Detectives Clarke, Adams, Bryant, and Moretta take the spotlight in this week’s episode on Southland to investigate the murder of a young woman in South Central Los Angeles.
Sally in the Alley
The body of a young woman has been discarded on the side of the road. A group of kids are huddled around throwing balls at it. A few of them pull out their cell phones to take pictures and record a video. Some time later a call is made to report the body, and shortly thereafter the detectives show up. Shockingly, this scenario occurs with such frequency that it has its’ own slang reference. A slain, discarded female body is known in Cop jargon as 9 Sally in the alley.”
When they arrive Adams asks for the coroner so that fingerprints can be taken, but the coroner is backed up so identifying the girl has to wait. Examination of the body reveals that the girl didn’t go the peaceful way. Lying amidst grass and weeds; her face is cut, a rope is pulled taught around her neck, digging into the flesh, and flies are buzzing around her wounds. The body was reported by a lady living in a nearby apartment, who had initially assumed that the body belonged to a drunk woman, sleeping off a hangover. The lady reports that she saw kids playing around the body, taking pictures. The idea that the kids killed the woman is tossed around, but the detectives know better. It is resolved that the person who committed the murder had some previous experience because he knew that by the time the body was called in, the scene would have been contaminated. Searching for leads, one of the detectives proposes they try and find where the rope came from. Adams says they need to run a scan on anything under the woman’s fingernails.
Detective Moretta give his partner, Sammy Bryant, shit about getting his girl pregnant. Sam gets defensive because Tammy is not ready. He mentions that she wants a camera which costs two-thousand dollars. Apparently Tammy is very talented behind the lens. Moretta’s phone rings and he learns that Sam isn’t the only person in the car who is having trouble at home. Moretta’s sister, Mercedes, has been driving their parents crazy.
Lydia Adams doesn’t seem to be having too much fun on her date with Tim. It appears as though they’ve met through some dating service because the conversation is awkward and Adams looks like she’d rather be elsewhere. Tim asks her what she does for work and Adams dodges answering directly. She tells him she works for the community. She also mentions that she lives with her mother. Adams gets a message on her cell phone and cuts their time short, much to Tim’s dismay.
Detective Clarke attends Karen’s writing class, but has to excuse himself when Adams calls him int the office.
The girl is identified as “Cherry.” The detectives don’t know much about her so they decided to put the word out about her. They give the picture to vice to see if they can find anything. In the meantime, Adams and Clarke head to the morgue to check on the girl’s body. Adams asks the coroner for an ID on the girl, but the man gives her attitude. He tells her that fingerprints should have been taken at the crime scene. Adams points out that the print machine was down at that time, but the coroner is adamant that he won’t do the printing here.
An old woman walks into the police station to file a police report on a girl who has been missing. Ms. Miller’s daughter was 19 years old. Her name was Princess, and she was her only girl. When asked the last time she saw her daughter, Ms. Mille r replies: “January 7th, 1992.”
Moretta and Bryant find a youtube video which had been posted earlier that day. The video was taken on some kid’s cell phone and features the same female body cooling on the slab at the morgue. They pause the image and observe a chain-necklace with a cross pendant in the frame. The detectives set out to find the kids who took the video.
The little bastard they drag in is a scumbag in training. He talks like a gang-banger, denying that he had anything to do with the video. After threatening to thrown the book at him, Bryant notices that the kid is wearing a cross necklace, the same one draped over the dead girl’s thighs in the video. He asks the little shit where he got the necklace. The kid replies that he got it from his moms. Sam urges the kid to call his moms so he can tell her he’s going to jail. Eventually, the kid confesses that he took the necklace, but that he had nothing to do with killing the girl. He says that he saw some white-dude circle the block a few times in his car before dumping the body on the side of the road.
Vice calls back claiming that they don’t have too much to go on, but Adams, leaving a massage parlor, discovers that the girl was a prostitute who visited the parlor regularly.
Beware of Dog
Moretta discovers that his sister still hasn’t returned home. Tammy walks through the door with her dog, Richter, and begins showing off all the tricks he’s learned. She tells Sammy that she wants to start her own business where the dog sniffs things out in people’s homes. Sam gets defensive and tells her “absolutely not.” He gives no reason other than the fact that he’s working.
Against his warning, Tammy brings Richter to a man and woman’s home. Apparently they hired the dog to find something in their kid’s closet. Tammy let’s the canine off it’s leash and it goes berserk, tearing up boxes. The kid enters and tries to stop the dog, but gets bitten. The scene is quite awkward, but Richter eventually pulls a plastic baggie, tucked away in a shoebox: drugs of some kind. Tammy confiscates the bag.
Moretta drags Bryant to his parent’s home where they learn that Mercedes is seeing a guy who is way older than her. Moretta makes a phone call the Edwin, which ends with him screaming curses in Spanish at the phone. Moretta decides to pay Edwin a visit, but the house is empty. Moretta seems a bit too concerned as an older brother, and Sam tries to assure him that teenage girls do this shit all the time. Moretta’s concern appears to only grow.
When Sam learns that Tammy not only went against his word, but that Richter bit someone, he flips his lid. He screams at Tammy claiming that now they can get sued and they don’t have insurance for this kinda crap.
Adams and Clarke pay Mrs. Nelson, the dead woman’s mother, a visit to find out what they can. “Cherry’s” son hasn’t heard the news yet, but Clarke takes a seat and explains what happened. The kid doesn’t seem to regard his mother too highly, but Clarke urges the kid to respect her, and hold onto the good memories he has of her. He also extends an invitation for the kid to give him a call if he ever needs anything.
Adams tries to expedite the fingerprinting process but learns that the rape-kit she’s submitted hasn’t even been opened. In fact, rape-kits have a back-log of about ten years. Adams is furious. She claims that each rape kit could represent a rapist who is still at large.
Clarke’s w ife, Dina, expresses her anger at her husband when he pulls an old typewriter from the box it had been stored in. She feels her husband is trying to compete with her because she’s a writer as well. She also accuses him of screwing the teacher of his new writing class, Karen.
Sam returns home for the evening and glares at Tammy, who meets him in the garage. He begins to yell at her for her impetuousness, but she starts crying and kissing him. Bryant can’t help but take a bite from Eve’s apple, and his quarrel falls to the wayside as Tammy wraps her legs around him and kisses him passionately.
Conflict of Interest
Adams and Kathleen don’t get along. Kathleen is trying to justify the morgue’s backup, but Adams is not impressed. Kathleen asks Adams why she doesn’t like her. Adams response is pretty blunt. She doesn’t like how if the girl had been raped and discarded in Brentwood, the story would have been front page news, but in South Central no one seems to give a fuck. She also doesn’t like Kathleen’s hairstyle, or the way she pushes her chest out when she’s in the proximity of men. Adams is excused from the meeting, but runs into Ms. Miller who wants to talk with Adams about Princess, her daughter who died in January of 1992. Adams focuses her attention on Ms. Miller to learn the details.
After hearing Ms. Miller out, Adams requests permission to open a cold-case. A DNA hit is extracted from the fingernail scrapings. Assailant is determined to be Lester Brown: registered sex-offender.
Moretta reveals to Bryant that Mercedes is not actually his sister, but rather his daughter. He had been very young when Mercedes was born, and his parents wouldn’t let him give up their first grandchild for adoption, so they had taken her in as her parents. Moretta explains that Mercedes is unaware that he is her father on a car ride over to Edwin’s place. They find Mercedes who does know the truth. The moment is tense as Bryant and Morett extract a screaming Mercedes from Edwin’s house party, but no guns are drawn and no one ends up hurt, except Mercedes who feels she’s been lied to her whole life. Moretta settles the issue with his daughter later, after she asks about her mother. We learn that Mercedes’ mother had fallen in with the wrong people, began drinking and using drugs. Mercedes as ks if they can look for her, and Moretta consents. It’s probably the least he can do after keeping her origins hidden for so long.
To Catch a Predator
Cop cars tear down a dirt road and halt in the driveway of an old house, somewhere. Everyone gets out with their guns drawn. Adams leads the charge to the front door, and knocks. A face comes to the screen, but when Lester realizes the shit he’s in, he makes break for the back door. The cops release the hounds on him, and let me tell you… I have a stomach for violence, but I don’t ever want to see a man run-down by a police-dog again. Lester runs, panicked, but the dog gains on him with ferocious speed. One leap and the man is brought to the ground where the dog begins to bite and drag him. The cops move in and make the arrest.
Adams is confident that Lester is also responsible for the murder of Ms. Miller’s “Princess”, because the white van described by the kid earlier is similar to the white van in Ms. Miller’s police report. The murders have other similarities as well: both girls had been prostitutes…
Speaking with a journalist, Adams wants attention brought to the back-logging of rape cases. She is warned that this could piss off the wrong people, but Adams doesn’t care about that because what’s right is right.
Bryant recognizes Tammy’s desire to do something big, so he buys her the camera of her dreams. He has to use three credit cards to pay for it.
Adams brings Ms. Miller the resolution she needs, for a murder that occurred almost 20 years ago. Adams expresses an interest in getting the case re-opened, suggesting that some publicity could help prevent this sort of ‘back-burner’ business from happening in the future.
Clarke delivers the cross necklace to the kid who deserves to be wearing it, Ms. Nelson’s grandson. The kid asks Clarke if they caught the guy who killed his mother, and Clarke confirms that they did.
“That’s good, right?” the kid asks, implying that perhaps he does care about his mother and what happened to her.
The episode ends with Adams at dinner with Tim, who scored another chance with her. She confesses to him that she’s a cop, which surprises him, but doesn’t put him off. He asks her if she likes her job. Adams says she loves it.
This week was a real change of pace for Southland. Granted this is only the fourth episode so it’s hard to say what characters the show will most closely follow in future episodes, but Officers Sherman, Cooper, Dewey, and Brown didn’t even make an appearance. On one level, I found this distracting because typically Southland focuses more on Officers Sherman and Cooper, while other characters have supplementary roles. Focusing on the beat keeps both the action and the tension high, so shifting the focus to the detectives was definitely something new for the show. No matter: detective work is apparently just as dirty, and it was interesting to see some background characters take a step into the spotlight.
Recap by Jonathan Friedler