Miami Vice Mondays: "Red Tape"

Episode: Season Three, Episode Nineteen: “Red Tape”
Original airdate: March 13, 1987
Directed by: Gabrielle Beaumont
Teleplay by: Jonathan Polanksy
Story by: Dennis Cooper

While serving a routine search warrant, young hotshot detective Eddie Trumbull (a baby-faced Viggo Mortensen(!) in a blink-and-miss-him role) is killed in an explosion, the latest in a series of lethal boobytraps specifically targeting cops. Eddie’s distraught partner, Bobby Diaz (Lou Diamond Phillips, awesome), vows to seek vengeance for his murder.

Tubbs, who was almost caught in the blast that killed Eddie, quits the force in a shouty huff, then makes a big show of being desperate for quick cash. This is, of course, turns out to be all part of a furtive undercover Vice operation: Tubbs is secretly trying to ferret out the source of a leak within the police department. The mole turns out to be one Detective MacIntyre (Scott Plank), who, with the aid of his Justice Department girlfriend Vicky (four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening), has been selling information about search warrants to criminals.

MacIntyre soon approaches Tubbs and offers him quick cash in exchange for all of Vice’s files on a dangerous crime lord named Avila (Michael O’Gorman). Tubbs plays along with MacIntyre’s scheme, but Diaz catches him in the process of stealing Avila’s files. Suspecting that Tubbs is the mole, Diaz trails him to a meeting with MacIntyre and Avila, then tries to kill him to avenge Eddie’s death. Diaz is shot and killed by Avila’s bodyguards. Rather than face arrest for his role in the deaths of several police officers, MacIntyre shoots himself.

Iconic Moments:
Structurally, this is a deeply—and almost fatally—flawed episode: For three-fourths of the episode, the fact that Tubbs is secretly working undercover is (needlessly) hidden from viewers. Seeing Tubbs act in a very out-of-character manner—he’s shouty and bullying and hysterical, he’s corrupt, he’s a big old jerk to his Vice coworkers—gets tedious very fast: We know this isn’t how Tubbs behaves, so obviously he’s undercover, and it’s frustrating and a wee bit insulting that the episode tries to hide that knowledge from us for so long. You know what does work about this episode? Lou Diamond Phillips. His Diaz is all anger and energy and heartbreak and passion, paired with long, long legs and a great thatch of floppy hair. In this very early role, the kid is mesmerizing.

Moments of Castillo Badassery:
Castillo doesn’t have too much to do, though he does share a nice scene with a grief-stricken Diaz. A year later, Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips would reunite on the big screen for Stand and Deliver, which earned Olmos a much-deserved Oscar nomination.

It’s All in the Details:
Switek, who thus far in the series has mostly served as comic relief, has a good scene where he tries to talk Tubbs out of quitting the force. In a rare serious moment, Switek shares with Tubbs a little of the deep grief he’s been feeling over the recent murder of his partner, Zito.

In a refreshing change of pace from their usual undercover roles as hookers, Gina and Trudy go undercover as paramedics:

Sign of the Times:
Vicky explains to a coworker why she’s working through her lunch break: “I just want to use the WATS line.” WATS—wide area telephone service—lines were the earliest form of fixed-rate long distance; if you worked for a company with a WATS line, you could make free long-distance calls. Back in the eighties, when long-distance phone calls were ridiculously expensive, this was kind of a big deal.

Music Notes:
Lou Diamond Phillips goes down in a hail of bullets and dies in Tubbs’s arms while “Closer to Heaven” by The Alan Parsons Project plays. Another Alan Parsons Project track, “Money Talks”, is also used. In addition, the episode features two tracks from Rupert Hine’s conceptual project Thinkman: “Best Adventures” and “The Formula”.

It’s not a great episode, but hell, Lou Diamond Phillips is worth at least three flamingos on his own.


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