After two episodes with more obvious thematic concerns (not that that’s a bad thing), “Agua Caliente” feels more like a twisty and turny Terriers episode that still makes sure we know exactly what the writers are trying to explore. Here, the topic of concern is partnerships, both old (Hank and Gustafson, Britt and Ray) and new(ish) in Hank and Britt. We have been waiting for the moment that Hank and Britt’s relationship gets blown up a little bit, but instead of doing that, the episode smartly decides to analyze their relationship by splitting them up and making them recognize how good they’ve got it.
Hank and Britt start the episode in the same place, screwing around at a golf course while waiting to serve some jerk-off for Maggie as a way to make some extra money. And although their discussions about golf and argument over what’s the correct thing when you’re serving someone are light and not pertinent to the rest of the episode, it’s a wonderful sequence that really hits home how well these guys get along and it makes the subsequent 40 minutes even more thrilling because they’ve been separated.
Serving completed, Hank finds that Britt is missing after they split up to track down the scumbag. He goes to Maggie, nothing. He goes to Katie, nothing. So he goes to the only person he’s got left to help: Mark. And though Mark’s spent a good deal of the season frustrated with Hank and warning Britt about those frustrations, Mark can’t say no to his old partner because Hank’s just so damn earnest about helping his friend who he feels wholly responsible for. So despite all his trepidations, it’s obvious that Mark respects Hank, knows he’s a wonderful man and can’t help himself when it comes to assisting Mr. Dollworth. It’s a happy-ish reunion for the two and they fall back into a comfortable partnership as they search for Britt.
Britt, on the other hand, isn’t so comfortable with being partnered back up with Ray. It seems Ray got in bad with some cartel folks after Britt ran him out of town a few episodes ago, and now he’s pulled Britt — and his B&E skills — into a mess so that he can save his own ass. To make matters worse, Ray’s given the cartel baddies Katie’s location and so Britt has literally no choice but to help the cartel break into the local jail and steal a whole bunch of drugs.
For a good deal of the episode, Hank and Britt work within the constructs of their past partnerships in hopes of reaching the same goal (saving Britt’s life). Hank and Gustafson jet down to Mexico and dig around at the jail, even though Gustasfon knows that he has no jurisdiction and little power. Meanwhile, Britt and Ray start a fight, end up in the jail, break out, steal the drugs and then find themselves on the run — just as Hank shows up to save the day.
However, Britt proves that he isn’t just a little dog being directed around by Hank and has a steely reserve in such a horrible situation. When he and Ray show back up with the drugs, they find the cartel members have been killed by even worse cartel members, but when Ray wants to run, Britt sacks up and faces the evil SOBs with guns. He gives them the drugs, tells the truth and ultimately just wants the one dude’s phone so he can get the bastards off Katie’s tail back home.
And then, after proving they can operate independently from one another, Britt and Hank meet up in one of the season’s best moments. Britt calls Hank in panic hoping that he can save Katie, not knowing that Hank is already in Tijuana. Then the two of them ramble on about the location of the other and then as they always do, stumble into the right moment, because wouldn’t you know, they’re on the same block. Their embrace is goofy and sloppy, but damn if it’s no poignant.
The rest of the episode wraps up in a slightly-too-convenient manner with them racing back home to save Katie (and her professor, who’s stopped by to return her cell phone and clear the air), but it works because Hank gets shot trying to help Katie escape. By the end of the whole ordeal, Britt and Gustafson discuss the latter’s earlier comments about Hank letting him down because it sure seems to Britt that Hank is going to do anything for his friends. Gustasfon says he never denied that Hank wouldn’t have great moments (which ultimately make the betrayals that much worse), and Britt notes that neither of them deserve having Hank in their lives.
“Yep,” Gustasfon says.
Damn. That’s some good stuff right there. Like I said up top, it seems like a really smart move to bring Hank and Britt together by splitting them apart because their relationship was starting to show the seams, if only just a bit. Now, they’ve kind of retrenched for the surely terrible things to come, which again, will probably only make their ultimate fight seem that much worse — and great for us to watch. But now they both know what they mean to the other, and that deepening of their relationship is just glorious to watch. Best series on TV? Yes.