NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 3
Yes, We Have
No Cannolis

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

PLOT ONE: THE WRONG GUY

Mel, a skell that Simone put away a few years ago gets paroled, and approaches Bobby with some information about an old 15th squad case. According to Mel, a man named Darrell Bolin is doing time for an armed robbery and subsequent hit and run that he had nothing to do with. Bobby wasn't in the squad at the time, but agrees to look into it.

Andy barely remembers the case -- it happened five years ago, when he was still on the sauce -- but does recall that the detective in charge of it, George Harper, didn't do a particularly fabulous job. Realizing that they're not going to make any new friends if they reopen the case, they decide to at least look into things, including reinterviewing the two eyewitnesses, both of whom admit that they weren't 100% sure that Bolin was their man.

Bolin happens to be in Central Holding because he just attended his brother's funeral, and when the detectives explain that they're reexamining the case, he gives them his real alibi from five years ago: he was hiding out in his apartment because a rival drug dealer was gunning for him -- a fact that he didn't feel he should tell anyone back then, since he was on parole.

George Harper, now a retiree making money off a trumped-up disability pension and a penny-anted private investigations firm, barges into the station to complain about Simone -- whose opinion he discounts due to Bobby's previous position as the police commissioner's chaufeur -- reopening his case. Fancy asks Harper to calm down.

Andy and Bobby decide to take a go at Alvin Moore, the other man convicted for the robbery. Moore was arrested at the scene, and definitely did it, but he doesn't want to do anything to help Bolin, who slashed up his face after their conviction. The detectives offer to transfer him to a prison closer to the city so his family can visit more often, and Alvin admits that he never saw Bolin before the trial, and that his real partner was a Larry Bluford.

As luck would have it, Bluford is also in lock-up at the time, and after he's offered a transfer to a work farm to serve out the last couple of years on his sentence, as well as immunity on the robbery charge, he agrees to give a statement. Both witnesses pick Bluford out of a new lineup that also contains Bolin, and ADA Cohen assures the detectives that the two transfers and Bolin's release will be expedited quickly. Bolin promises to use his newfound freedom to go straight, but a cynical Andy figures it won't take him a week to go back to dealing.

PLOT TWO: BUILDING FRUSTRATION

Bobby's twin problems -- the murder at his building and his imploding relationship with Diane -- don't show any hope of easing up. Det. Savino from Brooklyn seems at a dead end on the murder of Sara Kiraly, but suggests that Bobby might have more luck getting information out of Henry Coffield. But when Henry comes to the precinct to talk, he seems genuinely upset and bewildered about Sara's death

A reconciliation dinner with Diane doesn't go much better. After making small talk, the two start bickering again over the marriage proposal. Bobby suggests that Diane's afraid she's putting some sort of con job over on him, and that once they get married, he'll see past the smoke and mirrors. He also says that he's already seen past them, and that's what he fell in love with. Diane, not buying that theory, accuses him of being selfish and walks out of the restaurant. The next day, the two apologize to each other and resolve to at least remain friends.

Meanwhile, Bobby directs his attention back to Henry Coffield and Sara Kiraly. Working without Savino's approval, he contacts the man who sold Sara her dog and asks him to travel into the city to talk, but when the man finds out that Bobby's not working in an official capacity -- and that he may have to make the long trip all over again to talk to Savino -- he gets upset and leaves. Andy offers to keep Bobby out of trouble with Savino, and suggests that Bobby is just redirecting all his frustrations about Diane and using them to fuel this extracurricular activity.

After Henry skips an appointment to meet, Bobby confronts him at his apartment, where he reluctantly admits that he owed money to a pair of shylocks who likely did in Sara. He gives Bobby their names, and repeats over and over again, "I'm ashamed." Bobby, not in the mood for Henry's self-pity, tells him to shut up.

PLOT THREE: SOUR CANNOLIS

The election results are in for precinct union delegate, and Martinez barely squeaks by incumbent Vince Gotelli. Vince takes the news badly, and goes on a bender, then staggers into the squadroom and loudly denounces everyone (except Andy) for not voting for him. He also announces that he'll no longer be bringing in his wife's cannolis for the squad to enjoy.

Coming in for night tour the next day, Vince spots Andy and Bobby and apologizes to them for his drunken behavior, and announces his new plan: to write a book about his experiences on the force. Andy suggests he include the cannoli recipe.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

Lt. Fancy's one guy who's glad to know that Vince won't be bringing in his cannolis anymore. The Loo's sweet tooth has gotten the better of him recently, resulting in several rounds of root canal work, which leaves him irritable.

While talking with Sipowicz and Simone about the Bolin case, Cohen gets a good look at sexy Gina Colon, and smirks, "Where is *that* working?". After telling Gina the good news about his victory, James tells the snide ADA not to talk about her like that anymore.

Andy and Greg have their first weigh-in since the start of their diet competition. Greg, who's been a demon on the stairmaster the past week, has lost 4 1/2 pounds to Andy's 3 1/2. Medavoy's even more annoying than usual, feeling full of energy thanks to his exercise regimen.

Andy finally grows frustrated with Geri Turner's constant flirtation, and asks if she realizes that he's married. She says yes, and keeps leering in his general direction.


I realize that every television series, no matter how innovative, has to follow a formula on at least some basic level, because most viewers want at least some idea of what to expect when they tune into a show every week. But rigid adherence to that formula can make even the best-acted show in the world seem terribly stale after a while.

Case in point: "Yes, We Have No Cannolis," an episode with some interesting ideas and good performances that turned into a mediocre outing after being run through the series' cookie cutter to make sure that all the key ingredients were present.

Ingredient #1: Simone and Sipowicz are infallible. While on a certain level it bothers me, I can accept the fact that Bobby and Andy close their cases every week, because most people like closure in what they watch. And in the best episodes, their solving the case makes no difference whatsoever in the grand scheme of things -- like last week's "Thick Stu."

What I object to is the idea that the two never make a mistake -- never blow a case, never beat on the wrong guy, etc. -- while virtually every other detective in the fictional version of the NYPD is either lazy, incompetent, or both (other castmembers excepted, of course). Vince Gotelli is a total schmuck. George Harper is a selfish S.O.B. more concerned with faking his disability than justice. Stu Morrissey frequently needs Andy and Bobby to bail him out on his cases (and the exhaustion excuse from last week doesn't entirely hold, since he was been shown as a bit of a dim bulb last year, too). Nick Savino seems like the rare exception, but notice that Bobby looks like the one who cracked the murder of Sara, and not him.

Why am I bringing all this up now? Because the main storyline tonight would have been so much more interesting if it had been Andy's fault that Bolin was doing time. Showing Andy and Bobby go by the numbers to free a potentially innocent man isn't particularly exciting in and of itself, since, thanks to the formula, we know A)He really is innocent, otherwise time wouldn't be spent on the story, and B)They're going to get him out of prison, since they always win.

And while Leonard Gardner painted some interesting characters (characterization has always been his stronger suit, rather than plot), the interesting issues to potentially explore here weren't the mechanics of the particular case, but either pressure from within the department not to air out dirty laundry, or else the guilt that one of the detectives might feel for costing a man five years of his life. Unfortunately, other than a brief comment by Cohen about grumblings in the DA's office, the only pressure not to reopen the case came from Harper, who was painted as a two-dimensional jerk right from the get-go, when he ripped Bobby for his gig as the Commissioner's chauffeur. The one moment in that entire thread that had me hooked was when Andy admitted that he "told his bottle" about his misgivings about Harper's case. Franz's acting in that scene was terrific, and there's been so little exploration of how a boozing Andy functioned as a detective, that the story was practically begging to be about a screw-up of Andy's. That twist wouldn't even be messing with the formula, because the Andy of here and now would still be infallible, even if the Andy from before the series started wasn't. And if the concern was how to explain The Other Guy screwing up, too, there could've been some throwaway line about him having been on vacation at the time, or any other simple excuse.

Either way, the main story was a real missed opportunity, and a pretty hum-drum affair.

The rest of the episode had its strong points and weak points, but all stuck to the formula.

Ingredient #2: Leave no loose ends hanging from week to week unless it's a personal or romantic crisis for one of the two leads. One of the reasons I really dug "Thick Stu" was that the murder of Sara Kiraly got thrown at us just at the very end of the show, and it looked like it was going to take Bobby a while to sort through the garbage of Henry Coffield's life to get some answers. Instead, things seem wrapped up pretty neat and tidy; Bobby has the name of Henry's shylocks, and can turn them over to Savino -- case closed. And while he'll likely still have to look after Henry for a while, the mystery element was one of the things I liked best about this particular story arc, and it seems to have been resolved already. At one point, Savino said "I'd really hate to for this to end up a mystery." I had the exact opposite reaction.

Still, the scenes between Bobby and Henry were the best of the show, by far. I particularly liked the first one in the coffee room, where poor, pathetic Henry revealed that even he has some human feelings, and Bobby tried to reach out to him, but was still to repulsed by what he knows about Henry overall to even touch him. Very good performances from both Jimmy Smits and the actor who plays Henry (name temporarily slipped my mind).

I also hope that this really is the last we'll see of the Bobby/Diane relationship for a while. I have no problem with the two of them being together. I also have no problem with the two of them being apart. My problem is that their relationship difficulties are pretty generic stuff, and I'd rather not see time wasted on them. Let Bobby fly solo for a while and see what happens, or else just put them back together quickly and focus on other aspects of their lives. I'm just tired of the angsting on both sides here.

Ingredient #3: We need some comic relief. I was enjoying Medavoy's diet for the most part in the first two episodes of the season, but it's really starting to get tired.

Ditto for James' pursuit of the delegate's job, which has seen him acting like the biggest boor on the planet. My jaw was nearly on the floor during the scene where James and Greg tried to figure out whether Lt. Fancy -- who very clearly was suffering from a toothache -- was being curt with them because he was a Gotelli supporter or not. How stupid are these guys being written these days? And, as much as I love Carmine Caridi, Gotelli's schtick is starting to grow old. I really enjoyed seeing him used in a semi- serious capacity last week (like Scott Hollifield said, it was almost a shock to know that hapless Vince beat on an innocent guy).

Fortunately, I understand that the whole point of running Martinez for delegate was so the writers could then bounce the squeaky clean character against some dirty cops in trouble, which sounds like a very promising direction, but the road there is getting increasingly difficult to travel without getting queasy.

Shorter takes:

Couple of quick TV notes for tonight: I hope those of you who watched EZ Streets liked it. If so, it's on in its regular timeslot tonight (Wednesday) on CBS at 10 p.m., EST. And if you missed the first episode, but are still curious, not to worry, because the second episode revisits a lot of the same ground as the pilot.

Also, for fans of Upstairs John who wonder whatever happened to him, the character turns up alive and well as a regular on "Public Morals," Steven Bochco's new CBS sitcom, which is tonight at 9:30, EST. The good news is that Bill Brochtrup is as good as ever. The bad news is that the writing on "Morals" is, for the most part, coarse, and not all that funny. Still, there are some funny performers, but I'd stick with "Drew Carey" if I were you. :)

See ya in the funny papers...


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