Baby, it's prejudiced outside.

By Kelly Connolly
July 19, 2015 at 01:14 PM EDT
Vivian Zink/NBC

It’s Christmas on Aquarius, which means there’s no better time to bring to the forefront all of the questions of family and belonging that have circled this show from the start. There’s also no better character than Charmain, who’s back in action after a few weeks spent laying low. Unaware that two of her fellow cops are decking the halls with casual misogyny, Charmain agrees to join them on a ride-along, but there are worse surprises in store than chili dogs for breakfast: As she, Sabovich, and Markham plan their day from a diner table, a shooter marches up to them and fires.

Markham dies instantly; Sabovich is taken to the hospital in critical condition. Sam finds Charmain perched on the edge of an ambulance, unharmed but in shock. He takes her back inside to the scene of the crime, because if they want to catch who did this, she’s going to have to relive it. “Do you trust me?” Sam asks. She does. I do, too, but only because he asked. Sam slaps Charmain lightly on the face, startling her just enough to release the tears. She falls into his arms, and he holds her as she cries. Sam and Charmain might have the healthiest relationship on this show (and he just slapped her, so that’s saying something about everyone else).

Finally able to focus, Charmain walks Sam through the shooting. She couldn’t see the killer’s face, but she knows that he was white — a fact that the other cops find hard to believe, given “the neighborhood” and the fact that she’s a “hysterical female,” but Sam takes her at her word. The shooter fired on Markham (who was black) first before turning to his white partner. Charmain grabbed a gun and followed him outside, but only in time to catch a glimpse of his car as he sped off. Would the cops believe her about the shooter if she’d seen the Confederate flag fixed to his bumper? Sometimes it’s like this show isn’t even set in the past.

When the precinct gets word that Sabovich has died, the cops turn on Charmain even more, accusing her of getting the men killed. Sam and Shafe jump in to stop a fight, which is interrupted by another call: Two more cops are dead. One is black; the other is white. This shooter isn’t leaving a lot of doubt as to his motives, not that the rest of the LAPD is paying attention. The official description still lists the suspect as black, so Sam and Shafe haul in Bunchy to help with the investigation, reminding him that the SWAT team won’t leave his neighborhood alone until the right man is in custody. Is this our first step toward a reluctant Sam-Bunchy alliance?

Everyone goes door to door until Shafe and Sam find a lead: a pool of oil in the driveway of one Glenn Lesick. The shooter’s car has an oil leak. Admittedly, there have been stronger cases. A much more promising lead is the car Sam finds out back, which matches both Charmain’s description and the evidence at the scene. Shafe talks his way inside by claiming to have some family money for Lesick, but Lesick’s wife sees him reach for his gun. She grabs it, and Sam enters the fray to grab her. We have a proper standoff on our hands.

NEXT: No place like a men’s locker room for the holidays

Lesick puts down the gun, but he maintains his innocence even after he’s taken into custody. His weapon doesn’t match the one used in the shootings, and he claims that his car was stolen. Since Sam and Shafe didn’t have a warrant, they’ve got no leg to stand on — unless Sam can say that Charmain gave a description of Lesick at the scene. Charmain balks at the idea of lying under oath, but Sam doesn’t share her idealism that there’s still tangible evidence out there. Her lie is their only shot.

To drive home his point, Sam pulls Charmain into the locker room for a “private” talk. Surrounded by men in towels, he tells her to keep her eyes up — if she really believes that she deserves to be here, then she deserves to be here, too. “I am one of you,” Charmain repeats after him. She testifies, and Lesick is arraigned. But she’s onto Sam’s game: “My father is an unreliable, morally ambiguous, charming drunk. So you know what you smell like to me? Home cooking.” This still might be the healthiest relationship on the show — at least she’s calling him out.

Sam needs to get help, and he’s about to need it even more. Ken shows up at Charlie’s to tell him that he moved the body, as if that means that Charlie suddenly doesn’t have anything on him anymore. Charlie responds by breaking the news that Emma ran away — and Ken responds to that by having sex with him, because Ken really doesn’t care about his own daughter. Their union gives Charlie and idea: He needs to open Sam’s mind instead of just bash in his skull. Which brings us to the bar, where one of Charlie’s girls slips drugs into Sam’s drink. I’m really not looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

Here’s hoping that Shafe steps in to help out; their partnership hasn’t been very active lately. (Sure, they’ve held suspects at gunpoint, but when’s the last time they talked?) Shafe is too busy trying to get in Lucille’s good graces — with Jimmy dead, Lucille is his only link to Guapo, the drug dealer who scares Vickery almost as much as having sex with Lucille does. Shafe doesn’t give Vickery a choice, which is probably illegal. Vickery keeps Lucille happy enough not to kill Shafe, but she hasn’t decided yet whether she trusts him, so she tells him to get in with Guapo first. Good luck, Shafe.

Bits and pieces:

  • Does Sam always keep a miniature Christmas tree in his desk drawer? I hope so.
  • Same goes for his candy cane pen.
  • “Not she — not anymore. It.” This is how Ken talks about a dead woman. Nice.
  • Sam crosses himself twice in this episode, which is, no doubt, a response to Father Mac’s death. Why couldn’t Father Mac have given him a stern talking-to about his drinking instead?
  • “I think all of my good times are covered, but if something should come up, you will be the first to know, Candi. Mandi. Randi.”
  • “Once you get to know him, he’s worse.”