NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 12,
These Old Bones
Written by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Donna Deitch
To skip straight down to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: BATTERED MOTHER'S SYNDROME

Diane gets whalloped with an emotional sledgehammer when she arrives at work, as Fancy calls her into his office and tells her that her father's been shot and killed. To make matters worse, it appears her brother Doug shot him.

Bobby doesn't have a chance to comfort her because he's up, and the case is his to work. At the Russell's apartment, while Diane tries to comfort her mother and her brother, uniformed Officer Shannon runs things for him - a neighbor heard a gunshot, came to the door, and was greeted by Doug, who was holding a gun. Doug has freely confessed that he shot Mr. Russell, apparently to protect his mother from his abusive father. Diane recognizes the murder weapon as her backup service revolver, which she thought was sitting in a drawer in her apartment.

Back at the stationhouse, Diane pleads with Bobby to convince her brother to get a lawyer, and not take any official statements until then. He agrees, which puts him at odds with ADA Cohen, who says that the DA's office isn't apt to do Bobby any favors in light of the Stackhouse incident, and that if he suspects Bobby of any improprieties, he won't hesitate to bring charges.

In interrogation, Doug explains that he swiped Diane's gun after she gave him the keys to her apartment and gave it to his mother for protection. And while the rest of his story is shaky, he's adamant about two things: he shot his father and he doesn't want a lawyer.

When Mrs. Russell's story doesn't jibe with Doug's (they each claim the shooting took place in a different room), Bobby begins to suspect that Doug's covering for somebody, so he goes back to reinterview the neighbor. After a bit of pressure from Bobby, she admits the truth: she heard gunshots, ran out into the hallway, and saw Doug just coming into the building. He asked her to say that he was the shooter, and she went along because she respected Doug for trying to look after his mother, and for having helped her look after her now-deceased mother.

Meanwhile, Diane's getting increasingly shaky. Andy suggests she go to an AA meeting to clear her head, and she admits that she really needs a drink. Bobby's news about the true nature of the shooting puts her further on edge, and she insists on being the one to get her mother and Doug to tell the truth. She convinces her mother, who explains that Mr. Russell was threatening to smash her skull in with a beer bottle - a bottle that Diane glanced at and dismissed when she visited the apartment that morning - and she shot him without thinking. When confronted with his mother's confession, Doug admits the truth, too, but tells Diane that he still feels guilty as hell - he gave his mother Diane's gun in the hopes that she would eventually shoot the old man.

Bobby gives all the written statements to ADA Cohen and asks that Mrs. Russell not be put into the system unless a grand jury chose to indict her for manslaughter. Cohen is reluctant at first, but relents and tells Bobby, "Tell your girlfriend she can take her mother home."

Diane and Bobby help her mother into Diane's car, and Diane tells her the truth about her relationship with Bobby, news that the shell-shocked Mrs. Russell barely digests. Bobby tells Diane he'll call her in a few hours, and Diane drives her mother home to mourn.

PLOT TWO: ONE BIG TWISTED FAMILY

Andy has an an 8-year old case dropped in his lap when a Chandra Esposito visits the 15th squad at the start of the shift. Her husband Rickie has been beating her, and during the latest incident, he claimed he would kill her like he killed a young man named Sal Rivera, the son of a woman Rickie had been living with at the time.

Since Bobby's tied up with the Russell murder, Greg tags along as Sipowicz goes to interview Sal's mother. Both Mrs. Rivera and her daughter Margie seem surprised by the news that Sal may be dead - they assumed he just left town - but neither one seems particularly bothered by the possibility, either. According to Mrs. Rivera, the last time they saw Sal, he was helping Rickie with some renovations at Rickie's ex-wife's place.

The former Mrs. Esposito also seems undisturbed by the prospect of Sal's death. She does recall, however, that Rickie had been working on the cement for her backyard patio around the time Sal disappeared. Andy gets a court order to dig up the patio, and, after a false alarm involving some leftover barbecue remnants and a police dog, the search team finds a human skeleton buried in the backyard.

While Andy checks the dental records, Greg brings in Margie Rivera to identify some jewelry found on the corpse, which she confirms belonged to Sal. She also reveals that she knows why Rickie did it. Sal used to molest her, and when she found out that Sal was also having sex with their younger sister, she told Rickie about it - but because she was jealous of her sister, not because she was afraid for her.

As Andy and Greg go to pick up Rickie, they discover him attempting to hang his wife, an act they fortunately manage to stop in time. Rickie claims he "accidentally" hit Sal in the head with a baseball bat and then buried him out of fear.

MISCELLANEOUS THREAD:

Everyone's getting a little sick of Greg's constant presence at the precincthouse, including Greg, who's started looking for an apartment he can afford. Working the Esposito case with Andy gives Greg ample opportunity to view various residential neighborhoods throughout Manhattan.


Watching "These Old Bones," I noticed that my attention kept wandering quite a bit, usually a good sign that an episode's not up to snuff. But something kept nagging at me, and, since I had the spare time, I went back and watched most of it again, and found I enjoyed it a lot more the second time. If you have the time to do so, I'd recommend doing the same - "These Old Bones" seems to be an episode that grows better with age.

In part, I think it's because on the second viewing, I picked up on the thematic similarities between the two main stories. In both cases, we're dealing with mega-dysfunctional family units, but ones where most of the family members seem to deny that there's much of a problem at all. Margie Rivera bland attitude towards her sexual relationship with her brother, for example, is a near mirror of the unconcerned attitude about her husband's abusiveness that we saw from Mrs. Russell back in "One Big Happy Family."

In addition, certain reservations I had early on in the first viewing turned out to not be as bad as I thought, so I wasn't bothered by them at all the second time around. For instance, I was extremely annoyed by the idea that Fancy - who quite obviously knows what's going on between Simone and Russell - would let Bobby handle the case. I figured for sure it would lead to Bobby committing some sort of ethical breach to cover for her (as Cohen suspected), and didn't buy the set-up. As it turns out, Bobby did everything by the book - his request to Cohen at the end broke no rules, and would probably have been made by any of the detectives in the squad.

And Kim Delaney may have finally started to win me over. I still occasionally think "soap opera" when she's playing a particularly emotional scene, but here she was very convincing playing frazzled, confused, and grief-stricken. Especially effective was her confession to Andy that she really wanted a drink. That brief scene, considering their sponsor/sponsee relationship, was practically a given, but since Diane's alcoholism hasn't been touched upon since "Heavin' Can Wait," it was very welcome.

The rest of the storyline also worked quite well for me. For one thing, the fact that Doug would attempt to obfuscate things when it was a relatively clear-cut case of self-defense rang true to me, since not everyone out there is a legal scholar, even cops' families. In addition, the shot of Mr. Russell lying in a pool of his own blood in the living room struck me hard - we rarely see the actual bodies of the murder victims, and even when we do, it doesn't matter, since we don't know them. Here, we'd seen Mr. Rusell before - this was one of the family (albeit an extended family) lying on the carpet here. And even though I appreciated Delaney's performance, the person I felt the most empathy for was Bobby - maybe Jimmy Smits should request a minimum of dialogue for all his future roles, because the man does more with silence (in this case, the awkward pauses in his conversation with Andy in the lockerroom at the end) than most actors do with pages of monologues.

Moving on, the B-story, the long-unsolved death of Sal Rivera, was probably one of the best of the season. For one thing, the fact that nobody missed Sal, or had a reason to, kept things from getting formulaic - after a while, watching Andy get worked up with righteous fury over a murder gets a bit tired. Here, the mood was workmanlike, and until Andy and Greg rescued Mrs. Esposito, it seemed that the only good to come from this case was giving Greg an opportunity to get out of the precincthouse for once and see the sights, such as they were. In addition, Theresa Rebeck (turning in her second solid script in a row) added quite a bit of that "incidental color" I keep clamoring for, from Greg's apartment-hunting to Andy's brief discussion of his fish with the K-9 officer. And, wisely, they didn't bother showing the interrogation of Rickie Esposito - Andy gave us all the relevant information in his lockerroom chat with Bobby.

I'm rather tired, so I'll cut this review short. Some briefer comments:

See ya next week...


Back to the NYPD Blue homepage
Send Alan some e-mail