Mar 20, 2021

"John Wick": 20,000 Hunky Guys Murdered for Your Evening Entertainment

For movie night, for a reason I don't understand, Bob choose John Wick (2014), which grossed $88 million worldwide and produced two sequels, a video game, and an upcoming series. I need a shower.

1. The first five minutes are about John Wick (Keanu Reeves) being in love with his wife,  kissing her , watching her collapse during a date, sitting by her deathbed, crying, going to a cliche funeral in the rain, remembering how much he loved her, crying, remembering how much he loved her again, and getting a gift of a dog that she arranged to be sent from beyond the grave.

2. While John is stopping for gas, the entitled rich kid Iosef (Alfie Allen, left) with an I   offers to buy his sweet ride, and when he refuses, gets all pissy.  He and some goons break into John's house that night, beat him up, steal his car, and kill his dog (off camera, but we hear the yelping).

3. John happens to be a retired professional hit man who coincidentally worked for Iosef's father, Vigo (Michael Nyquist), the head of the Russian mafia, who calls and asks him to be sensible.  John refuses -- he's going to kill Iosef.  So  Vigo sends his best 12 hit men out ot kill him.  Instead, we watch John killing them, one at a time.  

4. John is now back in the  game.  He checks in at a hotel that caters to hit men and women, where most of his old associates are delighted to see him.  Especially the effeminate WInston (Ian McShane), who does business in a weird nightclub with everyone dressed in 1920s costumes listening to jazz.

Meanwhile, Vigo puts a $2 million contract out on John.  Marcus (William Dafoe) takes the job, even though he and John were "close," back in the day.

5. Iosef is holed up in a different weird nightclub with several levels, some nearly empty, some packed with heavy metal aficionados. Iosef and his friends (including Toby Leonard Moore, left) are in a  heterosexual bathhouse  in the basement (guys in swimsuits, girls in bikinis, closeup of a girl's butt).  John invades the club, killing about 200 people, including patrons of the heavy metal club who had nothing tto do with anything.  But Iosef escapes, and John is captured.

6. Meanwhile, Michael has had several clear shots at John, but always manages to kill he person attacking him, thereby allowing him to escape.

7. If Vigo wanted John dead, why didn't he just shoot him on the spot?  Instead, he ties John up, taunts him, and then leaves so that some of his men can kill him (but by strangulation -- they aren't even carrying guns).  John kills them all, then rushes out and crashes the cars in Vigo's party, killing more people.  He forces Vigo to tell him where Iosef is staying: in a safe house, surrounded by his friends and bodyguards.

8. All of whom John kills.  Finally he manages to kill Iosef.

9. But now Vigo discovers that Michael has been helping John, so he grabs him and tortures him for awhile, giving him the opportunity to kill about a dozen guards before being killed himself.

10. Now John is out for Vigo, who is headed for a helicopter to escape.  John invades the entourage, killing all of Vigo's guards, including Kiril (Daniel Bernhardt, left). Finally the two fight without guns, and John kills Vigo.  Then he adopts a dog.

There's a slight gay subtext -- Michael and John had an unspecified "close" relationship, back in the day.  

Some beefcake. . A lot of hunky guys get murdered.  Couldn't John have just tied them up and had sex with them instead?

I read somewhere that the average child growing up sees 20,000 people killed on tv by the time they turn 18.  That's ridiculous -- it's more than 3 per day.  Even Murder, She Wrote had only one murder per week.  But I think I got my quota of 20,000 tonight.  

Why is watching people getting murdered considered enjoyable entertainment?

To get revenge, I forced Bob to watch three episodes of The Simpsons, which he hates. 

Mar 19, 2021

Don't Cry Now: David and Andy Williams

Born in 1960, twins David and Andy Williams (the latter named after their famous crooner uncle) began their teen idol career performing on Uncle Andy's variety show -- true, no kids watched, but that's how the Osmonds got their start.

Two albums followed.; Meet David and Andy Williams (1973) and One More Time (1973).  They consisted mostly of covers of old r&b classics, like "Baby Love" (The Supremes), "Going Out of my Head" (Little Anthony & the Imperials), and "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (The Carpenters).  Their vocal range and expression rivaled anything that David Cassidy could do.

Unfortunately, I didn't know it at the time.  I didn't buy their albums -- no one I know did.  And their singles weren't playing on the radio.  "I Don't Know Why" did the best, hitting #37 in March 1973.  Maybe their music was just a little to mature for kid audiences, like Craig Huxley's a few years before.

I only knew them from the teen magazines, which were predictably ecstatic, published dozens of pictures of the duo -- not a lot of shirtless or swimsuit shots, usually in soft, fluffy sweaters, with captions that might or might not be suggestive: "Come snuggle with us!"; "Check us out, top to toe!"  But who wanted to see such slim, soft, fragile-looking boys with their shirts off?  They probably didn't have any muscles at all..

They thought their career would jump-start with a January 1974 guest shot on the wildly popular Partridge Family: they had a crush on Laurie Partridge, and sang "Say It Again."

It turned out to be their swan song.  After another album and a few more guest appearances, the duo vanished.

But not really.  They opened for Roy Orbison and Susan Vega, played back-up, toured with T-Bone Burnett's band, and studied music.  They shifted their emphasis from bubble gum pop to a gutsy, hard-driving country rock, and released new albums -- Two Stories, Harmony Hotel, The Williams Brothers.

 David recognized that he was gay in 1979, and their music began to reflect the anger of facing homophobic bigotry and injustice every day, as well as other themes that can resonate with gay and heterosexual fans:

"Secretly" reveals the heartache of not being able to tell anyone about your love.

"Don't Cry Now" is a tribute to friends who died of AIDS.

"People are People": we're all the same inside, regardless of "religion, sexuality, color, or nationality."

They don't look soft and fragile anymore.

Mar 17, 2021

Frankie Says Relax

March 1985: after several years of subtext songs, the radio was booming with plaints about heterosexual sex:  Madonna living in a "Material World," Phil Collins begging for "One More Night," Tina Turner rasping about being a stripper.  So I should have noticed that the lyrics to "Relax" could be construed as sexually suggestive -- after all, the song was banned in Britain for several months in 1984.

But my acceptance letter from the University of Southern California had just arrived, and I was eagerly planning my crosscountry move to West Hollywood.   The group was named Frankie Goes to Hollywood, so:

Make making it (in Hollywood) your intention.
Live those dreams, scheme those schemes.

Relax, don't do it (play it cool, don't get over-excited)
When you want to go to it ( Hollywood).

I added "Relax" to my list of songs about finding a "good place."

Years later, I saw the original music video (banned in the U.S. and the U.K.), in which Holly Johnson (one of the two gay members) goes to a underground club, hugs a leatherman, gets leered at by a woman, and tames a tiger, to the delight of a decadent Roman emperor.

Then he gets into a nightmarish fight with women, leathermen, and drag queens.

So I changed my interpretation: relax, don't get excited, and you can overcome your aggressive impulses, tame the tiger within.

Or else it's an orgy, and the song is about heterosexual sex, like everything else on the radio in 1985.

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Listened to Madonna

When I first moved to West Hollywood in 1985, Madonna was everywhere, part of the backdrop of everyday life, as universal and taken-for-granted as working out, drinking Perrier, and reading Frontiers magazine.

When a Norwegian con artist stole my boyfriend,  "Material Girl" was playing.

When Alan met my boyfriend Raul, we were listening to "Open Your Heart."

When we ran into Fred and his Cute Young Thing during brunch at the French Quarter, "Live to Tell" was blaring from a car stopped at a red light on Santa Monica Boulevard.

During 300 Saturday nights at Mugi, "One Night in Bangkok" was always followed by "Papa Don't Preach"

When I was teaching  Gay 101 at Juvenile Hall,  three guys at a party started lip-synching to "Vogue."

But in the early 1990s, the Madonna fad started dying down.

In 1992, the book Sex bombed in West Hollywood.  I knew only one guy who actually bought a copy.

By 1993, record store commercials had people complaining "I'm bored with Madonna!", and all of the cars stopped at red lights on San Vicente were blaring "I'm too sexy for my shirt!" instead of "Bad Girl."

Madonna is still expressing herself, still recording songs and performing for millions of fans, but she is no longer an inevitable part of daily life in West Hollywood.

Nearly thirty years later, I wonder why Madonna became a gay diva.  Her songs had no gay subtexts: they were all about heterosexual women being touched for the very first time, living in a material world, picking up boys on the street, and asking "Come on, girls, do you believe in love?"

Maybe her hot male backup dancers, like Victor Lopez, Jull Weber (top photo), and Mihrab (left).  Many of them were gay, and worked out next to us at the Hollywood Spa.  They were family.

Maybe because she was a gay ally, outspoken in her support of LGBT people, a rarity in the 1980s.

Maybe because she was constantly offending 1980s conservatives with her frank lyrics and suggestive dance moves.  Gay people were constantly offending 1980s conservatives just by existing.  It was a match made in heaven.

See also: Mae West, Gay Diva of the 1930s and Let's Hear it for the Boy.

Mar 16, 2021

Wandavision: More Sitcom than Science Fiction

 For months, Netflix has been a wasteland, mostly a lot of  "dead girl in a small town" cop shows and "poor boy and rich girl fall in love" Korean melodramas.  So we have pulled the plug and switched to Disney Plus, which allows us to finally see what all the fuss is about with Wandavision.

The series has been showing up on my Twitter and Facebook feeds a lot: "The staggering surprise of the last episode!": "Wasn't the last episode the best thing you ever saw?"; "Fifteen top theories about the new Disney Plus hit!"  But what was it?  I figured the video blog of Wanda from Corner Gas.

I started watching with only minimal research, enough to determine that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are superheroes in the Marvel Universe who are dating or married to each other.  So, if she was dating The Incredible Hulk, would the show be called Wandahulk?

In the first two episodes, they seem to be the stars of an archetypal early 1960s black-and-white sitcom with a "my secret identity" premise: Vision is a robot, and Wanda has magical powers.  Plotlines are about what you'd expect from old sitcoms, although you'll have to grow up with them to get all the references.

Episode #1: The living room is from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the kitchen from I Love Lucy.  Vision has a job at an amorphous company that doesn't produce or sell anything, like sitcom dads of the era.  There's a wacky next door neighbor.  The plot: Wanda thinks that the "special night" is their anniversary, but it's actually dinner with the boss and his wife.

Episode #2: The living-dining room, front yard, and opening credits are from Bewitched.  The plot: Wanda and Vision are set to perform at a talent show to benefit the local elementary school, but Vision is incapacitated by eating chewing gum (apparently he can't eat, although, as Isaac Asimov pointed out in I, Robot, food is a part of so many social occasions that any robot designed to interact with humans should have the capability).

Of course, Wandavision is not a complete clone of these shows.  The friends and neighbors are racially diverse without comment; for instance, Vision's coworker Norm is played by Asif Ali (below), and future episodes will feature Special Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, left).  There were no black or Asian characters on early 1960s sitcoms, except for a very few episodes about them.  

There also seem to be more jokes about sex than appeared in the uptight sixties.    

And there  are occasional hints that something is wrong.  

1. Wanda and Vision don't want to say where they came from, how long they've lived in Westview, or how long they've been married.  I wasn't sure if they were trying to avoid being outed as superheroes, or they really didn't know.  Maybe they can't remember anything before the "series" began, like the residents of Storybrook in Once Upon a Time.

2. At dinner, the boss starts choking on a piece of food, and his wife laughs and tells him to "Stop it" over and over.  An inappropriate affect.

3. People keep announcing that the talent show is a benefit "for the children," and everyone repeats "for the children" in a robotic drone.

4. In the second episode, red objects occasionally appear in the black-and-white world, and then suddenly everything switches to color.

5. Wanda asks a new acquaintance her name, and she doesn't know.

I would prefer more hints.  Most of each episode's dialogue, characterization, and plot so closely matches early 1960s sitcoms that I wanted to turn it off and watch a real episode of I Love Lucy or Bewitched.  I want more evidence this is not actually a 1960s sitcom, it's a science fiction series about superheroes trapped in a sitcom world.

Beefcake: No.

Heterosexism: Wanda and Vision are a standard loving heterosexual couple.

Gay Characters: None specified yet, although I understand that the characters are all superheroes, and one of them is gay in other media.

Will I Keep Watching:  Sure.  I want to see their take on The Brady Bunch in the 1970s and the hip sitcoms of the 1980s.

Happy Days

Happy Days (1974-84) was a Tuesday-night sitcom about three high school boys in the 1950s, twenty years before, who concocted all sorts of wild schemes in their quest to fondle girls’ breasts. I always wondered about the title -- why were the 1950s so darn happy?  Because breasts were plentiful?  Or because contemporary “problems,” such those pesky gay people, didn’t exist?

Transforming the police-state decade of the 1950s into a Paradise of horny heterosexuals made Happy Days a phenomenon: it fomented Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, board games, lunch boxes, action figures, and half a dozen spinoff series, including Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi. The central cast, though neither built nor handsome enough to warrant a “kick in the gut” attraction, was certainly cute: Richie (Ron Howard), an eternally befuddled redhead; brash and brazen Ralph (Donny Most), who sometimes displayed his ample assets in tight jeans or a swimsuit; and Potsie (Anson Williams), puckish with gleaming eyes and a surprisingly buffed physique that he rarely if ever displayed on screen.

As the show aged, more muscle was introduced: in 1977 cousin Chachi (Scott Baio), whose muscles grew episode by episode; and in 1982 the immensely hot Flip Phillips (Billy Warlock), whose trademark cut-off t-shirt caused traffic accidents as male drivers jerked their heads around for a better look. 


The fourth major cast member and stand-out star, the ducktailed, leather-jacket clad Fonzie ( Henry Winkler of Lords of Flatbush), was renowned for his incessant heterosexual practice (wholesome and laudable in the 1970s, like eating a balanced diet).  He collected a boxful of engagement rings bestowed by hopeful girls, and needed only snap his fingers to bring several new volunteers running.

Yet Fonzie does not embody heterosexual practice at all, in spite of the innumerable poodle-skirt clad girls whose breasts he fondles (after shouting “Geronimo!”). He is no Casanova or Don Juan. Girls may be a pleasant diversion, but same-sex relationships are essential to survival. We see his life – his real life – in the closing shots of each episode, as he sits on his motorcycle in the parking lot of Arnold’s Drive In, surrounded by his friends, Richie, Potsie, and Ralph.

Fonzie is an odd addition to Richie’s gang: several years older and living on his own, employed full-time, he seems more likely a peer of their parents. Indeed, an 30-ish man who spends all of his time with high school boys would raise considerable suspicion today. 

 In early episodes, Fonzie is indeed an outsider, a dark and somewhat dangerous commentator on events, certainly not a friend. But gradually he begins to introject himself into every aspect of their lives, especially Richie’s life: he dines with Richie’s family every night, moves into an apartment over their garage, and takes classes secretly so he can graduate from high school with his friend. 

 In “Richie Almost Dies” (January 1978), as Richie lies in a coma, it is Fonzie, not his parents or a girlfriend, who refuses to leave his bedside. When Fonzie advises Richie against stealing an incriminating photograph in “Richie Gets Framed” (December 1978), his subliminal desire almost reaches the surface:

As my old grandma told me, two wrongs don’t make a right. [Pause.] Honey. [Pause.] And if you do this, you’ll never be able to look at that cherubim face [squeezes Richie’s cheeks] in the mirror again.

The stand-alone “Honey,” separated by a pause from its surrounding sentences, incites audience laughter because its speaker is indeterminate: we are not quite sure if Fonzie is still quoting his grandmother or himself referring to Richie as “Honey.” His facial expression, dark and almost alarmed, does not indicate embarrassment at using an affectionate term (and of course he could have made his point without it), but instead suggests an awareness that he is in uncharted and dangerous territory, perilously close to recognizing Richie an object of his own affection.

In “Mork Returns” (March 1979), the alien Mork (Robin Williams) arrives to conduct research on Earth life during the 1950s.  He hears not of incessant breast-fondling at Inspiration Point, the overt theme of Happy Days, but instead about the relationship between Richie and Fonzie: it is volatile, sometimes they fight, but they always make up. As Mork leaves to make his report, we hear “Isn’t it Romantic” playing in the background. The juxtaposition of a presumably homosocial friendship and a song presumably lauding heterosexual romance is stunning.

Mar 15, 2021

Vicenzo: From Drama to Comedy, from Angelic Robot to Klutz in Just One Hour

 I plugged in to Vicenzo on Netflix due to the novelty of seeing an Italian-Korean person (there are less than 5,000 Korean immigrants in Italy). 

Scene 1: I am spellbound.   Vincenzo (Soon Jong Kee) is more than just attractive; he is angelic, like a vision that makes you stop and stare, even after seeing cute guys every day of your life.  

He displays no emotion, adding to his otherworldly quality, as he takes a chauffeured car to a vast mansion  at the Grecco Vinyards in Italy.  He informs Emilio, the gluttonous mafioso in charge, that his recently deceased adopted father's last order was for him to take over the vinyard.   

Emilio refuses,  calls him racial slurs, and ejects him, so Vincenzo, still displaying no emotion, flicks a cigarette.  He has arranged for a cropduster to spray the vinyard with a powder that bursts into flame.  

Is he a robot or an alien?  I wonder.  I check to see if this is science fiction.  No, it's a crime drama.  Who is this otherworldly, angelic sociopath?

Scene 2: Vicenzo returns to a magnificent Italian villa, pays respects to his deceased father in his coffin, and then argues with Paolo, his adopted brother, now his boss.  Burning down the entire vinyard?  "It was Father's last order," he says.

Scene 3:  Night.  Some gunmen break into the villa to get revenge, but Vincenzo is one step ahead of them: his bed is empty.  He rushes from the bathroom, guns ablaze, and kills them.  Still not expressing any emotion.  He's a porcelain doll.  A very violent porcelain doll. 

Meanwhile, Paolo comes home in his fancy sportscar, tosses the keys to the valet -- and the car explodes! Vicenzo calls to tell him that he is leaving Italy forever.   "Do not try to find me, or I will kill you."   On the airplane to Korea, Vicenzo looks at a list of properties at Geunga Plaza, which is set to be destroyed "due to corporate tyranny."

All of the Mafia stuff is over.  We're starting a new story, with Vicenzo as a completely different person.

Scene 1: 
Delivery guy Seon-ho unloading boxes.  A girl tries to give him a birthday cake, but he rejects her, so she delivers some plot expositon: "You uncovered illegal practices at Babel Pharmaceuticals, and now they're out for blood!  I'm the only one who cares about you.  As you know, my name is Hong Cha-Young, I'm a major character."  Why do people on tv always get told things they already know?  

The birthday cake turns out to contain thousands of won notes. She's bribing him to recant his testimony!

Scene 2: Cha-Young with a briefcase, waiting for a klutzy guy  to show up on a scooter.  As they rush toward the courthouse, she tells him that his name is  Jiang Jun-Woo (below), and he's her klutzy intern.  

They argue in the lawsuit case against Babel Pharmaceuticals, and demolish the defense.

Later, the heavily humiliated defense attorney sits in the park, criticizing himself.  Cha-Young shows up to criticize his hairstyle and smell.  He helpfully informs her that she is his daughter, gone over to the Dark Side!  "How could you be so proud of destroying the powerless?"  SHe pretends to be worried about his health, and asks him to settle out of court.  He refuses.

Scene 3: A new character, the stunningly angelic Vicenzo, at the airport.  A limo driver tells him that his charge cancelled, so he can drive him into town.  On the way, a radio news report helpfully tells us that robbers are pretending to be limo drivers, drugging their clients, and stealing their stuff.   Vicente drinks some of the water that the driver provides, and passes out.  

You'd expect the guy who planned intricate schemes back in Italy to be more careful.  Wait -- new character.

Meanwhile, Cha-Young and her intern go back to the office to get congratulated on their great job winning for Babel Pharmaceuticals.  The boss gives her a bonus, which she pretends moves her emotionally.

Vincenzo wakes up in a deserted field near the airport, the thieves going through his stuff.  I expect him to kill them, like he did the gunmen back in Italy, but don't forget, he's got a whole new personality.  They beat him up.  He awakens in the field hours later.  

Scene 4: They left him a 50,000 won note (about $40), which he uses to take a bus to Geumga Plaza.  

Flashback to five years ago, when Vincenzo tells his father's business associate about a safe way to hide his gold: buy an old building, install a shop in one of its lots, and build a secret room in the basement to hide the gold.  Use a biometric security system, so only you can open the lock.   Gee, do you think he did that at Geumga Plaza?

Scene 5: In the present: Mr. Cho, the building manager, tells Vicenzo that his apartment is ready, with all the stuff he sent over from Italy.  Babel Corporation has bought up most of the apartments and shops to presure them into selling the building.  Scruffy Guy eavesdrops.

Switch to Scruffy Guy telling some lawyers, including Cha-Young's father, that someone has rented an apartment in the building: "he looked like a handsome movie villain."

Switch to Mr. Cho giving Vincenzo a tour of the remaining shops: a crazy girl playing the piano in the dark; a glaring, aggressive dry cleaner; an Italian restaurant with a glaring, aggressive chef; a screaming guy in a dance studio; a mother beating up her teenage son

Vicenzo wants to see the secret room.  The business over it went bankrupt, and now there's a Buddhist temple in its place.  A monk is meditating directly over the gold.

Scene 6: Vicenzo takes a shower, but the water is either too cold or too hot  (beefcake shot).

Later, he reads a deposition about his birth mother being transferred to Hanju Prison, and flashes back to her murder trial. "But it was self defense.  He was sexually harassing me!"

Hong Cha-Young's Dad will be her new lawyer.    Wait - he does corporate law and criminal law? Maybe in Korea they don't specialize.

Scene 7: A new character, a middle aged women, is acting crazy, dancing at the laundromat.  Two teeangers film her, and she yells at them and threatens to call the police.  

Scene 8: Vicenzo meets with the head of the Babel Development Team.  He won't sell; he's going to demolish the building, build a new one, and give the old tenants their leases back.  Babel guy threatens him. 

Beefcake: Shower scene.

Other Sights: Not after they get to Korea.

Gay Characters
:  Nothing specified.  I fast-forwarded through a few episodes.  Girls keep throwing themselves at Vincenzo, but he is oblivious.  In Episode 8, he holds hands with and hugs a guy, but he might be just pretending to be gay for a scam.

Premise Changes  From drama to comedy, from unstopable killing machine to klutz, from Mafia empire to real estate permits.

Will I Keep Watching:  Depends on whether Vicenzo stays a boring klutz or goes back to the angelic robot.  

Mar 14, 2021

"Almost Paradise": Drug Deals in the Philippines

Almost Paradise
(2020), a tv series on Amazon: : When hypertension forces DEA Agent Alex Walker into retirement, he moves to the tropical beach he visited years ago.  Unfortunately, it is now full of touristy resorts and drug dealers, so he gets drawn back into the War on Drugs again.

A tropical beach is Paradise?  No way!  Paradise has bookstores, museums, theater, Ethiopian restaurants, and sex clubs.  Maybe Paris or Prague.

Plus 100 to 1 that tropical beach will be cluttered with girls in bikinis.  

Plus the War on Drugs was a big, bloated, racist mess, putting millions of  people, mostly African-American men, in prison for marijuana possession, and doing nothing to stem the flow of cocaine and heroin into the U.S.  Prohibition fuels drug cartels, increases the addiction  and overdose rate, drains the economy, empties neighborhoods, and plunges entire populations into perpetual poverty.  HOw about addressing the social and economic factors that push people into illegal drug use instead?

But I'm still watching.  It's set in the Philippines, so maybe there will be some street shots of Manila or people speaking Tagalog.

Prologue: American Military Base, Cebu, Philippines  

Ok, Cebuano.  Even better.

You are invited into my mouth.
Tagalog: Inaanyayahan ka sa aking bibig
Cebuano: Malipayon ka sa akong baba

Cebu City, by the way, is one of the biggest cities in the Philippines, with a population of nearly a million.  You can visit the Crus Ni Magellan, a relic of Magellan's missionary trip to the island during his round-the-globe voyage; and the Shrine to Lapulapu, the leader of the resistance force that killed Magellan.  

Back to the story:  The base doctor examines Alex: blood pressure 180/90!   He doesn't want to take his blood pressure medication due to "sexual side effects": he won't be able to get it up as readily.  She says "Heart failure is worse than penis failure."  He scoffs: "That's your opinion."

So this guy would rather die than take his medicine, just so he can  have better sex?  Is that supposed to make him endearing?  

He announces that he's going to cure his high blood pressure by retiring to an isolated beach on the island with "no tv and no cell phones" and open a gift shop.  Wait -- if it's isolated, who is he planning to sell the gifts to?

Scene 1: Montage of the "isolated beach," now a ritzy resort.  The patois-talking manager shows him the run-down gift shop and horrible apartment he bought -- on resort property, but far from any foot traffic. Besides, the resort already has about a dozen ritzy stores.  Uh-oh  I hope you have a 401K to live on.

Scene 2:  In the crappy part of town, locals gawk as someone drives up on a motorcycle and removes their helmet to reveal -- hey, it's not a girl, it's a cute guy!   He says "This is how we roll in Manila.  You guys ready?"

They're ready, so they go to the docks and meet with Teo  (Willl Devaughn, below) on his yacht.  Cute Guy represents the Manila Mob, who wants to move into the local drug trade.  But Teo doesn't cotton to the idea, and stabs him.  Hey, I thought Cute Guy would be a regular, Alex's estranged son or something.  The guys will continue to work for Theo, providing protection for the drug in transit.

Scene 3: Colorful Orientalized montage of Mabuhay City.  Alex is buying stuff to fix up his gift shop, when he sees a girl walk buy and drops everything, the quest for sex taking precedence.  He follows her into a bar.  Addressing the waitress as "sweetheart" and speaking English like an Ugly American, he asks for a "Jim Beam neat" and stakes out his prey.  

Whoops, the girl is meeting with a guy who has a gun in his back pocket.  And more guys show up carrying a suspicious satchel. Alex approaches, badgers them until they attack, and thwarts them with a pool cue.  The girl, an undercover cop about to make a bust, arrests him.

Scene 4:  At the police station, the girl -- Detective Mendoza --  tells Alex about himself (it's plot exposition, it has to come somewhere). A legendary DEA agent, yaers doing deep cover in the Golden Triangle and Spain.  If he's so expereinced, why did he intervene?  .   He explains that it was a set-up; the drug dealers were planning to kill Detective Mendoza and her partner, Detective Alamares. 

She just stares.  100 to 1 she'll be a regular, calling him "Arrogant" for about half a season, then jumping into bed with him.

Chief Ocampo offers Alex a job working on drug cases for their department.  He refuses.

Scene 5:  Alex is painting the gift shop when a guy rushes up and garottes him to death.  Nope -- after the commercial break, we see Alex fighting him off, taking his gun (then why the garrotting?), and rushing to the police station to yell at Chief Ocampo: "Somebody jsut tried to kill me!"

Ocampo says that "somehow" word got out that there's an ex-DEA agent on the island, so now there's a price on Alex's head.  He has to help them.

Scene 6:  Having no choice, Alex goes to a briefing led by Detective Mendoza: lots of drug-related murders in town since "frost" hit the street. ("synthetic heroin laced with speed, makes crack look like asprin," in other words, gibberish).  Local gang leader Kobe Rodriguez is in charge of distribution.

Alex interrupts. Her presentation is bull.  The precursors are manufactured in China, cooked on the island, and then shipped to the U.S.  The gang in charge is from Taiwan or Malaysia.  (I have to admit, Alex knows his drug distribution networks.)

Scene 7: 
Detective Mendoza and Acuna and Alex stake out Teo's yacht.  Malaysian flag!  See, Alex is right!  Mendoz wants to get a search warrant, but Alex has a better (albeit illegal) idea.

Meanwhile, guys visit  Teo with some bags full of money.  Teo deposits it in his safe, and when he returns, Alex is there!  

Meanwhile, Mendoza puts on a bikini -- gratuitous boob shot, yuck -- and heads to a nearby boat to eavesdrop.

Scene 8:  Alex convinces Teo that he's sick of the DEA game, and wants a piece of the drug action; he wants to buy $2 million in drugs tomorrow.  Then he convinces the cops that he was just playing Teo; they can do the bust

Scene 9: Back at the station, we meet the Evil DEA Agent Zivic (Simon London), one of Alex's old nemesis, who is taking over the case for the DEA (wait -- the DEA is U.S. only.  They have no authority in the Philippines). He's the guy who "called Pablo Escobar a nancy-boy and got away with it."  Homophobic slur!  Personally, I think these people are all a bunch of homophobes.  In a later episode, Alex goes undercover as gay wedding planner, no doubt with the fruitiest limp-wrist swishing he can muster.

Scene 10: Detective Mendoza finds Alex drunk on the floor.  He's depressed: the War on Drugs has been going on since before he was born, and it's been a mnumental failure. We arrest them, they bribe a judge and go free.  You realize that the Philippines has some of the strictest drug policies in the world?  Private citizens have permission from President Duarte to kill any anyone they see using drugs, or who admits to using drugs.

He had a partner in Spain who cared too much, so he switched teams.  To prove his reliability, they gave him the job of killing Alex.  

"But he didn't," Mendoza points out.  "Oh, didn't he?  Trust in my partner was all I had."  First gay subtext of the show!

To get him out of his funk, Mendoza shows him the street corner where her nine-year old cousin was killed by a stray bullet from a drug deal gone bad.  That doesn't help, so Detective Alamares (Arthur Acuna)  gives him a pep talk.  Then Mendoza tries again.  This goes on for a long time.  I'm getting annoyed at the whiney little bugger.  

Scene 11:  Alex meets with Teo, tells him that it's a trap, and offers a way out.  First, get rid of the evidence.  Then get into the car with me, and we'll go out the back way and escape.   Well, that was unexpected.

They rush to the yacht -- where Mendoza and Acuna are waiting !  A triple cross, cool!  There's a cool underwater fight scene.  They arrest Teo for murder, not drug dealing, so he won't be back on the street right away.  Evil DEA Agent sputters and threatens, but he can't make a drug bust -- no evidence.

Scene 12: After it's all over, Mendoza visits Alex at his gift shop to ask him out on a date.  Turns out to be a party to celebrate the elimination of all drugs from the Philippines forever.  So, what social problem will they solve forever in future episodes?

Beefcake: Alex takes his shirt off.

Alex forgets that he's a drooling, sexist horndog after Scene 3.  But of course he and Detective Mendoza will be falling in love soon.

Gay Characters:  None specified.  

Orientalsm: Lots.

The War on Drugs:  Take out a bad guy and end drug addiction forever -- there will never be any new bad guys rising up in the ranks.  That is, in fact, the main strategy of the War on Drugs, and it's useless. Try what Portugal did -- treat drug addiction as a public health issue, not a crime, legalizae small quantities of every drug, and watch usage go straight down.

Will I Keep Watching:  Heck, no.  But I do want to find out else Cute Guy (Joe Vargas) as been in.
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