Treme, Season 3, Episode 3, “Me Donkey Want Water”
In a nutshell, the problem is this: Treme doesn’t have much time left. It’s only getting an abbreviated fourth season which means that we can be relatively certain how much more of the show that we’re getting. A reasonable person might revel in whatever we’re yet to receive; I seethed at characters I think are stealing screen time from better characters. Although this is almost certainly an unreasonable way to watch a television show, I don’t know how else to react when we’re forced to endure yet another performance by Annie in which she takes the time to individually introduce us to her entire band. More on that shortly.
–George Pelecanos‘s name showed up in the credits. He’s earned some notoriety amongst David Simon’s fans for being the man’s angel of death. If he wrote the show, somebody’s gonna go. And so it was this evening as one of the cancer receives a not entirely unexpected cancer diagnosis. Not quite a suicide or a violent murder, but death none-the-less, although in this case the character’s chances are allegedly fifty-fifty.
-But because Pelecanos’s name was hovering over the episode, it was impossible not to watch (almost) every seen with white knuckles. Most terrifying was the reappearance of Jacque, Janette’s sous-chef and flame. As they walked and talked about the restaurant Janette has at first cautiously and then enthusiastically agreed to run, cars passing in the background brought gasps in my living room. We thought for sure that a cautious conversation in which Jacque expressed lightly his concerns was about to turn into another bloodbath. When the scene finally ended and we could breath again, there was relief. Several posts ago, I talked about the secondary characters that dot David Simon’s landscapes; Jacque is the best of them as far as my living room is concerned.
-Davis’s Aunt Mimi made an appearance. She was predictably fantastic in agreeing to back Davis’s newest projet.
-Antoine hit the road after convincing Desiree that it made sense for him to play a few dates with musicians concerned about the wetlands. This caused Desiree to lift an eyebrow. Antoine protested, insisting that he meant the delta. Desiree’s eyebrow stayed lifted. And wouldn’t you know it, but Antoine immediately found a woman to have relations with. Worth noting: he found a real woman to have relations with, one with curves and weight and a body and everything. Later in the episode, Nelson had sex with a woman who appeared to be built like a porn star. With all due respect, the encounter seemed sterile and devoid of any humanity. Antoine’s sex scene, on the other hand, was raw and filthy and human. I’m not sure I’ve seen an HBO show feature a sex-scene like that.
-Speaking of Nelson, he continues to try to convince Robinette that his scheming makes sense. Robinette thinks Nelson is wasting time repairing homes in bad sections of town; Nelson insists that the community is about to turn against the NOAH (New Orleans Affordable Homeownership) program due to its rampant abuse, and his plan is to be one of the good guys left standing when everybody else is being accused of fraud. (Here’s the Times-Picayune‘s reporting on the scandal). Robinette is a disbeliever until they run into Desiree. She wants to make sure they’ve talked to the families who actually own the homes; the community’s uproar about NOAH at least it part had to do with homes seized or destroyed without any attempt being made to reach the property’s owners, an uproar shown in several meetings.
-Delmond strikes a deal with LaDonna to allowed the Guardians of the Flame to meet at GiGi’s. LaDonna is wonderfully tough during their “negotiation,” one in which Delmond looks like a deer caught in some very bright headlights. But a promise of paying customers get him what he needs, and LaDonna gets to spend a few minutes with her eyes on him.
-Many good lines tonight. Robinette’s “You could sell a sandbox to Saddam,” wasn’t bad. Neither was Antoine’s, “She’s up and down like mercury…” He was talking about LaDonna. She might have stolen the show with her, “…if you don’t think I can handle a Sunday night throwndown, you don’t know who the fuck I am.” Except that Albert had, “It ain’t about the war, it’s about how you stand.” But it was Terry’s partner who takes top honors after hearing that his partner might leave for Indiana. “I wouldn’t live there if I did live there.” That’s another character whose name I don’t know, but if that reality didn’t perfectly capture Treme‘s loyalty to its place, nothing can.
-Finally, Toni all but stands outside a police department with both middle fingers up high. She takes out an advertisement in a local newspaper seeking information about an abusive police officer named Wilson; she includes a photograph in the advertisement and her own name. She says as she’s placing it that she’s not doing anything illegal, but she also warns her daughter Sofia to be wary of interaction with police. Wilson is suspected in the Abreau murder she investigated last season, as well as other violence throughout the city.
-Oh, it’s Annie. And she’s having dinner with last week’s slimeball agent. And she’s having a conversation with Davis again (whose newest plan revolves around his opera and the way in which it will compensate the artists involved, many of whom lost out on money during their own youthful careers). And then she’s on tour. And then she’s singing an okay song about something. And then she’s done and the crowd loves it. And then she’s introducing everybody in the band? Are you kidding me? Why? Am I desperately going to need to know her band’s rhythm guitarist at any point in future episodes? Because I’m sure as hell not going to bed wondering about who plays accordion for her. To be fair, each of those characters might become important in future episodes. But then, they might not, and while we are wasting our time learning the name of everybody in her band, other characters throughout the show are barely given mention at all.
-Sonny and his girlfriend finally had sex. I know I was desperately waiting for that riveting plot hole to be closed. Every week, I turned on my television thinking, “Is this the night that Sonny and…ummm…she finally have hot sweaty sex in an abandoned parking lot beside a river? I sure hope so! I don’t know how I’ll ever make it another week without Sonny getting his rocks off.”
-People in the food industry? They celebrate food! Even if it’s hotdogs, New York City’s quintessential street food, served only the way a real New Yorker would eat it, with mustard and sauerkraut, because snore!
-Man gets shot. He gets thrown in the back of a car and driven to police. The police take the car, beat the driver, steal the car. The man dies. Then his body is burned and left behind in the car. The car is burned. Kids overturn the car. The driver files a claim with an insurance company who thinks he burned the car for the insurance. The driver is stuck making payments on a crime scene of a upside down and burned out car that has been abandoned beyond a levee. That’s the story the young journalist has put together so far, one in which a black community is victimized potentially by both its white neighbors and their police department. It’s a harrowing story that reeks of truth.
-Was this episode all about sex? Nelson and the anonymous blonde, Antoine and the anonymous fan, LaDonna and Larry, Sonny and what’s-her-name, distant tension between Terry and Toni…what’s that about?