"You call this plain clothes…?" (Re)watching Cagney & Lacey

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    PARTNERS

    Chris getting shot felt like it played out quite realistically. Mary Beth ripping off an item of clothing to pack the wound. It all happened quite quickly, which is the point. I was concerned that an episode with one of the main characters in the hospital wouldn't work, but really enjoyed what it did to the characters. Particularly it was interesting to see Mary Beth insecure when Chris was working on the case from her hospital bed.

    It was also good to see Mary Beth pushed into a position with her replacement partner where she was forced to be the energetic one that pushes. Her chemistry with Chris is so good it was refreshing to see her working with this man she didn't get on with. His redemption towards the end of the episode was a nice moment too. The small little moment of Mary Beth observing him shaking as he loaded his gun felt like I understood the character so much better, even though we didn't dwell on his motives or thoughts.

    Dick O'Neill was back for his third episode as Charlie Cagney. Flawed characters can be frustrating to watch, and that's the case for me too. But it's a good kind of frustration as I was believing the character.
     
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  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    CHOICES

    Some very pleasing long-term rewards for the audience. Following on from Recreational Use, we're reintroduced to the same slum landlord storyline. Great news that Susan French is back as Mrs. Skimmins. I did a little raving about how much I enjoy her in that previous episode, so I'll just say she was as wonderful as ever here.

    This is apparently Barney Rosenzweig's favourite episode, and it's easy to see why. The material is top-notch and very character-driven. There's also an emotional roller coaster for the characters - Chris in particular with her suspected pregnancy. I so enjoyed how much time and breathing space was given to this storyline. From the lengthy scene between Chris and Mary Beth in the ladies' room (their chemistry is so good in this episode) to seeing Chris buy and read the directions on the home pregnancy test to herself. There's also some great comedy. Chris's problem with tights at the start was great. We see her grab a wet pair (the only ones she hasn't put her foot through), then in the next scene we see her holding them out of the moving car window to dry. It feels like high quality soap opera.

    Once the situation was introduced it was just allowed to happen without any feeling of force or contrivance. It was all very low key. Even the end was a surprise as it wasn't a big moment. Just a moment.

    This is the most truthful, beautiful, perfect episode to date in my opinion and an absolute must-see.
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Four - Success At Last


    [​IMG]


    CHILD WITNESS

    In at the deep end with this season as it dives straight into the challenging subject of paedophilia. It's handled with as much sensitivity as could be expected and raises some thought-provoking questions about the ordeal that survivors have to go through. Moreover though, this is an episode that expresses frustration at the system: from the father's desire to prevent his daughter from being put through the wringer to the intimidation from the molester and his lawyer who show up unnecessarily because "it's a public space".

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mary Beth finds herself affected by the situation. Questioning a child with empathy and sensitivity shows a really attractive side to these two, and the relationship Mary Beth forms with the child is really special.

    More thought provocation comes from the scenario of the B-story where Petrie is assaulted by two uniforms who don't know he's a policeman, leaving the question of whether they reacted differently to him than they would have a white man. I felt his frustration here, and Carl Lumbly brought some nice layers to this and I appreciated the scenes with he and Claudia where they discussed it (there's a new actress here. She's a bit more glam and Supreme-esque). It was also good to see Isbecki stand up once again for his partner. They're a great team.
     
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  4. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I had no idea about this. That sounds like an interesting book.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I only discovered it because it's mentioned in Rosenzweig's potted history on the back of the DVD case. The quote from the book came from online. When I did a search for the spin-off, it brought up a page, so I suspect the entire book is readable online. I agree, it does seem an interesting book.
     
  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    HEAT

    While I watched the series on a fairly regular basis in the mid-Eighties, I only have one specific memory of watching an episode. It was Christmas Eve and I wanted to stay up late to watch Cagney & Lacey. I'd got totally immersed in a story that I found really tense. Maybe I'd been about to go to bed when it began. Either way, once I'd started watching it I had to see the end. But I was tired. By the last part, in spite of my best efforts, I was doing that "resting my eyes" thing and the only thing I can really remember about the episode is the quiet… then waking up with a start when I heard a gunshot that at the time sounded like the loudest thing I'd ever heard.

    The specifics of the episode faded with the years. The only thing I could tell you about the end was that there was a shootout at the end and it took place in some kind of train yard with carriages dotted about the place. I was thinking maybe it had Mary Beth and Chris running between carriages in pursuit of someone. When watching the DVDs this week, I only saw a second or two of the preview for this episode before skipping to the titles, but just a brief glimpse of the setting told me immediately this was that very episode.

    Like I said, I couldn't remember specifics about the episode. What I can remember though, is the feeling that I had watching it. I can remember feeling gripped and completely invested. Even though my young self had been drifting into sleep towards the end, I needed to know how it ended. It was important to me to know that the situation was resolved.

    Watching the episode this time round, I was quite surprised to find the women at the train depot right at the beginning of the episode - there, as the dialogue helpfully mentions, to investigate kids throwing stones. Chris - unsurprisingly - is irritated at wasting her time on a job she thinks uniforms should be dealing with. Her mood is not helped by her air con being on the fritz during a heatwave. Mary Beth is trying to take an optimistic view ("What can it take us - ten minutes? Twenty minutes.")

    It's all so ordinary. Except it doesn't feel ordinary. Even a minute into the show there's a powerful sense of atmosphere. The location is different to usual, with tracks, carriages, a shack or two and pylons everywhere. Trains can be heard lazily going past occasionally, bells clanging. The women refer to the heat (it's 90° and rising at the start of the episode) and the visuals strongly confirm what's on the written page. As Cagney and Lacey get out of their car, a haze can be seen rippling over it. When they walk across the tracks towards a shack with smashed windows, the background goes on forever with a haze of heat so thick that it distorts the tracks in the distance. The look of the episode is striking, distinctive and cinematic.

    Moreover, they look as though they're suffering with the heat. Chris is her usual composed self in a blouse and lightweight summer jacket. Mary Beth is less poised and has taken the opportunity to undo a couple of buttons on her short-sleeved blouse and carry her jacket with her. She's glistening becomingly with perspiration. And this is just the start. This episode is one of the sweatiest hours of TV I've ever seen.

    Early in the Partners episode (which I didn't do justice due to my delayed write-up) there was a moment right before Chris was shot where Mary Beth's heel snapped and she fell over (Chris had already commented that Mary Beth was due some new footwear, and we saw Chris herself revelling in a new pair of very ugly pink thigh-high kinky boots under her hospital gown later in that episode). So Mary Beth was almost oblivious to the seriousness of the situation until it had happened. There's a kind of callback to this in a pivotal moment in the opening minutes of Heat with another footwear reference. The two women are walking along in the dusty rail depot sharing some banter (Chris is still complaining and Mary Beth is trying to bat her negativity off with good cheer). Chris notices her white sneakers are covered with dirt and stops for a closer look: "Damn it. Damn it. Would you look at that."

    And this is the moment where things get turned upside down.

    Before Chris has finished her first "Damn it", Mary Beth has been set upon by a man with a gun, leaping out from behind a storage container. This immediately creates several moments of complete chaos and overlapping dialogue: a melting pot of irritation, confusion, surprise, adrenaline and dawning realisation. Before Chris has even finished lamenting her dirty footwear, Mary Beth is yelling out in surprise then terror and the man is telling her not to move. There's so much to process in these few seconds that I could watch it repeatedly and still not make sense of it. It's one of the most effective turns I've seen because it comes out of a completely ordinary moment. As a viewer it took me some seconds to really take on what I'd seen. By that time, Mary Beth had an arm round her throat and a gun at her rib from the man towering behind her. So I didn't just see and believe this moment. I experienced how easy it was to be overpowered and not have time to respond.

    This isn't the only time this will happen in the episode. Audience criticism or participation is to be expected ("Why didn't she just…" "All they have to do is wait for…"). This episode leaves absolutely no room for that. Each time I thought I could see a way out approaching, an obstacle was thrown in the way. It's delightfully frustrating. I can't think of another American show of this time that was this savvy in making sure all bases are covered. By 2016 standards the events in this episode still hold up as completely watertight to even the most jaded viewer.


    (contd…)
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    HEAT (2/3)

    The women's immediate reactions to the situation are thoroughly authentic and so in-keeping with their characters, hitting all the right notes of professionalism and vulnerability. Chris immediately responds as her training dictates. She holds her arms out to the side, her palms spread so he can see she's not hiding anything. Then she calmly announces that they're police officers and goes straight into negotiator mode. She assures him they aren't going to do anything foolish and asks him to drop the gun. When the man starts shouting at Chris to back off, Mary Beth also reacts as we’d expect, asking Chris to do things “by the book” and saying she’ll be fine. We don't know exactly what "by the book" means to them, and as an audience we're trusted to pick that up as we go along.

    While Mary Beth is speaking, the man is looking round and spots a boxcar with an open door across several tracks and a little distance away. He walks backwards towards it, dragging Mary Beth who is still in front of him as a human shield. Chris is forced to watch helplessly, her arms still out at her side.

    Even though he’s hauling Mary Beth over tracks and up gangwalks, there’s never a moment that feels like an opportunity for either woman to get the upper hand. Once he’s thrown Mary Beth into the darkened carriage, the door still open, Chris draws her gun. But it’s too late. He’s too far away and quickly closes the door on Chris. Inside the boxcar, Mary Beth spots a moment and reaches for her handbag only to find the man’s foot slammed down on her hand. With every missed opportunity, things feel a little more claustrophobic.

    Little details, like seeing the man forcing Mary Beth do most of the work in cuffing her hands behind her back without putting his gun down, continue to convince that there’s no possible moment for her to even contemplate escape. Meanwhile, two extremely sweaty uniformed officers inform Chris that the man has just held up a grocery store and she calls it in.

    The limited location and almost-but-not-quite real time flavour of this episode make it feel quite unique. There’s probably a term for this kind of episode. It’s not really a bottle episode, as it really feels like no expense has been spared with the location work and cast. We see a legion of police vehicles arrive in response to Chris’s call, with SWAT officers swarming the locale.

    After a somewhat workaday role in Season Two’s Hopes And Dreams, a sweaty Lance Henrikson is back with a much meatier role as Sergeant King whose role is to negotiate with the bad guy.

    What I found fascinating about these professionals is that we weren’t told in detail exactly how they operate. We can see that certain details are important to them but aren't told why. Such as seeing them stake out the area and choose locations that will be useful to them (“secure that shack for me..”).

    The importance of psychology in keeping a step ahead of the gunman is fascinating. Some snippets of dialogue about Mary Beth’s situation really get this across:

    KING: “Do you think she’s smart enough to play the guy? You know, work him; stress him; keep him off balance?”
    CAGNEY: “I think so.”
    KING: “Good. Good. Jim - I think we’re gonna play this a totally different way. I like the fact that we got a woman down there working him full time.”


    KING: “It’s one thing to drop the hammer on a total stranger. It’s a lot harder to kill somebody that you know. The longer she’s down there, the better they get to know each other. She’s doin’ half our work for us.”

    Non-spoken moments also reflect the psychological chess game. Perhaps the most telling is when the gunman tells King his name - Boyd. King’s elated reaction leaves no doubt that this is a turning point in the negotiations. Again, we can only guess at why it's so important. We're expected to do a little work and fill in some of those gaps if we choose.

    Mary Beth has already found out Boyd’s name for herself and keeps him distracted by speaking cheerfully with a persuasive argument for surrender:

    “We’ll be talking about a first offence - fifteen years. You’ll do a third of that, right? Good time, we’re talking four and a half years.”

    “If you keep on with this, you know we’re going to have to add kidnapping. That’s two felonies and then maybe they’d label you a persistent felon. That’s heavy time, Boyd. Instead of being out before you’re thirty we’re talking - picture it - fifty five, minimum. Sixty, maybe.”


    The episode doesn’t shy away from small character moments. It’s full of them. The most tantalising of these comes from Mary Beth:

    "I was thinkin' about my aunt. Actually, she was my mother then. Aww - it doesn't matter. She used to take a sheet, put it in the freezer. An' then she'd drape it over the f… the fire escape, you know, we'd sleep out there. D'you ever do that? Better than air conditioning."

    Your mother? Surely we can't leave that there.

    (cont'd…)
     
  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    HEAT (3/3)

    By the halfway point of the episode, both of them uncomfortable from the unbearable heat, Mary Beth has convinced Boyd to negotiate a move to a nearby shack, telling him there’s air conditioning and running water there (at the start of the episode, Chris and Mary Beth had entered it briefly establishing that the air con was broken). With an army of police gunmen and watched by Chris, Harvey and Samuels, Boyd and Mary Beth make their move.

    Once again, the execution of the scene convinces me that none of these dozens of trained officers could find an opportunity to target Boyd. He comes out with his belt tethered round Mary Beth’s neck, continuing to use her as a shield and moving eratically round, spinning occasionally. When they reach the shack it feels like it was inevitable.

    Mary Beth and Boyd’s conversation continues along psychological lines too:

    BOYD: “You got kids, huh?”
    MARY BETH: “Yeah. Two boys. Nice. Nice boys.”
    BOYD: “How do they feel about funerals?”
    (he raises his gun and grins)

    BOYD: “Stop lookin’ at me. Every time I look over there you’re starin’ at me.”
    MARY BETH: “I was just thinkin’ about funerals. You know I’ve been a cop fourteen years last month. I never got used to dead bodies. I’d hate ta see you lyin’ dead here, Boyd.”



    In the final act, with it established that Boyd is a psychopath who has killed twice before, the decision is taken to take him down. Boyd chooses Chris to be the one who comes down to turn the power on.

    Then it’s into the nitty gritty of logistics. The task force’s anticipated moves are discussed with Chris in depth (and the audience). To allow the snipers a clear shot at Boyd, Chris will need to remove paper covering the window of the shack at a crucial moment while he is distracted. It has to be at a key moment when he is looking in another direction - something Chris will only be able to guess at by listening to the conversation on her wire. By now the whole 14th precinct is on the scene, with Olympian levels of sweating going on.

    Boyd is distracted with King on the phone, the car he’s requested to view becoming available and Chris walking towards the shack, arms out at her side once more with palms open (this time wearing a bulletproof vest). Mary Beth isn’t so distracted and sees the SWAT men getting into place outside the shack. There’s a really powerful moment where Chris walks by the side of the shack, glances through a broken window pane and makes eye contact with Mary Beth.

    The plan is messed up when Boyd changes his mind about the car. Another missed opportunity. And it seems like Chris won’t get her chance. And then she will. But there’s a pause. And then she gets it.

    The horror of the moment when the SWAT men take their shots comes across strongly. There’s no messing about with these guys. No holding back.

    There’s a nice anti-character moment when Chris walks into the shack to find Mary Beth. Chris is so preoccupied with her friend that she doesn’t respond to King’s repeated radio requests to confirm the suspect is neutralised.

    The episode ending goes from heat to pure warmth. As is proper, it’s about the chemistry between these two women. Daly is convincingly traumatised-but-relieved, and shows some subtle disorientation which honours the experience her character has been through. It’s satisfying without any kind of schmaltz the cinematic feel is built on by continuing the action over the end credits.


    A very real contender for the best episode of this show, and surely among the best hours of television drama full stop. Heat won multiple Emmys. And my gut feeling is it deserved even more.

    As a casual viewer when it aired back in the Eighties, I knew I was going to enjoy this rewatch of a quality show. What I was quite unprepared for was episodes like this and Choices pushing me over the edge from keen viewer to absolute fan. Not knowing the show well, it’s hard to imagine it getting any better than this. Even if it doesn’t, well very few series get anywhere near to the quality on show here. Ever.
     
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  9. Don Howard

    Don Howard Soap Chat Fan

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    Sharon Gless never did it for me and Meg Foster is just plain weird.
    It's a shame this didn't come along a couple years later since Loretta Swit nailed the part in the TV movie.
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    INSUBORDINATION

    To give context, I watched this episode immediately after Heat. So perhaps it's understandable that with such an impossible act to justly follow I found this episode a little underwhelming. It's not a bad episode by any means. Just a casualty of binge-watching. Had I taken a week to decompress from Heat as 1984 viewers would have done, I probably would have enjoyed this a whole lot more.

    Let me just say that the increasingly serialised feel works very well for this show. This episode brings a callback to Barry Primus is back as Dory McKenna - Chris's cocaine-addicted love interest and colleague from Season Two's Recreational Use. To paraphrase Dinah Washington: what a difference a pornstache makes. Primus quite unrecognisable through his thick new moustache. If I hadn't seen his credit with my own eyes, I'd have sworn it was a different actor.

    The sense of history is pleasing, but what I found particularly interesting is that there is no difference between the way information about his previous appearance was given to the audience and the way information is given about first-time characters who we are told have a history with one of the characters. In other words, Dory's history is no more or less real than Captain Fuller - a character seen here for the first time but who has a history with Samuels. We get background information through the characters' own accounts based on their personal experience. We don't have to have seen it, because again we are trusted to catch up. This makes recurring characters fit in seamlessly without jarring.

    There is one significant difference that accompanies Dory's return here. Barry Primus is now included in the revamped opening credits. And I should speak about the credits a little bit. I don't watch the opening titles religiously - mainly because I erroneously thought they were the same from Sharon Gless's first episode to the end. So I may have missed a couple of small changes (though I do keep my eyes peeled whilst fast-forwarding). But I did notice that at least two of Season Three's episodes used a new and different recording of Bill Conti's familiar theme. With Barry's inclusion in the opening titles, a longer version of that Season Three end variant now plays over the Season Four opening. It sounds familiar enough that some may not even have notice the difference. But it is really quite different. Most notably the sax riff is changed and there a few added electronic drumbeats rather like the ones Dallas had in the Donna Reed season, or Season Seven of Knots. C&L wisely opts for restraint rather than the full-on drumapalooza of the two Lorimar shows, but it still feels a bit more cheesy and dated than the timeless recording introduced in Season Two. Or as someone watching with me commented - "It sounds a bit cheap."

    I was quite happy to see Primus back. Recreational Use was a very powerful episode with some memorable moments. Chris and Dory's physical fight in the alley is an image that's hard to shake. That would have been exhausting on a semi-regular basis, of course, so the Dory we're presented with here is clean and - irony of ironies - working on the narcotics team. And while it's great that he's being developed as a character, the Dory time in this episode felt a little like a damp squib. Perhaps that's deliberate - to reflect the difficulty recovering addicts have in not being defined by their addiction - particularly from those who have seen them at their most dysfunctional. Maybe I'm just not quite there yet with Dory and need time to adjust to his new, functional self.

    Cotter Smith as Captain Fuller is perfectly cast - slick and just obnoxious enough to irritate Samuels and audience alike as he suggests changes to partnerships and wants LaGuardia put out to pasture. We learn that Samuels once caught Fuller taking bribes - something that is probably influencing his unfair treatment of the 14th. Perhaps it's unsurprising, then, that the titular insubordination comes from Samuels who blows his stack and throws Fuller out of his office. Al Waxman and Cotter Smith handle this moment perfectly and there's another example of the direction allowing the viewer to feel part of the moment as we join the outer office and hear - very clearly - every word that Samuels says through the door of his office. It's a very rousing moment, nicely followed up by Isbecki leading the others in applause. If I'd bet money on Samuels' reaction to this, I'd have won by guessing he tells everyone to stop wasting time and get back to work.
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    OLD DEBTS

    Another example of a character with history being introduced. This is one that we haven't met before, but the dialogue leaves us in no doubt about the way he's affected different characters over the years. Keith Edson - who we learn killed a police officer some years earlier - is being paroled and the 14th are assigned to protect him.

    This is one of those examples of an episode that I think is going to go in one direction throwing everything out of the window and taking a different direction. In this case, I thought it was going to be a story about how the officers reconcile working so closely with someone who killed one of their colleagues, which it starts out being. There are personal feelings at stake here, after all - Chris had signed a petition arguing against his release.

    With Cagney and Lacey taking first watch, I felt hopeful it might be a real-time/limited location job. And it got off to a great start with the women flexing their muscles a little with their arrogant ward:


    MARY BETH: Mr. Edson, we'd like to get a couple of things clear here. First, we didn't volunteer for this. Secondly, this is how we're gonna proceed in the next twelve hours. You stay away from the windows. You stay away from the doors. You stay away from the telephone. If it rings, we'll answer it and you behave yourself. ...Understand?
    EDSON: I'm not in prison anymore. I don't have to take orders from anybody. Especially a couple of broads!!
    CHRISTINE: You're a pretty brave guy. Wasn't it your understanding, Detective Lacey, that this man is a target for every cop in New York City?
    MARY BETH: It doesn't seem to worry him.
    CHRISTINE (moving to a window): Hm. What do we need this shade here for? Let's get some light in the room.
    EDSON: Keep that shade down!
    CHRISTINE: Do you think he's worried somebody's out there?
    MARY BETH: Maybe he's shy.
    EDSON: You know damn well what I'm worried about.
    MARY BETH: What was that thing we were talking about, just before?
    CHRISTINE: Is he clear what's expected.
    MARY BETH: Right. ...Mr. Edson, is it clear what's expected?



    So here am I thinking that by episode's end, they may even have found a way forward. On with the show, and some heavy breathing calls start coming in, answered by Mary Beth. There's also a nice bit of business with Chris getting freaked out by a cockroach she's seen in the bathroom. It's always good to see a chink in her armour, and I was so into that thought process that I didn't take too much notice when Edson answered the phone against Mary Beth's orders. Then there was a huge bang and Edson was dead.

    So now the episode isn't about these two trying to relate to a killer. It's about their need to bring Edson's killer to justice, despite the praise they are getting from police nationwide for allowing Edson's death to happen. Once again, the women's contrasting motives for doing so create interest. Mary Beth is doing it because it's the right thing to do. Chris is furious that Edson's death will be on their files and wants to get the person who made her look like an idiot.

    The way they go about getting the information pretty much involves Christine using her sexuality to charm the men they're speaking to. In one notable scene, Chris hikes her skirt above her thighs and crosses her legs in a deliberate attempt to win a man over for her benefit. Eight years before Basic Instinct.

    LaGuardia's past is also woven into the storyline as we learn he trained the officer who Edson had murdered. There was even a fleeting moment when I wondered if LaGuardia could have exacted his revenge. Other people involved include the son of the murdered cop and the cop's partner.

    The reveal about Edson's killer is actually really sad. And even though I could see how the episode was going to end from the moments leading up to it, it still made me jump.

    The Chris/Dory plot is plodding along under the surface. There was one short scene of psychobabble about things being different that felt longer than anything else in the episode. It's just not doing it for me. Though there was a nice reference to their very first scene together when Dory asked Chris about the Columbian coffee.
     
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  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS

    After a couple of episodes of Chris and Dory mooning over each other, what could be more pleasant than an episode which starts with them snogging in bed? Well, almost anything really. But we get it all the same.

    In between big sloppy kisses, there is a little plot as Dory reveals he’s ordered a butler in a tuxedo to serve them breakfast in bed. Chris only half believes him (as do I) and she persuades him to stay in bed a little longer. While Chris is in the shower, the doorbell rings and Dory answers it to find Charlie. Cut to a case of mistaken identity:

    “Oh, good, you're here. Look - the lady's still in the shower. Do you think you could be changed and set up... Oh, it's too late. Look, I really want this to be something special. OK? Put these [flowers] on the tray. Chris, breakfast is ready.
    (He turns back to a bemused Charlie) “Is there something we should do? Or just get back in bed?”

    Finally. For the first time since his return I’ve found a Dory episode that I find enjoyable to watch. The awkward dynamic between Chris, her lover and her father keeps the subplot full of energetic scenes. The reality of his struggle to accept that his 38 year old daughter has a sex life is the elephant in the room for most of the episode, which is a nice, easy watch and gives the opportunity to explore Chris and Charlie’s relationship a little more.

    Mary Beth shares a little of Charlie’s awkwardness about the subject:

    MARY BETH: “Oh certainly, Christine, he knows that you... that you’re sexually... active.”
    CHRIS: “Well, thank you for the discreet phrase. And how come you make it sound like radiation poisoning? ...Mary Beth it is one thing for a father to... for my father to know that I... know men. It’s a whole other country for him to walk in like that.”


    Charlie later meets Dory outside the station and asks if he’d like to get a drink at “a little place round the corner. Now, there’s an interesting choice made here. As a viewer I want to know how their conversation will go. What’s Charlie’s motive here? Is he offering an olive branch, as his demeanour suggests? Or is he planning to warn him off?

    But we’re not privy to their conversation. Instead, while Charlie’s approach is resonating, we cut away to banging on an apartment door at night. The door is answered by... Charlie. In his pyjamas. And it’s Chris, furious that he’s approached Dory.

    Whether this edit is by design or due to time contraints is something I don’t know. I’d like to think it’s by design, to create a simple, efficient way of getting everything across, as well as to help us relate to Chris who also wasn’t privy.

    The scene that follows is a nice, simple, honest-to-goodness kitchen sink conversation between an father/daughter about his struggle to accept her as an adult. Chris has defaulted to anger, accusing Charlie of checking out Dory’s intentions, and Charlie complains that Dory has come crying to her. Neither accusation is accurate, and both are refuted, but the language used feels very real for this situation.

    The complexity of their relationship is clearer here than perhaps in any Charlie episode so far. Chris swings between calling him “Charlie”, “Pop” and “Daddy”, depending on her emotional state at a given time. Charlie spends much of the episode looking out of his depth, and confused that his efforts don’t seem to be enough. O’Neill’s pear-shaped face, with his jowels and boggling eyes get this across well and endear him to the viewer, even when he’s at his most brusque (more on brusqueness to follow).

    By episode’s end, they’ve come to an understanding, with Charlie the one to cut to the heart of it as the three stand in Chris’s apartment:

    CHARLIE: I gotta hit the rack early.
    DORY: I'll go with you. We can share a cab together.
    CHARLIE: How come?
    CHRISTINE: Pop!
    CHARLIE: Hold it. You stay out of this. Now you listen to me pal. It makes no difference to me when you leave this apartment. You can leave in five minutes. You can leave in five hours. I don't care when you leave. But you are not gonna leave at the same time I do, because I wouldn't believe that for a minute. ...So, officer-daughter, I'll see you in a couple o’ days. (to Dory) And you, I am telling you, Bird threw an elbow!
    CHRISTINE: Pop.
    (she smiles at her father)
    CHARLIE: Me too. (he winks)


    There’s an enjoyable little sub-subplot for Chris here when the women get their evaluations and she takes umbrage to a comment from Samuels:

    CHRISTINE (thrusting her evaluation at Mary Beth angrily): Would ya look at this?!
    MARY BETH: There's eleven categories in this evaluation. You've got highest grades in ten of them. And the second highest in the other one.
    CHRISTINE: Communication skills. He says that I'm sometimes... (she rips the evaluation back out of Mary Beth's hand). What’s he say? (she raises her voice angrily) ‘BRUSQUE!!’ I've never been brusque in my life!"


    This is where playing it straight proves funnier. The angry edge Gless gives Cagney in her response; her incensed delivery; raising her voice at all the right points. This scene made me laugh harder than anything else in the series so far.

    This is immediately followed by a scene where, still furious, she barges into Samuels’ office, waving the file to argue her case. She doesn’t get the opportunity as he discusses a case with her. Seeing her still standing there, Samuels asks if there was something else. There’s a moment where Chris looks at the evaluation file in her hand, thinks better of it and clutches it to her chest like a schoolgirl, thanking him in a sweet, soft voice. It’s a very effective lighter couple of minutes, and fits in perfectly with Chris's character's desire to be the perfect cop.

    The lighter stuff balances well with the heavy procedural case involving an apparent suicide that gets darker as more is revealed. Even among this, though, there are still some comic gems to be found.

    Sinclair, the wisecracking medical examiner from Open And Shut Case is floating round the scene of the suicide:

    MARY BETH: “Oh, Lord, that's what's-his-name.”
    CHRISTINE: “Dr. Sinclair, the medical examiner. Terrible puns, 'If you'll excuse the expression'.”
    DR. SINCLAIR: “Ah, the lady detectives, Casey and Lacey.”
    CHRISTINE: “Cagney and this is Detective Lacey. So what do we have?”
    DR. SINCLAIR: “I assure you, you don't wanna look. A handgun under the temple is very messy.”
    MARY BETH: “Have you any idea on motive?”
    DR. SINCLAIR: “You might say he ‘lost his head'!”
    CHRISTINE: “Oh, come on, Sinclair, will you give us a break, just this once?”
    DR. SINCLAIR: “You can't expect me to just pass those things up, can ya?”



    Later in the episode, Mary Beth has been speaking to Sinclair on the phone:

    CHRISTINE: “Did you talk to the medical examiner?”
    MARY BETH: “Yeah. He said give him half an hour. He said... Oh, never mind.”
    CHRISTINE: “What did he say?!”
    MARY BETH: “He said he had a good 'head start' on it.”
    CHRISTINE: “Very sick man.”



    The wife of the dead man is Mrs. Tanton - a second C&L appearance for Gail Strickland. In Season One’s Suffer The Children, she was playing a woman in denial of the fact that her husband had sexually abused her young daughter. Here in Fathers And Daughters, her character is in that very position once again. Except her daughter is now grown. And it’s likely that one of them murdered him.

    The situation may be similar, but the characters are poles apart here in the way they present themselves (and the way Strickland portrays them). In Season One, her character broke down when confronted with a likeness of her daughter. Here, she similarly breaks down when confronted with her now adult daughter. Both have confessed to the murder in order to protect the other, and when the truth can be hidden no longer, Strickland has a wonderful scene where she talks about her guilt for not protecting her daughter. It’s powerful, and beautiful. Strickland cries so well, and isn’t afraid to let the snot fly. The outcome of the case itself - while clarified - feels less important here than the journey taken by these two characters, both of whom have a moment of connection, forgiveness and catharsis.

    I’ll also mention Strickland’s physical appearance in this episode. In Melrose Place, she played Laura Leighton’s mother. During this episode (ten years before Melrose), I kept seeing the younger Strickland's uncanny resemblance to Leighton. It's easy to see why she was cast in the role. Besides the fact that she's a cracking actress.

    There was a whole lot going on in this episode, and once again it felt like all the arcs were honoured and had breathing room. Despite my stomach sinking as the first scene began, this has turned out to be my favourite example so far this season of a “classic” C&L episode. By which I mean one taking place in familiar settings and with a good balance of comedy and drama.
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Something I neglected to mention about this episode:

    I really enjoyed Georg Stanford Brown's appearance here. I believe this is his only acting appearance on the show, though he wrote and directed a number of episodes (winning an Emmy for one of his episodes in the helm). As I said, this was a cracking episode with a lot going on, and Stanford's character helped make it what it was. He had some wordy dialogue to deal with, including some legalese, and handled it effortlessly.

    As a viewer, it's fun to be in on the joke a little when two actors who know each other as well as Georg and Tyne (husband and wife) play characters who don't know each other and barely make eye contact in their interactions. It doesn't matter whether I know or not, and perhaps it's better not to know. But as I did recognise him in the course of the episode, it became a fun little game of "spot the chemistry". To their credit, they gave nothing away in their scenes together.
     
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  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    TAXICAB MURDERS

    Impressed as I was with Heat, I sat up when I saw Karen Arthur's name as director of this episode. Turns out she'd also directed Fathers And Daughters, but I'd missed that credit. So let’s start off with a couple of little direction moments that I enjoyed. One was a kind of dissolve from Chris to Mary Beth - both headshots of them standing in front of doors in their homes. I enjoyed that it suggested a kinship between them even off duty. The other was Tyne’s introduction as a taxicab driver in the opening scene, grinning and with her large earrings glistening. There was nothing showy - I just liked how it was shot through the reflection of the windscreen. There was a suggestion that it was a nice reveal, but with a deliberate suggestion of not seeing clearly - or even of being half-hearted. Which foreshadowed how the plot played out.

    Harv is a character I’m starting to find it really difficult to “get” some of the time. It’s strange - there are characters that I don’t necessarily “like” that I find fascinating. With Harv, I’m starting to find him unenjoyable to watch.

    In many ways it’s fascinating to see a relationship like this all broken in. But sometimes I just find Harv far too mercurial. I love him when things are mundane and ordinary. But scenes with them either heatedly disagreeing or slobbering over each other don’t work for me as well as I would have expected.

    In an early scene with Mary Beth, we join she and Harvey in mid-argument where he’s loudly criticising her for putting herself at risk driving cabs to try to catch a murderer. Also called doing her job. Now I understand - or at least I have to assume - it’s coming from concern. But it just feels a little bizarre for him to suddenly not support her in her work considering some of the situations she’s been in already. Not only that, he’s actually trying to guilt her out of doing it, putting her in a really difficult position. More often than not, choppy editing is utilised well to keep the pace going. And it does speed up the pace, but this particular instance - not seeing the build-up to the argument - just made it feel a little like a contrivance for Michael to overhear them.

    Then there was a scene with Mary Beth telling Michael she wouldn’t drive the cab and the camera pans to show Harvey in the doorway. Now at first I thought this was to reflect that he’d had his own way and was finally happy. But turns out Mary Beth was lying, and since Harv knows her better than I do, he realised this. So Harvey is actually in the doorway standing in silent judgement because his wife lied to their son. Because of the corner his shouting had backed her into.

    There was a scene later in the episode where they talked things over, but truthfully I’m really finding it difficult to see Harvey’s point of view. And I can’t decide whether it’s because of the nuances brought to him as a flawed character or because he’s not developed as well as other characters.

    Anyway - Michael did overhear them, and ended up running away across town - via subway trains, buses, and on foot at night- ending up at Chris’s doorway. Young Troy Slatten is thoroughly endearing as Michael. There are one or two moments of “child acting” that don’t fly as well (expressed anger isn’t as subtle as it could have been), but he mostly does a great job of just being a kid.

    There’s a really sweet little scene with just Chris and Michael talking to each other in her apartment that’s so cute. Again it tells us about Chris’s character and her lack of experience in this area (rooting round her nearly empty fridge, she offers him veal pate telling him “it’s like meat loaf”). It’s really heartening to see these two interact as a twosome for the first time.

    Troy also does a wonderful job in a scene where Mary Beth is tearfully apologising for lying to him. His character is sulking, but when Tyne turns on the waterworks we see the tears fill his eyes too. He expresses his sadness - and his love - both perfectly and silently.

    The taxi cab plot feels like a bit of a Macguffin. As we start, the operation is well underway. As things progress we follow Chris as they work out the M.O. and track down someone they believe to be the killer. But by the end the real killer has been caught offscreen by officers from another precinct. Realistic as that is, it should have felt quite unsatisfying. But somehow I wasn’t bothered about it because the plot had kind of fizzled out and got sidetracked. That’s not necessarily a criticism. Quite the opposite. I feel like I was misdirected for all the right reasons.
     
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  15. Kevmac

    Kevmac Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I love reading these posts. :) I've just watched "The Informant" and "Matinee".

    I really enjoyed "Matinee". It was interesting having more background added to Chris....
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you, Kev. I'm glad you're enjoying the start of Season Three. It's a vintage year for the show.
     
  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    AN UNUSUAL OCCURRENCE

    Like Heat, here's another opening that goes from the prosaic to the extraordinary in a heartbeat. We join the women at night, having been to a meeting in Spanish Harlem. Once again, Chris is a bit peeved that their shift hasn't been more active and hands on while Mary Beth is more upbeat. They stop for Mary Beth to get milk in a grocery store. Waiting in the car, Chris hears smashing glass, looks round, but can't see anything unusual. Then she hears it again and again. The area has been established as less than salubrious, and there's nobody else round.

    This is the point where I felt myself get frustrated with Chris, because she wanders down a dark alley to investigate this strange noise. Now, she's armed and everything. But even as a casual viewer I know that it's not a good idea and not exactly by the book. Especially since her partner is seconds away. That said, my frustration is borne out of a sense of connection to her. It's a scary place she's exploring here, but the way the scene plays out is very convincing in establishing that the alley is just a couple of steps from the car, and she's going a little way, then a little further, just to check it out. It's in character for Chris to take action to investigate before hitting the panic button and while it's difficult to know a character's motives, my feeling watching it is that her intention is to confirm what's going on and to get back to Mary Beth if it's something to be concerned about.

    She comes across a young man smashing windows with his baseball bat and - as Chris would - starts yelling at him to stop. He takes no notice and continues. There's more smashing, more shouting. At some point he starts swinging in Chris's direction and she backs away while still warning him. She's now cornered - blocked off from the route back to the car and the guy is swinging manically at her. She produces her gun and continues to warn him but he looks right through her and continues swinging. Chris fires a shot. And the guy keeps swinging.

    We cut to Mary Beth, walking back to the car with her groceries. She sees Chris is missing, hears a shot and heads down the alley to find Chris standing over the guy who is now on the ground and unmoving. Both women are very shaken.

    In the previous episode, Taxicab Murders, young Michael had a discussion with Chris about firing shots, and she said hat she'd never shot anyone. In hindsight, this was significant to viewers who would tune in this week. There was a similar conversation in Sharon Gless's first episode, Witness To An Incident, where Chris said she'd never shot anyone. Watching both the Taxicab and Witness episodes, I was reminded of the Pilot, where Chris had shot a man. Here's what I said after watching Witness:

    So this would be that "other" episode.

    Incidentally, some beats from Witness To An Incident are seen once more here. Firstly, a senior officer suggests to Chris and Mary Beth that they work on getting their stories straight. Later in the episode, while Chris is being interviewed as part of the investigation, she asks the officer what he would have done differently. Switching off the tape recorder, he tells her - off the record - that he would have used a throwaway. Both these elements of police corruption had been alluded to in that first Sharon Gless episode (the interview of Chris also has a moment where she was criticised for shooting to wound with her first shot. The senior officer told her that a good officer always shoots to kill. Scary stuff. Thankfully, Chris outright disagreed with him).

    There are some other historic nods towards the end of the episode. Mary Beth recalls how she felt when she found out it was her bullet that killed someone back in Season One's Pop Use To Work Chinatown (another reminder, incidentally, that Chris has fired shots before as it took a ballistics test then to prove which of them had fired the fatal shot) In a classic Petrie scene, Marcus tries to get Chris to confront her feelings about having killed someone, referencing his own similar experiences in Season Two's Chop Shop.

    This Petrie scene is perhaps the most meta scene in the show to date which gives kind of a chain. Here we have Marcus having a conversation with Chris intended for her to accept her feelings about killing someone which comes from his own experience of having shot someone dead in an earlier episode. This is a direct echo of the conversation Mary Beth talking to Petrie about confronting his feelings during Chop Shop. And that conversation in turn was based on Mary Beth's previous experience of killing someone. Bringing things full circle is that while Marcus is talking to Chris, Mary Beth is standing in the background watching it play out.

    The episode takes another cue from Chop Shop when the shot person dies later in the episode. As always, the IAD are on-hand with a combo of smoothing things over and making waves. The events here really highlighted the distress caused to good officers with both the investigation process and the external intrusion. The press in particular are shown to be sensationalist and biased in the wording used. And in a bitter ending to that aspect, after the shot guy is shown to have been using PCP, Mary Beth's request that they report on the facts to show that Chris is cleared fall on deaf ears.

    Charlie and Dory are there to help in their own way. Charlie talks about shooting someone back in his days as a cop, in a typically matter of fact way. For anyone interested he also mentions that Chris has a temper just like her mother. Dory - absent for much of the episode on a case - returns with champagne and caviar to celebrate his collar. Dory feels entirely inappropriate during the scene. It's obvious he cares and is trying to cheer Chris up, but it's a sign that he doesn't really know what she needs from him, resulting in a scene where Chris ends up covered in spilled champagne and crying. His not drinking any of the champagne was a nice little nod to his recovery programme. But it also raises a concern about Dory's state of mind. Why would someone in early recovery from addiction buy a large bottle of champagne with the intention of watching someone else drink it when the other person doesn't really want it anyway? All layers that may - or may not - come to fruition further down the line.
     
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  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THANK GOD IT'S MONDAY

    The premise of this episode was really enjoyable, with Samuels ordering everyone on the squad to put their Saturday on hold after they get a bad report about their paperwork. The exception being Petrie whose paperwork is neat and tidy. So Cagney has to postpone time in Vermont with Dory, while Mary Beth is sad not to have time to choose a new bedroom set (Chris's clear lack of interest in Mary Beth's excitement is a nice touch).

    Then it turns into a Statute Of Limitations thingy when Isbecki recognises someone in Chris and Mary Beth's paperwork as being someone Petrie is after for savagely beating a woman years earlier, leaving her in a wheelchair. The Statute expires at midnight that evening and the decision is taken to put the paperwork on hold to try to track him down.

    There's a fake-out, where the time expires before they find him, but Chris stays up all night looking at legislation to find that time spent out of state doesn't count. As someone they spoke to in their pursuit confirmed that she took a trip to Atlantic City with the man that took over 24 hours, they now have an additional day to find him. Which means they work all through Sunday too.

    Once again, of great interest is getting a sense of the pressure that time constraints put on the force. In Samuels' absence, we see Petrie making calls to authorise overtime for the Sunday. Then with just over an hour, Lacey tries to arrange a search warrant to gain entry to the man's apartment. As it turns out, the warrant doesn't come through, so we see a little corruption as they all agree to say they can smell gas, which gives them just cause for breaking in (the end may justify the means, but this didn't sit well with me at all. I'm quite surprised Mary Beth agreed to it).

    In personal terms, the most interesting story here is between Harvey and Dory, where a thread I'd completely forgotten about was picked up. There are scenes of them waiting at the station thinking the women are about to finish. Harvey is a little off with Dory, immersing himself in a newspaper and turning away from him. I was thinking this was awkwardness around small talk. Then in a later scene in a bar, Dory tries to talk to Harv about something that had happened. And it was only then that I remembered Dory doing drugs in the Laceys' home. This is their first real interaction since then. Perhaps because everyone else has been accepting and supportive of his recovery, Harvey's reaction took me by surprise, with some really harsh words and a threat of violence if Dory ever brought drugs into his home (among other things, he threatened to throw him down four flights of stairs). It was a well acted and intense moment for these two. I had to remind myself he hasn't had the benefit of getting to know Season Four Dory until now. But it still seemed like a huge overreaction on Harv's part - especially since Dory was trying to make amends.

    There was a very specific episode callback when Cagney and Lacey were on a stakeout hoping their guy may show up:

    CAGNEY: "What a lousy way to spend a Saturday night."
    LACEY: "We've had worse."
    CAGNEY: "Name one."
    LACEY: "February 19, 1983. We were stakin' out the United Nations Mission to the Republic Of Zamir. We were eatin' pretzels. He was inside eatin' caviar."
    CAGNEY: "Ok. But him we got."
    LACEY: "Eventually."


    According to Wikipedia, Let Them Eat Pretzels actually aired on 21 March. Other than that it's a perfect recap of that episode.

    There are some perfectly acceptable possible explanations for the different date:
    1. Lacey's memory is slightly off.
    2. She's recalls it was somewhere round that time but is just throwing out a specific date for fun.
    3. In Cagney & Lacey time, Pretzels did actually take place on 19 February.
    4. Wikipedia is wrong

    I'm happy to believe it's any one or combination of the above, but since 19 February 1983 actually was a Saturday and Lacey had just been sorting her paperwork, I'm going to choose option 3 as the most likely.

    In other news, we got to meet Isbecki's squeeze, exotic dancer Bonbon LaChocolat in this episode. She's been mentioned for a while now, and here she is. Justifiably angry for missing a Barry Manilow concert, but still reciting her poetry to Coleman. She's great fun, and the squad's amusement on meeting her added to the quirk.


    The lighter touch of the episode overall was shown off by Dana Kaproff's music, with some cheerfully frenetic classical motifs throughout.
     
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  19. Kevmac

    Kevmac Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Thank you, Sir.... :) I fear I'm way behind in viewing..... but it's working out well, 'coz I'm reading your delicious recaps' then watching the episode. o_O

    I viewed 'Killer's Dozen" today..... I enjoyed this episode. It was a bit of a surprise to see Sharon's new hairstyle....? :eek: Not sure if it's for her, to be honest.

    Petrie...?? Lose the beard..... :oops:

    Decent enough story. It's quite bizarre today to think of a police force going on strike.....? But that's how things were back then..... ;)

    Yes, indeed.... I love all the Ladies Room scenes.... I guess this was a kind of safe haven for them, where they could really let their thoughts and feelings out, as a display of such would be considered as "female weakness" had it happened in the main Detective's office area..... :oops:

    Enjoyed the Poker stuff. Another little top-up of Cagney's background...... o_O

    as an aside, Mel'.... what is "Isbecki's" first name..... ?? I've never quite caught it....? :confused:

    Thank you again, Sir for all these fab recaps on each episode, thus far..... They have made re-watching this show so much more interesting and it is greatly appreciated.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's a really good one.

    Oh yes. It took me by surprise too, especially since she'd been sporting her usual flick do in the first episode of the season.

    I didn't mind the beard. It looked a bit more rugged and timeless than the moustache. Though of course moustaches are very now. ;)

    Definitely. I liked the setup in there. "Conference, Christine!" I just watched a really powerful scene between the two in the ladies' room, but I'll save that for the next review.

    It's Victor.

    My pleasure Kev. I'm happy you're enjoying them. :)
     
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