Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'Treme': Season 2, episode 4

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 2:53 PM

The Notorious BIG and Sleazy
  • HBO
  • The Notorious BIG and Sleazy
"Treme's" characters, and the show itself for that matter, are getting some of their bounce back. And not just because Davis and Aunt Mimi founded "the big, sleazy reincarnation of Def Jam records" this week. Antoine, Janette, and Albert, in particular are starting to own their situations some, recognizing their realities and confronting them head on, whether it's with a sazerac in the face, a decent jam sesh, or some good old fashioned rage. Episode 4, titled "Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get the Blues?", was the season's richest yet, full of the kind of human complexity that makes you feel on top of the world one moment and in its armpit the next.

After running scared from the school at first, Antoine reluctantly returns for a position as assistant band teacher. He does his best to try and talk his way out of the job — "You know about my criminal history, right?" — which the head band teacher simply shrugs off with a "Felonies or misdemeanors?", and tells Antoine the principal's already signed off on the position. Oh — and they've got no instruments, just their hands for clapping and snapping.

It's Christmastime in the Crescent City and Antoine's band, Antoine Batiste and His Soul Apostles, is finally coming together despite drummer Raymond dropping out. They audition Sonny for lead guitar, but end up giving the job to the Japanese version of Jimmy Page, aka June Yamagishi. ABSA books a series of bar gigs for a very funky Christmas complete with dancing girls in festive negligees. Sonny steps in for the Christmas Eve show when Yamagishi can't make it, but he flakes on rehearsal and gets called out for using after the show by one of the band members. "You ain't in no danger of bein' a great musician," he warns Sonny, who replies, "I know." Harsh, but true. And something Sonny definitely needs to hear.

Annie, on the other hand, is increasingly in danger of becoming a great musician, this week sharing the stage with Shawn "Sunny Came Home" Colvin at the House of Blues. But any performance high was quickly dashed post-show by Shawn's friend Marvin. The singer introduces the two and then disappears into the crowd, leaving Annie to discover he's a manager of up-and-coming talent in Austin. Awk-ward. Marvin's in town scouting talent and asks Annie who reps her. "I guess that's the next step," she says. "I'm sure you'll find someone suitable when the time's right. When you're ready," says Marvin. Oof. Annie's too sweet to do as much, but you know she wanted to (or at least I wanted her to) pour her drink over that bald head of his.

Speaking of drinks in the face, how about Janette? The combination of jowly faced fish whisperer chef Brulard and GQ resident NOLA-hater Alan Richman in the restaurant at the same time pushes Janette over the edge. After a shift's-worth of hate-filled stares targeted at Janette, Brulard marches over to her station, rubs some crushed pepper on the heel of his palm and tells her that's what the inside of her head looks like. Whatever, man. Janette ditches her apron, storms out of the kitchen to the bar and orders a sazerac done right, with absinthe coating the glass. After a sip to ensure its authenticity, she marches over to Richman's table and says "This is how the Creole fairy folk back home shed their three-day stubble," before throwing the drink in his mustachioed hater face. His comeback? "Sazerac? Nobody throws a sazerac!" Spoken like a true windbag. The stunt achieves Janette mythic status among foodies and line cooks alike. So, will she return to the Big Easy, even though she enthusiastically admits to Del how much she likes NYC?

Del rehires the agent he canned a few episodes ago, despite the fact that he's a Colts fan (a trait many Saints fans would find unforgivable, not to mention unemployable). But Del's still slowly getting back in touch with his NOLA side, so one step at a time. Right now he's focused on finding out what old school jazz artists such as Jelly Roll Morton can teach new school jazz kids like himself. Del flies home to take his dad out for Christmas dinner. The lovable old curmudgeon spends the entire meal at the upscale restaurant wishing he were eating his late wife's mirlitons instead of an expensive steak. Del points out that Albert could be depressed. "Depressed? Shit. I ain't depressed. I'm so mad I can't see straight," he says before walking out. Del apologizes outside by rolling a fatty and passing it to his dad.

The episode's closing montage Christmas night rolls past the different characters, offering in a quick glimpse a subtle emotional take on each of the characters: Sofia getting into a car with her friends; the police chief alone in his trailer opening up a single gift of holiday socks; Janette reenacting her Steven Slater moment; Antoine giving a stern-looking Desiree her gift of a necklace and laughing with her to (presumably) the bedroom, "You know you like it, you know you do." It was simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, like the episode itself.

-Toni digs deeper into the death of the Abreu kid, discovering more and more that things were not as they seemed that night in the supermarket.

-"I am not gonna let this stop me." — Ladonna to Antoine after he sees her battered face.

-"This isn't Katrina. It's just a thunderstorm." —Band teacher to his students when they get spooked by a thunderstorm that has the lights flickering.

-I think that cop had plenty of tinsel on his headbrace already, but it's always nice to see David Morse's lieutenant have a sense of humor.

-Simply Red on Davis' "hip-hop opus" in-progress: "We're white guys. Deal with it."

-Steve Zahn is the king of facial expression awesomeness, from his look of smushy distrust when he hears the term "boiler plate" in reference to his contract with Aunt Mimi, to his doe-eyed Annie love.

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