NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 4,
Heavin' Can Wait
Story by Leonard Gardner & Bill Clark
Teleplay by Leonard Gardner
Directed by Elodie Keene
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PLOT ONE: THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE

Welcome to Andy Sipowicz's private little hell. He wakes up to the sound of Sylvia puking constantly from morning sickness. Then he arrives at work to find out that his AA sponsoree Diane had a drink last night and didn't bother to call him. And to top it all off, he and Simone are called to investigate a horrific robbery/murder in which the two corpses are 5 years and 7 weeks old, respectively.

Andy can't contain his fury, and begins to vent it on anyone in his way: a neighbor who unwittingly reveals that the dead boys' parents are drug dealers; the boys' hospitalized mother, who explains that two men and a woman broke into their apartment, demanded to know where she keeps her cash, and shot the boys after she wouldn't tell them; another neighbor, a voodoo priestess named Mother Cecilia, whose daughter and son-in-law appear to be the prime suspects in the case; even Bobby and Sylvia. Bobby starts getting extremely fed up with Andy's hothead attitude, which may be jeopardizing the entire investigation.

They catch a break when a middle-aged man named Roger Billings comes into the stationhouse with information about the robbery. His nephew Ricky told him all about it - "and he feels really bad" - and Mr. Billings feels he's helping Ricky by turning him in. They raid Ricky's apartment, finding him, several thousand dollars worth of cash and one of the other perps. Interviews with the two of them lead them to the getaway driver, who in turn gives up the location of Sister Cecilia's daughter Chantal and son-in-law Raoul. They bust Raoul, but Chantal's gone out for dinner and doesn't come back once she spots all the cops in and around the building.

During interviews, Raoul proves to be more stupid than evil, but that doesn't stop Andy from laying hands on him every thirty seconds. They're getting nowhere in locating Chantal until Sister Cecilia comes by the precincthouse and tells Bobby (she refuses to talk to Andy) that she got a call from her daughter, and eventually agrees to lead the police to her. Chantal's been spending her fugitive time getting a makeover at a department store cosmetics counter, and as soon as Andy slaps the cuffs on her, she sweetly tries to claim that she was with her mother when the killings took place. When Cecilia doesn't back her up, she goes ballistic and has to be restrained by Bobby while Andy tries to comfort the distraught mother.

As they're finally getting ready to go off shift, Andy attempts to apologize for his behavior, but Bobby's not buying his excuses: he had to look at those children's bodies as well, and he didn't take it out on the world.

Andy stops to talk to Diane before going off shift, and she assures him she's going to a meeting tonight. Andy suggests that she also take some time out for Bobby, who's pretty shaken up by the events of the day. He heads home, and apologizes to Sylvia for snapping at her. She accepts the apology and tells him that this is the first day in a while that she han't woken up puking.

Bobby attempts to find some emotional respite by tending to his pigeons and at first doesn't want to talk to Diane when she shows up to follow Andy's suggestion. But after letting his racing homers fly out over the East River, he takes her hand.

MISCELLANEOUS THREAD:

At the start of the shift, James is looking through some paperwork at the front desk when Adrianne walks in and comments that he looks like he's back in the swing of things. James brushes her off, claiming that she's patronizing him, which prompts Desk Sergeant Agostini to ask (after Lesniak's gone upstairs) how things are between the two of them. Without even pausing, James tells the sarge about Adrianne's "change," which quickly becomes the talk of the stationhouse.


I get the feeling that some people may complain that "Heavin' Can Wait" was just another "catch a case and wrap everything up in an hour" type of episode. On the surface, that's what it was, but the emotional undercurrents for both Andy and Bobby were so strong that it didn't bother me in the slightest. This was a winner.

The decision to essentially go with one plot (I thought about dividing Andy and Bobby's personal situations into seperate stories until I realized that they were directly tied to how each was behaving during the investigation) was a gutty one, because if that story doesn't work, you've blown an entire episode. But just like last year's "Innuendo," they pulled it off nicely.

What made "Heavin' Can Wait" work was that it *wasn't* just a one-episode murder investigation. It was about the way this horrific crime (and if it's not the worst they've ever investigated, it's certainly in the top 3) took an emotional toll on our two heroes.

Under the best of circumstances, Andy probably still would have lost control of himself at times, but these were far from the best of circumstances - he's overly concerned with Sylvia's morning sickness, and upset with Russell and Simone for so blatantly ignoring the traditions of AA, which he's based his entire sober life around.

Bobby, meanwhile, had to rein in an out-of-control partner while attempting to rein in his feelings of discomfort - something he does an awful lot of the time. With rare exceptions (his explosion at Julian Curvis last week, for instance), he's one of the most introverted men in prime time, and the contrast between Simone and Sipowicz is generally striking, and no more so than in this episode. We all know how brilliant Dennis Franz is, but watch Jimmy Smits in that final locker room scene or in the bit at the end where he's silently tending his pigeons - the man wows me more and more with each week.

It was nice to see real tension among the detectives again - it reminded me of the "good old days" (if you can call it that) when Andy and Fancy were in each other's face every five minutes. I do wish they'd found some way to keep this going for a while; the episode's big flaw (and the one that keeps me from ranking it up there with the all-time classics from the first season) is that virtually everything was status quo by the end of the episode. But even if it was only for one episode, watching Franz and Smits at each other's throats was still riveting.

I don't have a lot of other comments, and I'm really tired from a long day at work (which is why this review is so late), so I'll move to shorter takes and go:

See ya in the funny papers.


Alan Sepinwall * e-mail:

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