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Conflicted: The Big Chief Beatdown

April 24, 2010

Photo By Charlotte Diem, Hurricane Season Eve 2006

There has been a good bit of talk about the scene in episode 2 which shows Albert Lambreaux laying a beat down on the punk kid who stole his tools. I have not read most of it because I’ve not finished the episode yet (I’ve been having to take Treme in small doses), these views might change slightly once I have.

Like many who were back during those times I must admit to a frisson of self-righteous anger and satisfaction at watching that scene. Sad- yes, horrible- yes, true- also yes. I’ll just be a man and admit it. You see, in those days three months after the deluge, everyone had been through enough. More than enough. Lowlives like that kid were viewed as some of the worst of the worst, preying on people whose spirits were strained to breaking by the events of the prior three months. I’ll admit I cheered, especially since the person administering this rough justice was a Mardi Gras Indian. Simplistic symbolism there to be sure, but no less effective for being so.

Still, this cathartic scene is worrisome. While to many who see Treme through the filter of personal experience it is satisfying to see one of the human impediments to rebuilding get his ass handed to him the broader picture is less enjoyable. As with most things in life, the more details you add the blurrier the morality becomes. I think this excerpt from Cliff’s Crib says it well:

When I watch a television show based on my city and I see a man who is supposed to be the symbol of the surviving culture beat the hell out of a kid for stealing his tools even though he had no way of knowing if that kid really stole them and the kid had no idea who he was to purposely disrespect him, I take that personal because I don’t just live here. These are my roots and showing that image to the world reflects poorly on me and all the men I was raised around in New Orleans who would have never done that. It made black men from New Orleans look savage and that’s personal.

You see? A bit more nuance always complicates things, doesn’t it? It’s easy to get pumped up and cheer like a sports fan when the kid gets his comeuppance. Very easy. Disturbingly easy, and that should make you distrust it right off the bat. It’s the same knee jerk reaction, devoid of logic and fueled by emotion, that creates lasting misconceptions.

So what do YOU think dear readers? What emotions did the beatdown scene inspire in you and have they changed now that you have had almost a week to digest them?

  1. brueso permalink
    April 24, 2010 2:49 pm

    I understand how satisfying the beatdown could be on one hand, but primarily, I saw it as an example of how post-traumatic stress syndrome can mess with someone. The chef ends up crying over burnt eggs that day but the chief ends up beating down a kid. I think the chief might’ve still kicked the kid’s ass if it had been pre-Katrina, but a few months after banging his own head against the wall, I’d wager that he took it farther than he would have. (Three whacks with a tire iron? I’d be amazed if that didn’t kill the kid. I’m wondering if we’re going to hear any more about that).

    Side note for any Wire fans, many have pointed out that alot of us were additionally surprised cause we thought “Lester? He’d never lose his shit like that!” Well, this was a good reminder “Toto-Clarke’s not Lester anymore.”

  2. brueso permalink
    April 24, 2010 2:55 pm

    And a P.S. One of the dry/disturbing bits of humor that seemed uncomfortably real in The Wire was when one of the cops who didn’t know Bubs was an informant beat down Bubs because they thought he had something to do with Kima getting shot. When Bunk came to see Bubs, that cop simply said to Bunk dismissively “Shit got out of hand”. That line came back to me after I saw the Lambreaux do the beatdown, though my hunch (which still may be remembering Peters as Lester) is that shit doesn’t get out of hand for him nearly as much as for that cop.

  3. Charlotte permalink
    April 24, 2010 3:15 pm

    I have conflicting feelings about that scene. We’re all familiar with the kind of stress everyone was under at that time so I can see him beating the kid up in a moment of rage. I was ok with it until he beat the kid with the pipe. That was just gratuitous violence which, I guess, makes for good TV. I don’t see Lambreaux as the kind of person who would have taken it that far. And I think Cliff is right on in his observations.

  4. greg p permalink
    April 24, 2010 3:16 pm

    I’m thinking we haven’t seen the last of the repercussions of that incident, so I’m withholding judgment for an episode or two. The deliberation he showed in finding out the kid’s name and tracking him was unexpected, as much as the violence. I was sure that he was going to pull out some “Let me teach you a trade” TV bullshit. It certainly served to establish the Chief as an authority figure. I would not be surprised to see this run alongside a storyline about the lack of faith in the NOPD & other popo types.

    FWIW, the HBO summary of that episode says that the kid was “beaten senseless” — which doesn’t mean he won’t die later or have some other lasting effects, but does seem to indicate that Albert didn’t kill him right then, intentionally or not.

  5. Amanda permalink
    April 24, 2010 3:33 pm

    I found the scene very disturbing at the time but, in retrospect, I think it made the episode. If Treme is going to succeed as drama it needs to be more than a homage. It has to take us to some dark conflicted places where we don’t necessarily want to go.

  6. Anita permalink
    April 24, 2010 3:39 pm

    I respect what Cliff sees and what Cliff says.

    What I saw at the time was the chief unwilling to let the kid get away with ripping out the work that had just been done on the house and it quickly got personal and way out of hand. Lambreaux uncovered hubris in himself and in his anger he violated his own sense of self respect. The scene at the hydrant was very visceral for me, I once provided my hydrant and garden hose to a cop for hosing blood off the street in front of my house where a kid died, shot by the driver he tried to carjack at gunpoint.

    There is a dynamic between an alpha male and challengers that occurs in many animals, probably including human beings. I don’t particularly understand it, but if a young man is turning rogue, a dominant male might try to bring him back in line. There’s way too much ignorance, projection and speculation in that sketchy statement and I beg your indulgence because the point I want to make is that I’ve heard more than one man describe this crossroads in his own life and say that winning that confrontation is not good for the young man and that losing it probably saved his life.

    I don’t know the outcome–I wonder if Lambreaux will need to find a way to redeem himself after this loss of self-control. I also wonder if the boy is dead. But, being an irrepressible, bleeding-heart optimist, I hope he takes the boy in and they learn from each other.

    One thing I know for sure, not every man in this city is the kind of man Cliff is talking about. But I’m equally certain there are many such men here and I’m also hoping we get a chance to see them represented in Treme.

  7. April 24, 2010 4:01 pm

    @Amanda I agree with you wholeheartedly, and many people snapped like that at one point or another during that period. It’s a journey into the Heart of Darkness done Tennessee Williams style, I remember it well.

    The core of what Cliff was saying, IMHO, was “…even though he had no way of knowing if that kid really stole them and the kid had no idea who he was to purposely disrespect him.” Viewed that way it is the gratuitous harshness of the scene that fails to ring true and in fact plays into racial stereotyping of the negative sort. I can agree. The problem is that I also know just how often people would snap like that, sometimes in small ways sometimes in large. Unfortunately some of those large snaps were fatal.

    You’ll notice I have not come down on one side or the other in this discussion. That is because I am still perplexed as to my feelings on it. Both sides have weight behind them and my own view is clouded by my own memories of this time. Symbolism is important, especially if Treme continues to capture the public consciousness. The perception it presents will shape the views of millions for whom it is their only “New Orleans experience.”

    @Greg I’m hoping we see the NOPD in a properly adversarial context as the series developed, it would be accurate. By the same token I also hope we get to see a character that truly is a hero cop who stayed. They do exist and it is one of the tragedies of post levee failure NOLA that they are tarred by the same brush as the thugs that comprise most of the force now. NOPD needs to be taken over by the Feds and knocked into shape, but that does not mean that there are not still good ones behind some of the badges.

  8. April 24, 2010 6:33 pm

    If I can throw my own two-cents in, may I suggest we take a look at this from another point of view? So far, everything I’ve read (and I read Cliff’s post when it first came out, and it’s as thoughtful as anything one would expect from him), but, again, everything I’ve read is being written from a viewer’s perspective.

    What do we see if we look at Albert’s story from Albert’s point of view?

    Albert is a Chief, a patriarch who has had to flee his home, which is the only place in America where his status has any meaning. He is wifeless. His two children have grown and left the city which is so important to his self-definition. In fact, when we are introduced to Albert, he is being driven home by his daughter who is doing everything in her power to convince him to leave this place.

    Then we see his home. This scene is devastating in its realism, as we can all attest. If he is to stay, he will have to rebuild from the ground up. I say “if”, but that option does not occur to Albert. He will stay. He will rebuild. This is his home, as surely as a home and a nation were once promised to Abraham. He will find a way and a place to live while he sets about the work of restoring what is his.

    When he asks for help in clearing out his property, he is at first denied. It is only when, in the dead of night, he approaches his friend clad in his Mardi Gras regalia (vestments?) that his friend relents and agrees to give him a hand. Several people have suggested it is the presence of this man’s wife that goads him into acquiescence. I’m not sure this is the case. Rather, in the inky post-K darkness, he is confronted by his racial history, by a figure who chants, “Won’t bow. Don’t know how.” These are words that are particular to a certain people and a certain class, but they reverberate for all of us who passed through the storm. What else can he do? In paradoxical fashion, by bowing to Albert’s desires, he is refusing to bow to what could be perceived as a common truth (certainly, a widely-held belief at the time) – that the world they have known is past and finished – no, by bowing to Albert’s desires, he is rising above himself.

    Next, Albert’s son arrives at his sister’s behest, to try to do what he can do to coax his father away. But, being his father’s son, he has some understanding of his father’s inflexibility. Isn’t he himself inflexible in his own desire to leave New Orleans soon and resume his touring?
    There is a link from father to son.

    Thus, within the hour-and-some-minutes of the premiere episode, Albert Lambreaux has been established as a leading figure in his community which has been dispersed, a man of respect and gravity, a lone father who has properly raised his children to seek out lives for themselves and now stands alone to rebuild a life he cannot be certain will even come to be.

    The second episode begins developing a theme of justice miscarried or denied. Insurance companies are withholding payouts; siblings are misplace in the penal institutions of Louisiana or are being held overtime for the FEMA dollars their jailers can receive for housing them; squatters in the Calliope projects have been run off.

    Albert has a scene in Calliope where he discusses their history. Built in the ‘forties, they have withstood numerous hurricanes. The Katrina winds did not bring them down. The government (of the people, by the people) will see to that. Homes? A bureaucracy views a home as a construct composed of walls and a roof. But “home” has a different meaning to a man like Albert.

    Then his son is arrested for smoking a joint. In post-Katrina Marigny!

    Albert bonds him out and drives him to the airport where he will hop a flight and leave his father and his father’s city. It is during this drive that the younger man expresses his lack of feeling for the Indian tradition. In doing so, he is expressing his feelings regarding his own father. Each generation will – must – carve its own traditions, its own mythology. The younger Lambreaux simply does not know this yet, even though he is already in the midst of shaping his.

    Albert, bereft of son and daughter, returns to his home to find his tools missing, stolen from under his roof. A thing as simple as a set of tools – but these are his building blocks, his means of restoring what was and is still his. It is with these tools that he can rebuild, not only his home, but his world, as well. Without them, everything is lost.

    Luckily, with his position in his community, he is able to locate them and have them returned. But he wants to know, he needs to know who could have done this thing.

    When he finds a youth ripping electrical wiring from a home, he thrashes the youngster with hands and steel. Some people have wondered if this is, in fact, the same thief who had robbed Lambreaux, but I don’t see this as being set up in the script that has gone before. I do not believe that we are meant to wonder if Albert is carrying out an act of justice or a terrible injustice. At this time. The storyline to come will fill in missing details. We can only be patient. But I do not believe we are meant to have a rug ripped out from under us and find ourselves to wonder at Albert’s upright character. We have seen enough to know his truth.

    I do not see his action in a racial light, as something a “black” man would do. I see the action more as something an upright man, a man bowed down by fate, might do after having been wronged. To Albert, the thief did not simply take his tools, the thief is not simply stealing wires in this second home, the thief is robbing people’s futures for his own immediate gain.

    What I see happening in the body of the story is the addition of layers and facets to the characters. The writers have begun this process with Albert who was seen by us as one of the moral hubs of the different wheels that are coming into focus as the series progresses. For these authors to have a different light onto him from a different angle is a coup de theatre, a compelling way of revealing character as something complex and always unknowable.

  9. April 24, 2010 7:03 pm

    Frank Sobotnik, from season 2 in The Wire would have done the same.

    That season is my favorite season, because Frank knows just how, why and what is being done to him and his world and community. Well, season 4, the schools, that was maybe more so. And the conclusion to almost all the remaining characters’ threads at the end of season 5. Bubs is just about the only one who has gone forward productively, up from the streets, to his sister’s basement, to sitting with them all upstairs at dinner.

    There is much, much, much to come. A price for the perhaps hubris to think they could tell this hydra-headed story well has already been extracted. Ed Burns. You don’t get home free with such projects. Nobody gets out of this world alive.

  10. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 7:07 pm

    I hate violence of any sort and was shocked by the chief’s violence. But I remember back to the time when people were trying so hard to make progress and everywhere they turned they themselves were being beaten down. I remember how I felt when I heard the copper thieves had sunk so low, not only cleaning out schools just being rebuilt, but even going to the cemetaries and stealing the urns from tombs. I HATED these ****. I won’t pass judgement on the Chief. In a way, seeing a fictional character beat the bejesus out of one of these ***** was a righteous thing. It certainly made the episode. Do I feel better for it? No.

  11. April 24, 2010 7:14 pm

    I’m with you Doc. If you look at my original post you’ll note that I cheered when I first saw it. I’m just sharing my meandering thought process because I think the conversation on the topic is important.

  12. Anita permalink
    April 24, 2010 7:30 pm

    Still turning this over and over. The shame is the on the kid. I’m sorry the chief went too far but confronting the kid was righteous. The problem with anger is exactly as demonstrated. Still, I believe the chief saw this kid tearing down what his own people were building up and he couldn’t ignore that. Nothing has besmirched Lambreaux’s character in my eyes. He is a hard man, but he has had to be. He opposed the despicable little punk and tried to talk to him. I don’t think he snapped because he felt personally disrespected but because the kid was disrespecting everyone, all of his people and his city, even himself. He had to stop.

    I expect David Simon’s audience will get that.

  13. Charlotte permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:10 pm

    Playing the devil’s advocate: what about the kid? He’s living in NOLA too. What did he go through? Does he have any family left? Where’s he staying? He was stealin, yeah, but there were gangs of thiefs stealing copper and building materials then. He is one lone kid. Maybe he’s just trying to survive, who knows? Maybe this storyline will expand and we’ll see.

    I totally get what Glenn’s saying but a man with Lambreaux’s principals would not have hit that kid 3 times as hard as he could with a metal pipe. Give him a whuppin – sure. But the pipe was over the top. The writers went too far. Can you see the prof doing the same?

  14. April 24, 2010 8:15 pm

    I disagree. It was not the rule, but I could see it happening. Especially with someone who has such a controlled demeanor. When folks like that snap they snap hard.

    Great new dimension to the discussion though, what about the kid indeed? I wonder if we will be seeing his back story in the future or not.

  15. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:24 pm

    He was killing the city. That is all that mattered.

  16. Charlotte permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:26 pm

    Damn, doctorj2u, that’s cold.

  17. April 24, 2010 8:30 pm

    Cold maybe, but I can remember that sort of sentiment among some of the few of us back at that time. Its weird thinking back to the mindset of those times- the amount of Blackwater illegally infesting our streets, the pioneer/wild west feel of the city, the oddity of existence under the shadow of titanic tragedy.

  18. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:37 pm

    I am sorry Charlotte, but that is where I was. It is the same with the doctors in Memorial. It is a moral judgement in a time where government and law was no where to be seen. I am not saying it is right. I am saying there was justice in it. Don’t judge other people unless you have walked in their shoes. The survival of the city and the culture was under attack from all sides. I see a complex story line being portrayed in Treme. I love it for I spent four years fighting for my city with the black-white political right. Life isn’t so simple. Isn’t that what great story telling does? It makes you think of those fine lines. Bravo David Simon!

  19. Charlotte permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:43 pm

    Don’t be sorry – no need.

    “Isn’t that what great story telling does? It makes you think of those fine lines.” Exactly. Fine lines would apply to the kid too.
    Listen, I’ve lived here for 33 years – I have my own Katrina experience. I have friends who had their shit stolen while trying to rebuild and I cursed the thieves for piling hurt upon hurt. Honestly? I never gave those thieves a thought until I saw this scene. I just have to wonder what that kid went through and why he’s debased to tearing down in a city that’s already on it’s knees. That’s all.

  20. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:50 pm

    Those fine lines definitely apply to the kid, but don’t you see? Fines lines are seen in reflection, not crisis. New Orleans was in crisis for years. It is due to the passion of people like the cheif that the city survived that first year.

  21. Charlotte permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:18 pm

    “Fines lines are seen in reflection, not crisis.”
    Point taken.

  22. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:26 pm

    Most of us here have lived in and loved the city with our whole heart. If we have such diverse views of the one moment in the story, can you imagine what the rest of America thinks. LOL!

  23. April 24, 2010 9:27 pm

    Doc that is probably the smartest thing said so far in this thread.

  24. April 24, 2010 9:40 pm

    [I’ve been trying not to talk about this scene any more until I got a chance to watch episode 2 a second time, but I spent all day boiling crawfish and now the kids have a slumber party going in the living room, so I might not get my chance.]

    Although I went through my initial “Lester wouldn’t do that” reaction, my second reaction, and one I said to a friend of mine at the time, was “I would do the same thing”. I am not a violent person in that I have never hit anyone in anger like that. But after some of the frustrations of the past few years, Katrina-related or otherwise, when I went through a phase when I was angry enough and thinking violent thoughts, they looked just like that. Hit in head with something heavy. Punch them in the face so hard the back of their head keeps hitting the floor. Slam their head into the floor over and over again. Repeat until I feel better. I completely identified with the exact method and severity of the beating that Lambreaux delivered. It’s what I would have done if I snapped, and we can guess, but after two episodes I don’t think we know enough about Lambreaux to know exactly why he did it, how much his back-story contributed to setting him off, or how he is going to feel about it in a week.

    Bottom line to me is, it is a completely credible scene and the fact that it happened is not incompatible with sympathizing with both the chief and the kid. Thinking of it from the kid’s point of view is something that didn’t occur to me (thanks Charlotte), and although I appreciate Cliff’s point of view (I always do), I don’t think what the chief did necessarily paints him as a violent or savage person, but rather a man who hit his breaking point, and every man has a breaking point. I understand the concern but I think the average reasonable viewer is not going to judge the chief too harshly or generalize conclusions about a culture from that one event.

  25. rickngentilly permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:46 pm

    on first viewing i was in the “you loot i shoot camp”.

    it felt that way for a couple of years here in gentilly.

    i was allways trying to figure out how to get the squatters out of the abaoned houses on my block.

    cops , national guard , talking to neighbors , just going in the houses and making loud noises and letting them know i was on to them (not one of my smarter moves in this life).

    it was a vigel and pretty fucking nerve wracking.

    in june of 2006 our house got broke into while me and my wife were at work.

    she got home first and discovered the break in.

    i was at work when she got home. she called me and i freaked.

    i told her to get out of the house and call the cops.

    i rushed home and she was o.k.

    the cops finally showed up a couple of hours later.

    the detective seemed more interested in flirting with the crime lab chick than talking to us.

    at one point he seemed to be suggesting that we broke into our own house because some of the broken window glass had fallen outside of the house instead of every piece falling inside .

    dude was a total prick.

    i gave him our laptops serial numbers hoping he would hip the local pawn shops.

    later i was getting emails from ebay and paypal saying someone was trying to access my accounts from my stolen computer.

    i called the detective and he really didnt seem to think that it was a good lead.

    before this happened ,about two months after katrina, i bought my first gun since i was a kid and used to go hunting.

    a sawed off 12 gauge pump with a pistol grip.

    thank god i have never had to put a shell in it much less use it.

    i bought it from an ex-cop.

    iv’e known a lot of cops in my 30 years of working in 1/4

    most of them were in it for the right reason.

    that being said i have met my share of the minority. the guys who are in it just to get over.

    those are the guys every body seems to notice.

    wow. hadn’t thought about that mess in a while.

    so if anybody is still reading this after all that what i wanted to say is did anybody notice when the cheif was dropping his son off at the airport he said he would drop off the rental and take the bus home?

    he doesnt have a car. i wonder if the rentacar will come back to haunt him or his son when they start investigating the crackheads beatdown.

    also i still think elmore was in front of rouses during the careless love scene.

    still not sure how i feel about the beatdown. like another poster said above i was thinking he would take the kid in as an apprentice and it would begin the citys healing.

    i respect the writters for not going that way.

    at the same time some bad actors i work with did mature and get on the straight and narrow after katrina.

    a lot of these kids were on their way to an early grave.

    hey yall thanks for letting me blab. it was very theraputic.

    see yall monday.

  26. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:46 pm

    I love your choice of words “credible scene”. It is why I am so happy with this series.

  27. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:54 pm

    Thank you for your story. I grew up in Gentilly (Gentilly Woods) and went back to gut St. Gabriel Church’s rectory. I still get mad thinking of the neighbood’s situation. Props to you for living through an incredible time.

  28. rickngentilly permalink
    April 24, 2010 10:11 pm

    yo doc.

    the most effed part was all the empty houses were older folks homes.

    it just intensified the disrespect felt for the people that came in to teardown instead of rebuild the neighborhood.

    one of the reasons me and my wife fell in love with this part of the city was the wisdom and calm our neighbors brought to our block.

    you should come back for a visit.

    we are more normal as a neighborhood everyday.

    i really think in another five years we will be almost normal.

    come back for gentilly fest in october in ponchatrain park. the first three food booths are on me.

    take care of your self.

  29. doctorj2u permalink
    April 24, 2010 10:44 pm

    I would LOVE to do that. When in October? Do you know? I would love to come by and thank you for bringing back the city. I hear of the work Wendell Pierce has done for Ponchatrain Park (and I hope for Pontilly). You all are my heroes.

  30. April 24, 2010 11:03 pm

    You all add so much context to these moments it’s really a lovely exercise to go through all these comments. From an outsider’s point of view, specifically mine, I also saw it as a credible scene. Without the intimate knowledge of a Chief’s standing in the community, or any of the other points brought out in this thread, the beatdown reads as the moment when a man has simply had enough. He’s got no support, he’s got no home so he’s living down the street in a bar, his family rather than help him are actively trying to stop him, it just goes on and on. So he just wants to say, “you can’t DO that,” you can’t tear down what people are trying to build, you can’t steal my tools, you can’t stop me from doing what I have to do to get my city and my life back. I suppose this aligns most closely with Glenn’s post in that we outsiders only have the character development as revealed so far to go on. I can also relate to Ray’s in that profound grief makes people think and do some pretty wild things, and that I do have experience with. When actors say on TV court shows, “I just snapped” it never sounds real but the concept absolutely is.

  31. rickngentilly permalink
    April 24, 2010 11:07 pm

    doc i aint no hero.

    it is what it is.

    if it’s o.k. with the moderaters i will post the info on this blog.

    the first three food booths offer still stands.

  32. adrastosno permalink
    April 24, 2010 11:39 pm

    @Glenn- Great and perceptive comment. It’s pretty much how I see the scene as well.

    @Foxessa: You’re one of the few other people who likes season-2 of The Wire best. I love the whole dockyard story and as a Greek-American, I love the Hellenic villains. Btw, it’s Sobotka who was one of the more interesting characters I can think of: a man who is trying to do good but doing so in the worst possible way.

  33. April 24, 2010 11:46 pm

    Hi, Rick. Post away within reason. A link would be better. In fact, the Gentilly Fest website needs updating.

    Also, you had asked earlier how to embed an image in a comment. I assume it’s a link to an image that’s already online. Here is a very basic HTML tutorial.

  34. rickngentilly permalink
    April 25, 2010 1:08 am

    thanks matri.

    i am really enjoying your recent posts.

    the more i read the more my old fart mind opens up a little.

    please accept my blessings to you and d.

    gentilly fest is still a pretty low budget affair.

    which makes it great for the people who turn out.

    last years headline act was chocolate milk.

    and the food is off the chain.

    the fest struck me as cool last year because chocolate milk was the first band i saw at my first jazz fest back in the 70’s

    i was a kid in high school and my mom actually let me out at the front gate because i didnt have a car back then.

    the gentilly fest’s board have their meetings on the second floor of the supermarket at the end of franklin ave.

    it’s a rouses at the moment.

    the nola library site has some great pics of when it was a schwegmanns back in the day.

    sorry for the ramble.

    and thank you for the help.

    i’m really looking forward to your take once the football starts.

  35. virgotex permalink*
    April 25, 2010 1:11 am

    I do not think he snapped. I don’t think it was PTSD.

    He said earlier that it wasn’t about money, it was about not letting somebody punk him. He went out and hunted the kid down. It’s inferred that he didn’t want to go as far as he did but I in no way saw that scene as someone losing control. He beat him, he very consciously looked down at him, then stepped and stood over him. To me, it was like he did what he thought he had to do. Afterward, we see him trying to “wash it away” – it’s not something he wanted to do, it’s something he had to do.

    But no way is it something he did because he snapped or lost control. Sorry, just didn’t see that in the scene.

  36. April 25, 2010 1:40 am

    My take on all this is much simpler, probably because I know some indians and know many people in their circles. Nicest people in the world, but you DO NOT f*** with them. I have heard stories (more like legends, in the case of some folks) about this or that Big Chief who also had a very cold blooded side and it would probably make chills run right through you if I repeated any of these tales, but I won’t out of respect for the parties involved and their families, who are friends. Certain tribes were known for being particularly harsh with anyone who showed disrespect for a member. Just today, someone in the Creole WIld West’s extended “family” was talking to me about how the Wild Tchuopitoulas were particularly notorious.

    So, I’d say sure, there’s symbolism in the scene, but the writers may also be teaching viewers a few things about MG indian culture that may not be apparent to anyone who just gets to witness the pageantry of it the sequins and feather show, because there’s so much more to it than that. Doesn’t Lambreaux ask “do you know who I am?” You do not mess with the Big Chief. He don’t bow down.

  37. M Styborski permalink
    April 25, 2010 3:55 am

    Hokay, just back-to-backed Eps 1 & 2.

    First, we know nothing of Lambreaux’s background. While he’s currently seen (sans beatdown) as a man of fine moral character he may have been a bad dude a long time ago. Having said that, even I don’t believe it. Much.

    I’m pretty sure the kid didn’t steal the tools. His denial was delivered with honesty and not the typical “Hollywood-esque” smarm of a liar. This could be the beginning of Lambreaux taking him under his wing –no feathery pun intended– as a surrogate son. (Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought was going to happen five seconds before the beatdown. Nice to be surprised by Hollywood every so often!) Regardless of the outcome, Lisa and Virgo nailed it: Lambreaux did what he had to do because you do NOT mess with the Big Chief. Period.

    Yes, the Mardi Gras Indians walk around in costumes that Bob Mackie could only dream of designing, singing and dancing and looking to tourists as some very innocent, colorful characters but that’s the cover of the book and not the story. The Indian tribes, as Lisa points out, do have a cold-blooded side, or at least they did back in The Day. Don’t take that the wrong way –they ain’t the Bloods and the Crips– but depending on circumstances they have come close.

    A point that most everyone is not going to get is that Robinette is not in Lambreaux’s tribe, but a rival tribe, and while they may be on friendly terms in day to day life, their tribes are in competition and Robinette does not owe Lambreaux anything. Lambreaux’s appearance in tribal garb signifies his position as a leader, as someone with power. He realizes that Robinette owes him no allegiance but he’s come to him asking for help anyway.

    “Won’t bow. Don’t know how.” has a double meaning. Lambreaux will not take “no” for an answer, (notice that Robinette’s attempts at logic are all met with Lambreaux turning his back,) and he will not bow, or beg, for help even though that is essentially what he’s doing, albeit in a way that allows him to save face. Robinette’s acquiescence is symbolic of the fact that many people put aside their differences to work together in order to survive and rebuild during and after the storm. They may have been rivals before Katrina, but they’re all each other has now.

    Something I wish more people could have figured out in those dark days.

  38. M Styborski permalink
    April 25, 2010 4:02 am

    Oh, and I forgot something very important: The Hubig’s pie scene.

    Had to stop the show until I could clear the tears from my eyes and the laughter from my throat. Only a few of us can ever realize how that leaden brick of congealed fruit, pectin and dough could be seen as a delicacy as it thunked onto the plate. That one scene alone proves that the writers actually get us and our weird, wonderful city!

  39. brueso permalink
    April 25, 2010 4:15 am

    good point

  40. brueso permalink
    April 25, 2010 4:29 am

    I’m with you on how great Wire Season 2 was. I always wrestle between deciding whether 2 or 4 was my favorite, but you’ve gotta be excited when a sophmore effort exceeds the first (like the Godfather movies)

  41. brueso permalink
    April 25, 2010 4:31 am

    (the standing over the body after the beat down was an interesting parallel to what Sonny sang early in the episode though it was a far different relationship).

  42. brueso permalink
    April 25, 2010 4:33 am

    In one of his interviews about the show, Simon had a funny comment about how they’d ask some of the MG Indians they hired as consultants for the show about one thing or another and sometimes they’d reply “We can’t tell you that.” And Simon responded something like “But the reason we hired you as consultants was to learn about things!”

  43. April 25, 2010 7:39 am

    And Simon responded something like “But the reason we hired you as consultants was to learn about things!”

    Poor poor Simon. Money does not automatically get you entree into a culture or a society. Those of us who have been initiated into a “secret society” of one kind or another know why some things are members-only.

  44. wigatrisk permalink
    April 25, 2010 8:41 am

    Just watched episode 2 again, and my sense again was that the beating was calculated rather than that he snapped. From the dialogue with the thief and earlier with the haulage guy and the fence (and the pause over the body at the end), it seemed premeditated, with the thief’s choice after Lambrieaux speaks to him about “you have to hear what I’m telling you”, the only possible fork in the path.

    I’m for Season 2 as the best as well. Did Frank get an Emmy for that role?

  45. April 25, 2010 8:42 am

    Well said, Lisa.

    And Glenn up above asks the most salient question: What do we see if we look at Albert’s story from Albert’s point of view?

    It’s story.

  46. April 25, 2010 9:10 am

    From my experience, the rest of America would be cheering Lambeaux on with no remorse.

  47. April 25, 2010 11:11 am

    This dude was hitting up Broadmor for a while:
    The guy who took the photo saw him asking about work, only to realize a little later he was a copper thief and he ripped out all the brand new wiring. Stole pipes, wiring, whatever he could make a quick buck off of. Cops eventually got him and he’s in jail.

    People have enough trouble trying to come in a rebuild and overcome nature. The last thing they need is a person destroying what little they have left and what’s been rebuilt.

    Honestly, I enjoyed watching the copper thief get his ass beat. There’s one guy that can build an entire house from the foundation up with limited hand tools. The other is a sneaky little punk who can only tear down what others built. No positive contribution to civilization.

  48. greg p permalink
    April 25, 2010 11:18 am

    Agree that this is a very thorough and perceptive comment, but I would like to fine tune a couple of details that I think are important:

    1) Albert’s tools weren’t stolen from his house, but from his worksite (the white dude who was wondering about sheetrock). The difference being that there is less of a violation of Albert’s personal space or sacrosanct home, and more of a direct impact on his ability to *work*. Remember how this episode really focused on people working to get their lives kickstarted; stealing Albert’s tools left him unable to contribute, create, or even earn a living. If it had been his home that had been burgled, I think we would have a whole different dynamic.

    Also note that his speech to the kid started out by noting that “these people just put that in”, referring to the copper pipe. The insult to the *work* also angers him.

    and 2) I think the return of Albert’s tools by the shame-faced guy in the van sets up the confrontation pretty well: the van guy tells Albert the name of the thief. We then see Albert staked out — maybe in a car? Can’t remember — but watching carefully as the thief moves through the empty house: he has obviously followed this person.

    Here I think we need to trust Simon: while he usually tells us exactly what we need to know (& sometimes a little more, that we might need later), there’s a kind of European film sensibility going on in Treme, in that we’re expected to fill in some incidental gaps by ourselves. The old saw about the difference in European film and American is that if an American film character says, “I’m going to the beach house for the weekend,” we have to see him pack, get into the car, drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, and pull up into the beach house driveway. In a European film, he just shows up at the beach house and we’re expected to understand that the rest of the minutia took place and now we can get on with the story.

    So, I’d hold that getting the kid’s name and showing up outside the darkened house means that Albert did indeed track the right thief. The implication is also strong that this was not just the second home burgled, but that the kid had been at it for a while.

    BTW, where did Albert get the car? Did I miss that?

  49. April 25, 2010 11:20 am

    It’s interesting to read these different perspectives and insights. I don’t have any brilliant observations to add, but I will say that scene made me jump. Literally.

  50. April 25, 2010 11:58 am

    Reading this makes me think that Simon has drawn an interesting parallel between the historic presence of the Mafia as a stabilizing societal construct in Episode 1 and the Mardi Gras Indian culture in Episode 2. Any structure needs some kind of enforcement.

  51. M Styborski permalink
    April 25, 2010 12:08 pm

    It’s the rental his son had –even though he showed up in a cab and I don’t remember too many rental places open so soon at the time– which Albert promised to drop off after bailing him out of jail and taking him to Armstrong International. (And wasn’t it nice to see them NOT cross to the Westbank before getting to the airport?!)

  52. Vanessa permalink
    April 25, 2010 12:32 pm

    It reminded me of my father’s mindset post-K while he was going through the remnants of his Chalmette house, which took on 17 feet of water. During the height of the copper mining he came across two random strangers sleeping in a car in his driveway one morning and woke them by knocking on their window with a machete. He didn’t go after them with it but I’ll admit, I personally would have been very tempted.

    The scene may not have been pretty or admirable but it reflected the truth of the mental state many of us were pushed to while living in Post-K New Orleans

  53. April 25, 2010 1:43 pm

    Rick, thanks for your kind words. Really. And I can’t wait for the next football season even though this past one just ended & I swore I’d never watch football again (too emotionally-charged & post-season games hard on the ticker).

    Just in case I misunderstood your request and you want to add a personal icon to your comments, please visit – create an account and add an icon which will associate with the email address you provide. This way, your icon will show in the comments section of any site that supports Gravatar, not just this one.

  54. noladishu permalink
    April 25, 2010 2:17 pm

    Gravatar Test…

  55. April 25, 2010 2:24 pm

    I see a suave and debonair (debo-nerd, in your case) gentleman in a seer-sucker jacket and hat.

  56. Ryun permalink
    April 25, 2010 5:04 pm

    I have to wait and see what develops. After two episodes I really don’t know Albert Lambreaux well enough to draw any conclusions about anything. I’ve been trying not to compare Treme to the Wire but it wasn’t until episode 5 of the first season that Prezbolewski started to develop into what he was for the remaining seasons. Up until that point he was just a very dangerous idiot.
    The Baltimore Sun copy editor Gus Hines said in Season 5 “I think you need a lot of context to really understand anything.” These characters will be shown from multiple vantage points and developed over multiple seasons and after only two episodes I don’t have it.

  57. greg p permalink
    April 25, 2010 5:59 pm

    Just rewatched (coughbootlegcough) episode two, and noted the conversation between Albert and Robinette: “I can get new tools … but to have someone punk me?” The look on his face sends a very clear message: he can’t let this stand. Robinette agrees to ask around.

    I don’t think there’s any way his confrontation with the thief was unplanned; only the severity of the punishment was up in the air, to be decided by the kid.

  58. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:07 pm

    He’s not just a chief. He is a craftsman, a builder–that was established in the earlier scene, when he talks about some people doing stupid shit like sheetrocking over plaster. ( As was done in my house many years ago–when I nail something up, I hear bits of plaster break off and fall down.)

    The kid was a destroyer and a thief. He represented the antithesis of what Albert represents. We have a plethora of kids like that here.

    Remember what he told the kid, something like “I can build a house from scratch, what can you do?” And also “those people just put that in there!”

    Granted, he had been told ahead of time the thhief was a copper mining kid, but seeing some thief tear down whar someone else is working to build, well, you get it.

    The beat-down had two parts, IMO, in terms of energy; in the second part Albert seemed to have lost his boundary. He beat the kid with a hammer in the second part, it looked like, and that is likely one of his own hammers, one of his tools.

    People are still having copper pipes and stuff stolen. A friend of mine had contractors working on his house down the street. The tools were stolen three times over a year–last year–punks broke into the house and found them. A hot water heater as stolen from the shed next door to me, while the owner was still renovating the house. Punks got into my shed and stole my bike. Punks broke into another neighbor’s shed and stole his tools. And I live in Old Carrollton. Not the 9th Ward, not Treme.

    Really, keep in mind that Albert is a lot in addition to being a Mardi Gras Indian Chief.

  59. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:13 pm

    I agree. I don’t think he snapped. But I do think that he crossed some kind of basic-beating-up threshold. Didn’t he reach over and pick up a hammer? To me, that marks the second stage of the beat down. Wrath once unleashed….

  60. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:16 pm

    I agree, but I also see importance to the words that he exchanged with both the white guy (from whose house the tools were taken), Robinette, and also Skinny the punk. Skinny was very disrespectful.

    Pride in what you do. Repair [sheetrock], rather than hide; build, rather than steal; create, rather than destroy.

    Add the chief element and there ya go. Big-time beat-down.

    The question for tonight is: Is Skinny dead?

  61. greg p permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:22 pm

    “He beat the kid with a hammer in the second part, it looked like, and that is likely one of his own hammers, one of his tools.”

    Just checked it: it’s a length of (steel) pipe he pulls from a pile on the floor. Live by the pipe, get your ass beat by the pipe.

  62. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:44 pm

    Uh, I went to St. Gabriel for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades after my parents bought a house in Gentilly Woods in 1970 (so she could be closer to work at then-LSUNO) and moved us from Carrollton. But she moved back to Carrollton (rented a pal’s house) so my 2 siblings could go to Franklin without having to travel across town. After they graduated, she moved back to GWoods, after spending oodles on repairs that tenants had caused, but the neighborhood was becoming less safe than it had been. We sold the house after she died in 1989.

    I came back in early spring 2006, drove to it–it was gutted to the studs, but the lime tree was still trying to grow. I still drive by there sometimes–it looks pretty good, though it must have been to $ to replace the picture windows in the front bec now there are just regular windows.

    It was a quiet subdivision, as was PPark, where my best friend lived. Her parents left before the storm hit, but her dad went back–just before the storm hit! and it took us weeks to find him. He swam and used a “borrowed” boat to get from Athis Ct. to the Dome.

    I love what Wendell et al are doing for the Park. Can’t wait to see what the new Gentilly Woods Shopping Center will be like! I remember Maison Blanche, Sears, Woolworth’s, and some good stores, before things starting going down.

  63. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:50 pm

    Rick, Chocolate Milk played at our (Kennedy SHS) junior prom. ANd they also played the Fest a few days ago! Whoa…

  64. ferngrrl permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:57 pm

    rick, you’re right about the sawed-off shotgun and about the cops. Dealers ruled the corner near my house when I bought it and moved in in 2008 (was away from NOLA for 20 years, the storm brought me back). I have those old jailhouse burglar bars on all windows & doors, but I tell ya, I came close to buying a shotgun last year. Any cop will tell you, burglar alarms don’t prevent a punk from breaking the glass, but those bars do. And during the Gustav evac, I knew *nobody* was gonna get into my house. 😉

  65. April 25, 2010 8:52 pm

    I just re-watched it too, and I don’t know how he or anybody could know that the kid he beat up was the kid who stole his tools. All he knew was the kid’s nickname, that he lived in Gert Town, and that at night he steals copper somewhere in Mid-City OR LGD OR the Muses. That’s a lot of square miles to cover and probably a few dozen copper thieves in that large an area during that time period. The kid never admitted he was Skinny, never admitted he took the tools; Lambreaux seemed to be giving him the beating more out of what he was doing (living the life of a parasite) and what he was not doing (paying all due respects to the Chief) than out of any guilt or innocence having to do with his tools.

    I guess we’ll see if he’s got his tools back tonight.

  66. rickngentilly permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:13 pm

    that’s it 🙂

    thanks for the link.

    that html link left me feeling old and on the front porch shaking my fist at the pesky kids.

    at least yalls qb aaron aint a brooks.

    yall take care.

    looking forward to every ones take later in the week.

  67. rickngentilly permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:29 pm

    live by the pipe, get your ass beat by the pipe

    very nice mr. greg.

    that should be hand painted below no cat selling

    some lessons are so simple.

  68. greg p permalink
    April 25, 2010 10:45 pm

    He got his tools back from the van guy, last week.

  69. Scott Harney permalink
    April 26, 2010 9:13 am

    My first impression was that this scene represented a loss of control brought on by the post-K stress. That the chief would seek out the kid, albeit a little obsessively, and perhaps give him a good pop in the mouth would be in character. But the picking up of the pipe was a line-crossing moment. Suppressed stress and rage from everything going on in an otherwise deeply controlled man.

    I think the 3rd episode buttresses this point of view when Lambreaux is confronted about the kid in the hospital. He is cagey, but interested in the news. His friend does not 100% of the beatdown. Lambreaux seems aware that this is a breach.

    There will be repercussions…

  70. Scott Harney permalink
    April 26, 2010 9:19 am

    no they didn’t go too far . The pipe was the moment he lost control and the rage and the stress took over. Just like DeSautel breaking down at the top of the episode. He didn’t intend to beat him that hard. There’s even a beat, a pause, just before he picks up the pipe and “crosses over”.

  71. May 5, 2010 11:43 am

    I assumed that Albert and his daughter had a place to stay on the Westbank (relative or hotel room). Like they drove in from Houston, stayed the night on the Westbank and went out to the house and bar first thing the next morning.

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