Golf in the Gulf

We don’t have a beach house, but we have the next best thing: a rental house on the beach that we’ve been going to for the past several years. It feels a little like a time-share, but we don’t have any of the responsibilities. We just show up on Friday, enjoy our stay, clean up on Monday and head back home.

That’s how we spent our Labo(ur) Day weekend, which also corresponded with my wife’s birthday. We arrived on Friday afternoon, stocked up on groceries and had a fine few days on the beach. The weather was perfect. There was one brief squall on Saturday afternoon that sent some people on the beach home, but it was over in about 10 minutes. We saw the “blue moon” on Friday night in a clear sky over the Gulf of Mexico. We rented a golf cart and went tooling up and down the crowded beach. We frolicked in the warm waters one evening after most of the crowds were gone. We watched families playing on the beach from our balcony. Read, played cards, listened to music, cooked meals. Had a grand old time. Back to real life yesterday afternoon. I spent the evening signing > 750 signature pages for a project that will be announced soon.

I finished Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. It starts out as sort of a noir novel, while the protagonist considers himself a gangster, but the flippant language goes away once he becomes more of an outlaw—and not just any old outlaw. A Prince of outlaws. The main character is the younger brother of the protagonist of The Given Day, a young man who chooses a different path from his law-enforcement father and brother. The book reminded me a bit of a Jeffrey Archer tale: rising from obscurity to greatness, at the expense of others. You just know he’s going to be brought down a peg or two at the end, but you don’t know how. Full review to come.

From there I moved on to Phantom by Jo Nesbø. I missed the book that comes between this one and The Snowman, which was my introduction to the author. I’ll have to backtrack at some point. Harry Hole’s life has changed significantly. He’s no longer a cop. He’s living in Hong Kong intimidating people for a living. When his ex-wife’s son is accused of murder, he comes back to Oslo to get to the bottom of the truth, which pits him against a highly organized cartel responsible for a new drug called violin. Gritty Scandanavian noir.

I’m still not a big fan of the Raydor/Rusty storyline on Major Case. It’s a huge distraction, in my opinion. True, Brenda always had something going on in her personal life to deal with on top of the case of the week, but it usually felt more organic. In fact, one of The Closer’s charms was the way the show made you realize that everyone in every walk of life, including those doing important jobs, has personal issues that are nagging at them at the same time. Anyhow, I homed in on the culprit this week early on, for an odd reason: They drew attention to him when he coughed a couple of times. I thought that was going to be significant, but it wasn’t. Even his mother’s treatment of him didn’t have much to do with his motives.

I didn’t like the idea of having Tao forget something significant. He’s such a detail-oriented guy that it felt out of character. Also, that’s a vastly overused trope, in my opinion. In too many books, people think they saw something that’s important but they can’t figure out or remember what it is. I don’t think that happens in real life. It’s a way of artificially creating suspense. It was fun seeing Michael Weatherly from NCIS as a guest star. I’ve never seen him in anything else. His character wasn’t exactly a stretch from DiNozzo, though. I thought it was funny that they kept referring to him as “that prick” and they got around the censors by having his character name be “Thorn.” I wonder if his appearing on another show is part of a contract negotiation gambit. I also noted that Jon Tenney, who plays Fritz, was billed as a “Special Guest Star” this week instead of a regular cast member. Blooper alert: The FBI doesn’t have anything to do with Witness Protection — that’s the pervue of the U.S. Marshals.

I haven’t had a chance to watch Doctor Who yet. Tonight. I did get to see the mid-season finale of Breaking Bad, though. Walt’s nemesis, the fly, was back. I wonder if that’s an omen that his cancer is back. There were some hints of that in the episode. The MRI or CAT scan scene, of course. The smashed up paper towel dispenser. Even the lingering camera shot on the back of his head, all resonating with Skyler’s hope that it will come back. There were some clever stylistic shots. The transition where Walt bent over and came back up wearing the yellow lab suit. Some other montage elements (water pouring in one shot morphing into chemicals in another). Poor Saul had to make do with a mini-scene where he gets his stash of cash. How much is enough for him, I wonder?

Great scene in the storage locker. What a difference from the little stacks Walt had hidden beneath his floorboards. The episode had some of the most visceral violence the show has ever portrayed: the coordinated murder of nine guys in prison, facilitated by Todd’s grampa. The first killing was especially brutal. The sound of all those stabbings taking place so quickly. Ew. Lydia added “the lawyer” to the list of targets. Presumably Mike’s lawyer and not Saul. Was he hit, too?

What’s Jesse going to do with all that money? Was a time Walt wouldn’t give him his due because he was sure (with good reason) that Jesse would kill himself with drugs. Of all the characters, he’s the one who I’m unsure how he’s going to feature in the final 8.  He’s too crucial to the show to just fade away. It would be nice to see him be the last man standing. The guy who was pulled out of the trenches and became a better man for it. Creating good out of bad, like the protagonist of Live by Night. Marie has evolved, too, from the kooky kleptomaniac into the voice of reason.

Now that the scales are falling from Hank’s eyes, he’ll sympathize with his boss, who befriended Gus without ever suspecting anything. What does he do with his epiphany? What evidence will there be for him to find now that Walt is “out.” Will Walt be allowed to remain out, or will Lydia turn into his next nemesis, forcing him to keep supplying the eastern Europeans?

I sure could do without the long wait for the final eight, though.

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