Previously on Hap and Leonard, “Ho-Ho Mambo”
Perhaps for the majority of residents in Grovetown Christmas night was a wondrous time of merriment and glee, but for LaBorde’s finest – and not so – their time in the deep woods and backroads were anything but in this episode of Hap and Leonard. There was plenty of foreshadowing blanketing (or tarping as it were) the opening of “T-Bone Mambo”. Jack Scott’s “There’s Trouble Brewing” played while Hanson was leaving Grovetown behind a truck carrying unsold Christmas trees. Through divine intervention, unholy interference or just plain old random occurrence, Marvin crashed down a hill after the loose tarp from the truck broke free and covered his windshield.
In a way, Hanson’s panicked reaction and collision into the treeline was a microcosm of Collins and Pine’s recent happenings in their search for Florida. Hap and Leonard’s odyssey into Grovetown has jarred their sensibilities and chilled them to the bone. Even though Grovetown has the appearance of an idyllic community with its pristine streets and Rockwellian characters, it didn’t take long for either one of the boys to peel back its thin veneer and see Grovetown for what it truly is. In “T-Bone Mambo”, more of the muck and mire of Grovetown’s chief residents is revealed, further testing Collins and Pine’s resolve and sanity.
“…why are you still holding on?”
The indomitable fear Hap and Leonard experienced in the present during “Ho-Ho Mambo” escalated from disturbing nightmares to full blown delusions. Piece by piece we’re getting a clearer picture about what happened to them that rainy night in Grovetown and in this particularly well crafted episode of Hap and Leonard.
Before Hap gets into his own brand of trouble, Leonard trekked down to the Southside and have a few words with Bacon (Louis Gossett Jr). The entire episode was finely crafted by Abe Sylvia however the Pine’s walk through the Southside was a splendid example of mise en scène as the camera tracked Pine following his young guides. In a few seconds viewers learned plenty about the Southside: While Leonard stomps confidently through within this distressed neighborhood the camera pans across a thriving assortment of men and women, focused and energetic on their respective tasks. It immediately took me back to my short-lived childhood in Louisiana and Southeast Texas where everyone attempted to make it the best they could with what little they had.
Their scene was a brief yet poignant argument over their respective strategies for surviving in an unjust world. Both men gave up a piece of themselves in service of their country yet it still treats them like second-class citizens. Whereas Bacon had decades to reshape his anger and frustration for the Klan to safeguard the Southside from their destructiveness, Leonard continually stokes the flames and more often than not, he and Hap suffer along with the targets of Pine’s rage. Short as their act was, Gossett and Williams were exemplar in their portrayal of seemingly opposing views that were born from their shared contempt for the Klan, and heedfulness for the Black community.
Bacon’s defiance towards Leonard was a portend to his own introspection after whatever occurred the night Charlie drove the boys home. Confronted by his former self, Leonard realized how deeply he was affected by recent events. Michael Kenneth Williams always brings his ‘A’ game when portraying the gruff yet charismatic Leonard Pine. Confident yet compassionate, rough yet lively, Leonard is a cowboy in the truest sense. Yet in the present, Pine’s been thoroughly shaken from the few days he was in Grovetown. With his confidence shattered, Leonard must look inward to regain his self-worth, a part of him that remained steadfast during the more traumatic moments of his tour in Vietnam.
Perhaps the most unsettling moment in “T-Bone” occurred when Officer Reynolds’ harassment of Collins abruptly shifted to a rather assertive game of euphemisms to straight up sexual solicitation. It’s obvious Reynolds and Collins detests each other as much as a pair of folks can, but it isn’t too surprising that the officer would abuse her power in such a manner, given the leeway she’s been granted by Chief Cantuck for years. Nevertheless, Hap easily rebuffed her efforts and maintained his lazer focus in finding Florida no matter the cost… much to the chagrin of Reynolds and her not-so-secret partner.
“You ask too many questions about the dead, you like to join ‘em.”
It’s one thing to mouth off at a racist cop on a power trip, but speaking up to the head of the Klan on his turf, surrounded by his muscle, whilst a wood chipper is roaring outside quickly turning trees in mulch? Collins was just asking to be tossed in there for good measure. At the very least Collins met the real man in charge around Grovetown, Truman Brown (Pat Healy). Like most of his neighbors, this “upstanding citizen” believes Hap and Leonard’s presence is an affront to their way of life and gave them a day to leave town limits, before something really bad happens to them.
We’re aware under normal circumstances (well, as normal as they get on the show) Hap would never agree to Brown’s ultimatum, and he doubled down on his refusal by flipping the script on Truman, asking him what he wanted to accomplish in his White world. “I know you can tear shit down. But what is it you intend to build?” Brown’s inability to answer such a simple answer only incensed Hap further and he unleashed his frustrations on Chief Cantuck (Corbin Bernsen), who appeared to be deeply acquainted with Truman Brown, but the two may not see eye to eye on the future of Grovetown. If anything, Cantuck wants to maintain law and order in his town and no one is beyond his purview, no matter how “esteemed”.
After an enlightening conversation with Blind Tillie about Florida’s whereabouts, Collins and Pine returned to Grovetown and received the full brunt of Truman’s wrath. Given Hap’s stoic demeanor and aggressive reprisal during target practice in the present, he and Leonard’s run-in with Brown and his goons was the advent of a harrowing experience through Grovetown’s deep woods.
Hap and Leonard S3E3 Review Score
Hap and Leonard – S3E3 – T-Bone Mambo | James Purefoy, Michael Kenneth Williams, Tiffany Mack, Cranston Johnson, Douglas M. Griffin | Writer: John Wirth | Director: Abe Sylvia