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Duly Noted

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012, 4:33 pm

Treme Recap, Season 3, Episode 10: “Tipitina”

By Lindsay Beyerstein

In this episode, we see who got what they wanted, and how much it cost them.

Davis decides to announce his departure from the music industry by sneaking a hidden bonus track onto his R&B sampler. It’s a swan song by a very narcissistic swan. Entitled,“I Quit,” it’s a point-by-point recitation of Davis’s grievances starting with his ouster from Brassy Knoll and ending with his fight with Aunt Mimi. “You’re supposed to support me, you were my favorite aunt!” he raps. Luckily for Davis, the chorus is catchy enough to make up for a lot: “Fuck all of you bitches. I’m so sick of your shit.”

Kermit Ruffins tries to coax Davis back into the music business with a sweet bar mitzvah gig in Metairie. The attempt backfires when the birthday boy sits in with the band and outclasses Davis with his rendition of “Tipitina.” Davis waves and walks away from the bandstand. What an asshole.

Davis finally achieves fame through self-sabotage when the bonus track becomes a surprise hit. Now that he’s being recognized, he wants back in. “How do I come back from this?” Davis asks, thereby revealing himself to be a complete sellout. He swore he was quitting the music business because his creative spirit was being squashed by the demands of the market, but he's ready to jump back in for the slightest recognition.

LaDonna finally testifies against her rapist, but the jury is deadlocked and the judge declares a mistrial. “I got burned out for nothing,” LaDonna says bitterly. The system won’t help, but LaDonna’s many friends rally around her. Janette, who worked with LaDonna’s late brother, offers to host a benefit for Gigi’s. Tim tells her she can’t host it at Desautel's on the Avenue because their lease forbids amplified music. Janette takes the party elsewhere, under the banner of “Desautel's on Frenchman Street.” Tim freaks out.

Janette is an uncompromising artist who is appalled by Tim's crass gimmicks. She takes a stand, banishing the crawfish ravioli from the menu at the end of crawfish season. Janette hates the ravioli because they're incredibly popular and basically middle brow compared to backbone stew and other more exotic dishes.

When Tim offered to go into business with Janette, his offer seemed to have no downside. She didn’t have to put up her own money and Tim promised her complete creative control. It seemed like Janette could just walk away any time. The stakes just didn’t seem that high. Yet, when Janette told her friends in New York about her plan, they all acted like she was taking a huge risk. Their reasons were never spelled out in dialogue. This ambiguity heightened the suspense because the audience felt like there must be a catch, but we had to keep watching to find out what it was.

Now we know.

“I was unaware that I had to ask for permission to use my own name,” Janette says, when Tim complains about the banner.

“Read your contract,” Tim replies, “I own it.”

Janette threatens to quit. Tim explains that the restaurant will go on with or without her, with her name on the door. Janette couldn’t bear to leave Tim in charge of a restaurant with her name on it. Without her, Desautel's would be all crawfish ravioli and Jazz Brunches all the time. She’s trapped.

Albert, bald from chemo, is dozing alone in the infusion chair at the cancer clinic. On the tablette by his IV pole, on far left edge of the screen, there’s an incongruous object: a tupperware container filled with black grit. Coffee grounds? Dirt? What’s that spool of twine doing next to it? This is suspenseful because we expect that objects in TV scenes are placed there for a reason. If we can’t recognize the objects, we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Very slowly, the camera drifts around to show a beading frame with a half-finished eagle in it. The “grit” is beads. Albert is beading, which means he intends to mask for Mardi Gras!

On the night of the benefit, Albert escorts LaDonna out of the club as John Bouteille croons, "Let them talk if they want to..."

It's Albert's lucky week. Delmond quits the jazz center consulting gig. He can't stand to see the jazz center power brokers in bed with Mayor Ray Nagin. Besides, he tells his father, they're never going to take down that fence around Congo Square like they promised. "I'm glad you realize that," Albert says. Delmond gives up his $20,000 consulting fee, but he gains his father's elusive approval.

Terry beats up the redheaded homicide detective who nearly got him killed in the last episode, but his satisfaction is short-lived. His squad mates try to plant drugs in his car, but he finds the drugs just in time. The chief tells him to quit now, or lose his pension for beating up the detective.

LP Everett’s expose of the Henry Glover murder runs in the Nation, to great acclaim. It seems like the NOPD will never investigate, but Toni manages to interest the FBI in the Abreu shooting.

In Treme, virtue is seldom directly rewarded, but living with integrity can be its own consolation. LaDonna was a hero, but she lost her bar and her rapists walked free. In the end, what really matters is the love of her community, which stems not from what she did, but for who she's always been. Terry has lost his career, but found love with Toni, who can finally be with him now that she knows he's a good guy.

Davis gets some short-lived fame with a novelty song, but he loses Annie. Janette sold her soul for a mess of crawfish ravioli.

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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