NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 12
Upstairs, Downstairs

Story by Bill Clark and David Mills
Teleplay by David Mills
Directed by Paris Barclay

PLOT ONE: IT'S IN THE BAG

Andy, Bobby, and Diane get called into the late shift to handle a police-involved shooting. Mike Zorzi, an off-duty cop from the One- Five, was playing bodyguard for his friend, crooner Tony Moore, but was too late to save Moore from being shot and killed in a mugging attempt. According to Zorzi, he shot his buddy's killer, but his accomplice got away with Moore's briefcase. Bobby decides that he and Andy should handle the primary work, while Diane runs down the plate numbers of all the cars parked on the block where the shooting took place.

When the autopsy on Moore shows that he was using cocaine, the detectives ask Zorzi to take a drug test, a request that doesn't sit well with Desk Sergeant Baumgartner or any of Zorzi's uniformed buddies. Sip and Simone put the uniforms griping aside to interview Bobby Rock, the usual running buddy of the deceased mugger. Rock has no concrete alibi, but doesn't match Zorzi's description of the second perp, and doesn't get ID'd in a lineup.

A cab driver who witnessed the shooting comes in and offers an account with one major difference from Zorzi: according to the cabby, there wasn't a second mugger. Hoping to avoid another altercation with the uniforms, Bobby and Andy try to get Zorzi to come up to the squad to reconcile the difference, which leads to an even bigger conflagration. Sgt. Baumgartner, the ringleader, accuses Andy of gunning for cops; Andy asks Baumgartner to take his liquor-tinged breath someplace else. Zorzi goes to call his union delegate, and though Andy remains composed enough to get to the staircase, Bobby can't resist getting eyeball to eyeball with a patrolman who calls them both assholes.

Andy receives a suspicious call inquiring about the money inside Moore's briefcase, and begins to wonder if Tony the crooner wasn't carrying money for the mob. Diane, meanwhile, returns from her DMV search with Trish Taylor, a young Long Island City woman whose car was inexplicably parked overnight at the scene of their crime. Baumgartner barges upstairs and accuses the detectives of trying to ruin Zorzi's personal life, but when he realizes they don't know what he's talking about, he quickly retreats. Putting two and two together, Andy asks Trish why Zorzi wanted her to leave her car there. After initial hesitation, she admits that he told her to park it there, then came by early in the morning to take a briefcase out of her trunk.

Greg tells Andy to go check his car, and Andy finds that someone scratched "RAT" into the driver-side door. Wading into a sea of blue uniforms in the precinct lobby, Andy suggests the guilty party try carving it right into him. Andy picks on Officer Shannon as a likely target, but Lt. Fancy breaks up the latest set-to, as Baumgartner starts to realize he's pushed things too far.

With Trish Taylor's statement, it's finally time to bring in Internal Affairs, and IAB Sgt. Martens and his partner take charge of the case. Zorzi confesses, revealing that he shot Moore himself, and turns his recorded statement into an insincere attempt to sound like he was under the control of an irresistible impulse, and that he feels terrible about killing his friend. Andy gets fed up listening to Zorzi's bluster, and hits the squadroom. Baumgartner comes up and tries to get back in the detectives' good graces by making some anti-IAB comments. Andy doesn't play along, and accuses the sergeant of being a mean drunk who exploited Zorzi's situation so he could make everyone in the precinct as miserable as himself.

PLOT TWO: DADDY'S LITTLE WHORE

Andy responds to Diane's distress call from Patrick's bar, and finds her pondering a cup of coffee at a nearby diner. She tells him that she feels like she has to drink to be happy and to be with Bobby, that she'd been fooling herself these past few months trying to be a respectable detective, and that having to dress like a slut to get close to Jimmy Liery seemed like a sign from the fates. Andy tells her that he can see she's going through a lot of inner turmoil, and that she shouldn't put drinking on top of all the rest of her problems. His pep talk gets interrupted by the page to handle the Tony Moore shooting, but he firmly tells her, "Don't drink."

Andy tries to tell Bobby about Diane's problem, but Bobby feels he has to was his hands of her at this point. After briefing Andy and Bobby on Trish Taylor, Diane mysteriously bolts from the squadroom. At the end of the shift, Bobby's getting ready to go out again with Jill Kirkendall, but Andy convinces him to postpone it so they can go looking for Diane. Bobby abandons the search after several hours, only to find Diane curled up on his doorstep. He invites her in, and she breaks down, babbling about the bad thing that happened to her because she was a flirt. Bobby assumes she's talking about Liery's possible rape attempt, until she mentions the incident happened when she was 12. Realizing that Diane is talking about her own father, Bobby tells her that at least she finally told someone about it, and that's a start. As Diane continues to sob, Bobby holds her tight and murmurs, "I'm right here. You're going to be all right."

PLOT THREE: STOMPIN' AT THE ONE-FIVE

Medavoy pairs up with Kirkendall to investigate the murder of Michelle Mirren, a heavily pierced and tattooed 16-year-old whose body was repeatedly stabbed and left in a dumpster. Greg finds a videotape among her possessions: a piece of foot fetish porn that features Michelle stomping on worms in a pair of open-toed shoes. Michelle's father tearfully identifies the photo of her corpse, but isn't much help in the investigation; his insistence on ignoring his daughter's more outrageous habits meant he never got to know anyone who might have killed her.

Greg and Jill track down the producer of the video (number 18 in a series), who suggests Michelle's boyfriend Will Scheltema was bad news. Will turns up in the system, arrested the night before after a cop performing a routine traffic stop found some bags of cocaine in his car. In interrogation, Will claims that he had tried to get Michelle to sample coke for the first time, lost his temper when she refused, went outside to cool off, and returned to find her stabbed to death. Jill tells him they both know what really happened, and suggests he'll do better in court if he blames it on the cocaine and acts remorseful. Will asks for a minute to compose himself before writing his statement.


Sometimes I wish I didn't watch so much television. You know the old Shakespeare saying about their only being six (or whatever the number) original stories in the whole world, and everything else being some version on one of those plots? Well, when you watch a lot of TV, you see a seemingly infinite number of those variations on a theme. So even if the latest variation is one of the best, you've seen so many other attempts to tell the same story that it dampens your interest.

Take Diane's confession at the end of "Upstairs, Downstairs." I've seen so many television characters whose personalities were revealed to have been formed by a haunting incident in their past -- "Homicide" most recently did this two weeks ago with Det. Bayliss -- that it felt a little trite here, despite a pair of extraordinary performances from Jimmy Smits and especially Kim Delaney, who may never have been better than she was here. She can do on the edge without being over the top, and the degree of emotional fragility she shows as Diane sent a chill down my spine even as I was mentally forming a suggestion that Russell and Bayliss start their own support group for formerly molested TV cops.

But despite some of my reservations about the episode's bookend scenes (Dennis Franz seemed a little distracted in that opening diner scene), the cases at the heart of "Upstairs, Downstairs" were two of the meatiest of the season.

Though I'm not sure that IAB would have stayed on the sidelines for so long in a case like Mike Zorzi's, it didn't particularly bother me, because it gave our heroes a chance to square off with a bunch of guys supposedly on their side. Each scene in the lobby played hotter than the one before, as the tension kept getting turned up a notch, to the point where I almost expected Andy and Shannon to start hooking and jabbing.

And the irony of it all is that when the detective's squad was put in a similar situation a few years ago, with Internal Affairs investigating James in a shooting incident (season one's "Guns 'N' Rosaries"), the detectives reacted about as politely to IAB as the uniforms were acting towards them here. It was a nice illustration of the division that exists between the different units on the force: each group of cops is loyal to the guys they work with, and when someone from outside or above tries to mess with one of their buddies, they automatically assume he's in the right and throw up the big blue wall. At first, I was a little disappointed that Sgt. Agostini, who'd been the precinct desk sergeant since the start of the series (and turned up briefly at Bobby's promotion ceremony a few episodes ago), wasn't playing the role of chief agitator, since it would have made the conflict feel a little more natural, but the use of Shannon, who's always been presented as a stand-up guy, as a firm member of the mob drove home the schism.

About the only problem I had with the storyline was Zorzi's rushed confession at the end. It feels like some dialogue got cut, because there was no real explanation of why Mike started talking so easily, or how he knew that Tony was going to get mugged at that place at that time. The former I could make the leap in logic for -- Zorzi knew the jig was up, and decided to put as good a spin on it for the jury as he could -- but the latter still has me a little confused. Am I the only one?

The B-story was a treat for two reasons: watching Greg's reaction to the foot-fetish tape, and getting another extended glimpse at Jill Kirkendall in action. It's pretty clear now that something romantic is going on between her and Bobby -- the looks they were casting each other at the end of the shift were too smoldering to be that of "just friends" -- but she's turning out to be such a credible and well- defined cop that it doesn't bug me all that much (as opposed to, say, Lesniak, who barely registered on the job and either acted like a bitch or a nitwit off it).

Andrea Thompson is doing a terrific job defining the character, a smart cop with a dry wit about the job, but also a warm heart. Even so routine a scene as Kirkendall telling Mr. Mirren that his daughter is dead took on an extra emotional layer because of the honesty and compassion in Thompson's performance (the timing of Jill and Greg's silent exchange about him fetching the water glass also played a part in that). And for the second time in a row where she's been the lead in an interrogation (the last was in her first appearance, in "Yes Sir, That's My Baby"), Kirkendall showed a deftness for empathizing with the perp in order to coax a confession. It's like Andy said last week: different cops have different styles, and I like Kirkendall's style a lot. Regardless of how things turn out between Jill and Bobby, I sure hope she's around for the long haul.

So, what did you all think?

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