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Terriers: "Quid Pro Quo"

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“Is there any… hope?” That question, tossed out casually, hangs over the penultimate episode of Terriers first season like a bad mood. In the real world, fans are anxious to hear whether Terriers has been picked up for a second season, and anxious to see if the show’s creative team can wrap up this season’s master-plot in a way as surprising and satisfying as the series has been thus far. Meanwhile, in the world of the show, this week we learn the full extent of Ben Zeitlin’s plans for Ocean Beach, and how far he’ll go to secure them. And, well … it ain’t looking too good for our heroes.


First to Zeitlin. Early in “Quid Pro Quo,” Hank and Laura lay out what they’ve learned about the shady attorney’s scheme: mainly that he’s been acting both as counsel and shadow-counsel for a number of different real-estate consortiums, all of which are financing projects that have been set up to fail, so that Zeitlin can raze huge sections of Ocean Beach and build an airport. I have some thoughts on the thematic significance of that plot, but I’ll save them for next week, as kind of a grand summation of the season (and perhaps the series). For now, what matters is how Zeitlin’s grand design affects our heroes. If he gets his way, then all the surfers, bloggers, amateur pharmacists, students, techno-geeks, and unlicensed P.I.s of Ocean Beach may well lose their little corner of the world.

So following Laura’s lead, Hank puts his snooping skills to work to assemble the evidence that proves what Zeitlin is up to, operating under the “sunlight is the best disinfectant” theory. But Hank being Hank, he also makes time to investigate Laura’s investigation, specifically trying to figure out the identity of Laura’s source inside Zeitlin’s office—a woman whose name even Laura doesn’t know. Hank also zeroes in on one piece of information in all the documents about Zeitlin’s activities: that the architect on one of the doomed projects is his ex-wife Gretchen’s new husband Jason Adler. Hank shows up at the job-site, figuring he’ll blow Jason’s mind—or maybe expose him as an accomplice—but instead Jason shoos him away publicly while privately passing him a note that reads, “Not Here … 1 hr … Your Place.” Later, Jason explains that while he’s been on this project, he’s felt like he’s being watched, and stalled. As much as Hank may want Jason to be a stooge, or a crook, he remains a decent dude—perhaps to a fault.


While all this is going on, Britt’s going through his own mini-arc: one so full of incident and nuance that it more than makes up for last week’s one-note bender. He begins the episode in jail, suffering through a cell mate’s babbling about midget wrestling, and then he’s bailed out by Ben Zeitlin (because Hank can’t get the money together in time). Zeitlin wants the disc of scandalous info that Hank has lied about having, but Britt—who’s not inclined to lie or to try and get what he wants in a roundabout way—tells Zeitlin straight up that Hank’s bluffing and adds that since he himself isn’t an Ocean Beach native, his take on Zeitlin’s business is that “If you want to take something and make it into something else, I’m fine with it.” All Britt asks is that Zeitlin leave Hank alone and help him get out of the aggravated battery charge he’s facing for beating the crap out of the man he mistakenly thought was Katie’s lover. And in exchange, Britt’s willing to help Zeitlin find the source of the leak in his office.

It’s both sweet and tragic, Britt’s behavior in “Quid Pro Quo.” He has such faith in people and in his direct approach to dealing with those people. Following a lead from Zeitlin, Britt tracks a Z&A employee named Ashley to a laundromat, where he pretends to be a student—in vet school (!)—and makes a date with her for later. He then goes to see Zeitlin on a bad-ass luxury yacht and lets him know that the hook has been baited, passing on what he’s already learned about Ashley. (“Ringo’s her favorite Beatle.”) Britt goes out with Ashley, charms her, has sex with her—for a little bit of revenge against Katie—and then comes clean, warning her to stop leaving packages for Laura. The only problem? Ashley’s not the mole. And when she finds out that Britt lied to her, she flips out.

The end result of Hank and Britt’s separate meddling is that Laura goes to a liquor store to meet with her source, and brings Jason with her. And both Jason and the source end up dead—riddled with bullets.

Given how willing Terriers has been to take unexpected turns, I shouldn’t have been that surprised that Jason got killed. But it was just such a cold-blooded way to go—especially given Hank and Britt’s inadvertent culpability in Jason’s death. And what comes next is just as cold. Hank runs to see the one man he thinks can help: city councilman Sam Albrecht, who reads Laura’s blog (“on my Kindle”) and has pledged to stand up for Ocean Beach’s spirit of Freedom, Independence, and Iconoclasm, to keep the town the way our heroes like it: “lousy.” But when Hank bursts into Albrecht’s office during a meeting, the councilman suddenly doesn’t have the time for him anymore. Either Zeitlin’s gotten to Albrecht or Albrecht was feeding Zeitlin information all along.


The episode ends with Hank giving up the rest of his Lindus bearer-bonds to buy an arsenal from a local arms dealer. But I was more shaken by an earlier scene, when Gretchen gets the call that Jason’s dead, and rushes into Hank’s arms for comfort. Hank has ruined Gretchen’s life yet again and may come out ahead in the deal.

That’s the kind of touch to character and plot that I look for from Terriers—ironic in an old-school way, not a bludgeoning, symbolic one. “Quid Pro Quo” is full of those little moments that make we who’ve invested so much in these characters either smile or shudder (or both): like when Hank watches Jason call Gretchen to say he’ll be coming home late or when Katie reads the police report on Britt’s assault or when Katie goes to see Gretchen and they commiserate about their unreliable exes or when Britt refuses to laugh at one of Hank’s standard jokes because Britt’s still a little pissed at him or when Britt blows up at Laura because he doesn’t like her taking charge of their investigation. This is the kind of shit you’re not going to get from No Ordinary Family. This is what happens when writers think through who their characters are and how they behave and the actors take all those little details and work them into characters that we easily come to understand and even care about.


So … is there any hope? With a show this good: always.

Stray observations:

  • Gustafson’s on suspension after his partner’s arrest last episode. How much do you want to bet that he’ll play a major role in the finale?
  • Laura to Hank, as they go to spring Britt: “Our third date, and this is the second time you’ve brought me to a police station.”
  • Britt’s reaction on hearing he may be facing three years in prison: “I’m totally douched here, aren’t I?”
  • When Laura asks for the odds that Britt will forgive Hank, Hank replies, “75-25 …  but I’m not sure in which direction.”
  • Sam Albrecht has a urination stream “like a 19-year-old” because he ejaculates twice a day.
  • Laura, getting right into the spirit of Terriers banter, says of Jason’s project that she “built something like this once … nine of diamonds brought it down.”
  • Hank on Jason’s environmental consciousness: “His Prius runs on tofu.”
  • Britt, worried: “My brain is about to shit itself!”
  • Hank’s underworld contact: “You know what I miss? Small talk.” Hank: “You know what I miss? The Mesozoic Era.”
  • “You smell like a girl. Did you …?”
  • “You two lead interesting lives.” “So our governesses say.”