‘Treme’ – ‘Smoke My Peace Pipe’: My brave face

Senior Television Writer
05.25.10 38 Comments

As mentioned a few days ago, my advance screener of Sunday’s “Treme” didn’t arrive in time, and then I was so swamped with “Lost,” “Chuck,” et al that I didn’t get to watch the episode this morning. So a belated (and briefer than I’d like, just in the interest of getting discussion going) review of “Smoke My Peace Pipe” coming up just as soon as I find a rhyme for “infrastructure”…

“What have you got to lose, anyway?” -Harley

The characters of “Treme” spend much of this episode showing one face to the world and another either to themselves or those closest to them, all while dealing with bad (and in some cases, devastating) news.

Toni finally gets Judge Gatling to sign the order for Daymo’s release, but there’s no victory in that, because Daymo died five months ago, allegedly from falling off the top bunk in his cell. And Ladonna (played with expected but still amazing restraint and power by Khandi Alexander) decides that if her family has waited this long to get learn the horrible truth, they can at least wait a few more days until after Mardi Gras is done.

Albert stages his protest to get the projects reopened, but even after the sympathetic community relations officer warns him that no good will come of it because too few voters care(*), the Big Chief won’t bow (don’t know how) and takes a beating from the cops for his defiance.

(*) It’s a Catch-22, of course. The people most likely to vote for or against politicans who got the Calliope reopened are out of town because the projects are closed.

Janette wanders around telling Jacques and other chefs how excited she is to become a guerilla chef, but when Davis goes to see her upon learning of the restaurant’s closing, Janette breaks down and cries in his arms over the pitiful best she can make of her bad situation.

Say this for Davis, by the way: he may be too self-absorbed to have realized how much trouble Janette was in, but once he does find out, he cooks her a meal and then plays sous-chef for at least her first night. On the other hand, much as he likes to exult in his new celebrity, as well as the big ideas of political fixer Jacques Morial, in private he agrees to drop out of his unwinnable race in exchange for the good favor of a local judge.

Antoine jauntily leads his collection of talented but underemployed musicians in their airport gig, but he’s embarrassed when his oft-mentioned rival Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty) sees him doing it. And privately, he’s grieving the death of his music teacher, whom he respected so much that he insists the man’s grandson get to keep the expensive trombone the Japanese businessman got for him.

We get the inverse of the public/private face with Creighton’s situation. To his wife and to his agent, he insists he’s still a novelist, but he struggles with writer’s block and eventually turns to the many fans who know him for doing what he now knows and loves best: his YouTube rants.

Carnival is coming, and that’s the most public time of year for the city and its people. Our heroes may be able to smile and dance and play and look like they’re exulting in the most famous part of New Orleans culture, but given what they’ve been through lately, how many of them will actually enjoy what’s happening?

Some other thoughts:

  • Because it’s Ladonna’s brother who has died, Alexander gets to play the bigger reaction to the news, but Melissa Leo is awfully good throughout the hour as Toni grapples with the realization that this long pursuit will end in tragedy, not triumph.
  • Because Annie’s in denial about the reason she blew the audition with the Pine Leaf Boys, her story is the one that doesn’t match the public/private theme running through the other plots, but Harley’s not fooled. Steve Earle may not be a trained actor, but he plays the tired, seen-it-all wisdom of his characters quite well. Still, despite the joy of Lucia Micarelli’s playing, Annie and Sonny scenes continue to feel less essential than the rest of the show.
  • On the other hand, I could probably watch an entire hour of Antoine having a trombone duel with his nemesis. Great music, and funny at the same time.
  • This script was co-written by the late David Mills and Davis Rogan, the real-life inspiration for Davis McAlary.
  • Surely I’m not the only “Wire” fan who had a big grin on his face when Albert and his gang started tearing the boards off the window of the abandoned apartment, right? Somehow, Clarke Peters keeps finding ways to get inside vacant buildings.
  • As always, I strongly endorse reading Dave Walker’s weekly “Treme” footnotes. Among other things he taught me this week: the chef Janette visits to sell off her equipment is the same guy who sent the “Top Chef” gang to her restaurant a few weeks back.

No episode this Sunday due to the holiday (though AMC will have a new “Breaking Bad,” so different channels treat the weekend differently), but I should have the next episode well in advance of its airing, and will have a longer, more thoughtful take on it posted right after it airs.
What did everybody else think?

Around The Web