Vegas Season 1 Review “Paiutes”

Welcome to a new year in Las Vegas. My apologies for getting the review up late. I ran into some technical difficulties last night. At any rate, the first Vegas of the year came back at a running start. The show is really finding its groove, and if it keeps this up I think it could go on for a good while. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it.

A few thoughts about “Paiutes”:

The cases this week were presented differently than normal. This time, instead of starting at the beginning and working our way to the end, the show started at the end and went back to tell us how it got there. This can be an effective storytelling method, but only if its executed well. I think it was here. They had a massive red herring, but I feel like the writers laid out all the evidence for the audience. It’s not like a lot of shows usually do where they hold back information and then come up with a twist ending out of nowhere. The way the story unfolded felt organic. There were a couple of cases going on here which is necessary for this type of storytelling device to work. The first case was a couple of brothers who were knocking over various businesses in the area and beating up the owners. Nathan, the older of the two brothers, was a criminal who had served time for armed robbery. He enlisted his younger brother Russ to help him rob the businesses by convincing Russ that they were on a righteous crusade. Apparently, the boys’ father drank himself to death after he got fired from his job at the cement factory, and Nathan convinced Russ that they were only going after the people who had taken their father from them (ie the factory that fired him, the bar where their father drank, etc.). The truth is, Nathan was just a bad guy who manipulated his little brother into helping him commit crimes. Lamb and Co. figured out what was going on and ended up having a showdown with the boys. When the smoke cleared, Nathan was dead and Russ was on the run.

While all of that was going on, a young gambler named Hal from Rhode Island showed up at The Savoy and set up a private high stakes poker game in one of the suites. Mia met him and instantly knew that something was off about him. He was playing against some of the best players in Vegas and he was cleaning them out. Mia went to Ralph and Jack to see if they could find out who the guy was. Jack convinced Mia to get him into the game so he could find out how the guy was cheating. Jack won the hand, but Mia knew that Hal had lost on purpose. She figured out it was a two-man job, and she and Jack found Hal’s partner on the floor above the game. He was telling Hal what the other players were holding via Morse code on some contraption Hal had strapped to his chest. Jack arrested him and confiscated his ill-gotten gains.

Throughout the episode, we’d seen Ralph beaten, thrown in the back of a vehicle, drugged, and tossed into what appeared to be a deep well. We never saw the nefarious person who was doing all of this, but it was possible that either of the bad guys was responsible for Ralph’s plight. Jack and Dixon figured it was Russ because he had called to threaten Ralph just prior to Ralph leaving the station. As it turns out though, Hal was the culprit. He planned to kill Ralph and take the money back that Jack had confiscated. Jack showed up just in the nick of time to save Ralph.

I enjoyed the case(s) of the week, but I found the Vince and Johnny element of the story the most interesting. I’ve been wondering why Vince has had such a hard time working with Johnny Rizzo, and this episode shed a lot of light on that. The reasons are twofold. First, and probably most importantly, Rizzo feels like he is just fundamentally better than Vince. In Rizzo’s mind, Vince isn’t Italian enough to be anything more than a bagman, and for Vince to try to step outside of the only role Rizzo feels like he can have creates friction between them. I think on some level Vince probably knew that’s how Rizzo felt. Rizzo has tried to undermine and sabotage Vince at every turn, and he rarely (if ever) listens to Vince and takes his advice. Secondly, Rizzo is a blunt instrument who really is only good for the brutality associated with the mob life. He lacks the suaveness and intelligence required to balance out his brutality and make him an effective mob boss. He doesn’t think in moves ahead. He doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions. He makes rash decisions and then expects, no, DEMANDS that other people clean up whatever mess he made. His behavior is that of a made man who believes himself to be untouchable.

In contrast, Vince possesses all the charm and acuity necessary to be an effective mob boss. He knows who he needs to glad hand and who he needs to use force on. He can easily and confidently move in high society or in the dark underbelly of Las Vegas. Not only that, but he also has vision. He can see not only what is, but what can be. Very few of Vince’s moves aren’t calculated and I don’t think there’s a time that he’s ever done anything without considering all the angles. It’s evident in the way he’s been feeling out Ralph that he’s a thinker. But even more than that, unlike Rizzo, Vince understands that the only thing the folks back in Chicago are interested in is the money coming back to them. Rizzo’s antics are making it more and more difficult to keep the envelopes coming, and I don’t think the big bosses will keep him around just because he’s “more Italian” than Vince. We haven’t really been privy to any interactions between Vince and the big guys in Chicago, so there’s no way to know whether they feel the same as Johnny about Vince not being Italian enough. I think Vince has always known, in the back of his mind at least, that he’s always going to have to work harder than the Johnny Rizzos of the world to show the big guys that he’s worthy of being made. If his vision with The Tumbleweed pays off (which it will of Johnny stays out of the way) then I think Chicago may begin to realize that Johnny has overstayed his welcome. I’m not entirely sure what Vince’s play against Johnny is going to be, but at the end of this episode you could certainly see the wheels churning in Vince’s mind. He knows that Johnny views him as dispensable, so now he’s got to do something that will make him indispensable to Johnny’s bosses. Whatever Vince has up his sleeve, Johnny is not going to like it. It’ll be interesting to see who’s left standing when the smoke clears.

Vince isn’t the only one playing a dangerous game though. Laura is setting herself and Vince (without his knowledge) up for a very deadly situation. She has been working as Katherine’s confidential informant gathering information on Johnny Rizzo. We already know that Johnny has no qualms about killing people (RIP Ms. Desmond) and that he thinks Vince is disposable. If Johnny gets wind that Laura is even associating with Katherine, much less giving her information, he would not hesitate to put all three of them in ground. The relationship between Katherine and Laura has a lot of potential because they are both smart, strong-willed women who happen to live on opposite sides of the law. There seems to be mutual respect there, but not a great deal of trust. At least not yet. I have a feeling that the deeper Laura gets pulled into the informant gig, the more she will have to trust Katherine and vise versa.

This was a very solid hour of television. I’m kind of worried about Jack because he seems to have fallen hard for Mia, and I’m not entirely sure I trust her just yet. This could end badly for Jack, but I really hope it doesn’t. I also hope Dixon’s storyline gets expanded a bit more. They’ve told us about him in spurts, but I’d really like to find out more about him. Fingers crossed we get some more of that. So what did y’all think of this week’s Vegas?