So tonight we get a murder mystery set on a “divorce ranch,” Ralph has a brief encounter with an old flame, Mia brings Jack home to Dad, and Savino learns there’s a rat inside the Savoy, and then who the rat is (his wife). The murder mystery is, of course, tied up neatly well before the credits roll, and Ralph’s reunion is almost oblique and uneventful enough for an episode of Mad Men. It’s the storylines at the Savoy that become entangled and remain both open and messy.
As I’ve mentioned before, Ralph Lamb’s character and the police half of the show have been lightened and brightened; while this makes Vegas more fun to watch, it also points up the show’s weirdly dualistic nature. The characters on the police-procedural half can expect tidy resolutions in a world where very few things cannot be made right by a roguish grin from Dennis Quaid. The characters on the mob half seem fated to endure endless complications and losses, in the classic manner of the open-ended TV serial; there’s always a new menace for Michael Chiklis to glower at. Viewers with a taste for post-structural criticism could probably make a lot out of this collision of genres, but somehow I don’t think Vegas has many of those kind of viewers.
Ok, the show. We open with Jack hiding under Mina’s bed while she gets rid of her father, then move to the station, where Yvonne Sanchez is asking Dixon to be her date for a wedding. It’s only so her aunt won’t fix her up with her buck-toothed neighbor, she says. The Yvonne/Dixon flirtation is shaping up to be a big part of the lightening and brightening project I mentioned above, and Aimee Garcia seems to be having a lot more fun than, say, Carrie-Anne Moss.
But there’s a cloud on the horizon – a certain Barbara Kent, formerly Halloran, is waiting for Ralph in his office. It seems she was a French teacher who once broke Ralph’s heart (and gave Dixon a D in her course).
Ralph seems far less unnerved by Barbara’s reappearance than Jack or Dixon. She’s there because the rich husband she chose over Ralph was beaten up and robbed the night before, but refuses to report the incident himself. She and Ralph bond again over his albums full of mug shots, and she drops a few unsubtle hints about the less-than-ideal state of her marriage before fingering a known loan shark as her husband’s attacker.
Jack and Dixon head out to investigate the shooting of a soon-to-be-divorcee who was staying on a guest ranch, the Double N, which catered to women in her situation. Divorce tourism was once something of a Nevada industry; as I understand it, Nevada laws granted an easy divorce to anyone with six week’s residency in the state at a time when most states made divorce as long and difficult a process as possible.
The corrupt DA fills Savino in on Katherine O’Connell’s request for a wiretap, and gives him documents confirming that Katherine has a source inside the Savoy. Savino vows to track down and destroy the source, which will be awkward, since it’s his wife. Meanwhile, he suspects his right-hand man, Cervelli, after overhearing him making a secret deal. But when he confronts Cervelli, it turns out he was just buying powdered rhino horn, because Viagra hasn’t been invented yet – he’s dating a younger woman and needs something to “keep the spaghetti al dente”.
Mia introduces Jack to her father as the man she’s dating, and Rizzo is not happy. Mia, though, is touched by Jack’s declaration to Rizzo that he loves her and is not going anywhere. Rizzo goes to Savino and demands that he fire Mia. If Savino refuses, Rizzo will fire Savino.
Ralph visits the loan shark and his crony, and gets the information he needs out of them, new-Ralph style. He tells them that Rick (Barbara’s husband) is in a coma due to an aneurysm related to the beating, but whoever talks first will get immunity. In a nice departure from the conventional standoff, the two man can’t interrupt each other quickly enough. Rick came to them for a sizeable loan, but the diamond bracelet he left as collateral was a fake, so they roughed him up and reclaimed what was theirs. Ralph says he’ll talk to Rick; when they ask about the coma, Ralph sweetly denies ever saying such a thing. Now, in the first few episodes of this show, Ralph’s interrogation would probably have involved gunplay and a baseball bat. I have to say this is an improvement.
Laura Savino, sharing financial records she stole from her husband’s office with Katherine, expresses fears about her family’s safety. Katherine talks about relocation, and hands Laura a stack of brochures; the one on top promotes “The Cabins of Maine.” Laura is smart enough to realize that Vincent is not going to see that as a valid alternative to empire-building in Vegas.
Meanwhile, the Lamb men are investigating the death of Marjorie, the divorce-ranch guest. They’ve learned from the ranch’s owner, herself a divorcee, that this was Marjorie’s third divorce, and that she had spent so much time at the ranch she’d become it’s unofficial social director. She’d had some contact with another guest, Dawn, who left abruptly with a man on a motorcycle late the night of Marjorie’s death. But Dawn turns out to be a red herring – she’s too busy reuniting with her husband (the man on the motorcycle). The lead Dawn gives them goes nowhere as well, though Jack gets to look manly by roughing up a pimp.
Barbara has gone riding on one of Ralph’s horses, presumably so she can ask him to help her down and melt into his arms when he does. They share a brief kiss, but he reminds her she’s married and sends her on her way.
Savino’s suspicions are now focused on his secretary, but when he examines her calendar, he realizes that the confidential informant’s meetings with Katherine all coincide with Laura’s hair appointments. He confronts Laura, and the next time Katherine shows up for a meeting, it’s Savino who gets in the car. He threatens Katherine and she pulls a gun on him. When he points out this is hardly a novel situation for him, she points out that because she’s officially on the side of law and order, she could kill him with impunity. This, we later learn, gives Savino an idea.
Ralph gives Rick (Barbara’s husband) back the money the loan sharks took, and the two have a fairly oblique and inconclusive conversation about Rick’s current financial difficulties and about how he was Barbara’s second choice, because Ralph pushed her away. Jack later picks up on the same theme, and so does Barbara herself when bidding Jack a final farewell. So apparently this is about how Ralph is still carrying a torch for his dead wife.
Savino grits his teeth and fires Mia, with some vague excuse about Chicago wanting a change. She’s too smart to swallow it. Alone with Cervelli, Savino goes on a rant about how Rizzo has been a disaster, and it’s time for him to disappear. Mia’s also furious with her father, pointing out that having his name has been a bigger obstacle to her than being a woman. (In passing, we learn that she has a degree from Wharton and that she identified 36 companies willing to consider a woman for a managerial position before realizing her mob ties made the search fruitless.)
Back at the ranch, in a tidier universe, we learn that Marjorie the divorcee had fallen for a hunky wrangler, Max, and the two were secretly engaged. The ranch’s owner, who was in love with Max herself, wanted Marjorie out of the picture.
Savino makes his messy world even messier by telling Rizzo that his own daughter, Mia, had ratted them all out under the influence of Jack Lamb. Rizzo vows to kill Jack himself. Savino explains to a flabbergasted Cervelli that he doesn’t intend for Rizzo to kill Jack; he intends for Jack to kill Rizzo. Like Katherine, Jack can get away with it. And not even Chicago will have any questions. On the one hand, there’s a certain elegance to Savino’s plan; on the other hand, there are about a million things that could go wrong. Starting with Jack and Mia not answering the phone when Savino (presumably) calls to warn them.
Savino then drives a nervous Laura into the desert. She tries to distract him with talk of their daughters, but he pulls over and asks her to step out of the car. They’re at a private airstrip, where a plane is waiting to take Laura back to Chicago. When he visits the girls, she can stay at her mother’s. Not for the first time, Savino has chosen banishment over death. When Laura says that he sees people solely as assets or liabilities, he says she’s lucky to be around to hear him say goodbye.
In the altogether sunnier world of the Lambs, Yvonne is alone at the wedding, but not for long. Dixon, who’s been making threats involving flannel shirts and heirloom belt buckles, shows up looking dashing in a (rented) suit. When Yvonne’s ex-boyfriend looks their way, he puts his arm around her.
So next week, I assume, we’ll see what happens when Rizzo goes after Jack. Unfortunately, there’s no way that can end well for Mia. At the Savoy, there aren’t really any happy endings. Perhaps the newly unemployed Mia can find an opening at the police station?