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Graceland - Season 2

'Graceland' recap: What are we fighting for?

Season 2 | Episode 6 | “The Unlucky One” | Aired July 23, 2014

The drugs are burned, there’s still no direct evidence against Carlito, and Paige has become one of the Tinker Bells. Mike Warren is having a seriously bad day in episode 6 of Graceland, which is saying a lot since he gets shot at on a daily basis.

The bus bust failed miserably, but Mike finds a sliver of hope in the bus boss man. Instead of handing bus boss man over to the cops, Mike brings him to another fancy criminal’s house (although much less fancy than Graceland) that has been seized by the government, and cuffs him to a chair. Apparently California is just full of empty houses that are commandeered by the government. Mike hopes the bus boss man will help him find the inside leak in the myriad of law enforcement agencies, as well as lead him to the Tinker Bell girls.

Despite the epic fail of the mission, Jess is convinced that she and Mike will be headed back to D.C. as heroes. They stopped the bus lines, but as Mike aptly points out, since they made no arrests, the bad guys are just going to find another way to get the contraband across the border. Jess is nothing but smiles, and invites Mike back to D.C. with her. At this point, Mike still has no idea that Paige is missing. He says he’ll think about Jess’s offer, but it’s pretty obvious his place is in Graceland.

No one seems particularly concerned that neither Jakes nor Paige came home last night, so Mike and Briggs decide to go on a morning surf. A solid half a day after Paige goes missing, Jakes calls from jail to tell the house the story. He got arrested for violating his restraining order and now has no idea where Paige is. Luckily the wire Paige was wearing recorded her last words to Jakes. Briggs and Charlie find Jakes’ car at the bus depot along with a crime scene, due to the real Anika being dead in a toilet. The recording confirms that Paige went undercover in place of Anika, but doesn’t elaborate on where she went.

Graceland - Season 2

Mike asks Briggs to come with him to visit bus boss man, because he is desperate to find where Paige and the girls are and he’s out of other options. Briggs easily accepts the challenge and proceeds to torture boss bus man by holding a towel over his face and pouring vodka on him. Since the bus boss man is an alcoholic, this is pretty much the most gruesome way Briggs could get the information he needs.

Although Mike doesn’t seem to be enjoying the spectacle, he lends a helping hand. One bottle of vodka later, bus boss man gives them a link to the girls. The bus boss man calls up the Tinker Bell house and easily sets up a meet for Mike to pose as a buyer. These human trafficking guys must be pretty trusting to take bus boss man’s recommendation of a buyer—but whatever, if it means getting Paige back, we’ll roll with it.

Paige enters Tinker Bell land to a couple of surprises: Her friend Lena is still there, and the place is not run by psychotic Solano relatives, but by a middle-aged white couple who look like they could as easily be running Congress as a human trafficking ring. There is something very, very wrong with this couple, and their outward appearance of calm and nonchalance makes them even more creepy.

When she first arrives, Paige is asked to take off her clothes for a photo for the girl catalog. Then she is sent to the living room, which is filled with tall, malnourished European girls who seem to have lost any fight that was once in them. Upon seeing Paige, Lena gets excited, hoping that Paige has come to save her. Paige still thinks this is a possibility, as she believes Jakes followed her to the house, but after a few hours in squalor she realizes no one is coming.

A potential buyer is brought in and the girls line up to be considered. To stop the buyer from having interest in Lena, Paige tells Lena to bite the inside of her cheek and then cough blood, which cleverly makes her look sick. The trick scares off the buyer and lands Lena a punishment from the old white dude, who seems to be called Sulla.

The night before Mike is set to go in as the fake buyer, no one in the house can sleep. Jakes stares at a bottle of booze, Mike smashes computers and everyone is on edge. They are not only trying to get Paige back, but also hoping to continue the Solano investigation. It’s a lot of pressure. While Graceland restlessly awaits the morning, Paige and Lena attempt their escape. They make it all the way to the fence before Sulla beats down Paige with a baseball bat.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 10.08.45 AM

Mike slips into the role of a man who would buy a woman for $20,000 a little too easily, and waltzes up to Sulla’s car to be blindfolded and taken to the Tinker Bells. When he sees Paige, she thinks there’s a take-down team ready to shut the place down, but Mike has other ideas. Mike tells Sulla he wants Paige, then takes her into another room for a chat. Since the cameras are on, Paige and Mike do the dance of a girl being sold to a man as they chat.

Paige wants Mike to leave her and take out Lena instead, but he isn’t having that. She wants him to shut down the whole place, but he’s not doing that either. This gets him a slap in the face, which amuses Sulla. Mike takes Paige back to the truck and explains that he has to keep the place running to get to Solano. The look on Paige’s face when she realizes that Mike has no intention of getting Lena out for the time being completely negates any look of love or longing that she has ever given him.

Paige is distraught not just from her brief time in the sex trade, but because she has lost sight of what these agencies are really doing for people. In a moment of emotional vulnerability that we don’t usually catch from Jakes, he brings Paige a broken wind-up ballerina to remind her of Lena.

Breaking down and letting go of her rage, Paige finally raises the question that has been coursing through Graceland from the beginning: “If we’re not fighting for Lena, then who are we fighting for?” Is leaving those girls to potentially be sold off really in the interest of the greater good? It’s true that the girls are Mike’s last remaining link to the whole Solano conspiracy, but what gives him the right to condemn these girls in hope of a bigger gain in the end? Everyone’s intentions are changing, and while Mike may have left D.C., he still has the D.C. mentality of going for the big guns.

Graceland - Season 2

Just a few hours after Mike releases the bus boss man from his custody, Mike gets the call that bus boss man is dead. He was decapitated in his living room, which is definitely something Carlito Solano would find amusing. On the crime scene, Mike runs into a shady guy from the LAPD gang task force. The LAPD man is in a gray suit with a disheveled shirt and equally disheveled hair.

Mike’s perfectly toned bod and angelic hair is obviously taken aback by this man; he immediately assumes that the LAPD guy is the leak. It would make logistical, if not moral, sense, for the gang unit to be the one that is corrupt. But could it really be that easy for Mike to find the mole? We need more evidence than an unpressed suit to be convinced that this guy is evil. With Jess on her way back to D.C. and Paige basically not speaking to him, Mike is running low on blond distractions and will hopefully get to the bottom of this Solano thing fast.

Graceland is usually wrought with emotion, but the panic over Paige’s disappearance lacked urgency. Yes, there was laptop smashing and yelling, but the emotion never left the screen. Contrastingly, Serinda Swan’s performance in this episode was flawless. The pain on her face when she saw those girls made the entire episode worthwhile. This is a completely different side of Paige than we’ve seen in the past, and it was great to see Serinda be given more range.

In season 1, we were constantly on the edge of our seats, thinking that at any moment someone we love could die. That was what made Graceland so enthralling. Without any internal conflict in the house or big curveballs in the cases, Graceland is morphing into purely a cop drama. “The Unlucky One,” while a decent episode plot-wise, left us wanting a cool drink at the Drop and some Charlie one-liners. This year, with all of the house members on the “good side,” the cliffhangers have been uninspired. We’re halfway through the season now, which is when Odin popped up last season, so hopefully there’s a big twist coming our way.

Graceland airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on USA.

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