A personal loss changes Sam's priorities

By Kelly Connolly
July 01, 2016 at 12:56 AM EDT
Vivian Zink/NBC
  • TV Show

I keep expecting this season of Aquarius to come up for air, and it keeps not coming up for air. I’m emotionally exhausted, but it’s for the best — the tone of the show, bleak as it is, has evened out this year as the Manson Family creeps toward its inevitable infamy. Since Aquarius can’t rewrite history to get rid of Charlie (if only it could), it’s decided to lean into the darkness, even when the Tate-LaBianca murders aren’t the focus of the hour. Last week’s episode tackled a historic national tragedy, but this one deals a personal blow: first to Shafe and his hair, and then, more seriously, to Sam, who just keeps losing everyone.

On Shafe’s first day as detective, he blames his withdrawal on the flu and shows up at the precinct anyway. Cutler and the other detectives hold him down for a regulation haircut; Sam marches in like he’s going to be his partner’s savior, only to grab the clipper and shave Shafe himself. (“Look at my hair, buddy!”) It’s not a good look, and Sam has fun at his partner’s expense. (“It’s just — who knew you had a chin?”) He should keep those insults coming; humor is the only medicine for this hairstyle. But the partners have barely opened their next case, an investigation into the apparent suicide of a man named Edwin Kimball, when Sam is called into a meeting with Kellaher and Commissioner Garrick.

It looked like Sam was in the clear with Internal Affairs after he went rogue to silence the guy who saw him go rogue (that’s Hodiak logic), but the Theriot murders were only one stain on his record. Kellaher has found several, and he intends to hold Sam accountable for all of them. It’s not personal; it’s business. Also, it’s personal. Sam dated Kellaher’s wife, Lillian, just a few months before they were married. There’s an obvious conflict of interest here. Garrick doesn’t want any drama, but Kellaher’s accusations are serious, so the commissioner agrees to let the investigation continue. “I’ll be back for your impartial conclusions,” he warns, as if impartiality is even possible at this point. Isn’t there another I.A. officer who could take over for Kellaher?

The Only Internal Affairs Officer in Los Angeles proceeds to grill Sam on 13 years of police work, starting with his first case. Sam and Cutler were partners, but Cut took credit for Sam’s part in the investigation, so Sam beat him to what Kellaher describes as “a pulp.” Sam doesn’t apologize. “We had a dispute as men,” he explains. “We settled it like men.” It’s no wonder Charmain is the most productive cop in this precinct. Then there’s the matter of Sam’s favorite informant, who always seems to be where the action is. Kellaher suspects Sam lied under oath; they’ll have to reopen all of Sam’s old cases to be sure, and guilty people could walk free in the process. This is, impartially, not good.

But Sam’s job status is the least of his problems right now. He’s pulled out of his meeting with Kellaher twice: first when Opal is calling (he ignores her in favor of the sports section), and then again, hours later, because Opal has killed herself. Would taking her call have made a difference? The last time we see Opal, she’s visiting Walt with Sam, who’s lost his one bargaining tool. With Wells dead and Walt’s information already in the hands of the Times — who won’t even do him the courtesy of running the piece — Sam has nothing to leverage for his son’s freedom. As Charmain and Shafe both pointed out last week, Walt is technically guilty of the crimes he’s been formally accused of, so Sam tells his wife there’s nothing to be done. Opal’s reply is retroactively devastating: “There’s always something.”

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Sam identifies her body, a scene we’re spared, and sinks back into Cutler’s office to get the rest over with. Kellaher wants a hearing, but Sam is done. “Fire me now or I’ll resign,” he says. “This is about putting my picture in the newspaper next to the words ‘crooked cop,’ and it’ll happen whether I sit through it or not.” Picking up on the fact that Sam is clearly in no place to be making these decisions, the commissioner ends the investigation, calling out Kellaher’s conflict of interest and ordering Sam to take time off. It’s a start, but Sam shouldn’t get too comfy; there are no easy wins on this show.

To add to Sam’s problems, he has to tell Walt that his mom is dead. Just as he’s about to say it, Sam is derailed by the sight of his son’s black eye, which comes with a matching ab bruise. Walt wasn’t hurt at the protest; he eyes the guard as he shakes his head. This is prisoner abuse. Sam looks crushed to have to give Walt any more bad news (David Duchovny does great work in this scene), but before he can say anything, the guard announces his time is up. It’s been one minute. Flinching when the guard grabs his shoulder, Sam manages to share the bad news he at least hopes to change: He doesn’t have a way to get Walt out of here right now.

NEXT: Shafe makes bad choices

If Sam’s life weren’t going up in smoke, he might be able to spend enough time with his partner to pick up on Shafe’s new drug habit. When Sam is called away, Shafe works Kimball’s death solo until Cutler shows up to offer his insights — which are pretty much limited to his opinion that the case is as simple as it seems. But Sam suspected foul play, so Shafe keeps digging. Kimball, who recently married, was still paying for ex-girlfriend Viola’s apartment in the Bronx. Viola admits to visiting Kimball in Los Angeles on the night of his death; she’s pregnant with his child, and the couple was common-law married in New York.

Viola seems a little bit unhinged. But Kimball left a suicide note in her purse, and the fingerprints support Cutler’s theory on how he killed himself. The case seems to be wrapped up, but there’s no sense of victory here — and Shafe could use one right now. He stares at his drug supply in the car when he should be going home. Does he use? We don’t see it, but he’s feverish and sick at the precinct and seems fine at Opal’s funeral, which probably means he’s not fine. Someone notice Shafe! His face is so much more exposed now; it shouldn’t be that hard.

As for Charmain, Shafe gets the credit for her work with Wells, but he at least tries to share the wealth. At Shafe’s recommendation to Cutler, Charmain is recruited to the so-called “red squad,” officially known as the Criminal Conspiracy Section. Her stodgy recruiter, Captain Perry, asks if she’s got a husband or kids. Husbands don’t “approve” of this sort of work, you understand. Also, lady parts get in the way of guns. Perry wants Charmain to infiltrate the Students for a Democratic Society, a group currently protesting the war. The SDS are a paranoid bunch, and Perry’s bosses think a woman might stand a better chance. “This isn’t playing dress-up,” Perry condescends. “It’s a dangerous assignment.”

It actually sounds like a terrible assignment. The Criminal Conspiracy Section goes after everyone from student radicals to black protesters; the cops want to keep the old regime (white men) in control, and they’re using a woman to do their bidding. But Charmain accepts, so she finds herself on a college campus with a flirty young woman who’s angry about the war. The woman invites Charmain to a hotel in Beverly Hills, where Boeing higher-ups who’ve profited from the war are holding a convention. They snag the key to the penthouse suite and trash the place. “Protesters inconvenience hotel maid,” Charmain deadpans later, questioning the larger point of their actions. One of the guys in SDS agrees they need to think bigger — and he has dynamite. This could escalate quickly.

Meanwhile, Charlie is a jerk. (News at 11.) When Dennis takes notice of Emma’s singing voice, Charlie gets jealous, even cutting the strap of the cute new dress Dennis bought her. Emma peels off the dress in front of everyone, changes into something else, and goes with Dennis anyway to meet his producer friend, Terry. But as they’re leaving, Dennis misinterprets Emma’s nervous glances at Charlie and invites the aspiring musician to join. Classic milk-and-cookie Dennis move. Charlie could ruin this opportunity for Emma, so she cuts to the chase and ruins it for herself; when Terry asks her to sing, she looks into Charlie’s eyes, panics, and bolts. Is it just stage fright, or does Emma know Charlie would never forgive her if she succeeded without him?

Either way, she’s out of luck. That night, Emma catches Dennis with another girl, and Charlie has Patty shut her out. Emma should really just go home; she and Dennis ran into Grace at lunch, and Grace made a point of telling her daughter they still have a room for her at their new house. Emma looked touched, so she hasn’t dismissed her mom completely yet. (There’s also the fact that she’s just turned 17, which makes all of this even more upsetting.) But if Emma goes home, she won’t be staying for long — we get another flash-forward of the Tate house in 1969, which happens to be the same place Terry is currently renting. At Tex’s orders, Emma takes a knife and makes her way to the guest house, where the caretaker has turned up his music to drown out the sound of the screams. Walk away, Emma.

Bits and pieces:

  • “I think I don’t want to be a female cop. I just want to be a cop, sir.”
  • “I spent a lot of years trying to make Opal happy. Hard-fought battles. Blood was spilled. I’m ashamed to say how long it took me to realize I was the thing making her unhappy.”
  • I adore Kristin Shafe. “Make the world better for some white people.”
  • “Pay very close attention. You’re going to learn a lot today… He shot himself. Done. Let’s get lunch.”
  • “Hey, how about I hit you with something real? Oh garbage dump/ oh garbage dump/ why are you called my garbage dump?
  • “Well, she’s a dope addict. I’d call that pretty unlucky.”
  • “Does your dad know that you’re not in school today?”
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