NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 8,
Cold Heaters

Story by Bill Clark & Theresa Rebeck
Teleplay by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Adam Nimoy

To skip straight down to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: SITUATION NORMAL - ALL F***ED UP

Bobby's old friend Ray DiSalvo has nearly finished his first year's incarceration for the bust at the nightclub where he worked as a bouncer/lookout. All the higher-up principals cut deals and are already out, while Ray can barely be heard for five minutes at an appeal hearing.

He tells Bobby that he wants to deal - one of his tiermates has told Ray that he was involved in the "Grandpa Cars" armored car robbery a few years back, during which the two ex-cops driving the car were killed. It was one of Mike Roberts' unsolved cases when Fancy booted him off the force. Bobby brings in Sylvia, who insists on hearing names before promising anything. Ray gives up his tiermate, who's serving time on another beef, as well as two of the three men still on the outside - he claims he doesn't know the third name.

Bobby confers with Roberts, who's still on the wrong side of Fancy's disposition. One of the two suspects Ray identified worked for the armored car company, but Roberts didn't view him as a suspect at the time. He does, however, remember that the guy, one Brendan Bickles, lived at the Garfield Hotel.

Bobby takes Diane with him to go sit on the hotel, only to spot "the Rat Squad" - IAB Sgt. Martens and his partner - there already. Martens claims that Bickles is a suspect in one of *his* cases, but Diane makes the collar first. When Martens refuses to disclose the possible police involvement in the case - which would justify IAB taking over - Fancy leaves Bobby in charge.

In the interview, Bobby trots out his lethal injection speech, but just as Bickle is about to go for the whole thing, Martens interrupts and offers Bickle immunity if he'll also testify against a Detective Kowalski, who was supposedly involved. The spell Bobby had cast over Bickle is broken, and he asks for a lawyer before he'll agree to anything. Bobby is, needless to say, furious.

Martens brings Kowalski in for an interview, and after he uses his Union-granted right to remain silent, Martens places him on suspension, and then under arrest. He attempts to explain to Bobby why he didn't give him Kowalski's name earlier - what if the interview with Bickle went sour and suddenly Martens found out that Bobby knew Kowalski? Then he'd have to investigate Bobby. Bobby scoffs at Martens and gripes that Ray's deal might be in jeopardy. Now it's Martens' turn to laugh - Ray came to IAB with the same deal months ago, only back then he told them Kowalski's name. In addition, to sweeten the deal, Ray had tried to give up Bobby for helping him out of that drug bust last year, an offer Martens declined after an investigation.

An enraged Bobby goes back to the city lock-up to chew out Ray, who's still trying to lie. Finally, Bobby gives him a hug and warns Ray that he doesn't want to see him on the outside if his deal still goes through.

PLOT TWO: DO THE RIGHT THING

Andy catches a case involving a shoot-out at a bodega (a hispanic green grocery). Two men were shot - one died, the other was just wounded - by a black man who they claim came in firing. However, most of the men who were inside are high, and Andy has them run down to the 15 for further questioning.

At the stationhouse, a Minister from a local church asks to speak to Fancy. He knows the shooter, a family man named Gregory Light, who said he was in fear of his life at the time. Light is willing to come in to make a statement, the minister says, but he'd like it for Fancy to be there.

The Lieutenant runs the interview of the middle-aged Light with Andy. According to Light, he sent his 10-year-old son out to get some bread, and specifically told him to avoid the bodega, because he felt the employees and regular customers were trouble. But Greg, Jr. decided not to walk the extra block to the Korean green grocery and went to the bodega instead. A few minutes later, Junior's best friend Delroy came running back to the house saying that Junior was being beaten up. Mr. Light grabbed his gun, stuck it in his coat and ran out. He found his son outside, his face all bloody, and sent him home before going into the bodega to get some answers. He started yelling at the men inside, but didn't take out his gun until one of the men yelled out something in Spanish, and another reached under the counter for what was probably a gun, at which point Mr. Light opened fire.

Fancy and Sip both believe Light, but even under those circumstances, the best he could do is manslaughter. Fancy has Andy check up on Light's story to make sure. Both Junior and Delroy confirm most of it, but neither was in the bodega at the time of the shooting. Andy and James go back to take another look at the store, and find two automatic pistols hidden in the ice cream freezer.

Armed, so to speak, with this new evidence, Fancy and Sipowicz go to work on one of the witnesses at the bodega, threatening to violate his parole if he doesn't cooperate. He admits that his friends beat up Junior, and that when Mr. Light came into the store, one of them yelled, "Kill him!" in Spanish, at which point the counterman reached for his gun.

With his story confirmed by all parties involved, all that's left is for Mr. Light to sign his statement, which he receives quite a bit of coaching on from Arthur and Andy, to the point where his story sounds like self-defense - Sylvia (who's unaware of Andy's influence) doubts it'll go past the grand jury. Andy thinks they did the right thing, but has to wonder if Fancy did what he did because the man was black. Art says that wasn't the case, and thanks Andy for his help.

PLOT THREE: ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE, AND ALL THE PEOPLE IN IT PERPS

An actor named Cahill files an assault complaint with Medavoy. The costar of his latest play, famous but pompous Brit thespian Raleigh Gibson, has been stepping over the line in their duelling scenes, and Cahill is fed up with being whacked with a broadsword every night.

Greg conducts some interviews at the theater and finds opinions evenly split - some think that Gibson was out of control on stage, while others felt he was just fed up with Cahill's stiff performance. When an unamused Gibson is brought to the station for questioning, he espouses the latter view, claiming that he was just trying to liven up the scene somehow. Greg lets him go, and calls Cahill back in. He explains that, while there are grounds for arrest, the case wouldn't go far in court, and besides, it could hurt Cahill's career. Cahill won't listen, until Greg mentions the fact that Gibson called him "promising," at which point he begins to see his tormentor in a new light and lets the matter drop.


I really should be studying for my finals right now, but I enjoyed this episode a lot and figured I should write about it now, before I start to get depressed over my ever-sinking GPA.

I would probably give "Cold Heaters" my thumbs up just on the basis of Fancy's expanded role this week, but the episode has a lot going for it, including the return of an interesting guest character (Ray), an engaging and thankfully not-overplayed subplot for Medavoy, a fast-paced script by Theresa Rebeck, and a wonderful role reversal scene for Simone and Martens.

But what made this show for me was the spotlight it shone on James McDaniel. I suppose I should be wary about that, since this'll just frustrate me more when he has two lines in the next three episodes, but at this point, I'll take what I can get. And what I got here was plenty. He ran his own interviews. He bitched out Medavoy for being such a neurotic boob (something nobody but Sip has had the nerve to do until now). He slyly ripped on Mike Roberts. He stood by Bobby and stuck it to Martens. He even got to get tough with a suspect. And McDaniel was a bundle of charisma throughout. It's a shame that it took this long for the writers to "make it up to him" by giving him a showcase episode - let's hope the next one comes a bit quicker. I was also intrigued by the moral question asked by Andy at the end. Would Fancy have gotten so upset, and would he have crossed the legal line, had Mr. Light been a white man? I don't know, but I sure hope we get to see a similar situation in an upcoming episode with the colors reversed.

That storyline also pointed out, to me, the clearest difference between "Homicide" and "NYPD Blue." Odds are, if you gave Pembleton and Bayliss the same case, they would've accepted Mr. Light's confession with gratitude for the "ground ball," changed the name from red to black on the board, and left it for the lawyers to sort out whether he should be charged. (And, yes, I recall the episode where Beau got Lewis to queer the case on his best friend, but it was, after all, his best friend.) Homicide represents cops the way they probably really are - NYPD Blue presents the way we would like for them to be. Then again, considering that Bill Clark (the ex-NYPD cop who's now the show's technical advisor) had a story credit (meaning that at least one of the cases was based on one he worked), maybe the cops on the NYPD really *are* that good....

Moving on to the Bobby/Ray plot, I must say that as much as I enjoyed seeing Fancy in action, the episode's definite highlight was Bobby and Martens' conversation near the end, in which Martens echoes George Carlin by claiming that "everything's a situation." At times, I think the show goes too far in its portrayal of Internal Affairs as "the Rat Squad." They corrected that one-sided depiction in a big way here - I daresay I won't be able to look at Sgt. Martens in the same light from now on. And Saint Bobby got his sanctimonious attitude thrown right back in his face when Martens told him he ignored the dismissed coke arrest.

But as glad as I was to see Bobby get a rare comeuppance, I really had to feel for him when he went back to talk to Ray. Bobby's idols have really lost their luster of late - Patsy Ferrare is going senile and Ray DiSalvo has gone from being just a not-so-bright wiseguy to a self-interested jerk wiling to sell out Bobby, who'd done nothing but good things for him, including getting that coke charge dropped. But hero worship dies hard for Bobby, as evidenced by the hug he gave Ray, even though he had every reason to stomp on him (and, if he hadn't embraced Ray, I suspect he would've belted him). Again, Smits amazes me more and more every week, to the point where I don't even mind anymore that he gets top billing over Dennis Franz.

Medavoy's case was also entertaining, if only because I'm very familiar with the real-life story that inspired it. A few years back, egocentric British actor Nicol Williamson was appearing on Broadway in "I Hate Hamlet" (one of my all-time favorite plays, by Paul Rudnick) as the ghost of great actor John Barrymore. There's a scene where the ghost duels his young protege, played by Evan Handler. Williamson, who had already been ad-libbing up a storm during that performance (and, apparently, earlier ones), changed the choreography during the swordfight and wound up nicking Handler, who promptly stormed off stage in mid-performance.

I do have one question, though: I watched the episode on tape, and for some bizarre reason, the sound cut off for a minute or two during Medavoy's interview with Gibson, so I don't know if Gibson actually called Cahill "promising." I'd prefer to think that he didn't - that Greg, for once in his life, understood human motivations enough to tell Cahill what he wanted to hear - but, alas, I don't know. Maybe you folks shouldn't tell me. :-)

One final note, before briefer comments: in my review of "Torah! Torah! Torah!," which was also written by Ms. Rebeck, I commented that she didn't seem to have a good grasp of the characters or the show. I can only hope that this script is a better example of her gifts, because it was, in my opinion, fantastic - fast-paced (so much so that it felt like there were far more stories going on than the mere three I wrote about) and unafraid to tweak the regular characters (in this case, Simone and Fancy) a bit. Great stuff.

Shorter takes:


Back to the NYPD Blue homepage
Send Alan some e-mail