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

"Less is Morte"
Season 9 Episode 18
4/16/02
Teleplay by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Story by Bill Clark & Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Matthew Penn

I'm getting all settled in my new life, and it's good to be back. Thanks to Alan for pinch hitting!

Here's the summary:

TONY'S JACKPOT:

When we last left the dashing young Lt., he was turning in his badge and gun for a little forced R&R. IAB Capt. Fraker, it seems, had a bone to pick with our fair T-Rod: he thought Tony turned him in for riding shotgun for some drug dealers back in the day.

Andy decides Tony is too good to watch go down the tubes. Tony tells him that when he was undercover he heard that some cops were running around with some drug dealers. He mentioned this in general to his bosses, but never named any named. He mentioned it generally only because he thought his undercover set up would be compromised and that cops' lives could be lost. Apparently, Fraker got caught up in it and ended it up tracing it back to Tony.

Tony, like Martens last week, advises Andy to stay away from the whole mess for fear he might go down with the ship. Andy ignores this advice.

He goes back to Martens with whom he's forged a sort of clandestine bond. Martens knows Tony is clean and knows Fraker is an asshole. Nonetheless, he initially balks at Andy's suggestion that he turn over some dirt on Fraker. Andy then offers to help him in some way. Martens takes him up on that: Andy is going to use his in with the deputy commissioner to get Martens' nephew into narcotics. Martens then coughs up the skinny on Fraker and the side action he's got going with a female detective.

Andy confronts Fraker on the street. Fraker tries to blow him off but Andy pushes it. He finally threatens to tell Fraker's wife and kids about the affair he's having with this cop. Fraker threatens right back: he says now Andy is the one in trouble. They stare each other down a little and walk off.

By the time Tony arrives for his IAB hearing, Fraker has backed down completely. He tells Tony that after further review, he's dropping the case and Tony can go back to the 1-5. Tony isn't sure what happened, but makes sure Fraker knows he didn't turn him in. Fraker doesn't seem to hear it. He tells Tony that he was practically a rookie at the time, and that his only option in the matter was to turn his own partner and some other cops in. Now he's a rat and stuck in the rat squad. Tony reminds him that no one held a gun to his head to make him hang out with drug dealers or to turn on other cops.

At the end of the day, Tony finds Andy alone and asks him about his involvement. Andy won't tell him anything, and advises Tony not to dig too deeply. Tony expresses his gratitude. Andy feels good about helping a good cop.

MONEY TRUCK:

An armored car driver is shot to death during a robbery attempt when three ski-masked men use a shotgun to try to steal money. One of the armored car guards shoots at the men wounding one and scaring them all three off.

Andy, Jr., Greg and Baldwin catch the case. The robbers' car is found, and Jr. sets about digging up his old snitch pal Julian (the one who buried Danny) to see what he knows. It's Julian's neighborhood, so the chances are good he'll have something.

Julian does indeed, but he wants help from the cops getting some video equipment back from the police in New Orleans who took it off him when he was videotaping naked men.

Julian knows that the owner of a bar in the area asked him for help getting a shotgun to use in some job or another. This bar owner is Vinnie. By the time Julian could get him a gun, Vinnie already had one.

The four cops stake out Vinnie's bar. While waiting for Vinnie to move, Andy and Jr. see Julian walk in. They're pretty pissed off and thinking Julian is double-crossing them. When Julian emerges from the bar a short time later, they grab him off the street. Andy wrestles him into the back of the car. Julian swears he was there only to try to get more information. He tells them he's found out that now Julian is looking for a doctor who will treat a friend who got shot in the face.

Andy's time with Julian is cut short when Baldwin radios that they've followed Vinnie to his house. ESU is there, too, and setting up a serious operation around the place. Snipers are in place, the house is surrounded--the works. Andy's angry because he thinks it's unnecessary: they don't even know if the wounded robber is inside. ESU orders everyone out of the house with their hands up. So, out walk a middle aged woman, her daughter, two very small children, two elderly folks and Vinnie. Four generations of pissed off people, to paraphrase Jr.'s assessment.

Back at the squad, Greg tries his best to convince Vinnie that the way they got him to come in and talk was the only safe way to do it. Vinnie isn't buying it, though, and lawyers up.

Stuck for a lead, the detectives decide they've got to get Julian to give up the name of the doctor he recommended to Vinnie. Julian's life will be at risk, but they've got to do it. Julian refuses at first but is lured by the call of cash. He gives up the doctor with the promise of money and the promise that the cops will not contact the doc.

Of course they have to contact the doctor. He's from Pakistan, and since he can't practice in the US, he's been working at a dry cleaner. Andy sits calmly with him and tries the respect approach: he calls the man doctor, tells he earned the title, and tells him that if he did treat someone that day, he won't get in any trouble for it. The man responds well to this and admits he did treat someone with a gunshot wound to the face. Andy asks him where, but the man says he can't remember. Respect gone, Andy barks at him and scares the poor fella so much that he spits out every detail of the location right down to how many dust bunnies are under the bed where the bleeding man lies.

Andy and Jr. go there and find the man and his hysterical wife. They tell her he'll bleed to death if they don't get the name of the third man involved because they aren't going to call an ambulance until she talks. She does.

The third man is brought in half in the throes of a heart attack. It doesn't take much for him to take a deal that any sane person would realize can't ever materialize: Jr. suggests he won't get any jail time. The man flips on his pals real fast and admits, to no one's surprise, that they aren't career criminals.

DUMPSTER DOA:

Connie and Rita get the unenviable task of looking over a dead body found in a garbage truck. It's poor Mary Anne Canavan. She's been shot a few times.

Turns out Mary Anne worked at a bank where lo and behold 40-thousand dollars turned up missing the same day she did.

Her husband is brought in for questioning. He's sort of a hefty man and entirely too stressed out. He tells the detectives that he hasn't seen his wife in days but that he didn't file a report on her because she's been taking off without him a lot lately. Her girlfriend at the beauty parlor convinced her last year to lose 80 pounds. After she dropped the weight, she started going out with this woman to bars and weekends out of town. He's ruled out as a suspect, though, when they show him the photo of his wife dead in the trash. He begins to sob hysterically.

Next on the list is the beauty parlor friend, Victoria. She has great hair but not much else going on above the neck. She says MaryAnne's husbands is a bore and a liar and that all she did was help MaryAnne. She's reluctant to say anything about MaryAnne having a boyfriend until she hears MaryAnne is dead. She's shocked by the news. She says she thinks MaryAnne did have a boyfriend but that she never mentioned a name. Then Victoria gets up and begs to be let out. She says she's about to throw up.

A short time later, Connie and Rita get word that a teller saw MaryAnne leaving with Victoria on the day she and the money disappeared.

The detectives head off to MaryAnne's apartment. They have to get the super to open the door because there's no answer, only loud music playing. When they walk in, they find Victoria shot to death on the floor.

A dump of Victoria's cell phone finds a bunch of calls to a guy named Juan. Juan is hauled in but won't say much. He lies for a while and is then convinced to rat out his buddy, Jose. They were all four involved in a drug deal. Jose told MaryAnne to get the money Friday and that he'd double or triple it by Monday. Of course, they got robbed. Jose ended up shooting MaryAnne. When he got nervous, he went over to Victoria's. She was just coming home from the police station and Jose didn't believe she didn't talk, so he shot her too.

Jose gets picked up and will spout off only that he doesn't speak any English. Connie and Rita make up a story that's sure to send him to the needle (like he's not going there anyway....) and he finally speaks, but just enough to ask for a lawyer.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE:

Andy fesses up to Junior that he and Theo are going to Disney World in a few weeks and that, ohbytheway, Connie is going along too.

Junior says he's kept his mouth shut for too long: he wants to know what's going on. Andy tells him nothing is going on. Andy tells him he's not sure how he feels about it all: he's hung up on the age thing and on the fact that Connie is so much prettier than he is. Junior tells him that since none of that seems to matter to Connie, he ought to just man-up and go for it.

Meanwhile, Junior's got his own goo-goo eyes going for Rita. He's been spending his off time with Baldwin getting ready for the big fight with Laughlin. During the evening session in which Baldwin and Greg and being his trainers, Rita shows up like the good little damsel in distress toting a pizza for the boys. Baldwin and Greg note the obvious attraction between Junior and Rita and Junior responds like any school boy with a crush: he punches at Baldwin. Of course, Rita lingers at the door just long enough to see those muscles in action.

THAT'LL DO, PIG:

Tony's one-day replacement is a load of a Lt. named Shanley. After informing everyone he doesn't really plan to do anything, he spends the whole day making personal phone calls about the thrilling pass-time of fishing.

When he's not on the horn, he's all over Connie. He makes several overt moves on her, including touching her shoulders and telling her she's too stressed out. At first, Connie is so shocked she doesn't say much.

The second time, however, she reads straight from the sexual harassment handbook and tells him he's making her uncomfortable and asks him to stop. He's read the handbook, too, of course, and knowing it's really a pile of shit masquerading as an effective tool in the real world, he informs her that if she's trying to set him up he'll find other ways to make her life hell.

At this, Connie takes a step just outside what the handbook advises and tells him that if he touches her again she'll beat the shit out of him. (That's a rough translation.)

REVIEW

TONY'S JACKPOT:

This story has so much potential. I think I've liked it much more than Alan has. It's left me wanting more. The only thing is, I don't see that we're going to get more.

The hope is that the story won't end here. Fraker seems enough of a jerk to try to put the squeeze on Andy in some way. And with the whole Connie relationship about to bloom (or at least give the appearance of a blossom), there's a really good hook for Fraker to grab. He can come out and threaten to expose Andy and Connie just as Andy was going to do with Fraker and his detective "friend." The difference is that Andy and Connie don't have family ties that would make such an exposure a real problem for them, so that's probably going to fizzle. And if Fraker tries anything else with Andy, Andy can still make good on his threat. Perhaps Our Writers will come up with some dark twist to make this work.

The good thing so far is that Andy got to be the hero for Tony--which is a full turn for a guy who hates bosses--and that we got to see a little more of Tony doing something different. Alas, it wasn't enough on either count.

MONEY TRUCK:

Julian is a superb snitch. They guy who plays him is top-notch. I've enjoyed every Julian story so far, but I have to say that this one seemed a little forced. The fact that it just happened to be Julian's neighborhood and Julian just happened to have been asked to get a gun all seemed a little too reminiscent of a certain 70s cop show in which every other case is solved by a completely conspicuous "confidential" informant named Huggy Bear.

It got good when they spied Julian going back to Vinnie's bar, though. (Huggy never would have done that.) And from there, the story picked up and rolled along well.

I thought it was a great touch to have all of these guys be older. They didn't fit the usual look of perps on Blue and that worked. Other things that were really good: the whole ESU set up and Andy's reaction to it. This not only gave us something different to look at, which is always fun, but it gummed up the works on the case enough to require Andy and Junior to have to find another way. And the fact that Julian ended up with his neck on the block courtesy the cops. (Starsky and Hutch never would have done that to Huggy.)

I could go for more of Julian, but I'd like it better if his appearance weren't so obvious.

I loved the scene with the Pakistani doctor. Andy tries to be nice and respectful for a change, but in the end, he has to be just plain Andy again to get any where.

And I thought Greg was great with Vinnie. Even though it didn't convince Vinnie to talk, Greg sure made his points well. No buffoonery, just good cop stuff.

DUMPSTER DOA:

This story didn't do much for me. I will say, however, that I was really surprised when Victoria turned up dead. I mean, I knew she was dead when they had to have the super open the door, but when they were just heading over to her place, I didn't expect it to be that.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE:

I get the feeling we're not going to get an answer on this Connie and Andy thing this season, and if that's the case, Bravo Mr. B! Drag it out as long as you can, baby. If they do get together, the longer the build up the better. And I mean looooooooong. It's the only way this thing will fly, if it flies at all. I'm still not sure it will, and I still think it shouldn't. But I'm all about dragging it out.

The same can be said for this thing between Junior and Rita, by the way. The way I see it, there are two ways to make the on-screen thing fiery: one is to drag it out and keep the tension going forever (then, of course, it dies a horrible death in most cases), the other is to smash two people together as fast as possible ala Bobby and Diane. With Junior and Rita we've got several problems: First, they're somewhere in the middle of those two examples. Second---and this is really the biggie--Rita is STILL not a fully developed character. She's getting there, but she's not there yet. I think Jackie O. is doing a find job with the Rita she's been given, but I don't think she has the same sort of presence the actors around her have. She doesn't fill up the screen the way Ross, Morales or Clapp do. I choose those three as examples not to exclude Franz and MPG who also have great presence but because those three have had to deal with the same challenge that now faces Obradors: making something big out of very little material. She's doing it, but without the same sort of blow-your-doors-off power.

Here's what I mean: We know next to nothing about Tony and his life outside the station house. We've got a little background on him but not much. Still, I feel as if I know this character. Even though the details of his life are a mystery to us all, we'd all know if Tony did something totally out of character. And if he were to be mesmerized by a woman, we'd all pretty much know how he'd handle it. We know next to nothing about Rita and her life outside the station house. Like Tony, we've got a little bit of background on her but not much. But with Rita, I can't honestly say I know her. Sometimes she seems timid, sometimes she seems as if she's trying to be tough. She must be sort of tough, right, to be an NYC cop, but with Don, she wasn't so tough. She finally got rid of him, but it was his fling with another woman that did it rather than his abusive treatment of her, and that seems a big inconsistency to me. The point is, we can't even begin to know what's in character for Rita. She hasn't been explained yet. It's like we've been shown only one snapshot of our long lost sibling and we're going to have a throw a party for her this Friday. However the rest of that picture has to be filled in--be it through the writing or the acting--it *must* be filled in before we can really care about her.

A big step was made tonight in that direction, I thought: when she dropped the pizza off and joked around with the guys it showed a side of her that's new to me. It showed me that she's not always uncomfortable around men, for one thing. But it's not enough yet. If she ends up in the sack with Clark in a few weeks, I'm going to be disappointed. I don't give a rats ass about all the relationships in the squad, but I *do* want to know the characters involved. I want to know what Clark sees in her as a person: let's get some of that going on before we're asked to buy a fling between them.

THAT'LL DO, PIG:

Oh my GAWD this story pissed me off!! But in a good way, sort of. It showed flat out the bullshit of sexual harassment policies and how easy it is for jerks like Shanley to skate around them. He couldn't care less if he offends her because he's got more power and he's not afraid to use it against her. That's as real world as it gets. His threat to get his friends to back him is something I have no doubt he could do easily.

However, if the story ends with Connie's threat to punch him, I'll be really pissed off. That would be so cheap. If he's asshole enough to do what he did to her and to threaten her on top of it, there is no way in hell he's going to back off just because of a threat like that. That would, in fact, make things oh so much worse.

The out for the writers is that he won't be there to harass Connie any more, and that pretty much ends things. But I'd love to see this thing played out to a truly satisfying conclusion. I'm sure women who are detectives deal with this shit all the time, and it would be a welcome change from the usual cop-in-trouble-with-IAB thing.

But, I'm guessing the motivation behind this story line was not to deal with the issue of sexual harassment but rather to give Andy the necessary set up for that one-second glance of overprotective jealousy. If so, too bad.

QUICK HITS:

CAST LEGACIES:

Previously On NYPD Blue: Anthony Mangano as Laughlin, Lenny Venito as Julian, Casey Siemaszko as Fraker, Scott Alan Campbell as Martens, Ralph Garman as Uniform No. 2 (he's been on enough times now, give him a name!) Seth Jaffe (Vinnie)--He was on Blue in 98. He's also done Michael Hayes, ER and JAG.

Nicholas Mele (Anthony)--He was on Blue in 95. He's also been on Bochco's LA Law and Tinker's St. Elsewhere and White Shadow. Mele also directed an episode of St. E. once.

Alan Feinstein (Shanley)--What hasn't he done? He's been on LA Law, St. Elsewhere, L&O, Harry O, Barretta-O, Cannon-O, Kojak-O and Streets of San FranciscO. In addition, there's his soap history: Santa Barbara, General Hospital, Falcon Crest, Edge of Night, Dark Shadows, Love of Life and Love of Santa General Dark Shadowy Night Crest-O. Bada bing.

Jay Leggett (Mr. Canavan)-- I knew I'd seen this guy! He was on In Living Color. He's also done ER and Ally McSqueal.

The Rest Of The Company: Kevin E. West as Uniform One, Joe Marinelli as Gene Greaves, Gonzalo Menedez as Mike Menendez, Thomas Mills as Capt. Billings, Jane A. Rogers as Victoria, Joe Grego as Fleeks (the super, I think), Maz Jobrani as Dr. Shola, Donna Ponterotto as Mikey's wife, Jon Huertas as Juan and James Brandt as Jose.

Stephen Adly Guirgis, the teleplay writer, has previous writing experience on Milch's The Big Apple.

LINES OF THE WEEK:

NEXT EPISODE:

There's going to be a bit of a dust up over Junior and the boxing match. Will he or won't he? THIS ONE AIRS AT 10PM EASTERN ON APRIL 30.

PROGRAMMING NOTES:

Alan has done some super research on what's coming up in the next few weeks. There are a few changes, so head on over to Alan Sepinwall's NYPD Blue Homepage (http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/nypd.html) if you're not already there, and read the FAQ. It's got everything you need to know about scheduling of the last four episodes, and the information is right there at the top of the FAQ.

Missed you!
Amanda Wilson