NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 22,
He's Not Guilty,
He's My Brother
Story by Bill Clark & Bob Glaudini
Teleplay by Bob Glaudini
Directed by Michael M. Robin
To skip directly to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: BROTHERS IN ARMS

Bobby, Andy, and Diane catch a robbery-homicide at an auto-painting shop. The victim, the store manager, apparently fired off a few rounds at his attackers, which makes Bobby suspicious when he gets a radio call about a shooting victim over at Bellevue. The victim, a 12-time loser named Donald Selness, claims he was shot by a "psycho" in a park, but Andy and Bobby bring him back to the station for questioning.

While they wait for Ballistics to see if the bullet that hit Selness in the shoulder came from the victim's gun, Fancy suggests they check out a stolen car report that may pertain to the case, since the car's plate matches the partial listing a witness gave at the scene of the murder, and since the car was recovered with several bulletholes and blood in it. When they go to visit the car's owner at her apartment, they hear someone trying to escape through a window, and find themselves arresting Jerry Selness -- Donald's kid brother.

Diane and Bobby pressure Jerry's girlfriend into telling them that Donald asked to borrow her car so he could collect some money from the paint store manager. She didn't trust Donald with the car, and asked Jerry to drive him. Jerry came back later in the morning and asked her to report the car stolen. Jerry confirms all this, adding that he was in the car the whole time and that Donald claimed he fired in self-defense, but won't sign a statement against his brother. Donald also decides to keep his mouth shut, trusting Jerry's loyalty.

Ballistics confirms that Donald was shot by the victim's gun, and ADA Cohen drops by to ask the detectives why the Selness brothers haven't already been charged. Bobby explains that they're trying to get Donald to sign a statement that would clear Jerry, a kid with a clean record who was apparently an innocent bystander. Cohen feels that that's an issue for a jury to decide, but gives the detectives till the end of the day to get a statement.

After Andy lies to Donald about Jerry's prints being found on the murder weapon (recovered near the car), Donald finally relents and agrees to write a statement to save his brother's future. Jerry, on the other hand, absolutely refuses to betray his brother. Eventually, Bobby and Andy decide to bend the rules and let the two brothers talk so Donald can convince Jerry to do the right thing. While the detectives watch through the two-way mirror, Donald asks his pained brother to write the statement, so that at least Donald can live vicariously through Jerry. Jerry, not wanting to lose his brother (who's spent virtually all his adult life in various prisons) again, resists, but eventually accedes to Donald's wishes and gives a statement.

PLOT TWO: GOD FINDS ANDY SIPOWICZ

Father Kankarides invites Andy down to the church to discuss two things: baby Theo's impending "churching" ceremony (a Greek Orthodox analog to the baptism), and Andy's attempts to deal with Andy Jr's death. Andy tells the priest that he's been going to AA meetings, but Father Kankarides suggests something more. He suggests that Andy ask God to look after Andy Jr's soul at the same time he's asking about Theo's.

At the end of the day, Sylvia and Andy bring Theo to the church, where Father Kankarides leads them down the aisle as part of the ceremony. Along the walk, Andy crosses himself, and does something he hasn't done in a long time: he prays. He asks God to look after Theo and Andy Jr, and to give himself the strength to be a good person. Sylvia overhears the whispered prayer and cries, and the family shares a happy embrace as Father Kankarides finishes the ceremony.

PLOT THREE: TRICK OR TREAT

Greg, James, and Adrianne work a double homicide together involving two junkie victims whose bodies were found in a car. The first victim has a bullet hole in his chest (covered by a band-aid), but no blood on his clothes or around him. Greg surmises that he was shot someplace else, dressed, and dumped here. They track down Jim Bauerlein, the estranged husband of the other victim (the car was registered in both their names). Bauerlein expresses remorse at his wife's death, and gives the detectives information on how to find Les Treat, her boyfriend.

They pick Les up at his mother's sweat shop in the garment district, but he's seriously jonesing and his continued pleas for medication make an interview difficult. Finally, Les attempts to strike a deal, saying that he'll give up the name of the killer (who he claims shot the two in a dispute over a dime bag) if Greg will bring back his prescribed Methadone pills from home. On the way to get the pills, Greg bumps into Bauerlein, who'd gone looking for Treat himself. Feeling sorry for the guy, Greg brings him back to the station and offers to let him get a glimpse at Treat.

After getting a fourth of his prescribed dosage, Les admits that he was the killer (as Greg and James suspected), but that he won't sign a statement until he's given the full amount. Meanwhile, Greg lets Bauerlein look at Treat through a window. He can't believe that his wife would have left him for a ratty junkie like that. When he breaks down crying, Adrianne offers to take him out for coffee to talk things out.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

While working the initial crime scene in the Selness case, Diane asks Andy if she saw him enter and then rapidly exit her AA meeting the night before. Andy confesses that he's been trying to avoid meetings she's been attending, since he feels ashamed for having let her down. She tells him that she owes him for helping her through all her rough patches, and kisses him on the shoulder to express her happiness at seeing him on the road to recovery.

Despite her sunny disposition, Lucy Kinley just isn't cutting it in the PAA slot. Fancy contacts Inspector Aiello on the QT and arranges to have Lucy transferred back to the Borough. While he tries to soften the blow by claiming she has "a lot of fans" back there, Lucy catches on and gets an honest evaluation from the Loo. He asks her to keep in touch and let him know how her secretarial night classes are going.

Lucy's not the only PAA in the 15th precinct making a move; Upstairs John comes down from Anti-Crime to announce that he's transferring back to One Police Plaza. He gives markers for a free haircut to all the detectives but Bobby, who John says has a lifetime pass, and invites them upstairs for a brief reception at the end of the shift. Even Andy shows up to say his goodbyes, and John is pleasantly mortified by the presence of his mother Noreen, who brings a cake and tells Bobby that John thinks he's the best cop "since Jack Webb."

After spending months as the "Phantom of the Crib," as the Anti-Crime cops have dubbed him, Medavoy is finally getting ready to move, having found an affordable three-room apartment in Brooklyn. Thoughts of the new place, coupled with the lovely weather, have Greg in a cheery mood for most of the day (whenever he's not caught up in the Bauerlein case). At John's party, he even spends quite a while chatting up Ann Maguire, an attractive young officer in Anti-Crime.

Bobby and Diane also seem to have caught spring fever; they both leave John's party early to have dinner at an outdoor cafe. On the spur of the moment, Bobby asks Diane if she has any vacation time saved up, and suggests they take a few days off together to drive up the beach. After reminiscing about how crazy she was about Bobby from their very first meeting, Diane agrees, and the happy couple walks off into the sunset, smooching all the way.


You know the old saying, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts"? Well, "He's Not Guilty, He's My Brother" seems to be the exact opposite of that axiom. There were a lot of wonderful moments, but they never really built into a cohesive whole, leaving an episode that felt very disjointed.

A lot of people commented in the last week that they didn't think there was any way that the finale could avoid feeling anti-climactic after the incredibly powerful "Closing Time." My thoughts were of a similar vein, but I also remembered how the previous seasons of Blue ended with hours devoted to letting everyone know that the characters will be in fairly good shape over the summer. And considering the recent TV trend of ending every single series (even *sitcoms*, for Pete's sake) on a major cliffhanger, I was looking forward to being reassured a bit. And though "He's Not Guilty..." tried to accomplish that, it didn't always succeed.

Going in reverse, the end in particular felt a tad forced. For one thing, this is the third year in a row where the finale should have ended with Andy's story (in year one, it was his triumph at rescuing Jenny Bucci and the reconciliation with Andy Jr; in year two, it was his wedding to Sylvia), and instead ended with the show's other lead and his girlfriend (in year one, Kelly finally had sex with Robin Wirkus (how exciting); in year two, Bobby tried to help get Diane through the early hours of sobriety). But even beyond that, I don't think the final scene worked especially well. Smits and Delaney still have great chemistry, and it was nice to hear a reference to their meal back in "Hollie and the Blowfish", but Bobby's suggestion about vacations came right out of the blue (no pun intended). Nothing that came earlier in the episode suggested that Bobby had this strong desire to get out of the city for a while. The whole scene seemed like a cute little in-joke for the audience: "We're going on vacation now, and we should be okay while you're gone." That's essentially what I was looking for in the finale, but I didn't need it spelled out in such an odd and obvious way.

Had the episode flipped the last two scenes and ended with Theo's churching ceremony, I might not have minded as much. This has essentially been an Andy season - the entire arc has been about his preparation for parenthood, coupled with his breakdown over the loss of Andy Jr. - and having Andy finally rediscover his faith was the perfect capper to it. I don't cry too much at TV shows, but I did catch a sniffle or two when Andy said his prayer. And it's nice to see religion portrayed in such a flattering light on TV for a rare change.

Even Medavoy finds a bit of a happy ending: he finally has a nice place to live, and seems much more confident and upbeat, as represented by his converation with Ann Maguire, who I get the feeling may appear a bit more next season. While Gordon Clapp may just be the best actor on the show in terms of getting in his character's skin and making you forget there's an actor inside, Medavoy has been in a bit of a rut; with the brief exception of the start of the second season when he and Donna were together, Greg has spent the past three years in a miserable funk. I'm glad to see that he's taking Donna's parting advice to try to be happy, and I hope this lasts, as I think watching a sunny Greg Medavoy might be an interesting change.

All three character subplots took a backseat to the crime stories this week, which is one of my main problems with the episode. Taken at virtually any other time during the season, I would have absolutely adored the Selness brothers plot. The crime stories I dislike the most are the ones with absolutely no emotional impact on the detectives: cases like the A-stories in "Sorry, Wong Suspect" or "Burnin' Love." This story also had little effect on our heroes - they were just trying to do the right thing, as they so often do - so Bob Glaudini (only the third freelancer of the season) wisely chose to turn a good deal of the story over to the Selness brothers. I don't think the show has ever done a scene before like Donald's plea to Jerry to write the statement, one that's really not about the detectives at all, but about the other people involved with the case, and ordinarily, it would have been a welcome change, especially given how terrific I thought Tobin Bell was as Donald.

But (and you knew this was coming), because this episode follows closely on the heels of Andy' breakdown, what it should have been about was Andy's attempts to get back into a rhythm on the Job. Instead, Andy and Bobby were in perfect synch right from the get-go, and aside from Andy's bruises and his reference to Andy Jr's death (in an attempt to get Donald to save his brother), you wouldn't know that anything was different about Andy. If they'd had Andy be especially passive through the early courses of the investigation because he's still embarrassed over what he did to Bobby and Diane, only coming to life at the end, the story would have worked on two different emotional levels, instead of the less satisfying (for this moment in time) one about the Selness brothers.

As opposed to the main plot, the B-story probably would have seemed forced no matter when in the season they had done it. While featuring two interesting guest character in Les Treat and Jim Bauerlein, it didn't seem to get a good payoff for both those characters. Yes, Adrianne reached out to Bauerlein at the end (the first totally sympathetic portrayal of Lesniak in months), but I was waiting for Greg or James to find some way to pay back Treat for jerking them around, and it didn't come. The whole story felt like an excuse to give the three lesser detectives something to do in the finale. And Nick Turturro seemed really off whenever he tried to play bad cop; he and Clapp are generally at their best as a team when they're more wisecracking and relaxed than Andy and Bobby.

So the third season of Blue doesn't exactly go out with a bang. But it doesn't go out with a whimper, either.

Shorter takes:

  • Reason #857 why Arther Fancy is the coolest boss known to mankind: the very smooth way he tried to break the news to Lucy, followed by his sincere request that she keep in touch, which seemed to lessen the blow more than his original story.

  • And a fond farewell to the other PAA in the building. I really wish Bill Brochtrup was sticking around, as John's easily my favorite of all the show's current recurring characters. Alas, Bill's going to be appearing in Stephen Bochco's new sitcom on CBS in the fall, which will probably be a more prominent role than the squad PAA. Good luck to you, Bill.

  • Lots of location shooting this week, and a far brighter tone to the lighting than usual, really evoking how nice New York can be in the springtime (its finest season).

  • Can anybody more familiar with Greek Orthodoxy than me say whether a churching ceremony is usually a solitary affair, with only the priest and the family in attendance?

  • Mike Post did the music again this week. Am I the only one who thought the closing music, as Bobby and Diane walked down the street, sounded remarkably like Post's theme for Hooperman?

  • Great little bit during the Selness story: Andy smacks Donald in the head during interrogation, and Donald doesn't flinch, defiantly saying, "Hit me again." In True Blue, Bill Clark talks about how a lot of perps aren't fazed by beatings, since they've been beat their whole lives. Having Donald react like that was a nice shorthand way of demonstrating how hardened he'd become in prison.

  • Lines of the week:

    "Maybe we're looking for some fanatical consumer advocate type."

    "I'm going to come back later and I'm going to give you a gold star for knowing my job specs."

    "Lovely spring thus far; I've been remarkably allergy-free."

    "I don't trifle with my vacations, Diane."

    A few final comments. First, I want to thank everyone who's e-mailed me in the past week to wish me a happy graduation. I would have liked to reply to all of them individually, but I've been swamped. So thank you very much - it really warmed my heart. I'm also sorry this is late, but between parties, farewells, graduation itself (I got to hear Tom Brokaw heckle our student body president), and moving, I crashed last night right after I finished typing the summary.

    Second, for all those who inquired, I have two different job opportunities, either as a TV critic for the Newark Star-Ledger, the biggest paper in my native New Jersey, or as an Assistant Editor at P.O.V., a new lifestyle magazine where I interned last summer. Either way, I'll be just fine. I'll also be *very* busy, which brings me to my next subject: whether or not I'll continue doing these reviews come fall. I sure hope I have the time and energy, but I'm not overly optimisitic. What will probably happen is a compromise: more abbreviated summary/reviews, and they also probably won't be done until the weekend, rather than by Wednesday morning. But we'll see how that goes.

    Regardless, I ain't going anywhere. I'll still be maintaining the website, as well as the FAQ, unless some kind soul would care to volunteer to take over the latter. And I'd like to finish what I started, which means attempting to stick it out until the sad day when the show goes off the air, which hopefully won't be for a long time to come.

    See ya in the funny papers, folks...


    Send Alan some e-mail