NYPD Blue, Season 4, Episode 5
Where'd the Van Gogh?
Story by David Milch & Bill Clark
Teleplay by Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Michael M. Robin

PLOT ONE: THE PRINCE IS A PAUPER

Andy and Bobby get to mingle with royalty after Prince Lazslo Forsman of Holstein and his wife Caroline are assaulted and robbed in their Manhattan apartment. The prince got away with a knock on the head, but Caroline's skull was bashed in by her assailants, and she's in a coma by the time the detectives arrive at the hospital to do their interviews. In between explaining that the thieves stole several priceless paintings, Forsman makes one too many references to letting his wife die with dignity for Andy's liking, and he tells the uniformed cop on the scene to keep an eye on things.

Looking for a possible fence for the stolen art, Sipowicz and Simone check out a downtown gallery whose owner has a rap sheet for criminal receiving, but he denies having heard anything about the prince's paintings. The owner of the getaway van, Donald Carter, tells the detectives that the van was stolen the night before by a felonious employee of his named Larry Duncan.

Duncan is nowhere to be found, but fortunately, Mike Roberts calls Andy to tell him that he has some news about the case. It turns out that Roberts was doing some private investigating for the princess, and discovered that Lazslo has quite an eye for the ladies, including a bombshell named Amelia Duncan -- Larry's sister. Roberts tries to make himself look good by lying about sending a condolence letter after Andy Jr's death, but Andy's not in the mood to indulge his sleazy ex-coworker.

At the hospital, the uniformed cop says that he spotted the prince fiddling with his wife's ventilator, which he denies when confronted, along with the suggestion that Amelia Duncan had anything to do with the robbery. In interrogation back at the station, Amelia denies even knowing the prince, but as soon as she's shown the surveillance photos Roberts took, she folds completely and admits everything -- including the fact that the prince asked Larry to do the robbery because his wife kept him on a short financial leash.

Unfortunately, Amelia's word alone isn't enough to arrest Forsman, so the detectives decide to get corroboration from Larry Duncan, by lying and saying that the prince gave him up. With Larry's statement -- along with one from an art dealer saying that the prince approached him about the stolen paintings -- they pick up the prince. Stripped of any last veneer of innocence, he becomes openly contemptuous of the detectives in particular and America in general. Bobby, picking up on this, suggests that he write a remorseful confession in hopes of tricking a "dumb" American jury. Forsman agrees, and while he's writing, asks Bobby to convince Amelia to return an expensive watch he gave her as a present.

PLOT TWO: MRS. ORTIZ, I PRESUME?

James discovers that being a union delegate means more than chowing down on doughnuts with the guys. Officer Shannon brings him in to mediate a dispute between two women, both claiming to be married to Jesse Ortiz, a cop in the One-Five. Anna, Wife Number Two, apparently wandered into the hair salon where Rosario, Wife Number One, works, and when they realized who the other was, they got into a fistfight. Now, they both want to file cross-complaints of assault, which will almost certainly bring down an Internal Affairs investigation on Jesse. Shannon asks James to find a way to work things out unofficially.

James decides to keep the three separate for the time being. Jesse denies being a bigamist, telling James that he gave Anna a wedding ring as "an advance present" on the future of their relationship. Rosario, cooled off from the earlier fight, says that she no longer wants to file charges, since Jesse won't be able to pay his way if he's on suspension. Anna, meanwhile, not only has a photo of her wedding day with Jesse, but says that she has legal papers showing that Jesse and Rosario are divorced.

Jesse, presented with the damning new evidence, admits to James that he forged the papers in order to appease Anna, who wanted him to leave Rosario, and that the "priest" at their wedding was actually just an actor. James tells Jesse that, at this point, the only way to keep Anna from filing some kind of charge, be it assault against Rosario or fraud against Jesse, is to pay her off.

Anna, crestfallen to find out how she'd been lied to, agrees to James' plan, but only if Jesse apologizes to her for his deception, while Rosario's in the room. James tries to avoid it, figuring it will turn ugly, which it rapidly does; Rosario even decides to file for divorce. Jesse accuses James of being a lousy delegate; James, who's jumped through hoops all day for this lying philanderer, tells Jesse to kiss his ass.

PLOT THREE: UNDERCOVER BLUES

Lt. Fancy approaches Diane with a job offer: a hood named Jimmy Liery, who Diane got close to back when she was working undercover in Vice, is a suspect in a hijacking at JFK Airport, and Organized Crime wants her to approach him again. Diane seems hesitant at first, but after the Loo assures her this is only a temporary assignment, she agrees.

Bobby doesn't take the news very well, especially after he finds out the real reason why Diane was reluctant to take the assignment: she and Jimmy used to do some heavy drinking together. Diane says she'll figure out a way around that, and tells Bobby to kindly butt out.

That night, dressed in character, Diane finds Jimmy at his favorite bar, and his eyes light up when he sees her. Contrary to what she told Bobby and Lt. Fancy, it appears that she played more than just Liery's drinking buddy the last time around, as Jimmy expresses regret that their relationship didn't work out the first time around. He tries to buy her a drink, but she manages to duck it -- for now -- by asking him to dance.

MISCELLANEOUS THREADS:

James finally works up the nerve to ask out Gina Colone, and she happily agrees to his offer of dinner. James tells Greg the good news, but Medavoy, still fixated on his diet, seems most concerned that his partner eat sensibly.

After Geri Turner displays her rubber bustier to him, Andy finally gets fed up. He contemplates telling Fancy about it, but finally decides to settle it personally. Geri, displaying a dominatrix persona, figures Andy's just being coy, and he doesn't get a chance to finish the conversation because he has to interrogate Prince Forsman.

Andy tells a relieved Bobby that he posed as Det. Savino on the phone to get the man who sold the late Sara Kiraly her dog from filing a complaint about Bobby's unofficial investigation. The real Savino, meanwhile, interviews the two shylocks who Henry Coffield owes money to, and tells Bobby he doesn't think they killed Sara.


There are certain advantages to my current singular status. I can do what I want, when I want. I don't have to try to please anyone but myself 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I certainly don't have to worry about infidelity, since I don't have anyone to be faithful to.

Tonight, "Blue" spun two tales of infidelity, one comic, one serious, that told me, if nothing else, if I ever do find myself tempted while in a relationship, I should slap myself around a few times, and never even contemplate trying to burn the candle at both ends.

Both Prince Forsman and Jesse Ortiz were obviously unhappy with their marriages. In Jesse's case, we got to meet and judge his wife, and realize that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her other than that the novelty factor had worn off, which is the kind of excuse only a true hound would use -- especially since the only appeal of the Jerry Springer-quoting Anna was her relative youth.

Because of her husband's actions -- and Larry Duncan's violent temper -- we never got the same chance to meet Princess Caroline, and for all we know, she was every bit the shrew Lazslo painted her as. But, considering the prince's track record with truth-telling, coupled with his cheap taste in women, I would tend to doubt it -- and, regardless, that's no excuse to screw around, and certainly no excuse to orchestrate a robbery/assault. Call me silly and old-fashioned, but if your eye starts roaming, you get out of the relationship you're in -- through non-violent means -- before chasing after anyone else.

So, you may be wondering, beyond all this late-night rambling about commitment, what did I think of the episode? I enjoyed it quite a bit. It didn't hit nearly as hard as "Where's 'Swaldo?" (or "Thick Stu," for that matter), but it kept me interested and entertained all the way through. And after such a somber outing as last week, a slightly more light-hearted episode was a nice change of pace.

There were a lot of story threads hanging about tonight, and, to be honest, the Prince Forsman story was the least interesting of them, not so much because I didn't enjoy it (I did), but because most of the other stories had long-term implications. Ian Buchanan did a nice job as Lazslo, and, since it was obvious from the first scene that he did it, Nicholas Wootton's script wisely didn't spend more time than was needed to run down the plot.

And, in the middle of it, there was an absolutely marvelous scene with Mike Roberts. Mike is one of the great NYPD Blue characters: a sleazeball who deep down realizes that he's a sleazeball, but on the surface lies to himself and his friends about his true nature, and when someone calls him on it, he tries to play the martyr. It's almost a shame that Roberts got booted off the force so early in the show's run (for more on his history, see the Quick Hits section below), because Michael Harney has the role nailed so well that I think the writers could have gotten a lot more mileage out of him than his annual appearances these days.

One question about the main plot before moving on. It used to be that if Bill Clark got a story credit, it meant that at least one of that show's plotlines was based on a case that he either worked or knew about in his 25-year tenure in the NYPD. Does anyone with a better memory for this sort of thing remember a real-life case at all similar to this one? Because I would think that if a foreign prince (even from a teeny-tiny country like the fictional Holstein, or however you spell/pronounce it) was implicated in a crime like this, it would've made all the papers.

When I heard that the writers were going to run James for union delegate, I was anticipating a lot of stories about the squeaky-clean detective trying to help out dirty cops in trouble. I certainly wasn't expecting him to wind up in the middle of an absurd case of "bigamy." I can think of a whole bunch of series that have done a similar story (my favorite being one from "St. Elsewhere," with Denzel Washington's character stuck in the middle), which ordinarily would make me predisposed to hating it, but for some reason, I got a big kick out of it. Maybe it was Nick Turturro's very well-played incredulity at all of this. Maybe it was F.J. Rio's likable performance as Jesse Ortiz, which made him hard to completely despise. Or maybe I was just in the right mood for it. Whatever the reason, I had fun, but I'm still want to see James back in serious situations again.

By far the most intriguing story of the night was Diane's. This one looks like it has a lot of possibilities to it. How long can she forestall having to drink with Jimmy? Was their old relationship more than just role-playing on her part, and what will that mean for their new one? Will Bobby be able to keep his personal and professional distance? And will Diane's foolish insistence on working cases in the middle of an undercover assignment get her into big trouble? I can't wait to find out how far this one goes.

I'm gonna wrap this up and move on to the Quick Hits (the new and improved version of Shorter Takes!:)) because I'm in the midst of packing for the big move out of my folks' place and into my own apartment.

Quick Hits:

See ya in the funny papers...


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