NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 18
I Love Lucy

Story by David Milch and Theresa Rebeck
Teleplay by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Kathy Bates

PLOT ONE: DOG DAY 48 HOURS

Angela and Peaches, the two transvestite hookers who helped the detectives with a murder case a few months back ("Unembraceable You"), come into the precinct with Angela sporting a nasty shiner. Though they're old friends with Diane from her days in Vice, they insist on talking to detectives with a "strong male presence," so Andy and Bobby reluctantly agree to take the complaint. It seems that Angela's boyfriend Jimmy Cortez got upset when she decided against having a cheap and potentially dangerous sex-change operation and smacked her around.

Our heroes decide to put a scare into Cortez since they realize no DA would take an assault complaint against a prostitute seriously. But Jimmy doesn't scare too easily, and seems fixated on Angela. Andy speculates that this is going to end badly, and is proven right when Angela is found slashed to death in an alley. Officer Shannon spotted Peaches running from the scene, and found a license plate number tacked to a phone pole, but Andy doesn't feel the need to start looking for either; he's headed straight over to Jimmy Cortez's apartment.

He and Bobby spend a sleepless night waiting for Cortez to show up, but give up the ghost come morning and track down a Mr. Drury, the driver of the car with the license number in question. After a lot of prodding, he admits that he had just paid to have sex with Angela when Cortez showed up and pulled her out of the car. As a married man, he has no interest whatsoever in testifying.

The detectives find another apparent witness in Arthur Cartwell, whose good fortune seems to know no bounds since his release from prison (also in "Unembraceable You"). Though his account jibes with their other Drury's for the most part, Bobby is understandably skeptical of anything coming out of Arthur's mouth, and eventually deduces that Peaches told Arthur what happened and asked him to testify in her place, since she's afraid of Jimmy. Bobby offers Arthur a hundred bucks for Peaches' whereabouts, and says there'll be a lot more coming if he can lead them to Cortez. Arthur, willing to take what he can get, heads out to start a search, and quips that he should be sworn in as a special deputy, considering all the help he winds up giving the police force.

Peaches is also reluctant to testify (she plans to slit Jimmy's throat one day when he's unaware), and before Diane can convince her to change her mind, Arthur calls in to say that he's found Jimmy. The detectives arrive on the scene to find Cortez trapped inside a phone booth thanks to a conveniently placed board, and a triumphant Arthur taking a series of Polaroids of himself, Jimmy, Bobby, and anyone else who amuses him.

Jimmy has blood on his shoes, and after Andy declares it "a pimp murder," passionately defends his love for Angela, saying that he wanted a wife and a home and had a harder time dealing with the fact that she was a hooker than with her physical sex. After their latest argument over the operation, she went off to turn tricks, he got drunk, found her and murdered her. He starts crying about how much he loved her. "And you just killed her," says Bobby, unmoved.

PLOT TWO: HIGH SCHOOL HIGH

Marshall and Ginny Hastings come to the precinct to file a robbery complaint and spot Jill Kirkendall, who was friends with their daughter Lucinda back in high school. Lt. Fancy decides to assign Jill to the case, and the Hastings explain that Lucinda has become a drug addict and has been stealing from them to support her habit. Mr. Hastings, suffering from Parkinson's Disease, has long since written off his daughter and wants her arrested, but his wife still has hope that Lucinda can get better. Jill suggests a compromise; if she can recover the stolen property and get Lucinda into a strict rehab program, the Hastings will agree not to press charges.

Lucinda answers the door to her apartment looking haggard in a bathrobe and her underwear, but quickly recognizes Jill, whom she hasn't seen in 20 years. They do some quick friendly catching up, and Jill explains what she's doing now and why she's there. Lucinda's used to her parents going to extreme measures to try to get her into rehab, but there's one catch here: she pawned off her father's pen and her mother's jewelry earlier in the day. Jill gets her dressed and takes her to the pawnshop. The pawnbroker's not one of her bigger fans since she gave him a venereal disease, but agrees to release the Hastings' property so long as they come in to pay for it.

Before checking Lucinda into the program, Jill gives her a business card with her home number and address on it so she doesn't think she's being blown off, but the next day, her sons' nanny calls and says that a strange woman showed up at the apartment brandishing her card. Jill sprints out of the office, and when she gets home, finds that the boys are okay. Lucinda, meanwhile, is writhing on the bedroom floor, suffering a combination of withdrawl and a bad reaction to a beat bag she bought, thinking it was real smack. Jill realizes that Lucinda came here to steal jewelry to pay for a real fix and decides enough's enough: Lucinda is going to the hospital, and then she's going to jail.

Mrs. Hastings still has trouble accepting the idea that her daughter will be sent to prison, but Jill sadly tells her that at this point, jail may be the only thing that scares Lucinda into getting better.

PLOT THREE: THE HARD SOFT-SELL

An embarrassed Lt. Fancy gathers the squad together to show them some household products that his wife Lillian is selling as a new franchise-holder in an Amway-type corporation. Though Gina and several of the detectives seem interested in buying, Art's too uncomfortable with the notion that they might be trying to curry favor with the boss, and quickly scoops up the samples and takes them into his office.

The next day, Medavoy calls in sick with some sort of stomach problem, and Art assumes the vitamins he sold him were bad. He calls Lillian to come pick up the samples and tells her that he can't help her sell them anymore. Lillian understand's her husband's dillemma, but thinks, as usual, that he's being too hard on himself.

At the end of the shift, Andy asks Fancy if he has any laundry detergent left, and when Art tells him that he won't be selling them at the precinct anymore, Andy wonders whether he's being singled out due to his history with the boss Just then, Medavoy shows up, explaining that he shouldn't have ordered Thai food for dinner the night before. He's feeling well enough to do a 4 to 12 shift, but when he tries to credit the rapid recovery to the vitamin supplements, the Lieu cuts him off and tells him that he shouldn't feel the need to say something like that just because he bought the vitamins from his boss's wife. As Andy and Greg share perplexed glances, Art calls it a night and heads for home.

MISCELLANEOUS THREAD:

Diane and Bobby can't tell anyone about their engagement because department policy says married cops can't work in the same precinct. They consider telling Andy, but recalling his inability to keep Sylvia's pregnancy a secret, decide to stay mum for now. At dinner that night, they're working on a plan for having a romantic ceremony without anyone finding out about it when Bobby spots Joey Salvo, another shady character who grew up with him. Joey's now an independent stick-up guy, and suggests that he and Bobby get together and talk sometime. Bobby declines the offer, as well as Joey's gift of a bottle of dessert wine.


Somebody e-mailed me a few hours after "I Love Lucy" aired to complain that he didn't like the episode because Andy repeated an interrogation room tactic from earlier in the season (the "I want to tell it the way I want to tell it, not the way he makes it sound" scene from "A Remington Original"). While I myself have always been asking for more variation in the interview scenes, I think making that the end-all, be-all for whether you like an episode misses the point. NYPD Blue has never been about who-done-it. It's also rarely been about how-are-they-going-to-get-him. It's about the characters, not just the detectives that we watch from week to week, but the suspects, the witnesses, the victims, and everyone whose life is touched or altered by the violent crimes our heroes try to solve each week. And in "I Love Lucy," we had some of the most interesting characters in quite some time.

Start with Angela and Peaches, who were mostly played for laughs back in "Unembraceable You." They started off that way here -- the pre-credits scene in the coffee room was a riot, though I think it should have ended one line sooner (Peaches' comeback to Andy was funnier than Andy's comeback to her comeback) -- but they got depth as the story went on (Angela got hers posthumously). And even when they were being funny, it wasn't "Hey, it's two guys in a dress" funny, but "Hey, those two hookers are giving Sipowicz lip" funny, which I felt was a nice humanizing touch, and coupled with Andy's decision to view them as women provided he didn't have to look between their legs, seemed surprisingly enlightened for the show, which often has a tendency to play to stereotypes.

Even more interesting was Jimmy Cortez, a part I felt Clifton Gonzales Gonzales absolutely nailed. I likely would've been complaining about the repeated tactic myself if he hadn't been so good in that scene, and if Jimmy's confused emotions hadn't been so well-written. The obvious way to go would've been for him to kill her once he found out she was genetically male, but even Jimmy said there were times where he could get past that. It was the fact that she felt the need to treat him like a pimp that drove him nuts -- an interesting reversal on the notion that a lot of men treat their girlfriends like whores.

And, of course, we have the triumphant return of Arthur Cartwell. All I can say is that I really enjoyed every scene he was in, particularly the bit with the Polaroid camera at the phone booth, but that I worry about there being too much of a good thing with this guy. Arthur is great in limited doses, but I don't want to see him again for a long time (sort of like how I got tired of Luther Mahoney on "Homicide" after he got away with murder for the second or third time).

In the other corner, we have the ongoing saga of Jill Kirkendall, independent career woman in a fictional world where those of her gender are normally obligated to become sex objects within two weeks. With Melissa Leo apparently on double-secret probation over on "Homicide," Andrea Thompson has become my favorite primetime drama actress, and I really hope that the recent exposure she's gotten means that the powers-that-be are going to make her a regular in the fall.

The story itself was actually fairly predictable -- is there some sort of law that says that any story dealing with a junkie and his/her parents has to make the mother the naive optimist and the father the pragmatic pessimist? -- but interesting to watch just to see Kirkendall in action and because of Yancy Butler's performance as Lucinda, particularly in the pawnshop scene (though I might have cast a less glamorous-looking actress in the role). I especially liked how Jill didn't let Lucinda try to bully or sweet-talk her into letting her walk; I loved it when she ordered her to sit down in the interview room. That woman is definitely command material. :)

Lt. Fancy's reluctant efforts as a salesman was filler, but the good kind of filler, since it offered an interesting glimpse at his role as squad leader and gave us new insight into our Lieu's character. Art is very much a believer in the concept of success through merit -- as he's said in the past, he has to do his job twice as well as the average lieutenant to prove that he didn't get it through affirmative action -- and the idea that people in the squad might be buying the products because he was their boss rather than because they needed them had to make him antsy. And it was a lot of fun to watch James McDaniel play uncomfortable for the entire hour. Lillian is right; Art needs to really loosen up.

Bobby and Diane continue to bore me, but I realize that I'm in the minority here (if not on the net, among all Blue fandom), so I don't begrudge a brief scene now and again about their plans. But David Milch has really written himself into a corner here with the engagement. I can't imagine them keeping the marriage a secret for too long, especially since that was the main premise of a really cheezy mid-80s cop show called MacGruder & Loud, about a pair of uniformed cops who didn't let anyone know they were married so they could remain partners.

Simone obviously isn't transferring out, and Milch seems to like Kim Delaney too much to get rid of her entirely, which means one of three things: the engagement gets called off, the wedding gets postponed, or Diane transfers to another precinct and we only see her when Bobby's off-duty. I don't like the first option; I've had enough of the Bobby and Diane relationship roller coaster, thank you very much. The last one would bother me even more, not only because Diane would become as marginalized as Sylvia became after she married Andy, but because, to keep Delaney in the spotlight enough, large chunks of episodes would have to take place outside the precinct, whereas now we can get Bobby-Diane moments in 30-second snippets in between police work. So, unless Mr. Milch has a rather nifty trick up his sleeves, it looks like a prolonged engagement may be the only way to go for now. But it looks like Diane is already being marginalized; though I thought Jill's decision to work the case alone was the right one (since she knew the people involved, they were much more likely to open up to her without a stranger in the room), Diane's comment about being kicked off of cases left and right had a double meaning for the audience.

What interested me most about that scene was the entrance of Peter Onorati as Joey Salvo. As a Bochco repertory type (he was the lead in "Cop Rock" and "Civil Wars," and played the D.A. in the second case on "Murder One" this season), he's obviously going to be playing a major role in the coming weeks, though I have no idea what. I like Onorati, and I hope if they go for another multi-week story, it has a much more satisfactory ending than the Jimmy Liery arc.

On a final note, unless I miss my guess, this was Theresa Rebeck's final script of the season, and the series, since she's decided to leave television and go back to playwriting full-time. Between her and David Mills, who's also leaving the show to pursue other opportunities, next year's writing staff is going to have some mammoth shoes to fill. I hope they're up to the challenge. Theresa and David, you will definitely be missed by at least this viewer.

Quick Hits:

In case you hadn't noticed, this review was a few days late. Between Passover, a lot of work, and a recent struggle with sleep deprivation, I just couldn't get to it until now. For those who like to read it with their morning coffee on Wednesdays, sorry. I'll try to get back on schedule for next week.

See ya in the funny papers...


Alan Sepinwall * e-mail: sepinwal@force.stwing.upenn.edu
Homepage: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/
NYPD Blue page: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/nypd.html

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