Saturday, June 8, 2013

Graceland 1.01: "Pilot"

“You know, Mike. You are now an undercover agent for the Bureau. That means from this moment on, your lies are your life.”
- Briggs

I have to say I was somewhat skeptical about liking “Graceland” when I first heard about it. But then again, it’s from the guy who did White Collar, so it has to at least be decent (after all you can’t go wrong when you cast Matt Bomer). So I decided I would give “Graceland” a shot and cover it this summer on the blog.

We begin in both San Pedro, California and in DC at the FBI Academy graduation. A senior agent is giving the commencement address, telling the agents that while they may be the best and brightest inside the walls of Quantico, real life can throw them for curveballs. We cut to CA where a DEA agent is waiting in his car. Another car pulls up and he gets out (leaving his badge in the glove compartment. He’s been playing with a flesh colored squeeze ball while waiting and it shortly because clear what it is for. Some Russians show up with a briefcase of cash and he acts like he’s shooting up (the ball is so he doesn’t actually have to shoot up). It looks like it is all going well until the ball slips and he gets shot and left for dead. The speech in DC ends and everyone cheers.

We cut back to a beautiful beach house and a guy named Briggs is sleeping and is rather grumpy when one of his fellow housemates, Johnny Tuturro comes in to wake him up. This involves throwing flip flops at the door. There’s a brief pow-wow in Briggs’s room when their boss tells them (Briggs, Johnny and a female agent named Lauren) to clean out the DEA agent’s stuff because they’ve got a newbie coming in to replace him. Fresh out of the Academy, his name is Mike Warren. He looks good on paper, except he doesn’t speak Spanish. Apparently he’s working on that on the flight out to CA. Briggs is tasked with collecting Mike at the airport which he promptly pushes off on Johnny so he can go surfing instead. At first blush, Briggs appears to be kind of a slacker.

Mike is on the flight over and he’s learning Spanish on his phone. He starts telling the woman next to him that he’s a teacher at a new school (getting used to lying about who he is) when the flight attendant interrupts and outs him as FBI. The cockpit got a message for him to wait under the baggage claim sign. Like a good obedient agent, he does so for two hours until Johnny actually shows up. They have a pretty fun rapport right off the bat. Johnny is just a fun guy, bouncy and flirting with the ladies as they head for the house. We get some basic rules and facts laid out. No one knows they are feds and they have various covers. Briggs tells people he’s a Tai bow instructor and Charlie (whom we haven’t met yet) says she’s a trust fund brat. Mike will catch on I’m sure. He gets introduced to the chore wheel (twice) and meets Lauren who is not in a good mood. To be fair, her partner did get shot right in front of her. Mike is ordered not to touch Donnie’s stuff. A little later, after doing a deal for some exotic birds, Dale Jakes (Customs) gets home and starts yelling at Mike for drinking his OJ. This is all just hazing for the newbie. Briggs finally comes on scene and tells Mike to do all his chores (he describes it as working on name association for undercover work). I personally think Briggs is just lazy. I can’t quite tell what Mike’s first impression of his training agent is either.

The next morning, we find a woman who looks pretty bad off, grabbing some vials out of a loose floor board in a hous4e and she takes off. We cut to Mike doing the dishes in the kitchen and the woman forces her way in. A little gun play ensues before she reveals she’s an agent. In fact, she’s Charlie. And there’s yet another rule in the house no one told Mike about. No guns downstairs (kind of like no civilians upstairs). So many rules! Anyway Charlie shows Mike where Donnie’s spare key is but says if he tells Lauren, she’ll shoot him. They are kind of a high strung bunch. Speaking of Donnie, Lauren gives him a call. They may be partners but it seems like they’re closer than that. I don’t know if it’s the undercover situation or what. She fills him in on Mike (sort of) and tells him that likely both the Russians and the Mexicans want him dead. Not a good idea to piss of two drug organizations.

Next we’ve got a surfing montage where Mike tries and fails to surf. Briggs says it is a way to connect with the things around him, special awareness or some shit like that. After getting smacked in the face by a couple waves, he ends up under the pier to catch his breath and a dog steals one of his newly purchased flip flops. Charlie pays him a visit and explains that Briggs used to be all suit and tie, straight laced agent. Then something happened, he took a leave of absence and came back all Zen surfer drink during the day guy. I definitely want to learn more about what happened with him. The guys get back to the house and Lauren tells Briggs that one of his contacts called and wants to do a buy. This seems like the perfect time for Mike to get his feet wet. It should be a simple reverse. He’s supposed to go in, make the drop with the drugs and give the other agents the bust signal.

On the ride over, we learn all about Briggs’s big cover story. He was making a buy with the Mexicans after getting an award (which CNN plastered his face all over the news for a week) and things get touchy. So Briggs makes up this story about playing a cop who goes undercover in a movie. It’s ridiculous but the cartel higher ups end up believing it. It is kind of hilarious and so Mike says he needs to be in the movie, even if Felix (Briggs’s contact) doesn’t ask. So Mike ends up being cast as the Briggs’s brother-in-law (who is married to an actual stripper). This is going to be so bizarre it’s just so funny.

It turns out Mike needed that in with Felix. Felix doesn’t just believe that he knows Briggs from “around”. And then things go sideways. Felix doesn’t have the money for the drugs but he has a truck full of Levi knockoffs he’s willing to trade. This doesn’t quite work out though because Mike wasn’t supposed to change locations. Johnny runs them down but the cops bungle it up by walking Felix through the precinct right into Mike in his FBI flak jacket. Idiots. Felix’s Russian lawyer (he works for the Russians even though he’s Mexican) shows up. Felix kind of freaks out because he knows the drug organization sent him. The lawyer tells Felix they took his family as insurance he doesn’t talk to the feds. And he wants to know who he got arrested with. Felix panics and says it was his brother-in-law.

The agents are home celebrating Mike’s first bust when their supervisor shows up and says that the jeans were stolen from the port so now they’re Jakes’ issue. That’s the good news. The bad news is, thanks to Felix’s lie, Mike’s made bail. So they have to scramble. Mike is nervous that if he doesn’t continue undercover, they could kill Felix’s family. Luckily, Felix has a brother-in-law named Frankie who bears a passing resemblance to Mike. So the team gets him ready in an hour, quizzing him on facts about Frankie, getting him to look as close as he can. There is a kind of sweet moment as Charlie is doing make up where she calmly tells Mike to just act like Felix showed up and asked for help. Briggs also preps Mike for the fact that the Russians are likely going to have him kill someone or else they’ll kill the whole family in retribution. No pressure.

Mike does good though; he convinces the Russians he can do what they want by pilfering from Johnny (making up a story about killing a guy on a toilet). The tech guys the UCs have working for them are damn good. They managed to fabricate a cold case and slip it into the NCIC database with relative ease. Things go sideways when they take Mike to a house and tell him to kill the guy in the back room. I wasn’t surprised at all that it turned out they wanted Donnie dead. Luckily, Mike manages to convince Donnie of his identity and they both walk away alive. Briggs goes to back Mike up once the rest of the team figures out what’s up and he takes out both Russians (the second one, didn’t necessarily have a gun but he shot him anyway). Mike lies for him and things move forward. The gang ends up having a bonfire on the beach that night and Mike gets a call from the agent who gave the graduation speech. Mike’s assignment is to investigate Briggs. This is all going to be very interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment