Graceland Review: How Far Would You Go?

That’s the question our three alpha male leads are asked this week: How far would you go for your friends? For your job?

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For the second week in a row, Jakes is mysteriously absent — I like to imagine that he’s single-handedly taking down sex trafficking, or illegal parrots, or that he’s responsible for having stopped Justin Bieber from bringing his German parrot back to the U.S. Maybe he’s busy investigating Beyonce and Jay-Z for their trip to Cuba. I’m sure that when he reappears the writers will just pass it off as “he’s on a job.”

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Where are you, Jakes? Mike’s drinking all your orange juice.

The women are also sidelined this week: Paige continues to be the most level-headed and well-adjusted person in the house, just going about her business and doing her job, while Charlie is suffering withdrawal from the hit she took last week. That hit presents one of the big dilemas this week.

But let’s start with Plot A and Mike, who takes a big step back in likeability early on in the episode, but quickly recovers it by the end. Mike is still diligently creating reports on Briggs to bring in to his fake psychiatrist. This time the haul is pretty good, apparently, and he’s congratulated. His first question? “Will it get me back to D.C. any faster?” That statement firmly draws the line between Mike and Briggs: the two have been set up as foils from the pilot, but we’ve never really seen why. Here it is. Briggs will do absolutely anything for Graceland: Mike can’t wait to leave and start climbing up the ladder to becoming A.D. (For some reason he seems to think that the top dog position is gotten via merit, and not political connections. . .poor guy is in for a rude awakening when he does get back to the East Coast).

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I always like to imagine that the extras are owed favors, or something.

Turns out that a boat carrying Bello’s drugs was sidelined in the ocean, and they dropped the drugs. Bello’s about to give them up for lost, but Mike suggests that he “knows a guy” an expert diver who can recover them. He’s planning on using the Bureau’s connection to come up with an expert diver. Briggs is, unsurprisingly, not terribly impressed by the stunt pulled by his new protegee. Johnny, lounging on his favorite couch, pipes up that he was trained to be a Navy S.E.A.L. and he can do it.

Mike takes a break from all the craziness to go on a date with his alleged J.D. girlfriend. (As time goes on, I’m becoming more convinced that she is everything that she says — which just makes me kind of hate her). Paige reminds him that he can’t get in this deep — his job doesn’t let you have relationships. (Tagline: How far will you go for your friends?) Mike blows her off, but this is clearly going to have repercussions by the end of the season.

Now we enter into Mike’s Dilemma: Tagline: How far will you go for your job? While Johnny is underwater, recovering a torpedo filled with drugs, Bello blithely informs MIke that the diver is dispensable, and they’re going to shoot him when he returns. It makes sense — Johnny hasn’t played this character as hugely trustworthy or able to keep his mouth closed, and he’d clearly pose a liability to a drug lord. Mike is panicked and doesn’t know what to do — he’s conveniently wearing a wire, and lets Briggs know about the situation, but receives no confirmation. He clearly thinks about opening fire on everyone on the boat, before realizing that it’s impossible. Resignedly, he takes out his gun. How far will Mike go for a job? Well, it looks like he’d be willing to shoot a housemate.

Plot Line B! Charlie’s suffering withdrawal symptoms. We find out that Briggs got her out of the drughouse (their target, Odin, never did show up) and he brought her to “one of his C.I.’s” places. How far will Briggs go for a friend? He’ll take her to what is pretty clearly his hidden apartment (complete with locked closet) and lie about events to their Bureau leader. He’ll also shoot her up again, so that she can avoid symptoms of withdrawal when she’s called in to do a debriefing. And how far will he go for his job? While he’s playing back-up to Mike on the boat with Bello, he has Johnny deliberately set the bomb off, without telling Mike. Mike, seeing the bomb explode, loses it, thinking that his friend is dead. Briggs, meanwhile, is taking possession of the heroin — and strangely, when Mike and Johnny are unloading it later, they realize that it could have housed a lot more drugs.

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Charlie, not holding it together so well during the debriefing.

And finally there’s Johnny, who’s woven his way in and out of both plotlines. How far will Johnny go for a friend? Well, when he’s sitting in the debriefing with Charlie, he notices her coming down from her high — she starts nervously tapping her fingers, and getting snappy with the debriefing agent. So Johnny quickly interrupts her and says that the reason that the bust went bad was because he and the tag team were too far away — it was his fault they let a drugdealer who would have faced 20 years get away. He then takes Charlie out of Briggs’ creepy-ass storage apartment, and brings her back to Graceland, so he and the others can take care of her?

And how far will Johnny go for the job? This moment is particularly telling, when he and Briggs are discussing whether it’s worth the risk of defusing the bomb to recover the drugs. “You don’t have to be a hero,” Briggs says. Johnny responds, “I am a hero.”

So at the conclusion of the episode, we have a nice little trinity of three characters who will put their lives on the line for a jog: one because he wants to get ahead, one because of little unascertained reasons, and one just because he’s a good guy.

This episode definitely wasn’t as tight thematically or plot-wise as some earlier episodes, but it was still a joy to watch. Aaron Tveit kills it every week as Mike — the scene when he’s walking around FBI headquarters, desperately trying to find out what happened to Johnny and fighting back tears, was one of the most adorable moments ever. Manny Montana infuses Johnny with so much life and goodness that it makes it possible to swallow his inane back story (still trying to figure out how he was an immigrant, a Navy officer, an almost-S.E.A.L, with a brother in a gang, and an uncle who wants to see the world, all in one). And Daniel Sunjata is, as we all now, a treasure (though why the show seems to think that he’s Hispanic is baffling — his last name is Briggs, for crying out loud). I’d like to see a little more from Paige (and, you know, Jakes, when he’s not busy keeping Madonna from importing illegal furs or tarantulas, or whatever) but the show consistently delivers with emotional performances, plenty of light-hearted moments, and some great character development.

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About splashfromabove

I believe firmly that through reflection, we gain in appreciation. My blog is all about taking a step back from what I read, view, or discover, and looking at it slightly askance.
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