There’s still not yet any great momentum building up under Treme‘s first season, nor is there any feeling of loss without such. Our cast of players are still following the disrupted rhythms of their lives, but in a few places, here and there, their ragged trajectories are beginning to overlap.
Take Antoine, to begin with, as the episode does. We begin with a squeaking, rocking trailer. The rhythm’s familiar, and indeedy there are folks screwing inside and one of them’s Antoine and the other’s not Desiree, she’s this hot, young chick from the Bourbon Street titty bar Antoine’s playing because he got nowhere better.
And Desiree calls him out because he’s been out all night, and he lies sufficiently, for now. Delmond’s in New York, recording with Dr John, the big charity concert’s coming up, the rest of the boys are ragging Antoine that he’s not been called to perform. Antoine gets thoroughly drunk.
On the way home he crosses the path of Annie and Sunny. Lucia Micarelli is already performing a minor miracle in presenting Annie as sweet and earnest when 80% of the time she’s playing, and Antoine’s charmed by the music to sing to her tune, one of those small-time showstopper moments that Treme will instinctively never overdose upon.
Then, drunk, he stumbles and his trombone clatters along the side of the Police car across the road, and two neanderthal cops are out instantly, cussing and aggressive, demanding he drop the horn. Antoine, possessive of his horn that has no case, is merely slow to react and is viciously and unnecessarily beaten down.
The next morning, he’s bailed out by Toni Bernette, still not aware of what he’s done, fat lip, loose tooth, and desperate to find his horn, which you suspect the bastard cops just left on the street (if so, my bet is Annie rescued it) because without it he can’t make a living.
Toni’s path, still trying to track down LaDonna’s brother, lost in the prison system, just as LaDonna still can’t get her bar insurance, or the roof fixed, crosses over with Davis McAlary even earlier and for the same reason: he’s been picked up overnight. Breach of his civil liberties, he’s going to sue, the same old Davis, never does anything wrong, it’s everyone around him interfering with his urge to do whatever the fuck he wants to do at any given time, for which he is always justified, for he is always right, but as Toni points out, in New Orleans, four months after Hurricane Katrina, in the midst of all this shit and tension, you cannot shout “motherfucker” at the National Guard.
It turns out this is the fourth time Toni’s hauled McAlary’s ass out of jail for free so, feeling some sense of responsibility, he offers to ‘pay’ by giving free piano lessons to Sofia (who has meanwhile discovered the early delights of YouTube, though her mother is not happy with her daughter being recorded saying asshole to the entire world.
So Davis turns up and meets Creighton, who definitely doesn’t think much of him, who thinks less when Davis tells Sofia to forget all her classical training to date, the only God is Professor Longhair, and less still when he raves about her potential as a musician: Davis is not going to be an influence on young Sofia, not is Creighton has anything to do with, and he’s very definitely got his head screwed on about that.
It’s Annie’s birthday, and Sonny has bought her a good Beaujolais to celebrate tonight. But for a second day running, Annie is approached in the street by Tom McDermott, who likes her playing and invites her to accompany him at a private gig that night: no pay, but free food and bar and Sonny as a guest. So she plays her heart out, he goes from stories of the Hurricane to morose silence and an early departure, drinking the wine at home alone. The man’s a now clean drug addict, but for how long?
In all this so far I’ve left out the strand following Albert Lambreaux and the rebuilding of the tribe, because it’s still running separate. The kid Albert beat up is in hospital in critical condition: Albert’s part in this is not unknown on the street. There’s almost a repeat, as Albert gets back to the bar late night, senses an intruder and threatens a similar beatdown, but the kid is much younger, is cowering, is only there to screw his girl in the back room.
The next day, the kid’s aunt offers him as cheap labour, needing something to do, all unaware he’s been round there.
But before and after this, another of Albert’s tribe makes it back from Arizona, where he kinda likes it. Jacques’ Dad Jessie is also of the Tribe, but he ain’t been seen since the Hurricane. Albert goes with Jacques to look at Jessie’s house, see if it’s fixable. It doesn’t look much, but Jessie’s boat’s in the shed outside. Neither can understand why it wasn’t used, but it’s upside down, and when they turn it over, there’s Jessie, four months dead and showing it. It’s a sober moment, and for once I didn’t anticipate it, even by a second.
So Jessie needs a send-off and more of the Tribe gather to practice a chant that’s obviously ingrained, and near-hypnotic, until the episode’s closing moment, and most serious of all. Their dance is interrupted by a tour bus, Katrina Tours, tourists and flashing camera lights. The sense of dignity interrupted is immense, and Albert is not the only one to tell the driver to drive on which, after a moment’s hesitation. he does, with a quiet apology.
In away, we’re tourists too, eavesdropping on something beyond our capacity to understand. But we are not just looking at surfaces, but within, and there is no need for ‘plots’ or ‘momentum’, not when we can just partake of the stew. More of the rhythm next time.