Stumptown Season 1 Episode 3: Rip City Dicks Recap

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In episode 3 of Stumptown, Dex decides to go legit as a PI, so she convinces a respected local investigator, Artie Banks, to take her on as an apprentice. Hijinks ensue. Miles investigates the murder of Grey’s former crime partner, Jack Feeley, which leads him straight to Grey. Grey decides to come clean with the crime bosses about the money he owes them, but it’s not as simple as he hopes it will be. In Stumptown, nothing ever is.

Recap

Episode 3 opens on Dex in the waiting room of iconic local PI Artie Banks, staring at the framed Detective Quarterly magazine cover that says he’s an icon. His bored secretary tells her that Mr Banks will be upstairs soon. Dex allows herself an un-Dex-like moment of hopeful fantasy and imagines herself and Artie as partners in a 1970s TV detective show, Rip City Dicks, complete with her in a sassy white jumpsuit, a funky soundtrack, and great fight choreography.

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She snaps back out of it, Artie breezes through the waiting room and into his office, and slams the door in her face. By the time she follows him in, he’s got his pants of and his bare legs up on his desk.

Iconic.

This clearly isn’t going to go the way she wants it to. She’s fantasizing about a buddy and mentor, while he’s taking his pants off and slamming doors in her face.

She calls him out on slamming the door in the face of a potential customer, but he already knows who she is- Dexadrine Parios, 33 years old, former combat Marine, now living on disability, rude and pushy, whose checking account has been overdrawn 16 times in the last year, as recently as a week ago.

He mocks her about her name, her personality, and her bank account for a minute. She fires back a few times, noting that the most recent bank overdraft was for her brother, not that it’s any of his business.

It isn’t. Her finances- her business; just like her body- her decisions. Men don’t get to judge what we do or don’t do with our money or our bodies or anything else. Stop making excuses and apologizing, ladies.

That may seem like I went off on a tangent, but in fact it’s the whole point of this episode. Own your life and stop looking for approval or permission. You don’t need a toxic daddy.

Dex explains that she there because she needs to do 1500 hours of apprenticeship under another PI in order to get licensed. Artie tries to steer her toward one of the other 522 licensed PI in the Portland area.

Dex proves that she can quote his statistics as well as he can quote hers. He’s 58 years old and was the youngest detective in the Portland police department. 16 years later he retired suddenly to become a PI. He fights for the underdog and Dex respects that. She also knows that he’s the best in Portland, so she’ll be able to charge higher rates if she apprentices under him.

Artie has a hideous crystal vase in his office worth $14,000. He likes it because it’s expensive. Dex laughs at this, but doesn’t think the implications through.

Artie refuses to help her, but he will take her on for a cut of all of her jobs for the next year. He puts on his pants and they head out on their first case.

Grey hasn’t heard that Jack is dead and leaves a message on his phone, checking in to see what happened with the money they owe the imprisoned crime boss, Kane.

Miles and Cosgrove pick up the message while going through Jack’s personal effects. Cosgrove says that the mayor isn’t happy about a body with 2 bullet holes in the back being dumped under a bridge in his town. Grey is their first lead, and he happens to be friends with Dex.

Cosgrove tells Miles a Japanese parable about a dog that I think means she’s trying to tell Miles he thinks about Dex too much.

Artie explains to Dex that their potential client is Candace, who is divorcing the super rich real estate developer Randall Tapper. He owns half the town and is known for his charitable donations, which give him the public appearance of being a good person. They need to convince Candace that they can “flip the script.” Dex should stay quiet until he signals her that it’s time to talk.

Candace has an infant daughter and a custody hearing next week that she’s sure she’s going to lose. She wants to know why they want to help her and why she should trust them. She’s been burned by too many people who say they’ll help, then succumb to Randall’s power and influence. Artie explains that their fee is 10% of the divorce settlement, capped at $200k. He signals to Dex to decribe why she can trust them to stick to their word.

Dex explains that she takes care of her brother, who’s her only family, so she understands what Candace is going through. Candace agrees and tells them to start their investigation with Randall’s business. On the way out, Artie hands Dex some cash as a finder’s fee and tries to dismiss her. She’s angry that he used her to manipulate the client and now he wants to get rid of her.

He tells her that manipulation is her best tool, so she should use it often.

Dex responds that Candace agreed to sign on with them, not him, and won’t like it if Dex disappears. So he’s going to let her help with the case, sign off on her hours, and give her 2% of whatever he collects from Candace.

She specifically says that she gets a cut of whatever he collects from Candace, not from the case.

He agrees and asks if she’s in it for the cash or the girl. She says, “20% girl, 80% cash.”

The next step is to bug Tapper’s office. That would be illegal for Artie, since he’s licensed, but he says it’s only vaguely unethical for an unlicensed PI.

Pretty sure it’s illegal for Dex as well.

She goes undercover as someone wearing heels and a business suit and pretends to deliver the office mail. She almost gets caught while plugging in the surveillance device, but hides under a desk while Tapper’s assistant, Raji, is nearby. Then she pretends to be an employee while she meets Randall Tapper, who flirts with her and welcomes her to the company.

As Artie and Dex drive away from Tapper’s office, one of the wheels comes off of Artie’s car. Someone sabotaged it. They take Dex’s car instead, which plays Chaka Khan for them. Artie spins a tale about how he saved Chaka back in the 90s.

Miles visits Grey at the bar for some light interrogation about Jack. He pretends he’s just there for a casual drink and conversation, but he’s not remotely subtle. Since Grey is very clear about not being interested in conversation, Miles gives up, but as he’s leaving, he tells Grey that Jack is dead and was shot while he was running away.

Dex and Artie come in as Miles is leaving. Artie and Miles are acquainted with each other, but there’s no love lost between them. Miles notes that no one knows why Artie retired from the police department so suddenly. Artie brags about the expensive car he drives, suggesting the money he makes in the private sector is reason enough.

It is, especially when combined with how much less dangerous it is to be a PI. But everything about Artie says that all he cares about is money, which makes his sudden departure from a career he’d been very successful at suspicious.

Artie moves over to the bar, leaving Dex and Miles alone for a moment. She explains that she’s apprenticing with Artie so she can get her license. Miles approves of her decision. He says that Artie’s weird, but good at what he does.

Once she gets to the bar, she introduces Grey and Artie. The first thing Artie says to Grey is that Dex told him they could both drink there for free. Dex notices that Grey seems off and asks him what’s going on, but he won’t admit to anything beyond being upset that she extended her free drink deal to another PI. She can tell it’s more than that.

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Artie pulls Dex away to inform her that Tapper has wired $2,000 from his personal bank account to a local madam, Stephanie Houston. Dex digs through Stephanie’s trash and discovers that Tapper has been making regular payments to her. The two detectives confront the madam about the payments. At first, she refuses to talk because her business depends on her silence, but Artie threatens to use his contacts against her.

Stephanie explains that she began by matching college girls up with rich friends. Tapper is still paying her for the first girl that she sent him, because he married the girl. The regular payments are hush money.

Artie takes the news badly and accuses Candace of lying to them. Dex asks her to tell her side of the story. She says that she was a penniless, naive college student who met Stephanie in a bar. Stephanie said that she knew men who were willing to help girls like Candace financially. After one date, Tapper swept her off her feet, even flying her to Rome when they’d been together a couple of days. Candace doesn’t think Tapper will use their original arrangement against her, because it would make him look bad and be bad for business.

That night, Benny’s mother, Sue Lynn Blackbird, knocks on Dex’s door. She wants Dex to drop her investigation into Tapper. She even offers to pay Dex off, and when that doesn’t work, Sue Lynn threatens her. She says that Tapper is a friend of the Confederated Tribes and they don’t like it when people try to hurt their friends.

She doesn’t sound like a mobster at all.

Miles reports back to Cosgrove that he didn’t get anything useful out of his informal interview with Grey, since Grey was evasive and his alibi is that he was alone at his bar, ironically named the Bad Alibi, when Jack was murdered. Cosgrove suggests that Miles works on Dex in a creative way to get insight into Grey’s character and whether he’s lying about his alibi or not. She doesn’t want to have to use another Japanese parable on him if he can’t sort this out on his own.

The bug on Tapper goes dead, so Dex and Artie follow him through his predictable daily routine instead. While they’re eating lunch and watching him golf, Dex tells Artie that Sue Lynn came to visit her and told her to name her price for backing off of the case. Artie gloats that they’re going to make a ridiculous amount of cash on this case.

Miles calls Dex and invites her to dinner at his place. She turns him down because it sounds too much like a date, but he won’t take no for an answer. Artie signals that she should accept, so that she can pump Miles for information about Tapper. Once she’s off the phone, Artie tells her she should always use her contacts.

Then he tells her that the first rule of life is that people don’t change. Tapper likes being a sugar daddy, which means he probably has a new girl. The second rule of life is that people might try to change, but eventually they’ll go back to who they really are. Dex realizes that Tapper won’t be doing his own dirty work. He’s too careful.

They follow Tapper’s assistant, Raji, instead. Artie sends Dex into a parking garage to put a GPS tracker on the underside of Raji’s car. She successfully plants the tracker, but she almost gets caught and narrowly avoids getting run over.

Miles has a jazz album by Charles Mingus on the stereo when Dex arrives, in her honor. He also has the file from Jack’s murder case spread out where she’ll see it. She asks what it is and he tells her, asking if she knew Jack. She denies knowing him, which is true, based on episode 2.

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She has a strange look on her face during the conversation, which could simply be because she knows he’s actually interrogating her. Or it could be because her brother Ansel told her all about Jack showing up at the bar and trying to steal anything of value he could find. Jack did have a distinctive gold tooth and would fit Ansel’s description. She knows Grey’s basic history, but we didn’t see Jack’s name mentioned in front of her or Ansel, so we don’t know if she recognizes his name.

Dex tells Miles that she’s been busy with her own case, investigating Tapper with Artie, and asks if he knows Tapper. Miles admits that Tapper is a friend of the police department, because of course he is. He outfitted the entire department with new body armor 2 years ago.

So the police aren’t going to rush into arresting him or protecting people against him, and everyone knows it. Artie was right, Tapper has spread the love around in all the right places.

It’s Miles’ turn for a question, so he brings up the bar and asks if Grey is there every night. Dex says he should have asked Grey that. Dex’s turn- she mentions that Tapper seems to have a taste for prostitutes. Miles replies that it’s not a unique trait among men in his demographic.

After another question, Dex calls him on the interrogation. He points out that she’s been trying to get information out of him as well.

Okay, Miles, honey, you’re the one who blatantly called her up and asked her over for what you blatantly and pushily made sound like a romantic evening. Then you cooked a large meal and put on music and everything. Dex was clear that she wasn’t interested, but eventually gave in, because her boss pushed her and because that’s what women do. You are the only one presenting yourself under false pretenses, as is usual in this relationship, yet you are accusing her of being the wrongdoer, as is also usual.

I really want to like this pairing, but I don’t feel like they’re clicking at all since their initial chemistry.

Dex rightfully decides that she’s had enough of his games. He says if she thinks he only invited her over to get intel on the case she doesn’t know him at all, and she agrees with him. She doesn’t know him.

He decides to change directions and seduce her instead. That works, because it’s actually all she’s emotionally available for at the moment. But before she gives in, she makes sure to tell him that Grey didn’t kill Jack, because she has to take care of her boys. And she makes sure he knows she decided to have sex, he didn’t actually seduce her.

When they finish, she gets a call from Artie about the case. She leaves Miles’ apartment without even having eaten dinner. I’m betting he invites the hot widow from last week over the next night to eat leftovers.

Thanks to the tracker, Artie knows that Raji picked up a woman and took her to a no-tell hotel. He’s watching for Tapper to show up. Dex meets him there for a stake out. Artie can tell she had sex. Then he asks about her dad. She won’t talk about him. So Artie spins another tale, this time about his troubled relationship with his own daughter.

The prostitute leaves with Raji, then Tapper leaves in a separate car. Before Dex and Artie can do anything about it, someone shoots the windshield out of the car. Dex cowers and has flashbacks from the explosion that killed Benny. Artie watches the car pull away and recognizes his former client, Danny Dongelberg. He didn’t pay Artie’s fee, so Artie had his wages garnished.

Artie thinks being shot at is fun and exciting, and tries to explain to Dex that it’s just the way being a PI is. “You’re not doing your job right unless a few folks want you dead.” That’s probably true, but he’s clearly also an idiot.

Grey takes his cash savings out of his personal safe and gets ready to leave the bar. He meets Dex on the way out, and she asks about Jack Feeney. He tells her Jack is just a guy he did time with.

Grey brings his $8k in cash to a guy named Frank at a pool hall and asks him to give it to Kane as a gesture of good faith. He explains that he can pay the rest slowly, but his money is tied up in the bar. Frank tells him he now owes $500k, which is his and Jack’s debt combined. They’ll let him pay it off slowly, so he’d better make sure his bar stays profitable.

Artie and Dex meet with Tapper’s latest prostitute, Bree, to convince her to help them. She says that their relationship has become more than what it started out as, so she has no reason to help them. Dex convinces her to talk with “someone who knows the real Randall.”

They bring Bree to Candace, who asks her how long it was before Tapper took her to Rome. Bree says that they went to Rome the morning after their first date. Candace says that Tapper took her there after 2 days. She tells Bree that Randall said he loved her on the plane ride home, and she believed him because of the way he looked at her.

When she got pregnant he insisted that she have an abortion. When she refused, he choked her and slapped her. He harassed her and made her life h*ll to try to make her get rid of the baby, but her daughter is the only thing she doesn’t regret.

Bree gives them a video that shows Tapper being violent with her. Artie says that Tapper will drop the custody fight and will pay big money. He takes the video and promises to handle it from there.

Then he tells Dex she did good work and that they make a good duo. When she gets out of Artie’s car, she sees Danny Dongelberg getting into his car so that he can follow Artie. She grabs him and starts to call the cops.

Danny tells her that Artie is the one she should be angry with. Danny hired him to get proof that Danny’s business partner was stealing from him, which Artie did, but then Artie sold the evidence to the business partner and screwed Danny. Artie makes so much money by selling whatever dirt he digs up to the highest bidder instead of sticking with the client who hired him.

Dex finds Artie in his office after he’s sold the tape to Tapper. He doesn’t care that Candace will lose her daughter. He points out that he told Dex this is what he does- exploit and manipulate. He’s a guy who reads people really well and he used that to take advantage of her, just like he takes advantage of everyone. She can’t report him, because she engaged in illegal acts when she planted the tracker and the surveillance device.

Artie tells her that he did her a favor, because she’s very talented, but she cares too much and it will hold her back. Then he admits that he lied to her when he told her his personal stories. She breaks the $14k crystal vase in retaliation.

Miles calls Grey in for an interview. He plays Grey’s last phone message to Jack. They rehash the facts of the case, but Miles really doesn’t have anything on Grey, other than a sense that he’s hiding something. Miles threatens to pin a trumped up charge on Grey and to ruin Grey’s friendship with Dex, then claims he’s too honorable a cop too do something like that when Grey calls him on it.

During the interview Miles is brought information from a security camera feed that proves Grey is telling the truth about his alibi. Grey gets up to leave, since they have no just cause to hold him and he’s no longer a suspect.

Miles guesses correctly that Grey and Jack were involved with Kane and Kane had Jack killed. He says that Kane is responsible for at least 50 murders, including one of Miles’ own criminal informants (CI). He offers Grey police protection if he’ll help them find Jack’s killer. It’s a one time offer that expires when Grey leaves the room. Grey refuses, but asks him to leave Dex out of the whole affair.

If Miles knows someone like Kane as well as he thinks he does, then he would know that the only way to protect Grey from him would be to put Grey in witness protection and disappear him. Grey doesn’t want that, and the Portland police aren’t going to offer it over someone like Jack Feeney and whatever low level henchman took him out. In fact, Miles just told Grey that they didn’t protect a previous CI that Kane killed. Why would Grey take him up on this offer?

From Grey’s perspective, with Kane’s deal he has a shot at maintaining his normal life. That probably won’t happen, because Kane’s people will ask him to do jobs for them or expect more money than he can pay, but he’ll last longer than he would if he turned Kane in now. It’ll be up to Dex to help take down Kane’s organization.

Dex sits in her car and beats on the steering wheel in frustration. The car helpfully plays The Power by Snap! to remind her to take back her power and not let Artie win.

She visits Candace and gives her the bad news, but promises that she won’t let their battle with Artie and Randall end this way.

Dex: “Today I got beat. I lost. We lost. Artie sold me out. It pisses me off. And it pisses me off that my mistake could cost you your child. But they’re not getting away with this, okay? No. They think we’re just gonna lie down and we’re gonna take it. They have the power and they have the influence. But you know what? They’re arrogant sons of b**ches. They don’t know that women like us have been fighting for our entire lives for everything. Randall’s gonna pay. Artie’s gonna pay for what he did. I won’t lose again.”


Commentary

As Artie said, he dropped clues all the way through the episode that he was going to sell out to the highest bidder. He was too excited about how much cash they were going to make for a job that was capped at $200k that he’d have to split with Dex.

Grey is now the needy tough guy on the run from the law, Miles is the expert cop who gets how complicated Dex is, and her brother is disabled and needs her to be his caregiver. Dex comes off as a bad person if she doesn’t listen to and take care of any of them. Artie saw that she feels this way and took advantage of it. He let her think she was softening his edges as they worked together.

Where is Dex’s space to shine? In this episode, they took away her supposed expertise as a PI and showed that she can easily be taken advantage of, despite her instincts, training and experience in military intelligence. Artie told her he couldn’t be trusted from the start. Where did her cynicism and instincts go when she was working with him?

It’s great that she can tell when Miles is obviously working her for information or Grey is obviously hiding something from her and in trouble, but otherwise she dropped the ball in this episode.

My hope is that the ending means that Dex has learned her lesson and will now wake up. And that she only needs to learn this lesson once. She made a powerful speech about women, trust and power at the end of the episode. So far, the writers have shown her put her trust in men over and over and haven’t given us a reason why there are no women in her life who aren’t her enemies.

I said after the pilot that she really needs a female friend and assistant to help run her business, and this episode potentially set Candace up in that position. With Candace, Dex now has a mission, rather than just a vague idea that she can make money as a PI.

Thwarting the people who are taking advantage of women and the disadvantaged in Portland would also take down the organized crime elements in Benny’s family, the people who ultimately drove him to his death. That should be enough to get her back on top of her game. So far, we’ve only seen vague glimmers of what she can really do. It’s time for Dex to do more than coast.

 

Images courtesy of ABC.

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