NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 5,
Dirty Laundry
Written by David Milch & Nicholas Wooton
Directed by Mark Tinker
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PLOT ONE: ON THE BEACH

The 15 gets a new detective, middle-aged Ronnie Drucker, who's under investigation by IAB for "being in bed with a Colombian woman," with whom he's reportedly pushing coke. Capt. Bass insists that Fancy keep Drucker working cases so he won't get suspicious about IAB's plans, but Ronnie's not fooled - he repeatedly talks about a vacation spot in Barbados where he plans to flee before Internal Affairs can move in for the kill.

In the meantime, the Lieutenant asks Bobby to keep an eye on the new guy, a task that doesn't exactly thrill our hero. He and Drucker handle a child molestation complaint, in which a young boy named Tommy Gennaro claims a senior citizen that lives in his building exposed himself to Tommy. Bobby suspects that Mr. Gennaro is prodding his son for some reason, but Drucker's running the case, and cuts an interview with the elderly man short so he can respond to a page from his Colombian girlfriend.

This gets him way on the wrong side of Simone's mean streak for two reasons: 1)Their excursion to "the ass end of the Bronx" to calm down Drucker's paranoid lover puts Bobby in front of Drucker's IAB tail; and 2)Mr. Markum, the elderly gentleman from the molestation complaint, commits suicide over the whole matter. Mr. Markum's son reveals to Bobby that his father was chronically depressed since an injury to his back four years ago, which also left him impotent - meaning that the Gennaro's charges were almost certainly bogus, and an attempt to get ahold of Markum's rent-controlled apartment. And in Bobby's opinion, all of this is Drucker's fault for not spending enough time on the investigation.

Fancy's heard enough by this point, and confines Drucker to desk duty. He makes a visit home to his wife and kids in Long Island, followed by a visit to his safety deposit box, which is enough probable cause for IAB to finally bust him. But when he's cornered in the 15th detective's squadroom, Ronnie decides he's not going down without a fight - he draws his weapon and opens fire on the officers, one of whom guns him down.

As his body's being wheeled out of the precincthouse, Bobby and the others try to figure out what made Drucker go bad when they hear his beeper go off, presumably from his still-panicked girlfriend.

PLOT TWO: SPIN CYCLE

Sipowicz and Russell are called in to investigate a homicide at a laundromat, and Andy realizes that one of the witnesses is Holly Snyder, the young woman who helped him nab a serial rapist last spring. At the time, he gave her money for bus fare out of the city (and away from her molesting uncle), but she's back (after a stop in North Carolina) and in far worse shape - now she's addicted to heroin.

Holly's recollection of the shooting is very hazy - all she really knows is that it involved two seprate arguments that her boyfriend Howie was having with two different men, a pimp called Tricky and a skell named Jerry. When Howie's brought in, he claims that Jerry was the shooter; Jerry mistakenly shot Tricky in an attempt to kill Howie over a minor gambling debt. Holly didn't see anything, he says, because she was in the bathroom.

Jerry doesn't prove to be much of a challenge in the interrogation room - he doesn't seem to have the first clue of how much trouble he's in, and answers questions with no resistance. He also reveals a detail from the laundromat that Howie and Holly conveniently left out: the gambling dispute erupted over a bet on how long Holly could stay in a spinning dryer before needing air. Andy can't believe that anyone would subject another person to that just over a ten-dollar bet. Alas, he doesn't have anything to charge Howie with, and is reluctantly forced to release him, but not before giving Holly some more money to get away from Howie, as well as the numbers of people to call if she wants to kick her habit.

PLOT THREE: THE UNKINDEST CUT

"Upstairs John" proves to be quite the amateur barber; he's recently given James a sharp-looking buzz-cut, and offers to trim Andy's hair for free. After some fussing over the style (Andy's paranoid about anything beyond a simple trim), John starts cutting, and also inquires about the rumors he's been hearing about Lesniak. He'd like to approach her about the gay officer's coalition that he (and presumably his boyfriend Paul) are a part of, but doesn't want to seem presumptuous. Andy assures him that the story came straight from the horse's mouth, and as Adrianne arrives to do a night tour, John offers her some literature on the coalition.

Adrianne's not interested - it turns out she made up her "change" as a desperate last resort to get James and Greg off her back, and didn't quite realize the consequences it would have on her reputation at the station. John leaves her some literature, just in case.


People on this group (myself included) often pine for NYPD Blue's so-called "glory days" from the first season, when each crime investigation also carried a moral heft beyond the simple concept of retribution, and the process of police work seemed like a noble but futile fight against a rapidly decaying urban nightmare.

Well, with last week's "Heavin' Can Wait" and this week's "Dirty Laundry," I think it's safe to say that maybe those days aren't quite gone for good yet. In my opinion, these two episodes are as strong as nearly anything the show did in the days of David Caruso.

Each of our heroes was involved in a reclamation project of sorts this week, and neither one turned out very well. For the second time in six months, Andy finds himself trying to save Holly Snyder (whose brief interview with Sip in "The Bank Dick" was one of my favorite scenes from last season), while Bobby is saddled with Ronnie Drucker, who, for all his talk about Barbados, doesn't really seem to want to leave, as if he's waiting for someone to get him out of his jam, so that maybe he can get back to his normal life. But while Andy tries as hard as he can to do something for the plucky girl who once did him a favor, Bobby views Drucker as hopeless, and doesn't want to be involved at all, except to make sure that he doesn't screw up his cases (which, in fact, he does).

In both situations, the crime being investigated was essentially being used as a canvas on which to paint a larger picture, which is the way Milch and Company used to do it - where they went wrong a lot of the time last season was when all we were given was the investigation without any real conflict to back it up. Here, when Jerry gave up a confession with little fuss, it didn't bother me because that wasn't the crux of the story - Andy's talks with Holly were.

Similarly, the bogus molestation complaint investigated by Bobby and Ronnie wasn't especially important - though I do think it was more interesting than Jerry Vs. Tricky - except as a means of giving us a glimpse of the doomed Ronnie Drucker. Contrary to what Bobby says at the end, I think we see enough to think that at one point, he must've been a good cop - the way he handled the potentially tough interview with Tommy Gennaro was very self-assured. But as soon as he started getting those pages from his girlfriend, his composure fell apart, which led to their fumbling the ball on Mr. Markum. (It's interesting to note, btw, that the two real villians of this episode - Howie and Mr. Gennaro - both get away scot-free).

There were a lot of wonderful moments tonight (Andy's haircut, the beeper going off at the end), but for some reason the one that keeps coming back to me is Andy's rescue of the precinct fish after the IAB gunfire shattered the tank - it seemed as if they were the only things he *could* save that day.

All in all, this was a terrific episode - keep making 'em like this, Mr. Milch, and you won't hear the name Caruso being bandied about too much anymore.

Some briefer thoughts: