There's no honor among thieves, but there is among prostitutes.
The third episode of "The Deuce," titled "The Principle Is All," is inspired by the line that a john yells at Lori after he claims she charged him too much ($10 to be exact). But beyond his platitude to justify his nickle-and-diming, the title refers to the principles that the sex workers and pimps follow to live and thrive in their world. David Simon and crew examine these rules without filters and judgments — it's exactly the approach that a show on prostitution needs to treat each character fairly.
After falling asleep while watching another black and white movie with her cinephile john, Doreen takes the money from his wallet so she doesn't wake him. Abby's former co-worker lifts cash from her purse while she's sleeping after they fooled around.
Two similar situations, and while both are illegal (prostitution for the former, robbery for the latter), Dorene is the ethical one for following the principles of capitalism. She provided a service, and received compensation for her work — nothing more, nothing less. Abby's old co-worker, however, feigned interest in her to rob her after an intimate moment while she was sleeping and vulnerable.
Doreen could have taken all of her john's money, but she only took the amount that they agreed to. When her pimp asks why he didn't pay extra since she stayed late, she explains that she owed the john for the last time when he paid double. She even offers to "stay out on the street for the rest of the day, and make it as right as [she] can." Honest and hard-working, Doreen exemplifies everything capitalism stands for.
Simon's criticism of capitalism — and hypocrisy of social mores in general — is his trademark, and he does it phenomenally. Just like the drug dealers in "The Wire," mainstream society deems Doreen profession as morally reprehensible, even if she does embody the American work ethic.
But this is the world she lives in, and these are the principles she lives by. She follows them so austerely, that she's willing to accept a beating from her pimp. "Why don't we get it over with?" she commands Larry Brown.
Her bravery for facing her abusive pimp is reminiscent of "The Wire's" Stringer Bell's last words: "Well, get on with it…," Stringer challenges rival drug dealers Omar Little and Brother Muzzone. Both Doreen and Stringer knew what was coming, because they've accepted that those are the consequences for the world they live in. But rather than beg for mercy, they just want to rip off the bandage. Luckily for Doreen, Larry spares her a beating this time.
Meanwhile, Candy has been bitten by the movie bug, but it's not necessarily acting that she wants to pursue. She aims to land a job backstage and hopefully retire from the stroll. Europe already has a thriving porn industry, and she wants to be at the forefront when America catches on. So she meets with a porn videographer to see how she can bring it stateside, although he's doubtful it could work over here.
"It's America, right? When do we ever leave the [expletive] dollar for the other guy to pick up?" she quips. Candy is a strong business woman and knows what needs to be done to succeed. The unctuous videographer says she's smart and that he likes her, but that flattery is meaningless when he tells her she'd "cost too much overhead" being the behind the scenes. Instead, he offers her an insultingly low rate to be in front of the cameras.
Candy is devastated. This is her chance to make it in the movie industry, where she can have a legitimate career as a lighting technician, director or anything where clients no longer undervalue her and she doesn't make money "lying flat on [her] back," as her mother so cruelly said. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a painfully realistic job of holding back her tears as she's forced to put a smile on her face for the rest of their meeting.
The sad fact of the matter is that the film industry is still misogynistic (then and now), and she will continue to be underappreciated, especially if she has to work for a boss. But if she's determined to make it in the porn industry, the good news is that New York City is a massive city teeming with show business and sleaze. Soon enough she'll have another chance to star in the spotlight — or hold one up, for that matter.
More Highlights from “The Principle Is All”
On the house: It was the best of times for Vinny; it was the worst of times for Candy. In comparison to Candy's flatlined porn career, it's hard feeling bad for Vinny. His bar is a success, and it looks like he's having the time of his life. But the writers give him humanity by always repairing the damage his idiot twin brother causes, and being harassed for his Italian heritage. But apart from that, I want to see more emotional conflict at the bar that doesn't involve his prodigal brother.
Worst phone voicemail to get: A john calls Candy telling her that he picked up gonorrhea — doesn't know from who — and that it burns when he urinates. But I thought she uses condoms?
Most savage line: "These guys are for lying down," Candy says to her son while he plays with toy soldiers and sticks them in his pizza. "Some people gotta make a living flat on their backs, I suppose," her mother sneers. Ouch. That's a burn you can't cure with penicillin.
Most Wire-esque scene: Chris Bauer, who plays Bobby in "The Deuce" and Frank Sobatka in "The Wire," has a habit of threatening to fire inept hard-hat-wearing employees. In "The Deuce," he chews out a long-hair crew member for arguing with other workers over the Vietnam War. "None of them bites the hand like you, none of them mouths off like you," he barks at the Ivy League student who got his job through his father.
The scene is virtually identical to a Season 2 episode of "The Wire," where Frank Sobatka fires his son Ziggy for goofing off on the docks. As much as I love the homages to "The Wire," copying the exact plotline featuring the same actor is lazy. Not even Bobby's heart attack could make the scene interesting for "The Wire" fans.
Favorite scene: Abby quitting the telemarketing job by walking out, throwing a bunch of papers in the air and mockingly saluting her overbearing boss. She is all of us at our crappy first job.
Fun-employment: As I predicted last week, Abby runs to Vinny for work. Yes, the girl who criticized him for objectifying his female employees by making leotards their work uniforms came to him for a job. But that's because she doesn't have any more options. She left in the middle of an interview and quit a telemarketing gig after a couple of days. I wonder how soon until she starts walking the stroll or gets in front of the camera.