NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 11
Alice Doesn't
Fit Here Anymore

Story by David Milch and Bill Clark
Teleplay by Leonard Gardner & Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Mark Tinker

PLOT ONE: BRUTAL HONESTY

Gina Colon gets her face slashed in an aborted mugging. James goes ballistic, intent on killing (or, at least, seriously maiming) her attacker, but Greg convinces him to comfort Gina at the hospital. Greg and Diane arrest a homeless squatter who fits the description of Gina's attacker, and after Gina identifies her from a photo array, Lt. Fancy asks Andy to step in and secure a confession so that Gina won't have to go through the anguish of facing her attacker directly. Andy beats the truth out of the guy, which leads Greg, the primary detective on the case, to do some soul-searching. Andy explains that different cops have different ways of doing things, and Fancy probably felt Andy's physicality would work better than Medavoy's soft-sell approach. Greg asks if Andy feels guilty about breaking the law. Andy quotes John Kelly's famous rules about only beating a suspect whom he knew to be guilty, and says that if he feels a guy needs to be hit, he hits him, and he'll suffer whatever consequences come with that. Becase even if he was essentially ordered to do it by the Lieu, and even if most of society would want him to do the same thing if they were in Gina's position, he could get jammed up, but he'll do what he thinks needs to be done.

PLOT TWO: RETURN OF THE MOUSEKETEER

Diane gets debriefed by OCCB Inspector Jane Wallace on the final outcome of the Jimmy Liery affair, and assures Jane that there's been no "permanent damage" to her psyche. Her relationship with Bobby is still troubled. It's been ten days since she came over to spill her guts about feeling cold, and she hasn't been back since, and Bobby, tired of waiting, has a dinner date with Jill Kirkendall. Bobby tells Diane he's tired of playing; she says it's not a game for her. After the shift ends, she gets back into her old Mouse duds and goes into Patrick's Bar to get to the truth about the night Liery drugged her. The bartender doesn't know for sure what happened, but says that Liery had slipped mickeys before. When he suggests that "Mouse" is really there to score some mickeys of her own, Diane blows up and says that he outght to be arrested. Feeling perilously close to the edge, Diane calls up Andy and says she feels like drinking. Andy tells her to get out of the bar, and heads out to meet her at a nearby diner.

PLOT THREE: HOLE IN THE WALL GANGSTER

Two diamond merchants approach Andy and Bobby with a sticky situation: Alice, the sister of one of them, took some of their diamonds to sell on consignment, and has since disappeared. Meanwhile, her n'er do well boyfriend has a meeting set up to sell some diamonds to another dealer. The detectives figure Alice is either in cahoots with her boyfriend or dead, but when they try to intercept him at the diamond meet, he gets away. His getaway driver, unaware of what his friend got him into, gives him up, and Andy and Bobby find the Alice's corpse behind a freshly plastered wall in her boyfriend's apartment. Their suspect's mother reluctantly gives up his location, but by the time they get to him, he's hung himself. While Andy interrogates Gina's attacker, Bobby vouchers the recovered diamonds and types up the reports.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

Andy goes to Sylvia for advice on how to help Diane, and finds out that she has something else on her mind: the possibility of leaving her job to be a full-time mother to Theo. Andy assures her that he could take a night job to make ends meet, and will do anything to make the family happy.

Bobby and Jill have a good time at dinner. Jill does most of the talking, going on at length about her never give up romantic philosophy.


Tuesday night, I was at a party being held by the Fox network to accord the assembled television press (yours truly included) a chance to interview the stars of some of their shows. I didn't do much schmoozing, until Kim Delaney suprisingly wandered in, accompanying her boyfriend, who produces "Sliders." Kim good-naturedly indulged the questions of a good half dozen of us reporters, and when 9:30 rolled around, we realized that we would have to leave immediately if we wanted to catch the latest "Blue." Much as I didn't want to leave Kim's charming company, I decided to book, and made it back to my hotel room just as the parental advisory came on.

I'm glad I did; "Alice Doesn't Fit Here Anymore" was a complex, involving, and surprising episode that laid a lot of my complaints about last week's episode to rest.

For starters, it looks like Diane's troubles are far from over. Her reprisal of the Mouse guise rather shocked me, given Diane's previously revealed loathing of those clothes. If she were just looking for answers about the Night of the Mickey, she didn't need to get all dolled up for the bartender's sake. She may be starting to get lost in the role a little, even though there's no reason for her to play the sexy victim anymore. But at least she has enough of her wits left to call Andy, her sponsor, for help. Let's see what Andy learned from his last fall off the wagon, and whether he can use those lessons to help her.

The story involving Gina's attacker, meanwhile, took all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. Everytime I had it figured out, the script proved me wrong. I thought for sure that we would get the inevitable scene with James clobbering the guy, only to have Greg pull him off with the cliched "He's not worth it" line; instead, James spent most of the episode keeping Gina company. Then I thought that Gina would face her fear and her attacker; she didn't. And the completely from left field decision to have Andy do the interrogation at first confused me, then bugged me, since it felt like an affirmation of the cliche that Andy and Bobby are the only competent cops on the force.

But again, I was surprised, since the beating scene led to an absolute masterpiece of a conversation between Andy and Greg that offered the show's most definitive statement on police brutality since -- well, since the first season scene with the Other Guy that Andy quoted. (FYI, the summary for that episode, "Tempest in a C-Cup," is on my website.) At the end of the original scene, when young James questioned the ethics of it, Kelly explained that he only beat a suspect he was sure did it and would go free otherwise, and if he was wrong, "then God forgive me." Despite his recovery of faith, Andy has never been as interested in matters of the soul as his ex-partner; he's a pragmatic, meat and potatoes guy, who goes with his gut, even though he realizes he's being hung out to dry by his department and society should he be caught. And consider the fact that Fancy willingly and knowingly unleashed the beast inside of Andy. Art had better realize that there are consquences to that, too, and had better play it cool the next time Andy flies off the handle. Terrific stuff, all around.

A lot of people already see to be bemoaning Bobby and Jill's date. I'm taking a wait and see approach, because it was pretty clear from their discussion about James and Gina that she realizes Bobby and Diane are attached in some way. We don't know who asked whom out, but judging by Bobby's comments to Diane, I'm assuming he did. Maybe he invited her to dinner, and she accepted because she enjoys his company, keeping in mind all the while that he's not really available. And the subplot was worth it just to hear their conversation, which actually felt like two real human beings out on a date trying to get to know each other, and not some screen-writer's typical approximation of same.

About the only part of the episode that didn't work for me was the blink and you'll miss it resolution to the diamond story. I'm figuring that the actor they used as the perp for the New York exterior scenes (which are shot out of sequence) wasn't available when it came time to shoot the actual episode, but his suicide came out of left field. I would've been content to have him arrested and booked off-camera, but this was just bad storytelling.

One of the few good things to come from ABC's decision to hiatus "Blue" in March and April (see below for more info) is that we'll be getting new episodes from now until the end of February. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Quick hits:

Again, for those who missed the first message, ABC has decided to take Blue off the air for March and April. This is no reflection on the performance of Blue itself, which is still the network's most popular drama. They just want to avoid excessive repeats -- ordinarily, there would only be one or two new episodes airing during that two-month span -- and give a better timeslot, temporarily, to "The Practice," their most promising mid-season drama series (it's about a low-rent Boston law firm, and is written by "Picket Fences" and "Chicago Hope" creator David E. Kelley). Just remember that fans of other shows share your plight: NBC is pulling ER and Homicide and relocating Law & Order temporarily to make room for two mid-season dramas of their own.

See ya in the funny papers...


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