NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 19
Bad Rap

Written by Thad Mumford
Directed by Matthew Penn

PLOT ONE: SOMINOUS S.I.P.

Sipowicz and Simone get roused from their beds in the middle of the night to interview a shooting victim over at Bellevue, who turns out to be gangsta rapper Daddy Kool. Kool seems completely uninterested in identifying his assailant, which riles the exhausted Sipowicz. Bobby realizes they aren't going to get anywhere with the interview and pulls Andy out of the room -- at which point his volatile partner starts an argument with Kool's manager, Nathan Dee.

At the squadroom, the detectives find out from Vince Gotelli that the night shift couldn't handle the call because of a shoot-out in midtown that has them all tied up. Vince grabbed the lone witness, a sausage vendor, but couldn't get anything out of him. Bobby realizes that the time of the shootout roughly co-incides with Kool's own injury, and decides to interview the vendor. He's not especially cooperative until the cranky and overtired Sipowicz threatens to take out his frustration with the case on him, at which point he gives Bobby the plate number of the getaway car.

One problem: the plate number doesn't lead anywhere. Daddy Kool doesn't want to help because of some prior bad experiences with the police, but Bobby blackmails him into coming in to look at a photo array by threatening to have his parole for an earlier incident violated. Kool doesn't pick anyone out, but Andy can see in his eyes that he recognized someone, and tries to pick a fight by suggesting that Kool won't make the ID because it would damage his street cred if he got shot in a simple stick-up instead of as part of another rap feud.

With no other options available to them, the partners decide to stake out the area where these armed robberies have been taking place, and eventually spot the getaway car in question. Andy is so punchy from the lack of sleep that he's useless in making the arrest -- he keeps giggling and asking the perps trivia questions -- leaving Bobby to get all the work done.

The two make some headway in interrogations, but realize that they need a witness ID by Daddy Kool to really force their suspects to take a plea. Bobby again threatens to violate Kool's parole, which prompts Nathan Dee to bring a tape recorder to the new meeting so he has evidence that Kool tried to help and was not obstructing justice. Andy's still feeling out of it and realizes that the enmity between himself and Kool isn't helping any, so he decides to hang back and let Bobby do all the talking. Bobby takes advantage of his partner's silence by explaining to Kool that Andy got testy with him because he also had a troubled youth (Bobby uses accounts from his own childhood). He then appeals to Kool's sense of community spirit and tells him that image or no, he knows he can get some guys with guns off the street. Kool picks out their shooter from the photo array, and again in a lineup. On the way out of the precinct, Nathan Dee explains to Bobby that his client and longtime friend is, despite his image, "really about something." "So's my partner," Bobby replies.

PLOT TWO: PARANOIA IN BLACK AND WHITE

Fancy arrives at the precinct to the sight of Officer Szymanski (c.f. "Taillight's Last Gleaming") being escorted into an interview room by Internal Affairs Sgt. Martens. He finds out that Szymanski and his partner Officer Jones busted a drug dealer, who promptly accused Szymanski of stealing his money roll. This sort of crying wolf to avoid prosecution happens all the time, but rather than just give a statement to IAB, Szymanski decides to accuse his (black) partner and Lt. Fancy of setting him up.

Martens senses that Szymanski is innocent, and the Lieu offers to talk to him in an attempt to calm him down and get him talking. But Szymanski has nothing to say to Fancy, since he feels he's still being punished for that car stop in Queens. Fancy talks to Jones, who was back in the radio car at the time when the alleged theft took place, and who doesn't feel particularly supportive of his partner at the moment.

Fancy eventually realizes that he knows the drug dealer in question, Clyde Bell, from his days as a patrolman in the precinct. Figuring that telling this to anyone might make Szymanski's conspiracy theories sound more valid, the Lieu decides to go into lock-up and confront Bell himself. After a few minutes of conversation, Art deduces that Clyde let himself be arrested and is pulling this whole stunt so that his supplier won't know he stole $600 in order to buy new dentures. He offers to reduce Clyde's charges if he'll recant his accusations about Szymanski and emerges from the cell just as Martens is showing up to take Clyde to the grand jury. Martens doesn't appreciate Fancy talking to his witness without permission, and explains that even if Clyde recants, Szymanski is still screwed so long as he refuses to talk to anyone.

Fancy invites a wary Szymanski into his office, and after explaining that he knew Clyde a long time ago, says that the whole thing will go away if he just gives a statement. Szymanski is still convinced that Fancy is waging a private vendetta gainst him, but after a few minutes of argument, Fancy concedes that he had Szymanski transferred out of anger, and Szymanski concedes that he may have overreacted at the traffic stop because of Fancy's color. Now calmed down, Szymanski decides to go look for Martens.

PLOT THREE: WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION?

Abby comes into the makeshift gym to work out and finds Greg puffing away on the stairmaster, trying to work off the calories from his latest peanut butter binge. She tries to set up another dinner between him, her and Kathy, but he insists that she finally come out and ask him what she's been intending to ask him, since the stress from not knowing is what's been driving him to overeat. Abby asks if Greg would be willing to donate sperm so that she can get pregnant. Greg had by now figured out that this was the greatest likelihood, but is still not comfortable with the request and excuses himself.

James finds him scarfing down more Skippy in the coffee room a little later, and Greg fills him in. Medavoy's not enthusiastic about the idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he already has two kids that he never gets to see. James expresses concern over his partner's emotional well-being, and leaves Greg alone to scrape through the mostly empty peanut butter jar.

Greg finally confronts Abby in Anti-Crime to ask her some questions, including what exactly he would have to do. Abby explains that they have to find out when she's ovulating, at which point Greg will have a 90-minute window with which to provide some sperm with which to impregnate her. Greg hesitantly says he'll do it, and Abby kisses him on the cheek in thanks.

PLOT FOUR: UNDERCOVER BLUES, PART TWO

Bobby gets called into Fancy's office to meet two FBI agents, including a fellow named Kriegel who was having dinner with Joey Salvo when Bobby ran into him last week. It turns out that Kriegel has been undercover with Salvo for five months, but hasn't gotten much useful information and is starting to wonder whether Salvo has him made. He wants Bobby to "run into" Salvo again and start doing him a few favors to see if he can do any better. Bobby expresses reluctance and says he'll have to run it by his boss, at which point Kriegel makes a snide and subtle reference to his relationship with Diane. He and his partner leave, and Bobby asks the Lieu whether Kriegel would try to transfer him or Diane if he doesn't cooperate. Fancy says he'll do what he can to act as a buffer if Bobby decides not to get involved with the operation, but leaves it up to Bobby.

In bed that night with Diane, Bobby talks about what a scary guy Joey was even as a kid, relating a story about the first time he ever saw Joey lose a fight in school. The next day, someone bashed the victor's skull in. The poor kid held on for six months, but could barely move or speak, and Bobby often saw Joey sitting next to him and silently gloating. He decides to take his mind off the decision for now by making love to Diane.


Okay, I'm getting it out of the way right now: I absolutely CANNOT STAND the Medavoy sperm donor subplot, and it's really affecting my enjoyment of the show.

"Bad Rap" had a couple of interesting storylines, with Andy vs. Daddy Kool and another face-off between Fancy and Szymanski (say that five times fast, if you dare), plus the set-up for another potentially exciting plot about Bobby going undercover, but by now, the mere presence of Stuttering Greg and His Wacky Lesbian Pals makes me want to pull an Elvis and shoot out the TV Set.

There is a potentially great story buried in the heart of all this nonsense -- the idea that Greg Medavoy, chronic screw-up, could finally find his niche in life as friend and surrogate family member of a lesbian couple -- but it's been played solely for cheap laughs for so long that I don't give a damn. We still have no idea why Abby and Kathy would want Greg, who, everytime we've seen him with them, has acted like The Thing With No Table Manners, would be the ideal father for their child. Are we supposed to believe that the two of them are so disliked or feared by all the other men they know that they wouldn't possibly be able to ask one of them? Could they possibly do worse by just going to a sperm bank and looking through the catalog?

I know, and a lot of you know that Greg is (or, at least, was) a decent, sensitive, smart guy, but he's been written as the king of all schmucks for so long that I just can't get past the plausibility issue. And Greg's own struggle with the issue was pretty much glossed over -- the idea that he seems more concerned with masturbating into a cup than he did over becoming an absentee father again seemed really out of character. I am counting the days to the season finale, if only because I know I won't be subjected to any more of this for at least four months.

Like I said, it's hard to look at the rest of the show objectively, tainted as it was by Greg the Peanut Butter Gorging Sperm Donor, but I'll do my best.

For me, the most interesting story was the return of Officer Szymanski, which was a pleasant surprise; I figured that story was over and done with. But while I felt it was another good showcase for James McDaniel, I was a little disappointed with the transformation of Szymanski. Back in "Taillight's Last Gleaming," there was at least the suggestion that Szymanski had been doing his job properly, albeit a tad overzelously, the last time, and that Fancy had overreacted just as much. Here, Szymanski was just a jerk with a persecution complex, while Fancy turned out to be his (figurative) white knight. Still, the final conversation between the two was terrific; they'll never be drinking buddies, but at least they've moved past the pettiness and started to see that the other has a legitimate point of view.

The mysterious inner thoughts of Daddy Kool served as a nice counterpoint to the Fancy/Szymanski plot; just like Szymanski had trouble trusting anyone of color, Kool had difficulty dealing with anyone white. And though the case itself wasn't especially exciting, I liked how Kool moved past the gangsta rapper stereotype and was revealed to be at least civic-minded enough to view the lineup once Bobby took him on a quick guilt trip. I preferred that scene to the similar one between Fancy and Clyde (although that had a good performance from Badja Djola) because I found it more plausible; in reality, Daddy Kool had nothing to lose by making the lineup ID, while Clyde is either going to get his ass kicked or not get his new teeth for recanting.

Finally, we have the set-up for what looks like the dominant story of the season's final three episodes: Bobby's attempt to get close to Joey Salvo again. I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, so far it plays like a mirror image of the Jimmy Liery arc from earlier in the season, which started promisingly but fell apart at the end. On the other hand, maybe the echos are intentional because this is David Milch's way of apologizing for botching it the last time. So I'm adopting a wait and see approach about it.

My major problem with what we saw this week was the way Kriegel tried to blackmail Bobby about his relationship with Diane. It's been established before that you'd have to be a moron not to know the two are involved -- hell, even Cohen heard it on the office grapevine way back when. My problem is in the way Fancy is being portrayed through all of this. Everything we've seen of the Lieu in the past four years has shown that he's a proud man who runs a tight ship. Having him be willing to overlook this in the first place has been a strain on credibility -- whenever a situation comes up where Fancy is forced to overlook their affair, all I think is, "Art really wouldn't do this; he's being forced to by the series' insistence on keeping Bobby and Diane together" -- and his silence in the meeting with Kriegel was very conspicuous. For him to not say *anything* in response to the "real boss" crack just felt completely wrong, because not only was Kriegel threatening Bobby, but he was taking a swipe at Fancy's command, and there's no way he'd stand quietly for that, especially with someone in no real position of authority over him.

But I'm willing to take a wait and see approach, and I thought Jimmy Smits did almost as good a job with the story of young Joey as Dennis Franz did a few years ago with the story about the dad who beat his baby to death and then fed the corpse to the family dog -- really horrifying.

Quick hits:

See ya in the funny papers...


Alan Sepinwall * e-mail: sepinwal@force.stwing.upenn.edu
Homepage: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/
NYPD Blue page: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/nypd.html

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