Rembert Explains the ’80s: “The Return of Calderone”

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our series, Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by our editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons: a segment from the Miami Vice episode “Return Of Calderone.” If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at

Simmons Note: “Return of Calderone” is the greatest two-part episode of all time.

Rembert Note: Simmons has obviously never seen the hilarious two-part episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Trevor proposes to Hilary via televised bungee jump and then, you know, dies.

0:00 I’ve never seen Miami Vice, but based on my love of colorful blazers and a refusal to wear socks with loafers, I will probably like this episode.

0:14 A guy is getting his empty glass filled with something off-screen. Either he’s being poured a glass of water, or someone is standing in a chair and peeing into the glass. If it’s the latter, I take back what I said about probably liking this episode.

0:21 Guy goes to take a sip, and it’s immediately smacked out of his hand, spraying glass and some liquid in his face. Very rude. I hope that wasn’t urine — that is, unless he’s a bad guy, in which case I hope it was urine.

0:35 Name of guy that just got urinefaced? Mendez. He’s being interrogated by Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas).

1:01 Two of the three men in this scene have Jheri curls. Carry on.

1:11 They are questioning Mendez on some drug trafficking/smuggling matters. I’m trying to follow the plot, but I can’t get over the fact that Philip Michael Thomas has three first names. I know you’re not supposed to trust someone with two first names (classic cases: Chris Ryan, LeBron James), but I have no idea what to do with three. Will continue to be distracted by this.

1:31 More on Tubbs: What ethnicity is this guy? His accent changes every other sentence and his complexion is an olive-brown hologram depending on how he scrunches up his face. So far, I’ve decided he’s a half black/half Mexican Inuit with a Jheri curl. Will also continue to be distracted by this.

1:32 They are questioning him about the woman who’s been seen with the head honcho known as “Calderone.” Crockett’s statement:

Who is she to Calderone? Wife? Mistress? Hooker?

Whoa there, Crockett. You got to “hooker” in three guesses — isn’t that a little rude? What ever happened to:

Who is she to Calderone? Wife? Girlfriend? Colleague? Friend? Parole officer? Mistress? Lawyer? Driver? Mom? Financial adviser? Stepmom? Hooker?

1:41 Tubbs is 2-for-2 at aggressively reentering the scene. Is he always this sassy? Also, to the list of nationalities, I’m adding “Dominican” and “Southern Baptist Preacher.”

1:57 Tubbs tells Mendez they’re going to send him to the federal penitentiary wearing a “snitch jacket” unless he talks. What exactly would his snitch jacket look like? Not sure, but I feel like it’s definitely windbreaker material, says “Mendez’s Snitch Jacket” on the back, and has lace trimmings. Oh, and faux pockets. Definitely faux pockets.

2:12 I don’t even know the first step in getting five o’clock shadows like these two guys. They are works of art. Mendez, on the other hand, looks like Earthworm Jim with a strip of furry electrical tape above his lip.

2:17 Wow, the “snitch jacket” threat worked, Mendez is talking. And they didn’t even have to torture him, they just raised their voices. Oh, the ’80s, you’re cute.

2:38 Mendez is still talking and pretty much telling them everything. Cam’ron would not approve.

2:51 Just noticed that Crockett is wearing a turtleneck T-shirt. And just like that, my Christmas wish list has yet another item.

3:23 Just as a fashion update: Tubbs — silver double-breasted suit with tie. Crockett — blue jeans, the turtlenecktee, and a Tar Heel blue blazer. If this is what they wear to fight crime, what do they wear to the club?

3:42 Oh no, just found out Calderone was responsible for Tubbs’ brother’s death. Tubbs looks deranged (and now of the Mediterranean region). Something is about to go down.

3:58 Wait, two seconds ago they were walking out of the police station to fight crime and now they are on the nicest speedboat I’ve ever seen, dominating the ocean. Is this their “police car?” If so, they win. There must have been a spike in people wanting to join the Miami-Dade police force in the ’80s; this life looks fantastic.

4:15 Still on boat. Visually, this scene is unreal. It’s like the ’80s version of the Jay-Z/Kanye “Otis” video. Tubbs and Crockett are definitely the original luxurious power couple. Sorry, The Throne.

4:27 Still on boat. What is this ’80s guitar riff that’s baptizing my ears right now? I wonder if it’s Ratt? When I don’t know a rock song from the ’80s, I just assume it’s by Ratt.

5:00 Flashback to what I think was Tubbs’ brother getting shot. Ouch.

5:06 Back to boat. I’m starting to think they’re just going on vacation.

5:19 Flashback to Crockett almost getting shot on his houseboat. Amazingly, to avoid death, he did three barrel rolls and his hair still looked flawless. Athlete.

5:29 Back on boat. It’s getting more luxurious as time goes on. I feel rich just watching this.

5:41 Okay, I keep saying “flashback,” but I just realized I have no idea what is going on. Couldn’t begin to guess what those clips are about. I don’t even really know what this episode is about.

6:17 Back to boat. I wonder if Tubbs and Crockett told each other how pretty the other was on a bi-hourly basis.

6:48 Boat goes off into the horizon. That’s it.

I should stress again that I don’t have the slightest clue what just happened, but it felt awesome. I’m starting to get the impression that the ’80s were more about how things “make you feel” and less about “facts” or “consistency” or “linear thought.” I love that. I leave this clip knowing less about Miami Vice than I did when I came in, but I’m happy and I’ve convinced myself that if I work hard, I can have the type of life where I tell my boss I’m going on a lunch break, but instead call my friend and we ride our speedboat up and down the Hudson River. I’m starting to think I really missed out on my decade to truly shine. I would be sad, but I just found a velour turtleneck tee on eBay. I’m happy again.

Previously: Rembert Explains the ’80s: Manimal
Rembert Explains the ’80s: ALF
Rembert Explains the ’80s: Lionel Richie’s “Hello” Video

Filed Under: Don Johnson, Miami, Rembert Tries to Explain the Eighties, The 80S

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert