NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 16,
Girl Talk
Story by Bill Clark & Theresa Rebeck
Teleplay by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Perry Lang
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PLOT ONE: TYRANNOSAURUS ANDY

It's another unpleasant day for the boys at the 15, as Andy and Bobby find themselves examining the body of a little girl who was sexually assaulted and then thrown off the roof of her building. The closest they come to a lead is a tape-recording of her scream as she fell, accidentally picked up by a DJ wannabe in the building, so they head back to the precinct, where Fancy informs them that the 27th detective's squad is working on a similar case from a week ago in which the victim miraculously survived - barely. The Lieu informs our heroes that they'll be working with the detective on that case, Martina Escobar. Bobby's pleased as punch, since he went through training with Martina. Though he's never met her, Andy is far more chagrined by the news, since Det. Escobar received a pay raise two years ago that Andy felt should have gone to him.

Andy and Martina fail to hit it off upon meeting, especially once he finds out that the only useful information she's turned up is a tape of a 911 call alerting police to the location of the first body by an anonymous male caller. Andy's mood dims even more when she tells him that the Puerto Rican Labor Union has announced a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the killer, whose two victims were Puerto Rican. All that will do, reasons Andy, is flood the squad with crank calls; anyone with any useful information will already know that the police will pay them for it.

Sure enough, the calls generated by the reward offer are almost all useless, and no progress has been made on the case by the end of the shift. As Andy's getting dressed for work the next morning, he gets a call that another child - a boy this time - has been thrown off a rooftop. At the crime scene, Sipowicz and Escobar clash over whether a witness should have been interviewed in English or in Spanish. While they're talking to the victim's sister, her Caucasian boyfriend Bill Walsh comes home from buying groceries. All three detectives recognize his voice - it's the one on the 911 tape - and bring Walsh back to the precinct for questioning.

While Bobby and Martina bring a polaroid of Walsh to the lone surviving victim to ID, Andy decides to work the interrogation himself. In his most charming, relaxed voice, Andy threatens to beat the living daylights out of him if he doesn't confess. Walsh buckles easily under the threat, especially in light of the fact that Andy knows about a prior arrest for exposing himself to a minor. He says that the first girl fell while he was having intercourse with her, and once he got it into his head that no one would ever believe that, he decided to go rape and kill another girl for the heck of it. He killed his girlfriend's brother because he thought the boy knew what he was up to.

Bobby's pleased with the confession that Andy coaxed, but not Martina, who feels that Sipowicz may have jeopardized the case if he had scared Walsh into lawyering up. At the end of the shift, she rips into him, calling him "a dinosaur" like all the other white male cops who refuse to believe that she deserved her promotion. Andy says that he's put in far more time than her on the job, and was deserving besides. She retorts by sarcastically commenting that women and minorities never get shafted in situations like this.

PLOT TWO: HE SAID, SHE SAID

James calls in Diane's help when he's handed a case more ideally suited to a female officer: date rape. A young woman named Farrell McCleary tells the detectives that she met a man named Mark Drennan at a bar last night, made out with him, and then invited him home to her place. But, she says, at some point she decided she didn't want to have sex with him, and he forced himself on her. While James runs Drennan's name through BCI, Diane takes Polaroids of the bruises on Ms. McCleary's hips.

Drennan, a family man with a wife and young daughter, seems baffled by the rape charge when he's brought in for questioning. According to him, they were extremely affectionate with one another at the bar and in the street outside, and the only time Farrell told him "no" was while she was pulling off his shirt. He also says she told him the bruises came from her gymnastics class at the Y.

James, who had been moved by Farrell's initial statement, also finds Drennan's account of things credible, and decides not to arrest him without investigating further. Diane doesn't believe Drennan at all, but because it's James' case, she has to go along. Farrell's gymnastics instructor says she doesn't know if Farrell injured herself recently, but she does mention that she talked to her earlier that day. A bartender at the bar where the two met says he's never seen Drennan before, but that Farrell is a pretty regular customer and often goes home with men.

Diane's incensed with the way James is handling the case - they have Farrell's statement, the photos of her bruises, and a positive rape kit, and no one else they've spoken to has positively confirmed anything in Drennan's story. James insists that he's just being thorough, and if that makes him look insensitive, so be it. Eventually, he decides to tell Farrell that a prosecution could be difficult and ugly, but Diane - who thinks it will only be tough if James makes it so - insists on delivering the bad news herself.

Farrell can't believe they haven't arrested Drennan already, but decides to think about the matter after Diane's warning. Fortunately, a female bartender from the same bar (who was walking in as James and Diane were finishing their interview with the other bartender) comes in to swear out a complaint about Drennan: he raped her, too, a few weeks back, and she was afraid to come forward until now.

They arrest Drennan, and James tries very ham-handedly to explain to Diane (and to Sylvia, who's been involved with the case and also took umbrage at James' handling of it) that cases like this are "difficult." Greg and Fancy concur, but Diane and Sylvia and Adrianne don't buy that excuse.

PLOT THREE: ANDY KNOWS BEST

Now that Andy Jr.'s going to become a cop, Andy's decided to show his son the ropes. While munching on pizza after a shift, the senior Sipowicz points out some punks harassing passersby on a particular streetcorner, and instructs Andy Jr. on how to deal with them - first with a warning, and then later with force if necessary. He gives some thought to actually scaring the thugs away himself to give Andy Jr. some firsthand experience, but decides to call for a radio car instead. He extolls the virtues of The Job to Andy Jr., who tells his father that he won't let him down. Andy says he doesn't doubt it.


Good evening. Tonight on "High Incident," Bonner is again placed in a threatening sexual situation when a vice bust... oh, sorry, that's right: Blue's back! :)

But seriously, folks...

At its worst, NYPD Blue is a fairly routine police procedural drama spiced up by some excellent acting, naughty words, and flashes of skin. At its best, NYPD Blue is a fascinating study of the moral issues a cop in a crime-ridden city like New York faces.

"Girl Talk" was NYPD Blue at its best.

Well, that's not exactly true. This season alone, "The Backboard Jungle" and a couple of other episodes might have it beat, but this was still a damned good episode, and one that exemplifies a lot of the things that can make this show so great. There were some bumpy spots along the way, but by the end I said "WOW," which is my usual benchmark of excellence for a Blue episode.

There were two major conflicts here revolving around sexism: Andy's bitterness over Martina getting what he felt was "his" raise because of Affirmative Action (in his mind, at least), and Diane and James' clash about the date rape case. I'll deal with the latter first, as it was the less satisfying of the two.

I won't complain too much, because any script that treats the Blue women as anything other than second-class citizens gets extra kudos in my book - especially one that also manages to give some added characterization to James along the way. For a while, Theresa Rebeck's script managed to walk the narrow tightrope on the issue, largely by letting James employ the traditional Blue logic that "If doing my job right makes me look racist/sexist/homophobic/etc., then I'll have to live with that." But that final scene, with James looking sheepish, Greg hemming and hawing, and Fancy deciding not to say anything for fear of putting his foot into his mouth, seemed a bit too much like heavy-handed male-bashing to me. Yes, James eventually turned out to be wrong, but his motivation was an honest and valid one (hell, Drennan sounded fairly believable to me at first), and while I wouldn't necessarily expect all three of the women to acknowledge that, in the end James was painted as a sexist yutz, and I didn't buy that at all. Still, while I didn't like the way the final resolution was handled, points to Ms. Rebeck for tackling a potentially thorny issue in the first place and for having the guts to take a stance on it (even if I do think she took it a bit too firmly).

And though I had a few problems with the date rape argument, I thought the show's other battle of the sexes was wonderfully handled. I found it interesting that though Escobar tells Andy several that she's a good detective, we never actually see it - no headway is made on the investigation until Walsh walks right in front of the three detectives, and Andy is the one to obtain the confession all by his lonesome. But while Andy has two good points about his lengthier term of service and the fact that he closed the seemingly impossible Bucci case (remember the kidnapped girl whom Andy found years later at the end of season one?), we're also only being given his own, biased view. Maybe, just maybe, Andy, you got passed over for promotion because for who knows how many years before the Bucci case, you were a drunken wildman who was often a disgrace to the department. Could that be it?

While I enjoyed a lot of the aspects of the story - particularly Andy's extremely effective interrogation of Walsh - the highlight of the episode for me, by far, was the scene at the end with Andy Jr. Even if I hadn't checked the credits at the start of the episode, I would've known that Bill Clark had a hand in this one, because that kind of detail can only come from someone who actually had to take back streetcorners at one time in his life. And Andy's effort to differentiate for Andy Jr. the difference between being black and being a bady guy shows that maybe he has taken the events of "The Backboard Jungle" to heart, after all. But what got me the most were those last few lines (see below for a full transcription). They seem so simplistic, yet say so much about why Andy does what he does despite all the hassles -- like dealing with child-killers and getting passed over for a deserved promotion -- as well as showing the great bond that's developed between father and son, especially in light of the rocky state of their relationship that we saw in season one. This whole scene has to go right up there with Kelly's speech to Martinez about possibly beating a suspect from season one and Andy's speech to Sylvia about why he lost his faith in God from last year - it may not have been as riveting as the former or as heartbreaking as the latter, but it was just as fantastically written and acted. Great, great stuff.

Shorter takes:


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