The episode returns thoughtfully to the question of how much control the pimps continue to have over their women and their territory now that the parlors and the peeps have done so much to loosen their grip. Lori’s efforts to push away from C.C. are unsuccessful here, but the battle of wills that takes place between C.C. and Dorothy, the former prostitute he once knew as Ashley, is a glimpse into what’s necessary. Dorothy summons the strength to confront C.C. directly, but it isn’t easy to withstand his efforts to humiliate and intimidate her, and it takes all the will she has to survive that conversation.
By contrast, Larry Brown doesn’t seem interested in the job anymore. Now that he has gotten a taste of movie stardom, he is out there studying Yaphet Kotto monologues and honing his craft, which brings him closer to Darlene but pulls him away from his other women, who can’t even count on him for protection anymore. Where Lori would surely want C.C. less interested in her day-to-day, Loretta doesn’t have much use for Larry at all, even though she still has to pay him his cut.
That arrangement can’t last forever: There’s a cost to being aspirational in this world, no matter what your position. Still, Larry isn’t likely to pay for it in black eyes and slugs to the torso.
For her part, Shay (Kim Director) is in the middle of a transition that could turn her into another Dorothy or could leave her dead on the street. After her latest overdose, her peep show manager, Irene (Roberta Colindrez), has been looking after her and keeping her from falling back into heroin addiction. The danger with Shay is her passivity: Irene is managing her sobriety and keeping her pimp, Rodney (Method Man), at bay, and Shay seems to fall into lesbianism, too, out of accommodation more than desire. Dorothy needed Abby’s help to leave C.C., but she had the strength to do it. Against the twin forces of her addiction and her predatory pimp, Shay’s prospects are much bleaker.
• A note on style: David Simon shows, like many big ensemble projects, have to do a lot of cutting between one story line and another, so no subplot or characters wilts from lack of attention. But the crosscutting sometimes undermines the continuity and power of a single, sustained scene. The showdown between C.C. and Dorothy gets cleaved into two different scenes: one with Dorothy noticing C.C. pulling up as she talks to pimps and apartment residents about a common area, the other with Dorothy walking up to C.C.’s car and having it out with him. Inserting a scene with Candy and Harvey talking about shooting permits weakens the impact.