Holy crap almighty, Batman, that blood-spitting, effed-up, mostly-dead guy outside Backstrom's rub-a-dub tub in the opening sequence of "Cork Screwed" is none other than Valentine's nemesis, Dante Trippi! Trippi, in case you don't recall, is the badass electronics dealer who rearranged Val's face back in "Inescapable Truth
" when he caught him poaching. Finding Valentine in a crumpled weeping heap, an infuriated Backstrom shoved his badge into Trippi's broken and bleeding mouth and threatened to take away all
of his birthdays if anyone laid a finger on Valentine ever again. Now here's Trippi bleeding out in the opening scene of Backstrom's penultimate episode, "Cork-Screwed." Dang.
Valentine and the cavalry come up on the pier to see the gory mess and watch Niedermayer perform his characteristic ballet of the horrors (which I thoroughly enjoy) while he describes how the crime went down. Backstrom, of course, was the hapless person who last saw Trippi alive since the guy died right in front of him, making Backstrom an immediate suspect. Valentine, since he was home at the time of the murder, is also a suspect. Way to head into the final stretch of a freshman season, Backstrom Fairies.
Peach Cobbler and Stripper Shoes Spells Romance for Amy
Enter beautiful Amy to alert Backstrom that he's being investigated by the whatever committee again, this time for breaking Trippi's jaw. Thing is, Val was the one who did the jaw-busting on Trippi, not Backstrom. And remember that Moto gave Everett a serious "Come-To-Jesus" speech about the dangers of continuing his association with Val. This message echoes throughout this episode as Val is caught in lie after lie, putting himself and the team in danger.
Oh, and Backstrom discerns through his Spidey senses that Amy is getting some action of the male variety. She refuses to comment, of course, but Backstrom is clearly bothered by it. Amy's romancer is a central figure of the "B" storyline in "Rock Bottom," the finale, but you'll have to wait till next week to see that. I already have, and it's a great wrap-up.
Nothing Ends Extortion Like Murder
Onto the screen roll a string of suspects, each questioned by a member of the team. Almond interviews a suspicious guy in lime green fingernail polish who spent four years in jail for stripping cars that Trippi made money off of. Gravely talks to a swanky guy in a suit who partnered with Trippi after his strip joint (whether women or cars is unclear) burned down. Moto talks to a skanky ho who let Trippi bail her out of jail almost a dozen times, but who later accused him of trying to kill her. Niedermayer interrogates a carrot top kid who had the poo kicked out of him in a building owned by Trippi.
Any one of these individuals could have capped Trippi, but Backstrom dismisses them all and sends everyone out to find a serious suspect, anyone who isn't himself.
Valentine's Heart Has a Bullseye On It
Val is wandering home in the murky darkness of night and nearly gets killed as bullets whiz by his head. The bullets that nearly stopped Gregory's fiercely beating heart came from the same .57 Magnum that killed Trippi, so now Val is under the microscope and Backstrom is pissed-er than hell at his half-brother for not fessing everything at the outset.
Val is cagey as all get-out but Backstrom is having none of it and slams his fist down on the table like a pissed off mother who just found an uninvited bunny painted on her new living room wall. Eventually, Val admits he was involved in a wine scam that Trippi wanted in on. Val was responsible for collecting crates of outrageously expensive wine from a tugboat that delivered them to him at a pier. Val delivered them to Trippi, I think, who them sold them for thousands of dollars per bottle to an unknown buyer.
A Crooked Coastguard Looks the Other Way
River cop Hank Altano is the guy who should know about any suspicious boats delivering stolen booze up and down his territory. Coincidentally, Altano was recently in front of Amy's Civilian Oversight Committee under suspicion of taking bribes. Backstrom learns practically nothing from Amy no matter how much he needles her, but she does finally admit that she's seeing someone. She lies about it being someone Backstrom has never met, though.
God Cop, Bad Cop
Almond and Backstrom visit Altano on his lazy boat. Strommer and Altano get into a pissing contest and Backstrom admits it was his alcoholism that drove Amy away (I told you so). Altano, it turns out, admits he knew about Valentine's wine deal, but says he stayed out of it, figuring Backstrom was handling it. What?
This discussion leads to a lecture from Almond during which he calls Backstrom on the carpet for continuing to hang with Valentine. Val is putting Backstrom and the entire unit in danger by his involvement with Trippi, he says. Not very brotherly.
Thing One and Thing Two Get Caught Red (Wine) Handed
Val takes Niedermayer and Moto to Scott-Baio-look-alike twins, Zane and Ali Backman, at the heart of the wine-selling
scam operation. The twins say they have receipts for all of the wine proving that it isn't stolen. However, nothing gets past Niedermayer, Backstrom's sexy forensic wiz who uncovers the boys' counterfeit practices. The Backman brothers had been carefully removing labels from expensive wine bottles and affixing them to bottles of cheap wine, then selling the bottles for thousands per bottle. Niedermayer arrests them all, including Valentine.
Gregory Valentine Swears on a Stack of Holy Condoms
Back at the station the team puts the screws to Val. He reluctantly admits to knowing the wine was counterfeit but swears on a stack of holy condoms that he does not know who the buyers are. To find out who the buyers are, the team decides to follow through with a delivery of some cases of wine. After a boat chase, Backstrom and the guys stop the delivery tugboat and confiscate the wine from Analeigh Kee, the tugboat captain.
Paquet figures out that Trippi was selling all of his wine to the Portland Governer's Club. They decide to have Val deliver the wine as Trippi had planned so they can find out who signs for the wine, figuring he must be the guy who killed Trippi for selling him crap wine at stratospherically high prices. Scared crazy, Val tells Backstrom that their relationship is based on trust and that he always has Backstrom's back. What's that all about? Just wait and you'll see.
Another Gun to Valentine's Perfect Head
Val wheels the wine into the Governor's Club and gets a gun to the cranium. Skittish sommelier Arthur Towne lowers his gun eventually and pays for one crate, not two, which is what Val thought the order was for. When Val's wire goes off line, Backstrom, Almond and Moto crash the Governor's Club until they see Val leave safely. Val says Towne seemed to be oblivious about the wine being counterfeit. Backstrom confronts tugboat Annie, er, Analeigh, and discovers that she was procuring that second case of wine for Altano, the river cop who thinks that he and Backstrom are cut from the same cloth.
Dipped In Slime and Rolled in Dog Turds
Backstrom turns over the incriminating evidence against the bribing and blackmailing Altano to Amy for which she is very grateful. They get along swimmingly for a moment, then the poo hits the propeller when Captain Jesse Rocha approaches Amy and Everett on the sidewalk. Rocha is the law man from the Oxbow Indian Reservation in "Enemy of My Enemy
" who colludes with Blue Backstrom to cut Everett out of a case. Backstrom is extremely unpleasant to Rocha even before he intuits that Rocha is the one romancing Amy. Backstrom has a little tantrum and Amy leaves in a huff. The look on Everett's face after Amy walks away is pure devastation. Now he knows he has lost the love of his life. She has moved on.
Brotherly Protection is Expensive
The contents of Backstrom's rub-a-dub tub garbage can and Trippi's stomach reveal that Valentine had been entertaining Trippi right before he was killed. Backstrom confronts Valentine who admits he was showing Trippi this new in-vitro meat that they could sell for lots of money. Backstrom goes into a rage shaming Val for putting everyone in danger by continuing to associate with Trippi. Then the truth finally comes out.
Val delivers an impassioned soliloquy explaining that Trippi was blackmailing him. For what? It was in exchange for Trippi's silence. You see, Trippi had an EMT driver who was willing to testify that it was Backstrom, not Valentine, who broke Trippi's jaw. That kind of testimony would end Backstrom's career and destroy the special crime unit he runs with Almond, Moto, Paquet, Gravely, and Niedermayer. Wow. Thomas Dekker gets a standing ovation for that performance, by the way.
$150,000 Bottle of Cheap Wine Breaks the Case Open
Back at the bat cave the team drinks some of the counterfeit wine which Frenchwoman Paquet recognizes as tasting like crap in comparison to the real thing. It occurs to Backstrom that proud people don't want to look like fools in front of their peers...which means it must be that haughty sommelier Arthur Towne who killed Trippi so no one would find out he was passing of crap wine as genuinely high valued wine.
Backstrom goes back to the Governor's Club and schmoozes with the man in charge. He buys a round of expensive wine for the whole house. He rattles off the names of a couple of really expensive bottles, then has an accusatory tete-a-tete with the brilliant sommelier Arthur Towne. Trippi was blackmailing Towne, threatening to tell his boss that Towne couldn't distinguish between crap and fine wine, so Towne killed him. On top of this, they find Towne's .57 Magnum among his belongings. That was the same gun that shot Trippi and tried to end Valentine.
Amy Rejects the Toxicity of the Full Backstrom Package
After Backstrom and Valentine make some new rules about their relationship, Amy shows up at the rub-a-dub tub. her final message to Backstrom is that being around him is toxic so she wants him to stay out of her life. During this scene all I could think of was, "Don't try to kiss her again. Oh, please, don't try it again!"
Thankfully Backstrom is stunned and devastated enough to keep his lips to himself. The love of his life has just walked out of his life. What will he do now? You'll have to watch the finale, "Rock Bottom" with me next week.
Backstrom airs Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)