This episode focuses on one of the regulars on NASH BRIDGES, the recurring character Harvey Leek. Harvey's married to a stripper, and is an extremely devoted Deadhead saving all his 150 ticket stubs from Grateful Dead concerts. Harvey's counterculture past is consistent with his character's curiosity about alternative lifestyles (such as Harvey's willingness to cross-dress in last week's episode).
All the characters on NASH BRIDGES are closely associated to the 1970s counterculture period, the most notorious being Cheech Marin. This generation is now in their forties, and facing the kinds of problems (such as aging parents) that youngsters approaching middle age face. The culture of this generation is given meaning and depth while an earlier period (associated with Elvis Presley) is not. The wackiness of an Elvis impersonator and the cult following inspired by Elvis is associated to the mediocrity of Aaron, kidnapper/Harvey's brother-in-law. Aaron's Elvis impersonation is not funny - it's desperate and crazy. While Elvis copies are culturally spurious, the Russian celebration of American popular culture is downright hilarious.
The excess of the Russians in their robust drinking ritual and women accent their cultural displacement even more in their heavy-handed hospitality with Lt. Shimamura. They offer prostitutes to Lt. Shimamura and Evan Cortez as a gesture of hospitality. An African-American prostitute says to Lt. Shimamura, suggesting of the kinkiness of the Japanese male (remember Tagawa in RISING SUN?):
Prostitute to Shimamura: I thought about what you like.
I brought my paddles.
To which Evan notes: Hey, ping pong!
When the culturally displaced Russian gangsters insist that Lt. Shimamura karaoke to "Proud Mary" (made famous by Tina Turner), it's riotously funny. Everybody boogies to Tina Turner/Shimamura in a scene stealing, side splitting performance by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The Shimamura character up to now has been serious and business-like, and this episode loosens up the Lieutenant a great deal. MIAMI VICE fans can recall the similarly serious Edward James Olmos character and his terse persona; NASH BRIDGES seems to have taken a corrective cue from that.
Amidst this comedy of cultural displacement is a display of unlikely cultural contrasts. As Joe Dominguez points out to Nash: "Let me sum it up like this - did you ever see any happy-go-lucky heart-warming Latino characters in a Bergman movie?" Not in a Bergman film, but certainly in NASH BRIDGES. NASH BRIDGES offers up a hyped up version of cultural mis-diversity. The unlikely pairings of Russian, Japanese, African-American, Asian-American, Latino, and Swedish makes this a wildly funny episode - I had tears streaming from my eyes.
As if all this weren't enough, there is Nash's father who is still sexually active. Nick describes to Nash how he was in the saddle, as it were, and a mishap occurs with Charlotte, his paramour. NASH BRIDGES continues in its theme of women inflicting pain on men, intentionally or unintentionally. Who's hurting whom? Charlotte's son-in-law attorney has Nick arrested for aggravated sexual assault when Charlotte's hip cracks during intercourse. The humor here is less clear because aggravated sexual assault is a serious charge, and a broken hip is also life-threatening, but NASH BRIDGES presents this lightly.
For more, see synopsis for Episode 6