Lou Grant: s02 e04 – Mob

There wasn’t much doubt from the title what this week’s episode was going to be about, but for a long time, main writer Leon Tokatyan kept the story at bay with a number of parallel strands that you knew were all going to fold together.

There was Rossi getting het up becauuse a couple of LA mobsters got off scot free in Court. There was Mrs Pynchon, enthused about young Senate prospect Jack Patterson, although his campaign manager Paul Thackeray was under investigation for possible financial improprieties at his Savings & Loan company. And there’s Lou getting inveigled into an all-expenses paid weekend at the luxury resort, El Sirrocco, and all he has to do is organise the Trib’s annual tennis tournament.

It’s all kept pretty light hearted. Lou works all the way through his address book, looking for someone to take with him to El Sirrocco, but winds up with Rossi. Patterson’s ease and naturalness impresses Billie. The tennis tournament is a doddle, Lou’s only decision being about dessert, and there’s some overdone byplay about not being able to decide between chocolate or strawberry mousse (which is ridiculous: everybody knows you should go with strawberry).

It’s all a bit disconnected without setting up a mystery, until Lou recognises a familiar figure from twenty years ago, Detroit mob boss Patsy Reese (guest star Nicholas Colosanto, four years before striking it big in Cheers), all gladhanding and nostalgic about Louis Grant, his old pal, his old buddy, which Lou doesn’t seem to share.

Suddenly there’s known mob bosses all over the show, starting with Rossi’s Feressi brothers and then from all over the nation. Something’s going on. There are hostesses swarming over Lou and Rossi, ready to set them up. There’s a mysterious arrival at night, by private plane, whose identity is secret. I’m afraid I was slow there: even though I’d already made the connection as soon as Thackeray’s financial issues had been raised, I didn’t see the certainty that the mystery guest would be Senate hopeful Jack Patterson until he was pushed on us.

The revelation was made by Animal, turning up in immaculately ridiculous white suit (it was ridiculous then, though people who should have known better did that sort of thing, but now…) as a fashion photographer, complete with model, actually a hotshot blonde from Accounting: two single rooms. Animal gets the goods, Lou gets them out of there, but not without a final confrontation with Patsy, who still protests he (and they) have gone legit, clean businesses. Including El Sirrocco.

The story depends on proof, but Lou’s been too angry and too open with Patsy about the story. I thought so the moment he kicked off and, guess what, Animal’s film of Patterson and Thackeray has been swapped out. Lou’s only ‘satisfaction’ is to pull the tennis tournament, a loss that will harm El Sirrocco not a jot.

In the end, the episode tries to have it both ways, ending on the forcedly light-hearted joke of Lou finding somewhere else for thhe tournament that offers no choice as to dessert, just after the self-same character delivers a totally serious short monologue on the danger of allowing the Mob to take over every business by joking about them to shield the problem (which had the distinct feel of being the whole reason Tokatyan developed the story, as a vessel to let me write those few lines).

The ‘bright’ close misfires, but the episode doesn’t quite have it anyway. Whilst I applaud its realism in not getting to score a win over the Mafia, it makes the Trib and the programme ineffectual as a consequence: liberal hand-wringing about a subject with no effective solution, and for a distinctly liberal series, that’s not a good look. Not the series’ finest hout.


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