It’s family reunion week on Aquarius, which means that it’s time to dig up a few dead bodies — and not just in the metaphorical, “airing old grievances” sense. Some of these are very literal dead bodies, including one from the show’s past. Aquarius isn’t structured like a procedural; the cases that can’t be tied up in neat little bows aren’t forgotten for good. They’re just set aside to be revisited later — and as this season starts to build toward a close, “later” might officially be now.
A lot of old memories have blown back into town with Sam’s father, whose arrest at least serves to bring Walt out of hiding. As it turns out, Robbie was lying when he said that Walt took off without a trace. Sam claims to have seen right through it, but it’s hard to be sure what Sam knows where his son is concerned. He has a bit of a blind spot. At least he’s past the point of arguing that Walt should keep quiet about American involvement in Cambodia and Laos — possibly because he now believes that it’s a truth worth sharing, though he’d rather not see Walt endanger himself for it.
Sam suggests that they give the information to a reporter anonymously, but Salazar (who is apparently the only reporter in Los Angeles) refuses to publish without someone on record to authenticate the information. Where was this attitude when he exposed Joe Moran? Why does that leak get to stay safe? “You have the perfect job,” Sam scoffs. “Watching other people do theirs.” Sam bends the rules for a living; he knows what it looks like.
The difference is that Sam has a moral code in place; he may bend the rules, but not his rules, which is why he’s started to earn Bunchy’s reluctant acceptance. Even in the precinct, Sam makes no secret of his feelings on the cops’ new policy against Black Nationalist groups. He makes Charlie Brown teacher noises while his bosses drone on about the crackdown, then fields a call from Bunchy, who wants him to come to Panther HQ alone. Bunchy’s little brother Arthur has been murdered.
The cops use Arthur’s death to feed their narrative of black-on-black violence, concluding without cause that the Nation of Islam is responsible. But according to Arthur’s wife, he believed that an informant hid in the Panthers’ upper ranks. Sam wants to investigate the Panthers, which puts Bunchy in a spot — he can catch his brother’s killer, but only if he betrays the organization. He compromises by giving Sam limited access to the member roll, and Sam figures it out: A man named Theo Pinker is the mole, working on behalf of the FBI.
Sam lies to Theo, telling him that he’s his new handler and that all he needs is a complete case report. Oh, and he should be sure to mention by name the FBI agent who told him to take out Arthur. For commendations and such. I’m not sure I believe that the FBI would enlist someone so gullible, but I definitely believe that they’d fail to properly train the black informants who are being used specifically for their race. Bunchy takes no joy in this victory — he knows they’re sentencing another black man to life in prison, and he can’t change the fact that he told his brother off before his death. Arthur wanted to stop carrying a gun, so Bunchy called him weak and fired him. He blames himself. Sam tries to offer comfort: “Families, they’re all the same. They don’t work, but they do.”
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The Mansons are out to test Sam’s theory. The woman who abandoned Charlie rolls up to the Spiral Staircase to inform him that his grandfather is dead, but she’s not really here to make things right; she just wants Charlie to know that he’s now the proud owner of the deed to his grandfather’s land. If he doesn’t want it, she’d be happy to take it off of his hands and split the cash. All she needs is a signature. Charlie eventually obliges, but when she tries to remind him of a time when he needed her, he slaps her down onto his bed. Climbing on top of his mother, he forcibly drugs her, then hands her over to Kovic and his men.
Charlie thinks that his childhood explains and excuses the way he is. “I have a family that I chose,” he says. But it doesn’t excuse anything, and I’m torn between being relieved that we weren’t asked to sympathize with him and sad that his depravity had to be confirmed in such a horrifying way. Charlie is about to be a father. He keeps insisting that Mary’s baby is going to be born at the Staircase, but they have no medical professionals and no supplies on hand. Only Emma seems to realize how much trouble this could be.
In response to Emma’s repeated insistence that love is not a substitute for diapers, Charlie sends her out to get some. She takes Rick and Sadie to the home of her parents’ friends. “I babysit for them,” she explains, probably not realizing that the present tense speaks volumes about where her head is at. Sadie calls out Emma for never really adjusting to life at the Staircase, and Emma bites back that at least Charlie still wants to touch her. In response, Sadie reports the robbery and sneaks out, leaving Emma and Rick to be caught by the police.
Rick gets to trail his dad out of the station whining that he’s really undercover, but Emma has no such luck. When Shafe tells him that Emma is in lockup, Sam goes down to talk some sense into her. “I know life with your parents was hard in its own way,” he says, “but life is hard everywhere for everyone all the time. But not in here. Life in here isn’t hard. It’s unbearable. And if you choose life with that man, get used to life in here, because this is exactly where you belong.” Consider that mic dropped. Now the only question is whether Sam is going to tell Grace.
In other news, Shafe is still off doing his own thing. He’s trying to earn Guapo’s trust, but Guapo doesn’t seem like the type who trusts easily, and maybe he has good reason. Shafe sees one of the men stashing a few bricks of heroin in a bag; when Guapo finds it missing, he starts beating the wrong guy. Shafe knows Guapo is coming for him next, so he confronts the actual thief, who stole the drugs to pay off a pimp in exchange for “his girl.” The pimp wouldn’t take the drugs — which smell like formaldehyde, which is probably significant — so Shafe takes them instead.
But he still needs a story for where he found the drugs in the first place. Shafe asks Sam to help him “with murder” (“So mysterious. Okay!”), and they spend their much-needed partner time photographing bodies in the morgue. Aww. With a few Polaroids as his alibi, Shafe returns the drugs to Guapo, claiming that he killed the guy who had them. But he doesn’t get to spend a lot of time celebrating the fact that Guapo thinks he a badass — back at the precinct, Cutler is laughing over the picture of a bloated dead body. It’s Chris, the man at the gay bar whom Shafe so rudely rebuffed while undercover. Shafe barely has time to make it to the bathroom before he’s sick. Is someone having a change of heart?
Bits and pieces: