Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Sep 23, 2016.
Um, I made a slight error ... this was the first episode I saw.
As I was watching it I thought of you and wondered if that was the case based on your comments. A great starting point and - as you said - you had the bonus of not knowing which characters had been thrown into the mix this episode, which is the best way to view it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the way this story opened up as discoveries were made. It started lightheartedly enough, with a slightly strange older man coming to say his wife has been missing:
CAGNEY: "You know, we can't do anything until a person has been missing for 72 hours. How long has it been since your wife was last seen?
MAN: "Three days. Next time ask the question before you tell the rules."
He's initially dismissed as a crank, but long story short, his young wife - who became very ill with a rare blood disorder - shortly into their marriage is nowhere to be found. And he's been sending her money. Petrie recognises the woman in the photo as a sex worker. Then Lacey goes to speak to the woman's mother who shows her a wedding picture of the same woman… with a different older man. It all adds up to a scam.
Samuels wants the two women to drop the case as it's social work stuff and taking up time from other cases. The women continue saying they're working through their lunch hours. When Samuels gets insistent, Cagney shows some great resourcefulness in speaking to a journalist about a great human interest story that they could have shared with her if they hadn't had to drop the case. Said journalist speaks to Samuels and things are green lit again. Except the journalist is going to run the story at the weekend no matter what, which could blow the investigation if their target reads it and goes undercover. So they're on the clock.
Long story short, the woman and her real husband are behind it. And the first older man wants revenge on the man he blames for corrupting his wife. It's an interesting journey for the older man (whose name I forget). For much of the episode he comes across as a little slow, almost comical. He's kind of like that "old has been" from Tootsie, or Leslie Nielsen. Even though he's not being funny, I keep waiting for it to happen. So when he produces a gun, although it's not a surprise it's a little shocking.
I've watched these episodes enough times to know they're good, but not enough times to remember how each episode plays out. So I really couldn't remember if the guy ended up killing someone. Even though it wasn't as extreme as it could have been, the suspense was there.
There's a nice subplot about Cagney trying to be celibate but dating a guy she meets through her priest friend and trying her best to take it slowly and telling him she wants to get to know him first. The payoff at the very end of the episode is really sweet, where the guy brings a box full of personal stuff and sits on the steps outside the precinct talking her through photos of his mother and school reports. Gless does a great job with the scene of being defeated and charmed at the same time.
These are a great read, Mel'.... wonderfully written. Thank you for starting this thread.
I've recently watched most of the second season. I love the show. I remember it from many moons ago of course, but seeing it on DVD is a whole new experience. So much crystal clear detail. The delicious blend of Gless & Daly is an ideal chemistry. I can never quite decide who's performance I like best.
Chris and Mary Beth are working with an Anti-Crime Officer Stephens on an illegal gun racket. His introduction - as the apparent accomplice to a street hustler who gets thrown into a police cell - is enjoyable. As soon as the guy is out of sight, Mary Beth opens the cell and lets Stephens out and Isbecki feigns some police brutality before Stephens goes over the case with colleagues. There are any number of points that the audience can get on board with the reality of what's going on.
While the gun smuggling case is interesting enough, the conflict here comes from an old magazine that surfaces of Stephens modelling. Naked. Once again we see the differences in Chris and Mary Beth's personalities when they are looking at the magazine. Chris enjoys flicking through and taking in every detail, while Mary Beth looks extremely uncomfortable and does all she can to avert her eyes.
What's interesting her is that Stephens being in a pornographic magazine isn't the main issue. What does get the reactions from his colleages is the fact that it's a publication aimed at gay men. There are some double-standards at play here. Predictably enough, it's Isbecki that has the biggest issue with it, with scenes of him avoiding his former friend. A moment where Isbecki walks into a men's room, sees Stephens and walks out again leads to a fight between them. The long and short of it is that Stephens is suspended from duty.
The women have faith in Stephens and decide to complete the mission with him. Both are aware of the potential consequences to their careers but with the way this is written, I was willing them to go ahead. Not just as a show of support to Stephens but because I was completely invested in the mission. The gun runner was a taxi driver, and there had been a brilliant scene earlier in the episode where Lacey had posed as someone buying drugs from Stephens in the back of the cab. She then went on to ask him about getting her a gun. Undercover work is always fun.
The suspense in this episode was the best to date. First there was the red tape where the department hadn't authorised the money they needed to collect the guns, so Chris and Mary Beth had to use their own money. Stephens, wired, was being taken by the driver to pick up the guns, but the women lost him after they were forced to pull back and got held up by a lorry and windscreen washer. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat as they tried to track him down to a porno theatre from the details he was able to discuss over the wire. Robert Constanzo as the gun runner had enough edge that I felt the threat was genuine. Which made the payoff very satisfying.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about the message behind this storyline. I get that the series reflects very well the genuine attitudes of the time, warts and all. This is - of course - going to include a good dollop of homophobia to go with the misogyny and racism that's bubbling under the surface. So I'm fine with that part. Then came the reveal that Stephens isn't gay. Again - not a big deal as heterosexual men no doubt pose for erotic gay magazines all the time, and there's a message about not judging a book by its cover. But there was something about the reveal that felt a little bit of a cop out. Like Stephens' misdemeanour was diminished because he wasn't guilty of what everyone had the real issue with. So that's not comfortable. But then this show isn't necessarily about being comfortable. It's about attitudes and preconceptions. On that level it's a roaring success. It's also noteworthy that Stephens didn't hide behind his heterosexuality. When Isbecki asked at the end of the episode if Stephens was gay, he didn't get a direct answer. Just a level response that gave him food for thought.
Something that's occurred to me is that we weren't clear what attitude Stephens himself had towards homosexuality. He had used several homophobic slurs when calling others out on their attitudes, for instance. But these were used in as empowering a way as such words can be used. His responses overall give a general feeling that he leans towards a liberal, inclusive stance. But we don't know for sure. And that makes for an interesting watch.
My pleasure Kev. I'm glad you're enjoying them.
Oh wonderful stuff. They do stand up to repeated viewings, don't they. The second season is probably the one I've watched the most as for some years it was the only one out on DVD. I'm looking forward to getting onto the later seasons too this time round.
They're great, aren't they? I liked Meg Foster a great deal this time round too. The casting was great on this show.
They're first class. You should have been a Journalist, specialising in TV Crits'... They're spot-on.
Same here, Mel'..... I'd watched a re-run of Season 2 a long while back so some of the stories were familiar... watched "Burn Out" last night..... Very good. I've downloaded Season 3 from iTunes I've never seen the Meg Foster episodes....
Yes it was, wasn't it.... the 14th Precinct gang work well together.
I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Hands up. I watched this one about ten days ago before going on holiday. And now I’ve forgotten most of it. Let’s see what I can remember.
Ok - there’s a guy dressed as Santa Claus who manages to escape. Rather than a hardened criminal, I love how the guy appears quite the milquetoast, with the most soporific vocal inflections one can imagine.
It was fun to see what everyone had planned for Christmas, but I also appreciated that the episode didn’t get too saccharine as so many seasonal episodes are wont to do. There was just enough of the seasonal stuff with the Santa and Samuels subtly Grinching it up. Though I didn’t enjoy the score, which kept interpolating a maudlin version of a Christmas tune (I’m thinking “Deck The Halls”, but I may be misremembering).
We met another of LaGuardia’s lady friends, and got to see his disappointment at not being able to spend time with her (adding insult to injury, Samuels invited her into his office while she waited).
I seem to recall a nice atmospheric scene with Isbecki and LaGuardia by a brazier in a garage.
There was an appropriate gesture of goodwill at the end, with everyone giving up their plans to spend time with a lonely Samuels.
Petrie’s wife going into labour gave some nice character moments, particularly as there were TV-friendly complications that had everyone concerned. The best scene of the episode was a phone conversation between Mary Beth and Petrie with both trying to hold it together and stay strong until they got through the call. Weirdly, the announcement of the happy arrival was kind of added on as a voiceover over the freeze-frame. It felt almost like an afterthought, like they’d forgotten about it while filming. But it was closure at least, and a nice bit of continuity.
And that’s the extent of my memory.
The opening shot is one of the most beautiful in this series to date. It begins with a shot of sparkling bronze water, then zooms out to reveal a shot of New York with the rays of the sun kind of following us like a laser and peeking out through a bridge as if on cue. The whole shot is sepia, which I think is down to the way it’s shot and the time of day rather than any gels or effects. It feels quite art-house cinematic and speaks of quality.
With this scene still resonating, we go to the first scene which is a nice two-hander between Sharon Gless and this week’s guest-star, Barry Primus as Dory McKenna. Taking place in Chris’s apartment, it fills the gaps for the viewer quite organically as the couple get dressed in the morning. As Chris talks coffee in-depth, there’s an ease to their dynamic that tells us all we need to know about their relationship. Dialogue peppered in reveals that Dory is also on the force - a homicide detective. They briefly mention a case that both are working on. It’s a very natural feeling scene that once again credits the audience with the ability to catch up and put the pieces together from the snippets we’re given, reading between the lines of what isn’t said.
What is not said is huge in this episode, with a number of key scenes relying on the power of silence.
At the office, as Chris had mentioned in the previous scene, her colleagues suspect the nature of their relationship. From Isbecki’s barely concealed jealousy to Mary Beth’s amusement.
We’re also given an introduction to an endearing little subplot in which Petrie talks incessantly about his new baby with constant updates and photos. It’s fun to see the cast bouncing off each other as everyone is polite and tolerant. This is a case in point of what’s not said being important. In most of these scenes nothing is said about how his colleagues feel about it, but knowing their characters as we have come to, there’s a gentle humour in seeing them internalise this stuff. My favourite moment from this plot is a simple shot of LaGuardia looking round the office and sticking the picture of Petrie’s daughter on his locker. Sidney Clute’s look of resignation and his sad, long little face is a picture. He’s emerging as a favourite of mine.
That particular plot has a kind of resolution when Isbecki - with some uncharacteristic tact - has a gentle word with Petrie as they take a trip to post a warrant. It’s a nice moment for both characters. When Isbecki acknowledges that he probably irritates Petrie with whatever he talks about all the time, Petrie quickly comes back with “Yourself”. In turn, Isbecki’s unfazed reaction to Petrie’s little zinger (“Yeah - but who can blame me”) is right in character.
The sexism faced by the women is dropped into a couple of little moments here, though as Season Two continues it's less in-your-face than in the Pilot and Season One. Tellingly, as Mary Beth and Chris's colleagues at the precinct endear themselves to the audience (and presumably the writers), the sexism no longer comes directly from their workmates, but from characters outside the main cast. Here it's a colleague of Dory's who answers the phone to Chris who makes a botched attempt to be "appropriate" because she's a dame. Later on, the two were asked, rather patronisingly, if their work wasn't perhaps a little dangerous by an administrator. The implication being that they should get themselves a nice, safe little filing job like she has done and leave the policing to the men.
The procedural this week comes from a series of deaths of older people in subsidised housing projects which Cagney, Lacey and McKenna are able to link together. Reliable character actor Susan French is back (she was previously in Season One’s Suffer The Children). Here she’s Mrs Skimmins. I do enjoy watching her work. There's something very upmarket about her. When the bad guys are caught and she and her neighbour are identifying the suspects, Skimmins happily predicts her neighbour’s reaction: “Now he’s going to say something perfectly awful in Greek.” Then she gleefully watches as he does just that.
Earlier in the episode, French had a wonderfully poignant moment that’s another example of what’s not being said being important. Mary Beth had called to update her on the case and was held in the hallway as Mrs Skimmins stood at her door, trying not to get involved for fear of her safety. As Mary Beth was leaving she asked Mrs Skimmins if her heating was working now. There was a brief pause before Skimmins replied that it was working and a subtle look on Mary Beth’s face that suggested she didn’t 100% believe the reply. And that was that. The viewer is left to interpret the moment any way they choose.
Daly is a little wonder in this show. I’m in awe that in each scene she brings something that pulls me in and enriches her character. The quiet moment at Mrs Skimmins’ door is one of those moments. Another came when she was let down by Chris and Dory (more about that shortly) when waiting to bring a suspect in for questioning from his home and was forced to single-handedly take care of it. While the situation seemed like it needed big guns and heavy hands, Mary Beth went for the human approach. Smiling politely, she gently chastised him for ripping up a warrant, talking about taxpayers’ money and two officers needing to deliver it. Then she went for full on charm asking him to come to the station with her. While his body language was saying no, Mary Beth didn’t give him a chance to reply, instead looping her arm through his and walking down the long driveway to her car. All the while babbling happily away at great speed about his lovely home, and her apartment and a friend who couldn’t sleep outside of the city because of the silence. Once again, what’s not said comes into play. Lacey counts on it, because if the suspect got the chance to speak she’d have blown it. So we get little one-take monologue from Daly with her scene partner reduced to resigned silence. It’s so fresh some of it just had to be improvised. I especially enjoyed her comments continuing once they were in the car “Just throw that in the back. And put your belt on. I don’t wanna lose you....”. I was left assuming she talked at him on the long drive back to the station.
Gless, meanwhile, effortlessly handles the Sturm und Drang of her character’s relationship with Dory. The chemistry between she and Primus is excellent and Cagney’s happiness in the relationship comes across. There’s a previously unseen coquettishness to her in a couple of scenes that reminds me so much of Loretta Swit’s take on Cagney from the Pilot. The aforementioned opening scene of this episode neatly echoes Cagney’s very first scene in the Pilot, both having that morning after glow feel between Chris and her current paramour. Then she has a flirty, giggly 2am phone call with him that also feels like it would flow neatly if this were shown back to back with the Pilot. Bearing in mind Gless has already proved that she has a good deal of Meg Foster’s wit and attitude, there’s a sense of consistency and history to the character here.
It’s not all satin sheets and fine coffee though. The main character-driven aspect of the plot - and the episode’s title - comes from Dory’s cocaine use. On paper, this aspect of the show is a little “issue of the week”. But as expected by now, the execution has a lot more substance. With an episodic show featuring a guest character with an addiction, a couple of moments can’t help but feel a little cliché - it’s particularly difficult, for instance, to do justice to a character’s mood swings and little personality changes in a fifty minute window, and that has to be borne in mind when viewing. But all things considered, the episode does a sterling job with the storyline which - quite incredibly - feels like it has room to breathe among the other plots.
The most powerful moment of the episode for me came at the Lacey household, with Dory and Chris coming for dinner. A somewhat disagreeable Dory disappeared to the bathroom and returned much more sociable and chatty. By this point, Mary Beth had been told about Dory’s drug use (though she didn’t know the extent) and was very uncomfortable with it. Chris had jumped on Dory’s bandwagon of denial and was playing it down even to herself. The theme of what is not being said being powerful came to a head in this one scene. The only dialogue we have is Dory’s as he chatters happily away without pausing for breath. This is contrasted starkly with the silent and horrified reactions of the others as they realised just what is happening. We see a silent Harv as it dawns on him that a guest has just been taking drugs in his home. Mary Beth is equally silent and the viewer can only guess at what she is feeling towards both Chris and Dory, as well as herself for knowing about the problem and still inviting him to her home and family. Chris is wordless and clearly both angry and deeply ashamed.
Things get more heated towards the episode’s end as Chris and Dory are reduced to a physical fight in an alley, both emotionally and physically drained. It’s another powerful scene.
The final scene runs with the same thread that’s run through the entire episode - the unspoken. Chris and Mary Beth have a conversation about something trivial, but emotionally it’s about something much more important. Here Mary Beth barges into the ladies room clearly very concerned about Chris, and then starts to blather on about the new towels she’s ordered. (in a nice, subtle touch of continuity, Mary Beth had started to dry her hands earlier in the episode and resorted to using toilet paper). Then they talk about redecorating the room and decide they probably won’t (nice symbolism - if it ain’t broke...). Nothing is spoken about what’s on their minds. But they - and the audience - know and feel exactly what it’s all about. And they reach an understanding and resolution.
The episode ends with complete silence. No music and - most importantly given the underlying theme - no words.
It's also worth mentioning that there are a couple of moments in this episode that seem to acknowledge, tongue in cheek, the silliness of some cop shows. Most notably, there's a scene where Mary Beth and Chris are trying to access the apartment of an elderly man who is dangerously ill. There's a locked door between them. Chris eventually does the job with an axe but while she's finding that Mary Beth has a go at barging the door with her shoulder. Rather than the door busting open, she just winds up with a sore shoulder.
Another scene has the women telling Samuels that their suspect is currently in Honolulu. Samuels brusquely tells them to get on a plane, fly to Honolulu and bring back the suspect. There are a few moments for the girls to absorb this. Just as it's sinking in with both characters and the audience, Samuels announces that he was only kidding. It felt like it was poking gentle fun at the fantasy of an earlier Barney Rosenzweig vehicle: Charlie's Angels.
I'm looking forward to rewatching this one. This was the episode that got Gless her first Emmy for the series, as I recall.
Another thing I'm looking forward to. It's many years since I've seen anything past Season Two.
You should check them out sometime Kev. Though I'd recommend waiting for a while rather than watching them directly after the Sharon Gless episodes as it will probably invite comparisons, which may not be a good thing.
As I mentioned before, I didn't start from the beginning. I never saw the pilot until I got the DVDs but I the Meg Foster episodes were repeated at some point - without warning. It was quite a culture shock.
HOPES AND DREAMS
Try as I will to pace myself with the episodes, I still find my viewing creeping ahead of these write-ups. This one was watched the night before last and I’ve watched two more episodes since then. As I’m doing this from my rather poor memory, I’m once again forced to try to piece things together.
I spent half the episode trying to place Lance Henriksen. My first thought was that he looked a bit like a short Chris Walken. My second was that perhaps he was Chris Walken. Once I’d finally pegged him as Henriksen, I spent the second half of the episode boggling that he was doing TV shows after having a hit film with Alien. It was only after the fact that I remembered he wasn’t actually in Alien. He first appeared in the sequel some three years after this episode. Anyway, here he’s an appropriately sinister funeral director and sports an array of disguises including a shag wig.
When they work out that Lance is running a scam to burgle homes while people are at funerals, Cagney and Lacey posing as a grieving woman and her neighbour is a chance to see the show get a little playful. Mary Beth hams it up as the bereaved woman. When Chris asks her when the funeral is (for the benefit of Lance who is within earshot), Mary Beth tells her it’s the day after tomorrow. “Isn’t that kind of soon?”, Chris replies, forcing Mary Beth to improvise a story about wanting to get it over with. It’s so much fun to see these two playing around this way, and giggling like schoolgirls at the success of their plan after Lance exits.
A connected story sees Chris become attached to one of the targets of the burglars, a young woman whose stolen bike represented her dream of riding again. It’s a good opportunity to see a softer side to Chris who recognises some of herself in the younger woman. The writing did occasionally veer towards the one-note and too often went for sympathy towards rather than empathy with the paraplegic woman. But perhaps that was intentional - the viewer’s frustration at the occasional cliche echoing the character’s own frustration.
The secondary characters may not have been fleshed out enough here (Henriksen’s character was also quite one-note, and his group of thugs not even that), but the story was at least an opportunity to enrich the lead characters - Chris in particular.
I can believe it. Watching the Foster episodes this time round I hadn't watched any Cagney & Lacey for almost four years, but it's still very difficult not to find myself picturing Sharon Gless saying the same lines.
Personally, I think Foster could have worked as Chris long term had she been given a chance by the network. It would have been quite a different show, though.
THE GRANDEST JEWEL THIEF OF THEM ALL
Obsession makes for a good story, and this is no exception. Chris’s interest in Albert Grand - a charismatic Raffles type jewel thief - becomes more obsessive as the episode goes on.
Scenes of suspense and guesswork abound, perhaps best encapsulated by the race to capture Grand who we see breaking into the safe deposit box at an upscale hotel. But which hotel? We see Chris and the team dashing between two hotels without knowing which one Grand is actually underneath.
Gentleman thieves are something of a standard for episodic detective shows. I’m sure they’ve all had them. Murder, She Wrote even had a recurring one who occasionally had his own episodes. And that’s at the back of my mind when I watch this. It’s an unoriginal, almost perfunctory premise. But this is Cagney & Lacey, so we can hope for a little more.
Gless does frayed nerves so well, and for the entire second half of the episode the character feels like she’s about to explode. Perhaps the best scene is one between Cagney and Samuels in his office. She goes to leave, he calls her back, barking orders at her and she responds to him in an equally snappy tone. Samuels quickly puts her in her place, telling her that talking back to him isn’t smart. Then after a beat he calmly tells her that there’s a promotion in it for her if she brings Albert in.
So the career stakes are high this episode. We see her walk to her desk and take a moment - putting her head in her hands with the pressure of it - before continuing to type frantically. There’s a nice look from Lacey in the background who sees her stressed colleague but recognises that now is not the right time, so she gets back to her own typing. It feels very supportive.
Can we talk about Mary Beth’s cloche hat? I want to know the story behind it. It feels slightly out of character, like something she might wear for best rather than every day. That said, it suits her very well and I find it quite captivating.
Talia Balsam is one of those actresses that feel of their time. She reminds me of a number of people from a similar era, Nancy Loomis most of all. It’s partly their look, and partly that my first impression of both (Dallas and Halloween respectively - both from 1978) was that they were particularly wooden. That said, my knowledge of both their work is limited. Either way, Balsam comes out as the more competent. Her body of work looks very impressive, so I can only assume she got rather better at her craft as she went along. And while she has a way to go in this appearance to be up to the extremely high standards of her screen-mates, she’s far better here than she was in Dallas some four and a half years earlier.
Here she’s Diane, a new member of the 14th Precinct, promoted from uniform after an impressive collar. Mary Beth and Chris are assigned with showing her the ropes. The change of dynamic is interesting. We see all three chatting and bonding in the car (Mary Beth’s cloche hat gets another airing here), but Chris bristles slightly on learning that Diane is in it for the money. Their first time out, Diane observes that a dead woman’s body show’s signs of strangulation and surmises she was murdered. Mary Beth and Chris think she’s being over-eager but Diane is quickly proved right.
There’s some nice back and forth between the two leads when it comes to Diane. Both have concerns, but they’re coming from slightly different angles. It takes half the episode for both to admit they’re unsettled by having another woman round (the episode was written, if anyone’s wondering, by a man).
While sharp enough as a detective, it becomes clear that Diane lacks people skills, and she’s shown to make poor choices in her interactions with others. There’s a great potboiling scene with the wonderful Grace Zabriskie as a very nervous witness where we see Chris take her time and develop a rapport with her to try to get the information they need. The scene builds and builds and just as we feel she’s about to finally give the information, Diane snaps at her and yells about murderers and whatnot, frightening the poor woman back into her shell.
Diane is also seen to be somewhat pushy and not a team player. She races ahead to get information and she neglects to relay information to Chris and Mary Beth. This being episodic TV, and Balsam a guest-player, this catches up with Diane who attempts to bring in a suspect herself without telling anyone where she is, ending up brutally beaten.
After a couple of episodes of plots that have felt familiar or slightly generic, this one is deep and rich. The motive for the murder is truly chilling and when the women know what’s at stake it’s gripping. Before Knots Landing got a year’s worth of story out of it, here’s a stolen baby storyline where we form a kind of relationship with the people on all sides and recognise that someone is going to get badly hurt.
The insecure angle with the lead women is an interesting one. And quite a brave move. However justified, the two main characters of the series proved themselves to be as flawed at times in their responses as Diane was in her choices. There’s a scene in the ladies’ room where the two stand before the mirror and pretty much run down Diane while giving justifications and projecting a nice, supportive face on things. It’s not pretty, and starkly truthful. One only has to sit in a coffee shop for half an hour to hear similar conversations between two people talking about a third “friend” who isn’t present. Even more impressive is that this scene avoids the expected cliché of the trashed party emerging from the bathroom cubicle. If there were consequences to the conversation, they’re far more subtle - and probably more damaging - than an immediate confrontation.
Al Waxman as Samuels is great in this episode. Samuels is doing his best to be fair, and it’s fascinating to watch him go from chewing out Chris and Mary Beth for their lack of support to snapping at a distracted Diane (“What - am I keeping you up?!”). Every moment of his screen time is pure gold and every character he interacts with is enhanced.
By episode’s end, Balsam’s character has neatly transferred, and there’s a subtle air of irritation towards Cagney and Lacey from their colleagues for the “personality conflict”. It’s a side we don’t get to see too often, and most series would no doubt do everything to avoid putting their leads in such a light. Which is exactly what makes this show such a winner.
I totally agree....
I've got 2 episodes left to watch from Season 2..... "Cry for Help" & "The Informant"....
It's been great being able to watch this show and reading over your excellent crits, Mel'ster
One little thing I forgot to mention about this episode…
There's a scene in this episode where a woman whose husband presented her with another woman's baby (having killed the natural mother to do so) is being interrogated.
The woman is seated at the table, Samuels is standing up questioning her and Diane is sitting opposite the woman. Mary Beth is in the background, standing quite still. Tyne Daly does this really subtle thing where she gently touches her wedding ring as the mother and child are discussed. There's no close up of this (though there is an insert of a close up of Lacey's face) and it's not referred to. It's just this brilliant little choice.
I'm pretty sure I've seen her do this in earlier episodes concerning discussion of family. I'll keep an eye out for it in future episodes.
So you're just approaching cancellation #2!!
Enjoy them Kev.
OPEN AND SHUT CASE
It's good to see an episode that shows the tedium that is presumably the reality for so many officers who are part of court hearings. Sitting round for hours and days - at the taxpayers expense - with nothing to do, only to be called up for a few minutes. This episode is court-heavy, and none the worse for it. There are two different cases taking place - Mary Beth is part of a hearing for a multiple stabbing that happened as part of a fight, while at the same time she and Chris (on their own time) are supporting a woman who was gang raped while they were still in uniform, who is having to face two of her four attackers in court again to ensure their sentences aren't overturned.
We get to see the way professionals operate in that situation. The way questions are phrased or their between court banter. Mary Beth's anxiety about taking the stand without working up to it ("a kind of stage fright" as she calls it) lightens it up a little. Then we see her put through the wringer by questioning when she is not allowed to refer to her notes in an attempt to diminish her reliability. And the case gives us the chance to see her principles in action when she is convinced their is reasonable doubt about the guilt of someone the opposing lawyers reach an agreement about taking a plea. Seeing her stand up for him in private - complete with threatening to speak to the press about it - is a gratifying moment.
Speaking of principles, the Dallas phenomenon is acknowledged in this episode, with the elder Lacey boy (Michael? I still can't get those two straight) talking about a desire to go to California to see Victoria Principal.
Jonelle Allen as rape victim Elizabeth Carter is wonderful here. It has to be difficult for an actor to come in and work on a temporary basis with this close knit established team of professionals at the top of their game. I'm so in awe of both the writing and Elizabeth herself here. Not only does she get to the necessary place of intensity that is vital to the character's harrowing situation, but we also get a fully rounded, very human character who has moments of laughter and happiness with the two women supporting her. The dialogue and scenarios all feel very natural. When she laughs, I believe it. When she cries, she does so very convincingly (no glycerine here - tears are literally streaming down her face). So when she gets angry and starts shouting, I believe that too.
I read on IMDb that Allen returned to play Claudia Petrie in a later episode and I can fully understand why she'd be wanted back on this set. Her chemistry with the two leads is wonderful. I really wanted to see more of that relationship.
Their support also showed different facets to Chris and Mary Beth. The overall impression is that Elizabeth was closer to Mary Beth previously, and there's an effort to balance things out here. There was a delicious awkwardness between the two of them early on about Mary Beth's desire to support Elizabeth which highlights the perception of Chris as a slightly detached pragmatist and Mary Beth as running on empathy and gut feeling. There's a nice little moment where only one of the women will be able to accompany Elizabeth to court one day and Mary Beth tells Elizabeth she has her pick. Elizabeth asks Chris to accompany her, and there's a sense that both Mary Beth and Chris are slightly taken aback.
I also enjoyed seeing both Chris and Mary Beth in redcoat mode, determined to keep things light for Elizabeth by taking her out for drinks. There's a great scene in a bar where someone asks Mary Beth to dance and she replies that she can't dance as she's married, evoking fits of laughter from the other two. the scene was even better for avoiding the expected cliché of something happening that would trigger Elizabeth, turning the scene into a dramatic one. Instead, we get a very casual scene that uses the viewer's knowledge of tv tropes to create an undercurrent of what could happen while playing against it. The result was that we were more in tune with all three women. The natural relationship between the leads shines through stronger than ever as a result of this episode.
There's a running B-story where Chris decides to buy a used sports car, and we follow her and Harv as they check them out and test drive them, which gave balance and got us outdoors a bit.
All in all, a fantastic episode. One of the best so far.
JANE DOE #37
This episode has a bit of a mystery running through it, but pretty well done. So the viewer gets to interact a little and try to put the pieces together from the information given.
The mystery is enthralling enough. Ultimately, though, it's another episode of obsession and existential crisis for Chris. Here she is on the cusp of her birthday, throwing herself into the case of a murdered bag lady. Once again we see her so preoccupied with this she goes off on her own time to sort it. There are some nice moody scenes - this episode has a lot of atmosphere with storms, rain, dimly lit bars.
There's a great scene between Chris and a woman who provides food for homeless people, played by Doris Roberts. Through the course of the scene Chris learns how homelessness is an easy trap to fall into for a nice, middle-class woman who falls behind on her rent or mortgage, loses her home, spends a night or two sleeping on the train and it becomes a way of life. Earlier in the episode, Mary Beth had commented that the dead woman could be either one of them, but for the grace of God. Chris had replied that there's no way it could ever be her. During the scene with Roberts, we see Chris lose that blasé attitude. When the woman is revealed to be in her thirties, there's even more connection. The woman is pretty much a sliding doors version of Chris. We also enter Godfather territory a little with the homeless woman having witnessed a mob execution.
Lightening things up this episode is a recruitment video that Chris and Mary Beth are asked to do. So we see them in uniform, leaping out of police cars while smiling at the camera and fluffing their lines. Daly does bad acting so well it's not even funny. Except it is. Really funny.
According to the blurb on the back of the DVD case, this is the episode where Sharon Gless "got" the character of Chris being a flawed person. And there's certainly an abundance of that for pretty much the whole 14th precinct this episode.
It's occurred to me that I have much in common with the character of Mary Beth. I'm quite proper, very principled and I have absolutely no sense of humour when it comes to practical jokes. Really. I can't even stand hearing about practical jokes that have been played on others without thinking less of the people who pull them. Well, that's Mary Beth this episode.
The practical jokes in question here are - as they go - pretty full on. Samuels arranges for Isbecki to go on a date with a female impersonator posing as LaGuardia's niece. In return, Isbecki pays a sex worker to chat up Samuels, not counting on the fact that Samuels is going to develop real feelings for her.
It's really interesting to see the repercussions of the joke, particularly with Samuels who is seen to be twitterpated for most of the episode. In particular, he speaks individually to Mary Beth and Chris for advice. Mary Beth's discomfort and Chris's guilt come across strongly.
Chris was so glad to finally be seen as one of the gang that she was completely on board with the set up at first, just as she was with the stripper that had been giving a show at the station at the start of the episode. This gives an interesting ongoing dialogue for Mary Beth with a number of other characters. Even Harv suggests she's overreacting (to the point where Mary Beth relents and tries to be more relaxed about it).
In an interesting move, the women are forced to pay the sex worker to let Samuels down gently, thus breaking the law and accepting that her loyalty is for sale… objectifying her. It's an interesting juxtaposition. Their motives are good, but their means isn't that different to that taken by Isbecki.
The theme of objectification making people less than, and people who object being dismissed carries over into the procedural plot of a date rape victim. A woman who regularly picks up men in bars having her sexual history used against her after a rape is a topical subject. By law it's not allowed, but the Ched Evans case in the news this weekend highlights how flawed that system is (for those who don't know, he's a professional soccer player convicted of rape who was allowed a retrial where his victim's sexual history was used to influence the jury into finding him not guilty - a decision that has horrified many).
The responses amongst the 14th precinct are very telling - comments along the lines of "no" usually means "yes", to others saying it's sour grapes because he didn't call her back. Chris and Mary Beth themselves find themselves torn and questioning if the woman may have given out mixed signals. The episode presents things in a thought-provoking way, and feels quite uncompromising - not least in the victim's refusal to conform to a standard expectation of the victim of a sexual assault. I very much appreciate how Chris and Mary Beth view things differently.
The rapist here is a singer, reduced to performing at an Italian restaurants. The collar is enjoyably quirky, as Mary Beth asks him to autograph his picture as a ruse before they snap on the cuffs. Once again, Mary Beth's lack of theatrical knowledge as they interview people at the theatre is a nice little wink, considering Tyne Daly's Broadway pedigree.
...??? I'd no idea that this had happened.... ?? I've just been reading about it on Wikipedia..... How bizarre....? I can't believe this quote ="The official claimed that, in response to the strong portrayal of Daly and Foster, that "we've perceived them as dykes"....."..... What utter nonsense .....
... I hadn't noticed this, Mel'...? But I'm not surprised, Sir.... To my mind, Ms. Daly is a wonderful actress.... one can never fail to be moved by her.... she consistently emotes the perfect level of emotion where relevant. You can see it in her eyes and in her small gestures/movements (as you mentioned earlier...?) Indeed, she is celluloid proof of what one of my ol' drama teachers told me many moons ago.... an audience's receptive acceptance of a performance conveyed as pretence, repeatedly fails to portray reality..... This, compared to a performance that is conveyed as imaginationary belief, will always portray truth... Ms. Daly utilises belief, in spades..... I love her so.....
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