David Duchovny's Aquarius has been a solid hit for NBC. We're eight episodes in with this week's "Sick City" and Sam Hodiak has hit something of a slump.
Last week, he figured out who murdered a gay movie star, but because of studio politics the case was swept under the rug. He's no closer to finding his missing son. Though he doesn't know it yet he's become a target of Charles Manson. And alcohol is becoming his new best friend.
Will this week help get the detective back on track? Find out after the jump.
Ken Karn is at his office, looking out the windows, drink in hand. His partner Hal Banyin enters the room and points out it's a little early for drinking, even though he too has had a rough morning. It's before 10 a.m. He says he's just come from a meeting about the Republican committee. It turns out Karn's idea to keep a direct mail campaign going was a success. Such a success, that they want to make Karn the campaign finance chair in California for Nixon. The men celebrate, but then Karn asks why Banyin had a rough morning. Turns out not only did his partner want the job, but now there will be a deep investigation into the firm. Banyin says not to worry, that he's paid off a few people to let him know if anyone looks into the case they handled for Manson. He says this morning someone did look into the case. Sam Hodiak.
At the Hollywood Police Station Hodiak rattles off the particulars of the case. Caroline Beecher was a prostitute who went missing seven years ago, last seen wearing a red-sequined dress. He tasks Detective Dumphries with calling area counties to see if any Jane Doe's turned up matching Caroline's description. When the detective asks why Hodiak is so interested in tracking the woman down he replies "Because a guy named Ken Karn and his friends don't want us to."
It's poker night for Hodiak and his buddies, hosted by Joe Wilson. Hodiak gets up to leave and retrieves his freshly ironed dress shirt from a hanger in the kitchen. Wilson's wife has apparently fixed the shirt for Hodiak. He offers to pay Wilson for it, but Wilson says that's the least he can do after messing up with Hodiak's friend's daughter. "What ever happened to that girl anyway?" Wilson asks.
The answer is that she's back at the Manson house. Emma Karn is playing horseshoes with Roy Kovic, discussing the soon to be Manson baby. Emma still doesn't seem overly thrilled by the idea, but Kovic assures her things will be fine, using his own 5-year-old son as an example. The softer side to Kovic was a little unexpected, to say the least. A well-dressed man pulls up to the compound and Kovic's softer side melts away. He pins the guy to his car and asks "where you going police officer?" Turns out the man is no cop but Elliot Hillman, a music producer who is looking for Manson.
Hodiak walks into the police station only to be confronted by Grace Karn. Both apologize for the way they spoke to each other when they last met. Hodiak tells Grace that Manson was once a pimp and one of his girls went missing. He didn't go to jail because he had a good lawyer, Ken Karn. Hodiak ponders why a "3rd rate pimp" had such a good lawyer. He and Grace agree that there's no good answer to that question.
Back at the Peach Pussycat, Brian Shafe and Jimmy Too are drinking and talking shop. Jimmy is complaining about needing a better business partner than Lucille Gladner. Shafe suggests Roy Kovic.
At the station, Hodiak wonders if Kovic and Jimmy Too working together won’t make them suspicious of Shafe. Shafe blows him off asking Hodiak if he has work to do. Hodiak says he does, he's looking for Manson’s missing hooker. Shafe wonders what the brass thinks of that. Hodiak shrugs and says "don't you have work to do?"
Mikey the Snitch comes into the station looking for Shafe, freaking out that Lucille Gladner wants to see him. Mikey's terrified Lucille wants to kill him. Shafe reassures Mikey that it's safe to go see her, that if he leaves town he’ll look even more suspicious.
Manson’s playing for music producer Elliot Hillman while Emma sits on his lap. The producer asks him to sing a prison song, which Manson does. And by all rights it’s pretty awful.
Hodiak confronts Cutler in the locker room, who is still pouting that Hodiak slept with Opal, but won’t explain why. The exchange is pretty funny on Hodiak’s part, like when he asks the detective why he's "being such a fetus about the whole thing". Cutler doesn't respond and walks away.
Father Mack is back to visit Hodiak. He wants Hodiak’s opinion on another priest at the parish, Father Rowe. It would seem Father Rowe may be lifting money from the parish donations. Father Mack is concerned about causing trouble so Hodiak offers to help in a way that won’t identify him.
Manson’s still singing for Hillman when a guitar string breaks. He loses his temper and grabs Emma off of the producer’s lap. Manson angrily says there’s a cop in his head because of Emma and that’s what’s distracting him. He tells Emma to make sure Hillman stays and if not he will be angry. Emma brings Hillman into the house. She tells him he needs to better understand who Charlie is in order to understand his music, that he's different than the other musicians Hillman has met. “His love is everything” she tells Hillman about Manson. The producer says she’s convinced him but leaves anyway, and Emma starts to panic.
Hodiak is watching a report on the Vietnam war when Joe Wilson comes in. He asks Wilson to look into the case of Father Rowe. Wilson agrees quickly and says he won't let the detective down this time.
Hodiak leaves the station to meet with a nurse. The woman who calls herself Nurse Kendall worked as a prostitute before putting herself through nursing school. They discuss how long it's been since she got out of the profession. The scene quickly changes to the Peach Pussycat where Shafe walks in with Kovic. Kovic and Jimmy Too insult each other before they get down to business.
Back with Nurse Kendall, Hodiak asks her if she knew Caroline Beecher, the missing woman, or Lois Miller who reported her missing. Kendall doesn't know either of them but promises to ask around.
Mikey the Snitch is cowering at the bar. Shafe talks with him and discovers he's rattled because Lucille wanted to sleep with him. Lucille meanwhile is talking with Jimmy Too and is not happy he invited Kovic and his gang in without telling her. Jimmy doesn't back down, saying the bikers work for him now. If Lucille is angry about this she's not tipping her hand just yet.
Grace and Ken Karn sit far apart at a large conference table. Ken tells her about the position he's been asked to take with the Nixon campaign. Karn believes only Nixon can save the country. He says Nixon will vet him, Grace, and their daughter. He says he'll do whatever it takes to make sure Nixon is elected. He says he'll tell Grace what he's going to do and when he's done all he wants to hear is "yes dear".
Karn arrives at the Manson house to talk with Emma. He tells her that since she left home she's legally emancipated herself. They can sign the paperwork and make it legally official, that Emma would be on her own. Emma asks if this is what her mother wants as well. Karn says yes. Emma begs him to be honest with her about what went on between him and Charlie. He dodges the question of course and says he'll sign the paperwork. Emma looks resigned and says "Goodbye Ken" and walks away.
Wilson arrives at Hodiak's door with information on Father Rowe's whereabouts. The priest has been participating in high stakes poker games at a warehouse. Father Rowe is stealing from the collection plate and gambling the money away. Wilson also points out that Hodiak is visibly hungover and needs to stop doing that. A half-empty bottle of liquor sits on the counter. Wilson leaves and Hodiak blows him a kiss as he walks out the door.
Father Mack is back at the police station with Hodiak, who tells him what he's learned about Father Rowe. Hodiak offers to pick the man up but Father Mack insists he doesn't want the other priest shamed, that he wants to talk with him first. Hodiak agrees and Father Mack implores him to talk with him about anything. They part ways and Hodiak looks as though the priest has given him a lot to think about.
The people at the Manson house are gathered in the living room when Manson storms back. He's ranting and raving about how the people rammed their fear down his throat and that's why he didn't do well with music producer. They need to center their energy. He rants that everyone will do "two smiley faces" each, the acid papers we've seen before. Emma tries to convince him that Hillman is coming back, that she doesn't want to do that much. He only says she's done too much talking for one day.
Nurse Kendall, who Hodiak calls Nurse Martha, is waiting for him at his desk. She's dropped by to tell him she hasn't had any luck getting information about Caroline Beecher. They flirt before the scene briefly cuts back to the Manson house. Everyone is tripping out of their minds. It cuts back to the station where Cutler is on the phone arguing with his wife. Cutler didn't come home last night and is trying to blame it on a murder case. He's losing the argument when Hodiak steals the phone from him. He reassures Cutler's wife that they were on a terrible case and smooths things over by promising to visit.
One of the Manson girls is having a bad trip. Manson starts screaming for Cherry Pop to help and then calls her Emma, which he almost never does. Emma hears him but uses the confusion as a chance to get up and walk away. She drops her two smiley faces in the yard and walks toward the road.
Hodiak is surrounded by a stack of files when Shafe walks in. He asks about the case and Hodiak says he's at the straw-grasping stage. The files are Caroline Beecher's arrests and the girls who were booked along side her each time. Hodiak wants to go through the files to see if he knows any of the other prostitutes. Cutler offers to help. The three are reading through the files, ignoring a ringing phone which another detective answers. Hodiak finds a file for Louise Mitchell, who also goes by Lois Miller. The woman who reported Caroline Beecher missing. The detective who answered the phone interrupts and asks who wants to take a ride over to St. Finian's. A priest has been found strangled there. Hodiak puts his face in his hands, clearly distressed. Cutler leaves with the other detective and Shafe notices Hodiak. When he asks if he's alright, Hodiak replies that he knows who did it. Hodiak makes his way over to the church and looks sadly over the body of his murdered friend. Cutler has a plan to bring Father Rowe in to identify the body and hopefully shock him into confessing. Hodiak looks like he can barely contain his anger. Father Rowe walks in but before he can react Hodiak attacks him. The other officers pull him off but not before he gets a shot in.
Ken Karn pulls up on a deserted stretch of road and checks a map. He opens the trunk and pulls out a pair of gloves, the scene flashing back briefly to Karn on a rainy night loading something into the trunk. In the present he slams the trunk and walks toward a rocky hillside.
At the Peach Pussycat Jimmy Too is telling Shafe about an incoming delivery and that he wants Kovic and the men to get to work. Lucille interrupts and tells Jimmy a package has arrived, in the guest performer dressing room. Mikey the Snitch is lurking in the back. Jimmy says they should go meet the delivery and put it in Shafe's car. The two leave the room. Mikey tries to get Shafe's attention but is blown off. Shafe catches up with Jimmy just in time to see him shot by Kovic. Shafe stands there in shock as Lucille steps in behind Kovic, smiling as she looks at Jimmy's body.
Hodiak is in bed with Nurse Kendall, asking her to tell him a happy story. She talks about her first day on the job. A knock on the door bursts their happy bubble. Hodiak answers the door in a ridiculous looking robe and finds Grace waiting for him. After a brief awkward exchange Grace leaves, Kendall not far behind. As she's leaving Hodiak asks if she knows Louise Mitchell. Kendall said she did, until the woman skipped town.
Back at the rock-covered hill, Ken Karn unearths something. He pulls out red sequined gloves and a handbag. As the camera drifts away we see him remove one last thing from the shallow grave. A red sequined dress. And there... we end.
When I find myself yelling at the television, you know it's a good hour of storytelling. There were a few points when I found myself cheering and others when I wanted to get up, wrap Hodiak in a hug, pet that soft spiky hair of his, while whispering it would all be okay. More and more, I'm finding myself really invested in these characters. This week was nice to see some of them behaving a little differently than we've come to expect.
I've struggled a bit with the character of Emma. I think as we get more removed from our own teenage years it can be hard to remember what that turmoil is like. She comes across in earlier episodes as a bit of a spoiled brat but this episode really helped me understand her better. She's just looking for the love she's not getting at home. Emma responded to "Charlie" because he made her feel special, but now that the shine has worn off she's starting to see him for what he really is. The conversation with her dad when he came by to tell her he'd sign the emancipation paperwork was awful. Ken Karn couldn't be honest with her even when he's letting her go. And my heart hurt for Emma when she asked if her mother thought the same. If Grace really agreed to let her go, she is about as awful a person as I'd been thinking. Grace spent so much time berating Hodiak about her daughter only to give up on her for the sake of her husband's career. Ick.
Speaking of awful people, any sympathy I had for Ken Karn has gone right out the window. In earlier episodes, his struggle with his sexuality could make you feel sorry for the guy. Well not anymore, Ken. I found myself yelling "what a slimeball!" during the "yes, dear" scene with Grace. And by the end, when he was removing things from Caroline Beecher's makeshift grave, I found myself hoping a cop car would come around the corner. That particular mystery isn't ready to be solved yet, but I can't wait for Karn to get caught. History tells us Hodiak isn't going to catch Manson but I do hope he busts Karn. It's amazing what sleazy things people will do in the name of politics, and I'm curious to see if any more of Karn's skeletons will come tumbling out of the closet during the campaign vetting process.
I believe I've said before that I think Manson is the weak point of the show. The part is well acted by Gethin Anthony but I just don't care about that particular storyline. I'm still not sure what we're supposed to feel about him. If we're supposed to be learning more about what drives the madman, I'm not really seeing it. The scene where he’s screaming at the people gathered in the living room and blaming Emma for the record producer leaving had me rolling my eyes. I don’t find him frightening in the least, just irritating. That irritation also makes it hard to understand why anyone would have found him charming enough to follow him. We see so much more anger and crazy than anything compelling from him, at least so far.
If Detective Hodiak needs happy stories, he can drop by anytime. The poor man needs a break. Over the last few episodes it's hard to remember when he's been truly successful at something. There have been a few murders he's solved but because of politics in the department - or in one case a film studio - he hasn't been able to arrest the murderers. And now this week he loses his friend Father Mack after trying to help him. I loved his interaction with Father Mack, there was a sweetness to it. You could almost imagine Hodiak as a younger man, before he became jaded by the job. Instead of talking about all the issues he's facing, Hodiak either drowns his sorrows in booze or seeks out comfort from any number of women. Less snogging, more talking, Detective. It might help! Not only do I want to see Ken Karn caught because I think he's a sleazeball, but I want Hodiak to win one. The thing I keep coming back to is that for all his flaws, he's a decent man, and he deserves a break too. I was also rather pleased to see him blow off Grace Karn in this episode. She still clearly has a hold on him, but nothing good can come of that relationship right now.
My only other criticism of this episode? Not enough Brian Shafe and not enough Charmain Tully. We don't see Tully at all in this episode, and only a little bit of Shafe. I love seeing both of those characters interact with Hodiak. They bring out the teacher in him, as well as some of his best banter. But if you've seen the teaser for next week's episode it looks like we'll be seeing more of both.
Overall, I thought this week's episode was great. It had character development, a few interesting plot twists, and kept me engaged the whole hour. Just 5 episodes to go and so many questions we need answered. You can catch Sam Hodiak's adventures every Thursday on Aquarius on NBC at 9 p.m. EST, on iTunes, NBC.com or On Demand.