Blogging Treme: Episode 5, ‘Shame, Shame, Shame.’

This week’s episode opens with a dream sequence, which are typically annoying, but it was a great way to allow the audience to catch both a glimpse of LaDonna’s missing brother, Daymo, and for us to grasp the kind of stress she’s under. But it’s not just her brother: after a night of haunting dreams she’s got to deal with another nightmare, a crooked contractor, Thaddeus Riley, who she watches get served with her papers.  “He gon’ plead poverty when it comes time to pay y’all,” she says to a crew he’s recruiting.

Everybody’s got a different way of grieving and dealing with loss, and Creighton is coping by taping another video for YouTube, in the kind of light we’d see plastered on the face of a teenager who’s maneuvering surreptitiously because he should have gone to bed hours go. It’s an awkward scene, but an education. In it Creighton invokes President Bush‘s speech at Jackson Square and the seemingly impenetrable Dutch levees.

Creighton’s wife Toni (everybody’s favorite lawyer) along with Albert Lambeaux, represent morality in the series, but one is willing to play within the law and the other is an in-your-face cowboy. Albert has seemingly built his entire identity on being able to provide for his people. “I just wanna ask somebody why they got the projects all boarded up,” he says in a scene that’s juxtaposed against Toni and LaDonna at a court hearing. It’s madeclear to the pair that LaDonna’s juvenile, drug addict brother is low on the list of priorities for the state of Louisiana.

There are several scenes between Antoine Baptiste and a jazz aficionado from Japan, and Chef Janette Desautel cooking for restuarant royalty, an attempt to illustrate New Orleans cultural import and demonstrate that the hurricane-ravaged city still matters. The culmination is Baptiste blowing his horn, a gift, in the middle of Treme and Chef Desautel serving up a meal and some charm. They’ve done well for themselves, they’ve done well New Orleans.

And there was Davis McAlary. Cultural appropriation can be used for good; we see this in McAlry’s performance of “Shame, Shame, Shame.” But it can also get you way in over your head. His John Mayer-esque belief that he could say nigger in his commentary after a celebatory parade corrupted by gun violence (“New Orleans Niggers will fuck up a wet dream”) quickly made him an outsider in his own home. It’s a lesson he seemed to take in when he woke up on the couch his neighbor’s house. “You guys brought me in,” he says. “We’re your neighbors,” they smirk.

Then there’s the second-line: the parade that almost didn’t happen,  the reunions, the merriment, and Sonny’s proclamation: “They’re coming home. New Orleans is coming home.” It was haunting to see LaDonna saddle over and talk to her brother’s old dealer. (Granted, she needed information from him, but she did so without  condescension without anger.) “I figure it was time for me to come back too,” the dealer says to her. “See what’s happening.” It’s reminiscent of the Police Chief, pleading with Toni, trying to buy her off. The crime is coming back and the city has no support system to make it stop.

Revelations: Toni learns that Daymo worked for Chef Desautel. When the rain started he didn’t make it to the restaurant to give away the kitchen’s meat as he promised he would. If Creighton is right and his NYC literary agent is coming to collect, that may be the end of Toni’s ability for legal/investigative leg work.

When Annie confronts Sonny’s friend Reyes — “He coped in Houston didn’t he?” — she may have been crying for much more then a few gunshots at a parade. And speaking of Sonny, he is dangerously possessive of Annie. When Reyes takes this eerie walk down a road lit by the rising sun after having pulled Annie away from the crowd — something Sonny did not do; Sonny’s voice lacks any real emotion as he says “Sorry, bro. See you around, OK?”

I’ve been thinking all day that the episode needed to end there. Any suggestions?

  • I think we will see Reyes again, that he is in New Orleans to stake his claim in the renewed drug trade and that his “migrant worker” identity is a false front so he can get the lay of that land. David Simon and the other writers on TREME don’t make mistakes or do anything by accident. Previous episodes made a point of establishing Reyes as a bad ass bouncer (in Houston) and of establishing how “dry” New Orleans has been since the storm. Having lived here in New Orleans during that time, I remember the “rebirth” of the drug trade, including outfits from Atlanta and Houston looking to lay claim, being a major impetus for the return of violence in the city. I’m very curious to see where it goes.