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

"Half-Ashed"
Season 10 Episode 9
11/26/02
Teleplay by Matt Olmstead
Story by Bill Clark & Matt Olmstead
Directed by Steven DePaul

Lots of fun stuff in this one.....and some of it's really familiar. Here's a summary, then the review:

SUMMARY

CASE WORKER DEATH:

A child services case worker is found dead in her apartment. Neighbors say she was depressed, and there's a gun next to her body but no one is immediately sure if it's a suicide.

While they wait for the medical examiner to make a determination, the detectives at the 1-5 begin sorting through the woman's enormous case load. They find several people who have made threats against her after she recommended their children be removed from the home. One is a man who burned one of his children, broke the nose of another and tried to drown a third. Another is a woman with a mental condition who is so clearly unstable that she practically needs to be hospitalized. There's another woman who spends her free time hooking; a mother who was investigated after she got kicked off welfare and left her kids alone when she back to work; a man whose idea of instructing his son about sexuality included masturbating in front of him and others.

All are brought into the station for interviews but none of the interviews turns up much more than these sick cases this underpaid social worker had to deal with daily. Most all of the suspects could be as guilty as the next, but there's no evidence to link any of them to the woman's apartment.

The break comes when the gun found next to her body is traced to the theft of several weapons from an airport. ATF is investigating that case and has video of a bartender named Tony selling one of the guns to an informant. A second gun was sold, and ATF gives the go ahead for Andy and John to talk to the bartender.

At first, the bartender won't say anything. He's not even convinced there's really a tape. After Andy insults his ethnicity, John finds a way to cool things off and the bartender finally gives up that he sold two weapons. From the photos taken of all the suspects, he points out Richard Webb, the man who masturbated in front of his son, as the one who most recently bought a gun.

Webb is brought back in. In his first interview with Connie and Rita, he smiled at the news that the case worker was dead. He said it was Karma. He told them that his idea of teaching his son about sexuality was perfectly normal and healthy and that the woman has no right to take his son away from him. Andy and John handle the second interview. Andy makes it clear off the bat that the guy is not well-liked and they get him to give up the story by repeatedly pushing his personal hot-button: his ego and his parenting skills. In the midst of a self-righteous rage about how he knows what's best for his son's developing sexuality, Andy slips in a question that leads the man right into a confession. He admits he followed the case worker home one day then spent two months planning her murder. John asks what Karma has in store for him and the man replies that he was merely a vessel for the "irrepressible hands of Karma" that she had coming to her. No one mentioned--no one had to, I guess--how the irrepressible hands of some cellmate named Bubba may soon be delivering a good dose of Karma right up poor Rich's back door.

RATS!:

All day Andy and John are getting the cold shoulder from the uniform division. They're surly and standoffish and no one at first will explain to the detectives what's going on. At the house, there's a confrontation in front of the Sergeant's desk. Shannon tells them that someone gave up the uniforms to IAB and now all of them are getting called in one by one about their relationships with the auxiliary cop who was killed last week.

Andy and John say they didn't say a word, but none the of the uniforms believes that. They continue the hostility, and finally, Laughlin and John nearly come to blows. Laughlin has stopped in to clean out his locker and is royally pissed that he quit his job like they told him to and he's still getting grilled by the rat squad.

Martens stops by at one point and Andy and John try to get him to tell them who flipped. He won't say, but he does promise to try to convince the uniforms that it wasn't the detectives. Martens also mentions how lucky they are not to have gone down too since they knew the cops were sleeping with this girl and didn't tell.

That seems to spark something in John. Later, he goes to see his father. When he gets to his dad's house, he finds him half drunk in front of the TV. He demands to know what's going on. John, Sr. is appalled that his son thinks he ratted to IAB. Junior presses on, though, telling his father that nothing adds up. His 10 day rip for seeing the hooker, his drinking and now the fact that he was the only one Junior told about the auxiliary cop sleeping with several uniforms. Dad breaks down and shouts how he had to do it or else IAB was going to hurt Junior. They had threatened to bust Junior back down to uniform and ruin his career. He says he did it to protect Junior and that it was the only thing he told IAB. Junior freaks out and throws a bookcase to the floor. His father dissolves into a quivering mass of bourbon tears and Junior holds him.

ASHES:

The wife of an ex-15th squad detective arrives at the station house to see Andy. She's thrilled to see him after all these years and tells him so. He has no idea who she is. She asks if they can talk in the coffee room. Surprised she knows what that is, Andy figures she must be somebody and lets her back. They sit down and she starts going on and on about her husband, Paul Dwyer. Andy pretends to remember the guy better than he does.

Andy sticks his foot in his mouth by asking dear old Ruth hold Paul's doing these days. Turns out the detective died a week ago and one of his requests was that half his ashes be kept in the 15th squad room. Andy is surprised, and his surprise goes to near-horror when Ruth pulls an urn out of her purse and slides it across the table. Still, Andy is careful to be respectful of the sweet widow and her husband. He tells her he has to check with the boss first.

Tony says no right away, but he's feeling guilty about it. Andy feels guilty, too, and tries to lay more guilt on Tony. Tony decides he'll check with building maintenance, knowing they'll say no, so they can lay it off on them.

The widow returns later on, hopeful her husband's last wish can be carried out. Andy has the task of telling her the boss said no. Tony steps up and introduces himself and tells her the rules won't allow it. Her head falls in abject disappointment and she leaves the squadroom. Tony and Andy feel like a couple of heels.

To make matters worse, Andy's earlier attempts to find out more about this detective result in a visit from Eddie Gibson. Gibson remembers with vivid detail how this detective was not just any ordinary cop, he was a cop who saved Gibson's life. Eddie paints him as larger than life, a lot like Andy, and more dedicated to police work than any single human on the earth. You'd think he was Paul Bunyon instead of Paul Dwyer. The guilt weighing in on Andy grows larger, especially when he finds out that his earlier suggestion of scattering Paul's ashes at the firing range was another foot-in-mouth thing: Gibson tells how Paul nearly lost an eye there once. Andy is moved. Even Phone John is affected by the story of Paul.

At the end of the day, a maintenance man arrives at Phone John's desk and says he's ready to fix the pipes in the locker room. Andy over hears this and asks to be sure they'll be digging. The man says yes, they will. Andy wants to know how they'll fix the hole they make and the man replies "cement." Phone John announces that it's a sign from God and he and Andy swing into action. PJ runs to pick up Theo and Andy gets on the phone to call the widow.

The widow arrives that evening with the urn. She talks sweetly about how her husband loved police work, how proud they were and how much the 15th meant to him. Her speech about how he made lifelong friendships there touches Andy deeply. They mix the dearly departed with the cement and the maintenance man paves Paul into the hole in the floor.

ANGELA:

Tony's day gets off to a rough start when his ex-wife's ex-husband Andrew arrives at his office to solicit help. He wants Tony to talk to Angela about his BMW. She was supposed to leave it but took it. Tony announces that this is something better left to their divorce lawyers, but Andrew tells Tony that Angela wouldn't want all this mess in court. He's convinced she sold the car to get money for drugs. Tony's concern is apparent but he kicks the guy out of his office. The ex tries to warn Tony that Angela is just as much trouble as she ever was but Tony tells him to shut up and leave.

Tony's fears are piqued, though, and when he goes to Angela's apartment that evening he looks around at her apparent wealth and wonders. She opens the door in lingerie and comes on strong but he stops it and asks her flat out if she's using again. He tells her about the visit he had. Angela gets mad and tells him she's been clean for nine months. He tells her he's not going to deal with her lying again. She tells him she's not going to deal with his suspicion again. Tony considers for a minute, then slips into denial and into her arms.

REVIEW

CASE WORKER DEATH:

We haven't seen these detectives working so hard since...well, ever. It was cool to see them doing the leg work that is so often summed up in a few words. They went down every dead end street this week and all of them were interesting. It's a slice of police work that we haven't gotten to see here before.

They were in danger of making a social comment or two a little too obviously, but that was the only draw back. This was most apparent in the scene with Valerie when she's telling the squad how one of the idiots got his kids back. Of course, there's no denying that happens in real life. We've all read it (some of us have written it) many times over in the news.

I really liked seeing Andy back into his old racist ways and, per usual, getting treated like a child because of it. It's a pattern that was established with Kelly, really took root with Simone and then sort of disappeared with Sorenson. Clark is a great person to buffer this sort of thing because he's got the even-keeled, modern and fair approach Bobby had but it's more fun to watch because Andy is getting this lesson from someone a little more than half his age. Great scene with the two of them in the hall when John takes Andy out of the room after the "dumb guinea" comment. No words needed, but we got the whole picture.

RATS!:

While this one lacked the extreme intensity of the episode several seasons ago called Upstairs Downstairs, I completely enjoyed this. It's hard to compare the two shows if you've seen them both. Upstairs Downstairs was one of the best ever on Blue. But on this one, there was a lot of anger boiling and it was all good. I only wish we'd have seen someone get a black eye in that little dust up with Laughlin. Andy threatening to take it outside was good, but it'd have been really cool to see Ed launching himself in that direction and then getting in deeper trouble for attacking Andy and John. He's certainly enough of a prick to have done it, and considering his age, he has to be really pissed off that he was forced to give up his career. That sort of thing has driven many to acts of violence. Why not Ed?

Maybe it'll happen yet. This story isn't over. Seems like they'll pursue the avenue with John's dad a lot. Hope they don't leave this tension with the uniforms in the dust. That's fodder for lots of cool stuff.

The scene with the Clarks was great, as usual. I might have expected a little more fire from Dad considering he took a swing at John that one time, but his trembling, drunken mess of a speech was really solid. Whatever happens with Dad, I hope we see lots more of him. These scenes are just too good. It seems Spano and MPG bring out the best in each other.

I guess the worst thing you can say about these two stories is that there were elements of them we've seen before: Andy's racist stuff and John's reaction to it and the tension between the detectives and the uniforms.

ASHES:

I loved this story. Joyce Van Patten, who played Ruth, was outstanding, but this was so beautifully written as well. What a very cool idea this story was. It worked because it was quirky, real and it meant something to Andy. It also reached out to the die-hard Blue fan who, from what I can tell from my email, has something akin to a very personal stake in what goes on in that fictional world. We all have a lot of memories there. It felt sort of like when you read a really good book, get all involved with the characters and then take a mental trip after back to that little world and think about the people. Nice stuff.

And did I love seeing Eddie Gibson again? Oh yeah! I'm ready to start chanting: make him a regular! Make him a regular! I'd love it beyond measure if he were in the squad more. It would provide some interesting, quirky, comic relief from time to time and it would take some of the onus off Medavoy so he can go back to being a good cop with a few bad allergies. Anyone agree this would be a welcome dimension to the 15th? I'll collect votes and post them sometime.

ANGELA:

Well, her acting got way better this week but did anyone catch the name of the truck that did *that* to her chest? Those have to be, hands down, the fakest fake boobs ever. Sorry, but I had to mention it.

Moving on to the story: it came as no surprise that Angela has some trouble. We saw this coming from the very first, unfortunately. I still say it would have played much more interestingly if we'd have been as sold as Tony on her right from the start. That Tony is so willing to wrap himself in denial is, however, beyond belief. He's a smart man, and he's got tons of experience in narcotics. It just doesn't fly that he'd fall into this so easily. Isn't there some sort of rule in AA and it's kin about not making any major life decisions for at least a year after you get sober? Seems like Tony would have heard that somewhere down the line and be suspicious just off that. And her being divorced only six months is another big red flag. I think it takes 3 years minimum to get over that kind of trauma. So much for taking it slow. Oh well...the best we can hope for is that it's over soon and that Esai gets a more challenging situation to deal with next time.

QUICK HITS:

*Phone John, red is your color! This man is gorgeous. Of course, he was carrying a red book because Phone John's wardrobe *always* matches his props. I look forward to seeing more of his life chatted about one of these days.

*Two favorite Dennis Franz moments: The line he delivered about respecting the dead being a big Latin thing was superb. (As was Esai's cool reaction to it). And the small moment when we catch him picking his teeth with a piece of paper was the bees knees. I hate to say it, but watching this guy every week, you just sort of get used to his brilliance. Thought I'd mention it this time.

*John was wearing the brooch again. So was Rita. It's a badge thing, and I'm sure it means something. Either that or it's a secret love connection between them. The only love connection they have is a secret these days. As much as I hate to say it, Jackie O.'s main purpose on this show has been to be his girl, so what's up with them backing off this so much? She's sort of useless otherwise. Let's look at the other second-banana women in the squad over the years: What kept Lesniack from being bland was her thick NY accent and her weird sexuality. Jill had that husky voice and motherly way about her (until she flipped out) that made her stand out so much from Diane. Rita, however, is just sort of taking up space unless she's with John.

*I wonder how James Killik is doing... He's the kid Eddie took in last year.

*Even though the scene with Valerie talking about how the freak got his kids back was sort of a throw away scene, Garcelle did great in it. She's really come a long, long way. Time was, she'd have delivered those lines with an all-business tone. Instead, she seemed warm and human and caring. Good on ya, GBN. Love the hair, too. It's really helped change her overall character: more soft and open.

*Speaking of Val, up to this season I've always seen her named spelled Heywood. Now I see it Haywood. Not that this matters, but what does in the Quick Hits trivia section? I'm just curious.

*Hey, there was a baby named Amanda in the show, but the poor thing is doomed to illness, has been cast off twice and her mother is a whore. If I didn't know better, I'd wonder if someone was trying to tell me something.

*Josh!

*Hank!

*Officer Miller! (Nice sweater.)

CAST LEGACIES (some of these are really cool this week!): Previously on NYPD Blue: Joe Spano as John Clark, Sr., Scott Allan Campbell as Sgt. Martens, John F. O'Donohue as Eddie Gibson, Anthony Mangano as Laughlin, Jessica Ferrarone as Angela, James McBride as Shannon, Jack McGee as the desk Sgt., Mike Sabatino as Uniform 1, David Harns as Uniform 2, Michael Echols as Uniform Officer Echols Billy Concha as Uniform 3 (Officer Miller) and Ray LaTulipe as Josh.

Joyce Van Patten (Ruth Dwyer): A seven decade career (she started as a teenager) is way too much to recount here. She's the sister of actor Dick Van Patten and was married for a time to actor Martin Balsam. They have a daughter, an actress named Talia Balsam. Just to show us actresses can work at her age in these times, she's recently been on The Sopranos, Oz and L&O.

Stephen Tobolowsky (Richard Webb the guilty man): Look this guy up on imdb.com and you'll find a really interesting life. He been in scads of movies big and small, he's a writer and he was once nominated for a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play. His TV appearances include L&O:CI, The Practice, Alley McSqueal, and Chicago Hope, and his Bochco legacy includes Murder One and LA Law. Wow. He's the bees knees.

Claudette Roche (Marie, the child services supervisor): This British actress has been in ER and BH: 90210 among other things. Jason Peck (Kelly Coles who got his kids back): He's had a recurring role on Roswell. He also played Brackman's son in the LA Law movie this year.

Mageina Tovah (Anne the hooker mom): She's been on Buffy and Six Feet Under.

Monte Russell (Alan Ward who was wrongly accused): You may know him as EMT Zadro on ER. Maybe he's their Hank/Josh.

Panchito Gomez (Mike Mendez who molested his step kid): Meet Hector Ruiz from Hill Street Blues. He was also one of the Sesame Street kids in the 70s and was in an ep of St. Elsewhere.

Sydney Walsh (Carrie McDermott the nutty mom): Tons of TV movies, plus a recurring role on Melrose Place and a spot on ER.

Mario Roccuzzo (Tony the bartender): He's done Judging Amy and ER, and was on LA Law once. He was on Barney Miller lots of times in the 70s.

Alexander Folk (Bill who paved Paul): He's got a lot of movies to his name and has been in Judging Amy, Chicago Hope and LA Law. He also played many times on Murder, She Wrote.

Rounding out the cast: Elizabeth Tobias as Wendy the neighbor, Eddie Bowz as Angela's ex Andrew, and Alysia Joy Powell as Ella Monroe the welfare mom.

LINE OF THE WEEK:

Andy to one of the pissy uniforms who won't tell him what the problem is: "Go have a bug up your ass some where else."
John to Andy: "You're fault, whatever it is."

NEXT WEEK:

It's a re-run from last season. If you watch, note the difference in Valerie.

WEEK AFTER NEXT:

Otherwise known as Dec. 10th, we'll see more developments with Clark's papa, Andy and Connie sort this Theo mess out and Tony deals with Angela. Oh and there's a murder, too. It's an episode called "Healthy McDowell Movement," (gross!) from a teleplay by Matt Olmstead and directed by Tawnia McKiernan.

Hope you all have a safe, happy & healthy Thanksgiving!

Keep those cards and letters coming,
Amanda Wilson