In previous episodes, Graceland has tried to sell a double bill of sun-drenched summer action shenanigans set alongside high-stakes undercover assignments with a close-knit crew. It’s been able to do one of these things better than the other; as such, it makes sense that one of the strongest episodes so far drops the beach volleyball and focuses on a slow downward spiral that feels like it’s playing out, not just playing off.
Front and center again is Charlie, whose heroin use last week leaves her trying to get sober in a safe house, courtesy of Briggs. When the brass summons her for a postmortem and she’s too shaky, Briggs, with the simpatico and wariness of someone who’s been here before, cooks her up some hair of the dog. It doesn’t work; Johnny sees her jitters, takes the fall for the blown op, and calls her out on what’s happened.
For the past few weeks, Johnny’s been pulling weight in the lighthearted storylines. In this episode, things get serious. Manny Montana’s up for it; his low-key lunchtime intervention with Charlie is the episode’s best scene (his role has been such that things rarely get to be left unsaid, and he and Vanessa Furlito make the most of every loaded pause between sips of soda).
Johnny also gets roped into Mike’s ongoing quest to make Bello pick up a sack of drugs on camera; there’s a heroin-packed missile off the coast, and Mike instantly convinces Bello to hire Johnny the Navy SEAL as retriever. Why not? Everything so far has gone Mike’s way, if he can forget about Eddie’s execution the way he apparently has. This confidence lasts until Johnny pulls out his “I don’t need this shit” shtick at his meeting with Bello.
It’s striking, less for the reaction from Bello than for the reaction it gets from Mike, who’s approached Bello with the same yes-sir mirroring he tried on Briggs and who panics at the idea of Bello getting pushback. That’s nothing compared to how Mike panics when Bello orders Johnny shot when he surfaces with the drugs. Or how Mike panics when the booby-trapped missile detonates, leaving him convinced he’s killed a fellow agent. (Mike’s blood pressure during this entire episode is not great.)
Johnny, of course, is fine; Briggs tipped him off safely, without telling Mike. (Cold.) Mike cold-cocks Briggs for his trouble, and walks out even more determined to catch Briggs in the act of whatever Briggs is suspected of being in the act of. Unfortunately for Mike, despite the hint that the torpedo Briggs turned in wasn’t as tightly packed with drugs as it normally would be (the more you know), the only thing he catches Briggs doing is going to an NA meeting, and Briggs catches him right back.
This feels like an episode the show’s been waiting to get to. The parallel caught-out-with-heroin stories start to unpack the underlying delusion of the Graceland lifestyle: that you can do this for any length of time and it won’t catch up with you. Mike might be new enough to be surprised that a kingpin who practically ordered a lieutenant’s suicide would be willing to kill again, but Charlie’s a vet who knows better, and still finds herself picking the worst-case scenario just to maintain a real-life cover, alongside a boss who’s done it before. With Briggs and Johnny as bridge characters, functionally and metaphorically caught in the middle, the episode hits a natural rhythm while creating enough momentum to carry everyone forward.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the carryover’s equal. As the episode wraps, Mike’s apparently avoided consequences despite Bello’s freakout about the blown drugs; his most pressing problem is finding a bar where he won’t run into another of Paige’s dealer dates. Meanwhile, an unsteady Charlie promises Johnny that her shooting days are over, but the episode’s last words –“Hi, my name is Paul, and I'm a heroin addict” –suggests that she’ll be dealing with these shadows soon enough.
- This is the second episode in a row where Jakes doesn’t even appear. Let’s hope they find a way to bring him back in soon; they probably shouldn’t drop another regular, having already shunted Lauren into the great desk job in the sky.
- Wouldn’t it be amazing if Abby turned out to be the criminal mastermind behind Bello’s heroin deal? Or if Abby turned out to have a personality at all besides being the Girl Mike Mustn’t Be Honest With?
- The homework Mike’s saving on Johnny’s DVR: Rawhide, Outlaw’s Daughter, The Silver Whip, The Gunfighter, Deep Springs Valley.
- Since Westerns have now shown up twice, let’s assume it’s a through-line and take a look at what’s happening under the titles. The Gunfighter, Bello’s favorite, is about a worn-out quick draw trying to leave his old identity behind; no thematic surprises there. The Silver Whip, on the other hand, is about a veteran stagecoach guard who vouches for a rookie on a big job that goes horribly wrong, turning the vet into a vigilante and pitting him against a rookie determined to take him down. Just saying.