NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 14
A Remington Original

Story by David Milch & Bill Clark
Teleplay by Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Michael M. Robin

PLOT ONE: PORN TO BE BAD

Andy and Bobby pay a visit to a local junkyard, where the mutilated corpse of Antoinette Todd was dumped in the trunk of a car scheduled for compacting. Moose, the junkyard watchdog, apparently tussled with the man who hid the body, and the yard manager got a plate number from the getaway car, which happens to belong to Todd's boyfriend Tim Dolan, who reported it stolen three days ago.

Dolan seems too genuinely grief-stricken to be the killer, but mentions that Antoinette was being harassed at the bar where she worked by a strange customer with coke-bottle glasses. Meanwhile, a crackhead named Jeremy Monk gets picked up for using Todd's credit card, which he says he picked up out of a trash can after seeing it dumped there - by a guy with coke-bottle glasss. Sure enough, the brown paper bag that Monk described is still in the trash can, and while the detectives are sifting through it, Monk spots their vision-impaired suspect, a nervous sort named Mel Lentz.

Mel, who has a dog bite on his hand, plays the dumb innocent in interrogation, and even with the statements of the junkyard manager, the bartender who used to work with Todd, and Monk, ADA Cohen says it's still not enough to get an indictment from the grand jury. Andy settles for a search warrant for Lentz's apartment, where the detectives find a body bag with some blonde hairs inside and an extensive porn collection, including a shrine to Lentz's three favorite actresses, one of whom bears a very superficial resemblance to Todd.

With the body bag also useless as evidence (it was found in a trash can outside the building), the detectives go in to secure a confession. Andy berates Lentz with his own interpretation of how things happened, but spells it out in such a way that Lentz sounds like a complete pervert. An angry Lentz declares, "I want to say it the way I want to say it; not the way he makes it sound," and starts writing a statement.

PLOT TWO: GREG AND STYMPY

Greg and James catch the strange murder of Sig Johnson, who was found in front of his apartment building with his head caved in so badly that Greg comments "it was raining buses last night." Mrs. Johnson and her neighbor, Carol Buono, explain that Sig went to the local bar the night before in an attempt to get a refund for a faulty air conditioner he bought from a con man named Stympy Powell. Mrs. Buono says she didn't hear anything because there was a lot of arguing in the building that night, though none from her apartment.

Powell, his body riddled with bruises and cuts from a beating he apparently received at the hands of Sig Johnson, claims that he spent the night with his girlfriend, an aging hooker named Millie Banks. Millie's not particularly fond of Stympy at the moment, since he just stole her CD collection, but she admits that he did spend the night.

Medavoy and Martinez are back at square one until a uniformed cop finds a typewriter caked with blood in a dumpster near the building, which looks like the murder weapon. Returning to recanvas the building, the detectives meet Mrs. Buono's husband Frank, and find enough inconsistencies between his account of the previous evening and his wife's to merit bringing them both in for questioning. While interviewing Mrs. Buono, James unveils the typewriter, which prompts her to cry "God help us!" When she becomes uncommunicative, James picks it up and brings it into the room where Greg is talking to Mr. Buono, who agrees to talk so long as his wife doesn't go to jail. As he explains it, his wife made extra money typing legal briefs, but her tendency to ignore her wifely duties in favor of the part-time job started to get to him, and when he arrived home that night to find dinner uncooked and her pecking away at the keyboard, he got so mad that he carried the machine up to the roof and flung it to the ground, not even realizing that his friend Sig was walking below. "I'm such an asshole," he cries.

PLOT THREE: BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP

The apartment building Bobby inherited is still giving him headaches. Edith Murphy, a senior citizen whose rent controlled apartment lets her live there for under $200 a month, kept making angry demands to have her apartment painted, and the only person Simone could find to do the job is Henry Coffield, who, typically, complains all the way. He tries to explain to Bobby that once Edith "established a beachhead" by getting Henry in the room to paint, she started ordering him to perform all her household tasks. Bobby doesn't have much patience for the building in general and Henry in particular, but reluctantly agrees to speak to Mrs. Murphy on Henry's behalf.

Bobby's attempt to play mediator starts off poorly, as Henry and Edith keep harping on each other. Schoolmarmish Edith suggests that all of Henry's complaints are a ruse to fish for compliments and thanks, and, after a moment, proceeds to thank him for the work he's doing and the company he's providing. Henry, taken aback by the praise, seems appeased, and Edith invites the two men to stay for tea. Bobby accepts, but the minute Edith leaves the room, Henry mutters that her tea stinks, and Bobby sighs, realizing that his hassles with the building are far from over.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

Gina returns to work for the first time since the slashing incident. James deflates Greg's plan to decorate her desk with balloons, suggesting everyone remain low-key. All the detectives greet Gina warmly, but she has trouble taking her own mind off the scar - especially after she catches Henry staring at her when he visits the squadroom. But having made it through the first day in relative good shape, Gina's glad to go home with James, who has special plans for their evening.

Diane's therapy is working out well so far, though her attempts to involve the family have been getting mixed results (Doug shows up but isn't talkative, while her mom misses most of the sessions). Meanwhile, she's trying to broaden her relationship with Bobby to realms other than the bedroom, and has taken up cooking - though both she and Bobby can't help but consider a quickie in the squad shower while getting ready to go off-shift.


One of the things I love about "Blue" is the way it ignores the hype of network "sweeps" months. Where other shows feel the need to pack their episodes in November, February, and May with all sorts of sensational plots and stunt guest stars, "Blue" goes about its usual business, telling stories when their time is right and not before. So while the show may try the occasional action-packed story arc (Diane and Jimmy Liery), it could fall during December and January, while February can sometimes find itself the home to a fairly routine but extremely well-crafted episode like "A Remington Original."

"Blue" has never had particularly original or surprising stories. We know that, and most of us don't watch the show looking for them, because often, when the show tries to be daring - as was the case with Jimmy Liery - it doesn't work. What the show does well, better than almost any other show on the tube, is characterisation and conflict. The recent "Upstairs, Downstairs" sparked not because we didn't know that Mike Zorzi was the killer - which was pretty obvious from the first commercial break on - but because of the heated confrontations between the detectives and the uniformed cops. The last episode, "Tom and Geri," clicked with a lot of people for the sympathetic and well-rounded portrayal of Geri Turner.

"A Remington Original" worked a lot like that. Just looking at the summary above, it sounds a lot like the same-old, same-old, but the usual plots were spiced up with some great characters and a couple of unique spins on the formula. This was straight-up, meat-and-potatoes "Blue," and a very fine example of it.

Take the murder of Antoinette Todd, which featured featured several fun characters (my favorite was Dennis Kehoe, the pooch-loving junkyard manager), plus two fairly nifty interviews. The first was with her boyfriend Tim, who seemed an obvious suspect to me at first because I didn't think he reacted emotionally enough to the news of her murder. But then he did start sobbing, and Andy, realizing that the man's defenses were seemingly down, very quickly lobbed his "Did you kill her?" question, and the fact that Tim barely even noticed the question confirmed to both Andy and the audience that he was innocent. Nicely done.

Even better was the interrogation of Mel Lentz, which was one of the strongest of the season, even if my vague understanding of criminal law (accumulated through a lot of TV watching and one criminology class at Penn) had me thinking that Cohen certainly had enough for an indictment, if not a conviction, without that statement. We've seen Andy and Bobby intimidate a suspect with physical violence. We've seen them scare them with the threat of the death penalty. We've seen them con them into writing a statement so they can put things in a more positive light for the jury. All these gambits have been used multiple times. But Nicholas Wootton put an interesting spin on it here. Lentz wasn't confessing because he was going for a lesser sentence; he just didn't want the jury to look at him solely through Andy's eyes. And Smits and Franz's timing on their good-cop, bad-cop routine (with them actually swapping roles a few times) was impeccable.

Meanwhile, the Greg and James story was worth watching if for no other reason than for their interview with the caustic Millie, who was wonderfully portrayed by Grace Zabriskie. Usually, I don't like it when the show recycles a guest actor in a new role (she played the mother of a murder suspect near the end of season two), but I can't imagine anyone but Zabriskie doing justice to that scene, which was a howl from start to finish. All I can say is that Millie and Stympy deserve each other. :)

The rest of the case wasn't too shabby, even if I had Mrs. Buono pegged as being involved from the start, since Roger Ebert's good old law of economy of characters in screenwriting says that any character in a murder mystery who has a lot of dialogue for seemingly no reason has to be the killer. What I liked was the fact that this *wasn't* really a murder, just a marital spat gone horribly and accidentally awry. (And I'm wondering what, if any, charge Frank Buono would receive. Is this involuntary manslaughter? Reckless endangerment? Just an accident?)

The Henry/Edith subplot was a pleasant surprise, especially after I had read the episode blurb, which said "Simone puts Henry to work at the tenement, with amusing results." The edgy conflict between Bobby and Henry is still my favorite material of the season - I don't think Jimmy Smits has ever been better than he was in Bobby's final interrogation of Henry - and I wasn't looking forward to seeing Henry turned into the butt of a joke.

The way that scene turned out, it almost felt like we were watching another show, but for once, we were watching a *good* show. I can just imagine Henry and Edith constantly picking at each other and making up, week in and week out, while glamour boys like Bobby solve murders and have passionate sex scenes. And while Henry was a source for comedy, it felt natural here, largely because of the good rapport between Willie Garson and Maxine Stuart, who played Edith. I doubt I'd want this to become an ongoing subplot, but it was a refreshing change of pace, and nice to see Bobby, so cool in the room with a cold-blooded murder suspect, be so flustered trying to mediate between a crotchety old lady and a wall-eyed weasel.

I'm a little antsy about the rate at which Gina's story is unfolding. They're featuring it just prominently enough for us to know that it's a big deal, but the individual scenes are usually so brief that Lourdes Benedicto has to convey most of Gina's fear and anxiety through a series of glances. So far, she's doing a wonderful job, but I hope at some point we get to see Gina really open up.

I'm very happy, meanwhile, with the amount of screentime devoted to Diane's therapy this week. While I'd like to see Kim Delaney more than she was on this week(a regular partnership between Rusell and Kirkendall might be a very good idea), Diane's childhood traumas don't interest me enough to want to see more than a few minutes in an episode devoted to them. I have to admit, though, that the idea of Diane trying to become domesticated was pretty amusing - Bobby always struck me as the chef in that relationship.

Only two more episodes before the six-week hiatus (again, ABC is taking the show off temporarily to showcase a new drama called "The Practice"); if the next two are as good as the last batch has been, it's going to be a really long six weeks.

So what'd everybody else think?

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