Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Don't Have a Good Feeling About the Title "Cherrypoppers" (Episode 1.6)

Previously on: Dutch thinks L.A. has its own version of Jack the Ripper. Vic's junkie informant Connie was stabbed and raped by a john. Julien told about witnessing Vic and the boys stealing bricks of coke from a drug raid. Dutch spied on Danny and caught her kissing Vic, which he did not take well.

Pictured: What Danny may have to resort to when Dutch inevitably breaks in.
(Photo credit)
The body of a prostitute has been discovered facedown in a park. Claudette guesses the girl is no older than 13. "I warned you about this guy!" Dutch, let's not gloat over the body of a child, all right? Witnesses spotted a green car with a broken taillight, no make or model. Dutch asks which light was broken; Julien says it was too dark for anyone to tell. Dutch snaps at Julien to talk to the witnesses again and get every detail.

Edgar-veda won't give Dutch more manpower because they're stretched too thin, not even for 48 hours. Dutch know his boss is politically ambitious and asks how committed the department is to catching this predator.

Dutch gives a briefing in the roll-call room. The medical examiner has confirmed Claudette's suspicion that the latest victim is 12-14 years old. She's still a Jane Doe. Witnesses saw a green four-door car with a broken right taillight. Dutch wants a reward poster made. A set of keys was found on the body and Vic is in charge of matching every key to a lock. Vic says no way; he'll be working his contacts on the street. Dutch tells everyone how important the next 24 hours are. If they don't get a suspect, they won't find the murderer until he kills again.

Dutch goes into the hallway calling for Vic. "Yes, Herr Wagenbach?" Vic replies. Shots fired! Dutch tells Vic to take the night off if he's not interested in talking to a locksmith. Vic can solve this case. Dutch argues that's all he wants. Vic thinks that Dutch cares more about who does the solving than getting justice for the dead girls.

Dutch throws back a Nazi reference of his own; he doesn't want the killer to walk because of Vic's Gestapo tactics. He's in charge of the investigation and Vic has to report anything he finds. Somehow, Dutch misses Lem rubbing his knuckles menacingly in the background. The Strike Team, minus Ronnie, leaves.

Dutch gripes that everyone thinks he's a joke and they don't know the real him. $10 says this guy secretly commits murder off-duty because he thinks he's too smart to get caught. The other detectives in the precinct respect results. Dutch is prepared to give them that. He turns the whiteboard into a timeline of Jane Doe's death. He tapes up a photobooth strip of the smiling girl who's dressed like a normal teenager.

Edgar-veda has news Julien won't like: the stolen cocaine wasn't found in the overdose victim's apartment. Julien says that doesn't mean Vic is innocent. The car thief can testify about the drugs being in the unmarked SUV she stole. Edgar-veda says that part would be complicated, but doesn't elaborate why. He wants Vic off the street, but doing that isn't Julien's responsibility. Probably because the captain wants to take all the credit.

Elsewhere, Vic shows Jane Doe's picture to Connie. She's seen the girl around the neighborhood, but doesn't know her name or who her pimp is. However, her friend Tracy might. Vic warns her to be careful.

Dutch gets a lead after showing the same picture to a group of pimps and prostitutes in the cage. A fellow prostitute only knows the girl's street name: Sally Struthers. Very odd choice for a teen. In 2002, I'd be thinking more along the lines of Pamela Anderson or Anna Nicole. Dutch thinks maybe it's a play on the actress' famous "save the children" ad campaign.

Anyway, young Sally typically started "working" about 10:00 every night, but the girls on her stroll don't remember seeing her. Another prostitute said Sally went to a drug store about 7:00. Claudette wonders what a young girl would do on a Friday between 7 and 10 PM. Please, girl, you raised two daughters so you know the answer. Agent Wright, an FBI agent, chimes in that Sally would shop or go to a restaurant or movie. It transpires that Dutch called him in. He can't wait to pick the agent's brain. Agent Wright promises not to step on any local toes; he just wants to help.

Vic pays a visit to a pimp eating at a Chinese restaurant. He asks if Snoopy and Woodstock are on the menu. Lem picks up a pair of chopsticks and tries to help himself to whatever the pimp's having. The Asian pimp swears he doesn't know Sally. Vic knows the pimp has an apartment full of fenced electronics and thinks he'll call his friends in the robbery division. The pimp admits he knows Sally, but he isn't the one who turned her out. All he does is take 20% of her earnings.

Before Sally came to the Asian pimp, she worked at a sex club. "She was a kid," says Vic. The pimp gives a "so what" shrug. Vic asks, "What kind of work could she do for a sex club?" I think you already know the answer to that. This would be a good time to call in Elliot and Olivia, but they're on the East Coast.

At the precinct AKA the Barn, Agent Wright is impressed that Dutch picked up on the killer's pattern. Dutch explains that he's done a lot of criminology research. Dutch gets two tips in a row: A gas station attendant saw the mystery green car and someone called the tip line claiming he sold drugs to Sally that night. Dutch talks to the attendant, but the guy doesn't know anything about cars.

In the next room, Claudette talks to an Asian drug dealer who says Sally had an ecstasy habit. He's not worried about jail because, like Sally, he's a minor. Sally paid him in sex for the drugs and he saw he around 8:30 the night she died. He wants to know how much the reward is. 6 months-1 year in county for dealing.

The gas station attendant does have something semi-useful. The guy driving the green car prepaid $20 for gas, only pumped $17, and never came into the store for his change. He somehow thinks they can fingerprint the bills, even though the driver never touched them.

Edgar-veda's secretary tells her boss there's a big problem. The toilets in the women's bathroom are clogged. "So now we have no working toilets in the Barn?" he asks. You got it, genius. Shoulda fixed the men's room. Also, that's probably some kind of health department violation. The maintenance guys can't come until the next day. Edgar-veda tells her to hire a plumber and use his credit card if she has to.

Vic waits in the dark on a bench for somebody. He tells his target that he's Vic "your best friend from Boston." The guy says he's never been there. Vic slams him against the wall and grabs his wallet. He gets the guy's name, Ted, off his driver's license. Ted demands his wallet back and repeats, "I don't know you." Vic chuckles, sure the guy wasn't about to go into the sex club either. He flashes his badge. Ted does the "really? That's a sex club?" routine. It's members only, so Vic will be Ted's guest.

Inside, the Asian female proprietor (seriously, what is it with this episode and Asians?) asks if Vic will be watching or participating. Vic just likes to watch. "You'll be watching Sun-Lee tonight," says Asian Madam, leading Vic to a back room with a curtained-off stage. If Vic likes the performance, he can buy a tape of it.

Meanwhile, the plumber isn't sure the toilets can be fixed. Danny advises Julien not to take the Vic matter to Internal Affairs. That would mean a lot less to him if he knew they were having an affair. Julien is angry that everyone wants to cover this up.

At the sex club, the curtain pulls back to reveal something sickening: a set done up like a little girl's bedroom. The girl on stage is in her very early teens, if that. Vic is enraged. Outside, Vic returns Ted's wallet with a warning: "I ever see you within 5 blocks of here, your wife's getting a very unpleasant phone call." God forbid Ted has any daughters. Vic calls to get a warrant to raid the club.

Julien goes back into the captain's office and lets him know he's not dropping his complaint. The captain doesn't think the rookie knows what he's doing. Julien says he knows right from wrong, which is made highly ironic by Michael Jace's recent conviction for murdering his wife in front of their kids. Julien will not be at peace with God or himself if he ignores Vic stealing drugs. Edgar-veda lays out the likely sequence of events: Julien will be labeled a traitor and Vic won't care if God is on Julien's side.

The Strike Team raids the sex club. Vic chases Asian Madam into a sort of wardrobe room and asks where the tapes are. He finds them in a tall metal cabinet; the cassettes are labeled CHERRYPOPPER FILMS. Disgusting. Vic frogmarches Asian Madam toward the front of the club. Sun-Lee is at Ronnie's side, wearing an oversized men's jeans jacket. Vic tells Ronnie to take her to the clubhouse AKA the Strike Team only breakroom.

Meanwhile, Dutch is upset that two cops were taken off his serial killer case for a robbery-homicide. Them's the breaks, kid. Suddenly, there's a loud crash and water gushes out from the open door of the women's bathroom. Everyone scrambles to pick up boxes and files off the floor. Edgar-veda climbs on a chair. The plumber deadpans that there are big problems with the pipes.

Dutch takes his timeline whiteboard upstairs. Agent White has a preliminary profile of the killer: late 20s-early 30s, spotty employment history, feelings of being worthless and unappreciated. In other words, as generic as profiling gets. The killer poses the bodies facedown to show his dominance. Oh, and the suspect is probably impotent. Another tip comes in from the flier: Someone who actually saw Sally being driven around in a green car.

Downstairs, the rest of the cops are scooping up water in buckets and building a wall out of sandbags. Tom, their tipster, is in the interrogation room and not pleased about it. The flier said tips are confidential, but didn't mention the tipline was wired into the 911 system. He's afraid the killer will come after him, despite the fact that he's entirely the wrong age and gender. "Your name doesn't leave this room," Claudette promises.

The night before, Tom stopped behind a green car at a stoplight. It looked like the driver was struggling with the girl in the passenger seat. He's almost sure the girl was Sally. Tom wrote down the license plate number and thinks he saw a broken taillight. However, Dutch won't be able to run the plate from the precinct. All the computers were unplugged due to the flood. The fax machine is down too. The desk sergeant asks who she's supposed to send elsewhere to run the plate. Dutch rudely asks her to do just one thing.

Asian Madam is put in the cage, protesting that all her girls are 18 and over. She wants her lawyer. Dutch asks if she's connected to Sally. Vic explains that Sally used to work for Asian Madam's child pornography operation. Dutch is still pissy about the keys. Vic finds this to be a much more pressing matter and so will anyone watching. "And I'm trying to catch a killer, asshole," Dutch snipes. Next, Vic assigns Lem the oh-so-pleasant task of watching the confiscated child porn.

Dutch has gotten a name from the license plate: Steve. He's got Steve in the interrogation room and asks if a 1997 Saturn is a good car. Steve has only needed some minor brake repairs done. Dutch tells him they know about the broken right taillight.

Vic goes into the clubhouse to check on Sun-Lee. The girl asks what'll happen to her now. Vic wants her to play blackjack with him. "Not in trouble?" Sun-Lee asks suspiciously. Vic starts dealing cards and asks who made her work for Asian Madam. Sun-Lee has a different view of things: Asian Madam helped her and paid for her ticket. She said being in porn would give Sun-Lee a start on becoming a famous actress. She wins the first hand of blackjack and gives Vic a shy but proud smile.

Dutch asks if Steve was popular in high school. "I had friends," Steve shrugs. That's not the same thing. Dutch did some digging and found out Steve has a sealed juvenile record. Steve won't tell Dutch what he did and wants to leave. "You're not going anywhere," says Dutch.

Edgar-veda's secretary whispers a secret to Vic: The captain just had her call Internal Affairs. Vic talks to Danny, who can't believe Julien went behind her back like this. Vic isn't worried; it's not like he's committed felonies recently or anything. Vic pretends to be concerned for Julien not fitting in. As Julien's training officer, Danny could be considered a traitor by association.

Danny confronts Julien about turning Vic in. He says it's not her business. She argues that it is; she's his partner. Julien should've listened to Vic's side of the story before going to IAD. He tells her about the stolen cocaine and "whether you realize it or not, you helped him cover it up." Think it's probably a good idea to get him a new FTO.

Dutch has discovered Steve's spotty work record. Steve blames it on the economy. Not being able to keep a job might make a guy feel pretty worthless. Steve doesn't feel that way. Dutch asks what Steve was doing at 11 PM last night. Steve was home alone and there's nobody who can corroborate that. He wishes there was. Dutch implies Steve is impotent and brings up the sealed juvenile record. Steve admits that he broke into his high school and vandalized the place.

Vic has a new angle to approach Asian Madam. Lem saw Sally on one of the child porn tapes. Vic sits Asian Madam down in a room with a VCR. He's gonna play the tape for her until she tells him everything she knows about Sally or until Vic has to turn it off. He warns her there will be no rules if he has to turn off the video. Vic and Dutch are stone-faced, angry. Sally screams on the video and Asian Madam begs the detective to turn it off. Vic obliges and leans down into Asian Madam's face.
Asian Madam says she got Sally from Kurt Schmidt, the guy behind this underage smut.

On the balcony, Dutch still looks disturbed about the video, as I'm sure anyone would. Vic tells him not to worry; he'll find Kurt. Claudette has fielded another call on the tipline, this one from a 14-year-old who claims he was Sally's boyfriend. They bring the kid in. Sally's Boyfriend saw her the night before; they went out for ice cream. She left before 10:00, claiming that was her curfew.

The boyfriend never went to her house. Sally said her parents were traditional and didn't allow boys to come over. They've been dating for a months, but it didn't get serious until Sally kissed him last week. Claudette asks if the kid knew what Sally did for a living. "She's a freshman, right?" he says.

Sun-Lee wants to play cards with Vic some more, but first she has to look at a photo array. In a rough tone, he asks her to pick out the guy who made her do the movie. "Vic mad at Sun-Lee?" the girl asks. Vic is madder than hell, all right, but not at her. Sun-Lee belongs with her family, doing normal teenage girl his Cassidy. You can tell how much it bothers Vic that she's so close in age to his own daughter. Sun-Lee taps a photo.

Danny finds Julien beating up a punching bag in the precinct weight room. She apologizes for not being a good listener or training officer. She was afraid to believe him, but promises to believe the truth when Julien gives it to her. Um, he already did that!

Dutch sticks pins in a map, tracking Sally's whereabouts before she was killed. He deduces she must've been picked up by her killer on Cassandra Street. Agent Wright says they don't need a full confession; Steve just has to admit to being on Cassandra around 10:00. Dutch goes back to the interrogation and offers Steve a Ding-Dong. He's sure Steve won't be here too much longer.

Vic forces a pickup to stop. He reaches in the open window and turns off the engine, then yanks the tattooed driver out of his seat. Vic arrests him for making child porn. Kurt plays the semantics game. He didn't film it; he's just the editor and Vic can't prove otherwise. Au contraire, mon ami. The only mystery left is whether Kurt "accidentally" cracked his head open on the sidewalk trying to resist arrest.

Dutch asks if Steve has a girlfriend. Unsurprisingly, Steve tells him no. Dutch is sympathetic. He remembers how hard it was being twentysomething: "too old for the college girls, too young for the mature ones." It must piss Steve off that he can't get laid. Steve is sure he's entitled to a lawyer. "Entitled." That word sets Dutch off. He covers the table with photos of the murdered prostitutes, asking what they were entitled to. Does Steve pose them facedown after death so he doesn't have to look them in the eye? "No way!" Steve protests.

A witness saw Steve's green car on Cassandra Street at 10:00. Dutch puts his hand on the back of Steve's neck, leaning creepily close and whispers, "At least tell me the truth about this one thing." Steve can't believe Tom Ross saw him, adding, "This is raising the bar." Apparently, this whole thing is a prank. Tom and Steve are roommates constantly trying to one-up each other. Tom must've seen the dead girls on the news and called the tipline because the killer's car is the same as Steve's.

Photo credit
Steve asks Dutch for help in getting Tom back. He wants Dutch to act super pissed, which wouldn't be acting at this point. Then Dutch should tell Tom he's under arrest for something. "Obstruction of justice?" Dutch suggests. I'd also throw in filing a false police report.

Dutch drags Tom to the Barn toward the cage. Tom broke Steve's taillight to make it make the one of the flier. He tells the detective to have a sense of humor. Dutch informs the prankster that a little girl's killer is running loose. He's spent all day chasing his tail instead of the real killer. Vic sees the wild-eyed, shouting Dutch and tells him to take it easy. You know it's bad when Vic Mackey is saying you have an anger management problem. Vic leaves to answer his beeper.

In a hotel room that still has Magic Fingers beds, we see one very dead man in his underwear and Connie huddled up in the corner wearing just a bra and panties. "He's the killer maybe, right?" Connie whimpers. Vic checks the guy's wallet. Nope, just an insurance salesman from Fresno. Connie thought he was acting weird. Vic's jaw drops: "So you shot him?" He wants to know how much crack she's been smoking.

Connie begs Vic to help her. She wants Vic to say that he shot the john. Problem is Vic has a solid alibi. She thought the john wanted to kill her. "I'll lose my son. Vic, please!" she sobs. Vic shuts the door. He has to call this in. Connie slaps the cell phone out of his hand. Vic tries to explain that his hands are tied. "All I have is Brian!" cries Connie.

Vic hurriedly cooks up a story. Connie picked up the john and they had sex. Afterward, he refused to pay. He started hitting Connie. Connie then grabbed the salesman's gun and shot him with it. Plain and simple self-defense. I can't believe he's trusting her to remember this. She's clearly strung out on something. Connie asks if the cops will buy the story. "Only if you have the bruises to prove it," Vic says grimly.

Connie takes a deep breath and braces herself. Vic clenches a fist, but can't bring himself to do it. He can't punch a woman, not even to make it look good. "Hit me!" Connie shrieks, repeatedly slapping him in the face. She starts to ugly-cry again. Vic kisses her forehead. It's clearly tearing him apart that she wants to be hit, but he still pops her in the jaw twice.

Dutch, Edgar-veda, Claudette, and Agent Wright are trying to figure out their next move. Nobody actually saw Sally disappear. There was no forensic evidence in the park and none on the other four victims. Agent Wright doesn't think the killer will get sloppy now. Edgar-veda announces he's pulling the plug on extra manpower for the case; 60 students at a local high school just got into a huge brawl. They'll reopen Sally's murder if they ever get clues or a viable lead.

Dutch is angry. A dead underage prostitute only gets 21 hours of investigation instead of the full 24 that was promised. There are just as many people looking for a serial killer as there are people fixing the Barn's bathrooms. "Getting mad doesn't change how life works," Edgar-veda says sanctimoniously. Claudette tries to reassure her partner that he did everything possible.

Downstairs, Dutch's desk is on the flooded side of the sandbag wall. He grabs a bottle of aspirin from a drawer. Danny approaches, asking hesitantly about when they can get together again and study for the sergeant's exam. "Why don't we do that right now?" he says nastily, "I'll just drop my pissant serial killer thing to help you study. Because what you want always comes first, doesn't it, Danny?" Oh, just shut up. Dutch buries the knife deeper, implying Danny doesn't care about a dead 13-year-old. Danny gives Dutch a well-deserved you're-such-an-asshole look.

At the hotel, CSIs are taking pictures of the body while a uniform interviews Connie. She's dressed now and also sporting a black eye, bloody nose, and cut lip. Connie recites the story about the john refusing to pay her and beating her. She's taken back to the Barn and put in the cage. Vic whispers that she just has to remember to tell the detectives the same thing. Good luck with that! Connie promises that she's gonna get clean and be a good mom.Vic looks like he's heard that line before, but tells her everything will be fine.

Vic goes to the clubhouse. He wakes up Sun-Lee, who's napping on the sofa. He tells her that INS is sending her back to her family in Korea. "But you said you help Sun-Lee!" she says. Vic tries to convince her going home is the best thing for her. "Parents never take me back!" says Sun-Lee. Even if that happens, Vic assures her that she'll be looked after in a foster home or someplace. "Sun-Lee come back! I will!" the teen says fiercely.

As INS agents march Sun-Lee out, Dutch calls for them to wait. Then he changes his mind about whatever he wanted to ask. Dutch feels like a failure. Vic reminds him that they busted a child pornography ring; Dutch should be proud of that. Agent Wright says that hunting serial killers is a marathon, not a sprint. He worked the Green River Killer case in 1984. They wound up with a total of 49 victims, even with lots of resources. They didn't make their first arrest until 2001.

Vic goes into the clubhouse and Danny is waiting for him. She wastes no time, asking straight up, "Did you steal drugs from those Armenians?" Yes, he did. And cookies too. Danny promises to never share the answer with anybody, but she was party to the theft and wants to know the truth. Vic knows this is coming from Julien. Danny doesn't confirm or deny that. She does, however, tell Vic she needs some space. As Jeff Foxworthy once observed, "'I need some space' is always half a sentence. The rest of it is 'without you in it.'"

When Danny gets home, Dutch is sitting on her porch steps. Run away before this turns stalker-ish. Dutch apologizes; what he said earlier was inexcusable. I agree, but I think he's just saying that to try at getting in her pants again. He starts to leave. Danny offers to cook dinner: "I make a mean grilled cheese." Dutch smiles and walks back up the porch. This would be an adorable scene if he wasn't so weird in such a sinister way.

The episode ends with a quick flash of a green car with a broken taillight driving past a group of prostitutes.

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