NYPD Blue Summary/Review by Amanda Wilson aka Puedo01@aol.com

"Keeping Abreast"
Season 11 Episode 5
10/21/03
Teleplay by Matt Olmstead
Story by Bill Clark & Matt Olmstead
Directed by Jesse Bochco

If you watched game--yawn--three of the World Series instead of this, it's time to face up to facts: you're a loser, plain and simple. This was much better. Your bad choice can be forgiven, however. Here's a summary, then a review:

SUMMARY

SERIAL KILLER:

The detectives catch a homicide in which the victim has been bonked on the head, shot up with ketamine, raped and then strangled. The case has enough similarities to one Det. Diane Russell (now working in Brooklyn) is working that she ends up working it with them. After a bit of ground work, they discover the murders are nearly exact and they get to work on finding the killer before the case gets moved to a task force. Both of the victims had been hanging out in the same trendy bar, so Tony orders up most of the squad to set up in the bar every night until the guy is found. Rita and Diane are to act like sluts and see if anyone picks them up. The men are to watch.

Diane is acting a bit standoffish with her old friends and even more so with her new ones. She and Tony have a little set-to at one point when Diane had to be away for about an hour and lied about it. She told everyone she had another case to wrap up. What she was really doing was seeing a doctor about a lump in her breast. More tests are ordered and a biopsy planned. Diane is very worried for all the usual reasons but additionally so because her mother had breast cancer.

Her nerves get the best of her when they're interviewing a suspect and she ends up pushing the guy to lawyer up. Andy pulls her aside at one point and reminds her that he's there for her no matter what's going on. She tells him it's nothing. He then warns her to get her act together or leave the case. She tells him she will.

Later that night, when it's time for the set up at the bar, Diane arrives dressed like the sleaze she's supposed to be. She stumbles in, nearly falls over trying to pick something up she dropped, the nearly misses getting her ass on the barstool. Junior asks Andy if he's sure she stopped drinking or is this part of her act. Andy approaches her and can tell right away it's no act. He confronts her about it and she gives him every off-the-wagon drunk's favorite lines: "I've got a lid on it. Trust me." Since they're in the middle of the set up, Andy really has no choice. He backs away but keeps an eye on her. A guy approaches and starts whispering in her ear. She ends up dumping a glass of water on him which sets off a barroom brawl. Andy gets nearly gets his lights punched out and ends up with a bloody nose and mouth.

After, he takes Diane out for coffee and a chat. She tearfully tells him about her breast cancer scare and her mother's history. It's plain she's coming unglued. Andy holds her hand and promises to be there for her no matter what. She makes him promise he'll tell no one, not even Connie.

When Andy gets home all covered in blood, Connie presses him for details of what happened. She's angry that a man his age got into such a fight, and she wants to know what he's holding back. He tells her nothing. She's furious that he's lying to her by withholding information. She knows it has something to do with Diane, but he won't give it up.

MOMZILLA:

Baldwin and Greg catch an arson in which a homeless man is severely burned. A bodega owner across the street tells them he sold a lighter to a blonde kid shortly before the fire and has a video tape of it he shares. The kid, Kurt Ackerman, is found and brought in for questioning with his parents.

Underneath her SUV/PTA exterior lies the heart of a rabid barn cat. This sock 'er Mom is not only wearing the pants in the family, she's got a buzzsaw of a mouth and probably a bigger dick than her husband. She's running the show with the family--never letting her husband finish a sentence--but she doesn't intimidate Baldwin and Greg. She does, however, make her kid speak when spoken to the by the cops and she can back up his alibi.

In the search for more information, G and B go see the homeless man in the hospital and find from him that there were two kids in the building and that one of them had a video camera. They trick Kurt into telling them who he was with, then pick that kid up. Greg tells young Ray, the cops lied to find him, and that Kurt flipped on him. Ray spills what happened and drops the little bomb that Kurt's mother is the one who made them lie about it.

Back at the Ackerman home, Greg confronts Momzilla with the truth. She tries to explain it as just one of those things but that doesn't fly. She and her son are placed under arrest. This news makes Mommy Dearest very mad and she begins to smack her kid around. Greg and Baldwin jump on her, cuff her and that's the end of that.

LIKE MIKE:

Baldwin continues his efforts with Michael whose father, Craig, is a suspect in his mother's murder. They meet for breakfast and Michael tries to trick him into writing a school report for him. Michael is sort of playful with Baldwin and it's clear he feels good about the relationship. He tells Baldwin that his father has been around a bit, but that he hasn't told his father where he's living. Baldwin reminds him that having that man in his life is probably not a good thing. Baldwin has to leave but promises to meet Michael for dinner at six. 

Six comes and goes and Baldwin has been wrapped up in the homicide. He goes to the park where Michael is hanging out with the basketball boys to apologize and take him home. Michael is cold. He tells Baldwin he'll go with him only if he shoots a basket. All the players start taunting the detective but he shuts them up fast with a slam dunk. On the way out of the park, they run into Michael's father. He tries to take Michael home but Baldwin won't let him. He leaves, but makes it clear he's not done with Michael yet and that he doesn't want Baldwin in his kid's life.

BLUE MOVIE:

John is snoozing the morning away when an odd noise wakes him. He's not sure what it is, so he slips his hand into the drawer in the bedside table and pulls out his weapon. It becomes clear that someone is in his apartment, and as the person approaches, he spins around and points the gun at the intruder. It's his current squeeze, Dr. Jennifer Devlin, who seems to think the whole thing is some kind of joke. It takes Junior a while to get it through her head that she can't be sneaking in like that. She apologizes with nothing but her tattoo on.

Later that evening, they hook up again at his place, and this time she has a gift for him. Something she says will add some spice to their nights. He reaches into the gift bag as she locks her lips on his and pulls out a video camera. She tells him he can just hook it up to the TV and they can watch themselves having sex. He's not into this at all, and tells her gently enough that's not his particular kink. She gets offended and hurt--maybe a little angry--and leaves.

REVIEW

SERIAL KILLER:

A fantastic and brave return for Kim Delaney tonight, and a couple of solid story arcs to work with doesn't hurt. Diane marched into that crime scene like she'd never even left. It's been too long since we've had an interesting case to follow on the show, and too long since we've had a truly screwed up detective (Andy's redemption has left some of us missing imperfection from time to time). Diane's story allows us to get both.

I admit to being a little put off by the character's distance from everyone, though. I understand the approach, but I think I would have liked it more had some of Diane's warmth been let out a little bit before her big breakdown with Andy. Either that, or maybe some alternative explanation for her coldness offered: like having her confide to Connie or PJohn that yeah, it's a little weird being back in the squad room after all this time, how maybe she sort of feels some ghosts in the room or something. Just a little bone to let us know the real Diane is in there somewhere. You may not remember it, but Diane and Connie were pretty good pals back in the day. They went out for coffee a time or two, and shared all kinds of jokes and secrets. It was the best female cop duo around for the short time it lasted, and it just seemed so odd to me that Diane barely acknowledged Connie.

That completely aside, I thought Kim Delaney did a really bang up job with the role. You get the sense that without her former support network--Bobby, Andy, and even Connie--Diane has become all the about the job, and the ability she grew under that umbrella of support to deal with the sucker punches of life has all but left her. She's hollow now and more alone than ever before. Instead of being able to take a positive or hopeful approach to the news of the lump in her breast, looking for the silver lining as she did when Bobby's potentially terminal diagnosis came in, all she can see is gray and Grey Goose. She fills up on booze instead of love because there isn't any love around her. Her attitude and the scenes where she went ballistic on Tony and then screwed up the interview were reminiscent of the kinds of bizarre things Andy used to do when he drank. They were inappropriate, over-the-top and totally out of synch with what everyone else was doing.

Having Diane screw things up so badly is a major risk, but it paid off where I'm concerned. I think it's good to take risks like this with characters people like. It's dangerous because Diane hasn't been top of mind for viewers for quite a while now, and many may have forgotten her good qualities. But it's super when it works like this did: it adds back the edgy quality that's been dulled quite a bit over time on this show. I heard someone recently refer to the show in its latter years as "The Courtship of Theo's Father." Andy's edgy side is pretty much history; it's fun to have someone acting up a bit again.

Andy, and I think PJohn--though he never got a chance to say it with more than his eyes--are the only ones who can see the change in Diane and understand it. (Here's where I think Connie got the shaft from the writers; she absolutely would have taken note of it and made a friendly gesture, but then that would have messed up their plans to have her ragged off at Andy.) Andy does what Andy does--he gives her a chance to come out with it, then lets her go when she doesn't. But he keeps his eye on her, and when things get to a crisis stage, he dives in and drags her out of the fire, pours coffee into her and makes her spill it. Andy is able to do this because he's been just where she is.

The final scene between the two of them was magnificent. You could see every ounce of pain Diane has had to deal with on Kim Delaney's face--the death of the only man who really loved her, her struggle with addiction, her inability to cope in the squad where she once felt at home, her mother's illness and now her own. The woman just came completely unglued. I couldn't help but think of all the hard things Kim Delaney has had to deal with over the past year or so and how incredible it is that she could let it pour out in this scene for all the world to see. That takes guts. I got the feeling also that there was a very real quality to the tenderness Andy offered Diane in that moment. It was very moving.

I'm really glad to have Delaney back in the loop, and I'd love to see her back full time. It would be outstanding, to the say the least, to have another character about whom we know so much, and she and Ross were so good as partners. (And with Connie's impending desk duty, it'd be even better to have Diane around to take up the slack.)

Speaking of Connie....I cannot stop myself from ranting a bit on a few points. You know I feel particularly protective of this character because I think she is--without question--the best-portrayed female cop I've ever seen (I don't know how realistic she is, but I like her a whole hell of a lot). So, I was really disappointed to hear two things coming out of her mouth during the argument with Andy this week. First, the line "What is it with you and Diane?" It really sucked to have her say that. Connie may be one of two other people in the squad who know damn good and well what it is with Andy and Diane, and it was so ridiculously out of character for her to deliver a line like that. I've not often felt like throwing something at the TV, but I really did on that one. I mean come on! She wasn't there during the Bobby years, but she knew and became friends with Diane. PLUS, she's in love with Andy who promised to take care of Diane. AND she knows damn well that both Andy and Diane loved Bobby. Was this some lame attempt to make us believe Connie would be jealous? What are we, idiots? Not only does Connie know Andy AND Diane better than that, she's hardly the kind of woman who gets jealous, for God's sake. If that's what the writers were going for, then Charlotte Ross saved the scene by not making it sound worse than it was. Unless I'm totally misreading the intention--what else could it be?--that line was a major blunder.

Secondly, I hated it when Connie made the crack about a guy Andy's age getting "into fights like that." Um, helllloooo.....Andy is a detective and when he's out on the street, the chance exists every minute that he'll get into a fight like that. That's his job. Connie knows that. Connie is a COP, and it's HER job, too. What the?? Are we supposed to think she hangs up her brains next to her holster when she gets home and puts on her housecoat? That was so far beyond lame.

Yes, I can understand having Connie pissed off that Andy is not sharing the truth with her; I have no problem with that. I think it works fine. She's strong about what she's saying, direct and not whiny. So all that is good, but that argument could have happened just fine without those two idiotic, out of character lines.

MOMZILLA:

I loved everything about this story, most especially Greg's part of the interview with young Ray the arsonist. The dysfunctional family was great, too. At first, you think Mom is just one of those highly annoying, ball-busting women who thinks they own the world just because they have kids and a minivan. The kind of woman who thinks *your* entire life should stop because *her* kid has to get somewhere by 3pm. Or the kind who thinks NYPD Blue should be taken off the air because her little angel might happen upon someone's butt cheeks while channel surfing in his room at 10pm on a school night. You know the type. But in a really fun twist, it turns out this freaky bitch is backing up the lie! It was vindication for all of us in the world who have to put up with these crazy people from time to time. I found myself thinking the Ackerman family could do with a little sit-down with Dr. Phil.

Greg's few minutes with Ray were stellar as well. It was fun to hear him tell the kid they lied to get him in the room. And I loved the way Greg and Baldwin handled the arrest. I'll say this: I really think Medavoy should have had more of the lines in this case, especially given all the face time Baldwin got in the Mike story. Which brings me to....

LIKE MIKE:

This isn't my favorite storyline because it's old--it's too much like what Fancy did. And frankly, it seems like this is the kind of story every black actor gets. Some creativity in exploring Who Baldwin Is wouldn't hurt. That said, let me state emphatically that Henry Simmons kicked ass in this episode. Despite the tired story, it's really great to get to know Baldwin a little more. And I'll admit that this kind of story is far better than having him play Truth or Consequences with Miss FreakyFace from a few seasons ago. Good on ya, Henry!

BLUE MOVIE:

I liked this for two reasons: one, it may spell the end of the ill-conceived character Dr. Jennifer Devlin (a young woman who spends the kind of time and money it takes to be a doctor isn't probably also going to brush off the danger she encounters when her cop boyfriend nearly shoots her. What a ditz.) and second because it was the first time I saw MPG playing a sexy beast with complete ease. He must be getting used to it. He was totally smoooooth in those scenes with her. They seemed totally real, totally genuine, and he seemed as comfy in them as if there weren't a bunch of people standing around watching.

The look on his face when he saw the video camera pretty much said it all. And he was so nice to her in the way he told her he wasn't into her kink; too bad she got all mad about it. Well, maybe not too bad...

I also have to give a nod to MPG for one other little tiny line I thought he delivered with perfect pitch: when he asked Andy if Diane was really drunk or playing it up for the undercover. I'm not sure why that struck me, but it did. It seemed so real, and in the way he said it, I was reminded that Clark never knew Diane and that this was really the first time he'd worked with her. He's still in the stage of getting to know someone where you're totally unsure what to think and still digging up information. I know, it's a very small thing, but it worked really well. After last week's

QUICK HITS:

*No fall out from the Fraker fracas so far. Nice to have a break from that, actually. Maybe another thing that made this episode work was no trial dragging through the middle of it.

*I thought Diane looked lovely, but I do like Kim's hair straight better. Or maybe shorter. Whatevah...

*Now that Devlin may be out of the picture, what's Johnny to do? Maybe they can hook him up with Diane and she can go for the trifecta..... (Oh stop it! I'm kidding!)

*The scene with Rita, Connie and the NYU babe was outstanding. It was outside, which was good, and it was pretty damn funny. Not as light as a lot of the funny scenes we've had lately, but a good little pick-us-up.

*Jen and Johnny in bed in the morning. Don't these people *ever* have morning breath?

*By the way, in the above reference scene, it was his HAND, so don't freak out.

*Hey, their badges are all right side up!

*Where's Theo?

*I loved the fight Diane and Tony had. I got the strong feeling that if she had to, she could take him. She totally misbehaved, of course, but I thought it was kind of cold of him to say "I don't have a desk for you...."

*Fashion report: PJohn looks, as always, like the bright spot in the room in his light, stylish shirt. But what was with the jacket and tie Junior was wearing?

*Alert the media! A reporter called the 15th! And it looks as if there may be a little more media involvement in the serial killer case.

*Aren't there fire cops in NYC? Detectives who work arson cases?

*Great scene with the burned guy being all mad at the cops, but I think some reality was sacrificed here: from what I've learned from Rhode Island's horrific nightclub fire, people who are seriously burned have compromised immune systems among a host of other problems, especially at first. At the very least, that man being that upset could be a real problem for him physically. Also, he'd likely have been so drugged for so long that he couldn't speak. I know, it's a TV show...but if there's a doc out there reading this, drop me a line.

*How does writer Matt Olmstead know the international sign for "small wee wee?" Did one of you women talk?? It's supposed to be a secret....

*Got a kick out of Mr. Little Ween over-using the word "surreal" and Andy calling him on it.

*Momzilla's daughter is turning out to be just like her. Nice touch to have her shout, "Dad, do something!" during the arrest.

*For those of you don't read TV Guide or otherwise spend time in caves devoid of entertainment news and who don't want a big secret spilled, don't read the NEXT WEEK portion of the review below. I hate ruining things for those who don't want it ruined.

*This show reminds me...get a mammogram, will ya? Or if you're ineligible, suggest it to someone you love.

CAST LEGACIES:

To answer the burning question, "Where have I seen him/her before?" go to www.imdb.com:

Previously on NYPD Blue: Kim Delaney as Diane Russell, Chandra West as Jennifer Devlin, Andre Jamal Kinney as Michael Woodruff, Cyrus Farmer as Craig Woodruff, Andrew Sikking as uniform no. 4.

Rounding out the cast: Philipp Karner as Tyler (the bartender), Michael Reilly Burke as James Carlin (bar owner), Albie Selznick as John Arrascada (bodega owner), Joseph Will as Al Quimson (witness), Julie St. Claire as Brooke De Boer (DOA's friend), Billy Kay as Kurt Ackerman, Molly Hagan as Nancy Ackerman, Jim Abele as Howard Ackerman, Rheagan Wallace as Alison Ackerman, Margaret Travolta as Dr. Helen Boyd, Frank Collison as Dennis Ratner (the burn victim), Archie Drury as Rich Weckerlee (the wee one), John Gallagher Jr. as Ray Spier, Sarah Bloom as Misty West.

LINES OF THE WEEK:

Greg explaining to Ray how they got his name: "Guess what, we lied."

Diane telling Andy what to expect during the bar interview: "Just so you know, the owner, James Carlin... a real pain in the ass."
Andy: "Well, so am I."

Connie trying to make herself feel better after her encounter with Miss NYU: "Yeah, well, I bet she doesn't get a half-pay pension after 20 years."
Rita, agreeing: "She *wishes* she were us."

And the best:
Connie detailing the description of the suspect: "He has a small penis"
John Jr.: "You run the line ups."

NEXT WEEK:

Connie has big news for Andy (most of you have read about it in TV Guide: she's pregnant. So is Charlotte Ross in real life, bless her little belly!) The serial killer gets another victim.

HEY! If you're reading this at Alan's site and want to join a lively, mostly very intelligent discussion of NYPD Blue, pop over to the usenet group alt.tv.nypd-blue. I'm there, and if you're a newbie, I promise not to let the big bad net people chew you up (too much). Seriously, it's fun, most everyone's got a great sense of humor, so read for a while and then jump in and join us. And if you're there already, don't forget to dro :p by Alan's site for a refresher on the FAQ and other fun stuff: Alan Sepinwall's NYPD Blue Homepage.

See you next week! In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line (just put some real obvious reference to the show in the subject header)

See you next week,
Amanda Wilson