The tension in this episode of Miami Vice is slightly undercut by one of the characters being played by Glen Frey of the Eagles and the episode’s titular song, “Smuggler’s Blues.”
Full disclosure? I had no idea that Glen Frey was Glen Frey and actually did not realise he was in the Eagles or sang the song that was not only the inspiration for the episode but also a bunch of dialogue was lifted from. AMAZING. Even more amazing is this episode was written by Miguel Piñero, who played Calderone up until the character died in episode five.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “Smuggler’s Blues”
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.
Ah, my favourite way to start an episode: right in the middle of Some Shit.
Crockett, Tubbs, Switek and Zito are all sitting watch on a smuggler named Morales, but they can’t comprehend his situation. He’s saying stuff about worrying about his family, and a fishing bridge is a super weird place for a drop.
But drop he does, into a boat passing beneath the bridge, which is not in line for a smuggler type-character, as he gets nothing in return.
He does immediately rush to his car and take off, so all the dudes follow, figuring that Morales’ pickup is in a different spot.
It’s not cash he’s rushing for, however.
Via the silhouettes, we see Morales rushing around and fussing with however that other silhouette is tied up and then the boat explodes. Just, explodes.
At the station, they’re all trying to process this, because it’s weird as hell.
Morales survived, but is paralysed from the waist down. His wife, the person tied up in the boat, is dead. This bastard, Homicide Lieutenant Jones, basically says it’s the stakes of the smuggling game and basically shrugs off any idea of the smugglers being human. He also takes time to mention that he likes the Miami Dolphins.
After he leaves, Castillo gets a phone call and asks Tubbs and Crockett to meet him somewhere.
An abandoned building, why not. Castillo and Trudy are there with some DEA folks (remember, Castillo has DEA ties from his pre-Vice life).
See, it turns out this thing—the whole “smuggler’s fam gets blown up” thing—has happened five time before. And since all the smugglers who’ve been hit were under investigation by law enforcement, there’s definitely an inside link.
So, they offer Tubbs and Crockett a dicey and voluntary job: pretend to be smugglers and go to Cartagena, do some smuggles and set a trap. The dudes are down for it.
What’s Trudy’s job? She’s the family bait, of course. Fun times for Trudy.
The dudes get their cover set up and then go work some contacts to find a way down to Cartagena. Before we introduce their pal with the Rolodex, please peep this poster on the door of the place they go to:
Anyway, a Very Drug party is going on and this bro is gonna give them the name of a pilot, once he’s done playing keep-away with this piece of chicken.
I super love the Expedit/Kallax type shelf here, the vertical pieces are on an angle and it’s super slick, although probably awful for actually storing anything.
With the magic of being undercover vice cops, the dudes save their pal here from a raid by Switek and Zito and are able to shake out the name, Jimmy, of a pilot who works with smugglers.
Where does this dude live? At an airport, of course. Like any trustworthy pilot.
And what does Jimmy like to do? Oh, bitch you know he plays guitar.
I always thought the extended bit of Jimmy rocking out was a little weird but most of Miami Vice is a little weird so I brushed it off. Makes about 100% more sense once you know this is Glenn Frey and you know who Glenn Frey is.
He agrees to pilot them for their drug buy, after underlining that he just flies the plane, man. I have no segue for this image, but dig the look of his pad.
With everything all set, Trudy gets dropped off at a hotel to play as the family bait. Holy shit look at that architectural detailing around the door, though.
They drop Tubbs’ car at the drop site and he preps for their future by hiding a gun under the bumper. I love how extra this show is even with the most basic, interstitial scenes.
Time to get on the plane, and meet the creepy mechanic, which I assume is a staple at any hangar that lets people live there.
Jimmy’s plane is called La Vaca, with a cute little lemon painted on it, because he’d been told it was both a cow and a lemon, but with love he made it a great little plane.
Off they fly to land in Puerto Rico standing in for Cartagena, Columbia.
So, not only did the production team artfully added some trash, but the quality of the building to the left of this “hotel” def makes it look like the location scout found a place that was about to be renovated to film in, for appropriate squalor. Film!
Their hotel room overlooks where they’ll be meeting Grocero, who they’re buying the smuggle drugs from. The window slats are even conveniently all fucked up so they can peek out of them.
For some reason Grocero is like, Lyncian levels of creepy. He spends his conversation with Tubbs (who is meeting him on the word of his “cousin”) jingling around some quarters.
Tubbs handles it well, it’s a slurred and aggressive conversation on Grocero’s part, he’s not willing to meet Tubb’s numbers.
At a sort of impasse, Grocero says he’ll let Tubbs know if he’ll do the deal if or when they meet again.
On the way across the street to the hotel a lady runs up and grabs Tubbs, babbling.
He’s weirded out and suspicious, and for good reason, it turns out.
The dudes are attacked and we get to see their poor hand-to-hand skills at work briefly before a Jimmy shows up to help.
Before they can get free and clear, a cop car shows up, Jimmy pulls Crockett safe but can’t grab Tubbs, and Jimmy has to forcefully suggest Crockett not run into the fray.
Back in their shitty little hotel room, Crockett and Jimmy wait.
Meanwhile, Tubbs is waiting in a far less pleasant situation.
The officer interrogating Tubbs is called Leuitenant Todo which, he explains, in English means everything. Sure, bro. That sure is a line to tell people.
He looks over Tubbs’ falsified file and decides he’s a bad enough guy. See, Grocero just wanted to know if Tubbs was for real before going through with the deal.
With Tubbs cleared, he returns to the hotel room, to find Crockett has torn everything in it up. He is not a man, as we well know by now, who is good at handling not being able to do something.
They take a moment to chill, before their afternoon meet with Grocero to finalise the deal.
They’re meeting Grocero at a club, one with kind of the most amazing sign and an actual joke of a scaffolding next to it, rendered in fresh, new wood.
So, remember when I described Grocero as “Lynchian” before? Well.
They’re presented with a bunch of cocaine in the shape of an M, from Tubbs’ pretend cousins name. Classy move, Grocero. Pinterest-worthy.
Tubbs tests it and their deal is good to go.
Our dudes call the play, it’s a little complicated but it clearly has to be as Grocero’s a greasy mother fucker. They’ll meet at a place they call him about, there will be two cars, etc. etc.
Here’s one more shot of this dudes club, with human paper doll cutouts, because WHY NOT BE THE CREEPIEST.
The meeting place is the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, and we get like a full half minute of sun flares over statues and it’s glorious.
It’s an epic-ass meeting spot and a really beautiful cemetery.
They make the trade, Grocero gets his case of cash and Tubbs gets a cooler of cocaine.
Tubbs and Crockett get back to the air strip, where I’m assuming Jimmy was waiting for them. All they gotta do is get on the plane.
But! Grocero’s men arrive, since they’d like to have their cake and eat it too.
Crockett gets in a car and forces them off the runway, then is able to jump into the plane as it taxis off.
There’s only a little shooting and they’re home clear.
Of course, once they get back to Miami there’s still the whole “family hostage” thing to worry about. Still: sunset.
Once back in the States, they do the classic “oh, I gotta fly low because plane sad” thing and make their drop before getting back on their flight pattern.
One problem, though.
The guys they’re reporting their flight path to include the creepy mechanic, who makes a call to let somebody know the smugglers are back with the drugs.
Our dudes haul their drugs back to the waiting car they’d stashed before leaving. It’s a lot of kilos.
One little problem (this whole gig is full of single, little problems). That whole “you’re doing this fake smuggles so we can find out who’s kidnapping people and exploding them” problem. Well, here’s the tip of it.
Luckily, Jimmy arrives to the rescue! There’s a bit of a shootout, but Tubbs had that gun stashed, so it all works out.
With creepy mechanic captured, they get the info about what comes next and listen in on his call to whoever has stashed Trudy.
I’d mentioned last episode that we didn’t get to see Lester any more, and that Zito and Switek sort of take over the AV roles. Thankfully, that means we at least get to see more AMAZING shirts.
They’ve figured out where Trudy is being held and now it’s a race between getting her free of where she’s held and whatever timeline the guy running this scheme gives Tubbs.
It’s not a great situation, but we do get to see a lot of a bomb expert played by Nelson Oramas. Thanks to Miami Vice’s weird way of handling less-than-tertiary characters, his characters are named three different things in the three episodes he’s in. According to Miami Vice Wiki, he was a former police officer and was used as a technical advisor in movies. The last film he was in was Wild Things, but they brought him back as a technical advisor for the 2006 Miami Vice movie, which is really sweet.
Castillo’s plan is that Tubbs tries to buy time when the guy running this gives a call, while the bomb expert (named “Sam” in this episode) and someone else go in to rescue Trudy. Gina tries to insist on being the one to go in but Castillo ignores her and Crockett talks over her, volunteering himself. TOO REAL GUYS.
Like before, you can just see the shape of the poor lady rigged to blow, this time in what is honestly a really cute single-wide.
Crockett and Sam make their way to the trailer and carefully go inside.
Trudy is rigged up on something very complicated looking and is clearly on her last legs.
Sam carefully and calmly talks her through what he’s doing.
He rolls down anti-static plastic for them to walk on, so they don’t accidentally spark anything. It, ah, it might just be a roll of trash bags.
Once they’re close, they hook up the radio to the wires Sam had been unspooling as they came up. This isn’t just an old times thing, a direct speaking connection is gonna be waaaaaaay safer in a situation like this than radio waves (or cell phone signals), especially since they figure that’s one of the bomb’s triggers.
Bonus bomb problem: there’s a movement trigger too that they’ve got to take care of before getting Trudy to safety.
Trudy, however, is shaking like mad because she’s scared af and has been tied up for who knows how long. Crockett tries to keep her calm so Sam can get to work.
While they’re at it, Tubbs gets his call with a place to meet and drop off the drugs. He tries to stall but it doesn’t work.
Please note Switek comforting Gina, who is also understandably pissed looking about the whole situation.
Just like the start of the episode, the drop off point is that fishing bridge.
Tubbs drops the bag but can’t leave it at that, because he’s got to stall somehow.
So, he jumps into the boat.
While he’s tussling, Sam and Crockett are moments away from freeing Trudy.
Tubbs points out that they’re super surrounded and maybe this mystery dude should just give up.
This guy is not buying it. Why not kill everyone if he’s gonna get caught anyway?
He hits the switch, Tubbs hits his trigger and the trailer explodes.
But there’s four more seasons of this show so everybody made it, of course. Tubbs hears Crockett over his earpiece, reporting Trudy safe.
The bad, and now very dead, guy is hauled out of the water.
Who is it? Why, the shitty Dolphins fan, of course.
It ends on a freeze frame of Tubbs and Crockett comforting Trudy, who looks shook as hell. It sucks forever that there was never a spinoff of Trudy and Gina just being awesome cops and not having to be the bait or the special episode.
Well, at least we get to meet Tubbs’ original true love next episode. It’s better than you can guess.
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.