Treme Recap: Down Here in the City of Misrule


Smoke My Peace Pipe
Season 1 Episode 7

“Stop resisting!” the cops yell at a character in Treme as they arrest him, and seriously, message received: I’m no longer resisting. How can I, after an episode so emotionally brutal and narratively satisfying? “Smoke My Peace Pipe” is tough to watch, but pretty amazing to behold. Find out who made a stand, who bowed out, and who lost faith after the jump.

In a New Orleans courtroom, Toni, Ladonna, Mama, and the state’s attorney appear in front of Judge Tim Reid. “In 22 years as a judge … ” he says, and the state’s attorney gives an “uh-oh” look. He gives a long speech about how he often tries to defend New Orleans, but seriously, y’all, this is embarrassing. He apologizes to Mama and gives the state 72 hours to habeas the corpus. It is nice seeing Tim Reid again, and nicer still that Treme is leading to a little Frank’s Place revival. I remember that show as an early example of the critic’s favorite that, despite bounteous love from the press, no one ever watched — little wonder that David Simon is a fan.

Credits! The Real Davis co-wrote this one! With David Mills, R.I.P.

Albert Makes a Stand
Albert and a couple of his crew cut a lock on Calliope and then sneak into one of the projects. He’s staying in someone’s mama’s apartment and tells them to call the reporters as soon as he’s in. Once the news trucks show up, Albert calls the cops, and soon there’s a bona fide Media Event going on.

After a nice calm interview with the local news, Albert retreats into the apartment and lets the cops pound on the door. Soon, other squatters are breaking in, and one hangs a banner from the window reading “MY HOME.”

Albert’s visited by Sergeant Johnson of the NOPD’s community-relations division. “Kind of a half-assed standoff,” Albert complains. “We’re not looking to start something,” the sergeant replies. Johnson then gives Albert a politics lesson. If the voters wanted the projects open, they’d be open. But the people in New Orleans who vote — “black and white both” — haven’t said boo. If Albert’s still here tomorrow afternoon, he says, he’ll be arrested. “Thank you for your visit, sergeant,” Albert says, “and come again.”

So the next afternoon they come again, this time through the front door with a bad attitude. They close the shades and demand that he get on his knees. When he refuses, one cop says, “Fuck that Injun shit” and takes him down. “Stop resisting!” they shout. “Stop resisting!”

Antoine Loses a Friend
Antoine’s playing in the airport welcome gig he’d originally set up for his old teacher, who’s back in the hospital. The group is tight and fun, even though no one exactly loves getting paid by check. (“I look like Thurston Howell?” a disgruntled clarinetist asks.) It’s Antoine who’s disgruntled, though, when trombonist Troy Andrews and his trumpeter brother James come through the airport on their way back from the Portland Jazz Festival and spy Antoine at this $100-a-night gig. Soon they’re sitting in, and Antone and Troy have a ‘bone-off — Antoine’s eventually forced to tip his cap. Because this is New Orleans, everyone in the airport sings along instead of being like, “You fuckers are pretty loud for an airport.”

Antoine’s mentor dies, and at the funeral, a tear rolls down Antoine’s cheek as he sees an old trombonist’s coffin. (By the way, whoever that woman is singing absolutely DESTROYED “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”) The teacher’s daughter gives Antoine her dad’s trombone, but Antoine demurs and leaves it with family — her son.

Davis Bows Out, and Janette Starts Again
Davis delivers some more campaign EPs to a local record store, who’s already sold 720 copies and is hungry for more. The disparity between this and his dusty, untouched consignments at Tower is hilarious. Nevertheless, Davis seems a little stymied in his next step, as a conversation with Jacques Morial yields some important issues, but ones that are hard to write funny songs about. “If New Orleans gets whiter,” Morial points out, discussing how the infrastructure is failing black residents trying to return home, “the state slides from purple to red.” Davis, ever practical, can’t figure out anything that rhymes with “infrastructure.” Morial looks around Davis’s house and says, “Man, you could hide a dead hooker in here and no one’d know.”

Meanwhile, Janette sells her tablecloths to another chef (hey, Grub Street! Who is that?) and uses her “too little, too late” SBA loan to buy a trailer and fix it up as a guerrilla kitchen. She asks Jacques — who, by the way, seems to be sporting a fine pair of Hammer pants — if he wants in, but he’s already gotten a new job. TRAGEDY! Someone start a petition right now, “MAKE SURE JACQUES GETS MORE SCENES WITH JANETTE ON TREME” — and I am not even kidding.

Ladonna’s brother-in-law, Judge Williams, meets Davis for lunch and tells him he’s a fan. But then he gets serious and asks Davis to quit the race. He’s polling at 4 percent but siphoning votes from the judge’s candidate. “I am here to offer you something,” Williams says, reaching into his pocket, and an overjoyed Davis asks, “A bribe?!” Williams gives him a get-out-of-jail-free card, literally — his cell-phone number on the back of a business card. Davis shakes on it.

A sad-eyed Davis brings a basket of food to Janette’s door. She apologizes for the state of her house, but he says, “I’m not company. I’m your friend.”

“With benefits,” she says, smiling.

“With or without,” he replies, gently. She smiles and lets him in. So: With!

At a pre–Mardi Gras street fair, Janette cooks on the Rolling Thunder Chef Express and Davis works the counter. That food looks good. “You gonna ditch me and sit in with the band?” she asks him. “Not a chance,” he says, then looks wistfully at the band.

Annie Blows It
Busker Steve Earle sets Annie up with an audition for the Pineleaf Boys, a Cajun band going on a three-week Canadian tour. “I gotta talk to Sonny,” she tells him. “I figured,” he says. Sonny gives her a medium-to-large guilt trip before telling her, “If you wanna do it, you should do it.”

Despite sounding great when she practices, though, she completely blows the audition, in a scene that’s really very tough to watch. “It’s not about the notes,” one of the flinty, wisdom-spouting Cajuns says. (Let’s call him Ray!) “It’s about the feelin’ of the music. I’m just guessin’ — you got trouble in your heart?” Ha, yes, she does have trouble in her heart, and Cajuns are mystical musical psychotherapists!

Creighton, Toni, and Ladonna in the City of Misrule
Creighton reads to his class from an 1880 Lafcadio Hearn essay about New Orleans. Hearn complains of fraud, civic idiocy, and the like, but ends: “But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than it is to own the entire state of Ohio.” “Day by day, year by year,” Creighton pronounces, “New Orleans conjures moments of artistic clarity and urban transcendence that are the best that Americans as a people can hope for.” With that in mind, Creighton takes his big box of novel research out to the back shed, fires up his computer, and stares at a blank screen, pausing only to bark at Toni now and then when she asks how it’s going.

Toni and Ladonna get access to a database with photos of every OPP prisoner held outside the parish. After flipping through a cavalcade of photos, Ladonna is furious — David isn’t in there. Toni gets a list of all OPP prisoners who’ve died in custody, and Ladonna recognizes a name — her cousin, Jerome. “But he’s alive,” she says. Toni asks if maybe David could have taken Jerome’s name, the way that Keevon White took his. “We’re gonna have to look at this body,” Toni says.

Creighton prints out some pages — for a new YouTube rant, not his novel. He apologizes if he’s making a pest of himself. “I would hate to exacerbate any sense of Katrina fatigue in the nation at large,” he says. But soon his target is off Anderson Cooper and on his own city, where the initial post-storm solidarity has given way to the realities of a messy electoral campaign. Forget urban transcendence, Creighton says. Today’s David Simon Thesis Statement is a doozy, and reflects the bitterness of this episode: “Down here in the city of misrule, we are always our own worst enemy.”

Elsewhere in the city of misrule, Toni and Ladonna have arrived at the endless sea of refrigerated semi trucks that house the city’s unclaimed dead. Inside one of them is David’s battered body, which Ladonna I.D.’s by nearly collapsing and fleeing into the parking lot. The examiner tells Toni that David’s death certificate says he died of a cerebral hemorrhage after an accidental fall from the top bunk.

Outside, Ladonna lights a cigarette and stares at the rows of trucks that stretch out before her, each holding brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of New Orleans. This sequence, by the way, is completely astonishing, reminiscent of the impact of all those bodies laid out in a high-school gym in The Wire. Ladonna tells the medical examiner that she will deal with arrangements after Mardi Gras. “He been here five months, he can be here a few days longer.” Back at her mama’s house, she lies about what she did that day, and then takes a drink.

Treme Recap: Down Here in the City of Misrule