Like it says on the tin for episode four, “Calderone’s Return” is all about the big bad that set up this whole show clearing the way to come on back. With the following episode (Calderone’s Return (Part 2)), this was turned into a two-hour TV movie, because Miami Vice was all about them views. More so than the two-parter that started the show, each of these episodes stands alone just fine.
However, they are like, the keystone to some of my favourite storylines and characters in this show, so let’s get to it!
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “Calderone’s Return (Part 1)”
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’s this? Crockett shaving?! Like, if you don’t remember the Miami Device and how it came into production to capitalise on Crockett’s perfect unshaved look, I’m sorry. But it’s okay because that shit is still around.
Crockett isn’t at home though, he and Tubbs are on a stakeout, which means glorious pans of old tech. Hearts forever.
They’re watching this drug dude, Castranova, and Crockett is getting ready for his divorce hearing, hence, the shaving. Castranova and his lady are having an amicable spat over breakfast. “I don’t know why we left Jersey to come to this dump,” she complains, to the glorious Miami morning.
Tubbs, laughingly, agrees.
Crockett dresses up in his divorce finest, a full white suit because of course. Zito and Switek show up to relieve them and please do enjoy the chandeliers shoved into a nook of the room.
Also please this fatty catadioptric lens. It uses the power of mirrors to see far while being very short. I love it.
At the courthouse, Caroline (escorted by her lawyer) and Crockett (driven by Tubbs) arrive about the same time, both in white. Divorcing lovebirds.
Their lawyers get arguing, Caroline and Crockett step off to go chat without lawyers and they decide, fuck lawyers, they’re going to figure this out amicably. “Our divorce was a bigger failure than our marriage,” says Crockett as they walk down the courthouse steps and through a Very Miami scene.
Back at the stakeout, our dude Castranova is gonna go to the tailor so the car comes around to pick him up. Look at this dang shot tho.
Also lovingly shot is this dude, putting a bag into the passenger seat. NOT OMINOUS AT ALL.
Drug dude gets in the car, our mysterious driver happily closing the doors. Then the driver puts on some surgical gloves (oh no), pulls a terrifyingly business-like Big Gun out of the bag (oh no) and, well.
But deceased drug dude was being monitored by the cops! So they arrive quickly to the scene, to apprehend the not-driver. Man, look at that Caddy limo stealing the scene just by being there.
Things, of course, do not end well and the not-driver is off to a waiting car with a cool dude ready to whisk him away.
Driving home from where he’d dropped Sonny at the courthouse, Tubbs gets word of what’s going down and arrives at the hotel they traced the car to. He tells the young cop there to not be a cowboy and wait for backup and honestly, you listen to a guy with the confidence to never button more than half his shirt.
But then some shit gets real and Tubbs goes cowboy.
Look at that dang building. Just a concrete block full of louvred glass. I want to marry it.
Chasing his suspect through the building and onto the street, Tubbs loses the guy in a crowd that honestly cannot give a single fuck that there’s a dude running around with a giant shotgun.
In the hotel room of the disappeared dude, the cops find a little black book. This isn’t onna them sexy ones, though. It’s a list of people that have been deaded, including the recently exploded Castranova. There’s a couple names that aren’t crossed off though. Oh shit, can you guess who else is on it?
Crockett and Caroline are hanging out after celebrating their not-divorce in the obvious way. They’re trying to decide if maybe they didn’t try hard enough to make the marriage work, but in the end they both agree they did try, it just isn’t fated to work out. They’re pretty chill about it.
A knock on the door brings some bad news and cool dudes. As Crockett goes to the door, the camera takes a moment to hang on a picture of his family, because some shit is at stake here.
Jesus, I have a box of these picture frames. They’re dingy little gold-metal guys and were the bulk of frames in most households I knew. It would absolutely not be creepy to print out the image above and put it in one of those frames, right?
Anyway, Tubbs and the lieutenant talk to Crockett and let him know he’s eighth on the list of getting deaded.
Back at the station, they’re getting more info on how bad his name being on this list is. The lieutenant, sitting next to a whirly-gig of stamps that I’m jealous of, is not feeling good about this whole thing.
You see, they know two things about the guy who put Crockett’s name on a list: he’s Argentinian and he “bats 1,000” which I am told means you never miss a hit, in baseball lingo.
Which does put an interesting spin on Batman, maybe. Do you think, playing inter-superhero baseball, he is like “I bats a million” and they’re like, no, that’s not how it counts, but you can’t really argue with him because he is rich and legitimately troubled so you let him do fun stuff like decorating the dugout and hope that eventually your positive reinforcement will help him learn to trust himself.
Crockett is not into being told that he’s going into protective custody with Caroline and their kid and he makes it awkward for everyone.
The lieutenant accompanies Crockett to go pick up some of his shit from the boat and we’re treated to a delicious and dangerous pan across some objects. God, I love this show.
Oh shit, you see them glasses you KNOW. It’s the dude who blasted away the other dude. But Crockett is safe, right?
Like, our distinctive-doughnut eating shooter here isn’t aiming at Crockett?
As our great hacker Trudy has just found out and relayed to the team, not only does the shooter have ties to Calderone (the big bad from the first episode), Crockett’s boat address is compromised.
In a quick series of cuts: Crockett finishes packing, the sniper steadies his shot, the phone rings, the lieutenant gazes around while he waits and sees a distinctive flash from a tower. He dives for Crockett and, in the process, is shot.
That’s a fucking bummer, so let’s focus on the pamphlet Tubbs is reading while he and Crockett wait to hear how the lieutenant is doing in surgery. “Poison and You!” looks like it’s got a 50/50 chance of being a real pamphlet, honestly. This show is such an intentional mix of heavy and goofy shit, like it is legit working hard to find a perfect tonal balance.
The news from the surgeon is not good and Crockett is (surprise!) feeling guilt about it. He wants to get the guy that did this and Tubbs, knowing he can’t stop him, makes him promise to not go alone.
The next step in getting this guy is finding another name on the hit list who isn’t dead yet and using him as bait. Trudy and Gina are on the case and on his tail. I love them, I wish they had a spin-off show.
They’re tailing the guy, but it’s up to the Daytona Spyder to really chase him down, because: zooms, fast and did you know how hard they worked to rebody a Corvette to look like a Ferrari?
I love how lovingly chase scenes in Miami Vice are shot and I hate how hard this is to capture. But what is clear here is that this is not a road, it’s some dang like, pedestrian avenue through a park.
Don’t worry, they corner him and his adorable Mercedes.
Linus steps out of his car and asks what the actual hell they’re chasing him for, as he is a legitimate business man.
Via a very swift and very illegal search of the trunk, our dudes give him a reason to listen to them for a moment.
Crockett and Tubbs walk Linus over to a phone while explaining the situation and how he is going to help them because his name is on the list too, so they’re all helping each other, right? See, turns out Linus has a meeting with some dude tonight and that’s probably gonna be the dude out to kill him and Crockett. So they’ll go all covert and shit.
During Linus’ call with his contact, Crockett gets antsy and looks at all the places a sniper full of bats could be.
I’m going to put this cap out of order so I can show you better the beautiful building he was eyeing, and keeps eyeing, through this scene.
Linus sets up the meeting up at a club, and he is legit Not Pleased about the situation. Understandably.
After Tubbs hands Linus off to the ultra-competent protective watch of Gina and Trudy, he goes to check in on Crockett, because Tubbs is the truest and best friend.
They finish their little chat and return to the car as the camera draws out showing that the danged assassin was listening this whole time! Augh!! Him and his coffee and doughnuts. Anyway, also the marquee on the movie theatre: “Great Movies”
Before going to the meet, Crockett stops by the safe house, which is apparently on a postcard.
Look at this picturesque shit.
He reassures Caroline that things will be all right and gives his kiddo some love, even though his kid is wearing a mesh shirt.
Like, wait. Why would you put that on a kid playing outside? Do you want them to get weird burn-tan lines? I know someone who fell asleep outside in fishnets and it ended hilariously.
Anyway, time for some artful panning through a club.
Linus arrives, accompanied by Tubbs, Trudy and Gina. Linus tried to get them seated at a different table than their usual, but Tubbs makes sure they’re right where they’ll be expected.
Poor fucking Linus.
At least he is being watched over by Crockett and this very self-sure dude. God. Did Miami in the 80s just have a crush on brick glass or did the show maybe just keep it around to build sets with? Like, this is probably a room somewhere and two techs just hung a random neon in the back, built a little fake wall and called it good.
Trudy and Gina get up to scope the room and they’re lit beautifully.
The camera makes a point to show this bored-ass lady a couple times during the scene, as Trudy and Gina make their way to the bar. It’s like she’s bummed she isn’t as cool as they are. Fair, ma’am.
Up at the bar, that creeper in the mid-ground there tries to hit on Trudy while she’s touching base with Switek.
Gina handles it.
Buuuuuuuuut, the crowd here was just ready to go and the whole thing escalates into a club-wide fight.
In the melee though, Linus says he sees a familiar face. The cops converge and corner him, the Argentinian guy they think is the shooter.
And oh shit, dear reader, we know that ain’t him.
Oh shit there he issssssssssssss.
The cops don’t know their fuckup yet and they’re grilling this dude here like he knows shit beyond what a good friend he likes to be to the deadly sniper guy.
In the room behind the mirror, the phone rings and they learn that Linus done got deaded. Which means that this bro here is not the fabled 1,000 bats assassin and that Crockett is totally fucked.
Tubbs does not take this well, as Crockett has already picked up Caroline and their kid from the safe house and is on his way home.
Crap, he’s pulled up into their driveway. Look at this poor, happy bastard.
Tubbs speeds his way there, on the always amazingly empty night streets of Miami.
The low-bottomed car throws mad sparks from the undercarriage as its low-slung self launches over the slightest rise in the road but those moments were ethereal and I can’t capture them for you.
The happy family, their son most certainly sporting the stupidest tan lines possible, arrive in their home and we’ll ignore this layout is different than the house in the first episode.
Crockett notices spilled coffee and a half eaten doughnut. Because you may be filled with 1,000 bats but you still need to snack before a shootout. Anyway, before they can take their shoes off, BAMS.
A LOT OF BULLETS HAPPEN.
MANY BULLETS. Too many, in the end, for the assassin. So he heads outside, leaping over a huddled and crying Caroline and child, and smashing through a window.
Not the best next move as Tubbs and his backup have arrived.
Even more bullets happen, but, in the end, even 1,000 bats cannot help you fight that many bullets.
Morning comes as they’re dealing with the aftermath.
Crockett and Caroline have a chat in her car. Caroline says “You know I love you, but it’s not going to work out.” Crockett knows. They decide to finalise the divorce.
It’s sad because they love each other, but this life is not one she wants to lead. Crockett is sad especially because he knows he can’t give up the life.
Tubbs gets a call from the hospital. The lieutenant is dead.
They got some good news though. The guy they’d nabbed thinking it was the guy gunning for Crockett has finally broke and revealed that Calderone, the big bad who is the one truly behind this, is in the Bahamas. Tubbs and Crockett decide they’re gonna go get him because the Bahamas are only sixty miles away.
The episode ends here, them in the car deciding to go get Calderone. It sort of makes it look like they’re gonna drive, which I love. Also, how is the Bahamas only 60 miles away!
Holy cow does Florida stick into the ocean or what. It looks like you can take a $73 shuttle boat for a couple hours and get to the Bahamas from there. Wild. For that I could I guess go to the part of the Oregon coast that is more touristy than murdery. Good on you, Florida.
Anyway, next week: Calderone truly does return. WITH A VENGEANCE.
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.