SouthLAnd 4.4 – Identity

Not the best job for someone contemplating motherhood.


Last week with Community, the focus was on people in groups working together (for good or bad). This week it’s all about how outsiders as individuals find out who they are and where they belong.


Lydia is chasing a teenager through a business center in the middle of the day, running full out. She tells the girl (Nicole) to stop, and she does. She begins sobbing, “I ruined everything.” Lydia wants to help her, gets close to put a hand on her back, but Nicole whips around with a knife and stabs Lydia’s arm, knocking her to the street. She jumps in a work truck and floors it, only to have a squad car (Reuben’s driving) block her path.

LAPD Officers spend every shift trying to help people who often don’t even know they need help. Some days the trying works better than others.”


8 Hrs. Earlier

Lydia is vomiting (and it sounds like actual puking, not TV puking) into her bathroom’s toilet, over and over. She finally comes out, finding that her mother has made breakfast. Oh, but Lydia’s not hungry. Her mother comes to the logical conclusion that her breasts are larger, she’s not hungry in the mornings, and she’s sick, ergo she’s pregnant. Lydia stays silent.

Her mother tells her that no matter what she chooses, Lydia will have her support. This throws Lydia for a loop; she didn’t expect the pro-choice option. Lydia is angry that male detectives don’t have to worry about this. “That’s because it’s their wives at home having the babies.”

She won’t say who the father is. (Side note, I find it interesting that Lydia – who has left her community in every way: the poor, hard neighborhood she grew up in, the girls she knew when growing up by virtue of becoming a homicide detective, and the brotherhood of policemen by her lone-wolf nature – is possibly going to have a child, something that will tie her to something else.)

Some dude starts harassing a girl on a street corner where Ben Sherman happens to be (off-duty). He gets the guy to leave and checks on the girl. She’s cute, they live in the same building, and she flirts a little just as a squad car rolls up.

And she’s anti-cop. “Fuck cops, right? You hear about that cop that punched that girl?” Damn, Ben.

Lydia is in the women’s restroom at the station throwing up. She goes to wash up when Jessica comes out of a stall. Uh oh. Jessica figures out quickly what’s what. “Congratulations?” Lydia still doesn’t admit to anything. Jessica leaves with the advice, “Put off telling them until you can’t buckle your belt.” (So who is Lydia? A mother? A detective?)

Sammy and Ben are on patrol, talking about a sweet lady in the neighborhood (Abuelita) who was killed. It’s weird because everyone loved her, gang banger to pimp. Just a sweet lady who looked out for everyone. Sammy then starts the push to get Ben out of Silver Lake and move to a cop neighborhood by him. “Be with your people. Land of the Blue.”

I love that Sammy has been trying to be Ben for the past few episodes, wanting the easy freedom that Ben has, but ultimately he wants to be a married cop in a neighborhood of other cops. And he wants Ben to want that too. (If Ben wants that, maybe it’s cool for Sammy to want it.)

Lydia and Reuben head to a crime scene where a real-estate developer (Brian) was stabbed to death. Lydia mentions that she has to step out for a doctor’s appointment at lunch as they enter the scene. A girl (Jamaica) found him and is visibly upset. The victim runs a sort of halfway house for wayward girls upstairs, evidently. She won’t talk to Lydia, however.

Tang and Cooper are headed to their squad car when a shop owner comes over, irate that there’s a homeless man by his door. They go investigate and it’s Tom, a guy Cooper has seen many times. He was in housing, but someone stole his ID, so he’s back on the streets. They try to help him up but he fights them off. Tang sees a USMC tattoo on his forearm. She seems more interested in helping him now.

Sammy and Ben are cruising and we learn that Fergusen is getting plastic surgery and is making a recovery. They roll up on a mugging in action; Sammy goes to the victim, Ben chases the mugger. Sammy races after Ben and stops when he hears a clang inside a dumpster. He pulls his sidearm and yells, “Come out with your hands up, POLICE!” We hear a loud bang.

Lydia has talked Jamaica into letting her upstairs where we learn that another girl and her mother are also living. (Nicole and Melanie, respectively.) While Melanie is on the phone fighting with a pharmacist, Jamaica attacks Nicole, claiming that Nicole killed Brian. Lydia gets between them, Melanie tells Nicole to not say another word, then she says, “I did it. I killed Brian.”

Sammy, back in the alley, is whipping off his kevlar and undershirt. There is a German Shepherd panting and bleeding on a piece of cardboard in front of him. It seems Sammy shot the dog when it “came after him.” He tries to stop the bleeding with his undershirt and tells Ben (who is amused and also holding the mugger) that he called an ambulance. Sammy then goes off on the mugger for causing this, getting really belligerent, until Ben tells him to chill the hell out. The EMTs are pissed they were called for a dog, but if Sammy gives them two Lakers tickets, they’ll drop the dog off at a nearby vet. Done.

Lydia interviews Melanie at the house, wanting to know details. Brian was sleeping with Nicole, she found out. She lost it and “handled the situation.” She tells Lydia about how important Nicole is to her, asks if she has any kids, then says, “God gives you the test you need.”

“So Nicole, was that test?” Lydia asks.

“Since the day she was born.” Nicole has all manner of disorders, it seems: attachment disorder, ADHD, borderline personality… Brian was like a father-figure to her. Then to find out that he was having sex with her? (She’s only 15.) She trusted that man with her girl, and he abused that trust. So.

Tang is on the phone with the county hospital trying to find a birth certificate for Tom. She yells into the phone as John tries to get her to focus on the road. Some random dude pops his head into the window at a light, claiming that they have his car. He starts freaking out. John hops out, the guy claims he’s invisible and John can’t see him, so John grabs his hand and puts him in a hold. Whoops, guess he can. I would like to state publicly how much I adore Tang and Cooper as partners.

Sammy heads to the vet to find out what can be done for the dog. Well, it has no owners, the surgery it needs is expensive, so euthanized it is! Sammy is not okay with that, it’s practically murder! If the dog can be fixed, Sammy wants them to do it. “So… how much?”

Cut to Dewey laughing hysterically. Ben is shocked and asks Sammy, “$1300?” Sammy is trying to do the right thing here. And hey, maybe he’ll take it home and have a buddy, who knows? Dewey is just pissed that the EMTs came so fast for a dog when he shot some kid’s thumb off last year and it took them forever to get there. Dewey is rough around the edges, but you have to admit he has a point.

Lydia is off to her appointment, so Reuben is left with the task of searching the apartment while the girls lay around. He finds a shirt in the laundry basket with blood splatters. Uh oh.

At the OB/GYN, Lydia says when her last period was (she’s missed a month, maybe two at most.) She had a previous miscarriage, which ups her chances for another one, especially as she’s 36. This will also increase her chances for birth defects. It’s shocking that she could get pregnant seeing as she has so little body fat, so if she’s going to do this, it’s probably her last chance. Way to paint an exciting picture, Doc.

Her doctor says she really should take a leave of absence so she doesn’t miscarry at work. Lydia does not miss work, thank you so much. She’s not going to take any time off. (So she’s not going to be a mother?)

Sammy continues to work through his own issues by berating Ben for not living in Cop Land. And he lives in a great place for a pet. Maybe he’ll take the dog home with him. He used to have a dog. He used to have a lot of things: a house, a wife, a child, and a dog. But he doesn’t have that now. (So who is he? He still has the responsibilities of a father, but doesn’t get to live the life. He’s in limbo.) They spy two kids with the same tattoos as the mugger. Hmm.

Reuben realizes that the patrol officer he had stationed in the living room while he went searching for clues let Nicole slip out of a window. So…Melanie is probably not guilty, we’re thinking. Lydia takes his phone call where he apologizes for messing up. She heads back out of the doctor’s office.

Sammy and Ben roll up on the two kids and chase them down (it’s not a proper episode if they don’t haul ass in a dead sprint.) They realize that one kid has a huge bag of pot on him; the other doesn’t, so he’s let go. Oh, but it’s not pot, it’s oregano. (Ha!) This kid’s too stupid to know that he can’t be held for carrying when he isn’t, so Sammy uses his stupidity to strong arm him into giving them some information. (Sammy and Ben work really well together, I’d like to point out.)

The kid says he knows who killed Abuelita. They tried to start a beef with another rival gang (ha, they’re still wanting to be thought of as a gang, they’re still wanna bes) and one guy shot Abuelita. Now everyone knows they’re no joke. Well, the joke’s on you, kid, because you just shot an old lady; that doesn’t give you street cred, that ruins your cred.

Lydia meets Reuben at the station. She takes the bloody shirt with her into the interrogation room with Melanie. Lydia knows; she knows Nicole was the one, there are eye witnesses coming forward, and Melanie needs to tell her where Nicole has most likely run off to. Melanie is too busy praising her daughter for being someone; she won’t stray from her story. She’s determined to go to jail for Nicole.

In a scene of delightfully dark comedy, Cooper and Tang roll up to some train tracks, Jessica bitching at another person on the phone as she continues to look for ID for Tom. Someone has been pulverized by a train, torso on county side, limbs on LAPD side. While Jessica screams at the other person on the phone, John tries to push responsibility for who will take care of the mess onto the county guys.

Jessica shouts, “I guess I thought that because he’s a human being living on the streets like some kind of animal that you would want to help!” The county guys want her gone, fast. They tell John they’ve got it. He smiles and walks back to the squad car. (Michael Cudlitz has to be having a ball with his role this season. Cooper has been hilarious and awesome in equal measures.)

Reuben and Lydia are back cruising, looking for Nicole. He apologizes again for losing her. Lydia is just amazed that Melanie is sticking to her story. Well, Reuben says, it’s because she’s a mom. That’s what they do.

“You’d lie? Claim a murder?” Lydia asks.

Yep. And…he’s curious if she’s okay. His eyes travel to her waistline and back up to her face. She is fine, everyone. Mm hm.

Sammy and Ben are flooring it to the scene of an ongoing crime while Sammy continues to tout the benefits of his neighborhood. It’s hilarious how single-minded this guy is. He just wants Ben to find a nice girl (she needs to be nice at the start, not like Tammi) and get married. They pull up to the front of an indoor pool and race in where a woman is threatening a man with a knife. She’s shouting at him when Ben sees something in the pool.

He unstraps his holster and dives in where a little girl is floating face down, unresponsive. He pulls her out, gives her CPR until she coughs out water and starts crying. The woman goes right back to fighting with the man while Ben tries to pull himself together and soothe the little girl. Good work, officer. Bad mothering, lady.

Tang continues her search for someone who will give a damn when Cooper comes right out and asks her what gives. She got a thing for homeless dudes? “He’s a Marine.” Oh. Was she in the service? Not her, her father. Semper Fi, Leatherneck. You never leave a man behind, and this guy has been left behind in the most fundamental of ways. Cooper tells her to make a turn. They find Tom and clean him up (Jessica takes a lot of care to comb his hair and wash his face). John takes some pictures of him, asking him to give his best “Marine Tom face.”

The camera pushes in tight as Tom’s face gets serious; he has the haunted look of a soldier, that’s for damn sure. (I cannot for the life of me remember this character actor’s name, either. He’s outstanding.) He’s not the drunken hobo who pees on alley walls. He’s Tom the Marine.

The two cops then head to a place that specializes in fake IDs. How much do you love these guys? And I’m talking about the writers. Fake identities to help someone reclaim who they once were; so clever, given the episode’s subject.

Sammy finds a doggy bobblehead on his car, courtesy of Dewey. Sammy’s pissed at him; Ben then makes fun of him some more, for good measure. I love the teasing and banter between the partners. Sammy calls the vet to find out if the dog is out of surgery yet.

Jamaica shows Lydia and Reuben where Nicole is; once Nicole sees the detectives, she takes off running, with Lydia in hot pursuit. We’re caught up now with the beginning of the episode. She’s sobbing, Lydia is stabbed, the work truck smashes into Reuben’s car. Reuben gets out with his sidearm pulled as Nicole tries to drive over him. He shoots through the windshield, tagging her shoulder. She sits in the front seat, sobbing as Lydia cuffs her, seemingly sad to be in the position they’re in.

Lydia talks to her in the hospital. Why? Jamaica and Brian were sleeping together, and she reacted badly. She just wants to die; she doesn’t have any value and she’s ruined her mother’s life. Lydia’s maternal instincts kick in and she soothes Nicole. She asks if she’s ever noticed that when her mother talks about her, “her whole face lights up.”

Lydia says, “It’s like her life started when you were born.” Hmm. I’m concerned, guys, not gonna lie. More on that in a bit.

Cooper and Jessica find Tom and show him his new ID; now he can get into a shelter. He sees his face – it’s not the Marine Tom picture. He looks silly, old and toothless. He says, “That ain’t me!” and starts laughing maniacally. He starts getting really angry, “That’s not me! I don’t know who that is, but that’s not me!”

Jessica looks hurt (she went to a lot of effort) but looks like she gets it. That smiling fool? That’s not Tom. Cooper helps him up, Jessica takes his hand, and they slowly walk him to a new place to be. Tom whispers, “That’s not me,” over and over. Cooper says, “You know, I think you’re right, Tom.”

Excuse me while I cry brokenly.

A little levity is needed, so it’s time to check on the dog at the vet. And hey, look who’s here! The actual owner of the dog and his granddaughter. They don’t speak any English, but gosh, they are so grateful to Sammy. Now, about that bill… Yep, he still has to pay. Ben is about to collapse from laughing.

Later, Ben meets with a Realtor in Sammy’s neighborhood looking like he’s being forced to chew nails. It’s clean! It’s bright! It’s…boring. Everything Ben doesn’t want to be. (Talk about a fake ID…)

Lydia is leaving the hospital when she sees Melanie. Melanie isn’t in trouble for lying, but Nicole has been arrested. Lydia plays off the stab wound as not a big deal. Melanie just wanted more for her daughter, she’s worried. Oh, not for herself, she knows she’s strong.

Lydia is trying to come to a decision. She wants to know how Melanie can be like she is. Well, before she had Nicole, life was just work and outfits and magazines, she wasn’t really living until she had a baby.

“And now?” Lydia asks.

“I’m a rock. I know what my life is about.”

You know Lydia likes the symbolism of the rock. I find the whole “I had a baby and my life has meaning” argument to be incredibly problematic, however. (And I have children.) The idea that your life is rudder-less until you have to take responsibility for another person is just… well, it’s the modern version of the pastoral myth. And let’s examine how Nicole and Melanie’s life has been: non-stop trouble, they’re homeless, Nicole is mentally disordered, and now she’s going to jail for murder. So that’s what your life is about? Hm.

Reuben tells Lydia as he’s leaving that he thought she was pregnant. “That’s you being a detective?” she scoffs. (Guess he’s a good one, huh?) She takes responsibility for dropping Jamaica off at another halfway house. As they ride, she asks Jamaica about her mom. She was a partier, didn’t really care for the responsibilities of motherhood.

Jamaica asks, “You got kids?

Lydia pauses before saying, “Soon.”

“They’re gonna be lucky kids.”

*  *  *

Will they? Sure, she’s a good person. She’s loving and thoughtful and responsible, without question. But she chases down criminals and tackles murderers into pools and gets stabbed and shot at. She has no one else in her life (barring her mother, but she won’t always be there). Will her child be lucky?

My guess is that she’ll lose this baby, too. Thoughts?