In the unlikely event that you’re nostalgic for the election, this week’s episode of Vegas takes on electoral politics in the age of television. Luckily, it’s more light-hearted and takes up a lot less airtime than the real election. The mayoral contest on Vegas also gives the newest character, Laura Savino, a chance to show that she’s as much a futurist as her husband. In other news, Lamb investigates a murder that turns out to intersect with a scam going on at the Savoy, so Lamb and Savino must work together, sort of, a little bit, before they end up waving guns at each other while waxing philosophical about the difference between law and justice.
Yet again, Carrie-Anne Moss gets some great vintage outfits and not enough to do. For those who are interested, she starts the evening in another green knit ensemble, following it up with a royal blue suit and then something woolen in a raspberry-wine hue (see photo above). I look forward to the week when I’ll finally have something more to say about her character.
We begin with Lamb’s son Dixon out in the desert, holding three robbers from out of state at gunpoint. The men have their pants around their ankles – presumably to keep them from running? Lamb shows up and claims he’d rather shoot them than do all the paperwork involved in their extradition — his way of scaring them straight (I think they’re meant to be bumbling amateurs). This, he says, is the difference between law and justice. Not sure I buy it, but there it is.
Elsewhere, a dentist named Howard Saffer keeps his office open late so he can treat a showgirl who broke a tooth in an onstage mishap. The showgirl later wakes up from the gas to find Dr. Saffer murdered.
At the Savoy, Mia Rizzo is annoyed to find that Mayor Bennett has signed a law requiring city auditors as observers in all the casino count rooms. There’s another problem – during a debate with the auditors over whether a glass constitutes an illegal open container, the contents of the glass spill on a $500 chip, which starts fizzing like an Alka-Seltzer tablet, because it’s a fake. Savino is not happy about either of these developments; Laura Savino is not happy because he cancels their lunch date. (She’s in another ice-queen satin ensemble, but at least in her case the wardrobe choices seem meant to develop her character.)
Howard Saffer’s widow shows up while the Lambs are investigating his death, and we learn that Saffer had a gambling problem that had left him bankrupt; she filed for divorce after he blew their son’s college fund. However, when the Lambs track down Saffer’s bookie, they learn he’d paid off his debt – $37,400 – the week before. He was also renting space at a mystery address.
Savino confronts Mayor Bennett over the placement of auditors in the count rooms, and vows to get someone more sympathetic into office in his place. Luckily, it’s campaign season, so he takes the opposing candidate under his wing. The candidate, Brady is a dry cleaner whose taste in jackets would warm the heart of Herb Tarlek. But it turns out that Laura Savino, whose father was a county commissioner back in Chicago, has a taste for politics. She knows that Bennett didn’t do well with female voters, and sees an opening. She soon has Brady in expensive suits, chatting up the women from the local female voters’ group.
Lamb and Jack discover that Saffer’s mysterious rental space was a lab used to make counterfeit casino chips, but the place is trashed and the molds have been stolen. Jack makes a terrible pun about the dentist having “bit off more than he could chew.”
The brothers go to talk to Savino (who asks if they’ve ever heard about phones). Savino declares that this is a “mutual interest situation”, and that he will work with Lamb as long as Lamb promises not to “bust his chops.” Savino’s men are already investigating the situation, which means they’ve rounded up the one local counterfeiter they know of and repeatedly shoved his head in the toilet. Savino takes Lamb to speak to the counterfeiter; on hearing that a dentist was involved, the man says he’s heard of a scheme in Monte Carlo for making fake chips out of dental cement, but that in the US the cement is only available to licensed professionals. Lamb and Dixon head out to the only local source for dental cement, but find the security guard’s been shot and an industrial-size case of dental cement has been stolen.
Laura Savino and Katherine O’Connell cross paths at the beauty parlor. In true midcentury fashion, they’ve got their hair up in hideous pink rod curlers, apparently wired up to the dome-shaped hair dryers like twin brides of Frankenstein. Presidential candidate JFK is on the cover of the Time magazine Laura is reading, and the two chat about the election. Laura predicts a Kennedy victory, because he has helpful connections in Illinois, and because he looks so presidential. When Katherine says that surely no one would vote for him because of his looks, Laura says that in modern politics, “looking like a president can make you one.”
At this point, two hoods who had previously hijacked a truck full of television sets drop by and present the beauty parlor with a free TV so they can watch Brady beat Bennett in the upcoming mayoral debate. Laura gives ADA O’Connell a Mona Lisa smile.
Jack volunteers to help Mia Rizzo comb the casino’s records in order to discover when the fake chips were cashed in. The main point of this scene is to show Jack’s continuing pursuit of Mia, and Mia’s superior math skills. Jack, recalling her drive out to Hoover Dam with the DA, noting that she must have quite an interest in hydroelectric power, as that’s the only possible reason she could have for going out with a man who shares his name (Jerry) with “a cartoon mouse.”
Lamb and Savino discuss the fake chips as, a few floors down, a uniformed employee of “JSR Gaming Supplies” arrives at the casino vault with a cart full of chips. Lamb and Savino realize the culprit must be planning one big haul, and go racing down to discover the guards tied up inside the vault and the cash gone. (A confession – I didn’t quite follow all the ins and outs of this heist.) Just as they’re wondering who the culprit’s inside connection is, Mia and Jack show up with Cashier 189, aka Holly Edwards, in cuffs. She was a patient of Saffer’s; they were both in debt, and cooked up the counterfeit-chip scheme together, but Holly’s boyfriend Jesse decided he’d prefer one big score to their piecemeal approach. (Sidebar – It’s always a little creepy when fictional characters have my name. I suppose people named Jennifer or John or Mike are more used to it).
Savino tracks down Jesse using his own methods, and when Jesse gets home to his trailer, Savino’s waiting for him with a gun. But then Lamb pulls up with his rifle. The two debate the law-vs-justice issue raised in the opening scene. Lamb argues this time for due process, using the rodeo event of calf roping as a metaphor, while Savino advocates for vigilante justice by comparing Jesse to a mountain lion preying on Lamb’s cattle. It’s a very rugged, manly debate. Lamb seems to win, as Savino hands Jesse over, (though he whacks him with his pistol for good measure). Points to Savino, though, for adroit use of a metaphor so far outside his own frame of reference.
More debating! It’s time for Brady and Bennett’s televised debate , and the Nixon-Kennedy parallels are in full flow. Laura insists that Brady submit to having his face powdered because, she says, if he’s shiny people will think he’s sweating, and if he’s sweating people will think he’s nervous and has something to hide. Bennett looks on with horror and contempt: “Men don’t wear makeup,” he says. Predictably, it’s Bennett who ends looking shiny, and shifty, and possibly even sickly. Brady turns out to be a good speaker and the ideal television candidate, delivering a ringing closing statement. Of course, it helps even more that one of the mob’s operatives climbs the antenna and cuts the transmission (literally) just as Bennett begins his closing statement. “People always remember the last thing they see,” Savino notes, and that’s the last thing we see.
Next week – Jones, the hit man with the engineering-student glasses, is back.