NYPD Blue, Season 5, Episode 1
As Flies to Wanton Boys
Are We to the Gods

or This Bud's For You

Written by David Milch
Directed by Mark Tinker

PLOT ONE: SHANNON'S DEAL

It's been four months since the fateful day when Simone was suspended from the job and witnessed Joey Salvo gunned down by a mysterious assailant. In that time, he has not told anyone but Russell about Sipowicz's mysterious appearance that night, for fear that his partner killed Salvo. That suspicion, coupled with Bobby's absence from the detective's squad has put a strain on their friendship, and the two haven't talked in a while.

Simone's been making a living with odd jobs, and while working at a local tavern is visited by FBI Agent Kriegel, who got him entangled in the Salvo mess in the first place. Kriegel wants to warn Bobby that the grand jury will be convening with two subpoenas: one for Simone, and one for Sipowicz, since several witnesses saw Andy's car pull up to the crime scene. Kriegel offers him a chance to square himself by revising his statement, but Simone's fed up with Kriegel's manipulations and asks him to leave the bar so he can deal with a drunk causing a disturbance.

The visit's enough to get him to return to the precinct to see Andy. Sipowicz continues to deny that he was doing anything that night but watching Bobby's back. Realizing that the only way to clear their own names is to flush out the real culprit, Bobby suggests giving a statement to IAB Lt. Shannon, who, you'll recall, was high-up on Kriegel's list of department leaks to Salvo. If Simone and Sipowicz go into the grand jury hearings looking clean, that might put enough of a scare into the real shooter -- whether it's Shannon or someone else -- to cause him to do something stupid.

Simone meets with Shannon and gives him a slightly altered version of the truth vis a vis Andy, cleaning up the story by saying he asked Andy to be there and watch his back. He also mentions that he hears the cops and Feds are getting ready to move on Salvo's killer. Shannon insists that Bobby stay silent for 24 hours so he can take care of things, and Bobby agrees.

Bobby's visit to Shannon doesn't please Agent Kriegel, who's been having his men tail the IAB cop for weeks. When Bobby hears this, he realizes that the FBI likes Shannon for the Salvo homicide. He wonders why they haven't moved on him yet, and assumes that the whole grand jury is really a set-up so someone at the Bureau who hates Sipowicz can get him to perjure himself. Kriegel insists that he's through helping Simone out; considering how little help he's been so far, Bobby sneers, "I feel so alone now."

Bobby returns to the station to brief Andy on the latest news, and the two decide that they have to get on the record with someone not on the take so that Andy won't get in trouble with his grand jury testimony. They decide on Fancy, but the Lieutenant interrupts their plotting with a report that Gerald/Frankie (SEE PLOT TWO) has been cornered by Emergency Services cops. While Andy's off making the arrest, someone shoots at him but misses. Lt. Shannon appears out of nowhere brandishing his gun and trying to get everyone to take cover from the supposed shooter, but a woman watching the Gerald/Frankie bust from her apartment window yells out that it was Shannon who shot at Andy.

IAB Sgt. Martens, recently restored to duty after a suspension of his own resulting from the Salvo mess, takes charge of interrogating Shannon, and reveals that IAB has Shannon on tape confessing to the Salvo killing to a local mob boss. Shannon claims he was working an infiltration and took credit for the shooting to beef himself up, but after some additional prodding from Fancy -- who now has multiple witnesses to Shannon's attempted murder of Sipowicz -- Shannon caves and starts writing his statement.

Meanwhile, Kriegel tells Bobby that the person with the vendetta against Sipowicz was Fancy's former boss, Commander Haverill, who, after being forced to resign from the NYPD by Fancy and Sipowicz, took a consulting job with the FBI. Fancy chastises Kriegel for his awful handling of this whole mess, and uses his juice to get Bobby's suspension revoked.

PLOT TWO: THE MANY NAMES OF GERALD/FRANKIE

While Bobby's trying to save his career, the rest of the squad spends a busy couple of days trying to catch up with a deranged pimp named either Gerald or Frankie (he switches around a lot). Too much use of the crack pipe has addled his mind, and not only is he convinced that he needs to seek justice on all his enemies, but he keeps forgetting who and where his enemies are. At one point, Gerald/Frankie guns down a tourist in from Cleveland, mistaking his room for one where one of his wayward prostitutes is staying, and in the process of escaping, also kills a local merchant. Later, he shoots a local locksmith in a restaurant, erroneously taking him for a competitor pimp. (This prompts Medavoy to dub Gerald/Frankie a spree killer, ala Andrew Cunanan).

Andy gets some tips here and there, including an anonymous phone caller asking to meet him for information (this is later revealed to be Lt. Shannon trying to get Andy alone to whack him). Finally, Gerald/Frankie attemps to kill a man he mistakes for someone who owes him crack, but the innocent citizen escapes and calls in the cops, who corner and arrest Gerald/Frankie.

None of the detectives manage to get very far in interviews with the demented killer -- who's now calling himself Steve, by the way -- though he does invite Jill and Diane to join his stable of hookers. Andy warns them to let Gerald/Frankie/Steve down easy, otherwise "he's liable to murder your gardner."

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

Jill Kirkendall has a surprising new love interest, ADA Leo Cohen, and she tries to take advantage of the relationship to feed Andy and Bobby information about the Salvo case. But though her abundant charms make Leo putty in her hands, none of the info Jill gets is of much use to Sipowicz and Simone, as they've already found out most of it on their own. Once the matter is resolved, Cohen asks Kirkendall whether she was just using him as her own personal Deep Throat. She confesses that she does like being around him when he stops playing smartass and lets his sweet side through; he smiles and says he likes being naked with her.

When Bobby returns to the squad, the first thing he notices is an extremely pregnant Gina. James has been trying to do the right thing ever since he got the news, but Gina doesn't want the responsibility of "trapping" him in a marriage he didn't want, despite James' insistence that he wanted to marry her even before the kid came along. James tries to talk it over with Greg, but Medavoy has baby problems of his own, thanks to the artificially-inseminated baby he helped create with Abby Sullivan, who's now imposing on Greg to help feed all her bizarre pregnancy-induced cravings.

Upon the successful resolution of the Joey Salvo matter, Diane and Bobby take a hot bath to celebrate. Bobby says he couldn't have made it through all this with Diane, who wonders if she'll get a marriage out of this. After she puts him into a physically vulnerable position involving her foot and his crotch, Bobby asks her to name a time and a place and he'll be there. She says, "Right here, for the rest of my life," and leans in to kiss him (and, presumably, do a lot more than that.)


Anybody know how much a fifth of vodka costs these days?

As those of you who were hanging around on the NYPD Blue newsgroup shortly after last year's season finale know, I stepped out onto a limb with my assertion that Sipowicz shot Joey Salvo, and was so sure that I let Mark Shaw goad me into a bet for some liquor. I later recanted my theory in my season review for a bunch of reasons, but the bet was already made, and now that I've been proven wrong, I've gotta pay up (e-mail me the proper address, Mark).

Some will probably argue that things were wrapped up too quickly here. In fact, I agree that there was probably too much material to squeeze into one episode. But by the same token, we've all been kept on the hook for the last few months, and in this case, I'd rather not have to jerk around on the line for another week waiting for the inevitable moment when Simone would be reinstated to the job.

That said, I think Milch did a fairly good job tying up most of the loose ends from last year's finale, although some worked better than others. Milch played fair, not making the killer someone we'd never seen. Having Shannon be the shooter makes perfect sense and explains his motivation for suspending Bobby: he realized that someone was on to his extracurricular activities, and the only way to cover his tracks was to 1)Suspend Simone (which any clean IAB cop would do if a cop refused to cooperate to the extent Bobby did), and 2)Take out Salvo so he couldn't cut a deal at a later date to give away Shannon. Shannon later tried to cover his tracks by trying to lure Andy alone with a phony phone tip so he could whack him in solitude (a cough-and-you'll-miss-it line during the Gerald/Frankie bust that seemed to have been added in postproduction), and when that didn't work, he panicked and made the dumb move Simone and Sipowicz were hoping for.

What didn't work as well for me was the revelation that Andy was just at the scene of the shooting to watch Bobby's back. If that's all he was doing there, then his actions at the end of the finale don't make any sense. If he's just there watching Bobby's back and someone shoots a guy standing next to his partner, Andy's first concern would not be to tell Bobby to destroy the tape -- an action that, by the way, put Bobby into an even bigger jackpot -- but to make sure the same guy wasn't going to kill Bobby. It made for a helluva cliffhanger -- and I presume was written before Milch knew what he was going to do to resolve everything -- but an innocent Andy wouldn't have behaved that way. He would've driven up, told Bobby to get in the car, and told him that he was there watching his back and was trying to get him out of the line of fire.

Also somewhat troubling was the invokation of Commander Haverill as the means of keeping Andy and Bobby on the hotseat. I'm probably the biggest NYPD Blue fanboy around, but even I was thrown by the mention of Haverill, who hasn't been seen since the middle of the second season, when Sipowicz and Fancy coerced him into resigning. In addition to the out-of-left-field reference, I had a hard time believing that the FBI would be willing to potentially screw up its case against Shannon -- and screw with an innocent cop -- just at the urging of a paid consultant.

And while we're on the subject of things that bug me, we come to the Kirkendall/Cohen affair, which a few clever souls on alt.tv.nypd-blue predicted once Milch told TV Guide that Jill would have a surprising lover. The whole bloody point of introducing Kirkendall to the show in the first place was to have one strong, independent, talented female cop who was *not sleeping with anyone she worked with*. Throwing her into bed with Cohen completely tosses that idea out the window. I actually think there's some potential to be found in the pairing, and if every other woman the show had ever introduced hadn't hopped into the sack with a co-worker, I might get into it, but by now, it feels like something from the latter days of LA Law, when the writers seemed to spend each week saying, "Okay, now who haven't we had sleep with whom yet?" I'm all for Andrea Thompson getting more screentime now that she's a regular -- and for seeing more of Michael Silver as Cohen, for that matter -- but this is absolutely the last way I wanted to see either character get thrust into the spotlight. Whatever happened to exploring people's characters by showing how they work?

Looking back on the last few paragraphs, it sounds like I really hated the episode, doesn't it? Actually, I really enjoyed it, despite the flaws. Why? Two reasons, and their names are David Milch and Jimmy Smits.

Yes, Milch frequently sets too many plates spinning in the air without thought of how he'll get them down (see Liery, Jimmy). Yes, he often writes female characters with an attitude bordering on the offensive (is there anyone who's watching Brooklyn South who *doesn't* cringe whenever Lowery's randy wife turns up?). But he also captures character and mood better than almost any other writer in any filmed medium, so even when the plot is wanting, the people in it can make the show compelling. Throwaway characters like the loudmouth drunk in the opening scene (and the switchblade-wielding bartender) come to life under Milch's watch, and he constructs scenes so that silence can speak even louder than words (fellow Emmy winner Mark Tinker's direction certainly helps in both regards).

Speaking of the Emmys, it often felt like last year's extensive focus on Simone over Sipowicz was an attempt by the writing staff to get Smits some deserved recognition at awards time, and even Dennis Franz was stunned and embarrassed when he beat his partner. If Smits can go through 21 more episodes with the intensity he brought here, Franz won't have any reason to blush next year. When Smits first came to the show, he was playing a sensitive and guarded widower, and while he was good at it, it's become obvious over time that he shines the most when Simone's dangerous side comes out. In the opening scene, he made eating chicken into riveting viewing (seriously), and his "I feel so alone now," was as stinging -- and as funny -- as any of Sipowicz's best barbs. I realize it's traditional for Sipowicz to be the bad cop and Simone the good cop, but I know I won't be averse to future episodes that keep Bobby out on the edge. Plus, Franz, genius that he is, would likely make the nicest good cop in TV history if given the chance. :)

As for Gerald/Frankie/Steve/Fred/Augustus (see Quick Hits for further explanation of this joke), it may actually have been my favorite part of the episode. The show has rarely ventured into the realm of black comedy, adopting the philosophy that every murder is a tragedy in some way. In reality, that's true, but a change of pace is always good on television, and the idea of this multi-monikered, drug-addled pimp wandering the streets of Manhattan shooting everyone *but* his intended victims had me surprisingly entertained, as did Gerald/Frankie/Steve/Ernest's bizarre ramblings in interrogation. Dark humor is tough to pull off, which is why I wouldn't want to see this sort of thing every week, but exploring the lighter side of crime from time to time would be welcome. The only thing about it that bugged me was the continuing portrait of Medavoy as the village idiot, but that's nothing new.

My biggest concern going into this season was how much the show would suffer with Milch splitting time between Blue and Brooklyn South. It's still hard to judge, as I get the feeling he went out of his way to make the premiere stand out so it wouldn't get left in the newer show's wake. Whether the quality can stay up in future weeks, I guess we'll see, won't we?

Quick hits:

And now, the Hello, I Must Be Going portion of this review: Anyone who was reading these reviews late last season probably recalls my ill-fated "retirement" out of annoyance with the "Medavoy masturbates into a cup" episode. I came back the next week, largely because that episode was so good, and promised to weigh in on at least the fourth season finale and fifth season premiere, "and then we'll take it from there." Well, we're there, and I hate to pull the same trick twice, but I've gotta hang up my keyboard here.

It's not even so much that I'm disappointed in the show -- at its best, it's still my favroite thing on the air -- but that I no longer have the time, energy or enthusiasm to keep writing these reviews. I've run out of ways to put new spins on my opinion of the latest interrogation scene. I no longer feel especially compelled to go back and zip through the tape a second time to check for Line of the Week candidates. And I'm just too busy at home and work to have any time to do thse things justice.

I'll probably post random opinions on an episode if I have something to say, either on the newsgroup or my webpage (or both). If anybody feels like picking up the summary or review torches (or both), by all means do so. I'd really like to go back to being an ordinary civilian who gets to sit back and watch the shows with a much less critical eye. I think I'll enjoy it a lot more that way.

See ya in the funny papers...


Send Alan some e-mail

Back to the NYPD Blue homepage