Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Travel Through TV: The Straits 1.02: "The Trouble with Raskols"

“You always whinge about it, and then bang, the next thing you’re pulling in a shark.”

The second episode of “The Straits” certainly added some more twists to the Montebello family drama. We also got to learn a little more of the culture of Far North Queensland and the nearby islands. I had never really given much thought to Papua New Guinea before watching “The Straits,” other than knowing it was a country thanks to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. This particular episode, however, focuses a lot of Papuan culture. The Montebellos unintentionally find themselves in the middle of a blood feud and have to use their wits (and some money, naturally) to get themselves out of it. The Montebello family drama deepens, too, as Lola goes to new lengths to try and get Marou named Harry’s successor.

As the episode opens, we see two Raskols working in a meth lab on PNG, presumably using the equipment Noel brought over during his short-lived plan to get into the business in the last episode. One of the Raskols is kind of floundering cooking meth while the other is trying to make a phone call. They argue a bit about whether or not operating a phone so near the cook is a good idea, and the brother on the phone claims he saw on Mythbusters that it’s perfectly safe. As you would expect, as the Raskol on the phone walks away from the meth lab, the whole place blows up. This will later have a significant impact on the Montebellos, because the two Raskols were brothers, and the surviving brother blames Noel for his brother’s death. Also in the beginning of the episode, the police are investigating the death of the biker gang dude Harry killed by jellyfish in the last episode. They question Harry because he was seen meeting with the deceased near the time of death, but Harry manages to keep it cool.

Meanwhile, Gary and Eddie are on their way to Zey Island when they pick up a Sri Lankan castaway named Joseph. Joseph is a dentist, and he kind of serves as comic relief in the middle of the rather violent happenings on Zey. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that. None of the Montebellos are white, so it’s not really racist in the traditional American sense (and since “The Straits” is Australian, I wouldn’t expect it to be), but using the show’s one South Asian character in such a broadly comedic way compared to the tone of the rest of the show feels a bit off to me. Anyway, the surviving Raskol brother arrives on Zey not long after Gary, Eddie, and Joseph, and he tells folks he’s looking for Noel. Hapless Eddie tells the Raskol that Noel isn’t on the island, but his brother Gary is. That’s perfect for the Raskol, who thinks he can take a brother from Noel in exchange for his own brother. Eddie suffers two stab wounds while the Raskol interrogates him for more information. The number of injuries Eddie has sustained in these first two episodes is rather broadly comedic, too.

Once Eddie is incapacitated, the Raskol goes after Gary. He shoots up Gary’s house right after Joseph had spent a lot of time cleaning it (which is kind of comical, again in a sort of uncomfortable way). There’s a big gun battle between Gary and the Raskol, but Joseph ends up pushing the Raskol down the stairs, seemingly killing him. When we next see the guys, they’re gathered around the Raskol’s body and an open grave. The Raskol, however, starts moving a bit. He’s only mostly dead, apparently. Eddie tells Gary that Gary needs to finish the job because Gary is the big man on the Island now, and Eddie doesn’t really get paid enough to deal with that sort of thing. Gary has never actually killed anybody before, though, so he freaks the heck out. He jumps in the truck, leaves Eddie and Joseph, drives right to the airport and hops a flight immediately back to Cairns. If Gary weren’t kind of hot, I’d be really pissed at him right now.

Kitty is getting especially worried about the Montebello family standing on Zey Island. A friend tells her that there has been gossip related to Noel’s house getting shot up. There’s also the matter that nobody other than Eddie warned Gary that a Raskol was looking for him. She sees this as a sign that the Islanders are starting to sour on the Montebellos. I think Kitty feels this especially strongly because her connection to Zey is what she brings to the relationship with Harry. Before we dive back into the main plot, we also learn a little more about Marou. He’s a preacher at a local church, and we see him in action. Lola gushes about how good he was afterwards. She’s a real Lady MacBeth, that one, and it only gets more ridiculous as the episode progresses.

Harry, Noel, and Marou go to PNG to settle the feud with the Raskols. Gary is supposed to go as well, but he’s busy getting drunk at a bar. They come bearing rum and fried chicken in the hope they can placate the Raskols. Noel ends up really stepping up. He and Harry suggest to the Raskols that to completely pay the blood debt, the Montebellos’ gravel company would provide a new gravel road for the village. The Raskols take them up on the offer. The Chinaman is also part of these negotiations. He mentions that there are some girls from Taiwan that he would like to smuggle into Australia, but Harry says no. As he puts it, the Montebellos don’t transport anything that can tell tales. Noel looks interested, though, and he’s still trying to prove himself, so I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of it.

While the feud is over, the Montebello family continues to unravel. Sissy is diving into her new job as apprentice business manager. She keeps finding anomalies in the books, such as a bunch of bank accounts closing and properties being bought up. Paddy recommends to Harry that she be given a different job, but Harry won’t hear of it. Because of the buying up properties, Sissy starts following Paddy, and she sees him stop and pick up mail at one of the recently bought houses. She thinks he is embezzling. Meanwhile, Lola picks Gary up at the bar and offers to put a kettle on for tea while he gets a shower. Lola gets a not-so-brilliant idea, though, and she decides to join Gary in the shower. They have sex (because of course they would). Later, Lola admits to Gary that she was hoping the incident would make him feel guilty enough to support Marou as head of the family. Gary protests, but it does end up working. When Marou shows up at Gary’s house with some coffee after returning from PNG, Gary voices his support.

Harry seems to be finally starting to buy into the idea that Noel could be head of the family someday. He tells Kitty that Noel did especially well diffusing the Raskol situation on PNG. As for Noel himself, he and Toni have been getting a bit closer again since they’re both living in the same house post-shooting. They have a few tender family moments throughout the episode. At the end of the episode, Noel stops by a market and gets a gift for Toni. As he steps out on the street, the local biker gang is driving by, on their way to the funeral for the guy who was killed by the jellyfish. One of the bikers makes a throat-slitting motion as they ride by Noel. Noel raises a middle finger in response. Clearly the feud isn’t really over yet.

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