I Am The Night
“Phenomenon of Interference” (Episode 102)
February 4, 2018
Last week on I Am The Night, we met Pat, a young girl growing up as a mixed race child in 1960’s Nevada. After a little sleuthing, Pat learned the shocking secret that her mother is NOT her birth mother and that her real name is Fauna Hodel. Fauna sets out for California to learn more about her mother and her family. In Los Angeles, we met Jay Singletary, a down and out reporter trying to find a reason to keep living every day. Haunted by his coverage of a sexual assault trial some 16 years prior, Jay has suffered a loss of professional credibility and personal self-worth.
Catch up on all of the action from last week’s episode with our deep dive recap and review here! Now, on to tonight’s all new episode of I Am The Night … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
Open scene. Fauna arrives to her aunt’s house to a warm welcome from Auntie Big Momma (Ebony Jo-Ann), Jimmie Lee’s sister. Big Momma is getting Fauna settled in and tells her daughter, Tina (Shoniqua Shandai) to help bring Fauna uptown on the bus to her grandfather. There’s genuine warmth between the three of them, which is a stark contrast to the sweet and sour nature of Fauna’s relationship with Jimmie Lee.
Fauna and her cousin are on the uptown bus. There’s an altercation at the front of the bus; the bus driver’s refusing entrance to a black woman he claims never pays. A black man defends her loudly, shouting that he’ll pay for her. The scene ends.
Jay meets Peter back in the King Eddy Saloon where he plops down, sliding Peter the Janis Brewster morgue photos. Peter is aghast at Jay’s appearance, to which Jay responds, “you should see the other girl! I kicked her ass!”
Because holy shit, Jay; looking pretty horrendous.
Jay excitedly relays the anonymous call he received about Hodel. Peter rails pretty heavily against him reopening the Hodel case. Peter gives some more backstory which tortures Jay to relive …
Exposition Time! There was a libel case involving Hodel that got people fired and almost took down the entire newspaper. Tamar ended up recanting her story that Hodel was involved in “that murder” and was shipped off to a convent. Jay is incredulous because he knows the truth is in there and he wants a shot at redemption. Peter alludes to the corruption in the LAPD, with only power and protection for the right people. There is no justice to be found in LA … Peter is preaching while we cutaway to the Good Samaritan from earlier being dragged into street, beaten by the cops, and arrested. As Peter continues talking about all the reasons Jay can’t reopen the Hodel investigation, we see Fauna and Tina and all the other passengers running fast and far from the bus chaos.
Fauna is walking up to Hodel’s Aztec house with pieces plucked from Tenochtitlán with creepy and ominous music playing. No one answers the door.
That night, Fauna is at a party with her cousin, finding herself having to defend her “blackness” when Tina’s friend, Nero (Brian Bradley Jr.), challenges her mixed-race status. She’s uncomfortable but finds a kind moment to share with another of Tina’s friends, Terrence (Justin Cornwall). In a brief word vomit, Fauna unloads her entire life story vis a vis what has brought her to LA. There’s a sweet friendship being struck up here.
As Fauna is walking home with her cousin, Tina, Terrence and Nero, she feels someone watching her. There’s Mr. Black Car rolling slowly by. This time, Fauna is freaked out by him stalking her. She runs to rejoin the others.
Jay enters his building and sees a woman passed out in the lobby. They know each other; she’s looking for a hit. He helps her to his apartment and sets her up on the couch where she starts putting on the mooooves. He shuts that down and starts looking through old notes on the George Hodel trial. He wonders where she is and why she was sent to a convent. Lily wakes up and comments he’s all twisted. He’s frustrated he’s not piecing it all together. Thinking out loud about the case and thinking he “could get it back.” The Hodel case, “destroyed everything in its path … like a biblical plague … like a double shadow blackening the grass it falls upon.”
He believes Hodel’s daughter, Tamar, holds secrets and the key to his redemption. Lily pipes up she’s not there for fun. She wants a hit and it’s his fault that she’s a junkie. Lily leaves without drugs or sexy times.
The next morning Fauna is curious to know if Auntie Big Momma knew anything about her birth mother. Fauna wonders if she’ll be different after meeting her white family. Auntie Big Momma is eager to change the subject to Terrence, a boy from the party. Nero from the party calls. Auntie Big Momma is not a Nero fan.
“Bad apple. Rotten tree.”
We Mr. Black Car watching Auntie Big Momma’s house as we head to commercials.
News room. Jay didn’t know that Peter had an office; he’d gone looking for him at the bar. Jay completely swipes Peter’s pen. Classic Move! Peter is mad that Jay missed the scoop on Janis Brewster.
Come on dude, cut Jay a little slack. He was beaten to a pulp, stashed in a patrol car overnight with a roll of film shoved in his sock and an attempted suicide.
The scoop on Janis is that she was a prostitute down on Hollywood and Vine. Her killer was dubbed the Bloody Romeo by a competing, dumpier paper, the Sun Examiner (think the NY Post). Peter sends Jay to investigate a guy the police picked up for the murder, Brody Styles. He confessed to the murder but Jay snarks that no one ever confesses to things they didn’t do. Peter moves on to a phone call but leaves Jay with a tight deadline and the inventive to wow him.
“Pulitzer’s all around!”
Fauna calls Corinna, her step-grandmother, who has no recollection of speaking to her two nights before (psst … those plentiful wine bottles surrounding you last night, honey, might have played a factor here). Corinna tells Fauna that Tamar is dead and tries to blow her off. Fauna insists on coming by the house and meeting the fam and Corinna relents. She tells Fauna to come alone and do a specific knock on the door when she gets there – DO NOT RING THE BELL! Okay, weirdo.
Before we leave Corinna, I have some commentary. Her accent seems much stronger than in the one minute we heard her in the Pilot episode. And it doesn’t seem real to me. Like someone putting on airs. [Ed. Note: It seemed very “Old Hollywood” to me, like a starlet from the 1930s instead of 1965.]
Jay meets a jailhouse snitch, Horace (Myles Cranford), who gives up the goods on Brody Styles in exchange for a triple gin. Horace tells Jay that Brody is a known police informant, but now the LAPD have turned the tables on him. Brody also has a case of bad arthritis that would make it impossible for him to physically commit the murder he’s accused of and he’s not the type of guy a white woman would get into a car with anyway.
Fauna makes the long trek to the Hodel residence, I am glad to see that she’s finally showing some sense to be extremely wary of all passing cars. Black Car Stalker has made an impression on her for sure.
The Hodel Manse. We finally meet step-grandma Corinna (Connie Nielsen) as she opens the door for Fauna. She lets Fauna in after a moment’s hesitation, weirdo vibes are oozing off this one.
We come back from break and Corinna is giving Fauna an abbreviated tour of the big house, mentioning that some of the art was done by her father, Tom Huntington, who eventually went mad. The creep factor in this place is amp’d to like, an 11. Corinna looks every bit of a Hollywood bombshell, typical of the time but man, she seems strange. She tells Fauna that she sees a resemblance to Tamar, but hopes Fauna has a better nature than Tamar.
Fauna’s left alone for a moment, so she looks around the room and walks down the hall looking at pictures. Off screen, Corinna talks about the family lineage; her Hodel line stems from Russian nobility. Fauna finds a photo of a black man, but she’s found out and told not to be snoopy. Fauna asks about Tamar. Corinna used to call her Apate, the goddess of deceit from Greek mythology. A doctor had labeled her a pathological liar and Corinna says she ruined the family. Fauna asks what she lied about and Corinna evades.
“Enough sad stories. I am going to show you something, wonderful.”
Cut to Jay meeting Eddie in a diner. Eddie doesn’t suspect anything wrong with the Brody confession and has a contact for Jay connected to the Brewster murder. Eddie experiences a little shell shock moment when some plates break off-camera. They’re both faraway and lost in their old narratives. Jay pitches his idea on how the truth will win out in a case about an illegal abortion clinic and the daughter knew everything but vanished. Eddie advises him to seek out the good doctor’s ex-wife.
The Hodel Manse. Fauna and Corinna are leaving together. Meanwhile, Jay, heeding Eddie’s advise to find the ex-wife, is snooping over the Hodel’s fence, trying to figure out who Fauna is. He mutters aloud that, “she’s too young to be Tamar.”
In the car, Fauna asks about her family, about George. Corinna is elusive on the here and now, but says he was trained on piano by Rachmaninoff and was highly intelligent. Mr. Black Car and Jay are following behind. So much following in this show!
Jay follows up with Eddie for the address of the girl that knew Janis Brewster. Eddie asks if he’s made progress on the old case he mentioned earlier but Jay is resigned …
“Just chasing ghosts.”
Fauna and Corinna are at lunch as Fauna struggles with the art of fine dining.
Pretty Woman rules: Just start at the outside and eat your way in!
Corinna blows off all requests to see George, but is keen to show Fauna art he influenced. Corinna gives Fauna a little information: George had worked for the LA County Health Department specializing in STDs, and he had worked for the UN in China and the Philippines. As they enter the gallery, Corinna starts a dissertation on the nature of art and surrealism.
“When we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, art is all that remains.”
As they walk to the gallery, Corinna gives Fauna her interpretation of surrealism, “What is dreamt is often more real than what we think of the surreal … The waking state can be considered a phenomenon of interference.”
Episode title is mentioned, Drink!
In the art gallery, Corinna leaves Fauna alone for a moment. The music mood changes to sinister and we feel she’s being watched. From above in a loft, we hear a man’s voice whisper, “Fauna.” The voice is chilling, similar to the “Hannibal Lecter” voice from the first episode. Fauna seeks out the disembodied voice and finds two men in the adjacent gallery, critiquing art. One removes his hat. It’s Mr. Black Car. Well, what the fuck is that about?
Hollywood and Vine. Jay checks out the Wendy Sidowski (Mickey O’Hagan) lead. In a ramshackle apartment, Wendy is strung out but lucid enough to tell Jay what she knows of Janis. Basically, Janis was pretty prejudiced so there’s no way she’d ride with a black man and that lately she’d been in a good mood because she’d met a nice guy. Jay parties with Wendy and her roommate, Mary (Dale Dickey). When Jay wakes up he’s on the floor, kind of like a puddle on the floor – he’s spread out pretty much all over. He’s with one of the working girls we met just a moment ago. She is talking about her baby that was taken from her at birth, in the convent she was sent to as an unwed mother. Jay sits upright, the wheels turning in his brain. He puts Tamar at a convent 16 years ago together with the image of the young girl he saw earlier in the day … it’s a light bulb moment! He bolts from the drug den muttering, “shit, shit, shit” all the way.
The Hodel Gallery. Fauna is playing hide and seek with Mr. Black Car and his mystery friend. Mystery friend is pontificating about art and the nature of surrealism. The music is a string of tension. Suddenly, he faces Fauna, startling her by asking if she has a favorite work? Mystery Friend is the same guy from the rest stop from last episode. Fauna Runs!
Outside, we see Jay arrive back at the gallery.
Inside, Fauna finds Corinna and they leave. AS they leave through one door, Jay enters the art gallery from another. He is running through the gallery looking for Fauna but makes his way back outside just after they’ve left in Corinna’s car. A security guard makes the unfortunate decision to scold Jay on his driving earlier and Jay punches his ass out. He gets in his car and drives away. Jay is looking stressed!
In the car with Corinna, Fauna is pressing for more information. Corinna concedes a bit and tells Fauna she’s not mixed race (see earlier: Tamar was a pathological liar), her father was a French ballet dancer visiting one Summer. Fauna is upset and accuses Corinna of lying.
“Racist old cow. You can’t lie on a birth certificate. That’s a legal document!”
Fauna gets out to catch her bus and Corinna drives off. Fauna, upset, stands alone, lost in thought. On the bus, totally unbeknownst to Fauna, Mr. Back Car sits down just a few rows in front of her. The game of stalking continues as the episode comes to an end.
This episode feels a little sleepy compared to the first one. There weren’t the steep hooking angles that we sunk our teeth into like in the Pilot. However, this was a necessary episode for the deepening of the mystery of George Hodel, of Tamar Hodel, and for introducing some characters that will no doubt feature into the story as it develops.
Compared to the first episode, Fauna’s personality has changed. She was chatty and happy prior and now that her life is topsy turvy, she’s more unsure of herself. She’s trying to assert who she is now.
On the character front, tonight, I found myself missing the feisty pendulum personality of Jimmie Lee. For me, Jimmie Lee and Jay Singletary are the stand out characters. As for the Hodels that we’ve met, I don’t understand Corinna and George; they’re divorced but she speaks about him with such reverence. [Ed. Note: They’re weirdos to the nth degree.]
On the Jay storyline, I wasn’t buying the notion that he couldn’t figure out why a teenage girl in the late 1940s would be sent to a convent. This annoyed me, but I got over it. There’s definitely a building undercurrent of racial tension that the director and writers are not afraid to tackle, but how in depth will they go? We feel no closer to an answer, just still bewildered at the mysterious nature of the characters and very curious as to how will it unravel.
Thanks for reading along and join me next week as we delve deeper into the mysteries of I Am The Night.