"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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    THE PSYCHIC

    Is this an actual thing? Psychics being consulted in police investigations, I mean?

    Chris and Mary Beth seem to alternate through the course of the show, with one playing devil's advocate and the other the sceptic. The show approaches the subject matter with the same healthy scepticism as the officers. It's treated with earnestness at times, allowing the audience to buy into it before there's a reveal that shows us the man behind the curtain.

    Adding another layer, by the show's end, only the main characters are in on the trick, leaving the masses fooled into thinking it's all real. It's a way of the writers having their cake and eating it, with a suggestion that even if they are proved wrong in their scepticism, there's still a possibility that they're correct. Since that is a key element of the plot, this gives the audience the opportunity to take the same journey and experience the same thought processes as the characters onscreen. Which the writers cleverly use as a smokescreen, an opportunity for them to create a neat little misdirect or two until some more of the puzzle is revealed.

    Petrie and Isbecki on the trail of the Elvis memorabilia thefts was a fail for me on a number of levels. There are so many moments of humour and quirk on this show that work because they come organically from the characters. This particular storyline felt too situational. Like it was written to try to get a few cheap laughs. Don't get me wrong - it raised a smile or two. Of course it's entertaining to see Isbecki dressed as Elvis in a lineup of other Elvises. But the bottom line is that it meant nothing for the characters' journeys. It will be forgotten by the next episode, so it's just disposable filler. It was also a definite B-story. There were no tie-ins with anything that was going on for characters in the main story. Petrie and Isbecki spent most of the episode operating in a vacuum as the episode's comic relief. Even the music score interpolated notes from Love Me Tender to drive the punchline home at key moments. I've come to expect more.

    A smaller storyline that did work well here was Mary Beth's concern over her perceived distance in her relationship with Harv and what that meant for her. In Who Said It's Fair, the scenes that resonated most with me were the ones in which Mary Beth was shown to be isolated in some way - the waiting room scene is the prime example. This episode has some similar moments. She doesn't verbalise what is going on. Instead, we get some very subjective scenes which allow the audience to see Mary Beth's point of view. We're privy to things only she knows. This suggests a connection to her cancer storyline.

    For instance, we see her putting some mascara on before entering her home. Then we have a real-time scene with Harv where - to him - everything is business as usual, as he prepares to shoot off to bowls. Along with Mary Beth, we're willing him to notice, and we share her disappointment when he doesn't. Crucially, though, it's not entirely one-sided. Harv is shown to be confused when Mary Beth wants to talk, and although we have an idea what it is about, we understand that he doesn't. So his confusion at Mary Beth's silence is understandable. Then she tells him to go off to bowls. This is where I start getting on the fence. From what I've seen of Mary Beth I want him to say no. But I also have the evidence of what he's seen, so his choice to go out is a natural one. Once again, I experience Mary Beth's disappointment. There's an interesting balance of subjectivity and objectivity to these scenes, like watching an accident play out but being powerless to stop it. I can see the distance and I can see the small things both are doing to widen it. But because I believe their actions are the most natural thing for their characters, I fully accept it.

    This is the complete opposite of the Elvis plot. The Laceys' storyline has minimal plot and very little going on. On the surface, it's almost a non-story. Instead, the characters just drive things gently forward by doing their thing, relying on the viewer's empathy and identification to make it work. Which is what makes it the most successful part of the episode.
     
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  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    LOTTERY

    A new actor joins the roll call during the credits: Dan Shor as Detective Jonah Newman. He wasn't familiar to me, so I did a quick search for his name after the episode. This came as a reminder not to Google as I got a major spoiler about his character's fate. It was only a glancing look, but enough for me to keep an eye on him.

    His character's introduction was stamped on a little bit. His first scene with Chris had some ambiguity when she found him with his feet up on her desk, thought he was a criminal and handled him roughly to his feet for talking back to her. If he hadn't been in the opening credits, I wouldn't really have noticed him this episode. The thing that jumped out about the character was his comparative youth:

    JONAH: "Maybe I should introduce myself. Uh… Jonah Newman. I'm a Detective, third grade."
    CHRIS: "Detective third grade? You look like you're in the third grade."


    Apart from that, his main "thing" for the course of this episode was to confuse people by his presence. Even at the end of the episode when he'd been lurking for a while and helped Chris with a problem:

    JONAH: "You spelt it wrong."
    CHRIS: "Can't you find your desk yet?"
    JONAH: "It is not Wannabite B-I-T-E Industries. It's Wannabyte B-Y-T-E Industries. You know, like the computers?" [he turns to Mary Beth] "Had a friend of mine who bought stock. Told him it was stupid but he wouldn't listen to me."
    CHRIS: "Computers. That's it. Claude. Claude is into computers. What if he tapped into the lottery's computer and he dumped the memory? Huh?"
    JONAH [to Mary Beth]: "Exactly. Didn't you see Wargames?"
    MARY BETH: "Who are you?"




    I couldn't help wondering if Newman is partially intended to fill out the role left in the ensemble by LaGuardia's sadly necessary departure. If so, then I commend the show for going in a very different direction. One thing I never mentioned during Season Four was that I spotted a LaGuardia lookalike floating round the precinct during Sidney Clute's absence. He didn't say very much, but he was an older gent who dressed similarly and served a similar function. I suspect it was done in haste, but it never sat well with me and I would have found his suddenly stepping forward to replace LaGuardia difficult to accept. Clute remaining in the opening credits implies that LaGuardia is still there in spirit anyway, so having LaGuardia Lite would be pointless. But a new member of the team who is different to LaGuardia in so many ways will be easier to accept.

    Their Laceys' tax audit sub-plot turned out to be the most watchable part of the episode. Harv sweating about it gave some nice moments, and each time Mary Beth responded to the auditor he looked more frightened. Early in the episode he'd warned Mary Beth not to put her arms on the arms of the chair because the IRS have machinery built in that can measure bodily responses to confirm if someone is lying. By the end of the audit scene, Harv is resting both his arms on the armrests of his chair when the phone rings. Thinking he's triggered an alarm he swiftly raises his hands.

    The procedural plot - trying to work out which winning lottery tickets are forged was watchable enough, but also quickly forgotten. There were a few moments of fun though, such as a siege ending abruptly when the gunman turns his back on the barman to be quickly knocked out by a baseball bat. Or two cute little cocker spaniels not only providing the solution but also revealing their hiding owner, tails wagging. The lottery theme also gave a few nice little insights into the characters:

    HARV: "Let me ask you a question. What would you do if you won two million dollars?"
    MARY BETH: "First I'd take care o' the taxes. Then two hundred fifty thousand dollars each into trust funds for the boys. And a separate fund for the baby at three hundred thousand because of inflation. An' a hundred thousand dollars into blue chip securities. A hundred thousand dollars into bonds - state, not city. An' another hundred thousand into a real solid mutual. And we'd buy a house - outright, no mortgage. An' then the rest into a pension fund for the two of us except maybe two or three thousand dollars mad money."


    The moments where the A and B plots worked in synergy gave a nice fantasy vs. reality perspective. For instance, Chris and Mary Beth interview someone who blew his £2m lottery winnings in the space of a year while Mary Beth is feeling guilty at the thought of spending some of the Laceys' $600 tax rebate.


    In general, Season Five so far hasn't felt quite as special as the last couple of years. Season Three was quality over quantity. Season Four had a wonderful balance of personal and professional crises; of moving drama and character-driven humour. Season Five feels a little more compartmentalised. There's less sense of the characters (Mary Beth and Chris in particular) being too invested in their cases. There's no sense of obsession. Even Mary Beth being irritable at home as a result of the missing person in The Psychic didn't have as much resonance as it could have.

    It could be said that the characters are being more professional. The lines between their work and home lives are more defined. I recognise that not every case is going to spill over into their personal lives, nor is that doing to work in reverse such as in the case of Mary Beth's cancer storyline. And some days are going to be more routine than others. But something about this year so far is feeling a little workaday and I'm not feeling as invested as a viewer.

    I have a feeling it will turn around very quickly and I'll be eating my words. The series is certainly feeling like quality and still extremely watchable. The bar has been set so very high with the past, which is perhaps clouding my judgement. When the previous season had Heat as its second episode, that's a tough act to follow. So it's probably only right that the approach this year should be to begin with more subtlety and less intensity. We've got a whole 24 episodes for things to build.

    When I take the time to notice the subtleties, it's rewarding. The episode ending here is an example, as Mary Beth decides to throw caution to the wind and make a dream come true for Harv:

    MARY BETH: "What are you looking for?"
    HARV: "Uh, those brochures on the Dock Sea Cabin Resorts."
    MARY BETH: "I took 'em."
    HARV: "You did? What for?"
    MARY BETH [producing the tickets]: "Three days. Bought and paid for."
    HARV: "You're kidding. Oh, wow. Oh boy. I, uh, opened an account at the bank this morning. It was gonna be a surprise." [he hands her an account book]
    MARY BETH: "'Baby Lacey'. Harvey, you're the best."
    HARV: "It's one of those special deals. Uh… you can't get your money back without substantial forfeiture and all that stuff."
    MARY BETH: "But Harvey, the trip is not refundable either."
    HARV: "Yeah. The cheque's gonna bounce."
    MARY BETH starts crying: "You know what this is like? This is just like that story where… where she sells her hair and he sells his watch."
    HARV: "Oh no, baby, hey. We'll borrow to pay. It'll be okay."
    MARY BETH: "It's just that you bought me what I wanted and I bought you what you wanted and it's so romantic Harvey."


    It's a sweet little scene, and right in character with the romantic lens that Mary Beth can see the world through. It's really charming to see Mary Beth's view of this situation, and Daly shines in the freeze frame of Mary Beth's tears of happiness while making lemonade out of lemons.
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ENTRAPMENT

    After complaining that the series wasn't feeling as special so far this season due to a different balance of personal and professional, the magic was all in place for the next episode. And the reason? There are several, but first and foremost is conflict and tension. And it's more effective because of how smoothly things have gone so far this season.

    There are three pairings on the show that are in serious jeopardy this episode: Cagney & Lacey; Petrie & Isbecki; Petrie & Claudia. The stakes feel particularly high. In the case of Cagney and Lacey, their professional conflict becomes personal. Meanwhile, a personal conflict for Petrie and Claudia seeps over into his professional life and his working relationship with Isbecki also gets personal.

    This episode is the second directed by Al Waxman. His first was Season Four's Lost And Found, which I didn't comment on at the time because I didn't notice. There's something about an actor getting behind the lens of a show they act in that somehow makes me watch with a more critical eye. Not necessarily looking for fault, but noticing little choices that I may take for granted with a strictly DGA member. It's interesting that although I overlooked Waxman's directorial debut, I still commented on some of the choices he (presumably) made in that episode, such as cutting Petrie's dialogue with Cagney's search.

    Entrapment seems like it would have brought its own challenges to any director. There are several key scenes that involve people being filmed by the characters, so we cut between what's "real" and what the characters' camera can "see". In addition, we're also shown the playback of what the characters have filmed. The opening scene, for instance begins by cutting between Chris and Mary Beth in disguise as pharmacists and the back room where Isbecki is filming them through a one-way mirror. By the end of the scene, we're watching the scene being played back (apparently in "real time" at first, but it becomes evident that we're now at a later date when we see Chris, Mary Beth and Victor among those watching the film). There are many subtleties to the scene that could have made it flop if it hadn't been well-directed, but Waxman pulls it off with aplomb.

    Because of watching Waxman's direction, I also became aware of other little choices being made. For instance, there's a scene with the Laceys at a bowling alley where Mary Beth and Harv discuss an issue between Mary Beth and Chris. I noticed that there was no real reason for it to take place at a bowling alley. Apart from a couple of extraneous words of encouragement made to the boys, all the dialogue was fairly standard and could have taken place at their apartment. It made me appreciate this little moment where we see the Laceys behaving like a normal family, not because it serves the plot but because it serves the characters.

    Chris and Mary Beth's fallout arose from another sting of theirs where they almost lost the target and Chris - out of sight of the cameras - brought up the subject of drugs, which Mary Beth saw. Chris started to confess it to the person in charge of the operation who cut her off and suggested Chris and Mary Beth take the weekend to get their story straight. Chris was comfortable with this, feeling justified because they knew the guy was a drug dealer. Mary Beth insisted she was going to tell the truth, putting their partnership in jeopardy.

    We've seen this scenario play out before in a couple of very similar ways, but it never stops working for me because I can 100% believe that their very different viewpoints - which are usually complementary - are going to cause them to butt heads. This time round I very much enjoyed the colours that it brought out in Mary Beth. Rather than just agonising over potentially betraying her partner, she really let Chris have it a couple of times for putting her in this position and assuming she would go along with it.

    It's interesting to see the mixed messages Chris was getting. The task leader's suggestion that she should perjure herself was backed up by a conversation with Charlie who said he'd done the same thing many times to put a bad guy away and suggested that Mary Beth was in the wrong job if she can't handle that.

    Mary Beth finally going along with Chris's perjury was a powerful moment. We'd watched Chris lie confidently under oath, and then saw Mary Beth backed into to saying the words out loud which was painful to watch for Chris, for the judge who knew they were both lying and for the viewer. To see someone going to these lengths for the sake of a good working relationship felt both completely wrong and rather beautiful. And it was a relief when Chris finally stepped up and stopped Mary Beth from saying the words. It felt a bit late in the day, but at least it happened and that became a rather beautiful moment too. Even though it meant the dealer walked free.

    Petrie and Isbecki's clash came when Marcus realised that Isbecki had been gossiping about Claudia cheating on Marcus. This episode gave some wonderful Petrie moments in scenes with Claudia and with Isbecki. We saw him seethe with anger and look completely wounded, and as the episode progressed we realised he's been betrayed by the two people he has come to count on the most. And he has to make the choice about whether one, both or none of those relationships are worth saving. In particular, Petrie's decision to end his partnership with Isbecki gave us some great Isbecki/Petrie moments. This is probably as much depth as Isbecki has displayed in the series so far. I'm just amazed at how much was packed into this episode and still having space to be thoroughly explored.

    It's also occurred to me that, aside from the two leads, Petrie is the only other character who we follow home on a regular basis. Most of what we know of the others is through hearsay and throwaway comments.

    Coleman had a role to play in the Petrie/Isbecki drama: his inappropriate joke revealing to Petrie that Isbecki had been gossiping. Coleman also came into a conflict of kinds with Mary Beth when he asked if she'd undertaken amniocentesis. This caused Mary Beth to bawl him out about how much she hates his gambling charts about her pregnancy and him using her unborn child to make a profit. This was a rare case of Coleman actually showing an interest in Mary Beth out of genuine concern when he spoke for the second time about his daughter Betty (her first mention was in Stress). Truthfully, Coleman feels very one-note most of the time, so I'm glad of any attempt to give him a little depth, and this was a lovely scene which showed us the lovely, compassionate side to Mary Beth and started to strengthen Coleman's relationships with his colleagues.
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE CLINIC

    Some powerful scenes as a protest and subsequent bombing at a women's clinic brings the women into the thorny pro-life/pro-choice debate.

    What makes it especially powerful is Mary Beth being five months pregnant and Tyne Daly carrying a baby while acting out these scenes. On paper it's quite tasteless, but the execution overcomes that by acknowledging it regularly. Chris and Samuels both try to stop Mary Beth from joining Chris when she is assigned to escort a woman into the clinic past the protesters, but Mary Beth cries foul and insists that her pregnancy shouldn't hinder her doing her job.

    The attitudes of Mary Beth and Chris to the subject of abortion are almost surprising. Chris battles to reconcile her ardent feminism with her Catholic upbringing. She's pro-choice politically, but is finding it difficult to really feel it. A conversation with Charlie only reinforces the echo chamber messages she grew up with.

    Mary Beth, meanwhile, is staunchly pro-choice. Once again, Daly's pregnancy subliminally affects the tone of the episode. During the conversations the women have in the Ladies' Room, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Mary Beth has her feet up and her baby bump in the air. There's a strong message in there. None of this "I used to be pro-choice until my hormones kicked in" stuff. In the wrong hands, Mary Beth's pregnancy could have been used to manipulate and strengthen a pro-life stance. Instead, Mary Beth is able to separate her situation from that of other women less fortunate.

    The show pulls a master stroke past the midway point when we learn that Mary Beth had an unwanted pregnancy when she was 19 and chose to have an abortion - which was illegal at the time. Once again, it's impossible not to be aware of the baby bump as Mary Beth talks about her reasons for doing so. I can't think of seeing another scenario quite like this before. Most shows would have probably held off on this episode until Daly was "safely" not pregnant. But this has never been a series to play it safe.

    The finale of the episode again utilises Mary Beth's pregnancy for maximum effect. When Chris and Mary Beth confront the woman who bombed the clinic, the woman produces a bomb and threatens to blow them all up. Chris orders Mary Beth to leave. Instead, Mary Beth walks up to the woman, reminding her that she's pregnant and screaming at her that she'd be a baby killer. It's a very effective reversal of the scenario seen at the protests earlier in the episode. Once again, it's borderline distasteful, but done so well that any bad taste in the mouth somehow enhances the viewing experience.


    There were some nice moments for most of the other regulars too. In a nice bit of continuity from the previous episode, Coleman asked Petrie how things with Claudia were going and went on to apologise for his big mouth. He also took the opportunity to exonerate Isbecki, telling Petrie that his partner hadn't spoken out of turn. It's the most sincere Coleman scene of the entire run so far, and I'm hoping for more of this.

    Matthew Barry is back as Samuels' son, David who announced he was married. Al Waxman got to do some great responding acting as he was hit with one revelation after another:

    DAVID: First of all, she's not Jewish. I met her at the restaurant. She was the cashier. She wasn't able to support herself after her divorce.
    SAMUELS: Hoo! What? I'm punch drunk already. What... What, you got some more news for me?
    DAVID: She's six years older than I am.
    SAMUELS: Ho! OK! David, keep 'em coming! Keep 'em coming. What the hell. I'm on the ropes already. Come on. Keep 'em coming. There's gotta be something else. Huh? I know what. You got her in trouble too! Right?!


    It's good to see these threads picked up. Samuels is a character I thoroughly enjoy watching and I'm glad of these opportunities to see another side to him. The episode is also a return engagement for Barbara Tarbuck as Samuels' ex-wife, Thelma. They have a civil meal in a restaurant where they discuss their son's marriage.

    The storyline culminated in a scene where Samuels visited David's home and gave him and his new wife My Linh a set of shabbat candlesticks that belonged to Samuels' mother. It's a beautifully awkward scene with a happy ending where Samuels was invited in for corned beef and cabbage. It's a very satisfying moment as a viewer.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    MOTHERS AND SONS

    A spiritual sequel to Season Four's Fathers And Daughters, perhaps?

    The plots and sub-plots feel very balanced and complimentary in these episodes. The procedural has a mother who will go to any length to protect her criminal son while the father tells the truth. This contrasts nicely with the reverse situation in the Lacy household when Harv Jr. is accused of smashing a shop window. Harv Sr. takes his son's word and defends him to the hilt while Mary Beth's intuition tells her their son is lying.

    I went into this episode knowing that it was the one that got John Karlen his Emmy win. With that in mind I'd assumed from the title that the episode was going to be about Harv and Muriel's relationship. So it was a nice surprise to see that his storyline featured the "usual" Lacey family, and had that great chemistry that we see in almost every episode. Karlen was particularly good in this episode as things got more heated and it's easy to see why he got that award. There are several layers going on for him and he got to run the gamut of placidity, anger and sadness. There were some great clashes with Mary Beth and he got to yell and rage in the street trying to speak to the person whose shop window was smashed.

    There were two speeches in particular that were among Karlen's best work. One was a really beautiful scene between Harv and his son after the truth is out that Harv Jr. smashed the window:

    "Harvey, let me tell ya. When you defended yourself against that punk in the schoolyard, that took guts. But throwing a brick through a man's window and running away, that doesn't take guts. That's the act of a coward. Harve, I'm real mad right now. I believed you. I believed you because you're my son and I raised you to know your family. To know what we stand for. If you don't learn this now, you're never gonna get it. This is what it's all about, Harve. Love. Respect. Honour. That's what you've gotta learn ...before you can call yourself a man."

    Earlier in the episode there was a spiel that summed up Harv's frustration at his own life compared with his wife's:

    "I'm here standing here doing the dishes and it hits me. What do I know about this, huh? You're the cop. You deal with crime every day. Me, I potter around, waiting for somebody to want a new wall-to-wall, new-look kitchen. You know how a man should behave on the streets. You do it every day! So, look, I will stay out of the way! You teach the kid how to become a man! If he listens to me, he is gonna wind up unemployed, with an apron around his waist!"


    There are some nice moments between Chris and Mary Beth too. In one of the lighter moments, Chris is trying to see the criminal's mother's point of view while Mary Beth thinks the woman is out of order:

    CHRISTINE: That's easy for you to say, Mary Beth, you've got two good kids. You are lucky. It works. What if the third one turns out differently? Did you ever see The Bad Seed?
    MARY BETH: (gasps) That's a terrible thing to say!!! That's like putting a curse on my baby!!
    CHRISTINE: Mary Beth, I was just...
    MARY BETH: Take it back!
    CHRISTINE: I take it back!
    MARY BETH: Thank you.
    CHRISTINE: I'm glad you're not over-reacting.
    MARY BETH: (turning) You said something?!
    CHRISTINE: Do you remember when you used to talk about being pregnant with the boys. How you said we were always happy and mellow.
    MARY BETH: I did not say mellow. Blissful was what I said.
    CHRISTINE: Blissful? When was that?! The second trimester? The third?
    MARY BETH: The fourth.



    Their discussion also evokes a nice reference to the events of Entrapment.

    CHRISTINE: "When was the last time you stood up in a court of law and lied to somebody?" (Mary Beth raises an eyebrow) "That was different."
    MARY BETH: "Why? Because it was in the line of duty or because I was lying for you?"


    Rounding things off nicely, there's another Mary Beth road rage scene which is always fun and very New York.
     
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  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FILIAL DUTY

    Once again the title ties the procedural and personal stories together. Although that's only with the benefit of hindsight.

    I did start to predict the way the procedural was going from quite early, but still had doubts about whether they would go through with such an audacious reveal. It was very gratifying that they did. But what made it completely fascinating was the responses of Mary Beth in particular, with the emotion of such a challenge becoming so overwhelming that she realised she had reached the point of needing to take a step back from active work until after her pregnancy. The discussion between Chris and Mary Beth that came from that was very poignant. It felt like watching the end of a relationship, and the chemistry worked so well.

    Chris's ongoing spat with Newman is very entertaining, their back and forth little quips and put-downs bringing out some fun colours in both characters as well as the people around them.

    Charlie's illness was introduced well into the show. He was coughing in the previous episode which was a nice touch. Having Chris's decision to call her brother Brian with the news after her scene with Mary Beth gave it a great deal of meaning.

    The episode felt like it had a series of endings and momentous decisions that made it feel like a season finale. Chris and Mary Beth's talk in the Ladies' Room felt like a great episode ending and I expected a freeze frame. Then it went on to Chris at Charlie's bedside and again I thought that would be the end. By the time she made that call I was completely swept up in the emotion of it all.
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    OLD GHOSTS

    The young punk pursued by Chris is Mitchell Anderson who would go on to be chomped by a shark in Jaws: The Revenge and stripped naked for a photoshoot in Melrose Place. I recognised him right away here but it took a few seconds to place where from (somewhere in those few seconds I even briefly convinced myself he was Michael J. Fox). Anyway, this was another example of a small but pivotal role paying off. He disappeared along an alley not to be seen until the end of the episode, but in that time his actions had serious consequences for Chris who was suspended by the force on charges of nonfeasance based on eye witness accounts. Chris must've heard me saying "Non what?" at the television set, because she helpfully put it into plain English. In layman's terms she was being accused of cowardice.

    It felt like this was one of those "put Cagney through the wringer and see what emerges" episodes that make for such great tv. Not only is she still reeling from Mary Beth's move to a desk job, she then has suspension to deal with. While her father is seriously ill in hospital and her rich, successful, competitive brother flies in to unsettle her.

    Brian, Chris's brother is played by David Ackroyd. It's good to see him here. I liked him on Dallas and enjoyed him in Peaceable Kingdom (his short-lived series with Lindsay Wagner) but haven't seen him in much else. He's a good fit in this role. He may not physically look like either Sharon Gless or Dick O'Neill, but the dynamics on-screen worked well. Ackroyd brought the requisite distance to the character for someone who hasn't been in regular contact with either his sister or father, but I also fully believed this history.

    The sibling rivalry element proved interesting. Even little details like Chris inviting Mary Beth out for a meal with her and Brian (paid for by Brian):

    MARY BETH: "So, Brian, ...this is a real pleasure."
    BRIAN CAGNEY: "It's a pleasant surprise for me that you could join us."


    This resulted in Mary Beth giving Chris a withering look on realising that Brian hadn't invited her and she was there for two reasons. Firstly so Chris wouldn't have to deal with her Brother one-on-one and secondly to irritate him by getting her friend a free meal.

    Daly and Ackroyd played it perfectly, both characters concealing their respective resentments beneath a veil of polite chit-chat. The restaurant scene also gave some funny little moments highlighting Mary Beth being out of her depth in the swish French restaurant (she asked for a sandwich, and the waiter's response of "croque" was met with Mary Beth giving a lengthy explanation that she was drinking milk rather than soft drinks). Little touches like her trying to work out what the dishes on the menu with; nervously asking Chris to order first and telling the waiter his French accent was "entertaining" all turned this into a scene filled with magic. Daly did a great rabbit in the headlights series of look which bounced wonderfully off Ackroyd's composure.

    Samuels sending Lacey on "leave" so she could investigate the alley where Chris had fired at the young punk earlier was a nice touch of the supportive team in action. And gave us a chance to see the two leads work together again (already!). Their scenes gave more light moments with Chris (not technically allowed to get involved) being annoyed at not being able to drive or having to wear her seat belt and watching like a hawk as Mary Beth investigates the alley, irritating Mary Beth no end.

    Now that I have the names of the Lacey boys down and don't get them confused with the Brody boys from Jaws, this episode proved the acid test when Harv Jr. decided to change his name to Sean (after Sean Penn, in case you wondered). Leaving us with Sean and Michael. The same names as the Jaws boys (one of whom would go on to be played by young punk Mitchell Anderson). Anyway - at least this situation didn't happen earlier in the series, as that would have thrown me right off.
     
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  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    POWER

    With Samuels forcing the women to take time off in lieu a number of times before now, the tables are finally turned and he has been asked to take two of his twelve weeks' leave. The lost look on his face as he slips away from his precinct is quite poignant. Mary Beth is the only person to see him leave. She tries -and fails - to catch his eye to wave, looks fleetingly concerned and then smiles.

    Chris is taking over Samuels' role for the two weeks, a prospect she's thrilled about. Watching her taking charge - even temporarily - feels natural. Right from the start of the series it's seemed like only a matter of time.

    Almost immediately, she's getting it in the neck. We've heard raised voices many times when Samuels occupied the office. Now Chris is experiencing it from his side. When something goes wrong, the responsibility falls on Chris. In this instance it's a perp in a monkey suit climbing desks and throwing paperwork around. The situation is a humorous one - almost too silly for words, but because the people who witness it are equally disbelieving and amused it means the audience is able to get to the same place. Then Knelman arrives and lays into Chris for it.

    And that's not all. With Mary Beth in a squad room where there are ladders being overthrown and people running round, Knelman has just cause to ask her to leave. Except that falls to Chris too.

    CHRISTINE: "It's just happening a few weeks early. Treat it as a vacation."
    MARY BETH: "I don't wanna a vacation. I'm not due for a vacation! I hate taking money for nothing."
    CHRISTINE: "Well, it's not nothing, Mary Beth. When you had the boys, there wasn't any maternity leave. You had to just take time off without pay. Do you remember? The men officers outnumbered the women, what, thirty-to-one? We fought the Department. We fought the Union and we won. We got the benefits that we deserved. ...So take the winnings, Mary Beth. Look, I know Knelman's being a pig... The whole squad knows you're a good cop, Mary Beth. This isn't gonna change it."
    MARY BETH: "I'm gonna work out the rest of the shift. OK?"
    CHRISTINE: "Mary Beth! He said 'No'. He wants you out. He wants you to clear your desk."
    MARY BETH: "I don't want anybody to mess with my desk. I want it exactly the same when I get back." (to two uniformed officers as they come out) "What's the matter with you? Huh?! Don't you know how to close the door?!"



    Chris also finds herself clashing with Isbecki. It started in small ways with her pulling rank when she caught him trying to leave early but led onto bigger issues. Isbecki and Petrie have collared a murderer giving Isbecki the chance to get his name known and his ego massaged. The episode opened with him radioing it in, spelling out his name clearly and specifying the type of case, knowing that it's a monitored frequency and there will be journalists waiting at the precinct. His witness also ends up on television and is a flake. Chris pulls him on this in the squad room, but Isbecki won't take it:

    ISBECKI: Look! We arrested a suspect, positively identified as running away from the body. A known killer with a good motive. We nailed him within forty-eight hours, right by the book. Now no further investigation is necessary. Griffin stinks. So why don't you just take it easy, Cagney. Go find yourself a new boyfriend. Maybe he'll put you in a better mood against Victor.
    CHRISTINE: I'm telling you I want you to continue investigating, Detective.
    ISBECKI: What is it? Your time of the month or something.
    CHRISTINE looks Isbecki straight in the face: Newman and Corassa! As of today you will take over the Price homicide. Make sure these two give you all the papers.


    It's a great scene because of the history. Chris has spent four years at the 14th proving herself, earning the respect of her peers and the sexist comments have all but died down. In a moment, Victor has undone it all and set their relationship back. And if Chris is looking for support, she won't find it from Petrie as she learns when he is in "her" office later in the episode:

    CHRISTINE: "I'm sorry about what happened on the Price case. I know you were an innocent bystander and you can't be responsible for your partner's attitude."
    PETRIE: "Look, Victor was way out of line. But you were wrong to take the case away from us in front of the whole Squad."
    CHRISTINE: "It's not down to you, Detective."
    PETRIE: "I know you're ambitious, and I can understand because I'm ambitious too. But now it's like you're on a power trip."
    CHRISTINE: "I want you to stop right there, Petrie!"
    PETRIE: "No!! Go ahead. Discipline me, but I have to say this. You're over the top, ...Sergeant. If you don't see it, the rest of us do."
    CHRISTINE: "Maybe what you see, Petrie, is that I passed the Sergeant's Exam higher than you did and I'm sitting at this desk and you're not!"
    PETRIE: "You didn't hear a word I said."



    Chris finds a couple of unexpected allies. Coleman brings food to her office from the deli:

    COLEMAN: "We got your chicken salad for protein. We got your rye bread for energy. Sliced tomatoes for vitamin C. Coleslaw with carrots for your eyes. ...And a pickle."
    CHRISTINE: "What's the pickle for?"
    COLEMAN: "Fun, Cagney."


    His identification sums up her misery in a nutshell:

    COLEMAN: "You know, when I first took over the desk, that was the hardest part."
    CHRISTINE: "What?"
    COLEMAN: "You're not one of the guys any more."


    Newman offers to take her out for a drink to cheer her up. There's a sense that their relationship turned a corner in this episode. And with that change of dynamic, the energy between the two starts to feel more playful and we start to see that Newman's wit might be hiding something deeper.

    My favourite scene of the episode is very short and wordless. A despondent Christine goes into the Ladies' Room, the scene of so many lively heart-to-hearts with Mary Beth. She closes the door and in long shot we see her standing silently, deep in thought. Mary Beth's absence and Chris's loneliness come across more effectively in those few seconds than any words could do. And again it's because of the history associated with the space.

    The spirit of their Ladies' Room discussions is carried into their next scene together in a setting that also has some history for the two: Mary Beth's kitchen

    MARY BETH: "Chris, I understand how you feel."
    CHRISTINE: "The hell you do!!! You weren't there!!"
    MARY BETH: "I didn't have a choice. I was sent home. Remember?"
    CHRISTINE: "You did have a choice! You had a choice about getting pregnant! ...It's not like it was an accident."
    MARY BETH: "That's my business, Chris."
    CHRISTINE: "It becomes my business when I lose a partner! You know you never even talked to me! I had to hear it from everybody else!"
    MARY BETH: "Christine, I'm having a baby. I'm on leave. Maternity leave. I'm not retiring."
    CHRISTINE: "Yeah, well, you were thinking of retiring last year."
    MARY BETH: "That was last year."
    CHRISTINE: "Fine. I'm glad to hear that you're no longer thinking of retiring."



    The final scene of the episode, between the two women also takes place in the Lacey home, late at night. When Chris first enters, James Frawley's direction subtly shows the emotional distance between the two with a clever angle. They are standing facing each other, both in the living room near the kitchen. From the angle we view it, Chris is in the darkness of the living room, the light catching her features while Mary Beth is further across, with the bright kitchen light behind her. The frame of the partition entrance to the kitchen appears to be between them, down the middle of the screen. It's almost like the split screen technique that was used appear when an actor in a dual role appeared on-screen with themselves. It suggests that the women are in very different places, perhaps even different times. It's an interesting and very effective choice, and makes their re-bonding in the kitchen even more satisfying.
     
  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    PLAY IT AGAIN, SANTA

    There's the usual festive lighter tone to the episode - including a rather bizarre montage of events in the episode that plays before the title sequence. It's like a preview, but with a rendition of My Christmas Love (For You) sung by one of this episode's guest-cast: Thelma Houston. We hear it several more times throughout the episode: lip synced by Houston when her character, Ellie Hendricks, sings it at a nightclub; played by Chris in her apartment as she wraps presents and over a scene at the end of the episode where Mary Beth's dream becomes reality.

    Fortunately, it's a nice song and a great vocal and didn't get old. Janis Cercone and Michele Brourman are credited as songwriters over the end titles, leading me to wonder if it might have been written for this episode. Sadly, I can't seem to find a recorded version anywhere, as I'd have been up for listening to it over the festive season.

    The main plot of the episode featured that song, which was stolen. The plot was fairly perfunctory, but helped greatly by the chemistry between the actors - particularly Gless and Dan Shor as Newman - and there was so much else going on that the procedural plot became secondary.

    As seems to be the case this season, I'm finding more and more reasons to love Chris.

    First up, we share a grammar bugbear as we find when Newman discusses the missing street corner Santas.

    NEWMAN: "First of all, she starts over with Neil, switches over to Rupert and Neil disappears. It's a classic triangle… Second of all, I have a hunch about this and I've learnt to go with my hunches."
    CHRISTINE: "First of all, there is no 'second of all'. It's secondly."


    Dressing up your characters in red and white suits is a christmas episode television trope and not on the surface particularly innovative or funny. But when Newman and Cagney put on Santa suits to investigate the Santas' disappearance, the little touches made all the difference. Like Chris only having elf shoes which forced her to walk as though she were wading through water. Gless's delivery of a line in that initial Santa scene gave me my biggest laugh out loud moment of the season so far:

    CHRISTINE: "These are not Santa Claus shoes. These are elf shoes."
    NEWMAN: "I told you before. It's the busy season. They ran out of your size. Hey, I offered, but no… you didn't wanna be Mrs Santa Claus."
    CHRISTINE: "I don't play supporting roles."


    The seriousness with which she says her lines and the way she puffs up and deepens her voice on that last line felt unexpected. And funny.

    The scene goes onto some classic banter between the two Santas in the squad room, Chris taking large steps as she marches with a ream of fax paper from a bin stuck to her elf shoe and trailing her:

    NEWMAN: "You know what your problem is? You're inappropriately competitive."
    [Chris marches on across the squad room, a trail of fax paper caught on her elf show trails her]
    CHRISTINE: "Me? You're competitive about breathing, Newman. I took Psyche 101 also Newman. You know what's wrong with you? Arrested development. You are somewhere in junior high. Probably because of your height and your lack of popularity with girls."


    Once again their great chemistry is on show, which sets up the turn their story takes this episode. Chris's jibes about his sexual prowess and Newman tying in the case to a love triangle all foreshadow the latter part of the episode.

    Stephen Macht is back as David Keeler (he returned in Power). And we get the first Cagney & Lacey romantic quadrangle (or is it a double triangle? I'm no expert). First Chris finds him having it away with another woman. Then when he returns to sweep Chris off her feet at the end of the episode we see Newman sadly watching them drive off in a cab. It's quite a glossy Hollywood Christmas type scene, with snow falling, Newman clutching a single red rose and all the characters dressed up to the nines (Newman was planning to surprise Chris and accompany her to a social event, knowing that David had let her down). It's quite soapy. But I liked it.

    Romantic entanglements aside, there was a cute little arc for Mary Beth who had a craving to swim alone in the middle of the night. Harv did all he could and paid for her to have a public pool to herself, and we see her swimming and glowing as Thelma Houston's song plays over it. There's a bit of overkill when Harvey wades in fully clothed (even wearing his shoes, which seems most unsanitary), but Daly in particular made this romantic scene fly.
     
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  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE RAPIST

    This one had a hint of Season Two's Affirmative Action to it, with a keen-but-green younger woman getting involved in a case at the 14th. Once again, she quickly proves herself capable in many ways but raises concerns in others. Where Diane in the earlier episode fell down on her people skills, Sara Jones - Cagney's insistent new partner in this episode - proves highly effective there. She not only charms Coleman, Samuels and even Cagney herself, she also helps deal sensitively with the husband of a woman who has been raped. Then she goes on to work extra hours alone and comes up with a pattern to find a serial rapist.

    When Samuels can't authorise additional manpower to work on the case, Sara reacts strongly. This, along with Sara's growing obsession with the case is where Chris starts to get concerned. Sara is staking out a suspect's home in her own time and her questions of neighbours get the department threatened with action.

    I like that Mary Beth reminded Chris of her own obsession with Albert Grand. And I enjoyed how Chris still came to Mary Beth as part of her process. The contrast between the two was really highlighted, with Sara being crisp and professional while Mary Beth was seen in a variety of domestic settings. In one of their scenes, Chris was helping Mary Beth choose a dress to wear to give a speech on the topic of maternity at a police union, and I was surprised how uncensored their conversation was with people around.

    Mary Beth does eventually choose a dress - a bright fuchsia number. She's still uncertain by the time she shows it to Harv:

    HARVEY: "Oh - it's great."
    MARY BETH: "Too much?
    HARVEY: No, it's nice. It's bright."
    MARY BETH: "Is it too loud?!"
    HARVEY: "No! You want them to see you in the back row. Right?"
    MARY BETH: "It is. It's too much."
    HARVEY: "Oh, honey, I didn't say that. You look beautiful. Beautiful."
    MARY BETH: "Yeah? Christine didn't like it either."



    There's plenty of classic banter between the two leads in the run-up to Mary Beth's speech. Perhaps the funniest moment of the episode is where Mary Beth has a Braxton Hicks contraction as they're leaving the apartment. Chris goes into complete panic, but Harv realises what's going on and gives Christine the scientific explanation. He times it, then asks Mary Beth if she's feeling better. Mary Beth suddenly snaps up straight, says she's fine and walks on out, followed by Harvey. Chris is so overcome she has to pause and hold onto the wall.

    Tyne does awkward so well, and the speech itself is a great example of that. She's awkward. Then she gets confident and steps aside from the podium. Then she realises she doesn't know what to say next and starts flapping until she's got her cue sheet again.

    Meanwhile, Chris does some research on Sara and puts the pieces together to work out that Sara herself had been raped a year earlier, which is why she's so obsessed with this type of case.

    After talking it over with Samuels, he asks Chris to tell Sara to take some enforced leave. There's an interesting choice here - we see Chris telling Sara from the perspective of Samuels in his office. We don't hear what's said, and we don't need to because the emotion comes across just from their body language.

    I appreciated how Chris made a point of trying to protect Sara to both Samuels and Knelman. In Knelman's case, she even avoids saying the reasons for Sara being on leave so as not to jeopardise Sara's career. Sara herself isn't so bothered though and decides to do what she has to.

    Chris works out that Sara is setting herself up as bait, and a frantic investigation is underway. There's a powerful scene where Sara - wearing a wig - phones Chris and tells her that it was great working with her. Sara sits on a bed, and we can hear there is someone else in the bathroom. Next to Sarah, lying on the bed is what appears to be a gun. It's not clear, and leaves the viewer not 100% sure of what they've seen.

    As Chris drives round, trying to work out where Sarah is, she gets the radio call about a homicide in the area and follows it. The final few moments are very subjective. We follow Chris, and the music becomes driven, building and building, urging the action on, which really gives a sense of Chris's own sense of urgency. Then we join Chris as she arrives and pushes through bystanders and police officers as she enters the building and climbs the stairs. We see what Chris sees: a man's body on the floor. We hear what she hears: the interviewing officer asking questions:

    "Did you have any prior knowledge of or dealings with the deceased, William Brown? Is there any statement you wish to make for the record?"

    Then we pull back to see Sara sitting in the same position on the bed. And we get a long shot of Sara and Chris exchanging looks amid the chaos.

    Even though the ending was deliberately telegraphed, the way it was filmed made it such a powerful moment. Just like Chris, we were given enough information for the possibility to dawn on us. Then we arrived with an element of uncertainty and dread. By the time we saw the scene for ourselves, the enormity of what happened was beginning to dawn on us, but we still shared the feeling of unreality experienced by those on screen.

    A great episode. I'm looking forward to Part II next season.
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ACT OF CONSCIENCE (a.k.a THE FINK)

    There's something about societal and cultural honour systems that I find unnerving. Even when the basis for them is grounded in solid reasoning or loyalty to others, they get taken to extremes too often. And they show the ugliest side of human nature and lessen the people who get too hung up on them. Whether it's bitchy teens sending a friend to Coventry; gang members shooting someone who was one of their own; or a squad of police officers making a colleague's life miserable for following his conscience.

    So sets the theme of this episode. Cagney's new partner is Patrick Lowell. Played by Michael Moriarty, Lowell's reputation precedes him and the entire squad is aware he had spoken to the press about eight colleagues who were taking bribes, one of whom later shot himself dead.

    The entire squad room snub and bully Lowell in various different ways: he's ignored; spoken to frostily; crucial information is kept from him; coffee is knocked into his lap; a dead rat is hung in his locker.

    Double standards are carefully set out throughout the episode. Chris herself is shown to barely tolerate Lowell, speaking icily only when she has to and reminding him quite bluntly that someone had died because of his actions. Mary Beth reminds Chris of her own charges against Hennessey, and Chris reacts angrily, saying the situation is entirely different. And to be fair, she justified that by saying she'd dealt with it internally, without making it public knowledge.

    While it wasn't mentioned in the episode, I couldn't help thinking of how upset Chris was upon learning in Season Two's Internal Affairs that Charlie had taken bribes. At the time, it seemed like the worst news she could get, and something that she found difficult to forgive. I also recall another Season Two episode: A Cry For Help, in which Mary Beth - and Chris - threatened to report a colleague who was beating his wife. So her response to Lowell reeked of hypocrisy, especially when paired with her sexual harassment suit against another officer.

    Isbecki was seen to be into the culture of bullying - perhaps predictably. Marcus looked uncomfortable with it, but said nothing. Coleman was taking bets on how long Lowell would stay. Samuels was shown to not want Lowell round and so he just left everyone to get on with it. The coffee spiller was a semi regular, but a cop I couldn't name. Perhaps because that action was difficult to get past. And we never found out who put the rat in Lowell's locker.

    Lowell himself was shown to be sympathetic and someone who took the high ground in the most intolerable of conditions. His one-to-one angry discussion with Chris about his reason resonated most strongly because of the parallels with Chris's own feelings about police work:

    LOWELL: "Listen, rats are nothing compared with what I've been through for the last two years. The guys have gotta try harder than that to keep me from being a cop! Because that all I ever wanted to be. Being a cop, you know. For me it was more than a job. It was an ideal and something to look up to. Something to believe in. And the funny thing is that I still believe in it. Even after all these dead rats and your dirty looks and your silent treatment. I still believe in the job and everything it stands for."
    CHRISTINE: "You believe in that? If you believe in choice, why did you go to the Press?"
    LOWELL: "What? Do you think I rushed into this? ...No. Did you think I spent months after month while my Precinct Captain is telling me to sit and wait while my charges are supposed to be checked into? And a year goes by and they're still being looked into. And the guys are still are stuffing their pockets. And my wife and my son are getting death threats on the telephone. Yeah. I spilled my guts to the Press. And when they gave me that gold shield, I'll be damned if I hadn't earned it. Because I had. My whole family had. A cop can't be above the law, he's gotta uphold it. And I did what I had to do. I know that now. And I also know that a cop ate his gun 'cos of my testimony. I'll never forget that. And even if I could, I've got people like you around to remind me. ...A police chaplain told me once, God forgives, cops don't."


    As he left the office, he was drummed out by most of the officers present using anything that came to hand. Among the noise was one shot of Newman hesitantly rubbing the top of a book and then starting to gently drum it which emphasised the power of peer pressure most effectively. It showed how bullies operate - you're either with us or against us. Staying impartial is not an option. This incident more than any other left a bad taste in my mouth and lessened the characters seen to be participating. Which is the point.

    Once again, no words were used for the most powerful moment of the episode where Chris followed Lowell and - in front of the entire squad - extended a hand to him, which he took. The viewer was left in no doubt of who had the most courage here.
     
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  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    D.W.I.

    It's occurred to me that Daly's real-life pregnancy has been really good for the show. Lacey's pregnancy has held my interest. It hasn't slipped into the cliche of having a character defined by their pregnancy. It's simply shown to be another fact of her life. Mary Beth no longer working has strengthened the Lacey family overall. We're seeing more scenes of the family and her home. In turn, that's strengthened Mary Beth's character. It's also good to see Chris visiting Mary Beth at home more. I enjoy seeing Chris interact with Harv and the boys. There's been more of that this season, and things get stepped up a notch with Harv and Chris in this very episode.

    The scenes at home help round out the characters, showing that they're not dependent on high drama or serious cases to be interesting and watchable. The treatment of the mundane and ordinary is a strength of this show. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it equals - and quite possibly outdoes - early Knots in capturing small moments in people's lives that seem inconsequential but allow the audience to connect with the characters on a level that rarely happens. I don't watch to see the characters waving guns and kicking butt. I tune in to see what Harv is cooking for dinner; if Charlie is going to return Chris's phone call; whether or not Mary Beth can solve Michael's maths equation. The banter and chit-chat is frequently the most fun part. It always feels fresh - and frequently unscripted. I often wonder if this moment or that is ad libbed.

    This episode opens with one of those prosaic scenes. Mozzarella has gone missing from Mary Beth's fridge. She knows Michael did it and after a little back and forth persuades him to run to the store to buy more. She gives him the money, tells him to bring her the change along with the cheese and sends him on his way wearing his black jacket. It's a scenario that plays out in millions of homes every day, and in the Lacey home each episode. This would often have been the end of the scene - a statement in itself.

    Instead, this particular scene uses this familiar situation to lull us into a false sense of security. Just as Mary Beth relaxes into a chair and rests her eyes we hear the screech of car brakes and a thud. Mary Beth, dashing to the window, sees a boy in a black jacket lying in the road. Then she sees the car drive away. It's especially effective because of the restraint the series usually shows. We're attuned to seeing the Laceys go about their business. Their home may have its own dysfunction and intermittent emotional crises, but it is also a kind of haven from the violence and crime we see pocketed away in other settings on the show. So to be confronted with this situation is a little unsettling.

    Watching Mary Beth confronted with it is equally unsettling. As she ran downstairs and out into a highly charged situation, I found myself concerned for the wellbeing of both her and her baby. Then I found myself feeling slightly bad about it. Was I being a little patronising? Isn't this what angered Mary Beth on being sent home by Knelman? Isn't she a capable adult who knows her own limitations?

    Then it occurred to me that part of the issue is the fact that I'm used to pretty much every other TV pregnancy which comes with an unwritten law something has to go wrong. Getting through a pregnancy without a health scare is pretty much unheard of. Dramatic situations are triggers for this and stairs spell disaster. I've been conditioned into an attitude of discrimination. And this show is challenging it.

    What I appreciate is that this show doesn't drop the ball and forget that Mary Beth is a professional even though she's not in a working environment and hasn't been for quite a few episodes. Even as she works her way through the throng of people gathered, not sure if she is going to find her son badly injured or dead, she stays composed and politely lets people know that she's a police officer.

    There is a little bit of a fake-out here. Because it's not Michael, but a neighbour of the Laceys. Michael returns unharmed. All the same, I don't feel cheated with this revelation. Because I saw it through Mary Beth's eyes and experienced that fear that something could have happened to a loved one. I experienced the bittersweet relief that it's not her loved one but someone else's.

    Staying professional, Mary Beth makes sure procedure is followed: people are told not to move the boy; Michael is given orders to ring the police from the apartment and make sure they get the address down properly; she reassures Mrs Dashevski - the boy's mother and her friend and neighbour - that these things often look worse than they are. In other words, she's back in action.

    A while later, she gives short shrift to two condescending uniformed officers:

    UNIFORMED OFFICER: "It's a little hard to ascertain the degree of inebriation from a sixth floor window, now wouldn't you agree, Mrs. Lacey?"
    MARY BETH: "Detective Lacey, Fourteenth Squad. I'm on leave but I have an ID. And, No, I could not testify in a court of law that the perpetrator was drunk but he certainly appeared to be. He's a male Caucasian; reddish hair; forty-five to fifty years old; between five-ten and six feet tall; approximately a hundred and fifty, a hundred and seventy-five pounds. He's got a beige three-quarter trench coat over a grey suit. You got that? The vehicle said 'Thompson Properties' on the side. I have statements from several witnesses. With a little hard work we can get this guy behind bars in a couple of hours. Am I right."
    UNIFORMED OFFICER: "We already have him, Detective. The driver dropped a dime on himself. He called him from a payphone."


    It's a little moment of empowerment that lifted me as a viewer.

    Once again, the mix of personal and professional works in the favour of the episode. Mary Beth is outraged to discover that the driver has made a deal and is likely to walk. When Chris investigates, we get another of the show's small but powerful statement about the unfairness of the judicial system:

    DA CARVER: "According to his attorney 'Thompson knocked back several Martinis after calling the police ...to steady his nerves. He claims he failed the breathalyser for alcohol consumed after the accident'."
    CHRISTINE: "Mrs. Carver, he can't sell this story to you and me. How is he gonna sell it to a jury?"
    DA CARVER: "Ha! There isn't one of them who hasn't left the Christmas party on rubbery legs. Look, in six months I retire. Before that over a thousand DWIs will roll through this office. I'd like to prosecute as many winners as I can. The rest are a waste of time and energy. That's my story, Sergeant. Now, what's yours?"


    Mildred Carver, played by Jane Dulo, is a prime example of the casting being perfect down to the smallest role, reinforced by strong writing. She has one short scene, but it's memorable and with attention to detail. Such as her opening lines where she discusses her the cactus she is carrying:

    "My daughter played a mean trick on this guy. Dug him out of the California desert where he was happy and sends him to me in Queens, ...where he's miserable. She's going to USA Law School. Wants to be a defence attorney. I don't know. You try to raise 'em right and somehow it turns out all wrong."

    That's a whole lot of background about a one-off, one-scene; six-line character. None of the information there is essential, and it doesn't explicitly further the plot. But neither does it feel wasted or superfluous. It's all part of setting the reality of the show. By the time Carver gets to the line about the waste of time and energy, we and Chris have to accept it. Because this isn't coming from extra standing behind a desk. It's coming from a fully rounded human being with empathy enough to acknowledge the unfairness but experience enough to know it's futile to fight the system.

    In this case, Mary Beth is the one to fight it. She's invested because of her involvement as a witness, her relationship to the family in question and the sense of justice which is an intrinsic part of her character. She gets Chris - and even Harv - to follow up leads and try to turn up witnesses. Whenever I've discussed obsession before, it's been around Christine (the Albert Grand episodes being perhaps the key example). It's a turnaround that is acknowledged in the script when Mary Beth is pushing Christine:

    CHRISTINE: "You're obsessed, Mary Beth."
    MARY BETH: "No, I'm not obsessed!"
    CHRISTINE: "You're obsessed."
    MARY BETH: "I'm not the one who gets obsessed. You're the one that gets obsessed."


    It's a simple acknowledgement, but still very satisfying. Viewers frequently speak of characters in terms of a specific character trait, and that can happen in real life too. But it rarely happens onscreen. Mary Beth's line shows that the characters have been present at and have memories of the same journey I've taken as a viewer. She says what the audience is thinking.

    cont'd...
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    D.W.I. cont'd...

    Another observation of the series in general at this point is that it's really found its groove with the humour. There's a little more of it, and it's very welcome. Because it all comes from the characters there's a reality to it. It's almost like meeting up with a friend, knowing that they're going to say something that will make you smile. And there's the ying/yang aspect where the humour is necessary to balance out the heavier material. C&L would still work if it took itself very seriously, but it would be less rewarding. The attitude of the characters helps reinforce the world they live in, and that's also become more prominent as the series has evolved. The humour at the moment is giving the series a confidence. Everyone involved knows what is working and what the audience connects with and is running with it.

    There's a scene where Chris and Harvey both question someone in a bar with Harv implying he's a cop and getting so into the role he does the 'bad cop' bit despite Chris signalling him to stop. It's a little OTT, and felt a little out of place - almost like the lines were written for Daly before her pregnancy. But again - the strange fit was acknowledged when Chris insisted on interviewing the next witness alone, Harv commenting on his inexperience and Chris agreeing while softening the blow ("For a rookie you're ok").

    Things are more or less resolved only when Mary Beth herself gets on the case and goes to visit the woman who had earlier been in the car with the drunk driver - a woman who had had sex with him, but who was refusing to get involved as she was married. Mary Beth's patented powers of persuasion do the trick and we get one of those hopeful C&L endings that suggest things are going to work out but without us knowing for sure. So the audience is allowed to draw their own conclusion. Which, again, is very satisfying.

    Chris's journey in this episode, according to Barney Rosenzweig, marked the beginning of a long-term journey for her character. It's done through a series of scenes with David Keeler. Throughout the episode, he has pointed out double standards. For instance, Chris condemning the drunk driver while thinking it’s acceptable to stop at three when driving. It prompts Chris to take a step back and think about her own relationship to alcohol:

    CHRISTINE: “Do you think I have a problem with booze?”
    DAVID KEELER: “No. You like to drink. So do I.”
    CHRISTINE: “Yeah, I do! I mean, look at people. Charlie really used to have a good time. I remember when I was a little girl, he used to let me sit on his lap and have some of his beer. 'Chrissie' he'd say 'if you can't hold your liquor, you're not old enough to drink'. Kind of funny, to say to a child. I'm sure Charlie... But I never really thought about it at the time. I never noticed the progression. And then one night a few months after he retired, I took this call from Flannery's. They told me to come down and get him. ...That was the first time that I had to put Charlie to bed. ...The first of many. I know the doctor's right. Charlie knows it too. He's an alcoholic. It's a disease, you know? The doctor said ‘if you don't lay off the booze, one of two things could happen. ...You either go insane or die.’ ...They say it can run in the family.”


    Chris at her most introspective. Something that brings such depth to the episode.

    And among it all, she got the episode’s most risque throwaway line when Chris - in bed with David whose hands are wandering - is on the phone to Mary Beth:

    MARY BETH: “I gotta go. There's somebody knocking at my door.”
    CHRISTINE: “Uh huh. Mine too!”
     
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  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Who'd have thought that shaving a moustache would make so much difference?

    Carl Lumbly looks completely different. In fact I'm still half convinced Petrie's first couple of hairless episodes was a different actor (there was some odd staging where he was only shown in wide shots or his face obscured by Isbecki, and I swear he sounded different too).

    Anyway, he's still very good looking. Perhaps even better looking (I'm not a huge fan of facial hair). But he hasn't had a close up since it's gone, so I haven't had a good look. It's about time Petrie had a decent storyline again - it's been a while.
     
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  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've gone and watched half a dozen episodes or so without doing any reviews, so I'll just write a few little comments on each from memory:



    THE GIMP

    I hadn't heard this term before. It conjured up images of geeks and nerds. But it's even uglier than that.

    The storyline with Chris going undercover in a wheelchair to investigate a series of disablist crimes gave me much food for thought about just how hard work it is. I'd considered some of the emotional impact, like the way people look at one differently - or not at all - from many years ago when I needed to use a wheelchair for a very short time. But I particularly appreciated the physical and practical implications being highlighted with little moments like Chris having sore arms from wheeling herself and a painful neck because her body wasn't used to looking up at people. At risk of sounding patronising, I found myself in awe of how a double amputee was able to steer himself using one arm and one leg.

    This episode marked Gless's first Emmy win and I'd been looking forward to her performance. She was as consistently good as ever, though I didn't think this episode was her strongest of the season. At times during the episode I thought Chris's behaviour was out of character. Agreeing to stay in a guy's flat as part of the job was one thing, but then he was putting the moves on her at the first opportunity. I can buy her falling for someone she's working with on a case (look at Dory). But it seemed to happen far too easily. He touched her and rather than giving him a piece of her mind she melted and went all dewy-eyed.
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FAMILY CONNECTIONS

    Oh. This is a true classic. A perfect fusion of soapy storyline and humour.

    Chris and Mary Beth's dash to the hospital in Chris's canary yellow Corvette had me laughing out loud. While they were aiming for the wrong hospital, having a car breakdown and trying to flag down a ride the back and forth between them didn't let up for a moment, and I enjoyed the role reversal with Chris panicking and Mary Beth asking her how she was.

    Then there was that really beautiful moment where Harvey arrived at the hospital and Chris quietly left the room, almost unseen.

    Tyne Daly was so intense in the labour scenes. I started feeling concerned that she would do herself damage having only recently given birth herself. Her experience definitely came across in giving a feeling of authenticity to the scenario.

    Another beautiful moment came when Mary Beth revealed her new daughter's full name to Chris: Alice Christine Lacey.

    The scenes between Chris and Charlie's brassy Texan lover were enjoyable, with that sense that both their resistance and their eventual attempt to understand the other were because they both cared for Charlie in different ways. It was a little strange to see another women talking to Chris in the Ladies' Room too.

    I enjoyed the little touches of Mary Beth wanting Harvey to give Harv Jr. a talk about sex as he went off on a school ski trip. The irony of Mary Beth's condition wasn't lost on me.
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    POST PARTUM

    Wow. Daly went to some very dark places in this episode. Her response to her estranged father trying to contact her after thirty years was very powerful, and the thread was deepened by her resentment towards Chris for approaching Harvey about it before she came to Mary Beth.

    Samuels introducing him to Chris as someone there for a missing person was very effective, with the eventual announcement that the missing person was Mary Beth.

    The scene where she finally confronted her father in the hotel lobby was a showstopper. Mary Beth standing in silence; anger and hurt written all over her face was quite a haunting image.
     
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  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE MAN WHO SHOT TROTSKY

    In Entrapment earlier this season, drug dealer Bruce Mansfield walked free after a dirty collar by Cagney. While in Season Four's Lost And Found, Cagney had formed a relationship with cheeky car thief Hector Estevez, eventually blackmailing him into being an informant if she needed him again.

    This episode brings those two unconnected threads together in the most satisfying way when Chris decides it's time to go after Mansfield again and opts to pressure Hector into giving her information about him.

    Like the Albert Grand episodes, Cagney's relationship with Mansfield taps into a nice obsessive side to Chris's nature. It's good for her to have someone to spark off. There's Mary Beth, of course, but here we also see Chris share some electric sparks with Mansfield and Hector.

    Hector's story in particular goes much deeper this time round. We meet his family who are very concerned about Hector's involvement. Mary Beth sees their point of view and points out to Chris that the Estevez family have to live in that neighbourhood with the stigma attached to being associated a police informant. But Chris sees Hector's informing her as a necessary means to an end.

    The last Chris/Hector scene of the episode gives a real sense of the pressure Chris is putting on both Hector and herself. He wants to walk away but she won't allow it, wrapping money in a newspaper and insisting he takes it and finishes the job.

    Cagney eventually gets Mansfield, but there's a sting in the tail. The twist could be seen coming, but even so it was horrifying to hear that Hector had been found with a bullet to the head and Chris's card stuffed in his mouth. The bitter victory is perfectly encapsulated by one of my favourite freeze frames of the entire series. Chris is commended for her work and, in uniform, we see her collecting an award. Her colleagues, in the audience all look sad and as we zoom in to a close up we see tears filling Chris's eyes as her praises are sung. Everything works about this moment. The writing allows Hector's death to resonate with the viewer as it does with the characters. The direction effectively shows mixed emotions which is no easy task. And the performances are subtle and layered. I feel chills just thinking of that last image.
     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    EXIT: STAGE CENTRE

    The plot is a TV detective staple: an actress is found dead on the set of a theatre production in which the entire cast hated her guts. Including her ex-husband.

    The episode was ostensibly Richard Levinson/William Link fare with a touch of Agatha Christie thrown in. But - in large part because of how unique C&L usually is - I couldn't help feeling this was a deliberate pastiche rather than a derivative rip-off.

    Back in Season Three's Matinée, Mary Beth had admitted she enjoyed watching Columbo, and she was inspired by that character's modus operandi when gaining a confession. While Columbo doesn't get a mention here, there's a scene on the stage with all the suspects gathered where Tyne Daly is pure Peter Falk. She gets everyone's names wrong, and then gets distracted:

    MARY BETH: "Oh, what is that? Make up?"
    ERIC WEBBER: "Noreen and Chet came out during the intermission and did a make up transformation into the characters' later years."
    CHET GARDNER: "Yes. I did it downstage left and she sat over there."
    MARY BETH: "Right here in front of the audience! isn't that something? (picking up something from the table) What is this?"
    JEAN McINTYRE: "It's for the neck. Noreen was very proud that she had to wear it. She had very few wrinkles for a woman her age."
    MARY BETH: "I saw about this once on TV, how they do this. You stick it on with this ...here. Spirit gum they call it. That's got a kind of a strong smell, huh? You take this ...and put it on the rubber thing, and then put the rubber thing on your neck." (Mary Beth applies the gum and moves the prop to her neck)
    JEAN McINTYRE: "Detective, I wouldn't put that on!"
    MARY BETH: "I'll be very careful."
    JEAN McINTYRE: "You may have an allergy to spirit gum. A lot of people do."
    MARY BETH: (going to put it on) "Thanks. I can't afford allergies."
    JEAN McINTYRE: "Detective, please don't!"
    MARY BETH: "Why not?!! Miss, McIntyre. Because you know it's dangerous. Because this spirit gum on one's neck…"
    CHRISTINE: "Because the spirit gum has traces of synthetic arsenic in it. It brings on nausea which killed Noreen Dixon."



    It's a Columbo scene in all but name. All that's missing is the raincoat.

    There's a physical comedy moment that made me laugh out loud in spite of myself. Chris has climbed up to the catwalk above the stage from which Noreen had fallen to her death. She leans against a gate which swings open. Chris begins to fall, then we cut to an oblivious Mary Beth. She hears Chris's cries and goes to the stage to look for her. Thinking Chris's voice is coming from the orchestra pit, Mary Beth faces front and leans down, calling for her partner. Then we see Chris swinging back and forth behind Mary Beth, holding onto a rope. It's completely OTT and almost pushes credibility, but it was so much fun it's my favourite moment of the entire episode.

    The final conclusion about the actress's fate ("Death by overacting") was the rather silly icing on an equally silly but very tasty cake. And I admit the episode title is perhaps the most humorous yet.


    There's a really sweet sub-plot in which Samuels has been invited to the opening of his son's restaurant. Knowing his ex-wife will be there with her new younger lover, he asks Chris to find him a date. Waxman is delightfully awkward and vulnerable, and Gless plays it brilliantly too. Right after he's asked her, one can really see the wheels turning in her head, to the point where it takes her a couple of seconds to hear the event is only a couple of days away, causing her to do a double-take.

    Chris, unable to find a suitable partner, offers Samuels her own company for the event.

    The ending to this particular storyline is good character stuff for both Chris and Samuels. He sees her looking tired after a hard day of swinging around sets and says he's decided he should face it alone, letting her off the hook. After he leaves, she drops some paperwork into his office and spots a beautiful corsage that Samuels had bought.

    Given Gless and Rosenzweig's later relationship and his obvious crush on her during the Cagney & Lacey years, the most fascinating aspect of this plot for me was how the older authority figure's feelings towards his younger subordinate echo real life.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    CAPITALISM

    The plot was well-written, but quickly forgotten. Though it did feature a nice, frosty antagonist and once again brought the treatment of immigrants into the US out into the open.

    John Karlen got to do some ranting as angry Harv, which gave some great clashes with almost-as-angry Mary Beth. Their arguments feel very real.

    Chris's yellow Corvette finally went to meet its maker. Not being able to part with it, she had it crushed into a piece of modern art. I hope it stays in her apartment as a little acknowledgement of her past.
     
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