Keeping Secrets: Vegas Episode 1:05 “Solid Citizens” Review
In last week’s episode “(Il)legitimate,” we discovered Angelo turned down Savino’s (Michael Chiklis) plans to expand the Savoy. Savino doesn’t give up. He reveals to his associate, Red, that he plans to buy into the ramshackle gambling parlor and hotel, The Tumbleweed, across the street from the Savoy, and use that land to expand his business. He will do so by obtaining a bank loan instead of relying on the mob’s largesse. The Tumbleweed is losing money and also experiencing labor problems. Milwaukee mobster and labor boss, Davey Conaro, is in town to take care of those labor problems the hard way and he firebombs the sleazy, sawdust-on-the-floor Tumbleweed casino to make his point. Savino does not want the Milwaukee mob moving in on his plans to buy the Tumbleweed and orders Red to “get Conaro off my back,” which is done with fatal efficiency. Johnny Rizzo, the out-of-control underboss for Angelo, makes his second appearance on the show and tells Savino he thinks his plan is to expand is contrary to Angelo, even though Savino will give Angelo his usual “skim” off the profits on the expansion. To appease Rizzo, Savino offers him an additional piece of the expanded profit.
This week, in “Solid Citizens,” the purchase of The Tumbleweed is still central to the plot, but first we finally meet Laura, the mysterious off-screen wife of Savino. Laura (Vinessa Shaw) is a classy blonde wearing pale blue vintage silk when she arrives. She is given the “royal treatment” as she walks through the casino with her husband. Savino knows he needs a high-class wife at his side to cement his relationship with his upright Mormon banker. We learn the Savinos have two daughters who are in boarding school, and their time together consists of Christmas and Savino’s occasional weekend trips back to Chicago. Their relationship is distant, but not dead. Laura recounts to Mia Rizzo a romantic story of her first meeting with Savino and how he rescued her from an amorous boyfriend. She describes him as a man of many facets, “charming, intelligent, tactical.” We learn she doesn’t want to see the other side of his life and thus they have this “arrangement” which keeps her at arm’s length from the seedier aspects of Savino’s work.
Unfortunately, Vegas continues with its “crime of the week” procedural format. This week the crime is the kidnapping of the son of an honest member of the Gaming Commission, Milton Larsen (Greg Grunberg, “Heroes”). Larsen lives in a chic, contemporary mid-century house with his perfect wife, June, and his nine-year old son, Tim. One minute Tim is on the patio playing with a hula-hoop and the next, he is gone, snatched by a man who came onto the property dressed as a lawn maintenance worker. This kidnapping brings Sherriff Lamb (Dennis Quaid) into the story, after a brief scene with the mayor where Lamb is wavering about whether he wants to run for Sherriff. The crime could have been connected to characters we already know and thus become woven into the bigger picture, but no. It all boils down to the owner of a slots parlor, whom we’ve never met, and his problems getting his license issued by the Gaming Commission. The crime leads to Lamb’s questioning whether he is putting his own son, Dixon, in the line of fire by allowing him to work with him, but his efforts to protect Dixon are not well-received by his son.
This weekly, disconnected sidebar continues to be the weak spot in the series, but apparently it’s here to stay. Lamb, of course, boldly rescues the kid. The bad guy turns out to be Mama June’s brother, who was given money to influence Larsen’s vote (which failed). Maybe they will bring Grunberg back to the main focus since he’s on the Gaming Commission, which will loom when Savino buys The Tumbleweed? Hope so, but doubt it.
A perfect illustration of how the series can integrate new “crimes” while keeping continuity with the central theme of the law versus the mobster is the introduction of “Jones,” a creepy little man sent by the Milwaukee mob to find out what happened to Conaro. Conaro never showed up with the “sandwich” after coming to Vegas to handle the labor issues at The Tumbleweed, and the Milwaukee bosses want to know why. Jones (Damon Herriman) plays the type of low key, ever calm psycho who is always fascinating to watch. He looks like a meek, 1950’s science teacher in his geek glasses, but when he’s introduced, we see the back of a shackled man in Jone’s basement whimpering with fear. Jones tells him he’s sorry the lake will be cold “but you won’t feel it for long,” so you know immediately that he’s a stone cold killer. The fact that Jones eerily resembles Glenn Close in the movie Albert Nobbs where she portrayed a woman living as a man added to the fun in watching him act out as an evil hitman.
Jones unnerves even Savino. Savino tells Red, to make it appear that Conaro skipped town with the “sandwich” in order to take Jones’s focus off of Vegas (and Savino). Red has a problem, because they had Conaro’s iconic pink Cadillac chopped to get rid of the car after they killed him in it. Savino’s associates tell the guy who chopped it to put it back together (or else) and they plant an airline ticket receipt from Vegas to L.A. in it and leave the car at the airport.
Meanwhile, Jones finds Conaro’s secretary, Ruth, romping in a hotel room with a man, and discovers they have the “sandwich.” Ruth says Conaro abruptly left town and she thought he was never coming back so she and “Eddie” took the money. Jones kills them both but makes it look like a murder/suicide. When Savino discovers this scene, he calls Jones a maniac. Ultimately Jones finds the Cadillac at the airport and leaves to follow the false trail to Los Angeles. Jones’ story was fun to watch and integrated well into the main theme, so it can be successfully done.
The episode ends with Savino convincing Laura to move to Vegas, telling her that he is legitimate now, and that he will keep no secrets from her. That’s her demand, that he be completely honest with her. Of course he can’t be, we know that, but how he juggles wanting her there and keeping his darker exploits away from her will be a challenge. In the last scene, Lamb and Savino meet at a cornfield in the middle of nowhere. Corn chaff was found on the undercarriage of Cornaro’s Cadillac. Lamb suspects Cornaro is buried in this field and that Savino is behind it. “Secrets don’t stay buried,” Lamb informs Savino. “Neither do bodies.” Once again, their scenes together are too few and make the viewer long for more. Their rivalry is the core of Vegas, not the tacked-on crime of the week, and we hope the writers figure that out so Vegas can fully live up to its promising concept.