NYPD Blue Summary/Review by guest reviewer Alan Sepinwall aka sepinwal@stwing.org
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

"Colonel Knowledge"
Season 11, Episode 15
3/16/04
Story by Bill Clark and Tom Szentgyorgyi
Teleplay by Tom Szentgyorgyi
Directed by Steven De Paul

Amanda's father just passed away, so I'm filling in for another week. I have some relatively big show news at the start of the review, but first, we have a...

SUMMARY

HE'S SO FINE

John and Andy catch the murder of Tony DeKeys, a member of the Bloods who was shot in his car. As they're going over the scene, they're surprised to meet Stan Hatcher, a new detective assigned to the 15th squad (as eventual replacement for Connie; see below). Andy says Hatcher's name rings a bell; Stan mentions an incident where he saved a school bus full of blind kids from plunging off a bridge, but Andy thinks it's something else.

Hatcher has gang experience and has heard rumors of fighting between the Bloods and the Latin Kings -- specifically, that their DOA was flirting with the leader of the Kings, Wilmer Lopez, aka King Jazz. Wilmer doesn't respond well to Rita's heavy tone, but softens up after Stan shows him the proper level of "respect." He says the appropriate "tribute" was paid by the Bloods to settle the dispute over his girlfriend, and that none of his people would have killed Tony. He alibis that he took his mother to physical therapy at the Y that morning. Stan gives him a friendly back-slapping goodbye, but as he walks away, he tells Rita that Wilmer's lying.

As the investigation moves forward, Andy asks a desk-bound Connie to call some of Hatcher's old commands and find out what she can about him; the most any of his former colleagues will say is that Stan was "fine." Andy doesn't like the sound of that at all, figuring that "fine" is code for "I don't want to rat out a bad cop." Sure enough, when Stan and Rita return to the squad, Andy asks how Stan did in the Wilmer interview; "Fine," Rita says. "He did fine."

A new lead pops up: Lonnie Parker, the super at Tony's building, was spotted driving away from the scene of the crime at top speed. Lonnie's 65, but he also has a long rap sheet and the detectives arrange for his son Calvin to come in. Calvin works a straight job at a grocery store and doesn't have much use for his dad, saying he has no idea where Lonnie is. Andy asks Calvin to stick around long enough to confirm that he was working that morning, and while he's still there, Stan offers to take a second pass at the guy. Andy reluctantly agrees, and Stan gives up way too much information about the investigation -- specifically, their interest in the Latin Kings -- in an effort to get Calvin to admit that he knows where to find his father. The best Calvin can offer is that he knows some people who might know.

Lonnie Parker is picked up running a red light and brought in for questioning. He says he doesn't know anything, but after Andy threatens to violate his parole, he says he saw two Latin Kings walk up and shoot Tony. He also confirms Calvin's story that they haven't spoken in months, but Andy's not convinced. Meanwhile, Rita and a very enthusiastic Stan go to pick up Wilmer Lopez.

In interrogation, Stan is much less respectful of Wilmer, telling him, "You're so full of crap, it's no wonder your skin is brown." Wilmer continues to insist that the matter was settled peacefully between the two gangs, but when he pleads in Spanish to Rita, Stan clocks their handcuffed suspect in the jaw and moves in for more. Rita breaks it up, pulls Stan into the hallway and tells him he's done with this interview. Afterwards, Rita clams up about the beating, just telling Andy that Stan has "a different style, but we'll work it out."

Andy has TARU look at phone records between Calvin's cell phone and his father's, and they confirm a number of calls during the day, including one 15 minutes after the shooting and another right after Calvin left the precinct. They bring Calvin back in, threaten him with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact. He says he told Lonnie the info about the Latin Kings to keep him out of trouble; he may have no use for his father but didn't want to see him back in jail. The put Calvin in the pokey room cage, then bring Lonnie into the observation room to get a look at what he did to his son. To get Calvin out of the jam, Lonnie admits to the killing, the result of old habits from his prison days; he shot Tony after Tony pissed on his apartment floor. Lonnie is locked up and Calvin is set free.

At the end of the shift, Stan approaches Andy in the locker room and tries to figure out whether Rita gave him up. Andy blames Stan for wasting half the day because he told Calvin the Latin King theory and says he's not going to let Stan double up on one of his interviews again. An apologetic Stan asks for a fresh start tomorrow; Andy's skeptical, but he shakes Stan's hand.

After Stan leaves, Connie tells Andy that she heard that Stan's uncle is the chief of personnel -- the same chief of personnel who got Eddie Gibson his promotion to squad boss. Andy puts two and two together and asks Eddie if he cut a deal to take in the chief's screw-up nephew in exchange for a command. Gibson says that the squad was about to be short-handed, but that it was also a nice thing to do for a friend. Andy warns Gibson that he better have the spine to deal with Hatcher if/when he implodes like he has at every other command.

"I've got spine all day long, Andy," Eddie says. "Don't question that." "Then we're square," Andy replies.

MURDER/SUICIDE PACT

Widower dad Ed Boyanovich comes in to file a kidnapping report about his 15-year-old daughter Carla. He tells Greg and Baldwin that Carla had been dating an 18-year-old senior named Charles Slocum, a rich private school classmate. When Ed tried to put an end to the relationship, Carla disappeared and hasn't been back in two days. The detectives delicately try to explain that this sounds like a runaway situation, not a kidnapping, but offer to look into it.

Slocum seems confused when the cops show up at his apartment, but says he hasn't seen Carla in a few days. They search the apartment and find nothing. A conversation with Carla's classmate Madison is more revealing; Madison is worried about her friend and says that Carla got pregnant and was afraid to tell her father or Charles because she wasn't going to have an abortion. She talked Carla into telling Charles, and two nights ago got a strange call from Carla saying that everything was fine and that she loved Madison.

The detectives drag Charles back in, threaten him with kidnapping and statutory rape charges. He finally breaks down and said they made a suicide pact because Carla wouldn't get an abortion and knew her father would force them to be apart after the baby came. Carla wanted to go first, and Charles lost his nerve. He shows them the body in an abandoned building, lying on a bed of rose petals, the gun beside her.

Back in interrogation, the detectives point out that two shell casings were found, which conflicts with Charles' story, but Charles insists that Carla killed herself and he ran. He says they traded e-mails about the pact and suggests they check both computers.

As it turns out, the murder weapon was a Mac-10 modified for automatic fire, meaning one trigger pull could have fired two rounds. Meanwhile, Connie's contact at ATF matches the gun to a shipment stolen from Providence, Rhode Island -- the same place where Charles' brother was busted for dealing meth. TARU digs up the e-mails, which support Charles' story -- except that he wrote nearly five times as much about suicide as Carla did.

The cops confirm that the Mac-10 was sold to Slocum's brother. More importantly, Charles' computer also has a receipt for tickets he purchased for a concert a month from now that he bought the day before the alleged suicide pact was to take place. If he planned to kill himself, who were those tickets for? Charles knows they're on to him, and even admits that he thought Carla got pregnant to get her hands on his family's money, but also brags they can't prove that he didn't intend to commit suicide. The best the cops can do is charge him with assisting a suicide and transporting the gun across state lines, a federal crime with a mandatory 10-year sentence -- "You're going to do every day of those 10 years, Charles," Greg says. "I'm going to see to it."

As the detectives and Valerie explain the outcome, Carla's father can't believe his daughter would kill herself. He wonders if he was at fault; was he so overprotective that she wasn't prepared to deal with a slick operator like Charles? Greg says he loved and protected his daughter, which was the best any father could do.

GIVING EDDIE THE BIRD

Gibson adds another colorful -- and annoying -- touch to his office: his squawky African gray parrot, The Colonel. Eddie insists that The Colonel is a great mimic, and that everyone will learn to tune out the noise within a few days, but Andy keeps threatening to take a roll of duct tape to the beak -- especially after The Colonel takes a bite out of poor John Irvin.

Eventually, he gets a better idea for revenge. When one of the TARU technicians stops by to drop off the e-mails from the Carla Boyanovich case, Andy takes the guy aside and asks a favor. At the end of the shift, after everyone else but John Clark has gone home, Andy enters Gibson's office and sets up a tape recording the TARU guy made that he hopes The Colonel will imitate: an endless loop of Andy saying "douchebag"

OFF TO MOMMY LAND

It's Connie's last shift before she goes on maternity leave, and she spends most of it doing phone work for the other detectives and reluctantly making calls about Hatcher on Andy's behalf. At the end of the day, she turns her desk over to Stan and tells the squad, "If anyone needs me for the next few months, I'll be at home with my feet up."

REVIEW

Ordinarily, I'd begin the review with the A-story and/or the addition of a new (if probably temporary) detective to the squad. But last week I had to start by discussing Eddie Gibson's arrival as the new boss, and this week I have to begin with someone else's departure...

OFF TO MOMMY LAND

Not only is Connie going on maternity leave, but so is Charlotte Ross. She's going to be in the next episode or two, but that's it for the season -- and, I understand, her tenure on the show, period.

That's right: Charlotte's not coming back next year. Remember how I said at the time of the renewal that some regulars might get cut because of the smaller budget? Well, Charlotte's definitely one of them. It's not clear to me if the decision is entirely cash-related. She may want to spend more time with her new baby, and I've heard rumblings that she's not especially popular with the powers that be, for reasons that go too far into the realm of gossip for me to elaborate on. Whatever the reason, this was probably the last time we'll ever see Connie in the squadroom. She'll pop up in the apartment one or two more times, and then that's it. Andy's new baby will apparently be born off-camera, and his wife will remain off-camera, too.

If this had happened a year or two ago, I'd be really torqued about this. As things stand now, it's just sad. I can't bemoan the loss of Connie too much, because the character I liked flew out the window once she started playing mommy to Theo and dutiful wife to Andy. We're not losing assertive, appealing detective Connie; we're losing Pod Person Connie. Of late, she might as well have been off-camera; this just makes the decision official.

I'm curious to see what happens in terms of depicting Andy's personal life in the final season. When Sharon Lawrence was off in sitcom-land, the writers didn't know what to do with Andy outside of the casework, so they didn't do anything with him. (The prostate cancer storyline didn't happen until Sharon came back from "Fired Up.") With only one season to go, it may not be quite as tough to work around that -- maybe we'll see Andy and Theo pushing a dual stroller through South Street Seaport on the way to the ice cream stand while Connie takes a nap at home -- but part of what's always made Andy interesting is the contrast between his work and home like, and we're about to lose that.

(The writers could, of course, do something macabre and stupid like have Connie die in childbirth, but at this point, I think if Sipowicz lost another loved one he'd just hand the kids to John Irvin and eat his gun. Better a living, invisible Connie than a dead one.)

Since I won't be doing the review of Charlotte's actual final episode, let me say goodbye to her now: Charlotte, until Steven Bochco got the silly notion of having Andy date Connie, you were a great addition to the show and it was fun to watch you work. Enjoy your new family.

HE'S SO FINE

So does this mean that Connie's permanent replacement is in the house already? I'm guessing not, though I'd almost like it if he was.

After all the teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over what the appointment of Eddie Gibson as leader does to the reputation of our beloved 15th squad, I went back and watched some of the early episodes, and was reminded that in the beginning, the 15th squad was a bad, bad squad. Sure, Fancy was in charge and John Kelly was lead dog, but everyone else was a disaster. There were two drunks (Sipowicz and Walker), a lunatic (Stillwell, the guy who used to take lunch orders from the prisoners in the cells), a neurotic with a stammer who wasn't good for much except phone research (Medavoy, who's come a long way) and a guy sleeping with his junkie prostitute snitch (the one and only Mike Roberts).

And you know what? I think I prefer that to the current ultra-competent, hunky-dory group of buddies we have now. I'm not saying I want the show to become "Andy and the Incompetents" (sounds like a British Invasion band), but I miss the dramatic tension that comes from having a few genuine screw-ups surrounding our heroes. Every workplace has one or two bozos who force everyone else to pull extra weight, even detective squads, and I think that's more interesting than the current mix we have.

But I'm guessing that cocky, hot-tempered Stan isn't going to be around long enough to cause too many problems. When you introduce a guy by having him punch a suspect in handcuffs and comparing a Latino suspect's skin tone to shit, you probably don't have any long-term plans for him.

If I'm right, that'd be a shame, because I've always liked Scott Winters, first as the slow-witted Cyril O'Reilly on "Oz" and even recently as one of the few decent things about ABC's awful "T.J. Hooker" update "10-8." I completely buy him as a cop, and thought he put just the right spin on Hatcher's early scenes, when Stan seems so wonderful (having a pulse on the gang info, giving Baldwin and Wilmer the appropriate handshakes, etc.) that he's obviously trouble. He even managed to find the right tone for that line about Hatcher saving the busload of blind kids, which is either complete BS or a massive overinflation of his role in the incident. (Even Junior knew it was crap, judging by how he repeated it to Andy right before the credits.)

The case could have just been an excuse to watch the new guy knock things over, but the writers put some thought into it, and I liked the mini-drama between Calvin and Lonnie, particularly Lonnie's monologue about why he killed Tony. Mel Winkler's one of those actors who's been around forever (including two previous stints on this show; see below), and there's a reason he keeps working.

I also thought Jackie O. was very good in the hallway scene where Rita dressed down Hatcher. I've never been a huge fan of the character, but she works best for some reason when she's pissed off (and justifiably so, as opposed to the post-breakup snottiness with John), so it would be useful to keep Stan around just to annoy the hell out of Rita. We'll see.

MURDER/SUICIDE PACT

I've got at least 13 or 14 years (I hope) before I have to start worrying about my daughter getting mixed up with a sleaze like Charles "Don't Call Me Charlie" Slocum, and maybe I'll have a better understanding of the teenage female mind by then, but something about this story didn't wash for me.

So Carla won't have an abortion, but she will kill herself -- and, in turn, the baby? Huh? Even by 15-year-old girl logic, that's a stretch, I think. (And God help me if I'm wrong.) Of course, the 5-1 ration of e-mails suggests that it was Charles who was really gung-ho for the Romeo and Juliet thing, while Carla reluctantly went along because the man she loved told her to, but still.

I did like that they couldn't really nail Charles on anything but the gun charge, but Valerie was shoe-horned into that scene at the end. If it's a federal crime, then she's going to spend as much time prosecuting it as I will. Once again, the show is stretching to find something for Garcelle to do; I can't imagine her being a regular next year.

GIVING EDDIE THE BIRD

I don't think I've laughed so hard at "Blue" in years as I did when Andy busted out the "douchebag" tape loop. That's comedy, folks.

If the writers wanted to play against expectations in Eddie's first full episode as boss, this obviously wasn't the way to do it, but I got a kick out of everyone's reactions to that stupid bird, and there were little hints of a more complex Eddie here and there. There was the way he brushed off Andy condescendingly calling him "Gibson" while showing Stan around the squad, not to mention his response to Andy's challenge about Stan at the end; knucklehead or not, I believe Eddie when he says he'll have the stones to get rid of Hatcher if need be.

I'm hopeful that the writers will throw us a curveball in the next few weeks and show us a deeper Gibson -- if nothing else, they can bring back foster kid James Killick to bond with both Eddie and Junior -- but I'm getting a kick out of him in the meantime.

QUICK HITS

* So Andy's suspicious of Hatcher because he used to float from command to command, huh? Doesn't that career path match Connie's work pre-15th squad? Might have been nice for her to defend Stan on those grounds.

* Loved the TARU guy getting a look at Junior and asking Andy, "Is he cool?" I know it would have spoiled the joke, but it would have been great to see the initial conversation between Andy and TARU Guy where they cooked up the "douchebag" scheme. Andy doesn't usually have much patience for tech-heads, so it's funny to imagine the moment.

* Not sure if this was planned or coincidence, but both cases featured suspects (Wilmer and Charles) who took issue with being called by anything but their preferred name.

* Amanda's not around, so as her designated replacement, I am contractually obligated to do this: Hank!

* Not related directly to "Blue," but this Sunday at 10 Eastern, HBO introduces "Deadwood," a new Western from our old pal David Milch. If you ever complained that he wrote all the cops like they were living in the 19th century, well, now he's got the right match between dialogue and era. If you ever thought that "Blue" didn't go far enough with the language, well, now you'll get to see the single most profane show in television history. It's a bit of a slow build and there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but I loved it. Then again, I'm predisposed to love Westerns and the work of Milch, so I may not be the best judge.

CAST LEGACIES

By J.L. Garner

Previously on NYPD Blue as someone else... --Mel Winkler (Lonnie Parker) -- played in the Season 3 opener "E.R.," and Season 5's "Honeymoon at Viagra Falls."

--Michael Pena (Wilmer Lopez) -- had a role in Season 4's "What a Dump!"

--James Colby (Ed Boyanovich) -- was one of the three brothers Leary in Season 6's "What's Up, Chuck?"

Not previously on NYPD Blue... --Scott William Winters (Det. Stan Hatcher) -- best known for his roles on "Oz" (Cyril O'Reilly) and "10-8".

--Trevor Wright (Charles Slocum) -- credits include appearances on "Boston Public," "Scrubs," and a direct-to-video flick called "MXP: Most Xtreme Primate," about snowboarding chimps (I'm not even sure *I* wanna know).

--Derek Webster (Calvin Parker) -- a role on the series "NightMan," as well as guest spots on "Threat Matrix," "JAG," "ER," "SportsNight," and "seaQuest".

--Jeremy Guskin (Tech) -- guest spots on "ER," "Roswell," and "Six Feet Under."

--Lyndsy Fonseca (Madison Bernstein) -- is a current cast member on "The Young and the Restless," as well as guest spots on "Boston Public" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

LINES OF THE WEEK

John Irvin on Gibson's parrot: "It's quite vocal."

John Clark on Andy's practical joke: "You are going to Hell for this."
Andy: "It's always been my hope God's got a sense of humor."

NEXT WEEK

Hatcher is still around, the squad is hunting for a serial rapist, and Medavoy meets an elderly sex addict, in a story arc that was originally supposed to feature Gordon Clapp's first nude scene until ABC chickened out post-Janet Jackson. Poor Gordon; potentially lucky us.

Also, Amanda should be back in the saddle next week. I'm sure something will sideline her at least one week next year (hopefully something much happier than her current situation), but even if it doesn't, I'll make the time to do at least one review. Can't let the final season go by without sticking my beak in, can I?

See ya in the funny papers...

-Alan Sepinwall