NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 21
Closing Time

Story by Bill Clark & David Mills
Teleplay by David Mills
Directed by David Rosenbloom

To skip straight down to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: ROCK BOTTOM

A week has passed since Andy Jr's death, and the pain is only increasing for Andy. Sylvia confronts him after he returns from his latest "walk" and tells him that she knows he's drinking. He admits to having "a few drinks," but tries to mitigate it by saying that he's sober on the job and that he sobers up before returning home. Sylvia, smelling the liquor on his breath even as they're talking, tells him she wants him out of their apartment until he cleans up.

Life's not much more pleasant at work, where, contrary to his pleas to Sylvia, Andy isn't getting much work done and is ruining everyone's morale by constantly riding them for failing to come up with any leads on Andy Jr's murder. Andy has to work an interview with Diane (See Miscellaneous Threads), but dozes off in the middle of it. The woman being interviewed is so offended that she flicks an empty soda can at Andy, almost provoking him to strike her. Fortunately, Diane intervenes and manages to get Andy to leave the room before he and the woman come to blows.

While Andy's outside steaming, Father Kankarides, Sylvia's priest, shows up to talk with him. He tries to get Andy to put his fate in God's hands, but Andy wants nothing to do with a God who would allow his son to be killed. When Father Kankarides suggests that God works in mysterious ways, Andy says that he can understand why God might want to punish him, but why would He do that to Katie or Andy Jr? The father tries to tell Andy that he's not the center of the universe and that God is not in the punishment business. Andy's not interested - he asks the priest to leave.

Meanwhile, Fancy has seen about enough of Andy's out-of-control behavior, and the fact that Russell practically refuses to work with him is the final straw. He calls Andy into his office and tells him to take some sick days to clean himself up and deal with his grief once and for all. Andy tries to deny the problem, then verbally attacks Fancy, suggesting that the Loo has been looking forward to drumming Andy off the job for a long time. He storms out of the precinct and heads for the nearest bar.

Meanwhile, Bobby's investigation finally gets a substantial boost when a hooker named Deena Farnham shows up at the precinct claiming that she can identify both the killers. She says that she entertained two guys named Ray and Mitch the night Andy Jr. was killed, and that they had been bragging about messing some guy up in a bar earlier that day. She claims she didn't want to come forward until she got a call from the two of them last night. Bobby, sensing that she's holding something back, threatens her, and she pulls out a Hackensack police badge - Andy Jr's badge - which she says the two guys accidentally left at her place a week ago.

Bobby, James, and night shift detectives Stu Morrissey and Vince Gotelli set up a stakeout to catch the two, who have arranged to pick up the badge from Deena. They spot them harassing an Asian pedestrian, but one of them makes Bobby for a cop as he approaches, and they both draw their guns. Bobby guns them both down.

Eyewitness statements all show that it was a clean shoot, but Bobby still has to go to Psych Services for a counseling session, so he asks Diane to tell Sylvia - and Andy, if she can find him - that Andy Jr's killers are dead. Sylvia's expresses satisfaction over their deaths, but can't get over the pain she's feeling about Andy's drinking. Diane, the AA vet (relatively speaking), tells her that at this point it's up to Andy to turn the corner.

Andy hears of the shooting on a TV newscast in the latest bar he's visiting. He calls the precinct to confirm from an outside payphone, and spots three black men hanging around on the opposite streetcorner - the same corner he taught Andy Jr. how to clear in their very first lesson. So drunk that he thinks Andy Jr. is standing beside him, Andy marches across the street and asks them to vacate the corner. Two of them seem ready to move just to avoid the hassle, but the third, named Knowledge, decides to challenge Andy and dares him to "move me." Andy shoves him, but Knowledge shoves back. Andy gets knocked down and takes a rather savage beating before Knowledge steals his gun and runs off with the other two.

Bobby arrives at the Bellevue emergency room as Doc Mondzac is treating Andy for two broken ribs and an assortment of cuts and bruises. Trying to save Andy's job somehow, he gets Mondzac to put a phony name on the admitting form, hoping that he and Officer Shannon (who worked the crime scene and thinks he knows the perp that Andy has described) can get Andy's gun back before Fancy finds out. He talks to a sober but battered Andy, and asks him whether he wants help. After realizing that what he's doing to Sylvia and baby Theo is exactly what he did to Katie and Andy Jr. all those years ago, Andy announces that he finally does want help, and allows Greg to help him get back to the precinct while Simone and Shannon go hunting.

Their quest for Knowledge (pardon the pun) proves successful, and Andy, nursing his wounds on Greg's bed in Anti-Crime, identifies a polaroid of him. Unfortunately, Fancy comes into work before Bobby has a chance to conduct an interview. Bobby, realizing that the jig is up, tells Fancy the whole story. Fancy manages to convince Knowledge to return the gun in exchange for their not pressing assault charges.

After he picks up Andy's gun, the Lieutenant heads up to Anti-Crime to try to decide the fate of his troubled detective. He tells Andy that if he stays drunk, this sort of thing will happen again, only maybe next time, he'll get killed, and Sylvia would lose her husband and Theo would lose his father. Andy claims to be finally over Andy Jr's death, and pleads with Fancy to let him keep his job, which will at least enable him to help other people. He assures Fancy that everything will be okay so long as he doesn't drink, and that he's going to stop. Art tells him to take some days off and return clean and sober, or else Andy's career will be over for good. Fancy gives back the gun and asks Andy not to make him sorry for the decision.

Andy, still having difficulty even moving or talking, changes clothes in the locker room. He thanks Bobby for everything he's done. Bobby assumes that Andy's talking about the death of Andy Jr's killers, and pleads that it was a clean shoot. Andy makes it clear that he was thanking Bobby for a lot more than that - like saving Andy's career and helping him no matter how hard to live with he became.

Andy heads for his apartment to face a wary Sylvia. He apologizes for his behavior, states that he's been sober for 14 hours now, and that he's going to get help. He asks to be allowed to come back home, and, after a pause, Sylvia lets him in.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

The case that Diane kicks Andy off of involves a young woman named Angela Bohi, who got slashed in the arm with a knife by her boyfriend after she accused him of hitting her son. After Andy threatens to hit her, she decides to file charges against him. Diane manages to dissuade her by promising to put the case on her "front burner." She and Greg pick up the boyfriend from his job as a beer vendor at Shea Stadium, and she manages to persuade the ADA working the case to ask for a reasonably high bail.

After a week with no one to man the phones, the 15 finally gets a new Police Administrative Assistant to replace Donna. Lucy Kinley, a young African American woman, has a pleasant demeanor but seems rather clueless about her job - she mispronounces everyone's name, doesn't know how to file the monthly statistics, and even manages to screw up the simple task of typing up the roll call sheet.


Wow. Double wow.

I'm not even sure I should write a review of "Closing Time," and it's not because I'm rather hung over from my collegiate revelry (Kids, just say no to booze). It's because I'm not sure I can think of words that are adequate to express how amazing I thought it was. Still, I owe it to Dennis Franz, David Mills, and David Rosenbloom to try.

To start, let me just say that I've watched a shocking amount of television in my 22 and a half years, and I honestly don't think I've ever seen a better hour of it.

In the week since "A Death in the Family," I got a lot of e-mail from folks who were upset that A)Andy Jr. was killed, and B)Andy Sr. fell off the wagon. In virtually every case, I replied by saying that I thought that B was a Good Thing, because I have always found a drunken Andy to be a more fascinating character than a sober one (more on that later). I also said that I could live with A, so long as Andy *stayed* off the wagon for a while. I couldn't think of any way that the writers could get Andy sober again in a short amount of time (read: the season's final two episodes) in a manner that was either plausible or dramatically rewarding.

I should have learned not to understimate the keyboard of David Mills, who's consistently turned out the best scripts of the season to date ("The Backboard Jungle" and "Aging Bull," to name two). Not only was I extremely moved by Andy's relatively rapid fall and rise, but it never bothered me in the slightest that he seems back on the road to recovery.

Tonight's episode had a lot of fabulous scenes, each of which would have been enough on its own to make me heap massive amounts of praise upon it. Andy accuses Fancy of wanting to get him fired. Sylvia tries to get solace from Diane. Andy tries to finally clear that street corner, "backed up" by his drunken delusion that Andy Jr. is there to help. Andy, sitting in the e.r. and probably at the lowest point of his entire life, asks Bobby for help. The fact that a single episode contained so many of these amazing scenes is mind-bogglingly impressive.

But the best scene of all may just have been an early one: Andy's talk with Father Kankarides. We already know that Andy has little faith in God (now it makes sense that ABC recently reran "The Bookie and the Kooky Cookie" with Andy's "I got faith in you" speech at the end), but the key revelation here was the amount of self-hatred Andy feels. His suggestion that he *deserved* to lose his son (even if Katie and Andy Jr. didn't) was horribly poignant, especially framed as it was by Andy standing in the interrogation room cage, symbolizing Andy's desire to punish himself. If it wasn't clear before that it was this desire - and not an inability to cope with his grief - that caused him to start drinking again, it sure should be now.

And the decision (on the part of Mills and Rosenbloom) to have Andy horribly banged up during the final third of the show proved very effective in showing just how far he had fallen. Suddenly, he had no choice but to ask for help - he couldn't even get his glasses off his face without assistance from Medavoy. And Dennis Franz did such a magnificent job of conveying Andy's despair that I'm beginning to think awards aren't enough.

Of course, Jimmy Smits, James McDaniel, Sharon Lawrence, and even Kim Delaney shouldn't be lost in the shuffle here. Each one played off Franz perfectly, as the show was as much about Andy's friends and family as it was about Andy.

I'll take the characters one at a time. In a way, it was a bit of a cop-out to place Bobby in a situation where he had no choice but to kill the two men - effectively killing last week's ethical dilemma - but I honestly don't think I could look at Simone in the same way again if he had murdered two men in cold blood - it's the reason why Janice Licalsi had to eventually be written off the show. And this episode may have been Bobby's finest hour, as he went to the wall for a partner who rarely acted like he deserved that help. Even when he was trying to get over the shock of killing two men, his primary thought was making sure that Andy knew that justice had been served.

Fancy also managed improve his stature even higher in my opinion, if such a thing is possible, by the way he handled the sticky situation. As opposed to Andy's last extended drunken period, here Art had to balance his disgust over Andy's behavior with the sympathy he felt for him. It was also nice to see some treatment of the ongoing mistrust between the two, which hasn't been mentioned since Mills' "Backboard Jungle" script. And in that first Andy/Fancy scene, Art used the worst possible insult towards Andy: "You're embarrassing the Job, and you're embarrassing your son's memory." Go back to Andy Jr's first lesson, which ended with Andy telling his son, "Never embarrass this job." Suddenly, Andy found himself breaking that ultimate commandment, and he wasn't pleased by that one bit.

Sharon Lawrence had the toughest part to play, since on the surface, Sylvia's concerns were the most cliched, but neither Lawrence's performance nor Mills' script stuck to cliches. From Sylvia's "bastards" comment and pleasure at the death of Andy Jr's killers to the way she was almost unconsciously tending to Theo while talking to Diane, it was clear that Sylvia had concerns on her mind beyond being Worried About Her Husband. And Kim Delaney, who has her acting ups and downs, did a very nice job as Diane had to give Sylvia the maddening advice that there was nothing anyone could do to help Andy.

A few final thoughts. I can understand why the writers wouldn't want to have Andy on a bender for an extended period: because then every single episode becomes dominated by Andy the Drunkard Detective and the other cops' attempts to contain this ticking time bomb. However, I must say that the drunk Andy who we glimpsed at the start of the series was a fascinating character: here we had this loud, coarse, bigot whose judgement was constantly impaired by the amount of liquor he pumped into himself as punishment for some imagined sin, yet he still had it in his heart to try to do right by other people. By sobering him up, that contradictory element has pretty much fallen by the wayside. He's still a wonderful character, though, one who I've acquired quite an emotional attachment to, and as much as I think he would be even more interesting as a drunk, I also don't want to see him in pain for that long. I guess my "heart viewer" won out, after all.

Shorter takes:

A few things about next week. First, contrary to popular opinion, "Closing Time" was *not* the season finale. There will be a new episode on next week, so don't forget to watch it. Second, my college commencement is next Tuesday morning, and I'm going to be spending the rest of the day packing and saying goodbye to friends. So if the review is a bit late (like, say Wednesday afternoon or evening), please cut me some slack.


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