'Life on Mars': Mother's Not-So-Little Helper

Michaelimperioli_lifeonmars_240 Sam Tyler continues to have his world rocked on Life on Mars. This week, he meets his mom, who is not quite how he remembered her. For one thing, she's got serious money troubles. For another thing, she's hot. But then, what woman isn't on this show?

Use the spoiler, Luke!

Sam sees a guy manhandling a woman, so he naturally snaps into Good Cop mode and arrests the guy. Only after slapping the cuffs on does Sam realize the woman in question is his mom, back when she was young and a looker. And if that's not disconcerting enough, the mook who was assaulting her is greeted like an old friend at the precinct. That's because he's Nick Profaci, errand boy, heavy and factotum for Elliot Casso. Casso runs a club, deals drugs, and dispenses tips about major crimes to Gene Hunt. In return for that last bit, the cops not only leave him alone, they let him thrive. Sam is appalled to see that Casso is paying off the cops of the precinct, and refuses to take the cash.

Gene argues that Casso is "the devil he knows" -- without Casso's tips, and without the money (which gene uses to pay off other informants), there'd be chaos. Sam sticks to his guns, which prompts Casso to tell Profaci to up the pressure on Rose Tyler.

Back at the precinct, Annie insists that Profaci had something to do with a couple of dead young women who were pulled out of the East River. Ray, who investigated the crimes, says there wasn't enough evidence to pin the crimes on anyone. Annie disagrees -- she thinks Ray and the rest of the precinct just doesn't want to upset the delicate relationship between cops and robbers.

Sam is surprised when Adrienne, a girl from the club, shows up at his door with a black eye. She tells Sam that Profaci beat her up when she refused to sleep with him. She spins a hard-luck story about how she traded her body to pay of her dad's debts, but swears she wants out of the life now. Then she strips down and invites Sam to bed. Sam declines... but after taking a swig of beer, things get seriously freaky. He has visions of getting' busy with Adrienne, Annie and (yipe!) his mom, as well as a kind of hysterical vision of gene putting on a smarmy Euro-trash accent and taking his mom out to tango. He wakes up handcuffed to the bed. It was a set-up -- Adrienne drugged him and then took incriminating pictures of him, which Casso will use to keep Sam in line.

But one of Sam's many speeches rubbed off on Adrienne -- she slips a note under his door giving him a heads-up about Casso's drug stash. Then she ends up dead. That's enough to Gene to finally see that the devil he knows is too much devil indeed. He and Sam bust the place, even though Casso promises dire consequences.

Days of future past
We get some weird, weird bits with Sam's time-addled head -- the toy robot we once saw rolling around Central Park and the police station turns out to be one of young Sam's toys. It goes walkabout, shrinks -- and drives into adult Sam's ear. Ew.

When Sam meets his mom, he freaks out a bit -- understandably. He freaks out even more when Annie goes the Freudian psychoanalysis route in dealing with his "delusion" -- obviously Sam wants to sleep with his mother! The look of horror on Sam's face is priceless.

Sam's mom is in much bigger trouble than he ever realized when he was a kid -- she actually ends up at the club, in a red dress he remembers from his childhood, to pay off her debt... somehow. Was she turning to prostitution? Who knows -- because Future Sam's policing stopped her. She goes home, crying, and young Sam hears her. It's one of the memories Future Sam gets hit with back in the past... present... whatever we're in. My head hurts.

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends

  • Nice use of Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion."
  • When Rose, Sam's mom, asks his name, he improvises. "Sky... walker. Luke Skywalker.... My family has Navajo roots." He neglects to mention his early life on a moisture farm on Tatooine.
  • Sam tries bonding with his mom: "Aside from the fact that you took money from a thug and your husband's never home, how are you?" he asks, earnestly. It doesn't go over well.
  • The little girl from the photos last week rides by on her bike, singing the Sandman song Sam's mom used to sing to put him to sleep. Is she a young version of Maya, or just a recurring temporal haunting, like the British series' Test Pattern Girl?
  • Sam watches Nixon on TV, complaining that the man needs to just resign already. At one point, when Nixon is talking about energy independence, the television fuzzes out and shots of Bush talking about the exact same thing flicker in and out.
  • At Grasso's club, while everyone is dancing to velvet Underground and T- Rex, Sam spots a guy wearing a Nirvana "Nevermind" shirt. Annie is unimpressed -- "Eastern philosophy is very hot right now!"
  • Sam runs into Jim Croce at the club. He tells Croce that "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" was his favorite song when he was a kid -- surprising, since it only came out a few months ago. He warns Croce to stay away from small airplanes. Croce responds, "Right. And you stay away form hallucinogens." Hee!
  • Ray tends to annoy me, but I will acknowledge one hell of a good line this week. Sam mutters that Adrienne was in his apartment, and then things got confused. She "blasted you into outer space to explore the vast reaches of her crab nebula," Ray snarks. Not bad, Ray.
  • Windy is thin on the ground this time out, which is disappointing. However, she does have one good moment: She's talking about times when past, present and future seem to be colliding, and says it's very discombobulating -- "Like that time Deep Purple went on The Dating Game."
  • Sam shows off his culinary skills, making Adrienne a grilled cheese by ironing a tin-foil-wrapped sandwich. She's impressed. "Wait 'til breakfast -- I make a mean western omelet with a vacuum cleaner and a sponge," he says.
  • We get to see a glimmer of a potential relationship between Sam and Annie -- he's impressed when he sees her out of uniform, and she insists he dance with her at the club. Later, she's very disappointed to discover him locked up, naked, in his apartment after the night with Adrienne. But she hears what happened, and says, "I thought if I ever saw you naked it would be under very different circumstances." I hope they don't try to force a relationship -- it just doesn't seem to fit these characters well.