"...I just shot a nigga. Come get 'im."
Boys In the Sand ('71) is a pornographic milestone that's often not commented upon, in favor of discussing the straight crossover picture that broke records at the box office the next year - Gerard Damiano's Deep Throat ('72). However, Boys was a much greater victory than Deep Throat in several regards. Made on a budget of $8,000, it was a gay feature that actually contained credits, was reviewed in Variety, and also found hetero viewers seated in auditoriums, just to see what all the hubbub was about when it became a mainstay at All-Male Revues, netting over $140,000 and continuing to expand into cities beyond New York. Deep Throat is often incorrectly cited (behind Andy Warhol's Blue Movie ['69]) as the motion picture that initially helped usher in the Golden Age of Porn, marking fuck films as a chic new trend. But Boys In the Sand was first, not only beating Damiano's movie by almost a year, but doubling as a political victory, displaying hardcore male love at a time when the very act could get you arrested or killed.
The fact that Wakefield Poole's groundbreaking Fire Island opus is featured so heavily in Episode Seven of The Deuce - titled "Au Reservoir" - is a pretty clear signifier of what the hour means to the whole of David Simon and George Pelecanos' continuing chronicle of NYC's sex trade during the '70s (which sadly only has one hour remaining in its first season). When combined with Ashley (Jamie Neumann) finally walking out on C.C. (Gary Carr) when he refuses to let her take a load off like Lori (Emily Meade) after the younger girl starts shooting movies on the regular, the theme of the installment amalgamates into a filmed notion of freedom. It's just as OK for a dick to get sucked on screen as it is for Ashley to say that she's done sucking dicks for good. Neither the police nor a pimp should have the final say over what men or women do with their bodies, in either acts of pleasure or business.
Ashley's latest journey begins with a wholly understandable "fuck this", before she enters into an extended hang with Frankie (James Franco), who picks her up at the Hi-Hat. The two take in a screening of Boys In the Sand with Paul (Chris Coy), who's been slyly hooking up with the picture's lead actor (who later tells the 'tender about a new movie that's getting major funding about "a woman born with a clitoris in her throat").There's something beautiful about watching Ashley finally toss off C.C.'s shackles and bloom, and the fact that it occurs while in the presence of Frankie makes it all the more disarming (as he's been presented as little more than a degenerate fuck up until now). We get to see a human side of both these characters that's been hidden during the first six hours, resulting in a truly lovely (if ever so brief) affair.
However, the threat of violence bubbles beneath the surface of these playful exchanges regarding "freedom", as we've already been shown (way back at the conclusion of The Deuce's very first episode) that C.C. is capable of perpetrating heinous violence against his girls when they step out of line (and would probably feel more inclined to do so, as he and the other gaudily dressed pussy purveyors are starting to feel their quick decline). By the time Ashley takes Abby (Margarita Levieva) up on a loan offer and makes her way to the Port Authority, we half expect her pimp to be waiting there, razor in hand, eager to carve her face for not punching in on the street for the last few days.
Perhaps the character who's gone most uncommented on thus far (at least during this writer's review of the season) is Leon (Anwan "Slim Charles" Glover), who gets to quietly observe all these happenings from behind the counter of his diner. In this greasy spoon, he plays a few roles - den father, pie slinger, therapist to battered women - all while the men of his tribe (and one gentle white boy who thinks he's black) treat their "property" like pieces of meat, ready to be ground up and disposed of once they can't make any more money. On one hand, Leon operates by the same street code that these pimps adhere to ("don't interfere with another's business"), which allows his establishment to become the daytime flipside to Vincent's (also Franco) gin joint. On the other, Leon quietly stews with rage whenever the pimps take their "punishment" too far, and he's finally had enough by the end of "Au Reservoir", doling out his own brand of justice in what's possibly the most shocking instance of violence The Deuce has offered up. To wit, Leon will not harbor this cruel behavior any longer.
Speaking of harboring, Bobby (Chris Bauer) may be digging himself into a little hole with the girls at the French spot, as he's taken a shine to Tiffany (Danielle Burgess), paying for her hours while the other girls at the parlor spend their nights on their backs. He even lets her decide what style of food they're going to order, which becomes a prickly point of contention for Ruby (Pernell Walker). While Shay (Kim Director) ODs on horse, and Reggie Love (Tariq Trotter) pesters Vincent at the bar for compensation for her time missed, one ho is living a sheltered life instead of punching a clock. Nevertheless, Tiffany's not going to complain, nor is Bobby going to hear any grievances from the peanut gallery. This is his time away from a wife and brats back home, and her instance of respite from a vocation that's torn up her insides and soul simultaneously. During their little moments together, they also find a freedom, even if there's no physical component, like with Frankie and Ashley.
On the porn set, Eileen/Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) continues to maneuver her way toward the director's chair, as Harvey (David Krumholtz) can't seem to get Lori and the rest of his actors in a threesome scene to look like they're having any fun fucking each other. Eileen indulges a few trade secrets, and Lori is suddenly cumming hard and loud, impressing the schlubby low level smut impresario. It's a good thing, too - even the high-end gigs he's set her up with have grown tiresome, and a local Captain (Ed Moran) has decided to start cruising the Deuce with the already loose-lipped Patrolman Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). Major change is about to rock Times Square, as the Captain explains the difference between "grass eaters" and "meat eaters" to the flatfoot, and he's obviously looking to rid the Big Apple of its dirty cops and sin havens.