NYPD Blue: Summary/Review by Amanda Wilson aka Puedo01@aol.com
Episode 3, Season 6
"Numb and Number" 11/10/98
Teleplay by Leonard Gardner
Story by Steven Bochco, David Milch & Bill Clark
Directed by Mark Tinker
Numb...is what I am.
HEART BROKEN: Bobby's not doing any better, in fact he's worse. The show opens with the doctors realizing their aggressive drug therapy isn't doing much for Bobby, and they decide to move ahead with tests they hadn't wanted to do so soon. Those tests reveal bad news: Bobby needs a heart transplant. Jill, scheduled to work 4-11, arrives at the hospital in the morning to be with Diane.
Diane breaks the news to Bobby, who is agitated because the doctor hasn't talked to him yet. He's terrified, but reacts by trying to comfort her. Bobby has another dream. This time, he's walking into the locker room where Andy is leaving for the day. He's working the night shift, and Andy wants to know how long he'll be doing that. He says, "You tell me." They talk a bit more in the way you speak in dreams, and Andy finally asks him how he is. He says, "I never got over this heart bug." And says, "So far," and Bobby reluctantly agrees, then tells him unconvincingly, "Hey, I'm not throwing in any towels." Andy leaves, wishing him well and reminding him how much Diane loves him. Bobby stares longingly at his badge, closes his locker door, and runs his fingers over the name tag on it--the same tag he crossed the name Kelly out and wrote his own name on in his first day at the 1-5. He walks, slowly and frightened, into the squad room. It is lit with glow of sunset and it is completely empty. Bobby walks around his desk, leans into it, and loosens his tie. By now it seems the fear has left him. He awakens alone in his hospital room, sunset glowing outside his window.
NUMBER: The rest of the squad works the case of a Pakistani man who is found with his pants down in the park and stabbed to death, but they can't concentrate on it well. Andy is especially preoccupied with Bobby and with not knowing what's happening to him. He's at his boiling point and taking it out on everyone. He's rough with every witness/suspect, he yells at Martinez and Medavoy, and Sylvia. None of this anger is working for him, but knowing nothing else, he persists.
Medavoy and Martinez find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to physically place themselves between the seething Andy and a skel who's not been forthcoming with what she knows about the murder. Afterward, Andy threatens to kick some ass if they ever do it again. Medavoy is rattled, but Martinez goes to the mat and tells Andy he's a pain in the ass who doesn't know how to be concerned without making everyone else miserable. It's hard for Andy, but he takes that to heart, and later apologizes.
After getting this perspective, Andy, James and Greg combine to form a forceful investigation team. This case ends up being a vehicle to let them all three shine, and to give Andy a lesson he needs to learn. They use all the things they're best at doing to find out who killed the Pakistani. Andy struggles, but keeps his cool and tricks the new suspects into making mistakes that uncovers evidence key to the case. Medavoy gets to use one of his best qualities--his incessant droning--to keep the suspects in the house while Andy and James gather the evidence they need. Later, James uses his nice, mild-mannered approach to get one of the suspects to give up the other (and it's a daughter giving up her father, which can't be an easy thing). Andy's lesson learned comes when he goes back to the father, who's lawyered up by now, to get him to cough it all up. He walks into the room calmly, says virtually nothing, and out pops the story. Even Andy seems surprised. He's laid down his weapons, given up all his brashness, and he gets just what he wants. The way Bobby usually does it.
Later, Andy and Sylvia are at home. Andy says he can't understand why he made it through prostate cancer but Bobby's fate is so much more uncertain. Andy's been bad, but he survived; Bobby's good, but he may not. Sylvia tells Andy that all his anger, fear and guilt over the situation won't do anyone any good, least of all Bobby. She tells him the best way for him to show Bobby his love and support is to accept the fact that he can't make anything good happen for Bobby other than just being his friend. Sylvia prays.
This one is flawless. Let's begin with story, the framework for it all.
Bobby's illness has him terrified, but trying to keep a positive outlook. His battle is not only in his heart, but in his head, and he's scared he's going to lose them both. He tries to find himself in all the tubes and indignities with his sense of humor (see the LOW below), and he keeps trying by offering comfort to Diane, which is what he does best.
For Diane, it means she has to be strong in the face of the most terrifying thing she can imagine---a woman who has grown up as the victim of her own father's abuse has, as we all know from previous episodes, some serious trust and abandonment issues. She finally finds a man to trust, and now she's faced with the possibility that he will leave her. She has no control over this, and tries to control herself. Jill is there to support and comfort her. The evolving relationship between these two women is hopefully the tip of the iceberg of something very powerful. It's not fully there yet, but treated right, this relationship could be some very groundbreaking television. Tonight, they were just right. None of that mother-daughter crap; no hint of a mentor-pupil set up. They were just two whole people relating to each other evenly in a disastrous situation.
For Andy, the illness provides another of the lessons he's constantly having to learn. Watching Andy's inner struggles is what makes Blue, and what always has and always will make this a show about Andy Sipowicz. He begins by dealing with this incredible pain the only way Andy knows how--with anger. A man like Andy channels it all through anger because the rest of the emotions he feels overwhelm him. The real emotions he feels, fear, sorrow, sadness, doubt, and guilt are too unmanly, signs of weakness that he cannot abide. He feels threatened by these feelings and deals with the threat by roaring at it. (Ah...so many men are like this, no?) In the past, he's used alcohol to drown those icky feelings, and violence to try to scare them away. The alcohol is gone, and he'd use the violence if Martinez and Medavoy had let him. After Martinez uses the classic bully response on him (stand up and bark back), Andy simmers down and the window into himself which we've seen before begins to open again. (Sylvia has also stood up to him) He displays that introspection which is so hard for him to get to, and when he finally gives up the anger, his work just comes effortlessly.
Martinez and Medavoy, usually the bumbling two, prove themselves to be the calmest under this enormous pressure. Medavoy, though rattled like he always is, rolls up his sleeves and does what needs to be done. Martinez show us shades of the old James--not the real old James who puppied around after Kelly and even Andy--but the James of the last few seasons. He's the James who finally came into his own. He learned who he is, a smart guy who knows how to deal with people, and a damn nice guy using his that as a tool to get what he needs from a witness.
Story. That's just the best part for me.
But let's move on to the acting, which was also flawless. Dennis Franz and Kim Delaney showing why they've won Emmys. And Jimmy Smits, showing why he should have won several for this show. Again, Smits does it with the tools that are an actor's alone: His face and his voice. The writers give him the words, but Smits makes them so very real. When he was with the doctors, the sheer terror of it was evident on his face. He didn't need words to convey it. With one look, in the first scene, this is what you get: A young, strong, healthy man who has chosen a career as an authority figure stricken by something completely out of his control. Control is pretty much all we know of Bobby's life. He's always in control, and he's the one others turn to when they are out of control. But now, he's trying to hang on the steering wheel while his body careers in directions he can't anticipate. He's being betrayed by his own flesh, and he's terrified by that. And when he's got words to speak, he plays his voice like a master musician. When Bobby is trying to be funny at the most terrifying moment of his life, you can hear the sweet desire he has to make everything OK for everyone but you can also hear the fear that it will not be. It's almost childlike. And when he was "suffocating," I found myself taking deep breaths just to make sure I wasn't. Another great, subtle moment for this man was when Bobby got the news he'd need a transplant. The fear jumped back into his face, tightening every feature and widening his eyes, but the moment Bobby realizes Diane is coming unglued, he shifts back quickly into the calm, assuring Bobby he's always been for her. It's all in his face there (well, and his voice, too) and he makes this seamless transition in about one second. I think an actor has to be so totally connected to his character to make that happen so well.
The nuts and bolts. The dream thing again--not cheesy, but clearly a dream. And the sunset lighting in the dream squad room and again in the last hospital scene. I love that. It's the kind of detail you find in great works--the stuff you don't notice right away, unless you're looking for it like me (or perhaps you)--the kind of thing that sews it all up with nearly invisible stitching.
I should mention here, because I forgot to add it in the story part, that the murder case was a perfect showcase for all the best talents of each of our detectives. They found themselves in it and did really good police work.
Line of the Week: Bobby's getting a plastic urinal brought to him during his heart biopsy, and trying to be a brave little soldier during what he clearly fears will be one of the last moments of his life, he says: "All right, everybody close your eyes."