One thing that’s surprised me about the comments this seasons: It seems like some of you commenting below don’t care for the Sofia / Toni plotline, which has simmered all season and boils over in “Can I Change My Mind.” Did this episode change that for you? As tensions reach a head, Sofia almost offhandedly slips the question “Why did he do it?” into her fight with her mother. The way Toni responds says a lot, expressing no shock at the question, just sadness, as if she’s known that Sofia has known for a while. And that Sofia has known she knows too. It’s just a matter of bringing it to light, as happens here, in a police station parking lot, in the middle of the day as cars pass unaware of the human drama unfolding.
I’ve appreciated this plotline and I like the way it plays out here. Watching her mother melt down, Sofia’s demeanor changes in an instant, as if she only needed her mom’s acknowledgment of Creighton’s suicide to bring her acting out to an end. The blue streak in her hair might remain, but I’m not sure she’ll be toking up and riding around with strange boys in the future. It’s been the suppression of the truth that’s distorted her personality. Whether that’s true or not to how teenagers process grief, I’m not sure, but it feels true to the character we’ve come to know, a good kid forced to deal with a lot of bad business. Both India Ennenga and Melissa Leo play it well, too. Leo, who can certainly go big as anyone who’s seen The Fighter can attest, plays Toni understatedly. When that understatement breaks, it’s immediately alarming. But it’s the only possible reaction, really, to telling the truth to her daughter after so long a time trying to keep it hidden.
What’s repressed inevitably returns. At least it does with this episode, as Ladonna tries her best to hide her rape from her husband and then sees her efforts unravel in an instant due to an attorney’s unwitting slip of the tongue. It’s the episode’s other devastating moment, as Ladonna realizes that the one humiliation she’s been able to keep from Larry has been brought to light. Maybe she was right to try and keep it from him. His response is unreadable. And as solid as Larry has been, it’s tough knowledge to hear, and tougher still to know it was kept from you. On the other hand, what Ladonna was doing clearly wasn’t working for her. Though done with the tests and the medicine, she’s drinking and smoking too much and just generally sinking away. This might not help that.
Other characters, however, appear to be on an upward swing. Davis debuts DJ Davis And The Brassy Knoll and it’s… well, it’s not bad. Annie and Aunt Mimi certainly like it and so does the small, but enthusiastic crowd. Whether or not it’s the thing that will push New Orleans music forward seems questionable, but with the brass band and Ace B’s rhymes, he may be on to something. And while Davis’ W impression is no threat to Will Ferrell, it earns its place in the show. Sonny, too, seems to be moving on and moving up. The oyster-boat cure has proven surprisingly effective and he’s got a friend willing to serve as a tough love-enforcing guardian angel. It might not last, but this change has made it possible to care about Sonny again. Or maybe just for the first time. Freed—or at least removed—from his habit, he’s charming and easygoing. It’s easy to see how Annie might fall for a guy like that and others might go out of their way to make sure he doesn’t fall any further. (In other words, Sonny’s starting to feel less-and-less like the show’s track-marked Jar-Jar Binks, the character whose mere appearance inspires hostility.)
Janette’s plot has felt a bit removed from the rest of the series for most of the season, and while that doesn’t really change here, it’s starting to run parallel to Annie’s storyline. Though respected in their fields and immersed in the cultures of food and music, respectively, they’ve spent the year learning how little they know. Janette’s had to start from zero in New York, leaving her own restaurant to fulfill the visions of others as she joins and parts ways with—amicably or otherwise—a series of tutors. Annie, meanwhile, has learned what it’s like to move from being a player to a songwriter with Harley’s help. I’ve expressed annoyance about the way this plot has played out—with Annie seeming like too much a naïf, particularly two episodes ago. I don’t take that back, but the show’s now better conveying how hard it is to leap from one world to the other, and the scene where Annie plays her song with Harley, with Davis lingering just out of sight, gives it a beautiful payoff. Janette, meanwhile, appears to be working toward some kind of breakthrough, taking what she already knows and incorporating it into what she’s learning from Eric Ripert and David Chang. (Also, I’ve never eaten at either’s restaurant, so I can’t compare cuisines. But Chang can certainly out-act Ripert.)
Elsewhere, on the musical front, Del’s working toward a synthesis of his own, lining up talent for his modern/traditional New Orleans fusion album that ranges from Ron Carter and Dr. John to his father, with the lattermost proving more different to persuade than the all-stars. And Antoine’s both taking an ever-expanding interest in teaching and in his role as a family man. In the midst of flirting with the women in the crowd, as usual, he locks eyes with Desiree, who makes an unexpected appearance. He doesn’t seem to mind at all.
Also, Nelson gets deeper into the behind-the-scenes world of New Orleans, Jacques remains in jail, and Toni and the private investigator uncover more details of this season’s ongoing police cover-up mystery. These scenes get a little less emphasis and at times seem included just to move those plots along. In fact, “Can I Change My Mind?” spends more time pushing the plot forward that most episodes of Treme, but it’s never at the expense of depth. All the threads, even those belonging to (temporarily?) far-flung characters like Janette are starting to come together beautifully. While I’ve enjoyed this season quite a lot, this week’s episode and last’s have seen it settling nicely into a groove it looks to ride for a while. I know the ratings for the show have dropped this year, but those of us who have stuck around are being richly rewarded.
• Dr. John makes a return this week. Have you checked out early albums like Gris Gris and Dr. John’s Gumbo? I’d recommend them.
• That’s Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills—fronting the modern lineup of the band—who plays with Harley and Annie onstage. A family band with an unearthly gift for harmonies, The Cowsills were the inspiration for The Partridge Family. I’m not sure if Susan Cowsill still lives in New Orleans or not. Her brother, and bandmate, Barry Cowsill died in the days after Katrina.
•“Absotively. You better hurry up and know that.”