TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 6: “Child Care”
Directed by Regina King
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a review of the previous episode, “Flesh is Weak” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Goddamn Animals” – click here
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We’ve got SO MUCH going down on Animal Kingdom, from Deran (Jake Weary) coming home to Mama Smurf (Ellen Barkin), to Josh (Finn Cole) getting semi-seduced by his teacher Ms. Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe), who also happens to be an informant for the cops. Yikes.
Pope (Shawn Hatosy) is sitting in a holding cell while Baz (Scott Speedman) is out showing Lt. Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell) how fun it is to rip around in his sleek, fast car. He’s getting closer to the man, so that their next job might prove very useful. Down to the jail goes Smurf to collect Pope. Apparently he violated parole for a failed drug test. Ah, could that be those little pills mom is doping her boy with?
At school, J finds Ms. Anderson out of class. Hmm, suspicious, no? Maybe she needs a bit of distance because of her new legal task. Actually it’s more the fact Alexa does not want to do this to Josh. But she bought heroin off an undercover cop, and now finds herself under the thumb of Dt. Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux).
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The closer Belmont and Baz get, the more I worry for him. He’s obviously not going to be complicit in any robbery. However, what I worry is that Paul and his daughter Nicky (Molly Gordon) may get violently caught up in whatever the Cody Gang plans on executing. For now, Baz continues to warm to Paul. He starts figuring out that Belmont is connected to the financial aspect of the Navy. He has something to do with configuring the ATMs on the ships, so on, and this clearly puts him in touch with a ton of money. The lights in Baz’s head go on, bright. What’s most worrisome is that Smurf continually reels Pope in, lying to him, hiding the truth. It’s scary what might happen eventually. And the fact there’s a job brewing alongside all of it doesn’t make anything easier.
Dt. Yates builds her trust with Alexa by bringing her to the scene of a crime, where Smurf had Pope burn a house down to cover up witnesses. Vicious stuff. “This is what they do to outsiders,” Yates tells Alexa. She plays up the angle that Josh is not one of the Codys, and the only way to get him out of danger is to pull him away from grandma and the uncles.
At home, the Cody Gang meets up to talk about what Baz has planned. Of course there’s a little resistance to such a lofty goal. And nobody is happy about having Belmont involved. For his part Baz believes Paul is ready to break bad, and then they can get him to help. But nobody other than Smurf is too willing to start looking into it. The more alienated Pope becomes, the more unstable the Cody Gang becomes.
And aside from how Baz fits in with the boys, we continue to get a look at his other life, his father. Baz finds the trailer where his dad stays in complete disarray. He feeds the cat, he checks up, but finds no one there. No wonder he gravitated to Smurf. When it comes to Deran and Craig (Ben Robson), they aren’t totally on board with everything. They don’t like how Baz is the big man in charge. Only Deran especially can’t go against mama, and the division between all the Codys is incredibly evident, more by the day.


There’s more to Baz apart from Smurf and the Codys. He’s also got his wonderful wife Catherine (Daniella Alonso) at home, alone and lonely. He finally reveals to Catherine about his father living in a trailer, out of jail, that he goes to check on him. She doesn’t like that he still talks to his father, after all he was put through as a boy. We further discover Smurf knows nothing of it. Could be more trouble.
All the Cody boys have their little secrets from mom for the most part. Craig’s turned his back on the latest job, not wanting to skip Renn’s (Christina Ochoa) little party. Is he out of trouble on that front, though? I’m still waiting for his devious deed, leaving her alone and OD’ing, to come back and bite him. If she finds out there’ll be hell to pay.
Deran and Pope are out on a little house job. Moreover, the older of the two makes it clear: “Something happens tonight, Im cominout firing, do you understand me? Theyre gonna have to kill me, ‘cause Im not going back inside.” This begins to illustrate that something definitely happened to Pope in prison. Rape? Assault? Something. Just can’t be sure. Anyway, the two Codys go on in to get their homework assignment from Mama Smurf finished. It’s the Belmont home and they’ve come to check up on things. On their way out they set off an alarm and that alerts Paul.


The time for Renn putting together what really happened? Looks like now. Renn found out Sage, the guy Craig went after for her, was not around when she got robbed. Uh oh. She figured it all out. A few of her friends have some plans for Craig. They strap him to a chair, tie off his arm, and prepare a nice, heavy dose of H to overdose him with. Well, it isn’t real. They just scare the shit out of Craig, making him piss himself. Now he owes about $7K, or else he’s really going to die. Man, oh man. What a twisted night. Gets even wilder once Craig calls Smurf down there to work things out. More embarrassment for Big Craig – first pissing himself, now calling his mommy. Even worse, she gives away his bike, as well.
When the Belmonts get home they find the place totally trashed, all sorts of things stolen – television, computer, even Paul can’t find his briefcase. And Josh is in one hell of a moral jam. He knows exactly who broke in. When he asks Deran about it, his uncle is of course resistant, and he also doesn’t take responsibility; Baz is the one pulling these strings. “Hes not done with him,” Deran tells his nephew, re: Baz’s plans for Paul.


Smurf: “Dont you mistake my generosity for weakness
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Craig opens up to Smurf and tries to tell her how he feels left out, neglected. Although mom believes he’s able to do things his brother can’t, or won’t, and that is his strength. At the same time she tells him not to call her again in this type of jam: “Because I will not come.” Sooner or later every little boy needs to be weaned off mother’s milk.
To stave off any further trouble, Josh tries to break things off with Nicky. He knows the danger of her being involved with him, as his family is only bringing heartbreak, pain, violence to hers. Nicky does step over the line slightly, making a comment about J’s mom. All the same it is a shitty thing. Josh doesn’t want to do it, but he does so out of love for her ultimately.
The Codys are all at lunch together, some of mom’s good cornbread and spicy chilli. And this is where Pope starts to notice things are sketchy. He insists on taking Craig’s bowl. Then Deran breaks it up by taking Pope’s, so then mom takes Deran’s for her own. Wow. It’s become painfully clear what is happening. Pope realises his mother is doing more of the puppet act she’s so well known for, and things won’t be good from here on in. Upstairs, J lies to Smurf and says Nicky broke up with him. Good lord. So many lies and deceitful acts between family.

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Over at the Belmont place, Baz meets up with Paul, the latter of whom is concerned for his classified documents after the briefcase has gone missing. He worries about getting court marshalled, fired. All that. So Baz offers to have some shady tenants look for the briefcase. This is the first slide into badness that Baz serves up for Paul. To see how things look for the future. The unknowing Lt. Commander Belmont walks right into the trap. Outside, Nicky tells Baz about Josh breaking up with her. This looks as if it made Baz angry. He needs the Cody family as close to the Belmonts as possible. So he calls Josh and arranges to meet for a beer. Great.
Smurf comes clean to Pope about the pills. Good woman. Certainly Pope isn’t pleased, especially after the piss test debacle. Mom only wants him healthy, but her boy doesn’t always want to listen. “You dont like me unless Im on these pills?” he asks, like a little kid disappointed that his mother scolded him. The worry in Smurf’s eyes speaks volumes.
Out by the ocean, Baz meets with Josh. He trips J up in a lie about who dumped who. Semi-Uncle Baz warns Josh: “Youre lucky you and I are just talking right now. Youre lucky.” The uglier side of Big Barry comes out with each passing chapter. No longer is he the safe haven from the others he was before. Josh is truly alone within his own family.
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As usual, Baz and Smurf chat alone together. He lets her in on the whole situation with J, how he’s been acting, and what that may mean for them going forward. They know something must be done. So what is it? Is Nicky in danger?
This whole situation only serves to drive Josh further from the family, into terrifying waters. He goes to see Alexa. The divide in his family is going to push him into a space where the cops are getting closer. Who knows what this relationship between J and Ms. Anderson will bring.
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A great, great episode. I love this series! Every week it gets better, from acting to writing. Every last iota of the show is near perfect. I was sceptical at first, but boy, did I ever find myself proven wrong. Next episode is titled “Goddamn Animals” and I’m sure we’re about to take a trip down some dangerous roads.

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