Ten Days in the Valley Recap – Day 4

Two bombshells came out after the airing of the Day 4 episode. One: for the first time, Lake is not shown as alive and well-cared-for at episode’s end. This is distressing for those of us who prefer child TV characters to be unharmed, though she does not appear to be dead – unlike Casey and her brother-in-law Russ, both of whose blood and brain matter is on the walls and floor. Two, ABC announced that due to low viewership numbers to date, the show’s remaining episodes have been relegated to a December/January burn-off , which is better than outright cancellation, but not much.

I choose to interpret the poor ratings not as an indicator that culture consumers have no interest in suspense stories about showrunners, but as a sign that the show would have been a better fit for cable or a streaming service than for a network. I can only hope that after the ABC run ends, the show will live on elsewhere (Netflix would be good), and find new viewers,  which will lead to someone reading these recaps in the not-too-distant future. Hi, future Ten Days fans!

This week’s prime villain is Lynn, Casey’s possibly psycho and definitely pregnant sister, the person who has been reluctantly caring for an increasingly petulant Lake. Lynn wants more than the $5K Casey already gave her to participate in this stupid scheme to discredit Jane’s parenting skills in favour of Pete’s. She wants $30K, and if Casey can’t steal that money from Jane’s bank account, she needs to keep trying – says Lynn in a stone cold killer voice. Hell, Lynn’s husband is even afraid of her, or pretends to be when he reminds Casey that crossing Lynn is not a good idea – remember what happened when he tried to leave her that one time?

Lynn is painted as so ruthless that Casey looks like even more of a moron than previously thought. What was she thinking to have trusted psycho Lynn to be part of this terrible plan that would totally not have earned her Pete’s love if it had worked?

But Lynn is too evil, and too recently introduced as a character, for me to believe that she came home after her doctor’s appointment, murdered her own sister and husband, and took off with Lake for parts unknown. I think it was someone else, though at this point, who’s left who had motive and opportunity? Other than Gus, the cop who acquired an untraceable gun this week. And possibly Ali’s husband Tom, who continues to act shifty about his job prospects, with reason, since he is a print journalist and we all know how print journalism is going these days.

In an act of spousal devotion, Ali has lunch with a friend who considers herself the Elon Musk of online journalism (okay, sure) and asks the friend, played by Missy Peregrym, to consider Tom for work. Missy agrees to talk to Tom as if she is doing Ali a huge favour. This means that Missy and Tom will either be boning next episode, or he will promise her a news scoop about who killed Casey and the bro-in-law. Possible third option: he will use his connection to Jane to reveal more police corruption. Somewhere in there, Ali also witnesses Casey acting extremely sketchy – she asks for Jane’s bank account info and defends Pete. But Ali does not get suspicious, possibly because she is still pretty focused on trying to conceive a baby. Maybe she can take Lynn’s unborn child for her own later!

Before Casey can be killed, Jane and Det. Bird have to figure out that she’s involved with Lake’s disappearance. Bird questions Gus about his affair with Jane, and Gus acts like it’s not serious, though he wishes he’d been at the house the night Lake was taken because he’d have stopped the bastard. He opines that Lake, while a handful, is Jane’s center of gravity, and without her, Jane will spin out of control.

Next, Bird talks to PJ the drug dealer, who doesn’t know much about cars, but manages to describe the 90’s BMW that belongs to Lynn and Russ well enough, the car both he and Pete saw outside Jane’s house on the night in question. Like Gus, he offers some analysis of Jane –she’s a storyteller to whom truth is just another story. Or something.

On set, Matt, the co-exec producer of the show, is arguing with Henry, the director, about where a key scene should be shot. Matt wants the scene to take place in a casita, like Jane wanted, because the show is based on a true event (AKA the dirty cop crime Gus told Jane about that Commander Gomez is trying to keep covered up). Henry thinks the scene should be shot in a more visually interesting and atmospheric strip club, and who cares about sticking closely to the original story, since the part about the cops killing off the dealers is made up, right? Matt wins the battle, but not without pissing off Henry and making it seem like he knows more than he should about the dirty cops.

Jane doesn’t have time to moderate the casita vs. strip club debate. She is fixated on what she knows about the red hoodie Lake was wearing in the kidnappers’ video – she’s sure it proves that Pete took Lake. Since Bird won’t listen to her at first, because she’s a drug user and liar, she buys some prescription knock-out drugs from PJ the dealer, takes said drugs to Pete’s house, and lets herself in. When Pete comes home, she lures him into letting down his guard by sympathetically reminiscing about the good old days with Lake, when they were still together as a family. He falls for her performance, and drinks the spiked tea she has cooked up, which causes Pete to collapse within minutes.

While Pete is knocked out, Jane sees a text on Pete’s phone from someone asking for money, assumes it’s the kidnapper, and says she’ll pay. It was Sheldon the boss drug dealer, though.  He shows up at the house, asks for $70K (owed to him by Pete), and lets Jane and Pete believe that he has Lake. Jane runs to a bank and gets the cash, pays Sheldon and laughs – laughs! – upon hearing Sheldon had nothing to do with Lake’s abduction. After discovering that Pete is sleeping with Casey, she quickly guesses that Casey is involved, and goes with Bird – who has tracked down the boxy black BMW and come to the same conclusion – to Lynn & Russ’s house. On the tense drive over, Bird says he’s looked at the hospital records from the car accident that broke up Jane and Pete’s marriage, the one where Pete was driving under the influence and Lake was injured. Turns out the blood types listed indicate that Pete is not Lake’s biological father, so who is? Jane doesn’t want to talk about that right now.

Police in SWAT gear surround the house, then run in and find Casey and Russ shot dead.  Jane has been told to wait outside, but she charges in anyway and wails at the sight of the bodies. Where is Lake and who’s got her now? Let’s hope we find that out when the Day 5&6 episodes air on Dec 16.

Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper. Her most recent book is a suburban comedy of manners called The Oakdale Dinner Club. Coming in 2018: The Showrunner, a darkly humourous, suspenseful Hollywood-noir novel about female ambition inside the TV biz.


Ten Days in the Valley Recap – Day 3

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 10.15.21 PM.pngOne thing I like about this show is that it’s more about the why and the who than the what. Every episode so far ends with a scene showing that while Lake, the child captive, may be a little cranky, she’s alive, well, and decently-enough cared for. It appears we have nothing to fear about her being harmed, so we’re not dread-watching, we’re watching to see why she was taken.

Also, the revelation late in the episode that Casey – ! – is the abduction mastermind (or at least a key accomplice in an abduction gang), is big news for episode 3/10. Kudos to the show for upending expectations about how long we’d have to wait to find out who is involved, yet still hooking our interest.

The episode opens with Jane and John Bird reviewing the video sent to Jane on Day 2, of Lake on an outdoor swing. John asks Jane to look for identifying features in the background. All Jane can offer – because her showrunner skills include cinematography, apparently –  is that judging from the way the light falls on Lake’s face, the video was shot late the day before.  And that Lake is wearing a red hoodie that is not her own. We later learn that the hoodie is from the show’s wardrobe closet and was given to Lake when she recently visited the studio and went home afterwards with Pete. During that studio visit, Matt the head writer and co-exec producer played with her on-set because he is a nice guy dad, and Jane ignored her because she is work-obsessed. She feels bad about ignoring her later, though.

John Bird speculates that the video could have been sent to reassure Jane that Lake is safe, to establish she is alive in advance of a ransom note that will follow, or to torment Jane. Like I said  –  the why of the kidnapping is still unknown.

Jane assures her narcotics cop lover Gus that her computer contains no info that reveals  that he is her source. She asks him what an IP anonymiser is (one was used to hide where the video was sent from). He explains, then exposits that the LAPD’s best team is on the case. When that team discovers that the video was sent from within the studio, Bird suggests that Jane could help him identify the culprit by assuming her staff are guilty,  then work back one-by-one to figure out what each person’s motive might be. Problem is, too many people she works with have reasons to resent her. Starting with the show director Henry, once her peer, now her subordinate, and given to temper tantrums on set when Isabel, the demanding actress who is the show’s star, complains about her lines.

Bird and his team arrive with Jane at the studio, and ask everyone to hand over their laptops for examination. Cut to Matt watching the video on his computer in a back room and acting shady – he calls his husband (a stay-at-home dad with IT skills) to ask how to forever delete a file on his hard drive, he tries to hide his laptop among the prop ones in a storeroom. Under questioning, which for some reason Bird lets Jane watch on a computer monitor from another room (she’s so trustworthy?), Matt admits that with his husband’s help, he gained access to Jane’s laptop and emails a few months before.  He needed to get into her inbox to delete a bridge-burning resignation message he sent when he got a new job that then fell through.  He kept monitoring her emails after that because he thought they might give him ideas for how to curry her favour, and help him understand the workings of her brilliant showrunning mind. That’s why the video of Lake was on his computer; he saw it via Jane’s emails.  So he is innocent, maybe, despite having much to gain if Jane leaves the show, even temporarily, and despite his resentment of her bossy and demanding ways.

Not anywhere close to being in the clear, still, is Pete, who a) recently sold his BMW for $18K cash – to cover debts?, b) has no idea what items of clothing belong or don’t belong to Lake, c) punches a random guy in the street because the guy posts flyers that cover Lake’s missing posters, d) calls Sheldon the Korean BBQ Taco King/Drug Boss and says, “Listen, for god’s sake, this is insane. Just call me,”  e) acts defensive and tries to discredit Jane every time he’s questioned by police, and f) urges Casey to go to the station ASAP to reinforce his alibi.

Police Commander Gomez – so far more of an interested party than a suspect – spends the day playing golf with his brother, who is running for state attorney general. Police Gomez confides that a shoot-up of bad guy gangs that occurred some years ago might have been carried out by dirty cops who were robbing dealers. There were rumours then, but no hard evidence, so no case, but that’s what Jane’s TV show, “Internal,” is about, which is not good for either brother. Gomez asks John Bird to find out who Jane’s source is, and John delivers: he finds Gus’s name in Jane’s deleted emails (taken from Matt’s hard drive). To Bird, Gomez is like, it’s probably no big deal, but thanks. He immediately calls for all of Gus’s records and files.

Casey finally comes in for questioning by the police, and Bird figures out that she and this Kathryn Collins they’ve been waiting to see with regard to Pete’s alibi are one and the same. Casey/KC pretty quickly identifies PJ from the surveillance camera video as Jane’s drug dealer, and pretends to sympathetically excuse Jane’s drug use as being occasional and only when necessary due to overwork.

Bird confronts Jane with a Child Protection Services officer at his side, and threatens to charge her with obstruction of justice for lying about her drug use. She tries to tell him that Pete has Lake because of the red hoodie, but he cuts her off and tells her he doesn’t work for her, he works for her daughter. So I guess she won’t be watching anymore when he questions suspects?

Meanwhile, in a not very nice house, in back of which sits a beat-up car, Lake “doesn’t sleep, just stares,” and is creeping out her caregiver, a many months pregnant blonde woman who goes outside to complain to a waiting-in-the-shadows Casey. “It’ll be over soon,” Casey says. “We’ll end it tomorrow.”

Convincing behind-the-scenes TV show details this episode:

  • the look of the wardrobe room, the writers’ room, and the offices
  • the hairnet Isabel wears between shooting scenes
  • Matt referring dismissively to the show he was asked to run as episodic and on cable, when “Internal” is on cable too

Less convincing details:

  • Henry being “the show director” rather than one of several directors
  • non-production staff hanging out on the set between shots – doing real work at a set  desk, running around playfully with a kid, and generally dirtying up the joint
  • the “Isabel wheel” in the writers’ room that indicates her diva behaviour affects the writers’ room on a daily basis
  • Jane having convinced Isabel to join the show by telling her they would “walk hand-in-hand toward the truth”– alrighty, then.
  • the lack of any network or studio executives weighing in on how Lake’s disappearance is affecting production and Jane’s job performance/sanity, not to mention having an opinion about police detectives taking over the offices

Next week: follow the money! Pete owes Sheldon some cash, Jane buys more drugs, and the pregnant captive-minder wants thirty grand.

Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper. Her most recent book is a suburban comedy of manners called The Oakdale Dinner Club. Coming in 2018: The Showrunner, a darkly humourous, suspenseful Hollywood-noir novel about female ambition inside the TV biz.

Ten Days in the Valley Recap – S1, E1&2

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Why have I departed from exclusively recapping Suits to recap Ten Days in the Valley? Because Ten Days is a suspenseful story about a showrunner in L.A., as is my novel The Showrunner, coming out in June, 2018, thanks so much for asking. Also because Ten Days is a twisty mystery that will resolve by the end of the ten episode run. And we’re shown at the end of the first two episodes that the missing daughter is alive and well, hidden away somewhere, so I’m pretty certain there will be no grisly child murder or abuse scenes to fast forward through. For all that, I’ll put up with the handheld camera shots, of which there are not tons, at least. But if I’m going to recap the show, it had better not be cancelled before the run ends. (I’m looking at you, ratings.)

Ten days, ten episodes, one day per episode, I like the neatness of the structure. Not too keen though on the blurry flashbacks in Episode 1, the ones that establish that Jane Sadler, our showrunner anti-hero, did not have the greatest childhood. Her parents were irresponsible partiers who apparently had little regard for Jane and her younger sister, whose name is Ali. In the present, Ali has become the sensible one. She’s married, she’s Jane’s business manager, she’s a straight shooter, she’s all about calling the cops when Lake goes missing. She’s also undergoing fertility treatments, which allows her to bond with John Bird, the world-weary, slow-talking but sharp police detective who is assigned to the case. He helps Ali with her hormone injections because he knows all about them from the time when his second wife tried to get pregnant. She didn’t, though, and is now his ex, we gather, from the look of his lonely cop apartment.

Jane, on the other hand, may be a talented filmmaker – we hear early and often about  her award-winning documentary that exposed police corruption – but she’s also a work-obsessed, substance-abusing (Ambien, cocaine, Adderall, whole bottles of wine – and that’s just in the first episode), distracted if loving mother of Lake, age 7 or so. Lake is a sensitive child, bright and fun (see her and Jane do hip-hop dancing together!) who says creepy things like, “When I’m away with Dad, I miss you so much I think I want to go to heaven.”

A sleeping Lake is taken from Jane’s bed on a rainy night sometime between 1-4 am, while Jane was in the backyard shed rewriting a scene to be shot the next morning for the fictional – or is it? – cop show that she now produces. The sliding glass doors at the back of the house were open, and Jane had a baby monitor with her, on which she heard nothing but static.

Jane freaks out big-time when she discovers that Lake is missing, but she’s also a big fat liar who lies: about the film student/drug dealer/Korean BBQ delivery guy who dropped off some cocaine to her in the shed in the middle of the night, about her love life, about how much the TV show is based on the dirty truths she learned about police practices while researching that documentary.

Jane is recently separated from her husband Pete, a skeevy music producer with an Aussie accent. He’s a heroin addict (currently clean, he claims), he’s fucking Jane’s young skinny assistant Casey on the down-low, and he claims to adore his daughter, while hating Jane for making him adhere to the terms of their custody arrangement. He’s portrayed as a nasty, manipulative jerk who cares more about slagging Jane than about finding his daughter. His alibi (that he was with Casey) is fake; he receives a text that says “where is my money?” And his car, or one like it, was seen outside Jane’s house on the night in question. Jane is so convinced that Pete arranged the abduction to punish her and cast aspersions about her parenting skills that he can’t be the culprit, can he?

The other suspects/shady characters introduced in episodes 1 and 2:

  • Bea, the Salvadorean nanny. She’s poor, has an ex-con gardener boyfriend who has stolen valuable stuff (like leftover fancy bathroom floor tiles, go figure) from Jane, and she never told Jane about the 16-year-old daughter she is trying to bring to the US, an effort that will cost money she doesn’t have.
  • Matt, the head writer on the cop show. Described on the show website as being Jane’s right-hand man, he seems to question Jane’s judgment and challenge her ideas more than he backs her up. As if he were trying to take over the show. Sidenote: is it just me, or does the writers’ room seem a little understaffed?
  • Tom, Ali’s husband, who is friends with nasty Pete, AND a recently laid-off journalist who can’t afford to pay for the next round of IVF for Ali.
  • Commander Gomez, a police big wig who gets his hands on leaked scripts of Jane’s cop show in advance of each episode because he apparently fears exposure of evil doings, though whether those doings are his own or his department’s is yet to be revealed.
  • Gus, an undercover narcotics cop who meets Jane secretly to chide her for not sufficiently disguising in her scripts the source material he has given her. According to the previews for next week, Gus is also Jane’s lover. About whom Jane, of course, lied.
  • Possibly Sheldon, the Korean BBQ taco chef/drug kingpin who runs a successful food truck business (shades of Roy Choi or what) while dispensing the hard stuff, including to trendy glamourpusses at his ultra-cool loft. That’s where Jane stupidly snorts some Special K to prove she’s not a cop, and spends the the night high, naked and passed out in the loft’s bathroom, after taking a shower during which the mascara on her false eyelashes does an excellent job of being waterproof.

Who isn’t a suspect? Maybe not Commander Gomez’s comely female assistant/underling, who is sleeping with a woman writer on the show to get access to the scripts. And probably not Detective John Bird and his underlings Buddy and Nicole, though why are 12 cops from the Robbery and Homicide department working around the clock on what looks at first to be a child custody dispute?

Next week: more revelations, and a more timely recap from me, I pledge.

Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper. Her most recent book is a suburban comedy of manners called The Oakdale Dinner Club. Coming in 2018: The Showrunner, a darkly humourous, suspenseful Hollywood-noir novel about female ambition inside the TV biz.