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Duly Noted

Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012, 2:12 pm

Treme Recap, Season 3, Episode 9: “Poor Man’s Paradise”

By Lindsay Beyerstein

The slow burn we've been watching all season has finally burst into flame. The theme of this episode is perseverence in the face of adversity, or lack thereof.

LaDonna's bar, GiGi's, is torched in a bid to stop her from testifying against her rapists, who have been waging a campaign of intimidation against her. Soon after, LaDonna makes an unexpected visit to Albert during his chemo infusion.

Back at the bar, before his first treatment, Albert told LaDonna that she had to show her tormenters that she wasn't afraid. LaDonna doesn't tell Albert that her bar--and his Indian practice space--is gone. “I just needed some quiet company,” she says. LaDonna is wearing her Sunday best. I wondered if she stopped by the clinic to soak up some of Albert's unwavering determination on her way to testify.

The day before the treatment, as Albert was dragging himself to a pickup drywall job, Delmond showed up with a $20,000 check from the Jazz Center developers for "consulting." Albert is skeptical. Later on, at a benefit gig, one of the trumpet players mentions to Delmond that he worked with the jazz center crew on their last bid to bring a performance center to New Orleans. "Have they roped you into anything yet?" the trumpet player wants to know. Delmond looks puzzled and slightly worried.

When Albert and Delmond sit down with the developers, Albert mentions that his Indians came out of Gigi's this year. "I don't suppose you folks know where Gigi's might be located," he says sarcastically. Albert is impressed when Nelson Hildalgo replies, "Off St. Bernard. Miss LaDonna, right?" Albert shoots Delmond a cryptic look. Delmond looks back as if to say "Damned if I know how he knew that." It's not clear whether Albert is pleased or suspicious, but you can see him reassessing the men he's dealing with.

Desiree and her blogger friend are doggedly investigating the city's scheme to refurbish and then demolish vacant homes before the owners know their rights.

Having sent Sofia away for her own safety, Toni Bernette is on the verge of abandoning her police brutality and murder probe of Officer Wilson because of unrelenting police pressure, but Bernard, a young man who was beaten by Officer Wilson, won't let her give up.

Toni insists it's too dangerous for five witnesses to bring brutality complaints against Wilson because that probably wouldn't be enough to convict a cop in New Orleans. The young man asks her what would be enough. An eye witness to one of Wilson's post-Katrina shootings, Toni says. The witness comes back with a friend who saw Wilson put a bullet through Joseph Abreu's head in a supermarket.

Toni tells her FBI contact that, according to the police files she obtained, Terry disappeared evidence. The agent explains that Terry didn't intentionally jettison any evidence. He sent a shell casing to Jefferson Parish to see if it would disappear. It was a test. The agent knows because he's been talking to Terry all along.

This is a huge relief for Toni, who had feelings for Terry before she decided he was crooked. She shows up at his trailer with a six-pack of Pilsner to rekindle their friendship.

Terry is looking very much the worse for wear, having been beaten by two fleeing suspects in the episode's arresting opening sequence. Terry went into a dilapidated house alone, instructing his detective to watch the front door and send two uniformed officers around the back. When Terry emerged, bleeding from the mouth, he saw his partner reading the newspaper and the two uniformed officers hanging out by their car. They'd set him up.

Terry is person non grata at work because he told his partner that he was talking to the FBI and his partner spread the word around homicide.

Davis's character arc continues to bend from loveable rogue toward petulant asshole. Aunt Mimi has refused to stage his R&B opera and Davis is sulking. He goes on bender that culminates with him barging into the booth during Annie's recording session and trying to readjust the mix, nearly spilling beer on the console. The guys boot him while Annie looks on, mortified.

Annie's character arc has stalled out. I was hoping she'd mature beyond her passive ingenue persona. Instead of telling Davis to knock it off--which nobody ever hesitates to do, because c'mon, it's Davis--she just stands there silently, refusing to take responsibility for telling Davis to back off when he's claiming to be working on her behalf. "A little help here?" Davis asks, before he's given the bum's rush.

Annie is basically drifting through life under the control of various men. First it was her abusive boyfriend, then it was Davis who was her mentor in music and the New Orleans scene. She blossomed briefly under Harley's tutelage because he encouraged her to take creative risks. Now Davis's influence is waning and her manager Marvin and the studio guys are running the show.

While Davis is lying around feeling sorry for himself, Janette is working her ass off at the new restaurant. She and her crew have become prisoners of crawfish ravioli. The public can't get enough of these fiddly little crustacean dumplings, but Janette feels like she's losing control of her menu.

Davis's dissolution and self-absorption (and Annie's fecklessness) seem even more cringeworthy when they're set against the steely determination of characters like Albert and LaDonna. I'm glad the writers have the courage to play out the uglier implications of Davis's self-indulgent tendencies instead of keeping him as a harmless clown.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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