TRAINING DAY Review: “Trigger Time”

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This episode of had a lot going on. Almost too much. But somehow it all came together and worked in the end, which I’m honestly surprised to even be typing. The plot had quite a few moving pieces. It involved the Russian mob, two L.A. street gangs, a Mexican hitwoman, a group of rogue private military, a mythical “Keyser Söze-esque” criminal known as El Cucuy, and of course, our heroes Frank and Kyle.

We open with Rebcca and Tommy waiting in a car to meet with a youg Russian woman named Laura. She is helping them set up Russian mobster Alexi Koslov. Laura is a waitress in a diner, where they will be sending Frank and Kyle to protect her. “You don’t know him,” Laura warns them about Koslov. “He’s a monster.” Have we ever heard that word on this show? (sarcasm)

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Inside the diner, Laura now on shift, we see Kyle meet Frank for some breakfast. “Here there be monsters, Kyle.” Frank tells him as he nods to Vladimir Zinchenko entering. He works for Alexi Koslov who runs the Russian mob in L.A and keeps a group of slave women beneath his night club. He calls it a “youth hostel.” Even though the cops are aware of this, they can’t just arrest him and bring him to trial because nobody in their right mind will testify. And when one girl escapes, Zinchenko’s is to track her down and kill her. Laura is one of these girls who has escaped, and she is their bait. Frank plans on taking Zinchenko down right there and then in the diner, but Kyle isn’t having it. There are too many people who could potentially get caught up in the crossfire. “So don’t miss,” Frank tells him. And just as he’s about to basically execute this Russian mobster in broad daylight in public, Kyle stops him. “LAPD, drop your weapons!” he yells. Zinchenko is arrested. “I’ll be out in a few hours, maybe I come back for some pie,” Zinchenko says to Laura as he’s being cuffed. “Is this true, are they getting out?” she asks the police who told her she’d be safe.

Kyle knows he messed this one up. Now Koslov know’s Lara been talking to cops and set Zinchenko up. You can’t ask her to testify against the Russian mob, you might as well put a bullet in her yourself. They have to put this on the backburner for now as they called to respond to a homicide scene.

Turns out three people have been killed. All the victims were members of Los Muertos, a gang that conspicuously tattoos those Mexican skeleton things on their faces. Detective Chavez says it was just gang violence but Kyle notes that the killing style “seems pretty precise for gang-bangers.” We also see Kyle flashback to his time in Afghanistan when he sees one of the victims with a precise bullet hole square and center in his forehead. He has to leave the scene. Chavez tells Kyle one of the victims was actually an undercover DEA agent. They need to find out if that’s why they were hit, and if so the DEA needs to pull their people out of field before they get killed ASAP.

Driving, Frank asks Kyle happened back there, but Kyle clams up and won’t say anything. “Don’t keep secrets from your partner,” Frank advises, but we get the sense it’s out of genuinely caring and not necessarily a threat or to save his own ass. These two are growing closer.

When Frank hits up his go-to gang informant, he tells him it was not a rival gang that hit Los Muertos but “El Cucuy.” It’s an old excuse gangs used whenever some violence happened. “Like saying your dog ate your homework,” Frank explains. Just then a hot woman with a crossbow in an ice cream truck (yep, read that right) named Aretmis shoots at Frank. Another Los Muertos is there and shoots at Kyle. Kyle gets the guy, but Artemis is gone. She’s a sicaria, a female hitman, and doesn’t come cheap. It appears she was hired by Los Muertos, but why would Los Muertos wanna stop us from catching whoever killed their homies? “I think I have an idea,” Frank says.

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Frank takes the Los Muertos prisoner to their hideout and meets with Baron, leader of Los Muertos. Frank tells him his theory: Baron was “doing a little light housekeeping last night and killed your own guys.” Baron then found out one of them was an undercover fed and was now trying to cover his tracks by having Frank killed. “And don’t shovel me that El Cucuy crap.” Baron goes on to give us the entire story of El Cucuy, the man who took out bad guy Broken Claw (who we saw in a flashback of Rebecca’s to when she was a little girl) in San Pedro in 1996. Supposedly El Cucuy killed everyone in a warehouse full of Broken Claw’s slave girls and freed all the girls. “Whoever he was, he had to be a monster,” Baron says. It’s obvious to me now where this is going, but watching it I had no clue…

Back with Laura at police headquarters, it turns out Koslov’s attorney got Zinchenko off as he has a concealed carry permit. It’s clear they still have every intention of coming after Laura. They can’t put her in witness protection because that’s “for witnesses” and there’s no way she’s pointing out Koslov in a courtroom. In the meantime, Rebecca offers Laura a place to stay—her place.

And we get a little update on the whole Kyle/Deputy Chief Lockhart storyline. She originally hired Kyle to shadow Frank in order to build a corruption case against him to avoid a scandal that will result in city-wide chaos (as we learn happened after the events of the actual Training Day film). “We are one scandal away from a fullscale apocolypse,” she reminds Kyle dramatically. She tells him his report very thin. Kyle explains Frank is careful in front of his because he knew why Lockhart had placed Kyle with him from the start. Before Kyle leaves, she asks him if Frank mentioned anything about his father’s homicide? “He may try to use your father’s murder to manipulate you. But letting Frank into your head is like inviting a vampire into your home.” More of that monster analogy. Really hitting us over the head with that, huh?

Rebecca catches Kyle in the elevator coming from his meeting with Lockhart and senses something is up. She tells him that if she finds out Kyle it there to help build a case against Frank, “…in the chaos and confusion I’m gonna make a tragic mistake.” Basically she’s gonna kill him next time they’re in a shoot out together. Way to build trust.

Meet Rick Quanstrom, mercenary. He’s part of a team of ex-mercenaries who target gangs and organized crime and take their spoils, and the cops assume it was just criminal on criminal violence. It’s actually pretty damn brilliant. They’re a little shaken from learning that when they hit Los Muertos, they killed a DEA agent. However, they still have the big score in store: Koslov. “We can walk away or nut up,” Quanstrom says. They take a vote, and one guy doesn’t have stomach for it anymore. He promptly gets stabbed in the back and dies.

While Kyle is researching El Cucuy (and Frank) Artemis drops in for another appearance. She and Kyle do battle and exchange words while physically fighting (a bit cheesy). “Relax, I’m not here to kill you,” she finally says, but gets him in a choke hold… with her legs. “Turns out we’re after the same man,” she explains. “My target’s El Cucuy and I want another shot at him.” This is the only part that didn’t really make any sense to me. Why would she tell a cop this? What is there to gain from any of it?

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Soon three more places of business, all fronts of Koslov’s, are hit, cleverly pushing Koslov to move all his cash to one secure location: his night club. That’s one big score. The police find the body of Steven Wilcox (the lone dissenter in Quanstrom’s mercenary outfit) in Echo Park lake. He had an arms system schematic in his wallet with an address in the corner: Koslov’s night club. They find out Wilcox  is former military contractor and the precision and restraint in the Los Muertos killing Kyle originally mused about early in the episode suddenly makes sense to him. They soon connect Steven to Quanstrom, and note what a lousy hiding Steven’s body he did. Why is Quanstrom in such a hurry? “Whatever he’s planning is going down tonight at Koslov’s club. And we’re gonna be there,” Frank says.

Upping the stakes, Rebecca returns to her apartment to find Laura missing and a sign of a struggle. Koslov got to her. But she’s still alive. “That bastard is gonna want to parade her in front of other girls to show there is no escaping him.”

That night, Kyle and Frank see Quastrom’s van outside the club. Kyle again has a flashback to his days in Afghanistan and this time comes clean to Frank. He basically lost it on the battlefield and killed an innocent kid, possibly more. “You made a mistake,” Frank sympathizes. Kyle says he didn’t make a mistake; he had something inside of him. And he’s beginning to think his dad did, too. That thing? You guessed it. His dad’s “monster” who Frank claims saved his ass more than once. And it’s the only reason either of them are still breathing.

Someone pulls the fire alarm inside the club and it’s evacuated. As a bunch of “firemen” show up, they draw guns and quickly take out Koslov’s men. Meanwhile, Rebecca and Tommy infiltrate and confront Koslov and Zenchenko, who both quickly meet their demise with a few neck snaps and gunshots. On the dance floor, Kyle and Frank take all of Quastrom’s men out (yeah, not buying it). Quastrom himself is finally taken out by Artemis. Frank takes the duffle bag of money, frees the girls, and uses the money to pay for them to get their lives up and running again.

Hanging out, Tommy explains to Kyle that Frank rescued Rebecca from human traffickers (that guy Broken Claw) when she was seven. Frank’s the only father she’s ever known. Kyle seems touched. When he sits down alone with Frank, he points out Frank still hasn’t told him why Los Muertos sent Artemis after him… Then he makes the connection: “El Cucuy was you. You prayed on the monsters.” Frank offers this bit of wisdom we seem to get some iteration of every episode: “You have to become the thing that scares them.” In a flashback, we see Frank shoot Broken Claw, takes little girl Rebecca. “Yeah I’m a monster when I have to be,” he says. But Kyle rightedly asks,
“What if you become something worse?” Frank tells him his dad was always around to make sure that didn’t happen. “Now you got me,” Kyle says. And I’m actually starting to appreciate their budding friendship.

This episode had many twists and turns and was by far the best episode to date. If the writers can keep it up for a few more consistent episodes, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the show as a fun, popcorn-y hour of network TV.
TB-TV-Grade-B+Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Training Day airs Thursday at 10PM on CBS

Read all of our reviews of Training Day here. 
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In Los Angeles, a city where streets are overrun by drug dealers, those who have sworn to uphold the law are breaking them to clean up the streets. Paul is a veteran TV reviewer whose methods of writing TV reviews are questionable, if not corrupt.
Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulgulyas
Keep up with all of Paul’s reviews here.

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