From Brian F. O’Byrne

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 12: “Mother Nature’s Son”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 12: “Mother Nature’s Son”
Directed by David Duchovny
Written by Sera Gamble

* For a review of the previous episode, “Can You Take Me Back?” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “I Will” – click here
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The penultimate Season 2 episode of Aquarius starts on August 9th of ’69. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) holds his gun on the killer who’s been tormenting him these many, many months.
Cut to Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony) raving at Bobby Beausoleil (Mark L. Young) and Sadie (Ambyr Childers). He says the need to “get to the desert” where they’re headed, y’know to the City of Gold where he believes they’ll be spending time during the coming race war. Madness, Charlie. They’ve got their eyes on the guy who provided them with mescaline for weird Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett), a fella named Gary Hinman (Jefferson White). Might be trouble.
Hodiak is in bed with Billie Gunderson (Olivia Taylor Dudley) enjoying his newfound retirement. At the station, Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is struggling to contain his heroin habit. He’s now a full blown junkie, all the way.
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Finally we see a little more about Walt Hodiak (Chris Sheffield). His father goes to see him and now Walt is deciding to recant, not wanting to rot away in jail for the rest of his life. Sad that he has to go against his own personal principles, though. Sometimes that’s what American justice is: a load of shit.
Unsuspecting Gary finds Bobby and Sadie show up to see him. And things get nasty real quick. The poor guy doesn’t have much more for them to take, so naturally Sadie and Bobby get pissed off. That won’t mean anything good, for anybody.
I keep anticipating how Shafe is going to end up where we’ve seen him in the flash-forwards to those fateful August nights. For now he’s out doing detective work, generally getting things done. A bit of a close call with bossman Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly) nearly outs his drug addiction. Later, at a god damn crime scene after collaring a murderer, Brian decides to shoot up out behind the house. Like a maniac. He’s fallen awfully far.
An explosion on a university campus has Officer Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) riled up. She thinks she can find proof for her superiors. Is it back into the field for Charmain? Hope so. She’s awesome.
Sadie rambles to Gary about “the end of the world” that Charlie speaks about. All the guy can do is give up a couple cars for them to take. Along for the ride, Mary (Abby Miller) doesn’t take part in any of it, though can’t stop anything either. If any of you know who Himan was in real life, or Beausoleil, you know what’s coming. On the phone, Charlie tells Bobby what to do, by appealing to his wounded past. That was the biggest problem Manson posed to those around him, he preyed on the weak. Just like the chicken hawks he rages against during his phone call with Bobby. Eerie conversation.
Then there’s Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne), whose conflict of being a hardline Republican on the Nixon team and being gay continually butt heads. He’s trying to crawl his way back from the scandal of being exposed. Who knows what he’ll do next.
OH, and surprise, surprise: Shafe lost his murderer. Nowhere to be found. Good job, junkie.
Charmain gets back to her old friend from undercover. Except she knows that Charmain is a cop. So the girl is given the deal: help, or go down with the idiot running things.

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Using an actual bit of history, Manson shows up at Hinman’s place. Brandishing a sword and claiming: “I need a thousand dollars.”
The best yet is that Shafe is almost ready to face the music when his murderer, Jeff, pops up in the seat behind him. Hilarious. Then he takes the detective on a nice chase. Imagine being high as fuck on heroin and having to run after a guy covered in blood? Crazy. Shafe shoots the guy in the ass to slow him down.
Charlie gives Gary a nice slice across the face when he doesn’t get what he wants. You can see lots of details about the actual event and case right here. And there’s plenty more to come.
Sam and Walt try to do a bit of bonding at home. Father Hodiak talks about once having to leave a man behind during his time at war: “Every morning I wake up and sometime between standing up and coffee I remember, oh, Im a coward.” Everything comes down hard on his son. Much as Sam tries, Walt believes he’s failed everybody; his fellow soldiers, his mother, his own cause. “You can hold a conviction and still make the decision to live,” Walt tells him.
With all sorts of leverage against people around him, Ken tries to work his way back up from nothing. His back is against the wall, so he tries to push back against both his own wife Grace (Michaela McManus) and Hal. He gets what he wants while blackmailing and fighting as dirty as it gets.

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Hodiak gets a call at his place from the killer who’s been leaving him pictures of women in terrible distress. He taunts Sam, challenging him to “use that celebrated brain” and come get him.
Things are getting darker for Hinman. He tries to get Mary to help him out, but it’s no use. Manson has them all wrapped around his finger, and he shows up once again. Sinister plans ahead. When Mary tries to let Gary go she’s caught in the act. Charlie makes her play some piano while Bobby stabs Hinman to death before smearing blood on the walls. “That is shot one of the revolution,” says Charlie.
A cop ends up finding Bobby Beausoleil in his car with blood on his arms after the young man falls asleep in his car at the roadside. Uh oh.

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Back to that opener, as we see Hodiak on August 9th of ’69, confronting the killer he’s been seeking out. Shafe comes down into the basement trying to stop him from pulling the trigger.
Will he?
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An absolutely fascinating penultimate episode for this season. Cannot wait to watch “I Will” and see what the finale will give us. I know NBC is going to dump this and they likely won’t get a Season 3, however, a guy can hope. I dig this series, for all its faults. Lots of fun. Fingers crossed on a renewal.

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Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 11: “Can You Take Me Back?”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 11: “Can You Take Me Back?”
Directed by Timothy A. Good
Written by David Reed

* For a review of the previous episode, “Blackbird” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Mother Nature’s Son” – click here
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On August 9th, 1969, Emma Karn (Emma Dumont), Tex Watson (Cameron Deane Stewart), and Sadie (Ambyr Childers) take charge of their victims. Mostly, Tex and Sadie do the dirty business. They blast one away while they setup the noose from a beam on the ceiling.
Cut to awhile before. Four months since the last episode. Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) and Ken Karns (Brian F. O’Byrne) laze around at Spahn Ranch in a perpetual orgy of bodies. In other news, Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) and his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) aren’t doing any better. She’s not coming back any time soon it looks like. At the same time he’s slipping back towards using drugs again.
And then there’s Dt. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) – his car’s stolen, but the precinct holds bigger issues. The police commissioner recently resigned because of corruption and such under his watch, partly due to Hodiak and his slippery detective work, his… issues. Now, Sam is suspended for the foreseeable future. Hmm. That won’t sit right with him, you can be sure.
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Up at Spahn, Ken and Emma are entering a new era of their father-daughter relationship. He’s doing his thing, leaving behind all the time he wasted in his life. Doubtful he’ll be finding any comfort there. We start hearing more about Charlie’s madness. First there’s him digging holes to hide food and anything else they have on hand. Secondly, the plan for hiding in a “hole” out in the desert. What that refers to is the fact Manson actually believed the Family would hide under the Grand Canyon in the City of Gold. Bigger problems arise when the Manson baby gets taken by the police after a couple of the women encounter some officers. All because Ken’s card wouldn’t work at the store. So, naturally, Charlie blames him. Things are tense.
Hodiak kicks around the station and tries helping his fellow officers. Yeah, that’ll go well. He hops in on an interrogation; an Asian man was attacked, then killed a man in defence. He says it was prejudice, Sam feels differently. Of course he can’t do much more, being suspended and all.
As expected, Brian – with the help of his buddy from the clinic, Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph) – falls back into the arms of heroin. While up at Spahn, Charlie is putting the pressure on Ken to start pumping money into the Family. I can see a hard, brutal fallout coming a mile away. Just depends at what point that happens.
Grace Karns (Michaela McManus) doesn’t know where her husband is, so she’s trying to move on with parts of her life. She has options, although her father is footing the bill while she and her husband are separated. I feel bad for her, yet not totally for how she treated Emma.
At home, Shafe and Vickery trip hard. Possible the heroin was cut with something because Brian takes a hard trip down the rabbit hole, hallucinating wildly. No wonder he’s headed for a bit of self-destruction, as we’ve seen glimpses of where he ends up on the nights of the Manson Family murders.
Charlie and the Family are working towards their big plan. By the minute, Ken starts to see how his old buddy is dangerous, more criminal than he ever thought. Speaking of old buddies, Vickery starts overdosing at Shafe’s place. Being a cop, he doesn’t want to call an ambulance. Instead he tries to handle things himself. In the middle of it all, Roy Kovic (David Meunier) comes through the door with a sawed-off shotgun pointed at Brian. Ah, great!

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When Sam gets talking to the Japanese man whom he interrogated earlier. He talks about being at war, as the Japanese man tells him of being in an interment camp on U.S. soil. What we discover is that Hodiak found out that who this man killed used to be a guard in the same internment camp where he was locked away. Very curious.
Terry Melcher (Chase Coleman) has agreed to record Charlie, to get him off Wilson’s back. All is well, I guess. Ken sees more and more the strange brainwashing that happens with the Manson Family, as once Charlie leaves the table the women are allowed to eat. Tragic, all those young lives wrapped up in his mania.
The sexism Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) experiences is always present. She reels off a story about even her own father’s misogyny. One of the upper-ups gives her a shot to turn things around. Only if she helps him “fix” a problem of his own. Does that involve double-crossing her mentor?
Oh, things are getting worse for Shafe, and for everybody. Roy isn’t pleased with all the undercover bullshit. Will it wash out as a “drug deal gone wrong“? When Kristin comes in during the whole confrontation everything becomes scarier.
Now Charmain’s being summoned by Brian, as he and his wife sit at the end of Roy’s shotty. Kovic talks about some of the Manson ramblings, the “wheel of karma” that crushes those in its way.
That addiction of Hodiak’s, the need for mystery in his police life, it won’t stop. He figures out that the man the Japanese gentleman accidentally killed had a wife; she had an affair with the Japanese man in the camp where she taught. This produced a child, and then the man wanted revenge. Still, it’s “justifiable homicide” and lets the man go. You can tell he didn’t take any pleasure in killing the other guy, he didn’t even know he had a son. All that will weigh on him, forever.
Roy is bearing down on Charmain and the Shafes. Things are not looking good. Until the half-overdosed Vickery plants a heroin needle in Kobvic, starting a brutal fight between the biker and Charmain. All ending with a knife right in Roy’s heart. That just leaves them with a mess. At least nobody’s dead. The Shafes marriage? This did it no favours, either.

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After getting the Manson baby back to the Family, Ken wonders why anybody sticks around anymore. Everything at the ranch is getting dire. Emma then reveals to her father she’s with child. Not exactly a jump for joy bit of news, but news nonetheless. Charlie’s got the recording finished, and Ken did up a contract. To please the master. Melcher doesn’t want to sign anything. Then he goes on a tirade against Manson, insulting him terribly. Yet another incident to drive Charlie crazy. Also serves to drive Ken off from the ranch.
With everything happening, Charmain tears into Sam about the way he conducts himself. “I dont your permission to tell the truth,” she says. “Sometimes I wonder, did I create the monster, or did I just drag it back from the swamp?” Sam replies.
Hodiak hands in his resignation to Cutler then heads out. He says he’s done. Not sure how Charmain feels in the end, though she looks surprised. Everything is falling apart, for everybody, from Sam to the Shafes to Charlie and Ken.
Cut to August 9th of ’69 again. With a baby inside her, Emma watches as Sharon Tate, with child, is murdered savagely by the Manson Family. A too late and horrific awakening.
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What a wild episode. This show gets better with each passing chapter in Season 2. Up next is “Mother Nature’s Son” and it brings us to the penultimate finisher. I know NBC hasn’t really treated this series with the respect it deserves. It will likely never see Season 3. I do, however, feel it deserves one. After the decent Season 1, Aquarius stepped up its game hugely, in writing, directing, editing, all aspects. So I do hope NBC gives it a swan song third season to explore the last bits of the Manson days.

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 8: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 8: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Directed by Nelson McCormick
Written by Alexandra Cunningham

* For a review of the previous episode, “Piggies” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Sexy Sadie” – click here
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Last we left the characters of Aquarius, Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is a junkie, Emma Karn (Emma Dumont) was being taken away in a black car, and of course Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) was caught in the middle.
We open in 1969, the night of August 10th. Shafe is full of blood. He makes a call, but it’s clear he is strung out. He paces through the scene, as his voice narrates in voice-over while he takes a look at all the bodies. He lies on the couch looking awful.
Switch back to 12 months prior. He’s going through the motions of withdrawal, sweating hard in bed and sick from the smell of coffee. “You dont have a fever,” his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) clearly knows there’s something other than a flu at hand.
And Hodiak, he’s got his own crutch: a little liquor in the coffee. But at least he’s not waking up sweating and crawling out of his skin. He has other things to which he must tend. He got a call last episode that’s kept him intrigued, although nothing else is turning up to help.
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Out of nowhere, Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) shows up to see Hodiak outside the precinct. He’s looking for Emma, who hasn’t returned yet since being whisked away in that black car. Oh, he ain’t  happy. One of his women have wandered off; not good for a misogynist like Charlie. “Ever know somethinbut you don’t know how you know it?” he asks Sam cryptically. There is lots of tension here. Whereas Manson is worried for Emma, he isn’t worried for the right reasons. What I’m excited to see now is more of the intersection between Charlie and Hodiak, how that will play out further in the back end of this season.
Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) is off taking care of some business. He has Nixon sneakiness to be done concerning Vietnam. He meets with a diplomat from their government (François Chau of Lost fame). A little bit of iced coffee can’t exactly smooth over Karn’s message. He wants to make a deal, one to do with the ceasefire and waiting for Tricky Dick to slip into the White House. Love the political intrigue mixed in with the other various subplots.
At the precinct, Hodiak is looking into a hit and run incident. He visits the ME. Turns out the incident was just a drunk man being run over while passed out in an alley. Two older women show up back at the station to claim the body, which leads Sam into a conversation about his last name’s Ukrainian origin, as the women are from there. He comes to believe they “might be murderers.” Can’t wait to see more of this. For now, Hodiak gets a visit from an old female friend; she’s brought him food, dressed up nicely, and isn’t there just to see him casually. It’s Ed Cutler’s (Chance Kelly) wife, upset about the affair her husband had with Sam’s now deceased ex-wife Opal. So Sam does some lying and promises the lady Ed is taking her on a trip soon. Yeah, right.
But the most trouble is when Sam gets home to find Charlie Manson digging around in his things. That does not sit well with the detective, obviously. He’s not happy to be pressed so hard by a dirty hippy. Charlie just wants to find Emma: “I dont like to wonder, I like to know.” They talk over the loaf Cutler’s wife made, as Charlie eats and Sam susses out more information.

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Shafe continues sweating through his withdrawals. His wife Kristin tries to help him by giving him some milk of magnesia, grapefruit juice, a peanut butter sandwich. She is a loving woman, even if he is slowly becoming less likeable and harder to deal with, and I’m not sure how long they’ll last. Kristin worries, she wants her husband to get better. Brian’s secrets don’t help, either.
The loaf conversation continues between Sam and Charlie. Most of it goes the way of the latter’s persuasion. While he spouts off, it’s clear Hodiak reads his every move, his every sentence and phrasing, the way he responds, and so on. Furthermore, the psychology of Manson comes out. Sam knows that Charlie only serves to “use people” and makes the women in his clan feel as if they were the ones who chose the life, not him. We all know the truth, too. They later end up jamming together on the guitar, some “Run Around Sue” and other tunes. Except Charlie keeps spying the gun on top of the fridge. Uh oh. Hodiak gets his new sleazy pal out without any violence, but it’s the air of impending violence that hangs thick over them.
In other news, Mr. Karns heads back to the diplomat’s office later, after hours. Yes – you know why. Ken has that sexual prowess going for him.


The withdrawals are getting better for Brian, only there’s no assurance his marriage will get better. For now, Kristin talks about her brother being at war, and how people over there used drugs to take away the pain of they’d done. We find out Shafe knew her brother, they were soldiers and that’s how he got introduced to Kristin. There’s an empathetic nature about her. She knew when they met he had a darkness in him, so this has all come part and parcel with their love. “Im sorry, baby,” he moans to her in the throes of his terrible addiction.
Sam is trying to figure out if those two Ukrainian women are in fact killers. He’s got his buddy Joe Wilson (Brian Goodman) hoping to get back into the detective work again, doing his best to help. In league with Sam’s uncle Don Hodiak (David Proval), they have the Ukrainian women together, starting a fight, which helps Don come up with a translation. Good job, fellas! The old ladies know more than they let on.
Later, Hodiak calls father Ken looking for his daughter Emma. Of course he doesn’t know and eggs Sam on saying “ask my wife” and none of it leads anywhere. Sam also gets a call from Dennis Wilson – he spills the beans to the Beach Boy about Charlie and his truest intentions. That’s going to make for an interesting situation all around.
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Finally, we cut back to Shafe at the murder scene during ’69. His mind is breaking, he sees terrifying images. Then Charlie appears next to him: “Rise,” he whispers.
That is one of the words left scrawled in blood at the same murder scene, in real life when the murders occurred. Spooky.
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What a fabulous episode! A great return after the Olympics coverage. Aquarius doesn’t get enough love, but that’s fine. Those who love it, we dig it hard.
Next episode is “Sexy Sadie” and I’m excited to see where Dt. Hodiak, Dt. Shafe, Charlie, and the rest of the gang end up.

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 1: “I’m So Tired”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 1: “I’m So Tired”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by John McNamara

* For a review of the Season 1 finale, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – click here
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I’ve watched the first season, and decided to get into the second now with recaps/reviews. Join me, as we vibe along through this NBC period piece. The first season was good, though flawed. Let’s see if Aquarius can get better!
Season 2’s opener starts on Cielo Drive, August 9th in 1969. It’s 4 AM. Inside a nearby house there’s carnage. Blood on the walls and a song plays in the background. PIG is smeared on a wall in blood. Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) is trying to calm down Emma Karn (Emma Dumont) after the massacre. “No sense makes sense,” he tells her cryptically; another view behind the mask that shows us exactly what kind of psychotic with which we’re dealing. She’s on the verge of having a baby and obviously conflicted while Charlie insists “there can be no birth without death.”
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Jump back to 18 months earlier.
Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) is receiving the Medal of Valour. Outstanding service, all that. Only things aren’t exactly peachy for him despite the supposed fame. Worse than that he receives a strange picture of an unknown woman that’s sure to cause trouble. Meanwhile, he and Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) are still kicking around together, the older of the two trying to leave an impression on his hippy-ish younger counterpart.
And we can’t forget Mr. Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) with all his unsettling issues, the ties to Manson, the problems with his daughter. He’s been hooked up with a lot of bad business. No reason to think that’ll stop any time soon. Things aren’t going so well for him and his plans either. Chasing down Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett) with a gun, he ends up losing the edge. Fallout is on its way, no doubt.
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Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) is doing her best to get close to biker bad ass Roy Kovic (David Meunier). At the same time back at the Manson Family hideout, there’s always something going on. He’s got a visitor, Ralph Church (Omar J. Dorsey), whose presence affects Charlie. He seems intimidated. But Charmain, she isn’t too intimidated by Roy. Or at least she doesn’t let on. She plays things cool, swallowing pill after pill. At the ranch, Sadie (Ambyr Childers) gets smacked around a bit by Ralph while Charlie does nothing but sit there and let it happen. Then Brian arrives, insisting Ralph backs down. What I dig is the illusion of power. When a stronger alpha male shows up, Manson’s power wilts and he is no longer that big, tough ruler that he acts for the women. Very evident.
Out on the street, Hodiak is working. He’s searching for Kovic, shaking down a biker gang. He and a local Sergeant put the screws to a pretty little biker, one that might not last so long in jail with his manhood in tact, and they get a slice of info.
Late in the night Ken calls his estranged wife Grace (Michaela McManus). He makes a veiled reference about doing something terrible to a young woman; is it that dead woman, or does he mean his daughter? Or both? The next morning while preparing to shoot himself, Ken hears news about Hal being shot. He may die. Yeah – “news” to him. That at least takes the gun out of his mouth. Only to later see Hal pull through just fine.


Kovic is finally tracked down by Hodiak. He barges into the biker’s house, also finding Charmain in a state of undress. Whoa. Talk about going undercover. The two cops speak silently, as they keep Roy in the dark. “Yeah, she is just what you need,” Hodiak smirks before leaving. At the office, Sam gets more pictures. This one now shows a woman in distress, tied in the photo. Same woman as the last picture, only much scarier. This is leading to a new case for Hodiak.
Over at the ranch Charlie and Ralph are up against one another. They were in jail together. Ralph helped protect him, now he wants something in return. Is there more than that? Did Charlie offer something up for protection? There’s no telling what’s happened. Regardless, Ralph is starting to take over. And Charlie feels his hold on those women, his people, slipping with every moment. He tires to get Kovic to help out, though the biker boss doesn’t exactly look all that concerned. He’s dealing with Brian and their deals; Brian is more concerned with Charmain and her charging in head-on through dangerous territory.
Already starting in on the pictures, Hodiak tries to locate clues about the girl in them. Simultaneously, he’s meeting with Ron Kellaher (Tim Griffin), a guy that doesn’t particularly admire Sam’s career or his way of doing things. He’s dissatisfied with Hodiak and his brand of police work. “Yknow I thought getting a medal was going to be a lot more fun,” Sam says casually.


Sam finds out there was a cop witness that Kellaher is using against him. What’s interesting about this is seeing the guy behind all the bravado. We’ve seen bits and pieces so far of his not exactly by-the-book detective work. All the same, it’s been endearing mostly, as he does it usually to push towards the greater good. Here, he’s only serving himself, and there’s less and less need for a guy like him in the police force that’s gradually, slowly changing. I always love a conflicting character. Hodiak absolutely is conflicting, though he still has likeable elements that keep you hooked.
The biker gang situation is getting worse. Charmain warns Brian about a big, dangerous night ahead, and Roy is beginning to get more suspicious of Charmain, too. A bunch of dudes involved with Kovic’s gang are laid out in a building’s basement. Executed. Military style. And Brian was almost one of them.
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Stay with me for the next episode titled “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” – a lovely title ripped from another Beatles song I really dig.