Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Fire In the Hole" And on the Stove (Episode 3.13)

Whenever I see that phrase, I hear it said in Walton Goggins' voice.

Previously on: The Strike Team abandoned some of their marked cash where an Irish gangster named Neil O'Brien would find it. He was brought in, but nobody could prove where the money came from. Vic's informant Taylor hit pretty heavily on Danny.  The Strike Team set up a sting involving AGC, a custom car shop that also launders money. The Mackeys learned were told they'll have to find another school if Matt keeps biting kids.

Walon, the head of the Decoy Squad, threatened to have Claudette fired when his partner Trish went missing. She was later found alive, but had to do cocaine and have sex with her suspect to keep her cover. Lem found out exactly what caused Tavon's car accident.

Vic arrives at his former home to find firemen there. The kitchen is a charred wreck. Cassidy is scared and runs up to her dad for a hug. Corinne explains she was in the bathroom while Cassidy and Matt were making soup; Matt got hold of cooking spray. Corinne's mom took him and Megan for the night. "He didn't know what he was doing," Corinne insists.

"If your wife hadn't grabbed that fire extinguisher, this whole place coulda burned up," says one of the firemen. Corinne lies that she had the stove on too high and the grease caught fire. Vic invites Cassidy and Corinne to stay with him for a few days.

While they're packing, he quietly tells the fireman, "I think we both know this wasn't a grease fire." The fireman has to determine if it was arson. Vic explains that he has a 7-year-old developmentally disabled child who "was just playing where he shouldn't be." The fireman will write it up as accident. Vic gives the guy a business card in case he ever needs a favor.

Lem slowly enters Tavon's hospital room and asks, "Hey, are you talking now?" "You're that new nurse here for my sponge bath?" Tavon quips. One of his arms is in a sling. A leg is in a cast. He has scars on his neck from the tracheotomy and going through the windshield.

Lem sits down next to the bed. He heard Tavon's doctor thinks he can go to a rehab facility soon. Everyone at work misses him. Lem asks if Tavon remembers anything. The last clear memory Tavon has is fighting with Shane.

Vic shows Edgar-veda a surveillance video from one of the cars AGC bugged. It belongs to Jantell Davis of the Spookstreet Soldiers. He's seen taking money from a white guy. "Jesse Ventura here is with the Horde," says Vic. They're a biker gang with Aryan leanings.
I said "Horde," not "Nords."
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The captain is curious why these two aren't killing each other on general principle. Vic doesn't know what they're planning, but Jantell agreed to provide getaway cars. "The Horde's got a pretty violent history," says Edgar-veda. Most outlaws do. Vic knows the gang killed two bank guards during a robbery in Sacramento. Edgar-veda inquires as to how they'll find out when and where the crime is going down without anyone figuring out AGC is bugging cars.

Danny and Julien come upon a station wagon almost in the front window of a coffee shop. "Someone miss the drive-through?" she jokes. Another uniform was in pursuit of said station wagon, which was stolen. The coffee shop owners barely got out of the way in time and the thief got away. The coffee shop hasn't even been open a week.

While Julien talks to the couple, Danny looks inside the station wagon. She sees cases of 30-year-old single-malt Scotch with no tax stickers. She guesses it's worth $120 a bottle. Julien reports that the coffee shop owners are uninsured idiots who'll have to pay out of pocket to fix their store if they don't find the car thief. I'm surprised Danny doesn't say it's their own fault for not getting insurance. Her only comment is it looks like they're chasing a bootlegger.

Edgar-veda wants Vic to tell Claudette about the AGC sting since he'll be moving on after the election. Jantell got a call from cloned number saying half the fee ($10,000) was paid, so the Horde must be into something serious. Vic has an armored car schedule and a list of all the banks and check-cashing places in Farmington.

The captain doesn't want any of the locations alerted for fear of scaring the employees. Vic plans to bust someone in Spookstreet for something unrelated, then get him to give up the heist. Edgar-veda says to go through Claudette if he needs anything.

In the clubhouse, Lem shares what should be good news: Tavon is out of the coma. "He's groggy, but he's makin' sense...The bad news is he remembers gettin' in a fight with Shane before Mara clocked him over the head with an iron." Shane asks if Tavon told Lem that little detail. No, Vic did, but Tavon remembers everything up to that point.

All this is news to Ronnie. Lem sums it up beautifully: "Shane put Tavon in the hospital and then he lied to us about it." Shane argues that Tavon started the fight. Lem asks why Shane didn't say that in the first place. Vic says he made the call not to tell the other two and did it to protect the Strike Team.

"You think this is still a team?" asks Lem. Vic growls, "I'd do the same goddamn thing for you." No, you wouldn't. Lem says that won't be necessary. Shane points out that Lem's hands are dirty too. Maybe so, but they're still a hell of a lot cleaner. Vic is worried that if Tavon pins this on Shane, they're all screwed. "He's only gonna remember more, not less," Lem realizes, looking sick. Shane storms out.

Vic stakes out Jantell in the van, Lem in the passenger seat. He assures him they're still a team; they just have to get through this situation. "We never should've taken that money," Lem says vehemently. Walon, disguised as a bum, walks up to the window and tells them to leave; Jantell is being watched by the Decoy Squad. Vic is incredulous and warns that he'll tip off Jantell.

"Me? Why don't you just paint five-oh on the side of the van?" asks Walon. Vic wants to know why the Decoy Squad is looking into Spookstreet. Walon pretty much tells him "noneya." Vic throws a quarter in Walon's change cup, ordering him to get lost. Because he has the mentality of a third-grader, Walon retorts, "You get lost."

Edgar-veda gets Claudette, the Strike Team, and the Decoy Squad together. He asks why Walon's crew is investigating Spookstreet. Walon explains they're gathering intel on a guy named Durwin who makes kid-on-kid sex tapes. "That's pretty vile, even for them," says Vic. Trish says that Durwin's being doing it on the side; she doesn't think anyone else in the gang knows about it.

Edgar-veda wants to know how Durwin lures the kids. Walon says, "He's got a social worker in his pocket. Most of her caseload are crack moms." The social worker cozies up to the moms and puts it up to them as another way to make money. Trish thinks they can break the case by the end of the week.

The captain doesn't want to wait that long. Neither does Vic. The cases will be folded together to corroborate one of the Strike Team's tips. Claudette will pose as a fellow social worker, Trish as a crack mom client. Walon is not okay with this because it means the real social worker will walk. Vic "doesn't like letting the wicked witch fly away" either. Walon refuses to work for Claudette again.

Lauren meets with Vic in the Barn's parking lot and they finalize their plans for Vic to join her at a dog handler's conference in San Diego. She got them adjoining rooms with an ocean view. Vic's is under the alias Jackson Benjamin. What kinda low-rent hotel did they get for this conference? Every place I've ever stayed checks ID.

Lauren gives the reason behind the subterfuge: A lot of people know her and her boyfriend Hunter. Vic doesn't plan on leaving the room for much. Danny, unloading cases of Scotch from her patrol car, sees this.

Neil O'Brien is missing and Agent Nell from Treasury is sure the Armenians had something to do with it. Neil was supposed to be on 24/7 surveillance, but someone hacked into the system using the log-in credentials of a retired agent to call off the watch team. There are signs of a struggle in the apartment. No blood and Neil's car is still in the garage. Dutch will investigate until Nell finds the leak in Treasury. Edgar-veda tells Dutch to bring in Vic, who's dealt with the Armenians more than anybody else. (And in more ways than one).

In the bathroom, Trish makes herself looks like a crack whore. Claudette lets down her hair and takes off her badge and gun. She hasn't been undercover in years. Trish tells her it's just like riding a bike. Claudette talks to herself in the mirror, laying out her backstory: "I've been a social worker for 15 years. Hated it for the last 10. My ex-husband gambled away our savings, so I earn on the side from the crackheads who I can't help anyway, even if I wanted to." Trish has been her client for 10 months.

Claudette wishes she could take back Trish's undercover assignment that went wrong. "We're cops," the younger woman shrugs, "Shit happens."

Lauren has just gotten a call from Hunter, who was supposedly mugged. He's at home instead of the ER and didn't report it to the police. She tells Vic she's sorry, but she has to cancel their trip.

Danny and Julien's stolen station wagon was taken from an elementary school parking lot. The Scotch came out of a shipping container in San Pedro before Customs went through it. A total of 11 cases are missing and there were only 7 in the station wagon. Vic asks for Danny and Julien's help. His friend's boyfriend was mugged and didn't report it. He's curious about why. They agree to do what they can.

Dutch tells Vic about Neil's disappearance. "Huh?" Vic blinks. Dutch is sending out alerts to airports, train stations, and bus depots. Any tips Vic can provide would be helpful. If the Armenians got to Neil, Vic is sure he won't be leaving town on foot.

Dutch knows Neil has a taste for Hispanic prostitutes and could use the Strike Team's help. Vic would love to but his hands are full. Dutch says that won't be a problem; Edgar-veda is pulling Vic off the other case. Dutch will canvass the neighbors and the bar where Neil found the money.

Through the open door of the clubhouse, we see Lem and Shane having a furious but silent fight. Vic goes to see what it's all about. We hear Shane saying something about how they only kept something from him to protect him. I bet the something involves Tavon's accident.

Out in the parking lot, Vic gives them the bad news about Neil vanishing. The Armenians probably found out from the mole in Treasury. "If they get him, they'll kill him," Lem frets. If Neil's dead, the feds could go back to suspecting the Strike Team. If they think he's just gone fugitive, they'll keep looking for him for years.

"What about the fact that the guy's innocent?" asks Lem. Shane counters, "The guy's an asshole with a rap sheet as long as your sad little face." Lem grabs Shane by his jacket and slams him against the van, snarling, "Tavon wasn't enough for you?" Vic wrenches them apart. If they're gonna ride this out, Lem needs to keep his head.
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A couple of uniforms have been standing nearby, watching the scene curiously. Vic tells Shane that Lem is right that they didn't plant the money on Neil to get him killed. His plan: "Get to him before the feet-choppers do. Get his ass on a Greyhound to Akron." Google tells me there's a strong Armenian presence in Cleveland, a mere 45 minutes away. Rethink that destination, Vic.

Anyway, the guys will split up to find out if Diagur's girls or anyone else from Byz Lats turf knows of Neil. Vic finds Diagur and his homies all have some sort of makeup smeared on one cheek as a gesture of mourning. Diagur's cousin Aramis was shanked in Chino by an Armenian. Does this have anything to do with the marked money? Vic explains about the leak at Treasury. They show him Neil's picture and ask if he's been hanging around any of the girls.

Diagur is sure the Byz Lats will find him if he's in the area. Vic tells them Neil liked to hang out at a bar called Smogjumpers.

"You're lucky we needed a favor, Felicia, because throwing your ass in prison was my first choice," Walon tells the real social worker. He lies down on the backseat. Claudette parks the car and tells Felicia to keep quiet. She rings a doorbell. When Durwin answers, Claudette introduces herself as Felicia's supervisor; she wants to talk business. Durwin claims he doesn't know a Felicia.

Claudette points her out and Felicia waves. Claudette goes on that they're business partners. She knows Durwin paid "$1,200 for that little movie star she hooked you up with." Durwin lets her in. Claudette claims Felicia shorted her on her half on the $1,200. She'd prefer to deal with Durwin directly from now on.

What kind of "stars" is Durwin looking for? Durwin requests dark-skinned girls, 11 at the oldest. Claudette offers him little girls who are 8 and 10 for $2,000. $500 of that goes to their mom. They'll do whatever Durwin says. She just needs to know when to bring them over.

Julien and Danny interview Lauren's boyfriend Hunter about the mugging. He claims it happened in the parking lot of the restaurant where he works. He thinks there were three guys, but he can't describe them. Hunter started swinging when the guys demanded his watch because it was a present from Lauren.

Dutch talks to the bartender at Smogjumpers. Neil was a regular customer who liked to watch sports and gamble. The bartender eyes a lone Byz Lat in a booth uneasily. Dutch promises he's not out to arrest anyone for being a bookie. The bartender says the bookie has "a dog's name" like Sparky or Scout...or something. He thinks the guy owns a furniture store. Dutch leaves his business card.

Before leaving, he has another question. Have any other cops come by? Maybe someone named Mackey? "Shaved head, redneck partner," he elaborates. The bartender shakes his head. Dutch is satisfied with that and doesn't bother describing Lem or Ronnie.

Vic gets a call from Diagur. Neil is holed up in a motel with a Mexican girl. Also, Dutch is looking into them. Dutch asks why. Vic admits that he told Dutch that Neil hung out at Smogjumpers. There's a general grumbling of "oh, perfect." "Dutch would look into his own mother if he thought he could catch a case," Vic points out. Nevertheless, they need to get Neil out of town. Nobody moves. "I can't do this alone!" says Vic. Lem is the first one to stand up and the last to leave the clubhouse.

At the motel, the guys find a naked woman lying on the bed. She has a trail of pawprints tattooed from the small of her back down. She sees the badges and guns and gets dressed. Neil comes out of the bathroom. Shane tells him to wash his hands before he cuffs him. Vic gives his partner a look. "What? That's disgusting," says Shane.

Vic tells Neil a lot of people are looking for him. Neil already knows that; he found a bunch of Armenians tossing his apartment last night. Are they here to put him in protective custody? Vic tells him about the leaks at Treasury and LAPD. No place in California is safe.

Neil says he didn't rob the money train, which is true. He just found a bunch of cash outside Smogjumpers. The feds froze most of it after he put it in a bank. He lost $16,000 of it gambling and has another $3,000 on tonight's Lakers game. Can we say "degenerate?" His bookie Rex already has his bet. Shane says they'll front him travel expenses and make sure Rex wires any money he wins. They're sending him on a one-way trip to Akron. "Where's that?" asks Neil.

When Durwin and Claudette arrive at Trish's, the first thing he asks is where her kids are. She claims they're with her baby daddy. Durwin will pay her when he sees the kids. Trish adjusts the bedding on a mattress she has on the floor; there's even a pink teddy bear. Durwin sizes up the arrangement with his movie camera. Trish points to pictures on the walls, supposedly her kids. She says the youngest has already had...experience with men.

Danny tells Vic that she followed up on Hunter's mugging. She thinks he's lying about something. Lauren seems convinced he's telling the truth, however.

Edgar-veda asks if Dutch has found Neil. Dutch is curious why the captain asked him to keep Vic out of the loop regarding the Armenians. "He was working on a quota mandate," Edgar-veda lies when he sees Vic is in the breakroom. Nina comes downstairs to tell the captain a man was found murdered behind a Spanish grocery store and his feet are missing.

The victim turns out to be Diagur. He's shirtless and dotted with cigarette burns. Shane wonders if Diagur ratted on them. "He didn't know we were involved," says Vic. However, Diagur knew about Neil and the marked money.

Right about then, Dutch pulls up. Vic tells him who the victim is and pretends they struck out with the hookers. Lem has ducked under the crime scene tape and looks nauseous. Dutch is curious how Vic knew the name of Neil's favorite bar. Vic learned from Neil's rap sheet that he liked gambling and Mexican hookers: "There's only one place in town where you can do both and be white."

Trish's doorbell buzzes. She peeks out the blinds and says she sees her kids. Durwin picks up the camera. Trish won't let the kids in until she gets paid. Durwin agrees to give half the fee to Claudette for safekeeping. When he reaches to give it to her, Claudette pulls on his arm, sending him face first onto the mattress. She declares him under arrest.

Cassidy complains that Matt isn't helping her set the table. He just threw the napkins on the floor. Vic comes in for dinner. Seeing his daughter's frustration, Vic shows Matt how to set the table. Cassidy asks how long they'll be in a hotel. Vic isn't sure how long it'll take to get the kitchen fixed. Painters are coming if she wants to change the color of her room.

Taylor stops by the Barn with a present for Danny: tickets to a sold-out concert. She has no interest in going anywhere with a fence. But does he know anything about a guy named Glenn Callan who runs stolen Scotch? Taylor thinks he can find out...provided he has a police escort.

After dinner, Corinne thanks Vic for cooking. Vic expresses concern that one of the kids could've been hurt in that fire. Corinne doesn't know how she's supposed to reason with Matthew and Vic can't watch him 24/7. What can they do? Put him in a group home? "You're serious," Vic says quietly. Corinne argues that she doesn't want to have him committed. "Then don't bring it up again," Vic warns.

Corinne asks if this is fair to Megan; she could be normal. Corinne's trying as hard as she can. Vic guesses he has to step in.

Durwin tells Dutch and Claudette that making pornography isn't illegal. Claudette reminds him it is when it involves children and what tends to happen to pedophiles in prison. Durwin's defense is the kids' moms let him do it. If he helps them, maybe they can get him into a special housing unit.

Claudette asks what Durwin's Spookstreet friends are up to these days. "Usual shit," he replies. The cops can't offer anything unless he gives up something unusual. Durwin tells them about Primo who writes bad checks.

Outside the interrogation room, Walon says, "So we just swapped out a social worker who tricks out kids for a guy passing bad checks? That sucks." Claudette still wants to pick up Primo. Edgar-veda tells her to do it fast.

Dutch got a call from the Smogjumpers bartender; a bookie was collecting cash to make a payout to Neil. Edgar-veda tells him to bring Vic in.

Lauren apologizes to Vic for the weekend in San Diego that never happened. Vic is suspicious: "The week you're going out of town, this guy gets mugged by three guys he can't identify and he managed to fend them off?" She's sure Hunter wouldn't fake getting mugged; it's so pathological. "So is saying that he'll slit his throat if you leave him," Vic points out. Is she ever breaking up with him? Lauren says, "It's not that easy."

Edgar-veda asks if Vic has anything on Neil's bookie. Vic says no, then asks Nina who won the basketball game. Of course the Lakers did. Vic goes in the clubhouse and asks where Rex hangs his bookie hat. When Shane gives him the address, they leave. Neil must be staying in town to collect on his bet and the Strike Team has to find him before Dutch does.

Danny hasn't tracked down Glenn yet. Taylor only knows of a few places that serve top-shelf Scotch. Their best bet is the Bling-Bling Room, which "hasn't served a legal shot since the day it opened." Julien has a favor to ask Claudette. He knows her boyfriend is a contractor. Can he give the coffee shop couple an estimate to repair their store? Maybe see if he can buy materials wholesale? She'll see what see can do.

The Strike Team goes to Rex's furniture store. Said proprietor is in the back room...dead. And missing his feet...with cotton stuffing shoved down his throat. Shane calls for Vic. Neil's body is floating in a large container. "They burned him and dumped him in turpentine," says Lem. Ronnie wonders how long Neil was tortured. "He couldn't tell them anything because he didn't know what he was doing in the middle of this. Goddamn it!" cries Lem.

Vic knows they have a bigger problem: Dutch might be called out here. They have to make Neil's body vanish. The Strike Team staying out of prison depends on Neil being a live fugitive. Lem once again looks like he might throw up, but he has a suggestion.

Walon and Claudette are aware that Primo is passing bad checks again, which could send him back to prison for another three-and-a-half years. They'll let him destroy the evidence if he tells them something good. Primo heard about a credit card ring and people selling stolen rims. Walon isn't impressed.

Primo knows some transsexual prostitutes who've been rolling their johns. "Johns got it coming," says Claudette. She and Walon are about to leave when Primo tells them he knows the Horde is planning something tonight.

Shane and Ronnie lift Neil's body out of the turpentine vat. Lem and Vic come down the stairs with a couch. Ronnie, Shane, and Vic check the vat to make sure Neil's severed feet aren't in it. They put Neil's body in the couch under the cushions and place Rex in the turpentine.

Claudette tells Edgar-veda that the Horde is planning to rip off the L.A. Motor Club. It's a holiday weekend, meaning plenty of cash. The captain tells them to evacuate the club and call SWAT. Dutch suggests notifying the Strike Team too. He's working his own lead on Neil's disappearance.

The guys have just gotten the couch loaded in their van when Vic's phone rings. Their presence is requested to take down the Horde. Vic tells Shane to park the van in front of his house; neighbors know he's a cop and won't mess with it. Clearly he's forgetting how nosy Mara is. They can dump the body later.

Danny, Julien, and Taylor come into the Barn with cases of the stolen Scotch they recovered. Taylor gives her a high-five.

Outside the motor club, Shane speculates about going to jail. Will he and the rest of the Strike Team see it coming or will it be a surprise? A surprise is the last thing it should be, given all the shady shit they've done. Vic thinks it's a good idea to give the cash to their real-estate launderer. Everyone moves in for the arrests. The Horde surrenders without a fight, not at all living up to their badass reputation.

"They'll assume Spookstreet gave them up," says Claudette as the bikers are put in the cage. She promises Trish and Walon she'll keep the social worker's case open and put her out of business.

As soon as Dutch sees Rex's body in turpentine, he's sure Margos is in town and not just calling shots long-distance. Neil seems to have cheated death again. Edgar-veda and Vic are both there. "They ain't stoppin' 'til they get their money back," says Vic. Too right you are. The Armenian mob has become his top priority. He promises to "unravel them, foot by foot."

Julien lectures the Scotch thief about crashing into a store and destroying a couple's business. Danny teases that they might have to deputize Taylor. He asks if she enjoyed clubbing with him. "That was business," she replies.
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Taylor suggests they go party for real next time. He gets pointed looks from both Danny and Julien. He shrugs that Danny has his number if she ever changes her mind.

Elsewhere, Lem opens up an incinerator. Vic tosses Neil's body in. They all stand around the open furnace, watching. "We might be able to fool Dutch and the feds, but the Armenians know the truth." says Lem. Vic gives him a brief shut-the-fuck-up look and toes the incinerator door shut. End of episode.

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