Queen of the South (Episode 1×02) Cuarenta Minutos – Recap and Review

Queen of the South aired its second episode Thursday night: Warning Spoilers Ahead.

If you recall the first episode, Teresa (Alice Braga) had gotten cozy with Guero, a drug distributor. The head of the cartel Epifanio Varga (Joaquim de Almeida) had Guero and his pal killed because they were stealing from him, and he was after Teresa and the other guy’s wife too. Killing an entire family is supposed to be usually a strong deterrent to prevent such occurrences.

But Teresa escaped and survived a car wreck that she caused after killing Epifanio’s driver. They had driven her out into the desert to kill her. Epifanio said, Help me out of the wreck, and I’ll let you live. Leave me, and I will kill you. Do you think that there’s any place you can run to that I won’t find you?

Teresa leaves and later she falls into the clutches of Camilia Varga, whose network remained in place in Mexico.  Camilia has left Epifanio because he wanted to leave the drug business to enter politics. Camilia decided to stay in and she relocated to Dallas, Texas. Her drug operation continued. The closing line of the first episode was spoken by Camilia to Teresa,

Welcome to America.

So as the second episode, called Cuarenta Minutos (Forty Minutes), opened, Teresa is in the lockup portion of Camilia’s drug operation warehouse. It is here that some women who are used as mules to transport the drugs are held captive. They are regularly shot up with drugs to keep them docile as well as to keep them needy enough for the drugs to remain in play as the mules when necessary.

So another girl in the care of Camilia’s warehouse gang approaches Teresa. She relates that she gets better food, special privileges, and so forth because she does some work for them. It maybe that she provides sex, but it is definite that she swallows small packets of H for delivery, which is the job of these girls as ‘mules’.

How do I know this?

Because within minutes, this young girl keels over dead. Teresa calls for help, but there’s no help to be given as she’s already dead. They place the dead girl on a table, and then, as if slicing open an old canvas valise, they cut her open to retrieve the packets. They are only able to pull out 23 as the other two packets likely ruptured and poured the H into the girl’s system, thereby killing her.

While they were retrieving the H, a gate was left open, and Teresa attempted to make a run for it. But they captured her minutes later.

Meanwhile Camilia is palling around with some Dallas bigwigs at a Christmas party. Camilia gets a text from her lieutenants – Teresa tried to run. 

Queen of the South - Season 1

She immediately leaves the party and heads back to the warehouse. Teresa is told unceremoniously that because she tried to run, she will now have to work as a mule. When Teresa refuses, Camilia tells her guys – okay drug her up then put her to work.

Queen of the South - Season 1

With a needle only inches away, Teresa frantically changes her mind – okay I’ll do it. I’ll make your delivery.

That decision begins a long set piece. Teresa has to have a passport made up. tickets for a flight have to be purchased, and they have to get to the airport. I won’t spoil the set piece for you, but it is pretty complex and well done.

Plus the set piece is cross-cut with Camilia a) talking with Epifanio on the phone, and b) discussing arrangements with a new banker which as you all know means ‘money laundering’. The banker is both eager and cautious. He tells Camilia that he works on a percentage as commission. She is just as cagey – We’ll see how you perform before we settle on your ‘compensation’.

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Queen of the South – New Series on the USA Network

Did you catch the premiere episode of Queen of the South which aired on the USA Network on Thursday. A better title might have been The Never-ending Story (which has been used before) because, yes – this is yet another story about the drug trade.


Following along the same path as the Oscar nominated Sicario (which opened last October) and the Netflix Original Series Narcos which also aired last fall, The Queen of the South takes the path less traveled. This time the head of a drug cartel is a woman.

As the series opens we watch a woman, who is dressed elegantly as well as expensively, step down from her own private helicopter. She will tell us that she is the head of the largest drug empire in the Western Hemisphere. Her name is Teresa Mendoza, and her role is played by Alice Braga.


QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Piloto" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza, Jon Ecker as Guero -- (Photo by: Benedicte Desrus/USA Network)

Like Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s Scarface, Teresa began in the streets. Montana washed dishes in a greasy spoon in Little Havana (Miami), and Teresa worked as a street side money changer. She caught the eye of one El Guero, a captain in the cartel hierarchy.

Of course it was love at first sight. And in minutes Teresa and El Guero are living it up in an elegant home. There’s a double reference to Scarface as we watch Teresa in a huge bubble bath watching a video with Al Pacino saying Say hello to my little frien…

There’s also something that El Guero gives Teresa. I’ll call it the Take Me and Run bag. It has lots of cash, a passport, a gun, a book of drug business secrets, and of course, a phone. Just the sort of thing Jason Bourne always has lying around. Guero tells Teresa – Keep this phone. If it ever rings, it means I am dead. And when you have to – trade this journal for your life.

Ominous? Certainly. And even more certain is that, at some point, Teresa will have to hit the streets on the run. You see, Guero and another distributor, have gotten greedy. Stealing from the cartel’s supply, they’ve branched out to do some business on the side. A definite no-no.

The head of the cartel is one Epifanio Vargas played by the familiar (and always great) Joaquim de Almeida. But he has political aspirations. He wants to step out of the cartel business and become legitimate, like a politician. He wants to become Governor of the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

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