Southland: The fans spoke

Southland fans know what to expect each week. That’s why their couches are fitted with seat belts, their night-lights are blue strobes, and they wear Kevlar pajamas to bed.

I’ve watched Southland for five years, as a fan and reviewer. During those five years I’ve come to know some of the actors, producers, directors, and fans of the show. They’re a great group of people who really try their best to portray police officers and what they do in the most accurate light possible. And, even though that accuracy may not always be the most flattering side of police work to see, most law enforcement professionals deeply appreciate the honesty and the attention to detail.

Not only is Southland a stellar TV show, it’s the core of an extremely large family. I’ve never witnessed anything like it, anywhere. Sure, other shows have large, devoted fan bases, people who practically worship the stars of the shows. Castle fans are a great example of this undying devotion to their favorite show and it’s cast members. However, shows like Castle are a world away from the personal connection that Southland fans enjoy. Yes, their favorite actors from the show interact with fans on social media and during their many public appearances. They communicate with their fans, sometimes even going so far as to explain why their characters do what they do. The stars adore their fans as much as the fans adore them. You send a message to Michael Cudlitz (John Cooper) or Shawn Hatosy (Sammy Bryant) and you’ll most likely see a response nearly as quickly as Sammy runs the hundred yard dash. And, if you stick around long enough you just might hear a word or two from proud family members of the cast.

Anyway, Southland recently completed season number five, with the final episode ending with one of the most dramatic season finales of all time. Never mind wondering what happened to Tony Soprano and family after the screen went black…John Cooper was shot multiple times by officers from his own beloved LAPD! If ever there was a time for Steve Perry to sing, well, that was it.

So, in honor of the show, and hoping to see a season 6, #Southland fans from all over the world sent me what they thought were the best scenes and/or lines from season 5. So, without further ramblings from me, I present to you, some of the fans of the best darn cop show on TV.

Fan favorite scenes and/or lines from Southland season 5:

@ArtVanZant – Coop breaking the beer bottle with the slingshot.

@RealVaBluehen – Cooper leans in and whispers final words to his dad. Nobody knows what he said.

@thekelliejane – I loved when Coop drove the car into the charged puddle to rescue the little boy, the talk w/ his drunk TO, & Chuck Norris convo…

@todteach – Oh one of my absolute favorites was when Cooper rescued the boy surrounded by downed power lines! You go Coop. Also, I love the ice cream stand off but I also like Coopers showing his vulnerability, w/Dewey, about a baby etc.

@justbex – My favorite moment was @ShawnHatosy speech in Ep 10. At the end of the day, he’s a great guy. And, Cooper’s discussion w/ the guy who kept trying to kill himself. “Maybe the right one stays.” Loved it.

@EbonySmurfette – Lady steps over Ben to get cash after he wrestles the thief Cooper’s ice cream stand off.

@julesm – So many. Love the scene in The Felix Paradox where Sammy & Ben are taking the girl home. Lighter moments are nice sometimes.

@InTheMoment – Too many favorite scenes, but one of the best was in “Bleed Out” when Cooper crawled under the bus to stay with the woman.

@Bluegrassbabe3 – I can’t narrow it down to one scene.

@AlleysPlace – I have a few. Funny/endearing was Cooper/Dewey after his heart attack. Cudlitz & C Thomas Howell priceless together.

@houseofyen – I loved Lydia running down and fighting it out with the boxer girlfriend.

Maegan Beaumont – There are so many great scenes that come to mind but the one that’s really stayed with me is when Cooper held the hand of that young woman trapped under the bus. The way he held her hand and stayed with her, even when EMS told him to get out of the way, speaks volumes about the compassion and dedication that law enforcement officers have for the communities that they serve. Michael Cudlitz is a phenomenal actor and Southland is an extraordinary show.

Bob Mueller – Keeping in mind I haven’t seen the last two episodes yet: “He shot the “effing” dog, too?” Episode 8, I think. Sammy and Ben on the welfare check of the jumper’s family.

Karen Davidson – I will try to narrow this down to a few scenes. Heh. And I’m sure they are all going to feature Cooper. The scene in episode 2 when Steele cowers behind the patrol car and then tries to explain why he did that to Cooper. As Cooper removes Steele’s badge he says, “You don’t have to convince me.” Cooper with the Down’s Syndrome woman who has a crush on him. The scene between Cooper and Hicks after Cooper has had Hicks handcuffed in the house all day. The scene with Lydia and Sgt Hill when she hands over the toy plane. All scenes with the tweakers, Cooper, and Lucero.

Geoffrey Lin – The two minute fight scene between Ofc. Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) and one of the bank robbers after he corners him on the last car of on the LA Metro subway. It was a very realistic no-hold-barred scene that doesn’t look at all choreographed.

Of course, some of my favorite comments were about my reviews. The comment below was in response to the write-up of the season 5 finale.

@cuffmecuslitz – LeeLofland kudos to you. Your words made my eyes well with tears. Well done!

Finally, @DollyMamaB wrote to say her cellphone ringtone is the Southland theme song. Mine, too, Dolly…

See you all in season 6…right, TNT?


Southland: Reckoning

Most cops manage to stay sane despite the chaos all around them. But in their hearts they know…everyone has a breaking point.

Imagine standing knee deep in the aftermath of incidents like the recent bombings in Boston, the Newtown and Aurora shootings, or the 9/11 attack in New York City. Picture yourself trying to muster up the right words to say to someone whose whole world has just been pulled from beneath them, when the dearest, most important person in their life has been taken away in the split second it takes to pull a trigger.

Try telling a mother that her only child was raped and killed by a filthy and vile stranger. Spend a morning combing through mangled body parts and bloody debris. Step into a room where a self-inflicted shotgun blast caused human tissue and blood to rain down from a bedroom ceiling like dozens of leaky bathroom faucets. Reach down to the hot pavement and pick up a four-year-old’s limp and lifeless body, the result of a drunk driver who claims he didn’t see the girl riding her tricycle.

Are you with me yet? Okay, now imagine that you have one person…only one person in this entire world…with whom to share your thoughts and emotions regarding the devastation you deal with on a daily basis—the dead kids, mutilated bodies, rape victims, suicides, blood, tissue, and tears…lots and lots of tears. Heartbreak beyond belief. The tears and gut-wrenching sobs never, ever end.

So you talk to your partner. You share your thoughts, your emotions, and your soul with the officer in the seat next to you. This is the guy, or woman, you’re with eight to twelve hours a day, maybe more. You eat together, laugh together, and you see the world around you, together, as it slowly comes unglued.

You know your partners kids and they know yours. You know their wives and husbands. Your lives intersect and intertwine. Hell, you’re almost one being, with two heads, four arms and four legs.

You train together. You move in unison when at crime scenes. She goes one way and you go the other, without ever speaking a word. You just know who’s going to do what, and when. You are a team. A partnership. You have a bond, and while it’s not a romantic love, you love your partner sort of in the way best friends share a connection. But a cop’s bond with his work partner goes a bit deeper, because you absolutely, without a doubt, trust your very life to the person sitting in the shotgun seat of your police car.

You totally and unequivocally trust your cop partner. You have to, or the partnership won’t work. So all is well, until…

Chaos shows up, which is often followed by a reckoning.

My former detective partner unexpectedly passed away just a few weeks ago. We’d been friends for a long, long time. Over 40 years, actually. And, when I heard the news of his death it felt like a huge blow to my gut followed by a heartache like none I’ve ever experienced. But my friend’s death was due to medical issues, which was far different than the way we saw Hank Lucero die.

Hank’s partner was there with him when he was murdered. And, like the team they were, Hank and John Cooper were physically chained together when Lucero exhaled his final breath. On purpose or not, that symbolism—partners bonded together till the end—rang true to police officers all across the country.

The ordeal Cooper and Hank endured was traumatic, to say the least, and that’s why the LAPD placed Cooper on paid leave. And when he returned to work, he was assigned to “desk duty,” without a gun on his side. And that’s a traumatic experience within itself.

A cop’s weapon is like an extra appendage. It’s a part of them. And to have it taken away is like sectioning off a piece of their soul and holding it above their heads like a carrot on a stick that’s just out of their reach. The empty holster is a symbol to all other officers that you’re sort of tainted. There’s something wrong with you. You’re not as good as your fellow officers. In fact, it’s demeaning as hell. That’s why officers who are involved in shootings are issued a spare weapon while theirs is making its way through lab testings and comparisons.

So that’s where Coop’s head is at the very onset of the episode. He felt he was ready to return to full duty, but his superiors didn’t agree. This is also where we, as viewers, were treated to the start of some pretty darn good acting. Michael Cudlitz said just as much with his eyes and facial expressions during this episode than many writers are able to accomplish in 80,000 words, or so (an average novel). We saw, hurt, anger, fear, sad, lonely, disappointment, and a lot of “I’m so tired I don’t know if I can take another step in this world.”

The same was true for Shawn Hatosy and Ben McKenzie when the situation between them reached the boiling point. Sammy, as we all know, can be a bit dramatic at times. But he’s the cop I want in the shotgun seat of my patrol car. He’s a stand up cop when it’s time to circle the wagons. He’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the biggest, nastiest, meanest thug on the street. And, he’s a cop who’ll back his partner to the end, if necessary. Ben, on the other hand, is fighting a personal battle with himself. The world is all about him. Sure, he’ll duke it out with the best of them, and he’ll dive in no matter the odds. But at the end of the day, there has to be something in it for him, and that usually involves a female.

Ben is a bad cop. He’s so dirty his vile stench oozes from the TV when he’s on camera. However, as nasty as he is, it’s a reflection of a fine acting job by McKenzie. He’s pretty darn good at being pretty darn bad.

The fight between Sammy and Ben was inevitable. We all knew it was coming, but it was somewhat nail-biting to witness. I don’t know about you, but these actors are so good at what they do it was sort of like watching two of my best friends exchanging blows. Still, I wanted to see Sammy land a blow that would’ve sent Ben to the dentist holding four or five of his pearly-white teeth in his hand.

Hatosy, too, is an unbelievable actor. I can’t wait to see him in his new role, although, I’d rather see him back in this one next season.

Dewey. What can I say? We’ve seen this character run a full gamut of emotions, from anger to kick-in-the-gut sorrow. He’s been obnoxious, boisterous, and a general pain in the ass, but one thing’s for certain, he’s a tough-as-nails-cop who absolutely adores John Cooper.

C. Thomas Howell has been a key player this season. He’s provided light breaks in the action when we need to take a breath, and he’s pushed us to the edge of the cliff when we needed to feel the suspense of a moment. Howell is a class act, and Dewey is a cop’s cop who ain’t afraid of nuttin’.

Lydia… Regina King is brilliant at whatever role she plays, but she breathed a life into Lydia Adams that I don’t think anyone else could’ve done. King is another one who tells a story with her eyes, and last night was a perfect example, from worry over her son, to Ruben hitting the tweeker while in pursuit, to showing pure love and affection for Russell. Those two together again was inevitable, and if there is a season 6, which is a long stretch, I hope she’s finally able to be at peace in a life with someone who cares deeply for her, and that someone should be Russell (we saw it in her eyes).

King said I’d be blown away by this episode, and she was right…I was.

Anthony Ruivivar (Hank Lucero) was only on the show for a short time, but he made his presence known and he did so quickly. He was a perfect partner for Cooper in an opposites attract kind of way. And, the final scenes he played as hostage to the two meth-heads were truly fantastic. We all felt his pain and fear. Ruivivar made sure that we did. There was no overacting, which many people have a tendency to do in these scenarios. Instead, Ruivivar connected with the viewers’ emotions in a way not many are able to pull off effectively.

The “Tweekers,” played by Tobias Jelinek and Ryan Dorsey, were superb in their roles. I’ve dealt with a lot of meth users over the years and these two guys, well, lets just say they should immediately head to the nearest rehab facility. Their acting was that spot on. By the way, Dorsey has expressed his wishes to receive only a warning ticket from me should we ever meet on the highways. I’ll see what I can do.

Gerald McRaney (Hicks, Coop’s former TO) was another building block in this tower of cop shows. He was there to help Cooper prepare for his soon-to-come reckoning. There’s not a lot I can say about McRaney that I haven’t already said. I’ve been a fan for a long time. He’s appeared on many of my favorite shows over the years, including Major Dad and Designing Women, and now Mike and Molly. He’s married to Delta Burke, and who didn’t think Burke was hilarious on Designing Women? So we know he has great taste, and to appear on Southland reaffirms it.

Ruben was in fine form last night, especially during the arguments with the arrogant RHD detective. Ruben has been a good partner for Lydia, and they worked well together. He preferred to work “by the book and guidelines” while Lydia worked off instinct and reading people. Actually, they sort of reminded me of me and my former partner. He liked to stick to the textbooks and loved paperwork. I, on the other hand, preferred to get out of my car and talk to people, walk the neighborhoods, and sit on front porches having conversations with the citizens, getting to know them and the problems they faced and dealt with on a daily basis. And I absolutely hated paperwork. Funny that I now write…

A quick word to LAPD Chief Beck…thanks for opening your doors and welcoming TV viewers to the LAPD. I think the Southland cast portrayed your department in an excellent light. Also, please know that law enforcement officers all across the country have you and your officers in our thoughts and prayers. You’ve all been through a lot lately. Unfortunately, so have many other departments. It never ends, unfortunately.

*Boston, we’re thinking about you, too.

So we’re now back to Cooper and that dramatic final scene. He’s trying to sleep and hears the neighbor’s generator fire up. His ex is asleep (did you notice the earplugs she’d stuck in her ears so she wouldn’t be kept awake by the machine’s rumble?), so he goes out to “take care of business.” What happened next simply oozed with symbolism.

For five years we’ve watched John Cooper go about his daily life. He’s a mentor to new officers. He’s the rock that supported the veterans. He was the guy who helped his former training officer get his own life back on track. Coop was the man they all respected. He’s a good cop who cares about every single person on his beat, from the crack-heads to his sergeant, and beyond.

He’s also a gay man in a largely heterosexual profession who just happens to be a drug addict with a network of personal and physical troubles that would break the backs and souls of most men. But Cooper shoulders it all. He’s held the weight of the world on his shoulders until the chaos in his life finally pushes him to the “breaking point.” And the man outside Coop’s ex’s house just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was in the way when Cooper’s spirit finally broke.

And how ironic was it that John Cooper was shot by people wearing the very uniform and badge that he loved so much for most of his life. The LAPD was indeed his life, and it’s quite possible that it was the LAPD that ended John Cooper’s life.

If last night was Southland’s goodbye to all of us, then that’s certainly sad, because we’ve all grown to know and love the characters and actors who opened their souls to us for so long. It’s a rare and special thing for TV characters to touch the lives of so many in so many ways. Through their Tweets, emails, Facebook messages, and personal appearances, these fine actors have become beloved friends to many.

So, if last night was Southland’s “End of Watch,” you should know that your fans were there for you until the screen faded to black for the last time. Me, I re-lived an entire career—the good and the bad—, one hour at a time, each week, over the past five years.

For now, we’re all hoping to hear this again next year. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Southland: Chaos

Cops are supposed to hold the line between chaos and civilized society. Every now and then chaos gets the upper hand.

Chaos and police work go hand in hand, like chocolate and peanut butter. And that bit about chaos sometimes getting the upper hand, well, it happens no matter how many defenses you set up to prevent the disorderly mess. It happens. And it seems to happen most often when your guard is down.

A natural enemy of the police, chaos is quick to escalate and spiral downward at blistering speeds. What often begins as a routine nuisance call can rapidly devolve into misery, pain, confusion, and even death. Such was the case when a former sheriff’s office captain of mine just happened to be passing by an address where deputies had been dispatched to a “something’s-wrong-with-my-adult-son” call. The captain knew the family personally, so he stopped to see what he could do to calm the situation. Bear in mind that this captain was a big man. I don’t mean he was obese. I’m talking big as in muscular, tall, and the size of two pro football linebackers combined. To top off his impressive stature was the fact that he was nearly Superman-strong—the guy you want as back up at a fight call. Any fight call.

The captain found the adult son, who, by the way, probably weighed 140lbs soaking wet while toting a bowling ball in each hand. The man paced across the backyard lawn, back and forth, side to side, like a caged lion. He was muttering to himself and to an imaginary person who was apparently walking beside him, step for step.

The pacing, mutterings, and imaginary conversation partners are all clear signs that a subject has officially stepped off the end of the crazy pier and into wacky-waters well over his head. The captain, however, assumed he could handle the wiry man and walked straight up to him, with chest poked out and biceps in full bulge mode. Intimidating to the average person? Sure. But not this time. The wild-eyed, babbling little guy instantly tore into the captain like the spinning, drooling Tazmanian Devil on the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Within seconds, the crazy man went for the captain’s pistol. So, now the captain not only had to try to keep the guy from literally scratching out his eyes and biting off his ears, he also had to use one hand to maintain control of his weapon. Didn’t work, though. The suspect actually tore the leather holster from the captain’s gun belt. Tore it. Ripped the thick leather like it was no more than a sheet of notebook paper.

Fortunately, the captain was able to grab his Beretta 9mm and toss it onto the roof of a storage shed, out of the suspect’s reach. That’s when the real fight began. But size did not prevail. The little guy, as they say here in the south, opened a can of “whup *ss” on the captain. Finally, more deputies showed up and, as a group, were able to pin the gyrating, wiggly man to the ground. However, as if chaos hadn’t already done enough, during the struggle one of the deputies had placed a knee on the suspect’s neck, and it wasn’t until the man went limp that the deputy realized he’d shut off the blood flow to the man’s brain. The wild man died…right there, beneath the pile of panting, exhausted deputies. By the way, this was well before Tasers, and pepper spray.

The entire situation with the captain and the suspect, including the time the responding backup deputies spent there, had lasted only nine minutes. From zero to chaos…ten seconds. From chaos to death…eight minutes, fifty seconds.

So, yeah, Chaos was an excellent title for this episode of Southland. Very appropriate, indeed.

Many readers of this blog are often called upon to speak at large gatherings—writers conferences, police conventions, film festivals, award ceremonies, etc., and we all know it sometimes feels a bit safer and relaxing to have a podium or microphone standing between you and your audience. Even a small, simple laser pointer offers a bit of a barrier between the speaker and the listeners. These props also provide something to do with your hands that at least appears useful.

Imagine, for a moment, not having those safeguards in place. For some, the lecture or speech would be a bit tougher to present, right? How about this, try giving one of the best performances of your entire career while wearing nothing more than a pair of boxer briefs, socks, and a t-shirt. How well do you think you’d perform in that situation? And, for goodness sake, what on earth would you do with your hands that didn’t look disgusting?

Well, that’s exactly what Michael Cudlitz (John Cooper) did last night. He delivered one of the best performances of his life while in his underwear, and without a single place to put his hands. Not one that would have been considered appropriate, that is. Anthony Ruivivar (Hank Lucero) also spent most of the episode in his boxers.

Those of you who also follow my reviews of Castle know how I feel about TV cops losing their guns to the bad guys, and you know how tired and cliche’ I think it is to have the crooks kidnap the cops. I do. I despise those scenarios. They’re normally silly and extremely unrealistic. The actors seem to overact and the writers seem to overwrite, hoping to make the scenes work, but they rarely do.

However, the performances we saw last night were absolutely stellar. We saw Hank leave his partner alone with a criminal while he nosed around the crime scene. Big mistake. Secure the guy first and make sure your partner is safe while he cuffs the thug. THEN have a look around. If not, you’re leaving the back door wide open for chaos, and that’s what we saw unfold…quickly, too. More about this in a second. First, let’s address Cooper coming out to Hank.

The “coming out” party was very “Cooperesque,” with John doing something all writers have drilled into their creative minds…show, don’t tell. Hank constantly makes homophobic comments to Cooper, so Coop took his narrow-minded cop partner to a gay bar to make his point that being gay isn’t some kind of dirty disease. Hank calls Cooper a faggot, which makes for a silent ride during their next shift. This was the first sign of tension in the episode.

Next, they’re kidnapped by two “wired” copper thieves (how ironic that two men stealing copper electrical wire were both “wired” on meth). And this is where the tension really took off and never let up, even as the show faded to black at the end. The intensity of this show continued to build, with each scene adding to it, like a snowball rolling down a mountainside. Eventually, there’s going to be an avalanche.

Sure, Ben and Sammy experienced their own difficulties, including when Sammy chased Strokeface to a death by rebar. Of course, the death really should fall on Ben’s shoulders, since it was he, not Strokeface, who was responsible for the break-in at Sammy’s place. And then there’s Brooke, the psycho, girlfriend who promises to get even with Ben for breaking up with her over another woman. And, speaking of the other woman, she’s the sister of a guy who breaks in houses and steals for a living. Oh what a tangled web Ben has woven for himself, and for Sammy.

And still the snowball named chaos rolls…

Lydia and Ruben join the search for Coop and Hank. We saw the two detectives enter the crime scene and, as they did, both gave an officer their names. The officer then recorded their names onto a “sign in” sheet, which becomes part of the official report. This is so investigators, attorneys, etc. know exactly who visited the scene and at what time(s).

Dewey overhears an officer comparing Coop and Hank’s disappearance to Joseph Wambaugh’s story of The Onion Field, the nonfiction tale of two detectives who were kidnapped by criminals. One of the abducted officers was murdered during the incident.

Joseph Wambaugh is a former LAPD officer/detective-sergeant who is also the bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction books, including The Choir Boys and The Blue Knight. In 2012, Sgt. Wambaugh was kind enough to donate one of his signed books to the Writers’ Police Academy raffle.

Dewey confronts the officer who voiced the Onion Field comment and then vows to find the two missing officers. After all, Coop has saved Dewey’s butt more than once.

Ben’s concerned that Coop and Hank are missing. The worry on the faces of all of the officers is apparent. Two of their fellow officers are missing and that’s never a good thing.

Cooper and Hank are at the mercy of two meth-smoking bad guys who, by the way, played their roles quite well. The attention to detail by the director and camera-person was superb, as well. For those of you who don’t regularly hang out with meth users, what you saw last night was typical. The more they smoke, the more paranoid, hyper, and often violent they become. At one point we saw one of the men scratching at the back of his head and neck. In fact, he scratched so much and so hard that he drew blood. This, too, can be typical of meth smokers. They often feel as if bugs are crawling across, or under, their skin (“crank bugs”), which makes them scratch, and scratch, and scratch. This is why meth users often have many open sores on the body, especially on the face, neck, and arms.

As if the tension in this episode wasn’t already over the top, one of the meth-heads shoots and kills Hank. The two wacked-out crooks then order Coop to dig a grave. When he’s finished he’s forced to drag Hank’s body to the hole where one of the kidnappers hits Coop with a shovel, forcing him into the hole with his dead partner. Bad guy number one flees, leaving bad guy number two to finish off Cooper. He fires a shot but misses, and then speeds off in his vehicle.

Coop then runs until he reaches a convenience store where he pleads with the clerk to unlock the door and let him inside, repeatedly telling her, “I’m a cop,” until he finally collapses to the ground. Understandably, the clerk may not believe him, since all she’s sees through the glass is a dirty, bleeding man in his underwear and socks, who just happens to wearing a pair of handcuffs.

This was a nail-biting, heart-thumping episode where a million words were said with mere facial expressions and gestures. The acting in last night’s show was nothing short of sensational. Cudlitz should immediately head to the red carpet this morning to await his Emmy, because if there ever was a performance that deserved the award, his last night was it.

Of course, we can’t discount the others, either. Hatosy, King, Sherman, and C. Thomas Howell were each brilliant in their roles. Even the meth heads were superb. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this was the best episode of Southland we’ve seen to date. And that includes the one where I wrote those same words just a week or so ago. Rarely do we see a television show that gets better and better each week. But this one does. Kind of like the chaos snowball, in reverse, the Southland avalanche rolls and rolls its way to the top.

In my opinion, Homeland has just taken a backseat to Southland, and I was a member of the judging committee that once selected Homeland to win an award as the best mystery/suspense TV show. Yes, Southland is that good.

But, next week is the finale…the last show of the season and possibly the last episode of Southland, ever. Whether or not the show will be renewed is up in the air. Everyone in the know is extremely tight-lipped about the show’s fate.

What we do know is that Ben is in over his head. Sammy’s losing his head. Strokeface’s head was impaled by steel bars. Lydia head is all mixed up inside. Dewey’s head is spinning with worry for Cooper. And Hank was killed by a shot to the head.

Me, well, my head still hurts from all the tension in last night’s episode. After all, I was right there with the cast, fighting, struggling, worrying, and frantically trying to rescue Coop and Hank. I tried. Really I did.

How about you? What did you think of the episode? And, do you think Southland should be renewed for a 6th season?

 *By the way, if you heard Lydia mention the term “keeper” and would like to know what it is, please click this link to one of my earlier blog posts.

Southland: The felix paradox

LAPD officers are trained to safeguard the lives and property of the people they serve. While most threats are external, the most dangers come from within.

The Felix Paradox, in short, is the name given to the effect(s) seen after a major police operation (a large drug bust, etc.) results in a rise in crime rate instead of an expected decrease in criminal activity. The name originated after California law enforcement busted drug kingpin Felix Mitchell.

Mitchell was huge in the drug world, raking in close to a million-dollars per week in drug sales alone. After Mitchell’s arrest, he was sentenced to life in prison and was sent to Leavenworth, where he was stabbed to death his first year there.

Mitchell’s funeral was covered by national news media who broadcasted images of the thousands of people lining the streets of Oakland, waiting for a glimpse of the horse-drawn carriage carrying the drug dealer’s body. The carriage was followed by a long, long line of Rolls Royce limo’s. It was a pretty elaborate affair for someone who could probably be credited for fueling the crack cocaine epidemic in the U.S.

It was shortly after Mitchell’s grand send-off that smaller drug dealers and gangs began the violent battles for control of the void Mitchell’s death left in the drug trade—the first Felix Paradox.

By the way, a criminal’s funeral is a great place to fish for wanted suspects who turn out to show their support for their fallen comrades in crime. And that’s exactly what we saw last night. Even Shaquille O’Neal, one of Coop’s old buddies from “back in the day” showed up, hoping to snag a wanted thug or two.

The real story last night, though, was the danger within the ranks. And there were plenty of landmines to duck and dodge.

I’ll start by mentioning Ben, whom we saw at the tail-end of a “sleepover” with girlfriend #2, the sister of the bad guy. Then, he has an argument with Brooke that resulted in their breakup. Brooke, however, doesn’t let him off the hook that easily. In fact, Brooke quickly let Ben know that she intends to inflict a great deal of physical harm to him should he choose to stick to his decision about a breakup. I believe the delicate little flower’s lady-like words were something to effect of, “I’ll f*** you up.”

But Ben’s troubles go far deeper than girlfriend woes and a craving for a little side dish of danger to whet his sexual appetite. He’s worried that Sammy’s good-guy conscious will cause him to lose his job as a cop if IA investigators discover he lied to protect Sammy. Well, coming clean about a lie would certainly be easier to stomach than what he did last night, which was nothing short of criminal conspiracy…an honest-to-goodness felony of whopping proportions. Not only could this cause the loss of his job, it could also earn him his own private room at the state penitentiary. I also fear that we’ve seen the beginnings of Ben McKenzie’s exit from the show. I saw several walls last night and there was handwriting on more than one of the surfaces.

Sammy, on the other hand, is miserable. He’s in the clear with IA and it looks as if his custody battle has been won. However, he’s a basically a good guy and he’s basically a good cop, and he’s having a difficult time with the fact that he told a lie to the IA investigators. And, I believe the only thing preventing him from coming clean is that Ben’s involved and Sammy doesn’t want to betray his friend and fellow police officer. I wonder how this will all play out in the next two episodes. I’m betting that Sammy spills the beans, paving the way for McKenzie to devote his time to the new show. Of course, at least half of the cast seems to have other offers on the table, so I’m figuring we’ll see a few more paths paved, and soon.

Shawn Hatosy’s nose-to-nose scene where he backs down two-ton Strokeface was priceless. It also shows exactly what officers face on a daily basis. More often than not, police officers are outnumbered, and they often face insurmountable odds. Crooks are heavily armed these days and they’re not afraid to shoot a cop. Therefore, exhibiting a command presence is often the best means of talking your way out of a sticky situation. Sometimes, just showing that you mean business is enough, and Sammy certainly showed Strokeface who had the larger set of…well, you know what I mean.

I did see one problem with Sammy’s confrontation with Strokeface. And it was one that could definitely cost an officer his life. Sammy had Strokeface turn toward the police car and place his hands behind his back. Well, Sammy searched Strokeface before cuffing him. This was a bad move for a couple of reasons. One, when Sammy leaned over to check the pants leg he was off balance and unable to watch the suspect’s upper body. Also, just the sheer size of that guy should make the arresting officer want to get the cuffs on as quickly as possible, especially since Sammy and Ben were outnumbered. So, cuff first, then pat down. We saw Cooper do this correctly later in the show.

Oh, the discovery of the drugs and gun’s in the little girl’s house…it was indeed a legal entry. They had no idea if something had happened to her parents or guardian, since they’d found her wandering the streets alone. So to enter the home looking for adults and the possibility that someone had been injured, sick, or worse, would be considered exigent circumstances…an emergency. Sure, once they discovered the stash they should back out and obtain the proper paperwork (search warrant, etc.). The entry, though, was definitely legal.

– Lydia and Ruben work the murder of the sergeant’s son. This is a tough pill to swallow for any cop. Without going into detail, I’ll say that I once had the unpleasant job of telling a fellow officer about the suicide attempt of his wife. And, I was nearby when she pulled the trigger of her husband’s service weapon, close enough, in fact, to hear the gunshot. Thanks to the speedy response of EMS and some pretty quick first aid until they arrived, she didn’t die that time. Sadly, after two or three more attempts she finally succeeded.

Anyway, working a case involving someone you know personally can be pretty darn emotional. We saw that last night with Lydia and Ruben, when words were said that were probably best left unsaid. But things happen. Cops are human and they have human emotions that shouldn’t be kept bottled up. Unfortunately, many officers do conceal their feelings until they sometimes boil over. But, cops are a tough breed, and they understand what their peers are going through. Hurt feelings don’t usually last too long in a cop’s world. However, I can’t help thinking about the level of animosity that will develop between Ben and Sammy. Theirs is nothing like the little tiff between Lydia and Ruben.

You know, Lydia’s a bulldog. She keeps digging until she works out all the angles, and she always seems to make us feel as if she’s doing the right thing, even when it’s not.

– The scene where Coop and crew team up with ATF to raid a drug dealer’s house was pretty darn realistic, from the yelling of, “Police, search warrant!” to the break and rake technique of shattering windows and clearing away glass to provide both a distraction from the team’s true point of entry, and to allow outside officers to cover any suspects in the various rooms of the house.

I don’t think I could come up with an accurate count of the number of search warrants I’ve served over the years. What I do know is that each one is different and officers never know what to expect on the other side of the door. It’s extremely dangerous, and it’s certainly not a job for the faint of heart. This was a great scene that really took me back to “the day.”

Earlier I mentioned Cooper properly handcuffing and searching a suspect. This occurred as he and Hank caught up to a wanted suspect at the cemetery. The two officers approached strategically, followed by Cooper ordering the man to his knees. The man obeyed the command and placed his hands behind his head, interlocking his fingers. Coop was right, the guy knew the drill.

Cooper approached the man while Hank covered him. Cooper used one hand to grasp the man’s interlocked fingers. He used the other to retrieve his handcuffs and applied one cuff to the left wrist. Copper then brought that hand down to the small of the thug’s back. At the same time he used his other hand to bring down the crook’s other hand where he clicked the other cuff in place. THEN, after the bad guy was secure, Coop went about the task of patting the man down, checking for weapons.

So where are we headed on this journey with LA’s finest TV cops? Have we seen the beginning of the end? It sure looks as if the process of dotting the i’s and the crossing of t’s is in full swing.

Ben has evolved into someone who’s no better than some of the scum he’s arresting. Sammy’s on the edge of ending his career by coming clean about the lies he told IA investigators. He’s also coming unglued at the seems, thanks to Ben orchestrating a B&E at Sammy’s house. An incident that resulted in a serious assault on Nate’s babysitter.

Lydia meets her old partner in a restaurant. A partner in more ways than one, I believe. This scene had a Soprano’s feel to it, like we were about to witness a permanent fade to black.

Hank is a lonely man who lives with his family, only in his mind. The reality is, he’s a very lonely loner, like many cops who are almost ready for that drive down the long dirt road that ends with the kiss of a gun barrel.

Cooper. What can I say here other than he’s a survivor who wants to leave this world better than it was when he arrived. And I don’t doubt that he will. Not for a minute. He’s a take charge guy who knows the ropes so well that the entire squad depends on him. They also look up to him as a role model. They see in him the cop they’d like to be. So, if the show makes it to a 6th season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cooper sporting another stripe. That would certainly be the way someone like him should enter retirement.

One thing I really appreciate about all the actors on this show is how well they carry themselves. It can be pretty easy to lose track, even if it’s just for a moment, that Coop and crew are actors, not police officers. They each wear the gun, badge, and uniform like they’ve been doing this sort of thing all there lives. They actually walk the walk and talk the talk.

Again, these actors are stellar, and I truly appreciate the hard work they put into bringing the lives of police officers into living rooms all over the world. This is how it’s done, folks.

One last thing…I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the Southland actors over the years, and it always amazes me to hear how much they adore their fans. And the spark and excitement I saw and heard during the first season is still there today. They’re a great group of extremely talented people, from the show’s creator on down.

Anyway, let’s end the week with a statement from the Southland sergeant. It’s quite appropriate for this day and time, with all the troubles facing today’s law enforcement officers.

“Being a cop doesn’t keep you immune from the s*** of the this world.”

Amen, brother…

Southland: Heroes

Cops are trained to stay in control, but sometimes even heroes feel helpless.

Sure, they’ve been punched, cut, stabbed, slapped, punched again, spit-on, kicked, bitten, and shot at. But they’re survivors. It’s what police officers are taught to do, and they always come out on top, and they always save the day…well, almost always.

Unfortunately, there are times when a cop’s best just isn’t good enough, and people suffer, or die. Sometimes luck doesn’t come their way. And all the training and experience in the world can’t stop the daily chipping-away of the heart and soul that comes with the job.

Cops know they’ve saved dozens in the course of their lifetimes. But it’s the ones they couldn’t protect…those are ones that stand out the most. They crush the spirit, and they eat away at emotions. And not being able to save everyone is a gut-wrenching feeling of helplessness that’s like no other in this world. Yes, even heroes feel helpless at times. But they hold it inside, maintaining control. Because that’s what cops do.

Like yesterday, when the two-year-old child in Bryan County, Ga. who wandered outside and was brutally mauled and killed by seven pit bulls. An adult at the house fell asleep and was unaware of the situation until it was too late. That’s a scene that the responding officers  will forever have etched in their minds. And it will chip away at the shell surrounding their hearts. I know how they felt when they arrived at the scene, because I’ve witnessed similar incidents. Even though there was no way possible of predicting what was to happen, they’ll feel helpless because they weren’t able to save the toddler.

Maybe the motto should read, “To feel absolutely helpless when not fully able to protect and serve.”

After watching last night’s episode, I posted a comment on Facebook that read, “John Cooper wears the weight of the world like a finely tailored suit.” I made the comment because Cooper is stretched nearly to the point of breaking. In fact, most people would have snapped long before now if faced with the challenges and hurdles Cooper encounters as part of his daily routine.

Think about it. How would most people cope with being a mostly-closeted gay man working in a mostly anti-gay job, who’s surrounded by daily death and destruction, and the worst people life has to offer. His dying father despises him so much that he’d raped and killed Cooper’s girlfriend. And Coop’s mentor and friend is suicidal, suffering from relentless loneliness. All this while having to protect and save the world. And Coop does it without exposing the cracks in his armor. Yes, I’d say John Cooper does indeed wear the weight of the world, and he does it quite nicely.

The man who breathes life into John Cooper is Michael Cudlitz, an actor who delivered one of his best performances last night. The scenes with his former TO, Hicks, played by Gerald McRaney (Simon and Simon, Major Dad, and currently the Chicago police captain on Mike And Molly), were absolutely stellar.

Hicks is drowning, and he’s going down fast. His airways are filled with sorrow and loneliness. He’s suffocating with each shallow breath. He’s a retired, widower cop who misses the job and his wife. He feels that his purpose in life has passed, a sentiment shared by many retired and former police officers. Unfortunately, to cope with life-after-cop disease, Hicks has, like many others, turned to alcohol to dull the pain. However, being the handy-dandy depressant that it is, booze has only served to enhance the effects of his rapid journey to the bottom. Cooper takes a stand and vows to save his friend from self-destruction, reinforcing his determination by saying to his old friend, “You are not going out like this, old man. I’m not letting you…I’m not letting you.”

Hicks wasn’t the only burning hurdle he had to clear last night. His sexual preferences are slowly being introduced. His dying father has only words of hatred for Coop, the last words he’ll have to remember his father saying. Although, Coop leaned over to whisper a few words of his own into his father’s ear. Were those words of hate, or did he tell his father that he loved him in spite of his evil? Only Coop knows.

Cooper, still in “save the world mode,” listened as Dewey’s cop-daughter, RayAnn, told the story of how Dewey had once gotten drunk and beat her mother. RayAnn vowed to be a better cop than Dewey could ever be. Perhaps, it is John Cooper she plans to mirror.

And then there was the little boy who was in danger of electrocution. Somehow he’d gotten stuck in a large pool of water that had filled a section of a city street. A downed electrical line made rescue impossible. The child was safe from electrocution as long as he remained standing on a plastic toy (plastic doesn’t conduct electricity. water does). First, Cooper saves the boy’s mother by stopping her from rushing into the water. Next, Coop drives his patrol car into the water and rescues the child.

Well, this is technically possible, as long as the electrically-charged water is at a depth that doesn’t contact any metal car parts. Once it does, the car immediately becomes a conductor of the electricity. That would mean the water could not be at a depth that would touch the metal wheel parts (only the rubber tires could be touching the water). As we saw last night, though, Cooper’s patrol car wound up in water that was definitely in contact with metal parts. Therefore had he or the child touched any part of the car that was made from metal, which they did, they’d have been instantly shocked and/or quite possibly, killed.

Still, this a was scene that showed Cooper once again putting his own safety at risk in order to save someone. But, please don’t try this should you ever face a similar situation. The results are rarely successful.

Ben and Sammy. Now there’s a partnership that shouldn’t be. They’re each dueling with private demons, and their personal lives have begun to affect their police work. They’re both fine officers, when apart. It’s when they’re together that attracts the dark clouds that seem to like the spot above their collective heads. And, when they’re apart, the ominous clouds divide like an amoeba, forming separate trouble-filled cells above each of the two cops.

Ben seems to thrive best when living on the edge. He likes the dark side. He craves action and excitement, and being with a gangbanger’s sister is just what the voodoo doctor ordered. Yes, he loves the bad girls and all the drama that comes with them.

I’ve heard numerous comments over the years that Ben McKenzie is much too “pretty” to play the part of a bad-ass cop. Well, his performance last night should erase those thoughts from the minds of any Doubting Thomas’. The scene where he stood up to his girlfriend’s brother was absolutely fantastic. His nose-to-nose stance combined with a very believable “I’m going kick your a** if you so much as blink” posturing was also on the money. That’s how it’s done in the street, folks. I’m thinking Ben McKenzie has exchanged a punch or two in his day. If not, it was only because his menacing nostril-flaring caused his opponents to back down. Command presence definitely works in more than one kind of situation. Great bit of acting, Ben.

Sammy has changed, and he’s done so with us watching. His love for his kid, Nate, and the rejection he still feels when Tammi left him, are slowly eating away at his core. He’s eroding from the inside out. Still, somewhere in that pot of roiling emotions, he knows the difference between right and wrong. And he prefers to be on the side of “right.” But he’s dug a hole and doesn’t know how to climb out. However, he, like Cooper, has a few flaming hurdles to overcome, such as his lie about the camera to the IA investigators. He wants to come clean, but Ben encourages him to let it go and live with the lie. Sammy, on the other hand, is basically a good cop who merely wants to right a wrong. Doing so, however, could cost both he and Ben their careers.

Sometimes I wonder if Sammy clings to Nate (his son) because he’s a reminder of his old partner and friend, and that being close to the boy eases the pain of Tammi leaving him. I’m not so sure he’s over Tammi, but one thing’s for sure, he feels rejected and a bit less of a man because he couldn’t hang on to her.

Shawn Hatosy has made Sammy what he is—a strong character with many layers. Sammy is a guy you’d want as a friend. He’d be there for you, always. He’d be a great family man. He’d be a fantastic cop. It’s his compassion that makes him do the goofy things he does. I’m convinced that Hatosy brings his real-life emotions to the set, and that’s why he is so darn convincing in this role. His sense of humor is evident when he spouts off lines such as this one from last night. “A bulletproof vest wears Chuck Norris for protection.” I sensed that the real life guy (Shawn) thought the line was funny, and that’s why the chuckle we heard seemed genuine.

Hatosy’s interactions with his fans on Twitter and Facebook, make them feel as if they’re part of the Southland/Hatosy family. He makes people feel as if they’re chatting with the off-duty Sammy who’s hanging out with friends until it’s time to put on the gun belt and badge. Cudlitz is the same. Actually, most of the cast interacts with their fans, even C. Thomas Howell (Dewey). And that’s a big part of the show. Actually, I could see this turning into a cult-like following.

Lydia and Ruben certainly make a great detective team. They feed off one another well, and they’re just different enough to bring a varying perspective to each case they receive. A great pairing like this one goes a long way toward solving cases. If partners are too much alike they could develop a severe case of tunnel-vision, which, all to often, can lead to nowhere.

Lydia seemed like she had all the wind back in her sails this week. Sharing “baby time” with Terrell was a much-needed break for her, and the time apart definitely recharged her rapidly-dying batteries.

Lydia reminds me of me in many ways. I, too, was the detective who’d take the time to lift the corner of a sleeping homeless person’s blanket to examine his shoes. Yes, if there was a haystack and someone told me there was needle in there somewhere, well, I was going to dismantle the thing one straw at a time until I found it. I wasn’t a big fan of paperwork and would eagerly pass it on to someone else who was willing to handle that end while I did the legwork. Lydia seems to like the legwork as well, while Ruben appears to prefer dotting I’s and crossing T’s over trekking through the woods searching for bullet casings.

After witnessing the results of Regina King’s directing abilities, I have to admit, I now see her differently. Well, perhaps differently is not the proper term, because her camera work in the episode she directed was a true reflection of how she portrays Lydia Adams. She’s meticulous and driven toward perfection. We all know the budget for Southland is pretty low, especially for a show of this magnitude and quality, but King took it to another level by using her instinct and drive, and that’s what I see in the Lydia King character—fantastic instinct and unwavering drive. And that’s a reflection of Regina King.

Finally, I’m sure you’ve all noticed that this review is a bit different than my normal fact-checking mission about the police procedure on the show. And I fault the actors, writers, producers, directors, and crew for my deviating from the norm. You see, they all do so many things right that it’s nearly impossible to find something wrong to point out.

Southland is a remarkable team of dedicated people who come together to deliver their best each and every week. And, finally, they were officially recognized by receiving a Peabody Award, an award presented only to the best of the best.

Well-deserved, guys.

Southland: Bleed out

John Cooper’s learned in the streets of Los Angeles, a single step can separate life and death.

What a powerful statement the opening line makes. Think about it. A blink. A breath. A turn of the head. A step. All are actions that occur in an infinitely small segment of time. A space on a clock and calendar that will always serve as a reminder that a loved one nearly left this earth, or that a special someone was taken from us at a precise moment. Those seemingly insignificant actions forever mark a life-altering event.

For cops, though, those moments in time are a dime a dozen. They’re part of the job. And with each passing tick of the clock, police officers everywhere walk the very thin line between life or death. Unfortunately, none of them know when they’ll step to either side. It’s a balancing act that many people take for granted…until they slip.

I made the statement last night that while watching this episode I realized how incredibly strong John Cooper really is, because for one solid hour he carried the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. And that was true, but the rest of the solar system was divided between Sammy, Lydia, Ruben, Ben, Hicks, and Dewey.

What an emotional ride. A great bit of acting all around.

– Sammy finally goes before a panel of IA detectives, and they’re not going easy on him. Sammy makes things a little more difficult for himself by mixing a lie (about the camera) with tidbits of the truth. He’s also talking in “cop speak” to police investigators who may see this as rehearsed testimony to prevent being tricked into saying something he didn’t want to say. To further make this scenario difficult is the fact that Ben has to reinforce Sammy’s statements by also telling the same lies. And we all know what happens when two people share the same secret…somebody usually gets burned. And, believe me, this has the potential to become a very hot problem for Sammy and Ben.

– Lydia and Ruben respond to a DOA and see a very troubled Dewey waiting for them at the curb.

The deceased is an infant, and as any cop will tell you, those are calls they’d rather not answer. Ruben’s initial reaction is that the baby died a SIDS death. Lydia’s not buying that, though, and delves deeper into the situation. She feels a personal connection to the case since she, too, is a new mother whose own baby won’t stop crying unless he’s snuggled next to her in bed. Well, we learn, after many twists and turns in the case, that the mother of the infant victim took a sleeping pill and when she finally awakened, discovered that she’d rolled over during her sleep and smothered the child. Lydia’s horrified expression at the mother’s confession was not in response to knowing that the young woman had accidentally killed her own child. Instead, it was in knowing that having her own infant son in bed with her could someday end in a similar tragedy.

It was interesting to see Dewey back at work answering calls after suffering a heart attack two weeks prior. I guess an aspirin a day really does do the trick.

– Coop and Lucero pull up to assist two patrol officers who’d just chased and caught a suspect. A female officer chats with Cooper while her careless partner places the thug in the backseat without searching him. He also leaves the rear door wide open. The crook takes advantage of the situation by pulling a gun and taking a shot at the four officers. Coop takes control, gets the bad guy out of the car, and then finds the weapon. Similar scenarios have played out in real life, ending with both police officers and suspects dead. Officers should ALWAYS thoroughly search suspects before placing them inside the police car. Sure, it’s uncomfortable for all when having to place your hands on parts of someone’s body where the “sun don’t shine,” but a little embarrassment is far better than “bagpipe music and pine boxes”, as Lucero so eloquently related to the careless officer who caused the dangerous mess.

And speaking of embarrassing situations, how about the nude guy who was horse-whipped by a scantily-clad librarian who immediately set her sights on Coop the moment she saw him standing in the doorway. She also experienced a moment of pure heat when Cooper asked her to turn around for cuffing. “My cuffs or yours,” was her response to Coop. Funny thing, many real-life officers hear similar comments during the span of their careers. Must be the uniform…

A man frantically begs for help, leaving Coop and Lucero no choice but to leave their patrol car and follow the distraught man. They soon discover that a bus had struck a pedestrian, trapping her beneath the vehicle. Cooper crawls under and stays beside the severely injured woman, holding her hand until rescue crews arrive to help. They raise the bus and place cribbing under it to hold it up, and then place a backboard beneath the woman before pulling her to safety. They stabilize her neck and head (great scene and procedure, by the way) and Coop wishes her well. He also checks on her condition and is relieved to later learn that she survives.

Now, I can’t begin to pinpoint the thousands of times that officers go through hand-holding moments at trauma scenes. I’ve done it countless times, and so have many, many other officers at some time or another. And, during those seemingly endless moments until help arrives, you form a bond with the victim. And you care. And you hurt for them. And you grieve when they die. And you lose a part of you each time. You know, when I hear people claim that cops are unkind, emotionless, abusers of all people of all races and gender, well, I sometimes wish I could grab them by the collar and force them to see what it’s really like to wear a badge and uniform. But, that’ll never happen. Neither will the day ever come when everyone understands. But you know what…the folks at Southland sure do.

Speaking of emotional roller coasters, Sammy and Ben engage in a high-speed pursuit of a crazy man who stole a taxi and sped off. The wacky driver leads the two officers through city streets while striking other cars, causing multiple accidents, and generally creating a highly dangerous situation for everyone involved. Sammy’s driving while Ben watches the side streets for oncoming traffic. Each time they approached an intersection we heard Ben say, “Clear.” That’s done in real life, and it’s to let the driver know he can safely continue through the crossing.

Suddenly, Sammy decides to terminate the pursuit, and Ben is livid. “We were lead car!” he yelled. Well, that was true, but if Sammy, or any officer, decides that the pursuit isn’t safe, then stopping the chase is the right thing to do. Sure, Sammy’s mind was on other things, but that’s more than enough reason to end the chase. Good move on his part.

– Cooper is a gay cop in a profession that’s overflowing with testosterone and jokes of poor taste. It’s a job where it’s almost taboo to be different/not one of the guys. It’s where a few still believe that being gay equals weakness, unless the officer is a tough-as-rusty-nails lesbian, because being “butch” is a sign of toughness/one of the guys. Screwed up way of thinking? You bet. Right? Nope. But it is what it is.

So, when Lucero offers to hook Coop up with a woman, Coop shrugs it off. But Lucero continues… Coop still plays it off. How long can he continue to hide his personal life from his partner? I’ll tell you…not forever. Because you spend so much time with a partner, and you share so many emotional experiences that, well, it’s almost a necessity to share intimate details about your life. Besides, Cooper has no one else to turn to. His life is crumbling around him. His former TO, Hicks, is falling apart because he feels that his purpose in life is used up. In fact, he came close to pulling the pin last night by shoving the barrel of a revolver against the roof of his mouth. The hammer was back and ready to drop at the slightest touch. Remember, a breath, a blink, and the bagpipes begin to play. It can be that quick.

Adrenaline shoots through roof when Coop and Lucero are faced with a distrught man holding a large knife. He’d cut himself and was considering a final charge at the two officers when a young boy rode up on a bicycle, begging Coop and Lucero not to kill the man. Cooper scoops up the boy and takes him to safety and out of sight of the situation.

– Sammy and Ben finally spot the crazy guy who’d led them on the car chase. This time, though, they’re in foot pursuit. Ben catches the guy, but is injured slightly when he falls down a flight of steps during a scuffle with the “Attica-screamer.” So Sammy follows behind the guy after Ben insists he’s okay and it’s all right to leave him behind. The bad guy jumps a fence and is instantly attacked, mauled, and killed by two large very aggressive dogs. He dies.

Ben insists upon maintaining his womanizing lifestyle when he returns for a second shower scene with the painter-girl/gangbanger’s sister. He’s playing with fire by seeing this girl because he’s now “hanging out” at her house with her scary cousins lounging around the living room. And I do mean “hanging around.”

So, Cooper’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s nearing the end of his career at a time when his life is empty. He’s lonely and he’s fighting a boatload of demons inside. He lives his personal life in a closet where, apparently, only Dewey has ever had the privilege of peeking inside. Dewey offered Coop some great advice in a way that only Dewey could, by saying, “Hey, John. Go home. Tend to your cactus. Rent a musical. Do what you do. Just have a good time.” He knows John Cooper’s secret, but has never told anyone. Dewey may be lewd and crude, but he’s one helluva stand-up guy.

Lydia lays awake while her baby sleeps soundly beside her. She’s probably thinking about the woman who accidentally smothered her own child during her sleep, so Lydia doesn’t dare close her eyes. Sooner or later her weariness will catch up to her, and she’ll snap if something doesn’t change soon.

Sammy pops the top on a beer and takes a long swallow. He replays the video of the altercation with Tammi, watching it on the camera that he told IA detectives he’d dropped on the ground at the scene.

The show soon fades out, leaving us and the characters in silence, thinking…

Lies. Growing older. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Saving lives. Pain. Suffering. Heartache.

All are causes to “Bleed Out,” emotionally.

And that’s what officers face each and every day of their lives…


Southland: Off Duty

There’s a common saying among LAPD officers…leave the job in the locker with your uniform. It’s easier said than done.

A cop leaving the job at work? Ignore the druggies, pimps, and punks walking the streets beside you and your family? Not a chance. And Sammy was a perfect example last night when he left his post as a personal bodyguard to head into a volley of gunfire, an act that garnered him the unwanted attention of LA’s always out of control paparazzi.

Once a cop always a cop is a saying that rings true to nearly everyone who’s worn a badge. There’s a pull toward the duty that’s nearly as strong as the gravity that holds our feet snugly to the ground. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t examine vehicle license plates for signs of tampering or expired stickers, or damaged steering columns, a clear indication that the car is stolen. I see officers on the side of the highway conducting traffic stops and I feel the urge to pull over in case they need back up.

This incessant need to “police” used to drive my wife absolutely bonkers. Once, while watching TV in the comfort of our home, I heard a bit of commotion outside. I let it go at first, thinking perhaps a group of teens having a good time were passing by. But when I saw the familiar staccato blinking of blue flashing through our curtains, well, I had to see what was going on. A traffic stop, maybe?

I stepped out onto the front porch and saw three patrol cars idling in the street. Blue lights flashing and spotlights trained on a man standing on the front porch of our across-the-street neighbors, a very sweet elderly couple. He was shirtless and held a large revolver in his right hand. He was yelling obscenities and occasionally pointed the gun at the residents who were seated side-by-side in a porch swing. I recognized the man as someone I’d arrested a few times in the past for disorderly behavior. He was a military veteran who lived with one too many ghosts inside his head and seemed to find drugs and alcohol as the best means of keeping those demons in check. Normally, when he was high, he walked the streets scaring little old ladies and small children. This time, though, he’d wandered onto the property of two people who thought going to the doctor was an exciting outing. They were beyond frightened.

The patrol officers on the scene were all young and fairly inexperienced, but were using every single tactic they’d learned in the police academy to get the crazy guy to put down his weapon and surrender to them. Nothing was working, though.

I went back inside to grab my pistol, which I shoved inside the waistband of my shorts (remember, I was at home watching TV), and headed across the street, where I promptly walked past the officers and up onto the porch where I calmly asked the man for the gun he was waving around. He recognized me and immediately handed the weapon to me, and then started blubbering like a baby. I walked him back to the police officers who handcuffed him and carted him off to jail. Me, I was back in my easy chair in time to see the end of my show.

Yes, it’s in our blood. We bleed blue.

Now, on to the story. This episode, directed by Regina King (Lydia), was one of the best episodes of Southland to date. In fact, it just may be the best. The cast was superb, and, in fact, they delivered a flawless performance last night. Speaking of flawless performances, an Emmy nod to Michael Cudlitz for his work over the past couple of years would certainly be appropriate and well-deserved.

Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and his former TO, played by Gerald McRaney of Simon and Simon and Major Dad fame, sit in a bar having a cold one. Cooper sees his former mentor as a lonely ex-cop who’s grown older, yet still misses the job he can longer work. Coop sees visions of becoming that empty shell of a cop, and it’s hitting him like a ton of bricks. He knows he’s a few steps from pulling the pin (retirement) and the thought is leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.

– Ben and Brooke are out for a night on the town and she’s a bit anxious that Ben has a gun concealed under his jacket. Well, a gun is like an extra appendage to a cop. You feel naked without it. But, what’s no big deal to a police officer can sometimes be off-putting to a civilian.

Speaking of plainclothes, Ben runs into one of his former buddies, a drug dealer, and introduces Brooke as his girlfriend, a moniker she seemed to enjoy. Ben realizes that his former pot dealer is making far too much money to be in a legitimate business, so he whispers that news to the narcs who later move in for a big bust that’s worthy of a celebration. The bust was so big that it sparks a notion in Ben’s head that he should take the detective’s test, a notion that Sammy, a former detective himself, thinks is a bit absurd.

– We learn that Lydia has been corresponding (while off duty) with a guy who’s serving time on death row, and, she’s promised him that she’d show up for a visit on the day of his execution. But, always the good investigator, Lydia’s motive was to hopefully get the condemned man to confess to additional murders and learn the location of the bodies. Turns out that her off-duty letter writing paid off. A brilliant piece of acting by Regina King, by the way.

– Dewey engages in a foot pursuit that lands him with one foot in the grave. The exertion stops his heart and Cooper immediately starts CPR, an act that saved Dewey’s life…as he’s apparently done several times before. Each stone that’s unturned in this episode is another notch in Cooper’s belt, a step closer to retirement. Everything he does is a reminder that he’s one of the “old guys” who’s been there/done that time and time again.

Dewey’s scenes sometimes give us a much-needed break from the building tension this show always delivers. His obnoxious behavior and rude and lewd comments take us out of the moment just long enough to catch our breath before heading to the next cliff.

– Sammy’s ex, Tammi, is pursuing her abuse complaint against him, which has now been handed over to Internal Affairs. Things aren’t looking too sporty for Sammy, who’s coming unglued, piece by piece. Ben has made it clear that he “has Sammy’s back,” meaning that he’ll lie for  him if that’s what it takes to get him off the hook.

But Ben has his own troubles. He can’t seem to veer off the path of self-destruction. In many ways, he and Cooper are a lot alike. after all, Cooper trained him, right?

Ben is an arrogant narcissist who’s determined to take himself down. He’s so into himself that he brushes off Sammy’s need for a true friend. And, he’s so not in control of his own zipper that he practically chases after any female who shows him the slightest bit of attention, like the woman he met during the arrest of her brother. It is so uncool to become romantically involved with people connected to criminal cases you’re involved in. Not cool at all. Sooner or later it will bite Ben on the rear. It always does (in real life).

– Cooper injures his back again, slightly. But it’s the fear of injuring it permanently that hurt the most. He doesn’t want to leave police work, and a permanent back injury would most certainly seal the deal.

The cast dealt with several demons last night. Demons that live in the far corners of their minds, constantly scratching and clawing at the inside of their skulls, wanting out. And, it’s all the Southland crew can do to keep those monsters inside. I guess the big question is, who will be the first to let one loose, and what hell will they pay for doing so…

*Favorite line from the show – “I’m all over this b***h like a fat kid on a cupcake.” ~ Dewey



Southland: Under the big top

They say that working for the LAPD is a ticket to the greatest show on earth. But it isn’t always easy to get to the front row.

If you’ve ever been to a large circus, those with three rings of action all going at once, along with trained horses, camels, and elephants circling the perimeter while high-stepping, dancing, and prancing, then you should be able to picture what it’s like work as a patrol officer in any one of America’s cities.

A typical eight or twelve-hour shift sends officers responding to call after call after call. While some are quite serious, others barely rate a response from emergency first responders. But, officers go and they do what it takes to close the file, even if that means conducting a brief “hand-holding” session to calm the fragile nerves of a frightened elderly person with failing eyesight and a limited ability to hear. Of course, the next call could be an ax murder or the bombing of a public building, which sends officers into “high-alert” mode, switching personality and demeanor instantly, from calm and cool peacemaker to real-life action hero who runs into gunfire in order to save lives and protect the innocent.

It’s that sort of circus that plays out day after day, night after night, 365 days a year, in every city, town, village, county, and state across our vast country. Officers everywhere respond to one call after another, practically nonstop, darting from street to street, zig-zagging from neighborhood to neighborhood, and often without so much as a spare moment to enjoy popcorn, peanuts, or Crackerjacks.

Last night’s episode of Southland was, of course, typical Southland, with actors portraying police work in its true form—raw, gritty, and not a single tick short of emotional.

– Ben’s new girlfriend, “Teacher Brooke” may be just what Ben needs to reel him in, back to a lighter side of life.  In the scenes where she appeared with him, the skies above actually seemed brighter. And she’s lasted longer than Ben’s typical single night “notch on the bedpost” date, so that’s a good thing. However, the idea that Ben has accepted a role in another TV series doesn’t make Southland fans feel comfortable about seeing a season 6 in the lineup. We’ll see.

– Sammy is grasping at straws, doing whatever he thinks will help him in his quest to hang on to parental rights of little red-headed Nate. But a court evaluator’s inspection of the home isn’t too favorable. She cites a hot water issue that needs immediate attention and tells Sammy to find the money to take care of it. I’m sure she had no clue that in a few short hours he’d do just that…”find” some extra cash. Sure, it was stolen loot, but Sammy’s thinking it’ll spend just as easily as any other cash. I did, however, think the writers could have come up with a better problem than water that’s too hot, because all Sammy would have to do to correct the problem is to turn down the temperature on the hot water heater. Cost…$0.

Gas water heater thermostat control. Electric heaters also have a similar control.

– Lydia. Poor, dear, Lydia. The father of her baby suddenly wants to play Father Knows Best and be a part of the child’s life. Well, he didn’t want to when things were going well at home. However, now that his current wife has discovered what a “ho” he really is she wants a divorce. So he goes running back to Lydia, spouting, “I’ve always loved you.” Well, it sure looks as if what he loves is not being alone, which seems to be a discreet back-story in this episode. And, for whatever sad or unfortunate reason, many real-life cops often find themselves in lonely, desperate situations.

Loneliness can be a very real part of the territory that comes with an officer’s job, a job that many civilians complain about, know nothing about it, yet, wouldn’t do it themselves. Especially for low wages and crappy hours. Just last night in Savannah, Ga., officers were forced to engage in a shootout with a suspect after a long, high-speed pursuit. One officer, a female officer, was wounded by the suspect’s gunfire. Starting salary for Savannah officers…a little over $15 per hour. Garbage truck driver in the same area, $16.90 per hour.

– Dewey is conducting a welfare check (officers are often called to check on people who haven’t answered phone calls or their door(s) when family and/or friends try to contact them—welfare checks). So, in the course of looking for the “missing” person, he, Cooper, and Hank discover a vat of stewing human remains (bones, etc.). And, they believe that someone possibly murdered homeowner, Ted. They call in the detectives to begin an investigation. Lydia and Ruben catch the call, and set out to do a bit of clue and fact-finding.

Turns out that Ted faked his own death only to turn up later in the show. Of course, Lydia and Ruben arrest him and he immediately argues that it’s not illegal to fake your own death. Well, it is…sort of. An adult certainly has a right to disappear, but cannot change his/her name without doing so legally. And, pretty much anything you do to cover your tracks would be illegal as well (fraud). And, to stage a false murder is against the law.

– Cooper and Hank seem to catch more than their fair share of odd calls, from a man butchering a goat in a bathtub, to another man using a slingshot to break storefront windows. The glass-breaker told Coop, after he was caught in the act, that he did it to feel “new,” since his life had become stagnant. It was a thrill for him to do something exciting.

An argument between a prostitute and her pimp/boyfriend occurs at the rear of Coop and Hank’s patrol car. During a pat-down search for weapons, Coop and Hank joke around, sounding a bit like game show announcers. Well, yes, officers do sometimes joke around like that. Dumb? A bit silly? Sure, but it helps to offset the extreme seriousness that comes with the job. You absolutely cannot talk about dead bodies, wife beaters, and child abusers all day, everyday. If so, a lot more officers would probably drive down a dead end road to stick a gun barrel against the roof of their mouths. Ya’ gotta laugh sometime.

Cooper and Hank also respond to a call where it’s believed that an elderly man has committed suicide. Cooper finds the guy sitting outside, with a slight bullet wound to the side of his head (he chickened out at the last minute—not uncommon). The man tells Cooper that his wife is no longer around and the deafening quiet of an empty house is more than he can bear. He misses her and the sound of her footsteps as she moved from one room to another. Familiar sounds are comforting. In true cop style and humor, Cooper suggests the man install carpet. Great line.

Ben and Sammy respond to a “211” call. I’m not from LA, but I assume a 211 is code for a robbery, possibly even a silent alarm relating to a robbery/hold up. They spot the car involved in the crime and begin a pursuit (I believe this was bases on a real case). The driver of the car starts tossing wads of cash out of the window, which brings dozens of people into the streets to snatch up as much of money as they can possibly grab, a tactic to slow the pursuing police car. While in pursuit and dodging money-grabbing people, some folks toss “liquids” at the patrol car, soaking both Ben and Sammy. Typical of people who hate cops. I’ve had citizens pelt my car with rocks and bottles as I drove through not-so-nice areas of the city. I’ve also discovered bullet holes in fenders. That sort of thing just makes you feel absolutely unappreciated and unloved. But I’m certain the little darlin’s mean well. Bless their hearts.

Okay, back to Sammy and Ben, who’re now in foot pursuit of the robber who’s still tossing cash around like confetti. Ben chases the guy onto a train, but Sammy didn’t make it inside before the doors closed and the train pulled away. Ben is forced to confront the guy one on one. He has the guy cornered and orders him to the ground with his arms out to either side. That’s the correct procedure. After that, though, this one fell apart.

Ben had the guy down on the floor, with his head toward Ben. Wrong. The guy should have been made to face away from Ben. And what happened next was quite predictable. Ben had to step across the bad guy’s outstretched arms, and the crook took advantage of the weak, exposed moment. He grabbed Ben and the two went at it like MMA stars in the octagon.

Ben, however, did what any fit cop would’ve done…he fought like his life depended on it, and it did. In those situations you do whatever it takes to survive. If that means to bash the guy’s head against every wall, floor, ceiling, and railing in the place, well, then, so be it. The name of the game is to SURVIVE to live another day.

When the scuffle was over and Ben snapped the cuffs in place, he made his way to a seat and and practically melted into it as the train’s passengers sat there staring at him in near disbelief at what they’d just seen. I can assure you that Ben’s reaction was quite normal, and he played the part superbly. After a serious battle to gain control of a combative suspect, especially when you’re alone without backup, it is extremely taxing on your nerves and muscles. You’re suddenly very weak as the adrenaline rush dissipates. Your legs and arms feel like rubber bands. Your hearing is dull, and your eyesight a bit dim. Hands tremble and breathing is slow to return to its normal state. You feel your heart thumping against the inside of your rib cage. And all you’re thinking at the moment is…I survived.

As usual, we see the Southland officers at the end of their shift. The excitement is gone, the nerves and adrenaline in check, and calm has been restored. The job is over and behind them, until tomorrow.

Sammy calls the plumber to let him know to start work on his hot water troubles. He’s suddenly found enough cash to cover the cost. Unfortunately, the cash he “found” was from the robbery earlier in the day. Sammy had apparently joined the crowd, doing a little “cash grabbing,” himself. This act just may come back to bite him on the rear, especially if the plumber does his banking at the place from where the money was taken. Oh what a tangled web we weave when little Sammy practices to deceive.

It’s business as usual with Cooper. He’s home alone, having a drink when he discovers the slingshot the suspect used to break the storefront windows. So, for kicks, he uses it to fire something at an empty bottle, breaking it. Coop lets out a little chuckle. Maybe the act of breaking glass is a bit exciting after all. At the very least, it delivered a smile at the end of very long day, and the beginning of what would surely be a long, lonely night in Southland…

Oh, Coop’s opening shower scene. I’ll say this about Cudlitz, he has real talent, and guts. There aren’t many actors out there who’re are both willing and able to smile twice at once—one horizontal and one vertical. No “butts” about it…

*By the way, this week was the second time in as many weeks that some officers around the country took offense at the opening voice-over. I was swamped with messages about it. To imply that the LAPD is the greatest department (show) on earth is insulting to officers everywhere. I believe I’d think twice before offending police officers a third time, since they’re a large part of the show’s following. I’m just saying.

Southland: babel

The LAPD serves four million people speaking over one-hundred languages. Sometimes things get lost in translation.

The opening voice-over brought to mind the night I and my captain were riding together on patrol. He was a tough old bird. A relentless tobacco-chewer with the strength of three grown men and the heart of a dozen.

During his many years of service, the captain had risen through the ranks, seeing just about all there was to see in the cops and robbers world. He been shot at and he’d shot back. He’d gone toe-to-toe with the best of them. And he’d helped the worst of them when their days seemed the most bleak. But what he hadn’t seen coming, or so I thought, was an influx of Spanish-speaking newcomers to the area. I was sure he didn’t understand a word of the language. Not one. And I was curious to see how he’d handle a certain situation that developed the Friday night we conducted a traffic stop on an older model Cadillac. A totally tricked-out car filled to the brim with young Spanish-speaking men who’d “come to town” to whoop it up after a long, hot week of working in the tobacco fields.

The captain, as we saw last night on Southland, was driving, which made him “contact,” meaning it was he who was in charge of the stop, and it was he who would do the talking. I was to serve as his backup and a second set of eyes.

“Do you know why we stopped you?” said the captain, through a golf-ball-size wad of his favorite Levi Garrett “chew.”

The blue-silk-shirted driver remained silent. The mother of pearl buttons on his cowboy-style attire glistened each time our revolving red lights made a full rotation.

“I said, do you know why I stopped you?”

Again nothing from the driver, or from either of the six similarly-clad passengers.

“Have you been drinking?”


“Step out of the car,” said the impatient captain, his voice growing louder with each word spoken.

No movement. Nothing. Just seven confused expressions.

“I guess you don’t speak English, right?

“Si. No habla ingles.”

The captain looked at me, then back at the driver.

“Well, let’s see if you habla this…”No getta outta the car-o, you ‘el going to ‘el hoose-gow. Capise?”

Well, it took precisely 20 seconds for all seven men to exit the car and line up beside it. The driver, the apparent “spokesperson” for the wanna-go-partying farmers promptly apologized, in English, explaining that until that moment, pretending to not speak English had saved them from scores of traffic citations. He said the plan also worked well as an ice-breaker with intoxicated women in nightclubs. He said they felt it was cute and sexy to help their new “hombre sexy” learn a few sweet words of English.

The captain shook his head from side to side and then walked back to our patrol car. A minute or two later he returned with a summons citing the driver for no brake lights and no turn signal.

After the man signed the summons and received his copy from the captain, the driver again apologized for the attempted ruse.

The captain’s lips split into a light smile. He said, “No hay problema. Tenga una buena noche. Y por favor, conduzca con precaución.”

He looked at me and calmly said, “My wife’s parents are from Mexico, so I learned a little Spanish to get me through holiday visits. I saw this guy in the grocery store last week, and his English was just fine when he was trying to get a date with the cashier.”

Anyway, language barriers can truly make a cop’s job quite difficult. All it would take is one misunderstood word or phrase, and lives could be lost in the midst of translation.

John Cooper, after last week’s fiasco with his “gun-shy” boot, has decided that his days as training officer (TO) are over. He’s had it. Finished. Exit stage left. So he’s given a new, seasoned partner, a veteran officer who doesn’t play the part of second fiddle that Coop’s so used having occupy the shotgun seat in his patrol car. It will take Cooper a while to adjust to not calling all the shots. And, believe me, it’s a hard habit to break, not telling your partner every move to make. However, by the end of the shift, Cooper was warming up a bit to the new partner. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’m guessing until the sergeant finds another warm body to plant in Coop’s passenger seat. Teaching new officers is Cooper’s thing. It’s what he does, and he does it well, with experience and “old guy” tough love.

Old Guy – An officer who’s been on the job long enough to see chiefs and sheriffs come and go, as well as boots who’ve made their way from rookie to stripes, stars, and bars on their collars. I realized I was an “old guy” when I saw the looks of disbelief on rookies’ faces when I talked about the days revolving red lights and revolvers.

– Ben and Sammy’s stint as puppeteers should be short-lived, especially Sammy’s. Scaring kids, I don’t think, is the object of the performance. Ben, on the other hand, seems to turn every event into an opportunity to put another notch on his bedpost, using his uniform as bait while he trolls the waters. Ben had better watch it, though, because those “fish” have been known known to bite cops on their butts, and I don’t mean affectionate love nibbles, either.

– The situation between Sammy and Tammi is a festering boil, ready to pop at the first bit of real pressure. Now Tammi’s filed an official complaint with the department, stating that Sammy assaulted her. Of course, we all know what happened. Unfortunately, we won’t be called as witnesses. Ben, however, will, and he’s already made it clear that he’ll “do what it takes” to help. Meaning, I’m sure, that he’ll lie for Sammy to help get him off the hook.

Remember, the part of the altercation that Ben saw came after Tammi struck Sammy. So, for all he knows, Sammy did assault her. It will be interesting to see which direction this goes, especially since I’m having a hard time figuring how well a red-headed kid plays in Sammy’s gene pool. Is the child really his? Who knows? I do know that this situation is becoming a bit tiresome for viewers. I’d love to see it come to some sort of conclusion so we all can move on. It’s beginning to wear on us like the Castle and Beckett “I love you, do you love me,” scenario that went on and on and on and on.

– We saw a female officer in foot pursuit of a thug they call “Roadrunner.” She was running, breathing hard, and trying to provide information to the dispatcher, all at the same time. Every officer can tell you what it’s like to hear that sort of traffic on the radio. The sentences are broken. The voice is high-pitched. Excited. And there may be a bit of fear mixed in. The sounds automatically send every officer within earshot into hyper-alert, hyper-adrenaline mode. They want in on the chase. They need to help their fellow officer. It’s what they do.

On the other hand, the pursuing officer is subject to a severe case of tunnel-vision, blocking out everything but the prey…the runner. So, yes, we do sometimes NOT notice holes in the ground, kid’s toys scattered about, tree roots, sleeping dogs, and yes, the proverbial clothesline. And, believe me, it happens. And it “ain’t” pretty when it does. Imagine hitting a piece of wire while running at full steam. Nope, not good. And, it could end a life. Tunnel-vision is a true enemy of law enforcement.

– Lydia… She and Ruben catch a murder case involving the shooting death of a young man who was supposedly killed over a drug debt. The victim came from a very nice family, it seemed, and a mother who cared deeply for her son. Unfortunately, this death would be the third son the mother had lost to street violence. And it made no difference to her why her son was killed. Didn’t matter. He was her son and she loved him.

I hear it all the time. “How can those two support their son, after all he’s done. You know killing that guy, and all.” Well, as parents, we’re not equipped with off and on switches to control our emotions and love for our children. We love them unconditionally. Doesn’t mean we don’t despise some of the things they do. But we still love them. Like Scott Peterson, the California man who was convicted of killing his wife and their unborn child. Peterson’s family have been at his side since the beginning, and I imagine they’ll remain there until, or if, the day comes when he faces his execution.

Cooper and Hank roll up on a group of men harassing what they believed to be a homeless guy. We saw Hank grab a guy and walk him to a wall where he patted him down, a search for weapons. Normally, the cops on this show conduct excellent pat-down searches, just like the best officers on the street. This time, the way Hank walked the guy back to the wall, was not good. He had no control over the suspect at all. I was actually surprised when I saw this, because it was so out of place for Southland, a show that gets even the tiniest detail right.

Cooper and Hank are driving along when Coop suddenly makes a U-turn and pulls up to a kid’s lemonade stand. I like the scenario because it showed how cops are ever-vigilant, with the entire day’s events flashing through their minds all the time. Cooper saw someone driving while holding a lime green cup, something he’d observed at other scenes throughout the day (the green cups) and had subconsciously filed away for later reference. Well, he saw the same cups at the lemonade stand, and…Bingo…he instantly connected the dots. The lemonade was causing all the weird behavior/hallucinations. A great scene.

– Hank’s statement, “I’m not brown, I’m blue,” was definitely a statement to note. Police officers come from all walks of life and all skin colors, but together they act as one…police blue.

Coop and Hank’s traffic stop where Roadrunner reaches for something in the seat beside him, was nearly textbook perfect. From the way the officers zeroed in on the classic “oh s**t look on the driver’s face (meaning he was up to something no good, or had already done something and wanted to avoid the police) to directions given while having the man step out of the car. I think Michael Cudlitz should become a police academy instructor if he ever tires of acting. By the way, Michael, the invitation for you to come to the Writers’ Police Academy still stands. It’s hard to believe that we first spoke about it three seasons ago. Time sure flies when you’re playing cops and robbers, huh?

Okay, we’ve reached the point where Sammy and Ben enter a building, the scene of a “shots-fired” call. They heard gunfire and immediately went inside without waiting for back-up. This is the way it’s done for an active shooter scenario. No longer do cops wait outside until help arrives. The idea is to save as many lives as possible, and to do so immediately. All of you who attended the Writers’ Police Academy a couple of years ago saw an active shooter scenario unfold right before your eyes, and it was a real heart-thumping situation.

Sammy and Ben discover several wounded, or dead, civilians inside, and Ben is almost shot. Sammy fires at the suspect, but he gets away only to return later to shoot it out with police. This time, however, he’s met with a volley of gunfire from several officers, including Ben, who’s still in shock from his earlier encounter.

I’ve been in a few shooting situations, including one where I and a deputy sheriff answered a shots-fired call at a jam-packed nightclub. He’d called for backup but all other deputies were tied up on other calls. I was working an undercover drug operation in the city, so I stopped what I was doing and headed out to assist. When we pulled into the parking lot (separate vehicles) we immediately saw people running in all directions. We also heard the sound of fully automatic gunfire inside the building. We called for backup and then headed toward the building. We’d only gone a few steps when the shooter stepped outside and fired three or four bursts in our direction. We took cover behind one of the cars to give us time to regroup, swallow hard a couple of times, and devise a plan. Well, the only plan we could come up with was that we had a bad guy to arrest before he hurt someone else. Long story short, after dodging several more rounds, we were able to get the guy to surrender after much shouting on our part and shooting on his. Fortunately for us, the dummy was a really poor shot.

After all was said and done that night, I realized that my hearing must have chickened out and remained behind the car at the precise moment of our charge toward the shooter. I say so, because I still don’t recall hearing a single sound until I placed my cuffs around the man’s wrists. That ratcheting sound, however, seemed as loud as a bowling ball rolling down a set of wooden steps. And, I believe, that was what Ben was experiencing after the shotgun blast most likely burst his eardrum. The mixture of fear and adrenaline definitely slows time and dulls the hearing. What it doesn’t do, however, is improve marksmanship or reflexes, which explains the high number of rounds fired by police at some shooting scenes.

And, finally, we end with Lydia snapping a photo of her holding the baby. Does her smile indicate that she’s going to overcome the difficulties she’s been experiencing as a new mother? Did the woman who lost three sons to street violence have a life-changing impact on her? Maybe so.

Oh, yeah, let’s not forget Dewey, who was classic Dewey…obnoxious, rude, and insensitive. And the citizens of L.A. let him know it by tagging his patrol car and flattening the tires. When officers treat people with respect they normally receive respect in return. Believe me, folks. This is true in real life. C. Thomas does a great job in this role of portraying “how not”  to behave as a police officer.

And, the retired TO (training officer), played by Gerald McRaney, was a soothing voice to his former boot’s fried nerves. Coop, like all “old guys,” have seen the times change. Recruits seem to get younger every year as our patience grows shorter. Knowing that retirement, the end of a long career, is just around the corner, is a feeling like no other. It tugs and pulls at your gut, and it scratches at the inside of your skull. It’s indeed a tough pill to swallow, especially for a cop who’s dedicated his entire life to serving others.

Gerald McRaney

And there was no better person to put it all in perspective than Major Dad himself (Detective Hicks, ret.) when he said to Cooper, “One day you wake up and realize you’re the last of the Mohicans around. New kids and new ways of doing things makes you about as useless as t**s on a bowling ball.”

“What do you do then?” Cooper asked.

“You buy yourself a used hole in the water (referring to his boat, where they stood near a gaggle of other gray-haired retired cops),” said Hicks, “and kick back and enjoy.”

Well, I’ve been “kicked back” and so-called “enjoying” for several years now, and I can assure you that not a single day passes without my mind drifting back to the job. And I doubt that Cooper is the type to forget. I know McRaney is not someone to kick back either, since he still serves in the reserves. As they say, once it’s in your blood…

You know, this show is packed so full, especially for a one-hour episode, that there’s no way to cover it all. So I’ll close by saying again that SouthLAnd is hands-down the best cop show on TV today. And that brings me to the premiere of Boston’s Finest that aired last night.

Many of you have asked me to write reviews of that show too. Well, I watched part of it last night, and, having lived in Boston for a few years, it held my interest merely because of the scenery. Boston is a cool city, and the police officers there are top-notch. But it’s just not my thing to watch an officer having breakfast with her crackhead sister, visiting family members, and doing other mundane tasks between scenes showing police responding to calls. For some reason, images of Honey Boo-Boo’s mom and the Gator Boys flashed before my eyes during these scenes. Sure, some of the calls were interesting and exciting, but overall this was a yawner for me. I’ll try to watch again next week, so we’ll see how it goes at that time.

In the meantime…”Light ’em up,” Southland!

*Babel – a scene of confusion, noise, and sounds…



Southland: Heat

Being a cop in Los Angeles is different than patrolling other cities. Not every officer can take the heat.

For the first time since I’ve been watching SouthLAnd, I have to disagree with the opening voice-over. Sure, L.A. is different, geographically, than other cities, but crime is crime, guns and knives are deadly weapons, and death is final, no matter where you are in the country. I can absolutely say that, without a doubt, cops everywhere want to safely make it to the end of their shifts. Sadly, not all of them do, and not just those patrolling the streets of Los Angeles.

You know, last night’s episode was one of the most intense, pulse-pounding episodes we’ve seen thus far. And I’m betting there are many of you out there who missed it, forgot about it, or didn’t have a clue the show is on. And that’s a shame, because SouthLAnd is one of the best, if not the best cop show to ever hit television. Why the network doesn’t invest a few dollars in advertising is beyond me. I’m an avid TV viewer and have not seen a single promo this season, and we’re already heading toward the third episode of a very short season.

Okay, enough rambling. Let’s get on with the show.

This is season 5, and since way back in the beginning we’ve watched Officer Ben Sherman transform from a green, wet-behind-the-ears rookie who was excited about his new job and future as police officer. Now we see a nearly contemptuous, slightly narcissistic, and hardened Ben Sherman who’s teetering on a thin tight-wire stretched high above a very dark place. One misstep and he’s likely to find himself on a free-fall to the wrong side of a cell door. Let’s hope he maintains his balance long enough to realize the direction he’s headed is not a good one.

Those of us in the business know that police officers work in an extremely structured environment. Not only do officers have departmental standard operating procedures that must be adhered to without fail, they’re also required to know, obey, and enforce the laws of their town, city, county, state, and federal law. And that is all-inclusive. Officers may not pick and choose which laws and/or rules to follow, which is where Ben seems to be struggling the most. He likes to bend the rules in whichever direction helps him achieve his personal goal of the moment. It doesn’t work that way, Ben.

Last night’s script offered more bad choices for Officer Sherman. Like the decision to confront a gang leader during a birthday party for the man’s young son. While there he uses the threat of arrest for an outstanding, but old warrant, to force the man to give up the name of someone in a rival gang who was supposedly involved in the shooting/wounding of Ben’s friend and fellow officer, Mendoza. Even this goes badly, ending with the boy shot during a drive-by as payback for snitching to the cops. Then, to make matters worse, Mendoza’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted as a means to to cash in on benefits. A real sleazebag. Ben desperately needs to find some new friends.

Sammy and Ben roll up on two women arguing, one of whom flags them over. She’s distressed and claims the other “lady” has taken money from her and then didn’t deliver crack cocaine, as promised. The “lady” tells Sammy, “I don’t sell drugs, I’m a prostitute.” After a quick eye-roll, Sammy and Ben leave the two crack whores standing in the parking lot. I cannot begin to count the number of times crack heads and meth heads/tweekers have stopped me, claiming someone stole their dope, their cash, their food, didn’t deliver the drugs even after performing oral sex, sold fake drugs, etc., and each time the dumba**’s expect the police to arrest the “offender.” Yeah, right.

Ben chases a gang leader into a courtyard. Sammy is desperately trying to locate him, and calls on the radio, which Ben promptly reaches for and turns the volume down, or off. He does so, because the radios noises and chatter are dead give-a-ways to an officer’s location. That’s why Ben turned down the volume/switched off the radio, to allow him a stealthier approach.

There’s a brief scene at the lockup where you see Ben retrieve his weapon from a locker-type group of individual metal containers. Each of those lockers are lock boxes where officers can safely store their weapons while inside the lockup, where guns are not allowed. The same is true for courthouses, booking areas, and detective’s offices. Weapons are not normally allowed in those locations.

Cooper is still stuck as FTO (field training officer) to a boot (rookie)  who’s ever ready to buck the system even before he loses his “training wheels.” He’s argumentative and insubordinate, and he’s a know it all who knows nothing about police work and why cops do what they do. Last week he was quick to tell Cooper, his FTO, the guy who can either make or break a trainee, that he basically chose the job because it paid better than most others. Well, that’s not the reason men and women pin on that badge and then wade into a city filled with scum, drunks, drug users, killers, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. Instead, most want to help their communities and their neighbors. They want to make a positive impact, even if that means working double shifts, sometimes for free.

So what does a police officer earn as salary for dodging bullets and chasing after and protecting us from the scourge of society? Let’s take a quick look, shall we.

LAPD starts high school grads at $42,042 per year. Top pay, after years of service is around $80,000 per year. That’s approximately $22.63 per hour for newly hired trainees.

Savannah Metro Police Department in Savannah, Ga. starts their officer trainees (those with a HS education or equivalent) at a much lower $15.61 per hour ($32, 468 annually). To put this in perspective, many people who work as construction workers, bartenders, waitresses, maintenance and repair workers, all make above the starting salary of police officers in Savannah, Ga. Think one of those jobs is more dangerous that the others? Hmm… I wonder which is the most hazardous…

So Cooper and crew are definitely not in the business to get rich. They’re in it to win it because they love what they do. They love protecting people and property from harm. The good ones will take a bullet if that’s what it takes to get the job done. And Coop did just that, even though his vest stopped the deadly rounds. His boot lost it, though. Chickened out. Sucked on a PTSD lollipop. Melted down in mid-crisis and hid behind the patrol car. He’s not fit for the job. In fact, Cooper stripped the boot of his badge, and rightfully so. Thankfully, I never had to do that. Not even close, actually. As FTO, I trained some of the finest police officers ever to wear a badge. I’ve been made proud of each and every one, and every single one of them has risen through the ranks to become supervisors and top brass in departments throughout the county. They each deserve to wear their badges and they wear them well.

Shawn Hatosy deserves a another ton of praise this week for the fantastic way he’s developing Sammy. The character has many layers, and we’re seeing bits and pieces of them emerge with the passing of every episode. Of course, Ben is doing the same. Hell, they all are. Just a great, great job by the cast, crew, writers, directors, producers, and everyone else involved. Police officers everywhere thank you for depicting their chosen career with the dignity and respect it deserves.

Now, we come to Lydia, a character with more layers than a seven layer cake. She’s complex. She’s a woman. A tough, yet feminine woman who can somehow manage to look great while chasing a fleeing suspect on foot, spouting strings of obscenities that would make a sailor blush, and exchanging punches with the best of them. She’s a new mom who counts on help from her own mom to help her get through the stages of new motherhood. She’s a single mom who has no other choice…until her mother passes away, leaving Lydia standing on the front porch holding her baby, as an EMS crew wheels her mother’s recently deceased body out to the ambulance.

Life has just taken a drastic turn in the opposite direction for Lydia. Will she be able to handle it? Or will she see Ruben step in to help out. He’s another good guy who’s a knight in shining armor when he needs to be, and he can be a “I’ll-shove-a-foot-up-your-a**-” type of guy if/when the time comes.

What else is there to say about this episode that the actors didn’t show us with their actions and words? My goodness this show is superb, and I urge you to watch for the little things, not just the big picture—the overall plot and story-lines. Because I promise you, there’s one thing all these folks have in common—Cudlitz, Hatosy, King, Howell, and McKenzie—they really know how to act.

And they certainly know how to proudly wear a badge, uniform, and gun, and they that do that oh so well.

Before we sign off, let’s make a quick change to the opening voice over. How’s this?

Being an actor on SouthLAnd is different than acting in other shows. Not every actor can take the heat.

One last thing. This scene…

You’d better believe cops have that kind of compassion.

They certainly do…

 *Disclaimer/warning, whatever you choose to call it – I wrote this blog post immediately following a medical procedure where Propofol was used as the anesthesia. There’s a reason they call it “milk of amnesia,” and the errors in the above text are proof. Honestly, my heart was in the right place. My mind, however, was elsewhere.