NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 10
My Wild Irish Nose

Written by Hugh Levick
Directed by Robert J. Doherty

PLOT ONE: A BETTER MOUSE TRAP

Jimmy Liery's next-door neighbor comes into the precinct to complain about the shots that were fired a few nights ago (unbeknownst to her, by Diane, a detective in the precinct). Jill Kirkendall takes the complaint, but when Bobby hears Liery's name, he asks to take over the case.

Liery cops an attitude from the minute Bobby shows up at his door, and gets a busted nose to go with his smart mouth. Bobby goes through the motions of finding out what happened -- Liery says that the "girl I'm screwing" put the bullet in the wall -- but stops short of asking for a name, which makes Liery suspicious. Looking for an excuse to arrest him, Bobby conducts an illegal search and finds an AK-47 submachine gun under Liery's mattress. As Bobby slaps the cuffs on, Liery boasts that the hummer bust will never hold up in court. Bobby retorts by snarling, "What, do you think I'm punchy? Maybe somebody slipped me a mickey."

At the One-Five, Liery loudly proclaims his request for legal represenation to anyone who will listen while Bobby calls upstairs to get Diane out of the way for a few minutes. He tosses Liery in the cage, and meets Diane and Lt. Fancy in the locker room to hash things out. Neither Diane nor the Lieu can believe the stunt Bobby pulled, despite his theory that they can bring in the jogger that Liery beat up to make an identification, and use the assault charge to pressure him into giving up his gun-running ring. Diane, knowing how tough Liery is, scoffs, but Fancy decides to check things out with OCCB Inspector Jane Wallace before making a decision.

Bobby can't explain to Fancy the real reason why he's so desperate to keep Liery off the street, but he has told Andy, who suggests they make a trip over to Liery's favorite hangout and practice their acting skills. At Patrick's Bar, Andy claims that Liery is in jail singing about his partners, and the bartender seems to believe him.

When Bobby returns to the precinct, Fancy tells him to kick Liery loose. As he's signing the release papers, Jimmy makes reference to Bobby's "mickey" crack, which Bobby tries to write off as "just an expression." Liery threatens to bring him up on brutality charges, but when Bobby offers to really give him something to complain about, Liery defiantly walks away. Diane chews Bobby out for messing with her assignment. He tries to explain that he was just trying to help her, but his use of the phrase "ex-boyfriend" only upsets her further. Bobby asks if a removal of the "ex" tag will keep her away from Liery for a while; she doesn't answer, but says she'll stay out of Jimmy's way for the next few days until things cool down.

Shortly before the ceremony for Bobby's promotion to Detective First-Grade, Diane shows up at One Police Plaza with some disturbing news: OCCB had wiretaps set up at Patrick's, and heard Liery being murdered by his partner. They also have Andy and Bobby's visit on tape, and she accuses him of getting Liery killed. Bobby doesn't feel the slightest bit guilty, and suggests that Diane not stick around for the presentation.

Diane relents enough to watch him get the promotion before slipping out the door, and comes to his apartment that night, feeling cold, scared, and alone. She begins talking about her teenage years, when her father was always drinking and abusing her mother and brother, and the only reason anyone seemed interested in her was for her looks. She always felt cold, she says, until she met Bobby, yet she couldn't accept his marriage proposal: "You make me warm, but I couldn't say yes." Bobby asks her if she wants some of the tea he's boiling. "Yeah," she murmurs. "See, that wasn't so hard," Bobby gently points out before handing her the hot drink.

PLOT TWO: MORE UNAMERICAN GRAFFITI

Two years ago, Walter Hoyt, an artist specializing in "negative space," was one of several witnesses to the murder of a graffiti artist committed by two busboys employed by mob boss Frankie Pisciotta. All the others were scared off by Pisciotta, but Walter stuck to his guns and agreed to testify, and had to abandon his beloved loft as a result. (From "Unamerican Graffiti," season two)

Now, just as the busboys' trial is coming up, all of Walter's paintings have been stolen, and Pisciotta has told him that he'll only get them back if he also accepts a ticket out of the country. Walter, eager to reclaim his work, and still too naive to realize the kind of danger he's in, offers to wear a body mike to his meeting with Pisciotta, an offer that Andy can hardly turn down if it'll give them a chance to nail the mobster once and for all.

With most of the 15th squad's day tour (everyone but Kirkendall) watching and listening to the wire, Walter enters Pisciotta's restaurant, where a couple of goons forcefully escort him into the back of a limousine. Figuring they're going to try to kill Walter, the detective's race in to make a bust, but Walter's paintings, which were supposed to be in the car's trunk, are nowhere to be found.

Unfortunately, they don't have enough on these latest goombahs to prosecute for more than unlawful imprisonment. Andy realizes that Walter's suffered enough, and decides to take another crack at flipping Jerry Panetti, the dimmer of the two busboys. Invoking the story of famed New York mob boss John Gotti and his trusted hitman Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Andy and Bobby convince Panetti that he's better off cutting a deal like Gravano -- who's living the good life on the Witness Protection Plan's tab after giving up Gotti -- than roll the dice and take his chances like Gotti did.

Now that Panetti's prepared to testify against both Pisciotta and his partner in the graffiti killing, the cops don't need Walter. Andy breaks the good news to him, but Walter's thoughts are focused more on his lost work, and his plans for the work to come. "My heart is so full now," he muses, "that if I don't engage the canvas directly, this thing's going to beat me." Andy, who owns one of Walter's few surviving paintings, wishes the courageous artist well, though he can't help but wonder how the loss of all the other works of art affects the value of his own.

PLOT THREE: BROTHERLY LOVE

A young teen named Marco Ramirez gets caught shoplifting, and offers to give police the location of a dead body in exchange for the charges being dropped. Greg and James catch the case, and find out that Marco is living on the streets, often turning tricks to make money. On his latest gig, there was a body lying on the floor of the apartment. James tries to lecture Marco on the dangers of his lifestyle, but doesn't get through to the boy.

At the address Marco gave, the detectives find two junkies named Arnie and Tommy auctioning off the valuables of their buddy Neil, whose corpse is lying on the floor. Arnie and Tommy both claim that Neil just died, but the medical examiner says he was killed from a blow to the head by a blunt object. Recalling a bottle of Cold Duck champagne that had been lying on the apartment floor, James and Greg get Tommy to flip and give up Arnie as the murderer.

With the case solved, James tries to look out for Marco, who admits that he's not an orphan, but a runaway whose real name is Romero. James tracks down his father, but Mr. Romero turns out to be an abusive jerk who won't even let Marco take home some comic books that James gave him. James says he'll be checking in on Marco, and won't hesitate to charge Mr. Romero with child abuse if he hears anything bad.

While getting ready to go to Bobby's promotion ceremony, James bumps into Gina, and tells her that the reason he was so concerned for Marco's welfare is because the boy reminds him of his late brother Roberto, who never got along with their father and died of a drug overdose (in "Ice Follies," season one). Gina doesn't know quite what to say, but James thanks her for listening.

MISCELLANEOUS THREAD:

As Lt. Fancy predicted, Bobby's promotion -- and Andy's lack of same -- has driven a wedge between the partners. At first, Andy focuses his frustration on Fancy, but Bobby nips that in the bud by explaining that the Lieu went out of his way to point out how hard he pushed for them both. Andy says he might not be able to make the promotion ceremony because of a babysitting problem, but when the time comes, he's there to wish his friend and partner well. Bobby, meanwhile, gets to meet NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir shortly before the ceremony. He tries to plead Andy's case for the commish, but Safir politely tells him that this is his day, and maybe Sipowicz's will come in the future. In the meantime, he says, he's very proud of the work Bobby is doing. "Thank you, sir," Bobby replies. "That really means a lot to me."


I complain a lot that "Blue" doesn't take as many risks as it could, doesn't try to be as ambitious as it could, and that it tries to keep things self-contained from week to week.

After watching "My Wild Irish Nose," I'm starting to think that maybe ambition doesn't suit the series very well.

The episode started off with a bang: Jimmy Smits and Christopher Meloni squaring off in the scene at Liery's apartment was crackling, rough stuff. I watched the episode build up, waiting for the killer resolution that I knew was coming...

...and then Diane casually mentioned that Liery was dead, and all my hopes got deflated.

Simply put, you do not take a villain as vividly portrayed as Jimmy Liery and just rub him out off-camera between the commercial breaks. I actually rather like the fact that Bobby caused his death -- and, more to the point, doesn't feel the least bit remorseful about it -- but this part of the story demanded a hell of a lot more closure than the "Oh, yeah, Liery's dead" denouement we got. I realize that there are lots of loose ends in life, and that I often complain that there aren't enough of them on "Blue," but when the show devotes this much time to this one guy, not to get *any* closure was terribly frustrating.

Considering all the set-up about how badly Bobby was giving away Diane's cover -- anyone as savvy as Liery would've figured it out even before the "maybe somebody slipped me a mickey" line -- I can't believe there wasn't one final scene between Diane and Jimmy. I'm not asking for some kind of melodramatic stand-off with Liery bushwhacking Diane and Bobby riding to the rescue. Far from it; I just wanted one scene -- one lousy scene - -with Liery confronting Diane with what he knew about her identity.

And there was another big opportunity missed here. Diane tells Bobby that the reason OCCB knows about the murder is because they had wiretaps in Patrick's Bar, right? So where the hell was the cavalry when Liery drugged Diane earlier in the week and carried her off into the night? I could have accepted that plot hole, especially if it had led to a scene with Diane confronting Jane Wallace (her OCCB boss who appeared briefly a few episodes ago in "Ted & Carey's Bogus Adventure") about how she was left out to dry in an attempt to protect the operation. Who knows, maybe Lindsay Crouse (who played Jane) wasn't available, though if that's the case, they should've gotten an actress with a more flexible schedule from the get-go, because as it stands, the whole undercover operation was so flimsily designed that it cheapened a lot of the Diane/Liery scenes.

This storyline should've come down to Diane confronting her own personal and professional demons by getting face to face with a manipulative psycho like Liery. Instead, it turned out to be just another case of Bobby riding in on his white horse to rescue her from her own mistakes. Yawn. If the only reason for Liery's introduction several episodes ago was to provide an easy way to get Diane and Bobby's relationship on the mend, I wish he would've never been introduced, because I got my hopes up that I was in for something special, and instead got more of the same.

And yet again, Bobby acts like an overprotective (and, in this case, out-of-control) jerk and is proven right for doing so. So much for the series getting its act together when it comes to portraying female cops. I realize that the show is about Andy and Bobby, and that, for the most part, the supporting characters are there to be used to shed new light on our two heroes, but if every single story involving one of the other characters turns out to really be about how things affect the big two, then I stop caring about anyone else, because they really become tools. And right, now, that's all I see Diane as, and I'll be a lot less likely to feel involved the next time a Diane subplot rolls around.

Enough venting. I'll move on to the rest of the show, which worked a lot better for me, particularly the return of Walter Hoyt. In this season of sequels for "Blue," with new visits by old characters like Kwasi, Ray Kahlins, Councilman Manos, and Nick Savino, this may have been the best. If you were around on the Net when "Unamerican Graffiti" aired, you would know that I was feeling a bit despondent about the future prospects of "Blue." Along came this pretty generic-sounding story about a witness who has to give up his apartment to avoid mob intimidation, and for whatever reason, it struck a chord with me, and gave me hope that the show still had some life left.

This kind of story, far more than mega-arcs like the Liery plotline, is the kind of thing that "Blue" has proven to do best time and again: take a unique, but fundamentally decent character, put him or her under extreme pressure, and see how he/she reacts. Walter Hoyt is a great character, a man so devoted to his art that he doesn't have room in his head for all the pettiness and self-interest that dominate most of us. When he sees a murder, of course he's going to step forward as a witness. When Frankie Pisciotta threatens his life, of course he's going to volunteer to put himself at risk to help the cops out -- especially if it'll get his paintings back in the bargain.

In the end, most of Walter's sacrifices -- his apartment, his paintings, his personal freedom -- were all for naught, since he turned out not to be needed to nail Pisciotta after all (if I have any gripe about the story, it's that Andy and Bobby didn't think to try their Sammy the Bull tactic a few years ago to spare Walter some grief). But maybe he did get something out of the experience: the realization of what his art really could be. His monologue about how he used to define things by what they're not was a masterpiece of human drama (methinks David Milch had an uncredited hand in penning it), and did a lot to relieve my frustration about the failings of the main story.

James' story felt a little lacking to me at times, not so much because of the plot, but the dialogue. Way back when he was looking after Roberto, his lectures sounded more natural, while similar talks with Marco didn't ring as true. Phrases like "you're a damn fool" just don't sound right coming out of James Martinez's mouth (or Nick Turturro's, if you will). Still, I liked James' conversation with Gina -- particularly her awkward attempts to come up with something to say after their mundane chit-chat turned serious -- and the casting of Efrain Figueroa (who looks eerily like Luis Guzman, who plays James' father Hector) made James' attempt to find a parallel to Roberto's tragedy make sense.

As for Bobby's promotion, while it was neat to see real-life NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir shaking hands with Bobby Simone, I think yet another opportunity was missed. Go back to the last story arc the show did like this: Janice Licalsi's entanglement with the mob and Inspector Lastarza, and the Other Guy's efforts to get her out of it back in the first season. At the climax of that arc, Kelly stepped out of the squadroom so that Janice could tear some pages out of a notebook that might've implicated her in the murder she committed, and while she was tearing away, James (then an impressionable rookie) chose that moment to say how proud he was to have John as a teacher. Kelly had to stand there and listen to young Martinez tell him what a great cop he was, while he was standing there allowing a murderer to escape unpunished. That scene was presented in such a way that both John and the viewers were fully aware of the irony.

Now look at what happened here. Bobby has just set up a man to get murdered to protect Diane from what he sees as unreasonable danger. And only moments later, Bobby's up on stage accepting a promotion to what the commish describes as the most prestigious rank on the whole force. But the way it was written, directed, and acted, Bobby was being presnted as a hero, without any irony at all. Oh, well, this'll just teach me not to get my hopes up in the future.

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