Kitchen Table Gaming returns with a new episode around BDM’s new game, Emergents: Genesis! Anthony Conta and Matt Ferrando join for good eats and GGs

Emergents: Genesis is a brand new deckbuilding game that combines my two things that have occupied huge swaths of my professional life — comics and gaming. The game is an interactive deckbuilder in which you use a superhero avatar to fight with up to three other players. The game was designed by Anthony Conta around a world of superheroes — called Emergents — created by me. The artists who worked on the images for this game are all professional comics artists who have created mainstream titles in the superhero genre.

You have probably seen our Kickstarter (and might even have supported us). If you missed our Kickstarter but still want to support the game, you can do so at Urban Island Games. If you want to see the game in your local game shop you should tell your retailer to order it from ACD Distribution while supplies last.

This episode of Kitchen Table Gaming is all about Emergents: Genesis. This game features 13 different characters but for today’s episode I have honed in on four of them and made food (or drink) that ties into each of the four classes of powers that those Emergents possess.

I’m joined in this episode by two of the game designers who helped make Emergents: Genesis possible, Matt Ferrando and Anthony Conta. Punches are thrown; punch is drunk!

Check it out:

Check back all week long as I will be posting text versions of each of these recipes here on Fetchland. Enjoy!

We were promised war at the end of the last episode and the third episode brings Sunny and M.K. to The Widow’s doorstep as Quinn leads his Clippers into battle. While Clippers fight elsewhere to take control of her oil fields, Quinn wants to take the battle directly to the enemy and marches into her house. Sunny takes down a variety of Bowler-wearing Clippers in the Widow’s service while her (girl assassins) whittle the number of Clippers down to size. That is all undercard action though as the main event features a sword fight between The Widow, who is buying time for her girl’s to escape, and Quinn.

Sparks literally fly as the two dance throughout The Widow’s great room matching each other blow for blow until Quinn finally manages to gain the upper hand. He is about to strike her dead when he is crippled by a headache, brought on by his tumor, and drops his sword. Sunny rushes in and in his haste to make sure his Baron is safe, The Widow manages to make her escape through a secret passage that had been opened by Tilda as she led the girls away from the fracas.

While Tilda was herding the girls through the passage, which was in The Widow’s study, she sees M.K. huddled behind a desk. He had been told to stay outside by Sunny with the other Colts but he snuck in to find anything he could about Azra. He had found a book on The Widow’s desk when the girls came running in. Tilda does not alert anyone to M.K.s presence but gives him a harsh look that says “you are really going to need to dazzle me if you expect me to go to the Clipper prom with you!”

Ryder is still unconscious from the Nomad ambush while his mother Lydia and his father’s eighth bride-to-be Jade (who is also Ryder’s secret lover) hover over him. Jade tries to play off her concern for Ryder as just impending family obligations. They are interrupted by the return of Quinn and what is left of his Clipper forces. Lydia and Quinn bicker over The Widow’s escape but really they are bickering about Ryder’s failure to recover from his assault. Something is wrong and there is no doctor that she can can call on since Quinn killed him last episode to ensure nobody would know about his brain tumor. Quinn just walks away from her and beds Jade while Lydia sits in the next room holding her dying son’s hand.

M.K. and Sunny look on as dead Clippers are carried back into The Fort when M.K. shows his mentor the book he stole from The Widow. Sunny is fed up with M.K.’s rebellious nature and M.K. is frustrated that Sunny won’t teach him how to fight. Sunny relents and takes him to see the wheelchair-bound Waldo. If M.K. can manage to strike Waldo then Sunny will train him however M.K. wishes but if he cannot then M.K. needs to… well you know how this works out. Despite being in a wheelchair the former Regent repeatedly flips, throws, and humiliates M.K. Sunny explains that you cannot underestimate any opponent.

Jade tells Quinn that she knows someone who can help Ryder but it is not going to be something Lydia is comfortable. Quinn says she will be fine with anything if it means that Ryder will recover. Jade goes straight to Veil, a childhood playmate, and asks her to help. Veil refuses, not wanting to get drawn into the politics of The Fort. Jade pleads with her and Veil, seeing the love for Ryder in her friend’s eyes agrees.

She explains that Ryder has suffered a head trauma and his brain is swelling. Lydia does not want a “cog doctor” working on her son — especially when she see the large drill bit that Veil is prepared to use to reduce that swelling. Faced with the possibility of Ryder being dead by nightfall, Lydia not only acquiesces but helps with the procedure. It is successful but it catches the attention of The Baron, who Veil knows killed her parents. Baron expresses his condolences and vows to catch the scum that killed them. He also tells her that he knows about her and Sunny’s relationship.

Ryder awakens and his father demands to know who set him up. He says it was Angelica, a girl from The Tick Tock Club. Quinn sends Sunny and M.K. to bring her back alive. Meanwhile that is exactly what The Widow is scared of as she and her girls arrive at a burned out mansion that will serve their hideout. She fears it is only a matter of time before Quinn sends someone after Angelica and she dispatches Tilda to go retrieve her before that can happen.

While Sunny is inside the club Tilda sees him as she approaches the club and punches M.K. They argue about who is worse Quinn or her mother while Sunny is inside fighting with Angelica who puts up much more of a fight than anyone else Sunny has faced in three episodes. Rather than let herself be taken by Sunny she hurls herself head first off the balcony to splatter right in front of M.K. and Tilda. M.K. tells her to run before she is spotted by Sunny.

Sunny and M.K. go to see Veil to patch up the wounds that Angelica inflicted upon him and Sunny realizes that the walls are closing in on him. Veil tells him that Quinn knows about their relationship and both M.K. and Veil begin to fill in the details of each other. Most important to M.K. are all the books in her office which means she can read the book that may contain clues about Azra.

Lydia scolds Ryder for not having the will of his father. She is aware that he attempted to kill The Widow and that it will bring a great cost to The Fort. She also tells him that he does not have what it takes to be his father’s heir and leaves him on his own. She will no longer fight for him. He is on his own. It turns out that by seizing The Widow’s oil fields Quinn has violated the Foundation Treaty and the other barons have demanded a parlay. Sunny suspects that it more likely an execution and Quinn agrees. He needs to forge an alliance with Jacobee, who “hates me less than he hates the others” and asks Sunny to approach Jacobee’s regent Zephyr.

Zephyr and Sunny are old flames and she tries to rekindle things with him but realizes from Sunny’s response that he is in love with someone else. She scoffs at the idea that he believes someone’s love can save him. She also scoffs at the idea of Quinn trying to forge an alliance with Jacobee and suggests that if Sunny were willing to clip Quinn that the other Barons would recognize his act. Sunny firmly rejects all her offers and she agrees to take the proposal back to Jacobee but does not expect it to be a fruitful discussion.

With Sunny out of The Fort, M.K. retrieves his book and goes to visit Veil, who practices out her mothering skills on the young boy with a bowl of hot food. He asks her to read the book but she does not recognize the language it is written in. They are interrupted by an unexpected visit from Quinn. M.K. slips out of sight but is able to overhear as The Baron asks Veil to save him like she saved his son.

Halimar Tidecaller

Mike (michaelj) and Brian (BDM) are back to Top 8 Magic podcasting on ManaDeprived!

One thing that came up in their most recent podcast “Landfall and Fall TV” is the idea of an “Awaken” theme deck featuring Halimar Tidecaller:

Halimar Tidecaller

Halimar Tidecaller is an interesting, if initially unassuming, little card. It actually has a slightly better body than Eternal Witness (2/3 being superior to 2/1)… But does much the same thing as long as you are looking to return “Awaken” theme cards exclusively. Of course the ability to give your land cards flying is a bonus, but I think the Eternal Witness-ness headlines this Human Wizard Ally.

So the question is… Are there Awaken cards worth playing, let alone building your deck around? We think that the answer is at least possibly yes. Consider:

  • Ruinous Path – Same mana cost as the widely played Hero’s Downfall; trades instant for sorcery, yes, but minor liability relative to Awaken upside and synergies
  • Scatter to the Winds – Literally a Cancel-plus. Substantially worse than Dissolve in the early turns (at the same mana cost); substantially better than most of the 1UU permission spells in very long games
  • Planar Outburst – Most interesting of all the “obvious” Awaken cards simply because it actually has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: Super synergistic with your own Awaken cards! Disadvantage: If you find yourself in an Awaken mirror, you ain’t killing their thing.

Here is a preliminary Halimar Tidecaller Esper Control deck, based on Brian’s enthusiastic comments:

Esper Control by Brian David-Marshall

1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
4 Ruinous Path

3 Anticipate
2 Clutch of Currents
4 Dig Through Time
4 Halimar Tidecaller
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Part the Waterveil
4 Scatter to the Winds

2 Dragonlord Ojutai

4 Planar Outburst

4 Flooded Strand
1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
2 Island
2 Plains
4 Polluted Delta
4 Prairie Stream
4 Shambling Vent
4 Sunken Hollow
2 Swamp

sb:
3 Infinite Obliteration
2 Rising Miasma
4 Ultimate Price
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Part the Waterveil
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

One card that was considered that is fairly on-theme is Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper; ultimately we considered that too immediately clunky and vulnerable relative to Dragonlord Ojutai at 3WU (especially no hexproof tapping out).

Of course “Landfall and Fall TV” has much more going on than just Halimar Tidecaller brewing. Check it (and what Mike and Brian are watching right now) out at ManaDeprived.com.

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Italian Poutine

Italian Poutine

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Kitchen Table Gaming

Poutine… Italian style? We dress up the french fries favorite “consumed by drunken people” late at night with a classy Kitchen Table Gaming version

The origin of Italian Poutine is pretty similar to that of the Elvis Banana Pudding. Except it takes place across a couple of days instead of decades and across international borders instead of mere blocks.

I was having lunch in Renton on a visit to the Wizards of the Coast offices with former New Yorkers Elaine and Kieren Chase. We were eating at Red House which is easily the best food within a reasonable radius of the offices. There is a tremendous food scene in Seattle but it has not quite made it to Renton. That said Red House is excellent and I always look forward to their polenta fries appetizer. I always think about how to make the food I am eating and it occurred to me that I have rarely, if ever, deep-fried anything. I opened up a mental folder for polenta fries and went about my business.

A couple of days later I was in Vancouver for Pro Tour Magic Origins and it was impossible to not see, hear, smell, or generally think about poutine. Poutine is a dish where French fries are put under the broiler with cheese curds and brown gravy and consumed by drunken people late at night. In Brooklyn growing up we called them disco fries and they could feature cheddar, American, or mozzarella cheese with brown gravy.

I had found my mission for the polenta fries and once I thought about using a tomato confit in place of the gravy I knew I would be making this immediately upon getting into my kitchen. You may not want to go through all the steps I have here and you could certainly use a jarred tomato sauce but you could also forgo the polenta and just make the confit. There is little in this world better than these tomatoes on a wide pasta like a tagliatelle with some pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

Prepared polenta cut into sticks
Vegetable or canola oil for deep frying

6 medium heirloom tomatoes
10 cloves peeled garlic
Olive oil to cover
Salt

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup crumbled insalata ricotta

Handful fresh torn basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Let’s Make Some “Poutine”

Slice the stem ends off of the tomatoes and make an “X” incision in flesh on bottom. Blanch tomatoes in a pot of boiling salted water and remove after two minutes and shock them in a large bowl of water and ice. When they have cooled peel the skin off and place each tomato sliced side down into a deep oven proof baking dish (you may need additional tomatoes to fill dish). Nestle the garlic cloves down in between tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and cover with olive oil. Cook dish for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Scoop tomatoes and garlic into a bowl and mash into sauce with a fork.

Heat your frying oil to 365 degrees and in small batches fry the polenta sticks until they are a dark golden brown. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and add salt. When all the “fries” are ready arrange them in an oven proof dish and spoon some of the sauce onto them. Top with the mozzarella and insalata. Spoon a little of the tomato oil over the mound of cheese. Place the dish under the broiler and let the cheese get browned and bubbly. Top dish with torn basil and pine nuts and serve in the baking dish.

Elvis Banana Pudding

Elvis Banana Pudding

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Food, Kitchen Table Gaming

I LOVE Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding. Yes the place is super touristy and is in the regular rotation for the Sex in the City bus tours that infest New York… but that pudding! I have been obsessed with it since the first time I tried it and historically I have never cared much for that desert. I was more than a little shocked when I found out how easy it is to make. If you look on the back of a Nilla Wafers box (an essential component to ANY banana pudding) you will find one that is roughly 1000 times more complicated and not nearly as good.

Many, many years ago I would go to a West Village restaurant called David’s Potbelly and one of the items on their menu was an Elvis Burger. It was a plump, juicy burger topped with a generous dollop of creamy peanut butter, sliced ripe bananas, and some crispy bacon. It was a perfect burger and something of a problem for me at 200 AM after a full day of normal meals to top off with a midnight snack befitting the King himself.

Anyway… Magnolia Bakery is not far from where the ghost of David’s Potbelly haunts my waistline. I was walking by there fully immersed in a pint of creamy non-Elvis’ed banana pudding and it struck by an almost religious vision. I should do unto the pudding as was done unto that burger.

This is the result…

Ingredients

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
Small box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
8 tablespoons of PB2 (dehydrated peanut butter powder)
1 tsp of Kosher salt
6-8 thick slices of bacon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
Box Nilla Wafers
4 sliced bananas

Time to Make the Pudding

In the bowl of a mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk, PB2 and water for about a minute. Add the pudding mix and mix for two to three more minutes. Strain into a smaller bowl to remove lumps of PB2, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) so the mixture can set up.

Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and lay out strips of bacon and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for around 20 minutes or until bacon is crispy and sugar has caramelized. Allow to cool and reserve bacon for later.

In a large bowl on medium speed, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form — I put my metal mixing bowl and whisk mixer attachment in the freezer for five minutes prior…the cream always whips up very quickly this way. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the pudding mixture until fully combined and no streaks of pudding are visible.

In a large bowl, layer wafers, bananas, and pudding. Ideally, you want three layers but if you go with a larger baking dish you might only have two. Top with a liberal sprinkling of the chopped bacon. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 8 hours before serving. It is actually best about 48 hours after being made.

Italian Poutine

In this week’s Kitchen Table Gaming, I and my guests actually play a game of Arena of the Planeswalkers!

Arena of the Planeswalkers is the board game version of our old favorite, Magic: The Gathering. So for this week’s episode, I put some different / unexpected twists on other favorites.

Italian Poutine – Inspired by my recent trip to Canada for Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver. This “Italian” Poutine (pictured above) combines some very different ingredients than your classic plate of disco fries.

Elvis Banana Pudding – Whenever anyone comes to visit New York City, one of the most sought after food destinations is Magnolia Bakery (where they make a very good banana pudding). Ours is super charged with a particular ingredient to make a Banana Pudding fit for a King 😉

Check out the recipes — and our Arena of the Planeswalkers play — and see what Kitchen Table Gaming is all about:

Me and my guests:

I made Falafel Sliders for the second episode of Kitchen Table Gaming. Their origin goes back to my wife and I watching an episode of Top Chef — at least I think it was Top Chef, we watch a LOT of cooking competition — with a Slider challenge. All the chefs went with fairly traditional slider construction and it seemed like everyone played it a little safe. My wife, always looking to “trick” me into making something new, asked what I would have done to take a chance and I immediately suggested the idea of using a falafel patty as the bun for a slider version of a classic falafel sandwich. I played around with the fillings a little bit and this is what I ultimately came up with. These are vegetarian but you can easily use these with a piece of chicken or a lamb patty. Basically anything you would put in a pita will work perfectly here.

Falafel Sliders
(Makes roughly 12 sliders)

Ingredients

2 cups soaked chickpeas
8 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 large sweet onion
6 cloves of peeled garlic
1 large fistful of fresh cilantro
1 large fistful of fresh parsley
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
1 lemon zested
2 teaspoons baking powder

Oil for pan frying

Prepared hummus
1 lemon juiced
Hot sauce to taste

Heirloom tomatoes sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
Baby arugula
Feta cheese sliced into 1/4” thick squares

Time to make the sliders:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

I have made this before with canned chickpeas and it just did not turn out as well. If you use the canned version you probably need to add more flour. Dried chickpeas are cheap and easy to use. Just soak them overnight in cold water — cover them by about 2 inches in a bowl or saucepan — and drain them when you are ready to use.

Put all the ingredients up to baking powder into a food processor and puree until the chickpeas are all smooth. You may get a couple of chunks of onion here and there but I actually don’t mind that and could even see adding the finely chopped onion after the puree part for a textural component. If you can’t find chickpea flour you can substitute AP flour. I haven’t tried it yet but I have seen falafel recipes that call for bread crumbs. Had I thought about it before recording I would have tried making this one with pita chips pulverized in the food processor in place of some of the flour.

Coat the bottom of a saute pan with oil (I used a mix of grapeseed and olive oils but you can use vegetable or peanut oil) and heat up over medium flame. I used a 2 3/4” ring mold to make my patties but you can just use an ice cream scoop if you don’t have one. Cook the patties for 2 minutes on each side in the oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Cook the patties for another 10 minutes in the oven.

IMG_8563

Slice the patties in half like you were cutting an English Muffin and you are ready to build your sliders. I doctor up my hummus (or you can make your own, you have the chickpeas after all!) with some hot sauce and lemon juice to thin it out and use a teaspoon of that on the bottom of the sandwich. Next you add a few leaves of arugula (or any green you like) and then a slice of tomato. Top that with the feta cheese and another dollop of the hummus. Close with the other half of the pattie and you have your sliders.

In the second episode of Kitchen Table Gaming I entertained some friends with drinks and treats over a game of Commander. I led them off with an adult beverage made with tomatillos and vodka (although it is pretty refreshing without any alcohol). It was inspired by the desire to have a lighter, more refreshing brunch alternative to the traditional Bloody Mary. Even though Tomatillos are not actually tomatoes (they are a giant gooseberry, apparently) I thought the bright, fruity flavor would be perfect for the job. I had already made a cucumber cooler with mint and vodka over the summer and decided to combine elements from that and from the basic shape of a Bloody Mary into this summer brunch drink.

It occurred to me that it is hard to call a drink that is green a “Bloody” anything. There are many theories to the titular figure of the Bloody Mary including a waitress who worked at a Chicago bar called The Bucket of Blood, the actress Mary Pickford, and Queen Mary 1. I chose to go with the matriarchal origin because I liked being able to call this the Bloody T’Pau, named so after the Vulcan matriarch from the original Star Trek episode “Amok Time.”

Bloody T’pau
(Makes 6 drinks.)

Ingredients

1 lb Tomatillos husked, rinsed, and destemmed
1 large English Cucumber peeled
1 fistful of fresh Cilantro
1 Jalapeno pepper seeded and deveined
1/2 cup of water
1 lime zested and juiced
Salt
Vodka
Ice
Celery stalks for garnish

Let’s Make the Drinks

Rough chop the tomatillos and cucumber and add the them to blender or food processor. Next add cilantro, jalapeno, juice and zest of lime, and a generous pinch of salt. Puree it all together and add water as needed to loosen the mixture.

Empty the contents into fine strainer over a bowl to collect the juice. Press the pulp around with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to force as much juice through as possible. You can reserve the juice for several hours before serving but be sure to give it a stir first.

Fill highball glasses with ice and celery stalk and pour juice about 2/3 of the way up the glass. Add vodka and swizzle it around with the celery. Bendy straws are optional. You can also rim your glass with a cayenne infused salt for a spicier take. You can also garnish with some pickled jalapenos.

S'mores to Plowshares

In the second episode of Kitchen Table Gaming, I make cocktails, sliders, cookies and ice cream… And cream my guests in a game of Magic: The Gathering!

The Commander community’s Dan Brown and GGsLive founder Rashad Miller join me to play a game of Commander. Each of us brings a very different deck to the field of battle. Mine is basically an Innistrad Block draft deck made possible by the lovely Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.

Recipes in this episode of Kitchen Table Gaming:

  • Bloody T’Pau – My take on a Bloody Mary. Because my Bloody Mary is green instead of red, we go with the Vulcan naming
  • Falafel Sliders – We do something a little different with these sliders. “Much better than the Hot Pocket I had this morning.” -Dan Brown
  • S’mores to Plowshares – A cookie-and-ice cream ode to the Magic: The Gathering staple

The full recipe for each dish will be available here on Fetchland in the next couple of days.

Here’s the second episode. Spoiler Alert’s David T. Wright filmed it. Matt Ferrando helped with it. I did all the cooking. Enjoy!

Our guests:

I have gotten into the habit of saving up shows I want to watch for the purposes of a good binge. I saved up half the third season of Orphan Black before diving in. Hannibal was already canceled before I even took my first nibble of what is (for) now the final season. Sunday nights at 9pm has been the only non-sports appointment television running right from Game of Thrones and into True Detective. Having a week to ruminate about the episode, lament the lack of water coolers in your life, and really think about what you just watched is a completely different experience than letting episode after episode crash over you without time to breathe. (I just started watching Mr. Robot on USA Network and I think I am going to try sticking with the weekly schedule as it seems to have lots of theorizing that can be done between episodes.)

Having that time to think about last week’s Night Finds You left me in a week-long version of Eddie Izzard’s wonderful bit about Engelbert Humperdinck. He tells the audience that he just learned that the singer had died. The audience murmurs a little uncomfortably and Izzard lets them off the hook telling them that he is not dead. He then proceeds to vacillate back and forth, including a good 30 seconds of hysterical head shaking, nodding, and eye rolling as he flips back and forth on the fate of the erstwhile Arnold George Dorsey.

My first instinct after the end of last week’s episode was that Detective Ray Velcoro could not possibly be dead due to the billing Colin Farrell has received for the show. Second reaction was a full frontal flashback to the radical pelvectomy that Casper received from a close range shotgun blast. The show has used flashbacks of Velcoro as a young officer already and they utilized multiple timelines extensively in season one. It seemed perfectly reasonable that he could be dead but still be featured prominently for the next six episodes. Multiple people I spoke with — including a good friend who works at HBO — seemed to think his character might actually have been killed which, of course, forced me into the opposite position because I am a contrary jerk. Back and forth until last night when we would finally find out…

I wrote that last week’s episode felt like an ode to James Ellroy. This one started out positively Lynchian with a blue-lit lounge performer — Jake La Botz credited as Conway Twitty — singing Twitty’s cover of Bette Middler’s The Rose. Sitting in a booth is Velcoro but the dream-like setting of the night club makes it seem like he is dying, in a coma, or —

OH MY GOD IS THAT FRED FUCKING WARD!?!

Regardless of how anything else resolves itself this season I am in for the long haul if there is the promise of more Fred Ward. If you are not familiar with his work you should immediately stop what you are doing and watch Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (spoilers; the adventure also ends there as well), Tremors, and — most importantly — Miami Blues, one of the greatest dark noir comedies ever made, based on the book by the magnificent Charles Willeford.

I will resist the urge to shift topics to the work of Willeford — possibly saving it for a future Fetchland piece — and get back to the booth where we find that Ward is playing retired cop Eddie Velcoro, Ray’s dad. It is not obvious at first as Ray looks down at his bruised knuckles while Eddie tells him that he has his father’s hands.

“My father made me nervous,” says Ray.

“Maybe you were already nervous. Maybe you lacked grit.”

Eddie sneers in the way only a disapproving TV dad can muster talking about Ray getting shot to pieces. Ray takes in the oddity of the situation and the surroundings. “Where is this?”

“I don’t know… you’re here first,” answers his father as Ray looks down at his own bloody chest. The live performance fades into a more hollow rendition squeaking out of a clock radio. The clock reveals that is 7am and Ray is laying on the floor of Casper’s fuckpad where the man in the bird mask left him last week. There is still a chance he could be dead but after a moment of stillness he gasps to consciousness and rips open his shirt in the cop-show classic “I was wearing a vest” maneuver. He was not but his torso is pocked with shot and largely intact.

He reveals to a livid Bezzerides that the shotgun blast were “just” riot shells, the type cops use, and he only suffered a couple of broken ribs. Bezzerides heads into the crime scene and gets into a jurisdictional shoving match with Lieutenant Kevin Buress (played by James Frain, who has fallen into a dead last in the hide-my-accent power rankings).

Next up is the Semyons who are trying to get pregnant via IVF. Jordan is trying to entice Frank into a cup via her mouth but he pushes her away and pulls up his trousers. He insists “that” has never happened to him before. Stress can affect a man’s performance and he acknowledges plenty of it in his life at the moment.

“There is no part of my life not filled with live-or-die importance. I take a shit and there is gun to my head saying ‘make it a good one, don’t fuck up’.”

Frank pushes away from Jordan’s attempts at intimacy and they go down a well-worn road of blame with Frank extolling the virtues of his motility, implying that the fertility issues must originate with her. Jordan is quick to point out that his equipment is pointing in the wrong direction for that to even matter and flings the plastic cup at him before storming off.

“Suck your own dick!”

Bezzerides and Woodrugh get some alone time and she scores the first smile I think we have seen out of Woodrugh through the first three episodes. She is sending him out to canvas local prostitutes and wants to know something about his celebrity run-in from the first episode. He bristles immediately and makes it clear he has no intention of answering any questions about whether or not he did it. Bezzerides was actually just going to ask him if his new found notoriety from the appearance on the TMZ homepage was going to interfere with his ability to do his job. In fact she thinks he should sue to the would-be Lohan when all of this is done. There is a moment of connection between them and Woodrugh is even able to tease her about her ever-present e-cigarette. It was the first time Kitsch gets to anything but glower from the back of his closet and it was a good moment to see him in some other light than just his struggles with his sexual identity.

Velcoro confronts Semyon about the shooting, and who else knew about Casper’s house, over a pint glass of water in the same booth from the opening scene. No booze for Velcoro who wants to hold onto his anger and not dull it with alcohol. Semyon is not comfortable with the new-found bark of his Vinci lapdog.

“There’s a certain stridency at work here. I am going to chalk it up to you getting blasted.”

“I’m apoplectic.”

“I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself.”

Woodrugh and Bezzerides are greeted at the door of Mayor Chessani’s Bel Air mansion by someone they mistake for his daughter Betty but who turns out to be her stepmother Veronica. She is wearing a rumpled party dress, has tousled hair and makeup that is beyond a smokey eye — let’s call it a smoggy eye. The two cops push past her into the house and begin asking questions about Casper while she takes a hit from what she assures them is a medical marijuana balloon bag — what is it with this show and vaporizers?

While Veronica purrs at Woodrugh, Bezzerides begins to explore the house. She sees pictures of the mayor with various high profile politicians alongside a life-sized cardboard cutout of his wife in a bikini. She is rummaging around his desk when she hears a noise and rushes towards the sound. Upstairs she finds Betty Chessani sitting quietly in a room. When asked if everything is OK Betty just closes the door on her. Betty is played by Emily Rios who is a veteran of many hour long dramas — most notably Breaking Bad and The Bridge — and I trust/hope that she will get more/anything to do in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile a naked woman plunges into the pool just outside the terrace doors where the mayor’s wife and Woodrugh have been talking. We see that she has been tossed from a balcony by Tony Chessani, the mayor’s son whom he was lamenting about last episode. Bezzerides confronts Tony who is putting on a gang accent that she sees through immediately. Tony confesses that it is a put on and that his job as an “event organizer” calls for him to play different roles. He throws them out with the threat of his father’s lawyers and increasingly bad accents.

“How many times do you expect to be paid for the same thing?” pleads Bart Sallis. a contractor who bought his business from Frank, who now wants 25% every month from Bart despite that not being part of the original deal.

“Things change. They changed for me they can change for you.”

Frank is back to his transplanted Chicago mobster roots. He makes it more palatable by explaining he can keep the teamsters and electrical workers from walking off the job. He can keep the note from being called in on the loan underwriting the project. To make sure he being ultra clear he also points out that he knows where the family lives and where the kids go to school. Bart acquiesces but only if he can get some concessions on the electric crews and receive weekend deliveries.

Bezzerides reports back to her overseers on the contents of Casper’s safe deposit box which included articles of incorporation and a stash of blue diamonds. Her superiors are much more interested in hearing about Velcoro and whether or not he could have staged his own shooting. The state wants to prosecute a crooked Vinci cop and they have their sights set on Velcoro. She should do whatever it takes to get them leverage on him.

“He’s a man for Christ’s sake.”

“Yeah, so what?”

“I am not saying fuck him but maybe make him think you might fuck him.”

The language in Vinci is even coarser than it is at the State Attorney’s office where the Mayor will only refer to Bezzerides as “that cunt” after she barged in on his wife and kids. Woodrugh appears to be spared his wrath but the Mayor will not be happy until Bezzerides is running a yogurt stand instead of investigations. Velcoro tries to extract himself from the investigation but he can’t get away. The mayor, the police chief, and his lieutenant all want him to wrap up the hooker angle on the Casper murder ahead of the State investigation into their department. He should not worry about any land deals. Nobody is going down over any land deals.

“You could just drink out of the bottle.”

We get bonus Fred Ward scenes with the old man struggling to get a shot glass to his lips without spilling the contents while his son drops off a bag of weed. Ray notices an empty spot on the bookshelf where his father’s lucite encased badge is supposed to be. He fishes it out of the garbage despite Eddie protests that there is no PD anymore. Ray grills his dad about the Vinci brass who used to be on the job with him in LA before they left to set up shop after the riots and OJ trials.

Things are not going well for Semyon whose deal with Osip is slipping away. Frank is tired of playing nice and tells him not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out. As he glowers out at his wife sitting alone on the casino floor he wonders if perhaps Osip had some hand in Casper’s death. To make matters worse for Semyon not all his men are accounted for and one of them — Stan — later turns up murdered. Semyon needs an outlet for all his frustration and calls for a meeting of all the usual suspects at Santos’ club.

Woodrugh is hanging with one of his Blackrock buddies drinking beer, watching motocross and talking about letting sleeping dogs lie. Except that maybe his buddy doesn’t want to deny the past. He begins to reminisce about time they spent together in a village separated from their unit. Woodrugh gets visibly upset and does not want to talk about it. He throws his buddy down to the ground to end to the discussion while someone who looks an awful lot like Dixon takes surveillance photos of them from afar.

Back at investigation HQ Velcoro lumbers in despite his best efforts to get kicked off the task force. Pictures of a Cadillac license plate the night of the murder lead them to a film set that Casper was a producer on in exchange for California tax credits. Velcoro befriends a set photographer who relates a story about Casper and the director attending a “wall to wall pussy” party.

Woodrugh is working the local prostitute angle to no avail when he meets a male hustler who recognizes Casper’s photo from the club Lux Infinitum, Santos’ place. Despite *ahem* only wanting the tip, Woodrugh realizes he will need more from the informant to get anything resembling a lead at the club.

“They probably wouldn’t even let you in. This angsty cop drama you are rolling.”

Bezzerides and Velcoro are at his house when his ex-wife and her current husband (sitting in the car) shows up. She tips him off that State investigators called on her to ask about extra cash or perhaps about the death of the man who attacked her. She offers him $10,000 in cash to walk away from his custodial claims on Chad but he tells her to put the envelope away. Bezzerides was listening from just inside the door. She steps back into the apartment before he can see that she was spying on him. She asks if everything is okay and seems to be developing some sympathy for him — earlier in the episode she appraised him as a burnout to her superiors.

At Lux Infinitum Woodrugh and Semyon bump into each other and have a stare-off with Woodrugh coming up short. He requires multiple double scotches to talk to another hustler who has performed with a girls for Casper. The thought that this man could have sex with a woman is a source of discomfort for him. And his response does little to assuage Woodrugh who needed a little blue bill to hook up with butterfly girl in the first episode.

“You do girls?”

“In a pinch…with the right medication.”

It turns out the girl the hustler hooked up with is Tasha — the same girl that Santos introduced to Semyon and led to Casper’s hideaway. She works expensive private parties but has not been around in a while.

While Woodrugh continued his investigation upstairs Semyon was downstairs with Santos and the assorted criminals who run woman in the local clubs. He hands out pictures of Casper and demands that he is told anything that any of them hear about him. Santos crumbles the photo and sneers that Semyon “ain’t that thing no more…what you used to was.” He declares the meeting over but Semyon grabs him by the lower lip. Santos is eager to fight and begins to take off his jewelry.

“You can leave your rings on. It won’t matter to me.”

Santos lands a few shots but Semyon lays him out and, with one hand holding him down by the neck, proceeds to remove his gold grill with a pair of needle nosed pliers.

Bezzerides and Velcoro investigation from the movie set has led them to the front door of someone with access to the caddy who has quit the production. Before they can ask anything significant they hear a crash and the whoosh of flames. The Cadillac they were searching for is around the corner and has just been torched. They pursue a masked person fleeing from the scene across a homeless encampment and onto the freeway where Velcoro dives to save Bezzerides from an oncoming truck. The arsonist escapes in the aftermath while Velcoro — who had multiple broken ribs from the shooting — groans on the ground. Bezzerides thanks him for saving her life but when he asks what the state police have on him — if she wants to really thank him — she says she knows nothing.

Frank returns home and Jordan is up waiting for him. She asks if he want to make up, to talk, as he fixes a drink at the bar and dumps a fistful of gold teeth in the trash.

“Maybe tomorrow.”