SouthLAnd 4.1 – Wednesday

John Cooper gets a new partner.

The best show on television is back on my screen, and I couldn’t be happier. And once again, they haven’t pulled any punches, they haven’t let the tempo drop, and they haven’t dumbed anything down for the audience. For that alone, I thank you, Amy Biderman and crew.

We open with Sammy and Ben driving through the neighborhood where they see some douchebag beating up a young woman. They light it up, Ben jumps out and races after him (I wonder if they fight over who gets to run? Because they both are runners, and damn good at it.) Sammy drives around front to try and cut the guy off. As Ben jumps up on a tv to hop the fence and the action pauses, we hear:

“Cops wake up every morning different from the rest of us. Our worst nightmare is just their Wednesday.”  

 

7 hrs. Prior

Lydia, in bed (and I love her pajama top, and that her clothes are mismatched like a real person would wear) is woken by a knock at the door. She quietly grabs her side arm and slinks to the front door. There’s someone in a hoodie outside. She opens the door, gun at the ready, and sees that it’s an old Confidential Informant (C.I.) looking for a place to crash. Danelle gives her sob story of gotta, wanna, need to, but she has a mark on her. You know, for being a rat.

Miss Lydia does not offer sanctuary to drug addicts in witness protection, thank you. She tells Danelle as much, and how stupid she is for coming back to her old hood, but Lydia will get some information to her. In the meantime, she closes her door and locks it.

John Cooper, free of his crippling back pain (and we hope, his addiction to pain killers) is shown working the hell out in a gym. The man is pushing it to the limit, and more importantly: looks like he’s completely capable of it. Thank you, TNT, for giving us Michael Cudlitz’s arms. John is a man with a mission: to get back to work.

Ben, in civies, is hanging out in a nice part of LA, sipping tea from actual china and watching the ladies go by in their yoga togs. Life seems to be mighty fine for Officer Ben Sherman.

Sammy, with the baby in the back (aww, baby boy! Tami let him be a part of the baby’s life! It’s his and not the photographer jerk’s!) is on the phone (hands free) doing a little co-parenting. They’ve named the baby Nate, and I still hurt over Nate getting killed. Tami whines about “River” saying vaccinations are bad as Sammy scoffs, saying that the Surgeon General should carry a little more weight than her Pilates instructor.

That’s when a Cuete rolls up next to Sammy, tatted out and looking for trouble. Sammy has one eye on him, one on his son. He hangs up on Tami, carefully pulls his firearm and aims it at the door (he could easily shoot through the door.) The guy asks, “Eh, you don’t remember me?” Sammy takes the safety off his gun. “Should I?” Ha ha, it’s his old pal from training, under cover! What a dick. Sammy says as much as the baby coos in the back seat and we all exhale. Good lord.

These guys are always in danger. Always. I know that’s the theme of this episode, but man. It’s just shocking every time we’re reminded of that.

John is done working out, is thoughtfully shirtless, and we see the mangled up scar on his lower back. There has to be some metal in there holding him together. Next, he’s at Morning Roll Call, where he’s welcomed back in true LAPD style: by Dewey being an asshole to him. C. Thomas Howell has to be the happiest guy on earth to get this plum role. He’s such a memorable dick. John gets paired up with Tang, who everyone calls “Hollywood.” It’s Lucy Liu, and boy, does she not look tough. I know, I saw Kill Bill with everyone, but she’s tiny. Bitch glare only takes you so far. (Foreshadow.)

Dewey hints at her being “internet famous,” wanting to know if John’s seen her video. This is an absolutely outstanding re-direct, by the way. It’s easy to think she’s gone from porn star (or the like) to cop. John hasn’t seen it, isn’t interested, and is ready to get to work. Fortunately, Tang is all business, too, and she’s running the show. Well, okay, then.

As Sammy and Ben get into their assigned squad car, we get introduced to yet another new face, Lou Diamond Phillips as “Fergusen,” another ball-busting asshole of a cop who has just seen too much. That’s Ben’s take on it. Sammy knows him, though, and is now entrenched as the mediator between the two. Fergusen thinks Ben is a sap for, you know, caring.

Lydia has a new partner, Ruben Robinson (he’s going to be sticking around, which is awesome.) They’re at a place where they’re past the early getting to know you stuff and are already on sharing his wife’s cookies and banter. He’s a former Marine, served two tours in Afghanistan, and loves his family and respects Lydia. It’s a good match.

Cooper and Tang are doing the getting to know you dance, though. She’s on edge, waiting to hear whatever shit John’s going to give her, but that’s not Cooper. He says he’ll just call her “Jessica,” if that’s all right by her? Her shoulders drop a bit. She asks about his rehab, getting him tense until he realizes she means from his back surgery. Okay. That secret might still be under wraps. Ben knew for sure, but… maybe no one else knows about him using. But she might know that he’s gay?  Oh, that he’s “an upstanding officer.”  But. You can’t keep secrets for long on the force, it seems.

Some guy cuts in front of them, almost hitting a pedestrian, so they light up, Jessica’s on point, but the driver doesn’t buy her authority for a minute and threatens her, is disrespectful, then John looms in the passenger window, ordering him to step out. A black SUV rolls up, cutting them off, and they both pull their guns. But it’s this kid’s mama, who orders him out, reads him the riot act, and John, laughing to himself, informs her that her son was very rude and disrespectful to them. I love John Cooper, good god, what a great character.

They get weary of Mom, so they lead the kid off, with John muttering, “I get why you want to go to jail…”

Sammy and Ben, meanwhile, are in pursuit of gunshots when they spot the shoot out in an alley. Two guys are running in a chase, randomly firing like a couple of assholes. They race up the alley in their squad car when the guy in the back takes a head shot and goes down. They call it in, request back up, and find the lone gunman running into a school. Backup is there, and they run through the mass of screaming kids, telling them to get down and out, and they enter the building, quietly.

This is what the show does so amazingly well: as they hold their breath, quietly looking for where he went (Dewey softly guiding a child out from under a desk and outside to his teacher) we’re holding our breath and looking for the shooter as well. I saw a locker partially opened and worried he was in there. Ben’s walkie bangs into a trash can and my hands are at my mouth saying, “SHH!” It’s real time, it’s real emotion, and it’s outstanding television.

They clear the hallway and follow blood drops to find the guy in between two urinals, a massive hole in his throat. He’s covered in his own blood. Sammy puts his gun away and says, “You are definitely not going to make it.” They stand watching this guy dying – and we don’t care about him either. He’s shooting in a school yard. Sammy asks for last words, maybe he wants to ask for forgiveness?

“Fuck you,” he burbles, then dies.

“That’s an appropriate resting place for that piece of shit,” is Dewey’s parting shot as he leaves the room. Ben looks at the body, not sure how to feel about all of this.

Jessica is busy tracking a lunch truck, “Truck Norris,” as she and John chat and get coffee. Some guy in the next door cafe is causing trouble and the waitress threatens to bring Cooper over there. He turns to look at Cooper, who gives him the “Are you going to cause any trouble here, Sir?” eye. The guy looks like a wuss, and turns back to his food. John and Jessica leave.

Back at the scene where the first guy was shot in the head, Fergusen stands “vigil.” That means chewing dip (he’s not very good at it) and looking away while two little kids poke at the dead body with a stick. This leads to a “here’s the right way to handle a crime scene” fight between Ben and Fergusen, and Ben’s not wrong. But in a way, neither is Fergusen. These two guys killed themselves, and it’s not like they’re going to gain anything from the crime scene. But ethically, it’s wrong. Ben is a cop because he believes in the job. The job they sell at the academy, at least.

Lydia has plopped Danelle in a motel with instructions to quit being an idiot and to not leave the room. Yeah, that’s not going to stick. Which is probably why Lydia is so pissed by this girl. We learn they grew up near each other and went to the same school. Danelle seems to be under the impression that this means something, but it didn’t. Danelle mentions that she’s never seen the ocean. Remember that they are in Los Angeles. Lydia and Ruben leave, not happy about the situation they’re stuck in.

Ben grouses about Fergusen to Sammy when they hear over dispatch that Cooper is on a job. Sammy wants to go say hey and Ben…doesn’t. We see that he doesn’t, but he half smiles and agrees. Ben is still pissed that his hero – John plays by the books, John is a good cop and a good man, well, barring that pesky drug habit – turned out to be mortal, after all.

Jessica and Cooper, on the call that came through dispatch, see a group of people watching an Olds ’88 ghost ride. It’s spinning in a circle, backwards, and John takes matters in his own hands. He busts out a window as it loops and loops and circles backwards and flings himself through the window. “I hope the pins hold…” Oh my god, me, too. The camera cuts to inside the front of the car where he’s worming his huge frame into the vehicle and shuts it off. He steps out to the crowd applauding him. “That’s how you shut off a car.” Love it.

Lydia and Ruben are cruising, and she’s realizing how good a match they are. She could use it after the two partners she’s had. (Remember that her last partner rubbed her the wrong way, then she started rubbing her partner’s son. Whoops.) They get a call that Danelle’s been picked up in a Compton drug bust, where she announced that she’s Lydia’s C.I. because she’s an idiot. The things Lydia does for people…

Sammy and Ben roll up to the Ghost Ride where Sammy and John greet each other happily. John sees Ben, gives him a bit of a shy smile, and says, “Hey, Boot.” Nope, Ben isn’t having it. “I’m PT-2 now.” Right. John plays it off like he’s not hurt his old nickname pissed off his trainee (the one he really liked) and after some awkward small talk, goes back to work. Sammy can’t figure out what that was all about, and tries to tell Ben that hey, it looked like he’s not using, at least? What?

See, guys? You can’t keep secrets on the force. And then we’re caught up to the opening scene where they light up and chase the guy in the alley, Ben on foot and Sammy racing around the street.

Ben is working the parkour up and over fences and other garbage and runs right into a backyard filled with gang members. And they’re huge and carrying. And they do not appreciate Officer Friendly showing up, uninvited. Shit. Ben is trying to catch his breath and keep his gun trained on the hostile crowd (of about 30, and all I can think of is Sammy and Nate and oh, my heart! Nate!), giving his brain a chance to catch up.

“That guy raped a little boy. He broke in his bedroom and did it in front of his little sister. That’s cool in this neighborhood?” You’ll notice that he didn’t say a little girl was raped. “We good?” he asks. This is the one thing that is not okay, so they grudgingly part and let him continue the chase.

Sammy catches up behind the guy in the car, Ben joins him, and there’s a truck blocking the alley, so they’re both on foot. And Sammy can run really fast. They’re catching up to him at the end of the alley, where the guy keeps running and holy shit a truck plows right into him. I mean, I did not see that coming. Neither did the suspect. (Ba dum bum ching.)

They turn the corner to see the gore, the shoe knocked off his body, and the trucker shakily climbing out of the cab, his hands in his hair, freaked. They get him to sit on the curb and catch his breath and you see the guy in the street move a little. Yeah, he’s not dead.

Coop and Tang (ha) see a possible DUI, pull him over with Jessica on point again. In a much needed moment of levity, she asks him about tampons, and if he has any. Then she pulls out the fattest doobie I’ve seen since CB-4 out of his hair, kept over his ear. John is laughing at the situation, and it’s a great moment between the two of them. This is one of those scenes that makes the show feel like a documentary. The dialog is delivered perfectly, the action is spot on, and it’s all so naturally played out. Can you tell I love this show?

Back with Sammy and Ben, we learn the girl was fourteen, she fought the assailant off before he could do anything, and Fergusen makes some really disgusting comments about the poor kid. The cops all stand around while the guy bleeds out in the street. A crowd has gathered, and they’re getting angry that an ambulance hasn’t made it yet and that no one is administering first aid. This gets to Ben, who grabs his kit (Fergusen making fun of him the whole time) and starts bandaging the guy’s head. The crowd sees him, and that’s important.

Lydia and Ruben are at the crack house and she lays into Danelle. She is done with this. Danelle is too stupid to see how dangerous it was for her to run her mouth and be in public. Danelle tries to play the “but my life was hard” card, and Lydia is not having it.

“I grew up 10 blocks from here so don’t you tell me about it getting rough around here!” Regina King, you need to be nominated for awards, you are outstanding as the first female black Nick Nolte. (She’s the crusty old cop who’s seen everything. And she’s in her 30s. It’s a hell of a part.) Lydia tosses money at Danelle with instructions to get a bus ticket and get the hell out of town. Oh, that won’t end well, and we all know it.

Truck Norris has parked, Jessica is desperate for some good grub, and the other cops on the beat are already there, chowing. Jessica stands at the back of the line, while the other cops (and John) say they should cut up front. She wants to “send a message” but John reasonably explains that the citizens would much rather they eat and get back to work than stand in line. That’s pretty standard issue for eating establishments, by the way. Of course, they get a call for a jumper, so no Truck Norris.

The ambulance has shown up where Sammy and Ben have been babysitting the dying almost-rapist when the EMTs laugh at his bandages. Oh, and he’s already dead. Well, Ben, at least you tried.

The jumper that Coop and Jessica find is a crazy guy (literally a paranoid schizophrenic) who’s off his meds. He’s got pantyhose wrapped around his neck and is up on a lift in a warehouse. John starts telling him things he wants to hear (about a made up girlfriend) as they wait out his psychiatrist’s arrival. Jessica just wanted some freaking pork belly in sesame, you know?

Back at the station, Ben is already showered and dressed in his civies when Fergusen continues to give him shit for being a “do gooder.” That’s not what it is to be a cop. “The job is to shovel the city’s shit until the good citizens of Metropolis can pretend it ain’t there.” Yeah, that doesn’t fly with Ben. But hey, when he’s been there as long as Fergusen, that asshole will be a security guard at Rite-Aid, so…

They start a fight, actually shattering a mirror with the force of Ben being shoved, and Sammy comes out in a towel and breaks it up, sending Fergusen on his way. And thank you, Shawn Hatosy, for all of your running and your bare glutes. I like that you keep it real. Ben shakes him off and heads out of there to clear his head.

The crazy jumper, meanwhile, is becoming more and more agitated. Jessica doesn’t care, John tries to tell him that Sandra (the fake girlfriend) is so, so sorry about all of this, which is all the jumper needed. Because, you see, Sandra is a liar. He jumps and immediately is being strangled with the pantyhose. John jumps to another lift and bemoans how slow the damn thing is, trying to get up to the guy and not let him die.

“The truck left.” Jessica has her priorities, we see.

At the station, Sammy is dressed and he and Ben start heading toward the front exit when a guy comes in, blasting his shot gun (with an extended mag, so there should be 8 shots, 9 max. This is the stuff I notice. And sharp eyes will notice the shooter is the wuss from the cafe.) A guy at the front desk takes buckshot straight to the torso. Everyone scrambles for cover. Ben is the first to pop up and shoot back, twice. A blonde woman takes a hit to the side and goes down. Shooter is now moving further and further into the station toward the desks and Fergusen takes a few shots at the shooter. It’s bedlam, and yet another cop takes a hit.

Fergusen shouts, “Hey, asshole!” and flings some papers to get the shooter’s attention, then fires. He misses and takes a direct hit to the upper chest, neck, and face and goes down. Someone else pops the shooter in the chest, right lung. He’s down. CLEAR? CLEAR. Everyone gets back to their feet and assesses the damage. Ben drops to Fergusen, ripping his shirt open to reveal his Kevlar. “Stay with me! An R/A unit is coming!” he shouts, but we can see a huge hole in Fergusen’s face.

Outside, Sammy is bent over, puking. Ben is shaking. Sammy realizes he’s pissed his pants, and Ben did the same. I mean, hey: Wednesday. Dewey lets them know that the Kevlar saved Fergusen’s life, but the shot to his face was a thru-and-thru and he lost some teeth. Could be worse: he could have had his brain stem punctured. They don’t know about the other cops, yet.

Sammy talks about how brave Fergusen was with that move. Ben thinks Sammy would have done it, had the chance arisen, but Sammy’s not too sure about that. Ben asks Dewey who the shooter was.

“Just some guy, man.”

John is in the station watching the infamous Tang video. And holy shit, is it not what I expected. It’s squad-cam footage of her pulling over a guy, telling him to step out of the vehicle. And this guy is probably 6′ 8”. She’s barely 5′. He grabs her, picks her up like a piece of fluff and proceeds to slam her into the street over and over, throwing her onto the hood of her squad car, throwing her back to the street and punching her again and again, then kicking her repeatedly. It’s incredibly upsetting. Jesus, is it awful to watch.

John turns it off as she comes in saying to him, “You really hadn’t seen it.” He says there was nothing she could have done, really, but she knows that she was too close and didn’t keep him in her line of sight. But let’s think about that: you really need a presence to effectively do the job. See: Chickie (who I miss.) “I’m the cop! I’m the cop!” as Chickie took down that rapist. That was a believable outcome. I’m curious to see how this plays out.

John changes the subject by asking about his performance; he knows the higher ups are wondering if he’s still capable of doing the job. She smiles and says she’ll see him tomorrow. I like them as partners, even though I have a hard time believing she could be a Compton/Watts beat cop.

Lydia and Ruben approach a crime scene. A woman was seen in a crack house being shoved into a blinged out Escalade. They walk up to a white plastic cooler opened, its contents spilling out towards the water. It’s Danelle’s body. “Guess she finally got her chance to see the ocean,” Lydia says, taking off her shoes and walking in the surf to where one of Danelle’s flip flops is floating.

“You know what? People have a choice, no matter what hand they’re dealt. You can rise above or drown.” Lydia knows how to keep the job out of her personal life, at least.

 

My show is back, and it’s back with a vengeance. See you next week for UNDERWATER.

Please like & share:
  • angela

    I totally agree with everything you said – I love this show. I was a huge fan of NYPD Blue and was missing a really great cop show until Southland came on. I love the camaraderie of the cast and how real it all feels.

    • God, I love this show. NYPD Blue was such a great program and set the bar, and this – in my opinion – is leaping over it.

      It really comes off like a documentary, which is outstanding work on the director’s part. No fat anywhere.

  • StrtMyOrange

    First season I’m watching in “real time” (not on the interweb, previous-seasons-in-one-day sort of thing) and I’m on the edge of my seat, hands to mouth the entire episode!! I love this show so much! You can feel the camaraderie of the cast on screen. I really like Ms. Liu, but you are correct, she is soooo tiny and I wonder how she could be an effective beat cop in those neighborhoods. That video was so difficult for me to watch; I know it’s fiction but it was brutal. Like you, so happy this show is back!

    • Oooh, you get to be stressed and excited all week with us now!

      I like Lucy Liu, and I’m interested to see how they’re going to tell her story. I know I can trust the show with it, but so far, I’m not sold (which is where they want me.)

      That video was WRETCHED to watch. Damn.

  • Brandi

    OMG it was so great to have Southland back, and have it be *back*. Yes, yes, yes, to everything you’ve said.

    • Boy, they wasted no time, right? Like, not one ounce of fat in this episode – there was nothing that needed tightening, nothing that felt forced or drawn out. Outstanding.

  • great recap! I’m so glad I caught up with this show. Like StrtMyOrange, this is the first episode I’ve watched on the air, and it was a promising start to the season.

    • Thank you! And OH, how we will all flail together. It’s hard waiting for each week on a show like this, but man, is this one worth it.

      They just do not let us down as viewers, full stop. I can only think of one other show where I have this much faith in the story telling: Game of Thrones.

  • Brunettepet

    You know I love this show. It’s so real in its taut direction and tight scriptwriting. The characters are worth caring about because they’re all great roles filled with fine actors, well directed. Everybody owns their character and there’s not a minute wasted. Whether it’s Cooper possibly having eye sex with random coffee shop one night stand (I know, I know, but that’s how I took it first time through) or allusions to Tang’s Youtube tape, you know it’s leading somewhere.

    This episode had me on edge and kept surprising me. I am happy my show is back.

    • Oh my god, there is nothing wasted on this show. The practically start scenes a few minutes AFTER they’ve started, you know? Just tight, tight writing and direction. No one is perfect, no one is allowed to skirt without messing up once, and yet we still care.

      Every time I think they’re going in one direction, I’m surprised. That is FINE TV.