NYPD Blue, Season 2, Episode 1,
Trials and Tribulations
Story by Stephen Bochco & David Milch
Teleplay by Ted Mann
Directed by Gregory Hoblit
To skip straight down to the review, click here.

PLOT ONE: JANICE GOES TO TRIAL, JOHN GOES TO HELL

It's been nearly five months since Janice confessed to killing Marino and his driver, and her trial is finally in full swing. Our Hero John Kelly (tm) is due to testify for the prosecution, so he can't see Janice or talk to her. She visits him at his apartment the day before he's going to testify, anyway, and tells him that she still loves him. He confesses that he still has feelings for her, and they kiss, but John stops it before they go any further and tells her that now isn't the right time for this.

ADA Abrams is trying to build his case by claiming that Kelly found Marino's Little Black Book (that Janice tore the pages out of) and forced Licalsi to confess, because right now Janice's attorney Sinclaire (the same lizard that defended Giardella) is playing up the fact that she confessed on her own accord. Abrams asks Kelly if he saw Janice's name in the book - he says no, and Abrams says he wants to recall Kelly after examining another witness who'll refute Kelly's statement. Turns out it's the girlfriend of the dearly departed Richie The Bagman, who claims Richie told her that Janice's name was indeed in the book.

Meanwhile, Kelly's life is going to pot. Internal Affairs is shadowing him, and Fancy reveals to Sipowicz that it's only a matter of time before they open up an investigation into the Little Black Book. John has a date with Robin Wurkous, but before he can meet her, he gets into a fight with a rowdy drunk who was mouthing off to him about Licalsi. After dispatching said drunk out the door, Our Hero tells Robin that he still has feelings for Janice, and that he saw her the night before. Robin is a wee bit surprised, but she takes it calmly and tells "Johnny" that they shouldn't see each other anymore.

Norman Gardeners, everyone's favorite sleazy tabloid TV reporter, offers Our Hero a cool hundred grand to offer him an exclusive interview. Kelly turns him down, to which Norman responds, "If what's coming out of this trial is true, Kelly, you better start thinking about other sources of income."

The drunk Kelly fought with comes to the 15th Precinct to file an assault complaint, but Fancy talks him out of it - saying that if witness reports say the drunk provoked Kelly, then *he* could be arrested. When Kelly comes into work that morning, Fancy tells him to work from his desk for the rest of the day to avoid any more trouble.

Before Kelly gets a chance to testify again, Sinclaire informs him that Janice is trying to cut her own deal with the DA just so John won't have to testify - she's ready to go to jail, but she can't live with the thought of taking John down with her. Sinclaire tells John that, following Richie the Bagman's girlfriend's testimony, if he continues to deny that Janice's name was in the book, he'll come out okay legally, but the jury won't believe him, and that'll hurt Janice.

Our Hero manages to talk his way out of this bind by claiming that he knew Janice was involved with Richie the Bagman but thought she was working on assignment for Organized Crime (which she was, technically). His story keeps him clear legally and reaffirms his honesty to the jury - outside of the courtroom, Norman gives him kudos for his acting.

With Internal Affairs breathing down his neck, Kelly heads back to his humble abode, only to find Licalsi waiting for him again - "I'm like a bad penny," she tells him. She's still worried, but he tells her that she's right where she belongs - with him - and brings her into his apartment.

PLOT TWO: ANDY AND THE WIFEBEATER/ANDY AND SYLVIA

Sipowicz has two problems on his hands: 1)A wife-beater he arrested is going free because his wife wants to drop the charges, and 2)After five months of sobriety and AA meetings, he wants to ask Sylvia out again, but his AA sponsor (a bigoted ex-cop played by Young Frankenstein's Monster himself, Peter Boyle) won't let him.

The wife-beating situation hits home for Andy because the husband was usually drunk when he did it. The wife is afraid to leave him, because not only is he her sole support, but he also pays the medical bills for her invalid mother. No amount of pleading by Andy can convince her to either leave her husband or press charges, so Sipowicz takes the only resort left open to him - he tells the husband that if he beats her again, Sipowicz'll toss him off a pier with a pair of cement shoes. He's convincing enough to at least frighten the husband, but when last we see him, he's still bossing his wife around.

His sponsor's reluctance stems from the AA belief that getting into or back into major relationships can cut into your efforts to stay sober. He finally relents, however, on the condition that Andy agrees to stop seeing Sylvia the minute his sponsor feels his sobriety is being threatened.

After a conversation about their respective meetings (she's still going to Alanon), Andy finally manages to ask Sylvia out in a roundabout way, and she seems very enthusiastic. Both walk away from each other with a little extra bounce in their step.

PLOT THREE: MEDAVOY'S FALLING APART - CAN THE STANLEY CUP SAVE HIM?

After two different seperations, Medavoy's marriage is finally falling apart for good. He's in the middle of legal proceedings, and is becoming more and more remote from everyone, including Donna, who's very concerned.

His mood worsens after doing poorly on his marksmanship qualifying exam (apparently, the detectives at the 15 are finally switching over to 9mm automatics and have to be tested).

Donna, fed up with his growing neuroses, tells him that he's not allowing himself to be open to new experiences - ie, not being married anymore. She invites him to go with her to a Ranger game on Saturday night (apparently, in the NYPD Blue universe, there's no lockout), so he can gaze at the Stanley Cup banner and hopefully realize that good things can happen in life. He agrees.

PLOT FOUR: DRUG DEALERS, CROOKED COPS, AND...HEY, IS THAT MARTINEZ?

In the midst of all this other excitement, Kelly and Sipowicz actually have to - get this - investigate a crime! At first, it seems like a waste of time - a drug dealer got robbed - but when they realize that a lot of dealers in that area are being ripped off, they decide to set up a stakeout, "before someone gets killed."

With a little help from Martinez (yes, James is actually in the episode), they convince a minor-league dealer to let them set up a camera in his apartment in exchange for a walk on his latest offense.

Most of the video footage is useless - the dealer conducts all his sales in his bathroom, where he's been assured the camera can't go - but one night, with Kelly and Sipowicz on stakeout down the hall, two men bust into his apartment. Kelly recognizes them as night-shift cops. When it becomes clear that they're there to rob the dealer, not arrest him, Our Heroes move in and bust 'em.

Internal Affairs, already after Kelly on the Licalsi issue, are skeptical that John and Andy weren't already aware of police involvement when they set up their stakeout. They take over the investigation, but Kelly knows he'll hear from them again.


Damn, that took longer than I thought! Actually, the toughest part was breaking down all the legal maneuverings - anytime there's a plot involving Janice, things get *very* complicated.

On with the review:

In a word, deja vu. Well, that's two words, but a lot of tonight's episode had an air of "haven't we seen this before?" to it. Let us count the ways...We had:

I'll admit, the last one at least had a bit of a twist - Andy was ready to ask Sylvia, but his sponsor wouldn't let him - but even so, I expect a little more originality in the season premiere.

It would've helped if David Caruso didn't go through the whole episode looking like he couldn't wait to collect his last paycheck and hit the big screen. John Kelly has always been a walking bundle of cliches, but there was depth underneath all the "Are you okay?"s - he used all of his little mannerisms to keep his life in order. What we saw tonight was the mannerisms without any of the control freak underneath them.

Franz was a bit more low-key than usual, but that's to be expected - Andy's been sober for five months now, and unlike the last time he was clean, he has help. Still, I miss the rough edges of Sipowicz - each "asshole" came with such infrequency that I kept wanting more.

Gordon Clapp and Gail O'Grady were fine, but Greg and Donna are in a bit of a rut. Maybe we should have the two characters spend some time apart - see Medavoy acting like a cop for once, and maybe see some of Donna's personal life outside of her friendship with Greg.

As I mentioned above, James McDaniel and Nick Turturro got next to no screen time. This is something that bugged me last year, and it bugs me this year. It's not like these two can't act. Watching Martinez do a slow burn while talking with Sipowicz's AA sponsor was hysterical, and Fancy's conversation with the angry drunk was one of the best parts of the show - I don't think we've seen Fancy bend the rules for one of his men yet.

These guys are good actors, and their characters have tons of untapped potential - especially Turturro's - so why do they keep getting shuffled into the corner? I'm not going to make any cries of racism - I respect the producers too much - but it's getting on my nerves to see James and Arthr have one or two lines an episode.

With regards to the Janice storyline, like I said above - anytime they deal with Janice's legal troubles, things get *way* too complicated. I've grown fond of Amy Brenneman, but I'm almost looking forward to seeing her leave the show so we don't have to rehash Marino's death *again*.

I'm prepared to forgive Bochco & Co. for this somewhat lackluster debut - I figure the whole Caruso brouhaha messed up whatever was originally planned. But I'd like to see some improvement before David and Amy depart the 15 for good. I like these characters - I don't want to feel relief when they leave.

Some shorter takes:

Well, I've gotta get to bed, and I hope all this extra typing wasn't a complete waste of time. Any and all comments are appreciated, and I'll see ya next week.


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