Man, Miami Vice is unique in how it takes on some themes, and Rites of Passage is a surprisingly decent look at the line between protecting family and allowing them agency. Also, it has two fucking baller guest stars.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “Rites of Passage”
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.
What do I love more than any Miami Vice second-unit stock footage montage? A second unit-stock footage montage that starts off the episode.
Between all this beach time though, we’re being introduced to the charming Diane, to the tune of Come to Poppa.
Despite being the most dressed on the beach, Diane turns heads. Though I personally only have eyes for that pontoon boat in the background there.
Diane has also caught the eye of a dude who, it turns out, is not stock footage, but a character, Lile. Oh yes, it is spelled like that.
Lile uses possibly the most bonkers line I’ve heard. It was a little convoluted but basically comes down to “based on all the whiplash you were causing back there, I figure you have to be licensed to carry concealed weapons.” It’s like two bad pickup lines made a baby. Like, you could have made it about auto insurance, honestly, and it would have made more sense.
His line works though, because of course it does, and he takes Diane to lunch, where I guess she tries oysters for the first time. I could not capture her disgust after trying one, but same, girl.
Diane and Lile then go to a party at Lile’s employer David Traynor. And who plays Lile’s employer?
John Turturro (!), who had already been in a million things by now and was well an adult, but still seems so dang young. Anyway, he’s running a “modelling agency”.
Diane is happily the center of attention at the party.
The range of clothing styles at this party is bonkers. Lile and Traynor’s patterned satin shirts, the guy on the left’s like what, grey suit with white tuxedo shirt and red bow tie? Diane’s sheer and satin look, some normal-ass suits scattered around.
Diane has even attracted the attention of Diplomat Roberto (literally how the character’s name is listed), played by Mario Ernesto Sánchez, who was one of Miami Vice’s go-tos for a type of presence, as he is five different characters over the course of the show (AND was in the 2006 film).
Diplomat Roberto wants to know how much a night with Diane will be and Traynor has to let him know she’s not an option yet. Probably because she still thinks this is a modelling agency party.
Someone who well knows what kind of party it is complains to Lile about her client, which is legit af. But, since this is a shitty sex work operation, Lile basically tells her to suck it up.
Lile then brings Diane up to Traynor for a get-to-know you.
Traynor lays on all the lines about modelling and looking for new girls and the money that can be made.
Diane loves it.
This other lady though, does not seem to.
Noting this now, in general it always feels like Miami Vice treats sex work as work, but the bosses of sex workers as the worst bosses imaginable. Unlike some procedural shows, you don’t feel like people caught up in the drama of a cop show’s body count are getting punished for being sex workers, they’re victims of their criminal bosses, same as any other character getting deaded for or by their employer.
With that said, we’re pretty much taken from this woman not being into her client that night to her on a coroner’s gurney under a bridge.
Trudy and Gina know who she is and that she works for Traynor.
All of this is being watched by two folks on the sidelines. The first is wearing a shirt I periodically try to identify and have no luck with.
You know who this is, but we’ll make a better introduction in a couple of scenes.
This other bastard you know quite well. Yes, he’s chewing a piece of grass. No, I have no idea why, it’s not even logical busywork.
And now, in true Miami Vice style, a moment of levity. Zito and Switek are making their bug mobile a little more extra, which includes getting the wings on the thing to flap. When they finally do, Zito is knocked off the roof and we eventually get this perfect image.
Our dudes are there to tell the bug boys to go get some unusable as evidence (but otherwise useful) video at a party of the dead lady’s employer, Traynor.
Meanwhile, Tubbs hears some folks talking in Castillo’s office and pops by. Look at his dang pose here.
Ah yes, this is Pam Grier playing Valerie Gordon, a former co-worker and girlfriend of Tubbs. She was ah, not fully expecting or ready to run into him, it feels like.
Tubbs goes into charm overload, and Gordon agrees to lunch and catch up, though she’s in town on some very specific business.
As a gift, here are Castillo, Gina and Trudy’s reactions to Tubbs laying on his charm at maximum volume.
Basically, everyone is the cutest.
Gordon walks and talks with Tubbs, explaining why she didn’t contact him the moment she got into town and what has been going on.
See, her sister Diane went on a post-graduation trip with pals, Gordon sent her money once, and then at some point, Diane just walked away from her friends and stopped contacting Gordon. So, she’s been looking for Diane for six months, finally tracing her to Miami, maybe.
That evening, Switek and Zito go to the party they’re going to get illegal video of.
They’ve got kind of a wild rig, that looks like a bug smoker thing, with the main box where the camera is hiding. “Can we get high off this?” ask the party goers.
Their main skill is fast talking charm that lets them make a pretty complete circuit of the room, getting a catalogue of faces.
It’s absolutely underhanded, but they’re looking for any way to figure out how that lady under the bridge got murdered.
While they’re doing that, Gordon and Tubbs are reconnecting while she packs to leave, having found no leads to her sister.
They reconnect pretty good.
A fun fact from the Miami Vice wiki: “When this episode originally aired, the love scene between Tubbs and Valerie was slightly longer and more erotic. NBC ordered the scene cut slightly in subsequent reruns and it has appeared in this form in syndication, in the DVD Releases, on Hulu, and on Netflix.”
I wonder if it’s because they don’t fade between shots of skin and panoramic scenery, like when Tubbs was with Angelina in episode five.
In the morning, Zito and Switek screen their party footage for the folks at the station.
Look at all those amazing floral prints! And this AV cart.
There’s some interesting things with how television screens handle power input and how filming that makes those distinctive bars and you never see that anymore because nowadays when you’re filming you can see what the camera is seeing immediately and adjust your frames on the fly to sync it with the screen. A real quick explanation about the process is here.
Gordon is killing time before her flight at the station.
Crockett tells her she could check out the footage the bug boys got at the party, if she’d like, so she wanders over, just in time to see this.
That’s our Diplomat Roberto, with Diane. Now, what has Diane been up to since we saw her last? Yes, it is time for a montage.
This absolutely wonderful shopping montage, which I am honestly trying not to overwhelm you with here, image-wise, is , set to Change Your Ways and intercut with shots of Diane prepping and using lines of cocaine.
We also get some not-subtle imagery with this split mirror.
Gordon has, obviously, cancelled her flight back to New York and is now accompanying Crockett and Tubbs in tracking Diane down, which does honestly seem not ethically correct but whatever.
They go to the Diplomat’s consulate for info.
He’s got diplomatic immunity and has no personal moral issues with hiring sex workers, so they have to rely on Gordon tugging his heart strings by saying that the girl who likes the things he likes to do is her sister.
Lady, everybody is somebody’s sister.
She does convey that she’s worried about her sister though, and that seems to be enough to get Diplomat Roberto to reluctantly hook our dudes up for the next party at Traynor’s.
Though we know Diane is having the shopping experience of her life, thanks to doing work that pays well, how is her home life?
Take a moment for that magazine cover, btw. I’m guessing it’s a fake, because the cover does not line up well with the interior and the design is a little spare. It’s basically impossible to Google “Sensual magazine” to confirm, however.
Enter Traynor, in basically the best robe.
Diane asks if he got her the stuff she wanted and he is an absolute abusive piece of shit to her about it, but does hand over a little bottle of what I am assuming is cocaine and tells Diane to get ready for the evening.
And, that said evening, our dudes show up to the party.
Lile lets them in and vets them and they start their walk around, looking for Diane. Gordon, Switek and Zito are all listening in from the van.
There are some cute bits in the party scene, Crockett does not like a sandwich, excuses himself from a lady’s advances by blaming his trick knee, etc. Miami Vice does parties well, so let’s enjoy some random caps before we have to deal with a scene that makes me angry.
While Crockett plays the fool, Tubbs spots Diane going up the stairs.
He follows her, and finds her doing a couple lines.
He talks to her about what’s going on, that her sister is looking for her, etc. Diane makes it clear she knows what she’s doing and likes what she’s doing.
Tubbs is not going to convince her she’s being played, and here comes the bit I fucking hate.
He bodily picks her up and carries her out of the party, screaming. The party goers do not know what to make of this. Because what do you even do, call the cops?
Crockett strong arms them past Lile and they get outside and on their way to the van, Diane struggling to break free however she can.
They get her into the van, and Gordon tries to defend her actions.
They have a straight up screaming match, and Gordon slaps her sister. To her miniscule credit, she realises the moment she does that this was probably all the wrong way to do this, as worried as she was for Diane.
She basically apologises at the rehab center they checked Diane into, after Diane asserts that her life is “one solid party” and that she loves the money she’s making and doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do.
Gordon lets Diane know she’s done taking care of her, that she loves her and that Diane’s life is her own to fill with the choices that she makes. She also tries to get Diane to understand that she’s in a situation where she’s being treated like a commodity instead of a skilled employee.
Back at the station, they wrap up the situation. Crockett wants to see if Diane will get them info on Traynor, which Tubbs objects to.
Castillo asks Gordon what her opinion is and she tells him that Diane has “been used enough.”
At the rehab center, Diane calls Traynor, because she is an actual babe in the woods, when it comes down to it.
She informs him that she’s done with the life, but thank you for the good times.
Traynor gets her address, at first asking if he can come say goodbye but when Diane says no he says he’ll just send flowers.
He then puts Lile on the task of tying up the loose end of Diane existing, since they assume that she’ll spill all she knows to the cops.
This might be one of my favourite scenes, in how it’s laid out (though the action in the scene itself is super sad). We go between Gordon and Tubbs cuddling up and reminiscing and halfway talking about a future together,
And Diane at her room in the rehab center, about to be visited by Lile.
The song that plays is I Want To Know What Love Is, but what’s amazing is that (intentionally or not), there are speed fluctuations that distort the song, making it lightly nightmarish. It sounds like a worn out or stretched cassette tape and I’m going to assume it was intentional, even though the Miami Vice wiki has it listed as a “goof.” It adds like hell to the feeling of the scene.
As Foreigner distorts, Lile makes his way up to Diane’s room, carrying flowers and looking ominous, before he carefully and quietly OD’s her.
While that’s happening, Tubbs and Gordon are making out and giggling, which is the opening tone with which Tubbs answers the phone when Crockett calls them about Diane.
Of course, the mood is swiftly crushed and the song slips out as Tubbs and Gordon hold each other in a totally different way than they had been at the start of the scene.
They pretty immediately pick up Traynor and Gordon watches the interrogation.
She sees Tubbs getting a little too hands on and busts in to stop it, telling him that he’s got to follow procedure, to do it right, so it sticks.
We then get to watch a coffin being put on a plane. Gordon is heading back to New York to bury her sister (it’s been implied throughout that they have no family, which is part of why Gordon was so protective of Diane).
Tubbs says his goodbyes and Crockett takes him back to the station.
While Castillo is letting Crockett know they’re using the party tape to find other leads on the dead lady under the bridge, Tubbs gets a call that Diane’s body arrived in New York but that Gordon didn’t.
One guess where Gordon has gone.
She bulls her way through the door of Traynor’s apartment (I guess the house he holds parties at is not his main address?) at gunpoint.
Lile almost sneaks up on her but a stray shot from Gordon wings him and moves on.
While all this is going on, our dudes are rushing like hell to get to Gordon before she is killed or kills someone.
She finds Traynor in a back room and lines up her shot, but Lile is back up and behind her.
Lile is shot by Crockett and Tubbs as they arrive on the scene and Traynor responds by shooting at Gordon.
So, of course Gordon shoots him.
The moment her vengeance is done, she hands her gun to Crockett and the episode ends.
Hooboy, a solidly crafted bummer of an episode. Get ready for another downer, with an equally awesome dose of guest star in the next episode.
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.