Sam is pulled into the history books when Robert F. Kennedy enters the race

By Kelly Connolly
July 08, 2016 at 12:53 AM EDT
Vivian Zink/NBC
S2 E6
  • TV Show

A few weeks ago, Sam Hodiak was in the kitchen of a seedy bar, whipping up some scrambled eggs for a guy whose head he’d later hold over the stove… and now he’s leading Robert F. Kennedy into the kitchen of The Ambassador Hotel. That only looks like an upgrade. Unless Aquarius plans on significantly altering history — and it doesn’t, because Charlie’s still here — we all know how this story ends. But the tense cliffhanger works anyway, and not only because the assassination is sure to send Sam to a somehow-even-darker place. It also raises questions about Ken, who probably had a hand in the murder.

As the Nixon campaign scrambles to deal with Bobby Kennedy’s late bid for the presidency, Ken is torn. On the one hand, he wants his candidate to win, and Kennedy poses the most serious threat. On the other, Ken is into him. He watches Kennedy on TV all day and calls him “a beauty.” He sympathizes with the family’s loss. In the minutes before Kennedy is shot, Ken shakes his hand and wishes him good luck, then lights up when Kennedy thanks him. Ken is definitely attracted to Robert Kennedy, a development I personally am very excited to compartmentalize. But he’s also meeting in secret with an FBI agent (he’s into him, too) who’s more than willing to “hurt Bobby.” The evidence doesn’t lie.

And it all intersects with Sam, who’s called in when the rain uncovers a body that might be Tina Greenwood’s. A positive ID is going to take a while (ah, ‘60s forensics), but Sam hauls in prime suspect Ben Healey for questioning anyway. He sets Shafe on the kid, instructing the new detective to mess with Ben’s head by eating his doughnut (“Get your nasty cooties all over it”) and pretending to be on his side. Ben admits he and a friend went to two football games after graduation, where they could have met then-cheerleader Tina, but the “friend” whose info Ben gives Shafe is actually his lawyer — who is also his uncle. No one this crafty can be innocent.

Ben might be smarter than Shafe, whose drug problem is getting worse. He’s feverish and pale at the precinct; he told Kristin it was the flu, but he almost comes clean with Sam. In the face of Shafe’s muttered, “This ain’t the flu,” Sam seems concerned, but he looks the other way (come on, Sam) and tells his partner to go get some sleep before the whole department catches his cold. Shafe shoots up in a cinderblock room instead. Back home, he does a terrible job at acting anything other than high in front of Kristin, who checks his bag the next morning while he sleeps and finds his needle. There had better be a call to Sam in her future.

Meanwhile, Sam is out doing favors for an old army buddy, Sean Boyle, who’s being blackmailed for seeing prostitutes. Sam looks into the prostitutes and their pimp, but no one has motive — Boyle gives them so much of his money already. When he visits Boyle’s home to break the news that the blackmailer must be someone else, Sam gets a moment alone with Boyle’s wife, Mary, and figures it out: She knows, and she wrote the letters not to get money, but to watch her husband suffer through his panic and guilt. He has no idea.

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Boyle’s been too busy with his own agenda; he wants Sam to join Kennedy’s security team. Sam shoots down the offer, insisting he can’t moonlight, but Boyle corners him into a meeting with the senator anyway. In the glare of cameras and reporters, Kennedy asks Sam what can be done “on both sides” to improve relations between the black community and the cops. Sam deflects, giving a non-answer when Kennedy insists. “Nothing can be done,” Sam says. “People don’t change. There are good ones and bad ones. It’s my job to keep the bad away from the good. That’s all I can do.” That’s a pretty apt summary of Sam’s worldview, but the man did just help the community avoid riots a few weeks ago. He probably has a few thoughts — just none he feels he should share with reporters in the room.

NEXT: History hits home

Sam finds himself back in Kennedy’s presence when Martin O’Reilly, the pimp who profited from Boyle’s infidelities, goes missing. Boyle put out a hit on O’Reilly as soon as he had his name; by the time Sam told him the pimp wasn’t his blackmailer, it was already too late. Boyle isn’t especially remorseful when Sam confronts him at The Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy is celebrating a victory in the California primary. Sam tells Boyle that Mary is behind the letters, but there isn’t much time for the news to sink in; the crowd is too big to take Kennedy out the front, and Boyle needs Sam’s help. Sam tells Boyle they can pull the cars around to the service entrance; they’ll take Kennedy through the kitchen.

Kennedy shakes Sam’s hand again, and Sam leads him through the back of the hotel, which is still crowded enough that no one notices Sirhan Sirhan as he makes his approach. Ken shakes Kennedy’s hand, probably as a distraction; a minute later, Sirhan is pushing his way through the crowds. He pulls out his gun. Sam wheels around at the sound of the weapon cocking, and you can consult your local history book to find out how this one’s going to end. The real surprise is how closely our characters are orbiting the major events of the late 1960s. Sam isn’t just being shaped by history; he’s shaping it.

Sirhan isn’t even the only infamous murderer at The Ambassador tonight. Charlie wants Terry to listen to his music, and he gets what he’s after by demanding the producer’s attention in the creepiest possible way (grabbing the back of Terry’s neck while he’s having sex with a few of Charlie’s “girls”). Terry suggests Charlie play at his candidate’s victory celebration, but Charlie can’t figure out whether Terry supports Kennedy or McCarthy. He tries to get Emma to find out for him, sending her to sleep with fellow producer Gregg Jakobson and slapping her face when she dares to ask a question. For some reason, Emma doesn’t walk out for good, but at least she seems to resist Charlie’s orders; when primary night rolls around, they still don’t know who Terry supports.

Charlie plays his song for Dennis instead, and it vastly exceeds the previous standards set by “Garbage Dump.” It’s not a great song, but it’s solidly okay; Dennis, a solidly okay person, is moved to tears. He tells Charlie he’ll record the song if Terry won’t. Then again, he sounds like he’s messing with Charlie when he tells him the only thing he knows about Terry’s political preferences: “Terry said that he likes the dude who really, really hates, I mean just really hates the war.” Is he testing Charlie? If he is, Charlie fails; he, Emma, and Dennis find Gregg at The Ambassador, where he tells them Terry supported McCarthy. Since McCarthy’s party isn’t a victory celebration, Charlie hasn’t missed the opportunity to play, but by the time the night is over, he might wind up with inspiration of a much darker kind.

Bits and pieces:

  • Grace gives a well-received speech at the National Federation of Republican Women, and it gives her a taste for politics. She just wants to feel like she’s good at something; if that can’t be motherhood, maybe it can be lying about how good she is at motherhood.
  • “I don’t want it now.” —Charlie, a worse Lucille Bluth
  • “Filbert?”
  • “Here’s the real play: Eat his doughnut.”
  • “Those are double negatives. I understand they can be confusing.”
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