Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Memphis Beat, "Lost"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Alfre Woodard and Wade Williams
  • Alfre Woodard and Wade Williams

Episode Named After: The adjective "Lost." As my Memphis Beat colleague Chris Herrington confirmed last week, season two episodes aren't named after Elvis songs, as was the case in season one. Too bad. "Always on My Mind," the 1972 Elvis gold record that features prominently in this episode, fits well thematically with the plot and would've made a fine title.

Rowdy Memphis (Plot Synopsis): Ted Creskoe (Wade Williams) is a father from Springfield, Missouri, who has come to Memphis to find his missing daughter, Jill. It's been four years since he's seen her — she was a runaway, but sent regular letters back home to let the 'rents know she was alright. Her car is found in a river, but there's no body in it. The main suspect is her abusive husband, Derek (Clayne Crawford). Jill waitressed for and was friendly with a restaurateur (Heather McComb). A body washes up in the river but it's somebody else instead of Jill. Turns out she and the restaurateur faked her death to get her away from the husband. Jill is reunited with Papa, and Dwight visits Derek and threatens him to stay away from the soon-to-be-ex wife.

One subplot this week is that Whitehead (Sam Hennings) is terrible at gunwork and needs help from Sutton (DJ Qualls), who is, surprisingly, a crack shot. The other subplot finds Lt. Rice (Alfre Woodward) in parental angst over a schism with her daughter, who she has learned is engaged to be married.

Respect (Memphis music featured in the episode): Rufus Thomas' 1964 Stax single "Can Your Monkey Do the Dog" gets a closeup, and Dwight does a rendition of the Elvis/Willie Nelson/Pet Shop Boys cover "Always on My Mind." There were two additional songs I couldn't make out. The frequent fill music of "Green Onions" from last season has been replaced by bluesy figures from Keb' Mo'.

The City (Truthy Memphis): The missing woman's husband, Derek, has a pronounced Cajun accent, like many Memphians.

I noticed that that they have integrated some of the "B" roll footage of Memphis with actual props, such as when a shot of downtown pans over to a Memphis precinct lamp from the show.

When the search for Jill begins, the police find that she was a familiar face in a drugstore and in the neighborhood where they think she lived. I suppose that's mildly realistic, though it's dangerously close to a Mayberry perspective of Memphis.

Along that train of thought, some of the dialogue is straight out of cliched South. One characters says the phrase "on her like a hound dog on a rabbit."

A suspect is under suspicion because she says she couldn't get any cell reception and was captured near the state line. Lt. Rice calls her out and asks rhetorically, they don't have cell reception near the state line? Which state line, I wonder? And technically speaking, isn't all of Memphis near not just one state line but two?

Union Street (Unreal estate): A clue along the way is a reference to Delila's Books & Music, located at 4591 Jubilee Avenue, Memphis, 38118. Of it, Dwight says that it was a bookstore in Midtown that closed last year. The street is fictional, and the zip isn't Midtown but is the area to the east of Memphis International Airport in South Memphis. Dwight then mentions that there's a post office on Union near where Delila's was, so maybe that's where she mailed her letters from and lived and worked in the area. There is indeed a P.O. at 1520 Union.

Jill works at the White Rose Café. The establishing shots of the restaurant incorporate "B" roll of the Arcade Restaurant and Earnestine & Hazel's, including the sign "Soul Burger for Lunch." I'm getting hungry.

The auto and body are found in the Sawgrass River, "up off 51." There isn't such a river that I can find. Highway 51 links Memphis to Dyersburg via Millington. All I know is, they have some big ass bridges over the Sawgrass River, as one shot shows us. Plus, the body they find there turns out to be a woman from West Memphis who died in a boating accident. Was she boating in the Mississippi near West Memphis but washed up in the Sawgrass? How did that happen? Now that's a mystery.

Analysis: It's odd to me that a runaway from Springfield would come to Memphis instead of St. Louis, Oklahoma City, or Kansas City. Why not have the runaway be from Kennett or somewhere? I really don't care, but it's part of the underlying failure of the show to be smart about Mid-South geography — even macro-regionally.

The show has positioned Dwight as less of the insightful Southun Sherlock detective that he was early on and more of a "human whisperer" who can suss out suspects and other people's motivations and thoughts and concerns. He advises Ted to "speak plain" to his daughter when they're reunited.

After being introduced in the season two premier, the Internal Affairs officer played by Beau Garrett is still M.I.A. This is akin to when the show introduced Dwight's ex-wife, played by Sunny Mabrey, along with an interesting relationship dynamic between the two, and then used her sparingly in a couple episodes before she disappeared. I will not stand for it!

On the other hand, I just remembered Abraham Benrubi used to be on Memphis Beat. If they've given all his lines to Greenback (Leonard Earl Howze), I'm down with that.

Lt. Rice is looking good. I wonder if she's still working out at the Curves "out on Monroe" with Dwight's mom.

The man who plays Ladonna's husband Larry (Lance Nichols) from Treme briefly shows up in Memphis Beat as a legal friend of Lt. Rice's that she asks for a favor. More of this fine actor, please.

Kinda funny that "Visit New Orleans" advertises during Memphis Beat.

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