The Shield: “Jailbait” / “Tapa Boca”
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The Shield: “Jailbait” / “Tapa Boca”

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The Shield (Classic)

"Tapa Boca"

Season 5, Episode 4

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The Shield (Classic)

"Jailbait"

Season 5, Episode 3

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“Jailbait” and “Tapa Boca” (season five, episodes three and four; originally aired 1/24/2006 and 1/31/2006)

(Available on Hulu and Amazon Instant Video.)

Season five is not fucking around. Kavanaugh isn’t on hold until the finale. Everything’s in play already. “Jailbait” gives Vic a chance to catch up: The guys dig up intel on Kavanaugh, Corinne finds out exactly who this new friend is already, and everyone’s putting on a show for Lem’s wire. And “Tapa Boca” flushes the toilet. Everyone starts spinning when Vic makes a show for the mic that Aceveda’s briefing him on IAD. Kavanaugh gets spooked and makes no effort to hide that fright from either Aceveda or Emolia when he shows up to ferry her to another safehouse. Corinne gets spooked by Kavanaugh’s insinuation into her life and brings Dutch a little closer to things by alerting him to the fact that IAD is investigating Vic. Vic gets a lawyer—Laura Elena Harring’s Rebecca Doyle—for counsel, and she tips him off to the fact that Kavanaugh either has a witness or evidence against Lem. Hence the grand finale where Vic storms Emolia’s new safehouse, holds a knife to her throat, and considers, really considers, doing it.

“Jailbait” and “Tapa Boca” contain multiple references to the fact that Vic and the Strike Team are “the good guys.” For example, Corinne gets a rape victim to talk to them. “She’s not too big on cops. I told her you two were the good guys.” Or the way Vic frames his guys to Doyle. “This is about the system turning its back on four of their own.” I love it when Chiklis does that righteous stare out the bottom of his eyes. It’s the kind of look a drunk gives when he says he hasn’t been drinking.

That good-guy talk is mostly here for irony’s sake, but it fits into Kavanaugh’s take on things, which he tells Aceveda to explain why he hasn’t picked up anything yet. “The worst animal in the joint, 98 percent of the time, he’s just like everybody else. Anybody. It’s the other two percent that lands him where he is. And I’m going to know everything, everything about Vic Mackey. And when he goes into the two percent zone, I got him.” He’s right. He’s explaining the show. He’s explaining what makes Vic so compelling, that he can be good at keeping the streets safe legally. It’s the other two percent that separates him from the rest of us.

Aceveda’s not wrong, though. Kavanaugh isn’t picking up on anything, because Vic is already playing him. The first time is exciting, Shane suddenly having to tell a long joke while the others type questions to Lem about his situation. It’s even better when Kavanaugh listens to the tape and busts out laughing at the punchline (“Death by chi-chi”). Now that the Strike Team is back to illicit scheming, The Shield regains its sense of caper, like when they broke into Aceveda’s safe. In “Tapa Boca,” the writers take advantage of the fact that Ronnie is the expendable one, not Lem, and keep sending him to the bathroom with Lem’s mic so the others can talk. Kavanaugh says he has a 15-year sentence hanging over Lem, but Shane either knowingly or not cuts that down to five. He’s always spinning. Vic’s immediately put off that Shane would consider letting Lem do time, but Shane just wants the bottom line. “You’re gonna look out for us, right?” There’s a long pause as the camera finds Lem and then sort of recoils as he just stares across the table at Shane. Eventually: “Yeah.” (That moment will come up again later.) Other delightful topics brought up by Shane this week include Lem burning the money and the fact that Shane was willing to kill his bad guy to stay out of jail. Maybe that’s what Vic was thinking about with that knife to Emolia’s throat. Without her, what happens to Kavanaugh’s case against Lem?

Vic’s final manipulation this week is a trip. As he waits there with the knife pressed against Emolia’s throat, a call snaps him out of it. “I found you once. I can do it again,” he tells her. It’s hard to imagine Vic cutting her throat anyway. Even if he were going to take her out, a knife is just so intimate. Then again, never underestimate Vic Mackey’s survival instinct. Anyway, as soon as he lets go he presses her for who she called that day. Her cousin. “You called her to get a message to her to tell me how to find you, got it?” A second later someone bursts in and Vic wheels around with his gun drawn. It’s Kavanaugh, and the standoff is breathless. Emolia covers for him, he threatens Kavanaugh about moving one of his CIs, and he walks out, Kavanaugh standing there with some story about working vice and his dick in his hands. At the end of “Jailbait,” Kavanaugh introduces himself to Vic, and when Vic leaves, Kavanaugh starts laughing about how good his prey is. In “Tapa Boca” he’s just aghast. His operation has been compromised, and in such a scary way. Vic was alone in a safehouse with his informant for who knows how long talking about who knows what. On top of that, he makes Kavanaugh look like an idiot, fumbling for explanations and trying to keep his cover. If a staged chat with Aceveda could ruffle Kavanaugh’s feathers like this, what is this face-off with Emolia going to do?

Vic’s not necessarily more together. He’s just better at maintaining that façade. He keeps preaching family to his flock. The first thing he does in “Jailbait” is rouse Shane and Ronnie so they can start working on a plan to free Lem. At the end of “Tapa Boca,” he finally gets Doyle to represent them. “We’re a team…we’re a family.” Remember those words. She says everyone eventually looks out for himself. But Vic says they’re different from the typical low-lifes she represents. Uh-huh. It’s a double insight into Vic’s state of mind, because he obviously believes he’s better than everyone else—outside of the rules, for instance, and probably even more good than bad—but he’s also grasping at weak evidence to convince himself that they will get through this.

In the name of keeping the family together, Vic puts on a show at the end of “Jailbait.” For Lem, for Kavanaugh, for himself. These episodes are full of performance and deception. “I feel like there’s some unfinished business between us,” he tells Lem in the clubhouse that night. “You thought I was hiding something from you. Here’s the truth. I swept through that house. I cleared that bathroom.” He’s looking down and left. Anyone read up on “microexpression facial action units?” Where’s Dutch when you need him? “At least I thought I did. Somehow Two-Time got past me. I left Terry exposed.” That’s when he looks Lem in the eye, and you think of the earlier scene where Aceveda talks about the feeling of Vic Mackey looking into your eyes and lying—and you know he’s lying—and making you doubt yourself. “I made a mistake. Never told anybody. I thought it was my fault. That’s something I’ve been living with for a long time now.” The camera holds on him staring at Lem. “Finally I decided to move on. Something you’re gonna have to push past, too.” He gets up and writes on a notepad, “We together?” Lem finally breaks the pause with a “Yeah.” They’re a team. They’re a family.

It doesn’t take a Kavanaugh to see how Shane’s dealing with all this. First he brings up Lem’s unpredictability with the Money Train. Vic’s last line to Shane in that scene: “Just got to stick together.” Later Shane entertains the notion of sending Lem to jail for all of them. The most telling scene is the moment before Vic’s big confession. Shane’s having sex with Mara, as deliciously vulgar as everything else in Farmington: naked butt, “I’m gonna come,” the camera going blurry for a moment, Shane grabbing a cigarette. Afterward Mara asks why he didn’t feel present, and he tells her about Lem. She gets worried, but he has some very comforting words for her. “Team’s one thing, but family’s another…I’m not gonna let anything happen to us.”

Stray observations:

  • “Jailbait” is written by Scott Rosenbaum and Glen Mazzara and directed by Stephen Kay, and “Tapa Boca” is written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain and directed by Guy Ferland.
  • Dutch and Claudette update: Dutch figures out Claudette’s sick, Claudette figures out Dutch’s new guy friend is interested in him, and both re-open the case against Evan Dane, eventually setting him free after all. Dutch’s time with the bad cops didn’t last very long.
  • There are a few lines in these episodes that serve in part to explain the show to viewers, sometimes thematically but in some cases procedurally. Like Julien explaining to Tina, “Let the detectives handle the interviews. We just need to preserve the crime scene.”
  • Lots of delightful crime scenes this week: the dead fat bastard slumped doggy style on top of a rufied, kidnapped girl; the road rage scene that results in a pregnant woman getting a streetside C-section; her baby smeared in bloody fingerprints in an alley with its ribs cracked open from idiot CPR; the chopped up body in the junkyard.
  • Also lots of unusual winners this week. Lem and Shane get a guy to confess to murder, and Danny handles the interview of the woman who assisted with the C-section.
  • How Do You Solve A Problem Like Tina? Everyone’s favorite trainee has a great episode in “Jailbait,” when she goes undercover to bust a sex slavery ring. First the van pulls over in an alley so Tina can audition with a bunch of guys before they get to the house, which the cops need to get to in order to free the sex slaves. After a bit of awkwardness, she leans into her accent and performance and says, “I got gonorrhea in my throat. Look, I’ll suck you guys off, but don’t hate me later if it burns.” When they get to the house and bust in, you can hear Tina screaming, “Vic! Vic!” But when we finally find her she’s not the one in danger. Tiny Tina had no weapons at her disposal and she’s got this big guy subdued on the bed. “Tapa Boca” is the “must come down” part of the equation. She forgets to check her gun before going into the pen armed with baton training, and then she transfers her anger onto Danny. It’s only been four episodes but yikes.
  • I love the tired way Tina translates when the old lady who helped coordinate the sex slavery ring gets abusive. “Listen to me, you piece of shit...”
  • Provocative that the old woman gets off on probation because Vic lets slip how important she is to arresting the rest of the bad guys. “You’d set her free?” he asks Doyle. “No. You will. And maybe next time you won’t make that mistake.” At the end he offers her another chance to find a loophole, and she still turns it down.
  • The Strike Team is faced with a similar dilemma when they get one house but don’t know how to get the rest of the ring within procedure with Kavanaugh listening to their every move. For a moment they seem to accept the fact that this is the price of busting the one house when they did. If they had waited, they could have saved more. It’s incredibly bleak. But then they convince some guy that he faces the death penalty and he gives up the other addresses. As Claudette explains to the audience later, “Cops are allowed to twist the facts to suspects.”
  • It’s Lem’s birthday in “Tapa Boca,” so Kavanaugh got him a fly. “You mention that you’re a fly fisher on one of the tapes.” Well, that’s one way to make friends.
  • Later he calls Aceveda for an update. “Lemansky’s birthday’s today. His best friends, they either don’t know, or they don’t care.” Aceveda flips. “That’s the update?!”
  • Dutch knows now. “IAD’s onto Vic. I wonder what they’ve got on him. I mean, probably take your pick.” I love it when he smiles that doofy grin.
  • “Captains and above only,” says Billings in the breath before forking over the list of safehouses to Vic when a more urgent matter requires his attention.

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