Though they’ve otherwise nothing in common, Treme and The Bridge share one characteristic common to great shows, that there is always so much in each episode that you cannot be believe it has lasted only an hour. And that this abundance of event and story has been conveyed to you without once your feeling short-changed: that a scene has been too brief, or underplayed, or made less than clear.
As the episode title makes plain, this week was set in the very immediate run-up to Christmas Day, though for a Brit the perpetual hot blue skies of the south made it impossible to get my head round that idea. The New York scenes might have made that more credible, but since we’re not filming in New York (are we?), these all took place indoors.
This was an episode that felt as if it concentrated upon the music more directly than usual. There was a weirdly funny West Wing-esque open, as Antoine got dragged back to school, interviewed on the fly, did his best to talk himself out of it and still got the job of Assistant Band Director to a school band short of any instrument more musical than castanets.
But Antoine’s heart is in his Soul Apostles. Sonny rehearses on guitar but frankly is no better than adequate, and this Japanese cat blows him out of the water. The Soul Apostles debut at LaDonna’s bar, to great acclaim but the Japanese cat has a gig so Sonny gets a chance, and you can sure tell the difference. Maybe his story will take a turn, as Antoine sends one of his cronies to warn Sonny about blowing his chance, and his reputation, over his drug habit.
In New York, Delmond Lambreaux is listening to old-time New Orleans jazz, over his grlfriend’s disgust. He’s leaning towards making a New Orleans album, and he’s starting to sew an Indian costume, of sorts. He also crosses paths with Janette, but we’ll get back to her story shortly.
The biggest bonus for me was an appearance by Shawn Colvin, playing live and bringing up on stage this wonderful local violinist she’s seen, and wanted to play with. This is, naturally, the lovely Annie T, who adds some superb, sweet tones to a song I’ve never heard Shawn Colvin sing (want, want!). And at the after-party, Shawn introduces Annie to her manager. But Annie is too shy, too unpushy to go for this chance, especially as the guy a) specialises in Austin and b) isn’t as enthusiastic about her as Ms Colvin. Sigh.
There’s a lovely little additional cameo from Annie, near the end, on Xmas day, jumping out of bed with Davis to dress up in robes and tinsel and play him a Xmas solo. Lucky sod.
Ah, and he’s getting back to being annoying is our Davis, unable to cope with the painful traumas of being born white and into a rich family. You see, in his soul he’s really a 22 year old thug n***a and he’s persuading Aunt Mimi to drop $5,000 to set up a label that will basically try to be Def Jam, and you knoooooow how that’sgoing to work.
Elsewhere in our pack, Nelson’s spreading the cream around quite effectively, whilst LaDonna is showing a brave face to Antoine about not letting last week’s attack defeat her, and maybe in time she’ll get back to her old self, but there’ll be no unrealistically fast TV recoveries. LaDonna has been seriously cracked, if not broken, and Khandi Alexander is playing her part superbly.
Toni’s still investigating the increasingly suspicious death of her now-departed client’s son and sneaking her way towards a more clearly defined but still undetailed outline. There’s a few moments of mother-daughter bonding with Sofia, interrupted by a text-message telling Sofia that one of her teachers has committed suicide, the first very veiled threat from the Police about putting the past behind everyone which Toni’s just going to ignore, and Sofia sneaking out to go clubbing with her friends on the Day.
It’s also a quiet, isolated Xmas for Terry Colson, who’s left it too late to post his Xmas presents.
Which leads us back to Janette, in the kitchen at Chef Brulard’s. Our girl is still feeling the strain of the great man’s stares and glares when a special job comes in: critic in the house. This is Alan Kingsman, a real-life critic nobly playing himself. He’s the one who, a week or two earlier, had written a notorious article slamming New Orleans cuisine as, amongst other things, completely passe. Chef keeps looking at Jeanette, it’s freaking her out, he wanders over, sees some fine, left-over herb dustings (?) on the counter. He grinds them into the heel of his hand, holds the resulting spatter up to Jeanette and tells her that this is her mind.
It is the eventual last straw we’ve been expecting but Jeanette’s response is fantastic. She doffs her apron, goes out to the bar and orders an expansive drink which I didn’t recognise, insisting it be made correctly. When it arrives, she tastes it and approves. She then walks over to Kingsman’s table and, having attracted his attention, throws it in his face. Gloriously, Kingsman’s first response, after the splutter, is to complain that this is a Sesurac (?): nobody throws a Sesurac.
So our girl wakes up an Internet hero, but out of a job. Then she gets put on the guest list after bumping into Delmond in a bar watching the game, New Orleans vs New York.
That’s Xmas Eve and Xmas Day Del flies down to N’Awleans to take the grumpy and self-righteous Albert out fora meal that Albert complains about. It takes a joint hit to cool the Big Chief down, which is where we close. Sixty minutes? Time warps around great shows, I tell you.