By Jillie Mae Eddy, Contributor
Let’s slip into some Jordache (joor – dah – kee) jeans for episode one of Comrade Detective, “The Invisible Hand.”
We open on actor Channing Tatum and author Jon Ronson sittin’ pretty in an empty movie theater. Channing Tatum, despite struggling to fit his many muscles into such a tiny chair, is excited to talk Comrade Detective. A Red Dawn or Rocky IV for the other side of the Iron Curtain, this Romanian government-funded cop series was made to promote Communist ideals before it was lost to the ages. “After a two-decade journey spanning four continents, hundreds of dead-end leads, and the cooperation of five international governments,” Ronson tells us that Comrade Detective has been dubbed for our viewing pleasure. Without further Siskel-and-Ebert-ing, our hosts send us into the synth-pumping world of 1980s Romania.
Detective Gregor Anghel (Florin Piersic Jr., voice Channing Tatum), aka Romanian Timothy Olyphant, lights a cigarette. “You don’t become a good Communist by going to meetings or memorizing the manifesto,” he tells us in voiceover, “You do it on the streets. You do it with your fist.” And if you thought that was tough, wait until you see him twirl through a group of impressed primary colored tracksuits. Gregor is rocking the monochrome trend in Bristol Stool Chart 4. He walks into a bar and tells the bartender that he’s quit drinking. “All right, vodka then,” says the friendly barkeep. Gregor finds his partner Nikita Ionescu (Christian Popa, voice Beck Bennett) in the back room. “There’s fucking chess on, and you’re reading a book. You feel okay?” asks Gregor, but Nikita is feeling great because it’s time to chase down a lead. Our heroes hop into their fuel-efficient European clown car and have a friendly conversation about Marx and Gregor’s dick (“To each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”). Captain Covaci (Adrian Paduraru, voice Nick Offerman) comes in over the radio, and he knows what our boys are up to. What are they up to? Whatever it is, it’s dangerous, and the captain tells them to wait for backup. But Gregor and Nikita are a pair of lovable scamps, and lovable scamps don’t take orders.
Gregor and Nikita corner their drug dealers—I guess that’s what they’re up to—and Drug Dealer 1 is in a real hurry. He has to get home to see the beginning of Mihai Viteazul because you know the beginning is the best part. Drug Dealer 2 is looking professional in another primary-colored tracksuit—cue the tracksuit drinking game—and he’s selling some sweet Colombian cocaine. Busted! “You want the streets of Bucharest to look like the streets of Detroit?” shouts Nikita; Gregor adds, “The CIA imports drugs so that they can destroy their black communities.” Guys, I think he might be onto something. Drug Dealer 2, who looks and sounds like Bo Burnham and is also voiced by Bo Burnham, tells our heroes, “We want money!” “For what?” asks an incredulous Gregor, “All your needs are taken care of. Healthcare, education, food.” Gregor is definitely onto something. “He’s just a Capitalist punk!” says Nikita, but then Nikita gets shot, so it’s a short-lived victory. Gregor chases down the shooter only to watch through binoculars as his partner has his throat sliced open—cue slurped jello sound effect—by a masked man.
Capitalist punk drug dealer #1 gets a stern talking-to from Gregor.
The captain arrives on the scene to pronounce La Femme Nikita dead, RIP, and to lay down some old-school wisdom: “There was a time when I’d line up everyone here against the wall and shoot ‘em, just on the off chance they were the killer.” Damn. So who is the killer? Who set up Gregor and slit Nikita’s jello-y throat? “There’s no such thing as a corrupt police officer in Romania,” says Gregor, looking like a wet chocolate lab, but one thing is for certain: “If I’d obeyed your orders, Nikita would still be alive.”
After the funeral, Gregor gets a call from Nikita’s landlord. “I think there’s been an intruder!” “It’s just a neighbor’s misguided attempt at redistributing Nikita’s wealth,” Gregor reassures her before he does, in fact, find an intruder and slap him across the face. Welcome to the show, Detective Ioseph Baciu (Corneliu Ulici, voice Joseph Gordon Levitt). The Captain, really Shatner-ing it up, tells Gregor that Ioseph is Nikita’s old wrestling buddy, and he’s transferred to Budapest to find Nikita’s killer. Gregor calls Ioseph a “goat fucker” a couple of a times behind his back. Ioseph gets in some polite schmoozing with his fellow detectives. The Captain calls a meeting. Jason Mantzoukas, my future husband, as Detective Dragos (Florin Galan) is here to make mischief with his partner Detective Stan (Ian Grosu, voice Jake Johnson) who sounds like he’s from Chicago. And I couldn’t see you earlier in Nikita’s dark apartment, but you are a handsome man, Joseph. Dare I say you look like a Romanian Jason Mantzoukas?
“We’re not used to crime in Romania. It’s not a part of our national character,” Captain Covaci says to a room full of police officers whose only job is to fight crime. Ioseph isn’t the only new face; secret police officer Dinca is also sitting in on our briefing. “What the fuck kind of name is Dinca?” asks my future husband, but the Captain silences him. “Remember that separately, we are like this,” he says with his fingers outstretched, “But together, we are more like this. Fist! Fist! Fist!”
Gregor and Ioseph are back on the case, fighting about chess and slapping each other around, until Ioseph shows off a clue he found in Nikita’s apartment. “Joor-dah-kee. What is Joordahkee?” Like Dothraki? Oh, no. No, it’s Jordache. American. “You’re implying the killer’s American?” asks Gregor. “Well that would certainly explain the Reagan mask,” says Ioseph. To the American Embassy!
“The ambassador is very busy spreading freedom and democracy,” says Jenny Slate, my future wife, as assistant-to-the-ambassador Jane (Olivia Nita). “More like spreading greed and gonorrhea!” yells Gregor, and he draws a dick in her appointment book. Which works because she ushers them in to meet the American ambassador. Around the embassy, we see: a plate of Twinkies, Guns and Ammo magazines, two large men making their way through a stack of hamburgers, and a portrait of the president. The ambassador’s office—bigger than my apartment—also features an oversized Reagan portrait because The Gipper is always watching. After mistaking an old lady drinking tea for the ambassador, our detectives meet Sally Smith (Ruxandra Enescu, voice Kim Basinger), whose tits are also bigger than my apartment. She tells us that Jordache are jeans, but Gregor and Ioseph don’t recognize this “jean.” If it ain’t a pair of brown polyester flares, Gregor ain’t buyin’ it. Sally, ever resourceful, pimps out Jane so that our detectives can get a good look at her buttocks and at a pair of Jordache jeans. Before you can say, “Diplomatic Immunity,” Gregor is threatening to haul every woman at the embassy down to the station, but then Sally does say “diplomatic immunity,” so…Lethal Weapon II is officially in the mix. Sally and Gregor compete to see who’s better at pushing things off a desk. Ioseph picks up after them. Handsome and a good housekeeper? Move over, Jason and Jenny.
Gregor and Ioseph are kicked out of the embassy, but not before Gregor swipes the ambassador’s appointment book. “It’s incredible how many times she can visit a beauty salon in a week,” observes Detective Ioseph. “We’re talking about a capitalist,” says Gregor, “Narcissism is as important as air to these assholes.” All love to Channing Tatum, but boy’s gotta work on his diction. Ioseph sees some free time in the book, but, “Time is money,” he says. Isn’t that Americans’ favorite expression? So what is Ambassador Tits up to?
Overheard on our heroes’ embassy stakeout: “Man did you see the American football game last night? So many passes.” Sally steps out in a sparkly, red vagina dress, meaning that it shows off her vagina and also that it looks like a vagina. “What is she wearing?” I don’t know, Ioseph. But also, maybe I want one? “She’s dressed like a prostitute,” says Gregor. “She’s a capitalist, Gregor. Isn’t calling her a prostitute redundant?” Ioseph for the win. They follow her to an underground casino where she and Gregor dance, meaning she cha-chas around him while he broods. “You know, detective, we’re going to win this cold war. And then where will you be?” “Oh, you know, just wearing cowboy boots and a smile while exploiting my fellow man.” Sally refers Gregor to a man in a hat who looks a little like Harry Dean Stanton by way of Denis O’Hare. He leads Gregor into the back of the casino and pulls a knife on him. Never trust a man in a fedora. Ioseph leaves the stakeout van and enters the casino—somehow the same song is still playing (“You are my obsession. Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?”)—but Hat is getting away with Gregor in the back of his car. He almost runs down a lady with a stroller—I see you Battleship Potemkin—and there’s Ioseph! The detectives give Hat a beating—they’re bonding!—but apparently we need Hat alive.
Sally watches from her Ford Mercury as Hat rides off in an ambulance. “Lord have mercy!” The Gipper-masked man is in the backseat of her car. He gives her a big stack of cash, which she smells like true Capitalist swine. I don’t think this is going to end well for Sally. But the screen reads, “Va urma” (“To be continued”), so we’ll have to wait and see.
See you at episode two, comrades.
It has to be said:
- Comrade Detective was absolutely never a television program in 1980s Romania.
- “Jane? Would you go grab me a Pepsi? A Diet Pepsi. And try not to fuck it up this time. Bless your heart.” So much Southern charm. Jane, how did you fuck up a Diet Pepsi?
- Gregor always bets on red.
Jillie Mae Eddy is a writer and musician who splits her time between Brooklyn and Maine. She was named a 2016 Playwriting/Screenwriting Fellow by The New York Foundation for the Arts, and a guy on Medium called her “somewhat startlingly talented.” She’s currently working on an EP of murder ballads with her husband-to-be because romance.