“Paranoia just means having all the facts.” –Howard, quoting Burroughs.
Unfortunately, “The Dive” is somewhat of an apt title, as this episode’s a little predictable and dragged out compared to the others. But following a gator attack and two sex scenes, that’s only natural. “The Bottoms” is a tough act to follow.
The first half of this one concentrates more on character, showing us brusque, hyper-masculine Leonard chafing at his on-again/off-again boyfriend nurturing. Raoul is far from stereotypical, but he’s domestic and chatty—traits we consider feminine—and they clash as Leonard slaps a ton of hot sauce on his breakfast, which Raoul “already made spicy…I know you like it spicy.”
“I like so hot it burns my ass,” Leonard replies.
To set the timeframe, they argue about Reagan running for President. Raoul calls him “that actor who made the monkey movie,” and Leonard says Bedtime for Bonzo was “ahead of its time.” (For me, the Republican monkey-movie man will always be Clint Eastwood. Vice President Clyde!)
Meanwhile, Howard and His Hippies find Hap Collins snoozing in the sand beside Trudy, and they wonder if the pair was trying to find the loot on their own. Nothing comes of it, surprisingly enough.
Once Uncle Chester is stabilized, Leonard regroups with the gang, and he and Hap go for a dive into the Bottoms, after baiting the gators with plenty of stinky, dead chickens. The police are blocking roads, but they don’t know why— forgetting just how suspicious he, Leonard, and their hippie revolutionary partners are. Hap calls in some “suspicious characters” on a payphone to get them out of the way.
Leonard dives, but can’t see in the murk; Hap goes second, and perhaps wanting to rescue Trudy’s from her waitressing job, he stays down until he’s hallucinating and Leonard has to drag him up. But he’s found the car, with a grinning skeleton at the wheel.
While he’s out cold, we flash back to Hap and Trudy’s early days and see their brief joy broken when Hap’s draft number comes up. The recruiter tells him he’s got three choices other than joining: run to Canada, declare yourself a conscientious objector, or refuse to serve. The last one comes with a prison sentence.
We know that Hap served time for refusing the draft, so the outcome is no surprise. The scenes are meant to solidify Hap’s character so we know why he does what he does later on.
He doesn’t run, and he’s no pacifist. But he sure as hell won’t kill for what he doesn’t think is right. He didn’t burn his draft card, but he was ready to take the consequences for his principles. The books don’t talk much about Leonard’s service in the Vietnam conflict, but they are ripe material for the show. Leonard is cynical about it, but refuses to consider himself a victim.
While all this backstory’s brewing, the Psycho Killers aren’t laying fallow. With the police searching the Bottoms for a cop killer, they’ve had to find new digs. Soldier and Angel hole up at a lonely cat lady’s residence, and we get another tease at just how violent the “angel” can be. Done up in leather dominatrix gear, she burns through the lady’s nine lives in as many seconds, while Soldier giggles on.
The big showcase is what gives the episode its title, the dive for the money. They hit a dive shop and get scuba gear (you’d think these would be uncommon in East Texas, a few hundred miles from the coast, but they aren’t) and go for a night dive. The first hint of trouble comes as Paco and Chub are on guard duty and a police boat motors by. Soldier and Angel’s nascent murder spree has got the locals riled.
Hap and Leonard come up with two ammo cans from the car’s trunk, and the group piles into the VW minibus, hooting and hollering with joy on their way back to camp. That is, until they find a platoon of police cars, led by their old friend the Bible salesman, who may not be evil, but he knows “suspicious characters” when he sees them.
And a burn-scarred crossbowman like Paco certainly fits the bill.
They hightail it to Leonard’s house for lack of a better hideout. Now, my one complaint is how long it took for anyone to open an ammo can. You’d think they’d pry one open in the back of the Hippie-Mobile, but they leave that nearly to the episode’s end, when they’re celebrating with whisky and weed, and counting their chickens before they’re hatched.
When they finally pop the cans, one is brimming with cash and the other has leaked and ruined its treasure. This gives the hippies a convenient excuse to do what we predicted they were gonna do anyway—make off with all the loot.
The episode ends with the Captains Outrageous sitting on the sofa with crossbows and shotguns pointed at their heads, realizing that their hard work will go unpaid. Their share of the loot will be donated to The Revolution.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read Savage Season, so the story—while familiar—is coming off as new to me, and I’m enjoying it. Rather than nitpick over what was “changed,” I can simply sit back and enjoy the story.
Michael Kenneth Williams, James Purefoy, and Christina Hendricks light up the screen and bring their characters to life. They’ve all played iconic and memorable characters before, and they create entirely new ones here. There’s a little of Omar’s outlaw edge in Williams’s Leonard, but he’s wilder and funnier; Purefoy’s Hap is vulnerable and quiet, but primed to explode; and Hendricks as Trudy is barely contained on the screen, a bigger than life Southern gal who takes no crap.
What else is enjoyable is that, like Lansdale’s books, the show portrays a gritty world where violence is like the weather, but without the grim fatality. The people enjoy life, despite the hardships. They suffer, but this isn’t some backwater misery factory from a Spaghetti Western or a grim, dark fantasy where you wonder why everyone hasn’t killed themselves rather than live another day.
Hap and Leonard might be out of work, sleeping in an abandoned resort with a bunch of crazy hippies when they’re not rumbling with crackheads, but you want to share some whisky and Nilla Wafers with them on the porch.
At least I do.
See also: Hap & Leonard 1.02: “The Bottoms”
Thomas Pluck is the author of the World War II action thriller Blade of Dishonor, Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense, and Hot Rod Heart: A Noir Novelette. He is also the editor of the anthology Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT and hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. His work has appeared in The Utne Reader, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Hardboiled, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Crimespree, and numerous anthologies, including Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block. You can find him online and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.
Read all of Thomas Pluck's articles for Criminal Element.