We dive into a two-parter this week that sees John Diehl bowing out of the series, wanting to pursue other options, and leave an underwritten character, that of Larry Zito behind.
Airing as two parts, unlike the series opener, and season two opener, Dick Wolf penned the teleplay from a story he created with John Schulian. Part one first aired on 9 January, 1987, with the second episode airing on 16 January, 1987.
The story sees Zito going undercover as a boxing manager to get closer to a violent and dangerous bookie, Oswaldo Guzman (Pepe Serna), in an attempt to bring him down.
Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Micheal Thomas) warn Zito that Guzman is bad news, but Zito is determined to bring him down.
Music in part one includes Dance by Ratt and There’s a River by Steve Winwood, which is used poignantly as we come to the devastating conclusion of the first part.
It’s too bad that Zito’s character was always written this strongly, Diehl may have decided to stay. Still his decision to leave gave the series an added darkness as the team is rocked to its core, especially Zito’s friend and partner, Stan Switek (Micheal Talbott) when he discovers his murdered friend.
The conclusion of the first episode was stunning, we are left reeling by the loss of a recurring character. This is something that adds some weight to the series, because now you know that no one is safe – any character can die, and that tends to make one more invested in the series, and things to come.
Pepe Serna is appropriately cruel and vile as Guzman. This is an actor I’ve always enjoyed (I first came across him in Buckaroo Banzai) and in this story he perfectly portrays the baddie so often depicted in Vice, he has the money, the glamour, everything he wants, and he revels in his cruelty, his greed and violence.
Still, Sonny and Rico get a lot of screen time… they are the series leads after all, but Diehl shines as Zito in this story, and it makes you realize what a missed opportunity this was for the series. If the supporting cast was given more to do, Diehl may have hung around more, but the fact that they didn’t led to this fabulous story (something similar would happen on Star Trek: The Next Generation a year later).
The guest cast in part one includes Don King, and Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb.
The second episode sees the team burying one of their own, and going after Guzman with a vengeance. There’s also some stress between Switek and Crockett as Sonny is blamed for the plan which led to Zito’s murder, which was made to look like a drug overdose causing an investigation for Internal Affairs.
Things blow up all over Miami with the team in the crosshairs, but Guzman is going down.
Tunes for this episode, are a little more numerous than in the first part, and includes, Corey Hart’s Blind Faith, Jimi Hendrix’s classic All Along the Watchtower, Don’t Need a Gun by Billy Idol, and I Want to Make the World Turn Around by the Steve Miller Band.
This is a stellar two-parter and I can’t wait to see what comes down the street next on Miami Vice.