I play along with the charade/That doesn’t seem to be a reason to change/I feel so dirty when they start talking clues/Wanna tell them I’m a detective but I just get the blues/‘Cause she’s solving it with those eyes/Investigating with that brain, I just know it/I’m the true detective/And I wish that I had Jessie’s girl!
We’re now over halfway through the season, and True Detective fans are finally noticing that the lyrics to the show’s theme song—Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind”—are subtly changing with each episode. Why? What does it mean? Are there hints about the Yellow King buried amongst the gravel of Cohen’s late-career growl?
And what about the lyrics to the song above—Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”—which seem to indicate that Springfield had foreknowledge of his role in True Detective, 34 years before its broadcast? How? What does it mean? Are there hints about the true detective’s true identity lodged between Rick Springfield’s slabs of palm-muted electric guitar—hints that, perhaps, point to Rick Springfield himself?
Anything is possible.
True Detective episode five, explained:
We re-enter True Detective’s universe two months after the firefight that concluded episode four, and a lot has changed since then. Ray Velcoro has departed the Vinci Police Department to work security for Frank Semyon, whose financial situation doesn’t seem nearly secure enough to be paying out competitive wages to a veteran cop, but I’m not his financial advisor so what do I know; Ani Bezzerides is embroiled in a sex harassment case that’s got her out of the field and tied down to a desk in the Ventura County evidence department; former highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, owing to his heroic work in the firefight, is finally a real detective. (But perhaps not a true detective).
Believe it or not, the pat explanation for Ben Caspere’s death that was proffered last time around is looking unlikely. Frank is not content to believe that a meth-cooking pimp disappeared the money he’d paid Caspere to invest in the new rail corridor, and believes that the city manager’s death may be connected to the recent departure of Ali Komunyakaa, a guy who bought a corridor-connected waste management company from Frank and promptly drove off a hillside. That company, we learn, intentionally poisoned the land on which the corridor sits so that Vinci’s moneyed insiders could buy it for cheap before the coming railway sends its value skyrocketing. Frank interrogates the railway bigwig Jacob McCandless about Komunyakaa’s death, and McCandless makes him an offer: If Frank can locate a hard drive of Caspere’s that vanished when he died, McCandless will return Frank’s stake in the rail corridor.
Following up on the case of the missing girl, Ani receives some photos that appear to have been taken at one of those high-class hooker parties we keep hearing about. Included are a few snaps of blue diamonds that apparently belonged to Caspere, and that recently went missing from evidence, possibly due to some sneakiness from the fat drunk cop (R.I.P.). She also wonders wether the fat drunk cop may have had some advance knowledge of the gunfight he walked the rest of the detectives into.
With several questions left unanswered, and some encouragement from state attorney Katherine Davis, the true detectives decide to get the band back together. Davis is unsure that Caspere’s death was really solved the first time around, and now that California Attorney General Richard Geldof is parlaying the Caspere investigation into a gubernatorial run, she believes that he may have a role in the Vinci corruption he was supposedly attempting to uncover. Davis commissions Woodrugh, Bezerrides, and Velcoro into a secret to find out who killed the city manager once and for all.
Then the state attorney casually reveals that Semyon isn’t the essentially good-hearted bad guy we’ve been led to believe he is, but a full-blown sociopath. Davis informs Velcoro that the man who raped his wife years ago—and who is likely the biological father of his ginger son—was finally caught and arrested recently. As you may recall, Velcoro and Semyon’s strange relationship began when Semyon purported to direct Velcoro to the rapist, whom Velcoro then killed. If the rapist was out there all this time, that means that Semyon probably set Velcoro up to murder some rando—presumably so that Semyon would have a Vinci cop forever in his pocket. (Gawker commenter graefix predicted this nearly perfectly back in week three.)
After that, Velcoro beats the shit out of the therapist Rick Springfield; Bezerrides gets ready to go undercover at one of those hooker parties; a pawn shop employee tells Woodrugh that the fat drunk cop used to fart a lot; Bezerrides and Woodrugh find a Carcosa-lite murder scene in the middle of the woods; and Velcoro shows up at Semyon’s house, presumably to beat the shit out of him, too.
Who got killed in the woods? Will Frank’s ceiling stay water stain-free for long? What poor sap did Ray accidentally murder all those years ago?
Finally, and most importantly,
Who will be the true detective?
As we’ve explained to exhaustion in previous iterations of this column, True Detective is at its heart about one question and one question only: Who will be the true detective? Will it be Paul Woodrugh, he of the permanently clenched jaw? Or Ani Bezerrides, she of the permanently steely gaze? Will it be Ray Velcoro, he of the permanently grizzled appearance?
The true detective will be Rick Springfield.
A true detective is many things: clenched, steely, grizzled. But most importantly, a true detective detects. When the clues are murky, when the leads are leading in every direction at once, when the intertwined threads of a plot are so frayed as to be nearly impossible to follow, a true detective sweeps in and sorts things out. This week, Rick Springfield sorted things out.
By the end of True Detective episode five, viewers not in possession of a private investigator’s license may be forgiven for feeling a little confused. Your TV volume is cranked, you’re watching the scene for the third time in a row, and you still can’t figure out why Bezerrides is yelling about big dicks, or how Semyon came down with blue-balls-of-the-heart. (Next time, turn closed captions on.)
So it was with great relief that we watched Ray Velcoro beat the shit out of Rick Springfield in a desperate search for answers this week. “Spill,” Velcoro ordered of the soft-rock-singer-turned-shady-therapist-slash-plastic-surgeon just before he started beating, hoping to extract any discernible narrative at all from the show. What are these hooker parties, and what do they have to do with Caspere’s death? Can you remind me what “Catalyst” is? What’s with the mysterious hard drive? And why do people keep bringing up the mayor’s goofball son Tony? Please, just give these poor viewers a story they can follow.
And spill Springfield does:
Caspere concocted the idea of the parties with Tony Chessani. Tony’s a pimp with political ambition. His father doesn’t participate in the gatherings. Tony’s service makes him friends with those men of affluence you mentioned—lays the groundwork for deals that Caspere facilitated. i think both men used the occasion to compile blackmail material on their guests. Rumored that Ben had footage of various important people. McCandless—he’s the president of Santa Clara Railroad Company. It’s smaller now. Called Catalyst.
Finally, it all makes sense, I think. If Caspere was using those parties to blackmail McCandless, maybe our detectives should be asking McCandless about Caspere’s death. Does that hard drive have videos of McCandless fucking hookers? Just a hunch.
Good detective work, Rick.