Southland: Off Duty – A Review

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



17 replies
  1. Kate
    Kate says:

    Another Kate here: I didn’t find the scene in the bar baffling at all. John is terrified of *real* intimacy. He had a shell of a marriage to a woman he couldn’t really love, he kept Caesar at arms length (so distant that Caesar actually became another person and he didn’t seem to notice!), and when faced the the opportunity (or threat) of forging a real bond of friendship with Ben, he deliberately sabotages it by refusing to provide the nugget of wisdom he was about to, then letting Ben believe he was still taking narcotics.

    John is desperately lonely but doesn’t know how to let go of his fear in order to make those human connections. That’s a familiar feeling, I’m sad to admit.

  2. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    I finally got to watch this episode. Wow! I agree with Melanie. Lydia’s relationship bothered me. I know why she did, but I can’t even imagine how tough it was to do watch did.

    I’d forgotten Copper was married. It was nice to see his ex-wife again.

    I love this show and its characters. I look forward to your reviews.

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Yes, Southland is the most accurate cop show on TV. In fact, the cast and crew and everyone else involved in the show take great pains to get the details correct.

  4. Pat
    Pat says:

    Is Southland more accurate than other cop shows?

    Whenever I’ve asked officers what police shows they watch, they always tell me they don’t watch any because the shows never get it right. Just wondering.

    And I agree that Michael Cudlitz (Coop) deserves an Emmy nod. As does Regina King (Lydia). Both are creating can’t-keep-your-eyes-off-of-them characters.

  5. dlwater
    dlwater says:

    I looked at the episode again and I was wrong, he didn’t plant them on him but still… Ben is losing it real quick. When things start to go bad for him, he’ll be completely out of control.

  6. Kate
    Kate says:

    I actually really loved the small scenes with Cooper and his ex wife and Cooper and Dewey in the hospital. That said so much about these characters. The latter are probably my favourite characters on the show because they are both complex, flawed characters that still have so many redeeming qualities. I wouldn’t mind having those two as friends…

    Ben is in desperate need of a real friend. He obviously could have one in Sammy but his partner is still trying to deal with his own messed up private life.

    I wasn’t surprised by the Ben/Cooper interaction at all. Cooper, while he obviously was a great teacher for him, never apologized for his dangerous and selfish behaviour. Ben had to drop him of at a rehab clinic. I’m aware that an addiction isn’t a cold but Cooper at least could have said something AFTER rehab and the surgery-trying to make amends, like something…and I think therein lies the problem. Ben sees Cooper as a father figure. He’s obviously had a very bad relationship with his real one and now that he trusted Cooper, he’s feeling betrayed once again by a person that was supposed to be “better” nonetheless…

  7. Geoff Lin
    Geoff Lin says:

    I would have to say that this is the most interesting episode of Southland to date. I think Regina King and Zack Whedon did an excellent job with this one.

    I think the idea of retirement terrifies John. He stated his goal in Season 4 that he wanted to retire with 6 stripes (30 years) on his left sleeve. He’s got about 9 more years to go. All around him, he sees signs that perhaps his cop days may be coming to a close (maybe sooner than he would prefer). Also, that outside of being a cop, he doesn’t have much of a life elsewhere or with anyone.

    I think Ben is a slow moving train wreck in the making. I think he’s far gone from his more idealistic self when the series started. He’s far too willing to chase after any uniform chaser chick (his vice). As we’ve seen, he was a bit opportunistic in ratting out his high school friend to the narcotics squad in making a name for himself. He’s also fast becoming overly cynical and perhaps getting rougher around the edges. My prediction is that he and Sammy may clash again.

    Ben’s interaction with John in the bar was interesting and baffling. It seems that Ben still looks up to John as his FTO and yet he still judges John harshly for his prior painkiller addiction. What I don’t understand is why didn’t John explain to Ben that he’s just using Ibuprofen for a recent injury and that he’s been clean for almost 2 years now with an accountability partner to boot? And it’s a bit hypocritical from Ben considering that he’s got his own set of vices (his vanity and his throng of uniform chasing women).

    We would be nothing less than human without any sort of interesting contradiction. Dewey is crass, obnoxious, and many time politically incorrect. However, we see a glimpse of his home life. I would have never guessed that he had a gorgeous wife and two beautiful kids as a family man. I suppose it never stops being interesting in the Dudek household with a wild man as a dad.

    Lydia was just astounding. Her interactions with the death row inmate had vibes very reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs. It was smartly bone-chilling to say the least.

  8. 1015 Adam Henry
    1015 Adam Henry says:

    Not my favorite episode, but its nice to see Regina King coming in to her own from actress to director. From playing little sister to Ice Cube on Friday’s to Detective Lydia Adams, she is great in playing stoic, straight laced personalities with a touch of humanism that the regular person can relate to.

  9. Melanie Atkins
    Melanie Atkins says:

    Loved the episode and your review, Lee. Lydia writing the serial killer made me uncomfortable, even though I understand why she did it. That guy really upped the creep factor for me. Whoever the actor is did a great job.

  10. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    The guy that Ben and Sammy arrested was the brother of the girl Ben hooked up with later in the episode. I don’t think it was her boyfriend.

  11. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Meg’s right. Ben didn’t plant the drugs. Instead, he tipped off the narcs that his former friend was living too “high on the hog” for someone of legitimate means. As a result of Ben’s tip, they somehow got a search warrant and busted the guy.

  12. Meg
    Meg says:

    Ben didn’t planted the drugs. He never mentioned to his friend that he was a cop, and they hadn’t seen each other in years. So when his friend is arrested and sees Ben at the station, he’s shocked because he KNOWS that Ben was the one to narc him out. He openly told a cop, who he thought was a friend and civilian, that he was a drug dealer.

  13. dlwater
    dlwater says:

    Ben, Ben,Ben. Ben is becoming more and more undone. When I saw the look on that guy’s face as they brought him in,

    I knew that Ben had planted the drugs. For him to be willing to ruin someone’s life just to be the big man… I

    just…and all in competition with Sammy. And Sammy is in no condition to see it right now, with his issues with

    Tammy. Ben will take Sammy down with him, I fear. When this all goes bad, it is not gonna be pretty.

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