Southland: Fallout – A Review And Recap

Southland: Fallout

“LAPD officers start every shift knowing they only have a fraction of a second to make a difficult choice. The ramifications will last their whole lives.”

There’s never been a statement about cops that rings truer than the opening voice-over of last night’s episode. A split second that lasts a lifetime. An act that forever spins and twirls inside your head like a crazed ballerina on speed.

You’ve lived all your life as you, and suddenly “you” has become someone different. A stranger. Someone new now lives inside your mind, sharing your thoughts and controlling your actions. The “you” you’d lived with for so long is gone and will never return. That “fraction of a second” was the tipping point that sent “you” away for good.

I’ve shot thousands of rounds of ammunition in my lifetime, popping holes in paper targets depicting faceless men with coke-bottle-shaped limbless bodies. Center mass, that’s the spot. Always the center. And I always left a gaping hole right there. Right in the center.

My “fraction of a second” came a long time ago during a gun battle where 68 rounds were exchanged between a robber and police. I terminated the threat with five carefully placed rounds of my own.

No paper.

No coke bottle.

No score.

All flesh and bone.

BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

It was over. And then it began.

Now every day for me is like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. The clock sounds at 6am, the music starts, and it’s August 1994 all over again.

A lifetime of that nonsense.

And that same day has just begun for Officer Tang.

Tang is served with divorce papers and the act sets off a wave of emotions. She knew the day would come, but what she didn’t know was how it would affect her job and the way she conducted “cop” business.

Police officers are expected to perform their duties fairly and justly without allowing their emotions to stand in the way of either. But cops are human. They have bad days. Their kids run away. Their cars break down. Their babies get sick. Their plumbing leaks. Their parents die. Their spouses cheat. They’re people, just like you.

But, while they’re dealing with their own personal issues, they also have to solve yours and protect you from the crazies of the world. Sometimes, they have to suck up their own troubles to run inside a burning building to drag you out because you were too drunk to save yourself. They have stop grieving the death of their own mother to stop yours from hacking your father to death with a meat cleaver.

Their kid’s at home with a raging fever that just won’t go away, but they have to stand there and listen while you rant and rave and throw a temper tantrum about cops not doing anything but hanging out in doughnut shops. Sure, you’re yelling and screaming, calling them names and spitting on them because you hate what they stand for, but you don’t realize that an hour before you began your tirade, the officer standing calmly in front of you had risked her own life to pull a baby from a burning car. You don’t even notice the smell of her burned flesh and tire smoke on her uniform. You don’t see the pain in her eyes.

Yes, that’s the kind of bad day Officer Tang was facing. And yes, her emotions were going to cloud her judgement.

– Sammy and Ben are still at it, with Sammy giving Ben a very large cold shoulder. Cooper is trying his best to cheer up Tang. Lydia and Ruben are still not on the same page. She doesn’t quite trust him as a partner yet, so she’s not spilling the beans about her pregnancy. Not yet anyway.

– Sammy and Ben roll up on a disturbance between two food vendors who’re arguing over a parking space. Sammy “burps” the siren once to let everyone know the police are on the scene. Sometimes that single little act is enough to stop a fighter in mid-swing. Saves a lot of unnecessary fighting with suspects. And, the siren noise often sends guys running whose pockets are filled with dope and/or guns. Like shooting fish in a barrel. They make it so easy for the good guys.

– Tang sees a man peering inside a car window and she instantly springs into action—show me your hands, put your hands on the car, spread your feet (cops always say spread your feet, not “spread your legs.” think about the reason for the choice of words), and then she cuffs him. Well, turns out the car belonged to the cuffed guy and he’d locked his keys inside. Cooper walks off to retrieve a Slim Jim from the patrol car (Slim Jims are flat pieces of metal designed to slip between the door frame and window glass. Once inside, officers are able to maneuver the device until it hooks onto the proper mechanism and a gentle push or pull unlocks the door. Newer cars prove to be problematic and often the use of a Slim Jim causes quite a bit of damage inside the door).

Tang issues a traffic ticket to a man who’s waiting curbside to pick up his wife. Sure, he’s blocking traffic but his wife is on crutches and is making her way out of a doctor’s office. She has a broken leg so stopping there was basically using common sense. Tang will not not listen to reason or apologies. Ticket issued. Sign here.

Yes, Tang is having a rotten day.

So are Sammy and Ben, and the pot finally boiled over when Sammy said to Ben, “This car (patrol car) is the one place where somebody’s supposed to have my back.” His meaning was clear. Ben betrayed him when he accused Sammy of planting a crack pipe on a gang member (see last week’s review).

Sammy’s cold shoulder and mistrust continued after Ben saved him from Crazy Carol’s stabbing attempt. Ben thought the act of saving Sammy would be enough to mend the relationship, but Sammy quickly told him differently. “What you did (tackling Crazy Carol) is your job.” Yes, this relationship may be over for good. But one thing that will never be over is the compelling need to protect another officer from physical harm. Hate one another or not, the back up, even if it’s only while on duty, will always be there.

– Lydia and Ruben are still plugging along, working the murder case involving, ironically, a pregnant woman who killed her drug dealing boyfriend/husband (I’m not sure which). There were some good points in these scenes, like when Lydia and Ruben go to the front door to knock and we see two uniformed officers hanging back in the front yard. That’s the way it’s done. Detectives often take uniforms along when they’re about to make an arrest. They do so for a few reasons. One – everyone recognizes a police uniform as authority. Not everyone immediately recognizes a detective. Two – back up. Three – safety in numbers. Four – patrol officers have cages in their cars and much safer to transport a prisoner in a cage than it is to wrestle with them in a detective’s car. Although, we saw Lydia and Ruben transport the woman in their car. Notice, though, that Lydia rode in the backseat with the female prisoner. That’s the standard when you transport without a cage. However, officers should always sit with their gun side away from from the prisoner. Or, lock the weapon in a secure location (trunk, etc.). I noticed that Lydia was seated to the woman’s left in this scene. Is she right- or left-handed? Where was her gun?

By the way, foot pursuits with pregnant women and fat men normally don’t last very long.

Okay, back to Tang. She and Cooper are in foot pursuit of a man with gun. The suspect is wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt.

Tang follows behind the guy, searching for him in back yards. Did you hear her heavy breathing. Believe me, the adrenaline is high in these situations. You try to be quiet so you don’t give away your position, but you just know the guy can hear you breathing. Your heart beats like a parade drum mallet against against the inside of your chest, another sound that’ll surely send bullets flying your way. But you push on, as did Tang.

Then it happened. Tang’s fraction of a second had arrived.

Her nerves were on edge. She knew there was a guy with a gun.


Heart pounding.


Divorce papers.

Not thinking clearly.



Center mass.

Tang shot the wrong guy, a kid with a toy gun.

However, the shooting was surely justifiable. The kid matched the description of the guy she’d been chasing. And he had a gun. She probably didn’t notice the orange tip (realistic-looking toy guns are required to have an orange tip on the barrel). It’s possible and highly probable that she didn’t. Besides, who’s to say a bad guy wouldn’t paint the tip of a real gun orange to give him that second or two advantage of “what if.” No doubt, the shooting was justified. But…

Tang does the unthinkable. To cover up her mistake, she removes the orange tip from the toy. This action is definitely not justifiable.

Cooper knows in his heart what she’s done. And that’s not what Cooper’s all about.

During the internal investigation, Tang, of course, doesn’t mention the cover-up.

But neither does Cooper. He does, however, confront Tang and tells her to go back inside and tell the truth about what she’d done.

Instead, Tang becomes defensive and goes home, where she digs into her pocket and comes out with the plastic, orange gun tip, and drops it into a bowl on a table beside the front door.

Cooper, troubled deeply about Tang, heads straight for his 12-step sponsor and a meeting. Anxiety’s conjuring up old cravings, and I’m pleased he chose this route instead of the alternative.

Tang, well, unfortunately we’re counting down her final days on the show. I’m pretty sad about her leaving because she was a great addition to the show. I only hope that Lucy Liu’s departure isn’t an omen of…No, I’m not going to say it. Let’s end this week on a happy note, with the possibility of a season 5 on our minds…

18 replies
  1. Steve
    Steve says:

    I’d never seen that website before, Allan, so that makes that the cleverest way somebody’s helped me make myself look like a fool in awhile.

  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    Mack, I think Chickie took down the rapist at the end of Season 2 (the one who dressed as a cop, yes?). I do miss her, though.

    I’ve got a question about this episode that wasn’t addressed in the recap. At least two out of three of Cooper, Tang, and Coop’s “babysitter” talk about “FID”. I know FID’s filling the role that in most shows would be called “internal affairs”, but what’s it stand for? And how is that sort of thing typically handled?

    I liked Tang and wish the writers had decided to keep her. If they had to write out another cast member, couldn’t they have had Dewey take it in the neck for his candidness with that video crew? Or kill somebody else out of the blue like they did with Nate… as long as it isn’t Cooper. They could make this The John Cooper Show and I’d love it…

  3. Alan Smith
    Alan Smith says:

    I was watching season 3 again and I noticed that Sammy was wearing a D2S uniform. Does that make him a Sergeant equivalent instead of a P3?

    Ben has always been a little almighty n self righteous. He did subtly accused Cooper of stealing narcotics while they were seizing evidence in Season 3. Cooper just have him the seizure form and told him off. Sammy would probably move on with the issue soon.

  4. Audrey
    Audrey says:

    ALEX: Nobody said Southland needs to be a soap opera. Precisely the opposite, actually. You’re coming across as very confrontational, as evidenced by the fact that some of your comments needed to be removed.

    I suggest you relax. That’s where to begin with me. Honestly.

  5. Angie
    Angie says:

    Still not impressed with the season. I keep hoping it will get better but it hasn’t. I really enjoy the reviews, just wish I enjoyed the show. This season has been a real disappointment.

  6. Alex
    Alex says:

    Anastasia (comment removed by site police)

    Just because you don’t like this season, doesn’t mean the writers made a mistake; you’re in a very vocal, very small minority (as the ratings have proven) who think that ‘ZOMG Southland needs to be a soap-opera!’ That’s the exact OPPOSITE of what it should be.
    I’m glad you don’t write for this show.

    Audrey: I honestly don’t even know where to begin with you. I’d say, if anything, this season is less sanitized than season 1, as well as more focused.

  7. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    I loved the closing scene with Ben and Sammy. I understand Sammy being beyond ticked, and he’s right to be upset. But how long is he going to let it go?

    Granted, we don’t know how many days ago it happened, but it’s been two or three at least. Sammy’s acting like it’s an unforgivable sin, which isn’t at all in keeping with what he told Sal at the end of last season. Yeah, Sammy’s started standing up for himself a little more than he did in the past, and he’s got at least a few years on Ben. But carrying this grudge as long as he is seems out of character. I wonder if there’s some backstory coming. Glad to see Ben sticking up for himself, too.

    I like Ruben. It’s good to see Lydia with a partner who’s squared away, and cares about the partnership. Their last scene was good too.

    I like Tang. I think one reason we don’t know that much about her is that we’ve only seen her for 7 episodes at this point. She’s always struck me as a very defensive person, and she’s had to be, given what she went through after her beating. Keep in mind she’s probably still healing emotionally from that beating too; it was just a year or so ago in the series, if I recall the timestamp correctly. I’d like to see her stay on next season.

    And I wouldn’t mind hearing from or about Chickie or Josie (although Josie and Lydia didn’t really part on good terms). have to wonder if Josie’s son is the father of Lydia’s baby. THAT would be an interesting scene.

  8. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    Mack, I think Chickie has gone on to SWAT now, I recall she was working towards that goal last season and I think she’d been accepted. This season, when they were in the porn shop, Dewey said that Chickie’s now at Metro.

  9. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    SP – I’ve seen that policy in effect in several locations. Thanks for clarifying the LAPD’s policy. Somehow I knew they’d have it right.

  10. Snowprince
    Snowprince says:

    Lee, great review as usual. I’ve had my “moments” too and they’re still banging around in my head. I’ve often used the cancer analogy. They can go into remission, but there is no cure. They’re NEVER going away.

    Your note on transporting a suspect in a non cage car is well taken, but for LAPD the positioning is right. The passenger officer rides on the left, so as not to put the suspect directly behind the driver officer. Should the suspect want to attempt to attack/interfere with the driver, theoretically the passenger officer is in position to intercept them. Problematic for right handed officers and as you said, their weapon would be secured in the trunk or other location.

  11. Mack
    Mack says:

    As long as we are wishing, to what Audrey and Anastasia said I would like to add — What is Chickie doing now, after taking down the rapist at the end of last season.

    Lee, what did you think of the scene where Sammy obliges the Bar Mitzvah boy by handcuffing him in front of the girl he wants to impress? I think I’d have done it in the same situation.

  12. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    Audrey’s right, without the personal stories this season, the characters can easily go flat, two-dimensional. I miss Sal and his story, his wife, teen daughter, and mistress issues. I loved seeing Cooper with his boyfriend Cesar, and I really liked Sammy and his wife and their problems. Dewey and his alcoholism and rehab/recovery was a fantastic story line. Lydia has her dating issues and her relationship with her cool mom. But best of all, Ben and his family–his loopy mother and his estranged father, John Heard! Casting genius! In those early stories he wasn’t a sex-obsessed frat guy, he was real and likable. These personal stories make the characters human, realistic people we can relate with, so when they have a bad day like Tang had, we can *feel* it. Instead, we don’t know much more about Tang than the random guy waiting in his SUV for his wife with the broken leg. We don’t care that she’s been served with divorce papers because we don’t know her or her husband or their issues. Michael Cudlitz said in an interview that this season the writers deliberately avoided the personal side of the characters to focus on their days on the job, in the car, on the street. But the writers surely know this is a terrible mistake? It’s hard to care about characters who are flat and have no back story, no personal stories going on. It’s a testament to how great the actors are and how good the previous seasons have been that interest in this season hasn’t dried up for me. But this season is NOT living up to SouthLAnd standards, even though there some really great gems in each episode.

  13. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Great review and commentary of your experience added in. This all makes wonderful and memorable information for writers. Love it. Here’s hoping there’s a season five. If Lucy Lu goes, I can’t help but wonder who will be Cooper’s new partner.

  14. Audrey
    Audrey says:

    I agree with SaraK. The Lydia pregnancy story is really dragging. It has to come out in the open so that it’s really dealt with. And I really miss Josie as Lydia’s partner. There was some real fire between those two.

    Aside from the first episode, I’ve been a tad disappointed with this season to date. It’s feeling rather soap opera-ish to me. It seems more “sanitized” and less gritty this season. Ben and Sammy just keep circling and circling. Ben is just obsessed with women. We don’t see any of Sammy’s interactions with his ex-wife or kid, so he’s becoming a bit two-dimensional to me. Cooper didn’t even know Tang was married — and we’re just as much in the dark about her as he is, so there isn’t much opportunity to feel a connection to her.

    I still love the show and wouldn’t want to miss an episode…but I just keep waiting for a “whoa!” moment — there were so many of them last year.

  15. SaraK
    SaraK says:

    I actually held my breath when reading your description of your worst day. You write so beautifully.
    I love this show, and I absolutely love Tang and Cooper together. Excellent plot for them this week. Unfortunately, everyone else had to suffer. The Lydia story lines are getting tiresome, and Ben and Sammy had nothing juicy at all, although we are being shown their relationship unraveling. Can’t wait to see the ramifications of that.

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