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Two Takes: Graceland “Pinon Tree” 

Two Takes: Graceland “Pinon Tree”
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network

After leaving us with a major cliffhanger in the last episode, Graceland picked up right where we left off with the bone-chilling ruthlessness of the Sarkissian clan. But it wasn’t long before the rest of the world started spinning again and we revisited many of the stories that were put on hold, including Mike’s near-death dream, Johnny’s Solano drama, Charlie’s oxy bust and the roommates’ eternal debate over what counts as “too far.”

Cortney: Tina, let me start by saying, you know how much I love this show, right? I rave about it to anyone that will listen. However, I have to admit, this episode didn’t wow me. While it had a lot of good elements and good scenes, it just felt choppy. We start off wrapping up last week’s drama then we jump right in to Mike’s dream weaving, which introduces us to a super quirky new criminal and just as I’m getting in to that, we suddenly jump back to the Solano story and before I know it, that’s over and we’re back at the Mike storyline.

Don’t get me wrong, all good stories, but this episode felt like it should’ve been two, at least. Especially the Johnny/Lucia saga. I’m going to go on a little rant here, so bear with me. After a season of INTENSE Solano craziness, I feel like that storyline deserved more than a seven-minute wrap up at the end of an episode…it barely even gave me enough time to dive back in to it and care again and then poof, it was done and Carlito was arrested and Lucia called it quits. I mean, is that it? We invested all this time and emotion and it was over in the blink of an eye? Also, I couldn’t help but feel like the fact that Briggs could bring it all down with one quick trip to Tijuana totally belittled all of Johnny’s hard work and effort so far this season….he was facing a real goliath but this almost made it feel like Carlito was more of a Disney-level villain. Am I crazy for wanting more build up to the closure of this storyline?

Tina: Okay, let me tackle your comments in pieces.

  • I think any episode coming off last week’s epic-sode was going to pale, especially since there wasn’t as much action in “Piňon Tree.” “Aha” was seriously one of the best Gracelands of all time. The entire hour was devoted to one case — bringing down Ari Adamian. The laser focus treatment really worked for me. So did the teamwork. I was on a Team Graceland high. In this week’s episode, some roommate conflict was back and the teamwork happened in pockets (yay for a lot of good Mike/Briggs quality time). So while that was enjoyable to me, it still didn’t give me as much of a high as last week. And, yes, using the term “high” seems so appropriate when it comes to this show.
GRACELAND -- "Pinon Tree" Episode 305 -- Pictured: Aaron Tveit as Mike Warren -- (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network
  • Mike’s dream weaving turns into something more. This isn’t a shock. We knew what he saw when he was dying was going to lead somewhere. Not sure if I realized it was going to be this. But, yeah, it was a little jarring to have the show go so heavy on this story arc when there were still so many other balls in the air, namely, Germaine, Ari and Carlito.
  • The end of Carlito: I was expecting another intense rollercoaster ride after what went down last week. Although, we did get that earlier this season when Johnny manipulated Sid into helping him go after Carlito with him. But, still, for an end of a story arc, I did expect to get more than just a few minutes near the end of the hour. But I admit, even though bringing the Caza Cartel in on this was a bit anticlimactic, I did like how Briggs finally put his stuff aside in order to help Johnny. I just wish the whole team could have been in on the action.

Now that we’ve gone over some of our issues with “Piňon Tree,” what were the things you liked about it? Because, like you said, it did have some good elements and scenes.

Cortney: Okay, good things. First off, I LOVE how everyone was trying to feed Charlie breakfast. They were mama bear’ing the mama bear! She always takes care of everyone so it was nice to see them taking care of her….and clearly if she is eating tuna casserole for breakfast, she needs it. But on a bigger scale, I have to say I was really intrigued by Mike’s new red bird tattoo buddy. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t entirely get that storyline or how Mike reached the conclusion that he did, but I find Vin (Mahedi Rakib) kind of fascinating. I mean, the guy wants to be a Hollywood Stuntman or own a cruise ship, how can you not like him?! He is a compelling blend of quirky and open and naive and genuine and I’m totally on board. That being said, his wife (Katherine Crawford) is another story…I don’t trust that woman at all…she has to be in on the red bird/WMD story somehow…I mean, she wouldn’t have a prosthetic leg for nothing, right?

Tina: Like you, I think I’m going to dig Mike’s operation that involves Gusti or Vin or whatever he wants to be called. I love that the reason he calls himself Vin is because of Vin Diesel. Of course, he mentions xXx but man, I was hoping he’d talk about the most recent Furious movies. Because those flicks are all kinds of awesome. Not sure what I think about the wife yet. My first thoughts are that the two make a strange pairing. But they’re a pairing I want to see more of.

Oh and what about the “fight” between Mike and Jakes at the bowling alley? Jakes got a punch in — and that totally shocked Mike — yet Warren prevailed. It was all for Vin’s benefit but it was still fun to watch. Glad Briggs’ plan made good use of Jakes, even though he got a sore arm out of it.

Cortney: Yes!! I loved that scene! I get such a kick out of these characters wearing alternate-personas. Last week Jakes showed off his “white voice,” this week he was an agent pretending to be a cop pretending to be a tough-guy stereo pusher. I also appreciated the irony that in fake fighting, Mike was actually doing what stuntmen do, even if Gusti did think it was Kung Fu. Speaking of which, who could sit through xXx a million times?!

Tina: Excuse me, Cortney. I think Gusti said he’s seen it “more than one billion times.” I watched xXx once and I was good. In other roommate news, while I didn’t much appreciate almost everybody bailing on Briggs’ Ari plan, I totally understood why they did. And it meant a great scene with the entire team together so I was on board for the dysfunctional fun. As for Briggs, he’s in obsession mode. He’s got to take care of Ari sooner rather than later. And now he’s making it his mission to bring down Martun for what he did to Colby. I like when Briggs starts to get a bit out of control. He becomes completely unpredictable. At the same time, I like how the members of the household go to him for help hatching plans. The guy is smart. And while his plans don’t always work for his own stuff, they almost always work for everybody else.

I adored the group scene at the bar as well. But did you notice when they were taking shots that no one realized Charlie didn’t drink hers? These agents are not being very observant.

Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network

Cortney: Of course I noticed that Charlie didn’t drink. But refresh my memory — who knew she was pregnant in the first place? And of those people, who knows she “had” the abortion? I can’t keep it all straight.

Tina: Now you’re making me think. Let’s see…Paige and Briggs know about her pregnancy and subsequent “abortion.” After that, I have no idea who knows what and when and how. All I know is that Briggs thinks she’s no longer pregnant. But if he’d keep a closer eye…well, we know he has a lot going on.

Cortney: I feel like Mike and Charlie talked about it at some point too…but maybe Mike was too focused on his next score to remember. Speaking of which, you asked about the drug problem last week and this week clearly showed us that it’s not going away anytime soon. That being said, I also LOVED that scene with all of them in the bar together celebrating Johnny’s “big win.” Anytime the whole group is together and ragging on each other, I’m in.

As far as Briggs goes, I love that he’s determined to follow through and get justice. So much talk in the house has been about not putting the bad guys down and that’s really all Briggs wants to do here, even if it is in a non-official and potentially unethical way. And when talking about bad guys, Martun is more than that, he’s a BAD guy. I mean, burning someone with battery acid?! That’s some crazy s–t. But in order to play at that level, Briggs has to get a little crazy too and that scene at the bar with Ari was no joke.

Briggs: CLEAN UP YOUR S–T! If you don’t have the sack to step up and take what’s yours…if you don’t trust me after everything I have done for you, then you know what man, do me a favor and blow me away right now.

Ari: You are stupid.

Briggs: Do it, Ari. Do it, Ari. DO IT!!

Ari: Hahaha, you’re a lunatic, man.

You could see the wild look in his eyes and it was kind of scary. But you have to admit, it worked. Even when he is a little off his rocker, Briggs knows what he’s doing. I’m still baffled that he managed to get out of that bathroom in the first scene without a bullet in his head. As far as what landed them there, I’m glad that for once, Paige didn’t beat herself up for making a mistake but instead she decided that she had to jump on board and help make things right. Briggs needs someone on his side if he’s gonna get this done.

Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network
Photo Credit: Jeff Daly/USA Network

Tina: And Briggs is the one that had the most problems with Paige betraying Mike. He wanted her out of the house. I like that they’re going to work together. Maybe it’ll repair some of the damage to their relationship.

Then there’s the Solano situation. Man, I really wanted to see more of Lucia in this whole thing. But I did love how she started kicking her brother when he was down. She wanted to do more. And you know what? I wouldn’t have minded if she offed him. This is a television show. My imagination is allowed to be more twisted than what goes on in everyday existence, right? It seems like she’s happy she didn’t go there because it would have proved she was a Solano inside and out. Instead, she has a lot to figure out. What she does know is she can’t do it with Johnny. I’m glad the show didn’t kill off Lucia. I’m not as sure about Carlito. Both of them could return someday and Johnny better watch out if Carlito figures out a way to enact revenge from behind bars, or worse case scenario, figures out a way to escape prison — legally or illegally.

Cortney: Yes! And after your awesome chat with Jamie [Gray Hyder, Lucia], I was definitely expecting more. However, I’m also curious to see what happens next. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I get where Lucia is coming from…sort of…but man oh man, I feel SO bad for Johnny! Look at all he has gone through and all the lines he crossed to save her and be with her! And now she pushes him away. I know that Johnny was doing it for love and would’ve wanted her safe regardless, but that was a hard pill to swallow. I’m interested to see if that affects him going forward. And while I wouldn’t have minded seeing Carlito six feet underground as well, I think it was better for both Johnny and Lucia that they didn’t do it. I can imagine that would’ve just been one more thing to haunt them. However, I hate to say it, but I definitely don’t put it past Carlito to make things happen behind bars…or to find his way out again….at which point someone needs to put a bullet in his head.

Tina: Yes, agreed. It’s good he lives…for now. But if he tries again, all bets are off. I’m also curious how this has affected Johnny. And if that will be addressed. In the bar some of his roommates were telling him to move on. I agree with Johnny. It’s too soon and I’m glad he realizes that. He’s always been a sensitive one. I’m also happy he was able to apprehend Carlito. But, of course, in doing so, the Caza Cartel is that much stronger. Wonder if that’s going to bite Briggs or anyone else in the butt someday?

Graceland airs Thursday nights at 10/9c on USA Network.

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