In the first half of this two-parter, The Golden Triangle, the story is a pretty basic “set up an informant to solve a crime,” until it very isn’t. It opens with one of the weirder euphemisms for being high I’ve heard and ends on a perfect “to be continued” freeze frame. There are also some amazing interior design choices in between.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “The Golden Triangle (Part I)”
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.
Realise that I don’t share nearly the amount of screencaps of buildings I take. This beaut is actually some condos, and they look the same still! For TV though, they’re a luxury hotel.
Crockett and Tubbs are working hotel security (similar to the setup they were doing for the airport last episode) and are called up to deal with a patron who is not having a good time and is sharing that bad experience with a lady friend.
I just want to note the stuntwork here is pretty solid, they flop back and forth while the guy rants and the lady pulls against his hold, fights are clear choreography, but selling aimless flopping is difficult stuff.
Our dudes pull up to this scene and know what’s up right away, with a brief “he looks dusted.” Like, yup.
Tubbs tries to shoo away the crowd, telling them that the guy has just had “a little bad chowder.” Which: ?! That is the most amazing what the fuckery of a thing to say.
Crockett eases in to talk the guy into letting go of the lady.
He does and Crockett eases the cuffs on him while he cools down.
Only, the lady runs back and starts smacking him, which just starts the motor up again. The tussle apparently continues into the elevator and out into the lobby, where they finally get him restrained.
I think one of my favourite things about hand-to-hand fights in this show is that Tubbs and Crockett are complete shit at them and that’s how things are choreographed. They suck at wrestling or punching people, it’s just kind of a great character thing.
Here’s a thing they’re great at though, getting told by Castillo what to do. Which they’re doing over a café Cubano at a little bar that clearly has the Marlboro logo temporarily covered on the cowboy there.
They’re working this detail to hopefully catch some dirty cops who are extorting the high-end sex workers at the hotel. Crockett voices how he feels shitty trying to nail cops, if he wanted that he’d work for Internal Affairs etc. etc.
And Castillo tells him these guys are slime that need to be flushed, that they’re bad people and bad cops and he wants them to not just lose their badges, but do jail time.
Castillo does not fuck around.
So, it’s time for a different tack. And here’s their patsy, entering to Dolly Parton’s “Great Balls of Fire.”
She scans the poolside and finds an easy mark. Look at Crockett in his nerdlinger gear. That’s a calculator watch and do not think I’m not 100% envious.
Our dame takes a seat and engages the undercover Crockett. Bless her mobile face it was the worst getting good stills of her.
This, by the way, is Robin Johnson as “Candy”. She’s absolutely great in this episode and sort of fell away from acting in the 90s. There’s a wildy long and intense article on it here, and honestly I’m sure she’s living her best life but it’s always a bummer when you realise some random person you enjoyed on the television is only in like, five other things.
Anyway, she gets undercover Crockett to rub oil on her back and the two of these folks have the best multi-layered act-off. See, they’re both doing jobs they’d rather not—Candy is pretending she gives a shit about this guy and Crockett is pretending to be an awkward nerd who gets goofy around the ladies. They both hate every moment of this for different reasons, it’s wonderful.
Also wonderful, btw, is her dress and accessories. Also Crockett’s terrible, terrible shirt. It’s like everything bad about a polo AND a short sleeve collared shirt, combined.
Crockett says he’s from Kansas and Candy suggests a private party to celebrate being in Miami.
She gives the prices and he shows his badge.
These next two frames sum her feelings up.
I am, by the way, grateful for how Miami Vice handles sex workers most of the time. They’re treated like people who do a job that is against the law, but that they’re people first. Of course, they treat all people a little casually, what with the danger and all that, but it’s still loads better than pretty much any other cop show. And, they don’t spend every moment trying to get “these girls into better situations,” with weird false moralising.
Anyway, like they always do, they offer to wipe Candy’s record in Miami if she wears a wire to help them put away the shit cops.
That’s her rap sheet up there, which production did a good job of filling with the history and character of someone who happily will do what she has to do to avoid nuisance. Also, the two mugs are the shit cops.
Time to get more story plates spinning in the air.
I don’t know if you can even handle the design for the security deposit vault at the hotel. I can’t, that’s for sure. I cannot even.
Crockett must have magic charm powers because he tells this monied white lady that they don’t have what she needs there and she just walks off. Just. Walks. Off. I didn’t know that could happen. Maybe it’s just TV magic, so this absolute goon can approach.
He wants a little tour of the facilities, to see that it’s safe and will properly protect his things. I dunno if this tour proves that but it DOES prove that this design scheme is dope as hell.
I mean, look at this door and floor combo! I dunno if it is “safe against acts of God, or vagaries of man” as the security guard says, but damn, it’s a Look.
At the pool, this rando schmuk watches the stage play our dudes are putting on.
Oh MAN that bathing suit on the girl up there. It may even be better than the pants Zito is wearing while he plays the part of “interested client.”
“Don’t forget it’s just pretend!” Candy tells Gina as she walks off with Zito.
Their show is solid, convincing security deposit box guy that hotel security is running a prostitution ring. He’s pleased by this and I’m pleased by these striped shirts the bar staff is wearing.
Day done and Candy gets into her gorgeous purple car and takes off for the night.
She’s being followed by the dirty cops, but they’re being followed by Crockett and Tubbs, who have a wire on Candy, so it should all shake out fine, they figure.
Tubbs and Crockett listen to the convo, while Candy does her damn best to make sure the other cops fully implicate themselves, asking for $500 a week cut.
Our dudes aren’t fast enough to either catch the cops in the act, or stop them from punching Candy in the gut. They get there as the other guys drive away and help Candy up.
She confirms that she got enough for them and her record will be clean, rips the wire off and tells them both to “eat dirt and die.”
All her work was for naught, however, because the cops are out an hour after Internal Affairs turned them in. Crockett is stewing about it, while filing Elvis’ nails.
Hey, it’s these two dudes again.
They looked up Crockett and Tubbs’ (cover personas) after admiring their work “running a prostitution ring in the hotel”. They’re there to make a deal, about the security deposit boxes, obviously. The one in pink, Szarbo, asks a lot of questions, prompting one of the better exchanges I’ve heard:
Crockett: “Writing a book?”
Crockett: “Well, kiss me and make it a love story.”
Of course, this is all brought to Castillo, who tells them to run with it.
The weird thing is, though, Szarbo has done everything but breaking and entering, which isn’t a thing you add to your CV later in life. Look at this photo though. I love how often they just used people’s actual headshots for mugs.
Back at the hotel, Crockett encounters Candy again.
Despite a freshly wiped file, she’s stuck around and lets Crockett know that she can fully out his and Tubbs’ cover if they mess with her, which is very fair, in my opinion.
Things take a surprising turn though, once Szarbo comes up and employs her services.
Crockett goes to whine at Tubbs about the situation, for which Tubbs thinks is kind of hilarious (it is). Also, did he dress to match the room he would be working in? Odds are: probably.
Anyway, halfway through his bitch about her, Candy shows up.
Szarbo told her to go get some food and gave her his car keys and she brought them to Crockett and Tubbs, knowing they’d like a little illegal look through his things.
I honestly don’t get why she’s helping? Her position through all this is so strange. I’m not complaining, she’s a dang ray of sunshine, but this show Candy. This show does not have a good history with their informants.
Despite all logic, she goes with them to rifle through the car, which they do quickly and efficiently, finding a roll of stealing-stuff tools conveniently stashed away, AND the slip to a seedy little motel room. NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.
They’re found themselves tho, and have to talk their way not only out of the awkward of being found going through someone’s car—
But they also gotta defend themselves against testimony from the like-to-punch-sex-workers cops, who rightfully finger Crockett and Tubbs as fellow police officers, offering how they got en-jailed as proof.
A very awkward situation indeed.
Candy, continuing her theme of helping these dudes for no real reason I can understand, says she was the one that tattled on the bad cops.
This not only squares our dudes with Szarbo, but they get a chance to slap the cop around a bit.
Now they all trust each other and can work together, that’s so nice.
You know what’s nicer? Gratuitous shots of that dang security deposit box set as Szarbo’s unnamed friend casually checks it out.
Lol a million to that open circuit board box. The whole setup reminds me of when you’re at a restaurant somewhere and they just leave the key in the paper towel dispenser, because they’re clearly always losing it and having to put those stacks of multi-fold paper towels on top of the dispenser.
Anyway, bro is good.
The word our dudes get, and pass along to Castillo, is that the boxes will be hit “in a couple of days.”
This is all a very normal sitch and we’re getting along in runtime, so what’s the wild card gonna be?
Ah, there it is. MATH SCIENCE B&E!
Listen, I morally need to let you know how uncomfortable the keypad on the wall made me. Some of you are the wrong age to know what I’m talking about, but those buttons are so incredibly the wrong kind of plastic and also a specific era of calculator buttons. When the guy (who is annoyingly uncredited in IMDB) types in the code it feels wrong. And I think it’s because honestly most keypads then and now use moulded rubber sheets for keys so typing in something doesn’t wobble the most used keys around like loose teeth. Ugh, this whole thing bothered me, texturally.
Anyway, obvs what happens next:
We join Szarbo and his friend at their seedy motel that honestly I would still go to.
They’re dumping the content of the boxes they popped onto the bed, confused. It’s all papers, but not like, money papers. Szarbo is angry and wondering what the fuck is up.
But not for long.
Just noting this assassin was dressed like the American notion of a ninja/a Kuroko.
Anyway, while a tech guy explains how just letting Szarbo’s friend look at the security setup was enough for him to know how to get past it, we get one last look of my favourite obviously-a-sets.
But the fun isn’t over! Because now Zito and Switek stop by to FYI the folks on how very dead Szarbo and his pal are. There is obviously something unhealthy about the situation, based on how they talk about the bodies. The obvious option here is that one bad cop, who is not making the situation look good by loading up his car for a long trip.
It’s maddening how much I love that house’s design, btw.
The guy says he found the bodies like that, which is why he decided to run.
That’s a pretty legit reaction, honestly. Especially as it’s explained how mutilated the bodies were, and that Szarbo’s Thai partner was particularly messed up and muttered something about “papers” right as he died.
Switek continues to elaborate, but one word catches Castillo’s ear particularly.
He’s infuriated that nobody told him Szarbo’s partner was Thai, which honestly is a legit thing to not mention.
Listen, Castillo, you’re a dang skinny-tie enigma, we can’t know what will be of vital importance to you—oh we’re going to go look at a mutilated body now? Super.
Don’t worry, this is the mid-80s and there’s 100% no gore.
Oh boy, how things change between here and the various CSI shows.
Castillo lets Crockett and Tubbs know that the way the body was mutilated was like, a warning to others, and that he saw shit like that when he worked in Thailand for the DEA. His guess is the “papers” are shipment schedules for this one particular kingpin and that they need to see who is freshly arrived to the city as the way of finding the assassin.
He’s Castillo-levels of intense about the whole thing and our dudes are confused and intimidated by it, because how else do you handle the moods of a god-being, honestly?
From there it is a montage of restaurants as the three dudes track down recent emigrants from Thailand, via their work addresses.
They strike out at each one, finding only normal folks, not assassins. So, their guy has to be at the last restaurant. Tubbs and Castillo have been working together, leaving Crockett alone, but they give him a call to run backup, and enter the restaurant.
Castillo speaks what I’m guessing is basic, Central Thai (this is a country with some very distinct language groups and I know nothing about any of it) to the hostess and they get seated, passing a whole bunch of rad ass sculpture that I wish any of the hip fooderies around me had.
Despite the awesome setting, Castillo has the hardcore bums, possibly because they’re just gonna arrest a guy and not have dinner.
Their waiter serves their water and also an acreage of chest that is very distinctly tattooed.
This look, this whole open-chef-coat thing. It’s against so many health codes and fashion codes at once. But, honestly, the little tattoo on the guy’s forearm that we saw in the shot before this might not have really hammered home that this is their assassin guy. So.
Castillo checks the, jeez, colour reproduction? State copy? Of the guy’s ID and determines that this is the recent arrival they’re looking for. This whole operation has been weird as shit, whatever.
However weird it is, Castillo tells Tubbs secure the back and then calmly folds his napkin onto the table. Because that is who he is.
The legal logic of Miami Vice: not sound. Character notes: excellent.
Castillo casually goes to the back to find the dude in question, and I bet $10 this is an actual kitchen that was cleaned and dressed for this scene.
Castillo be creepin’.
He is, of course, spotted and the guy takes off out the back, past his normal-ass and confused co-workers who are probably wondering why an intense dude in a skinny tie is chasing their new pal Boon.
He crashes past and super-decks Tubbs with a high kick and is out in the alley in a blink.
Castillo follows him and confronts him and dang this show handles lighting so well.
They tussle, and let me give you some hot facts from the Miami Vice wiki for this episode:
This episode is the reason that the UK season 1 DVD set is classified 18 (not to be sold to any person beneath that age), as opposed to the 15 certificate given to every other season. The higher rating is probably due to the fight sequence between Castillo and the assassin at the end of the episode, which features several techniques (such as the double ear clap Castillo gives his opponent) that were viewed dimly by the BBFC at the time, largely because they are dangerous yet easily imitated.
It is a close fight, for sure, but Castillo very wins, while Tubbs and Crockett, notoriously bad hand-to-hand fighters, watch.
But, the downed Boon then swallows his tongue, which is not only terrifying, but signals the kind of people they’re dealing with.
Back at the station, they look over a package that was just delivered. It’s very obviously from General Lao Li, the guy Castillo was up against when he worked for the DEA.
There’s basically only one thing of note in it.
Castillo knows, from this picture, that Lao Li is already here and the papers are to smuggle people, not drugs in. How does he know?
That picture is of Castillo’s wife.
Don’t worry, we’ll find out next week. You’ll still use all those “aaa”s tho, it gets intense.
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.