Battle Creek recap: “Syrupticious”

battle-creek-episode-2-Syruptitious Lori Acken
Josh Duhamel (Special Agent Milton Chamberlain), Miles Anderson as Phil Floss, and Dean Winters (Det. Russ Agnew). Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After last week’s whiz bang introduction to the BCPD and FBI wunderkind Milt Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) and an incredibly convoluted double homicide by a Pizza Guy, this week — thankfully — the pace slows a bit. The case is much clearer and more simply drawn, giving the characters a little more room to breathe, while maintaining its off-center take on the police procedural.

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It’s a rainy night in Battle Creek. Russ (Dean Winters) catches Holly (Aubrey Dollar) refilling their 5-gallon water jug at the fountain – the snack budget has been cut and staff has been burning through water to make single-serve coffee. Across the hall, they notice that the shiny new FBI office is getting new, original art.

The commander (Janet McTeer) approaches Russ with a new case: A dead body has been found by hunters in the woods, and, since it’s raining, “evidence recovery is going to be a bitch.” She tells Russ and Font (Kal Penn) to get help from Milt. Russ is none too pleased about it. Outside Milt’s office, Russ convinces Font not to bother the good agent, and solve the murder themselves. Milt, using his finely honed special agent skills, sees the boys leaving without him.

Rain pours down on the crime scene, the detectives headlights illuminate the body, naked, laying in the woods. Russ complains about the lack of proper rain gear, so the rain, naturally, turns into a downpour. Russ and Font’s examination of the crime scene shows the naked man has been tied to the tree, with no obvious fatal wounds. Russ points out to Font that once they get an ID on the DB (Dead Body) they should be halfway there — if they need Milt for that, they’re pathetic.

Moments later, Milt calls out “Eddie Floss,” from somewhere behind them. “Edward, actually,” he corrects himself, walking to where Russ and Font are, “and I don’t think you’re pathetic at all.” Milt saw the detectives arguing in front of his office, which he mentioned that to Guziewicz and she angrily gave him directions to the crime scene. On the way, he spotted an abandoned car and found a wallet in the glove box. Russ notices the victim has a fine white froth in his mouth and concludes that Mr. Floss was drowned.

“The wife did it,” says Niblet (Damon Herriman) back at the station the next morning, because history shows it is always the spouse. Russ disagrees. Based on the fact that the body was dragged to the woods and tied to a tree, he’s certain that someone was trying to send a message. Funk and Niblet are tasked with following up on Floss’s last known location, and Font makes the suggestion that they ascertain what type of water the fellow drowned in. He and Russ are to check in with the Medical Examiner (ME).

Font begs off the trip due to an imminent migraine attack, leaving Milt to be Russ’ partner. At the morgue, Russ, as usual, makes an ass of himself while Milt continues to charm everyone he meets. The ME finds something very odd in the lungs of the victim. Rather than the water they were expecting, it appears that the victim drowned in … maple syrup.

Font, meanwhile, is at a marijuana dispensary picking up his migraine medicine.

Later, at the station, Holly is having a heart-to-heart with Russ, trying to talk him out of going alone to break the bad news to the victim’s wife. To make her point, Russ and Holly try a practice run: Russ and Milt are standing on the doorstep of Nissa Floss. Her dad answers the door, while, at the same time, Funk and Niblet are at the diner where Eddie Floss was last seen.

The show cuts between the interviews of Nissa Floss and the cafe owner, Emmet. It seems that Eddie and Emmet had a fight because the Maple Syrup Cartel (you read that right— like OPEC for syrup) put pressure on Emmet to stop buying syrup from Eddie. The Cartel controls the distribution of maple syrup in the entire Midwest. Eddie stood up to the cartel for a while by building a sugar shack in his garage, but he couldn’t make a go of it. Both Emmet and Nissa name Julio McFarland, the head of the Cartel, as the prime suspect.

Milt tries to use his pull and his charm to get a warrant to search McFarland’s warehouse. The judge denies the warrant, considering that Milt only has hearsay evidence, but it seems like more than that. Russ is amused that Wonderboy doesn’t always get what he wants — even it affects his case.

The two stake out the McFarland warehouse but without a warrant, all they can do is look. Russ decides to do it his way and climbs the fence, figuring he can work around his extra-legal methods if he finds any evidence. Two guard dogs have different ideas about Russ’ plans.

Back at the station, Holly tends to Russ’ bite wounds. Funk comes in with news that Emmet’s story checked out. Guziewicz is pleased to see the team all working together, but so far they have no real evidence on McFarland. Russ is convinced that they need to set up a sting operation. Amazingly, Milt thinks this is a good idea. Russ suggests using fake syrup, but Milt reasons that they should make high-grade syrup in order to convince the baddies that they’re serious.

Russ and Milt go to Nissa Floss’ dad for help in creating a legitimate Sugar Shack. A montage follows in which they set up the shack with the help of Milt’s FBI connections — a clear wink at Breaking Bad montage scenes — and begin cooking the pure stuff for the sting.

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Josh Duhamel (Special Agent Milton Chamberlain), Miles Anderson as Phil Floss, and Dean Winters (Det. Russ Agnew). Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

At HQ, Font gets Guziewicz to sign off on a lab test, for a counterfeit drug case… his own. She is clearly skeptical, but she signs.

Nissa Floss drops by the station to bring their insurance claims to Holly and to ask if she could get her husband’s wedding ring back. Holly refuses because it’s evidence.

Font returns to the marijuana dispensary to seek justice — the lab confirmed his suspicion that the pot was fake. Instead, the dispensary guy refuses on the basis of Font’s shoddy chain of evidence and the word of a stoner detective vs. an entrepreneur.

At breakfast, Russ and Milt (Milt’s casual look is as put-together as his work clothes) make a deal with the cafe owner — whose business has fallen on hard times presumably because of low syrup quality — to buy their high-grade stuff.

Later that night, the buy goes down behind a building near the train tracks. The cafe owner tests the merchandise and buys a 50-gallon drum of the good stuff. Russ offloads a barrel from their flatbed truck that Milt takes back to the buyer. Just as Russ turns around, a masked man appears, pointing a pistol at Russ who is still on the truck. Russ dives for cover as the man opens fire, hitting a bunch of their barrels. The gunman escapes but Russ gets the license plate number. They have enough for the warrant.

Milt, Russ and some FBI guys swarm McFarland’s warehouse to serve the warrant and search the place. They find barrels of syrup, but no McFarland. A phone call to Russ reveals that McFarland is already downtown with his lawyer. Turns out that one Judge Walters tipped McFarland off as soon as he issued the warrant.

In the BCPD interview room, McFarland apologizes for his trigger-happy associate Larry’s over-protective nature. McFarland and Larry claim to have nothing to do with the murder. Russ is convinced but Milt isn’t sure.

In a van outside the dispensary, Font has brought an expert in on his fake weed case —Teddy the Snitch — who has just purchased a bag. Teddy convinces Font to try it out, proving that Teddy definitely didn’t get sold the fake stuff. Teddy reason’s that if the dealer subs out a small percentage of weed, he can make a tidy profit.

That night in Milt’s office, he and Russ learn that McFarland’s syrup is different from the stuff in the victim’s lungs. To top it off, there is no corresponding DNA evidence.

This hiccup does not dissuade Russ from paying a friendly little visit to Larry, who is hanging out with his girlfriend at a bar. Soon enough, Russ gets in Larry’s face, insults and harasses him and his girl.

The following morning, Russ comes in to work to find that Guziewicz is … upset. She calls him into her office and reads him the riot act for harassing — or stalking as McFarland’s lawyer characterizes it — Larry. Russ insists that they do that all the time, but Guziewicz points out that they don’t do that to powerful and highly connected people. She has no choice but to suspend Russ.

Funk, Niblet and Jacocks appeal Russ’ case but the commander can’t budge. Nissa Floss comes back in to see Holly and find out when Eddie’s body is going to be released. Nissa starts to break down, perhaps overcome with grief or just not expecting the level of kindness, but Holly notices something.

She knocks on the door of Russ’ place and tells him that when Nissa Floss was crying, her tears exposed a yellow-tinted concealer beneath her makeup which indicates a pro-level technique for covering up bruises — a skill you only develop with practice. This puts her in the motive camp. Holly also confesses that she gave Nissa Eddie’s wedding ring (which Nissa was wearing during the breakdown) and that the pattern on the ring would leave a distinctive bruise which would prove she had motive. Russ offers to go rogue again, break into the Floss’s and steal back the ring, but Nissa is wearing it around her neck. Holly points out that he does have another option: Trust Milt.

Russ visits Milt to lay out his new theory that Eddie never went to McFarland’s and that he was drowned in his own syrup at home by his abused wife. When asked for proof, Russ hands Milt medical records, which indicate a suspicious amount of clumsiness. They never searched her place because she was never a suspect and claimed Eddie never came home. Since Russ is still suspended, Milt hires him as a consultant so that the evidence that Russ has gathered can be put on the record.

Milt and Russ check out the Floss’ sugar shack, which Nissa is cleaning out. Russ confronts her about the abuse and she denies it for a time until they press her into confessing: On the night of Eddie’s death, Nissa had stood up to her drunken husband and hit him back and, without intending to, had shoved him into a barrel of his own syrup, knocking him cold. At that moment Nissa’s dad comes in and confesses that he took the opportunity to finish Eddie off, but then Nissa confesses herself.

Back in Gurziewicz’s office, she, Russ and Milt discuss the conflicting confessions. Russ is convinced it’s Nissa, while Milt is sure it’s her Dad. Gurziewicz concludes that if it is Nissa, she’s long since paid the price for her decision. She tosses Nissa’s confession in the trash, explaining, “We’ve got a dad who wants to go to prison to protect his daughter. I say we let him. I like that ending better.”

Milt is confused, but Russ explains that while the commander cares deeply for the truth, she cares even more about justice.

Later, at the marijuana dispensary, Font brings the hammer down. He and Milt indicate that if the guy doesn’t give up all of his fake weed and submit to regular inspections, the feds will be involved. The guy calls his bluff and gives Font zip, because the Feds have never intervened like this and they were not going to do so now… until Font notices the movie playing in the background. The FBI warning on the movie clearly states that it is intended for private use only and that he’s committing a federal offense by playing it in his store. Font finally gets his man.

Back at HQ, Russ has been reinstated. Just as he and Font are about to leave for the day, they get the call that eight people have had their headlights stolen in the high school parking lot. In a callback to the opening scene, Guziewicz tells them to grab Milt and check it out. Again, they argue in the hallway …and Milt sees them anyway.

New episodes of Battle Creek premiere Sunday nights at 10/9CT on CBS.