Good evening ladies and gents, who's ready for some action in The Deuce? It's been a hectic week, let's get TO IT! Rolling S1:E6 Why Me? or as I like to call it: "You're An Entertainer, Miss Merrell" after the break.
Our Previously On gives me all kinds of information I had processed completely incorrectly the last time I saw it: looks like Rudy Piplio (Michael Rispoli) chose Vinnie Martino (James Franco) to run his new massage parlour business because he's not a made guy, i.e., you can kill him with impunity AND it won't lead back to the Bentnose Gang. ALSO, journalist Sandra Washington (Natalie Paul) asked our Officer Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) about the Knapp Commission earlier, that's much more specific than it sounded at the time. I believe she was referring to crooked cops and we meet one this episode! Yes we do!!
Open with Vinnie and his brother-in-law Bobby (Chris Bauer) looking for staff for their brand new
"massage parlour", I had to play back what Bobby called the pimps they were looking at three times because I didn't understand what he was saying. Turns out it had nothing to do with smoking, but Bobby is a racist and I now know a new racial slur. Yaaaay?
Pimps Reggie Love (Tariq Trotter), C.C. (Gary Carr), Gentle Richie (Matthew Ballinger) and Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) think Vinnie asking to fill his brothel with their ladies is hilarious, right until Vinnie explains that he expects the pimps to pay HIM for their ladies to come and work in the comfort of the whorehouse. Then it gets ugly, fast, and Vinnie's gotta scoot.
In theory, Candy Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is shooting movies for Harvey (David Krumholtz), but in reality, she's safely screwing dudes for money while learning absolutely everything she can about the movie business. He talks it up a little, giving up the line of the night:
"You're an entertainer, Miss Merrell."
Over at the 14th Precinct, Rizzi (Michael Kostroff) is entertaining in his own special way, explaining to the troops the difference in this year's holiday clean up. They will be running wagons every shift at least once, taking the pimps in and their rides, doing everything possible for the next two weeks to make the Deuce "uninhabitable for the p***y trade." AND they get OT for all prostitution arrests, so now we know the fix is in and that brand new massage parlour is about to have more ladies that it can handle staffing the Jergens.
We watch a hilarious sex scene with Candy and Peter, who's...not the best at dialogue. This is a glorious scene for Candy, though, her intelligence and beauty shine through and I almost forget she's mostly naked with a stranger's face in her privates. She and Harvey have a great rapport.
Over at the Hi-Hat, lucky Vinnie gets a visit from Rudy and Tommy Longo (Daniel Sauli) looking for some outside muscle, Big Mike (Mustafa Shakir) and Vinnie Martino (also James Franco) are tapped for some fun outside work. Tommy knows someone who can help fill the massage parlour until the local pimps figure out they're out of business, he'll take Vinnie and Bobby over to Queens.
Candy's curiosity is driving Harvey crazy, she keeps asking and asking about WHY now it's okay to have film in the camera; why now? Harvey fills her in on the political side of things, judges just aren't prosecuting people (well, judges don't prosecute people, but you know what I mean), they're throwing obscenity cases out of court. Now apparently porn has a socially redeeming value! Harvey throws out some praise as Candy heads out, he's impressed with her professionalism, she's a pro.
She stares at him for a long beat while wondering if she's going to throw something at him. Just words this time, a sardonic "thanks" from our old pro.
Tommy takes Vinnie and Bobby to the "Happy Landings Therapeutic Massage" lounge, where Dino (Louis Vanaria) negotiates hard for his charges. I particularly like how he insists that Tommy pays for transport to and from, nobody wants to take the train after 8 hours of pulling tricks.
That's the difference when you work inside, it's like pulling a shift, yes?
The project that Rudy needed outside muscle has to do with his take from the dirty pictures machines inside his stores, so Big Mike Frankie (White Frankie, not Black Frankie) will be following around the dudes who pick up the dirty, dirty quarters.
Frankie doesn't understand why this is a big deal, what's a few quarters? But Rudy knows the times, they are a-changing, soon the mob will be in it full bore, with American girls speaking "American" (sigh) and buttsex. He suspects that the guys are skimming, because it's in their nature. Like the frog and the scorpion, which Frankie doesn't understand, but Big Mike does. "It's a fable" drifts out from the backseat and the boys in front start. Being Big Mike is like being fat, invisible and you hear ALL the good stuff.
Big Mike and Frankie follow about 4 steps behind the collection dudes, subtle as a truck. OUT OF GEAR.
Bobby and Vinnie try to settle down the three prostitutes he's borrowed from Dino, he's Management and he's listening, they're all part of the same team!
Black Frankie (Thaddeus Street) is there for security, he likes the Puerto Rican lady, she reminds him of his ex. Since this woman has just been bitching about not getting the Number One workroom, I'm confused about the "liking" part. Although I guess if I got transferred across the city, I'd wanna establish seniority right away too!
It's extremely quiet at the Hi-Hat, at first I thought it was because Vinnie wasn't paying enough attention to it, but upon reflection I have to wonder if it's because the street trade is being picked up constantly.
Paul (Chris Coy) and Abby (Margarita Levieva) flirt and do shots at the bar, sex is just sex, right? They should just bang already because they're clearly thinking about it. Vinnie interrupts and draws Abby away to the bedroom.
Things are heating up in The Deuce as Big Mike and Frankie watch a blatant skim out in the open from the Quarter Collection Duo, Rudy shows up to do The Count.
The Count is when all the money is brought into a room and weighed and counted, very simple, yes? Because these machines are in Rudy's stores, he gets an agreed-upon percentage. But. That percentage is based on what Matty The Horse (Garry Pastore) and his henchman Marty Hodas (Saul Stein) report.
WHY WOULD YOU HAVE TWO CHARACTERS NAMED SO SIMILARLY, THE DEUCE? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KEEP TRACK OF WHICH JERK THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT?? Everyone has these exaggerated accents and speaks in slang and it's KILLING ME.
ANYWAY, Matty doesn't take too kindly to Rudy stepping in, but he doesn't have a lot of choice, either. The next day the gang all meets up again at the courthouse, where Harvey and every mobster in town has gathered to hear the resolution of another obscenity trial.
Matty and Rudy wave their wieners at each other for a bit, then head in to hear the judge dismiss yet another case. The fix is definitely in, and it's from on high.
An unresolved vignette into Candy's life shows us her explaining to her mom Joan (Carolyn Mignini) her new life path and plans for the future, she'll get a babysitter to take care of her son and let her mom relax. Joan's "I'LL TELL YOU WHEN I'M DONE" made me laugh but Candy just look anxious, especially when she hears a vehicle pull up outside. She hurls invective at her mom and sneaks out the back door, who was that? Was that her dad?
Gentle Richie was the first pimp to crack under the cleanup, he's brought Rochelle (Ngozi Anyanwu) or actually, I think she brought HIM. She's getting room number one and Chinese for supper, because Gentle Richie is the best pimp ever and is going for takeout. It's cases like that where you gotta wonder why Rochelle gives her pimp anything. She's better at security than he is and has a lot more street sense.
Everyone smokes all the time!
Sandra watches as the women are swept off the street and the pimps's rides are taken away, Officer Chris with his new uniform consoling Larry Brown as his sweet car is towed.
It's the next day and our porn shoot is being help up because they're missing a brunette actress, for "contrast" to Candy and her blonde wig. She has an idea!
Sandra probes Chris about the over the top street sweeping taking place in The Deuce, what's going on? He wants to know if she wants to go see a jazz trio (HARD PASS) but she shuts him down with "you know I can't date a source, right?" He responds firmly that he is NOT A SOURCE then they get back to discussing what's happening. "Where do they think all the dirty is gonna go?"
Big Mike and Frankie came up with a new business plan! Okay, it was Big Mike, who is quite the artist (drawings perspective is way harder than it looks) who came up with the idea of a booth around the peepshow machines. You know, so when a guy's watching, he can have some privacy. Frankie calls it a Masturbatory, trademark White Frankie! That is not going to catch on, yo.
Ashley (Jamie Neumann) and Lori (Emily Meade) are at Leon's (Anwan Glover) when Candy rolls in, she looks at Shay (Kim Director), who's nodding out then settles on Land o Lakes Girl Lori, how'd she like to make $100? Ashley is pissed coz she's up next, but she's not a brunette and I'm sure Lori is going to be in trouble just that fast. Nobody told CC.
Bernice (Andrea-Rachel Parker) is also at Leon's, I think he's got her back! Yay, maybe she can go back to waitressing, because that wig is janky af and she looks sad all the time.
Lori is all ready for her closeup! Candy gives her some great advice that I hadn't realised previously, when Lori is screwing on camera, the camera is the john, not whomever she's having sex with. Candy is a great mentor.
Then CC walks in and we all stop breathing.
He extorts Harvey and the rest of the crew for $240 and he's out, as terrifyingly as he came.
I did appreciate the naked guy standing there with his junk out for the duration of that scene, that was the first time the male nudity has felt natural and not gross/forced. Of course dude about to shoot a porno would be standing there with his penis out and massive pubefro.
Just in case we hadn't noticed that the cops are actively working to fill whorehouses for the mob, we get Lieutenant Sweeney (Sean O'Hagan) explaining it very, very clearly to the pimps that they should accept any and all offers from anyone looking to get their girls off the street.
All the pimps find a woman or two they can offer up on a trial basis at the parlour (we need a name, yes? Did I miss that again, as I did with the Hi-Hat?) except Larry Brown, he's gotta think about it.
Ah Candy. Harvey tells her they're done production for awhile, she gets a month off! But she has bills to pay, Harvey, she wants to come help with the rest of the business, cutting, looping, editing, whatever they call the non-humping part. He tells her to go back to what she used to do but she doesn't ever want to do that again and these guys are breaking my heart.
He shows up at her apartment later and I am WORRIED. No need, though, he feels bad for how he made her feel and no, he didn't come over for the expected, Candy. He can't take her on payroll right now, but offers up the number of a female-run escort agency which Candy declines, but maybe thinks about after. These are tough times and escorting is safer (ostensibly) than being on the street.
Now Lieutenant Sweeney from the 14th precinct making his Welcome Wagon extortion speech at Bobby's massage parlour: you're welcome and that'll be $500 a week, see you Wednesday! So many people with their hands in the cookie jar, all making their money off the backs of women in tiny rooms.
Larry Brown's trying a new management style on Darlene (Dominique Fishback), giving her backpay for that porn she shot with a john lo those many months ago AND giving her the choice of whether she agrees to do another film. Well, you know, it's a choice from Larry Brown, so "choice" and he doesn't like it when she doesn't immediately agree. He gets angry, telling her it's the movies or the ho-house.
So here we have non-source Chris on a date with Sandra, watching that jazz trio (HARD PASS) and telling her he has a real story for her. He's been tracking this corruption from on high and he's ready to spill.
Vinnie finally asks Rudy: why me? Why is he being chosen to run this bar, that massage parlour, what's the deal? Rudy trusts Vinnie, see, and it has nothing to do with his lack of connections to the mob or how good he looks as a fall guy. Rudy likes Vinnie and he likes Big Mike (learned another racial slur) and Frankie too. Oy. What was that about the scorpion and his nature? Vinnie can't stop getting stung, y'all.
We're out at Darlene settling into her new gig at the HoHouse, those partitions don't leave much to the imagination and Darlene and I are seriously worried about whether the walls are structurally sound.
This isn't the first show I've watched recently where women have their choices made for them, for the "greater good" as in The Handmaid's Tale or as part of business here, but I have to wonder if that's on purpose. Like all the rape we see on TV and movies these days, yes, it's always been around but now it's ubiquitous. In theory, we're being shown these things as bad, but we're still being shown them an awful lot. For a show that's about the exploitation of women, we're sure seeing a lot of exploited women in feeding that muse. I'm oot! Promise I won't be so late next time!