California Literary Review

Vegas Recap: ‘Masquerade’ (Season 1, Episode 9)

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December 12th, 2012 at 9:21 am

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Vegas: Masquerade

Jack Lamb (Jason O’Mara) and Mia Rizzo (Sarah Jones) at the Savoy.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS © 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Last time, on “Exposure,” which I was not able to recap, Rizzo brought his new girlfriend, Diane, to town; Diane’s a torch singer who had a fling with Vincent Savino in Havana years before and who, it turns out, is only with Rizzo so she can go after Vincent again. She’s also a gold digger, taking a sable coat from Rizzo and trying to trick Vincent into giving her the diamond necklace he just bought for Laura. She’s like a mid-century misogynist’s nightmare of the female sex, and she can’t get out of town fast enough for me. Not surprisingly, Laura Savino — who figures out Diane’s place in Vincent’s past only a couple of minutes later than she should have – wants her gone as well. Laura had earlier nipped her friendship with Katherine O’Connell in the bud, saying she would not help her bring down hard-working businessmen like her husband, but by the end of the show Laura was offering to team up with Katherine as a way of getting Rizzo and Diane out of town.

This week: None of that matters, because Rizzo and Diane are supposedly off to Hollywood, where the former has arranged an audition for the later (we’re told it doesn’t go so well); Laura is simply MIA.

In other news, while chasing a government coverup involving radiation poisoning, Lamb/Quaid finally starts to relax and have a bit of fun, a development ably discussed here. The episode ended on a darker note, with Lamb, whiskey bottle at his side, reading over the file on his wife’s death, but that, too, must wait for another week. The lighter attitude towards his day job lingers, though.

Tonight: a serial rapist/murderer kills a showgirl, and the story is told with a bit more verve than in some past episodes, though some of the clues are revealed in ways that “Murder, She Wrote” would have eschewed as too clunky. It’s all about the women in this episode. Katherine O’Connell (Carrie-Anne Moss) finally gets a bit more to do; she’s deeply affected by the case because it recalls the time she was part of a conspiracy of silence around her cousin’s rape, only to see the rapist move on to other victims. In the course of the investigation we also learn in passing that the victim was a lesbian (spoiler alert: this has nothing to do with her death).

In the B plot, a high-rolling Texas oilman makes an indecent proposal to Mia Rizzo, who apparently then apparently makes her body the stakes in a one-on-one poker game. Down at the police station, receptionist/office manager Yvonne Sanchez has made a pet out of a giant tarantula living there. I’m not sure what all this says about the show’s beliefs about women; I suspect that would take an entire gender studies seminar, not a simple recap.

We open at rehearsal at some place called the Stargazer; showgirls in red sequins do their high kicks while the choreographer bitches them out. One, named Audrey, gets more grief than the others, and the pianist jumps in to act as her white knight; she comes back later in her street clothes, to practice alone, but someone’s stalking her, and she’s dead before the credits role.

But when Lamb and Katherine visit the scene of the crime, she’s laid out neatly in her sequined costume. They question the choreographer who lashed into her, and he defends himself by volunteering that he just gave her a $300 advance on her salary, because nothing says “innocence” like confessing to financial dealings with a murder victim. Could this be a Clue? Meanwhile, the pianist, an uptight-looking guy in a suit, gets so huffy and defensive on the dead Audrey’s behalf I immediately suspect he’s the killer (spoiler alert: I’m right).

Over at the Savoy, everyone is prepping for the arrival of the Texas oilman, Clay Stinson, who’s coming to town to in his private train. When he does arrive, he takes an immediate shine to Mia. The oilman is, naturally, over six feet tall, clad in pale tan 3-piece suit with turquoise bolo tie and matching beige Stetson; he’s beefy but not bad-looking, and surprisingly young. I haven’t found the name of the actor who played him, but he does so with an appropriately light touch, as someone who kind of enjoys being a living stereotype. At the blackjack table, he presses Savino to relax all limits on his bets, finds himself on a winning streak, and just like that, the Savoy is down a cool million. When Savino hands the cash over to Stinson, the latter notes that what he’d really like is a night with Mia. He asks Savino to pass the offer along.

Investigation at Audrey’s apartment reveals that she was planning to move out, and that she once appeared in a girlie magazine. Lamb and Katherine figure this last part out because Audrey had a copy of the magazine lying around her apartment in plain view, as one naturally does. They also find the words “You Shall Be Forgiven” scrawled in lipstick on her folding vanity mirror. (Side note: I like the blue-and-green floral pattern on Audrey’s wall, and the Bob Fosse poster is a nice touch. I haven’t mentioned it before, but the production designer is Carey Meyer, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he did good work on this episode.) Meanwhile, Katherine discovers that a showgirl was found dead in similar circumstances in Kingman, Arizona. So they seem to have serial killer on their hands.

Lamb and Jack discover that the pornographer who photographed Audrey is a local, and they pay a visit to the building he’s using as a studio. Lamb announces his presence by pulling the doors off with his truck, but in a high-spirited way, not a dour way. They find the man photographing two girls in vaguely Classical, I,Claudius-style outfits (though I don’t think either the Greeks or the Romans had padded satin headboards of that design).

The man admits to sending copies of Audrey’s pictures to her dad after she pissed him off, but the two girls can vouch for his whereabouts on the previous night – they were here “doing the French Revolution” (someone’s fantasy of Marie Antoinette, Polignac and/or Lamballe?). Lamb pushes the man onto the bed, tells him he’s got two hours to get out of town or – Lamb fires a bullet into the mattress right between the man’s thighs. Again, Quaid plays this as colorful eccentricity, rather than Old Testament justice. Meanwhile, Katherine meets with the girl’s father, a church deacon from St. George, Utah (no one says what church), and gets a postcard with Audrey’s new address on it. The dad is something of an Old-testament type, noting that his daughter’s death was “God’s will.”

Savino hopes that he can start Stinson gambling again, and hopefully losing, as long as he keeps him inside the Savoy. He even has a meal brought in from the fanciest French place in town, to keep him from walking down the street to the restaurant. To no avail; Stinson explains that it’s like the time he shot a rhino on the first day of an African safari, and spent the rest of the trip playing gin rummy in his tent. You have to realize when an experience has peaked, and not hang around hoping in vain for more. On the way out he tells Mia in a hopeful tone that his offer still stands; she’s confused, as Savino never did pass that along to her (but she plays magnificently cool, of course). Stinson’s soon back, anyway: seems an unforeseen technical glitch at the rail yard has left him stranded. “Some things are out of are control,” notes Savino wisely.

Lamb and Jack check out Audrey’s new address; it’s a very nice house belonging to an attractive woman named Chris Stangl (Stangel? Staengl?) . Lamb and Jack are modern and sensitive enough to pick up the subtext to Chris’s mournful references to Audrey as exactly the “friend” she’d always longed for. They ask who else knew about her and Audrey, and Chris notes that they “were very careful.” More importantly, she reveals that Audrey was working on her own act in collaboration with someone from the Stargazer.

Lamb shows his sensitive side again in a conversation with Katherine, when he asks why she’s so upset by this case. Quaid-as-Lamb leaves his desk to sit next to Katherine, pulling his chair close to hers and talking about how long he’s known her; it’s by far the most intimate we’ve seen him be with anyone. Katherine tells him that when she was a teenager, a visiting cousin was raped by one of the family’s ranch hands, and the incident was hushed up so as not to ruin her cousin’s reputation. She later saw the ranch hand’s picture in the paper next to a story about his attack on another woman .

News comes in that the choreographer left New York after being accused of assault by various showgirls there. But he says he had nothing to do with Audrey’s death. Katherine goes to interview the piano player, who rolls his sleeves down and gives a contemptuous little smile. As Katherine approaches him, he’s veiled from us by a translucent red curtain. It’s a nice cinematic moment. Katherine figures out what’s up when she notices sheet music for “You Shall Be Forgiven,” and hastily wraps up the interview. Too late!

The best part of the ensuing chase through the Stargazer is the set: it’s full of wonderful gilded columns crawling with beasts that look a little bit like gargoyles, a little bit like tikis, and a little bit like Chinese carvings. Excellent work, Mr. Meyer. Having the villain loudly declaiming his confession throughout the chase? Not so artful. (By the way, I’m assuming that’s an icepick he’s taken from the bar.) Lamb, naturally, shows up just in time (though Katherine shows some resourcefulness in evading the killer; she’s not completely helpless.)

Back at the Savoy, Mia’s found a way to get Stinson gambling again, as the two pair off in a private duel. And I have to say, while I admired Carrie-Anne Moss coming into this series, so far it’s been Sarah Jones as Mia Rizzo who’s been a revelation. She combines sexiness and steeliness in a way that makes her believable as a woman surviving in what’s very much a man’s world, and she has one of the great husky voices, on a par with Kathleen Turner’s. (And no way did I recognize her from Alcatraz, or as Ben’s high school girlfriend from Big Love.) Mia and Stinson have a fine time bluffing each other, but of course she wins. When Savino later chides her for playing for so much money, she replies that the chips were merely a symbol for “the real bet.” What was the bet? “A lady never tells.” I kind of hope Stinson will be back. Mia/Jones has far more chemistry with him than she does with Jason O’Mara. (You’d think the experience of starring in a big-budget, high-concept, high-profile flop on last year’s Fox schedule would help them bond, but maybe they just want to forget.)

We end with the spider bit I mentioned at the top. In a running gag, Yvonne Sanchez has been searching the station for a tarantula she’s befriended; Dixon has decided the whole thing is a joke at his expense when the spider really does show up.

Yvonne casually scoops it up with Lamb’s hat while the menfolk cower. I’ll leave that one to the psychoanalysts.

Next week: A very Vegas Christmas.

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