With Hap and Leonard held hostage for the entire episode, wrapped in duct tape for all but the first few minutes, this is the supporting cast’s time to shine, and boy, does Jimmi Simpson make the most of the opportunity. While “Trudy” sets up the dominoes to take us through the finale and then knocks the first one over, the characters reveal themselves in turn: Trudy, Howard, Paco, and especially Soldier. Chub is the same old Chub, which gets him killed, and Angel has always been a fantasy. But the others come alive.
As always I can’t wait to get to the fireworks factory at the end of the latest Hap And Leonard, but the first revelation is helpful to understanding what’s going on. With Trudy performing uncertainty for us, looking deep into her own eyes in the mirror of Leonard’s bathroom—the big one, I should say, since he also has one of those horrifying small ones that magnifies your face—Howard holds Hap and Leonard at gunpoint. But no hard feelings. “We didn’t intend to cut you out,” he tells them. “There wasn’t enough money to go around.” Ah, well, in that case. But I take him at his word. They expected twice as much money total as they got, two-thirds of which would have been sufficient for whatever they want to buy, a subject tantalizingly brought up and postponed yet again in “Trudy.” If both safes had perfectly usable cash, Hap and Leonard could take their shares and Greenpeace 2.0 could still have enough for a really fancy “Save The Seals!” banner.
Except Howard kept pitching Hap on throwing in with them, so how did he ultimately know Hap wasn’t interested, that Hap would need to be robbed? Trudy, the one person who kept checking with Hap to see if he would join them, right up to the moment of the safe-cracking. Later she tells Hap, “I gave you every opportunity to be a part of this.” First of all, they still haven’t told him what This is, and second, it’s not really an invitation if his money’s going to be stolen anyway, but I guess it might not have been. As soon as the second safe came up rotted, Howard was going to rob Hap and Leonard. Trudy just made it easier.
Still, there’s something credible about Howard and Trudy’s justifications. Not that they’re good people, just that they really do think they’re doing something good here. Robbing Hap and Leonard is a necessary evil and a small price to pay for the greater good. That speaks to their arrogance. Trudy tells Hap it’s a “sacrifice.” Not when it’s not volunteered it’s not. Howard gets called on his hypocrisy by both Leonard and Soldier, and then shot in the foot for it by Leonard (who has the idea) and Soldier (who has the gun). Howard wants to save the world, but he’s a weak-ass wannabe. “Look, I never said I was against violence,” Howard says. “Sometimes the ends justify the means.” Dude is clearly not big on conviction. But Trudy is genuinely troubled, which counts for something. The mirror cliché’s a laugh, but it’s not a lie. She’s a desperate woman who thinks of herself as a failure with one last chance to do something good. Her flashbacks are just as inconclusive as Hap’s, but give us an idea of what happened. Hap served time in Texas, and Trudy went off to San Francisco and joined the hippies. In her letter to Hap, she says she brags about his protest to the others, pretending they’re on different sides of the same boat. But they’re not. He’s locked up. (She also remembers when she tried to set her bird free and instead killed it with her bare hands, as you do. It’s the same bird that’s haunting Hap.)
So the plan is to spend the money on cocaine, sell it for a profit, and then wind up with the total they needed in the first place. At some point, somehow, apparently Paco touched based with his contacts to make the deal, which is probably kept off-screen because it makes no sense, his contact being Soldier and Soldier being a nomadic visitor to the LaBorde area with no home phone. I guess he paged him? I guess the reason Soldier is looking for Paco when we first meet him is because this had all been prearranged except for uncontrolled variables like Hap and Leonard taking too long to get the safe? It’s far-fetched, but the payoff is so thrilling it’s almost worth it.
Besides, there are bigger fish to fry. Because at some point, somehow, apparently Trudy and Howard dug up the money. What we know for sure is Howard brings only a small fraction of it to the deal. He calls it a down payment. What we don’t know for sure is whether the rest of it is still where Howard made sure everyone saw him bury it. But nobody brings it up. Howard and Trudy don’t try to bluff (or sincerely say) that if they don’t survive, Soldier and Angel will never find the money. Paco doesn’t second-guess the fact that he knows where the rest of the money is even after they all make such a big deal out of Howard digging it up. And without this bargaining chip, why do Soldier and Angel keep any of them alive? What a hassle it is to pack up the peace bus and keep control of four desperate hostages. And what a strange violation of what we know of Soldier and Angel, which is that they get off on killing. If Paco’s so sure he knows where the money is and Howard’s too dumb to challenge that conviction, why don’t Soldier and Angel just jettison their dead weight already? There’s no satisfying answer.
But there is a satisfying climax. With all eight of the characters inside one of those rusty warehouses that line East Texas, Soldier starts talking. What a character. He’s written to elicit that exact reaction, but in Simpson’s shoes he’s so charismatic. The halting deliveries, like he’s thinking, processing, changing his mind as he goes. “What is with…Salt and Pepper?” he says, gesturing to Hap and Leonard. When they answer, he screams, “So you brought them along?!” After a moment his shock gives way to admiration. “I love it.” Then he starts to show his deeper colors, or lack thereof. I’m talking about his white supremacy. When Trudy talks back, he suggests Howard needs to keep his woman in line and says outright that soon the black guy will be speaking for the group, only he doesn’t say “black guy.” When he holds forth on the subject of penises and vaginas, it almost sounds like phrenology. He keeps swinging between these poles, one moment exciting us with a funny delivery and the next arousing our hostility. Curiously he doesn’t seem to have a kneejerk revulsion for gayness. He’s amused by the fact that Leonard is gay. As usual, Leonard doesn’t take much guff. “You don’t look gay,” Soldier says. Leonard replies, “Bend over. I’ll show you.”
Leonard’s belligerence throughout the episode keeps things taut. He doesn’t sit quietly and wait it all out. He keeps provoking people. Which leads to Chub coming to his defense in Chub’s frustrating, tunnel-vision way, which Paco resolves by shooting Chub right in the forehead. It’s an exciting betrayal, not least for Howard getting his just deserts. But it also delivers some tense standoffs among the survivors. On the way back Trudy calls Soldier an asshole, and that gets his attention. He points a gun at her, but she stands strong. “I’m not afraid of you.” In the beginning of the episode, Leonard refuses to bury the box, and then Hap joins him. Maybe Trudy still has some of that ‘60s protest in her. (Compare that to Paco burying the box and Howard handing over the cash. Some resist, and others cave.) The episode cuts to Leonard, then to Hap, both concerned about what’s going to happen. Soldier talks so much (and Howard intervenes on her behalf) that he doesn’t get a chance to kill her before they get to the roadblock. Instead Soldier, Angel, and Paco sadistically murder the policemen to the horror of their hostages. Now the police will be out in even greater force and the outlaws are all tangled up in a web. Paco’s with Angel and Soldier, Howard and Trudy are being robbed, and Hap and Leonard are along for the ride.
- “Trudy” is written by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle and directed by Nick Gomez.
- Howard: “Who buys cocaine?” Hap: “Cokeheads mostly.”
- There’s a funny comic interlude with Hap and Leonard duct taped together to a bench on the porch. The next morning Leonard gets the idea to run away like that. Hap asks, “Shouldn’t we have done this last night?” “Well I didn’t think of it last night.” Unfortunately Paco catches them. Cut to them in the same position they started, now with several rolls of duct tape around their legs, too.
- Once the Chub commotion, uh, dies down, Soldier says, “Anybody shit their pants? I almost did right there.”