This season of Narcos has revolved around a couple of big questions. Will Peña and his boys catch the leaders of the Cali Cartel before they surrender? Can Gilberto convince the rest of the cartel to accept surrender terms without getting deposed in the process?
This episode, on the other hand, ends by suggesting that nearly none of the stuff leading up to it mattered. Peña, Feistl, and Van Ness have focused on catching the Cali Cartel leaders, while the Cali bosses have been just as eager to avoid capture. Miguel nearly got stabbed with a screwdriver because he didn’t want to go to prison!
When Gilberto was captured, it was portrayed as a blow to the cartel’s negotiating position. The other cartel leaders, meanwhile, have grown to hate the idea of surrender. But once Miguel is captured in “Todos Los Hombres del Presidente,” he and Gilberto think it’s all great news — and then Chepe and Pacho turns themselves in too. It’s the usual Narcos switcheroo, but for an entire season.
That’s the cue for CIA Bill, the official Narcos explainer of How Things Really Are, to slouch in and deflate Peña. “Where’s your celebration?” Bill says. “Kind of a downer. I was hoping for some alcohol.”
No kidding! How does any of this make sense, even if, as we learn in this episode, the cartel has President Samper in its pocket? If Cali operates with such total impunity that they don’t even care about being caught, why was Gilberto throwing his cell phone around when he thought Miguel’s war would jeopardize the surrender?
This is not a particularly satisfying twist. The season isn’t over, Peña probably has one more ace up his ’stache, and Narcos’ disrespect for its own logic is making my head hurt. Onto the good stuff in the episode.
After that surprise ending overturned a lot of the rules this season operated on, it’s clear why Narcos has paid so much attention to the Jorge saga. In the past, informants on Narcos have mostly served as people who can get shot when Peña screws up. Jorge, though, has emerged as the show’s most pivotal character, with Feistl and Van Ness mostly following his lead and Peña just bouncing around Bogotá. There’s a good reason to put Jorge at the center: If the show is going to change its mind and say that the Cali leaders will walk no matter what happens, Jorge and his family’s survival is the only real thing at stake.
“Todos Los Hombres del Presidente” puts Jorge in another Narcos race against time, with David frantically flipping through surveillance tape to prove he colluded with the DEA while Jorge himself tries to get Miguel out of the apartment. Jorge loses that race and gets a look at the darkness inside Miguel, with his boss snarling that he’s sent David to kill the whole Salcedo family.
But Jorge still survives, and Narcos gives us one more fist-pumping moment when the police T-bone Miguel’s getaway car. Miguel is crawling on the ground, the triumphant general is towering over him, and the DEA boys get a rare win. Except … none of it mattered?
• The fridge full of body parts may be Narcos’ goriest moment yet. Hopefully Miguel’s prison has a psychiatrist.
• Jorge has spent so much time playing double agent that I forgot he’s supposed to be the cartel guy. This episode offered a nice reminder, with Chepe warning “Mr. Wiretap” not to listen in on his conversations.
• The tapes between Gilberto and a Samper bagman are based on an actual scandal. The real tapes were suspected to have been leaked by a CIA agent — an IRL CIA Bill — and resulted in Samper’s government being forced to clamp down on the cartels.
• Remember the six-month deadline? So much for that.
• Narcos has shown us lots of palatial drug-lord mansions over three seasons, but Pacho’s enormous villa might be the best of all. If you’ve got to be in a wheelchair and hooked up to a catheter, as Pacho’s brother is, there are worse places to be.
• Rough break for Maria, who has a second episode in a row where her entire arc is “getting yelled at by Miguel.”
• We haven’t heard the terms of Miguel’s cease-fire deal with the North Valley cartel, but it seems like they gave up easily. Orlando and his crew were gearing up to wrest the entire Colombian cocaine industry from Cali, but one gruesome fridge and a port shoot-out later, Orlando is crying uncle and giving up the Salazars’ location.
• Surrender or not, Cali looks to have some looming leadership issues. Miguel gave Pacho the Salazars’ location and Chepe another shot at New York — two things Gilberto couldn’t do for them.
• David and his pal are really all over the map in terms of henchmen work. They get hard evidence that Jorge is working for the DEA, but they can’t manage to outflank Van Ness and get spooked when he grabs the Uzi.