Southland 4.6 – Integrity Check

Oh, please do not tackle the (secretly) pregnant cop, Distraught Mother.

Raise your hand if you were on the edge of your seat for the last four minutes of this episode. Hooboy, my racing heart. On with the show, though.

A woman in her robe is shrieking and hysterical inside a van as Dewey makes things worse (a theme for him this episode) and Tang circles the vehicle. Cooper yells at Dewey to get her under control; two other cops are holding back a large man several yards away. The woman exits, screaming, and has a knife. Tang tackles her as Dewey and Cooper draw their weapons.

The average street cop in L.A. makes $75,000 a year. It’s not enough.”

 

10 Hours Earlier

Ben, living the life of Riley it seems, is being filmed by a naked blonde woman in her bed. He’s looking irritated (again) and says he has to go, needs to be on shift in a bit, when another woman – brunette – comes in and joins them in bed. Hmm, maybe he doesn’t have to leave just yet…

“Honey, I’m home!” Blondie’s husband is back early, shocking everyone (especially Ben who didn’t know she was married) and Blondie forces Ben to jump from the second story window in his briefs. I couldn’t help but flash on Cooper’s, “You know, my other partner would have jumped.” Ha.

We cut to a court room where an emotional father talks about his son who wanted to do the right thing after witnessing a shooting by coming forward. And he was killed for his efforts, breaking his father’s heart. Sammy is there (and he cleans up nice) trying to keep his emotions in check, but unable to hold back his tears as the father sobs, “It’s the right thing to do? For who? Mijo…Mijo!”

Lydia arrives to find that the force is short on field supervisors, so she’s expected to suit up and hit the streets. She’s not happy about it, but only the viewers know why. (Well, and Reuben, but he’s nowhere to be found this episode.) When she suits up, she’s uncomfortable in the tight-fitting Kevlar, checking her abdomen and noticing that she’s starting to swell with her pregnancy.

At the morning watch meeting, we learn that a PBS-like film crew is wrapping up “LAPD: 20 Years After The Riots” and will be riding with Cooper and Tang all day, much to Coop’s displeasure. Dewey’s, too, but that’s because he just wants attention. Coop tries to hand off to Dewey, but god, would that be stupid; Dewey’s too loose-lipped. The Captain makes a point of telling them all to keep their mouths shut, or the department will happily throw them under the bus. (Uh oh, Dewey.)

“I didn’t come to work to answer a bunch of questions,” John says. Tough, he’s the only one trustworthy on the force; him and Tang.

Tang, in the car with John and the crew riding in the back, explains the call they’re going on, a 415, which could be anything from a mad old lady to someone wielding a baseball bat. They pull into a bakery where a fight is taking place between a couple and the baker. This is based off an actual event that happened in New Jersey, by the way.

Short of it: The family are white supremacists, their son is named Adolf. They want “Happy Birthday, Adolf” and swastikas on the cake. The baker – with Jewish heritage – refuses to comply, but has offered a refund. This is unacceptable to the couple, who claim abuse to their civil rights, etc. The dad is really excited that there’s a film crew and spews his line of logic while Cooper tries to control the baker, Tang handles Aryan Douche and his wife, and ultimately they’re pushed out of the store, handed a blank cake and a bag of frosting. Ha.

Outside, Cooper says, “If you want to name your kid after a homicidal maniac, hey, it’s America. Ignorant? Sure. Offensive? You bet…. Illegal? No.”

Jessica counters, “It’s not our job to enforce good taste. We stay neutral. First thing a good cop learns: do not get emotionally involved.”

CUT TO: Sammy getting emotionally involved. (I don’t know if this is an underscore on the part of the editors, or showing that no, sometimes it’s okay to get emotionally involved. I do think that we see Sammy at his most vulnerable when he’s by himself, which is interesting all on its own.)

Sammy waits in the hallway of the courthouse; he sees Mr. Chavez and expresses his heartfelt sympathies for the murder of his son, Ricky. Mr. Chavez screams and pops Sammy in the mouth, crying and yelling as Sammy goes limp and in defensive stance, letting himself be hit. (Oh, Sammy.) Two officers pull Mr. Chavez off, leaving Sammy at the top of the stairs.

Later, Sammy meets Ben at the squad cars with a busted lip, apologizing for being late. This has repercussions, as they are handed off a car that hasn’t been completely checked out by the previous cop, Merkle. Merkle looks like a dumbass to me. They hop in, Ben lightening the mood by saying he had a threeway (making Sammy even more jealous, even though he claims the women weren’t attractive, um…) when a call for support comes in. They load up and fly out of there, fast.

Cooper and Tang show the crew the infamous Skid Row, now called “CCRZ.” It was renamed to make the area more palatable to potential real estate investors, earning some eye rolls from our cops. They holler at people to stop pissing on buildings and to get their shopping carts out of the road. Just another part of the job.

Lydia checks in at a scene were one cop had to use regulatory “force” on an assailant, earning a face hit himself. (But you should see the other guy.) Great things about this moment: one, everyone respects Lydia, everyone. Even asshole douche bags like the cop who kicked a guy in the face just for the hell of it. Two, Lydia doesn’t preach or get in people’s business to show her integrity (I see what you’re doing writers! I like it.) she simply leads by example and with a very maternal vibe that they all respond to. Lydia is the freaking heart of this show, and I love everything Regina King chooses to be.

(We also see that she’s feeling winded in her Kevlar. This is Miss I Can Run Anyone Down And Am Fit As Can Be, remember. Yeah, that’s a lot of lettering on a sash, true, but she wears the title well.)

Ben and Sammy roll up on their support call, which was for the unlikely duo of Out-of-Shape-Cop and Tiny-Lady-Cop. She doesn’t have Jessica’s strong demeanor, that’s for sure. Ben is irritated by how weak it makes everyone look as Sammy bitches about their inability to bring in one measly assailant without help.

Ben points out that Sammy clipped a mailbox (integrity check #2 for Sammy) when he realizes he never got the story behind the busted lip. Short: Ricky Chavez was gunned down for coming forward, one of the shooters had a sentencing hearing today. The other guy who got off? Why, Sammy just learned that he didn’t check in with his parole officer earlier in the week, tsk, tsk. Time to make a house call.

Lydia arrives at a murder scene and immediately goes into detective mode, pleasing the cops there. (We also see again just how much everyone respects and genuinely likes her. She’s attentive, good at what she does, and kind.) A woman screams behind her, a large woman filled with angst – it’s the victim’s mother. She barrels into Lydia, knocking her to the ground, hard. Lydia is internally freaking out but tries to play it tough, saying it was just the wind knocked out of her, but we’re all panicking for her as she grabs low on her belly, bent over. Shit.

For our dose of absurdity, we find Coop, Tang, and Dewey standing over a bunch of morons planking on Hollywood Boulevard, trying to get a record for being dipshits. (I’m pretty sure that was what they were going for, right?) Dewey is – surprise! – irate, but Cooper wants to make sure everyone is clear that they are about to be cuffed. Yes? You’re all clear? And the cuffing and dragging away begins, before they reach their record.

Important moment: Dewey posturing and claiming that “UC Davis ain’t got nothing on me!” God, quit being such a dick, Dewey! He doesn’t get that he’s being filmed, regardless of the crew saying they’re filming him.

Cooper later says, “What happens if one of them got run over or killed? Sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones out here who aren’t allowed to be idiots.” Well, except for Dewey, clearly.

Ben and Sammy, after some more practical joking (Sammy deflecting teasing by claiming his mother has a brain tumor), roll up on the second shooter and his boys. They grab “F-Stop” who bitches and moans that he didn’t do anything, because not checking in with a parole officer (and drinking, which is in violation) isn’t a big deal. As Ben cuffs him and checks him thoroughly, another punk mouths off to Sammy. He threatens to cuff him, asserts his authority, then tosses the punk aside. Ben takes all of this in stride, but I’m thinking this isn’t to his liking, just me?

Now, get ready for me to rant, gang. Lydia next arrives at a lovely home where a small child is terrorizing his family by locking them out and beating everything in the house with a baseball bat. The family, complete idiots, believe in the “Rightman Method.” This means you let your child act out by destroying your own things. They learn that it’s Bad To Wreck Your Own Things and therefore will never misbehave again. Mm hmm.

Lydia and I are on the same side here, which is “Oh, HELL no.” Number one? My children know that their things are my things. Because they are in my house, I bought them their toys, and they are in my house living by my good graces. Don’t think I don’t love my children, but one of them breaks something on purpose? That is a waste, pure and simple.

Lydia gives the cops there a “can you believe this nonsense?” look before going to the back, breaking a glass pane over the door and letting herself in. This should tell you more about the parents, by the way, that they didn’t do this. As she sees the offending lunch (That’s why the little bastard is destroying the house: he didn’t like his lunch. Uh, I guess he can pack that on his own, am I right?) and rounds the corner, the kid is standing still with a gun pulled. Fortunately, she sees it’s a toy gun.

“You better be glad I have good eyesight, you little fool! Drop that and get over here. NOW.” Miss Lydia does not play, I thank you. The kid comes over, she knocks it out of his hand and marches him outside. The mother – and Lord, bear me strength – puts on a “You little scamp!” face and says in a Kindergarten Teacher voice, “Sweetie? No. We don’t lock doors and we don’t break things that are not in our playroom.” She thanks the officers and sends them on their way.

Lydia shifts back on one foot, eyebrow up, “That’s it? Uh…have a nice day?” She turns to the other cops and says, “Meet you back here in five years.” Mm, mm, mm.

Ben is booking F-Stop when Sammy comes in with a “Well, well, well, lookee what we got here” attitude and shows off a crack pipe he found in the backseat of the car. Ben is confused, because he did a really good job of frisking the guy. “Eh, must have hidden it somewhere, who cares?”

F-Stop claims it’s not his and appeals to Ben’s sense of Right by saying he’s not like Sammy, he doesn’t act vindictively, etc. and “You gonna do me like this, Homes?” It’s clearly gotten under Ben’s skin.

We finally catch up to the opening scene where Cooper and Tang are pulling up to the crazy lady in the bathrobe. We learn a little more about her: she’s on antidepressants, acting erratically, and slams the van into the cop car as they pull in. When Jessica tackles her, we learn that the woman fell on her knife. Jessica calls in an RA Unit as everyone is screaming and chaos abounds. I can’t imagine having to deal with that level of stress day in and day out.

Dewey mouths off to the crew, once again not realizing they’re filming him. (Note: that’s what the red light means. That the camera is ON.) He’s painting himself out to be a badass, and I’m already cringing at the damage control that’s going to be needed.

Lydia takes a call for a suspect running. She spots him, pulls up, climbs a fence and starts chasing him when we see how winded she is. She’s cramping and in distress as she gives her position to dispatch, still trying to run, when she gives up and collapses, requesting an RA Unit for herself. She’s doubled over in pain as cramps lay her low. Oh, Lydia. To see her panicking is something else. She’s the calmest person on the force.

Cooper is asked by the film crew if he thinks Tang should have tackled the woman. He looks back with a stony expression and says, “No. I think she should have shot her.”

When Jessica is asked, she seems to really think about her response, and this is a credit to Lucy Liu, how well-developed the character is becoming. She says how they’re trained to disarm by shooting; she chose not to. It depends on who you ask, is her ultimate answer. (The media, the viewing public, or the cops.)

Ben and Sammy grab some food when Ben tries to gently bring up the fact that he believes Sammy planted evidence to get this guy in jail, one way or another. Oh, is Sammy offended by that once he realizes that Ben isn’t pulling a “My mom has a brain tumor” prank. (That’s why they had that joke, so you can get why this conversation is important. I love this show.)

Pissed, Sammy goes off to the john, leaving Ben questioning everything. I have some thoughts on this I’ll save for a bit, but just remember the first thing Sammy taught Ben: you always – ALWAYS – have your partner’s back.

Merkle comes up to Ben later and says, “Oopsie doodles! I left a crack pipe in the car, did you find it? Let’s keep this between us, okay?” Well, Ben isn’t that guy, Merkle, and Ben insists they tell the Captain what happened, because it’s already been listed as evidence for their guy. And Ben serves himself a slice of humble pie.

Cooper and Tang spot some out-of-date plates and signal the guy to pull over. He freaks out, nervous, getting out of the car, etc. Our guys calm him down and get some information: he doesn’t have his DL with him, whoops. It’s not his car, he didn’t know the tags were expired, shoot. There’s a baby in the back seat, um.

I’m immediately thinking Amber Alert. But these two are professionals, right? They learn he’s on his way to take the baby to his mother’s, he has a job interview, and man, he needs a break. You buying it? They do, and they let him off with a warning. They agonize over this with the crew: they might get heat for the woman falling on her knife, they might for letting this guy go. What if he speeds and kills someone? It could be an integrity check, a trap by the department to see if they’re following procedure.

And people wonder why cops are paranoid.

Lydia sits in a hospital bed, hooked to a monitor for the baby’s heart rate, the speedy pulse reverberating loudly. The doctor tells her she had a placental tear from being knocked over earlier, and with bed rest, she’ll be right as rain. But what the hell is she doing on patrol anyway? The doctor chastises her gently: it’s not just about you anymore. She leaves Lydia, who turns the baby monitor back up, listening to it while glancing at her uniform, hanging next to her. Tears roll down her face. What’s it going to be, Lydia? The job you love or the baby you could?

Ben tries to apologize to Sammy as he leaves. Sammy stops and listens, but won’t say anything. What can he say? He gets in his car and leaves Ben standing there with his ass in his hands after Ben says, “I don’t know why I did that.”

I’ll tell you why: because he was essentially alone (and in a very real sense, betrayed) by John during the last weeks of training and didn’t develop that sense of partnership that he should have. He didn’t want to see John back from rehab, even. He just doesn’t have the full “I’ve got your back” mindset, because he was the only one who had anyone’s back. He was on a roof chasing an assailant and almost died and no one had his back. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

It’s night, Cooper and Tang are about to roll in and clock out, when John tells the camera crew they have enough and to shut it off. They’re tired. A call comes in that there’s a beating happening just up the block; the camera crew lights it back up. They pull up to see four guys pounding the shit out of some guy in a wife beater. Everyone goes running, Tang after two guys with the camera crew hot on her heels when a horrible grunting noise catches our attention. The camera turns to find Cooper wrestling with the guy in the wife beater, and being overtaken.

The victim-now-assailant clamps his mouth over John’s neck and bites down, blood everywhere. John is fighting back for all he’s worth (which is a lot) but starts to lose strength as this guy is basically eating his neck. It’s the most animalistic thing I’ve seen in… I don’t even know. It’s awful. John is still fighting, weakly, as another cop car pulls up and it takes four guys to pull the assailant off John. Tang runs over, shoves at the film crew as they push in to get a close look.

“You want to catch a cop getting killed on film? Is that what you wanted? Get the fuck out of here!” and she shoves the camera man to the street before turning back to John, trying to get him to focus on her (he’s almost completely grey and his eyes are struggling to stay open) and applying pressure as another RA Unit is called in.

And that, my friends, is how you end an episode. Good god.

 

(Did you note in the promo for next week that John’s there? All of our worries that they’d kill off Coop were unfounded, whew!)

Also, I loved the idea of the film crew there as a general “integrity check” for the LAPD. I think they did mostly all right, minus Dewey and the face-kicker, myself. And Ben tried to do the right thing, but again, it depends on who you ask, doesn’t it?

And I’m utterly fascinated by the theme this season of how being on film serves as a sort of integrity check in and of itself. (Ben is constantly being judged on film, either for being an abusive asshole or a hot cop, etc.) I think anyone who’s seen reality TV knows that cameras don’t equate keeping people “honest.”

Now I have a question for you, though: do you find the chronological retelling in the recaps easy to follow, or would it be easier to read each group’s total story? The show jumps a lot, so part of me feels like we’re all prepared to read it that way, but I’m curious.