In “Solid Citizens,” Ralph Lamb works to rescue a kidnapped boy while Vincent Savino deals with a Milwaukee mobster looking into the mysterious disappearance of Davey Cornaro – a vanishing act that Vince himself had a hand in. Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”) makes a guest appearance as Milton Larson, the newest member of the Las Vegas commission and the father of the missing child. As Ralph, Jack and Dixon work against the clock to track down the kidnappers, they gradually uncover a tangled web of broken promises and acts of desperation. “Solid Citizens” could have been a better episode of “Vegas” than usual, but too many corny moments ended up taking the viewer out of the overall experience.
Before this week’s crime even occurs, Vincent Savino has a lot on his plate—while he’s striving to close a deal with the banks in regards to buying The Tumbleweed casino, he also has to convince his wife Laura, who is visiting from Chicago, to move to Las Vegas. And as Vince juggles those two matters, the Milwaukee mob sends a ruthless investigator to Vegas who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth about Davey Cornaro’s disappearance. Savino handles the Tumbleweed business easily enough, securing funding from the bank with the help of his wife’s presence at an important dinner with the banker. But Laura is reluctant to permanently join him in Vegas after seeing bullet holes in his car and knowing that he hasn’t left his mob days behind. To make the matter worse, Jones, the Milwaukee mob investigator, arrives in town and personally tells Vincent that he won’t be leaving until he figures out what really happened to Davey Cornaro.
The days of hoping/pleading for “Vegas” to ditch it’s procedural element have sadly passed, as it’s become clear that the overused format is here to stay. The best we can do now is suffer through the latest crime mystery in order to enjoy the infinitely more interesting plots that involve Vincent Savino’s mob woes and his ongoing plan to one day be the king of the Vegas strip. As usual, his storyline in “Solid Citizens” was much more appetizing than Ralph’s kidnapping case. Vince’s determination to renovate The Tumbleweed with legitimate bank loans seems like an attempt to become a more lawful business owner who needs to rely less on his mob connections to get things done. The Davey Cornaro ordeal serves as a reminder of where he’s come from and The Tumbleweed negotiation acts as a symbol of where he’s trying to go. Sometimes it seems like Savino truly yearns to put his violent ways behind him, and when he gives the order to put a hit on someone, it contradicts that part of him. It’s almost as if he’s addicted to the mob, and can’t fully figure out a way to function without using their help to illegally tip the scales in his favor.
Ralph Lamb’s latest case involves the kidnapping of Tim Larson, the son of a man who sits on the gaming commission and has a say in which casinos are given licenses or not. Tim was taken while he was playing in the backyard (both parents were home. Way to go, folks) and his mother chased after the getaway car as it sped down the road with her son inside. Luckily, Mrs. Larson took note of the make and model of the car, which Ralph and Jack track down to a driveway in the suburbs. But as they approach the vehicle, it suddenly bursts into flame before they can take a look inside. Once the fire is put out, Dixon pokes through the burned wreckage while Ralph and Jack head over to the Larsons’ house to ask them some questions.
At this point it’s become clear that the majority of the rampant unintended corniness of “Vegas” stems from Ralph Lamb and each crime-of-the-week. For the most part, Vincent Savino’s portion of each episode is much more interesting and remains cheese-free. “Solid Citizens” is no different, as the unintentionally laughable moments begin right as the crime is taking place, when Mrs. Larson dramatically drops Tim’s hula-hoop to chase after the kidnappers. Watching the striped plaything rotate in slow motion as it hits the ground, how can you not laugh? Later, as Ralph and Jack pull up to the abandoned car, it seems to spontaneously light on fire just as they are arriving at the scene. But strangely enough, the sheriff and his brother don’t see anybody running away from the car fire, even though they later find out that it was lit with a cigarette lighter. And lastly, before they head to the Larson house, Ralph explains to Jack that he shouldn’t refer to their son in the past tense when speaking with the parents. Wow, incredible advice! No wonder they made him sheriff.
It’s hard not to get dizzy from all the eye rolling one’s bound to experience while watching “Vegas” each week. It’s hard to refrain from saying, “Really?!” out loud to your TV. Even without the show offering up some kind of ridiculous situation, just Ralph Lamb alone is enough to make anybody with a nose for quality television laugh out loud. The gravelly voice that Dennis Quaid drifts in and out of is a riot, and every week his dialogue is just painful to listen to. The Dreadful Dialogue Award for “Solid Citizens” has to go to Quaid’s line, “I’m gonna reach up inside you and rip out the truth.” It was meant as a menacing statement for an accomplice to the crime, but for viewers at home it was another excuse to laugh at this show. Firing the writers of “Vegas” certainly wouldn’t save the show (since it’s mostly beyond saving at this point), but it might help avoid such inexcusable dialogue from popping up in future episodes and giving the last few people who watch the show a reason to tune out.
Ralph, Jack and Dixon follow the clues in the Larson case and eventually make some progress. They corner one of the kidnappers at a local motel, but a gunfight ensues and the suspect dies before he can tell them where they’re keeping Tim. Eventually Ralph finds out that Milton’s brother-in-law had a hand in the kidnapping, but that the kidnappers have never seen him before. Using that to his advantage, the sheriff poses as the brother-in-law during the arranged money drop. With Jack’s help, Ralph subdues the kidnappers and finds Tim in a nearby shed. Cue the touching music and slow motion effect, as Tim reunites with his parents at the police station in a scene that’s been done hundreds of times before on every iteration of “CSI”.
Meanwhile, Vincent Savino has handled his predicaments well. He convinces Laura that he has nothing to hide from her and that she should move to Vegas to be with him, despite her seeing bullet holes in the seat of his car (Really Vince, you didn’t get those patched up before picking up your wife?!). The meeting with the banker went well, so now he can fund his Tumbleweed project and go ahead as planned. And lastly, Jones fell for the story that Savino and his mobsters set up concerning Davey Cornaro’s disappearance. After Vince told Jones that he heard Davey skipped town, he had Red and his boys plant Cornaro’s car at the airport with a plane ticket to LA inside. Jones went to the airport and found the car, and now he’s on his way to LA to follow a dead trail. After going three-for-three, how could Savino’s day go wrong?
Well, luckily the Lamb brain trust isn’t as stupid as the Milwaukee mob’s best investigator. Dixon took a look at Cornaro’s car as well and noticed corn stalks stuck to the bottom of it. He reckons that his findings are evidence of Savino’s men dropping Cornaro’s body in a cornfield after they whacked him. In the closing scene of “Solid Citizens,” Ralph Lamb meets up with Vincent Savino on the outskirts of a cornfield and makes thinly veiled references to the fact that he knows what really happened to Davey. Savino better watch his back, because Sheriff Lamb is coming for him.
Though it’s hard to ignore the multitude of shortcomings in every episode of “Vegas,” this week’s was perhaps a smidgeon better than the show’s previous outings. The ticking clock of finding the kidnappers before they lost patience and killed Tim Larson (as if any of us were worried) made the typical procedural format a tad bit more bearable. Vincent Savino’s problems were, as usual, far more interesting, and if more time could be spent on his plotlines then the entire show could be better. But the series’ crime drama formula means an elaboration on Vince’s troubles will likely never happen, and that aspect of “Vegas” won’t ever reach it’s full potential. “Solid Citizens” was a millimeter above what I’ve come to expect from this show, but sadly that means it’s still far below what I expect from a decent episode of television.