SouthLAnd 4.2 – Underwater

Huh. You don't see that every day...

“This is a tough, dirty job. [The LAPD] used to have a lot more rope, and a lot more soap. But it’s a new age – a video age. People are always watching us. Everywhere.”

Officer Ben Sherman said as much (but far less eloquently) to Officer Fergusen just last week, as Fergusen watched a crime suspect die in the street while a crowd of angry citizens watched. Sherman is about to be reminded of the same thing. 

Ben and Sammy roll up mid-day on a crowd of kids dancing in a parking lot. There’s obviously been a nuisance called in. The kids are all older teens, dressed in uniforms and hoodies. Sammy feels bad for breaking up the fun, but the job’s the job. He switches off the music which pisses of the crowd. As he and Ben start ordering the crowd to disperse, a pretty blonde girl playing tough gets in Ben’s face, threatening him, like he won’t do something because she’s a girl. She slaps and shoves at him and spits in his face.

Well. That just made it assault, so he grabs her, and starts cuffing her. One of her friends, a pretty black girl, starts shoving at him and slapping at him, too. The crowd is cheering the girls on as Sammy moves further and further into the mele. The second girl continues to shove and slap Ben, and when she spits in his face, we freeze.

Cops routinely find themselves underwater. The best manage to keep their heads above the surface. But even for a strong swimmer like Officer Ben Sherman, the undertow can be tricky.”

22 Hrs. Earlier

It’s a pool party with beautiful people everywhere. Ben walks over to Bokeem and Sammy at a grill. This is the off-duty life of Ben Sherman, and the guys are a little jealous. After some “you should move closer to the station, it’s like this all the time!” talk, Sammy says he prefers living far away; he needs the long drive home to decompress. Just then, a gorgeous woman in a tiny bikini comes up to Ben, kisses him, and they go off to horse around in the pool. It’s not a bad life, if you can get it.

Tang and Coop are on a nice city street where there happens to be a bloody, dismembered hand clutching a very rare crocodile-skin Birkin bag. (They actually do retail for around $55,000 and up, as mentioned in the show.) Tang knows all about them, because her sister would give her right arm for one. Dewey, slithering about, laughs and says, “Looks like someone already did.” You can always count on Dewey to make the obvious joke.

Lydia and Ruben arrive, ID the hand (from the wallet) and make arrangements to get the stop light camera footage. Coop and Tang will notify the family of the hand’s death. Lydia knows they’re looking for a silver SUV without plates.

Ben arrives at work that day to find police tape all over the station. (Oho. Clever, writers. Your subtlety never fails to amaze me.) There’s a new captain, and he’s a hard ass. He has everyone take a McDonald’s application, because each time they mess up, they will fill out a new line. “We’re going to send a message.” Ben perks up. Captain Rucker wants everyone’s ass out of their cars patrolling. He wants them squeezing their snitches, he wants them walking alleys, he wants them to protect and serve, goddammit. Ben is in awe – this is what he signed up for. (And everyone had been teasing him, telling him to let his idealism go.)

Lydia and Ruben pull up in front of a very lovely home, upper middle class in the ‘burbs. They ask for the lady of the house (from an adorable little boy) and a very attractive woman with another baby on her hip answers. She lets them see the garage. We can already see bloody tire tracks leading up the drive. Lydia, with a flashlight, checks the exterior, sees the front bumper is crumpled, and checks the front passenger wheel-well. Which is where she’s confronted with the top half of a woman, jammed inside the engine.

Christ. Even Lydia rears back, and that woman is so grizzled, you’d think she’d been through ‘Nam.

The man of the house is led to the squad cars, cuffed, saying how he just got a new job and was celebrating with some friends. “I thought I hit a coyote.”

“You ripped a woman in half, Mr. Davis.”

He begins to softly cry in the backseat. If ever you needed a reminder to not drink and drive, that should do it.

Sammy and Ben head out for the day with Sammy saying that he’s known of Rucker. He’s an OG and doesn’t mind being tough. “Our jobs just got harder.” Ben flirts a little with another new cop, Anawalt. And by flirting, I mean the adult version of pulling pigtails. Sammy says to just ask for her number, already, but Ben’s having too much fun this way.

Coop and Tang walk to the front entrance of a gorgeous mansion. Cooper says that it was Mary Pickford’s home. (Of course he knows who that is.) Tang has no clue, and wonders if that’s his old ex-girlfriend or something. I wonder if Tang knows Cooper is gay…

They get the butler, who is shunted to the side by the man of the house. He’s an attractive and fit older gentleman. He explains to them that his wife is with “her boyfriend” and won’t be home until later. Cooper gently breaks the news that she’s dead and the man crumples, holding on the doorway for support. And then we see that he’s laughing. He tells the butler that she’s dead, and the butler’s response is, “La bruja está muerta!” All of the staff repeats this, joyfully, and laugh with relief.

Tang looks confused, then says, “Ding dong… This is some strange shit right here.” as she and John walk back to their car.

Ben and Sammy are “squeezing” a hooker and hopeful informant. After finding a crack pipe on her to use as leverage, she tells them about a drug dealer’s stash house. They thank her and head off in search of someone to bust.

Tang sits silently in the car as they cruise while Cooper asks her all sorts of questions about herself, trying to get to know her. She’s not interested in sharing, and then, what the hell? Some nude guy – sans socks and running shoes – is jogging down the street. They roll alongside him, John laughing and smiling. “Hey, how’s it hanging, brother?”

The nude guy waves a hand distractedly, saying, “Eh, rough morning. I’m a little underwater.”

Tang asks, “You know you forgot your clothes?”

“I just needed to run, you know?”

John is still laughing to himself at all of this when Tang says, “You can’t run on city streets, so take the on-ramp. Freeways are okay.” The nude guy is thankful and hooks a right. Way to palm it off on ChiPs, Tang! John is impressed.

Lydia and Ruben are investigating a homicide in a convenience store, where the owner is anxious for them to get this taken care of so he can open his shop. The assailant was wearing a ski mask and had a limp, and the victim might be an out of work actor? Lydia notices streaks on the floor. “You mopped?”

Hey, getting blood out of cheap tile isn’t easy, okay? What a dummy.

Sammy and Ben, and Bokeem and Anawalt sit in the shadows watching a group of bangers throw dice, deciding who’s going to get who. They load in the cars, roll up with cheerful, “Hey, guys!” when the bangers all take off. They swing the cars around to block them, tackle who they can and start cuffing. Except for how it seems that Anawalt let one get away. Sammy keeps his cool, laughing and joking as they lead off the cuffed suspects. (This is a theme for Sammy, it takes a lot to ruffle his feathers. Oh, Nate… you’re still missed.)

Lydia and Ruben work the case back at the station, Lydia leading Ruben through the process. They find that the victim is a major parolee, and a little more digging turns up that he fingered an innocent guy for a rape, landing the innocent guy in jail for 22 years. If not for DNA, he’d still be there. Because, you see, the innocent guy – Darrel Miller – recently got out. Mm hm.

Sammy and Ben go to “smoke out” the guy Anawalt let get away by trolling through a near-by apartment complex. Bokeem spies a kid with one shoe that is about nine sizes too large. It’s custom with initials embroidered on it. They sweet talk the kid into snitching. He leads them to a nearby house, where Bokeem busts in first. “Police! Sorry to bother you, ma’am,” he says to the shocked woman in a hallway.

She doesn’t know anything about anything (and we believe her) and certainly has never seen that shoe before. (Which technically, is true. It was with that punk kid outside.) Ben sees the suspect break out through the back, he goes chasing and narrowly misses getting a baseball bat swung at his face by a last minute duck and tackle. He pins the suspect down, getting the cuffs on him and screaming, “You could have killed me, what were you thinking?” Going down for drugs vs. going down for killing a cop. Much different jail experience.

Ben shouts at the lady for hiding him when she honestly has no idea who he is. (He could have been a rapist. He could have been a cannibal, she doesn’t know!) She puts her weight back on one leg, hand on hip and tells Ben coolly, “He’s more my people than you are.” She then asks the suspect if he needs her “to call anyone, baby?” This is too much for Ben. There’s a crowd and they’re all on the suspect’s side. Simply because he’s a white cop. All he wants is to protect and serve, and they won’t let him. He’s pissed and his cool is long gone.

[…just last week: “They just see the uniform!” Exactly, Ben.]

Tang and Cooper are cruising when Tang asks about John’s back. Oh, no. She wouldn’t give, so he won’t give. And that’s when a guy completely engulfed in flames runs out of a triple X porn shop. Holy shi– John calls in back up for R/A support as they chase after him. Someone from the shop has a fire extinguisher and puts the guy out about a block away. Well, that’s not something you see every day.

Lydia and Ruben go see Darrel Miller in Baldwin Heights, a really cool neighborhood in south LA. Miller comes out and greets them. Yes, he knew the victim, and everyone knows that Miller hated the guy. But hey. He’d been with his grandma all morning. She’s 93 and he lives there to help her out, so there’s that alibi. His grandma comes out (Marla Gibbs!) and she’s a sweet old lady. Lydia smiles and Ruben gives Miller his card, just in case he thinks of anything else. They both notice that Miller has a limp.

Ben and the gang hang out on a hilltop, where Ben is still reeling from the earlier event. “They don’t want us there; I don’t want to be there.” That’s quite the 180 for Ben. Bokeem talks about growing up in the ‘hood, and how the LAPD fostered distrust by constantly beating on them for next to nothing. So why did he become a cop? A member of the SWAT came to his school, and Bokeem just liked the way the man carried himself. Anawalt became a cop because her uncle was one. Sammy confesses that he and his friends were stoned and thought it would be hilarious.

Sammy. SAMMY. And he’s the new moral center, I love it. One of the best, coolest cops there is on the force, too. Ben became a cop because he wanted to make a difference. Bokeem laughs at him. “Another ghetto tourist.”

“I used to think about these kids, how they grew up,” Ben says. Bokeem wants to now how he feels now. “I ain’t no social worker.” Oh, Ben. They get a call for a neighbor dispute and roll out.

Lydia and Ruben stake out Miller’s house, waiting for him to leave. They see him walk down the hillside and go to introduce themselves to Grandma. And…grandma isn’t lucid. There’s some dementia at play, and she thinks she knows Lydia as “Brenda.” This all makes Ruben uncomfortable, as clearly she’s not all there. As they fake their way to the laundry room, Lydia says, “Miller can’t have it both ways. If she’s competent enough to be his alibi, then she’s competent enough to give us consent.”

Cooper and Tang meet Dewey in the XXX store (where he’s over by the transsexual porn.) Dewey shows them the video room where the guy went up. It smells of meth.

“Wonder what he was watching? That shit musta been hot!” Again, any obvious jokes are going to be from Dewey. And he’s not done. He wants to know what kind of porn Coop and Tang are into it. Tang excuses herself, so Dewey explains to John that he loves the big girls. “More bounce to the ounce. Tig old biddies. Moped” all the usual lines. I get the feeling that Dewey owns the entire series of “Truly Tasteless Jokes” joke books. John fake-laughs and leaves.

Ben and Sammy arrive in a nice, modest neighborhood where an other officer is interviewing the complainant. She says the lady she called in about leaves her cats out all the time, and they use the first lady’s sandbox as a litter box. Her child is constantly covered in cat feces, and today, when she went to confront her, the crazy cat lady shot at her. She didn’t see a gun, she was too busy running away from being shot at. The cops roll their eyes, but Ben takes it seriously. (Of course he does.)

Ben has his side arm out, Sammy flanks him. We can see a giant glowing cross in one of the front windows. Ben knocks on the front door, sees a gun reflected in a window and shouts “GUN!” as they all duck. Shots ring out of the front window. They take cover behind their squad cars when Bokeem and Anawalt roll up. Crazy Cat Lady is barricaded in there, and procedure says they call SWAT. But to call SWAT, they’re going to need approval from Rucker. Shit.

Lydia and Ruben walk back to their squad car with evidence bags filled with bloody sneakers and clothes. Ruben is becoming disillusioned about the job; he doesn’t like the dishonesty of gaining entrance. The victim probably deserved it, etc., all of the moral quandaries that a police officer or detective will have to compartmentalize to do the job. Lydia puts it out there: it’s not Miller’s choice to make, if someone lives or dies.

They roll out and the camera lingers. We see Miller slowly making his way up the hill with bags of groceries. Oh, the timing on this show! Not a minute wasted, ever.

Rucker rolls up to where Ben, Sammy and the rest are waiting. And Sammy calling him Shaft earlier feels right. Rucker strides over, pissed they called him away from a lunch for an old lady. He orders Ben to get him his black case from his trunk. (Raise your hand if you immediately thought of The Wolf. “You sending in The Wolf? Well, shit, that’s all you had to say!”)

He opens his case and pulls out a book. Cut to him walking up her drive holding up a Bible and preaching loudly. Just as he’s about to step on the top landing, a gun cocks. “Come any closer and I’ll shoot.”

Ben sees a cat, grabs it, and calls out to the woman that if she doesn’t come out with her hands up and drops her weapon, Ben will call the pound and she’ll never see her cat again. The woman slowly comes out, all cops have their guns trained on her. She has all eyes on Spooky the cat. Ben makes her drop her rifle. She reaches out with one hand for the cat, but secretly has a handgun in the other behind her back. Rucker secretly had a shotgun and tags her with a sandbag load at point blank range, knocking her out. Ben rips open her dressing gown to show Kevlar.

Bokeem hoots and says, “Damn, she was ready to go to war! Granbo ain’t no joke!” Ben is praised for his quick thinking. Damn right he should be.

Lydia and Ruben are back in Baldwin Hills, but this time with a warrant. The blood was a match. Ruben is surprised, but Lydia, ever grizzled, says, “Guilt never surprises me, only innocence does.” (She doesn’t know the name of her gun; she only knows the sound it makes when it takes a man’s life.) Miller exits right about then, figures out quickly what’s what, and takes off, cutting through the shrubs and down the street. Ruben shows how damn good he is at sprinting (you’re on notice Sammy and Ben!) and follows Miller into a house.

Miller brandishes a fire poker, but Ruben pulls his gun. They back out of the house, Miller hoping Ruben will just shoot him. And that’s when Lydia comes out of nowhere and tackles Miller into the swimming pool. (Good hell, that was dangerous. Do you want to be in water with someone that has nothing to live for? Me, neither.) Ruben pulls her out, and Lydia’s stock just rose again.

Cooper and Tang are on the lookout for a suspect that’s 6′ 6” while Tang bitches about Dewey being a dick. True. John agrees, but Dewey is a hell of a cop. He was, at least. (I think he still is. But yes, he’s a total dick.) A huge mountain of a guy walks out and hits their car with his meaty fists. “I’m not going back!” I guess this is the suspect they’re looking for. They get out of the car, John calling it in to dispatch, and they both attack the guy, trying to subdue him. Tang has her baton and starts wailing on him as John grapples him to the ground.

Meanwhile, Sammy isn’t comfortable with Rucker shooting an old lady. Ben corrects him: it was a bean bag round, she wasn’t killed, none of the cops were hurt, and that equals a good day. (This echos advice he was given by John Cooper back as a boot.)

Dewey, the asshole but good cop, turns up with a tazer to aid Tang and Cooper. He gets the guy square in the neck, but that just pissed the guy off. He rips it off his neck, screaming, “That’s all you got?” Which is when John Cooper, the fabulous Coop, cold cocks him in the puss, knocking him out. Dewey and Tang jump on top of the guy, holding him down as Cooper and Dewey double cuff him. All in a day’s work, folks. And remember that John just punched out a guy to subdue him; this is going to be important.

We’re back to Sammy and Ben at the opening scene, the pants off dance off in a parking lot. The crowd is jeering and hostile, the blonde girl thinks she’s untouchable, the other girl thinks she is, as well by virtue of being female, and she spits in Ben’s face, turns and laughs at the crowd. “Ha, ha, look what I–”

Ben punches her face, knocking her to the ground. He finishes cuffing the blonde, and starts cuffing the other girl as the crowd shouts, “OOH!” And every one of them has a camera on this, filming it. Sammy is fucking pissed. The two get the girls in the squad car and Sammy turns on Mean Cop and tells them all to get the hell out of there, mad that things got to this point.

So is it wrong that Ben punched the person because they’re a girl? Because they’re underage? Because age hasn’t mattered much in South LA up to this point. And in a lot of cases, it’s not mattered that it was a female. John just used “excessive force” to take down a guy, but that guy was probably hopped up on PCP. He just ripped tazer wires from his throat. This girl was aggressive, hitting, slapping, shouting, inciting a riot. …right?

Lydia and Ruben talk while Miller sleeps in a jail cell. Ruben is frustrated that this job isn’t turning out like he thought it would. Maybe…they could lose the evidence? Those shoes are pretty much all that ties Miller to the crime. Lydia is straight, though; that’s not how she does her job.

“I don’t want anyone to be guilty. I want people to stop killing each other. But while they still do, we have to speak for the dead whether they deserve it or not.” It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best one that’s been thought up so far. Lydia is always going to be our moral touchstone. The rules she skirts, like talking with Grandma to get in, seem reasonable. She always identified herself as Detective Lydia Adams, not Brenda. But she still went inside, and look at that, she was right. Her instincts are always right. I’m going to be devastated when that proves untrue. (You know that’s coming.)

Rucker dresses down Ben and Sammy. He lets Ben speak his peace, asks Sammy for confirmation, and Sammy knows how this goes: you always support your partner. Ben just… made a split-second decision. Mm hmm. Rucker explains that Ben better be ready to be known as “That Guy.” Sammy was right; their jobs just got a lot harder.

Coop and Dewey leave the gym, and Dewey is impressed with how strong and virile Coop is now. (Pfft, I’m not. Yes, I have a crush, what of it?) Tang heads out when Cooper tells her she has a new nickname: Wu-Tang, “’cause she ain’t nothing to fuck with.” Awesome. Cooper asks for someone that does alterations. What, just because she’s Asian? …shit, here’s a card. Cooper grins and seriously, this guy. THIS GUY!

Sammy waits by Ben’s car to give him a little dressing down (and hidden pep talk.) “Always have your partner’s back. Especially when he’s wrong.” He explains that you have to keep your cool. You have to stay level headed. The only difference between the bad guys and the cops is that “we don’t fire back because we’re mad. We fire back to save lives.”

Sammy offers his fist, Ben bumps it, and they head out. But not before Anawalt can hand Ben an application for McDonalds.

Just another day in South LA.


I love that this show doesn’t tell you how to feel. It’s as observational as it gets. That’s rare for a show to be able to pull that off, showing both sides (and in some cases, more than two or three sides) of an issue, and leaves it up to the viewer to figure it out for themselves. Just like Ben is doing. Side note: Swimming in the ocean isn’t the same as a pool. The currents can change on a dime, and if you don’t keep a level head, you’ll drown. And if you happen to find yourself caught in a riptide (aka the undertow) the rules are to stay calm, never fight against the current, and swim in a new angle to pull yourself out of danger.

Just thought I’d mention it.


(Next episode: Community)