NYPD Blue Summary/Review by Amanda Wilson aka Puedo01@aol.com
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

"Fish Out of Water"
Season 12, Episode 2
9/28/04
Teleplay by Nicholas Wootton
Story by Bill Clark & Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Jesse Bochco

Hello friends! Like Alan, I'm pretty encouraged about this last season. There are some big things afoot, but that'll have to keep. Here's tonight's summary followed by a review:

SUMMARY

ADOPTION SCAM

Tina, a teenager about 2 months shy of motherhood, is found dead in a garbage heap. Through a message left on her answering machine, Andy and Clark track down a man named Cosin who had called to say how sorry he was she'd miscarried. She hadn't miscarried, so Cosin was brought in. He explained that he and his wife were working with a nurse named Steve McClintock who had set up an illegal adoption, but that the girl had called two days ago to say she'd miscarried. Cosin explained he'd paid 5-grand to help cover prenatal care and that he didn't expect to get it back.

Nurse McClintock is questioned. He, too, seems shocked to hear that Tina didn't miscarry. She'd called him with the same story. He was further shocked to learn that she'd been murdered. He admitted his involvement in the illegal adoption set up, but pointed out it helped people in desperate situations.

McClintock's alibi is his girlfriend, Carly. A check on her turns up the fact that she's a nurse at Riker's. Tina had been a prisoner at Riker's. Andy and Clark see a connection, but she denies that there is anything shady going on. She shares the alibi with McClintock and is shocked to hear Tina is dead.

A search of McClintock's bank records turns up a few large checks written to a woman named Pauline. She was also pregnant and in Riker's, met Carla who referred her to the free clinic where McClintock worked and got into an adoption scam. She lived to tell the story: McClintock hooked her up with four couples, got money from them all, and then made her tell them all she'd miscarried. She started feeling guilty about that and wanted to back out, but McClintock threatened her life. McClintock is confronted with most of this information and decides to stand firm and take his chances with a jury.

Now Clark and Andy tell Carla McClintock's alibi is blown when a credit card statement shows he used the card at a store at 2am to buy garbage bags and rope, and she cracks. She tells them McClintock set up the entire thing and threatened to kill her. She admitted his alibi was fake.

ROBBERY

A woman named Lorraine says she's been beaten, taped up and robbed in her home. She opened the door to a man who came in, attacked her and then took her grandmother's diamond ring which she kept hidden under a mattress. She'd just taken the ring out of safe to pawn it. Baldwin and Greg want to know who knew she had it and she said no one, really. She has a husband who's a recently released ex-con, but she swears it wasn't him. Naturally, all leads point directly and only to him.

Lorraine's husband, Leon, is hauled in. He'd been inside for murder (after a man he'd robbed died of a heart attack), and his life sentence was commuted after he saved the life of a corrections officer in prison during a riot. He's out of work, stumbling through life, not making a great success of his unexpected, post-prison life. He rankles Baldwin especially because his body is decorated with white hate group tattoos from prison. The cops tell him Lorraine is setting him up, but he doesn't want to believe it. The lock him up while they investigate further.

Leon's phone shows evidence of several conversation with ex-con Joe Hess. He's brought in and makes a big impression on Baldwin by calling him a chimp. Baldwin responds by breaking his ribs. Through gasps, Hess tells them he's been trying to get Leon in on his scheme to knock off a check cashing place, but says Leon refused.

Later, Baldwin and Greg find out a fingerprint belonging to a crook named Lenny Kessler has turned up in Lorraine's apartment. Rita and Laura go to pick him up. They find cocaine, hookers and Lorraine's diamond ring. Lenny tells them Lorraine paid him three-hundred dollars to beat her up and take it. He claims she wanted Leon to get arrested again.

When confronted, Lorraine starts explaining that Leon is useless unless he's locked up. She says she much prefers men who are grateful to have a woman's company and who aren't so used to prison that they don't know what to do on the outside. Lorraine takes the first step on her journey toward finding out what it's really like on the inside.

Leon is released. When the cell door opens, he lingers in the cell, not quite sure if he can really leave. When he steps out, he tries to apologize to Baldwin for the hate group tattoos and explains he got locked up as a teenager and only did what he had to do to survive inside. Baldwin offers no sympathy or understanding. Leon leaves to begin a life on the street.

BARBIE V. GI JANE

Laura's flirting continues and hits an all-time high when she grabs Baldwin's arm and begins to ooooh over what a hard body he is. She takes note of Rita's disapproving look and confronts Rita. Rita explains that she thinks Laura is asking for trouble, that someone is going to misinterpret her. Laura responds that she'd rather be friendly and misinterpreted than walk around with a stick up her ass. Rita has a sharp comeback and the two walk off in opposite directions. Later, Rita tries to make peace by telling Laura she's had tough partners before and that she knows their different approaches doesn't mean they can't work together. Laura seems OK with that, though it's clear she disagrees with Rita's original point.

JUNIOR THE JERK

Junior's antics grow worse after another late night of drinking and women. At the scene of the homicide, Andy arrives to find him snoozing in his car after having directed the uniforms to wake him when Andy showed up. Andy is plenty pissed off and has every intention of leaving John in the car and letting him wake up on his own, whenever. He's in the process of enlisting the uniforms and Rita in this plan (which isn't terribly difficult) when Lt. Bale shows up to stick his nose into things (see below) and asks where Clark is. Andy covers for his partner, but he's not happy about it. Later he walks over to Clark's car and blows the horn to wake him.

During the interview with Cosin, the man who was participating in the adoption case because he and his wife were infertile, Junior verbally attacks Cosin and calls him a scumbag. Andy calls him on the carpet for this and the whole exchange turns ugly. Andy accuses him of letting his drinking and whoring around affect his work. Junior angrily explains that he's not doing whores--that was Andy's game--he's doing secretaries which is way different. And he gets next to violence when he shouts at Andy that everything Andy did was worse.

Junior hits an all-time asshole high when he butts into a conversation Rita and Andy are having about Laura. Two seconds after Clark throws another sleaze-lace compliment toward Laura and then checks out her ass as she walks away, Andy asks Rita what she thinks of Laura. Rita takes the high road and simply states that they have two different approaches. Junior pipes up with the extremely rude: "C'mon. Admit it. You're just jealous." Rita asks what that's supposed to mean, and Junior promptly compares her unfavorably to Laura by pointing out that Laura is cute, bubbly and something guys like. Rita has a sharp return for this and leaves Junior asking like a caveman what he said wrong.

Perhaps his lowest comment, however, comes amid Andy's fish crisis. (See below.)

Later, after Carla makes the statement that locked up her boyfriend on murder charges, she explains that she's a little shaken up and asks Clark to take her home. Andy knows she's got more than that on her mind, and that she's probably far more involved in the case than they yet know; he warns Junior to drop her off and then drive away. Clark doesn't react well to the advice, and says that he's offended Andy would think he'd nee such advice. He even accuses Andy of having screwed witnesse in the past.

The next time we see Clark, he's in Carla's apartment checking it for intruders. She asks him to stay and asks him again. She tells him she's not feeling well and that she's scared, and about thirty seconds after that, they're ripping each other's pants off.

BALEFUL

Lt. Bale continues to live up to his name by making everyone's life miserable. First, he shows up at the homicide scene and cancels Andy's plan of action in favor of his own. His plan includes a little meeting to "digest" the crime scene and a 20 minute wait before they start going door to door asking questions. Andy is royally pissed off but can do nothing.

Bale continues hammering them all by asking repeatedly to be brought up to date on even the smallest point in the investigations. They find out one tidbit of information, discuss it for a few minutes, decide the next course of action and when Bale overhears it, he threatens to dish out discipline to anyone who doesn't keep him up to speed. It ends up happening a while later when Bale again overhears information he wasn't told about. A while later, Andy and Clark get some useful information during an interview and then turn around and use that against another suspect. After they've done that, they inform Bale. Bale is furious that he wasn't informed in between the interviews, and he and Andy get into an argument which ends when Bale tells him to get used to the new system or leave. Things get worse for Andy when he takes lost time later in the day (see below) and doesn't get Bale's OK.

At the end of the day, Andy and Bale have another showdown. Bale asks for Andy's opinion and Andy tells him he thinks Bale is overcompensating for not having a clue how to run a squad. Bale roars back with his standard "It's my way or the highway" sentiment.

PAYBACK'S A FISH

Andy's full day of having Lt. Bale up his crack with a magnifying glass while trying to keep Junior from shooting himself in both feet has barely begun when he notices something truly horrible: his fish are huddled and listing. He immediately calls up the uniform who helps him care for the tank. This fellow does a test on the water and finds there's way too much copper in it. Andy demands to know what's going on. The uniform says he'd never allow that much copper in the water, the rest of the squad just sort of stares at Andy and Clark cracks that maybe someone put pennies in the tank. Slowly, the fish are dying. Andy and the uniform are plucking them out one by one, trying to save them while Bale is in the midst of one of his dic(k)tator routines. The uniform informs Andy that even the clownfish is dead; Clark says something akin to "Alas, he made us laugh," and Andy gets even more pissed off. Andy asks rhetorically who could have done such a thing, and Clark pisses pretty much everyone off by responding with mock-seriousness "terrorists!" Baldwin jumps on that incredibly inappropriate remark by saying with all seriousness that the comment wasn't funny. Clark doesn't react.

After all the fish have been declared DOA (or Dead in the water...or whatever it is for fish), a half-serious discussion ensues about whodunnit. Fraker's name is mention, and we learn that Bale is skeptical of the story about why Rita shot him. Then Stan Hatcher's name is mentioned. We again learn that Bale is skeptical about why quit the job in such a hurry, but a light bulb goes off for Andy. He's convinced Stan is the one who sent him the rat, flattened his tires and has now either killed or taken a contract out on his fish. He takes lost time behind Bale's back (at the cost of two more days of discipline) to confront Stan.

Stan laughs in Andy's face when Andy threatens him.

Andy ends his day with an enemy bent on revenge, a pissed off boss, a drunk and dangerous partner and an empty fish tank.

REVIEW

It's sort of like Andy is in Bizzaro World. Everyone is opposite: Junior is a raging ass, the boss is a stickler for details and Andy is a victim. What fun! Though I have to say I am not at all pleased that Eddie Gibson is out of the picture (with so much as a complete sentence, mind you), I like this new conflict. Conflict is good.

And what's making all of this work is that in these first two episodes, there's been something of a return to the old style that made Blue so compelling; that is to say, the police stories serve the characters, their struggles, their setbacks, their successes. That's what always made it work when it was firing on all cylinders and that, I am sure, is what's made these last two shows so entirely good. It's also compelling me to change--at least for now--my usual review format. I don't want to take each story on it's own because the stories themselves aren't what stand out. What stands out is how those stories feed the characters.

We've complained, some of us, for a while now that Andy is too perfect, too good, not the same old bastard he used to be. Following him on his road to redemption has been the driving theme of NYPD Blue for ages, but it can be argued that he got to the end of that road long before the show's end. There were a few seasons or patches of seasons where it seemed the show had run out of gas because no one, it seemed, could figure out what to do with our now-redeemed Andy. It looks now, though, like someone has figured it out. Instead of pitting his flaws against the good of everyone else, it's his perfection that is in direct conflict with the screw ups and missteps of those around him. He's done a complete 360 in the dozen years we've known him, and so it makes great sense that the only way to add any measure of interesting conflict is to put those around him in a darker light.

It's a great idea and it's working. We're lucky in that we've got an outstanding set of players to carry all of this off. Who knew MPG could play his part as an asshole so perfectly? He's such a nice guy... (same can be said of Dennis Franz, without a doubt). Maybe, as Alan wrote last week, Mark-Paul's background in comedy is a good foundation for the much looser John Clark, Jr., but I think also that his first few years as a serious young man on this show have grounded him as much. Clark is amusing, but the desperation in him isn't disguised too well (as Andy easily recognizes). It's an angry humor MPG puts into Junior. After nearly a full season of no reaction at all to his father's suicide, the writers (finally) have put some meat on those bones and allowed Junior to feel his full rage and act out. You can argue his girlfriend's suicide was a little cheeseball (given all the close personal death everyone's had over the seasons), but that can be pushed aside if that's what it took for the writers to shake a little soul out of Clark. The scenes with Andy have all been, to me, scenes in which Clark is really acting out his anger at his father for leaving him that way. The arguments are all about rebellion. Junior is acting like a teenager, doing exactly what Andy advises him not to do, and even throwing Andy's past in his face as justification of his own misdeeds. Clark's anger at Devlin for her suicide is expressed in thoughtless womanizing, even risky sexual behavior (though, so far as we know, it's only been risky to his job.) It's a solid theme. I'm also glad, because MPG is a nice guy, that he's having success in making such a bold mark on this show. It's something Caruso might have been able to do more of if he could have seen past himself; it's something Rick Schroeder--for whatever reason--was unable to do (he's like a ghost...was he on this show?); it's something Jimmy Smits did, and now Mark-Paul is doing it. He has become as interesting a character as any of them.

The dark cloud that looms from the Lt.'s office is just as interesting. I'm entirely convinced, however, that the dynamic between Gibson and Sipowicz could have been every bit as filled with conflict, though conflict of a different sort. I'm disappointed that wasn't given the chance it should have gotten. But since we've no choice but to move on, I can easily say that Lt. Bale is also easy to love to hate (though, all due respect, I love him a lot less). The built-in conflict of having this jerk come from IAB is a great thing. It adds depth to a brand new character, and as of those of you who've been reading these reviews know, I think depth is everything when it comes to good characters. At this point, we know absolutely everything we need to know about Bale in order to make this character work. Currie Graham is doing a superb job with it. He's got the lines, he's got the clothes and hair (both perfect), but you've got to also note that he's got the perfect demeanor for Lt. Bale. The way he stands, the way he walks, the way he squints his eyes into dark little beads, even the way he suddenly becomes awkward when he tries to make a joke--it's all perfect. It all adds to his texture and makes him a complete man.

It's almost as if the writers have heard our cries for depth because we've got it now in our other new character, Laura Murphy. She's been on two episodes, and I feel as if I already know her. As Alan pointed out last week, she's got everything Rita never had at the start in terms of backstory. We know her family, she's got a personality and she's given the chance to show it. Bonnie Somerville carries into the part a whole lot of natural emotion. By contrast, the last bombshell partner Rita had was an empty shell. Not so Laura. She is a bit of flirt, and as such, she brings a conflict to her relationship with Rita. I am of the opinion that it's a perfectly stupid conflict, but it's conflict nonetheless. (Why the hell does Rita care if Laura is "misinterpreted?" There's simply no reasonable justification for that notion except that Rita is being a nosey, judgmental, stick. I don't like that because I don't think it's necessary to have to demean Rita in order to put conflict into the partnership. Junior called her jealous; I don't think she is, but since that's not the reason she's offering unsolicited advice to a non-friend, what is the reason? I think, sadly, the answer is this: because it gives them something to disagree about. Stupid. There's a real foundation for the disagreements Andy and Clark are having: Clark's behavior is jeopardizing his life and career, things Andy truly cares about.) Anyway, back to Laura: she's engaging, she probably crossed the line with Baldwin, she's tough in an endearing sort of way and, best of all, she's decidedly UN-friendly to Clark. I think it's clear she's got his number. She rang him up as a freak from the get-go, and I think that's cool. She seems like the kind of person who'd be fun to work with. If I were her partner, I'd probably have already nicknamed her Murph.

I love these layers, and I want to see them played out further. I especially want to see some decent stories for Medavoy and PAA John this year. I feel where Medavoy is concerned that the brass in Bochco's house may be hung up on not knowing what to do with him. Why not try extending the bizarro theme his way? We love Medavoy out here in Audience Land. To us, he's not a throwaway character. Surely no one can deny the actor Gordon Clapp's talent, so what's the deal? C'mon! Give us Greg, too.

In short, Bizzaro World is good so far, and from what I hear, it's going to get a little more bizzare and a whole lot more surprising soon.

QUICK HITS

*Two very bold lines written into tonight's script should be noted: Clark making the joke that the death of Andy's fish could be blamed on terrorism is one of them. In New York, you don't joke about terrorism unless you're a real asshole. You joke even less about it in the NYPD unless you're a supreme asshole. Use of the line, and it's very quick follow up retort from Baldwin ("That's not funny") was a brave move, and in those four words (Clark's and Baldwin's) there is much economy. You get a vivid and shocking picture of just how far down Junior is sliding, how deep his "I don't give a shit" attitude has gone. I think in another precinct house, (or if he'd have said it within earshot of Murph, the firefighter's daughter), he might have gotten a good smack for it. The second bold line was when Hess called Baldwin a chimp. It was the kind of shocking language you used to hear on Blue. Of course, that one did earn someone a good smack.

*Interesting choice of name for our new squad boss. Dust off your dictionary and look up the word bale.

*Score another great outing behind the camera for Jesse B. I have two thoughts on his excellent work these last two weeks. First, he's learning a lot from Mark Tinker. The first few minutes of the show were so good, I could have sworn MT was directing. Second, the fact that they didn't shoot in NY this year may be one of the factors in these cool, new shots. Since they're faced with trying to make LA look like NYC (shooting around palm trees, and dealing with too much sunshine, etc.), we seem to be getting tighter, more interesting shots.

*Nevermind Bale not being informed, I wasn't either!! Maybe I'm just overwhelmed with life at the moment, but I found myself not so happily surprised when I heard about things like the 2am credit card purchase of garbage bags and rope at the same time the suspect heard them.

*Opening credits: Gordon Clapp is third. Whoo hoo, and Bill Brochtrup is fifth! Now, let's let some stories for these guys line up accordingly.

*True to form, and very nice, PAA John silently reflects in one shot the emotion of the entire squad. It's when the fish are dead, the Lt. is on a rampage and the whole world has gone Bizzaro that John is shown carrying the weight of it all on his face. I don't mean to make it sound like a comical moment--it wasn't. It was a terrific bit of dramatic punctuation.

*On the lighter side of our PAA: his shirt matched so perfectly an item on his desk. They do that on purpose, you know.

*If Leon (the ex-con husband) ever had a babyface then call me Mr. Dennis Franz.

*So there were cast cuts, obviously, and just when Garcelle was coming into her own. I hope she, at least, gets more than a throw away line. Of course, even a throw away line at this point would be more than she's gotten so far. But I do wonder if this will allow for a few more visits from my favorite ADA, Leon Cohen?

*And what of Hank and Josh? I shudder to think.

*Hey, Mackenzie Phillips rocked in this episode, no? She was much better this time than the last time she was on, probably because she wasn't wheelchair bound. I wish she'd gotten a little more of an explanation to back up her robbery scheme, though. How is it a woman who's obsessed with marrying cons, is banging a crook on the side, and pays said crook to bruise her eye is offended by porn?

*I'm thinking Junior's asscapade with Nurse Carla is going to creep back and bite him on his cute & furry. If Leo or Val want to charge her with murder, say, Junior's going to have a bit of a problem.

*I can't believe Andy's fish are dead. They're such a symbol for him. I'm telling ya: bizzaro.

*Excellent seeing Stan Hatcher again. I hated to see him go (as I recall, I loved the conflict and wanted it to go on longer). I'm pleased as punch we've got this as a story arc right from the start. (One of a few story arcs, I might add. Nice.)

CAST LEGACIES

by J.L. Garner (I'm telling you now, by the end of this season, I fully intend to find out what J.L. stands for.)

Previously on NYPD Blue:
Scott William Winters as Stan Hatcher

Previously on NYPD Blue as someone else:
--Mackenzie Phillips (Lorraine Stuvle) -- was in Season 3's "Sorry, Wong Suspect." Has also been on "Without a Trace," "ER," "Crossing Jordan," the SciFi Channel's revival of "Outer Limits," and the classic film "American Graffiti," not to mention her stint on the TV show "One Day At A Time."

Not previously on NYPD Blue:
--Myndy Crist (Carly Landis) -- her resume includes appearances on "Six Feet Under," "Two and a Half Men," "Without a Trace," "L&O: SVU," and "ER."
--Gill Gayle (Lenny Kessler) -- credits include guest appearances on David Milch's HBO series "Deadwood," as well as appearances in a number of small movies and work as an art director.
--Scott Atkinson (Steve McClintock) -- you've seen him on "The King of Queens," "JAG," "Crossing Jordan," "Six Feet Under," "West Wing," and "The Pretender."--Alan Davidson (Joe Hess)
-- has made guest appearances on "X-Files," "The Practice," and "L&O," as well as roles in the films "Rounders," "Frailty," "Hollywood Homicide," and "Runaway Jury."
--Jeffrey Hutchinson (Michael Cosin) -- he's done episodes of "The Pretender," "JAG," "ER," and "Gilmore Girls," as well as a string of B-movies with such titles as "Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force," "Guns of El Chupacabra," and "Lingerie Kickboxer."
--Tara Chocol (Pauline Weikel) -- has been seen on episodes of "ER," "Judging Amy," "Sex and the City," and "L.A. Dragnet."
--Steve Monroe (Officer Shane) -- other guest roles include "Monk," "JAG," "Home Improvement," and the films "Miss Congeniality" and "Space Cowboys."
--Louis Iacoviello (uniform) -- has also played unnamed uniform cops on "Crossing Jordan" and "American Dreams" along with other roles on "Without a Trace" and "Grounded for Life."
--Rachel Bailit (Coco) -- roles include the films "Festival in Cannes" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," as well as the indie flick "Without a Map," which co-starred Lola Glaudini, a.k.a. Delores Mayo, the ill-fated PAA from Seasons 5 and 6.
--Jeff Kober as Leon Belkin.-- he was a regular on "China Beach"

LINES OF THE WEEK

Clark's epitaph for the clown fish: "He made us laugh."

Murph to Baldwin: "Whoa...lay off the twinkies!"

Clark spitting fire and beer breath at Andy: "Whores was you! I'm plucking off secretaries!"

See you next week! Write when you get work!

Amanda Wilson