Southland: Thursday – A Review And Recap

After a couple of years on the job every cop has to make a decision about what kind of cop they’re going to be. The time has come for Officer Ben Sherman to decide.

Getting up in the morning, every morning, knowing that part of your job is to carry a gun, can be a bit overwhelming, if you let it. Ben Sherman is one of those officers who hasn’t quite learned how not to be overwhelmed. He’s also hiding behind his badge, using his authority to carry out a mission. Some argue the mission is a deep-rooted issue with his own father. Some say there are other motivators. No matter the reason, though, Ben Sherman is an overconfident and cocky, loose cannon.

Sammy knows Ben is standing at the edge, and he feels responsible. He even tells Ben that he gave up his position as a detective, returning to uniform duty, so he could help younger officers. Ben shrugs off Sammy’s heartfelt words and heads out to begin his shift, and his quest to hunt down “Pimp Ronnie,” the guy whose gunshots caused the car crash that landed Sammy in the hospital. Pimp Ronnie is also the father of the girl Ben so desperately wants to save from a life in the streets (the bad father-figure theory?).

Ben is partnered with Ferguson (LDP himself), who offers Ben a brief lecture about wasting his time trying to save the hookers, but still has no qualms about about joining the hunt for the man who tried to kill two cops (shoot at the boys in blue and we’re coming after you!).

Well, it doesn’t take long before Ben is in a foot chase with Pimp Ronnie. Ferguson tries to get in front of the chase using the patrol car, but he’s not quick enough. Ben doesn’t answer his radio, He runs. Breathing hard. Sucking wind. Faster and faster. Just out of sight of Ferguson, when suddenly a shot’s fired.

Ferguson runs toward the sound and finds Ben standing over a very dead Pimp Ronnie. A gun is on the pavement beside the body. A gun that looks suspiciously like the gun we saw Ben cleaning in the opening scene. A drop gun? Did Ben murder an unarmed man? Revenge for shooting at Ben and Sammy? Or revenge for the way Pimp Ronnie treated his own daughter? The father-figure-syndrome? No matter the reason, it sure looks as if Ben, overwhelmed and overconfident, hid behind his badge and murdered a man. Granted, the man was not an innocent man, but murder is murder.

Cooper and Tang—the tension is so thick between the two that you’d have to use an ax to even make a dent in it. Cooper doesn’t like the fact that Tang will do whatever it takes to come out on top of any situation, including putting Cooper’s life at risk while she plays cowgirl during an intense shootout at a car wash.

And to make matters worse, Tang flaunts her cockiness by tossing the orange gun tip (the one she removed after shooting an innocent kid) to Cooper while the two of them argue outside the bar where a celebration in Tang’s honor is well underway.

Cooper’s one of the original good guys. He’s a cop, with blue running through his veins. He’s the guy who goes home, strips off his gear, and can get a good night’s sleep knowing he did the best job he could possibly do. Sure, he’s got his flaws, but at the end of the day his badge is shining as brightly as it ever did. No tarnish there, no sir.

Lydia (Regina King) delivered a powerful performance off camera last night. We didn’t have to see or hear what went on in that burn victim’s hospital room to know how deeply the interview affected Adams. Her emotional rooftop scene afterward told us all we needed to know. She was keeping her baby and she was not going to let anything happen to it. Not ever. And she proved that by taking a desk job for the duration of her pregnancy.

This was a season finale that really delivered. The show started with a bang and never let up until it ended with a quick one-two punch to the gut. Then, without giving us time to catch our breath, the writers left us with a few unanswered questions.

– Sammy knows, and we know he knows. Once again, Shawn Hatosy said a million words with mere facial expressions. And I don’t think he likes the Ben he’s seeing. And I’m not sure I’m liking what I see either. Ben’s on a one man quest to save the world, but who’s going to save him from himself?

– Cooper has a new boot, a clumsy, new recruit who’s ready to be molded into a real police officer by TO John Cooper. Let’s hope Cooper has better luck with this one. Hey, things have to be looking up, right? After all, Cooper’s got a shiny orange good luck charm on his key chain. What more could he ask for?

– Tang is a sergeant. You know, sometimes it’s the devious and not-so-nice that get ahead. That’s life. Accept it.

The show started on a Wednesday this year, with freshly scrubbed faces and new attitudes. It came to a conclusion on Thursday, with battered bodies and troubled hearts. Will the relationships survive? Should they?

One thing I’m certain of…everyone involved in this show absolutely wants to “get it right.” They want to accurately portray life as a police officer. And they pull no punches. In fact, there was one scene in last night’s episode that summed it all up while using very few words.

Cooper and Tang entered the car wash, knowing there were armed gunmen hiding inside. Extremely frightened customers and workers were running outside to safety. Cooper encouraged them to leave. “Go. Go. Go. Get out of here,” Cooper said to them. And then he and Tang headed straight into the danger. No hesitation. No second thoughts. Because that’s what cops do. They head into danger while everyone else runs away from it.

Will we see the officers of Southland again next season?

I certainly hope so, because this is hands-down the best darn cop show on TV.

Light ’em up!


*     *     *

Want to train like a real cop at a real police academy?

Want to see how and why the Southland stars “get it right?”

Join us for the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy and go through training similar to police academies all across the country.

This is the real deal!

Registration is well underway, and it’s open to everyone – writers, readers, Southland fans, etc.

Featuring Lee Child as keynote speaker.

Special guest speaker – Renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray.

All new workshops!

Firearms, K-9’s, arson investigation, fingerprinting, interview and interrogation, bloodstain pattern, homicide investigations, ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies and patrol officers, polygraph, firefighters, and much, much more!

Special surprise (you won’t believe this once-in-a-lifetime…oops, almost spilled the beans!!)


How do you like The Graveyard Shift’s new look?

Read more
Southland: Risk – A Review And Recap

As cops become more experienced their confidence inevitably grows. Confidence can lead them to take more risks. That’s when they’re in real danger.

Overconfident. Complacency. Two words that easily roll off the tongue. Two words that don’t sound so bad, right? You know, they even have a certain “coolness” about them. But in a cop’s world, they’re two words that’ll get you killed. Yeah, been there, seen that—the bloody results of overconfidence and complacency. And, unfortunately, on Fridays you sometimes read about it right here on this blog.

A badge is called a shield, not a suit of armor. It’s not hanging on the chest as a means to stop flying lead. Yes, confidence is a great thing when used in conjunction with experience, training, and common sense. But “bulletproof” confidence alone, well, it can land even the best of cops in an ocean filled with bubbling and boiling hot water.

Common sense is probably one of the most important tools of the cop trade. It’s even more important than guns, Tasers, handcuffs, and radios. Did our Southland heroes use their common sense this week, or were they victims of an overdose of confidence? Well, let’s see. Why don’t we hop into the backseat of a few of SL’s patrol cars and eavesdrop a bit.

Partners. Sounds so carefree and happy, doesn’t it? But, let’s put that word in perspective. Cops ride together, eat together, carry on conversations, breath the same air, fight the same fights, argue the same arguments, talk to the same people, experience the same things, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. The same two people are crammed inside the jam-packed front compartment of a patrol car. And they do this on good days, bad days, happy days, sad days, grieving days, sick days, well days, and all while wearing a ton of gear, uncomfortable shoes, and a steaming hot Kevlar vest.

So think about it for a second. How would that same atmosphere be if one of those two people no longer trusted his partner? How thick would the air be inside that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug front compartment? Not so nice, huh? Well, that’s what it’s like inside the CoopTang Mobile. Tensions are high, to say the least. And Tang’s about to be promoted to sergeant? Coop’s blood has to be boiling beneath that “iceman” exterior.

Cooper and Tang at the range is a good example of the icy conditions between the two. Tang says she thinks she’s going to get the promotion. Cooper’s cool reply, “Good for you,” had enough frost on it to chill a tall glass of freshly brewed iced tea. This partnership is done. Stick a fork in it.

Lydia…what can I say. All my bellyaching over the past few weeks came to a head tonight. Lydia (Regina King) belted out that money-making high note at the end of this week’s performance. Lesson learned…keep my hands and feet inside and my mouth tightly shut, and let Cheo Coker and Regina King drive this car, because they certainly knew where they were headed. Holy cow, what a scene—a gang member trying time and time again to stab Lydia, and almost succeeding until Ruben runs in to kick a three-pointer with the thug’s melon-size head. I was on the edge of my seat, reaching for my weapon. Hell, a rock, a stick, my fists…anything to stop the attack. But, the best I could come up with was a DVR remote and an ink pen. At least hitting the pause button gave Lydia a little breather between punctures.

Still, the scenes with Lydia, prior to this week and last night, were perfect examples of “confidence.” Well, they were good examples of overconfidence and complacency. Last night, for example, when Lydia (with child) does a few stupid things, like poking her little cop head inside a building where armed gang members are known to hang out. There’s a better way and that wasn’t it. Neither was Ruben running off to chase a fleeing bad guy, leaving Lydia all alone inside the rundown house. Never leave your partner in danger. Bad guys are a dime a dozen, just reach inside the barrel and grab another. There’s plenty to go around.

Sammy and Ben seem to be mending their differences. Sammy, however, tells Ben that he hopes there are no repercussions from the “pimp pounding” he delivered last week. An excellent example of common sense taking a backseat overconfidence—wanting to save the world in a day, and stupidity.

Let’s take a moment to point out a few high points of the show before moving on.

– Lydia and Ruben are at a murder scene. While gazing at the dead body, they’re talking about food—what to have for lunch, etc. Nothing unusual here, folks. I’ve seen people eat while standing around dead bodies. I remember one officer standing at the scene of a traffic crash and while waiting for the coroner, he had a snack of Pop Tarts, a cops’ instant meal. I’ve even seen a coroner and his crew eating donuts while standing not two feet away from their “guest of the day.”

– Cooper and Tang stop a car. Cooper approaches on the driver’s side while Tang stops at the rear window of the passenger side. Good technique. Tang could then observe any and all activity not visible to Cooper or the passengers inside.

– Ben offers a prostitute money if she’ll quit the business and go home to her family. But Sammy speeds off before Ben can complete his sentence. Rookies sometimes fall prey to folks like prostitutes, drug users and abusers, etc., wanting to save them from their pitiful lives. It’s easy to do, but the results are seldom positive. The users and abusers usually wind up taking advantage of the officer’s pity, leaving the rookie a little lighter in the wallet and a little more bitter in the heart.

– The scenes with Lydia and Ruben and the gang members were good examples of “playing the game” while interrogating suspects. Lydia’s promissory note stating that she would not arrest the kid was priceless. It’s a classic and is used quite often, as are many others. Separating the thugs is always a good idea too. And always, always, always cull the weakest from the herd. They’ll talk first. Doing so also makes the remaining suspects a little nervous, so they’ll often start snitching on their buddies to try and divert to attention away from themselves.

– Cooper and Tang are once again interviewed by internal affairs investigators. This situation is eating at Cooper’s “Do Right” nerve. He wants Tang to do the right thing. He wants to tell what he thinks happened. But he’s a patrol cop, and patrol cops rely on facts.

– Tang…well, she’s a liar and will do anything to get that extra stripe. Coop’s done with her. And good for him.

– Lydia finally admits to Ruben that she’s pregnant.

– Lydia was stabbed several times. Vests do not stop penetrations from knives, ice picks, screwdrivers, and other sharp objects. However, there is a trauma plate (steel or ceramic) that covers the center of the chest. The removable plate (it’s removable to allow for washing the cloth carrier) is inserted into a pocket for added protection against the impact of a round to that area. And that’s where all but one of the punctures were delivered to Lydia’s vest.

And that brings us to this…

The recipient of the pimp pounding drives up to Ben and Sammy and begins to unload his semi-auto into the car. The result is a reverse high-speed pursuit with the cops being chased by the bad guy.

Bullets are flying, Ben is frantically calling for assistance, when suddenly…

Then we see this, the end-result of Ben stepping over the line.

Can Ben live with the consequences of his overconfident rookie mistakes?

This was probably the best episode of Southland to ever hit our living rooms. The acting was stellar, and the story was superb, starting like a train leaving the station, chugging, and puffing, and blowing clouds of hot smoke everywhere until the engine was booming our way at 100mph. And it all ended with a crash that spun to a stop at our feet.

All I could say at that point was…WOW!

This episode is a shining example of why Southland is best darn cop show on TV…ever.


*     *     *

*I’m issuing a BOLO (Be On The Lookout). Be on the lookout for an all new look for The Graveyard Shift. It just might take place sometime today. Check back often, and please tell all your friends!

*The Writers’ Police Academy announces renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray as 2012 Special Guest Speaker.

Dr. Murray is an author, researcher, and media consultant whose work has taken her around the world as a forensic anthropology consultant for local, regional and national agencies and organizations. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the 2012 WPA, including:

– Forensic Science Specialist for the Department of Justice/National Institute of Justice’s National Unidentified and Missing Persons System (NamUs)

– Author of two recent science books for young adults

– Numerous peer-reviewed presentations before the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

– Regular cast member for the Skeleton Stories TV series on the Discovery Health Channel

– Scientific Consultant and on-camera personality for the four-part mini-series, Skeleton Crew/Buried Secrets for the National Geographic Channel

– Visiting Scientist to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, U.S. Military Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii and Laos

– Forensic Anthropology Lecturer and Mass Disaster Team Member for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

– Appearances on Forensic Files, New Detectives, Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted

– Historic and prehistoric skeletal analyses, including principal investigator for Cincinnati’s Music Hall skeletal collection.

Read more
Southland: God’s Work – A Review And Recap

Cops are often asked if they believe they’re doing God’s work. Officer Ben Sherman is just trying to do the job without losing his soul.

All cops burn out. That was the message delivered in the pre-shift briefing, or “muster” as it’s called in some departments. But, no matter what you call the meeting, the message remains the same. It’s a tough job that can wear you down. Down to the core if you’re not careful. All that built-up tension and stress has to go somewhere. After all, you shake the soda bottle, and you shake it, and you shake it, and then when the top finally pops off…well, we all know happens. And it’s a mess.

Speaking of a real mess. Ben Sherman reached that rookie fork-in-the-road and definitely went in the wrong direction, taking a left when the scarecrow pointed right. And Ben’s unfortunate choice has led him down a very lonely and dangerous road called “I can save the world all by myself.” Had he chosen, instead, to go right as the dimwitted talking mattress had suggested, by now Officer Sherman would have been a well-adjusted and productive police officer who still shines his shoes and polishes his badge daily, much to the delight of his superiors.

Instead, we see a rookie who’s speeding down the road to unemployment, and possibly wearing handcuffs. His shoes are scuffed and the sheen is fading from his badge. It happens. Officers often find themselves standing at the fork in the road, forcing them to make a decision between left and right. But all they have to do is listen to the scarecrow inside their head. He always knows the right way. Never buck the scarecrow.

This week, actually, we see each of our teams—partners—facing that fork in the road, with each of them up against different, potentially badge-dulling decisions.

Cooper’s guts are churning over the issue with Tang. She covered up something that really needed no cover. He can no longer trust her. But the worst part of it all is that he hasn’t come forward with the truth, and that’s what wearing the badge is all about. That’s really what’s eating at John Cooper. It’s his own integrity he’s questioning, not hers. He already knows what she’s all about.

Using a lie—almost killing an innocent person and then covering up the act—to advance your career. Yeah, that’s disgusting.

Cooper is later seen with his sponsor, who asks him, “Still thinking about it (the drugs and his addiction)?”

Cooper responds, “Every minute of every day.”

A pause.

Cooper asks, “Ever get over that?”

Sponsor. “No, but it gets easier.”

How true. Drug addiction is not like a cold. You don’t get well after you fight off the sickness, you just don’t use drugs. But you’ll always want to.

Michael Cudlitz does a wonderful job of playing the troubled John Cooper. If I didn’t know better I’d think he’s really a reincarnated drug-addicted veteran cop. There are parallels between his character and some real life cops that are, well, they’re simply uncanny.

Lydia and Ruben catch a case where a pregnant nanny fell to her death from an upper tier in a parking garage. The case was unusually weak for this series, with no real closure for the viewers. But the scenes weren’t about the case. Instead, it was yet another incident designed to further the storyline regarding Adams’ pregnancy. And we did learn the father’s name this week, Terrell, and that Papa “T” is a married man.

I still say this particular storyline is a slight hurdle for the show. It slows the episode to an almost standstill every time we see it. Yes, I know that female officers do get pregnant and they do have to work around the pregnancy while continuing their careers. But that’s in real life, why insert that into what’s always been an extremely action-packed TV series. Still, Regina King is a fantastic actor who does a great job with what she’s given. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is solid. Excellent, even. I’m just not a fan of the direction they’ve given Lydia to travel. Any other show, yes. But not for Southland. However, some viewers may love these scenes and what they bring to the show.

Tell you what, though, I have a perfect scene in mind for Lydia. Cheo, you listening??

Sammy and Ben – Ben’s traveling down the “save the world” path and he’s dragging Sammy along with him. However, Sammy’s only there to pick up pieces and clean up the mess Ben’s leaving in his wake. In fact, Ben’s on such a destructive path (beating up/assaulting a pimp, punching a teenage girl, sleeping with every badge bunny with a pulse, etc.) that Sammy’s forced to give him the “I’ll pull you to safety but stop kicking while I swim,” speech.

During Sammy’s speech, he pointed out the things an officer stands to lose by not following the rules and living up to the standards that go hand in hand with wearing a badge.  He said, “I’ll back you up punch for punch, bullet for bullet. But I’m not going to give you my house. I’m not going to give you my pension. And I’m not going to give you my freedom. Don’t ever do anything like that again.” So you see, police officers have a lot more to lose than just a job when they break the rules. One wrong move and they could lose everything.

And let’s not forget the stellar performance by Ben McKenzie. He’s truly bringing us a very complex character and he’s delivering him to us in large servings. Great, great job.

Compelling moments during this episode:

– The woman/rape victim realizing she’d shot a man who was simply trying to give her the set of keys she’d dropped. He was not stalking her.

– The teenage girl forced to work as a prostitute to survive.

– Tang using her “shooting gone wrong” to impress the panel during her promotion-to-sergeant interview.

– Sammy facial expressions. No words could have better described what he said to Ben with that face.

– Dewey’s comment to Tang – “If you can live with it (the shooting and the lies) nobody can stop you.”

– Cooper looking on during Tang’s sergeant interview.

– Sammy and Ben searching the vacant house. They both took a glance down before climbing the stairs. No tripping. No noise. Never give away your position.

– Sammy’s favorite line, repeated by Ben, “Who wants to go to jail; who wants to go home? We’ve all said that at least a thousand times, and it usually produces excellent results. There’s always someone who’d rather give up the goods than to go to jail.

Southland is definitely a character-driven show. I think you could hand this cast a handful of furniture store going-out-of-business-sale flyers, telling them that’s the script for the next episode, and they’d turn those few silly words into a gripping, compelling story that would keep us all coming back for more.

I’ll say it again, this is the best, most realistic cop show to ever hit the TV screen.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy has officially begun.

Space is limited to the first 150 people to sign up.

You don’t want to miss this action-packed weekend. Besides, where else could you go to play cops and robbers with Lee Child!

Read more
Southland: Fallout – A Review And Recap

“LAPD officers start every shift knowing they only have a fraction of a second to make a difficult choice. The ramifications will last their whole lives.”

There’s never been a statement about cops that rings truer than the opening voice-over of last night’s episode. A split second that lasts a lifetime. An act that forever spins and twirls inside your head like a crazed ballerina on speed.

You’ve lived all your life as you, and suddenly “you” has become someone different. A stranger. Someone new now lives inside your mind, sharing your thoughts and controlling your actions. The “you” you’d lived with for so long is gone and will never return. That “fraction of a second” was the tipping point that sent “you” away for good.

I’ve shot thousands of rounds of ammunition in my lifetime, popping holes in paper targets depicting faceless men with coke-bottle-shaped limbless bodies. Center mass, that’s the spot. Always the center. And I always left a gaping hole right there. Right in the center.

My “fraction of a second” came a long time ago during a gun battle where 68 rounds were exchanged between a robber and police. I terminated the threat with five carefully placed rounds of my own.

No paper.

No coke bottle.

No score.

All flesh and bone.

BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

It was over. And then it began.

Now every day for me is like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. The clock sounds at 6am, the music starts, and it’s August 1994 all over again.

A lifetime of that nonsense.

And that same day has just begun for Officer Tang.

Tang is served with divorce papers and the act sets off a wave of emotions. She knew the day would come, but what she didn’t know was how it would affect her job and the way she conducted “cop” business.

Police officers are expected to perform their duties fairly and justly without allowing their emotions to stand in the way of either. But cops are human. They have bad days. Their kids run away. Their cars break down. Their babies get sick. Their plumbing leaks. Their parents die. Their spouses cheat. They’re people, just like you.

But, while they’re dealing with their own personal issues, they also have to solve yours and protect you from the crazies of the world. Sometimes, they have to suck up their own troubles to run inside a burning building to drag you out because you were too drunk to save yourself. They have stop grieving the death of their own mother to stop yours from hacking your father to death with a meat cleaver.

Their kid’s at home with a raging fever that just won’t go away, but they have to stand there and listen while you rant and rave and throw a temper tantrum about cops not doing anything but hanging out in doughnut shops. Sure, you’re yelling and screaming, calling them names and spitting on them because you hate what they stand for, but you don’t realize that an hour before you began your tirade, the officer standing calmly in front of you had risked her own life to pull a baby from a burning car. You don’t even notice the smell of her burned flesh and tire smoke on her uniform. You don’t see the pain in her eyes.

Yes, that’s the kind of bad day Officer Tang was facing. And yes, her emotions were going to cloud her judgement.

– Sammy and Ben are still at it, with Sammy giving Ben a very large cold shoulder. Cooper is trying his best to cheer up Tang. Lydia and Ruben are still not on the same page. She doesn’t quite trust him as a partner yet, so she’s not spilling the beans about her pregnancy. Not yet anyway.

– Sammy and Ben roll up on a disturbance between two food vendors who’re arguing over a parking space. Sammy “burps” the siren once to let everyone know the police are on the scene. Sometimes that single little act is enough to stop a fighter in mid-swing. Saves a lot of unnecessary fighting with suspects. And, the siren noise often sends guys running whose pockets are filled with dope and/or guns. Like shooting fish in a barrel. They make it so easy for the good guys.

– Tang sees a man peering inside a car window and she instantly springs into action—show me your hands, put your hands on the car, spread your feet (cops always say spread your feet, not “spread your legs.” think about the reason for the choice of words), and then she cuffs him. Well, turns out the car belonged to the cuffed guy and he’d locked his keys inside. Cooper walks off to retrieve a Slim Jim from the patrol car (Slim Jims are flat pieces of metal designed to slip between the door frame and window glass. Once inside, officers are able to maneuver the device until it hooks onto the proper mechanism and a gentle push or pull unlocks the door. Newer cars prove to be problematic and often the use of a Slim Jim causes quite a bit of damage inside the door).

Tang issues a traffic ticket to a man who’s waiting curbside to pick up his wife. Sure, he’s blocking traffic but his wife is on crutches and is making her way out of a doctor’s office. She has a broken leg so stopping there was basically using common sense. Tang will not not listen to reason or apologies. Ticket issued. Sign here.

Yes, Tang is having a rotten day.

So are Sammy and Ben, and the pot finally boiled over when Sammy said to Ben, “This car (patrol car) is the one place where somebody’s supposed to have my back.” His meaning was clear. Ben betrayed him when he accused Sammy of planting a crack pipe on a gang member (see last week’s review).

Sammy’s cold shoulder and mistrust continued after Ben saved him from Crazy Carol’s stabbing attempt. Ben thought the act of saving Sammy would be enough to mend the relationship, but Sammy quickly told him differently. “What you did (tackling Crazy Carol) is your job.” Yes, this relationship may be over for good. But one thing that will never be over is the compelling need to protect another officer from physical harm. Hate one another or not, the back up, even if it’s only while on duty, will always be there.

– Lydia and Ruben are still plugging along, working the murder case involving, ironically, a pregnant woman who killed her drug dealing boyfriend/husband (I’m not sure which). There were some good points in these scenes, like when Lydia and Ruben go to the front door to knock and we see two uniformed officers hanging back in the front yard. That’s the way it’s done. Detectives often take uniforms along when they’re about to make an arrest. They do so for a few reasons. One – everyone recognizes a police uniform as authority. Not everyone immediately recognizes a detective. Two – back up. Three – safety in numbers. Four – patrol officers have cages in their cars and much safer to transport a prisoner in a cage than it is to wrestle with them in a detective’s car. Although, we saw Lydia and Ruben transport the woman in their car. Notice, though, that Lydia rode in the backseat with the female prisoner. That’s the standard when you transport without a cage. However, officers should always sit with their gun side away from from the prisoner. Or, lock the weapon in a secure location (trunk, etc.). I noticed that Lydia was seated to the woman’s left in this scene. Is she right- or left-handed? Where was her gun?

By the way, foot pursuits with pregnant women and fat men normally don’t last very long.

Okay, back to Tang. She and Cooper are in foot pursuit of a man with gun. The suspect is wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt.

Tang follows behind the guy, searching for him in back yards. Did you hear her heavy breathing. Believe me, the adrenaline is high in these situations. You try to be quiet so you don’t give away your position, but you just know the guy can hear you breathing. Your heart beats like a parade drum mallet against against the inside of your chest, another sound that’ll surely send bullets flying your way. But you push on, as did Tang.

Then it happened. Tang’s fraction of a second had arrived.

Her nerves were on edge. She knew there was a guy with a gun.


Heart pounding.


Divorce papers.

Not thinking clearly.



Center mass.

Tang shot the wrong guy, a kid with a toy gun.

However, the shooting was surely justifiable. The kid matched the description of the guy she’d been chasing. And he had a gun. She probably didn’t notice the orange tip (realistic-looking toy guns are required to have an orange tip on the barrel). It’s possible and highly probable that she didn’t. Besides, who’s to say a bad guy wouldn’t paint the tip of a real gun orange to give him that second or two advantage of “what if.” No doubt, the shooting was justified. But…

Tang does the unthinkable. To cover up her mistake, she removes the orange tip from the toy. This action is definitely not justifiable.

Cooper knows in his heart what she’s done. And that’s not what Cooper’s all about.

During the internal investigation, Tang, of course, doesn’t mention the cover-up.

But neither does Cooper. He does, however, confront Tang and tells her to go back inside and tell the truth about what she’d done.

Instead, Tang becomes defensive and goes home, where she digs into her pocket and comes out with the plastic, orange gun tip, and drops it into a bowl on a table beside the front door.

Cooper, troubled deeply about Tang, heads straight for his 12-step sponsor and a meeting. Anxiety’s conjuring up old cravings, and I’m pleased he chose this route instead of the alternative.

Tang, well, unfortunately we’re counting down her final days on the show. I’m pretty sad about her leaving because she was a great addition to the show. I only hope that Lucy Liu’s departure isn’t an omen of…No, I’m not going to say it. Let’s end this week on a happy note, with the possibility of a season 5 on our minds…

Read more
Southland: Integrity Check – A Review And Recap

“The average street cop in Los Angeles makes $75,000 a year. It’s not enough.”

Ben is standing in a place that’s all too familiar to veteran cops all across the country. He’s on top of the world—at the very tip of the peak—and he’s balancing on the big toe of one foot. Seasoned officers, officers who’ve been on the job for many years, have been there and done that. They’ve all gone through the “I-just-finished-my-training-and-I-know-more-than-every-other-cop-in-the-world stage.

Sherman thinks he’s the hotshot cop who can save the world from everything and anything. And he’s got Badge Bunnies hopping around him like he’s a human carrot in uniform. But he’s got a lot to learn…a lot. Like discovering what it actually means to be a police officer, and how to truly become a partner to the guy who’s standing beside you while facing a dozen angry, armed gang members. Your partner, the guy who has your back through both the good and the bad.

Nope, being a cop isn’t all running fast, looking cool in uniform, and dodging bullets. First and foremost, of course, it’s about protecting the public, putting their lives before yours. And it’s about trusting your partner and knowing your partner trusts you. Without earning that confidence, well, you may as well start scanning Craigslist for job openings, because you’ll never be a real cop. Never.

And Ben absolutely must realize that the way to earn the trust of the public is not by engaging in a menage-a-jump-out-the-second-story-window-trois with Ima Killu’s wife and her friend. But Ben’s in that “stage.” He’ll learn. They all do. But it takes time, a few hard knocks, and plenty of hurt feelings, and maybe even a couple of official reprimands. And, he’ll probably be on the receiving end of a nasty bite from a rabid bunny before it’s all over.

Officer Sherman has reached the first critical crossroads in what could be a long career. Will he choose the right direction? Well, that’s up to the writers, and so far they’ve done a fantastic job of taking us on the journey. And Ben is allowing us to see that trip through his eyes. A really great job by both the actor and the folks who put this on paper.

Lydia’s on a personal journey of her own. A journey that’s experienced by many female officers. A journey that male officers will probably never fully understand. She’s torn between a career she absolutely loves and the little one inside that she isn’t sure she should even want, at this point. She knows that once she tells the department, they’ll surely put her on some wacky desk job, like filing papers in evidence, or answering phones at the department’s “I’m Calling Because I’m Stupid” hotline. And you know what…wearing a uniform after working in plainclothes for any period of time almost seems like a demotion, even if it’s not. And, those things are hot and uncomfortable!

Lydia demonstrates just how uncomfortable a uniform can be when we see her slide out from behind the wheel for the first time back in uniform.

Sgt. Adams unhooks her seatbelt and leans to her left, getting out of the patrol car. Did you happen to notice the grimace when she made the move to step out? Now that brought back memories. Do you see the space between her belt line and the bottom of her vest? Well, picture a wide and thick gun belt attached to her regular belt, at the top of her pants. Then, imagine as you lean to the side that space between the belt and the vest narrowing until it finally closes…with the soft flesh of your side pinched tightly between! Yes, that’s the cause of the wince. It hurts. Yeah, I know, being pregnant didn’t help any.

Lydia’s next move was to grab the top of the vest that had pushed upward toward her throat. She pulled it out and away from her body, an effort to relieve the irritating claustrophobic choking sensation. Now this is something that you get used to (the vest choke) but officers still do “the grab and pull” all the time, all day long. First, to stop the choke, and second, to allow the oven-like heat that’s trapped between the vest and your skin to escape and be replaced by a bit of fresh, cooler air.

– Cooper and Tang are stuck with a camera crew riding along, capturing their every move and word. That’s a scenario that cops are generally not fond of. They don’t trust the media because the media sometimes paints officers in a bad light, especially when any kind of force is used to subdue suspects.

I have many friends who work in various aspects of the media and it’s always an eye-opener for them when we invite them to attend police training so they can get a feel for why cops do what they do. The absolute biggest opinion-changing eye-opener is when they go through FATS training (firearms training simulator) where they’re faced with actual shoot/don’t shoot scenarios that happen in real time. Their reactions are most often of disbelief, horror that things escalate so quickly, and they’d have been killed if they’d hesitated to use deadly force, which many do…the first time.

Anyway, Cooper and Tang are called to a bakery where there’s a dispute between the owner and a customer. Coop and Tang separate the two (good technique) and then make the customer leave. In the meantime, they work with the man’s wife and the owner to reach a solution. Of course, all this takes place with the man’s young child in the thick of it all. And that, I’m afraid, is often the norm. Children suffer because daddy or mommy can’t control themselves or their actions.

– Sammy attempts to talk to a man whose son was killed in retaliation because he helped the police (Sammy) identify a criminal suspect. The man punches Sammy, blaming him for his son’s death, a death Sammy also feels responsible for causing. Sammy doesn’t fight back out of guilt.

– Ben and Sammy respond to an officer needs assistance call. The officers who needed the help were an oddly-matched pair—a male officer who was rather large and extremely out of shape, and a female officer who, as Sammy described, was, “Five foot and 99lbs soaking wet.” He resented having to come to aid because of their physical limitations.

Now, male or female. each officer should be able to hold their own and not have to call for assistance on calls that shouldn’t require assistance. I feel Sammy’s pain. When you’re trying to arrest a combative suspect and you spend most of your energy protecting someone who could barely lift a 5lb bag of sugar, well, that person is a liability on the street. They could easily get hurt and, their partners will surely be hurt trying to protect them.

I once worked on a shift with a person who was 4’11, weighed 91 lbs, had to sit on a pillow to see over a patrol car steering wheel, and couldn’t pull the trigger on a standard, department-issued weapon because his/her fingers were too short. Now, I ask you, would you feel confident wading into a bar fight among motorcycle gang members with that person as your backup? I’ve done it, and it wasn’t a good feeling. Sammy was right. Some people shouldn’t be cops.

– Ben and Sammy roll up on a group of guys who immediately set their beer bottles and cans on the ground. That’s exactly how it happens in real life. Good scene. And Ben’s searching technique was spot on—have the suspect clasp his hands behind his head, officer grabs the fingers of both hands and slightly leans the guy backward, off balance. Then he starts the pat down with using his free hand, Patting every (I mean EVERY) area of the body, searching for weapons and other contraband.

– When Ben and Sammy first started their shift Ben began a search of their patrol car, looking under the seats, etc. This is done every day, between every shift, by both oncoming officers and those leaving for the day. The purpose of the vehicle search is to locate any contraband that may have been stashed there by suspects who’d been transported in the back seat area/cage. The search is supposed to be conducted after each transport as well. Then, oncoming officers know that anything they find belonged to the last suspect who rode in the car.

Ben thinks Sammy planted/conveniently found a crack pipe in their patrol so he could frame the guy he believed killed a witness to an earlier crime. He accuses Sammy of the illegal and immoral act only to learn later that the pipe was already inside their car, left there from the previous shift. The officers had neglected to search at the end of their watch. Ben attempts to apologize but a lot of damage has been done. He didn’t trust his partner. He didn’t back him…stand by him. Didn’t believe in him. Unlike Sammy who stood by Ben when he punched the girl. Remember?

It will be interesting to see how the tension between the two partners works out. If it works out. That sort of incident makes it extremely difficult to trust your life to someone you’re not sure will be there for you when you need him.

– Cooper and Tang are behind a car. The driver’s nervous and, like many drivers across the country, he starts doing all sorts of dumb things. Black and White Fever is the cop’s name for what happens to drivers who suddenly realize a police car is behind them. They start swerving, braking too often, stopping in odd places, run red lights, and more. So Cooper nailed this one on the head, stating that drivers forget how to drive when a cop car shows up in their rear-view mirror.

_ Lydia earns a spot in the ER when she’s struck in the belly. But the physician assures her that the baby is fine. Lydia, though, is not. And a lone tear rolled down her cheek to let us know that she’s hurting from far deeper pain than the punch in the gut.

Now, regarding Lydia. It was great to see her in uniform and in action last night. Did you notice how the show seemed to fly by from opening credits until the screen went dark at the end? That’s because there were none of those “driving and thinking” scenes to slow us down. No walking around a crime scene talking about feeling sick and sad. Nope. None of that. And I certainly hope the writers remain on this track, because action, realistic action, is what makes this show stand out from all the other cop shows.

Southland is all about the day-to-day action that patrol officers face during their shifts. And that’s the stuff that drives the show’s fan crazy with excitement and enthusiasm.

And talking about realistic action…

How about Tang and knife-wielding woman? Great scene, and she and Cooper were right. They should have shot the woman when she first lunged at Dewey with the knife. But deep inside you never want to do that. You just don’t. So Tang tackled her, hoping to end the situation in the best possible way. It wasn’t her fault the lady was injured.

Then comes Cooper’s fight-for-his life fight scene. Now that was how to insert tension into a TV show. It was real. Very real. If I could’ve crawled into my set to help Coop I would have. And that brings up my final point for the week. These actors take their roles so seriously that their characters come across as real people. And I, for one, am glad that these guys are out there to protect us, even if it’s only for one night each week.



Read more
Southland: Legacy – A Review And Recap

After twenty years on the job, Officer John Cooper has been wondering how his fellow officers will remember him. But right now the only thing he can think about is hanging on.

Cooper, like all people and things on this earth, will eventually reach the end of the line. A hand is on the switch, slowly turning the dial toward dim. His experience is vast, and his knowledge, priceless. Will anyone care after he pulls the pin and retires? Doubtful.

You see, Cooper is realizing that he’s officially one of the “old guys,” a hush-hush title given to officers who’ve been around a long time. The guys who’ve seen and done it all. And it’s a title that even follows a retired cop to his grave.

The old guys have paid their dues, earned their battle scars, and they’ve loved every single minute of their careers, even the outlandish practical joking that occurs among the ranks.

Their years have flown by, and to them it seems like just yesterday when it was they who were telling war stories about “the old guys.” Stories that grew more exciting over the years with each telling. Now it is they, the new generation of old guys, who are subject of the stories.

Cooper is witnessing the changes all around him. The new guys have taken over the role of pranksters, as we saw between Ben and Sammy. Coop’s reached the point where he understands the reasons behind the crimes, instead of merely reacting to them. And we saw this as he talked to the kid standing on the ledge of a highrise, a young man ready to end his life because he couldn’t handle the difficulties and uphill battle of being gay in a largely straight world.

The “old guy” has come to terms with much of his life as a gay police officer, and he summed it all up by saying this to the jumper, “I’ve got a lot of problems, kid. Being gay isn’t one of them.”

Cudlitz plays his role quite well. He delivers the feel of many years of experience as a cop, and the others on the show actually seem to draw from it, just as younger officers do in real life. Now that’s good acting.

Okay, on to the practical joking between Ben and Sammy. First, I must say that sort of thing goes on behind the scenes in every police department. And yes, to the extent we saw in this episode.

Well, unfortunately for you, it’s time for my weekly “I remember when” story. So, like it or not, have a seat in the time machine. I promise, this won’t take long…

Many police officers I worked with thought of themselves as the ultimate practical jokers.

After all, what could be funnier than squirting a thick cloud of pepper spray under a locked restroom door while your partner is in there with his uniform pants around his ankles?

Taking, and hiding, a fellow officer’s patrol car after he left his keys in the ignition while in foot-pursuit of a fleeing suspect, was another favorite trick. Watching him frantically search for the missing vehicle, while wondering how to explain the loss to his supervisor, was hilarious to the pranksters. There were times, however, when the last laugh was on the comedians. Like…

One particular night, a couple of the guys borrowed a department-store mannequin and quietly smuggled it upstairs inside the county jail. There they dressed the mannequin as an inmate, in orange, jail-issue coveralls. The plan was for two of the deputies to make their way down the steps while pretending to fight with the dummy. The scuffle was to end at the office of a graveyard-shift dispatcher who thought of herself as the queen of all jokesters, whose most famous prank was baking homemade Christmas cookies laced with a very strong laxative (being on patrol in the far reaches of the county when “the urge” strikes is no joke!).

The mannequin idea was supposed to scare her into sending out an officer-needs-assistance call; we all expected a good laugh when she realized the joke was finally on her.

So the officers began their descent down the stairwell, yelling and screaming and “fighting” with their prisoner as they neared the dispatcher’s station. When they rounded the corner and were in full view of the poor woman, the “fight” became more intense. The dispatcher stood to see what was causing the disturbance and, as they expected, she panicked—big time. Just as she reached for the microphone to call for assistance, the head fell off the mannequin. The wide-eyed dispatcher watched in horror as it tumbled down the steps and rolled to a stop at her feet.

Thinking the deputies had decapitated the poor inmate, she promptly fainted and struck her head on the concrete floor. An ambulance had to be called, an accident report had to be completed, and the sheriff had to be notified—at 3:00 a.m.

The dispatcher was fine, but when the sheriff arrived, real heads rolled.

So there you have it, this stuff is how cops keep their sanity in check after dealing with the horrors of society. And Sammy and Ben sure gave us a great peek into that side of the job—stealing Sammy’s towel, the “I’m pregnant” girlfriend, birds in the car, and the “Squeeze my hand.” Classics!

Even the humor while dealing with an out-of-control subject, a less-than-tall man who strongly resisted arrest, was spot on. “Where are you taking me?” Ben, “We’re off to see the Wizard.” Politically correct? Of course not. Realistic? Yep.

By the way, Ben’s change in attitude is absolutely normal. Rookies tend to be on their best behavior when riding with their training officers, as was the case with Ben and Cooper. However, once the training is over and their jobs are more secure (a rookie-in-training can be dismissed at any time), rookies tend to spread their wings a bit, letting their true personalities emerge. That’s what we’re seeing with Ben. Also, rookies are sort of like kids, they tend to mimic the people they’re around. And Ben is definitely becoming and extension of Sammy.

And let’s not forget Ben’s comment, “Badge Bunnies are predators. I don’t go after them, they come after me.” Now where have you heard that before? Yep, right here on this blog. I tried to tell you guys…

Lydia and Ruben land a murder case involving a father who killed his own son and then attempted to cover his tracks. The crime scene clues all pointed to dear old dad who’d done a poor job of concealing the evidence and his guilt. Actually, this looked like a case of the suspect wanting to be caught. Happens all the time.

I worry, though, that Lydia’s pregnancy is going to slow the story. This show’s own legacy is its intense wall-to-wall, nonstop action. Lately, though, Lydia’s “I’m sick and I’m not admitting why” scenes are taking us out of the excitement that normally keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Still, she’s great. I’ll say it again. Regina King is great, and she’s playing the part well. I’m just a little concerned. It’s in the back of my mind that this an unnecessary stumbling block for the viewers. We’ll see how it plays out. I have immense faith in the writers, directors, and producers. Notice I didn’t mention the actors? Goes without saying that they’re all fantastic.

The CoopTang duo is flagged down by a frantic woman claiming her son has been abducted. Doesn’t take long to learn that she believes her son is none other than Jesus Christ. Coop’s “old guy” response when the woman revealed the identity of her precious child was priceless. He calmly said, “You must be very proud.” Who wouldn’t be, right?

By the way, have you noticed Lucy Liu/Tang’s habit of resting her right hand on her weapon? I told you she’s a natural for this role. But don’t worry, she’s not trigger happy. It’s just that the gun is right there in that perfect location, and cops have a tendency to take advantage of the built-in armrest.

– Sammy and Ben respond to a murder case where the victim is found dead behind the wheel of a car. When they ask  for assistance from bystanders, of course no one offers anything, not a peep. This is how it really is. People just do not want to get involved. Of course, when you get them off to the side away from everyone, then your chances of locating a witness improves quite a bit. It’s the “snitches wind up in ditches” theory that keeps most mouths zipped tightly closed.

“I’m hormonal and I’ve got a gun. Don’t mess with me,” says Lydia Adams.

Ask any male cop who’s ever worked around a female officer just how many times he’s heard that statement, and I’ll bet he couldn’t count the number on his fingers and toes.

– Cooper and Tang stop a car for speeding. The driver instantly starts spouting the same old speech that cops hear day-in and day-out. “Don’t you have more important crimes to investigate?” No, Buddy, there aren’t. You see, cops are busy all over the country working car crashes involving dead pedestrians because the drivers were speeding, texting, eating bowls of cereal, applying makeup, and reading the paper.

And, as usual, we’ve come full circle. Cooper and gang are unwinding at a bar, and everyone is having a great time. But it’s late, especially for one of the “old guys.” So Cooper is the first to leave. Tang follows him outside to tell him that the kid he saved from the suicide attempt had made another attempt and that time achieved his goal. Well, Coop’s already heard the news on the radio, so it wasn’t a shock. He tells Tang that his job was to save people, and that he couldn’t dwell on what they did afterward. That’s great advice for any cop. If they did otherwise they’d probably wind up at the end of a dirt road sucking on the end of their service weapons.

Tang returns to the crew inside the bar leaving Cooper standing outside. He hears Dewey telling a war story, one of his. A notable moment in his 22-year career (8 more and he’ll earn that 6th hash mark/stripe on his sleeve—one for every 5 years served).

The day you hear that first tall tale about some remarkable or crazy thing you’d done during your time on the job is when you know you’ve officially been tagged as “one of the old guys.”

Welcome to the club, John Cooper.

Read more