A hot-shot cop destroys everything in Miami Vice episode 17, The Maze. From start to finish, the main theme of this episode seems to be “cops just fuck things up.” It also has an excellently gratuitous dance scene, and those two things in one place is why I love Miami Vice.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “The Maze”
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.
We’re all in media res up here, as Crockett, Tubbs and two other dudes are leaving some fancy place. The two other guys, Duryea and Hawkins, are homicide cops and Duryea is def a little tuned and aggressively playful with his partner.
The four are all chatting shop, with Tubbs and Crockett talking the benefits of community policing and how well the area they’re in turned around after six months of hard work, watch programs and community programs.
Duryea isn’t buying it. He sells himself as a shitty guy right off, casually mentioning roughing up folks he’s arrested. Cowboy cop shit.
“You ever heard of the Miranda act or is that just another Latin dancer to you?” Crockett asks Duryea, while Tubbs looks at him like something he stepped in.
Our dudes are about to drive off when there’s some commotion.
Along with breaking windows, these kids start roughing up a shopkeep, and all the cops go to intervene, Duryea gun out and power hungry, chases them.
While most of the kids jump into their big truck and take off, shooting, one stays behind and gets tossed a gun to cover their escape.
Duryea’s partner gets shot, which only inflames Duryea further.
Crockett tries to tail the kid still on foot.
He follows him into the Seybold Building, which absolutely still exists and looks like it did then, an indoor mall of black acrylic walls and fancy jewellery.
In the maze, both Crockett and the kid shoot at and chase reflections and it’s only through pure restrain that I’m not inundating you with caps of things reflected in perfectly polished black acrylic.
The kid gets away and Tubbs catches up to let Crockett know Hawkins is dead.
Crockett fully places the blame for Hawkin’s death on Duryea’s fuckery. Castillo agrees, but there’s nothing he can do but file a report, because fuck the system. They’ve got to keep him involved in the case, even. Fun, fun, fun.
The kids are identified as the Escobar brothers, who had been just small-time drug dealers until they panicked and killed a cop. This info is delivered to Castillo via the always amazing Trudy and a ream of dot-matrix print.
We get a brief montage of Crockett and Tubbs chatting up the folks in the neighbourhood to see if they know where the Escobar brothers are holed up, but they get no info. It does seem to be less “nobody wants to talk” and more “nobody knows.”
One of the folks they chat up is this kid, Luigi. His look is pure beauty and Crockett grabs him while he’s roller skating down the sidewalk because OF COURSE HE IS. Look at his coordinated safety gear.
Crockett, as he leaves, asks Luigi why he’s not in school and Luigi basically makes the kind of half-hearted rude hand gesture a kid does to an adult to Crockett’s back. Duh, Crockett, he’s obviously out here being too cool for school, did you not see how awesome this outfit is?!
After that brief interlude, we get what may be my favourite scene in a television show ever. I recorded it in 2009 and thankfully, the internet is forever.
I’m honestly surprised this post isn’t just dozens of screencaps of this scene. This is Adolfo Quiñones, who is a killer choreographer and was in both Breakin’ movies. And this scene is most of Renegades of Funk long, it’s glorious.
Our dudes enjoy it as well, watching as they weave between club goers dressed surprisingly blandly for this show. Everybody is the backdrop to Quiñones.
As he shimmies to the side of the floor, Crockett and Tubbs grab him and say they gotta talk.
He ain’t having it, though.
He sashays right off and our dudes follow, bemused.
They catch him in the john, his telltale shoes giving him away.
That floor is AMAZING. This tile is all the way up the walls, too. It seems a little cruel to have in a drinking establishment, but good design is good design.
Crockett and Tubbs question Quiñones’ character, Pepe, since he used to have connections to the Escobar brothers.
Pepe’s gone straight though, making a tonne of money as a security consultant, breaking into places to test security. Once they explain the Escobars have graduated to killing folks, he relents, and tells them to look in “the Maze,” a giant abandoned hotel.
Our dudes go off to do some checking, in the amazingly purple light of Miami dawn.
The Maze is definitely inhabited, though not by many folks.
With the location confirmed, it’s up to Switek and Zito to get some more info on the building from the guy who owns it and is letting it rot. It unfortunately interrupts their attempts to snag a date. They are literally the worst wingmen for each other, btw, it’s amazing.
I wish they hadn’t semi-torn the labels off this soda, because I want to know what brand it is. I know that was probably their intention but dude. Switek got them lunch, with a two litre bottle of orange soda for each of them. Squad goals.
They go to the amazingly decorated building owner’s office, flash their badges and try to get blueprints. “Vice? I pay people with green stuff, not white stuff,” he scoffs, but relents.
WHERE DID THEY GET THIS ART?! I really want to know what the production team’s system was. My life goals include cataloguing all art in Miami Vice and seeing if pieces get reused (which probably means they’re part of props) or not (which probably means they’re on loan or part of a filming location).
Anyway, with the building plans, Castillo lays out how they’re going to get the Escobar brothers by surrounding and entering the building after surrounding and evacuating the squatters. Duryea thinks they should just go in, guns blazing, because he’s a piece of shit.
Everyone wishes Duryea would choke on his own tongue and Castillo continues explaining that his plan involves sending someone in undercover to get the squatters out. He pauses dramatically. Tubbs finally looks up from his drawing and realises Castillo means he is going in undercover.
The next day, the cops get set up around the Maze. Big as the place is, most of the action of the folks who live there is contained to the same area and consists of arguing.
This must be a hotel area, because they’re stages around another, super adorable hotel. That fish!
Tubbs walks through and past the line of cops, in his undercover gear.
He spends his walk up to and into the Maze half-singing Livin’ The Book of My Life, a recent release by Phillip Michael Thomas, the actor who plays Tubbs. Eat that, fourth wall.
The Maze is an actual abandoned hotel (obvs) that was used as a location in season two and demolished about a year later. It was called Blue Waters and seemed like it was a hell of a place, based on this old advertisement.
Tubbs shifts aside a makeshift door and makes his way inside.
I’m curious how long Blue Waters was left to rot, it’s amazingly, thoroughly dilapidated. We’re shown the level it’s rotted as Tubbs works his way up the floors to where the folks living there had been seen.
When he finds them, he’s told to leave.
Meanwhile, Duryea can’t handle the ten minutes of no activity.
He decides that things need to happen and runs to the Maze, gun out.
He is, of course, spotted by the Escobar brothers.
And the whole plan falls apart.
The rest of the cops have to make their way to the Maze, to cover this idiot, and gunshots are exchanged.
They rush past Tubbs, who is confused as hell, because he hasn’t been able to do his job yet.
Since Tubbs wasn’t able to locate the folks living there and get them out, the Escobar brothers are able to use them as hostages.
The cops have to retreat, leaving Tubbs there to try and salvage the situation and try to remain undercover.
It’s a fucking bad scene.
Crockett is mad as hell about it and talks the situation over with Lt. Jack Davis, a hostage specialist.
Duryea has opinions (that his actions are always right) and tries to justify fucking the whole thing up.
Castillo shuts him down and tells him the only reason he’s still around is because they need all the hands they can get to fix the situation he’s made.
Crockett fumes, worries for Tubbs and basically tells Duryea to eat shit and die.
In the Maze, we see one of the kids dancing to music on a boom box. This, btw, is Garcelle Beauvais, a hella familiar face who does epic amounts of TV.
We learn a little more about the families in the Maze. They came to the States for work but, of course, you can’t work without papers. So they’re stuck.
Still waiting to figure out the situation and trying not to crush Duryea, Crockett goes outside.
Castillo calms him, reminding him that the best thing he can do for Tubbs is be chill. Crockett knows this, since acting without thinking is what got them in this situation.
The folks in the Maze are getting worn and continuing the fighting they’d been doing, with the mom of one of the two families singing to herself to drown it out.
This pisses Elio Escobar off, and he threatens her. The two families had apparently regularly argued about who got to live in a specific area of the Maze, despite there being all the room. The tense situation is only aggravating everyone’s nerves and Elio is ready to make bad decisions about it.
Tubbs is able to de-escalate the situation and Raul Escobar starts negotiating with Davis.
He makes the standard demands (helicopter, money) and seems incredibly out of his element.
Elio tries to make moves on the girl, Gabriella, but is stopped by her brother Georges, played by the apparently ageless Ving Rhames.
The situation fully continues to escalate, however. As the families chill out, the bored Gabriella gets up to go dance to the boombox again. Through short shots, we’d seen that she and the youngest Escobar, Jaimie, have crush-eyes for each other, and they get a moment of that until his brothers’ existence ruins it.
Elio grabs Gabriella and drags her to an adjacent room. Tubbs and Georges, ready to come to her aid, are stopped at gunpoint by one of the other brothers.
Despite the danger, Georges rushes past, to save his sister.
Elio shoots him dead.
Gabriella is released, untouched, and Georges’ body is dumped outside.
His family is fully devastated. The other family, with a grumpy and loud baby, try to help comfort his mother.
Davis is trying to access and handle the situation, and this shot is where I realised where I knew this actor from.
It’s Joe Morton and he’s the scientist in T2, a movie I’ve rewatched more than I can comprehend.
Tubbs, for attempting to help Georges rescue his sister, is tied up and watched by the fourth Escobar brother, Xavier. He has an amazing vest.
Tubbs doesn’t stop working at trying to get Raul to understand the situation he’s in. With Georges dead the situation has fully changed and his fantasies of escaping to the Bahamas are daydreams.
He’s working against Elio’s anger, but Raul seems to be fully regretting the decisions that led him to this moment.
Outside, Davis asks Raul to send the kids out as a good faith measure.
Raul and Elio argue about it, Elio wanting to give no concessions.
But the stress of a crying baby is enough to convince even Elio.
The kids are sent out and picked up by the cops.
Tubbs tries to convince Jaimie that the situation is fucked, if they do get to the Bahamas they’ll never see any of their people in the States again, etc. It doesn’t seem to do much.
Davis steps up the game. His plan is to ambush the Escobars on the roof when they go for the helicopter. Crockett volunteers to go and find a way in and scout the situation.
Castillo and Davis are sceptical, but of course Crockett gets to go. It’s an interesting comparison, of Crockett’s version of cowboy and Duryea’s “hot-dogging.” For all I give Crockett constant shit about his white knight cowboy ethics, he at least has an idea of what ethics are and tries to make informed decisions sometimes. Which, I guess, is enough to throw him heads and shoulders over most cops.
Crockett makes his way down an alley next to the Maze.
Compare this trash to the trash in “Colombia” in episode 15. There’s a legit difference between trash a TV production team placed and actual trash built up over however long the Blue Waters had been left to rot (even after probably the more tetnausy items were removed before letting actors into it).
While he finds a way in via a hole in the wall, the rescue team heads towards the Maze.
Inside, Crockett says he’s backing up the others, then pockets his earpiece so he can’t hear no. Because, for all his good, he’s still a cowboy. And also he legitimately is worried about Tubbs.
The rescue team cops make their way into the hotel.
As they lept through the door I was very aware of the placement of the camera and exactly how big a television camera was in 1985.
The Escobar brothers gather up everyone but Tubbs to go with them to wait for the helicopter upstairs.
Crockett watches the rescue team pass before making his own way to where he thinks Tubbs is.
The Escobars are squabbling as they wait for the helicopter, and it’s feeling like even they aren’t expecting things to work by this point.
Tubbs and Jaimie are stuck below.
With some thoughtful distraction, Tubbs gets the little gun in his boot captures Jaimie, shooting Xaiver when he raises his gun at him.
Jaimie unties Tubbs and what is this on his hand, it is amazing.
The rescue team’s presence becomes known and multiple chases happen at this point. Raul takes Gabriella hostage, Elio takes off running and shooting, and in the middle of it Tubbs, holding Jaimie hostage, makes his way to where the cops are.
Duryea, ready to shoot anything brown, nearly guns Tubbs and Jaimie down, but Switek stops him.
Tubbs dresses Duryea down, telling him he’s trigger happy and doesn’t deserve to be a cop.
Man, I know there are people who sided with Duryea, watching this. But there are also people excited to play the Legion in Fallout, so fuck people, I guess.
While all this is going on, Crockett chases Elio, repeating the same chase in the mall a million years ago at the start of the episode.
This time, Elio does not escape and goes out the window.
Raul, Gabriella in gun-held tow, gets to the roof.
There is no helicopter.
Gabriella is handed off to the rescue team, to be reunited with her family and hopefully get some therapy.
Tubbs and Crockett face each other, hopefully running down in their heads the cops they are and the cops they need to be to not hate themselves.
Oooh-wee. I mean, Miami Vice did basically make as close to an anti-cop episode as a cop TV show can make, in my opinion. It’s weird. This show is weird and wonderful and ham-fisted how they handle things but at least they think to bring up ideas like “these squatters are human people who can’t get the jobs they came for because pieces of paper and literally this cop thinks they don’t deserve to live.”
To balance things, the A and B plots next episode are whacky as hell.
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.