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

"Shear Stupidity"
Season 11 Episode 3
10/07/03
Teleplay by Bonnie Mark
Story by Bill Clark & Bonnie Mark
Directed by Tawnia McKiernan

Tough competing with the recall in California and the Cubs and Marlins, but this is the episode to do it. Lots of great stuff. If you missed it for one reason or the other, check local listings for the re-run (I think they're doing it Saturday in LA; not sure about other areas of CA.) I've got a little summary here followed by the review:

SUMMARY

THE TRIAL:

The jury is out after testimony from Fraker who plays innocent, makes the jury giggle with sympathy, and even gets misty on the stand. Valerie's case took a near hit with testimony from Hector Acevedo, the guy who beat up Tony's Mom. Tony threatened to kill him, and things looked a little scary when the cop who was in the room at the time was called to the stand. Det. Olivera lied for Tony on the stand, however. The tension of the trial is starting to weigh heavily on Greg and Andy who have a little set-to over it.

MISSING FAMILY MAN:

Andy and Junior get the case of a missing man whose wife comes in after not seeing him for a day or so. Andrea Miner swears up and down her husband Troy is a family man and isn't cheating. She also says he's not mixed up in drugs or anything else illegal. After a chat with Troy's thug of a cousin, Cory, the cops find out he is seeing a woman on the side and they pursue that angle until they get word Andrea was assaulted in her apartment by two men looking for Troy......

TORTURED TENANT:

Two guys are being sought for beating hell out of a barber shop owner in his apartment. Ron Szudarek got tied him up and burned. One of his barbers and best friend Bob Drazin tells them the landlord's sons are a couple of thugs who have been problematic. When Ron gets enough sense back to talk to Connie and Rita, they learn there was a third man involved who kept trying to talk the two bad guys out of hurting him. He also tells them his gambling-addicted employee is something less than his best friend, that he recently got evicted, owed him ten grand and may have thought he had a bunch of cash in the apartment. Bob is brought in and persuaded by Greg and Baldwin to admit he was looking for cash. They suggest to him that the guys he got to pull the job aren't the kind of respectable citizens who'd lie to protect him. Bob goes for it and tells them he found the thugs through a guy he met at the homeless shelter named--ta da!--Troy Miner.

Now Andy and Junior go back and get Cory again because they're sure he knows more about Troy. Cory admits he made up the story about the other woman and finally coughs up that he's letting Troy stay at his place to hide out from some bad guys. He also tells them Andrea knew about the plot to rob the barber shop owner. Andy and Junior go there and find Troy being held at gunpoint by the thugs. Troy is forced into a car and the bad guys take off with Andy and Junior in pursuit. They speed around several blocks until the bad guys finally crash with a cab. All three are arrested and/or hospitalized.

Andrea comes back in to check on the status of the search for her husband and learns from Andy what has happened. He tells her they know she held information back and that the only reason she's not locked up is because Andy thinks her kids need a Mom. He sends her home to them.

BABYSITTING TONY:

Tony remains stoic about the trial and spends the day stalking around with his usual bag of "Where we ats?" At the end of the day, Junior tells him a secret: they have cold beer at Mac's and they invented it just for Tony. Everyone goes, but the mood is no lighter for the beer or for Greg's endless stories about lame-o guys who cheat on their wives. Tony makes excuses and leaves. Valerie, Baldwin and Rita--who turns down a game of darts with Junior---follow suit leaving Connie and Andy to try to make Medavoy feel better after clearing the room. Andy and Greg make up after their little tiff.

RITA HANDLES TONY FURTHER:

Rita follows Tony out to his car and asks him for a ride home. He tells her he's planning to go for a walk along the river and she invites herself along. On the walk, Tony waxes sentimental about his career and Rita tells him to stop giving himself a eulogy. She offers him lots of optimistic platitudes but he's not buying. They walk glumly along.

REVIEW

A really solid show from one of my favorite guest directors. Also, a very interesting script from a new name in the writer's pen!

I think nearly every scene of this show worked one one level or another except the last one. Rita is way too obvious. Whereas it was all a little endearing last week, the whole thing seemed forced and awkward this time around. I get the sense the actors are telegraphing the whole story here. I could be way off on that because I don't know the coming story, but it sure seems as if these two will explore a little romance in the not too distant future. I'm not opposed to that--given all the givens--but I do miss the days when the on-screen pairings were rife with passion. I guess they'll never top the natural chemistry between Smits and Delaney or, sadly, the sexy, more mature way Bobby and Diane got together. But, I'm starting at the end, and I didn't mean to....

THE TRIAL:

I don't get the testimony of Det. Olivera. If Hector's testimony was supposed to create a lot of tension that would have later been relieved with Olivera's lie under oath, it missed. Maybe something was cut? I can't imagine a jury in America today not being able to comfortably justify a cop making some sort of threat against a convicted thug who had beat up his elderly mother for revenge. It's not as if Tony left the guy with his eyes swollen shut, and the jury could easily dismiss Hector's (Liar's) claim that Tony threatened his life. And if his testimony doesn't sell in terms of TV drama, then Olivera's sure won't.

Fraker's little performance was, on the other hand, fantastic. It was maddening to see this slimeball be so charming and boyish and--aacckk--likeable. I didn't quite buy the jury giggling at his comment--it wasn't that funny and they're considering some pretty serious issues--but the point was made that those folks rather like him. Here's where Olivera's testimony may have worked: in contrast to Fraker's peanuts and Cracker Jack style on the stand, she looked like the Dark Princess. I can see a jury going for him over her any day. As for the TV audience, I don't think that contrast was made quite so clear. Anyway, we're on the hook for a verdict next week. If the jury likes Fraker so much......

MISSING MAN/BURNED BARBER:

Let's all give a cheer for the best cop story we've had in ages. It was fast-paced, all twisted up and held my interest throughout. It's been a while since one of these stories hasn't seemed like so much filler in between the Days of Our Heroes' Lives, and that was a truly good thing.

The guest actors--as always--were outstanding. Whoever's hiring these folks has got the goods for picking talent, no question. Page Kennedy (Cory) and Nicki Micheaux (Andrea) were particularly good, as was the guy who played the smoking neighbor, Mark Arnott.

The bit about the guy who got busted with his Marlboros was easily my favorite scene. It was a little bit of light injected perfectly into the story. And it gave us the sense of the power cops have over us mere mortals. Here's the nicest guy in the world with a tiny little secret, but the second the cops approach him, he's automatically hanging himself on it. All he's done is sneak a smoke behind his wife's back, but he's got guilt stamped on his forehead and he's practically tossing a rope over the rafters. Stupidly, he tries to hide his evil-doing, but, since we all know that bees, dogs and cops can smell fear, they circle him. Junior asks one casual question, and BAM! out pops the guy's confession. Beautifully done! The whole thing reminded me of the time my Dad was driving the family out west for a summer holiday. He's flying through South Dakota or some damn place going 90 in the Galaxy 500 and a cop pulls on to the highway behind him. He freaks out, starts swearing under his breath and pulls over. We three kids make matters worse by squeaking from the backseat: "Is he gonna 'rrestchoo, Daddy?" The cop, in all his shiny finery, strode up to the window and said, "Can I help you?" My dad was flabbergasted. "Help me? Uh....I thought you wanted me..." The cop smiled with all his teeth, "No sir, I'm just headed up to Al's Oasis for a burger." The cop had never even turned his lights on. We giggled all the way to Hill City and boy was Dad's face red. But I digress....

I loved the scene in the hospital as well, where the cranky burned guy is giving Connie shit. That seemed very real to me. And Greg and Baldwin working Bob the barber was another highlight. Medavoy was especially good, and I always like that. You may recall what a truly great team these two mismatched cops can be--it's been a while since anyone has bothered to play off their chemistry and natural tension in a script. While this wasn't the kind of treatment these two used to get back in the Days of David, it was pretty good.

I was, however, left a little disappointed by the argument Medavoy and Sipowicz had. There was so much room for fun there, but it's as if the whole thing stopped just short of being really dynamite. The trial is, undoubtedly, causing quite a bit of tension in the squad room. I think they're trying to convey that, but they're missing the mark. Tonight was a good step in that direction, but didn't go far enough. The tension needs to be present all the time, slowly burning in the back of every scene, then when Andy snaps at Greg and Greg fires back, it all falls into place correctly and it's not just Andy On The Rag Again. It would become, instead, the kind of fight where you're rooting for everyone, and when Connie breaks it up (or Junior if it had become a little more physical), the rage would then diffuse quickly and settle back into an undercurrent of tension that carries us into next week's verdict. I think it's all about depth, again.

Two other scenes that stand out: First, the little one where we play catch-up on the cases and set the stage for new action. Junior and Andy are back from one place, Connie and Rita are heading out to another and Greg and Baldwin are reporting on an interview they've done. Everyone is moving, lots of necessary information is being relayed, phones are ringing, Junior's pager is going off, Andy drops some flakes on the fish, etc. It was a very nice switch from the usual casual sauntering of Tony into a room full of sleepy desk jockeys. Sort of like the old days when more than eight people worked in the 15th. It also reminded me of the kind of scene we used to see a lot that I sort of miss: those wordless ones where we get some great piece of music going and we see the action rather than hear about it. It's been several seasons since we've seen one of those great transition scenes.

Second, the car chase. I think it must be hard not make these look cheesy, but they never do on Blue. The bit about getting into the cars may have gone a little faster than it might have in real life, but the chase itself seemed genuine enough, and the length of it was just about right. Lots of action to keep your eyes glued to the screen and the reaction to the crash from inside Andy and Junior's car was great, too. Very real.

Before I leave off for the Quick Hits, I have two notes--maybe three--about the bar scene. I thought it was a great idea to have them all get together after the long day, but felt that if the tension and stress from the trial had been more present throughout, it would have worked better. Since the argument between Greg and Andy earlier didn't have much teeth, the make-up scene in the bar fell a little flat. And I couldn't help feeling that this is not a group of folks who hang out a lot together as pals. Bochco & Co. have spent so much time over the past few years developing the romantic liaisons between these folks that A) we hardly ever get to see them interact as friends, which is just plain weird and B) there are a few too many giant elephants in the room. On friendship: How is it we don't see more of the kind of stuff like the Corn Nuts scene? Or Greg watching Andy's dog or feeding the fish, or worrying for two seconds over his kids and having someone say something friendly? Or someone with a cold? Think about the people you work with: I'd guess you know their lives fairly well and consider your co-workers your friends. It would add a lot to weave that kind of relationship back into things in this show. In the absence of that, maybe the bar scene might have worked better if there had been thirty-seconds or so of friendship conveyed through short-hand: starting the scene, for example, with the tail end of a story from Junior or Baldwin that has everyone laughing, and at the same time, some sort of small exchange between Valerie and Connie about the kids or some playful remark on Rita's new hair, and *then* Greg's story brings everything to a screeching halt. That would have served two of our purposes: It would have established a kind of comfortable feeling of friendship for everyone (Tony excepted; he needs to remain glum) and it would have added more punch to Greg's continuing battle against being socially inept. Another nice contrasting dimension to this scene would have been to have Valerie put her hand on Tony's shoulder at some point as she's walking over to chat with someone else and tell him quietly not to worry too much. Her presence seemed a tad awkward with no mention of the trial, and that wasn't necessary. Tony's ill-ease was plain enough.

QUICK HITS:

*I get the feeling we're missing a scene: Greg and Baldwin interview the battleaxe. Not sure we needed to see it since Greg's description was so good, but it sounded like it might have been fun.

*Weeeell, John Jay asks Rita to play darts, does he? Hmmmmm. I'm guessing Dr. Honey Pants wouldn't have approved of that one tiny little bit.

*Still seems odd to me that Johnny and his girl doc haven't talked about the trial, but of course, that's what you get when you involve your main characters in relationships outside the usual realm of the TV show: hardly any time left over for non-cop scenes.

*I know Greg's story was supposed to be a wet blanket, but I thought it was damn interesting. It had the stink of a true story, like something one of Bill Clark's former fellow cops may have actually done, or maybe one of the perps they ran across. I thought it was pretty funny in a dark sort of way.

*The poor smokers of the world...banished from their homes and made to feel like criminals! That poor guy got busted by the cops, man! And right in front of his very own judge, jury and executioner! Let this be a lesson to all smokers: it's not worth it. Oh, and your hair stinks.

*Why did Tony and Rita's clothes have to match? They both look nice in brown, but hey...

*I got a little kick out the way Troy said his cousin's wife's name: Andrea. He pronounced it the way Andrea Thompson (Jill Kirkendall) does, and he did it in a not-so-friendly line. I doubt it was intentional, but it made me giggle a little. (He was the only one who said it ahn-DRAY-uh; everyone else said it ANN-dree-uh.)

*Haven't we seen that Any Haircut 7 dollars sign before? I remember because for some reason I got a lot of email about it. Go figure.

*So, Fraker's off the job for disability.... I still don't think he's in a wheelchair, but stranger things have happened. If he's gone from IAB, that may mean Martens will step up. That should be fun. Some have suggested Martens should replace Tony if Esai wanders off, but I think that would kill what we like best about Martens. His drama is that he's a good guy in a job most cops hate him for. If he's the Lieu, that goes away. It'd be more fun to go an entirely different direction with a new boss: the Anti-Fancy, but not a bad guy type like Denise Crosby. Keep thinking!

*Even though Vanessa Marcil has gone all J-Lo with her hair, her acting hasn't improved much, has it? Poor thing. At least she finally looked pretty (if unoriginal.) She looked so bad when she was on before, and she's really quite beautiful.

*Speaking of fashion, never let it be said that PJohn isn't on top of things. Tonight, he had the complex problem of wearing a shirt with both blue and pink in it. What does our Fashion Man do? He handles a blue book and seconds later picks up a pink message slip and hands it to Tony. Someone out here appreciates you, PJ!

*It's about damn time Andy fed the fish. It's a wonder the little guys aren't floating one eye up. I've wondered from time to time why someone hasn't killed Andy's fish. It's not like he hasn't pissed enough people off at one time or another. Someone could easily sneak over there and drop a twinkie in the tank or something....

*I think maybe Valerie isn't dressing appropriately for trial. The colors are drab enough, but it seems to me she ought have a little less chest showing. I don't mean cleavage, I mean actual neck and chest. She looks too casual.

*I loved it when Medavoy called Bob a dope. Great line delivered perfectly.

*If you're interested in a recent interview with Dennis Franz by an on-line magazine, here's a link to follow: http://www.electricrev.net/cdwatch1.html Scroll down a bit. It's short and not very revealing about the show, but a nice little read.

CAST LEGACIES:

The writer of our fine teleplay tonight, Bonnie Mark, comes from writing on Third Watch and H:LOTS. She's also penned for Michael Hayes.

Previously on NYPD Blue: Casey Siemaszko as Capt. Fraker; Daniel Benzali as Sinclair; William Dennis Hunt as Judge Byrnes; Robert LaSardo as Hector Acevedo; Vanessa Marcil as Det. Olivera.

Nicki Micheaux as Andrea Miner: What a fine job! She's got the goods. You've probably seen her on Six Feet Under or Soul Food (the series). She's also done Robbery Homicide Division, Dragnet, West Wing, ER, The Practice and was on Bochco's Philly once. And she did Blue in 98.

Don Stark as Bob Drazin: Another Blue vet from 97 and 98, and he was hired by Bochco before in Brooklyn South, Murder One and LA Law. He's also done Curb Your Enthusiasm, That 70s Show and Picket Fences.

Andreas Katsulas as Ron Szudarek: Hard to recognize him, but he's been in a ton of things. You might know him from recurring role on Stark Trek: Next Generation, but who knows what he looked like in that!

Mark Arnott as Dan Spolen The Smoker: This cutie's SB legacy includes Philly and Hill Street Blues. He was also on Cheers.

Page Kennedy as Cory Mack: Another fine piece of work. I think this guy has a great, big future. He's been on The Shield and Six Feet Under and was in the movie SWAT.

Dion Graham as Troy Miner: He's done L&O, Third Watch and H:LOTS.

Jacinto Riddick as TK (one of the thugs in the car chase): Also a vet of Third Watch and L&O.

LINES OF THE WEEK:

My favorites were uttered by Cory.

Explaining where Troy has been: "He's just out getting some new ass. If you were married to Andrea you would, too."

Trying to get back in Andy and JJ's good graces: "I didn't do a damn thing! You know, except lie to y'all earlier..."

NEXT WEEK:

A verdict, a snarling dog and a dead housewife. Coincidence? Watch and see.... And in two weeks, the return of Det. Diane Russell for what looks on paper like a couple of really good story arcs all woven together.

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See you next week!

Amanda Wilson