Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This Bud's for You: EXTRA LARGE: GONZALES' REVENGE (1993)

Every crime/detective show needs to have a least one “boomerang” episode.  You know, the one that goes back to an earlier episode and brings back a worthy adversary.  With only two episodes left in our coverage (and twelve episodes total), it seemed like we might never get that chance, but a glance at this episode’s title will let you know that moment is finally here. As the tagline for POLTERGEIST II (1986) said, “They’re back!”

Yup, those pearly whites are back to challenge your TV set’s color balance as Erik Estrada returns in the role of Dominique Gonzales, the Miami crime lord last seen being locked up by Jack Costello and District Attorney Winnie Vance (Nancy Duerr) at the end of “Cannonball” in season one.  Damn, so apparently Tom and I somehow invent a time machine in the future and go back to the early ‘90s to start a massive letter writing campaign for his return.  That is the only possible explanation for his comeback.

Erik Estrada reacts to the news of his return:

You had one job, fake newspaper maker...
It turns out this episode is going to call back to just about every relationship built over the course of the series.  It begins with Costello having drinks with Winnie and Dumas. She lets them know that she will soon be running for Governor of the fine state of Florida.  Jack and Winnie have always had kind of a love/hate relationship, but the emphasis definitely seems to be on the former now as he and Dumas show up for a televised debate between Winnie and current Governor Johnson.  It is heated with Winnie shutting the Governor’s accusation down that she allowed drug dealers to run rampant in Miami by saying, “Say what you want, Governor. But I don’t think thhhhey [nods toward audience] are going to buy it.”  It’s a burn so cruel that the Governor actually purses his lips.  And apparently “they” don’t buy it as the crowd erupts in “ooohs” and “aaahs” with Dumas going as far as to do the Arsenio Hall fist pump.  Post-debate, the Governor gets in Winnie’s face and Jack lays the smack down even further by saying, “Governor, men like you should be eliminated from politics in this city. It’s about time somebody took you out.”  This actually causes the Governor to physically lunge at Jack to start a fight.  Is this guy really a politician from Greece?

Watching the televised debate from the comfort of his cell is Gonzales.  No joke, I say comfort literally as he smokes fine cigars, drinks even finer wine and gets delivered huge trays of fruit.  Despite living the high life, Gonzales has revenge on his mind and it is a three part plan. The first part kicks off later that evening as Winnie is rundown by a car.  Jack finds out at Harry’s Place after his latest saxophone set and he, Dumas and Lt. Bosely rush to see her in the hospital. The second part involves a double of Jack Costello heading to the Governor’s mansion and shooting the hotheaded politico.  You see, Jack’s “it’s about time somebody took you out” verbal jab at the Gov made the front page of the papers. Of course, Jack meant taken out of office, so, yes, a major plot point will hinge on Jack’s broken English.  The third and final part of Gonzales’ plan involves his own escape from prison.  With a few palms greased, he makes it to the rooftop and jumps down into a waiting truck that houses not only his henchmen, but a bunch of bottles of champagne and Gonzales’ lady.  Dude has style; you have to give him that.

Jack arrives back at his apartment and finds Maria pissed at him because he keeps going in and out.  What he doesn’t know is his double, Kamp (Ronald Russell, who is actually Spencer’s stunt double throughout the series), is upstairs and switching out the parts of Jack’s gun with the gun used to make Governor Johnson into a dangling chad.  The next morning Jack wakes up with the S.W.A.T. team led by Lt. Martin (Robert Deacon) surrounding his bed.  Yup, he is arrested for the attempted murder and Extra Large soon finds himself in tiny cell with two cons that Gonzales paid to wipe him out.  Of course, that is no problem for him as he beats them down easily.  To further establish how bad he whooped their asses, Jack takes their food in the cafeteria the next day.  Have you ever seen such cruelty?  Meanwhile, Dumas is finally given a chance to show his burgeoning detective skills as he starts to look for the Jack imposter.  His abilities might need some work though as 99% of his investigative work involves driving to junkyards and bribing a young black kid for info. Can he find the real shooter before Gonzales begins flooding the streets with drugs again and before Extra Large starts doing extra hard time?

Following the excellent “Diamonds” can be a pretty tall order, but “Gonzales’ Revenge” is another great entry in the second season.  Naturally, a lot of this has to do with the return of our favorite villain from season one.  Estrada is having a ball here and gives a decidedly over-the-top performance, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Coming off like Tony Montana minus the accent, Estrada doesn’t let a since scene pass without doing something outlandish (and flashing his teeth).  You’d think he was being paid per maniacal laugh.  The end has him blowing up in a huge fireball, but you know the producers weren’t going to let that happen so there is a scene showing that he survived (how is never explained) and recaptured by Jack for more prison time.  Had this series continued, I’m sure we would have seen his incisors again.

The episode also pays dividends to folks watching the entire series.  It is nice to see expansion with the Winnie character with the natural continuation of her life following the results of her arresting of Gonzales.  And the writers even finally have the payoff with the supporting character of Lt. Martin. A constant thorn in Jack’s side, Martin would show up every now and then to deny Jack something and generally always be pissed.  So it is nice they took the time to bring him back and finally be given his just desserts, which – shocker! – involved Costello knocking him unconscious.  Now purists will still have questions (Tom: “I want to know what happened to the Dirty Harry impersonator, dammit!”) but it was nice of the filmmakers to call back to earlier events and not just do the typical “insert random character” routine.

That is not to say this episode doesn’t have its flaws.  As a prison film aficionado, it is sad that Jack’s time there is brief.  Even worse, he doesn’t get out through some clever plan.  He is just released into Sam Bosley’s custody.  At least that is what the viewer is left to assume as it is never fully explained. Also, the doppelganger plot is a fun twist but it is kind of rough to believe that the Governor would think a guy who is a lot younger than Costello, a tad slimmer, and sounds absolutely nothing like him would be the same guy.  What, all fat bearded guys look a like to you?  Then again, maybe it was just really dark…and he didn’t have his contacts in…and he had cotton stuffed in his ears. Finally, I was disappointed that Dumas never did any real case cracking.  It is obvious this subplot was just to introduce the new black kid – the writers don’t even bother to give him a name – as maybe a recurring character down the road.  What?  Little Tyson isn’t good enough to assist Dumas?  It’s a missed opportunity, but we’ve come to expect those every once and a while when dealing with EXTRA LARGE.

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