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

Episode 5, Season 6

"Hearts and Souls" 11/24/98

Teleplay by Nicholas Wootton

Story by Steven Bochco, David Milch & Bill Clark

Directed by Paris Barclay

 

Take a deep breath and say it with me: Jimmy Smits is NOT dead, Bobby Simone is.

Ok..so why I do I feel, two minutes after the end of this show, like I am going to throw up? Is this what they mean by gut-wrenching?

Be prepared. This is a long one.

 

SUMMARY

GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCE: Before the show begins, we're treated to a retrospective of Jimmy Smits' tenure on NYPD Blue, including his arrival in the 15th squad and Andy's immediate feeling that it's not going to work out. We also see Bobby with his pigeons, a few of the rare times Bobby got rough with skels, a telling scene where Bobby is giving Andy hell for falling off the wagon after Andy Jr.'s death, and lots of his romance with Diane. We also get another peek at director/producer Paris Barclay in his scene as the man officiating Bobby and Diane's marriage. That brings us up to Bobby's illness and the pre-surgery scenes we saw last week.

The show opens 10 days after Bobby's heart transplant surgery. Andy, Jill, James and Greg are all at the hospital, buoyed by the fact that he's going home and playfully jockeying for the best position to see him come down the hallway and get on the elevator. Diane carefully buttons him into a starched white shirt, but they are concerned about drainage from his incision. The doctors takes a look and decides more tests are needed. Hope is deflated as Diane brings this news to the waiting room and sends the squad back to work.

Bobby's tests reveal what is characterized as an aggressive infection. The doctor says they will treat it aggressively. Upon returning from the tests and the treatment of the infection, Bobby tells the doctor and Diane tearfully that he is worse. He's also got a urinary tract infection. He's terrified, and cannot breathe. The doctor is trying to tell him it's normal, and he cries out in agony as they move him back into his bed. Seconds later, his body is wracked with violent convulsions which shock and terrify Diane. She tries to convince herself that things will be better if Dr. Carreras is there, remembering that Bobby was better when in his care.

Later, Dr. Swann tries to talk to Diane about Bobby's CAT scan. She refuses to talk at first, until Dr. Carreras arrives. Swann tells her Bobby has an abscess on his brain. After she refuses his advice, he gives in and agrees to wait until Dr. Carerras gets there.

Dr. Carreras first sees Bobby, who is delirious and barely recognizes him. Bobby begins to ramble about a signal, and about not letting anyone give up on him. Bobby wakes more, and asks if he was dreaming. Carerras seems to know what he was dreaming about, and asks Bobby what the signal is. Bobby moves his hand slightly, and Carerras confirms that's the signal for when "it's time." He asks Bobby if he's ready to stop fighting, Bobby says no, but adds that if it's hopeless, he wants the doctor to tell him so that he can stop fighting.

Dr. Carerras then puts his career on the line by telling Diane it may be best to wait and not deal with the brain abscess. He says whatever surgery they do for Bobby will just postpone the inevitable, and that it's time to be humble and realize they've done everything they can. Diane takes this news hard, perhaps for the first time really understanding that Bobby is not going to make it. Through tears, she says she doesn't want Bobby to suffer.

Later, Bobby dreams of Patsy again, and thanks him for taking care of his pigeons. This time, Bobby dreams himself sick instead of healthy. Patsy says he'll visit them everyday, move them slowly, and that eventually, they'll roost at his place. He hands Bobby a couple of eggs, asks him to make sure they're alive, but later trades them for a dead hatchling. When Bobby realizes it's dead, he tells Patsy he's sad. Patsy tells him yes, "it breaks your heart," but reminds him his friends will be fine, then tells him "s.p.s."--a saying from his Catholic school days which means self-pity stinks. Bobby speaks to him of self-pity, like he's in a confessional, and Patsy tells him again that it'll take time, but everyone will be fine.

Bobby awakens, still delirious and says to Diane, "I was just scratching my hand," a reference to his signal with Dr. Carerras that she does not understand. He seems to be rejecting the idea of giving up--from his dream we learn he's sad about dying and afraid. He wants everyone to know he was just scratching his hand.

Dr. Swann arrives and Diane tells him she wants to wait 24 hours. Dr. Carerras comes in after that, and he and Swann get into a turf war over Bobby. Diane joins them in the hall, but leaves them in their anger to go back to Bobby. In an act of bravery the likes of which we never knew Diane could muster, she tells Bobby to rest. She tells him it's OK to stop fighting. She tells him to go where he can be with the ones he's loved, his Mom and Dad and Mary. And she tells him that she'll always be with him in her heart, and that she'll see him soon. And then she tells him he can go on and be with their baby. He whispers, "OK, baby." And she says, "Just rest."

By the end of the day, news reaches the squad that if they want to see Bobby, now is the time. As Bobby has a final dream about Patsy, the squad members file past him one by one to bid him good-bye with a squeeze of the hand or a touch on the head. All during this good-bye, Patsy is talking to Bobby, who sees himself lying down on his roof, looking at Patsy. Patsy reminds him of all the good things he's done in his life, and introduces him to his first wife, Mary, his parents, and his son, whom we see as a small child holding Bobby's hand. Next we see Andy holding Bobby's hand. He leans in and whispers a promise to take care of Diane, kisses Bobby on the head and walks away. Patsy tells Bobby he's grown now, and that it's time for Patsy to leave. In the dream, Bobby's vision is fading. Patsy, and now his squad members, are there, but fading from his view. Bobby, in bed, moves his hand--the signal--and Dr. Carerras walks over and tells him it's OK. Diane takes his hand, thinking he wants her to remove his wedding ring. She takes it, as he opens his eyes for a moment for one last look at her. She wants to show him the ring, but he's already closed his eyes for the last time. 

 

ANDY'S HEART: A story woven in beautifully to give Andy, and us, hope. Andy's ex-wife arrives at the 1-5 drunk. She's in trouble for a DWI in New Jersey and wants Andy's help. He's saddened already by Bobby's condition, and even more sad at finding Katie a drunk. He realizes quickly that she hasn't been able to deal with Andy Jr.'s death at all. He and Sylvia help her out of her DWI, but not before she sneaks out of the House and goes to another bar. Andy has been rough with Sylvia on the phone, but when she arrives at the sqaudroom, she knows he's just upset about Bobby. He breaks down and cries while explaining to her that Katie is a drunk now because she's run out of people to take care of. He tells Sylvia that he thought he'd never find another friend, but he did, and now his friend is going to die.

Katie calls, and Andy goes to a bar to pick her up. She tries to make him jealous by asking another man (played by Blue writer/producer Leonard Gardner) to dance. Andy takes her home. They try talking about Andy Jr., but find it heartbreaking. Katie tells how she broke the childhood handprint impression Andy Jr. made, and can't put it back together because it makes her think how he died. Andy asks her to go to AA meetings with him. She agrees, telling him she'll do it to help him. He begins to question her motivation--to tell her that she can't keep living her life for other people--hen thinks better of it, knowing the first step is to just get her there.

 

GREG: The usually mild-mannered Greg Medavoy nearly cracks under the stress of losing Bobby when a wimpy character arrives to file a complaint about a little punch he took from a guy he was harassing. When the man returns to file a second complaint, Greg gets in his face about how ridiculous the case is, and the man says he's going to file a complaint on Greg. Greg steps up to that challenge, adding a few more choice insults. ("Snotty little pisspot," I believe) The man tells Dolores she's a witness, and Our New Girl tells him, "Yeah, just gimme plenty of notice so I'll know when to show up."

 

OLD FRIENDS: We see Up Stairs John arriving at the House with an armload of Christmas presents. He asks Martinez for news, but doesn't get much. He tells James he's getting an early start on Christmas because it's better than staying up all night obsessing over Bobby. James has this encounter fresh of one with Shannon, who was also asking after Bobby. James was rough with Shannon, but later apologized for "putting on his prick suit."


REVIEW

I can honestly say I've never had a physical reaction to a television show. (The closest, believe it or not, was the night Victor Sifuentes' (Jimmy Smits) brother was killed in a car accident on LA Law (Bochco), which happened, shockingly, two days after I had lost a co-worker in a crash also caused by a drunk driver). But even this felt different from that. My stomach is in knots.

The feel of episode is part of it. Tension throughout. It started off that way--subdued in the squadroom, not the normal noise of people bustling. You could almost hear an imaginary clock ticking Bobby's last 90 minutes, or the faint beat of his dying heart. The tension never let up. It only swelled, cresting in the final dream sequence which, while naysayers will argue is not Shakespeare, will certainly be remembered as one of the best scenes ever made. I can't do it justice here.

Aside from the unmatched look and feel of this episode, on which I think everyone will agree, there are two other points I think bear discussion here.

The first is Jimmy Smits; the second is why they had to kill Bobby.

First things first: Jimmy Smits. He squeezed every single bit of life out of this one, wrung it dry. I wanted to cling to Bobby, just as Diane did, and keep him here in our world. I have to keep telling myself that Jimmy is not dead. Still, I want to call him, just to make SURE.

Much has been said in the past few days about our oft-underrated friend. Much more has been said about him over the past four years here. Seems that at least we noticed him, and will miss him more than those who've been paying attention just this season.

Your tools as an actor are first what God gives you: your body, your face, your voice. And then there's what you cultivate: your mind, your heart and the brain power it takes to make it all work together. In these scenes, Jimmy's God-given attributes were all tied up in the quiet, motionless action of dying. He couldn't use his body much, except to lie still. The muscles in his face were still too; barely moving his mouth to speak. He shot the power of his performance through mostly two things: his eyes and his voice, and that's no small feat. That proves that this quiet actor, too often ignored in favor of Dennis Franz's louder, more brusque portrayals, or the flavor-of-the-week performances from the apt but slightly dull Anthony Edwards and the just plain boring David Duchovny, is putting to use his considerable smarts to make his work believable.

During his four-year tenure on Blue, Jimmy showed us he's a pro at playing subtle. Tonight was no different. It's a small movement, what he does, but it packs a hell of a punch. You've no doubt heard people say it's harder to do comedy than drama. I'm of the opinion that in the drama genre, it is harder to portray strength and power quietly than it is to portray them by beating your hands on a table and throwing things. Take away that table-tossing default anger mode many TV cops are written into, and what do you have? Not much, unless it's Jimmy Smits playing the role. (You can even see Dennis Franz struggle with this. When Andy is pissed off, but the script doesn't require him to be throwing something, slamming something or saying something wise-ass, Dennis tends to get a bit...I dunno...eye-bally.) Smits can convey anger without saying a word, much less slamming doors and throwing people into walls. (Despite what our opening re-views showed us, Bobby wasn't all that rough all that often.)

Tonight, he showed us a whole different range of emotions with just his eyes and a reedy little voice you can barely believe is coming out of a 6-foot-3-inch healthy man. (He even managed to look small in that bed.) Jimmy makes it look easy. Which is probably why he's underrated by the awards judges. He's doing it too well. It just doesn't seem like acting.

For our part, here in the little niche we've carved out for ourselves in the Blue World, we noticed Jimmy's work, even if the Emmy, SAG, and other judges didn't. (At least not to the point where he was given any of those awards for Blue--he did win a Golden Globe in 1996.) True, some of you noticed his ass more than his other assets, but in all seriousness, I think I can safely say that it is the whole package--his heart, his soul, his God-given talents and his much-practiced talents, which will keep our fires burning for him for a long time. We're gonna miss ya, big guy. A lot.

On to the second point: why they had to kill Bobby. I recall posting here last spring my feeling that the only way to have Bobby go was to have him die. At the time, I envisioned him dying in the line of duty. I figured that was the only way they could make it happen and at the same time maintain the integrity of this character. I was right (as many of you were) on the point that the only way to go was to have Bobby die, but I was way off on the way he'd go.

Dry your eyes, give your nose one last big honk and let's think about death as a way to move this character off the show. There were other alternatives, many of them discussed endlessly here, including having him transferred because of the marriage rule. Another was to have him live, albeit disabled. And others thought something would go awry in his relationship with Diane, forcing him to move away. None of these things would have worked. Here's why: they aren't, any of them, able to satisfy what we've come to know and love about Bobby Simone.

True, we never knew much about the details of his life outside his job and his relationship with Diane, but consider what we do know. Bobby is strong and healthy, physically and emotionally. He doesn't have an over-inflated ego (after all, he took a job driving the commish in order to care for his sick wife, who is, at this moment, giving him a slow, almost happy gaze in the great beyond and saying, "Not you too?") He's got courage. He's got common sense. He's got a hot-button or two, but also has the ability to control his rage. He's got a very strong moral core, always doing the right thing, especially for kids, but he's not preachy about it. He's got endless patience (you'd have to in order to work with Andy and live with Diane.) He's completely professional on the job. He's respectful, even when he doesn't have to be. He knows when to use brute force and when it's not going to work. He's dedicated to what he does, he's fiercely loyal to his partner and his wife, and he's not a quitter. These are all the things we love about Bobby Simone.

Take those things and put them together with the alternatives we've discussed. Blech. Transferring him to another department because he and Diane are married? C'mon! That's wimpy. You suddenly gonna have St. Bobby beating his fists against Art's chest? Or you just gonna have him give up and go quietly? Neither thing works. Besides, in real life, it'd more likely be Diane who'd get transferred.

Have some kind of problem in the marriage with Diane? No. I can't imagine a problem that would make Bobby run all the way into another precinct or out of the state. I mean, he's already dealt with some pretty serious problems where Diane is concerned, right? What couldn't this man handle that would require him to stop being employed in the 15th? Besides, Bobby's not a quitter. And you have to consider the other characters here: Diane would never force him out. Where would that leave one of our major characters for the rest of the season and season to come?

What of having Bobby prove himself to be a real asshole, so much so that everyone wants him to go? Despite the fact that we don't know things like Bobby's middle name, we have too much of history with this character to believe he's an asshole. And if they made him do something really horrible, it'd ring too much like one of those cheap Star Trek evil-twin shows. Besides, Andy would forgive Bobby anything, even murder.

And why couldn't they just let him live? Well, because it's just not dignified enough. Bobby deserves to die well, and die well he did. Think about this for a minute: If he'd lived, it would have been too depressing for us.

One of the good things about the storytelling in this arc has been that we've been made to feel what all of this tragedy is like from a personal perspective: Some of us have identified with Bobby, some with Diane, many with Andy and the rest of the squad. They've put us there, in that room, in that family, and we've gone right along. Now, for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we've done, we can say (like the characters themselves) that we have closure. We're not stuck watching this suffering go on. And it would be suffering to have a man like Bobby forced to stay home and take it easy for the rest of his life, or take a job that requires little or no physical effort.

It also hamstrings the characters, especially Diane, for the duration of the run. (Obviously it really hamstrings the writers/producers. Where can they take these characters with Bobby hanging around?) He simply had to die. There really was no other way.

So now that our hankies are dry, let's deal with the way he died. I was really, really hoping for a Big Bochco Moment--something to just blow me away--and while Bobby's death itself wasn't a huge shock, the way we got there had a few gasp-worthy moments. The seizure. The sight of the scar on his chest. His final conversation with Patsy, most notably, the sight of his son. (Who was quite a bit older than the unborn child Diane lost last year--but hey, it's Bobby's death. He can meet his son however he wants to.)

I mentioned earlier that I thought he'd die in the line of duty. Now I'm glad he didn't. Not to take away from that most awful way of dying, but we needed more for Bobby than that. To die in the line of duty is indeed a hero's death, but Bobby's meant too much to everyone to have him die that way. I mean, every other cop on the force runs the very same risk every day. Someone could walk into the 1-5, pull out a gun, and blow Shannon away, or Martinez, or Kirkendall, and they would have been the same kind of hero.

Bobby's character needed something more. His heroism, his courage, weren't about fighting some half-in-the-bag skel robbing a liquor store--he was instead fighting something even more daunting, a terminal illness. He can't win this one by chasing it down, smacking it in the head, slapping the cuffs on it and carting it away to the pokey. He has no chance of controlling it, and there's your internal conflict for you. Finally faced with something he can't physically put down or think his way out of, Bobby has to decide how he's going to die: with dignity and integrity or without.

The other nice thing about this is the way it comes to each of us, as viewers, differently. Not all of us can relate to what it's like to put your life on the line in your job everyday. But we CAN all related to the terror of suddenly becoming ill, or having a loved one go through it. This way, it reached more of us on a more personal level.

I don't know, and neither do you, really, how much courage it takes to die, knowing all the while that it's going to happen very soon. You can watch others go through it, but you can't know it until it's your time, and even then, you might not get a chance to think about it. Who among us would spend that time thinking of others? And who among us would be consumed with fear, paralyzed by it, and thinking only of ourselves? We know Bobby falls into the first category, and we always knew he would. It fits.

But Bochco & Co. aren't letting us get out of this one feeling too good about it. The knife stuck in our guts is the feeling that it's just not fair. Put away the real fact that we all knew Jimmy was leaving the show and consider the story. When we do, we're left with this age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Of course, there is no answer. That's reality, and Blue has never been short on reality.

At the risk of making an already incredibly long post even longer, I have to go on for a bit about the rest of the cast, particularly Kim Delaney. For all the talk of Jimmy finally getting his long-overdue Emmy, I think we'll see Kim walking up that aisle again in '99. She portrayed this to a T. Before ANYONE starts blithering on about Diane whining, take a reality check. Diane's husband died. If you aren't gonna shed a whole 58-thousand buckets of tears when that happens to you, then blither on, but if you are, then it's time for you to get over Diane's angst. I loved the strength we got to see in Diane as well. She's a character who has had a lot of loss in her life, namely, the loss of trust every child should have in his or her parents. She finally found her safe harbor. It took her a while, but finally trusted it and took the big plunge. And it turns out, that harbor wasn't so safe after

all--not in terms of the long haul, anyway. Diane was the real hero here, letting him go, turning him over to the ones who've gone before him because she knows it's better that way. That kind of thing always came easy to Bobby, but for Diane, it's a new trick.

Gordon Clapp reminds us all that Delaney, Franz, Barclay, Wootton, Milch, Clark and Bochco (did I forget anyone?) aren't the only Emmy winners here. His performance was as powerful as the rest, easily on par with Dennis Franz tonight.

 

ANDY'S HEART: A story that gives us hope. I come away from this knowing a few things: 1) Andy won't drink again, and it's not just because he's going back to AA. It's because he's now seen, first hand, what will happen to him if he doesn't deal with Bobby's death.

2) Andy has reached a turning point in his personal life now. Bobby's death, Andy Jr.'s, dovetailing to bring him to a new level of awareness that a man like him is just blessed to see. He'll put his arms around Katie, and Diane, and even Sylvia, and be the caretaker now instead of the one who needs taking care of. It's a new strength for Andy? He'll probably fail at it--like we all would--from time to time, but he's seen something now that he never really saw before.

 

ONE QUICK HIT: That priest Latino enough for you? ;)

 

For all I've said, I am left with mixed emotions. I think they handled the exit of Jimmy Smits/Bobby Simone so well. But how much will I miss Jimmy Smits? I can barely think of it. There are just too few actors on television who are on his level. Fortunately, Dennis Franz and Gordon Clapp are there (and Andrea Thompson & James McDaniel), and backed by the rest of the Bochco Squad, I feel sure I'm going to be able to hang on to Blue.

But what will the episodes to come bring us? How will we deal with the introduction of a new character? We're going to be--already have been--resistant. We're not ready to let Bobby go, much less embrace the new boy, Danny. (Imagine the nerves Rick S. must be feeling. At least Smits came in when everyone was pissed off at Caruso. Poor Rick has to pick it up off this incredibly high moment--everybody loves Jimmy, no one wants him to go, and we're going to be boo-hooing about it for more than a week. The body will still be warm when first we meet him.)

At the risk of sounding too much like a Bochco Productions Cheerleader, let me suggest that we give it an honest chance. Since we already consider ourselves part of the Blue family of characters, let's continue that. It's not going to be easy for Diane, Andy and the rest of the squad either.

Thought it seems clear now that the references were to Bobby's friends and loved ones, I'm now thinking that we, the fans of this show, might as well be Bobby's pigeons. Rain don't impede this intrepid breed. We'll roost where we need to be, eventually. We just have to trust our version of Patsy--David Milch/Steven Bochco.

And since Jimmy's departure/Bobby's death will likely produce tons of fire on alt.tv.nypd-blue for months to come, let us also take a page from Diane's script to soothe ourselves: "Go and be with the ones you love....I just want you to rest."

Jimmy, thank you. Enjoy your real family and loved ones; have a good rest after four years of a hellish schedule. We'll be looking for you.


 

Amanda Wilson

Puedo01@aol.com