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

"Better Laid Than Never"
Season 9 Episode 22
5/22/02
Teleplay by Matt Olmstead & Nicholas Wootton
Story by Bill Clark & Nicholas Wootton & Matt Olmstead
Directed by Mark Tinker

The first two-hour NYPD Blue that was worth nearly every minute.

Here's a summary:

MISSING KID:

The whole squad is in a frenzy first thing in the morning as they investigate the disappearance of 12-year-old Scott Lowe.

His mother, Catherine, left him home alone on his computer while she went out drinking with her friends. She came home at 2am and her son was gone.

Catherine is a hard woman and not very cooperative. She points the finger right away at her ex-husband Jim. She says she hasn't been able to reach him. She also hasn't been able to reach anyone at the home of Scott's friend Jake Dwyer, either. She thought maybe he'd gone there.

After a few tense moments with Catherine, Andy and Junior set off to find the dad and the friend.

No one has any luck finding the dad, but Tommy Dwyer, Jake's father, comes in on his own. He's an ex-cop and is willing to help out. He tells how Scott was unhappy in his home life and wanted to live with his father. He reluctantly admits that Catherine is not a great mother, and that he did his best to help Scott and be a father figure. Andy and Junior thank him for his help. He leaves vowing to have his son keep an eye open for anything odd.

In the midst of the rushing around, a funny little man named Ted Munns shows up and says he thinks he has a suspect in the case. Greg and Baldwin get stuck talking to him but tell him it's gotta be quick because the minutes are ticking by since Scott went missing. Ted tells the story of how he spends his spare time pretending to be a kid in chat rooms so that he can catch pedophiles. He says he's been tracking this one guy who he knows lives in Scott neighborhood and who has told him before how he's helped kids define their sexuality.

During the talk, though, Munns admits he's participated in on-line sex. Baldwin points out how weird this is, but Munns says it's so he can win the trust of the people he's trying to catch. He says he hasn't been able to help with an arrest yet, but hopes this is the case.

Tony is real wary, but gets Munns to set up a meeting with the on-line predator. That happens in an arcade, and Greg and Baldwin are there to take the man down. His name is Pete Volney, and he tries for a long time to dance around what he does. He doesn't even want to sit down until Baldwin puts one of his large hands on top of the man's head and pushes him into a chair. He tries to convince them it's all a game and that the people he has on-line sex with are adults who enjoy role-playing. His alibi for the time of Scott's disappearance is his computer log, so the detectives subpoena it.

Meanwhile, since there's been no luck finding Scott's father, Tony gets air and water searches organized.

Finally, a call from Scott's father. He arrives at the station house a short time later explaining that he turned off his phone so he wouldn't be disturbed while golfing. He's very pissed off that the detectives are being so brusque about things and has to be told that time is of the essence if they want any hope of finding the child alive.

Jim Lowe explains that he and his wife had a bad divorce and that she's something of a slut. He says he doesn't have custody because during court proceedings he lost it and called her a bitch in open court. He points the finger at one of her lowlife boyfriends: Steve Dansick, a tattooed, sleepy-eyed, motorcycle mechanic with a record for assault.

Greg and Baldwin are following up on Volney's computer and find kiddie porn on it. They also find evidence that Volney has met at least one other young boy: Josh Stober. Josh and his parents arrive at the 15th. Connie and Rita get the parents to let them talk to Josh alone, telling them that he's more likely to be forthcoming about things if his parents aren't in the room.

Connie gently pries the information out of a terrified and embarrassed Josh, who's a normal enough looking kid with a big mop of hair and a typical 13-year-old physique. He admits that he met Volney online, and that they went to a motel together. The kid is completely devastated by the event and even more so by the telling of it.

Greg and Baldwin go back at Volney and all but attack him. Volney admits he met Josh, but tries to backpedal by saying Josh had a fake ID and made the first move in the motel. Volney won't, however, admit that he got the kiddie porn on his own. He says Munns sent it to him.

Andy and Junior are back with Catherine Lowe at her apartment. Andy is trying hard to conceal his extreme anger at her for not telling them about her boyfriend Steve. She reacts badly to Andy and says Steve would never hurt Scott. She adds that she didn't tell them about Steve because she was afraid it would mess up her custody agreement. She fails to see the sheer stupidity of that comment in light of current event. She won't say Scott and Steve got along well, but won't say there was anything wrong between them, either. Frustrated, Andy and Junior head off to find Steve.

Steve is the walking stereotype of a bad ass ex-con, and he's about 6'5". He's uncooperative and disinterested, and he lies likes his girlfriend. He tells them he's never had a problem with Scott, that he's been cooling off his relationship with Catherine. His alibi is that he was a bar the night before. Andy and Junior take him in while they check that out. It's not too long before they find out it's a lie.

In the squad house now, Steve tells them what he swears is the truth this time: he spent the night with his ex-girlfriend. He says he lied because he didn't want Catherine to find out. It escapes him as much as it escaped Catherine that the trashy intricacies of their personal lives should be secondary to saving the life of the child. Andy is growing more and more angry.

After the interview with Steve, word comes that time has indeed run out for the little boy. His body has been found in a vacant lot. He's been shot to death.

Not sure where his case is going, Andy is desperate to see the mother's reaction to news of the death. He and Junior go to her apartment to break the news. Catherine is, however, in a Valium-induced haze. She reacts in a dreamlike manner, asking simple questions about how her son died and where he was found. She sheds no tears. She remains completely detached and then finally simply puts her head down on the couch and falls asleep.

Greg and Baldwin have hauled Munns back into the station. He's told that Volney wasn't the one who kidnapped Scott, but that they did get him on another molestation charge. Munns is pleased with his "first arrest." That doesn't last long, though, because Greg and Baldwin go at him with the kiddie porn. He feigns shock then admits he had it but says he used it only to bolster his credibility with the pedophiles he was trying to catch.

Greg doesn't buy that. He tells Munns that he might be able to avoid jail time if he admits he has a problem with these odd sexual urges. That way, the cops can recommend he get counseling. Munns repeats over and over that he's never hurt any kids. Baldwin breaks him down by asking him if he's ever wanted to.

Andy and Junior are trying to find Steve's ex-girlfriend to back up his new alibi while Connie and Rita are working on what neighbors of the boy had to say. Things are going no where fast by the end of the day, and Tony sends them all home to start fresh in the morning.

The next day, everyone is re-energized. Tony announces that he wants everyone re-interviewed now that this is a homicide case. He sends Greg and Baldwin to talk to Catherine and Andy and Clark to go at Steve again.

Andy has managed to find out that Steve's ex-girlfriend had a slightly different story than he did about the night before. Turns out Steve left her a whole lot earlier than he'd said. Steve is a complete asshole and tells Andy that if he thinks he did it, then he's just going to have to prove it. Any peace Andy may have regained overnight is gone and he's pissed off all over again. Andy gives Steve one more chance to confess and then tells him that if he does have to prove it, he's going to make sure Steve gets the needle.

Greg and Baldwin, meanwhile, go talk to Catherine. Maybe she'll be a little more open with them? Not a chance. Her ex-husband was right: she is a bitch. But she's way more broken up about her son's death this day. She warns them loudly that they had better not even get close to suggesting she had anything to do with her son's death. They tell her they have to ask their questions, but she screams at them to stop. When they tell her a crime scene unit is coming in to go over the apartment, she gets even more furious. She flies out the door in a rage.

Andy and Clark re-interview Scott's father, Jim. He's much less combative this day. For a long time, Andy stares at him as if trying to see into his mind. Clark goes at him with a tidbit they've discovered: Jim was arrested for loitering outside a gay bar several years ago. Lowe is embarrassed by this, but explains it away as a misunderstanding. He swears he's not gay, swears he doesn't have a thing for little boys and swears he had nothing to do with his son's death. He's really angry by this time and is told he can't leave until he accounts for every minute of his day.

Greg and Baldwin spend a few minutes checking out the bar where Catherine said she was the night Scott went missing. The bartender is not helpful, but a barfly named Pam says she knows something. She says Catherine was in there the night of the disappearance bitching about how she had to break up with her boyfriend Steve because Steve slapped Scott around during an argument.

As soon as they get back to the station and tell this news to Andy and Clark, Steve is hauled back upstairs from lockup. Andy lays into him like he's never laid into a suspect before: He forces Steve to admit that he hit Scott, but Steve tries to pawn it off as a little backhand action, nothing major. Andy then jacks Steve up against a wall and shouts in his face about Scott's death. Steve tells Andy to let him go and back off. Andy pushes on. Steve warns him again, but Andy won't back down. Finally, Steve slams his hand in Andy's face and it's all on. They land several solid punches on each other until Clark steps in and helps Andy shove Steve onto the floor. Steve all the while is screaming like a child that he didn't do it. He's left with a fat lip and blood pouring out of his mouth; Andy has a bloody nose.

Tony is concerned that Andy might have messed up the case by beating on the guy, but Andy tells him the guy resisted and then came at him. He repeats this with his eyes averted.

Baldwin arrives then with news that a phone dump from Catherine's house show two calls were made to her number that night from the Dwyer home, and that crime scene found two fingerprints in the house that come back to another ex-con. At this point, we've also learned that the child was not sexually assaulted and that his body was dumped in the vacant lot.

The teams split up again: Andy and Junior on the Dwyers and Greg and Baldwin back at Catherine.

Things don't go well with Catherine. She's furious that the detectives are asking about her personal life. They explain to her again that the investigation of her son's murder is paramount and that they will leave no stone unturned. She admits the affair with the other ex-con, but says she didn't tell them because she didn't want Steve to find out. She names another man she's slept with and then furiously tells them off and kicks them out of her apartment. They go try to find out what they can about this new ex-con.

Andy and Clark are at the Dwyer's apartment: Tom Dwyer welcomes them until they tell him they want to talk to his son, Jake. Dwyer doesn't like that idea at all. He tells them Jake is upset over his friend's death and that he doesn't know anything. He asks for a little consideration since he was on the job. Andy and Clark explain how they have to talk to the kid, and Dwyer agrees but says he wants to be in the room.

They sit in the living room. Jake doesn't seem to know much of the same information his father related to them, but doesn't seem to be lying either. They press with a few more questions which are a bit more difficult. Jake becomes upset and his father answers the questions for him.

Andy and Clark are a little suspicious at this point, but Dwyer puts a stop to the interview and asks them to leave. He says the phone calls were probably made by Jake but that the kid just probably forgot.

Andy and Clark return to the station house with big doubts about the Dwyers. They ask for and get a search warrant for the house. When they return with it, Dwyer is angry. He has no choice but to let them in. Hours go by and Dwyer is increasingly nervous. Crime techs call Andy and Clark into Jake's bedroom and turn out the lights: The chemical Luminol shows an enormous blood stain that someone has tried to clean out of the carpet. They've finally found their primary crime scene.

Dwyer and his son are taken to the police station. Dwyer does everything he can to get all the charges put on him. He explains how it was all an accident. He had guns in the house, being an ex-cop, and he did at least some of what was recommended: He kept the clip out of the gun and he explained to his son how deadly they were. He didn't keep them locked away on the theory that the mystery attracts more kids than it keeps away. He'd let his son hold the gun with no clip in it and under his supervision.

That night, Scott was over visiting after his mother left him. Dwyer went out to get the kids some Pizza, and Scott talked Jake into showing him the gun. Jake took it out and even took out a clip. They played with it for a while, listening to the sound the clip made when it was snapped into the weapon. Then Jake put the clip away, knowing it was dangerous, and continued to play. What Jake didn't know is that his father kept one bullet in the chamber.

Dwyer explains how he was so desperate to keep his son from being locked up, that he cleaned up the mess and put the body out where someone would find it. He says it was all an accident. Andy tells him he should have just left it an accident.

Later, Jake tearfully recounts how he and Scott were playing cops and robbers: Scott was the gang-banger and Jake was the cop, and Scott went after Jake so Jake did what any cop would do: fired his weapon.

After the news is delivered via telephone to Catherine, she marches into the squad room. Still completely unaware how her own actions led to the death of her child, she blasts Baldwin and Greg for the way they treated her and Steve, and she demands Steve's release.

Andy was on his way to cut Steve loose, anyway. When he gets to the lockup, he tells Steve what happened to Scott. Steve wants to know if Andy went after the other suspects as hard as he went after him. Andy says yes, he'd do that for any murdered 12-year-old. Steve tells him then there are no hard feelings.

MRS. GAVIAL:

On day after Scott is found dead, Connie and Rita are assigned another murder case.

Elderly Mrs. Gaviola is found strangled in her apartment. All the neighbors say she was a quirky, sweet thing who couldn't get around too well. One of them is Larry Tyner, a nice man who spent a little time in prison for rape. All the other neighbors vouch for Larry, however, and he's very upfront about his past. Larry has turned his life around and has been working construction. He's also done a great deal over the years to help Mrs. Gaviola.

He admits right away that he's got a record and explains what it was. He says he knows he's a suspect just based on that, and he cooperates fully.

He explains that he grocery shopped for the woman, spent time with her since she was lonely and ran errands for her. He even helped nurse her back to health after a fall.

He tells Connie and Rita about her grandson Jerry. Jerry's got some issues including drug abuse, and he's always asking his grandmother for money.

Connie and Rita bring Jerry in. He's twitchy, to say the least, but also sort of delicate. He's a bit uncooperative at first but takes it really hard when he's told his grandmother is dead. He can barely hear the questions about how much money he was trying to get out of her. He looks up at Rita at one point and tells her that his grandmother was his angel.

Later, the building super calls and tells the detectives that Jerry showed up at his grandmother's place and broke the crime scene tape to get in. Connie and Rita head over there. They find Jerry has hanged himself in her kitchen and left a note that reads, "I didn't kill my grandmother." While at the scene, Rita gets a call from the M.E. that Mrs. Gaviola was raped.

They bring Larry back in. He suggests that maybe Jerry raped her, too, since junkies will do anything for drugs. Rita informs him that they'll be taking a DNA sample from him to match against evidence found on Mrs. Gaviola.

Connie then masterfully suggests that Larry just talk about the whole thing. She tells him she knows that he's been doing really well since he got out of prison and that something just probably happened to make him snap. She says she wants to know what it was.

Larry thinks about it for a minute, and then tells her that he tried years of self-help books to keep himself straight. He says he read about how there's a false euphoria when things are going well but thought he wasn't in that. Then the construction work dried up, and his parole officer was on him about getting work. He set up an interview and headed out to it that day, but when he went outside he saw his truck had been towed. His wallet was inside it. He went to Mrs. Gaviola and asked her for help. He needed some money to get his truck back and make it to his job interview. She refused him, saying she was tired of people asking her for money. That did it. He raped her right then and there.

Connie nods understandingly, then quietly suggests this isn't the only time he's attacked a woman. There must be other times. She tells him to get it off his chest now and ease the minds of some other families. He gives her an eerie stare and then tells of two other women in two other states. She confirms they were rapes. He tells her no, they were murders.

GOOD THINGS FOR PAA JOHN:

A lawyer arrives to see John. Surprised, John takes him into the coffee room. The lawyer explains that he represents John's sister in managing the estate of their father (who apparently did die).

John nervously listens to the lawyer detail how much debt his father was in. He lists all the complicated details while John wrings his hands and waits for the really bad news. It doesn't come. John asks: How much will we owe? The lawyer pauses, confused. He says they won't owe anything. Yes, there's a substantial debt, but there was also a substantial portfolio. When it's all said it done, John and his sister will end up with about 800-thousand dollars each. John is stunned. The lawyer hands him a business card and leaves.

LOVE SQUAD:

Day one begins with Andy getting big bags of crap from the entire uniform squad over his little vacation with Connie.

He shows up that morning with a gift for John. Theo insisted they get John some mouse ears. John is thrilled with them and immediately places them on his head. One of the uniforms spies this and gives Andy the big thumbs up. Andy orders John to hide the ears.

Andy is plagued all day with slaps on the back, "you da man" comments and etc. until the desk Sgt. finally presents him with a gift. Andy unwraps it grumpily. It's a trophy which reads "Luckiest Man Of The Year." Andy threatens to beat hell out of the next guy who brings up the issue and slams the trophy into the trash can.

Connie, on the other hand, is wondering if Andy's doubts are creeping back. He seems distant to her again. It becomes clear that the entire vacation was about Theo and that there was no adult time between them.

This is confirmed when, after Tony sends them all home for the day, Connie and Andy go out to dinner with Clark and Rita. Clark and Rita ask about Disney and all they get back is news of how Theo reacted, what Theo liked best, what Theo said. It's an awkward exchange. Andy changes the subject to ask what happened the week they were gone.

Clark tells how he went to see a French film. Connie gets Andy's eyebrows up when she says she's heard the film is good and also wants to see it. Rita then drops the bomb when she says she really liked it. Another awkward silence, then Andy asks if they saw it together. They say they did.

Connie asks if they're seeing each other. They admit they are. Rita smiles and Clark says it's been good. Andy says he should have known, then makes a comment about how bad it will be if the uniform division finds out about that.

Andy feels increasingly uncomfortable, gets up and announces he's got to leave. Connie asks him to stay a while. He says no, he's gotta go home, he'll see her tomorrow. He leaves Connie there with Clark and Rita. All three are silent.

At home with Theo, Andy settles in to read a story to his son. Theo interrupts constantly with questions about Connie. When will she come over again? Can she come over more? Why isn't she here? Andy does his best to answer without answering and then Theo tells him he likes it better when Connie is around. Andy begins to read again, and Theo asks if he can call Connie Mommy.

Andy is stunned by this. He tells Theo no, he had a real Mommy who loved him. Theo says he doesn't remember her. Andy says no anyway. Theo then asks Andy if he's mad. Andy says he's not, but explains that you just can't go thinking it's easy to replace someone you loved and who loves you back. Theo doesn't understand it, but it seems Andy sort of startled himself by saying that out loud.

The next day dawns on Rita and Clark in bed together. They talk about his dad a little bit. He invites her to have dinner with him and his father that night. Rita acknowledges that this is kind of a step and asks if he's sure. He says he is. He tells her that he likes her a lot. She agrees to go.

During the frenzy of the following day, Andy finds a minute to ask Connie if they're still "on" for that night. Surprised, she says she assumed they weren't. He says he'd like to see her and she agrees.

Andy also finds time to see his union rep that day. After hearing how John's father left him, Andy wants to make sure Theo will be well taken care of in the event of his own death. The union rep informs Andy that Theo will be: through insurance, he'll probably end up just short of a million himself if anything happens to Andy. Andy seems relieved until the rep asks him to confirm that Sylvia Sipowicz is his beneficiary. Andy says no, she died. The rep says he can easily change it to Theo, and Andy tells him to go ahead. Then the rep wants to know who Andy has appointed as legal guardian for Theo. That stops Andy cold, and he tells the rep he has to leave.

Baldwin catches the eye of a lovely young detective from the 2-7 who has been temporarily disabled by a skiing injury and is doing paper work. Perky Maya Anderson pops in to pick up the payroll and introduces herself to everyone. She nearly has to put her eyes back into her head when she sees Baldwin. Later, she fixes herself up and returns to the squad to see him again. She tells him she needs him to explain why his time card says he worked 15 minutes past the time his shift ended, or some such insignificant detail. He seems flattered, but also uncomfortable. All of this is occurring under the stiff-but-watchful eye of Valerie. Baldwin tells Maya he'll have to talk to her later. He tries to explain to Valerie, but she blows him off--as usual--and asks that he just not carry on so around her because she can't handle it yet.

Later that night, Junior and Rita meet up in Papa Clark's favorite restaurant. Dad is as hard-bitten as ever, and begins grilling Rita on her career almost before she can sit down. He asks her how she got to be a detective so fast. She tells him it was luck, and the fact that the folks in Vice wanted female Hispanics.

Junior is embarrassed by this, afraid Rita will be offended, and tosses out an intentionally undisguised line about the menu to let his dad know he's being a boor. Clark, Sr. smiles and asks Rita if she's OK with what he's been asking. She smiles and says she's fine. Defeated but not unhappy, Junior gets up to go to the head and leaves his dad alone with Rita.

Meanwhile, Connie, Andy and Theo are out for a night in an amusement park because apparently a week in Disney World wasn't enough. Connie and Andy get Theo situated on the Merry Go-Round and go have a seat on a nearby bench. Connie starts to get up to get some cotton candy for Theo when Andy pulls her back down. He tells her he wants to talk. He has a bit of a hard time because every minute or so Theo comes around on the ride and shouts and waves. Andy then asks her quickly if she'll be Theo's guardian should anything happen to him. Connie practically sparkles. She agrees right away. Andy then tells her Theo wants to call her Mommy, but he's afraid it would be disrespectful to Sylvia's memory. Connie says she doesn't think so. She says she thinks Sylvia would want Theo to have someone in his life he's that comfortable with. Andy says she's probably right. Connie then kisses him. After Theo goes around again, Andy leans over and kisses her back. She tells him that tomorrow night, Theo's having a sitter and she and Andy are going to have dinner at her place. He agrees.

Theo jumps off the Merry-go-round and asks for cotton candy. Everyone happy, they all link hands and walk off into the midway lights.

REVIEW

MISSING KID:

Wouldn't it be great if they could get this detailed on every case? I was totally into this cop story: all the elements were there. Lots of dead ends that seemed wide open, a sidetrack that led them the wrong way but got them a really good collar and maybe prevented some serious crimes, and even a bit of the criminal forensic techniques that have practically all of America rapt. (The popularity of CSI--which can't be due to the acting or writing--and the even bigger popularity of reality shows like The New Detectives and Forensic Files, both of which have competed with NYPD Blue.)

It's clear to me that the extra time was helpful in getting all of this in. Most every episode of this show that has been longer than its usual hour has a dead spot in it--fifteen or twenty minutes of stuff that could have been dumped out, filler. Not this one. Every minute was used. My only nitpick (because I have to have one), is that the top of the show--the part up to the discovery of Scott's dead body--could have moved a little faster. The frenzy was conveyed, but I've seen this show move faster. I think the problem was too many words. Maybe replacing some of Munns' early dialogue with one of those wordless scenes we haven't seen in ages would have done the trick. But that's a small thing because the urgency of it all really did reach me.

I absolutely loved seeing Luminol used in this story. The cable reality detective shows focus solely on how forensic science is used to solve crimes; most cops shows focus almost completely on meat-n-potatoes detective work. Tonight, NYPD Blue hit what may be closer to reality: using both.

I also liked how the Munns story turned into another couple of crimes all together. And for all the bitching out here in front of the scenes (not from me, though) about how people just walk in off the street and solve their crimes for them, here's a story that explains a bit why some people do things like that. This guy Munns was so clearly suffering extreme guilt over his own tendencies that he literally investigated, set up and arrested himself. His motivated came roaring out of his own fucked up psyche, and it was so beautifully written. I'm in awe of the writing on this one.

And the parents---that whole thing left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. When the bitchy mother came into the house to read the riot act to Greg and Baldwin and demand her boyfriend be released, I wanted to smack her. I think I said out loud that I wished something bad would happen to her. Then it hit me that her son had been killed and dumped in a vacant lot. Somehow, though, that didn't seem bad enough. It's sad when you think a kid is better off dead, but that's how this story ended up. Another good trick of writing to have Our Heroes care more about the kid than his own parents. It was also a nice backdrop to all the parent-theme issues in the personal lives of our main characters, which I'll get to in a minute.

And I have to say that I didn't see the accident angle coming until the very end. All the usual ruses were in place but none of them panned out. Too bad they do that all season long.

Nice, nice use of Tony this episode. He's a much more take-charge guy than Fancy. I loved it when he was barking out orders, and when he told them how many calls he'd made, how he'd gotten the air and rescue in place and how he was dealing with the media. Nice to know he's doing things. Next trick will be to see some of them.

I also can't overlook the deftly written comments on police shootings and gun safety in this episode. Police shoot people who come after them. It seems reasonable that our police should defend themselves and others when they're being threatened by a person with a weapon. Andy's done it, Bobby did, Clark and the list goes on, but here's a kid who put that into play and ended up causing a tragedy in his life that he'll be really lucky to overcome, especially with a parent like his.

Dad's an idiot: trying to take the mystery out of guns so his kid won't be tempted to play around out of curiosity but forgetting a) to take a bullet out of the damn thing and b) that a kid's curiosity knows no bounds. Obviously, that gun still held some measure of mystery, and everyone who's been through puberty ought to know that there's just no underestimating the power of peer pressure when it comes to taboo things. Again, all of that written very well.

I think Dennis Franz was superb in this episode. He seemed to have a little extra fire tonight. The best scene he did was when he sat there with Scott's dad after finding out he might be gay, and stared at him for a few minutes. Here's Andy, a guy who usually has every clue about where a case is going, running into all kinds of dead ends and lies. So he sits back for a minute and just watches. Good stuff.

The fight scene was also excellent, but this one more for the way it was shot. There was a ton of tension in it. And I don't know if those guys were really wailing on each other, but it sure as hell looked that way. It was cool to have Andy finally come through with a few of those punches he's always threatening. Usually, we just get Andy and a perp nose to nose and spitting at each other. Tonight, it all came loose. It looked really good. Hats off also to Mark Pellegrino who played Steve: by the time the guy was on the floor crying that he didn't do it, I completely believed him.

LOVE SQUAD:

Just a few words about Rita and Clark: I think this works because Jackie Obradors is never better than when she's in a scene with Mark-Paul Gosselaar. She fits there perfectly. Of course, that means they'll never last... :)

Actually, I do think there's trouble ahead. She's a little too casual about things, he's really falling hard for her, and if you haven't learned it by now, that spells trouble in TV land. As it should be, but I really do like them together.

Nice scene with Joe Spano at the end. It didn't do much to further anyone's character, but it makes me think Joe will be back, and that's nothing but good. MPG's delivery of the bloomin' onion line was the best of the entire show.

As for Baldwin and Miss Perky Pants, go for it. Just leave Val out of it. I wanted to smack her for her comment to him. Ahem, Miss Heywood, but you're the one who totally shut down on Baldwin when you were carrying his child, who the hell are you to be barking out orders on how and when and with whom he conducts his personal life? Gimme a break. Get over it.

And Connie and Andy: I did not like it not at all, I did not like it, hope it falls. I was starting to warm up to the idea of these two after that incredible scene with them after the hostage situation, but tonight, it just went flat.

First of all, there was no reason for Andy to get all goofy again. If you're going to have the guy go through the hostage thing and come out of it saying he no longer cares what other people think, and his life perspective has changed, why all the angst? It didn't make sense given what they've already explained. (Before you write to me explaining it, please read the paragraph again and then the one that follows.)

The Sylvia angle was fine. Naturally, he'd have some major concerns in that area, especially where Theo is concerned. I really thought what he said to Theo about replacing someone you loved was a beautiful line. It was a window into Andy's soul, and it even startled him a bit. I was going along with that just fine and dandy until the end, when, for the very first time ever, I wanted to smack both Connie and Andy. And THAT pissed me off. Having Connie tell Andy how Sylvia would feel about her son calling another woman Mommy was nothing short of ridiculous. Connie didn't know Sylvia! WE did! And I thought I knew Connie. I thought Connie was bright enough and sensitive enough to have acknowledged Andy's concerns and tell him that whatever he thought was best would work for her. But no, they give her a line so far out of her character that it stuck out like a big, red, throbbing hammer-smashed thumb. And what does Andy say? "You're probably right." NOOOOOOO!!!! How's he going to give that up so easily when just hours before he was having serious problems with the idea? Ouch. Nothing hurts more than when you spend a lot of time drawing such beautiful, complex characters and then have them acting like people you've never met. If you are hell bent on getting these two together--and apparently Steven Bochco is--how about doing it in a way that's more true to the characters? It's no fun to feel like throwing something at one of them. It was as if they just wanted to finally smash those two together whether or not it made any sense. To me, it didn't.

QUICK HITS (under which I'll address other storylines because this is way TFL):

*We saw everyone's personal life but Greg's and Tony's. Hope they get a chance next year.

*I guess John's father died after all. We never did know for sure until today. Nice little sum of cash! Wonder how he'll spend it? I mean, how could last year's Christmas gifts be any better? I like it when good things happen to good people.

*Andy ordered John to hide the mouse ears, but I get the feeling no one would have thought it too strange if he'd worn them all day.

*Excellent having the uniform division reflect what a lot of the audience is thinking: "Andy, you're my hero."

*Great job by young Cody Kasch who played Josh. A very emotional scene that got me all teary.

*Hank!

*And a female in uniform who spoke!

*What I didn't get: Why Tony didn't ask the ESU more about why they wanted Andy at the vacant lot. He was running around all involved, and then suddenly he's taking messages? Maybe John should have delivered those lines.

*Another best scene: The dinner out. There was tons of tension there in all the right places and at the same time, a palpable warmth and chemistry between Rita and Clark. Excellent, excellent.

*BUT (there's always one or six of those), when Andy said "I should have known" regarding Rita and Clark's relationship...he DID know, didn't he? Who can forget the day after scene when Andy ribs him over a dead body at a crime scene? I thought he knew.

*Funny having Andy react to Connie's enthusiasm over a French film.

*Very nice to see Charlotte Ross in a ponytail. It gives her character even more credibility when she's not always so beautiful. Of course, if she gets into it with a perp while wearing one of those, look out.

*The rape victim, Mrs. Gaviola. That has to be a nod to First Assistant Director Karen Gaviola. She's directed some of my very favorite episodes! But geez, you didn't have to *kill* her, did you? :)

*The rape story was good: I wish I had more room to write about it. The highlight was the end where Connie craftily talks this guy's history out of him and realizes she's got a serial killer on her hands. The actor who played Larry, Ted Marcoux, was fantastic in that scene. Extra Creepy.

CAST LIST:

Since I'm running behind and running out of room, I'll just list the folks for you. My main source for info is www.imdb.com. If you're dying to know more about these fine actors, go there:

Claudia Christian as Catherine Lowe, Billy Concha as Uniform 1, John Cygan as Tommy Dwyer, Victor McCay as Ted Munns, Charley Lang as Pete Volney, Michael Girardin as Howard Gagan, Drew Pillsbury as Jim Lowe, Mark Pellegrino as Steve Dansick, Cody Kasch as Josh Stober, Jeanie Hackett as Karen Stober, Christopher Michael Moore as Phillip Stober, Jack McGee as the desk Sgt., Joseph Cranberry as Uniform 2, Austin Majors as Theo Sipowicz, Brian Klugman as Jerry Gaviola, Cal Gibson as Don Goldammer, Ted Marcoux as Larry Tyner, Aaron Fors as Jake Dwyer, Ken Abraham as Dave, Tanya Wright as Maya Anderson, Joe Spano as John Clark, Sr., Steve Tom as Allen Walker, Patrick Robert Smith as Uniform 4, Joe Sabatino as Uniform 5, and Katie Rich as Pam.

LINE OF THE WEEK:

"Looky here, the bloomin' onion's back on the menu."
--John Clark, Jr. telling his dad to shut up.

NOTE: By now you may have heard that Philly has been canceled, and that Kim Delaney is not returning to NYPD Blue. Her deal specified a return to Blue if Philly were to be canceled in 13 episodes or less. Since Philly ran the whole 21, there's no obligation to bring Kim back as Diane. I loved Diane, like Kim Delaney a whole lot, and hope she lands on her feet again. It would be tough to write Diane back in--not impossible--but tough. So we'll move on without her. It's my opinion that Steven Bochco did right by this actress, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them working together again someday.

And on a personal note, thanks to all who've stuck around this season to read our efforts here. I've had a personally very rough year, and I offer my sincere gratitude to Alan Sepinwall who helped bail me out on a few Tuesdays. To Alan, to the good, good friends I've made through this website (esp. yous guys in California), and to the casual readers who drop me a line from time to time, thanks for indulging me my favorite escape when I needed it most.

Check back at Alan's site throughout the summer for NYPD Blue news, and maybe a year-in-review (if we can get one together). And as for these reviews, I'll see you next year!

Take care of yourselves (& each other),
Amanda Wilson