NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 9
Caulksmanship

Story by David Milch & Bill Clark
Teleplay by George Putnam
Directed by Donna Deitch

PLOT ONE: THE MORNING AFTER

Diane wakes up naked in bed next to a similarly clad Jimmy Liery, who smugly refuses to tell his "Mouse" what happened during the night. After getting dressed, she curses him out and storms out of his apartment.

Arriving at work, everyone remarks that Diane looks very sick, and she declines to tell anyone the reason for her ghastly appearance, including Fancy, who asks if she needs to talk about anything related to Liery. Instead, Diane realizes that she's up in the catching rotation, and grabs Greg and James to help her work the murder of a Mr. Sportelli, a handyman afflicted with muscular dystrophy. The detectives are stymied by the tight-lipped people in the neighborhood, but eventually get clued in that Sportelli's frequent partner Sal Campisi may have shot him. Campisi comes in and explains that he and Sportelli were having an argument about how to do a particular job; it escalated to the point where Sportelli got a gun, and when Sal tried to disarm him, it went off, killing him.

With the case resolved and written up as self-defense, Diane decides to get some answers from Liery. As she's changing in the locker room, Bobby, the only person she told about what happened, tries to talk her out of going. When he realizes her mind is made up, he gives her a simple warning: "Do not get hurt."

Liery is just as evasive as before, even after Diane pulls a gun on him. A well-placed shot finally gets him talking, and he says that he had an attack of conscience after drugging her, and all he did was undress her and put her to bed. Diane believes him and leaves, while Liery scares away a neighbor curious about the shot by saying his toaster blew up.

PLOT TWO: A WISE POLACK

Andy and Bobby catch the strangulation murder of a middle-aged woman named Dubrowski. Her building super suggests that her boyfriend, Richard Manzak, liked to beat her and may have done this. Manzak acts beliggerent towards the detectives until he finds out that his girlfriend is dead, at which point he explains that he was at her apartment briefly on the night of the murder before drinking at a bar the rest of the night.

Andy believes him, and decides to follow up Manzak's tip that the cleaning lady, Mildred Superczynski, used to steal things from the apartment. Mildred admits she would steal knick-knacks out of frustration over Ms. Dubrowski's bossy ways, but she didn't kill her. Andy walks out of the interview room suspicious, but unsure why, since Mildred is far too small to have strangled anyone.

Bobby suggests they key in on Mildred's husband Stanley, who has a record for assault, figuring one of the two had to do it, and eventually they'll get one of them to flip on the other. Eventually, Stan confesses, saying that he went over to Dubrowski's apartment to return something his wife stole, and killed her in an argument.

Bobby feels they have the case solved, but Andy starts getting tied up in knots, since now he feels that Stanley is confessing to protect his wife - but, on the other hand, the couple might be smart enough to have made him confused enough to damage the case.

PLOT THREE: PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATION

It's promotion time, and Lt. Fancy has recommended both Simone and Sipowicz for Detective First Grade. Bobby gets selected in a walk - he's young, a minority, and posessor of a sterling record - but Andy has accumuluated too much baggage over the years for Capt. Bass to seriously consider him. Bass asks Art if promoting one partner over the other might cause friction within the squad, and gives him 24 hours to decide if he'd like Bobby's name to be pulled from the promotions list.

Art decides to use his wife Lillian as a sounding board. He feels he's in a tough spot: on the one hand, he doesn't want to deny Bobby a deserved promotion because of office politics; on the other, if Bobby gets it and Andy doesn't, Sipowicz will think Fancy spoke out against him. Art also feels guilty that Andy won't get what he deserves; Lillian, obviously privy to all of Arthur's office war stories about Sipowicz over the years, suggests that maybe Andy's getting exactly that.

In the end, the Lieu decides he can't screw over Bobby, and tells him about the promotion. Bobby, distracted by Diane's plight and Andy's "evil genius" theories about the Superczynski's, doesn't really assimilate the information.


Thud.

That's the sound of my hopes for this episode falling after I watched it.

When last week's show ended, I was already counting the minutes for the next episode. I thought for sure that after weeks of dribs and drabs of the Liery storyline, it would finally move to center stage in response to the cliffhanger.

It didn't. And while the few brief Liery-related scenes we got in the episode were stellar, the fact that there weren't more of them really made me disinterested in the two murder cases, which likely wouldn't have caught my eye to begin with.

I'll get them out of the way first, since I don't have a lot to say about either. While Andy's reactions to all the "dumb Polack" remarks were very funny (the highlight being him asking Bobby to click his pen open), I just didn't see the Superczynski's being particularly contradictory of one another, either in what they said or how they said it. Sure, Andy's a much better detective than I will ever hope to be, but shouldn't there have been some kind of vibe given off to us viewers so we would know they might be lying, other than Andy saying it over and over?

The caulking gun case was even more of a throwaway, aside from a good speech by Reni Santoni as Campisi at the very end. All the set-up about what a closely-knit neighborhood it was went absolutely nowhere. And the sound truck scene was a real missed opportunity; they could have gotten the exact same information by having "Runner" show up at the precinct. Now, if they had really let Greg drone on and on for a few minutes until one neighbor had no choice but to talk to them, it might have worked better.

A much larger problem with that subplot is the fact that Diane was completely normal and on top of her game during it, despite the mind-boggling experience she had the night and morning before. If the aim was to show that Diane was able to turn off her feelings while doing the job, it wasn't made clear enough; and if it was a situation where the two subplots were written independently of each other, then it was just sloppy writing to put them together without tweaking one of them.

Even the scenes about Diane's undercover had some logistical problems, because the nature of Diane's assignment really hasn't been fleshed out well. I seriously doubt that the department would be letting Diane fly completely solo on this. That she's not wearing a wire I can understand. A lack of backup (a guy parked across the street from Liery's bar, for instance) is harder to swallow, but I can deal with that. But the fact that she's not required to brief *anyone* on what happened after each and every encounter with Liery strains even my generous suspension of disbelief. Just letting her off with an "I'm okay" to Fancy doesn't cut it.

Credibility problems aside, the acting by Kim Delaney, Christopher Meloni, and Jimmy Smits was fantastic tonight. The opening scene, as Diane groggily tries to wash her mouth out in Liery's bathroom, was every bit as gruesome as it needed to be. Smits perfectly captured Bobby's horror upon hearing what happened, and Meloni still scares the pants off of me in every scene; the confidence he showed under gunpoint was bone-chilling. And I really have to wonder whether Liery was telling the truth, or whether he just told Diane what she wanted to hear.

I just wish that the story had been up to the performers' standards. And, considering that the next new episode is supposed to wrap up this arc, they're going to have a lot of material to squeeze into one hour, especially if that episode is loaded down with subplots, too.

The promotion storyline worked much better overall than the other subplots, largely because it was nice for once to see Fancy doing his job (in most other Fancy showcases, he's stepping out of his boundaries as administrator), and because it gave us an interesting glimpse into the private man's thought processes. That he could honestly feel guilty about Andy being passed over after all the garbage the two have been through together suggests a strength of character and generousness of spirit that I can only hope to aspire to (I'd be more in line with Lillian Fancy on this one).

"Blue" had been building up to something strong the past few weeks. Let's hope tonight's episode was only a little stumbling block, and that the climax will be worth the wait.

Quick Hits:

Well, it's holiday rerun time, and two episodes from last season will air before the next new episode on January 7. Next week is "Dirty Laundry" (Simone partners up with a dirty cop; Upstairs John gives Andy a haircut), followed a week later by "Head Case" (Andy and Bobby investigate a decapitating; James helps out porn star Vanessa Del Rio).

I'm not exactly sure when/how I'll get the review for the next new episode done, since my newspaper is sending me out to Los Angeles for the January television critics press tour. You folks may have to operate on your own for a couple of weeks. Can you handle that? :)

See ya in the funny papers...

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