The Sopranos gets my vote as the all-time best TV series ever written, but it gets a run for its money in the mob-genre department with Draining the Swamp, the reality show now in its second season. While most of the audience would have voted the show out after the first six weeks, given the dubious means by which it reached prime time in the first place, not to mention the extreme loathsomeness of the main character, the show is finally growing into its own.
In the latest episode featuring a Stand-Up Guy and a Squealer, the meaning behind the "drain the swamp" metaphor emerges in its full clarity. The mob boss, known as "The Don," has been bragging from day one about how he's going to drain the swamp. It's a credit to his con-artistry (as well as our collective obtuseness) that we missed the obvious. What The Don meant is exactly what he is doing—draining the waters so we can see the creatures dwelling within for what they are.
Yes, we should kick ourselves for not seeing it before, but at least this latest episode makes it unmistakable. We have not one, but, count 'em, two swamp creatures from The Don's crew in separate courts receiving guilty verdicts on the very same day! Ooooh, the other swamp creatures are squirming in the muck now—in fact two others were indicted recently, more charges are pending on others, and, meanwhile, resignations mount daily.
Back to the two critters du jour. One, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight counts of financial fraud. But he's the Stand-Up Guy who refused, in The Don's words, "to break," implying he has a lot to hide. Really, The Don always tells us like it is, we just aren't listening. There's another trial pending, but for now Manafort, standing tall in his T Rex costume, clutches high-priced, incriminating material close to his scaly chest with bitty claws.
What a proud performance, especially when held up next to the Squealer: lowly, slithering, wormlike, former consigliere Michael Cohen, aka "the Fixer." After looking up various wormy muck dwellers that might be compared to Michael, I settled on the horsehair worm; up to two feet long, it can be found in swamps, ponds and other quiet waters. When it mates it ties itself up in knots. So, okay, with that image in mind we have the Squealer, who chose not to take a bullet for his boss after all. Indeed the more he rolls himself into knots the lesser his prison sentence (approximately five years as of this post). He could reduce his sentence by handing over good evidence, which he claims he has and is willing to dispense. In public.
What can we anticipate for the rest of the season? Well, hard to say, given that the sit-downs happen in the Oval Office as opposed to the back room of Tony's strip joint. That also changes things. But either way, The Don is no Tony Soprano, and if an election were held tomorrow Tony would win, with no help needed from abroad.
It's a show we love to hate, and god help us, can't stop watching. And, that's another dimension; our lives depend on it. May the good goddesses save us somehow. (Welcome to the pantheon, Aretha Franklin.) At least, at this moment I can watch the live show with more glee than despair, so maybe that's something. With this latest episode, I have to admit, Draining the Swamp has achieved the level of fucking-great writing. We are all on the edge of our seats.