Medium Watch: Smoke Damage
Author: Patrick Hodges
published: 2010-11-13 00:14:03
I’m all about good drama, and Medium is fairly reliable in providing it, but I’m honestly hoping that the next few episodes will trim back on the close-to-home drama. In the past season-plus, Allison has been hospitalized and almost died, her friendship with Lee almost went down the crapper, Ariel left for college, Bridgette’s been getting uppity with regularity, and last week, Joe’s frustration level reached boiling point. I know it’s fiction, but the point of following a show is that you get invested in the characters’ lives, and feel like they’re people you actually know. Which is why I’m hoping that potentially emotionally-scarring situations can be avoided for a little while, because I’ve had my fill.
Tonight’s ODS is pretty straightforward: a girl in her late teens, asleep in a room with naught but a mattress for furniture, wakes up choking in the middle of the night. The danger is made more apparent when she flings open her bedroom door and is confronted with a wall of flame. Of course, we get no other info at this point, because Allison wakes up choking herself. Joe, as usual, tries to comfort her by telling her that there’s very little to be done at this point, since they don’t know the girl’s name or address.
Despite being the D.A., it’s rare that we actually get to see Devalos in a courtroom setting. On this particular day, he’s taken point on a case against a really big fish: namely, a man named De La Vega the head of a local drug cartel, who’s on the hook for numerous felonies, not the least of which is drug trafficking and multiple murders. Devalos is looking to proceed with trial, as soon as they can wade through the defense attorney’s sea of motions. Devalos’s chief witness is De La Vega’s right-hand man, Wilfredo Soto. Devalos introduced Allison to Soto as a jury consultant (something she was hired for back in Season One but we haven’t seen her do much of since), and when she shakes his hand, she flashes on the image of another man opening a suitcase that contains a lot of money, along with an envelope full of photos of Soto. Not much to go on there, but Allison is convinced that the man is a contract killer brought in to whack Soto before the trial commences.
Devalos soon gets another surprise, courtesy of Lee’s wife Lynn: apparently the current mayor of Phoenix, whose office Lynn works in, is stepping down to enter the gubernatorial race, and he wants to endorse Devalos as his successor. He seems quite surprised by the idea, like political aspirations are something he’s never given much time to, but he recovers enough to tell Lynn that he’ll need to think it over. Lynn warns him that she’ll need an answer soon.
Another thing that Allison noticed at work was that there were a lot of people applying for the job of assistant D.A., and this has gotten her ruminating on her career choices. She originally studied to be a lawyer, and wonders if that particular opportunity has passed her by. We segue right from that to Burning House Saga, Chapter 2: the girl slams her bedroom door shut, and the only possible exit, a window, is barred shut. She sits down, resigned to her fate, but just then, a fireman’s axe bashes down the door, and it’s followed quickly by a fireman. Allison wakes up smiling, convinced that the tragedy has been averted. Of course, Allison’s bubble is burst by a late-night phone call from Devalos, who tells her that Soto has just died in an “accidental” fire at his hotel. And you should all know by now, there are no such things as coincidences on this show.
At the morgue the next morning, Devalos is understandably ticked off that Soto perished while under police protection. Lee explains that the poisonous smoke came from a source that the police detail couldn’t have foreseen, and there was nothing that could have been done. And that’s double bad news: not only is there no sign of foul play, but Devalos’s case against De La Vega just went up in flames as well.
Allison follows up by going to the fire station whose crew put out the hotel fire. She then catches of a bulletin board on the wall, covered with pictures of people whose lives the F.D. was unable to save. And, of course, the girl from Allison’s dreams is right there in the middle. But wait, she was saved! Right?! Which brings us to Burning House Saga, Chapter 3: the fireman enters the room, but instead of carrying the girl (whose name was Charlotte Spencer) out, he pins her against the wall while she continues to choke on the smoke now pouring into the room. And the man behind the fireman’s mask is the same man from Allison’s flash, the contract killer who presumably offed Soto. Hmmm, interesting!
Turns out the man is a decorated fire captain named Frank Davenport, whose company was the first on the scene at Soto’s hotel’s fire. Which, if you think about it, is an excellent cover for a contract killer… who better to set a non-suspicious “accidental” fire than a fire captain? Of course, Devalos points out that even if Davenport is a killer, why would a penniless runaway like Charlotte merit his attention?
Later that day, Allison returns to the firehouse to look into the case of Charlotte’s death. Frank is there to introduce himself this time. He also tells her the Charlotte was, in fact, his very own daughter, who he had been estranged from since divorcing her mother. He begs Allison to keep him apprised of any further developments in the case, but Allison now wonders that if she took her dreams out of context (gee, ya think?).
On the political front, Devalos is still considering his options. What’s giving him pause is not the idea of being mayor, but the fact that his opponent would be a city councilman named Benito Velez, who along with his wife have been great friends with Devalos and his wife for years. He’s worried that once the lines are drawn in the sand, all their personal knowledge of each other would be fair game, including, for example, his wife Lily’s addiction to antidepressants following their daughter’s suicide. The only way Benito could win would be to air all of hers and Manuel’s dirty laundry. Lily tells Manuel not to let that stop him, but he remains unsure.
Burning House Sage, Chapter 4 is actually more of a prologue: a college boy withdraws $100 from an ATM late at night, only to find himself jacked by an armed junkie in a hoodie. When it turns out that the college boy is unable to produce anymore, the junkie kicks him repeatedly… until he is called of by Charlotte, who is standing right there watching. Well, we knew she was no saint, but I am now curious to know where this is going.
Meanwhile, one staunch pep talk from Lily has made up Manuel’s mind. Having summoned Benito to his office, he informs his friend that he will indeed be accepting the mayor’s endorsement. Benito replies in that smarmy used-car-salesman type of voice that Manuel hasn’t Lily’s well-being into consideration, and that friendship be damned, the addiction and suicide will be on display. And then Manuel steels himself and deliciously informs Benito that their wives’ friendship is a two-way street, and that he knows about the woman that Benito not only knocked up, but also the $25,000 that he skimmed from the municipal account to pay for her abortion. Nicely played, Manuel! Methinks that the yearly skiing vacation may be put off indefinitely, however. (Giggle.)
Burning House Saga, Chapter 5 takes a detour. Frank is in the basement of a house, preparing to set another one of his “accidental” fires. (Not much contextual ambiguity there, I must say.) Unfortunately, he’s interrupted by the house’s occupant, a corrupt union boss named Foley, and the ensuing brawl between the two finds Frank victorious but suffering some very telltale facial lacerations.
The next morning, Allison and Devalos pool their information, and the whole ugly scheme comes out. The man Frank killed, though horribly burned, still had DNA under his nails, but they never found a match. But if the police ever arrested Charlotte for her part in the ATM robbery, her DNA would go into the system, and because family members share DNA, the resulting match would lead back to him. So his only recourse was to murder his own daughter to cover his tracks. Jesus, that’s cold. The bad news is that there’s not enough evidence left to compel a DNA sample from Frank, so they can’t proceed against him right now. Room service, one comeuppance on wheat toast, please!
Having nowhere else to turn, Allison goes to the only person she can think of: Frank’s ex, Charlotte’s mother. And what do you know, she just happens to have a lock of Charlotte’s hair pressed neatly into a photo album with her baby pictures, wrapped up in a neat little pink bow.
That evening, the TV newscast brings a double dose of good news: firstly, Frank’s been arrested for murdering Foley and Soto and will roll on De La Vega (comeuppance served!), and Devalos announces at a press conference his candidacy for mayor. And while I wish Manny all the best, I can’t help but wonder what changes the show might undergo if the writers decide that he’ll actually win.
Speaking of which, Allison is wondering what will become of her rather unique position in the D.A.’s office should Devalos move uptown. Joe tells her that whoever takes his place would be lucky to have her considering her track record. Allison replies, after staring wistfully at Ariel’s empty bedroom, that life is change, and that she’s decided to finish law school. Hmmm… psychic lawyer? I like that idea!
Next week: a convicted sex offender moves into the Dubois’ neighborhood. And you thought graffiti drove property values down!
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