Look, we know that at some point, Teresa Mendoza becomes Queen of a massive drug empire. We know her future involves gold high heels and a lot of money. It also involves getting shot, but hey, let’s stay positive. Still, as relatively promising as Teresa’s future looks — again, let’s ignore the whole getting-shot thing for now — she has a long way to go.
That’s evident in the cold open to “Cuarenta Minutos,” which gives us quite the look into the underbelly of Camila Vargas’ expanding drug empire. Everyone is locked up in a cage, girls are being force-fed drugs to keep them numb and complacent before they’re sold for sex, and Teresa encounters the butt-end of an assault rifle when she tries to get the attention of a guard. Teresa’s rise isn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park.
As if things couldn’t get worse, Teresa meets a woman who’s looking to take care of her. She says she’s a mule for Camila and that such a role gives her more perks and more money, so she tries to take care of the others. That all sounds great, until the woman dies right in front of Teresa, the cache of drugs she was keeping in her body dissolving and killing her. Teresa watches as the men cut her open and salvage the 23 balloons; that’s about all Teresa can handle. She makes a run for it, refusing to accept this life — but she can’t escape.
Her attempt at escaping brings Camila back to the warehouse; she was just trying to enjoy a quinceañera and get a little family time. Alas, business calls. Camila sits down with Teresa and immediately reveals why she has the upper hand. She calls Don Vargas right in front of Teresa, and the conversation reveals Camila hasn’t mentioned capturing her. Don Vargas is still looking for Teresa, and Camila wants to know why she’s so valued. Teresa doesn’t give anything up, but when Camila orders her men to drug Teresa and sell her body, she makes a compromise — she offers to deliver the drugs that killed the woman.
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It’s a risky move, but she’s out of options. What follows is a collection of scenes that are tense and terrifying, and they demonstrate how Teresa is in this game to save her life. She’s going to do whatever it takes to stay alive, so she’s swallowing 23 balloons in an excruciating scene and then heading to the airport with one of Camila’s men.
Meanwhile, back in Mexico, Brenda is freaking out. She’s on the run from Vargas’ goons and frantically calling Teresa, but she’s having no luck getting in touch. She has a single moment of relief when a deliveryman named Oscar, who seems to know Brenda, picks her up moments before she’s spotted by one of Vargas’ men. Unfortunately, her safety only lasts so long, as Vargas’ men end up finding Oscar, killing him, and tracking Brenda’s phone. Brenda is still alive, but the question is, for how long?
NEXT: Divorce? More like war
The back half of this episode is dominated by Teresa’s rushed trip to the airport to get the drugs delivered on time. It’s thrilling stuff, and proof that Queen Of The South has some style and intensity to spare. First, Teresa and Camila’s hired man, James, race through the streets, dodging cars at every turn and finding ways around construction roadblocks. At one point, James tries to tell Teresa it’s over, that she needs to cough up the drugs because they can’t make it in time — but she refuses. She’s doing this job, even if it kills her.
When they crash the car at an intersection, they’re forced to finish getting to the airport on foot. They barely make it, arriving through the gates just in time. From there they find their way into a janitor’s closet, with a little help from an associate, and Teresa begins puking up the balloons. When she can’t get the final three and she starts to fade, her partner squirts a ton of soap into her mouth, which forces up the remaining drugs. The two head out, exchange the bag with a businessman, and leave with the job completed. If Queen of The South is going to boast exciting sequences like this each week, count me in.
Meanwhile, Camila is working on expanding the reach of her empire outside the influence of her husband. She meets with a lawyer named Teo, and says that if he helps her move some money around without leaving a paper trail — so she can purchase a charter company with a fleet of boats — he has the potential to become very rich. Teo plays hardball, though, asking Camila for a percentage of her profits rather than a flat fee. She tells him to do the one job first and they’ll negotiate from there.
As “Cuarenta Minutos” comes to a close, it’s clear there’s a big power struggle brewing. Camila is giving her husband new terms of delivery, and to her surprise, he accepts. That sets off all her alarm bells. Why did he concede so easily? She thinks her husband must be up to something, especially since he won’t tell Camila about why he wants Teresa so badly. There are lies and secrets and bad intentions flowing throughout the Vargas empire — and this is the world Teresa is now a part of.