Vegas “The Real Thing” Episode Review


Synopsis

Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) attempts to solve the case of a murdered dentist. Meanwhile The Savoy casino’s head Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis) faces a troubling week. His count room manager Mia Rizzo (Sarah Jones) discovers fake chips in the casino. Worse, Mayor Bennett (Michael O’Neill) passes a new law allowing the Gaming Control Board auditors to monitor the Savoy’s earnings, making it impossible for Vince to skim money to send to his mob financiers in Chicago. While Savino tries to discover who is creating the fake chips, his wife Lara (Vinessa Shaw) offers to help him get local business owner George Grady  (Gil Bellows) elected as Vegas’s new Mayor, eliminating the auditors’ presence by getting rid of the mayor who brought them.

Concise Verdict

This episode is a great place to start for viewers new to the show. Not only is the case intriguing and surprising, but it provides great continuity and/or insight on many of the players and their relationships. Combined with a wonderfully original premise, flawless writing, direction, editing, appropriate music by David Carbonara and acting, and The Real Thing is a good example of why Vegas is this year’s best new show.  10/10

Detailed Review (spoilers galore)

This is where I analyze the most important scenes of the episode.  In this case, the teaser took up a bulk of the review because of how wonderfully clever it sets up the various, seemingly disconnected threads of this particular tale.

Teaser

Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) meets his son Dixon (Taylor Handley) who caught a trio of young male thieves. Their pants are pulled down which Dixon says he made them do since he only had one pair of handcuffs. Dixon exposits that the three stole cash over the Utah state line, that he Arizona police lost them and the men (boys, really) were unarmed. Ralph wishes Dixon hadn’t caught them as he’ll have to extradite them from two states if he wants to jail them “here in Nevada”; that it’ll take a lot of paperwork.

-At the beginning of the teaser, Ralph drives by a sign which states that the cities of Mesquite (Nevada), Littlefield (Arizona) and St. George (Utah), are all several miles away. This was a nice detail to help along the story.

Ralph says that as he hates paperwork so he’d rather just shoot the perps. After the boys are appropriately terrified the Sheriff continues that he could let them go instead after making sure the money is given back. Dixon chimes in that it would be easier than digging three graves in the desert heat. The boys pull their pants back up and speed away in their pickup. Ralph tells his son that it’s easier to scare the boys than it is to jail them and that “Sometimes there’s a difference between the law and justice.”

-This line was great continuity to Ralph’s character frequently using his own judgment when it comes to dealing with perps (i.e. helping a woman reclaim her ranch using questionable money, not turning a boy who accidentally poisoned his best friend in). But by the end of the episode viewers will be shown that not only will the statement serve as a running theme throughout the show, but also as a point of conflict (and possibly understanding) between the Sheriff and Casino manager Vincent Savino. But more on that later…

Dixon says that he would have been glad doing the paperwork. Ralph grins and says that his son should have told him so.

-Dixon here is obviously proud of himself to have succeeded in capturing perps who managed to evade the law in two states and wouldn’t have minded having it put on record. But he’ll be sorry he made that statement later.

The scene switches to Dentist Dr. Saffron’s office where a showgirl comes asking him to fix a broken tooth. The doctor turns on the music.

-Music is cleverly used in several instances in the episode to help intercut and smoothly transition into other scenes. Just so readers know, I’ll be using the word clever a lot in this review.

Mia Rizzo, in charge of the count room at The Savoy casino sees one of her employees make what I  assume is a vitamin C  concoction. She tells him if he gets the rest of the room sick she’ll fire him. This is when the Board of gaming auditors comes in and tells her of the mayor’s new authorization of having them inspect the casino’s finances. An auditor sights the drink as an open container. Its owner and Mia reach for it at the same time knocking it over. The drink dilutes the paint on one of the chips (a fake) on the table. Mia silently pockets it before anyone else notices before scene switches once more. This time, to Vincent’s office where he is enraged at the unwelcome presence of both fake chips and auditors in his Casino.

-Very nice set up right here. We are also told that Red (James Russo) is on a plane to Chicago to explain what is going on, so viewers know how big of a problem this is for Vince. Also explains why he’s not in this episode.

Vince walks out of his office and runs into his wife Lara who was meeting him for lunch. He tells her he has business to take care of and tells her they’ll have dinner together. Scene then switches back to the dentist’s office. The showgirl wakes up, alone, tooth still broken. She walks around the dark quiet office looking for Dr. Saffron until she finds him dead on the floor.

-Again, the transition was wonderful between the above scene. Having the bright Casino lights turn into the light atop the dentist’s chair, which the showgirl woke up to, was beautiful. Furthermore, we have so much foundation , so many characters packed in teaser. But it never felt heavy or like it was too much.

Honorable Mentions

Casting: Kudo’s to whomever cast Gil Bellows. I’ll always remember him as the Elvis wannabe inmate whom Tim Robbin’s took under his wing in The Shawshank Redemption. Others may know him as Ally McBeal’s boy next door crush. Either way, it was great to see this show use his talents. And he certainly fit his part.

Direction/Editing: I cannot stress this enough. The transitions between the scenes were beautiful. I’ve already spoken about the ones in the teaser. But there was also the use of music to transfer the scene where Savino’s lackeys commandeer the television shipping van, to the one in the beauty parlor with Lara and Catherine, to the one in the Savoy’s file room where Mia and Jack were working. Director Alex Zakrzewski made this episode feel like an old fashioned mystery film. I can’t wait to see the sequel.

Acting: The performances have been consistently good on this show but it seemed like the actors have gotten more comfortable with each other. I really enjoyed the chemistry which exists between all the characters. There’s the cute/wary friendship between Lara and Catherine, the friendly camaraderie between Borelli and Cota, the attraction between Jack and Mia, the genuine affection between the Lamb family members, and, finally, the grudging respect between Ralph and Savino.

Writing: As if the review so far hasn’t given enough reasons on why Vanessa Reisen’s script is so great, here another one: I love how multi-dimensional all the characters in this show are, and how painlessly this fact is depicted:

Mayor Bennett isn’t as clean a mayor as he might initially seem. When Savino states Grady is only eight points behind Bennett, Grady explains why his odds of winning are good: “Bennet’s getting too big for his britches. You don’t buy supplies from his cronies you get inspectors checking your sewer lines for violations. People are fed up.” The possibility that the Mayor may not be as righteous as he looks gives depth to his character.

Catherine. The ADA  (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) started a conversation with Lara about the Kennedy election after she saw her on Grady’s side. Then she approached her again before the debate. It hints that the desert rose has a clever, almost sneaky streak within her. This is especially true when she tells Lara that she doesn’t work for Bennett. While that’s technically true (she didn’t lie when she said she works for the city) she was obviously fishing for information to help Bennett. I love clever women.

-Jack. When Jack and Ralph go the Savoy to ask Savino about the fake chips and how that might have led to the doctor’s death, Savino tells them that he has a lead to share. They move to follow him but Savino stops Jack: “Not you, just him,” wanting only Ralph to come with him.  I enjoyed Jack’s annoyed reaction here. It reminded me of the slight conflict established by Ashley Gable’s wonderful episode in which Jack told Ralph “You make all the choices. We all have to take it.” Any hint that Jack, devoted as he may be to his brother, might also harbor a slight resentment to his authority intrigues me. I’m very interested in his character.

Best Lines

“You boys are gonna get yourselves quite a sunburn dressed like that.”-Ralph, to perps Dixon had take off their pants.

“What’s that?” Jack, to Ralph.

“It’s a knife.” Ralph’s deadpan response to above.

“On it.” Jack’s clarified response.

“You really want to add blasphemy to your list of crimes?” Savino.

“Reckon he bit off more than he can chew.” Jack, to Ralph’s on why the dentist was killed. Ralph’s expression at Jack’s god-awful pun was priceless.

“You said you were fine doing paperwork.” Ralph to his son, on why he was leaving him behind at the station. As if Ralph needed a reason more than his desire to protect his son.

“You say that? Oh, you’re an idiot.” Jack, to Dixon, in response to the above.

“He ain’t like the real law.” Savino, on Ralph.

“Just enjoying the fresh air. It feels good to be out in the field for a change, out of the station trapped under a mountain of paperwork.” Dixon, to his dad. Love Taylor Handley’s delivery.

“That’s a shock. You volunteering to work with Ms. Rizzo.” In one amusing line, new viewers are informed that Jack holds a candle to the count room manager, and that both his nephew and his brother know about it despite his attempts to hide it.

“I got kids!” – terrified driver.

““And I got hemorrhoids but you don’t hear me complaining about ‘em.”- Borelli, in response to the above.  I actually laughed out loud at this one. Funniest line in the episode.

“Do I look like a guy who is about to kill someone? I’m chewing gum for Gods’ sakes.” –Borelli.  Second funniest line in the episode.

“You know some days it’s a pleasure coming to work.” –Borelli, in response to Cota saying that they need to visit all the “dame” hangouts.

“You don’t get points for knocking down the calf, you get points for roping it.”-Ralph to Vincent.

“Shut up!” Ralph and Vincent’s simultaneous order to the perp when he interrupted their discussion on what to do with him.

Pet Peeve

While Sarah Jones’ wig looks as good (if not better) than it ever did, I preferred it when the darker roots of her (real?) bangs were visible as they matched her dark eyebrows. Dirty blonde looked more natural on her than her current bleach blonde look. Her make-up also seems more modern in this episode than it did in the previous episodes; not sure that’s a good thing.

Best Scenes

Second runner up: Borreli and Cota’s theft of the television van. Sonny Marinelli and Joe Sabatino provided the funniest moment of the episode. The latter’s delivery of his lines was especially hilarious.

First runner up: Ralph and Vincent face off over what to do with perp Jesse Lynch.

Sheriff Lamb demands that Vincent hand over the perp, whom Vincent wants to kill. The two then have the following debate:

Vince: Let me ask you something, Lamb. You got any mountain lions up there in your ranch?

Lamb: Got a few.

Vince: What if one of them came down and started killing your livestock? Taking what was yours out of your house, off of your son’s plate. You’d kill that lion wouldn’t you.

Lamb: I’d kill him dead cause the law says I can.

Vincent then rightfully points out that Lamb has his own code of ethics, that the first time he saw him he was having a fistfight with the ground crew in an airfield, and he wasn’t even a Sheriff at the time. He calls him out on taking the law into his own hands while conveniently being the Sheriff, adding: “You know as well as I do that there’s a difference between law and justice.”

It’s a powerful, powerful statement. Especially considering how Ralph said the exact same thing to his son at the beginning of the episode. But despite the similarities between the two men, there remains an important, albeit subtle difference between them, illustrated in Ralph’s reply to Vincent: “Killing a man for stealing money is not going to serve either one.”

Awesome.

But even better is how Savino punched out Lynch before giving him to Ralph, and Ralph’s amused “Fair enough”.

The Winner: The ending

Savino gets back to his Casino in time to watch the debate start on TV. Cota remarks that Bennett looks sick, as he’s sweating while Grady, thanks to the make-up Lara had him put on looks cool and confident. After Gary’s good opening speech, Savino’s man Borelli cuts the television feed before Bennett can give his own statement. At the police station, Jack knowingly remarks to a smiling Ralph “I guess timing is everything.” And when Cota tells Savino that Grady might have held his own against Bennett, Savino replies: “Why take a chance? People always remember the last thing they see.”

Indeed. And I’ll always remember this episode for the delicious entertainment it provided. Thanks to the entire cast and crew for this fantastic show!

Readers, do yourself a favor and download this episode on itunes before the new episode “Bad Seeds” airs. It promises to be another powerful entry. Here’s the promo.

*Vegas was created by Greg Walker and Nicholas Pileggi. It airs on CBS on Tuesdays at 10 pm.

*All material posted in this blog is the intellectual property of reviewbrain (unless otherwise stated). Readers are free to make use of the information provided they cite the source (this blog) either by name (reviewbrain’s blog) or by linking to it. Please extend the same courtesy to the authors of the comments as well (by mentioning their names) to ensure that credit is given where credit is due.

About reviewbrain

Screenwriter, independent producer, compulsive critic, editor, artist, language lover, student of life, pacifist, parent. View all posts by reviewbrain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: