Memphis Beat: Love Me Tender

E: You know, this is still a pretty good show.  I still love the setting – though I wish we saw more of Memphis than the montages in the beginning – and the characters are settling in nicely.  In case you missed the implications of the title, we get a lot of Dwight Hendricks, hopeless romantic.  This week we explore the world of local pageants (which half the police force seems to be familiar with), and find tender love in unexpected places.  We also see a lot of love that’s not as tender as it should be, and the pitfalls of the most well intentioned tenderness. So yes.  They’re laying it on a bit thick with the title.

The episode opens with a suicide attempt atopt a city building.  The man sent to talk the jumper down is …  Officer Sutton?  Really?  Okay.  The surprise is, he was doing really well until a brightly lit police helicopter shows up and freaks the jumper out.  Somehow Sutton spends the rest of the sequence handcuffed to the building, and our hero Dwight Hendricks has to swoop in with some romantic advice.  Is he qualified to give romantic advice?  Not if romantic success is a qualification.  This week, he tries to help ex-wife Alex’s budding catering business get off the ground by letting her sell sandwiches at the precinct. His intentions are good – he’s not hoping to lighten up alimony payments, he genuinely wants to do her a good turn – but he takes it too far, paying his friends to buy her sandwiches.  When she finds her healthy wraps in the trash, she lets him have it.

The big case of the week, however, involving a missing Miss Southern Appeal contestant named Ivy Hatcher, who lives in a white columned Southern mansion that would put Tara to shame.  Her room is a shrine to pageant prowess (and home of a supremely creepy hairless antique doll) with no sign of a personality in it – at least not until Hendricks talks Ivy’s sister Jess into revealing (and then deciphering)  a coded diary.  Soon enough we find that nothing is as it seems – the parents are nasty pieces of work who lock the girl in a shed when she disobeys them (looks like Jess has the better end of the deal in boarding school).  And she habitually escapes from the shed to snarf down burgers at a biker joint, where the Marines/bouncers take it upon themselves to be her protectors.  Oh, yes, and she falls in love with one of them.  Oh, did I mention the ransom note?  Or the pageant slime guy who pretended he sent it but didn’t?  Or the fact that Lt. Rice can speak pageant well enough to calm a room full of teenage girls threatening  hysteria.

Detective Whitehead  – I don’t know why, but I can’t help thinking of him with the actor’s last name, Hennings, rather than the character’s – spends the episode yelling at everyone, frustrated by other people’s life choices.  Turns out that Lightfoot (the desk seargeant played by Abraham Benrubi) has a “pocket-sized” wife who browbeats him, something that gets Whitehead’s goat.  And don’t get started on his feelings about pageant girls.  The man has some anger going on about women and their roles here that’s rather odd.  I’m not pro-pageant, and I’m not about spousal abuse either, but the way he throws his weight around here squicks me out a little.  I have to admit, though, I loved the scene where he tries to break the pageant queen’s percieved enemy/actual best friend, telling her pretty girls are as mean as dirt, and she shoots back that he “suffers from a lack of imagination,” because being in a pageant doesn’t mean she’s “vain, superficial or snide.”  Then she goes on to quote Ovid.  He counters with Johnny Cash.  Excellent.

Hey, speaking of pageants and excellence (yes, I know, the pairing surprises me, too) how cool is it that the girls cast as contestants represent a range of body types?  Now that’s something I can approve of.  Go, casting director!

In the end, it turns out that Lightfoot’s wife wields more than words to wound her honey, and eventually, at the insistence of his friends, Lightfoot brings his wife in for having stabbed him.  (“It’s nothing” was his initial response, “just a flesh wound.”)  For the third time the force deploys a crazy When Hendricks sets Romeo and Juliet loose, Rice (who’d been setting up the whole thing through legal channels) pats him on the shoulder and says “you surprise me.”  I couldn’t understand why until I remember that she was introduced to him through the boob lamp (which still annoys me), and so might not get that the man is overburdened with chivalry.  What Rice needs is a good talk with ex-wife Alex and then she’ll have the situation all figured out.

And there it is. It’s a pleasant enough way to spend the time.  I’m sure that people who read this space chiefly for The Good Wife will be used to me lavishing superlatives when I write.  This isn’t that sort of show, not yet.  But it’s the summer time, and it’s certainly not bad, and The Good Wife is frustratingly absent from Tuesdays at 10, so what else’s a girl to do?

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