‘Lethal Weapon’ review: “Surf n Turf”

Season 1, Episode 2
“Surf n Turf”
AIR DATE: September 28, 2016

The story in “Surf n Turf”, the second episode of FOX’s Lethal Weapon, is that Riggs and Murtaugh are so destructive to the city of Los Angeles that they’ve cost the city somewhere over $1.5 million dollars, a sum which seems relatively cheap, compared to real life, and puzzling, since they’ve ever only worked one case since they were together. They’d argue they’re a success. But, no. “Crockett and Tubbs” (their police captain’s nickname for them and shameless running pop culture joke) are assigned to “check out a noise complaint” because they just suck that much. Yes, on this show, police captains personally handle “noise complaints” in Los Angeles and assigns his two best cops to it.

Of course, this leads to a new case: a private illegal arms sale gone wrong at a palatial estate in the Hollywood Hills. How do Riggs and Murtaugh skip the noisy party full of scantily-clad beach bodies and a readily-available supply of drugs and booze? The neighbor who called them (in the middle of the afternoon, for some reason) seduces them with coffee cake. The shooting (committed by one of the gun pushers in front of about a hundred witnesses which is weird for a group we learn likes “secrecy”) leads to a shoot-out and a high-speed chase through the streets of Hollywood.

It also leads to Riggs and Murtaugh blowing the shooter up real good right in the middle of a crowded public street. It wasn’t their fault. Murtaugh wouldn’t shoot the guy because “he’s driving a Propane truck”. The perp explodes anyhow because he accidentally runs over a motorcycle, which sparks and sends the truck up in flames. How sparks can trigger an explosion from a tank safely designed to withstand sparks is beyond me, but it does. Riggs simply looks at Murtaugh and says, “And you wanted to be Spicy Salsa.” Hang on…let me go back…

That joke is a reference to “chips and salsa”, another duo which doesn’t reference famous television cop duos — but it’s a duo, so it’s funny. And by “funny”, I mean “lame and monotonous”. Seriously, here’s the actual eyeroll-inducing dialogue:

MURTAUGH: While we’re on the job, we gotta work together like “surf n’ turf”.
RIGGS: Cool. I’m “turf”.
MURTAUGH: No…you’re “surf”. You live on the beach, butt-naked.
RIGGS: This is non-negotiable, Roger.
MURTAUGH: Pineapple n’ ham…
RIGGS: That’s gross. I don’t wanna be either.
MURTAUGH: Chips n’ salsa…
RIGGS: Ok, I can roll with that.
MURTAUGH: Ok, I’m spicy salsa with tomatoes blended nicely on the side…
RIGGS: I think you’re “chunky” at best…

That’s before the obligatory “Tango and Cash” reference which is paired with a fine “peaches n’ cream” which devolves into a quick “Starsky & Hutch” reference.


MTV’s Scream was more subtle.

Apparently, a waitress at the party saw the shooter and left one of her shoes behind as she fled. What that lost shoe has to do with anything is anyone’s guess (the duo already ID’ed the waitress before finding her shoe) but it provides Murtaugh with the David Caruso-esque line, “Let’s find our Cinderella”, so there’s that. It turns out the waitress is preggers and fears for her life since the shooting. She also reminds Riggs of his wife. Because she’s a woman and she’s having a baby. This is how simple and maudlin this show is. So, naturally, Riggs and Murtaugh need to make sure she lives.

But the Riggs-baby-wife connection idea takes a backseat to the budding relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh which, while nice (and providing yet another fun family dinner involving Riggs), feels like an excuse to avoid a deep dive into the dark recesses of the mind of Martin Riggs. Yes, Riggs gets beat up at a seedy bar for leering at a biker’s girlfriend and he sleeps nude on the beach much to the shock of L.A’s beach bums but these moments are fleeting, half-baked and/or are tainted by goofball writing that promised so much more.

That isn’t to say the episode is a complete flop. The aforementioned bar scene (Riggs is drinking his problems away because his Texas home has been sold) is actually slightly moving: Riggs is interested in the woman eyeing him and considers removing his wedding band to hit on her (he still wears it) but stops himself because he still isn’t past his late wife. No stranger to the drink, he ends up passing out on a pool chair in Murtaugh’s backyard after the family dinner — and Murtaugh removes the beer from his hand and covers him with a flannel blanket so he can sleep warm.

These moments work — but it’s on to the next thing and we’re off to the races again. Remember the pregnant waitress? The one we don’t see her for over half the episode because the show was busy hinting at the stuff that triggered Riggs but failed to deliver? She’s still alive. And even though Riggs and Murtaugh are out-manned and out-gunned…they end up saving the day in the time it takes to microwave Instant Noodles while their captain grits his teeth and hopes his boys aren’t up to no good. And the whole time, we’re like “Holy shit, they’re cops busting perps. Doesn’t that warrant a little mayhem?”

“Surf n’ Turf” is an improvement on last week’s pilot, providing a nice 43-minute diversion for those who love their formulaic cop-dramas with nothing heavy. With shows like CSI, NCIS and Hawaii Five-0, that’s fine. With Lethal Weapon, however, it’s inexcusable, especially considering just how much material the writers have to work with. Not being a cable show hurts. Because of that, the pregnant waitress is reduced to a cheap plot device, the show’s villains are uninteresting “Scum of the Week” types and the moments that are really supposed to emotionally pop end up being doughy, uncooked misfires because the writers keep pulling punches.

Crockett and Tubbs? Tango and Cash? Starsky and Hutch? Nah…

Lethal Weapon is and isn’t.

Matt Perri
Matt Perrihttp://mattperri.wordpress.com
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, Matt's Entertainment.

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