Season 10 Episode 12
Teleplay by Keith Eisner
Story by Bill Clark & Keith Eisner
Directed by Jesse Bochco
This goes down as one of my favorites of the season (except for one tiny little scene on which I rant a little too much...) Here's a summary, then the review:
Mr. Kopeck takes time out of his busy day being a hard-ass lawyer to come down to the station house and talk to John and Andy. He's not too broken up about his wife's murder. He says he didn't see her at all that morning. He stayed up late doing some research online then got up before she did and left for his office. They have separate bedrooms, so he didn't see her at all after she went to bed at 10:30 the night before. They lived alone since their adult son moved out of the house a few months before. He's eager to help the detectives rule him out as a suspect and says he knows how to do that since, as an attorney, he's familiar with investigative procedure. Before he leaves, he even whips a little piece of paper out of his pocket with the name and address of the handyman, Orlando Marquez.
Connie and Rita go to find Marquez who is an illegal. They and a couple of uniforms chase some guys into a building and find Orlando hiding in a crowded apartment. They let the other illegals go and take Orlando in.
He tells them that Elaine Kopek didn't ever pay him for his work. He wants to know what she's saying about him and why she called the police on him. He says she called him a stupid idiot and so he left. He denies they argued and that he did anything to her. He swears the tools at the scene were hers, and that he didn't argue with her about the money and that he wasn't even angry about it. They lock him up while they try to find out more.
Meanwhile, the Kopek's son, Marshall, comes in. He says the handyman did argue with his mother and that his mother complained about him a lot. He says his parents got along fine, and that he got along with her too. He says he moved out because he got engaged and that he spent the night before with her. He begins to cry when they ask him to account for his time.
Connie and Rita find out about the divorce proceeding between Kopek and his wife, and they also find out that the cops had been to their apartment a few times for domestic disturbances. Andy and John want to go after the husband again.
They find him in his law office. He explains that he'd done all he could do regarding funeral arrangements and didn't see the point in wasting the day. He becomes confrontational when they ask him about his divorce filing and the domestic disturbances. He tells them shortly that he withdrew the divorce papers because they'd been together so long and that the domestics disturbance calls were the result of a nosy neighbor who responded negatively to any small noises. He then tells them strongly that he's getting a lawyer and won't say another word.
They ask about whether there was a big insurance policy on his wife and maybe a mistress on the side, but they leave before he can finish yelling at him.
Connie tells them that there were several phone calls from the victim's number to a woman named Helen Eckery. She's Marshall's fiance and they ask her to come in.
It's apparent in the first 30 seconds of Helen's visit that Marshall is marrying his mother. She, too, is a bitch on wheels. Before even going in to talk to Connie and Rita, she mispronounces Rita's last name and then dismisses Marshall as if he's a child.
During the interview with Connie and Rita, Helen continues her bitchy ways. She complains that Marshall is basically without a spine and that his mother was a horrid woman who kept butting in to their wedding plans. Helen even calls her a "C," a "big, fat C." She adds, however, that she wouldn't waste time killing a woman like Elaine. When asked to account for her time she tells them she spent the night at her apartment with her brother and his wife who are in town for the wedding festivities. They ask if Marshall was there, too, and she tells them that he was at his apartment because his mother didn't want them spending nights together before they got married. She says Marshall got along far too well with his mother. Even to the point where she gave him a "her or me" ultimatum a few times. She said the most recent time was a few days ago, and when that raised the eyebrows of Connie and Rita, she said it was impossible that Marshall killed his mother. She shut up pretty fast, though, when the detectives pointed out that Marshall's alibi was that he was her.
Andy takes a meeting with Marshall in the pokey room. Andy's having, by now, one of the worst days he's had in ages (see below stories) and he advises young Marshall that he'd better be straight right from the start. Andy's rage is evident. He's just seconds away from exploding and warns Marshall that he's on the edge. Marshall, who doesn't know Andy, pushes him anyway and ends up with the handles of a metal cabinet digging into his back as Andy holds him by the throat up against it. That's all it takes for the wimp to admit he argued with his mother who was calling his betrothed by the same names his betrothed uses to describe his mother: whore, bitch, etc. As Andy's temper continues to fester, Marshall explains that he beat his mother with the drill because he'd heard enough and reached his limit. Andy pauses and lets him go, realizing he's very nearly reached his own limit.
Jones find a card in the victim's wallet for a charity organization and it has the name Omar Givens on it. Givens is a rather portly man who has an annoying habit of popping Tic-Tacs in his mouth every 40 or 50 seconds. tells them he knows the victim through their volunteer work feeding the hungry. He says the dead guy, Artez Foster, is the kind of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back. He says Artez mentored him, made out a life plan for him that included positive thinking and a good diet. He admits none of that took but blames only himself for it. He says everyone thought of Artez as a hero and can't believe anyone would kill him.
Greg and Baldwin talk next to Maisha Houston, Artez' former girlfriend. She says also that he was a fine man who always kept his word. She says they broke up because she couldn't live up to his standards. She says it's all her fault, though. She'd read Cosmo from time to time or eat an Oreo. He got on her about those things on the theory of "garbage in, garbage out." She's very upset about his death and can't think of anyone who'd want to hurt someone who cared so much about others. When pressed with questions about people he knew, she mentions a cousin named Elias whom Artez was mentoring. Elias spent some time in prison. Baldwin, begins to wonder if Artez wasn't a bit pushy. Maisha wonders, too.
Cousin Elias comes in full of attitude. He says he has no idea what happened to his cousin. He tells how his cousin was always waking him up early to go jogging, and getting on him about his eating and drinking. He says the last time he saw Artez was when they went to get something to eat and Artez starting getting on him about having a drink with his lunch. Baldwin locks him up while they try to sort things out.
Connie finds out from the medical examiner that there were traces of shortening, mustard and chocolate in Artez' stomach at the point of entry of the knife that was used to kill him. He and Greg figure the portly Omar may have had more to do with the murder than he previously admitted.
Omar doesn't want to talk to the detectives again, but Greg makes him feel right at home. Greg points out his weight problem and goes on to say that they've learned what a prick Artez is, how pushy he was. Omar clicks into this quickly. He tells them Artez gave him a hard time about eating cake. Greg acts appalled and eggs him on. Omar tells them more. He tells them how he was using a knife to cut a hunk off a cake in the backseat and how Artez told him not to. Omar got pissed and gave Artez the knife right in his six-pack abs.
Andy guesses they're IAB. They exchange a few papers with Tony and then Tony emerges from the office asking Junior to step in. The whole squad watches from the squad room through the windows into Tony's office but they can't tell what's going on. A few minutes later, Junior comes out with a distraught and angry look on his face. He grabs his car keys and walks out of the squad room followed by the detectives and Tony. He casts a glance Andy's way, and Andy follows, too. Outside, Junior opens his car door and tells the detectives to go for it. Another cop with a drug sniffing dog approaches the car, and after a few seconds, the dog gets a hit. A bag of heroin is pulled out from under John's front seat. He freaks out, swearing it's not his. The cheese-eaters take his gun and slap the cuffs on him while he and Andy both protest. Tony shouts that they'll get him a lawyer and not to worry. John is put into the back of the detectives' car and is taken away. A whole pack of uniforms looks on.
Back in the squad, everyone is freaking out. Rita is demanding to know details. Andy and Tony are trying to find a union rep and a lawyer. Connie is trying to figure out how it all happened. As Greg and Baldwin try to suggest lawyers' names, Tony eventually tells everyone to get back to work while he gets on sorting it all out.
Before he goes back to work, however, Andy makes a trip downstairs to see Laughlin. He tells Ed he's going to find out who set John up, and that if Ed is involved in any way, he'll regret it. Ed remains calm and a prick about the whole thing, and even suggests that if Andy had been watching the back of his "smack head partner" maybe none of it would have happened. Andy shoves him up against a wall and means to do some serious damage. Ed taunts him by telling him to go ahead and blow his pension. Before things get any more ugly, the desk Sergeant walks in and breaks it up. Ed doesn't let Andy leave, though, without another smart ass comment.
Andy goes back upstairs to try to find someone at IAB to talk to him. He leaves messages for Martens.
Junior spends the rest of the afternoon getting grilled by the IAB rats. He tells them over and over how the heroin isn't his and he suggests they look at Laughlin for the set up. He can't, however, provide any evidence that Laughlin set him up. In the middle of this session, the evil Captain Fraker arrives. Junior thinks he's done for at that point. Junior asks who suggested to them they search his car but gets no answer. They tell him they need a urine sample to prove he's not on drugs. He agrees.
Back at the squad, Valerie has come in to help. She tells them that the weight on the heroin was four ounces, enough for the highest felony. Junior is locked up with almost no chance of bail awaiting an arraignment which will likely come tomorrow. Rita has gone to see him and Andy is on his way.
Rita comforts John in the cell. Andy arrives, and they hug and kiss and exchange "I love yous" before she leaves him with Andy.
Alone with Andy, John insists it's Laughlin. Andy wants to know if anyone else--one of his CIs or someone from his days in narcotics--would set him up. John can't think of anyone. Andy says he's talked to Martens who would say only that the tip to search John's car came from an anonymous caller. Andy's going to check with their CIs to see if anyone can turn up anything on Laughlin. He's also going to check all of Laughlin's recent busts.
John isn't convinced any of that is going to work. He tries to make some jokes but has tears in his eyes. Andy assures him this is going to be a small bump in the road and that they'll work it all out. He sends Andy on his way, but as Andy leaves, he says, "Just get me out of here."
Andy carries his bad mood to work where it's evident to everyone he's not the happiest man on earth. John asks him about it eventually and Andy tells him about Theo's bedwetting.
Greg overhears the conversation and offers the only advice he can manage. He tells Andy how when he was a kid, he developed a nasty habit of taking dumps on the front lawn shortly after his little brother Clifford came along. Andy is disgusted and practically tells him to shut up. He presses on and tells Andy that the point is he was acting out because of the big change in his life and that it just took him a while to realize that he wasn't being shoved out the family. He suggests maybe Theo is reacting the same way because of the new baby, the new house and Andy's new set up with Connie. Andy thanks him for the insight.
As Andy's day grows more taxing and Junior is sitting in jail, he gets a little abrasive with Connie when he tells her he'll be late and that he'll try to remember the soap. Connie calls him on the carpet immediately, telling him not to take the whole mess out on her. He tries to argue with her but she won't let him. She tells him she understands and that she wants him to be with John. He backs down a bit.
And we got more topnotch acting from MPG who carried that final scene so very well. He carried the shock John felt right down to its logical conclusion: tears. You could see them brimming in his eyes when he found himself all locked up at the end of what started out to be a perfectly normal day. Every emotion was there: shock, disbelief, anger, fear. They were all evident in that last scene as John tried to push himself into accepting this thing which is so wholly unacceptable. It was written very well, and MPG nailed every second of it. I'm so used to seeing Dennis Franz shine in these scenes, but MPG stole this one clean away from him.
Dennis' no-less amazing scene came just before that when he had Marshall slammed up against that cabinet. You could read Andy's mind perfectly when Marshall admitted that he'd "reached his limit" and killed his mother. Andy seemed so near reaching his own limit and the situation gave Andy another one of those brutal looks into the mirror.
The rest of the stories were pretty mundane by comparison, weren't they? I think that also helped make this work.
I did like Greg's way of buddying up to Omar, but Greg also gave us the lowlight of the episode, and for that I lay full blame at whichever writer thought the story of Greg taking a dump on the lawn as a kid was a good thing. I can certainly buy that Greg would have had some sort of negative experience as a kid when his little brother came along, but having him manifest it that way was just stupid. Not only was it disgusting and lowbrow, but it cast a pall over the very touching trauma that our beloved Theo is going through. It almost invited us to laugh at Theo, and none of us wants to do that.
It would have been better to have had Greg do something less gross like take a sneezing fit or break out in hives or even--duh-- wet the bed. Outside of giving some 17-year-old Neanderthal or two a chuckle, I don't see what the point was of having Greg's problem be shitting on the lawn. What's it going to take to for these writers to give Greg a little humanity again? Back when he stuttered and sneezed and worried about his rashes he was doing things that most other humans could at least relate to. It was endearing, and it was what made Greg so great: he had allergies and was neurotic, but was a good guy, a good cop, a good friend. But shitting on the lawn? Who can relate to that? All you can do with that, if you're an intelligent and thoughtful person like most of Blue's audience, is be disgusted and disappointed. Watching that scene was like hitting a big pothole along a smooth highway. To whoever is responsible for getting that on the air: stop it. It sucked. We're better than that, Gordon Clapp certainly is, and so are you, so go back and watch Greg the way he was before he started jacking off in the bathroom and talking about his childhood shitting problems. OK, I'm done with that one.
Let me go back to the John case for a second: there are so many possibilities here. It could, of course, be Laughlin. But it could also be Fraker. The urine test set off all kinds of alarm bells: if it comes back positive, then we know it's Fraker. I think this is going to be a very cool story arc. I hope very much that it's not Laughlin because I'd hate to see that tension go away. I'm also curious about what John's Dad is going to do in this case. I'm on the hook with this one.
The Theo story could also be a really great set up. There are millions of possibilities here, too, the best of which would have Theo mirroring in some way Andy's own struggles with self-control. They're on the right track for this, and from the looks of it, Austin Majors has the stuff to carry it off.
One thing in this scenario that concerns me is Connie. I didn't like at all the little tiff she and Andy got into. That kind of thing is totally normal for folks who live together, but since we've seen no real romance between these two in ages, it just didn't sit well. And the bigger issue for me is that this is the second (or third) time we've seen Connie practically ignoring Theo in favor of the baby. She may need to run off and pick up the baby from time to time, but she doesn't seem even slightly concerned about Theo's adjustment problems. That's a worry because Connie is a major character and we can't be sitting out here not liking her. I think something needs to be done here to make her a little more loving toward Theo, you know, like she used to be. (If that's Theo's issue--that Connie doesn't pay enough attention to him--then let's get it out and get on with it because the longer this goes on, the more cold Connie appears.)
*I got confused when Rita and Connie put Orlando in the pokey room cage and then a short time later, Greg and Baldwin put Elias in there. Did they ever get Orlando out? If so, I missed it.
*Well, now, the baby's name is finally out! If you were munching chips during the episode (and I hope you weren't, you know, garbage in, garbage out and all that), you may not have heard it. Connie uttered it when she made the doctor's appointment for her little angel: Michelle McDowell. Named after her sister, of course, and since Connie adopted her, she's got Connie's last name. Finally!
*Did you also catch the big cameo appearance of Executive Producer Bill Clark? He's made a few in the past, but this time he was the big, sexy hunk playing the desk Sarge who broke in on Andy and Laughlin's little meeting. He gave a great stare at Laughlin at the end of that scene. It was one of those classic cop stares, the sort you hope you never see directed at you. For those who don't know, Clark is a former NYPD detective, so he's had lots of practice with the menacing stare.
*Great job by Anthony Mangano again this week as Laughlin. He just makes you want to snap his neck, doesn't he?
*Silent Hank, but Josh got himself a nice line this week.
Marcello Thedford as Omar, Richard Biggs as Sgt. Snider, Louis Giovannetti as Detective Beck, Daniel Villareal as Orlando Marquez, Kenneth Tigar as Leonard Kopek, Stephanie Venditto as Helen Eckery, Matthew James as Keith Ganzler (the stinky bum), Sharif Rashed as Cousin Elias, Shanti Lowry as Maiesha Houston, Matt Winston as Marshall Kopek, Hector Luis Bustamante as Neefy Concepcion, Bill Tigue as Uniform.
Previously on NYPD Blue: Anthony Mangano as Laughlin, Bill Clark as the Desk Sgt., Ray LaTulipe as Josh and Casey Siemaszko as Capt. Fraker.
Hope you have a great week!
Don't be a strangler--