Episode fourteen brings us part two of Golden Triangle and a suddenly full look into part of Castillo’s past. Last episode ended with us learning that he used to do some intense DEA shit in Thailand and oh, yeah he had a wife and oops we know this because a Chinese drug kingpin who is in Miami sent a photo of her to the vice department.
Miami Vice has interesting two-parters. The over-arching story continues, but they’re very disparate episodes otherwise. Like, you don’t need to know about Candy and the security deposit box burglary from last episode to get everything that happens in this one. It’s nice.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “Golden Triangle (Part II)”
Miami Vice was more than just a pastel distraction. It examined some legit issues in both society and law enforcement, had awesome lady characters and people of colour, all while holding fast to Michael Mann’s glorious music video aesthetic.
These posts aren’t really plot summaries, but you’ll find links to Miami Vice wiki articles if you desire all the dirty deets. I’m just going to try and look at some visual themes I’ve picked up after watching the show a half-dozen times through.
I hope you’re prepared for a two-minute music video of Castillo swimming in the ocean, because that’s what episode fourteen signs you up for immediately.
We follow Castillo taking his probably-every-morning swim into the ocean. As someone who grew up with the Oregon coast, which is a particularly murderous chunk of the Pacific Ocean, I honestly can’t fathom starting your day with a dip into probable death but hey, different oceans, different waves, I guess.
While he’s out there he hallucinate/memory-sees his wife, May Ying cheerfully waving at him. Of course, he can’t reach her because she doesn’t exist: also ocean waves. It’s a little heavy.
And bam, now our dude is clothed but still contemplative.
Here to break his mood, though, are these two well-meaning dummies who take a moment to gawk at his stuff while ambling down.
I do agree, this is a bonkers-ass house for someone who isn’t a Businessman, but maybe the DEA money helped get it and also Castillo has no fam and no real vices so it scans.
Speaking of no fam, here’s a picture of his wife we’ve only recently learned about!
Look familiar? It’s Joan Chen, who was Jocelyn Packard in Twin Peaks five years later. She’s also been in just a load of other stuff, which always makes me happy when I go peek into the IMDBs of folks who guest star on this show.
Anyway, Crockett and Tubbs probe Castillo for some info about the whole thing, surprisingly gently. Look at this cute-ass kettle on the table, btw. I have no idea what is going on there, but it looks like a little animal.
The sitch is basically: Castillo thought his wife was dead for dramatic reasons that involved Lao Li, the guy who moves about a third of the “smack out of Asia”. He’s very against our dudes helping, because it’s a personal thing and a waste of resources.
Tubbs and Crockett take it in and try to get him to understand that like, this is a drug guy and that is in their purview. Tubbs asks, “por favor, Martín, let us in.”
Castillo relents and our dudes head off, though Castillo stops them as they’re leaving.
“Call next time,” he asks them. Which like, I had not thought about them just showing up. How did they get his address?! Good on them for being friends but holy shit you could have startled the man off into the pond he was daydreaming by just tromping up like that.
Anyway. Time for my aesthetic in one image.
God, I love me an old keyboard, I say while typing on a Unicomp Model M, which means nothing to most of you and that a is good and healthy thing. Anyway, the dudes are having Trudy look things up for them, like the CIA handler for Lao Li.
Man, data management in the 80s must have been one hell of a frontier. Half the time Trudy grabs info for folks she’s just searching basic directories but I know that simple commands are easy as shit if you do them all the time and basically moon language if you only do them once in a while. It’s so easy for an outsider to start thinking of it as administrative and secretarial work when data management is like, its own wonderful thing that gets mad complicated at surprising times.
All that to say: I can never parse if everybody hands looking stuff up to Trudy because she’s a lady, good at it, or a lady who was good at it and now that’s her curse to bear for life, like that one time you make coffee at the office because you get there earlier than everyone else and whoops, now you’ve done it every day for four years.
Anyway, she finds the CIA guy, Dale Menton, and Crockett and Tubbs go to pick him up from his relaxing day out.
Two fun facts about this scene and actor, from the Miami Vice Wiki for this episode:
- “John Santucci, who plays Dale Menton in this episode, was a real-life jewel thief before being hired by Michael Mann to serve as technical advisor on Mann’s first film as a director, 1981’s Thief”
- “Early in the episode, Menton angrily calls Castillo an “arrogant bastard”. While it is commonplace today, “bastard” was considered rather strong language for a television show in the 1980s”
Couldn’t say bastard! Fucking wild, honestly. Anyway, Menton is a great foil and awesome at being an indulgent, piece of shit CIA operative.
He needles the hell out of Castillo, revealing that he was the one who tattled about the DEA ambush that went bad, killing a bunch of Castillo’s men. He was also the one who told Castillo his wife was dead. All to get Castillo out of Thailand, where his hard-nosed cop actions went against the political desires of “The Company.”
Castillo does not take it well.
After he’s saved from a calculated throttling, Menton tells Castillo that he “ain’t nothing anymore” and that Lao Li isn’t hiding. He gives them Lao Li’s contact info and leaves, letting them know that the drug kingpin has been waiting for Castillo to call.
So they do. In the theme of “Castillo showing sides of himself, like emotion and different clothing”, in the car before they leave to meet Lao Li we get the rare Castillo in Sunglasses, which yes is as cool as you think it is.
And it’s time to meet Lao Li.
Castillo slides into the gorgeous, chauffeured car and faces the spectre of his past, who likes to talk circles about his “commodities” operations and explains he’s in Miami not for the drug trade, but to be an “honoured citizen.”
He also makes clear that Castillo’s black and white view of the world means he can’t do a damn thing about it. Oh, and his thought-was-dead wife isn’t a hostage, but like, you know.
See the beauty of costuming, btw? Castillo is always in black and white. It’s basic as hell but still very effective.
And if Keye Luke as Lao Li looks or sounds familiar, then you’re probably familiar with his excess of voice work or his role as Mr. Wing in Gremlins.
Back at his palatial home, Lao Li sits the fam down and explains the situation, showing them a picture of Castillo.
He explains they gotta be on their best behaviour and obey the law, because this guy is going to be looking for any opening to arrest them or make trouble. This is not advice that falls on very receptive ears in two cases.
These cool dudes are clearly young men awesome at listening to advice.
I took an excess of screencaps of Lao Li’s family, because the costuming tells a great story about wealth, age and origins, but in the interest of not drowning y’all in excess here’s one that has a great casual, unlined dress suit and one hell of a wrap dress look.
While Lao Li is laying down the law with his people,
Castillo is struggling within the laws of the land and Lao Li and goes to visit the wife he thought was dead.
I have a friend who really knows and loves doorknobs and I sent a crop of this to her, because damn if that isn’t the coolest door. She pointed out it’s just a pressed metal plate next to a knob. If it’s that simple then this really should be more of a Look. Doors are boring, make them fun again.
Knock, knock, it’s the husband you thought was dead.
Of course, nothing’s easy and their moment is spoiled by the arrival of a kid, because time has passed and May Ying has moved on and remarried. Props to props for the shipping container, btw.
They still super love each other and do spend some time catching up, which includes “you and your family are unknowing hostages, just, FYI.”
It’s a loving moment, though, and seems to give Castillo the strength and balance to figure out how to get everyone out of this situation.
PS: how awkward to be waiting outside while your boss goes to talk to his thought-dead wife.
They ask how it went and get basically nothing for an answer, which is fair.
Now, wonder who’s fancy dang car this is?
I’m a sucker for real kitchens in film and television and love this one particularly.
Bless these dudes for working while filmed, this whole place looks small as hell.
And, of course, the two young bucks from before are here to sell some drugs. The literally named “Grandson One” and “Grandson Two” are here to sell cocaine to a restaurant owner, because some things never change.
Back at the station, Castillo lays out the plan. They’re going to shadow Lao Li’s family and hope they can catch any of them disobeying the law. Basically what Lao Li figured they’d do.
Oh, is that the #1 Cop mug there on Castillo’s always pristine desk?
You know it is.
There’s still story as hell to get through but let’s take a moment for the shoulders on Gina’s dress.
That’s some Anne of Green Gables shit and I’m here for it.
It’s now time for a little montage. Gina and Trudy follow the granddaughters, who be shopping, as ladies do.
Switek and Zito fish while watching Lao Li’s compound from the water, but nobody is trailing the grandsons yet.
It’s all good though, Menon tells Lao Li, as long as everybody stays in line they have nothing to worry about.
Of course, you can’t guarantee good behaviour.
The unnamed grandsons are hooking up one hell of a novelty horn to their Lambo, which Menton is not cool with. He tells them to remove it, because it’s just going to draw attention to their actions and “this is Miami, not Hong Kong” and they’re not in their “private playground” of being a rich drug family.
They absolutely don’t listen to him.
The vice team is pulling nothing from their work and Castillo thanks them for the effort and is ready for them to give up. The others though, feel like they’re close to something and ask for one more day.
If they still don’t get anything, Castillo says he’ll “take care of Lao Li.” When Crockett asks if he means vigilanteism, Castillo elaborates.
I have a thousand reasons to play OK Corral with Lao Li and Menton. But I’m a policeman and I enforce the law, equally applied, no special cases. Maybe it sounds naïve, but that’s all I’ve got, that’s what I believe in.
And: strip club.
We, like Gina and Trudy, are here for Mr. Noogie Lamont, the teller of tales and top tattler, who is at the club for a little checkup.
Sadly, he has nothing to give them besides some legit uncomfortable racist jokes, so let’s enjoy the print on Trudy’s dress.
Now, for the introduction of the best dumb vehicle: the bug van. Switek and Zito, not Cool Dudes, regularly use an extermination business as a front and have quite the van advertising it. Look at this dang shot through the windscreen.
They’re getting lunch and trying talk up the waitress in the way only these two can. With class.
Remember: every stupid prop you see had to be made by some human being based on what their boss told them. It’s the best.
The waitress doesn’t take the bait, maybe because the actual words “insect ravagement” come out of their mouths but they do get a worthy side to their burgers: Noogie.
For the low price of a bunch of hamburgers, he tells them that he knows of a drug deal going down.
What drug deal? Well, you might recognise the car.
It’s The Grandsons, there to deliver a sample and confirm the deal going down that night.
They leave and the restaurant owner is chuffed about his Good Business Plan. But then Switek and Zito show up.
Turns out they’ve already got quite the file on him and he and Crockett are well acquainted.
So the plan is a raid on the restaurant when the drug deal goes down. And down it goes.
And Castillo gets what he wants.
Castillo then goes to just let Lao Li know in person of The Grandsons’ trouble. Like a nice dude.
Also getting an in-person FYI is Menton, in his neon-mad pad.
Our dudes hear some gleeful giggling from behind what is apparently a door and they open it, but try to be as extra as possible about it, as befits the décor.
It’s not the view Menton was expecting.
Though, it’s not a bad view.
Crockett and Tubbs explain what The Grandsons have done and that, thanks to his connections with Lao Li, they’ll be using dealer confiscation laws to take away his assets back at least 20 years. Menton succeeds in not dropping dead at the thought then and there.
Castillo has a chat with May Ying and her husband, letting them know he’s got folks protecting them and that things should be wrapping up soon.
Oh, also, all this is happening because his wife used to be Castillo’s wife and he still loves her, a thing that he somehow really smoothly explains. And May Ying’s husband is pretty okay about it, though honestly, this is all a lot to be processing, since he also only has his job they moved countries for because his wife was needed as a hostage-non-hostage.
Everything is taken care of, including The Grandsons. The DA (maybe? I don’t get the lawyer system and she’s not named) had pushed for them to not get bail, but Castillo asks her to rescind it and let them go.
Everybody is kind of quiet because they know why Castillo wants this. Except for this lady who is gonna keep filing and just like, not pay attention to this drama.
You may have already guessed why Castillo wanted The Grandsons to go free.
Did you guess right?
They’re taken to Some Warehouse to meet with Lao Li, who is not stoked.
Grandson one basically snarls that Lao Li got to build up his empire and it’s time for them to do so, while Grandson Two severely regrets all his decisions.
Lao Li rescinds his “paternal benevolence” for their defiance and the end result is what you would expect.
In his anger, Lao Li clearly says “kill them.” And who catches it and confirms it to Castillo but Lester, who I’m guessing had the place bugged.
This is, sadly, the last time we see Lester, who is my favourite. His role of tech guy who plants bugs ends up going to Switek and Zito (lol, see, their bug van is a joke) and he goes into tertiary character sunset.
And then some sort of vehicle Kool-Aid Mans through the wall.
There’s a bit of a firefight, but not much of one.
The real showdown is between Lao Li and Castillo.
Lao Li gives some little anecdotes about folks who are adversaries having regard and respect for each other, because of what they’ve been through together. He’s basically saying “we’re still cool, right?”
“Maybe our relationship will continue,” Lao Li offers, like Castillo gonna send him flowers in prison.
Castillo eyeballs him and asks, “the adversarial part?”
He’s over it as hell, but has one more thing to do.
May Ying and her family are taking a plane back home, because the job that existed to draw her husband there was lost when Lao Li was apprehended, I guess. It’s still kind of wild, to move country and get a whole dang household going, then leave.
Probably not as hard as still loving someone when you’re married to someone else, though.
Or loving that person back.
Castillo hops into the car with Crockett and Tubbs and they drive off, our dudes checking in on him and his emotional state.
As they fade down the tarmac, Castillo asks, “in the months we’ve worked together, have you ever heard me say I need a drink?” They reply, “no.”
To which Castillo says, “good, then take me to a bar.” Which is honestly, the biggest or only joke he ever makes, really. And it’s barely a joke, bless him.
Next episode things get heavy as usual, and holy shit I just learned who a random actor is in it and it’s dumb as hell, I can’t wait.
As much as I’d love to write monographs on this show, I’ve really only got time and energy to cap the shit out of it and share the things I’d be yelling at the TV about anyway. If you like this and want more, become my Patreon supporter to access to posts like these first and also get zip files of the first cull of caps (which is about twice what is used in a post).
Also published on Medium.