NYPD Blue Summary/Review by Amanda Wilson ( puedo01@aol.com) & Alan Sepinwall (sepinwal@stwing.org)

"Marine Life"
Season 10, Episode 18
4/15/03
Teleplay by Jody Worth
Story by Bill Clark & Jody Worth
Directed by Matthew Penn

Happy accidents, ladies and gentlemen. Happy accidents. Due to a communication breakdown, both of us independently wrote our own reviews of tonight's show, so we decided to combine them. It's two, two, TWO opinions in one! But first, it's time for a...

SUMMARY

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL

Our lead male and female detective duos catch the murder of Richard Forrest, who suffered a fatal blow to the head from a glass sculpture in his apartment. While Andy and company wait for crime scene to lift the bloody fingerprint from the sculpture, John notes that there's a message waiting on Forrest's voicemail and a concert flyer near his phone bearing the handwritten message, "Die, you dumb bitch."

The voicemail was from concert booker Carla Whitford, who told Forrest, "You're an asshole and I hope you die in a ditch. Go to hell." Confronted at her office, Whitford explains that Forrest was independently wealthy and backed a number of bands; they had a falling out after he she booked The Spikes, a band he had dropped and told her to blackball. Carla has heard through the grapevine that Forrest died in the early morning, and she has an alibi from midnight to 6 a.m. While writing down contacts for her alibi witnesses, she warns Andy and John that Forrest "was a grade-A prick who burned everybody he worked with. You've got your work cut out for you."

A check of calls to Forrest's apartment turns up the number of Justin Tangier, who happens to be the lead singer of the aforementioned Spikes. Rita and Connie bring in Justin, who looks like Eddie Izzard's pouty, stupid kid brother -- and who had Forrest's credit card in his pocket when the detectives picked him up. He claims that he and Forrest were still on good terms, that he repeatedly dropped the band and then changed his mind, and that Forrest had a taste for young men. Justin alibies that he was with a Remy Blanchard all night, but he's locked up in the meantime for the bag of weed Connie and Rita found on him.

Blanchard confirms Justin's story over the phone, while the bloody print on the murder weapon is matched to Randall Stokes, a Marine who recently went AWOL -- which is a nice coincidence, since Carla Whitford said she had seen a Marine-looking type hanging around the clubs with... Remy Blanchard. John Irvin has seen Blanchard's name in the food section a lot and recognizes him as a wealthy restaurateur.

Blanchard, a middle-aged man with certain dramatic affectations, is surprised to see Andy and John at his apartment door, and even more surprised to hear them mention Randall Stokes -- especially when he learns about Richard Forrest's death. He agrees to call Stokes' cell phone and ask him back to the apartment. While they wait for Stokes, Andy asks Blanchard about their relationship, which Blanchard says wasn't sexual because Stokes "wasn't ready." Blanchard also mentions that Justin is a gay pimp with absolutely no morals. Stokes returns with a shopping bag and tries to bolt when he sees the cops, who wrestle him to the ground and take him to the station.

While waiting for anti-crime cops to clear out of the pokey room, Andy sits Stokes on the catching bench and makes a phone call. John I. and Stokes stare at each other awkwardly. When Andy suggests they talk about the weather, Stokes replies that the warmer climate "brings the girls out." John I. looks puzzled by the comment.

In the pokey room, Stokes says he went AWOL to get away from his tough gunnery sergeant for a few days. Andy replies that the gunnery sergeant said that Stokes had been seen going into a gay bar, which Stokes claims was an accident. (He didn't know what kind of bar it was.) Andy brings up the bloody fingerprint, and Stokes says he woke up in Forrest's apartment with the statue in his hand and Forrest dead. He had been at a club when he met Justin, who told him about a great party "with drugs and girls." When he saw it was just Forrest, he decided to have one drink and bolt, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in the murder scene. Andy suggests he might have blacked out, and John wonders if Forrest tried to get Stokes to do something sexual that he wasn't comfortable with, sending Stokes into a murderous rage. Andy notes that Stokes' father is also a Marine, which would explain why Stokes might be struggling with his sexuality, but Stokes insists that he's straight. "Maybe I did do it," he says in frustration. "I mean, if the guy came onto me, I would have kicked his ass! But I just don't remember." As Stokes tells the detectives to check with Justin, we see that John I. has been watching the whole interview through the two-way mirror.

Justin, who had previously denied even knowing Stokes, now denies pimping for him when Connie and Rita accuse him of using Stokes to get Forrest to re-sign his band. With Justin's denial and Stokes' quasi-confession, Valerie thinks she has enough to go to the grand jury. John I. pulls Andy aside and confesses that he watched the Stokes interview -- and, given his own memories of coming out and what he's observed of Stokes, he thinks that right now, Stokes might be relieved to be found guilty of anything other than being gay.

Andy decides to re-question Blanchard about Justin's alibi. Blanchard won't recant until Andy threatens to arrest him for possession of "kiddie porn" (i.e., the art and photography books on his coffee table). Remy breaks down and admits that Justin wasn't with him all night. The cops bring him back to the precinct to confront Justin with the truth. Backed into a corner, Justin's revised story is that Forrest wanted him to have sex with the doped-up, passed-out Stokes, and he killed Forrest to avoid being "forced" into a gay sex act.

Andy tells Stokes that Justin copped to the murder, but that he's still in trouble for being AWOL. Andy wants Stokes to tell his superiors that he had planned to come back in a few days, to avoid serving hard time for desertion. Before the MPs arrive, Andy has John I. sit down with him. John very delicately but firmly says that he went through what he imagines Stokes is going through right now, and that he eventually found a place in the world where he fit in. "You've got the wrong guy," says a tearful Stokes, who is led away by the MPs.

MAIL-ORDER MURDER

Greg and Baldwin catch a home assault. Russian immigrant Natalia Pardee was coming home to her apartment when she was jumped by an attacker who tried to strangle her with a cord; she clawed the guy and he bolted. Natalia seems nervous around cops and doesn't think Greg and Baldwin should bother investigating this one. As the paramedics prepare to load Natalia into the ambulance, her husband Roy, a short, sweaty, heavyset guy, rushes in to make sure she's okay. She assures him that she's fine and the detectives bring Roy to the precinct to answer questions.

Greg, wondering how a guy like Roy wound up with a looker like Natalia, asks if she was a mail-order bride; Roy says he met her "through a dating agency." At first, Roy acts like the marriage is in fine shape, but the more questions he answers, the more he admits that he's really not getting along with Natalia, a hard "Moscow woman" who does her own thing, doesn't communicate with him and may be sleeping around with the guys at the bar where she hostesses. Baldwin asks whether the marriage has been difficult enough for Roy to want his wife killed. "No; not by a long shot," he says.

The detectives' next stop is Natalia's workplace, where they hear rumors that she was having an affair with Chris Dunwoody. Brought in for an interview, Chris is shocked to learn that Natalia was attacked and says that the furthest it ever got between them was necking, because Natalia didn't want to cheat on Roy. He calls her "one of the sweetest chicks I've ever met" and says that she wanted to get a divorce but couldn't chance it with her immigration status -- and that Roy kept threatening to have her deported if she walked out.

It's round two with Roy, who says Natalia knows how to manipulate people and is probably telling lies about him. "What, did Natalia bat her eyes at you?" he asks the cops. "Show you some leg?" Baldwin mentions that Roy was married once before to a Philippino mail order bride, who disappeared after they had been married for a few years. Roy says that Wife #1 had gotten "Americanized" -- he assumed that she just left him. The detective from the original case, however, told our guys that he suspected foul play in general and Roy in particular because the wife didn't take anything but her purse.

A second interview with Natalia yields no information, so the cops bring in Roy's brother Kurt, who has a minor rap sheet and a drug history that has fried his brain enough to make him slow-witted. Kurt has a scratch under his eye, which matches Natalia's story about clawing at her attacker. When Kurt stonewalls, Greg pulls off his jacket, puts one hand on Kurt's carotid pulse and one on his wrist, while explaining that he spent two years in the FBI's "Lie Detection Unit." Kurt's dim enough to believe this, and Baldwin conducts an abbreviated lie detector interview with him -- which Kurt "fails" when asked about the assault. As Kurt begins to crack under the pressure, the detectives try to get him to flip on Roy for masterminding the thing, but Kurt says he did it all on his own -- both attacking Natalia and murdering Wife #1. Roy essentially takes care of him, and "they didn't treat him right... And I want him to be happy."

Kurt explains where Wife #1's body can be found, and Roy is brought to the dig sight to identify the remains. Faced with his remorseful brother, Roy tells him, "It's okay, champ."

GUARDING VAL

ADA Haywood is in court trying to prevent the release of drug dealer/murderer Jerry Wells, who was convicted several years ago largely on the testimony of a witness who has since recanted. Valerie tries to convince the judge that Wells' people scared the witness into changing her story, but Wells' original sentence is vacated and he's released on bail pending a new trial. Before he leaves the courtroom, Wells announces that he doesn't blame Valerie for his conviction and holds no hard feelings against her; as the judge objects, Wells' lawyer hustles his client out of the room.

Later in the day, Valerie comes to the 15th squad to tell Baldwin about Wells' comments -- and about the disturbing number of hang-up calls she's gotten in the hours since. Baldwin asks Valerie for Wells' contact information and tries to reassure her, but as soon as she leaves, he starts to get angry.

After the shift ends, Baldwin shows up at Wells' apartment, where the half-naked drug dealer is entertaining an all-naked lady, who hustles into the bathroom after Baldwin pushes his way in and makes it clear the he expects Wells to stop harassing Valerie, ASAP. If not, he intends to come back and do more than just push Wells around a little -- and in case his tone wasn't convincing enough, he tells Wells exactly what he plans to say to any judge who asks him about brutality. ("And, yes, Mr. Wells went to grab my gun so I had to subdue him. Was the beating excessive, your honor? I certainly don't think so.") Wells says that this has all been a big misunderstanding. "That's what I figured," says Baldwin on his way out the door.

CONNIE DEAREST

Andy is distracted throughout the day because Theo is playing the letter "Z" in his school's play about the alphabet -- and, more importantly, because Theo's teacher keeps referring to Connie as "Mrs. Sipowicz." Connie understands Andy's concern and tells him to explain things to the teacher after the play.

That night, Theo goes on last (he is "Z," after all) and if he doesn't quite nail his dialogue, it's good enough to get wild applause from Andy and Connie. At the dessert reception afterwards, Theo's teacher introduces herself, while Theo refers to Connie as "my mom." Andy explains about Sylvia and his current living arrangement, but after an awkward pause, Theo tries to drag Connie over to the cookie table by declaring, "Come on, Mommy, you're missing the good stuff!" As a pensive Andy stares around the room at all the seemingly happy, seemingly nuclear families, his gaze settles on a very maternal-looking Connie giving Theo a cookie.

WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS?

It's the morning after John and Rita broke up, and Andy predicts that "it's gonna hit the fan" at some point if these two keep working together. But on this shift, there aren't any problems, and though Rita dismisses John's offer to remain friends as "a little naive... and kind of insulting, to be honest." She just wants mutual respect and for them to do their jobs and act like adults, a plan John readily agrees to.


REVIEW

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL

AMANDA: Despite all the stereotypes on display in this story (aging queen with an empty life and an attitude problem, soulless rocker with an eyeliner problem, confused middle-class gay who, soul searching, falls in with the wrong crowd), the story held up pretty well. Its strength was PAA John and how his observations helped Andy turn a corner in the investigation. Andy trusted PJohn's instinct and went with it, and that's what cracked the case.

I only wish PJohn had not displayed such meekness in profferring his assessment. That "I'll never do it again" line was a little much. And in the final scene with the Marine, he said he was accepted in his job in the PD and said his life was wonderful because he babysits the detectives' kids. Well, gee, why wouldn't he also mention he has a loving sister and that his father finally accepted him (he did, didn't he? My memory may be faulty on this, but if he did, then he'd surely have said that.) And what about his life outside of work? Seems to me if you're trying to convince someone their life will be OK, wouldn't you focus on more than your job and your babysitting? In any case, Bill Brochtrup did, as always, a fantastic job with the work he was given to do. He and Dennis Franz are just top notch in scenes together. Every single one they do is a homerun.

ALAN: When John I. apologized to Andy for sticking his nose into this case and insisted that this was a one-time thing, I blinked. Either John has a short memory or the writers do, because John did exactly the same thing -- using his personal insight to help Andy out with a murder case with a gay suspect -- about three years ago, in season seven's "Welcome to New York." If you want to get technical, Andy asked for John's assistance in that episode, while John didn't wait for an invitation here, but there were enough parallels between the two stories to be distracting.

Bill Brochtrup is a fine actor who's been around the show significantly longer than anyone but Dennis Franz and Gordon Clapp, and I know it has to be frustrating (for both Bill and the writers) trying to figure out ways to give John real screen time. But if he was going to play amateur detective again, there should have been a stronger attempt to differentiate this story from the last one. Even during those years when Andy referred to him as "Gay John," John was never defined solely by his sexuality, so why do another story where he's of use to the cops solely because he's gay? Maybe something involving higher culture, which he's a fan of while the cops all tend to be fairly low-brow. (I'm guessing Theo's alphabet play was the first theatrical production Andy's been to in a while.)

That said, the scenes with John were the strongest of an A-story that was otherwise all over the map. Like I said, Bill Brochtrup is a fine actor, and he brought real conviction to this story; the last scene in the cages was genuinely moving.

(Oh, and as I recall, the story with John's dad ended with them agreeing to disagree about John's sexuality.)

MAIL ORDER MUDER

AMANDA: The highlight here, of course, was Greg's human lie detector stunt. Loved it. He's got a whole pack of these things to his credit, and he does them so well. Other than that, this story was kind of a yawner. Not much in the way of interesting facts, and there was hardly any detective work. I kept wondering why they weren't talking to the victim. (They did mention it once, but we didn't see it.)

ALAN: This subplot seemed like something David Milch might have written, in that it wandered around for a while but paid off nicely in the final interrogation scene, which made a smooth transition from comedy (Greg, the 15th squad's resident performance artist, playing human lie detector) to tragedy (Kurt's confession). Even though we'd only been introduced to Kurt moments earlier, I actually found myself caring about this brotherly relationship -- a nifty feat by the actor and writer Jody Worth.

GUARDING VAL

AMANDA: This reminded me so much of Bobby Simone I nearly fell over. It was like the time he shoved his badge in the little kid's forehead, or threatened the guys who beat up PJohn's boyfriend, or smacked little Henry down. Not that Henry Simmons didn't do this perfectly, but it seemed like sort of a rerun. It's likely a set up, so let's hope there's a great big exciting payoff.

ALAN: I don't know if this was a one-shot story or setup for an ongoing arc, and I'm not sure which I'd prefer. I'm glad to see the show taking advantage of Henry Simmons' physicality (his biggest asset as an actor, no pun intended), but Amanda's right that this was like a blending of Simone's greatest hits. If this story does continue, I have one request: please, please, please don't resolve it off-screen.

WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS?

AMANDA: Easily my favorite scene of the entire show. Ever since Rita went overboard "comforting" John right after his father's death, I've had it in for this once-loveable relationship. What made this work so well was MPG's raised eyebrows after her little tirade. I mean, here's a guy being straightforward, telling her he still wants to be friends. It's clear he doesn't hate her and isn't mad at her--hell, he seems to really like and care about her--so he makes an effort to get that across to her. What does she do? She bites his head off. What can the guy do but say, OK and not fight with her? And the raised eyebrows, the resignation, just summed it up perfectly. After all, she's mad at him because he couldn't be what she wanted him to be. That's way unfair. Why bother with someone like that?

ALAN: I didn't read it quite the same way. I'm not Rita's biggest fan, but I think she had a point. First, John was the one doing the dumping, so it's not as big a deal for him to do the Let's Be Friends speech. Second, she's right; post-romantic friendships are a dicey proposition. Her idea of just trying to stay professional and respectful may be the best they can hope for -- and the approach I hope the writers take by easing up on this duo's scenes together.

The bit at the beginning where Rita, Connie and Andy all thought John was saying "Die, you dumb bitch" was very funny, by the way.

CONNIE DEAREST

AMANDA: Dennis Franz blew me away in the final scene. He said nothing while standing there watching Theo take "mommy" over to the cookie table, but what I heard him saying inside his head with a broken voice was, "Oh, Sylvia, I do miss you. Is this all OK with you?" I didn't get that he was doubting his arrangement with Connie or his feelings for her (too bad), but rather he was just feeling mournful over letting Sylvia go so completely. It's as if he's confronting a new milestone in his grieving process and is sort of struggling with it. I hope that's what was intended--it was very touching. I'm pleased that Connie isn't being made out this week to be a hag about these things. It's very cool that she's OK with Andy clearing things up and doing what he needs to do to be comfortable with everything. Nothing worse than a woman feeling threatened and jealous (like Rita, who's jealous of John's grief and selfishly angry over the fact that he won't share it with her. She *should* be concerned about him rather than herself); Connie doesn't feel any of that where Sylvia is concerned and that suits her so very well. It's just what you'd expect out of this supremely confident woman they've crafted. Now, if *all* the people who write Connie will stay on this track, things just might be OK. One more request re: Andy and Connie: can we please see them kicking ass together on a case again? Remember that? It was the reason we all thought they had such great chemistry.

ALAN: Okay, this one bugged me. Theo's confusion is a genuine blended family issue, but it seemed to come out of nowhere, especially when Theo called Connie "Mommy" at the end. It's just not plausible that he's been referring to her as his mother in school long enough to confuse the teacher, yet he hasn't done it once in front of Connie or Andy before now.

Austin Majors remains a sweetheart, however. Loved the alphabet play. And Dennis Franz was right on the money in the final scene; no need for dialogue to explain Andy's conflicted emotions.

QUICK HITS

(You'll have to guess who wrote what here, though one of them is pretty obvious.)

*I loved those Marine cops. One line from that guy "Stand up, Marine," and my heart was melting.

*Mike Post, closet Pink Floyd fan? The transition music into the scene where Greg and Baldwin arrived at their crime scene sounded an awful lot like "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2," didn't it?

*So this rich gay guy has a fake Greek statue in his apartment, OK, but what's up the FIG LEAF??? I guess they're not allowed to do full frontal STATUE nudity on TV, either. That cracked me all up. I mean, if you're going to pretend you have taste and you're going to own one of those things, you're sure as hell not going to have one with a damn fig leaf! Of course, his entire apartment looked as if it had been decorated by Michael Jackson (who, strangely enough, also likes to have young men sitting around his place watching TV in their underwear....hmmmm....coincidence? You tell me.)

*So it's the day after John and Rita split, right? And, therefore, the day after last week's episode? Shouldn't Baldwin still be somewhat out of sorts over killing that kid ? (And, yes, the show does this trick quite often: having two episodes take place on consecutive days, but only acknowledging that for certain characters. Doesn't mean it's a good tradition.)

*Hank!

*Seems to us that Theo's teacher would have known Connie wasn't his real Mom. After all, he hasn't been calling her Mommy all that long.

*Isn't Theo a little old to be doing alphabet plays? They should be doing the lives of the Presidents or the lives of ants or something by his age.

*Cat Call: Connie's hair looked fabulous. PJohn needs a hair cut.

*Valerie and Baldwin: I didn't get to say it last week since I was attending to other matters, but I thought the final scene with them was very nice. This week, I'm still hanging in there with these two. Valerie has changed for the better--her character, it seems, has been redrawn a bit, and it's a major improvement. At some point they're going to half to talk about the baby they never had.

*Nice to see a courtroom in the show. It's been a while.

THE GUEST STARS

Paula Malcolmson as Carla Whitford, Olga Vilner as Natalia Pardee, Patrick Gallo as Roy Pardee, Brad Hunt as Jerry Wells, Michael Raysses as Howard Collins, Angela Sargent as judge, Andy Powers as Justin Tangier, Josh Stamberg as Chris Dunwoody, Rocco Sisto as Remy Blanchard, Scott Peat as Randall Stokes, Gareth Williams as Kurt Pardee, Ana B. Gabriel as Janice Muscarelli, Joseph Carberry as uniform no. 25 and Andy Klaiman as ESU no. 26.

LINES OF THE WEEK

Greg placing his hands on the half-wit's pulse points: "I spent two years in the FBI's lie detection unit."

John reading something within earshot of Rita: "Die you dumb bitch"

Andy, vis a vis John and Rita: "It's gonna hit the fan."
Connie: "Let's think positive."
Andy: "You can light your incense and say 'Ohm,' but trust me... the fan."

NEXT WEEK

What's this? A rerun? Is ABC allowed to rerun "Blue" anymore? Whatever the reason, next week's showing of "Meat Me in the Park" is the first in-season "Blue" repeat in quite some time. In two weeks, we're back with original episodes for the rest of the season, as Baby MacDowell's grandparents show up and Andy looks into a fraud ring. And Amanda should be back to solo reviews.

Thanks for reading,

Amanda & Alan