Murder in the First: Season 2 Episode 9 – Bruja Blanca – Recap and Analysis

In last week’s recap of Murder in the First – I closed the post with a number of questions. I also surmised that Sugar Cascade was in some way connected to the shooting of Commander Michael Criolla, right there in the jail’s interrogation room.

As this episode opened, we were not given any answers to the questions, instead the producers and writers asked a question of their own, which I will get to momentarily. To begin the show, we watched the police HQ surveillance videos, expertly cut and edited by the techie Kami, who for once, did not toss any clever come-ons toward Hildy. We saw the female killer entering the building, obviously with no gun, in fact without anything, as she would have to pass through a metal detector. She entered a Mens Room and seconds later emerged with a briefcase, which carried some documents, as well as a silenced hand gun. Koto said stated the obvious when he said that [the briefcase] must have been placed there by someone in the building. Maybe an officer with an non-issue revolver stashed at his or her desk.

No sooner did Criolla say, You must be new to the firm, and then looked down at the documents, she fired a shot into his chest. She arranged him to look like he was reading the documents, and she left the room leaving behind the papers and the briefcase, and a soon to expire Criolla.

As Hildy would say, she was out of the building before Criolla was even discovered dead. A rather sharp opening for this week’s episode which was called Bruja Blanca or White Witch.

Before the credits rolled, Hildy says, The question is – who hired her?

And speaking of documents, we next join lawyer Jamie Nelson and her second chair, the fidgety Aaron Mazur. Just before they were to leave for court, a document arrives – a Petition for Divorce. We still don’t know her strategy for the Dustin Maker case, but at least we know what is ahead for Lawyer Nelson.

In court, Detective English is being asked questions by DA Siletti about Dustin Maker’s capture. Siletti is able to get Detective English to state that the stun grenade disoriented him and he couldn’t hear.

He then said, I made my way around the bus and saw a woman kneeling on the ground before Dustin Maker, pleading for her life.

English said he shot his weapon and that knocked the rifle out of Maker’s hand. Siletti closed the questioning by thanking English for saving the woman’s life, and for his service. Yes, but – why would Siletti want his detective admitting in open court that he wasn’t at his best. Well, Siletti may be the DA, but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing in court. Or it is the writers who don’t.

Nelson immediately took on English in cross, and asked if he intended to knock the weapon out of Maker’s hand with his shot. She then asked, Why didn’t you just shoot him in the head and kill him?  English stated he knew he’d be able to disarm and capture him without killing him.

This officer just stated in court that he was disoriented and couldn't hear

This officer just stated in court that he was disoriented and couldn’t hear

Really? didn’t he just state, in open court, in his own words – that he was disoriented? Didn’t he just say that he couldn’t hear. How did he know the woman was begging for her life? Nelson smartly said, No further questions. She thanked him and sat down. There was no redirect by Siletti. I’m sure this line of questioning and English’s admission will become important later on. But I’m still not sure what this will prove, or how this part of the case, Maker’s capture, can somehow be turned in to a reasonable argument to avoid the death penalty.

Raffi finds English in the hallway outside of the courtroom. You look upset – wanna get out here? she asks. While not quite the best pickup line in the history of aggressive woman, nonetheless it worked.

Seconds later they are in bed in English’s apartment. In the aftermath of sex, right after English said, Wow where did that come from? the topic of the Criolla thing comes up. Raffi names Sugar Cascade as some one who may have wanted Criolla dead.

However Raffi doesn’t readily admit that she had mentioned Criolla’s name to Sugar.

Speaking of Sugar, we next find him at the office of his financial advisor. Why – because Sugar wants to get liquid and as soon as possible. How liquid? Everything must go. The hedge funds, the partnerships, and the IRA’s. IRA seemed a bit funny to me – for a drug dealer.

What with taxes, fees, and restrictions and penalties for early withdrawals, the advisor tells him he’d lose a third of his money. Nine or ten million is the base number, and it would take about a year to do it legally. Sugar tells him – Start the process. Okay – he’s cashing out, maybe because he is thinking far ahead. That someone wants him out-of-the-way.

Back at HQ, English returns. He seems distracted as Hildy has to ask him twice how his testimony went? It went, said English. A non-answer if there ever was one.

Koto comes out and he tells the squad that Management Control (a nice fancy name for I.A.) is conducting a General Audit of the Unit’s performance. Koto tells them that everyone has to fully cooperate. English says, Who are they looking at? Koto – I said everyone didn’t I?

The first IA interview is with Navarro. It doesn’t go well. Torres (the IA dick) tells Navarro he’s looking for weak links and people without honesty. The previous question was – What about all those sick days? Navarro says he had the flu. Torres – Did you still have the flu when you snuck your brother out of the country? I guess that means that Navarro just threw himself in front of the bus if not under the bus.

Just like Raffi did when she withheld info from English. Remember, it was no secret that Criolla had transferred Raffi off the Sugar case, and she wasn’t a happy camper about that. The question is now – Did she light the fire under Sugar because she surmised he would take the bait of Tenea being set up on her drug bust and the higher-up involved may have been Criolla.

Not too subtle to us – but Sugar wouldn’t have known that he was possibly being played. Mind you – at this point nothing is clear, but Raffi’s motives are beginning to appear somewhat questionable. At least to me, they appear to be like so many new and small cracks in the cement  of the sidewalk, or her personal integrity.

Back in the courtroom, Siletti put a school girl on the stand. She went to school with Dustin, so she’s a classmate – but wait – there’s more. And in fact, she was attracted to him. One thing led to another and they began to fool around. Only Dustin was impotent that first time. In her words – He couldn’t get hard. Nelson objected to this line of questioning and the judge admonished Siletti to get to point.

Duh. Dustin was angry about not being able to perform and when he finally did, according to this girl, he seemed cold and soul-less in her words. Not a bad line of questioning by Siletti, establishing Maker’s anger as at least one root cause of the bus shootings. But we have only this girl’s word that this is what happened. Dustin looked upset when his ‘failure’ was revealed.

Nelson, later, and from her hotel called the woman Colleen who was divorcing her, and said that the timing of the divorce papers seemed a bit to sudden. Can we meet and talk about it, she asked.

English met with Sugar and let on that he knew that Sugar knew about Criolla. Sugar replied that the PD was looking bad allowing a killing in their own house. Sugar then said, I guess we talking to the same people. English said – who you talking to?

But this was like the early part of a sea battle: you know, when the Captain orders his men to fire one across the bow of the other ship as a warning. English told Sugar that people would be getting busy on this case – you know – folks worried about their jobs. Sugar said,  There’s no evidence – you got nothing on me. Which was true. English had nothing.

We then find out that a drug cartel, The Menendez Cartel had used a shooter similar to the one who took out Criolla. Navarro described her – the Bruja Blanca – the White Witch. Now despite this link to the Mexican Cartel, if you can say that hiring a world renown hitman, connects the cartel to this case – I have two theories. Yes, Sugar Cascade’s business could involve the Cartel, and they did him a solid. Not to mention that maybe they feared further investigation of the Union.

Or this casts suspicion on Raffi, whose previous work for the Mossad in Israel would give her some working and useful knowledge about international contract killers.

This is confirmed by what happens later.

Koto questions English about his interview with Sugar. English said he tossed off some moves, some feints,  some shake and bakes, and so forth, and he concluded that Sugar wasn’t involved. Koto isn’t pleased as he wanted to hang the Criolla murder around Sugar’s neck, if possible.

Just then a young Chinese woman enters the squad room after requesting Jr. McCormick. Fade out.

Sugar and Fatty B are in attendance at the Charity Basketball Tournament that Sugar Sponsors. Next thing you know Sugar is arrested at the bb game. Junior says it’s not about the Criolla Murder. Instead he is arrested for murdering the young Chinese man in the alley – the event that opened last week’s episode. Which we all saw.

Sugar is brought to the squad for interrogation. English says to Raffi – do you want to watch this – they can monitor the Sugar interview. Once inside the room, English turns off the monitor.

English: I saw the way Sugar looks at you —
Raffi: You jealous?
English: No. But I know you gave up Criolla to Sugar. Either you wanted to help Sugar, or you wanted to get a cop killed.

Back in the Interrogation Room – we have Sugar, his attorney and Junior. Junior says we have a witness and the lawyer counters with – How convenient – just when you needed it the most, a witness magically appears.

Junior – not smart enough to keep his trap shut – says something to the effect – of who would believe a black drug dealer. The lawyer responds by stating that Sugar is considered a benevolent figure in the community. I believe we can find a jury that is not as racist as you…we’ll take our chances.

Junior: [smugly] Roll them white dice…

Back in the courtroom – the parent of one of the victims is describing the after effects following the loss of their son. I wasn’t supposed to bury Jacob. He was supposed to bury me. 

Indeed an emotionally powerful speech, but highly manipulative. No doubt aided by the repetitive cuts to the courtroom spectators tearing up.

Junior and Hildy are talking. She’d just spent an hour at the Maker case. Don’t let me do that again, she tells Junior.

Junior gets a call and heads off to the Property and Evidence room. He picks up a folder that he had requested. The jury records on Cascade. The property clerk, bitter, as expected, as he’s been busted down to this – gives Junior a warning. You work in Homicide, right? That’s a good gig. Got to remember the chain of command or the next thing you know, you’ll be down here working in this shit hole.. Then he gives Junior a note.

Pay Your Debt Friday the note reads.

Did you notice that the property clerk was missing his thumb on his right hand?

So even though Criolla is dead, Junior’s debt has not been forgotten. And tied in with the warning about the chain of command – guess who that shines the light of suspicion on – you may be right if you said Koto. Then again you may be even more right if you thought – the Chief of Police. And finally doesn’t this kind of put the focus on Junior?

He’s a homicide detective – what in the world is his interest in Cascade’s jury records, which implies that Cascade’s jury for the murder of the Chinese man, has already been impaneled. Wow that was fast. Or it never happened.

If the jury was selected, and Sugar was out on bail – why would he be in the police interrogation room being questioned by McCormick?

More likely that hasn’t happened yet – which makes Sugar’s request for the Jury records on Cascade even more puzzling.

Next Jamie Nelson shows up for her dinner with her soon to be ex, Colleen. Only the soon to be ex has brought her lawyer Sabrina with her. Jamie feels ambushed. There’s a very loud and very ugly argument in a public restaurant. Before Jamie storms off, she gets quite dirty – where would you be without me…you’d still be some Bay Area dyke teaching crafting out of your garage.

Junior is upset. He doesn’t want to lose his thumb. Hildy asks him to not pay off the Union debt until Friday.

Next we are back in court. Sugar’s arraignment. He’s now in jail house orange. The DA prosecuting the murder asks for 10 million bail – given the heinous nature of the murder. Sugar’s attorney gets the bail lowered to 1 million. Guess who looks pissed by this turn of events. Right. Fatty B.

At the Siletti home, the DA is crowing about his great day in court. How the mother of one of the victims ‘destroyed’ the court room. But Siletti’s wife isn’t all that thrilled. Then the Siletti son [(remember him?] walks into their dining room with his laptop.

We’re having a discussion. Son – Not any more. You’ve got to see this. It is a video of Jamie Nelson’s dinner with Colleen. Siletti is ecstatic. He’s got something on Nelson. Legal or not, it must be on YouTube and privacy cannot be assumed in a public restaurant.

Who took the video and uploaded it to the internet? Someone with a vested interest in destroying Nelson. Someone who wants Dustin Maker to get the death penalty. Now who could that be?

Junior and Hildy meet with their Dad. They want him to tell them everything about the Union. He talks them through the Union structure along with a crude drawing on a napkin.

There’s a Headman, and there are Captains. None of the Captains know each other. Which protects the overall as well as the Headman. Each Captain recruits his own soldiers, like Criolla recruited Junior. When a captain goes away, so do the solders.

He warns Hildy and Junior. The Union has taken people out . These cops are dangerous.

Hildy: They’re not cops Dad, they’re criminals – and I’m going to take each of them down!

Boom. There’s your episode. I thought it was an excellent episode. They are still grinding up our suspicions and spitting them back out by adding new and reshaped possible suspects and motives at every turn. I wasn’t all that interested in Jamie’s divorce from Colleen – sorry make that Colleen divorcing Jamie. But now that the dinner and the ensuing argument have been made public – questions are in the air.

The musical chairs game of suspects is still in play. Navarro, Raffi, Junior, Koto, the Chief of Police are now all a part of this game and are suspect of something. The previously seen Jr. Siletti has suddenly popped back into view.

Why does Junior McCormick want the jury records. Who is he working for? I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Andy Chan Don’t forget that magical witness – the Chinese girl. After all, If Sugar goes away, Chan profits – but only if Fatty B is his man.

What do you think? Comments and theories are welcomed.

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2 thoughts on “Murder in the First: Season 2 Episode 9 – Bruja Blanca – Recap and Analysis

  1. How this: Raffi is a leader with the “Union”. She lures English into bed and points him in the direction of Sugar for Corillo’s hit. This takes the heat off of the “Union”. Remember, the captains don’t know one another so Corillo would not know that Raffi was also a captain.
    Also, the “white witch” picks up the briefcase and gun from the men’s room so the assumption is that a man planted the weapon. It could have been a woman

    • Well I can’t disagree that Raffi has some kind of a cloud hanging over her at this moment, I just don’t see her as a Union head or Captain. And yes, a woman could have planted the briefcase in the men’s room – but if Raffi is the connection to the white witch why wouldn’t the drop have been in the lady’s room.

      As far as taking the heat off the Union, that didn’t last too long, as English did go out to question Sugar, and basically cleared him, at least for now. As Sugar said there’s no evidence – you got nothing.

      The other fact is that the officer in the property and records room clearly gave Junior a hint – remember the chain of command.

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