Praising “Cane”: A Recap/Review

Posted by Sarah

Last night was the series premiere of the new CBS drama Cane. I’ve been looking forward to this show for a month or so now, ever since I dreamed that I watched the entire series in one night. My excitement had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Jimmy Smits (pictured right) is a fine-lookin’ man.

My hopes were further raised when I saw that the premiere would be shown “with limited commercial breaks,” thanks to a generous corporate sponsor who has monopolized the limited ad time. Well! Maybe that kind of thing happens pretty often, maybe not — I don’t watch many shows, so I don’t know — but I was impressed.

The show starts with a launch party for a new marketing campaign for Duque Rum. It’s a hoppin’ little shindig, with Cuban music and alcohol for everyone. At this party is Pancho, played by Hector Elizondo, who looks old and sick — and with good reason: His doctor tells him he has six months to a year to live. Ouch.

We spend the rest of the hour trying to keep up with a slew of characters, most of whom are family, and the dramas big and small that will keep us coming back every Tuesday night. Basically, we have a Cuban family living the good life in Florida, where they run a lucrative rum and sugar business, which patriarch Pancho built from the ground up. Pancho has three children: Frank, who wants to sell the sugar business to the Samuels family (the daughter of which he is secretly sleeping with) in order to focus on rum; Henry, who is trying to start a nightclub; and Isabel, who is married to Alex (Jimmy Smits) and pregnant with their fourth child. Alex sees sugar as “the new oil” and is against selling the sugar business.

The arrival of a strange old man at Alex’s youngest son Artie’s baseball game triggers a series of flashbacks that cause Alex to call on his cop-voiced cop friend to investigate. Turns out the old man worked for the Samuels way back when Alex was a kid, and the Samuels are now sponsoring his work visa. Through further flashbacks, we learn that the old man’s name is Quinonez, and that Alex believes that the Samuels hired him to kidnap Pancho’s daughter and kill her. The Samuels family wanted Pancho’s cane fields, and Pancho sold them without knowing what they’d done to him.

Once Alex learns that this man is back in town, he tells Pancho what he believes happened back in the day. Pancho then tells Frank that he’s making Alex CEO of the company, and Frank is outraged that a son-in-law is being chosen over a natural son. Pancho calls a family meeting at his 4th of July bash to say that he’s dividing his company up: 30 percent will go to each of his three natural children, and 10 percent to Alex, which, when combined with Isabel’s 30 percent, gives Alex controlling interest. Pancho then forbids the selling of his cane fields to the Samuel family at any time, for any reason.

When Old Man Samuels learns of this, he vows to get back at Pancho, as villains always do.

Quinonez shows up at the party, and is playing with Artie. Alex goes ballistic and nearly chokes Quinonez to death, then has security remove him from the premises. He drives over to the Samuels mansion and threatens Old Man Samuels, who blows him off in true Southern man-diva style, causing Alex to clench his chiseled jaw. He then calls on an employee who was in a gang back in Cuba, and asks him to take out Quinonez. The guy holds the cellphone out as he shoots Quinonez, so Alex can get back to the party knowing that all is right with the world.

Of course, that’s just the main plot drama. Alex’s too-photogenic-to-be-true family has drama of its own. Alex’s oldest son, Jaime, is in love with a white girl named Rebecca and, in defiance of Alex’s wishes, is refusing to go to MIT in the fall in order to enlist in the Army. Alex’s daughter, Katie, likes to go clubbing in skimpy little outfits (*cough* father/daughter cliche *cough*).

At the end of the show, a cast member surrounded by the corporate sponsor’s cars thanks us for watching the show and tells us that he hopes we’re as excited about the rest of the season as he is. And in case we’re not, he introduces a montage of things we’ll see in future episodes: more treachery, more Florida nightlife, some jet skis, hot cars, ocean vistas and crocs devouring dead bodies — all set to thumpin’ Cuban club jams.

I’m in.