Sunday, December 25, 2016

So I Finally Watched "Elf"

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For the last 13 Christmases, I have purposely avoided this movie. I liked Will Ferrell in the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson version of Starsky and Hutch and that's it. Something about the guy has just always rubbed me the wrong way. I thought I got weird looks when I said I've never watched a single Star Wars movie all the way through; that's nothing compared to how people reacted when I admitted to never seeing a single moment of Elf. I went into this review with gritted teeth and low expectations.

The premise is simple: While Santa is delivering gifts to the residents of an orphanage, a baby stows away in the bag of toys. The baby ends up at the North Pole, where Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) volunteers to raise him. Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows up making toys and apprenticing Papa as a sleigh mechanic. It only takes 30+ years for Buddy to realize he's much bigger than the elves. Papa tells Buddy the truth about being adopted. Buddy's birth father Walter (James Caan) lives in New York City and Buddy sets off to meet him.

Walter doesn't know what to make of Buddy at first. In fact, he has no idea that a child other than his preteen son Michael even exists. In college, Walter was involved with a fellow student named Susan; she became pregnant, didn't tell Walter, and gave their baby up for adoption. 

For his part, Buddy has wacky misunderstandings about human culture and has a meet-cute with Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a department store elf.

Is Elf as good as other Christmas family comedies such as Home Alone or Jingle All the Way? No. Is it worth seeing? Yes. It's pure fluff and Christmas magic all the way through. I especially enjoyed all the references to the 1964 classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the opening scenes. Jovie and Buddy are a cute couple. It was interesting to see Sonny Corleone's adopted child on the other side of the adoption scenario.

While I smiled and laughed a lot, this scene is probably my favorite:

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Guest Review: "Road House"

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Lots of bare butts and violence, but the eye candy is unrivaled. Just Patrick Swayze, but he is enough. Patrick makes the whole movie run smoothly and seem realistic. By the time they got to the tai chi part, I was ready to sign up for a class.

The rich guy Brad Westley, his sycophantic nephew Jimmy, and their henchmen made a hobby out of extortion just because they were bored. An old guy named Red lost his home and auto parts store because he refused to pay the protection money. Brad and Jimmy just happened to not like him because his niece was the fair Elizabeth, Jimmy's former girlfriend. Elizabeth left him to become a doctor, then moved back to town to keep an eye on her elderly uncle as well as practice medicine.

The other bouncers didn't really want to do their jobs. They were afraid of the rowdy men and unwilling to get the skanky chicks to stop their dirty dancing. The bartender padded his paycheck through theft and wasn't happy about being caught; he resented being called a thief, even though he was one.

Patrick Swayze made handling that '65 Buick Riviera look like race car driving. In this movie, I noticed he had a bit of an Elvis complex. He gave Emmett his Mercedes to cover the rent. He had a power mullet and butt-kicking boots, though not as fancy as the guy who had razors embedded in the toes of his.

The romance between Elizabeth and Patrick's character Dalton was speeding along like a bullet train, but got derailed when Dalton ripped out Jimmy's windpipe with his bare hands in front of her. Jimmy had made homosexual advances on Dalton like those he'd made in prison.

What other movie could score with bad dancing, bad singing, and a no-good bartender, wait staff, and bouncers?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Some "Old Haunts in the New Age" (21 Jump Street: Season 4, Episode 6)

To kick off Halloween weekend, here's a recap of a spooky 21 Jump Street episode.

An average-looking husband, wife, and preteen son watch TV with their faithful pet Golden Retriever. A shrill, Chipmunk-like voice can be heard either from the TV or down the hall saying, "Hellllppp meeeeee." In a bedroom, a teenage girl is studying at her desk listening to a song with lyrics about sleeping with fire. There's some kind of aromatherapy candle burning nearby. Its presence is distracting the girl/freaking her out as she scribbles. She gets up and blows out the candle.

Later, someone pours gasoline over a wooden sign and lights a match. Before the sign is engulfed in flames, we see it reads: TAFT HIGH SCHOOL. ANNUAL COSTUME DANCE OCTOBER 31, 8 P.M. HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN. The same teenage girl wakes up when she hears fire truck sirens passing by her window. We see that she sketched the burning sign on a piece of paper in her binder. Theme song.

At Taft the next morning, a science class watches a film about metamorphosis. The girl who dreamed about the burning sign isn't concentrating very well and neither is Doug; he's doodling some kind of battle scene with tanks and paratroopers. Tom is asleep on his desk nearby. The girl doesn't seem to be in conscious control of her pencil as she draws some kind of building. "There's death in the chapel," she says out loud before getting up. Tom and Doug exchange 'what was that about?' looks.

In the Chapel, Blowfish is on a ladder mounting what look like old organ pipes on the walls. Tom and Doug, working on a project of their own, ask Harry to bring them a hammer. Judy is carving a pumpkin. Doug looks at a newspaper ad and asks if anyone wants to go to the grand opening of a store called Crazy Teddy's. "That store is way the hell out in Fairmount," says Harry. Doug says, "I know, but they have really good car stereos for $50." Dougie, you ride a motorcycle. He adds that there will also be fireworks, hot dogs, and a clown named Sprinkles. Tom puts on a childish voice and says, "Sprinkles? Really?"

Cap'n Rufus tells Tom that his latest report doesn't have anything new in it, except for the arsonist's favorite brand of lighter fluid. Judy thinks it's somebody with a grudge against Taft High. "Who doesn't have a grudge against their school?" asks Doug. Me, for one. The sign out front was the 4th fire in 3 weeks. "We need to catch this guy before he burns down the whole place," says Rufus. An arsonist targeting a school dance? Gee, this show's never used that plot before... 

Doug reports, "There was something strange. There's death in the chapel." Blowfish immediately climbs down from the ladder. "What did she mean?" Judy asks. Doug says, "She meant death, like end of life." Blowfish looks a little disturbed, "So it doesn't necessarily mean one of you guys?" Cap'n Rufus asks if Tom is sure his cover is intact. Tom thinks those symbols could mean anything. "There's something weird and it don't look good," says Doug.

Suddenly, 3 guys wearing Ghostbusters style jumpsuits walk in. They tell Cap'n Rufus they were contracted by the EPA to check for waste dumped by a chemical plant. The younger cops exchange looks. Fuller doesn't know anything about it. "It happened 15 years ago," explains a guy whose name patch says Spengler. Judy asks if the waste will have any effect on them. Spengler ignores her. "Beams on," he tells the other two guys, flipping a switch on a device strapped to his back. "There is death in the Chapel," Doug repeats.

That night, the music from the attempted drowning scene in The Outsiders plays as an old yellow pickup passes a road sign. It tells us we're 15 miles from Fairmount. Doug is driving it. His radio flickers a few times, then goes dead. He checks the newspaper on the seat next to him, presumably looking for Crazy Teddy's address. Eerie lights and fog swirl around the truck. Doug doubles over with headache, hitting his forehead on the steering wheel. The radio starts again.

In the Taft cafeteria, Tom asks Doug if he really thinks he was abducted. Doug describes what he saw as "long and thick in the middle. It had rounded edges, it looked like a hot dog. No, it was fatter than that. It looked like a knockwurst." He woke up at 2:00 in the morning on the side of the road. "I'm checkin' myself for puncture wounds 'cause I think they got me with their surgical tools."

Tom repeats the last two words with a mouthful. Doug tells him it's standard with abductions and he could write a bestseller about his experience. He adds, "I don't know how they did it, but I think they moved my navel." That area isn't generally where they do their probing... "How could they do such a thing?" Doug asks. Tom replies, "It's a mystery."

They sit down. Across the way, the girl from earlier is staring at the back of her empty, flattened-out lunch bag. She crumples it up and tosses it away. Tom fishes it out of the trash can. If you squint, the picture on the bag almost looks like a truck.

At night, the unseen arsonist torches an old car. Cut to just after the fire department finishes putting it out. The car appears to have been parked outside Taft's auto shop. We see the arsonist's dirty white Chuck Taylors in the crowd. Maybe Ponyboy lost it after Johnny and Dally's deaths?

Doug doesn't think they have a chance of catching the arsonist unless they can find out what his next target is. Tom shows him the lunch bag drawing, which matches certain details of the incident. The artist finally has a name: Dory. Doug thinks she's psychic. Tom thinks it's more likely she's the arsonist.

At the Chapel, they show the drawing to Judy. "Didn't [Dory] predict death in the Chapel?" asks Harry, "Even we didn't know about the toxic waste." Doug declares Dory's 2-for-2. "1-for-2," Blowfish corrects. He has a report showing there was no toxic waste under the building. "Even still, there's been some pretty weird stuff goin' on," says Doug. Judy and Harry agree in unison, "Very weird." Then, "We said that. At the same time. Whoa."

Tom leaves with Blowfish to look for more organ pipes. The janitor pulls up a section of floor in the basement. He hasn't seen it yet, but we can see there's a skeletal hand stuck to the underside of the flooring. Tom hears something fall and asks what it was. Blowfish tells him to check down the hole. "Any pipes?" he asks. No, but there is a whole skeleton. Blowfish looks in the hole. "Tom, I think I gotta sit down," he says before passing out. Tom mutters, "Yikes."

Later, the gang gathers in the basement. Cap'n Rufus surmises that the corpse was not put there recently, due to the pine box and old clothes. He's sure they can get to the bottom of why it's there and tells Blowfish to put the floorboards back. "I ain't goin' near that damn thing," says Blowfish, "I opened up a curse." Harry wonders how they're supposed to investigate a spirit. "Call Shirley MacLaine?" Judy suggests. Tom tells Doug that they'll catch the arsonist by taking night shifts at the school; he'll take the first one.

Tom patrols the Taft courtyard, which is decorated like a cemetery for Halloween. Someone walks past. Tom starts to follow. He and Dora run into each other and scream like in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. Dory runs away. A small fire has started by a Dumpster or something, which Tom manages to put out with a nearby hose. By the time he finishes, Dory is gone.

In the Chapel, Judy, Doug, Harry, and Blowfish are sitting around a Ouija board. "We would like to speak to the person buried beneath the Chapel," says Judy, "Are you here?" "Is there a curse on Blowfish?" asks the janitor. Judy tells him they have to ask one question at a time. Doug has a question of his own, "Are you a spirit from another planet?"

Judy requests that the spirit speak to them. The board flips back and forth between the letters Y and A. "Ya, ya," Doug says, "Are you Swedish?" Judy asks for the spirit's name. The board spells out YATES. Fuller asks what they're doing. "We're communicating with the beyond, Captain," Doug explains. Harry adds, "The skeleton in the basement is named Yates." Judy asks if Yates was murdered. The board points to YES. Before they can find out more, Fuller tells them to get back to work.

At Taft, Doug and Tom talk to Dory, who's helping set up decorations for the Halloween dance. She says the thing about the Chapel "came totally out of left field." Tom asks why she was there the night before. "I'm not the one who's been torching this place, so just leave me alone," says Dora. Doug asks if the lunch bag drawing was a premonition. Dora gets defensive: "I'm not a freak."

"We each have these...these feelings about each other," Dory starts. When Tom and Doug look at each other, she snaps, "Grow up. Not in a horny way. Senses, suspicions." Tom thinks Dory did the drawings because she knows the guy who's been starting the fires. Dory doesn't know, not exactly: "I don't wanna sound like some actress on a talk show, but I feel energies. Images, I guess. I don't know what they are at first. But then they happen."

They may know Dory's secret, but she also knows theirs. She promises not to tell anyone; she wants the arsonist caught. She doesn't like the visions, but she can't control them. "I think I know a way we can both help each other," says Doug.

At night, Dory, Tom, and Doug sit on the hood of Doug's pickup near where he was supposedly abducted by aliens. Dory doesn't feel anything except cold. Doug asks his partner, "Didn't you ever feel anything you couldn't explain?" Tom once thought the bowler on the lane next to him was Elvis because the guy put butter on a sandwich and scratched himself a lot.

"Don't encourage him, he doesn't understand," says Doug. Dory doesn't understand either and doesn't think she wants to. When she was young, she had visions of an important man being hit with a hammer. Reagan was shot the following week and reported that being shot felt like getting hit with a hammer. That scared Dory and she tried to shut out her powers.

Tom asks, "If this thing is your gift or whatever, why do you want to shut it out?" "Why do you question being an officer?" Dory fires back. Doug hears something and declares, "This is it. They're here." He waves his arms toward the sky and calls, "Hey! We mean you no harm!" The spaceship is really a blimp with lights that spell out FOLLOW ME TO CRAZY TEDDY'S.

"Aliens travel 6 light years to get a good deal on a car stereo. Believe or not," Tom says in a spooky stage-whisper. Doug feels stupid and knows he'll never live this down. "You're psychic!" Tom cries. Dory starts having one of her visions. She sees a wooden field, darkness, long wooden planks at an angle. "Bleachers?" Tom guesses. Dory adds that they're on fire.

The three of them pile in the truck and head back to town. A police car pulls them over near Taft High, where the bleachers are intact. "All right, guys, where's the fire?" asks the officer. Ha ha ha...

Harry tells Judy and Blowfish that he went through the town's death records. 4 people named Yates have died under mysterious circumstances: a husband-and-wife murder/suicide, a poisoning, and the fourth was a summer camp counselor named Lawrence Yates. Counselor Yates was also a child molester obsessed with his dead mother. He escaped from a mental institution and went on a crime spree that ended when he was hanged by a lynch mob. Nobody knows where his body ended up.

We hear Cap'n Rufus  laughing loudly. He asks Doug, "You still believe in that psychic crap?" "You're the type who doesn't think there's anything 'out there' when he's standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon," says Doug. Rufus chuckles, "And you're the type that thinks aliens are piloting blimps to Crazy Teddy's Car Stereos." Rufus adds that he can be spiritual. Dory will be a suspect until she sees the arsonist without help from "the other world."

Cap'n Rufus comes out of his office with his coat and umbrella. Nobody responds when he says good night. In words that ironic considering the role this actor had on Supernatural, Cap'n Rufus declares he has no patience for hysteria: "I don't care if it's Halloween. I don't care if the dead are walking the earth. No more antics in this chapel. No more Ouija boards, palm reading, tarot cards, healing hocus pocus."

Nobody listens to Rufus. When Tom comes downstairs from the locker room, there's an old man at the head of the table, making some alarming grunting sounds. He's wearing an odd necklace that may be made from animal teeth. Tom remarks, "I looked that way once after an especially gnarly chili dog." Harry shushes him, saying the man has to concentrate on raising the spirit. Thunder crashes outside.

"He's trying to find Yates so we can communicate with him." Harry adds. They apparently paid this guy $75 for this act. "Good morrow, being of light," says the psychic in a British accent, "I am Zombo, lord of the blue ray, primary energy in the kingdom of Atlantis. My friends, what is your quest?" Judy puts on her own British accent: "We wish to transverse with the being called Yates." 

Zombo agrees to grant Judy's request. He hums and grunts some more. He tells them they must learn to speak in tones to communicate with another realm: "Put your hands over your aural canals. Let your voice create tones. Yates will come to you." Everyone except Tom does. Zombo asks which Yates they're looking for. "The one we disturbed beneath the Chapel," says Judy. Zombo waves his arm around his head: "There's a this area." As in from the hanging. Tom starts making odd yipping sounds. "I can't believe it," says Zombo. Tom says, "Neither can I. Now give 'em back their money."

At Taft High, someone in the science lab lights a candle and leaves the Bunsen burner on. The next day, a class watches a film on llamas. Dory sketches the science lab and gets up to leave the room without even asking for a hall pass. She splashes cold water on her face in the girls' bathroom and takes deep breaths, trying to calm herself. 

Tom and Doug go looking for Dory. In the process, they find the candle set up in the science lab. Tom turns off the gas and Doug opens the window. Tom bags the candle as evidence. They pass Dory in the hall. "The candle in that bag, it's his, isn't it?" she asks. Tom tells her it's his lunch. 

Back at the Chapel, Doug is frustrated. The fingerprints on the candle don't match any known arsonists. Tom reminds him they still have a main suspect: Dory. He tells Doug he's sick of all the psychic garbage. I'm getting pretty sick of it myself since Dory has no other character traits. He wants Doug to go to her with the candle, but not the candle that's in evidence, as a test. Get her to touch it and see if her prints match.

Dory holds the candle. She describes the arsonist as a Taft student with brown hair who's sad and hates the fires. If he hates fires, why set them for kicks? Dory explains, "When he does, he feels control over others." She's not seeing a name or a face, just "fires, running devils, deformed faces. He's there. You're there." Suddenly, Dory screams and drops the candle. She doesn't want to continue. Doug asks, "What'd you see?" "You...dead," says Dory. Doug looks worried.

Tom gets a call from the crime lab; Dory's fingerprints don't match the ones on the arsonist's candle. "Oh no, I'm dead," Doug mutters, standing up. Tom asks where he's going. "I'm gonna go put my things in order," says Doug. 

Tom finds Dory wandering around the Taft High gym, which is decorated for the dance. "The bleachers, a wooden field," she says. She doesn't blame Tom for not believing her. Tom asks how she saw Doug die. Dory thinks the arsonist will strike that night; the devils burning must be kids in costume. I knew that the first time she said it. She saw Doug burned badly, wrapped in a black coat or cape. 

In front of the Chapel's new pipe organ, Blowfish puts the finishing touches on his Phantom of the Opera costume. He starts to play a fast tune. Harry appears dressed as Elvis and asks if everyone else is gone. Judy comes down from the locker room in a skintight red devil bodysuit. "I always knew it," says Harry before singing a few bars of "You're the Devil In Disguise." Judy pokes him with her pitchfork. 

Tom's costume is Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He does a truly horrendous impression of Robert DeNiro. Doug slides down the firepole in a Dracula costume replete with makeup, fangs, and a cape. Harry asks if he's Bela Lugosi Dracula or Christopher Lee Dracula. Neither, the big guy is Count Chocula. Tom tells Doug to put on a different costume. Rufus enters, accompanied by a priest. In the spirit of the occasion, the captain is wearing a sequined matador's outfit. "I got some news you won't wanna hear," he says, "Since it's Halloween, I thought it might be appropriate." 

The priest introduces himself as Father Alex. He tells them that a house was located about 40 yards west of the Chapel over 100 years ago. A Protestant minister and his wife built it as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The house mysteriously caught fire in 1888, killing the minister. The community wanted to build a church in his honor. The minister's wife donated the land and had her husband buried below the chapel "to be the church's spiritual foundation." Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Deadly Women, but that story makes me wonder where she was the night the house burned down.

The young officers look appropriately spooked. Minister or not, there was still a dead guy in the basement. "I believe the curse has been lifted," says Cap'n Rufus. The minster's name was apparently Jacob Gwynn. "Then who's Yates?" asks Harry. My question exactly. Tom tries to convince Doug not to go to the dance by telling him about Dory's freaky psychic vision of death. Doug decides to wear the Count Chocula getup anyway.

In the Taft High gym, the students are dancing to "The Monster Mash." Harry patrols the outside with a flashlight. He wields it like a microphone and practices some Elvis gyrations. Back inside, Doug snaps at Tom to stop quoting Taxi Driver. Dory joins them dressed as Merlin. I guess a gypsy fortune teller would've been too on-the-nose. She tells Doug he shouldn't be there. Doug tells her, "I wasn't put on this earth to be taken out in a Prince of Darkness costume." Actually, the Prince of Darkness would be Satan or Ozzy Osbourne, depending on who you ask. He leaves to take a look around.

"You told him?" Dory asks. Tom reassures her that the big fella can take care of himself. One of the jack-o-lanterns has burned out. Dory asks for a lighter; Tom has a match. They look inside. "Somebody stole the candle," says Dory. 

Someone breaks into a nearby janitor's closet and soaks packages of toilet paper with gasoline. The arsonist has jammed a tin can in the doorway so they won't get locked in. Doug comes out of the gym and sees the closet door open a crack. Doug enters the closet and the door shuts behind him. At that precise moment, the arsonist, dressed like a vampire, drops the lit candle on the toilet paper. 

Doug calls for help, rattling the door. It takes the kids in the gym a while to notice the smoke filtering toward them. When the alarm is raised, Fuller and Tom spring into action. The captain orders Tom to grab the fire extinguisher and the students to evacuate.

Tom runs down the hall and hears Doug inside the closet. Tom breaks down the door. (One of the absolute worst things you can do during a fire is feed it oxygen. His buddy DeNiro's character from Backdraft can tell you all about that). Doug stumbles out unscathed. The other vampire's cape is burning. Tom sprays the kid with the fire extinguisher and covers him with his jacket.

"Doug," gasps Dory as she passes the scene. Tom assures her it's not and that the guy isn't dead. Cap'n Rufus puts out the fire in the closet. Doug is coughing. The other vampire is whimpering in pain. "Hey, it's that dork Allen," says a boy. Dory shouts, "Leave him alone!" She kneels next to Allen and holds his hand.

Outside the gym, Dory tells Doug that she's never been so relieved to be wrong. "Don't jinx me, I'm still in the costume," he says. Dory feels sorry for Allen; she could see in his eyes that he couldn't keep himself from setting fires. Tom saw it too. Doug asks Dory if she thinks the visions will stop now that this is over. "What am I, a fortune teller?" she asks nastily.

In the Chapel basement, Blowfish paints an epitaph on the floor: 1888, JACOB GWYNN, A SEED. Blowfish goes back upstairs. A faint glow seems to appear from between the cracks in the floorboards. End of episode.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Scarefest 2016

This weekend, I took my cousins to a local horror/paranormal convention. The main attraction for us was celebrity guest Steven Williams, best known to us as Rufus from Supernatural and Mr. X from The X-Files. He's also known to me as Captain Fuller from 21 Jump Street.

Unlike the last convention we attended, there were no lines whatsoever at the celebrities' booths. When I approached Steven's booth, I accidentally approached the wrong person about paying for autographs and photos. She told me to go to the other end of the table. As my cousin and I started in that direction, Steven called out, "Don't you send my people away!"

Steven was a very, warm funny guy. I told him I've seen every episode of 21 Jump Street and that my all-time favorite line of his was: "You're an undercover cop, Doug. You learn to puke!" He chuckled and even said the end of the line with me. Steven looked at me curiously and asked, "Where did you see episodes of 21 Jump Street? You don't look old enough." I told him Hulu and he seemed confused. I'm sure he later asked someone what it is.

Getting my 5'0" self in a picture with Steven's 6'2" frame was an interesting challenge. The rest of the convention wasn't of interest to us, but meeting Steven was well worth the price of admission.

It's not Halloween night, but I've already run into the Sanderson sisters.

Jurassic Park Jeep!

"Family don't end with blood."-Bobby Singer

Steven selfie!

Road tripping with my cousin Michelle and our old pal Scoob!

Jinkies! Did somebody say "mystery"? 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

True Courage: Patrick Swayze and Diane Endler

This week marks the 7th anniversary of Patrick Swayze's death. Though I never had the opportunity to meet him, his battle with pancreatic cancer both touched and broke my heart. Interviews with him at the time left me in tears. Patrick's calm demeanor and unwavering optimism reminded me so much of my beloved grandma, who suffered so horribly from the same illness. This year marks the 10th anniversary of losing her.

My mom's mom, Diane, is someone I've referred to in prior posts. She was one of the gentlest, most unselfish human beings I've ever had the honor of knowing. Grandma took care of me through some of the best and worst experiences of my life. She reinforced things my mom taught me about how to be a good friend and a good person. She was a devout Catholic and in many ways very conservative, but she still had a wicked sense of humor. For example, she liked to refer to the movie Young Guns as Young Buns. She'd drive around running errands while listening to one of my Aerosmith or Bon Jovi CDs.

Grandma was also my TV buddy. I remember her letting me stay up late to watch Walker and Alex get married on Walker, Texas Ranger. Her favorite cartoon was Hey Arnold! When I was in middle school, she decided I was old enough to watch CSI and Without a Trace with her. Every Thursday, I knew there would be extra-butter popcorn in my future and the fun of seeing which of us could solve the mystery first.

In early 2006, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after feeling rather ill for several months. My family and I were all extremely concerned. I vividly remember sobbing in her arms as she stroked my hair and said, "Don't you worry, sweetpea. I'm gonna fight this. I'm gonna fight this as hard as I can. I'm not giving up." What none of us knew at the time was the survivability rate, that it was a death sentence.

Grandma's condition worsened as the weeks went on. No matter how much pain she was in, she never complained. She was still determined to do things for her family. As a child, she'd promised me diamond jewelry for my Sweet 16. That date was drawing closer and the diamond was the furthest thing from my mind.

When I got home from school on my Sweet 16, I went to Grandma's house like I did every day. I got I don't know what all from my grandparents that year. The last gift my grandma handed me was a jeweler's box. I opened the lid and gasped. Inside was a golden horseshoe on a chain; the horseshoe's border was edged with tiny diamonds. Back then, I was an avid trail rider with my own horse: Little Man.

I immediately burst into tears and gave Granny the biggest hug I could without hurting her. Even though she was so sick, she fastened the chain around my neck. The next month, May 2006, is when her battle with cancer mercifully ended.

I haven't completely recovered from the loss. I sometimes doubt I ever will because she was such a huge part of my life. In the past decade, I've only taken my horseshoe off a handful of times. It's been joined on its chain by a college graduation gift from my mom: a medal of my favorite saint: Saint Michael. I pray that one day there's a cure so no one will have to watch their loved ones go through what can only be described as hell on earth.

Gone but not forgotten. Diane Endler (1937-2006)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Top 10 Quotes: "Anastasia"

Today would've been my grandma Diane's 79th birthday. She was one of the kindest, most unselfish people I ever knew. I was lucky enough that I grew up 5 minutes from her house; she practically raised me while my parents were working. We loved to watch movies together and even when I got older, Anastasia was still one of our favorites. I suppose it was because we related so well to the bond Anastasia had with her grandmother Marie. It seems only fitting to post this in her honor.

1. Dowager Empress Marie: "You were the boy, weren't you? The servant boy who got us out. You saved her life and mine and you restored her to me. And yet you want no reward."

2. Anastasia: "Do you really think I'm royalty?"
Dmitri: "You know I do."
Anastasia: "Then stop bossing me around!"

3. Bartok: "You should really watch your blood pressure. My nephew Izzy, he just keeled over one day, mid-mango. And he's a fruit bat, sir. No meat, no bloody."

4. Vlad: "It's what I hate about this government. Everything's in red."

5. [Anastasia is looking inside an ugly dress Dmitri bought her]
Dmitri: "What are you looking for?"
Anastasia: "The Russian Circus. I think it's still in here!"

6. Vlad: "I see an engaging and fiery young woman, who on on a number of occasions has show a regal command equal to any royal in the world. And I have known my share of royalty. You see, I was a member of the Imperial Court."

7. Anastasia: "'Go left,' she says. I know what's to the left. I'll be Anya the Orphan forever."

8. Bartok: "Is this the face of a bat who would lie to you?"

9. Anastasia: "It's kind of hard to think of yourself as a duchess when you're sleeping on a damp floor. But, sure, yeah, I guess every lonely girl would hope she's a princess."

10. Dowager Empress Marie: "Knowing that you are alive, seeing the woman you've become brings me joy I never thought I could feel again."

I love you forever, Grandmama.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Bringing Out the Dead" by Joe Connelly

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"Saving someone's life is like falling in love: the best drug in the world." Frank Pierce, a paramedic working in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, knows that high also comes with crushing lows. The best he can hope for is his patients surviving the journey to Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, the place he and even its own staff refer to as Misery. He's (literally) haunted by a young girl whose life he couldn't save. Frank, on the verge of losing his job, agrees to work a 72-hour marathon shift.

The shift begins with Frank and his partner Larry responding to a cardiac arrest call. Frank unexpectedly finds himself taken by the victim's ex-junkie daughter Mary. But don't be fooled into thinking this is a love story, at least a traditional one. Larry's primary interests are food and "the true love of his life," which isn't his wife or even his job with the city; it's his membership in the Bayville Volunteer Fire Department.

Next, Frank works with Marcus, an African-American from the city's first paramedic class. Marcus is best known for his so-called "Narcan revivals," a spectacle worthy of Broadway. He's aware that Frank is burnt-out and maybe more than a little crazy, but isn't perturbed by it, at least not to the degree that Larry is.

Frank's third and final partner is Tom, who broke Frank in as a trainee. Tom, like many in the first generation of paramedics, earned his stripes as a medic on the battlefields of Vietnam. He practices a special kind of "psychological first aid" and nobody in their right mind wants to ride with him. Fortunately, Frank's not in his right mind.

A troublesome homeless man named Noel, chronic caller Mr. Oh, ER physician Dr. Hazmat, and less-than-warm-and-fuzzy Triage Nurse Constance round out the cast of characters.

I've read a lot of books in my life and this ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. My familiarity with the world of medicine has a lot to do with it, I'm sure. The details of the calls and patients' conditions are spot-on, which is no surprise when you find out the author himself is a former New York City medic. It's pitch-dark, packed with gallows humor, and yet has a true heart and soul. Ride along on this breakneck, life-and-death journey through the underbelly of the city that never sleeps.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spread Your Wings: Inspired by Kenny Johnson

As a former high school drama nerd and current community theater actress, I'm fairly familiar with how much reading is involved in acting. I was more or less born a reader, able to understand books written on a middle-school level when I was in 2nd grade, even using a guidebook to help plan our Disney World vacation. But what if that weren't the case and reading was literally one of the hardest things in the world for me to do? Would I still be able to do something I truly love?

Kenny Johnson is an incredibly talented actor, perhaps best known as Lem on The Shield and Kozik on Sons of Anarchy. He has also struggled with severe dyslexia. While I was on Twitter, I stumbled across a recent interview where he opened up about how he's been able to work around it and build his acting career.

I applaud Kenny Johnson, as I do anyone else who doesn't let anything hold them back from chasing their dreams. It takes a huge amount of courage to be so honest about your struggles. Pretending you don't have a problem is so much easier than dealing with it head-on.

I've personally struggled with anxiety and depression periodically since high school; it's gotten the best of me more often than I'd like to admit. I refused to let it ruin my life. I always made sure I got good grades; I exposed myself to new social situations, even when I was scared to death. 10 years later, I'm a mostly well-adjusted twentysomething and halfway to becoming a registered nurse.

To anyone out there reading this:

If you have challenges that are negatively affecting your health and/or happiness, whether it's dyslexia or social anxiety or anything in between, don't be embarrassed about reaching out for help. You won't change overnight and that's okay; nobody does. Overcoming your obstacles will suck at times and you'll want to quit. Don't do it. You'll never know how high you can fly if you spend your life walking around with broken wings. You got this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Top 10 Quotes: "Point Break (1991)"

1. Bodhi: "Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true."

2. Pappas: "Listen, you snotnosed little shit, I was takin' shrapnel in Khe Sahn while you were crappin' in your hands and rubbin' it on your face!"

3. Harp: "You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, that would be something, but you don't."

4. Roach: (while disguised as President Nixon during a bank robbery) "I am not a crook!"

5. Bodhi: "Little hand says it's time to rock and roll."

6. Johnny: "This is your fucking wakeup call, man! I am an F! B! I! Agent!"

7. Harp: "Special Agent Utah, this is not some job flipping burgers at the local drive-in. Yes, the surfboard bothers me. Yes, your approach to this whole damn case bothers me. And yes, YOU BOTHER ME!"

8. 15: "It's never too late. A lotta guys your age are learning to surf."
Johnny: "I'm 25."

9. Pappas: "Last time you had a feeling, I had to kill a guy...and I hate that! It looks bad on my report."

10. Johnny: "You crossed the line. People trusted you and they died. You gotta go down."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It's Pope's Party and He'll Cry If He Wants To

On last week's episode of Animal Kingdom, the Cody family prepared to celebrate Pope's birthday, the first one in a long time where he was home and not incarcerated. Craig and Deran plan a super fun day of surfing, paintball, and skydiving. Pope is in a foul mood because those are all things they like to do and it's his birthday, dammit.

What his birthday cake should've looked like. (Photo credit)
Pope also doesn't want his birthday ruined with any mention of his recently-deceased twin sister. You'd think that would be a sore spot with nephew Jay, but he shrugs it off and goes along for the adrenaline-fueled festivities. After some alcohol and cake, Craig, Deran, and Pope take their underage nephew to a strip club. Somebody (I think it was Craig) tries to buy Jay a lap dance, which the teen declines. Pope goes into the back of the club to have sex with one of the strippers, but he has some, uh, performance issues.

Later on, Pope and Jay do some great uncle/nephew bonding, drinking literally on top of Jay's mother's grave. Oh, and P.S. Deran's name is pronounced "Darren."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Animal Kingdom" No, Not the One at Disney

It was hard to glean the exact premise of this show from the trailers, so I checked out the two-part premiere on Tuesday night. Our story begins with the protagonist, 17-year-old Josh, finding himself with nowhere to go when his single mother dies of a heroin overdose right in front of him. He calls his grandma Janine, who hasn't seen him in over a decade. Granny kindly agrees to have Josh move into her Southern California beach house.

Once there, Janine immediately drops the last 3 letters of Josh's name and refers to him as J. J's three uncles also live with Granny Janine. There's fresh out of prison Andrew (nickname Pope), who's also his dead mom's twin brother. (Fans of Southland will recognize him as Detective Sammy Bryant). Long-haired Craig is the middle child and the baby of the family is Deran (not sure if it's pronounced like "Darren"). Baz, a family friend, seems to live there as well. To welcome J, Janine throws a barbecue/pool party, at which there's lots of alcohol, weed, and jumping off the roof into the pool. The uncles also take J surfing.

Unbeknownst to J, Granny Janine runs a family business with an iron fist. Her sons and Baz dabble in armed robbery and smash-and-grabs, hence Pope's prison sentence. They're a stealthy bunch; they wear all black and ski masks or motorcycle helmets to hide their faces. At the end of Part 1, they rob a local jewelry store. However, everything goes sideways, as heists are wont to do. Craig is shot in the arm by store security; one of the guards is hit and killed by the getaway car. The next day, the dead guard is identified one the local news as a police officer who was moonlighting.

The heat is now on for the Cody clan. Granny Janine orders Craig and Deran to disassemble the getaway car and toss it in the ocean. She has no idea about her middle child's injury. Craig can't go to the hospital for his gunshot wound thanks to those pesky police notification policies and quickly develops a raging infection. Deran decides to just set the damn car on fire since his brother can't help take it apart. J has already given one of the stolen watches to his girlfriend. His pissed-off uncles tell him to get it back. By the end of the episode, I'm sure J is thinking he might have been better off on his own or in foster care versus living with this bunch.

Granny Janine, nicknamed Smurf for unknown reasons, almost but not quite gives Gemma Teller-Morrow a run for her money in the crazy bitch department. Uncle Pope is pretty open about hating J because Smurf is letting him sleep in Pope's room. He follows J around, menaces the kid while he's in the shower one morning, and tries to hit on the teenager's girlfriend.

J leaves something to be desired as a main character. His personality is flat, to the point that we see him passively sit on the couch next to his mother's corpse as the paramedics try desperately to revive her. There's no emotion in his voice when he calls Granny Smurf to let her know that her daughter is dead and he needs a place to live. J's girlfriend Nicky even remarks about the kid not shedding a tear at his mom's funeral. J also doesn't seem to have the sense to be scared of creepy Uncle Pope.

The tone and premise of the show is like Sons of Anarchy crossed with Point Break. It's also apparently based an Australian movie by the same title. Boring J notwithstanding, this seems like it might be the thing to fill the Reaper-shaped void in my weekly TV schedule.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Terry Crowley Fallout: The Equally Explosive Second Episode of 'The Shield'

A "previously on The Shield" segment brings us to the shooting of Terry Crowley, the newest member of Farmington's elite Strike Team. Vic calls 911 in a panic, shouting that there's an officer down, even though he's kind of the reason said officer is down. He claims the police radio in their van is broken and seems unsure of the address. The dispatcher asks about Terry's condition. "He's dying!" Vic says. The dispatcher manages to trace the call and tells Vic she's sending an ambulance. The line clicks dead.

A throng of police cars and officers surrounds the hospital's emergency room. Vic gives a patrolman his version of the events: He heard a gunshot and Terry hit the floor. The shooter, Two-Time, was in the bathroom and fired a few shots at them; Vic and Shane had no choice but to kill Two-Time. The unnamed patrolman mumbles that Terry is a tough kid and will make it. Danni, not in uniform, arrives and asks Shane what happened. Shane, his eyes wet, says Terry was shot in the head. Danni gives him a hug.

Over by a police car, the guy with the Tom Selleck mustache blames himself; he was walking point. He should've cleared the room. Blond Spiky Hair didn't see Two-Time either. Suddenly, Aceveda and Deputy Police Chief Gilroy emerge from the hospital, their expressions grim. Everyone goes silent. Aceveda announces that Terry has been pronounced dead. People gasp. Blond Spiky Hair shouts, "No!" and punches out the driver's side window of the Strike Team van. Holy shit. Blondie doesn't seem at all fazed by the blood now dripping from his knuckles. Vic speaks up regarding Terry: "I'm responsible." Given that there are 6 seasons to go, that statement can't be a confession.

Vic sits down with Internal Affairs and repeats, "I'm responsible. It was my operation. I called the shots." Terry was too green to ride out with the Strike Team. Terry's personnel file says otherwise, an 8-year veteran with several commendations to his name who did a stint in robbery. Vic goes on: "We knock down doors that other cops don't want to. My guys accept the risks because they know I will take care of them. When we got out on a mission, I expect every single one of them to come home. Anything else is unacceptable."

In the clubhouse, Blondie is playing darts, shredded hand and all. He wonders what's taking so long. Shane reminds him that Internal Affairs won't look good if they only take 5 minutes to investigate. Tom Selleck Mustache worries that Aceveda will use what happened to Terry as a reason to pull the plug on the Strike Team. Blondie asks again what's taking so long. "For the last time, I swear to God," Shane starts as the door opens. Now it's his turn in the hot seat.

Dutch and Claudette walk into the squadroom. Aceveda asks why they're not still at the crime scene. Dutch explains that Gilroy kicked them out and handed the case to IAD. Speaking of Gilroy, he wants a private word with Aceveda. Danni asks Julien why he didn't come to the hospital vigil earlier that morning. Julien replies that Danni never told him to go there. "I shouldn't have to. A fellow officer was dying," Danni points out. Julien said a prayer, has been out of the academy 3 weeks, and didn't know Terry. Danni educates him on Rule #1: "He was a cop. That means you knew him."

Gilroy is afraid the department will be accused of favoritism if the Strike Team is cleared in the matter of Terry's death; evidence against the team will lead to a civil war in the precinct. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Aceveda has notified Terry's mother. Gilroy wants the captain to speak at Terry's funeral.

During Shane's interview, we learn that he was the first person Vic brought on board when he started the Strike Team. Vic handpicked his whole crew, with the exception of Terry. However, Shane is quick to point out that nobody had any animosity toward the new guy. Meanwhile, Danni tries to get information out of Dutch. He's off the case, but in Dutch's professional opinion, the Strike Team "went in undermanned with a half-assed plan." And you're a poet and don't know it. Danni follows Vic into the breakroom for a whispered conversation in which she offers to be there for him. Dutch watches jealously from his desk.

Out in the parking lot, Danni tells Julien another police fact of life: "Anytime a cop goes down, the scumbags think it's open season." This is remedied by giving criminals the occasional forcible reminder about who really owns the streets.

Blondie's bandaged hand doesn't escape the eagle-eyed Internal Affairs officer's attention. She asks what happened to it. Blondie tells her about putting it through a window when he found out Terry was dead. The cuts looks bad to IAD lady and she asks if there was tendon damage. Blondie stubbornly crosses his arms, making his biceps bulge. Oh Lordy! He asks if they can get the interview the hell over with; though, to his credit, he does say please.

Aceveda walks through the park with his college buddy-turned-FBI-agent. Aceveda believes that Vic set Terry up to die. He asks Hernandez if anyone knew that Terry was trying to bring down Vic. Hernandez passed some of Terry's requests up the chain of command, such as moving expenses, a job, and a new car. He isn't authorized to guarantee such things. Aceveda plans to give Internal Affairs that information; they'll dig deeper into the shooting if someone can prove motive. Hernandez reminds his friend that Terry looking into Vic was strictly off-the-books. Aceveda only stands to lose his political clout. Aceveda doesn't care about that: "I'm not gonna let Vic get away with it."

At Terry's graveside service, Aceveda quotes the epitaph from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a bagpiper plays "Amazing Grace." Terry was a dedicated officer and did a great service to the community. The members of the Strike Team are clad in suits and ties rather than their dress uniforms. Vic flashes back to shooting Terry. Elsewhere in the cemetery, the bagpipe music drifts towards the grieving family and friends of drug dealer Two-Time.

The honor guard folds an American flag. A fellow gang member drapes his bandanna over Two-Time's coffin; someone else pours a little malt liquor next to the grave. The honor guard fires a 21-gun salute. Two-Time's mother is overcome with grief and flings herself toward the grave sobbing and screaming, "Mama's sorry!" The minister tries to comfort her.

Vic and Shane slip away from the crowd at Terry's funeral. Shane seems disturbed by the fact that Terry's mother is here to attend her son's funeral. Of course she is; where else would you expect her to be? Vic reminds Shane that he brought Terry onto his team. And how did Terry repay him? By turning rat. Vic didn't enjoy shooting Terry, but it had to be done. All they have to do is ride out the IAD investigation. Meanwhile, Terry's mother is presented with the folded flag and her son's badge. Aceveda sees Vic and Shane having their little conference.

Danni and Julien respond to a call. A bloody, seemingly dead Hispanic man is lying beside his churro wagon. A second Hispanic man is digging frantically through the dead man's pockets. They warn him to step away. The second man says he's just trying to the get the money the victim owes. Danni isn't going to warn him again. Julien picks up the suspect and throws him against the churro cart. The flimsy thing tips over, littering the ground with churros and broken glass. Was that necessary to do to those poor pastries?

Julien handcuffs the suspect, who's still trying to explain his side of the story. Levi the Churro Guy owed him $100. He came to pick it up, but Levi had already been shot and he called 911. Danni reports that Levi isn't dead and radios for an ambulance. "Keep fighting, man!" the suspect shouts at Levi, "I'll collect from you later!"

At Vic's house, his young son intently lines up forks on a placemat. Shane must've been over for dinner because Vic's wife is worried that he barely touched his porkchops. Vic reminds her that it hasn't even been a week since Terry died. Elsewhere in the house, a baby is crying. Vic's wife gets a bottle out of the microwave and offers her take on Shane: "It's like he blames himself. It's not normal. I mean, it's not like he killed Terry." Yeah, your husband did. Vic goes back to reading his paper. His son is still playing with the forks and hasn't said a word.

Flashback to the Strike Team playing poker in the clubhouse. Shane is regaling them with a story of drinking poolside with a transvestite named Frank. Vic brings in Terry and introduces him to the crew. Tom Selleck Mustache introduces himself as Ronnie. Blondie hasn't offered his name. Vic tells Terry not to let the guys haze him too bad. They deal him into their game of pitch, not poker as it turns out. "Don't let 'em stick you with Shane as a partner," Vic advises, "He always loses." "That's because y'all are a buncha cheaters," Shane protests.

Back in the present, Vic's son is jumping up and down, shouting incoherently. Vic puts down his paper and tells the kid it's time to get ready for school. At the churro cart crime scene, Dutch and Claudette ask Danni about the victim's condition and any clues she noticed. Danni found a shell casing; the paramedics didn't seem optimistic. Claudette asks Julien to size up the scene. He's reluctant to do so in front of people who have a lot more experience. Nobody notices the woman watching them from a gap in a nearby fence.

Dutch looks at the overturned churro cart and surmises there was a struggle. Julien explains that the cart tipped over while subduing the suspect/911 caller. Danni tries to take the blame; she should've taken control. "I hope this isn't the way you teach a rookie how to preserve a crime scene," says Claudette angrily, "This is how murderers go free, son." Dutch whispers that she's in a bad mood because it's her birthday.

Gilroy comes to Aceveda's office with Frances from Internal Affairs. She's finished doing interviews and put a rush on the ballistics evidence. So far, the operation doesn't seem like it was well-planned, but nothing criminally negligent. Aceveda is surprised. Even more surprising, Rondell's girlfriend corroborated the Strike Team's version of events. When Frances leaves, Aceveda says she shouldn't be clearing the Strike Team when all the evidence isn't back yet. "It's a preliminary report," says Gilroy. A double shot of Hey It's That Guy! Aceveda played Edgar the Leviathan on Supernatural; Gilroy was on Miami Vice as the ill-fated Zito. Edgar-veda doesn't want the incident to become "another chapter in the Rodney King-O.J. book." I don't think anyone wants that...

Claudette and Dutch interview Levi the Churro Guy's son. The kid blames himself for not going to college closer and living at home, but he got a partial scholarship to Stanford. Levi had been working a lot of overtime to help his son pay for tuition. That left Levi unable to afford protection payments to a local criminal. Levi was also running his churro cart without a license, so he couldn't go to the police. The kid gives up the name of the guy Levi was paying for protection: Marlon Demeral.

Julien and Danni knock on Marlon's door. He gets combative, so they cuff him. They tell him he's wanted for questioning in a shooting. "Look, I didn't shoot nobody today!" Marlon protests. Marlon's baby mama shouts, "Mama, get the camcorder! They're taking Marlon away!" A heavyset black woman runs down the porch steps while Marlon's baby mama accuses Julien of being a race traitor. The two officers manage to get Marlon in the car. The heavyset woman films them driving away.

While bench-pressing in the precinct weight room, Vic has another Terry flashback. At first, he's alive, joking and playing cards with them. It fades to Vic shooting Terry. Vic roughly re-racks the weight. Danni brings Marlon to Claudette. In the breakroom, other patrolmen invite Julien to have drinks and something called a "B&B" with them, apparently a ritual all rookies go through. Julien can't; he has church that night. Danni takes Julien aside and tells him the silly ritual is essential to earning trust: "Rule #7: Those guys may be overgrown frat boys, but someday, they might be the only thing that comes between you and a bullet."

In interrogation, Marlon is hungry and demanding something to eat. Dutch asks if he likes churros. Marlon wants a cheeseburger. Dutch leaves, presumably to get it. Marlon endears himself to Claudette by calling her "sweet thang" and saying he knows she has a smile for him. Edgar-veda walks by the break room and catches Dutch shaking the snack machine. He asks for Dutch's help with an interrogation.

Meanwhile, Marlon continues to profess his innocent in Levi's shooting. He knows who did it, but won't name names until he gets his cheeseburger. He does reveal that Los Magnificos, a Mexican gang, recently muscled in on Marlon's no doubt highly lucrative vendor protection racket.

The interrogation Edgar-veda wanted help with turns out to be grilling Vic about Terry's death. Vic wants to know what's stopping him from calling his union rep. Edgar-veda knows how to push Vic's buttons, saying it's fine if the big guy wants to hide behind a lawyer. Vic wants to talk. Dutch asks why more backup wasn't available; Vic wanted the element of surprise. He repeats the party line: "Two-Time shot Terry, then Shane and I returned fire." Edgar-veda thanks Vic for his time, wanting to lull Vic into a false sense of security. He tells Shane their best course of action now is to zero in on the weak link.

Claudette goes to the clubhouse to ask what information Vic has on Los Magnificos. The guys head out to roust some gangbangers. Shane is stopped by Edgar-veda. Personally, I think the weaker link is the guy with the busted hand. Anyway, Vic and Company go to talk to a wheelchair bound informant wearing an eyepatch. The guy's selling paintings on the sidewalk and says if the Strike Team wants information, they have to buy something.

Blondie finally has a name and apparently it's Lem. Vic tells him to pick his poison. "What do I know about art, man?" asks Lem. Ronnie picks out a poorly done painting of clouds over a field of flowers. Wheelchair Informant wants $100 for it. Geez, I wouldn't give him $5. Vic hands over the money and asks about Levi. Wheelchair Informant knows the Los Mags were pissed at him for not paying protection. They "sent a baby banger" to get the message across more forcefully. He shakes his head, "The things they got these kids doin' these days..." I'm sure he only had to mug an old lady to earn his stripes...

Late that night in a deserted lot, members of the Los Mags surround a kid who's 13, tops. They begin the fun process of jumping the kid in. For those who haven't watched Gangland as much as I have, "jumping in" refers to a gang initiation ritual in which all the current gang members beat the wannabe member to a bloody pulp. Danni, Julien, Vic, and the Strike Team watch this from a distance. Vic calls dibs on the newbie; anyone else they grab up is a bonus. As the gang members assault the kid, they shout at him in Spanish: "Welcome to the life!"

Dutch asks Shane if he and Vic are such great cops, why did Terry get killed. "Wrong place, wrong time," Shane shrugs. Dutch notices that Shane squints every time he lies. No wonder he sucks at poker.

The gangbangers finally decide that the 13-year-old has had enough of a beating. They hug him and hand him a 40 of malt liquor. Vic gives the go signal. Police cars swarm the lot. Vic chases down and arrests the newest member of Los Mags. On his way to his car, he drops a playing card in the dirt in front of the gang. It's illustrated with a snake eating a rat and the phrase FARMINGTON STRIKE TEAM WAS HERE!

Edgar-veda accuses Shane of letting Terry die. He repeats, "IAD cleared us." Edgar-veda asks if Shane knows Rondell Robinson. Shane does, but not personally. A witness saw Shane, Rondell, and Vic talking at a car wash. Shane says Vic was just trying to scare Rondell.

Edgar-veda adds fuel to the fire: The Strike Team knew Terry was going to turn them in, so he had to go. Nobody ever trusted Terry in the first place. Two-Time's girlfriend heard a shot about 15 seconds after the others. Shane has an answer for that; Two-Time started to move when they walked up on him. Vic fired that shot and killed Terry.

Edgar-veda backs Shane against the wall and orders, "Stop squinting!" For a second, Shane looks scared. He manages to tell the captain that he's wrong. Edgar-veda emphasizes that he has a witness. Vic bursts in. Shane reports he's been up there for 2 hours and Edgar-veda is making up things about the Strike Team. Vic tells Shane to go downstairs and wait for him and orders Dutch out. Vic warns that he'll lose patience if Edgar-veda comes after his guys again. Edgar-veda doesn't give any response other than a weasel-like smile.

Claudette talks to the junior Los Mag and his mother. There's a chance they can still get the case moved to juvie court. If Levi dies, he'll be tried for murder as an adult. The mother urges the bloodied preteen to tell Claudette he didn't do it. The kid does the opposite: "I shoot somebody? They don't almost die. Bitch ends up all dead." She leaves the room for a minute and Dutch tries to tell her about the scene between Vic and Edgar-veda. Claudette doesn't care.

Claudette goes back to the interrogation room with a lie. Levi is dead and Marlon confessed to the shooting. The kid, Olman, gets angry: "That's my shooting!" He won't tell Claudette who put him up to it because "they're my brother's now." His mom looks equal parts nauseated and heartbroken. Olman makes it clear he doesn't give a rat's ass about going to jail.

Gilroy is not pleased that Edgar-veda reopened the investigation of Terry's death without going through proper channels. It has to stop. Later, Vic privately thanks Gilroy for covering his ass. But according to Vic, there really isn't anything to cover: "Terry was overeager. He got himself killed. End of story." "It better be," Gilroy says ominously.

It's Claudette's birthday and someone left a gift on her desk: a tube of denture team. Claudette's friend arrives, wanting to take the birthday girl out dancing. It's ladies' night at the Crimson and Claudette's crush Franklin will be there. Claudette wants to know if his divorce is final. Yes, as of two weeks ago. She agrees to go out after she changes her clothes.

In another bar, Julien is finding out what exactly a B&B is. He has to chug a pitcher of beer and then get a girl to give him oral sex. What a lovely initiation rite...although it's a better alternative than getting an ass-kicking. Julien's fellow patrolmen introduce him to Betty the badge bunny, Betty takes Julien behind the bar and, uh, does her thing. Julien is unaware that the other uniforms are watching from the back door.

Dutch confronts Edgar-veda about putting him in an interrogation without all the facts. The captain was just trying to make Shane feel like they had nothing on him. Edgar-veda sees Vic leaving and they have a brief staring contest. End of episode.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Few Options"

In 1987, Frank Conner made the biggest, dumbest mistake of his life: driving a carload of cocaine across several states. He got pulled over by the highway patrol and sent to Terminal Island for possession with intent. 22 years later, the California Department of Corrections is over budget and overpopulated. Frank's name comes up in a lottery, meaning he'll be released 13 months early. He'll be completely on his own, no probation or parole officer to report to. Unfortunately, early release turns out to be Frank's only bit of good luck.

With a pillowcase of belongings and $157.32 to his name from years of pressing license plates, Frank pays a visit to his cousin Don, who had promised to help Frank get back on his feet. Don hasn't written to Frank in 5 years and is surprised when he turns up on his doorstep. Don is now married and his wife doesn't want Frank in the house. He agrees to let Frank live in the garage as long as he makes no noise, doesn't let the neighbors see him, and generally pretends not to exist. He can't even come in the house to shower unless Don and his wife are at work.

Frank, having nowhere else to go, agrees to the living situation. He wants to hit the job trail, but for that he needs his driver's license and Social Security card, which he left with his mother when he got locked up. Don has more bad news; Frank's mom Martha had a debilitating stroke and is in a nursing home. There's a box that belonged to her in the garage. Frank digs through it and finds everything but what he needs: costume jewelry, his high school diploma, and old family photo albums.

The next morning, Frank goes to the DMV and Social Security office. They can't issue one card without the other. They'll accept a notarized letter with his picture on it from the prison, but it'll take 10 business days to arrive. Frank desperately needs to find a job so he can save up for his own place. He buys a suit from a thrift store and goes on several unsuccessful interviews. Frank's old friend Russ comes to visit with an employment opportunity: security guard at a strip club. The owner doesn't care that Frank doesn't have a driver's license or Social Security card; they'll pay him cash under the table.

Frank goes from security guard to chauffeur when Helen, a failed actress-turned stripper/prostitute, needs a ride to a private client's house. When she's done, er, entertaining, Frank drives her home. Drunk and high on cocaine, Helen makes aggressive sexual advances. Frank gallantly refuses to take advantage of a woman who's intoxicated. The two soon strike up a relationship, though Frank is socially awkward as hell having spent 22 years without female contact.

Frank eventually learns that the strip club is owned by Chris, the cocaine dealer who sent Frank on the drug run. Frank didn't rat on Chris because Chris had threatened to kill his parents. Chris is still pissed about the shipment he lost; however, he's willing to forgive Frank's debt if Frank will do something else that's highly illegal. The rest of the movie focuses on Frank trying to adjust to 21st century life and deciding whether or not to go through with what Chris wants.

Casting a main character with Frank's background is tricky: somebody you can empathize with but doesn't go "oh woe is me, I went to prison for drugs; it's not like I killed anybody!" Frank, the ex-con with a heart of gold, is played by Kenny Johnson. Kenny's turn as conflicted Detective Curtis Lemansky on The Shield made him perfect in this role. Not to mention it makes the scenes where Frank mopes around in a wifebeater very aesthetically pleasing.

Helen, played by Erin Daniels, isn't quite as sympathetic a character as Frank, but the two make a reasonably cute couple. Kenny is joined by fellow Shield alumni David Marciano as strip club manager Russ.

Even with an unsatisfying ending, Few Options is still a nice little indie drama.

Photo credit

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"Captain America: Civil War"

This is a rather difficult movie to review; there's not much anyone can say about it without major spoilers. Essentially, the plot is that an Avengers mission goes sideways and results in massive civilian casualties, including an African king. The UN gets involved and doesn't believe the Avengers should be able to operate independently; a binding resolution should control when, where, and if they deploy. Tony Stark AKA Iron Man thinks it's their best chance at being able to keep operating; others agree, including War Machine and Black Widow. Steve Rogers AKA Captain America is opposed to this binding resolution, as are Falcon and his bestie Bucky Barnes AKA the Winter Solider.

The performances by all the actors involved almost make up for the borefest that was last summer's Age of Ultron. There's betrayal, intrigue, and buried secrets around almost every corner. The strongest cast members this time out are Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., which of course makes sense due to the plot being all about their blood feud. That's about as much detail as I can give about the storyline itself. Here are a few other random observations:

  • Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to name the African superhero the Black Panther? That name has pretty negative connotations associated with it. I understand that may have been the character's name in the original Marvel comics, but changing it would have been a good idea.
  •  After whiny Tobey Maguire and the sucktastic Amazing Spider-Man movies, I developed a deep and serious dislike of that character. Tom Holland makes an appearance as Peter Parker. Socially awkward Spider-Man was much more relateable and sympathetic. He also had some genuinely funny one-liners. This kid made me want to see the new Spider-Man reboot when it comes out.
  • Vision is freaking creepy as hell.
  • I still haven't forgiven Scarlet Witch for the terrible hallucinations/flashbacks she made all the Avengers have in Age of Ultron. Those characters, oddly, don't seem to be holding even the slightest grudge. She's living with them in the Avengers compound now.
  • After rolling my eyes at the trailers and refusing to see Ant-Man, I found myself liking his character. I might even watch his stand-alone movie now.
  • There are two post-credits scenes, the first one of which is kind of emotionally traumatic.
  • It's good to see Marisa Tomei back on screen again, this time as Peter's Aunt May.
  • I hope to God that Deadpool never appears in an Avengers movie. The character is such a repulsive tool (and I've only seen trailers for that movie).
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Friday, April 29, 2016

"Good Cop and Bad Cop Left for the Day...." (The Shield: Season 1, Episode 1)

A suited Latina instructs her suited Latino male counterpart to read a prepared statement and then ask for questions. He assures her he doesn't need his notes. In a police roll call room, the Latino is introduced as Captain David Aceveda. He exposits that the Farmington District of Los Angeles, which he commands, is notorious for being crime-ridden; some reporters have called it a war zone.

Elsewhere, several plainclothes cop chase a suspect down the sidewalk. A fourth cop stays with the minivan they're utilizing for reasons unknown. The suspect shoves something in his mouth as he runs. Back in the roll call room, Aceveda announces that violent crime is down in Farmington. The officers under his command do neighborhood outreach work. Part of this outreach apparently involves chasing people through indoor/outdoor flea markets. One of the plainclothes cops almost faceplants after leaping off a display.

Outside, an iron fence blocks the suspect's escape. Back to Aceveda telling reporters that mothers feel safer about going shopping. The four plainclothes cops have caught up to their man. They're lead by the very burly and intimidating Michael Chiklis. The suspect gloats that the police are too late. More of Aceveda's speech, then back to Chiklis punching the suspect in the stomach. Chiklis hauls the suspect to his feet and yanks down the dude's shorts and boxers. "Looks like you've got some kinda third nad goin' down there," Chiklis remarks. He reaches down and yanks, producing a small baggie of drugs.

A blond cop who seems to be wearing a Kevlar vest and no other shirt thinks he has an evidence bag on him somewhere. Chiklis pockets the baggie and drags the suspect back toward the market, the guy's shorts still around his ankles. In the roll call room, Aceveda grins from his podium, "Any questions?"

"You do not see a pair like that every day," remarks a homicide detective as he stands over the body of a naked woman. His black female partner informs him that it's called "rigor." A white female police officer in uniform enters the kitchen and says the victim's sister is outside and wants to know what happened. The black woman tells her awkward partner, Dutch, to go talk to her. Dutch seems like he'd rather stay with the naked corpse, which is disturbing. The female uniform tells Dutch she and her partner Julien were first on the scene.

Dutch immediately begins profiling the killer: inexperienced and underachieving. I'd also hazard a guess that the killer knew the woman. Outside, the victim's sister is trying to push her way past the uniforms guarding the steps. She asks if Nancy is dead and describes her as pretty with long blond hair. "That sounds like her," Dutch confirms. Nancy's Sis begins crying loudly and her knees buckle. She's right in front of Dutch, eye-level with his belt. From the right angle, it looks highly inappropriate.

Nancy's Sis clutches at the hem of Dutch's sportcoat. Dutch is very aware of all the eyes on him and clearly has no idea what to do or say. Julien, the female cop's partner, looks uncomfortable but doesn't seem to know how to pry Nancy's Sis off his fellow cop. "Where's Jenny?" sobs Nancy's Sis. Jenny, it transpires, is Nancy's young daughter. Dutch immediately gets an "Oh damn" look on his face and makes a beeline for the house.

In the kitchen, the black female detective is looking at a framed photo of a blond girl who's 8 or 9 years old at most. "Guess who's missing," Dutch says. She voices everyone's thoughts at this point in the episode: "Oh shit." Best case scenario is the little girl is terrified and hiding somewhere in the house.

Michael Chiklis and Company get buzzed into the anteroom of the precinct by the desk sergeant. Chiklis has to make a pit stop and tells the others to meet him in "the clubhouse." He declines the pretty Latina's offer of an interview, even though his team is apparently a big reason for the downturn in crime. Chiklis is frustrated to see the men's room has been cordoned off with crime scene tape, apparently a longterm issue: "If the city wants to thank us for a job well done, how's about making sure we don't all have to cram into the same goddamn stall?" Men around the squadroom clap and cheer.

The only option Chiklis has at this point is the women's room. He's waylaid by Aceveda, who reveals Chiklis's character is named Vic. Reluctantly, he follows the captain up to his office with a definite air of What in God's name did I do now? Aceveda asks if Vic remembers a suspect named Miguel Esteana. Vic knows Miguel is a scumbag drug dealer. Miguel's lawyer if that's the kind of attitude Aceveda promotes. Miguel, surprise of surprises, has filed an excessive force complaint against Vic. Miguel shows us a large bruise on his elbow. Vic smiles and asks Miguel if it's a hickey from his boyfriend. Miguel claims Vic caused the bruise with a set of pliers.

Vic doesn't remember any tools, just the bags of heroin Miguel was caught with. Miguel's lawyer plans to contest the search because that's what drug lawyers do. He's free to ask anyone on Vic's squad what happened during the arrest; they won't mention pliers either. The drug lawyer calls Vic a disgrace and leaves with his client in tow. Aceveda gives Vic a fake smile and asks if he's lying. Vic says that's what dealers do to stay out of jail and can he please be excused to the ladies' room. Aceveda points out that there have been 4 complaints against Vic since he took over the precinct. Vic leaves with a wink, cheerfully reminding Aceveda to smile for the cameras and get the mens' room reopened.

Dutch and Claudette (his partner) stop at a taco truck for lunch. She tells Dutch she quit listening to him several minutes ago. Dutch just plows on: Their unsub (unidentified suspect) is disorganized and probably has a record for nonviolent offenses. Dutch spots the female uniform from earlier getting out of her patrol car. He asks Claudette, "You think Danni would go out with me?" He rattles off stats about how many women in law enforcement meet their husbands through work.

Claudette is glad Dutch is interested in dating again, but doesn't think a uniform from their own station house is a good place to start. She provides some alternative suggestions: dance classes, a personal ad, hell, even a book club: "Show some imagination. No wonder your wife left you." Dutch protests that his ex had "intimacy issues unrelated to me." They're buzzed into the squadroom. Dutch asks why Claudette has been divorced twice. Shots fired, shots fired!

Dutch and Claudette fill the captain in about the missing 8-year-old. Jenny's father was a crackhead and the crime has personal written all over it, making him their most likely suspect. However, Nancy's neighbors recalled seeing a local fence named Ponyboy knocking on Nancy's door the day before she was killed. Ponyboy, I know you had it rough with Johnny and Dally dying and all, but why'd you go and become a criminal?

Dutch goes into the breakroom and attempts to flirt with Danni by dropping cliche's about how lousy coffee is in a precinct. He's about to ask her out when Vic bursts in, shouting, "Look, it's the ladykiller!" He asks if it's true that Nancy's Sis gave Dutch oral sex at the crime scene. Dutch says he was just comforting her, which causes the teasing to get that much worse. Shane, played by the incomparable Walton Goggins, starts making sex noises and says, "If you can think of anything else you need, you just call 911 and ask for Detective Blow-Me!" Moment ruined, Dutch stomps away.

"That was real classy," Danni says, pouring sugar in her coffee. Vic tells her that Dutch thinks he's better than everyone else; he's just reminding Dutch that's not true. Vic invites Danni to have a drink with him. "Is your wife coming?" Danni asks. When he says no, she turns him down flat. Good for her. Danni has morals. Vic suggests she lose track of the morals tonight. Julien comes in to ask if Danni's ready to go out on patrol. She looks relieved.

From the van, a painfully young-looking plainclothes officer watches as Shane and Vic talk to a guy. The guy in question is washing his car and doesn't seem particularly interested in a conversation. Shane and Vic get back in the van. "Who was that?" asks Young Plainclothes. Vic cryptically replies that it's a guy he knows.

Later, Young Plainclothes secretly meets Aceveda in a local park. He has dirt for the captain: The guy Vic talked to at the car wash is a drug dealer named Rondell Robinson. Aceveda thinks Vic has been purposely taking out Rondell's competition and furthermore, he wants Young Plainclothes to help him prove it. Young Plainclothes agrees, even though Vic has a lot of friends in the LAPD. Aceveda introduces him to Hernandez, an old college friend who now works for the Justice Department. Young Plainclothes AKA Terry says that he didn't agree to be a star witness in a federal case. He points out the obvious: If he rats out another cop to the feds, he will be a dead man walking.

"He's right," says Aceveda, "It's too dangerous. He couldn't pull it off." Terry, offended, growls that he could so. Hernandez has guaranteed him a job in the Justice Department after they bust Vic. Terry drives a hard bargain: he wants to work in D.C. and have the feds pay his moving expenses. Hernandez thinks he can make that happen. Terry is no fool; he wants a guarantee in writing. Aceveda warns, "If we only wound him [Vic], his friends upstairs will crush both of us." What's Aceveda getting out of all this? Why, just a dirty cop being put in prison. "You wanna be mayor someday, you're gonna have to learn to lie a hell of a lot better than that," says Terry.

Claudette and Vic find the illustrious Ponyboy taking a bunch of VCRs out of his van. Said electronics came from a nearby Circuit City. Ponyboy is nattily dressed in a suit and fedora-ish hat. At the precinct, he insists he doesn't know anything about Jenny. He admits to being at Nancy's house to look for her old man Lonnie. Claudette informs him that Lonnie moved. Ponyboy has it on good authority that Lonnie is at crackhouse run by someone named Monty.

Claudette goes to a back room of the precinct, where Vic and Company are playing poker. She asks what he knows about Monty's crackhouse. "No can do. Monty gives me dirt, I give him safe passage," Vic tells her. Claudette says Monty might be able to find a missing child. Vic agrees to go talk to him.

Monty's crackhouse is as charming as the name implies, replete with a large pitbull on the premises. Monty lets Vic in. Without so much as a hello, Vic asks where Lonnie is. Lonnie, it turns out, is passed out on a couch in the back room. Vic spots two little boys, probably no older than 6, in adjacent room. Monty makes an excuse that it's a school holiday and the kids' mom is on a supply run. Vic tells Monty he shouldn't have kids in a crackhouse. Monty asks what he's supposed to do with them. "Stick 'em in a back room. Rent The Lion King," Vic says. Monty lamely mumbles that someone stole his TV. "Then buy 'em some crayons!" Vic orders.

Claudette gets the pleasure of interrogating shirtless, sweaty, Jonesing Lonnie. She knows he killed Nancy. Dutch says the crime lab found Nancy's blood on Lonnie's shirt. Aceveda watches the interrogation in his office via closed-circuit TV. Lonnie claims he went to the house to pick up Jenny and has no idea what happened to Nancy. Dutch guesses that Nancy made Lonnie angry and he didn't mean to do it. Claudette presses harder.

Lonnie went to Nancy's to pick up Jenny, but Nancy wouldn't let him take their daughter. He claims Nancy had a knife. Lonnie starts to cry. He admits to killing Nancy. "Why would I do that?" he sobs. "Uh, because you like crack?" Dutch guesses. He brags that he knew Lonnie was the killer. Claudette asks about Jenny. What comes out of Lonnie's mouth next shocks both her and Dutch: "I sold her." Lonnie can't remember who he sold Jenny to, just that the guy paid him $200.

"Search warrant!" Dutch shouts as he smashes a window. He finds a man, George, sitting in the kitchen. George is spoonfeeding an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Claudette asks about Jenny. George immediately looks shifty. In the interrogation room, Claudette has a pile of child porn magazines taken from George's room. George asks where his mom is because she needs her medications. Dutch promises she'll be taken care of and offers George coffee.

In the squadroom, Dutch addresses everyone present: "Who took my Ding-Dongs?" Really don't think you should be worrying about snack cakes right now, Dutchboy. Vic asks if Dutch is in kindergarten. Dutch, who weighs considerably less than Vic, warns Vic to stay away from his desk. Claudette asks what the problem is. Dutch tells her. Claudette rolls her eyes at Vic, "Come on, son, fork over his Ding-Dongs." Or I'm gonna have to hear about all night she must add mentally.  Vic leaves.

Dutch wonders why everyone likes "that asshole" so much. Claudette reminds him they have an interview going and is sure she saw a box of Twinkies in the breakroom. "It's not the same thing," Dutch pouts. Personally, I think both snacks suck. Give me a box of Butterscotch Krimpets or cinnamon coffee cakes any day.

Dutch sits back down with George. The pedophile insists he has nothing to hide. Dutch gives him a history lesson about how the mental health profession used to think of homosexuality as a mental illness. Homosexuality is now thought to be genetic; perhaps there's a gene that makes some people attracted to children. Maybe someday, people like George will be accepted just as gays by and large are now. George looks almost hopeful.

Shane and Vic pull Miguel out from under the car he was working on. They briefly intimidate him, noting all the tools around him and the conspicuous absence of pilers. Back the precinct, Aceveda informs Vic that Miguel dropped his excessive force complaint. Aceveda wants Vic's incident report by the next morning. Vic says he doesn't answer to Aceveda even though the guy is kind of his boss.

Danni and Julien respond to a complaint of slashed tires. The complainant thinks it's his girlfriend's jealous ex Lamar. Lamar wasn't handling his responsibilities as a man, presumably in the fatherhood department, so New Boyfriend took his place. New Boyfriend didn't actually see Lamar slash his tires.

Vic goes to a park at night where a large group of Hispanic men are playing soccer. He collects some money from a pimp, which he gives to his informant, a strung-out hooker named Connie. Vic reminds her that she's out of free passes. Connie is sure something is going down with Rondell's rival, Two-Time, that Saturday night. Vic remarks that she's lost weight and tells her to go get something to eat. Connie doesn't want Vic's money. Vic insists and asks where her son is. Thankfully, Connie's son is with her mom.

In the interrogation room, Dutch tells George that he has a daughter who's about to turn 14. His daughter has friends who dress like pre-trainwreck Britney Spears. Dutch relaxes in a chair, tilting it back on two legs. He says, referring to his daughter's friend Natalie, "She may not but a woman yet, but you can't call her a girl either." Oddly enough, that's almost word-for-word a line from a Britney song. Dutch has the pervert's attention; George is practically drooling.

Watching the interrogation on TV, Aceveda remarks, "I didn't know Dutch had a daughter." "He doesn't," Claudette replies. Yikes. That whole scene implies then that there are VERY dark corners of Dutch's mind where sane people dare not venture. Aceveda asks what Claudette thinks of Vic. Aceveda knows his underlings are not fond of him; the captain earned his rank by taking tests, not risking his life on the street. Claudette doesn't think busting Vic will make people like him anymore. Aceveda calls Vic "Al Capone with a badge." Not a fair comparison. For one thing, Al had hair. Claudette reminds him that the public feels safer because Vic is cleaning up the neighborhoods.

Julien and Danni go to a motel to talk to Lamar the suspected tire slasher. Lamar gives it up right away; he's guilty. He was pissed off at his ex. He gave her $1,500 as a down payment for the car; the girl repaid him by kicking him out the next day and giving the car to her new boyfriend. If the ex has a problem, she knows where Lamar lives.

At the precinct, Julien collects Lamar's jewelry before he goes into the holding cell. Lamar can get out as soon as he is arraigned and posts bail. which will likely be about $300. Lamar protests that he doesn't have that much cash. "How are you able to afford all this jewelry then?" Julien asks pointedly.

George admits that Lonnie sold him Jenny. Jenny was too young even for George; he prefers girls who are 12 or 13. George didn't want to keep Jenny and Lonnie had already spent the money. So sick S.O.B. George traded Jenny to "this doctor I met on the Internet."

Elsewhere, Vic is hosting a backyard barbecue. It's a cozy suburban scene: people lounging on deck chairs, kids and adults splashing around in the pool. Terry arrives and compliments Vic on his boat. Vic says he uses it to take his kids to Lake Tahoe a few times a year. The older cop is wearing a black T-shirt (in this heat?) featuring a coiled snake on the front; the slogan reads "FARMINGTON DISTRICT STRIKE TEAM...STRIKE HARD, STRIKE FAST." STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY, SIR! Sorry, reflex from growing up on The Karate Kid.

Vic's wife exits the house and asks if Vic is allowing their son Matthew to keep a spider in his room. "It's for a school project," Vic explains. A likely story. Vic remarks that kids grow up fast, especially with his line of work. Terry's dad was a cop and always admired guys like Vic. Terry brings up the idea of being more than just the Strike Team's driver. He understands why he's been left out: "You guys are a team; it's all about trust. Otherwise, you end up dead."

Later, when all the wives and kiddos are elsewhere, Vic gathers the Strike Team around a poolside table. Two-Time, their target, normally doesn't keep drugs at his place, but there will be tonight. Two-Time's house has steel-enforced doors, meaning they'll have to go through a window. "We" in this case must mean "everyone except Vic." No way can Michael Chiklis get his butt through a window. "Knock, knock. Who's there? Strike Team, Mr. Drug Dealer," jokes Shane.

Vic claps a big friendly hand on Terry's shoulder. Tonight is the rookie's first big mission. Vic reminds Terry that the team comes first and they take care of each other.

Claudette and Dutch talk to Dr. Grady, the pedophile Internet acquaintance of George. He demands to be charged or released; patients are counting on him. Dr. Grady claims not to know Jenny or George and repeats, "Charge me or release me." In the office, Aceveda asks if Dr. Grady is capable of killing Jenny. Dutch plans to let the doctor stew and come back in a couple of hours. Claudette is not okay with this: "We got a girl who's been missing since yesterday morning. Who knows if she's got food or water?" Dutch is sure he can break the man by the end of the day; he's smarter than Dr. Grady. "This is not a quiz show, Dutch," Claudette reminds him, "Lose the ego."

Aceveda heads to the Strike Team's clubhouse, opens the door, and addresses Vic: "I need you." Vic goes to the interrogation room, locks the door, and closes the blinds. Vic has brought along a goody bag: a cigarette lighter, what looks like a fifth of cheap whiskey, a thick phonebook, and a boxcutter. "What's that stuff for?" Dr. Grady asks. Exactly what you think it's for, sweetheart. Dr. Grady guesses it's Vic's turn to be bad cop. "Nah, good cop and bad cop left for the day. I'm a different kind of cop," Vic replies easily.

Dr. Grady asks to see his lawyer. He also gives Vic a friendly reminder about the camera on the other side of the room. Vic gives a disturbing speech in which he offers Dr. Grady his own 8-year-old daughter Cassidy. Dr. Grady still denies knowing Jenny. Vic shoves him, then gives him a few good licks with the phonebook. In his office, Aceveda turns off the TV monitor.

Sometime later, Vic goes downstairs with a piece of paper in hand. Dr. Grady rents a basement apartment under a fake name; Jenny is there by herself and still alive as far as the doctor knows. Dutch doesn't even thank Vic for solving the case.

Dutch, Claudette, and Aceveda kick in Dr. Grady's door. They hear faint coughs coming from inside a small utility closet. Aceveda cuts the padlock off the door. Dutch opens it. Jenny is alive, naked except for the blanket she's wrapped in and clearly terrified. The three detectives are simultaneously horrified by the girl's condition and relieved that she isn't dead. Claudette sits next to the girl and hugs her. "It's okay, Jenny," she soothes. "You're safe now."

Back at the station, Danni has heard that Dutch found the missing little girl. Dutch describes Dr. Grady as a "domination-control sociopath." Danni says it's a good thing Dutch caught him. Danni is headed home after a double shift. Dutch invites her for drinks with him and some friends from his last precinct. Danni can't go; her friend has set her up on a blind date. Danni suddenly inquires about a bad smell. They find literal dog crap in Dutch's desk drawer.

Dutch is angry and accuses Vic of doing it. Vic plays innocent. Aceveda and Claudette survey the scene from the second floor. Aceveda talks about an old tradition: A cop who starts to get a big head gets dog crap put in his locker. I'm surprised nobody has hidden anything in Aceveda's desk yet. "You heard about that, huh?" asks Claudette, meaning she's probably responsible.

Montage time! This one set to the blaring scream of Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba." The members of the Strike Team stroll out of the clubhouse in black SWAT gear. It's clear they rule the roost at the station. Dutch is wearing rubber gloves and scrubbing his desk drawer. Claudette is greeted at home by her faithful Golden Retriever. The Strike Team van is loaded with a ladder and various weapons. Terry climbs in the driver's seat. At home, Aceveda bottlefeeds his infant daughter.

It's dark in the van. About all you can see is the glow of Walton Goggins' teeth. A blond guy in a backwards baseball cap pumps his fist and headbangs. Even just sitting here, you can feel the energy.

Danni looks herself over in the mirror. She's exchanged her police uniform for a red blouse and black skirt. She removes a pistol from her purse and puts the gun in the drawer. The doorbell rings. Danni fixes her hair one last time before opening the door. She shakes her date's hand and walks back to her chest of drawers. Surreptitiously, she slides the gun out of the drawer and back into the purse.

The Strike Team parks in front of Two-Time's house. The drug dealer is inside with a mostly-naked woman. They're playing a video game together, probably Grand Theft Auto. The Strike Team Member rocking a Tom Selleck mustache is first up the ladder and smashes the window. This startles Two-Time. He tells the woman on his lap to get up. They set about hiding the drugs.

Two-Time runs in the bathroom to flush his stash. One by one, the Strike Team awkwardly bellyflops through the open window. Vic sees what Two-Time is doing. Two-Time immediately shoots at Vic. The guys dive for cover. Vic and Shane put multiple holes in Two-Time. Vic takes the gun out of the dead drug dealer's hand, turns around, and sees Terry.

Vic pulls the trigger. The bullet hits Terry just under his eye and he crumples to the ground. Vic calmly stands over the dying rookie. We see a brief black-and-white montage of Terry's scenes in this episode. Terry closes his eyes and Vic sadly shakes his head. In the immortal words of Murphy MacManus, "I can't believe that just fucking happened!!!"