NYPD Blue, Season 3, Episode 2,
Torah! Torah! Torah!
Story by Theresa Rebeck & Bill Clark
Teleplay by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Donna Deitch
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PLOT ONE: BALLS TO THE WALL

Andy and Bobby investigate the stabbing murder of a young woman named Woothridge. Her brother Frank, who's retarded, was found by their parents standing over his sister's mutilated body. Mr. Woothridge is convinced his son did it, and that he should have gotten Frank out of the house sooner, as Frank has had violent outbursts before. However, interviews with Frank lead nowhere, and he gets cycled to Bellevue for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Stu Morrissey, a detective on the 4 to 12 shift at the 15, is interrogating the abusive husband of a dead woman for the third time. Lt. Fancy notices that the suspect leaves the room with bruises all over his face and orders Morrissey to leave the man alone and try a new tack - like looking for any kind of pattern that might fit the woman's death. Morrissey scoffs, but reluctantly goes down to records to check out all stabbing deaths of women in the area.

When Bobby discovers that Morrissey is investigating a similar murder, he and Diane offer to help pore over the records, and Bobby discovers that there've been a lot of recent stabbings of women who live in first floor apartments. Morrissey also finds a Stop and Frisk report of a man spotted wearing scuba gear in the vicinity of the first murder.

the gentleman in question, an intense young man named Squires, and after an initial interview are convinced he's their man. To gain some leverage, Bobby and Diane have a chat with Squires' landlord, with whom he's not especially popular, and Diane goads the man into tossing all of Squires' stuff out into the street, where they can legally pick it up.

Using a steamer trunk with mementos from the dead women as bait (he can't refer to it directly as he wasn't allowed to open it), Bobby cajoles Squires into confessing - it turns out that their man is one sick puppy who liked to murder/molest women with big "balls" (his pet name for breasts).

PLOT TWO: LARGE MOUTH ANDY

Sylvia takes her pregnancy test, and the results are positive - she's got a bun in the oven. She tells Andy at work but swears him to silence, a vow an ecstatic Andy has no trouble breaking as he proudly tells Bobby, then Fancy, then Diane. He asks each of them to keep their mouths shut, but when Sylvia drops by to take Andy to lunch (he's out on another case), the three of them all do incredibly poor jobs of concealing their knowledge.

Back home that night, Sylvia complains to Andy about his blabbiness - she figures they shouldn't have let anyone know until the end of the first trimester in case something bad happens to the baby. Andy's very embarrassed and offers to move out every once in a while to give Sylvia some space. She reassures him that she loves him very much and really wants this baby.

PLOT THREE: RAIDERS OF THE LOST SCROLLS

Medavoy and Russell get called in to investigate the theft of some torah scrolls from a Lubuvitch (the most devout of American Jewish sects) synagogue. The rabbis are non-plussed by the presence of the decidedly female detective Russell. Greg's convinced that the scrolls were stolen just for a ransom demand, and, sure enough, a day later, the rabbi gets a call asking for $2,000 for the torah's return. Greg and Andy go undercover as Lubuvitche to make the exchange and bust the perp, who has the scrolls in his posession, but not the yad, a ceremonial pointer that comes with each torah. The rabbi agrees to drop the charges in exchange for the return of the yad.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

Last week's rooftop kiss was just the prelude; tonight, Bobby and Diane get back to doing what they do best: having sex. After a gratuitous nude scene, Diane mentions that she sat through all of Squires' confession to learn some more interviewing techniques. Bobby seems disturbed by the thought of Diane hearing all that sick stuff, but Diane reminds him that she's a detective, too, and he shouldn't be so overprotective.

It seems that Lesniak has been making some fairly regular visits to see James in the hospital. She reports that he's regaining much of the feeling in his leg. When Donna comments that Adrianne is "like family" to James, Lesniak insists that she's just a concerned detective checking on her fellow squadmember. Donna's not fooled, though.


Ehhh. That's really all I have to say about "Torah! Torah! Torah!" It wasn't terrible - it wasn't even really bad - but it certainly didn't have the snap of last week's premiere.

The overwhelming feeling I had while watching the episode is that it was an incredible simulation of an NYPD Blue episode It had all the requisite elements - a murder to be solved by the end of the show, a comic subplot, a complication in the Andy/Sylvia relationship, and a love scene for Bobby. But very few of the scenes actually had any life to them.

I would be tempted to attribute these problems to Theresa Rebeck, who's only writing her second script for the show - and therefore might not be expected to have as good a sense of the characters as, say, regular scribe Gardner Stern - but Rebeck's apparently become a producer of the show this year, which implies that David Milch trusts her with the characters. And Milch's judgement is good enough for me. :)

That still doesn't explain some of the problems I had with this episode. For one thing, it starts out the day after "E.R." ended. So how come Greg never once mentions going to visit James? How come there's not even the slightest mention of Stackhouse, one of the two perps from last week? It might've been nice, for instance, to see the cops of the 15 give him "the ceremonial eyefuck" as he's moved from lock-up to the courthouse for his arraignment.

And even barring that, it would've been nice if some of the storylines had been well thought-out. What exactly was the point of the torah story? The sight gag of Andy in his costume was funny - for the first five seconds. And Greg's befuddlement at the rabbi's commentary was amusing - the first time. Other than that, there wasn't much there. Maybe if they'd followed up on the scene at the beginning where Russell starts getting annoyed with being shunted into the background, it might have at least seemed like a halfway decent use of a subplot. As it was, it just meandered around without even a decent resolution.

Or how about the confession of Mr. Squires, which may just have been the easiest one Simone, Sipowicz, Kelly or whomever has coaxed from a suspect in the history of the show. The "get the serial killer to explain himself so people won't think he's a nut-bar" schtick worked well with Webster last year; here, it felt like a copy of the first, and a fuzzy one at that. More than a lot of the stories that we complain about being resolved too quickly, this was a case that was begging for two parts - instead, Squire's dementia was given very short shrift, in favor of the time-honored Steven Bochco show plot device of the Retarded Guy in Trouble with the Law.

I also found it odd that Lt. Fancy, who last week didn't bat an eyelash as Sipowicz and Simone battered around a wounded suspect, gave Morrissey such a dressing down over abusing his suspect. Had he mentioned something about how they could lose the case over it, I might've understood, but as things stand, it seems like Art did an ethical 180 literally overnight. The fact that Morrissey was, in fact, beating on the wrong suspect was interesting, though - too often, Andy or Bobby will violate the rights of someone whom they "know" is their perp, and they're always right. However, that aspect of the story would've had a lot more pop if it was one of the regulars who discovered he'd been smacking around the wrong guy.

And neither Andy's total inability to keep his promise nor the three other's problems with treating Sylvia normally rang the least bit true. When Andy let the secret slip to Bobby and they embraced, it was a truly touching moment, but the overplayed silliness that followed took a bit of the shine off it.

I sure hope that this episode was an aberration, as it feels like it would've been right at home in the middle of season two, which is not encouraging.

Some briefer comments:

See y'all next week, folks!


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