Sunday, August 16, 2015

31 Day Miami Vice Challenge, Day 14: Favorite Season Two Episode

Continuing my trend (is it a trend if it's only happened once before??) of picking more depressing episodes as my favorite, my choice from the second season's run deals with horrible reality of rape. It's also a Gina-centric episode, which tend to be kind of hit-or-miss (see Season Three's "When Irish Eyes Are Crying"), but I feel a lot of Gina's characteristics - that she personally identifies with female victims, for example - are appropriate for the subject matter.
Via Miami Vice Wiki
"Bought and Paid For" features a Haitian girl named Odette, a maid at a wealthy Latin American general's home who is raped by the general's son, Nico Arroyo. She goes to Gina for help, as the two are good friends - enough so that Gina frequently showers her with gifts, like fashionable dresses, and gives her a key to her apartment, although that is to deliver groceries that she buys - and Gina goes into protective Mama Bear mode. It does bear noting that Gina herself was raped in the first season*, and when Odette recants her allegations of rape, Gina goes apeshit. While her reaction is completely out of line, it is understandable; she even tells Sonny that Odette betrayed her, which brings Crockett to remind her that maybe, just maybe, she might have forgotten that Odette is the victim here**.

It turns out that Nico had paid Odette $10,000 for her silence, money that she sent back to Haiti with her mother (he had also arranged to have her mother brought to Miami for the purpose of threatening Odette), and the girl terminates her friendship with Gina, even returning the dress to her. Later on that night, Nico breaks into Odette's apartment and rapes her again, and Odette in turn ends her life, leaving a suicide note for Gina to tearfully read.

This is a truly awful episode in terms of themes and is so hard to watch, but I make myself do so because it's important to keep in mind the differences that make people act like they do. Poverty rules Odette's life in every way, and she points out to Gina that the police officer lives "like a movie star" and doesn't have to worry about little things like food or shelter like she and her family back in Haiti does. This leads her to feel like she has no worth except what she can give someone physically. Gina, on the other hand, has the privilege of being white and financially well-off, which may or may not be realistic, given that she's on a cop's salary - a point that's beleaguered by the male cops and wealthy criminals time and time again over the course of the series - but that is more or less irrelevant. She has enough expendable income to where she can pay for Odette to deliver her groceries to her home and by expensive outfits for people other than herself. But she can't see Odette's perspective until it's too late, and the cost is Odette's life.

It also shows the negative side of a patriarchal system in which a man's worth is based upon his virility. Nico has a history of sexual assault and rape, and while his father is somewhat an honorable man - he smacks the shit out of his son when he discovers what he has done but then later pays for Odette's silence - there's still this sense that Nico was only a rapist because he felt emasculated and useless in front of his father, not that that is ever a good excuse for rape (I thought that was important point to make).

The episode ends with Nico attempting to rape Gina - she challenged his manhood by telling him he couldn't handle her - and Gina shooting him dead in her apartment. While that may be a little too neat a package, it at least gives Gina some resolution, and it doesn't paint her as hysterical or breaking down like the writers have done in episodes, which is a nice change of pace.

This episode is one of my favorites because it focuses primarily upon the women of Vice. The guys are only bit players for the most part, and Saundra Santiago proves that she can carry an episode by herself as long as she's given decent material that doesn't present Gina as basically a giant cry sack. I wish they had more episodes like this, where Gina, Trudy, and any secondary female character could show another side to the world of Vice, as opposed to constant macho bravado, but sadly, this doesn't really happen after the third season, since, as I've bemoaned before, Vice becomes The Sonny Crockett Hour. 

Day 15: Favorite Season Three Episode >

BACK TO CHALLENGE

* She was posing as a prostitute and, in order to prove that she was, in fact, a sex worker, she was forced to sleep with her pimp. 
** This is problematic because it's a man telling a woman that her reaction is wrong, revealing much more about Sonny's lack of memory and empathy than it does about Gina's emotional state. If this had been Trudy talking to her partner, it wouldn't have that mansplainy vibe, and the conversation would have gone in a completely different direction, seeing as Trudy was the one who came to Gina's apartment after Gina's rape. 
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