Southland 4.8 – God’s Work

One of these cops is showing his colors, and I don't think it's "blue."

Before any discussion, I just want to state once again how much I love the theme music to this show. I whistle it for days after an episode airs. Just thought I’d share.

We open on someone with bloody knuckles washing their hands in a fluorescent-lit bathroom. The camera pans up and it’s Ben. He looks…checked out. Either that or so utterly filled with despair that he can barely wrap his head around it.

Cops are often asked if they believe they’re doing God’s work. Officer Ben Sherman is just trying to do the job without losing his soul.”


14 Hours Earlier

John is talking with his sponsor as they walk through a park. He’s worried about Jessica, but knows that she’s squared away. Which makes it all the more frustrating, thinking that she’s done something unethical. We learn that John’s sponsor was also a cop who saw things he didn’t want to see, either, which is what led to him using.

He says that when you see friends on the force “cutting corners to get the job done,” you end up with two choices and both of them are shitty. You can rat them out, or you can let the guilt of not ratting them out eat you alive. Not much of a choice.

Lydia, readying herself to get on shift, sees her mother on the iPad, reading about Steve Jobs being adopted. It leads into her mother chastising Lydia for not getting the baby’s father involved, and that her child is going to want to know who he is. (Us, too!)

In the morning meeting, the Captain passes out a guidebook to everyone to serve as a type of support. “All cops burn out. You get to the point where you feel there’s no one you can talk to.” Wife, husband, priest… sometimes you can’t even talk to them. The book will help them stay in touch with what’s important. The camera focuses on Ben, who looks a little lost. He can’t be burned out already, though, can he?

Meeting adjourns and Ben continues his plan to wear Sammy down through humor. Okay, so maybe he’s not burned out yet. Sammy still isn’t interested in friendship with Ben at this point, however.

Jessica finally lets Cooper drive so she can study for her sergeant oral exam. He looks at her, getting lost in his own thoughts for a moment. My guess is he’s wondering if she has what it takes to be a sergeant, and that feeling of guilt eating him up ratchets up a notch. (Note the horrible wound stitched up on his neck here! Damn. Also, I love continuity touches like that.)

Ben continues to tease and pester Sammy as they cruise, reading things out of the book and laughing at the absurdity. He finally gets Sammy to crack a grin and huff out a small laugh and considers it a victory. Ahead, they see a man lying in the street. They check him out; he’s a priest who just got mugged and he’s still a little dazed.

Lydia and Reuben are on the 7th floor of a parking garage, where a woman’s body lies dead at the bottom. Did she jump? Was she attacked? Her purse lies near her open car door, the money is still in it. There’s an unsent text on her phone, “You can’t keep ignoring me.” (Hey, Fatal Attraction shout out. Nicely done.) But if it was a suicide, why would she kick off one shoe at the base of the barrier? That’s when her phone rings. Lydia takes it and we find out that the woman is a nanny, it’s the mother calling, and there should be two children in the car. Oh, shit. A patrol car is sent to pick up the mother as Reuben informs the cops to put out an APB on the missing children.

The mom arrives; the kids are six and four, she’s never seen the nanny (Veronica) upset or unhappy. Everyone loved her; she was wonderful. They can’t get the husband on the phone, but the wife explains that he’s on a deadline, so this is typical for him to disappear for a day or so. Hm.

Sammy worries about the priest, hoping he’ll let them take him to a doctor, but he just wants to get back to the rectory. He’s new – just transferred from Modedsto. Sammy laughs, explaining that things are a lot different down here in LA. Ben just wonders why he isn’t wearing a collar.

“Sometimes that collar keeps people away from the church,” the priest says, laughing softly.

Ben snaps back, “Sometimes the Church keeps people away from the church.” So Ben isn’t big on God. He also says he’s Jew…ish. Sammy looks at him intently at that, and I don’t know if it’s because he’s learning something new about his partner, or that he’s realizing yet another thing they don’t have in common. (Sammy’s Catholic.)

Sammy tells the priest that he needs to wear his collar here; claiming a “uniform” is what will keep him safe. “Wear your uniform. Show your colors.”

Ben, still looking out of the side window says in a monotone voice, “Gotta show your colors.” (What are yours, Ben? He’s gunning hard for them to be Blue, but the longer he stays on the force, the more I wonder if he’s got what it takes.)

Tang rambles about basketball when Coop interrupts her to ask about the kid she shot. He’s still unconscious, and she goes back into March Madness talk as Cooper looks on. A call comes in: shots fired outside Capitol Records, A-57 is on it.

Sammy rolls up on one of the leaders of the 5 Treys (there’s the 2 Treys, now the 5 Treys? Not very clever with the gang names, boys.) and interrupts his “motivational speech” to some new recruits. So… they’re beating up priests now? Oh no, this guy says his boys would never do that.

Mm hm. Sammy’s willing to offer a one-time Hail Mary: speak now, or forever watch your back. One kid shuffles over mumbling about finding a phone on the street. Sure you did. They hand the priest his phone and leave, laughing as the leader bitches the kid out for making them look bad.

Cooper and Tang find a woman in the parking lot, who has a gun trained on a man lying on the ground with a gut-shot wound, screaming in pain. (It’s Debbie Pelt from True Blood!) The woman is scared out of her mind and saying the man tried to attack her. John checks him for a gun as the woman shakes in terror with Jessica.

As Lydia and Reuben leave the crime scene to head back to the station, Reuben starts in on how none of this would be happening if someone was home with those kids instead of having a nanny. Lydia rears back with an “Oh, hell no!” face, wanting to know if her partner thinks women need to be home making food for their men and raising babies. So what, it’s irresponsible to want a career and a child? Reuben never used a nanny?

Reuben cracks the hell up. “What? Cops don’t use no nannies! Babysitters and mother-in-laws. That’s what we use.” Ha. He says he’s not being sexist. It doesn’t matter who stays home with the child, but someone needs to. “Don’t have a kid if no one has time to raise it.”

I love Reuben. I completely agree with that last sentiment, I have to say. (And I’m a mother that has both worked full-time and stayed home full-time.) This also hits Lydia square in the breadbox, because we know she’s pregnant. And doesn’t have a mother-in-law to pitch in. She sees a door to the stairwell close, and runs over with Reuben hot on her heels. They see two small children crowded in the the corner in the dark. At least they found the kids.

The little girl tells them that they heard someone scream at Veronica (their nanny) and then nothing. And then Veronica didn’t come back. She didn’t recognize the voice, to which Lydia reassures her that it’s okay.

A call was sent to Ben and Sammy to check out squatters at a house that a man is trying to renovate. He says people keep breaking in and messing it up, but he’s not going in to tell them to get out, because they got violent the last time. The two cops go in, guns drawn, and find a bunch of women sleeping in an upstairs room. Sammy recognizes one of them; they’re hookers.

A mother and daughter (we hear she’s Danielle and is 13) are locked in another room, terrified. All of these women work for the same pimp – he put them in the house, it seems.

At the gunshot victim’s scene, an RA unit has arrived to administer aid to the man while John tries to get to the bottom of things. The man has no weapon on him. The woman insists that he was trying to attack her. He yelled and ran up behind her, and she recognized him from the store across the street where he’d been “watching her” at the checkout stand. John hands her her car keys. The guy was trying to give them to her after she left them in the store.

John asks her, “What was he yelling?”

She thinks and begins shaking and crying. “…yo. Yo.” They put her in the car; she’s handcuffed.

At the courthouse, all of the hookers who the cops busted earlier come traipsing out. Their pimp posted bail – it’s cheaper than paying for an apartment. The mother wants to know where her daughter is; Family Services has her, Ben explains. He’s pissed at her for bringing her daughter onto the streets. He tries to talk her into protection, but her pimp pulls up and she leaves with him.

Lydia has the nanny’s cell phone at the station and notices that there were an awful lot of calls between her and the father. And a whole lot of texts, too. And a bunch of encrypted images. Hm. Things aren’t looking too good for daddy, are they? The lab tells her that the nanny’s body tested negative for drugs…and positive for being pregnant. Uh oh, Daddy, things are looking terrible for you. And he still isn’t answering any calls.

Debbie Pelt (ha, she has no name, so I’ll stick with what I know.) tells Cooper and Tang that she was raped a year ago while walking to her car. She swore she’d never let that happen again, and she panicked. She’s freaking out that she shot someone who was genuinely trying to help her. Jessica says in a no-nonsense way that she needs to tell the detectives at the station “the truth about everything. Don’t leave anything out.”

John shoots her a look, then goes back to watching the road and letting more guilt and worry eat away at his insides.

Reuben, who I love more and more with every episode, shows Lydia a bunch of raunchy photos they pulled off the nanny’s camera, cracking wise. Oh, and all of those photos were sent to the dad, by the way. It seems he was “getting his full Schwarzenegger on,” as Reuben calls it. Ha ha!

Sammy and Ben drive to where the hookers hang out looking for tricks and finds the mother. He asks her why she doesn’t leave when each trick is equal to two bus tickets out of town. “And where the hell would we go?” she asks. The pimp is her daughter’s father. Damn. He has her now – he went to CPS and signed her out. Speaking of, he rolls up in his Escalade with Danielle in the back seat looking sad. He and Ben exchange insults until the pimp rolls away, pissing Ben off and leaving the mother standing there terrified.

Jessica explains to Coop that women who have been attacked are going to be on the defense 99% of the time. They’re going to assume any large strange man approaching them is a threat, to which John scoffs. (John? There’s the one time I’m unhappy with you. Come on, you know this, buddy.) He says she had a million options (It’s daytime, she could have yelled, ran, anything but shoot, and well… yes. But she didn’t.) and Jessica retorts, “Well, I guess she felt ‘better safe than sorry.’”

And we’re not really talking about the woman right now, gang. John’s getting a much better picture of Jessica’s thought process. A call comes through – the kid is awake and Jessica’s presence is requested ASAP at the station.

Ben gives the CPS front desk hell for letting Danielle go, but you know what? The dad has no priors, a clean record, and is the child’s father, what the hell were they supposed to do? Ben explains that the man is a pimp, and the woman comes back with, “Then arrest him. Do your job so we can do ours.”

Sammy pulls him out of there before Ben can get a new head of steam.

Lydia meets with the wife, wanting to know where the husband is. She promises that she’s not protecting him, now that she’s seen the pictures the nanny was sending. She’s irate and says that she would have “pushed the bitch myself” before realizing she probably shouldn’t have just said that to two homicide detectives. Whoops.

Ben and Sammy take a Code Three call and find the mother-hooker beaten unconscious in a parking lot of a public park, a crowd of people standing around. Ben is visibly upset, and I’m guessing it’s that not only is it a woman who’s been beaten, but that he’s a party to why she was.

Lydia and Reuben are waiting for the cell phone provider to send them a location for the dad, now that they were able to get a judge to approve the action. Reuben mentions that they had a babysitter once who “put out a vibe” that she would be down with some “between the sheet action” with him, freaking him the hell out, because he doesn’t do that business. Reuben is squared away, himself.

“Oh, so it’s all her, huh?” Lydia asks, meaning both Reuben’s “friend” and the nanny.

He’s just saying, okay? She laughs and says, “He just slipped and fell in the pussy, right?” I love these two. And please remember how she’s bristling at the idea of the father not being held responsible in any of this “seduction” business, because it’s about to be really important.

Ben rolls back to the hooker hang out and pulls Danielle out of a trick’s car. DAMN. It’s the middle of the day! She’s 13! She’s crying, terrified, and says that they need to let her work, because her dad is going to kill her mother the next time. He’s expecting her to work, too. Oh, ick. Ben is having one of those “this job is destroying my soul” moments right about now.

While Jessica waits to be interviewed, Dewey slithers by, trying to find out why she’s in trouble. “Playing grab-ass with John?” (Does he still not know John is gay? Best kept secret in the force, I guess.) She says without looking at him that the kid she shot is now stable. His entire demeanor changes.

He sits next to her and says thoughtfully that he’s been before the board three times, and he’s still here. That she’s going to be okay. (It’s moments of decency like this that are disarming. Maybe Dewey isn’t such an asshole after all.) “It’s between you and God. If you can live with it, nobody can stop you.”

There goes my not an asshole theory. Nobody can stop you? Boy, can that be taken in the wrong way, Dewey. He leaves and Jessica is called in. And it turns out it’s for her oral exam, not being cross-examined or put on informal trial for the accidental shooting.

Ben changes out of uniform in the locker room, which bugs Sammy as they still have at least an hour on shift. Ben is starting to freak out a bit, so it’s best if he doesn’t have his badge and gun, you know? Sammy regards him silently for a moment, then reminds us why he’s such an awesome guy. (Seriously, with all of his flaws, I love Sammy Bryant. Probably because of his flaws, really.)

Sammy tells him to drop it. To go home, to work out, to do something but to let this day go. Long drive home to decompress, remember? Ben says that’s just what he’s going to do. I’ll give you ten to one odds that Sammy’s not buying it for a minute.

In her interview, Tang tells the board why she would make an excellent leader: she makes quick, effective decisions and is willing to stand by them. She doesn’t shy away from telling them about the shooting and that given the same situation again, she’d repeat her actions because they were the right thing to do. (Maybe not tampering with evidence, though, Jess. I’m just saying.) And… she’s right. She was right to shoot that kid, given what we saw. She just shouldn’t have removed the plastic tip from his gun. In all the things a cop can do to dirty their hands, I think this one is pretty light weight.

John is outside the glassed-in room, watching and nursing his developing ulcer.

Lydia and Reuben enter a coffeeshop where the dad is plugged into his laptop, ear buds blaring. They tell him that the nanny is dead, and he seems legitimately shocked. Oh, and she’s pregnant. His shock is doubled. Oh. He gets it now.

But he didn’t have sex with her! They fooled around, she got emotionally invested, he wanted to let her go but his wife and kids adored her and he was just stuck in a bad situation. He even offers to have DNA testing done to prove the baby wasn’t his. Hmm.

Just then, Lydia takes a call. Some crazy man was just Tasered at the same parking lot for trying to attack another woman. Looks like Dad is off the hook for murder. As they leave, Reuben tells the guy that he might consider getting a room for the night, seeing as his wife knows about the pictures and so forth. Again, I love Reuben.

Ben is driving through a run-down neighborhood in the dusk, looking for something. He sees a black Escalade, and hangs back, hunting the car. He finds an opportunity and hops out, punches the pimp through the window and pulls him out to the street, just beating the ever-living hell out of him. (Good thing you surprised him, because that guy has a good half foot and 60 pounds on you, Sherman.)

Sammy shows up, still in uniform (always wear your uniform – gotta show your colors) and pulls Ben off the guy, shoving him in the car and speeding off. Ben screams and pounds his fist into the dashboard, Sammy silently driving them back to the station, his jaw working with his own tension.

Lydia and Reuben see the crazy guy in a holding tank, give us some exposition on him confessing to attacking Veronica and saying she “flipped over the railing.” Or maybe he pushed her, who knows. He’s going down for Murder 2, regardless. Reuben shakes his head. “Good thing the wife knows about those pictures, huh?”

Coop sips on a beer at a gay bar when his sponsor shows up, grousing about their meeting place. A bar? Come on, man. He tells Cooper that he gets it, the craving for drugs isn’t going to disappear, but it’s going to get easier with time. Coop’s hung up on telling the FID what he saw, not what he thought he saw. His sponsor says, “You’re not clairvoyant. Just answer truthfully,” if they call him back in.

As they leave to grab some food, his sponsor sees that John’s still upset about this. “God grant us serenity to accept the things we can’t change, right?” Maybe.

Lydia comes home to her mother cooking something delicious and some snarky advice. She thinks Lydia needs to tell her child the truth about who her father is. Because it’s Terrell. (Please tell me you remember Lydia showing up at his house back in season 2, his wife pissed, him nervous, and Lydia just wanting to see a friendly face. They broke up because she didn’t want kids at the time, he moved on, she stayed in a holding pattern of work and nothing else.)

Oh, and Terrell doesn’t know she’s pregnant, because Lydia doesn’t want to “bust up his family.” Her mother thinks it’s stupid, the whole thing. “It’s all about you, not him. It’s always been all about you.”

Just like every time she’s gotten mad at Reuben this episode, it’s because she’s thinking of her situation, her own guilt. She moves to get a drink, remembers she can’t, and stands in the kitchen watching the chicken cook, frustrated and stuck. And her life is no longer all about her anymore, huh?

Sammy changes out of uniform as Ben sits slumped on a bench. It’s late and no one’s around. Sammy sits next to him, seeing his partner with new eyes. He’s back to being the mentor and says, “You’re my partner. I’ll back you up punch for punch. Bullet for bullet. But I’m not going to give you my house. I’m not giving you my pension. And I’m not going to give you my freedom. Don’t ever do anything like that again.”

Translation: you better not get me fired, bro.

Ben is in the washroom; we’re at the opening scene. Who does he have to talk to in order to keep from getting burned out? He has no wife, no parent, and I’m guessing no god. But he has Sammy. (But only on shift.) Damn.