NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 13
Tom and Geri

Story by David Milch and Bill Clark
Teleplay by Meredith Stiehm
Directed by Adam Nimoy

PLOT ONE: BLACK AND BLUE COLLAR

A tussle between two rival construction coalitions -- one black (None Forgotten), one Puerto Rican (Bronx United) -- leads to a fatality, and Andy, Bobby, James and Greg catch the case. Andy has no love for the coalitions, which he feels shake down contractors for no-show jobs, but murdered Emilio Lopez, one of the heads of Bronx United, looks like he may have been an honest man in a crooked business.

A security camera tape from the murder scene yields few clues, but Sister Sun Ray, a local numbers runner, offers a tip on the murder in exchange for a walk on her latest bust. According to her, Ray Harvey, a member of None Forgotten, won some money from her number, and tried to make some more by loaning it to Sam Bluestone, the head of the coalition. Bluestone turned him to Joe Fernandez, who, despite being in charge of Bronx United, was tight with Bluestone. When Fernandez couldn't make his payments, he blamed it on Emilio Lopez, who apparently was threatening to start his own coalition, cutting into Fernandez's graft. Harvey, looking for a way to get his money, killed Lopez.

Even though Bluestone confirms Sister Sun Ray's account, Andy and Bobby can't help but think that Harvey is being screwed here by the duo -- either he was framed or he was set up to do the killing by them. Harvey confesses to the deed, but can't really implicate anyone else, since it was his own gun. Realizing that they're only going to make one arrest on this one, the detectives do their best to arrange a happy ending by coercing Joe Fernandez -- a likely conspirator -- into setting up a generous fund for Lopez's widow and children.

PLOT TWO: HANG TIME

Geri Turner comes down from Anti-Crime to tell Andy that she found her friend Tom Konigsberg hung in his apartment. Lt. Fancy takes a relieved Andy off the case and assigns Russell and Kirkendall, much to Geri's chagrin. It turns out that Tom was actually a victim of auto- erotic asphyxiation gone awry; his body is found strapped into an elaborate S&M rig, complete with restraints, blindfold mask, and high-heeled boots.

Both the landlady and an employee at the local S&M shop point to Geri as Tom's chief companion and dominatrix, but she doesn't react well to queries from Diane and Jill about what really happened. She tells them to shut their "pretty girl holes," and says she'll either speak to Andy or lawyer up. The Lieu breaks the news to Andy, who's terrified of getting in a room with Geri due to her sexual harassment of him during her time as the squad PAA. He finally relents, and gets Geri to explain that while she helped Tom into part of his outfit, he put himself on the rig's hook himself; after more than a decade of constant friendship and romance with Geri, he had recently grown tired of her and started getting off himself, or with the help of other women. Andy suggests that she not mention the latter part in her statement, and, feeling sorry for the woman who once terrorized him, tells a tearful Geri that "I'm sorry for your loss."

MISCELLANEOUS THREAD:

Diane spends the night with Bobby after confessing her father's molestation, and though they just lie in each other's clothed arms, they begin the morning with some serious smooching after Diane says that she'll get help. Her attitude at work seems much improved, and at the end of the day, she asks Bobby about his future plans for the two of them. "How is it they say in your program?" he asks. "'One day at a time?'" Diane smiles and says she's willing to go along with that plan.

James takes some lost time to be with Gina when she gets her bandages removed. The plastic surgeon warns him not to recoil at the sight of her scars -- which he promises will become largely healed over time -- and James manages to act natural. Gina cooks dinner for him at her apartment that night, and reveals that her roommate moved out because she didn't like looking at her face. James reassures her, and offers to spend the night on the roommate's now vacant bunk. Gina happily accepts the offer, but invites him instead to share her own bed.


We all like to poke gentle fun at NYPD Blue for some of the repeated situations and dialogue. I know I occasionally have cringed when John Kelly would say "Are you okay?", or when Andy says "Howzitgoin?" or when Bobby replies to any new information with "Yeah, huh?"

But in one transcendent moment of "Tom and Geri," the show took one of the most well-worn phrases and turned it on its ear to create an unexepectedly moving moment of drama.

I'm referring to the end of Andy's interview with Geri, when he said, "I'm sorry for your loss." He's said that dozens of times on the show to survivors of murder victims. So have almost all the other characters, to the point where it's almost laughable, even if it is realistic. But its use here was perfect. Andy, finally feeling sympathetic to this woman whom he previously viewed as a bullying freak, searches for something comforting to say, and the only thing he can think of is his traditional defense mechanism. For a moment, Geri seems genuinely touched that Andy would say something nice to her -- until she remembers the countless times she's heard Andy and other detectives say those *exact* same words to other people. Suddenly, the emotional connection she thought she had with Andy gets snapped, and, left with nothing but her grief, she breaks down crying. Brilliant.

Then again, I could just be reading way too much into a few seconds of screen-time, but because Blue has generally been built on moments like these, I don't think so. And even if I am, the rest of the Geri subplot did something miraculous: it managed to transform Geri from embarrassing caricature to sympathetic, flesh-and-blood character. Her story about being a lonely soul in high school who found a kindred spirit in Tom, only to lose him -- first emotionally, and eventually physically -- was quite touching, and nicely played by Debra Christofferson. For a while there, Geri was looking like just another exhibit in the ongoing case of The NYPD Blue Writers v. Their Female Characters, but she was nicely redeemed here.

Part of it was a lot of fun, too, from Jill's reaction to Tom's shoes to Andy's horror at the thought of being alone in a room with Geri (and Bobby and Fancy's amusement at same). In fact, a lot of this episode was in a more light-hearted vein, a good change-of-pace from the heated confrontations from last week's "Upstairs, Downstairs."

The only majorly missed opportunity here came from the fact that Diane and Jill were working together, and not only did Bobby's name not come up, but there didn't even seem to be any tension between the two, both of whom are aware of the other's involvement with him (Diane heard them make plans for their first date; Jill heard Andy tell Bobby to blow her off to hunt for Diane, and saw him flirting with Diane at the end of this one). It didn't have to be the overriding theme of the story -- nor should it have been -- but considering the timing of things, some acknowledgement was warranted and, in my opinion, almost necessary.

In the main story, Yvette Freeman (Nurse Haleh Adams on "ER") roared triumphantly through her single scene as Sister Sun Ray, at such a speed that I found myself as confused as Andy and Bobby. I do think the story went a little overboard in trying to give our heroes a headache, since it did the same for me. I've watched most of the relevant scenes twice now, and I'm still not entirely sure why Fernandez and Bluestone would be working hand in hand, since they're on opposite sides. On the one hand, I like the idea that every once in a while, not even Andy and Bobby can find all the answers, but on the other hand, I shouldn't have to go back and watch an episode a second time in order to decipher certain plot twists. Still, it was nice to see that, despite Andy's anti-coalition rants at the beginning of the episode, the crime really didn't touch on race or, in Andy's words, "none of the other great issues."

Those early scenes also gave James a rare chance to talk back to Andy, which provided a good counterpoint to his later scenes comforting Gina. Yes, most of the times he's a real boy scout, and that's part of his charm, but he does have a backbone and certain principles that he'll stand up for (see his lectures to the teenaged street hustler back in "My Wild Irish Nose"). The final scene was a good warm fuzzy without becoming too saccharine, though I would like to have known whether the two had ever slept together before, since that would slightly alter the tenor of the moment (yes, it's great that James doesn't hesitate for a moment here, but the gesture takes on even more power if they haven't been intimate yet).

With all the other stories going on, Diane and Bobby's story was practically an afterthought this week, and, frankly, I'm glad. As you all know, I wasn't impressed by Diane's molestation revelation, feeling it a bit cliched, even for Blue. And while I don't think it's right for her to suddenly be all better, I really don't care to see too much more time devoted to it. A therapy session for Diane, if written well, could make a great scene in an upcoming episode, but other than that, I'd like to see the show stick primarily to the casework for the duration of the season, since the single-episode stories have been increasingly strong over the last batch of episodes.

Quick hits:

Though February sweeps start next week, "Blue" will be pre-empted by President Bubba's State of the Union Address. See ya in the funny papers in two weeks...


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