At a party in a vacant lot, a Latina tattoo artist with a live boa constrictor around her neck is giving a guy some new ink. One of the guests is either a little person or a kid way too young to be in a gang. Vic turns off the music and the rest of the Strike Team moves in. "Nice boa," he says to the tattoo artist. He inspects a customer's arm and notices the gang logo is being changed to Torucos. It was Armadillo's idea, apparently.
Vic shows them a Polaroid of Navaro in the cage, then tucks it into a gangbanger's shirt pocket. A different gangbanger gets the Strike Team calling card stuck to his forehead.
Edgar-veda is there too. As DeNiro observed in Backdraft, "Pretty fancy shoes you're wearin' to a fire scene." Claudette tells him and Vic that the fire started on the first floor and spread to the rest of the building. The fire department found a gas can behind the store. Claudette found the same tag as in the burning tire murders, along with something else.
A small body is covered with a yellow tarp. Vic at first thinks it's a kid who came in to buy some Batman comics or something and got caught in the blaze. Fortunately, the corpse isn't human. It's a pig. Not only that, the pig has the Strike Team's calling card stabbed into its forehead. Vic explains that he gave it to some of Armadillo's boys last night.
"Armadillo is my case," Claudette goes on, "He raped a 12-year-old girl last night to cover the tire murders." Vic asks why Armadillo hasn't been arrested. The victim's brother has been really uncooperative and they suspect he took her back to Mexico. Vic wonders why anyone would torch a comic shop. Claudette interviewed people in the neighborhood, who all suspect the owner, Theodore, of using the place as a front for drugs.
Armadillo is burning down his competition and sending a message to the Strike Team; Vic wants to handle the case himself. Claudette gets territorial. Vic says gangland is his domain. Edgar-veda says the case is more than big enough for the two of them.
Vic just about bottoms out the Strike Team van driving it into someone's yard. Shane picks up a handy cinderblock to use on the door. Vic suggests the doorbell might work. As the old fire department saying goes...
Vic says the Brothers Quintero seem to share a lot of interests, namely the drug trade. Armadillo swears he's nothing like his brother. Navaro likes partying. Armadillo is "much more comfortable in bed with a good book to read." "And a little girl to rape," adds Vic. Armadillo knows Vic has nothing to arrest him for: no open warrants, legal visa, no drugs or guns in the house. As to the last part, of course not. Smart dealers know not to keep anything where they sleep.
Vic advises Armadillo to "pack up your shit and get on the next donkey back to home." Well then. Armadillo is all "but I just got here." Vic arrests him. Armadillo asks what he's being charged with. Vic is sure he can think of something on the way to the Barn.
Outside, Shane, Lem, and Ronnie have assembled the rest of Armadillo's crew. Some are handcuffed to the swing set; it being there is kinda weird because I haven't seen a kid yet. "Any of you guys not named Martinez?" asks Shane. I'm surprised to see Ronnie, not Lemming, playing on one of the swings. Lem is calling in about a guy's driver's license that expired 8 months ago. One of the men, Javier, has a warrant out for aggravated assault. Perfect. Vic tells Armadillo he's under arrest for harboring a felon.
At the Barn, Vic takes a Polaroid of Armadillo in the cage. Claudette says Mexican authorities seem to know Armadillo by reputation, but he has no rap sheet south of the border. "Unlike his brother, he's smart," says Vic. He introduces Claudette to Lanie and brags to the auditor about arresting Navaro's brother.
Unless they find something else on Armadillo, the harboring charge won't be enough to hold him. Vic knows that and is sure Armadillo knows it too, being an unofficial law student and all. They need to find the guy who torched the comic book store/stash house and charge Armadillo with arson for hire. Claudette asks if Vic knows where Tio is, since he's registered as one of Vic's informants. Vic acts like he hasn't talked to or seen Tio in months. He'll have the Strike Team look for the arsonist.
Lanie asks Edgar-veda if she can observe Vic. "Actually, I was just coming to get you. A city official's been shot," says the captain. It's unknown who the victim is. Lanie can ride with Dutch. Next, the captain tells Vic how unhappy he is about Vic having a connection to the arson case; he specifically asked if there was a reason to keep Claudette away from the investigation.
Vic tells the wannabe politician to learn to read between the lines: "I told you I wanna handle this thing myself." Edgar-veda asks what this means for their gentleman's agreement. Vic promises he'll be careful.
Shane found out that Tio is in hiding at his baby mama's house. And holy muscle shirt, Lemming!
Tio and his baby mama are in the yard pushing their daughter in a tire swing. There's a slide off the same homemade platform. It appears Shane drew the short straw. Tio sends his kid and baby mama inside, then gripes about the "Mexican psycho" torching his building. Vic asks what he lost. Tio keeps most of his supply elsewhere, but he had cash and records in the safe. Tio is such an organized drug dealer that he had an accounts ledger. A book that Vic and Shane's names might be in.
Vic tells Tio to lay low; it's bad news for both of them if Claudette connects the dots. "This can't go unanswered," says Tio. Vic assures him it won't. He needs the names and numbers of a few of Tio's sales force. Vic instructs Shane to give the Torucos an address, but they can't burn it until Vic says so: "Just the building, no bodies. I wanna send a message, not start a war."
Shane pulls on the passenger door of Vic's truck, then knocks on the window like "Um, door's locked." "Lem can pick you up," Vic calls. I'm sure both parties will appreciate that. Shane watches incredulously as Vic drives away. Tio offers to let Shane use his phone. In uncharacteristic fashion, Shane does not respond by screaming, "YOU GO TO HELL!"
I'm beginning to think Edgar-veda made up the whole thing about a city official being shot until we cut to Dutch arriving at a crime scene. He remarks that it's pretty quiet for a high-profile case. One of those parking enforcement cart things is parked in the middle of the street.
At Tio's store front, the fire department has recovered the safe. Cocaine residue and scales were found upstairs, meaning they have probable cause to open said safe. Claudette can't wait to see what's in it. Vic is decidedly less enthused. Claudette wheels the safe into the precinct on a dolly. She hopes something in it ties him to Armadillo. "Tio's no saint, but he's the victim here," says Vic. They need to focus on finding the arsonist.
Claudette knows Vic has an informant relationship with Tio, but he wasn't targeted by accident. Vic knows someone who can crack the safe and doesn't know where Tio is.
Outside in the parking lot, Gordie is eating a sandwich in his expensive-looking sportscar. He knows who Corinne has been living with in Colorado Springs: Camille Briskin, a woman she went to college with. The kids are with her. Vic wants to jump on the next plane, but Gordie goes on that she's been spotted by his source packing luggage.
Danny and Julien arrive at an apartment complex where a black woman (judging by her attire, I'd say nurse) has called in a complaint about her next door neighbor. More specifically, she thinks he's a terrorist. Terrible chemical smells come out of the place "like he's making dirty bombs." Alena's a single mom with two boys and now she comes home to this. The woman's leashed Rottweiler snarls at Julien as he passes.
Danny knocks on the door. A Middle Eastern man, Zaide Altani, answers. Danny introduces herself and Julien, then says there's been a complaint. Zaide eyes the family next door; he knows who it was and that she probably accused him of being a terrorist. Danny asks if they can come in and look around. Zaide gets huffy: "I am a suspect just because I am Arab." "No, sir, you're a suspect because 19 guys who look like your twin brother killed 3,000 Americans," says Danny. Can't say my response would be a lot different.
The easiest thing for Zaide to do is to let them look around his house for a minute. "Or we could file a report with the federal government and let them check you out," puts in Julien. At this, Zaide opens the front door and allows them to enter, tossing in a sarcastic "God bless America."
Danny immediately spots an Arab-language newspaper; on the front page, an American flag is being burned. Zaide protests that he can't control what the paper prints and that his brothers sends it to him from his old home of Damascus. He's been in America for 5 years, has a job, and pays taxes. Zaide introduces the officers to his hijab-clad wife, Yassirah. As for the bad smell the neighbor reported, they're just making pickled fish. Danny thanks Zaide for cooperating. "So you will tell the black one that I am no terrorist?" he asks, referring to Alena. I sense a long-simmering feud here.
Shane knows that Armadillo's crew is working out of the old Sugar Cube Lounge: "salsa by night, distribution by day." Vic doubts the club has proper permits. He tells Shane to go in posing as alcoholic beverage control. Tio's crew can set it on fire after it's all clear.
|I have a feeling Shane would prefer to handle this himself.|
Vic goes to greet Smith, the locksmith/safecracker. Heh. He's sure Shane brought Smith up to speed. Vic wants Shane to break into the safe through the front lock. Smith knows it's a so-called "smart safe" and that would ruin whatever's in it. Vic gives him a that's-the-point look. Smith, who looks kind of like Hitler with a thicker mustache, starts pounding on the front of the safe with a hammer.
Claudette has done her homework too: "Manufacturer says you have to go through the back to disarm the destruct mechanism." Vic adds that he thought the locksmith worked on smart safes before. Smith all but says "Oops, silly me." "Good catch," Vic mutters to Claudette through his teeth.
Mentoya, Officer Zamorski's supervisor, thinks it would take more than bullets to bring her down. Dutch takes exception to her title: "She was a meter maid." Mentoya asks if Dutch knows how much revenue parking tickets bring into the city: "If it wasn't for people like Helen Zamorski risking her life every day, you guys would be making less than schoolteachers." Officer Zamorski was dedicated, writing more 30% over her quota every month. Dutch tells Mentoya that someone smashed her electronic ticket book. "Animals," he says.
Lanie asks to use the bathroom. Mentoya gives her the key, old-school gas station style; there's a California license plate keychain that reads JOHN attached to it. It's really the little details that make a show. Dutch wants to see the records of Officer Zamorski's recent tickets, especially the last ticket she wrote. He'd also like the names of people she wrote large numbers of tickets to. By the way, who can he talk to about a ticket?
Dutch got a ticket for parking in front of the courthouse. According to Dutch, he was testifying that day in a kiddie-porn case: "We got the sick bastard, thank God." Mentoya asks about the designated police parking area off Grand Avenue. It's 6 blocks away and Dutch was running late. He repeats what kind of case he was giving testimony in.
Mentoya guesses Dutch will have to take the ticket to court. "A little help, maybe, one officer to another," Dutch wheedles. Lanie comes out of the bathroom just in time to hear that. Mentoya tells Dutch, "I don't fix parking tickets. And being a police officer doesn't make you above the law." He hands Dutch a computer printout of Officer Zamorski's ticket records.
Claudette looks at Tio's ledger. She can't understand why he was making payments to a landlord; he owned the building. Vic suggests Armadillo was the landlord and that Tio got tired of paying. The fire was set as a warning. It's a good theory, but the payments started weeks before Armadillo came to California. She asks if they found Tio. When Vic says yes, she wants him brought in.
At Tio's baby mama's, Vic asks Claudette to stay in the car, claiming he doesn't want to risk losing his CI's trust. Claudette doesn't want him going in without backup; he'd told her he hasn't seen Tio in months and therefore wouldn't know if he's squirrelly now. She eventually agrees to stay in the car, but asks, "Something I need to know about you and this guy?"
In the house, Vic tells Tio that he'll look innocent if he comes in voluntarily. They need to keep having each other's backs. Tio asks what he's supposed to say if Claudette asks about the landlord. Vic advises him to say he was forced to pay for protection: "Choose your favorite band of brothers." Claudette is good and Vic is trying to throw her off his scent. He shows Tio the mug shot of Ripley the arsonist. Tio can say he saw the guy casing the store.
Tio asks what they're doing to Armadillo as payback. The Strike Team found the Torucos' hangout; Tio's friends are gonna set a 3-alarmer. Claudette knocks on the door. She asks if everything is okay and Tio says yes.
In the cage, Armadillo is stripping down to his Speedo. I wouldn't do that. Tio enters with Vic and Claudette, yelling, "Is that the bitch who burned my place up?" Gordie calls Vic over, saying it's important. Claudette will start the party without Vic. Gordie's friend followed Corinne to the airport in Colorado Springs and asks who she knows in Phoenix. Vic has no clue; that's the reason he hired Gordie in the first place. In an odd turn of events, only baby Megan got on the plane. Cassidy and Matthew are still with Corinne's college friend.
"Tio found our guy," Claudette announces when Vic enters the interrogation room. Tio gives the story about seeing Ripley in the back parking lot. Vic leaves to find Ripley, but Claudette doesn't follow. She wants to keep talking to Tio. Vic goes into the observation room and turns on the TV. Claudette asks Tio about the ledger.
Lem remarks that he's never seen Vic so pissed. "He's pissed about his kids. It's classic displacement," says Psychiatrist Shane. Lem is more worried about replacement. "Where would Vic be without us?" Shane asks as he pulls the building's fire alarm. I don't know, maybe prison? Our Georgia boy, for one, is not going back to traffic duty.
Shane thinks Vic will keep them around if they just do their jobs the best they can. Hand on his hip, Lemming says, "Oh, now that plan makes sense?" This kicks off a round of "shut up" "no, you shut up." Lem flips Shane off. Shirtless, chubby Ripley hustles out of his apartment. Lemming all but tosses him back in: "Go put a shirt on, bitch!" He follows Ripley to make sure he doesn't run out the back. The neighbors are watching curiously from their windows and front steps. Shane gives them a toothy smile and a cheery wave.
Dutch thinks Barney might've been upset about getting 34 tickets in 7 months. Barney admits he is; he doesn't have enough to pay them off and he might lose his job over it. However, he wasn't mad enough to shoot her. At 9:30 A.M., he was in traffic on his way to LAX. Dutch asks if Barney is willing to take a gunshot residue (GSR) test. Barney says sure, he wants to help.
Claudette is impressed that Tio the comic book merchant could buy two buildings with cash; she can barely pay her mortgage. Tio shrugs that he's good at managing his money. Claudette asks what kind of financial sense it makes to keep paying a nonexistent landlord. She adds that being an informant is not an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card; she knows he's dealing. Tio informs her that he's a victim.
Claudette tells him she can use the ledger to get search warrants for his house and the other building he owns. Will what they find there make him a victim too? If Tio helps them get Armadillo, Claudette will forget about the ledger. Edgar-veda comes into the observation room and sees Vic. He recognizes Tio as the guy the Long Beach Sheriff's Department pulled over with the Strike Team.
Edgar-veda asks if Tio can hurt them. Vic says no. Enter Dutch, who wants to kill time until his next suspect arrives by watching Claudette. That's a little creepy, actually. Vic steps out onto the choir loft/balcony thing and sees the boys bringing in Ripley. He opens the interrogation room door, offering Claudette the first shot at him. She says sure, but wants to let Tio stew.
Zaide is furious; he put his prayer mat outside to dry and it's been ruined. He's convinced Alena purposely set her dog on it. He shouts that she should have the dog put to sleep. "That's enough!" roars Julien. He and Danny searched the house and found no evidence of terrorist activity. He orders Alena to go back inside and restrain her dog before he has to call Animal Control. Julien tells Zaide to stop threatening the dog and "acting like such a victim." He and Danny don't want to come back here. "You're learning," his partner smiles as they leave.
Claudette asks if Ripley has an alibi for last night. The arsonist claims he was home alone masturbating. "Have some manners when you talk to me," snaps Claudette. She holds up a mugshot, wondering when he changed his look. Ripley stopped shaving his head 6 months ago. "Jesus, I can't catch a gooddamn break," mutters Vic. Claudette asks how Tio saw a year-old mug shot that only the police had access to. Vic will find out how that happened. Claudette's had enough of his brand of help.
Claudette confronts Tio about the hair discrepancy. She wants to know the reason he lied and who he's protecting. "You wanna put both our careers in this guy's hands?" Edgar-veda asks Vic. Claudette turns off the camera. Tio maintains that he's just a lowly CI. Claudette says they can charge him with racketeering if they tie the payoffs to a cop; add in possession with in tent and "you won't see your baby girl until she's 35."
Edgar-veda pulls her out of the room to tell her about a club that just burned down. It's the same M.O. as the one used at Tio's store. She can talk to Tio later. "He could be the key to getting Armadillo," says Claudette. Edgar-veda tells her she's the primary detective on the arson case and is needed at the scene: "This isn't a discussion!"
Dutch meets with mustached, spectacled Izzy, the last man to receive a parking ticket from Officer Zamorski. The circumstances make him a witness or a suspect. Izzy claims he didn't see anything, meaning he must be the latter. Izzy explains that he doesn't mind getting tickets because it's cheaper than a garage parking space: The garage charges $22 a day and Izzy averages two $30 tickets a week. Izzy agrees to the GSR test "as long as it doesn't cost me anything."
Vic goes downstairs with Tio, tossing him an evidence bag. He tells him to burn the ledger and quit bookkeeping. Vic gets a call from Gordie. Corinne caught a connecting flight in Arizona: Phoenix to Burbank. Gordie wants Vic to stay put until he figures out why she's goin' back to Cali.
In his office, Lanie tells Edgar-veda how irritated she is that a meter maid was passed off as high-level city official: "Is there some reason you didn't want me following Detective Mackey today?" "Of course not," the captain says innocently. Claudette comes in. The club that burned down was a Toruco hangout, so somebody was trying to pay back Armadillo. She'll see what Tio knows. Edgar-veda says they let him leave with the ledger due to lack of evidence.
Dutch and Lanie eat something I can't identify in the breakroom. Dutch isn't sure if either of their suspects killed Officer Zamorsky; Barney seems too passive and Izzy seems used to getting tickets. Both agreed to be tested for GSR. A uniform comes in with a lab report. Barney tested positive.
Dutch takes Barney upstairs and shows him the test results. Barney asks if he can take it again. Based on the test, Dutch can search Barney's car and house for the gun. Barney mumbles that his tire was 3 inches in the red and he got a ticket. Officer Zamorski laughed when he asked to have the ticket waived. Dutch handcuffs Barney to the table, but there's just one more thing. Barney knew he was guilty, so why did he agree to the GSR test at all? Barney's explanation is simple: "If I didn't take it, I'd look guilty and....it was a government test, so I figured how reliable could it be?"
Edgar-veda just got off the phone with the D.A. Ripley made a deal, giving up two accomplices in exchange for them all serving time at Terminal Island together. Vic thinks the deal shouldn't have been made; Armadillo is consolidating his guys into one prison. They can't charge Armadillo for hiring the arsonist or the rapes. "What happened here today was bullshit!" Claudette explodes. She's never interfered with the captain's campaign or how Vic runs the Strike Team. She's determined to find the truth, even if she has to go through both of them.
Armadillo gives Ripley a hug before the drug kingpin waltzes out of the cage. His lawyer chastises, "Harboring a felon? That's a stretch even for this precinct."
There's trouble between the feuding neighbors again. Zaide is upset that Alena's American flag is covering part of his window. He takes it off the wall just as Danny and Julien arrive. "Go back to your cave, Osama!" says Alena. Zaide fires back: "Why don't you go back to the jungle?! No job, raising these fat, stupid children." That's the last straw; Alena steps inside and comes back out with a kitchen knife. Julien quickly disarms her.
Just then, Zaide comes out of his own apartment, carrying a gun. "You don't protect me? Allah protects me!" he shouts.
Later, Alena is put in a squad car in handcuffs, presumably for waving that knife around. The captain is sure the review board will rule in Danny's favor. He reminds her of the department policy of two mandatory days off after a fatal shooting. He and Lanie duck under the tape to inspect the crime scene.
Tio's worried and pissed; 3 of his dealers have disappeared. He's tried calling and paging and is sure Armadillo has them. Tio wants to send Armadillo south. "Yeah, like 6 feet south." Shane agrees. Vic asks if he's the only one thinking.
Dutch opens the door to the women's room, still the only working bathroom in the Barn. We can hear someone (presumably Lanie) throwing up in a stall. He backs away. Claudette gripes that her arson case is "all smoke and mirrors," but doesn't go into more detail. Lanie comes out of the bathroom, taking a hit of breath freshening spray. It's gonna take more than that, honey.
Dutch tells Lanie he had fun having her ride along and hopes he didn't make too many mistakes. Lanie thanks him for his time. Dutch suggests they go out to eat together sometime. "Dutch, hitting on me? That is a mistake," she says rudely. Dutch stammers that he has a girlfriend.
Gordie meets up with Vic and tells him Corinne she stopped at the courthouse to copy the kids' birth certificates, then came here. "Here" being another PI's office, Morgal, a guy who "played one season for the Rams and thinks he's Dick Butkus."
When Gordie and Vic walk into the office, Corinne is holding Megan on her lap and nervously says, "Oh God." Wyman tells them that he's having a confidential meeting. Gordie tells Morgal that Vic has been looking for his kids for over a month. Vic asks where Cassidy and Matt are. Morgal tells Corinne she doesn't have to answer. "Your children are where you can't hurt them," he adds.
Vic is dumbfounded. He's never abused his wife or his children. He tries to ask his wife what the hell is going on. "One more step and she's signing a restraining order," Morgal warns. Corinne says she was scared for the kids because of what happened with Gilroy. Vic tries to assure her that it was a one-time thing. Morgal herds her out of the office.
"It's just just Gilroy; it's all of it," Corinne says over Megan's crying. She gets in a truck. Vic tries to get close enough to continue the conversation. Morgal reacts by bodily throwing Vic into some nearby trash cans. It takes a big man to toss around Michael Chiklis like a rag doll. Morgal growls that Vic has a lot to answer for.
"You're investigating me?" Vic is incredulous, "Corinne!" She apologizes, saying she didn't know what else to do. Morgal gets into the truck and pulls away. Gordie promises Vic they'll get her and all 3 kids back. "What?!" Vic yells by way of a greeting when his phone rings. Tio screams his name from the other end.
Elsewhere in the city, Vic arrives to find Tio got a tire necklace of his own. He's dead. Claudette looks at him suspiciously.
Vic pulls up to Armadillo's house in his truck. The Strike Team joins him in the van. The front door is open, so Vic, Shane, and Lem walk in. Ronnie hangs back. Armadillo, in his ever-present Speedo, is lounging on the floor with a book. He tells them that unless they have a warrant, they can't be in his house. There are some wicked scars on his back, belt marks would be my guess.
Vic starts hitting Armadillo with one of the law books. In the face, in the back, anyplace he can reach. Lem tries to stop him, but Vic knocks him back. Vic asks if Armadillo is ready to go back to Mexico now. His face and shirt are now spattered with the drug lord's blood. Lem pulls at Vic again. Shane seems eager to see what'll happen next.
Armadillo spits out a couple of teeth. Vic drags him into the kitchen by one leg and turns on the stove. What follows is almost as brutal as the infamous "fire or knife" scene from Sons of Anarchy. Vic slams Armadillo's face onto the burner. "Tell me you're leaving! Say it!" shouts Vic. Armadillo, understandably, is crying and whimpering. By now, Lem looks shocked by the cruelty and also scared to death of his boss. Even Shane is like "holy shit, Vic, you can't do this!"
Vic ignores them. Not getting anywhere with words, Shane and Lem each grab an arm, forcing Vic to let go of Armadillo. They back him against the kitchen wall, telling him it's over. Armadillo is seething on the floor, blood dripping from the bridge of his nose. There are grill marks on his face, holy fuck.
The adrenaline wears off and Vic walks away, Shane and Lem on his heels. On the porch, Ronnie sees the blood on Vic clothes and decides not to ask where it came from...or whose it is. End of episode.