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

Season 8 Episode 5
"Fools Russian"  2/6/01
Teleplay by Jonathan Lisco
Story by Bill Clark & Jonathan Lisco
Directed by Farrel Jane Levy

Good episode all around.  You know I love Gordon Clapp.... but before I begin with that, here's the summary of this very busy episode.  (And, as if in poetic homage to Medavoy, I seem to have come down with something, so don't get too close... )

SUMMARY


RUSSIAN MURDER

The body of Ivan Vostropovillyich, a wealthy Russian oil man, floats up to the surface of the river in a cardboard barrel several days after Ivan's been shot to death. His wife reported him missing a few days ago in Nassau County where they live. She'd gone off to Disney World with her kids thinking Ivan would catch up to them there after his business trip to Russia, but he never showed.  Ivan's Mercedes is found when the cops found a couple of guys trying to strip it.
   The entire unit starts out working this case.  Danny and Andy find out more about the car by visiting a salvage dealer who had possession of the vehicle for a time. He says he was asked by a friend to shred it, but found it so wired up with alarms that he couldn't get near it.  He tried to reach his friend, Tristan Gibbs, but couldn't, and then the car got stolen.  Danny and Andy go after Tristan.
  Meanwhile, Ivan's wife Yevgenia, comes in to chat with Diane. Diane's not there at the moment, so Baldwin wanders over and offers to help.  Yevgenia looks at him and says, "Aren't there any detectives available?"  John tells her he is a detective but she's clearly unhappy about talking to a black man.  Baldwin insists and takes her to the coffee room where she refuses to get too close to him or even sit down. Diane walks in and Yevgenia becomes more comfortable.  She's told her husband is dead. She breaks down.  Baldwin begins asking her questions but she'll only respond when Diane asks.  She says Ivan had been on a business trip and that she thought he'd join the family at Disney. She says she waited until they got back from Florida to report him missing because he was often late coming back from trips. The cops suspect it may be a Russian mob hit, and Yevgenia offers to let him look at everything in his office.
  Danny & Andy are still working the car angle. They find and pick up Tristan, a Jamaican, who tells them eventually that he passed Ivan's Benz on for a friend of his, Vernon McGee. Upon further pressure, the peace-lovin' Tristan tells that Vernon had a body to take care of and that he helped put a huge Russian guy in a barrel and float him away. He also tells them where to find Vernon.
   Vernon is brought in. He's got a stabbing in his past that he paid for and offers them a weak alibi for the night of Ivan's death. He's done some landscaping work for the family. Things are not looking good for Vern.  As soon as he realizes this he tells them that the whole thing was self-defense, that Ivan's wife killed him because he was going to kill her.  Vernon tells with complete sincerity how he and Yevgenia have fallen in love. They both like R&B and the same movies. She treats him so well, buys him things, takes care of him, and that Ivan treats her like an animal and has hit her on several occasions. Vernon tells this story: The night Ivan died, he'd come home from Russia and picked a fight with he. She shot him after he hit her. Because Russians fear the police more than anything, she called Vernon for help. He got Tristan and they took care of the body.
     He begs Andy and Danny to tell her that he said it was OK to tell the truth. He says she'll be all right if she knows Vernon said it was OK to talk.
    Andy and Danny run this past Diane and Baldwin. Baldwin is stunned to hear it. Vernon is black man.  Baldwin says there is no way on earth this woman could be in love with him because she's a complete racist.  Andy silently wonders if Baldwin is overreacting and asks Diane if she noticed that. Diane says she didn't really notice. Baldwin swears it's true and pushes the theory that the woman used Vernon, made him think she was in love with him so she could set him up for the killing.
   Baldwin talks to Vernon who begs him to tell Yevgenia that it's OK to talk to the police.  Vernon's convinced that since she killed him self-defense, all will be well.
   Baldwin then talks to Yevgenia  who's come in with her attorney.  He and Diane have had a chance to do a little more background work on her. They confront her with some new facts they've uncovered: She canceled her husband's flight to Disney the night he died. She arranged to have basement carpet replace while she was in Disney, and the carpet guys say there was a huge piece cut out of the old carpet. It's looking more and more like she killed him.
  She confesses she was having an affair with Vernon. She says her husband walked in on them and flew into a rage calling Vernon a monkey. They fought and Vernon shot him.
   The detectives meet with ADA Valerie Heywood and realize both suspects could be telling the truth.  Baldwin, however, is sold on the idea that Yevgenia did it and set Vernon up.  Valerie says she wants to go after Vernon, though, because she can build a better case against him since he's tied to disposal of the car and the body. Baldwin argues that the case against Yevgenia is just as solid.  Valerie is determined to prosecute Vernon and Baldwin finally accuses her of doing it solely because Vernon is a black man and she thinks it'll be an easier sell to a jury than a white woman.
   Andy finally puts an end to the bickering by siding with Baldwin and telling Valerie that she doesn't get to pick who to prosecute. He says they're going to arrest Yevgenia and not Vernon because they think she's the real killer.  All the detectives stare her down and she has no choice but to give in. She tells them, however, they need to get Vernon to testify against Yevgenia in order for it to work.
   Baldwin goes and convinces Vernon that he's been had. Vernon will testify.
   Yevgenia is arrested by Andy and Baldwin and immediately begins spewing racist filth. As she is screaming at Baldwin what an animal--a monkey--he is and how he's taking care of the other animal, Baldwin shoves her into the cage and slams the door.

GREG'S GOOD DAY

A couple of uniforms bring two Chinese men who are half-naked and handcuffed together into the squad. The men have been beaten and are bleeding. They're speaking in Chinese, shouting at each other and at the police.
  Greg and Baldwin approach as the men fall to the floor in the catching area. Greg surprises everyone with knowledge of a few words of Chinese. He says he can tell someone has been kidnapped and that one of the men is worried about his sister.
   Greg calls Detective Harold Ng in to help. Harold has helped out on a few cases before and has assisted Greg with his limited knowledge of the language.  Harold learns from the men, Zhou and Pang, that they are restaurant delivery men and that Zhou is an illegal brought into the US by the Chinese Mafia known as the Snake Heads. The Snake Heads were trying to get more money out of Zhou for their services. The two were beaten and taken to their apartment.  They were handcuffed to the refrigerator while Pang's sister, Xiao Fei was raped and kidnapped. Zhou and Pang broke away from the fridge and went out a window. The were arguing because Zhou did not want to come to the police but Pang did.
    Harold also explains that the Chinese Mafia often brings people's family members over to the US illegally and then proceeds to kidnap them for ransom from the established family.  The families don't want to pay because if they do, they know another family member will be kidnapped for an even higher ransom.
   Greg and Harold take a team and bust through Pang's apartment door. They find a bloody dress left as a warning to the family.  There's a man hiding in the closet, too, but he's there only to leave the dress and won't divulge any information.
   Greg and Harold go to the family's restaurant where Greg learns the finer points of when to say "xie xie," which is the Chinese way to express gratitude.  Harold tells him you don't say it when you get a compliment, but only when someone has done something for you.  And if you are told "xie xie," the polite thing to do is not respond at all.  After this, Pang's aunt gets a call for ransom. Greg traces the line and gets the number.
   He and Harold suit up with the entry team again and bust through a warehouse door.  Greg leads the team to an inner room where they surprise a large group of dangerous Mafia members.  Greg begins searching for Xiao Fei and finally finds her, bruised, beaten and barely alive, in an old shower stall. He calls her by name and takes off his jacket which he uses to cover her nude body. She whispers to him "xie xie."

COMPUTER GAME

Trish, the precious computer lady, arrives to install the computers Lt. Fancy is still away learning about.  She's a bigger ball of sunshine than John Irvin could ever hope to be.  She tells John, who senses a kindred spirit and takes an immediate liking to her, that her mission today is to install the first computer on the desk of the senior detective. She's thrilled about it, because it is her nature to be thrilled by such things, but John is nervous. He tells her to ask Det. Sipowicz first. She smiles a big happy smile and says the senior detective is always first (silly!)  John looks on as Trish begins rearranging Andy's desk items, realizing he can't protect her from herself...Andy...well, anyone.
    Andy shows up a bit later on with Tristan in tow and notices the hulking monitor taking up space on his desktop.  He approaches Trish with a scowl. She bubbles her name and informs him happily that since he's senior detective, he gets the first computer.  He's not amused or charmed or particularly interested and orders her to get it off his desk so he can work his murder case.  Her smile fades only momentarily as she sets about unplugging the PC.
   At the end of the day, Greg walks into the squad room and what started out as a fantastic day gets a notch or two better when he sees a brand new computer on his desk and a still-shining Trish standing beside it. She tells him since Det. Sipowicz didn't want the computer and since he's the next senior detective, he gets it.  Greg couldn't be more pleased.  That is, until she hands him her card and says she's always there to help him with it. To Greg, it's almost as if she were a part of the hardware package itself. He smiles with all his teeth.

BALDWIN & VAL

 When Valerie shows up early in the day to meet with Fancy Baldwin snares her into the coffee room with a cute, flirtatious offer of semi-warm java.  Later, they square off over the Russian murder case.  At the end of the day, before Baldwin goes to join Greg and Harold for a drink, he catches her again the coffee room.  They have a few unpleasant words over the case.  He's angry at her for automatically forcing the prosecution of Vernon because it'll be easier to get a jury to convict a black man. She's angry at him for expecting her to play favorites because she's black.  They misunderstand each other completely and walk away with it still between them.

DANNY & DIANE

 Diane, still tearful and confused, starts her day having breakfast with Linda, a woman from a widow's group.  She confesses how she slept with someone and felt awful about it.  Linda tells her that she's probably just not ready to move on completely yet, but that it's OK she took a few steps. She reminds Diane that it's Bobby who is dead, not her. Diane expresses deep regret for having hurt Danny.  Linda tells her not to worry too much about that. And that she did right by ending it when she did. She also tells Diane that she has Danny to thank for making her feel something good again.
   Danny spends the day uptight and angry. He's very short with Diane. Andy even comments on it.  Later, Diane tries to get a word with him but he refuses her. Finally, after the day is over, they hook up in the locker room and Diane apologizes. Danny won't hear it. He's really angry. She pleads with him to listen to her and he does. She explains again how sorry she is, how she's not ready and she just didn't realize it. He tells her she should have given it a chance. She says she couldn't because she knew it was wrong and didn't want to make it worse. She thanks him for being there for her and leaves. Danny's anger only seems intensified as he slams his fist into the paper towel dispenser.

ANDY & THEO

 After a nice dinner out, these two go for a stroll and discuss Theo's need for ice cream. Andy thinks he doesn't need it at all and tells him so. They come across a couple kissing rather passionatley and Andy tells them to get a room. The woman tells him to piss off. Theo likes that and shouts the words right after she does. Andy admonishes him and they walk on. Theo begins asking about kissing. Andy handles it well, obviously pleased with himself for answering the questions without having to get into too much detail.  But, just when he's feeling comfy, Theo asks him why he doesn't kiss Aunt Katie.  Andy immediatley brings ice cream back into the conversation and tells Theo he thinks it's OK to have some now.

REVIEW


RUSSIAN MURDER

I think this is a great story.  It's a big more complex than the usual murder investigations we see on Blue where we know right away who the culprit is.  Not that Blue is a whodunit, but it was really good to see them working this one out as a unit and with the ADA rather than having someone walk in the door and tell them how it happened.
  Interspersed were several threads of their personal lives which seems the very best way to make that aspect of the show more compelling while at the same time adding spice to the detective work.  Having Danny be pissed at Diane all day worked well, for example. Also, having Andy aware of it.  Not much time was spent on those things, and that's fine. It was just enough to make it real.
   Ditto the Baldwin and Valerie stuff, though I have a few more words on that later on.  For now, I'll say I don't like the way it's happening between them, but the amount of it we're seeing is just right.
   And most outstanding was the way the ever-present race issue was handled. First, I should clarify the term ever-present, because -- thank God -- they've backed off a bit on making "the black guy" deal only with "the black issues."  Baldwin has become a better and much more interesting character for it, too.  Tonight, though, was judicious dealing with an issue that is ever-present.  Baldwin recognized the racism right away.  He kept on working, and when it ended up being the key to figuring out the homicide he pushed it.  
  My only problem with this is the begrudging little nods between Baldwin and Andy after they kick their insteps and realize yet again that it's not so bad working with each other. We've seen that three or more times since Baldwin joined the squad. Enough already. Either drop it or have them hug and get it behind them. Andy is just not the racist he once was. Period. And that means these little moments have far less impact that they would have in, say, season one or two.
   One other thing, I thought the actor who played Vernon was great. I felt so sorry for poor Vern.

GREG'S GOOD DAY

Finally, Greg does things right...ALL DAY!  How refreshing. I am so glad the "gone feeshin'" days are over.   If how to use Medavoy is ever in question, this is the show to show them how.  He retains all his eccentricity, we get to see his passion for his work (which we see too rarely), and it's a story about police work.
   I'll say it again, great use of story to bring to light the more personal aspects of one of our main characters.  In this story, Greg's vast store of usually annoying knowledge plays an important role.  His natural and less-than-Varisty curiosity about cultures different from his own work in his favor and in favor of the victim.  His genuine kindness and respect, especially for young women who probably remind him of his daughters, also works to his advantage.  
    And Gordon Clapp, who is easily one of the two best actors on the show (in my opinion, the best) handles it like the pro he is. He sells Greg completely.  It must be quite a challenge to take a neurotic character and have him leading an important investigation with authority while at the same time maintaining all his quirks and his charm.  He makes it look effortless.
  You know, over the years Clapp has been on Blue he's had little opportunity to really showcase the full Greg, and by that I don't mean his ass.  :)  I mean that since the very early days of the show when he was involved with Donna, there hasn't been a lot of Greg in the scripts.  My point is that Clapp has taken what is small role with only occasional moments of depth and created a very strong character with a lot of texture and soul.  That is not common in television.  It's the kind of thing that a young actor like Henry Simmons, who is in a similar role, must look at with complete respect.  (Perhaps that's a part of the chemistry between them that shows so well on screen.)  If you have any doubts that Gordon Clapp can act, check him out in Matewan and other films.  If you've only ever seen him do Greg, you'll be amazed.   
   One more thing about this story:  fine bit of writing using xie xie, the Chinese words for thank you, to bookend the piece.  I thought that was a really nice touch.

COMPUTER GAME

 Trish!  She's perfect for Greg!  I like the occasional bright person they drop into the show once in a while. She outshone John, which isn't easy to do. Her hair was plugged in and so was her suit, and she had a smile and personality to match.  She was firing on all cylinders for sure.
   I thought her few moments with Sipowicz were a little dull, though.  Andy must not be the bastard he used to be either.  A few seasons ago, he would have ripped her head off.  He wasn't nearly nasty enough to her.  

BALDWIN & VAL

 Too bad this is going the way it is. It's so painfully predictable. I'm not saying I have a better idea (maybe I do...), but the old soap opera formula of they fight, they hate each other, but they really love each other is .... well, stupid.
   Is anyone in doubt about these two ending up in the sack? Didn't think so. How about she becomes human first.
   I hesitate to say this because I'm not going to be on James Lipton's stage any time soon (ha ha), but I think Ms. Beauvais' inexperience as an actress is showing up really, really well.  It shows up most clearly in the fact that she seems utterly convinced that her character is all about one thing: being the tough chick.  
  This was glaringly obvious when she first shows up at the station and Baldwin offers her coffee. Could her reaction have been more stiff?  I mean, Baldwin is an extremely sexy man. He's flirting with her.  She didn't even SMILE.  The words were there--the script was there--she had a flirtatious response, or at least a friendly one, written for her. But she played it like a school marm. Why?
   I think she needs a guiding hand, maybe, if this is going to work. And I really do want it to work.  She needs to learn that women can be tough and sexy at the same time. That being friendly and even flirting back with a man doesn't rob you of your intelligence.  I think she'd just be so much more convincing if she believed in the confidence she's trying so hard to push into Valerie's every word.  Someone needs to tell her that this tough-as-nails thing is OVER. It's so outdated. It borders on laughable. Try to imagine Grace Van Owen in the real world today. Doesn't work, does it? You want to say, "Oh get over yourself already, Grace/Valerie."
   I have hope for her, though. She did OK in the final scene with everyone when she had to give in on Vernon's case.  I have hope she's learning from the incredible talent around her. Especially from Gordon Clapp's performance over the years.  I know Kim Delaney did it. She started out a bit below the level of her co-workers, as I recall,  but rose to the occasion and has turned into a powerful performer.  
    
DANNY & DIANE

I liked that this was done quickly without too much lingering on old stuff.  It all seemed a natural way to go.  Later, I expect Danny to find a quick way to let her know he's OK after all. (If he is, that is, and does not feel compelled to stick paper clips in someone's eyes.)
   I thought both actors did a great job with these small scenes, by the way.
   In the If They Real People Department wouldn't you just love to remind Danny that what happened to him is just about the same thing he did to Mary?  Karma...it'll get you every time.  ;)

ANDY & THEO

Just a fun few seconds to let us know Andy's ready to date again. The piss off thing was fun.

QUICK HITS
*It strikes me that this season is far busier than the past few. This is one of the things I think makes things a little better than last year--there is more going on, there are more fresh faces (like the new uniforms we're seeing every week), more people in the background, and more action outside the four wall of the squad.  These may seem like small things, but added up, they give a fresh and energetic feel to the show.

*Little things that mean a lot: John chowing down at his desk. Simple bit of business that adds reality.  

*On the subject of John Irvin, I'm still hoping for a little bit more about his life. Like his boyfriend dropping by to bring him something he forgot at home. Something small to add a little more depth to him.

*Fancy's off getting computers again (really, James McD was shooting another project at the time). It's odd, then, that Valerie would be checking her watch after seeing his empty office. It suggested that he'd made an appointment with her when she looked at the watch and said  they were supposed to go over some things. Weird that he'd have made an appointment when he knew he was going to be somewhere else.

*Ok, I have the definitive answer on the time/weather issue. They're not really sticking to the real time thing anymore.  Good, because that was starting to drive me nuts.  :)

*How is it that Austin Majors looks so much like Andy Jr.?  Good casting. Either that, or good haircut.

*HANK!  (I'll have a vodka this time, but make it French.)

*I enjoyed the multicultural feel of this episode. It reminds me of parts of real New York where you can sit in a deli and hear 15 different languages all around you. It's one of the things I like best about The City.

*Anyone else think Andy would have said something to that nasty woman who told him to piss off?  I realize he wouldn't have gone too far with his kid standing there, but maybe flash his badge and tell them it's against the law to loiter or something. I wanted him to have the last word.

*By the way, that kissing scene also reminded me of the real New York.  :)

*Nice how the woman calling Baldwin an animal ended up in the cage.

*The Russian woman's lawyer's last name in case you didn't catch it: Slakov.


CAST LEGACIES & SUNDRY INFO
Previously on NYPD Blue: Garcelle Beauvais (Valerie Heywood); Austin Majors (Theo Sipowicz)  ** When are we gonna see him the opening credits? Maybe a slow motion shot of him turning his head and sticking his tongue out or something? Did I mention I have a fever?
Tzi Ma (Harold Ng)--a role he's played twice before.
Ping Wu (Zhou)-He did an earlier episode of Blue, but is perhaps best known as Ping from Seinfeld.
Linda Carlson (Linda)--She's played the widow counselor once before.
Walt MacPherson (Joe Paloona)--He was on H:LOTS all the time as Roger Gaffney and another claim to fame: He's the off-duty cop who got his head blown off in that first episode of Brooklyn South.
Blue Newbies:
Michael Jace (Vernon McGee)--Great work by this actor who also played Michael Jordan in a movie. He was in Boogie Nights and The Replacements. And he's been on L&O, Judging Amy, ER and Chicago Hope.
Jackie Swanson (Trish Howlett)--Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, K-E-L-L-Why? She's Woody's wife from Cheers. Or, she was.  
Lisa Lu (Mrs. Wang, the aunt in the restaurant) --A list too long to put down!
John J. Polce (Angelo Babatts)--I loved the way this guy delivered his few lines, especially the one about his name.  He must have learned from the master. He's been either a stand-in, stunt double, or bit player in at least ten films Robert DeNiro has done.  He must be Mr. D's stand-in of choice.

Rounding out the cast (meaning I found nothing or nothing of interest on the following): Tatiana Chekhova as Yevgenia Vostropovillyich; Anthony Okungbowa as Tristan Gibbs; Endre Hules as Alexi Slakov (the lawyer); Jamison Yang as Pang; Sung Kang as the Asian uniform; May Wang as Xiao Fei; Jen Sun Outerbridge as the guy in the closet and David Connolly and Misi L. LeCube as the kissing couple.

LINES OF THE WEEK
I pick two, both for the lovely irony.

Andy after the Russian woman spews her racist lines:  "Them Ruskies are not big supporters of the Rainbow Coalition, huh?"

And the far more subtle:
Baldwin (formerly Mr.Bias Unit) to the Asian uniform cop who brings in two men who are arguing in Chinese: "But what are they saying?"
Asian uniform: "Beats me, I'm Korean."

NEXT WEEK: Separate cases have Danny and Diane both dealing with personal issues.  Andy needs a babysitter so he can go on a date.

Xie xie,
Amanda Wilson