NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 1,
E.R.
Story by David Mills & David Milch
Teleplay by David Mills
Directed by Mark Tinker
To skip straight down to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: OFFICER DOWN

Greg and James are on their way to question a pimp about a series of robberies (see the Miscellaneous Threads section) when a woman runs up to them and frantically informs them about a robbery going down at a nearby bar. They charge in with their guns drawn, but the apparent perp claims to be a cop, and even pulls out a shield. After being bullied by charges of racism into not examining the badge more closely, Martinez and Medavoy begin to holster their guns, at which point another gunman charges out and opens fire, along with his friend with the badge. Greg and James give chase, but after giving off a few rounds of return fire, James realizes that he's been shot in the gut.

Greg gets him to the hospital (after a few traffic mishaps), and ER doctors manage to stabilize him, but James has difficulty feeling parts of his left leg. He also asks that his name not be given out to the press, as he doesn't want his parents to know anything until he knows how bad things are.

In the meantime, Lt. Fancy sends the rest of the 15th squad down to the site of the shooting to investigate. Just as Sipowicz is starting to get a bartender to explain why there was $3,000 in the cash register on a weekday morning, Det. Russell reports that one of the perps was spotted diving into a dumpster in the alley after getting hit in the buttocks by Medavoy. The shooter is quickly pulled out and smacked around by Sip and Simone, despite his pleas for medical attention. They only release him into a doctor's care after he's given up his partner's location and been positively identified by both Medavoy and Martinez.

Stackhouse, the accomplice with the badge is picked up and turns out to be a Corrections officer at Riker's Island Penitentiary who's managed to cut some kind of deal with District Attorney Abrams. Abrams claims that Stackhouse is going to blow the lid off corruption at Riker's, and lets him walk in return for testifying against the shooter.

This, of course, doesn't sit well at all with any of the detectives, and after talking to one of Stackhouse's former coworkers - who claims that Stackhouse is stringing Abrams along - Simone decides to sick old flame Benita Alden (the reporter) on Abrams by giving her exclusive details on the story. Faced with the potential public embarrassment of letting an accessory to a cop's attempted murder go free, Abrams reneges on his deal with Stackhouse, lamenting the sorry state of his political career.

While all this is happening, the feeling has been coming and going in James' left leg, and he confesses to both Greg and Adrianne Lesniak his fear that he'll never walk again. He still doesn't want his parents to know, especially after they lost their other son (James' junkie brother, who od'ed two years ago) so recently. However, after a doctor's pinprick test exposes feeling in the previously numb part of his leg - but no feeling in a part of his leg that was fine before - James begins to feel better and calls his folks.

PLOT TWO: LOVE, SIMONE STYLE

After months of AA meetings and counseling from Sipowicz, Russell is finally ready to attempt to resume her relationship with Simone. Andy agrees to invite both of them to dinner at his apartment, and proceeds to convince Bobby that Diane has really turned the corner with her problem. Bobby doesn't seem averse to the idea, and after Andy has to cancel the dinner (see Plot Three), agrees to go out with Diane anyway.

They go back to his place, where Bobby shows her his rooftop pigeon coop. Diane confesses a certain apprehension about Bobby's earlier meeting with Benita, but he assures her that "the field is clear" and they kiss.

PLOT THREE: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Sylvia doesn't appreciate Andy inviting company over for dinner without asking her, which prompts him to cancel his plans vis a vis Russell and Simone. As it turns out, Sylvia's anxious mood stems from the fact that she's two weeks late. She's planning on taking a pregnancy test tomorrow, but for tonight will settle for a comforting embrace from Andy.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

The detectives at the 15 have been trying to snap a string of prostitution-related robberies, but the latest victim,who shows up at the 15 sans trousers, claims that he was merely mugged. A very frustrated Bobby can't convince him to tell the truth, but Andy manages to solve the problem by suggesting that they question this witness at his home in front of his wife and children - at which point they receive a partial description of the hooker and pimp who robbed him. Because of the Martinez shooting, the case gets put on hold.

In addition to nearly a dozen uniformed cops, PAA John Irvin shows up at the hospital to show moral support for Martinez. Medavoy thinks he's shown up to give blood, which makes Greg uncomfortable considering John's sexual preference. As it turns out, all John wanted to give was his gold cross, which he's considered a good luck charm since childhood. Upon receiving the gift, James remarks, "I didn't know he cared."

James' shooting shakes Donna up and makes her realize how "impermanent" life really is, so she decides to let loose her inhibitions and ask Bobby if he'd be interested in seeing her socially. Alas, he still has his sights (and his heart) set on Diane, but tells an embarrassed Donna how flattered he is.


Damn, I missed this show over the summer!

NYPD Blue returns with a bang - literally - with a tense, exciting episode that gives virtually everyone in the cast (except for James McDaniel) something interesting to do. It also managed to make the show's moral gray area even murkier than before.

"E.R." (clever title, dontcha think?) essentially had one real plotline: James' shooting and the investigation that followed. And while it seems that the whole story had been resolved by episode's end, I have the feeling we're going to be seeing ramifications from this for a long time to come.

For starters, the "happy ending" of James' paralysis problem was, thankfully, not so cut-and-dried. Yeah, suddenly James can feel his calf again, but what about all those pinpricks on his thigh that he didn't notice at all? Methinks James made the call to his Papi a wee bit too soon. Well, at least Nick Turturro can stop complaining about not getting enough meaty material to play...

In addition, regardless of his defeatist attitude in the squadroom at the end of the show, Maury Abrams (nice to see him back, by the way, after nearly a year's absence) has to be furious about what Simone pulled, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some more tension between the cops and the DA's office as the season progresses.

But the aspect of the storyline that struck me the most (no pun intended) was Bobby and Andy's rough treatment of the shooter. It didn't surprise me, as I've read a lot about what happens to guys who shoot cops, but I was quite impressed by the very casual way in which the writers and director Mark Tinker handled the whole sequence of events. On another, lesser show, that beating would have required an hourlong episode unto itself, with lots of moral handwringing over whether it was right or wrong. On Blue, it's just treated as a fact of life, and the viewers are left to ponder how much that bothers them.

And the intimate scope of this particular crime - the fact that it was one of the 15 who got shot - made for some nice character moments all around. The frantic car ride to the hospital, with James and Greg each freaking out in their own way (James deadpan and somewhat confused, Greg manic and agitated), featured some of the best work that either Nick Turturro or Gordon Clapp have done on the show. For probably the first time ever, the Martinez/Lesniak relationship actually struck a chord with me, particularly in that shot of Adrianne watching James from out in the hall before deciding to stay with him after all. John Irvin's brief appearance was a welcome touch for this viewer, and it enabled the writers to sneak in a brief mention of John Kelly (who?).

About the only scene related to the shooting that didn't work for me was Donna's awkward conversation with Bobby in the coffee room. As time goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that the writers (particularly David Milch, who co-wrote this story and seems to be the guiding force of the show now that Bochco is handling Murder One) really aren't sure how to use Donna. Perhaps if we'd seen some kind of build-up to this supposed attraction to Bobby, I might not have minded so much, but as it is, the scene seemed very forced, even with the earlier set-up scene with him pouring her coffee in the morning.

Both subplots were strong, even if they are really setting up events to come. The latest phase of Andy's "midlife crisis comedy" (as the NY Times Magazine referred to it) begins with the possibility of Andy becoming a daddy again. This may be the first time that Andy and Sylvia's age difference (that is, unless Sylvia's supposed to be considerably older than the thirtysomething Sharon Lawrence) will really be a factor, as Andy may feel he's too old to have another kid - after all, he'll be in his seventies by the time he or she's ready for college - while Sylvia may feel the tick-ticking of that infamous biological clock. Myself, I'm still trying to decide how I feel about the prospect of watching Dennis Franz trying to change diapers. :-)

Diane's reunion with Bobby was a bit of a mirror image of Andy and Sylvia's reclaimed love at the start of last season, but it was a nice role reversal to have Andy in the Dan Breen adviser role for a change. I'm also glad to see that Bobby waited all these months for Diane to come around - he seems like a guy in search of a committed relationship, something he couldn't find with Benita.

And, speaking of Benita, it was another pleasant suprise to see Melina Kanakredes return, even for one episode, especially since it clarified this newsgroup's much-debated question over whether she really did give up that info Bobby gave to her. That discussion also led to a very nice moment, where Benita asks Bobby if he's ever gone over the line while doing his job; Bobby, who earlier in the day was violating a suspect's civil rights in his quest for justice and/or vengeance, promptly tries to change the subject.

In all, "E.R." was a very solid piece of work that leaves me brimming with confidence about the season ahead.

Some shorter comments:

That's it for this week, folks. See you next week, same bat time, same bat channel...


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