for not telling her about Cath and Lena. "I don't need to know everything," she shrugs. Baz figures Cath left because she found out about Lucy and he refused to stop seeing her. Lucy seems to accept that and invites Baz to bed.

"I probably should've asked you before I told Nicky she could stay," Smurf says to J. Ya think?! "This is your house too. I want you to be comfortable." Are his uncles pressuring him to move out? J wants to stay and I don't blame him. A roof over his head, nice clothes, a pool, not having to worry about where his next meal is coming from? In his short life, J's never had it so good.

The phone rings. Smurf asks J to answer it. When J hangs up, he tells his grandmother, "That was some guy called Jake. He said that Manny died. The wake's on Thursday. Who's Manny?" Smurf replies cryptically, "He's an old friend." She asks if J wants to come with her on a road trip to the desert. He agrees. End of episode.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rule #1: "Eat What You Kill" (Animal Kingdom; Season 2, Episode 1)

Last season: Joshua "J" Cody moved in with his grandmother Janine AKA "Smurf" after his mother died of a heroin overdose. He quickly learns his uncles are a robbery crew, headed up by Smurf. J and his uncles robbed Camp Pendleton military base. Craig started having sex with J's 17-year-old ex-girlfriend Nicky. Acting on Mom's orders, Uncle Andrew AKA "Pope" smothered his adopted brother Baz's baby-mama Cath with a pillow. He made it look like Cath left Baz, abandoning their young daughter Lena in the process.

We see Smurf wake up and grope around on her nightstand for last night's leftover vodka cranberry with a twist of lime. Elsewhere, Deran and Craig roar under an overpass on their ATVs (or four-wheelers, as they call them in my neck of the woods). Pope climbs up a nearby roof and cuts the padlock on the access hatch. Baz seems to be following a tour group around; the doors on the freight elevator read ANGEL CITY BREWERY. J is in the truck parked outside.

Watching Smurf put on her makeup, I can't help but think of one of my favorite Disney songs "Perfect Isn't Easy" from Oliver & Company. In her silk robe, Ellen Barkin perfectly channels the poodle who sings the song in the movie. But I digress.

Pope sneaks into the brewery and cuts off the security cameras. Baz and the tour group are off to do a beer tasting. He waits until they all move on, then meets up with Pope, who'd been crouched on the stairs. They go to a makeshift office and strap a safe onto a dolly.

Craig and Deran park their ATVs, the former shimmying up a ladder to open a grate. He passes Baz a black duffel bag full of tools. J sees a delivery truck pull up to one of the brewery's service entrances. He immediately texts his uncles to sound the alarm, then opens the console, where he's stashed his gun. To create a less lethal diversion, J drops two lit road flares into nearby dumpsters.

The delivery driver spots the flames and activates the fire alarm. We hear sirens racing toward the scene. J coolly drives away in the truck. Pope and Baz lower the safe through the manhole on a winch. Craig and Deran load the safe onto a trailer hooked up to one of the ATVs.

At home, Smurf is still primping in front of the mirror.

J puts dummy plates on the truck, along with magnetic signs from the LA Division of Water and Power. He drives through a fence to rendezvous with the others. A homeless man appears in the tunnel with his shopping cart. When Deran swerves to avoid a deadly collision, the ATV tips over. The trailer and safe also thud to the ground. Craig and Baz hastily right the ATV.

The four head for the truck, Pope riding tandem with Deran and Baz sitting behind Craig. They load the safe into the truck bed and toss a blanket over it. Deran and Craig ride away on their ATVs; Pope and Baz stay in the truck with J.

While Pope cracks the safe, Craig chugs some tequila, laughing to himself. Deran grabs the bottle and pissily asks what's so funny. "You remember when you and Pope duct taped this to that shopping cart when we were kids with the Roman candles on the side? Sent it down Quarry Hill?" asks Craig, "I still have a scar on my ass from when I bounced out of it." "You got off easy, man. I went off the cliff in that thing," says Deran, "I hit the lake like cement."

Pope tugs on the safe's handle. The fruits of the boys' labor look more like the inside of Al Capone's vault.

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 "Oh, you gotta be shitting me," says Baz, looking at two small piles of money. Pope grips his head; he can't believe it either. In a fit of temper, Deran smashes the tequila bottle.

When the boys get home, Smurf is dishing out the traditional post-heist snack of apple pie. Baz drops their tiny haul on the counter. Deran, sporting a wicked scrape on his cheek, cracks a beer.

The Codys assemble in the living room to debrief Smurf. Deran slumps on the couch, holding an ice pack on his face. Pope deliberately sits with his back to Smurf. No one saw them at the brewery, which, according to Baz is "the only thing about the job that went right." Smurf praises J for his quick thinking in starting the fire.

"We're all okay, by the way," grumbles Pope. Deran thought there was supposed to be more money "north of 90 grand." Smurf flares her nostrils and breathes hard, staring them down. When she finally speaks, she says, "Let's go eat that pie." Pope is quietly incredulous: "We risked our lives for $500 and all she can talk about is pie." Deran gripes that $500 would've at least been an even split.

Pope wants Smurf to explain herself; they all pitched her other ideas for jobs and she shot them down. "One job goes wrong and you're all whining like a bunch of spoiled brats!" says Smurf. (It could be argued that they're all overgrown brats, but anyway..) "What about the jobs that raised you all your lives?"

The boys are still living off their respective cuts of Pendleton. Craig argues Baz is the one who planned that job. Pope says acidly, "Why don't you have another drink, Smurf? I wonder how many cocktails she had when she had the brilliant idea for us to hit a brewery." Smurf looks like she wants to slap him.

Instead, Smurf says, "Maybe it was your fault." They're the ones who thought no one used the northeast gate. Pope says no one did during their weeks of scouting. Do they even know they took the right safe? Yes, and it only had $3,000 in it.

Deran (correctly) accuses Smurf of trying to pit them all against each other. She steps in front of her youngest and starts shouting at him. Baz tries to get her to calm down (yeah, good luck). Smurf rounds on him: "I have to go pick up your kid at school...unless it was something you were planning on doing." Baz doesn't try to stop her, even though she's obviously drunk.

With Mom gone, the boys have a powwow out by the pool. "Why are we still letting her run shit?" Deran demands, "We should just kick her to the curb, man. We're not 12 anymore." Baz thinks Deran is making empty threats; last time he was that pissed, he disappeared to Belize for a few weeks and came right back home.

Pope says, "She doesn't give a shit about any of us. We know it; that's the most pathetic part." She just uses them. He's right, of course, but J gives Smurf the benefit of the doubt. Baz understands they're all pissed, but suggests they talk to her "calmly and with respect" about changing how they operate.

Pope has had enough of their mom's bullshit and will pull solo jobs if he has to. The others agree to talk to Smurf. Craig will go "surf it off" with Deran until Mom gets home.

At a seedy bar, Deran locks eyes with a topless wooden mermaid. A black woman sits next to him. Deran slaps a rubber-banded pack of cash onto the bar, $34,000 in all. He asks for more time; he can get the rest. "I wanna help you, kid, but it's gotta be the full 50 or else...there's nothing I can do," she says.

On her way home, Smurf visits Teddy, her inside man on the Angel City job. She wants to know what went wrong: "You said the brewery paid their illegals with cash." That's correct, but payday is the first Thursday of the month and today is Tuesday.

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Smurf dazedly wanders back to the truck.

Pope sits alone in the desert, flashing back to the night he buried Cath. He sifts sand through his fingers, looking mournful.

Back at home, Craig is watching a skateboard competition on TV while J does physics homework. Craig sighs when his phone buzzes: "Not again. How many times do I have to say the flu?" We see the conversation he's having. Nicky texted, 'Puking too?' Craig replies, 'Yeah, the whole deal.' 

Deran arrives and asks where Pope is. "If he shows, he shows. We don't need him," says Baz. Smurf comes in with Lena. The little girl asks if they can go to the park like Baz promised. Baz tells her to go in the other room and watch cartoons.

Smurf pours herself another vodka cranberry and sits at the table with them. Baz tells her Pope is out "buying a lamp or something" for his new place. He apologizes for the way they all acted earlier: "Who's to blame shouldn't be the point here."

Baz politely tells Smurf they want more say in choosing jobs, pointing out the obvious: "We're not kids anymore; we're grown men here." "Oh, I'm the boss, all right," she counters. Have they all been conspiring against her while she was out? If Smurf wasn't the boss, the three older men would "be in prison right now, or worse."

Smurf recites a litany of terrible things that could've happened had she not intervened: When Baz was younger, Smurf had to bribe a cop to get him out of a jam involving an ATM robbery. Deran got involved with the Hells Angels, shit went wrong, and the bikers "thought [you'd] do better without a tongue." She reminds middle child Craig of last season's naked chair-pissing incident.

Smurf angrily pounds on the table. Baz plays diplomat; they're being honest with her out of respect. They're the ones who take all the risks, so they should get a say in the jobs they pull. It's also unfair that Smurf decides the split.

Smurf lays even more guilt on her adopted son: "When you first showed up at my house, you hadn't eaten a meal in a week! It took me three months to get that lice out of your hair!" Baz yells back, "And not a day goes by you don't throw that in my face! How long exactly do I have to keep kissing your ass for?" "For the rest of your goddamn life," growls Smurf.

Baz adds that "Pope's not even here 'cause he can't stand the sight of you." He's also the person who tries to convince Smurf's biological children "that you're not the cold-hearted bitch you seem to be." Baz leaves the kitchen, followed by Deran with Craig on his heels. Throughout the argument, J has stayed in place and not said a word.

Smurf tells them to go ahead. She'll see how long they last without her. J watches as his grandmother's eyes fill with tears.

Craig snorts a line while Deran drives along in his Scout. The youngest Cody will never forget the look on their mom's face when they walked out on her. Craig thumps the dashboard with his fist and laughs, "No more sucking Mommy's dick!" Closeted Deran lets that pass without comment.

Deran tells Craig not to get his hopes up about everyone getting equal shares; Baz and Pope will be just as bad as Smurf. "We're just grunts to them." They need to come up with their own ideas, like a yacht job Deran's been contemplating.

"We also need to get J involved," says Deran, "Say what you want, the kid's got balls." J has to be confused after watching the fight; it'd be easy to get in his head. Craig asks how they can pull that off. Deran has the novel idea of being nice to J.

Baz tells Pope he should've come to the family meeting. Pope doesn't think that would've changed anything; in fact, it would've gone worse. "Unless you were gonna stab her in the face, it's hard to imagine," says Baz. Oh, don't tempt him.

They sit down at a bar and order beers. Baz has an idea for their next job: New Canticle, a local megachurch. They'll have J help "if he's willing to piss off Grandma." However it goes down, they have to give Smurf a cut. "She's got her building; she's not gonna starve," says Pope, adding, "I wouldn't give a shit if she did starve." He flat out refuses to pay her. Pope goes so far as to wish Smurf had "dropped me and Julia off at a firehouse door the day she had us."

At a gas station, Craig leans against Deran's truck, texting away. Deran comes out of the convenience store and puts something in the cooler. "The kid broke up with her. Why can't you?" he asks his older brother. Craig wants to keep her close because her dad helped them rip off Camp Pendleton.

Deran asks if Craig filled the gas tank. Nope, Craig's credit card got declined. Deran says, "So you've just been standing here not pumping gas?" Uh, pretty much. Deran tries his card, wondering if Craig forgot to pay the bill. Craig says that's Smurf's job. Deran's card works and he wants to pull a job before it doesn't anymore.

"Don't you have to get Lena?" Pope asks when Baz orders another round of beer. Baz shrugs, "It's not even late." Besides, babysitting is a good distraction for Smurf. Baz has still been seeing Lucy, his Tijuana mistress. Lucy doesn't know Cath left because "she'd be up here with a U-Haul in two minutes."

Baz is lonely and horny. He wants to try picking up the blond woman who's been eyeing him; Pope could flirt with her dark-haired friend. Pope declines and leaves the bar. Next thing we know, Baz is at the blond's house; she's rather enthusiastically having sex with him.

Smurf pulls up to the garage in her sports car. She lets Lena out of the backseat and tells her to go inside and get their movie ready. A man in his twenties or thirties is standing behind Smurf: "Manny said you'd still look good. You recognize me? I'm all grown." The guy, Javi, has left her 10 messages.

Javi wants to take Smurf to see Manny (whoever he is). Smurf invites Javi into the garage for a beer. When she opens the refrigerator, we see a pearl-handled revolver taped to the back of the milk carton. Smurf makes it plain Manny isn't getting more money from her; their deal is $5,000 a month like always.

"He's dying," Javi informs her. He's parked up the block. Smurf tells Javi he has another thing coming: "You don't hop my fence and tell me to get in a car." Javi more or less orders her to say goodbye to Manny. She will, but on her own terms.

When it seems a kidnapping might be impending, Smurf opens the fridge and reaches for the milk. Javi asks if Smurf sings Lena to sleep the way she used to with him. He walks away, adding, "You won't need that gun."

Deran parks the Scout by the bar he visited earlier. Craig asks if they're robbing it for termites. Deran scoffs that they aren't casing the joint. The bar's owner just died and the widow doesn't want the place. Deran needs cash to buy it. Craig immediately spots a problem with the place: "You can't even see the 'open' sign."

J leaves his bike outside, entering the house through the sliding glass door. Smurf is drinking again. "Can I still live here?" J asks. Smurf replies warmly, "Of course, baby." J is sure his uncles didn't mean half of what they said earlier. Smurf doesn't have a problem if he wants to do jobs with them, "but you can't be a spy if you want them to trust you. Or at least, you can't have them think you're one."

Smurf has a present for her favorite grandson: a credit card with no limit. "I trust you'll be responsible," she smiles. J doesn't know what to say other than thanks. When he moved in with Smurf, all he had was a backpack full of worn-out clothes, an old bike, and sneakers with holes in them.

Baz lies flat on his back in the woman's bed, alone. He pulls on his jeans and walks toward the sound of the running shower. When the blond realizes he's there, she clamps her arms over her bare breasts. Baz is hungry and suggests they go out to eat together. The woman rudely declines and tells him to let her shower in peace. Baz goes back to sit on her bed, clearly depressed.

Nicky power-walks toward Craig's place and starts banging on the door. Annoyed, he comes out of his room, pulling a shirt over his head. When he answers, Nicky pushes her way in, talking a mile a minute. She just had "an epic fight" with her parents because "Guam is really happening." She's been texting him about it.

Craig lies that he's been sleeping. Nicky's dad has accepted a new job running the sewage-treatment plant at a Navy base in Guam and wants the whole family to go with him. Craig gives her some advice: "Tell your dad to eat a bag of dicks and Guam can kiss your ass."

Nicky starts looking through the cabinets: "Do you have any tequila or coke? I'll take any altered state I can get right now." Craig keeps up his I-have-the-flu story; the doctor said he's still contagious. Nicky offers to heat up some of the soup she brought over. "I don't wanna get you sick," says Craig. Nicky asks him to text when he feels better and gives him a kiss.

When Nicky's gone, Craig takes the container of soup into his room and flops onto the bed. "Who was that?" asks the naked woman next to him. Craig says, "My nephew's girlfriend. You want soup?"

In her room, Smurf is wearing pajamas and smoking a joint while she plays checkers with Lena. Enter Baz. "I told you your daddy would come back...eventually," says Smurf. Baz apologizes for not telling her he'd be gone all night. Smurf sends Lena to pack up her overnight bag.

Baz lets his adoptive mom know she'll still get a 10% cut of their jobs. Smurf scoffs she hasn't needed anyone to take care of her since she was 11. Baz thinks it's the right thing to do "'cause you always took care of me." "You bet I did," says Smurf.

Before she can reiterate how much Baz owes her, Lena comes in, looking for her stuffed animal. Smurf thinks Tigey is by the pool; she'll help her look.

J rides his bike out of the garage, eating a cereal bar. When the gate opens, Deran is waiting for him. He tells the kid they're all going to Baz's to plan some things. J can't; it's a school day. Deran doesn't think it'll hurt to miss a day. Doesn't J want to be part of the robbery crew? He and Craig think he should be.

J relents. Deran puts his bike in the bed of the truck, saying, "I never went to school." "I can tell, man," J sasses.

In Baz's kitchen, Deran lays out his plan for robbing a wedding on a yacht. They'll wait until it's out at sea, "shake down the guests, kill the engine." Baz doesn't see how they can case it. Pope worries more about making a clean getaway in the middle of the ocean.

Baz wants to move ahead with New Canticle, like they were going to two years prior. Pope jabs at Deran, "Unless one camera and a fat guy is too much security for you." Craig breezes in through the sliding door, asking what he missed.

"These guys wanna hit a church. New Canticle," Deran tells them. Craig doesn't like the idea; it's too close to home. Besides, "ripping off a church? What kinda shit karma is that gonna be?" If Craig Cody thinks your plan is immoral, you really need to check yourself. Baz thinks it's a little late for any of them to worry about karma.

Lena interrupts, bringing Baz a picture she drew. Baz tells her to draw another. Lena asks if they can go to the beach, a reasonable request considering it's just across the street. Baz tells her no.

Deran wants to take a vote, megachurch vs. yacht: "J can be the swing." Everyone vehemently disagrees with that. Craig thought equal votes and shares was the new plan. Well, it's kinda hard to have equal votes when there's an odd number of people on your robbery crew.

Deran points at Baz and Pope: "Are you guys gonna be the tiebreaker?" Are they gonna change the rules on even splits too? In a word, yes. Pope feels if someone does more planning or takes more of the risk, they should get a bigger share. They argue about the finer points, like who gets to decide or what if not everyone is involved in the job.

"Daddy?" says Lena. Baz screams, "What?! Lena, how many times do I have to tell you? No beach today, not happening." Lena doesn't cry, but it's obvious she's stunned and hurt. Uncle Pope steps in; he'll take her if Baz says it's okay. Baz agrees; he clearly just wants the kid out of his hair.

Baz dismisses everyone but J. Baz knows everyone thinks it was smart of J to start a fire, "but I think bringing cops to the scene really screwed us." I don't know how things work in Los Angeles, but here in the South, PD doesn't roll with FD without a reason. Being lookout just means observing. J says, "Next time you're about to get caught, I'll just stay in the truck, right?"

Pope stands on the outskirts of the beach playground, watching the kids on the swings. One of the moms approaches Pope: "Your daughter's an expert. It's been, what, like an hour?" Pope asks if another kid on the swings is the woman's son: "He's--he's really good at that."

Playground Mom defies all parenting logic by asking this perfect stranger, "Could you watch him for a second? I just have to change the baby. I left the wipes in the car." Pope can do that, sure.

Still in her PJs, Smurf wraps up five slices of untouched pie. She sighs, holding back tears. Smurf opens the fridge and takes out several big packages of meat.

Lucy meets up with Baz at a bar, impressed that they're being so public: "What if Cath walks in with the guy she's cheating on you with?" Baz doesn't think she's coming back and he wouldn't take her back even if she did. How about they go back to his place? "Am I supposed to just jump at the chance?" asks Lucy, raising her eyebrows, "Is Cath's stuff still at your house?" She'll think about coming over once it's gone. Baz sighs again as his phone vibrates.

Deran goes to Craig's house and finds his brother snorting lines. "You're not doing that shit," he says firmly, "Stop it!" "Are you kidding me?" Craig yells when Deran knocks his mirror over. Deran thought Craig was taking a shower so they could talk more about the yacht. "I was gonna!" Craig insists.

"Showing up to Baz's all coked out...it's not a good look," says Deran. I agree. Smurf and the others treat them like kids because Craig makes it easy. "Get your shit together, man! I'm sick of this! Responsibility!" Deran shouts. Not a word the Codys know a lot about, but Craig is pretty out of control.

At the same time, they get texts from Smurf, announcing meat loaf at 7:00. Craig snarks, "Well, better make sure she takes the first bite." (And also that they don't try to steal Pope's portion). This is a very shrewd move on her part. Smurf knows none of them can cook and the way to her sons' hearts is through their stomachs.

Nicky walks in without knocking, declaring, "I told my dad to eat shit. I'm not going anywhere." She plops down on the couch like she belongs there. Deran gives Craig an I-thought-you-two-broke-up look.

The older Cody boys arrive at the compound roughly the same time, even Pope. Baz is surprised he came. "I sorta had to. I've got Lena," says Pope, opening his car's back door. Baz, who clearly forgot about his own kid, mumbles, "Right." "Uncle Pope bought me ice cream," Lena chirps. Baz sends her in to say hi to Smurf.

Later, Lena plays inside while the adults finish dinner. Smurf is glad everyone still likes meatloaf. "I think we all had a pretty tough day yesterday. Now this is a family and that's never gonna change," she says, then calls for a toast, "May we all get what we want..." "...And never what we deserve," the boys chorus.

Smurf eagerly asks about their next plan, but no one answers. She understands the silence and offers help if they need it. Dutiful grandson J will help her serve dessert.

Elsewhere, a home health nurse changes an IV bag. She tells Javi, "He started screaming again. I upped the morphine on his drip." She steps out for a smoke. The bedside table is littered with prescription bottles. There's also a tape recorder and a small collection of tapes.

Pope stays outside at the table while the others help Smurf wrap up the leftovers. I'm surprised there are any with that crew. Baz comes out to take Lena home and thanks Pope for watching her. J goes to collect the rest of the dishes. Pope whispers in his ear, "Just be careful, man, okay?" J watches for a long minute as Smurf opens a fresh bottle of vodka. End of episode.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"

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Ever since I saw the first trailer, I've been eagerly anticipating this movie for two reasons. The first being my longtime crush on the crown prince of Charming, Charlie Hunnam. The second reason was its release date: May 12th, the day I would graduate with my RN degree. Watching shirtless Charlie bare-knuckle box and sword fight was my graduation gift to myself.

Guy Ritchie, director of the Robert Downey Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes, took a lot of poetic license with the original King Arthur story. I don't remember a morbidly obese octopus woman demanding human sacrifices in exchange for magical intervention. Merlin is conspicuously absent. Instead of noble knights, Charlie Hunnam's companions are a group of peasant misfits.

The plot itself borrows heavily from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Arthur was born the son of King Uther (how's that for a confusing name pair?). Uther's brother Vortigern (Jude Law) wanted the throne for himself and dabbled in black magic. When Arthur was a child, Vortigern murdered his parents.

Set adrift in a rowboat, young Arthur is found and taken in by a group of women who live and work in a brothel. Arthur starts off with simple chores like sweeping the floors and pouring drinks. By the time he's a teenager, he graduates to bouncing unruly customers who refuse to pay or beat up the girls.

Arthur is eventually captured and taken by boat to Vortigern's remote castle, along with dozens of other young men. Vortigern is desperately searching for the Born King, the only one who can pull the enchanted sword Excalibur from the stone and then challenge his rule. As anyone who's heard the original legend knows, the Born King is Arthur.

A further plot twist involves Excalibur itself. The sword possesses magical energy, which Arthur must learn to control. Helping him with this task is a hauntingly beautiful woman known only as The Mage. Arthur at first has no interest in power, but eventually accepts his destiny. The movie avoids the cliche of having Arthur fall in love with The Mage. According to legend, his one true love is Guinevere, a character who's also not in this version.

The writing, sense of humor, and even the score is much the same as Sherlock Holmes. The special effects and fight sequences are impressive. I had a small quibble with the way it was filmed, however. I saw a 2-D screening and it was glaringly obvious (sometimes to the point of distraction) which portions were meant to be in 3-D. The pacing could've been done better. The first 20-30 minutes are slow and contain almost no dialogue, which made me fear I made a terrible mistake deciding to watch it.

Is this movie as good as Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes? Not even close. Were the trailers misleading about the amount of shirtless Charlie Hunnam? A little. Is watching him kick ass with his sword and bare hands an entertaining way to spend two hours? Absolutely.

"I'm all about the chivalry, darlin'."
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Friday, April 7, 2017

Top 10 Quotes: "A Goofy Movie"

On this day in 1995, Disney released one of its most underrated animated movies. Catchy tunes like "Stand Out" and "After Today" make this a road trip you'll want to take again and again. It's tough to be cool when your dad is Goofy.

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1. Goofy: Hey, Maxie, let's play a game. You think of a name and I'll try and guess who it is. Man or woman?
Max: (groaning) Aw man.
Goofy: Man, huh? That's a toughie. Let's see...Walt Disney!
Max: (dully) Right.

2. Max: (increasingly nervous when Roxanne's hulking dad answers the door) Hi. Is Roxanne home? Oh, my name is Max. Does Roxanne live here? Does she even live on this block?

3. Goofy: There'll be plenty of time for parties when you're older, Maxie. Why, when I was your age, I'd never even been invited to a party. And look at me now!

4. Bobby: Look! It's the Leaning Tower of Cheese-a!

5. Pete: Taking a break from the MTV generation, huh? Can't say as I blame you. (jumps in the hot tub and half the water sloshes out) People are always puttin' too much water in these things.

6. Max: This is the stupidest vacation! You drag me from home and jam me in this dumb car and drive me a million miles away to see some stupid rat show!

7. Goofy: (trying to guilt Max after his initial refusal to go on the trip) All right then. Guess I'll just have to go all alone, that's all. Just sit in the boat...all alone. And talk to myself. All alone.
Max: (brightly) I guess so!

8. Pete: If you keep 'em under your thumb, they'll never end up in the gutter.

9. Max: (singing) Can someone call a taxi
And get me outta here
To Beverly Hills, 90210?

10. Goofy: (singing) Who deserves a hero's trophy
As we face each cat-a-strophe
Nobody else but you

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bates Motel: "Hidden"/"Dreams Die First"

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"Hidden" opens with the immediate aftermath of Caleb vs. car. Norman, of all people, wants to call the police; this was just a nasty accident and nobody can be prosecuted. Chick begs to differ. They can't explain away the handcuff bruise on Caleb's wrist or his partly-healed head wound. Chick tosses Caleb's body in his trunk and later strips him naked and gives him a Viking funeral out at the lake. Community-minded Norman tosses Caleb's clothes in a local Goodwill bin (after laundering out the blood, of course).

Norman gives some of Mother's old dresses to Madeline from the hardware store (creepy). In turn, she invites Norman over for dinner while her husband is out of town. When they finish eating, Madeline suggests they bake a cake and watch movies. This escalates to making out in her kitchen. Norman, of course, reacts by running out of there like his ass is on fire. It's not because Madeline's a married woman and this is adultery; no, it's because Mother wouldn't like this one bit.

There's also a new sheriff in town and she seems to find something suspicious about Norman. Romero is still hitchhiking his way to White Pine Bay to murder Norman.

Confession: Not only am I remiss in watching the first 4 seasons of Bates Motel, I also have never seen the original version of Psycho. I can't really comment on how true the next episode "Dreams Die First" is to the source material. All I know is that Rihanna's character Marion becomes the victim of the eventual gruesome shower scene. She's also the woman Madeline's husband brought to the motel.

Marion wants to be promoted at her job, which her boss can't do because she doesn't have a college degree. Her lover Sam is deeply in debt, prompting to Marion to leave town with a briefcase full of cash and instructions to meet Sam in White Pine Bay. Marion gets caught in a vicious thunderstorm. The episode ends with her pulling up to the infamous Bates Motel.

In between, there's a side trip to Seattle. Dylan seems to be feeling just slightly guilty about throwing his dad out. He also confesses to Emma that earrings she wears once belonged to Norma. Dylan is worried that Norma could've hurt their mom. (Boy, is he in for nasty surprises if he goes to investigate).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Strike Team Covers "The Spread"

Posting this in honor of the 15th anniversary of The Shield's debut.

Previously on: Vic Mackey, commander of the elite Strike Team, killed the team's rookie Terry Crowley in cold blood. Terry had been planted there to investigate some of Vic's shady tactics. Captain Edgar-veda is working overtime to prove that Vic did it, but with no success, even after grilling Vic's right-hand man Shane. Vic also seems to have an unusually close relationship with an informant, a junkie prostitute named Connie. He even buys her drugs.

Present. Captain Edgar-veda is at the podium in the roll call room, announcing that it's warrant sweep day. Everyone present groans. Each officer has been assigned a list of suspects; word spreads fast on the street, so he estimates they have 3-4 hours to round everyone up. Vic watches the proceedings from upstairs, shooting people with a squirt gun that looks very much like a police-issue 9 mm. Suspects are assigned randomly, meaning a lot of extra driving for the uniforms. Danny looks through her stack and asks if anyone's willing to trade her an Echo Park for Koreatown.

Vic comes downstairs and sees Danny has been assigned a suspect named Virgil. During their last encounter, he swung at Vic in front of a bunch of kids. Vic'll take this warrant. Shane lets Vic know he has a visitor waiting in the lobby. Lem takes the squirt gun from Vic and fires it, shouting, "Police! Freeze, suckers!"

Connie is sitting on what looks like a pew. What is it with these cop shows and deconsecrated churches? Connie is crying. Vic takes her to the Strike Team's clubhouse. Connie tells Vic that one of her johns had a knife, Vic wants to see the damage. He pushes back her hair and helps her take off her faux-leather jacket. There's a cut from one side of Connie's neck to the middle of her back. One of her wrists is bruised. In addition, the john hit Connie and tried to rape her. Connie wrote part of the john's license plate on her hand. With what, I wonder? Vic brings Connie to Dutch, then asks him to take her to the hospital.

Vic and the Strike Team kick in the door of an apartment where a Virgil and a friend are smoking weed, drinking, and listening to loud rap. A third guy wanders out of the bathroom, asking who turned off the music. Lem instantly recognizes him as Derrick Tripp, a pro basketball player for the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers are playing a home game against New Jersey that night. "You miss the exit for the Staples Center, Derrick?" Vic asks. He reminds him that marijuana is illegal. When Vic pats Derrick down, he finds a gun in the back of his waistband. Derrick claims he has a permit, but darn it all, he left it back in New Jersey.

Vic tells the guys to take the rest of their suspects back to the precinct. Shane thinks it's gonna be a circus when they bring Derrick in. Vic notices a sign across the street advertising furnished apartments for rent. Derrick is always tough when he plays against the Lakers. "How'd you like to change the course of sports history?" asks Vic.

The landlord wants to know what the Strike Team needs an apartment for. Vic explains they're conducting surveillance on the building across the street; they'll be out by tonight. "You gonna break anything? It's a bitch to collect from the city, you know," says the landlord. Vic promises they'll be extra careful. The landlord tells Vic to put the keys in the mailbox when he leaves.

Shane brings in Derrick, who wants to know what the hell is going on. Vic says they're doing him a favor by keeping him out of the limelight. He wants to know if Derrick really did a sneaker commercial in one take. Presumably it involved a slam dunk because Shane thinks "that was some CGI mojo." Derrick is worried about losing sponsors because his contract has a morals clause. Vic will see what he can do about making this go away. He pulls out his phone, pretending he's calling his captain. However, he's really calling his wife.

Vic tells her he just arrested Derrick Tripp on weapons charges. Vic's wife reminds him that they have a parent-teacher conference with their son's teacher that night. Should she bring a change of clothes to work for him? Vic says that would help and Lem has the address. Vic hangs up and turns to Derrick. The captain is a big fan and will be coming down personally to make the charges disappear. Shane smiles and whispers to Vic that he's nuts. Vic thinks that without Derrick's outside shot, the Lakers can't lose. Shane better call his bookie.

Vic talks about Derrick getting mouthy with a ref the season before. "That call was weak," complains Derrick. It looked like a foul to Shane. Lem and Ronnie return with pizzas and 4 basketballs. Lem hands Derrick a Sharpie for an autograph. Vic assures the athlete that the captain will be here any minute. Derrick doesn't usually sign for free; in fact, he charges $150. Vic thinks that's understandable: "A lot of people send their kids up to score. 'Oh, Derrick, please sign this for me.' Then Daddy turns around and scalps it on the Internet." Vic asks Derrick to make out one of the autographs for his son Matt.

Shane thinks it's weak that a guy who makes $15 million a year charges for autographs. Derrick says it's nowhere close to that after taxes, his agent, publicists, managers, etc. Shane guesses that probably still leaves him with $6 million. Must be so hard to live on that. Lem and Ronnie don't notice the tension; they're too busy eating the pizza.

Shane tells Vic that he got Lem and Ronnie in on the action with his bookie. Vic is gonna pass; it's not about the money, it's about Lakers home court advantage for the playoffs. Shane is surprised Derrick can even sign his own name. "What do you care?" asks Vic. Shane wants to know what they're supposed to do about the rest of their warrants. Vic swears he took care of it.

Back at the precinct, a sweaty, puke-covered junkie pushes his way to the front of a long line. He tells the desk sergeant that Vic told him to turn himself in. Nathan the desk sergeant wrinkles his nose: "Line forms over there." Sergeant Nathan gripes to Edgar-veda that he's one guy doing a two-person job. Edgar-veda butters him up; he wouldn't have scheduled warrant sweeps today without his Most Valuable Policeman on duty. An attractive black woman in a business suit arrives, introducing herself as Marsha, Derrick's attorney.

Meanwhile, Claudette hasn't been able to find any other reports of prostitutes being raped at knife point. The partial plate Connie gave them had 600 possible matches. Dutch reports that hooker murders are up on the East Side and the last few had similarities. He's been studying murders in the whole city because "you never know when a disturbing pattern's going to emerge." Claudette thinks she's witnessing a disturbing pattern right now.

Dutch lays several crime scene photos on his partner's desk, all of prostitute murders: one beaten with a pipe, one strangled by hand, and one choked with a rope. Different locations and weapons each time, but each woman was found facedown. "You're stretching, son. Try yoga," says Claudette. Dutch speculates that Connie was meant to be the killer's fourth victim, but she got away. He's taking the information to Edgar-veda and asking for a task force. Claudette warns that he'll just say no. And Claudette is right. Dutch has another strategy: find Connie's attacker and tie him to the other murders.

Danny and Julien bring in a Latino suspect with curly hair. The guy knows he's seen Julien before, hanging around someplace called the Abbey in West Hollywood: "How come you never come in? It's fun." Julien tells the guy he's mistaken.

Connie paces in front of a computer, where Claudette is clicking through mug shots. She whines, "Why can't Vic take care of this?" I'm sure Claudette wishes he would. Connie suddenly recognizes one of the men and points to the mug shot. Claudette clicks on the picture; their suspect is William Greeley. He's only been arrested once for trespassing on federal property as part of an environmental protest. The charge was later dropped.

When Claudette leaves to call for a warrant, Dutch asks about Connie's relationship with Vic. She says they "have a bond that transcends sex." Okie-dokie, whatever that means.

Dutch, Claudette, and a bunch of uniforms raid Greeley's house. They find their illustrious environmentalist au naturale on his couch. Claudette advises him to put some clothes on. In the kitchen, the old-fashioned refrigerator is held shut with a padlock. Dutch calls for bolt cutters, wondering how many heads he'll find in there. When Dutch cuts the lock, he doesn't find heads or other body parts to speak of, just a lot of unlabeled glass jars filled with...something. Dutch doesn't think it looks like mayonnaise. He uncaps a jar and lifts it toward his nose.

From the other room, Greeley shouts, "You keep away from my children!" Alarmed, Dutch drops the jar and it shatters on the floor. Danny and Claudette immediately nope their way out of the kitchen.

Vic goes back to the precinct to meet his wife. Edgar-veda and Derrick's attorney Marsha want a word with him because Derrick was last seen in Vic's custody. Vic explains that Derrick happened to be hanging out with some people who had warrants out. The drugs on scene weren't Derrick's, so he was free to go. Marsha hasn't heard from Derrick all day and neither has anyone else in his inner circle. Vic plays dumb. Connie is back from the hospital. She's Jonesing and edgy; the other detectives won't let her leave. Vic tells her to just chill out.

In interrogation, Greeley insists he'd never hurt anybody. He quit his job as actuary 6 months ago, but has hobbies to occupy his time. Dutch deadpans, "I know. Nice sperm collection." Greeley beams and says, "Thank you."

Back at the apartment, Lem is lying on the couch after gorging himself on pizza, the bottom half of his shirt unbuttoned. Derrick asks again where the captain is. Shane promises he'll be there within an hour. Derrick wants to leave since the charges are getting dropped anyway; he'll leave the captain some tickets at will-call.

You see, Derrick has an important meeting with "one of my little L.A. honeys I bang when I'm in town." Shane thinks she might prefer conjugal visits. "Hey, bring her on down here, man. There's a bedroom," Lem suggests cheerfully. Shane gives him a shut-up-you're-not-helping look. Derrick guesses the place'll do since the girl didn't have a problem with sex in the men's room at Spago's. "Oh, you're a real classy guy," says Shane. For once, I agree with him! Lem helpfully tosses Derrick his cell phone to make his booty call. To protect and serve...

At the precinct, Claudette asks where Greeley was the night before. Greeley basically has no alibi; he lives alone and can't remember whether or not he went out. Dutch asks where Greeley was on December 15th and February 5th, but Greeley can't remember that either. Dutch asks if he knows Kitty Weir or Rosita Pedroza. Greeley doesn't and insists he'd never kill anyone because he's pro-life. So are the people who firebomb abortion clinics during business hours.

Outside, Claudette tells Dutch to rein it in. Dutch opines Greeley is a freak "straight out of an FBI textbook." Claudette doesn't necessarily disagree, but they had planned to use Connie's assault as a building block for the murder cases. Dutch knows Greeley wants to talk. Vic, watching from a doorway, reminds Dutch, "I asked you to find Connie's john, not Jack the Ripper." He wants to jog Greeley's memory, but Claudette says no way. Trick me once, shame on you.

Downstairs, Vic tells Connie that her john's been arrested. She wants to watch the ass-kicking, but she'll have to settle for jail time. Vic offers to let her lie down on the Strike Team's couch. "I can't lie down!" Connie says loudly, attracting the attention of everyone in the squadroom. Edgar-veda looms behind them. Vic manages to herd Connie into the Strike Team's lounge just as his wife arrives, duffle bag and their young son in tow. He quietly promises to take care of Connie's "need."

Vic's greeting of "Hey, hon" is rather strained. His son, Matthew, jumps into his arms. His wife has seen Connie, so Vic says Connie is just part of a case he's working on. Vic's wife hands over the bag. She has to leave now to take Matthew on a playdate. Vic thanks her for the "fresh cape," presumably because Matt thinks he's a superhero---awww.

And the kid isn't far off.
(Photo credit).
Meanwhile, somebody knocks on the apartment door. A tall, thin blond with big boobs is on the other side of it. She's wearing a low-cut crop top, a belly chain, and painted-on jeans. She asks if Derrick is around. Derrick comes out of the bedroom and more or less immediately puts his tongue down her throat. Shane is disgusted: "Oh, save it for Spago's." The blond wraps a leg around Derrick, all but humping him in front of 3 strangers. Lem snaps out of his pizza coma to sit up and watch intently.

The girl goes into the bedroom first. Lem wastes no time in exclaiming about how hot she is. Derrick scoffs: "Adriana's a...par." He has a groupie in Seattle who's a birdie. Shane opines both Adriana and Miss Seattle have probably slept with half the league. Derrick hopes they all have earplugs 'cause "he's going in." Just in case nobody at home understood the meaning of that, Derrick adds an obscene gesture. When he closes the bedroom door, Shane mockingly repeats the gesture.

At an apartment complex, Danny and Julien head to their car after unsuccessfully trying to serve a warrant. An older Latina with her hair in curlers flags them down, talking rapidly in Spanish. I took two semesters of it and all I can get out of what she's saying is "music." I guess she's complaining about a loud neighbor. The neighbor in question is their suspect Ricky Harris. Danny gives the woman her business card and in Spanish tells her to call when Ricky comes home.

In the precinct, the Hispanic guy seen earlier continues to harass Julien from the holding cell. He's not a bad person; he just passed a bad check. The warrant is a mistake because he paid the fine and got a suspended sentence. All Julien has to do is call Curly's legal aid lawyer. Curly gets right up to the chainlink of the holding cell, insisting he doesn't belong in here with all these criminals. Danny smacks her nightstick against the fence as a warning to get back.

Upstairs, Greeley is repeating he'd never rape anyone and has never used the services of a prostitute. He doesn't have to because women need him for survival of the species. He explains why men are attracted to large breasts (better for feeding babies) and adds that women respond to his, um, "assets." Claudette saw him naked and wasn't impressed. Greeley tells her penis size is overrated; testicles are "the true seed of male virility." Oh boy, somebody get this guy a seat on Dr. Ruth.

Claudette goes out of the room and gets more background from her partner. Dutch talked to one of Greeley's old girlfriends. Our sperm collecting pal has a temper and an inoperable brain tumor, a lovely combination. None of which explains why he dumps the bodies facedown. Claudette tells Dutch forget about making a name for himself as a serial killer hunter; they have to corroborate Connie's story. "He wants to tell us," Dutch repeats. Everybody's a broken record today.

Outside the apartment where Derrick is stashed, Vic has just gotten a cell phone call. He answers, irritated, asking why Shane couldn't wait. "Listen to this crap," Shane snaps, holding the phone toward the bedroom. Vic is treated to a series of loud sex noises. He thinks it's funny. Shane doesn't share in his amusement. Derrick asks Shane to call the captain again. Shane looks like he'll go nuts if he hears that question again. I just might too. According to Shane, the only reason Derrick still has teeth is the money he'll be winning on the game.

As Vic hangs up, he hears a woman scream. This time, it's not in the throes of passion. It's terrified, pleading. Vic's cop instincts kick in and he races toward the sound. In what I swear is the same apartment block from the first Karate Kid, a crying woman is pleading with a man to give her baby Evan back. A neighbor shouts that the baby daddy is a crankhead. Well, that's super not-good. Neighbors all over are standing outside watching, but nobody seems to have the courage to step in.

Vic asks calmly, "Why don't you give me Evan?" Crankhead Daddy shouts that the baby is burning up and needs to be cooled down. Vic lies that he's a doctor. Crankhead Daddy sees through him. Suddenly, Crankhead Daddy jumps over the balcony and into the filthy swimming pool below. Mom, hysterical, runs down the stairs. Vic dives into the water, emerging with Evan, who's scared but still alive. I really hope Vic's tetanus shot is up to date. He hands Evan to his mom. Crankhead Daddy hasn't come up for air yet, so Vic goes back underwater.

At the precinct, Sergeant Nathan praises Vic for saving the baby. Crankhead Daddy is put in a holding cell. I bet Vic is glad he thought of asking his wife for fresh clothes; otherwise he'd be in those wet jeans all day. Connie is still pacing in the clubhouse. Vic gives her a rock of crack that he presumably took off the guy he just arrested. He tells her to blow the smoke out the window. He can't have anybody smelling drugs and getting suspicious.

Derrick and Adriana make out some more before they say goodbye. Shane is glaring at them. "Tell the captain he missed me," says Derrick, hand on the doorknob. Shane asks if one of Derrick's sponsors is Viagra. Lem and Ronnie laugh. Derrick is pissed; he has to go to shoot-around practice at 5:00. Shane tells Derrick that he's not going anywhere and their captain isn't available by phone. Derrick has (finally) figured out that there is no captain. He thinks he gave the guys enough: free autographs and a peep show.

Shane drops the n-bomb. Lem and Ronnie don't look so amused anymore. Derrick grabs Lem's phone to call his lawyer. He threatens that Shane's badge will look good next to his Rookie of the Year trophy. Shane tries to grab the phone, but Derrick won't let go. Ronnie and Lem jump out of their seats to stop the fight.

In the clubhouse, Vic lights up a cigar. Yeah, that'll totally cover up the smell of crack. He exits the room. Edgar-veda tells Vic that Baby Evan will be just fine. However, the captain finds it curious that the baby rescue happened in the same apartment building where Derrick was last seen. Vic shrugs that he lost his wallet during the raid and went back to look for it.

Edgar-veda tells him to put the cigar out. He surmises that the Nets will be hurting without Derrick. Vic explains in graphic terms that Derrick is probably just getting it on with a groupie and lost track of time. Edgar-veda relays this message to Marsha in a much more P.C. statement: "He's probably with a female admirer."

Julien opens the cage. It turns out Curly's warrant really was a mistake. He apologizes for the inconvenience. Curly wants Julien's phone number to "thank" him further.

Meanwhile, Claudette asks Greeley about his sperm collection. "So many people waste it," Greeley sighs. That is disgusting. He explains that his tumor may render him impotent, so he needs to save sperm so he can pass on his "essence." Hasn't this guy ever heard of a sperm bank? Greeley asks Dutch to step out for a minute. Dutch refuses, but Claudette says it's okay.

Edgar-veda advises Danny to apply for a sergeant's position. He'll write her a recommendation if she passes the exam; that way, she'll get a post immediately. He'd like her to be a leader. Danny knows his game: "You mean you'd like to promote a woman." Edgar-veda tells her that it's not how you get there, it's what you do when given the chance. Danny will think about it.

Danny and Julien go back to Ricky Harris's apartment building. She advises him not to get in the habit of doing favors for arrestees. Danny knocks on the door with her nightstick, calling that she has a warrant for Ricky. When she nudges the door open, Ricky is sitting in his living room with a bunch of shady-looking guys who'd be right at home on Sons of Anarchy.

Ricky and friends get belligerent, so Danny calls for backup. One of the guys heads for the couch, the cushions of which are sitting suspiciously high. Danny warns him that she'll blow his brains out if he moves. She orders the men to the floor. Julien checks under the couch cushions and finds a collection of automatic weapons.

Shane is still roughing up Derrick. The basketball player now has a dirty sock shoved in his mouth (probably Shane's). "What good's your 15 mil now, asshole?" Shane taunts. Lem points out that it's only $6 million. Just then, Vic arrives, demanding to know what they're doing. He knocks the sock out of Derrick's mouth. Cue Derrick screaming that he'll have all their badges: "When you can fill 200,000 seats at $200 a pop, then you'll get the cash and the Grade-A tail. Until then, drag your lily-white ass back home to Simi Valley!"

At this, Shane gets so incensed he draws his gun, informing Derrick that he lives in Hollywood. Vic walks Shane into the bedroom. Shane insists that Derrick needs to learn a lesson. "By doing what? Executing him?" Vic asks, incredulous. Shane gives him a meaningful look: "Well, why not? I mean, isn't that what we do now? We killed...a cop." Shane's eyes go wet at the last sentence. Vic repeats the story he gave Internal Affairs: Lem and Ronnie didn't clear the room, which enabled Two-Time to shoot Terry. He tells Shane to never bring up Terry again.

Back in interrogation, Greeley thinks Dutch could learn a lot from Claudette's maternal nature. Claudette is, in fact, the mother of two adult daughters. One is a teacher and the other is a newspaper reporter. Greeley wonders if Claudette ever thought of having more kids. She chuckles that it would have to be soon. First, she needs a man who's compassionate, responsible, and honest. Talk about 3 strikes with one pitch.

Greeley offers to give Claudette a son. She wants to know where he was last night. Greeley admits to picking up Connie. He got angry and cut her because she tried to make him wear a condom. He swears he never used a knife before. Claudette asks how many women there have been. "You'll make 12," he whispers. Greeley is sure his rape victims will forgive him once they're pregnant with his babies. He insists again that he didn't kill any prostitutes or anyone else.

Greeley asks Claudette when they can consummate their relationship. "Oh, that's not gonna happen," says Claudette. He orders Claudette to give him access to her lady parts and tries to grab her skirt. Dutch and Edgar-veda, who've been watching via closed-circuit TV, hurry to the rescue. Claudette has the situation handled via a swift kick to Greeley's crotch. Edgar-veda asks if she's okay. "The bigger they are..." mutters Claudette. Beautiful parting shot!

On their way out of the precinct, Danny tells Dutch about Edgar-veda wanting her to take the sergeant's exam. She's reluctant because she's not a good test taker. She asks if Dutch could be her tutor. Dutch agrees.

Vic pulls up to a corner where a street preacher is probably proclaiming the end of the world. (Again, I can't speak Spanish). Derrick doesn't even know where they are. "Well, that's your problem," shrugs Vic. He asks why Derrick would risk his livelihood to hang out with a bunch of thugs. Derrick says those guys were his friends before he made it big. Vic offers some sound advice: "If they were your boys, pull them up, instead of them letting them drag you down." He tells Derrick he's only a few short subway stops from the Staples Center. As soon as he gets out of Vic's truck, Derrick is mobbed by fans.

Sergeant Nathan goes to Edgar-veda's office to announce he put in his retirement papers. He offers to stay on for 2 more weeks to train his replacement; Sergeant Nathan has a system. Edgar-veda says that won't be necessary. They'll muddle through somehow.

Vic praises Claudette for kicking the pervert's ass. She says they wouldn't have found him if not for Dutch. "But you were the closer," Vic points out.

Julien visits Curly at his apartment and tells him that he isn't gay. Curly wasn't gay either until he admitted it to himself. He strokes Julien's face and invites him in.

Matthew's teacher tells Vic and his wife that she's concerned. Matthew isn't socializing well. Vic says a lot of kids go through a shyness phase and grow out of it. The teacher isn't sure it's that simple. She suggests they take Matthew to a developmental pediatrician or possibly a neurologist.

Vic's drive home is silent except for the radio sports update. The Lakers won the game 101-71, clinching home court advantage in the playoffs: "Derrick Tripp was a no-show after getting stuck in traffic returning from a charity event." Is that what they're calling it now? The announcer finishes with: "Only in L.A." End of episode.