Season 2 | Episode 1 | “The Line” | Aired June 11, 2014
It isn’t an episode of Graceland if you don’t yell, “Mike, what are you doing?” at your TV at least once. The house dynamic in season 2 may be completely different, but that fact remains the same.
Graceland is about hot undercover agents living in the same house, but more important, it’s about learning from your mistakes, which means making a lot of mistakes. The season 2 premiere jumps us ahead to a very different Graceland, but our friends in the FBI and DEA (and Jakes) are still fumbling around, trying to take down the bad guys and eliciting our shouts at the television.
Never shy of death-defying shenanigans, season 2 of Graceland opens with our beloved Mike with a bag over his head. Great, not five minutes into the show and Mike has already gotten himself into serious trouble. Can’t he just go back to surfing and hanging out at The Drop? It’s not exactly the first scene we were expecting, since Mike is supposed to be in an office in D.C. We cut quickly to two weeks before the bag incident — because Graceland‘s got some ‘splainin’ to do.
A (seemingly) heroin-free, happy-go-lucky Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) is cruising down to meet his undercover friend Leon at the docks with some serious fish, which is (of course) covering the illegal goods beneath. Leon is a friend of our favorite heroin gang, the Caza cartel — which, as it happens, has a hit out on Mike the Marine. Back in season 1, Mike convinced his “employer” Bello to switch suppliers from Caza to Odin, which cut into Caza’s business. Now they’re looking for revenge … or so it seems. Unlucky for Leon (though he thinks it’s lucky; man, this undercover stuff is complicated), Paul knows Mike and tells Leon he can deliver Mike to Caza. Paul really plans to use Mike as bait to take down Caza, which is all Paul really wants after Caza made him a junkie.
Is Mike in D.C. two weeks before being tortured? Nope — he is in Texas. The undercover bug got to him after sitting at a desk for a couple of months, so he compiled a theory about passenger buses smuggling stuff from Mexico. Mike’s current lead yields cigars, not the high-profile smuggling conspiracy he was hoping for, so he heads back to D.C. After a meeting with the deputy director, who pulls the plug on Mike’s bus case, Mike meets up with his coworker Jess (Emily Rose) for a little R&R in the form of sexy times! Jess is going to be really pissed when Mike cheats on her with Paige, which kind of sucks because Jess seems pretty awesome.
Remember that phone call that ended season 1? Turns out it was Paul asking Mike to come back to Graceland as Mike the Marine one last time. After the bus debacle, Mike is looking for a shortcut back to his post-Bello rock-star status, a point that is hammered into our brains every five minutes of this episode. Just as Mike’s wish to go back to D.C. was mentioned a million times in season 1, his desire to be a rock star is unnecessarily harped on in “The Line.” His rock-star status hanging in the balance, Mike packs up and heads back to Cali.
Graceland is a little different from how Mike left it. There’s some sort of gun obstacle course going on when Mike walks in (last year, there was a “no guns downstairs” rule), and the notoriously detached Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) hugs Mike hello. Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) and Johnny (Manny Montana) are happy enough to see him, and Paige (Serinda Swan) gives him an awkwardly warm hello, but something is seriously off. It could be the shift in dynamic due to the new roommate, Bates (Deniz Akdeniz), who has taken over Mike’s room. Bates, who is also called Z because his real name is Wayne Zelanski, got his nickname by jerking off on the job. This makes his nickname far superior to Mike’s “Levi.”
Briggs is not partaking in the downstairs party atmosphere, which is very different from the rum-swilling Briggs Mike is used to. Instead, Briggs is solemnly admiring the view from his penthouse and contemplating tomorrow’s task. Mike settles in for the evening on the couch and Briggs settles in for a night of nightmares with CHARLIE! That’s right folks, Charlie and Briggs are a thing. We expected as much after our interview with Vanessa Ferlito, but even so, seeing Charlie in Briggs’ bed is really weird.
Like a good friend, Mike calls her out on it. What about the fact that Briggs is a heroin addict? Doesn’t Charlie remember that a couple of months ago, she and Mike were (rightly) convinced that Briggs was the elusive heroin-dealing Odin? Apparently all of these things pale in comparison to Brigg’s sexual prowess. Charlie may not be entirely over it, though, since she’s using her nights off to stalk the Badillo family. When that cassette tape of Briggs killing Badillo comes out, Charlie and Briggs’ sleepovers will be in serious jeopardy.
Obviously there’s a lot that Mike needs to talk about with his former roomies, but it’s game time. Mike and Briggs head out to meet Leon and Caza, but Leon, being a criminal, doesn’t want to share the glory with Paul and pulls a gun. No surprise there. Johnny and his team take Leon out and easily extract the Caza cartel’s assassin’s number from him. Every drug cartel needs a good receptionist. When Caza tells Briggs that they will pick the place and time for the meet, Briggs wants to call off the op, but Mike isn’t having it. Mike wants to go in without backup and take them down, prompting our first “Mike, what are you doing?” moment of the season.
Back at the house, Mike gives Briggs and Johnny a talking to. They’ve obviously lost their mojo since Mike left for D.C. If not putting yourself into unnecessary harm’s way and trying to play by the book rather than by Briggs’ screwed-up brain is losing your mojo, then yeah, they kind of have. Luckily for Mike, his clout outweighs Briggs’, so he pulls rank and decides to go on the mission, his life be damned. As is to be expected, the Caza meetup is a trap and Mike is grabbed. The men make Mike leave his clothes (there were a lot of deliciously gratuitous Aaron Tveit shirtless scenes in this episode) and cell phone so Johnny is left with no way to track him. And here we are with a bag over Mike’s head at the beginning of the episode.
Weird — Caza would have wanted Mike the Marine dead. With Bello in jail, there’s no reason to ask him questions before killing him. Perhaps these dudes aren’t Caza. They keep on asking Mike one thing: “Did you find the line?” As is generally true, Mike was actually right about the big picture. There is something going on with the passenger buses coming in from Mexico. That’s the thing about Mike: He gets himself into all these cockamamie situations, but in the end he’s right. These (now obviously not Caza) men went through a ton of trouble to get Mike Warren, the FBI agent, not the Marine. They know about his cover with Bello, they know he’s been looking into the bus lines. If they know all that, wouldn’t they know that he hasn’t found “the line”?
Just as the men decide to finally kill Mike, the cavalry barges in and saves him. The non-Caza men are confirmed to be not Caza, further establishing that something is very, very wrong on those buses. The bus thing has completely taken over Mike’s brain. Instead of returning to D.C. and his sexy FBI girlfriend, he requests a team in California to help him with the bus bust (say that 10 times fast).
The FBI resources for bus busts are lacking, so Mike breaks it to the house that they are his team. That’s right — three FBI agents (Charlie, Briggs and Johnny), two DEA agents (Paige and the new guy), and one lonely man from customs (Jakes) have all been assigned to help Mike track bus traffic. Unlike Great-Nonna Francesca’s ragù, this recipe can only end in disaster (cooking pun!).
It may be the same house, but the rules of Graceland have certainly changed from season 1. House sexcapades are now acceptable, as is playing with rifles. But the biggest change is Briggs. Straight-and-narrow Briggs is somehow more disturbing than drunk, reckless Briggs. At least when he was reckless he had an outlet for his pain. Now you just know he’s bottling it all up, and the fallout is going to be really, really bad. With Mike calling the shots in Graceland, there’s no way calm Briggs can last for long.
Graceland airs Wednesdays at 10/9 C on USA.