‘Treme’ – ‘That’s What Lovers Do’: That’s all he wrote

We’re down to the penultimate episode of “Treme” season 2, and I have a review coming up just as soon as I don’t speak English…

“I’m worried about you. You’re so calm.” -Davis
“I should be hysterical? Weepy?” -Annie

It’s funny: because Simon and Overmyer had George Pelecanos come in and do his usual thing a week earlier than normal for this show or “The Wire,” initially “That’s What Lovers Do” didn’t feel like a penultimate episode of a Simon show to me. Forget about the lack of death; the hour initially came across to me like the 6th or 7th episode of a season, one where there was still plenty of time to play out these various stories, rather than a single hour. And yet, the more I thought about the episode, the more it felt of a piece with this project-oriented season. We’re one week away from wrapping up for a while, and while I’m sure not everyone’s plans will be resolved in the finale, it did seem like many of the projects took significant steps either forwards or backwards this week.

On the negative side of the ledger, Davis finds himself being edged out of his own musical dream, step by step, with the band being interested in a more talented guitarist and Aunt Mimi wanting to bump one of his songs from the sampler in favor of Lil Calliope’s. Toni, meanwhile, reaches a point in her investigation where only Colson can help her, and Colson blinks when he comes face-to-face with what looks like a massive police cover-up.

On the positive end of things, Nelson keeps buying up houses, and he and Liguori are set to make a killing with the recovery zone plan. And Janette finally finds her place in New York at David Chang’s, but the compliment from New Orleans’ own Donald Link makes her feel homesick again.

Of course, Simon and Overmyer don’t just deal in black and white, so there are some projects with upside and downside. Antoine’s on-stage antics inspire the Soul Apostles’ lead singer to quit in mid-show, but he’s able to replace her with, of all people, Toni’s intern Allison, and between the band and the teaching gig, he’s making enough money that he can not only pay full fare but a tip to his old cabdriver friend. Delmond’s album finally comes together when the recording moves to New Orleans, but the lengthy recording process, and cost of relocating it in mid-stream, means Delmond will never make a dime off it. And though Annie mourns the loss of Harley, she holds up much better than anyone – on the show or in the audience – might have expected(*), and Harley continues to provide her with songwriting inspiration from beyond the grave with the half-finished tunes she finds in his guitar case.

(*) As the cast’s one complete acting novice, Lucia Micarelli has been doing a lot of on-the-job training over the last two years, and I think she has terrific screen presence but still has some room to grow overall. The scene where the camera just stays on Annie’s face as she watches John Cleary play “Frenchmen Street Blues” and thinks about Harley left Annie as something of an enigma, where if it had been, say, Janette or Toni in that scene, Kim Dickens or Melissa Leo would have said a whole lot more with just their expressions. Overall, though, I thought she was quite good in this episode, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Annie coping as well as she did not only with the murder, but having been witness to it. People respond to trauma differently, and while she wasn’t a direct crime victim the way LaDonna was, it’s interesting to contrast how the seemingly strong LaDonna has crumbled post-assault, while the seemingly fragile Annie has pushed past this horrible thing she experienced.

And then there’s LaDonna, who doesn’t so much have a project falling apart as her whole life. Those scenes are just so tough to watch, as she begins taking out her frustration on Antoine, on the salt shakers, the boys, on everyone but Larry, who’s become the repressed target of so much of her anger.

Some other thoughts:

• I loved the atmosphere of Harley’s memorial service, and how it felt very traditional and true to his experience, while co-existing with the very different kind of musician’s funeral we saw for Dinerral a few weeks back.

• Though Steve Earle himself spent much of his childhood in Texas, I like the idea that Harley’s twang was pure affectation – a character he invented for himself, and that he played so fiercely that none of his friends knew anything about his pre-busking self. I wonder if that’s yet another lesson Annie will learn: that if she wants to feel confident performing as a frontwoman, she has to make “Annie Tee” into someone a bit larger than her own life.

• Is the scene where Colson talks to the detective working Harley’s murder the first time we’ve heard Annie’s last name? And, if so, anyone care to take a guess at how you spell it? I rewound 3 or 4 times, and was afraid to even try. (Interestingly, she and Sonny are the only regular characters who don’t get last names in the HBO.com cast breakdown.)

• I can’t decide if Nelson isn’t coming across quite as fully-developed as some of the other characters, or if Simon and Overmyer are deliberately keeping him and his motives ambiguous. What’s interesting to me, though, is that his pal Liguori is presented as 100 percent sincere and well-meaning, even though I imagine his politics are pretty far to the opposite end of the spectrum from the creative team’s. He believes what he’s doing is good for the city, whether or not team “Treme” would agree with him.

• It’s funny how Annie keeps winding up in relationships with men who eventually have to confront the limitations of their talent. This was a tough hour for Davis, though I got a big laugh out of him temporarily turning into Maynard G. Krebbs with his reaction to Sonny’s oyster boat job. (“That’s, like, manual labor!”)

• Meanwhile, nice for Sonny and Annie to have that moment of understanding, far removed from the toxic atmosphere of their relationship. Clearly, Annie was just as skeptical about Sonny’s stories of post-Katrina heroism as we all were early in season 1.

• Though none of the various groupings interacted with each other, it was still fun to see so many disparate characters all dining at Dooky Chase’s for Holy Thursday.

• I really liked that shot of Toni primping herself as she goes to open the door for Colson – done out-of-focus as if Toni’s trying to hide the gesture from us as well as Sofia and Colson.

So go read Dave Walker’s latest episode explainer at his blog, and then tell me, what did everybody else think? And with one week to go, how are you feeling about season 2 as a whole?