NYPD Blue Summary/Review by Alan Sepinwall aka sepinwal@stwing.org
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.


"Divorce, Detective Style"
Season 12, episode 4
Story by Bill Clark and Keith Eisner
Teleplay by Keith Eisner
Directed by Mark Tinker

Pinch-hitting again while Amanda is off on a secret assignment for Donald Trump (or something like that). I had more problems with this show than I did with the premiere, but we'll get to all that after a...

SUMMARY

THE BIG SPLIT

Junior wakes up in the bed of a one-night stand whose name he can't remember. His professional situation isn't much better, as Andy keeps trying to freeze him out of the day's cases, often talking over him or ignoring him altogether.

John also has to testify in a preliminary hearing for Steve McClintock's murder trial. The precinct's new ADA, Laurie Munson, takes him through the case on the stand and is completely blindsided when McClintock's attorney cross-examines John about his one-night stand with McClintock's girlfriend and partner Carly Landis. Because Carly took the Fifth, all the prosecution has is her initial statement, which the judge throws out because of John's ethically questionable sex life.

John tries to hide this from Bale and Sipowicz, but Munson barrels into the squadroom and tears him a new one for blowing her case, both by sleeping with Carly and not telling her about it before he took the stand. Munson, new to the precinct after replacing Valerie Haywood, agrees to take the fall for this, but John's already on strike two with her. John tries to play it cool with Andy, suggesting that McClintock will be convicted even without the statement, but even he seems to recognize what a colossal screw-up he made.

Near the end of shift, Munson calls Andy to tell him that her office dropped all charges against McClintock. John again tries to shrug it off as another quirk of the justice system, making Andy so furious that he bolts away to the locker room while John is still talking. John follows, almost as pissed, and even moreso after Andy suggests that John will be responsible the next time McClintock beats some poor pregnant girl to death. Andy says he doesn't want to partner with John anymore. John thinks Andy is getting all holier-than-thou and accuses him of being a phony.

"I'm having a tough time and you don't want to deal with it," he tells his soon-to-be-ex-partner before declaring, "Drop dead!"

John charges out. Andy returns to his desk, but he's so shaken by the argument, not to mention the ongoing dramas with PAB and Lt. Bale (see below) that he's practically shaking. He calls Connie and asks her to get a neighbor to watch the kids for a little while so she can drive him home from work. If he does it himself, he says, he thinks he'd stop at a bar to drink. As we fade out, a very anxious Andy is waiting alone in an empty squadroom, hoping he'll make it through the night still sober.

KIDDIE PORN AND ITTY-BITTY BUGS

PAB, whoever he is, continues to find new and elaborate ways to torment Andy. At the squadroom, a deliveryman has a package from an address. Andy doesn't recognize. He doesn't want to sign, but is goaded into it by the deliveryman, who upon signature reveals himself to be Special Agent Silas of the FBI. Silas, his partner Wyckoff and Lt. Bale all confront a furious Sipowicz in the coffee room about the package, which was paid for with Andy's credit card and is filled with kiddie porn magazines. Andy immediately figures it's another stunt by PAB, and Bale explains the harassment that's gone on so far, up to and including Theo's kidnapping last week. Andy doesn't have the time or the patience to discuss the subject further, and Bale convinces the agents that this was an obvious set-up that doesn't warrant further investigation of his detective.

While on a stakeout together for the Garvin kidnapping case (see below), Bale notices that Andy's department vehicle is long overdue for servicing, and insists he take it to the garage today. A department mechanic discovers a listening device planted in the car, and after Bale checks with IAB, the DA's office and the U.S. Attorney to confirm they weren't running surveillance on Andy, they realize it's yet another PAB stunt. (This, Andy, deduces, is how PAB knew all those details he used to talk Theo into his car.) Andy wants to run his own investigation; Bale, by the book as always, wants the matter handled by the detectives in Andy's home neighborhood. When Andy insists that he can't sit on his hands for something involving his family, he and Bale seem to come to an unspoken agreement (or maybe not, see review): Bale will let Andy keep the bug on his desk "just to look at it" while he does his regular work, but really so Andy can look into it on his own.

Andy immediately puts John Irvin on the case, and John traces the manufacturer of the bug and the 14 stores in New York that sell it.

THE ART OF MURDER

The tension between Andy and Bale keeps getting worse as two seemingly unrelated cases dovetail. In one, an art student named Tracy Gilchrist is found beaten to death in her bedroom closet. In the other, a wealthy man named Scott Garvin reports that his son Todd has been kidnapped for a $500,000 ransom.

While Rita and Laura chase down a fruitless lead involving Tracy's job as a phone sex operator and her favorite customer (the guy alibies out), Andy, Greg, Baldwin and the lieutenant handle the ransom delivery. While Andy wants to arrest whoever picks up the money, Bale insists that because kidnapping is a federal crime, they follow federal guidelines, which means tailing but not confronting the suspect. When Mr. Garvin appears to blow their cover on the stakeout, Bale orders his men to stand down and let the kidnapper get away with the money.

Andy, already fuming each time he has to sign in and out on Bale's precinct logbook, really loses his stack at this point and accuses Bale of drastically setting back their investigation. Bale argues that if they had made their move during the stakeout, they might have gotten into a gun battle with the kidnapper, while Scott Garvin could have been murdered by any would-be accomplices. Andy thinks that's a ridiculous worst-case scenario. Bale says it's his job to consider the worst-case scenario, and when Bale suggests he's so tired of Andy's insubordination that he may need to go past RIPs to more serious discipline, Andy dares Bale to get rid of him. Bale seems to back down and tells Andy he has a case to work.

Todd Garvin is picked up by a sector car after being released by his captors, while phone records show frequent calls being made between his phone and Tracy Gilchrist's. When it begins to look like their case is going to get folded into Andy's, Rita and Laura ask Bale what to do next. Either distracted by everything else happening at the precinct today or softened up by Andy's blistering verbal attack, he all but shrugs and tells them to proceed however they want .("Just let me know what you need," he tells the baffled but pleased detectives.)

Todd comes in and explains that Tracy was his girlfriend, and that she was out drinking with him when they began talking to a sculptor and his girlfriend who invited him back to their Brooklyn studio to smoke some hash. Tracy didn't go along, and after a few puffs, Todd got wacked over the head with a pipe and woke up his new friends' prisoner. He blames himself for running his mouth about his father's money. He seems shocked to learn of Tracy's murder.

Greg keeps looking into a couple of names scratched into Tracy's closet wall, and eventually turns up Parks Benton and Samantha Lewitis, who took a few collars together and fit the description of Todd's kidnappers. The cops arrest them, and both immediately finger Todd as the mastermind of his own bogus kidnapping, a means to get some cash after Scott cut him off financially. Conflicting stories fly back and forth, but eventually they get to the truth: Tracy was demonstrating her phone sex technique for the guys, and Samantha got so upset by the idea that her boyfriend was getting off on it that she beat Tracy to death after the men and women split up. Todd confesses to orchestrating the fake kidnapping, but there's some question over whether he can be charged with anything, including Tracy's murder, since he wasn't around at the time.

REVIEW

My optimism from the season premiere has waned a bit, in part because some plot developments went in directions I didn't expect, in part because some went in exactly the direction I feared.

As Amanda and others noted last week, there's altogether too much going on in Andy's life right now. I know the idea is to pile on him, strip away his allies, etc., and see how he handles it, but it's becoming difficult to get worked up about any of the individual crises when we have to keep shifting from one to the other. In particular, PAB's shenanigans last week and this one should have him not focusing on anything but trying to find and hurt this guy. When someone grabs your kid for a few hours, then tries to get you arrested as a pedophile, everything else goes on the shelf, uptight clock-watching boss or no uptight clock-watching boss.

And speaking of Bale, I'm starting to wonder how much of the sympathy I felt for him in the premiere was part of the writers' intent or just the combination of Currie's good performance and my frustration with the all-knowing way Andy's been written the last few years. The Bale we've seen the last three weeks has been a complete ass, and even worse, an inconsistent ass. And not in a "he's only human" way, but a "serving the needs of the plot" way. He claims to always follow the rulebook, but only some of the time. The "federal guidelines" argument was nonsense on about 12 different levels; for one thing, if Bale's that rule-bound, why doesn't he just call in the FBI to take over? And no rational cop, even the most straight-arrow, ass-covering guy on the force, would seriously let a kidnapping suspect go because of that ludicrous worst-case scenario.

I'm not even sure about my reading of the scene about the listening device. Maybe the writers see Bale as naive enough to let Andy hold onto the thing just to look at it, instead of someone smart enough to read between the lines and give his unofficial approval. At the moment, I'm doubting every positive thought I've had about the character, which is a problem. A whip-cracking jerk of a boss might make an interesting guest star for an episode or two (ala Lt. Dalto, who was introduced and eliminated in an episode and a half), but for the guy to work out over the long haul -- even the rest of this final season -- he has to be in the right some of the time, or else he might as well have a mustache that he can twirl while tying Rita and Laura to some train tracks for not handing in the DD5's in a timely fashion.

Getting back to Andy's overall troubles for a minute, the absence of Charlotte Ross is just killing the show right now. Look, I understand that there are a lot of issues between the two sides, but if she's never coming back, don't do stories that involve Connie in any way, shape or form. Just focus on Andy's work life without getting his family involved, and if you want to use Theo now and then, do it in smaller ways that don't force the audience to wonder where Connie is. Here's Dennis Franz acting up a storm in the final scene, and he's doing it into a phone. When Ron Howard abruptly quit "Happy Days," the producers sent Richie Cunningham off to Army training in Greenland, but had a segment each week where someone would be talking to Richie on the phone. Connie is now Richie Cunningham in Greenland.

The John Clark story is working best for me out of the three big arcs, and I'm glad we got to see some fallout from the McClintock story from a few weeks ago. I'm sure Andy and John will kiss and make up before the end of the series, but there's a part of me that would rather see this particular marriage stay permanently asunder, just to spice things up. Maybe stick Andy with Baldwin and John with Greg, since each would probably rather work with the other guy's partner. Or a Sipowicz/Medavoy partnership would give Gordon Clapp a well-deserved spotlight before the final curtain.

QUICK HITS

-As for the kidnapping/murder plot, I think it was too complicated by half. I suspected they would dovetail once we knew that both Tracy and Todd had been art students at some point, but with everything else going on with our regular characters, one or two more streamlined cases might have worked better.

-Even though the phone sex customer angle was a red herring, I really liked the moment where the guy realized he had thrown out the one thing Tracy ever drew for him to keep his wife from finding it.

-We'll get to the full guest casting list in a minute, but I have a minor gripe: don't cast someone like John De Lancie, or, last week, James Avery, and not give them anything to do. It's distracting to see a very familiar TV face in such a minor role. At least McKenzie Phillips had some real material to play a few weeks back. You shouldn't hire a Hey, It's That Guy! unless you're prepared for viewers to recognize them.

-I don't have any real impression of the new ADA one way or the other yet, but she didn't annoy me outright and she legitimately had the superior moral position in her argument with the cops, neither of which you could say about Valerie most of the time. (And speaking of Valerie, while there had been talk of bringing her back on occasion this year when stories called for a prosecutor, I understand that plan has been scrapped; Munson has the job for the forseeable future.)

-I'm all in favor of giving Bill Brochtrup something to do (anything to do), but I'm not sure sending him to do Andy's legwork in the PAB investigation is an ideal use of the character. Then again, I'm not sure what is, which has always been the catch-22 of the PAA; the actors are often very appealing, but there's not a lot to be done with the person in that job unless you're willing to stretch the bounds of credibility. Andy likes and trusts John, but on something this big, I can't imagine him giving so much responsibility to John. Even if he can't use anyone from the 15th squad for fear of pissing off Bale, he has to have at least a few friends in other precincts he could call, right?

-Even with the Richie Cunningham factor, I liked the last shot of that final scene, the camera pullback at the end emphasizing just how alone Andy has become.

-Note that Medavoy, recognizing how detail-oriented his new boss is, goes out of his way to give Bale every single piece of information about the kidnapping case, and it eventually annoys Bale just as much as it does everyone else.

GUEST CAST LEGACY

compiled by J.L. (sorry, not Jean-Luc) Garner:

Previously on NYPD Blue...Scott Atkinson as Dr. Steve McClintock, Ray LaTulipe as Josh Astrachan, and Billy Concha as Officer Miller

Not previously on NYPD Blue...John de Lancie (Scott Garvin) -- best known for his role as the omnipotent alien trickster Q on "Star Trek: TNG," "Deep Space Nine," and "Voyager." His other credits stretch back to the late '70s with small roles on "Battlestar Galactica," and "McMillan and Wife," with some of his most recent appearances being on "West Wing," "Judging Amy," "Crossing Jordan," "Stargate SG-1," "Sports Night," and "The Practice"

Ross Partridge (Parks Benton) -- guest spots include "L&O," "Diagnosis Murder," "CSI," and "Quantum Leap"

Timilee Romolini (Samantha Lewitis) -- she's been on "Family Law," "ER," "CSI," and "Melrose Place"

Joshua Leonard (Todd Garvin) -- his credits include the films "The Blair Witch Project" and "Men of Honor," as well as the HBO TV-movie "Live From Baghdad"

Lisa Lackey (A.D.A. Munson) -- she's been on "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Sliders," "The Pretender," and the film "Mulholland Drive"

Lisa Banes (Attorney Calhoun) -- in addition to being a cast member on "Girls Club," "Son of the Beach," and "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," she appeared in such films as "Dragonfly," "Without Limits," and "Young Guns," as well as guest spots on "The Practice," "Philly," "Michael Hayes," "Murder One," "ST: DS9," "China Beach," "L.A. Law," and "Frasier"

Gibby Brand (Judge Carrazo) -- had the recurring role of Judge McGough on "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice," as well as guest spots on "West Wing," "Judging Amy," "X-Files," "L&O," and "L.A. Law," along with parts in the films "Auto Focus," "Father of the Bride" (the Steve Martin version) and "F/X"

Lisa Rotondi (Mandy) -- other credits include "CSI," "MDs," "The Guardian," "Friends," and the movie "Jerry Maguire"

Amy Lyndon (Tanya Larkin) -- she's appeared on "JAG," "Providence," and "Roswell"

Michael Leydon Campbell (Agent Kevin Silas) -- you've seen him on "Las Vegas," "West Wing," "L&O," and the films "Ash Wednesday" and "Sidewalks of New York"

Richard Lawson (Agent Wycoff) -- co-starred with Dennis Franz way back in the day on "Chicago Story." He's also been on "Dynasty," "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," the miniseries "V," "The District," "The Bernie Mac Show," "Judging Amy," "JAG," and the films "Wag the Dog" and "Poltergeist"

Larry Goldman as Steve Kaufman

Holly Fulger (Lainie Rutter) -- credits include guest appearances on "thirtysomething," "Early Edition," "CSI," and "The Practice," as well a supporting role on the sitcom "Anything But Love"

Christopher Curry (Barry Henning) -- he's been in the movies "Red Dragon," "Bulworth," "Starship Troopers," "F/X," and "C.H.U.D.," as well as appearing on "Alias," "West Wing," "ST: Voyager," "JAG," "Chicago Hope," "L.A. Law," and "thirtysomething"

LINE OF THE WEEK

I wasn't really feeling the funny in this episode, but I did briefly chuckle at Medavoy using cop doublespeak to reassure Parks Benton: "I wouldn't want to go with any assurances, but certainly, there's nothing wrong with taking that position at the outset."

NEXT WEEK

John and Andy's situations are both about to get much worse before they get better, and Amanda will be back to review it all.

See ya in the funny papers...
Alan Sepinwall