Elwood has mended his ways- or has he?
Buster's foolproof plan to kidnap Elwood worked for a while but eventually the feds caught up with them. His inverted prediction happened- Elwood went back to jail and Buster went into a foster home where he made it his business that they did not love him- or the several after that including his current residence at the Cillipa District Juvenile Correction Centre where a boy that young really is going bad. Mighty Mack and reformed Police Chief Commander turned Blues Brother singer Cab have truly found their calling leading the Blues Brothers Band this time in a genuine 3 year world tour- Mrs Murphy is delighted that Matt and the boys stayed out of trouble this time- and this time the buck stopped entirely with Elwood and not the rest of the band.
After resignation to a life sentence after his parole violation, Elwood spends the first 6 months of Joliet in deep depression. Elwood learns of Mother Mary aka the Penguin's passing on peacefully during her sleep and bitterly regrets not making his peace with the closest person he had to a mother following the kidnap of Buster. He tries to outsmart the guards with suicide attempts including hotwiring the governor's car and taking it for one last criminally evasive spin. However his hardwired motoring survival instincts kick in at the last minute - Joliet's visiting psychiatrist deems this a cry for help. With no brother, no band and no Penguin – who is going to redeem Elwood this time?
Both men and women are fallible. The difference is, women know it
Katherine Doyle arrives to lead the team of prison throughcare social workers fresh from the Bronx's notorious Fulton correctional facility. Katherine has managed to crack even the hardest of cons and empower them on the road to pro-social redemption. Her professional reputation is infallible and her romantic history as wayward as Elwood's driving record. Both have chosen to address their traumas with avoidance- Elwood vows to never take the wheel again and Katherine only to take a bad boy on professionally. Her ruthless tenacity, attention to detail and ability to stay one step ahead make her smarter than even the above average con- which would suggest that she would have made a good criminal herself a fact that she chooses not to think about too much. Elwood eventually tires of trying every trick in the book to evade her tough tactics and resigns himself to the intensive group work and community service programme as a last attempt to avoid her paranoid but unerringly accurate insights into who and what made Elwood, well, Elwood. It was so much easier to deal with the Penguin's cane!
But this time he really does see the light, and without the need for churching up. With Katherine words are cheap but actions expensive- and she insures Elwood's good actions and insights with liberal praise, ignoring the charm and chutzpah that has gotten him off the hook before. This time there's no excuses and Elwood channels his obsessive energy into helping his fellow inmates, challenging his own patriarchal values in the meantime by being the right hand man in Katherine's group sessions. Mind you, he was raised by women so who was he kidding?
Katherine drops her guard and breaks her strict non-self disclosure rule also letting the one to one session run late into the evening- another no-no and berates herself for it. She talks of a tough childhood similar to Elwood's raised by nuns in Ireland as an alternative to living at home with her crime ridden family of 3 older brothers and waster father who drove her overly sensible and God fearing mother to an early grave. Failing to save them in her premature role as the matriarch has confused her into wearing hats that are at time sensible and other time the extreme opposite. Despite the nun-like exterior Katherine is a walking volcano of sensuality and passion waiting to explode. She indulges in singing Peggy Lee, Billie Holliday and other songs made famous by melancholy jazz babes not treated well by men at the Roun' Midnight speakeasy club on a Thursday night that keeps things from boiling over. Elwood might have met his match which has set him on the path to the straight and narrow, but a client/ worker boundary is crossed now which cannot be reversed. The shades on a Bluesman are hard to change but Elwood's long suppressed genuine empathy for others finally emerges- into love. They are both falling for each other hard and they both know it. Katherine is not about to ruin the very foundation she built up after her life was ruined and she vowed there would never be another bad boy. She takes a probation research post in Toronto but even this is too close to the bone and decides her final calling is the convent to face the demons- who raised her. This suited Elwood fine and confirmed his long held defence that he was a bachelor and married to the music for better or worse.
Meanwhile Elwood's redemption is contagious and Katherine's watertight parole report persuades the panel to allow him into the nearby open jail in Chitawara, Illinios. Here Elwood develops a music programme with other inmates which they take across correctional facilities in the area spreading the good word of Blues and Soul getting offenders to realise their passion for music while mending their ways. Elwood reluctantly agrees to the challenge of helping young offenders at a nearby Juvenille Correction centre devise their own rap rhymes to accompany songs with the hope of converting them to realise the magic of old school R & B. The Lord works in mysterious ways as the Penguin once said- and who should be the pack leader of this very group- but 'Buzz-ta'Buster 'Blues' Johnston- and he has well and truly turned his back on the Blues.
Buster has channelled his anger into Rap and Hip Hop, in favour of the music world shown to him by the first adult male he had formed an attachment to as a way to mask the pain of the separation -caused by Elwood finally losing his nerve and letting the Police catch them on Highway 284. Three years on at 13 with a growing rack of juvenile offences including vandalism, fire raising and car theft he is destined for a life of crime and recidivism. Elwood's motivational speech of 'don't blow it like I did' is lost on Buster who uses this as ammunition with all his pre-pubescent energy at Elwood to point out the error of his own ways before lecturing him.
Elwood is ready to quit and serve the rest of his open prison sentence doing something mundane like collecting furniture. But he has a heavy heart- and needs a distraction to stop thinking about Katherine. She is well and truly under his skin and he can hear her wise words echoing in his head every time he tries to rationalise- that staying here to try and overpower the strong will of Buzzta will be like facing his 13 year old self. Oh shit he is even sounding like her! Plus, he was not raised by the Penguin to falter at the first sign of difficulty. It was not just her words though- despite his experience of Irish women in the convent being awkwardly petite with freckles and red hair behind the habit- Katherine confirmed that the Vikings had conquered some of the Emerald Isle. 5ft 9 inches mainly of long limbs and the fair colouring contradicted by dark brows and lashes along with sun friendly skin made her look like the more glamorous type of immigrant to touch American shores. Her fairness complemented Elwood's dark Sicilian heritage as did their characters- his well flexed chromosomes rooted in generations of organised crime and her similarly robust organisational skills inherited from centuries of strategic invasion planning made them a powerful association together.
Elwood makes one more attempt at gaining Buster's trust by allowing him centre stage mixing the decks and spitting lyrics. Their music tastes remain poles apart – Elwood still refers to violence laden gangsta rap and Buster has long forgotten his initiation into the Blues Brothers referring to Blues and Soul as a 'Jurassic Juke Joint'. Buster continues to polish his career in offending with nobody or nothing to stop him-until he gets a reality check. Buster lies about his age and agrees to carry a package of heroin for $800 and kudos for now being initiated into a big time gang. A rival gang learns of this big deal and Buster is shot in the head in a drive by shooting sending him into a coma. Life support machines keep him alive and Elwood is distraught. This time he really will have nobody left to keep him going and while he will always love the music it is not the same without- someone to love.
This time Buster sees the light and crosses back in time visiting his past with a brutal early childhood merciful at the hands of his violent and alcoholic father. He is guided by the late Reverend Cleethorpes to see his future which involves him turning into the very monster who made him run away from home- and worse. "Do you see the light" asks the Reverend and Buster shouts back " I can sing and rhyme all at the same time" then jumps into a break dance of Blues music while inventing a rap rhyme complementing the music beautifully as he is joined by his congregation of young musical apprentices in the church who are equally energetic with the dance sequence. As doctors and social services ponder the ethical dilemma of whether or not Buster's life support machine stays on Elwood continues his bedside vigil which has involved many reflections of his own life both thought and spoken, and how Buster is the son he never had which gives him a feeling no pharmaceutical product could ever match- or indeed the music. A huge revelation for Elwood. Buster hears much of this in his unconscious state.
When Elwood hears the words "what's an over 40 recidivist doing sleeping on my bed?" he is jolted awake and into reality and the pair connect with a grasp of hands that they don't want to let go of ever again. However, the euphoria dies down when Buster is eventually placed in a high security Juvenile Correction facility in Detroit where every crank and phoney in the psychological profession tries to get into his head- and under his feet. Again he is separated from the only adult who was ever good to him and gave him the music. He misses the guest appearance from Eminem at the Chicago centre. The boys try their best spitting their dopest words but it's not the same without their leader. The saving grace is that Buster is frightened off crime for life and as he finds his new outlets- by writing rhymes and boxing this disciplines his wandering mind and appetite for fast food and he finally finds the voice and focus to express his anger towards the injustice and exploitation he has suffered all his life.
Elwood is released on early parole due to his impeccable behaviour and productivity. In the words of the Judge "evidence that the human soul can walk the path to reformation ". Naturally Elwood has to complete an early release probation order which the new Elwood does without his usual avoidance- but this probation officer is no match for Katherine.
Assured that he is no longer tempted into a life of crime which is helped by his avoidance of getting behind the wheel, Elwood takes a cab into downtown Chicago to visit his old haunts. He stumbles upon Roun' Midnight speakeasy- another new joint off his old stomping ground of West Veriot Street and sits conspicuously at the bar nursing the Jack Daniels in honour of his surrogate father Curtis who is in a much better place. He is looking more like a care in the community psychiatric patient than an iconographic symbol in his suit, shades, hat and well-worn briefcase, and he knows it. It's a jam and open mic night with guest singer Katy D. Elwood is jolted out of his bubble of flat introspection captivated by the haunting sounds of 'hush now- don't explain' -the emotional freedom of the guest singer moving him despite his neutral exterior. He turns round and witnesses a creature dressed impeccably in a lace black dress displaying the longest legs he's ever seen very flatteringly draped over the front of the grand piano. She brings the rest of herself up to reveal a generous but formed cleavage which Elwood takes a moment to appreciate. He was never drawn to the bog standard female model so often featured in calendars on the bunk walls and he turned down the offers from Willie Hall's sculpted and enhanced professionals trying to make out these were sympathetic to his long drought after he was released from Joliet the last time, but were in actual fact a ploy to try and manipulate Elwood into giving them more stage limelight so that they could reel in the bucks. Elwood knew this fine and also knew fine that he would not be the first MC they would have tried to negotiate with which caused ructions. He was too much of a professional and lover of the music for that. When it came to women Elwood liked class and never compromised himself like he did in his younger and more awkward days laterally going for well heeled but bored married women who he could shake up a bit. Elwood hated cheap looking women especially when it came to make up that tried to enhance what was not there. However this one had a skilfully understated made up face and lustrous shoulder length honey coloured waves which made her look exclusive but not standoffish. As she crosses one high-heeled leg over the other Elwood drank in the experience of appreciating female beauty in its live form and continued to watch her unashamed passion coming through in "Black Coffee", with a direct but not promiscuous sexuality echoing throughout "now a man is born to go a loving- a woman's born to weep and fret". Like so many male offenders who talk the talk but don't mean it when they say they want to go straight, there are so many female jazz singers who sing songs but don't' feel them from the heart- instead acting the diva and using the opportunity to try and grab male attention. Despite her stage antics he could tell that she didn't. Elwood knew that like him, she loved the music.
A flawless Chicago accent thanked the roaring applause without a hint of conceitedness. In fact there was almost a social awkwardness coming from her at being on the stage telling everyone to fill up their glasses while the band take a short break. The accent may have been a cover but Elwood could tell the mannerisms right away- the tucking her hair behind her ear and gesticulating with her hands when she felt on the spot or nervous. The reality hit him like a whack over the head from the Penguin's cane -this clubroom singer had a very different alter ego.
That night when he and Katherine had a tete a tete was the only time she wore her hair down as it collapsed out of the severe up-do and took her Versace glasses off to rub her tired eyes. When talking about Ireland she kept doing both of these things. Seeing this rare moment of vulnerability made Elwood want to pick her up and take her to bed, and that want was right there again. Fuck-what was he going to do- it's not like he could blend into the crowd. For the first time in his life he wished he was just another dude wearing blue jeans and a shirt.
Katherine picked up her gin martini- another vice she did not disclose very often- and enjoyed the sensation of the strong liquor hitting the back of her throat. Despite a tendency towards short bursts of depression gin did not have this common effect on her and actually perked her up when she was burning the candle at both ends. Mind you this was a reactive depression to all the dysfunction, and she did not take kindly to the disabling side effects of medication for this long misunderstood illness. The order of the convent life suited her in many ways but she needed a release like this once in a while to keep her passions in check especially when she had to listen to other sexually frustrated old bats 24 hours a day- what made it even worse was that they did not realise this was wrong with them because they had never missed it! So they tended to focus on the standard coping mechanisms- self righteousness and trivia. Katherine came down to Chicago once a month under the guise of doing a group work programme training nuns to work with underprivileged children. Naturally she had to stay overnight and had engineered the group to take place on a Thursday so she could squeeze in her old set at Roun' Midnight. When the regulars asked why she went to Toronto she said it's because she found love and got married to an accountant which offered her stability. Yeah right, most of the more deceitful and remorseless offenders she had worked with were tax evading accountants who had pulled scams that would jolt the hardest of drug dealers. But it was a believable story- and people put a lot of misplaced faith in believable logic.
Katherine saw the black and white figure at the bar frozen with a fixed gaze towards her direction, "Sinful Woman" playing in the background and the traffic of the band going outside for a smoke behind him. She had to assume he was looking at her. It always frustrated her when he would not take off these sunglasses and hat when he was talking to her. Tongues can lie, body language can even lie, but the eyes never lie. Plus Elwood's eyes were undoubtedly his best feature. She sneaked a look when he was having his ID photo re-taken. What a waste. Katherine tried very hard to compose herself as she normally managed when she saw clients outside of work. But the boundary she had worked so hard to establish between her and Elwood had vanished that night she had let her hair down- and as she hooked it behind her ear and went to take a drink of her martini the straw went into her eye causing her to flinch and get embarrassed knocking off one of her false eyelashes making it look like she was winking at Elwood. "Get it together Kate!"
As she was saying this to herself he walked over and she observed that he still towered over her tall figure even in her high heels. Damn it he's not saying anything, just smiling with his mouth but I want to see his eyes. Fuck it she said he's seen me acting like my usual goofy and awkward self and he's a pro-social client now. Before she could stop and think she reached for his glasses- to his surprise Elwood let her take them off and place on the bar. There was no mistake. This time she did not need a training course to identify the emotion- the one so difficult to read in someone's facial expression. There was nothing wrong with her ability to read emotion even though her upbringing had tried to knock it out of her over the was love in his eyes.
Elwood ran both his hands through her hair to unhook it from behind her ears. "So- you call that pro social behaviour?- I'd say that's setting a terrible professional example- remember when you are a leader people observe your every action, your every word…."
Before he could repeat one of her many trademark speeches she put her fingers over his lips. Elwood moved them away and leaned down to kiss her. She responded slowly but then gradually began to emulate Elwood's rhythm. When she tried to talk Elwood returned the silencing gesture by putting his finger over her lips, clasped her hand firmly and led her outside. Katherine jolted him when she managed to whistle loudly for a cab. Well she had lived in New York and knew that a girl couldn't hang about!