Treme Episode Three Recap: The Music of Crickets

Last night’s episode of Treme was a pivotal one, setting up several scenarios to develop throughout the season.

Toni goes after a bad apple in the NOPD in a very public way and anticipates the repercussions, warning Sofia to keep her nose clean and not make herself a target.

Antoine introduces Delmond to LaDonna, who agrees to offer up Gigi’s for Sunday night rehearsals for Albert and his Guardians of the Flame.

Albert gets grave news about his health, and he and Delmond grow closer.

Annie and Janette take the next steps in their careers, signing with a manager and a restaurant financier, respectively. Janette moves back to New Orleans. Annie hits the road with her Bayou Cadillac band more.

Nelson insinuates himself into the NOAH home remediation program, crossing paths with an increasingly alarmed Desiree in the process.

Antoine cheats while gigging out of town, Sonny and Linh take to the backseat after her father finally leaves them alone, LaDonna and Larry have a date night and retire to her hotel (where she’s been staying since leaving the in-laws’ house).

Davis presses forward with his Katrina opera and snares Aunt Mimi to help produce a teaser CD to benefit New Orleans music legends denied their royalties.

Terry investigates hairdresser Jay’s murder, while Everett talks to the family of shopping mall shooting victim Henry.

To varying degrees the above plot points coax into motion the third season’s intertwining arcs, but in preparing a recap I stumbled upon an old review from the L.A. Times that really stuck in my craw.

Back in June 2010 Times writer Randall Roberts griped, “New Orleans is a setting, not a plot. Music  – supposedly a ‘character’ in the show – isn’t plot, it’s … music. We’ve got a lot of little storylines going on and a few big ones unfolding, but I can’t for the life of me tell you what this show is about the way that I could tell you what Breaking Bad is about. Yes, it’s about rebuilding New Orleans and the realities of that endeavor; it’s about music; it’s about people. But what’s the story exactly?”

The singular beauty of Treme, for its numerous inconsistencies and flaws, is precisely what Roberts doesn’t get, and what episodes like last night’s exemplify: Music is as much a character – no “supposedly” there – as is New Orleans, and as is New Orleans, yes, a plot in and of itself. They may not all weigh in with equal importance at any given time, they may meander, may lose their footing or focus, but they’re all a part of the gumbo (or, to reference last night’s show, the No. 2 at Bud’s Broiler).

What isn’t a story here exactly? And what’s got you on the hook most so far? For me, it remains the masterfully portrayed relationship between Delmond and Big Chief Albert. Watching Rob Brown and Clarke Peters feel their way around tradition and family is a quiet joy, and watching Delmond get owned by Miss LaD last night was drolly epic. Electric stuff, that — and this line from his dad, musing about the silence after the storm, when it was “quiet as death,” and the fall evening return of crickets chirping on the front porch.

“So now, when I hear those bugs rubbing their legs together like they do, I feel fortunate, Delmond.”

Exactly, Mr. Roberts.

–Amanda Schurr