The Bridge 1.04 – Maria of the Desert

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Previously on The Bridge:  Charlotte buried her husband Carl, slept with masculinity-issues Marco for extra infidelity points, and lost a prize horse to a hella-scary senora who wants her to re-open her ranch’s immigrant smuggling tunnel (how Charlotte finds the time for Pilates and manicures, I’ll never know).  Sonya and Marco hauled in Steven “Creepy Mutton Chops” Linder, who seemed both oddly sympathetic and crazy suspicious.  Adriana took Daniel Frye to Juarez, where he got drunk, saw a guy shot, and pried into her family and personal life.  And Maria, the on-the-run illegal, escaped death only to get kidnapped and duct-taped to stakes in the desert.

“Whose idea was this internet horseshit anyway?” Hank barks over at CAP El Paso.  Hank, I have been wondering that FOR YEARS.  But Hank’s focused on live-feed of poor Maria, which Tim Cooper explains has “gone viral”: twisting in her duct-taped bonds (with the standard, but frankly lower-key than I’d have anticipated, chest-thrusting and squirming focus on the female victim’s body).

Wow.  That’s horrible.  And I’m a bit freaked out how impressed I am that our mystery killer got such a good signal for his nefarious live-feed in the middle of the freaking desert.   

Tim Cooper proves he’s more than his pornstache and misogynistic jokes: though he can’t do the “computer judo” to figure out where Maria’s trapped, he’s tech savvy about how the killer masked his trail through proxies.  “Drag Frye’s sorry ass in here now,” Hank demands, because Frye has not played ball with the police in the slightest.

Cesar tells Charlotte “it won’t be a horse next time” that Graciela kills, so Charlotte agrees to open the tunnel.  “The less you know, the better,” Cesar advises.  Gee, that doesn’t sound good.  Kate, Charlotte’s stepdaughter, hangs out smokin’ (you know she’s bad!) and waiting for the reading of her father’s will, reminding us of what a bastard Carl was to her cancer-suffering dead mother, and smirking as she hands over Marco’s forgotten wallet.  Seriously, Marco? Apparently when you cheat, all your detecting skills spotting your own incriminating evidence fly right out the window.

Steven “Creepy Mutton Chops” Linder stops his car in the desert to poke at a belt.  No, wait, it’s a rattlesnake (apparently I view snakes mainly as potential accessories, sorry).  “That’s a bad place to rest, pardner,” Steven intones, guiding the snake with a stick to the side of the road.  In the back seat, a woman stirs.  Given that the last back-seat snoozer we saw was poor Maria pre-desert-baking, we’ve got another suspicious light cast on Steven.  But he’s kind to snakes!  And worries about cats!  (omg, I hope that cat is okay).

Hey, it’s Fausto Galvon — remember, the crime boss Marco’s captain played cards with in the show’s pilot?  “Killing gringos is bad for business,” he says grimly to his sniveling second-in-command, upset that Hector murdering Wanda and the increased focus on the serial killer has disrupted his illegal smuggling and pimp-managing tasks.

When Adriana tries to give Sonya and Marco the runaround and get an off-the-record statement, Marco piles the shame on her about Maria’s peril and demands to know where Frye is.

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This episode could have used 50% more Adriana.

Soon Marco and Sonya find Frye passed out and showing major coin slot.  They poke him like the drunken angry bear that he is, to have him dub them “Officer Friendly and Officer Frosty!” before he throws up all over the floor.  “You soft-dicked piece of shit!” the woman who was harboring him shrieks.  Masculinity issues all over, folks!

Graciela, the hella-scary horse-killing crime senora, has her hot pink and glitter pedicure interrupted when Fausto storms in and throws nail polish remover in her bodyguard’s face.  He needs her tunnel, and he’s not afraid to threaten her pretty pink feet to get it.  Okay, Graciela = scary, Fausto = OH MY GOD, SCARY.  Ramon Franco is excellent at looking like he can blend into the crowd one moment and slit everyone’s throats the next.

The FBI pooh-poohs both Marco’s contention that the killer wants to “inflame cultural sensitivities” and Sonya’s astute point that serial killers never go for cash.  Instead, they focus on scraping together the ransom and shutting Marco (and Mexico, by extension) out of Maria’s rescue.  “It’s their show now, I’m sorry,” Hank tells Sonya when, harried and frazzled, she objects to the FBI taking over.

Plowing through Charlotte’s tunnel, Fausto berates his second-in-command for wearing crappy shoes, sweating like an animal, and failing to attend those Jiu-Jitsu classes he bought for him.  Hmm, they’re sounding like abusive co-dependent boyfriends.  On the other side, Cesar assures Charlotte calmly “It’s just business.”  What’s your role in all of this, Cesar?  Acting as the go-between to major criminals, “sleeping” through horse slaughter, dismissing Charlotte’s questions?

Agent Heller lets Marco in on Frye’s questioning.  “Not for nothing, but this guy’s trying to make a point,” Frye retorts when Gedman leans on him and stammers about the still missing ransom money.  He declares if the victim was a blonde with big tits instead of a “brown girl”, they’d have the money lickety-split.  “Try not to be an asshole,” Marco tells him on parting.  Good luck with that!

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Frye’s an asshole so Marco doesn’t have to be.

I loved Sonya’s intent attention to the live feed, trying to come up with any sort of clue to find Maria even while the FBI agents flap around uselessly and wait on the ransom that’s not coming.  We see plenty of her awkwardness; it’s good to see her capable focus as well.

Frye again gets contact with the serial killer; he tells him Agent Gedman will make the drop with the agents’ approval.   The killer seems skeptical at Gedman’s lie, er, claim they have the money.  Why ask their names?  It “builds trust, shows we can keep our word,” Gedman says, all brisk go-get-’em.  Or it helps a ridiculously clever killer take personal aim, but what do I know??

“Got a case of the yips?” Hank asks when Marco shows his anxiety about whether Gedman’s walking into an ambush.  He’s interrupted by a call, which Sonya declares is from his wife, who “calls all the time.”  But guess what?  It’s Fausto Galvan instead, who’s outside the police station with a suitcase full of enough money for the ransom!

As he takes a wary Marco for a ride, Fausto berates those “disgusting gringos” who are watching Maria die.  Lest we find Fausto sympathetic, Marco shrewdly notes “and it’s not good for business to have every cop on high alert.”  Tell the FBI the “El Ray Storage Company” fronted the money, Fausto insists.  “The Americans trust you, and I know where to find you, Marco Ruiz.”  Gah, the entire run of the show, Marco’s insisted not all Mexican cops take bribes, and now it’s fascinating and horrifying to watch him despite himself drawn to making a deal with one of the biggest syndicate leaders from Juarez.

Heller agrees to the unorthodox source of payment only because Maria gets closer to death every moment and Washington isn’t coming through.  “I brought the money, the girl’s Mexican, I’m going,” Marco insists when the agents propose leaving him behind.

Steven “Creepy Mutton Chops” Linder motors Eva Guerra — aha, she’s STILL ALIVE, I KNEW IT — to the He Will Rise ranch, a way-station/haven for women getting a fresh start from sordid pasts run by Pastor Bob (though at first I worried Eva was getting dropped off at Sister Wives Central).  Steven doesn’t share Bob’s views (he says, “If it makes you feel better, Bob,” when the pastor says he’ll hold him in his prayers) but he knows this is a safe place for Eva from Hector (the Scary Tear-Drinking Thug who killed Wanda and stopped stalking Steven on account of homophobia).  At Steven’s request, Eva repays all he’s done to help her with a kiss on the cheek; it’s both peculiar and innocent when Steven says, “I will remember that,” in his reverent stilted way.

Marco heads out with Heller and Gedman to the skeevy drop spot the FBI’s chosen.  “I know where she is,” Sonya whispers to Hank, keeping him back: her obsessive watching has paid off in the realization a shadow cast near Maria is from an oil pump jack.  Let’s hear it for the underdog El Paso CAP officers, who head to the rescue while the incompetent and arrogant FBI agents faff around with ransom drops!

Charlotte continues her string of stupid decisions (how many times can this woman interact with police and not once contemplate once mentioning her illegal tunnel?), dropping on by the El Paso station and handing Marco’s wallet over to Kitty Sees-It-All Conchas.  Honestly, you might as well have brought a bunch of Mylar balloons and a sparkly banner saying you did it with Marco, Charlotte.

In the FBI van, Marco confiscates Frye’s reporter notebook and gives Frye the cold shoulder when he calls Sonya “a little short bus.”  For me it’s one of the more clever subtle plays of The Bridge; the writers take disparaging remarks fans might make about Sonya and her off-putting behaviors and put them in the mouth of one of the least sympathetic characters.

While Marco tells Frye to shut the hell up about his family and Juarez (cripes, every hit is below the belt from Frye) Gedman reminds Marco he’ll have questions about the ransom money later.  “Let’s just save this girl,” Marco says.  “That’s the plan,” Gedman snaps like a jerkwad.

Hank and Sonya scour the few oil pump sites near El Paso.

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Every Hank and Sonya scene contends for my favorite scene of the week.

“You’re thinking about Lisa,” Hank says about Sonya’s deceased sister.  “No one came for her either,” Sonya says sadly.  No, she hasn’t been to see “him” (a former boyfriend? Husband? Father?) but she went to Lisa’s grave and tried to have a happy thought like Hank told her to do.  It was too hard, but “I tried,” Sonya says, the poor kid.  I really liked this clear but quiet connection between Maria’s situation and Lisa’s death; we understand Sonya’s investments but they’re not needlessly hammered home.

Marco continues to worry about the operation as Gedman enters a dive bar, looking ridiculously out of place with his suitcase full of money and ear piece.  Yes, go ahead and order a diet coke with lime, Gedman, because that won’t make you stand out more or anything.  The bartender hands a phone with a message to Gedman, and here’s a nice touch: the unassailably overconfident Gedman watches the video message and gasps quietly.  “What is it?” Heller demands on the earpiece, but Gedman takes it out and walks, zombie-like, further into the bar.

Finally Sonya and Hank reach the right spot, running to find Maria’s still alive.  Hank gets itchy to see what’s going down at the drop, and Tim Cooper promises to stay and take care of Maria so Sonya can accompany Hank.  Tim, you’re making me like you more and more with your tech know-how and not-entirely-creepy promise to watch over Maria.

Whatever the message Gedman saw, “he looked sick,” the bartender tells the FBI when they storm the bar.  Back in the van, Frye slips away in the confusion to meet the killer in the alley.  “Dumpster” says the next message, and “oh shit,” Frye exclaims when he sees what’s in there before yelling, “Over here!”

Nearby, Marco explores a storage area only to get hit on the head and held at gunpoint.  “I have family, please don’t do it,” he pants, and the gun (surprisingly!) withdraws from his head.  The killer (I assume, because we get our standard boots-and-legs shot) knocks him out entirely before setting the suitcase of cash and a trash bag next to him.

Sonya and Hank rush to find Marco prone but awake.  Sonya demands, “Why didn’t he kill you?”  Honestly, I love that Sonya’s all about the brass tacks (though a “Hey, you’re not dead!” might not go amiss sometime).

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Sonya and Marco get a head of the situation.

The money’s still there in the suitcase, and in the trash bag, holy crap, there’s Gedman’s head with another phone and a new message.

At first Hank, Sonya, and Marco watch, confused, as they see the Cristina Fuentes video clip they’ve already viewed.  But then the angle shifts, and we see that with Cristina was none other than Agent Gedman.  Dude.  This is one thorough serial killer!  Exposing the FBI as toothless and connecting a prize negotiating agent to his initial round of killings?  He doesn’t just make points; he drives them into gaping holes with railway spikes!

Join me next week for The Bridge to watch and discuss the promisingly-ominous-sounding “The Beast”!