NYPD Blue: Summary/Review by Amanda Wilson aka Puedo01@aol.com

Season 8 Episode 4
"Family Ties"  1/30/01
Teleplay by Buzz Bissinger
Story by Bill Clark & Buzz Bissinger
Directed by Bob Doherty

An all-around fine show.  This season is already so much better than last. If anyone bailed out because of the schedule changes or boredom, they're missing a good show and you can tell them I said so. (Ok, well YOU say so, then.)   More reviewish comments after the summarino:

Hotel Rape

Andy, Danny and Diane investigate a rape at the Belmont Hotel.  Debra Johanson, of Steubenville, Ohio, is in town with her young daughter and her friend Kathy.  They're visiting Debra's brother Roger and taking in some of the sights.  Also at the Belmont:  A big Mardi Gras party.
  The detectives arrive at room 408 and find Debra being comforted by her brother. Debra tells them that Kathy took the kid to see Lion King, and that she didn't go because she had a migraine. She got raped and badly beaten by a man in a court jester costume.
    The next day, the detectives are checking out costume companies and waiting for surveillance tapes from the hotel when Debra comes in with her brother for her formal statement.  At this time the learn that she had gone down the hallway to get some ice and left her door unlocked. That's when the man in the costume came got in.
    The hotel detective (Tommy Feely) tells Andy that there was a guy in a court jester costume bothering women in the lobby earlier that evening and that he was thrown out. Feely also says there were at least five guys wearing those outfits.
    Feely shows up later with the tapes and the hotel lawyer. The lawyer wants to meet with Debra and offer her a settlement so she won't sue.  Andy advises her that the lawyer will want a confidentiality agreement which would prevent her from telling anyone about the incident, and he tells her that he'll get rid of the guy if she wants.
    Debra says she'll see the lawyer if Diane stays with her.  The lawyer offers her a half-million dollars.  She and her brother hesitate for a minute, then decide to take the money.  They leave with the lawyer.
    During routine detective work, Danny discovers that Debra made an unusual phone call to an insurance man in Queens from her room the day of the rape.  They bring this insurance man, Jimmy Ceisler, in.  He's from Steubenville too and admits having had a beer with Debra earlier in the day.  He's very nervous, however, and begs them not to tell his wife.  They press on and Jimmy finally admits that he and Debra slept together.  He swears he didn't rape her. He describes Debra as kind of a lost person and her brother as a drug slime. They don't really think Jimmy did it, and he's told to go wait it out.
    Debra's brought back to the house and confronted about her meeting with Jimmy. She readily admits to the affair and says she didn't tell them about it because Jimmy is married and she didn't want him to get in trouble.  Diane tells her that this is going to mess up the rape kit results.  
   After Debra leaves, they learn that Roger has just picked up the insurance check: it's for $700,000. They're amazed he talked them up another two-hundred-grand. Danny has run Roger and Debra by this time and found Roger had trouble with bad checks in Steubenville and receiving stolen property in Massillon, Ohio. Debra's got a huge credit card debt.
   They bring Kathy in to see what she knows.  She says nothing for a while, refuses to admit she knows anything.  Andy tells her that seven-hundred thousand dollars is a huge payoff and she corrects him: it's fifty-grand, she says.  They tell her it's really 700-thousand and that if she believes it's 50, she's been had bad.  She believes the detectives and tells them everything: Debra slept with her old flame in order to trigger a positive on the rape kit; Kathy took the kid away for the night and Roger beat hell out of his sister to make it look good.  
   Debra is hauled back in and ADA Valerie Heywood tells her she can either help them and have a shot at staying out of jail and keeping her kid or not help and go to jail. Who knows where her kid from Ohio would end up in the Big Bad City.  Debra rats her brother out without hesitation.
  When Roger shows up later after getting a message that the cops had his sister he's arrested.  Danny makes it clear he wants to beat Roger like Roger beat his sister.

Hotel Murder

The day after Danny, Andy and Diane catch the rape at the Belmont, Baldwin and Greg catch a homicide there.  
   A pimp is found dead. He's been beaten, strangled and had his pinky finger cut off.  The last number he dialed from his cell phone is that of a woman named Stella. They figure she's one of his girls.
   Stella arrives at the house to talk to the detectives and draws a lot of stares because she's a little person. John is especially freaked out by seeing her. So much so that when she speaks to him, he begins to stutter and has to leave the room.  Baldwin and Greg escort her to the pokey room to talk.
   She's not aware that her pimp, Mike, is dead.  She tells them Mike was going to the hotel to play poker. She doesn't know who he was going to play with but tells them another of his girls, Brenda, would know. She tells them where to meet Brenda.
    Stella leaves.  Greg and Baldwin discuss whether they'd ever ...uh... go for a girl like her.  After stammering around a bit, Greg says he'd probably give it a try under the right circumstances.  Baldwin? Nope, he says he's never thought about it.
    Greg realizes Stella has left her scarf and gives it to John to work out its return. John is nervous about the task.
    D and G take off to go meet Brenda.  She's a very large woman and they realize that Mike has cornered the market on fetish girls, or, as he liked to call them, specialty acts.  Greg is fascinated.  Greg is also fascinated, by the way, with Brenda's rather large endowment (endowments?) Brenda says she'll tell them about the poker game if they help her out on a prostitution charge. They agree and she points them to Johnny Dumont.  Johnny was setting up the game.  She expresses regret that Mike is dead but says she expected it to happen sooner or later because he was always flashing large wads of money and his diamond pinky ring.
    Baldwin and Greg decide to review the hotel security tapes to see if they'll help. Diane gives them over and tells them that the tapes only show people at the front desk in the lobby.
    The tape did prove helpful. When Johnny is brought in to the house, he denies he was even at the Belmont.  Then Baldwin turns on the tape of Johnny at the front desk. He goes on to tell Johnny a lie:  there's a tape of him going into the room where Mike was found and a tape of him going out.  Johnny buys it and says they should focus on the other guy on that tape.  Baldwin acts like he's actually got that tape and says they don't recognize the other guy.
    Johnny takes a deep breath and nearly whispers the name: Tony Posada. He then tells the very dramatic tale of how Tony was supposed to keep Johnny's cover by pretending to rob them both, but that Tony went nuts and just attacked poor Mike. He and Mike when round and round the hotel room in a horrific struggle that ended with Tony choking the life out of poor Mike with a phone cord.  Baldwin asks Johnny what's up with the knife they took off him. Johnny drops the drama over Mike's death and admits he used it to cut Mike's diamond-ringed pinky finger off seeing as how Mike wouldn't be needing the ring anymore and so forth.
    Stella shows up to get her scarf.  John hands it over then follows her into the hallway to introduce himself and apologize. She guesses he has "little people issues."  He fawns over her telling her how sorry he is.  She says it's OK, lots of people are like that, and if they weren't, she wouldn't be making a living.
  Greg walks by and she hands him her card. She tells him to call if there's anything else she can do to help the investigation, or if there's any other way she can..... be of assistance...to him.
Diane & Danny
Diane is little stressed out this day. Danny notices and offers to help, but she says there's nothing he can do. She says she just needs some air.
    After Andy witnesses what looks like a private confab between Danny and Diane, Danny follows him into the locker room to talk.  He says he's been worried that Andy wouldn't be OK with him seeing Diane.  Andy says he's OK with it as long and Diane and Danny are both happy.  Danny assures Andy they are.  Andy accepts it and says there's no problem where he's concerned.  
    Later, Diane gets Andy alone for the same kind of conversation. Andy tells her he's already talked to Danny, but Diane confides to Andy that she's torn up about the relationship.  She says she just didn't figure she'd be having such a hard time this long after Bobby's death.  She says if she'd known it would be so difficult, she would not have gotten involved with Danny.  Andy advises her to tell him as soon as possible. She says she will.
    Later, she asks him to come over so they can talk.  After work, they have their talk on the roof of Diane's building.  Danny senses something's really wrong. He looks over at the empty pigeon coop where Bobby kept his birds and asks if Bobby will always be there with them.  Diane apologizes for her feelings but says that as much as she's tried, she can't let Bobby go. She tells him that she wanted it work out between them, but didn't anticipate it being so difficult to move on after Bobby.  Danny says he understands. He's disappointed but realizes it will never be any good. He gives her a kiss and leaves.  Tears in her eyes, Diane stares out over the river. She turns her head to the sound of fluttering and sees a pigeon roost on Bobby's coop for a few seconds before cooing and flying away.


Hotel Rape & Murder

I liked that both crimes happened in the same place. That leant credibility to the insurance scam story, for sure. It was fun for the few seconds we thought they might be connected.  Wish there'd been more time to flesh that out.  Same for the Tommy Feely character, who I thought was great, if underutilized.
    The thing that stands out above all to me in both these stories is how truly fine the Medavoy & Jones pairing is.
    This is Greg the way God (in this case Bochco & Milch) must have intended him.  Somewhere along the line during the James-is-now-useless-after-Kelly years Greg became too much of a clown.  Now, with Baldwin by his side, he's itchy and eccentric but not forced by a lack of good James stories to be over the top.  The increase in Medavoy time is probably also due in part to the fact that Jill is not there and the detective teams are somewhat different (like three cops on the rape and two on the murder).
     Of course, I think Gordon Clapp is one of the best (maybe the best) actors on this show.  But young Henry is certainly doing a fine job.  His smooth may come from watching a lot of Smits tapes (and hey, that's OK, really) but his playfulness is all his own.  It adds a nice down-to-earth quality the character didn't have in the first few eps.  I like it a lot.  He has fun with Greg but not disrespectfully or in a cruel way.  And let us take this moment to thank God (that would be the aforementioned plus all the writers and Mr. Simmons) that Baldwin has not once rolled his eyes at/toward/near/about Greg.  I get the feeling also that Clapp and Simmons like each other. I think they've got a good chemistry; it shows.  Medavoy & Jones are simply interesting and fun to watch.     
   Not so interesting lately: Andy and Danny.  But I'm very glad they brought back the friction a little bit this week.  Remember back in "Danny Boy" when Sorenson was ready to slam back at Andy every time Andy tried to tell him what to do?  That's the way it works well.  Andy being a bit of an overbearing asshole and someone putting him in his place always works.  
    Lots more fun things to say about this story...in QUICK HITS below.
Danny & Diane
    One of the best scenes ever on Blue: This final scene with Kim and Rick on the roof.  It was beautiful in every way.  It was visually stunning, it was well-written, very well-acted and a great way to get out of a bad story.
    I wish they'd never gone there with these two the way they did, but since they did, this was a graceful and really lovely way to end it.  
    Great decision to place it on the roof.  We plebes out here in wanna-be land don't always think of things like the setting of a scene, but here's a great example of how the setting alone can deliver a socko punch right in the gut.
    Have we been on the roof since Bobby died there? (In his mind, that's where he gave up the ghost.)  It didn't feel like we had. And then the shot of the coop.  Damn!  That was good.  Think about it: one two-second look at a crappy old bird cage and next thing you know, we're half way to the Kleenex.  I think there must have been a collective gasp when we realized that Diane and Danny were going to have this talk on that ROOF.  
   Additionally, it was well-written.  I was totally sold on Diane not being able to let go of Bobby. It's her first dive into the sack since he died, so it makes perfect sense.         
    (And a big good-natured New York Salute to those of you who wrote to tell me "Of course it's not going to last; Kim Delaney is leaving the show." Well, I told you that wasn't the reason it didn't last. And Kim/Diane will be around for a lot longer than this relationship lasted. So there.)
   Superb acting on Kim's part as well.  In the hands of other writers & directors, this could have been really cheesy, but not on NYPD Blue. Good job Bill, Buzz & Bob! And Kim, in whose actions the final cheese-factor determination rested.  Very, very nice scene. Yes, I too thought I was over Bobby (and I'd be OK with Diane having a new man), but I have to admit that my eyes welled up right along with hers. (I'm gonna miss Kim on this show...)
    After all that goosh I hate to point out how awkward I thought the locker room scene with Danny and Andy was, but it was. That one really could have been left out all together.  The more important scene was between Diane and Andy, and that one worked well.

Quick Hits

That scene on the roof was so beautiful that I barely noticed they're standing up there in New York City in January.  Without coats. "A little chilly?" I don't think so. I think maybe FROZEN would have been more apt.  Teeth chattering so much they couldn't speak would have worked.  :)   (Then again...today in the east was unseasonably warm...so...)

More nitpicking: Speaking of January in NYC, how does Diane get away with wearing a sleeveless shirt?  She's indoors, true, but that building has to be 120 years old.  

And while we're discussing meaningless oddities relating to time and weather and such ....isn't Mardi Gras at the end of February rather than the end of January?  I suppose it's true what Emily Post says: you may have a Mardi Gras-themed sex party any time of year, but...
    Also, Diane said "nearly two years" since Bobby died. If we're doing real time, he died in November 98.  That's more than two years.   The rest of it--the weather, the clothes, the Mardi Gras--I can deal with that. But the Bobby slip really bugged me. Diane would just plain know that. Probably even down to the month. (As in, "It was two years and two months last week...")

From the "previously on NYPD Blue" I got the impression that the break-up was going to be blamed on Danny's caveman attitude.  A tad misleading.

So, Fancy's no-show on this show was explained in a really clever way: He's off getting computers for the squad room!  Whew! About time. Nothing like getting into the 20th century a few weeks after it ends.    
  I think, by the way, this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone in a script. Explain why Fancy's not there AND explain one of the number one fan questions: "Where are the computers?? Everyone has to have a computer!!" And all in one neat, fun sentence.

Help. I just don't get what "little people issues" are. This episode only served to confuse me on this point. Maybe I'm just hopelessly naive (probably).  Why would anyone have "issues" with little people? What does that mean? I can get the fetish aspect of the little people thing because, well, I've seen HBO late at night, but John's not into that. That's not what it meant in his case, right?

Danny The Protective Detective showed up this week, wanting to beat Roger senseless for hitting his sister. There's the tip of that iceberg again.  Someday, maybe, we'll see the whole thing.

Nice way to work our newbie Garcelle in this week. She did a fine job with her few minutes.  I've read the article where she says she wants to play a fully rounded character.  That's cool, as long as she doesn't go the way of Sharon Lawrence and want stories all her own all the time. The show is not about the ADA. Never was, never should be.  She's there, she may fall in love with Baldwin (is the Pope Catholic?), but I think she needs to stay safely in the background behind our main characters.  In other words, a little Hank-ness never hurt anyone.

Good thing that rape turned out to be staged 'cause I was about to cancel my three-day I Love NY package....

"Oh, hey way to go Ohio." --Chrissie Hynde (Akron), Buzz Bissinger(???)  Those crazy Buckeyes!  The whole nutty rape family & friends: Steubenville, Ohio natives.  No offense to any real Steubenvillers, but just so the rest of the non-Ohio population knows, that city is often referred to, albeit cruelly, as Stupidville.  I think this Buzz fella must know Ohio.  He also wrote in a line about another small town there: Massillon. And, whether this was intended or not, Rick mispronounced it in the way everyone who's never heard it does.  If it wasn't intentional, then Rick can happily say, "It's better to be lucky than good."  Massillon is pronounced MASS-lyn, rather than MASS-A-LON. It's big claim to fame (second to being mispronounced on NYPD Blue, of course) is that it's the High School football capital of the world.   
  Also, wasn't the show Family Ties (which is also the title of this ep) set in Ohio? Ah HA!  And the Belmont Hotel... Belmont County...right near Steubenville... nah.. that'd be too much small-town Ohio for one episode.... wouldn't it?  

Wait, there is a guy named Johnny in Cleveland.... ok..dropping it.

Great job by the actor who played Johnny (Patrick Fischler) and to others involved in this scene:  His description of the hotel room murder was fantastic.  Great way to spice up what might otherwise have been a dull bit of dialogue.

Baldwin....again with the lies!  What's up with cops lying to get the bad guy???? It's just not fair!   (Kidding. Don't write me about that. Kidding.)

Nice touch also in the murder case to have the uniform cop so eager and interested in becoming a detective.  

Greg sure liked Brenda, huh? Both of her.

Previously on NYPD Blue:  Garcelle Beauvais as ADA Valerie Heywood.

Nina Siemaszko (Debra):  She was on Lonesome Dove. And her brother, Casey, is a Blue alum, having appeared in a 96 episode.  Nina's also been on Chicago Hope.

William O'Leary (Roger): You might recognize him from a long stint as Marty on Home Improvement.

Bradford English (Tommy Feely): This familiar face was on Blue in 1996. He was also on Chicago Hope (which is where I think I saw him) and Seinfeld (saw him there too). He was a guest on X-Files once and got his TV guest actor career rolling with a couple of episodes of the pre-Sipowicz-bald-cop show Kojak.

Patrick Fischler (Johnny Dumont):  He did such a great job tonight. The guy was also in the fine flick Swimming With Sharks.

Missy Yager (Kathy): She's been on Law & Order.

Meredith Eaton (Stella): She did a great job being hell on small wheels.  She doesn't have a huge resume in Hollywood yet, but she does have a masters in clinical psychology, so, who better to help John work out his little people thing? According to IMdb, she's only one foot shorter than my sister.

JD Cullum (Jimmy  Ceisler): He's been on Judging Amy. He's a trekkier, having done Next Generation a couple of times.

That's the extent of the cast list I got this week, thanks to my pal Alan Stamm. Apologies to the actors not included in that ABC release (the woman who played Brenda; the man who played the cop Ramos and others.)


The runner up:

Greg, to Stella as she sat with just her head above the top of the interview table: You need a telephone book, Stella?
Stella: Kiss my ass.

And the winner is:

Greg, asking Stella about her friend: Brenda is a midget too?
Stella: It's little person, asshole.
Greg: Like I'm supposed to know that.
Stella: You know, you're not so tall yourself.


Cases involving folks from Russia and China (Just like one of the best things about the real NYC: Walk down the street and hear 10 different languages in 5 minutes.) Greg gets to do more detecting. Diane is still feeling a little edgy about her relationship with Danny.

Personal Note: Happy Birthday, Evie! (my sis)  And, to all of you: Have a happy and blessed Groundhog Day. May all of your shadows disappear on the wings of a red-breasted robin come to roost in the .... oh forget it. I'm sticking to newswriting.

Amanda Wilson