Magic City: “Adapt Or Die”
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Magic City: “Adapt Or Die”

When we last left Ike Evans, he was jet-setting his way to Cuba, and as we join him a week later, he’s just landing (what with planes having flown so much slower in 1959 than they do nowadays, that seems about right) and, in short order, is in a cab and on his way to the Riviera. To say that it’s a slightly different environment than the Miramar Playa is a fair statement—to date, it seems like Ray-Ray does a fine job at keeping livestock out of the lobby— but it’s one that nonetheless familiar to Ike, who steps into the ballroom and is immediately lost in memories of Vera onstage, shaking her moneymaker. But that was then and this is now, and with Cuba being in the state it is at the moment, the place is, as his friend Rafael sighs, “more soldiers than tourists” nowadays.

On Rafael’s suggestion, Ike meets with the lady with all the power, henceforth to be referred to as Madame Minister, and peddles a pretty speech about all the millions Cuba’s missing out on. In return, she offers him a look that lies somewhere between bemusement and pity, teases him about being the living embodiment of the American dream, and insinuates that America/Cuba team-ups have a history of leaving Cuba with the short end of the stick. Still, the conversation—which is chock full of sexual tension, as is de rigueur for all of Ike’s chats with members of the opposite sex—ends with the two shaking hands and Madame Minister promising to check him out and get back with him.

Meanwhile, back in Miami, morning has broken, and Ben’s wandering around his den of debauchery, where all of the lovely ladies lie exhausted, as well you’d expect them to be in the wake of an orgy. (I mean, I don’t know first-hand or anything, but I’ve seen Caligula, which I’ve always taken to be 100% historically and sexually accurate.) Even surrounded by all the nakedness, though, Ben seems only aware of one thing: the woman he took to be his wife from a distance isn’t Lily after all, which clearly annoys him. The next time he does see her, he bemoans the failure of the previous evening and tells her outright, “I want Stevie back.” Her expression is hard to read, but surely at least one of the thoughts racing through her mind involved the realization that Ben’s utterly incapacitated when he’s inside his little steam machine.

And speaking of Ben getting steamed, Bel also aids in that process by filling him in on the details of Nicky Grillo’s gun-running operation, which—what are the odds?—ties into Victor’s storyline when it’s revealed that it’s El Tiberon Nicky’s selling to. Time will tell what’s going to go down with this anti-Castro gang, but one thing’s for sure: El Tiberon has very specific ideas on what guns he wants to bring to the revolution, and he’s not going to settle for Nicky’s cut-rate shit. (It’s important to have standards, you know.) Somewhat surprisingly, Ben tells Bel to keep his ear to the ground, find out when Nicky’s moving his merchandise, and then let the D.A. have the bust. Better to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, I suppose, but given Lily’s personal connection to Nicky, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get taken out before all’s said and done.  

As for Stevie, Ben decides to ensure his presence in Lily’s life by “inviting” him to start running his poker game, a development which makes Stevie understandably uneasy. The whole Ben / Stevie thing has quickly done from disconcerting to downright disturbing, with Ben now seemingly trying to groom Stevie to be a protégé of sorts. It makes an odd sort of sense, though: he knows Stevie’s got some serious stones, given the way he saved Bel, and he also knows that he’s got Stevie under his thumb even more than he’s got Ike. That’s a combination that makes for a pretty decent go-to man when he needs something done. But was I interpreting Lily and Stevie’s intimate encounter later in the episode correctly? It seemed to end rather abruptly, which leads me to believe that the close proximity to Ben is taking its toll on Stevie’s concentration. Thing is, would that piss Ben off, or would he get off on knowing that he’s the cause of it? (Maybe I need to go watch Caligula again.)

Before remaining in Miami for the long haul, let’s quickly bounce back to Cuba and wrap up Ike’s goings-on. Having wrapped up his business meeting, he makes good on his promise to bring home Maria’s ashes (as far as anyone knows), thereby confirming that we’ll be seeing a microphone installed in El Tiberon’s room at the Miramar Playa pretty soon. The Cuban official assures Ike, “We didn’t do this,” but Ike is in no way assuaged, snapping back, “Somebody did.” The next time we see him, he’s winging his way back home, and, hey, look who his seat buddy is! If you’re wondering, yes, the timeline’s more or less on the money: Jack Ruby did visit Cuba in 1959, although they’re fudging the date a bit. (It’s just days after Passover on the show, whereas Ruby’s trip took place in August.) But, hey, it’s probably just a quick cameo, so close enough.

Back home, Vera’s continuing to dance her ass off, though she’s discovering that she’s more out of shape than she’d believed herself to be, a fact which is proving extremely annoying…almost as annoying as Meg spoiling Lauren by showering her with gifts. Her temper already frayed by her inability to re-master her fancy footwork, Vera manages to piss off Lauren, who seemed to have enjoyed the quality time with her aunt at least as much as the clothes she got out of the deal, and then really whips out the claws on Meg, icily replying to her description of Lauren as “my sister’s daughter” with the words, “She’s my daughter now.” I may have imagined that Meg twitched at the words, but either way, her reply was, in its own way, almost as catty: “Good luck on your performance.” It might not have been a direct hit, but it’s undoubtedly one of the factors involved her decision take one of Dr. Bobby’s happy shots by episode’s end. If the combination of amphetamines (or whatever’s in that magic injection) and exhaustion gets her as wound up as I expect it will, we can expect a major catfight on the horizon.

Danny’s storyline is moving seriously slow so far this season, but this week served to set up some stuff that’ll hopefully pay off in subsequent episodes, including the introduction of Suzy, the D.A.’s daughter, a tour through Miami’s lovely heroin district—who knew the city even had one?—to remind Danny that Jack Klein’s still got an interest in taking down someone other than Ike Evans, and a visit to see Judi Silver at her new location. The meeting between Danny and Ike is predictably tense, and the look on Ike’s face when it’s over reveals a man who’s been reminded that it’s eventually going to come down to telling Danny the truth and finding out whether or not he’s going to choose family over justice.

We also meet Eddie Blue this week, a casino guy whose appearance adds a bit more urgency to the gambling-bill storyline. He might be clean, according to Vincent, but he’s also not the least bit intimidated by Ike or his resident goon, so you know he’s not going to go away quietly, but Ike’s still trying desperately to maintain the line he’s drawn in the sand in regards to keeping gambling out of his hotel. Ben—who of course goes to cockfights for fun—rationalizes the decision to spend money on casino renovations in advance of the bill being passed as just another bet, telling Ike that’s it’s all down to natural selection. “Adapt or die” are the only options Ben sees, but Ike’s got an ace up his sleeve in the form of Teresa the sexy elevator operator. Again with the sexual tension! Jeffrey Dean Morgan, you are obviously a sex god, sir, and I salute you.

We start the wrapping-up process with two different family affairs. The first involves Ike being invited to an impromptu fashion show at Meg’s, with Lauren showing off how she looks in her mother’s old dress. (It’s probably no coincidence that the three of them look like the perfect little family when they’re standing together.) The big takeaway from the visit, however, is Meg’s story about her father was part of the Secret Six, specifically the bit where she discusses how they successfully (if temporarily) ran the mob out of Miami in ’46. Expect to see Ike try to utilize some of his former father-in-law’s old tricks. From there, it’s over to say farewell to Maria, which proves to be just as sad as you’d expect it to be, with Yul Vazquez really getting a chance to shine as Victor listens “one final time” to the song that played when he and Maria shared their first kiss. It’s sad stuff, especially when the music also serves as soundtrack to Vera succumbing to the lure of the happy shot and Stevie suffering through another poker game with Ben, so it’s nice that the episode actually ends on what appears to be a much happier note, with Ike getting a call from Madame Minister which, based on his expression, seems to be one filled with good news.

Stray observations:

  • “Towel me.”
  • It wasn’t long and it was far more about what we didn’t see than what we did, but I thought the scene at the fishery was great. Hello, chum…
  • As a Sherilyn Fenn aficionado, I was immediately struck by the fact that she’s now been in two projects that feature Jack Ruby as a character. (Last time, she was a blonde bombshell.) Surely my awareness of this fact will be the thing that finally seals the deal and secures me the Random Roles with her that I so desperately want.
  • I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure the spot where Vera requested a massage didn’t have anything to do with dancing. Except horizontally.
  • “What would you do if you knew where the Devil lived?” Am I the only one who heard echoes of The Usual Suspects in that monologue?
  • “You are a fucking fountain of good news today, Sidney.” “That’s why I’m here.”
  • Ike’s right: his former father-in-law did know his Scotch: a bottle of 1926 Macallan’s was literally the most expensive bottle of Scotch ever…as I’m quite sure the writers knew.
  • The Secret Six were a real organization, but I’m not sure which of their real members —James L. Knight, Miami Herald publisher; Dan Mahoney, Miami Daily News publisher; Frank Kazentine, principle owner of radio station WKAT; McGregor Smith, president of the Florida Power and Light Company; George Whitten, principal owner of Burdines; and John Clark principle owner of the Hialeah Race Track—Molly’s and Meg’s dad is supposed to be. And, no, I didn’t know all of that stuff off the top of my head. I read it here.
  • So which is going to happen first: Maria falling for the thin-mustached Antonio or Danny either succumbing to Judi’s charms or becoming smitten with Suzy? I’m betting Danny’s the one who fucks thing up, personally.

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