Mrs. Garza isn't much help; she continually rebuffs any hint that Ricardo might have been abusing Crystal, or that her pumped-up husband is using steroids. Stu, desperate to keep Missing Persons from taking over the case, begs Lt. Fancy for more time. Fancy agrees, but privately asks Andy and Bobby to keep a close eye on the increasingly frazzled Stu.
Stu finally decides to go home and catch a little sleep, and Andy and Bobby both take off after studying a few more leads -- which leaves Vince Gotelli as the senior detective around when a Mrs. Valentin comes in to report that she saw a local drug dealer, Nene Lopez, leave the pizzeria with Crystal Garza under his arm. Rather than call Stu back in, Vince has Lopez picked up, and gives him a savage beating.
One problem: Nene says he was at a Knicks game the night of the kidnapping, and Vince starts to think he might have smacked around the wrong guy. By this point, Andy and Bobby are coming back in for the day tour, and Vince begs them to help get him out of this jam. They quickly deduce that Nene likely isn't their man, and get Mrs. Valentin to admit that she just turned him in as revenge for selling drugs to her sister. To keep Lopez from filing brutality charges against Gotelli, Andy lies about how they have evidence against him for dealing, and then conveniently leaves the interview room window open, and Nene uncuffed. Mercifully, Nene takes the bait and bolts out the window.
Stu comes back into work with some new information about another child of Mrs. Garza's who lives with her grandmother, but before they can act on it, Fancy gives them a sobering report: a witness spotted Ricardo Garza throwing a black satchel into the East River. Police divers scour for it, and, as the detectives all feared, it contains the tiny corpse of Crystal Garza -- and a barbell weight to make sure it sank to the bottom.
Ricardo and Elise Garza are brought in and put in separate interview rooms. No one's sure whether Mrs. Garza had anything to do with the murder, and they decide to withhold the news of Crystal's death from her until they know for sure. Stu brings up the information about her older son, and gets her to admit that Ricardo (who's not the boy's father) occasionally hit him, which is why she left him in her grandmother's care. She continues to maintain that Ricardo never touched Crystal. By then, they've realized that she wasn't involved, and Bobby breaks the horrible news to her. She breaks down sobbing, and wonders if she could have saved her baby by admitting sooner that Ricardo could be violent, but Bobby tries to assure her that Crystal was likely dead long before the missing persons report was ever filed.
While Bobby stays with Mrs. Garza to offer comfort, Andy and Stu take a final go at Ricardo. They tell him they know he dumped the body in the river, that he used to hit Elise's son, and that he was always jealous of how much attention his wife lavished on Crystal. Ricardo tries to explain that he only hit the baby once out of frustration, and that he went through the kidnapping charade to keep his wife from hating him forever. After getting Ricardo to start on his statement, Stu goes to confirm to a devastated Mrs. Garza that her husband really did kill her baby.
That night, Bobby decides to pay another visit to Henry, who only lets him after Bobby mentions that he now has the passkey. Henry, having realized that the building's too heavily mortgaged to be worth anything, scornfully tells Bobby that he can keep it, and laments that all the time he spent looking after his mother in her dying days was wasted. He starts rambling about how he could get shot through the peephole in his door any day, and Bobby, spotting the stack of sports pages and racing forms on the living room floor, figures out why Mrs. Coffield would have taken out so many loans on the building: to help pay off her son's gambling debts.
The next night, Bobby gets a page to return to his building, and Brooklyn homicide Det. Savino shows him Sara Kiraly -- shot in the head through her peephole. Henry, living in the building rent-free as a condition of his mother's will, is the one who reported the body, and Bobby, remembering Henry's earlier comments about his own peephole, angrily suggests that Henry knows who did this. Savino tells Bobby to cool off and let him handle the case.
James finds himself with an extra mug, and decides to give it to Gina Colon, the pretty new Anti-Crime PAA. She seems flattered by the gift, and figures that James has to win, since Vince couldn't possibly be "as good a guy." She offers to toast him with her new mug after his inevitable victory.
Andy finds himself the subject of some unwanted attention by new squad PAA Geri Turner, who starts blatantly flirting with him -- at one point, she even adjusts his shirt collar without permission.
Andy and Greg have the first weigh-in for their dieting competition; Greg, at 5'7" or so, weighs 196 1/2 lbs., while Andy, three inches taller, weighs a husky 221. Andy gets too busy with the Garza kidnapping to think much about food, but Medavoy can't help but obsess. He works out on the property room stairmaster -- with a little friendly assistance from Officer Abby Sullivan -- but the abundant supply of donuts and Vince's canolis eventually gets to him, and he walks into the squadroom at one point with a suspicious white powder covering his cheek.
I had thought that "NYPD Blue" stopped surprising me a long time ago. Even the best episodes ("The Backboard Jungle," the arc involving Andy Jr's death) moved along a fairly predictable path in terms of plotting -- it was the execution and the acting that kept me hooked.
Well, if "Thick Stu" did nothing else -- and it did a lot, actually -- it convinced me that maybe the show still holds a few surprises for me. For the first time in a long time, I couldn't watch the first ten minutes and figure out exactly what was going to happen in the next fifty, and in at least on case, I was completely thrown for a loop. Very cool.
The show actually reminded me a lot of the dense plotting of the first season, when there seemed to be more twists and turns to every plot, and guest characters had lives of their own beyond their interaction with the 15th squad detectives. A lot of storylines lately have time only for the shortest route from Point A (the crime) to Point B (getting the perp to give a statement), but the main plot of "Thick Stu" took the time for a nifty detour about Vince Gotelli manhandling a guy who, as it turns out, had absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand, which managed to work in some detailed characterization for Vince, Nene, and Mrs. Valentin, all at the same time. I watch the show as much -- if not moreso -- for the characters (even the guest stars) as for the police procedurals. Here, we got both in spades.
The actual mechanics of the Garza case were interesting, particularly the different motivations for the three detectives involved. Stu didn't want to see his case get taken away, but couldn't stay focused enough to do it on his own; Bobby, distracted by other things, seemed primarily concerned with not messing with Stu's turf; and Andy, who had already faced the loss of one child, just cared about finding this one alive, regardless of whose case it was. And, of course, once they found little Crystal's body in that duffel bag, nothing mattered to any of them but finding out who did it and why. And though they eventually did get Garza to confess, knowing that an infant is dead only because her father was jealous of the attention she was getting can't really give any of the detectives the kind of closure they might need. This was powerful, heart-wrenching stuff -- "Blue" at its best.
Bobby's apartment building is already starting to pay big story dividends. At first, I had to wonder why Bobby was flying off the handle so easily at Henry, until I remembered that he's a much better detective than me and had figured out early on that Henry was going to land him in a world of trouble. The writers are certainly doing a great job of making him despicable -- about a second before Bobby delivered his immortal "You must get hit a lot, right?" quip, I was harboring my own desires to, in the pithy words of Vince Gotelli, "beat this guy's balls in."
What really hooked me into this story, though, was the last scene of the night. By that point, I had two things sure in my head: 1)Henry was going to get whacked by his bookie, and 2)Once Bobby broke up with Diane, he would start seeing Sara Kiraly. 0 for 2 for me, so far, which I consider to be a good thing. :)
That last scene also featured a great tie-in back to the main story, as Det. Savino had to assert his authority on this case. With the kidnapping, Bobby didn't have a personal stake, and deferred to Stu; here, he knew all the parties involved and waded in with both feet, only to be not so politely told that it wasn't his case.
Greg's diet served its purpose here: to provide a few moments of relief from the increasing bleakness of the main story. So did, for the most part, James' typically unimaginative campaign for delegate. "Honest, hardworking, and interested"? Could James possibly be more of a dullard? :) Maybe he should go back to his reckless ways from his days as John Kelly's student; I think "Flying James Martinez to your rescue" would've been a much better slogan. :)
As for Bobby and Diane's breakup (for now, at least), I for one am breathing a sigh of relief. I talked above about how there's so rarely time for any twists or turns in the main storylines, and that's because it seems as if X amount of time in each episode has to be taken up on all the romance plotlines, which are, for me at least, the weakest part of the series. Without having to spend time at the end of each episode with a Bobby-Diane domestic scene, the writers can get a little more imaginative with their other stories.
To sum up, if this is the kind of thing that the rest of season four has in store, I am very excited.
"'Nay-Nay?' He should be collared just for that."
---Andy on the pronunciation of Nene Lopez's name
In case you're wondering how this review is both on-time and still the same length as usual, I've decided to try to write as much as possible on Tuesday night before hitting the sack, and the Yankees' win over the Braves tonight has me too keyed up to sleep. :) Just don't expect it this early every week.
Also, I have a favor to ask all of you. Sunday night, CBS is premiering a new crime drama called "EZ Streets," which stars a bunch of Bochco alums: Ken Olin (Harry Garibaldi on "Hill Street Blues"), Joe Pantoliano (who played Fancy's snitch Vinnie Greco several times during season two of "Blue"), Jason Gedrick (last year's defendant Neal Avedon on "Murder One"), and Debrah Farentino (the girlfriend on "Hooperman" and John Kelly's steady near the end of the first season of "Blue").
I first saw this show back in June, when CBS sent out the pilots of all their new fall shows, and my first reaction was, "My god, this is brilliant, but it's going to get canceled in a heartbeat." Simply put, the complicated plots and somewhat dark characterization on "EZ Streets" (which is kind of a cross between "Wiseguy" and the first season of "NYPD Blue") is likely going to be too much effort for the average TV viewer to want to watch. I think it's worth it, and I also think a lot of "Blue" fans will probably like it if they give it a chance and are prepared to pay attention. This is, in my opinion, the best drama series to hit the airwaves since "Blue" and I would hate to see it go down the tubes because it's "too good for TV," so if you happen to be home on Sunday night at 9 p.m. (8, Central and Mountain :)), maybe give it a chance. (After the special 2-hour premiere movie, it moves to its regular timeslot on Wednesday the 30th at 10 p.m., EST).
I don't ask for much, people -- and if you hate it, feel free to flame away. :)
See ya in the funny papers...