Backstrom “Corkscrewed” Review (Season 1 Episode 12)

Backstrom Corkscrewed Season 1 Episode 12 04

On the latest episode of “Backstrom,” Valentine’s life was on the line when a mysterious figure began hunting him after the murder of his former associate Dante Trippi (Jim Dreichel, “Supernatural”), in the wryly-titled “Corkscrewed.” It all begins when Backstrom comes home to find Trippi dying, practically on the doorstep of his houseboat. Though he unhesitatingly calls in the cops, it looks bad, as Trippi is, after all, the very gangster whose life Backstrom threatened a few episodes back in the back of an ambulance after Trippi went after Valentine. Shot and left for dead in the water, Trippi had nonetheless swam out and up onto the docks before crawling to his ultimate resting place and bleeding out near Backstrom’s place.

Needless to say, Backstrom is amongst the chief suspects, as is Valentine, but Amy manages to get him five days to clear it up. Not helping him focus is the fact that he suspects she’s dating someone new. Also a problem: there’s no shortage of people who would like to and/or would benefit from Trippi being dead. Unfortunately, none of them are solid enough to exonerate Backstrom- or Valentine, for that matter. However, when Valentine is chased and shot at by someone, it becomes clearer that neither one of them did it, so who did?

Ballistics prove that the same person who shot Trippi shot at Valentine, so Backstrom questions him about who might want both of them dead, and what they had in common since they supposedly stopped working together. Much to his chagrin, Backstrom discovers that the two still were working together, as Valentine was the go-between for Trippi in a counterfeit wine scam. A tugboat captain delivered the wine, Valentine picked it up and delivered it to Trippi, then Trippi delivered the wine to an unknown buyer, with all concerned sharing a piece of the resulting action.

First, Backstrom talks to the local sheriff (Colby French, “Revolution”) at the docks, who basically admits he knew about the scam and Valentine’s involvement, but that he’s got Backstrom’s back, knowing full well that the two are tight- although he thought they were gay lovers! Meanwhile, Niedermayer and Moto take Valentine to talk to the men who are currently the best-known local wine dealers, twins (Yan and Rapahel Feldman, “Serenity”) who also turn out to be the ones substituting cheap wine for expensive wine and putting fake labels on it in order to dupe people that don’t know better.

Valentine admits he knew the wine was cheap and was in on that part of the scam, but claims not to know much of anything else. Backstrom has him pick up the next delivery as if nothing had happened, using him as bait essentially, while the team watches over him, in hopes of catching the buyer(s) and/or the killer. Only the tugboat doesn’t stop, so Backstrom and the team are forced to chase it down and arrest the captain (Rusty Schwimmer, “The Perfect Storm”). She admits she didn’t stop because she heard about Trippi’s death and they confiscate the latest wine shipment, which turns out to be a double order, for some unknown reason.

Nadia looks into traffic patterns and finds only one vehicle that is in the area on a regular basis at the designated drop times, a van with a logo from the Country Club of Portland, so they have Valentine deliver the shipment personally, once again serving as bait. This time someone almost bites, when the in-house sommelier Arthur Towne (David Alpay, “The Lottery”) pulls a gun on Valentine, but it turns out he’s just being cautious, as he also heard about Trippi’s murder. Though Backstrom and company go into the club to Valentine’s rescue accordingly, Backstrom sees Valentine safely leaving and they withdraw. However, Towne only ordered his usual crate of wine, not two, so who is the other shipment for? Towne claims to not have any idea, so it’s back to the drawing board.

They question “Tugboat Annie” again, aka the captain that delivered the wine, but that’s a dead end, so they question the Sheriff again, who proves to be the culprit, having wanted a cut of the action. But it wouldn’t have made sense for him to have killed Trippi or gone after Valentine, since they were the ones involved in the scam in the first place and it would be tantamount to cutting off his own supply, so that’s yet another dead end. Time running out, Backstrom talks to Amy again, but she can’t do anything for him. To make matters worse, he finds out that her new boyfriend is Rocha (Adam Beach), one of the tribal police that work for his father, which he is none too pleased about.

Backstrom, at a loss, talks to Niedermayer again, and on a hunch, asks about Trippi’s stomach contents, in hopes of retracing his final steps. Sure enough, they actually lead back to Backstrom’s own place, the houseboat, where all the contents of Trippi’s final meal are present and accounted for. Backstrom confronts Valentine about it, and he admits he met with Trippi at Backstrom’s to pitch him another scam involving “cultured meat”! Backstrom is livid, as this almost certainly means that the very reason Valentine was targeted was that the killer likely thought Valentine witnessed the crime, which would have been helpful information much earlier in the case, all things considered.

Backstrom asks why in the world Valentine would work with someone who tried to kill him previously, and Valentine admits it was because Trippi was blackmailing him over the fact that he knew that Backstrom had assaulted a paramedic beforehand and Trippi was forcing him to do things for him as a result, which he wasn’t even being paid for. Backstrom gets an idea and goes back to the country club and, as a faux apology to his and the team bursting in before, orders up a bunch of wine that matches the types of wine that the twins had been using as their fake labels.

Naturally, one of the patrons there recognizes it as being counterfeit and balks. Backstrom confronts Towne while Almond searches the place and finds the murder weapon. It turns out that the reason Towne pulled a gun on Valentine was that he thought Valentine had witnessed him shoot Trippi. When he realized he didn’t, he let him go, which was also why he didn’t go after him again, as one might expect. Towne makes a break for it, but is caught and all’s well that ends well, although Backstrom tells Valentine if he does/brings anything illegal onto his houseboat again, they’re done. Valentine says if Backstrom stays out of his business from here on out, he can live with that, which Backstrom agrees to.

That was about it, save one last conversation between Backstrom and Amy, in which she basically told him she was over him and he needed to stay out of her own business- and love life. Backstrom thinks she’s in denial over her feelings for him and that Rocha is bad news, but lets her go anyway, retreating into his usual vices. From the looks of next week’s episode, which is also the season finale, he won’t have to wait long for that relationship to implode, as his next case involves his own father, who is a suspect in a possible meth lab ring. Granted, that might not have anything to do with Rocha, but we’ll see.

This was an entertaining enough episode, albeit a step down from the quality of the most recent episodes, notably the ones revolving around the performance art murder and the one involving an Arcade Fire-like alt-rock band. Hopefully, the show will go out on a high next week, as the finale may well end up being the series finale, given the show’s iffy ratings. Granted, Thursday nights are a tough night, with lots of stiff competition, notably from ABC’s Shonda Rimes block and CBS’ comedy block. I had hoped the show might gain some traction from the return of “Bones,” which is also a Hart Hanson-created show, and which shares the same wry, oft-dark sense of humor and is, as such, a great match, but no such luck. Alas, this may prove to be a one-and-done first-and-last season for the show.

If so, nothing ventured nothing gained, as they say, and I do feel like the show will play well with the Netflix/Hulu/et al. crowd, where it should benefit from the binge-watching crowd. These days, what with all the shows being given a new lease on life via other networks and streaming services, who knows, the show might just get a new lease on life that way. I grant you, “Backstrom” is very much a niche show, with a limited appeal that mostly caters to fans of quirky mysteries/crime procedurals, but that’s actually a fairly sizable crowd nowadays, so you never know. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Backstrom”? Has the show grown on you, too? Or do you feel they should quit while they’re ahead? Is it too cult show-oriented for mainstream appeal, or is it simply more of an acquired taste? Do you like the cast? How about the cases? Do you think it would fare better on another night? What do you think its chances for renewal are? Sound off below and see you for the big finale next week!