"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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    PILOT

    [​IMG]

    The opening is scene just perfect. Watching New Yorkers stirring and a quiet street suddenly filled with bustle is neatly symbolic for the start of a phenomenon. Or at least a popular, long-running show. I also appreciated the lighter touch here - sleepy people in dressing gowns sleepily moving their cars from one side of the street to another on autopilot to circumnavigate the parking restrictions coming into force at 7am.

    The location work in the Pilot looks just great. It's a plus that the picture quality of the DVDs is so good, but those outdoor scenes really helped me feel I was watching a feature film.

    Mark Snow's score also helps here. At several points during the feature I found myself impressed by the energy of the music. My lingering memory from previous watches are many plays of the Ain't That Just The Way song that was written for this Pilot. This time round it didn't feel that was the case. And on the couple of plays I noticed of that song it felt really fitting. There were some really nice touches, including a wordless scene where the music leads the action as a woman is arrested whilst her young son watches which brought tears to my eyes.

    It's usually difficult to watch this without wanting to compare the actors to those that would later play the characters. Not just Loretta Swit as Christine, but Harv and Isbecki. Tonight, I found myself accepting the actors on face value.

    Swit is actually very good here. Each time I watch the Pilot it feels like I find something new to like. She has a really lovely, quite natural way and I thought her chemistry with Tyne Daly worked well too. Her ambitiousness was clear and I appreciated that even at this point they didn't stray from conflict between Chris and Mary Beth.

    On previous watches I've found Ronald Hunter's Harvey a little more difficult to accept. He has a tough role here, with Harv being in the depths of depression and spending much of his screen time being grouchy, feeling sorry for himself or arguing with Mary Beth. Despite all that, I came away from it with some sympathy for Harv, so Hunter was doing something right.

    Daly is a wonderful actress and doesn't have to do very much for me to feel empathy. I felt connected with her character right from her first scene. There was much opportunity for her to get dramatic, but I enjoy the small stuff at least as much.

    Casting of the smaller roles was spot on too. Some would go on to become familiar faces during the main run.

    The understanding between Chris and Petrie was a really interesting dynamic here, based on their both being persecuted by their peers (Chris as a woman, Petrie as an African-American). This wasn't the only instance of that. The challenges experienced by the two women were drawn upon several times by the characters themselves who - perhaps unconsciously - used them to enhance their jobs. Chris bonded with an older Jewish woman jeweller by mentioning that she understood the challenges she faced working in a man's world. In another part of the episode, Mary Beth drew upon her own life experience as a mother to connect with a sex worker (and to give Mary Beth her due, she followed that up by actually looking after the woman's child whilst the woman was being held in a police cell).

    Yvette Hawkins as Female, the woman in question, is a great example of the quality of casting. She's just wonderful - from her initial appearance, full of attitude and fighting spirit to the vulnerability she showed later in the episode. She really sold it.

    The plot was far more intricate and layered than I remembered. I'd forgotten all about the Nazi posing as a Jewish elder. Some really powerful moments came out of that.

    There were some genuinely exciting action scenes that reminded me I was watching a cop show, but even during those I never lost sight of the characters thanks to how tightly everything was put together.

    All in all a great start. I could probably happily watch an entire series with Swit and Daly. I'm not overly looking forward to re-watching the Meg Foster episodes with the Nelson Riddle score, but it's only half a dozen episodes, after all.
     
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  2. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season One - The Lost Episodes

    [​IMG]

    Four episodes in, I'm now two-thirds of the way through the first short season. A few general thoughts:

    Meg Foster's incarnation of Chris has taken two or three full episodes to click with me. Not because she's awful (she's not) nor because the nuances are different (they are, but the heart of the character is still there). The initial overwhelming thing of note is that physically she could not be more different to Loretta Swit. Foster is younger, and resembles Swit not one little bit.

    There are the infamous network complaints about her being too butch (the reason she was dropped - the phrase "dykey" being thrown about), but that's just silliness really. This isn't Charlie's Angels. If I had an issue it would be that she feels too far from the mother ship. Swit's vivacity and sense of fun aren't as evident, and this Chris feel's a little colder than Swit's. The character's core beliefs still hold up, and the dialogue feels right for the character, but the subtleties are different. This is a more assertive Chris not through what the character does or says, but because of how she says it. It just feels different. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

    The chemistry with Tyne Daly works really well. The energy is different. It's been observed that Daly and Foster's energy is perhaps too similar and both do feel very tightly wound at times whereas Swit's more laid back Chris allowed herself to just bounce off Daly's freneticism. Tightly wound is good for a show like this - at least for a short time, but it does risk audience burn out. My feeling is that if Foster had continued in the role that needn't have been an issue though. There have been some lighthearted moments, and there are times in these first four episodes where Chris has lowered her guard and everything is softer and more comfortable. So there's balance there.

    John Karlen as Harv has hit the ground running. I buy him straight away, and there's not the same jarring feeling I've had with Meg. He feels a little more laid back than Ronald Hunter, but that could be as much to do with the writing for an ongoing series as it is the acting. I love watching he and Daly work their magic.

    The other recasts of note are the Lacey boys (both very likeable) and Martin Kove as Isbecki. Kove is more beefcake than the guy in the role before who was enjoyably seedy. But the character pretty much went under the radar in the Pilot, so he's a blank slate and is already proving more memorable in the series.

    Daly herself continues to be consistently excellent. It's very plain to see why she would go on to win an Emmy for the role three consecutive years beginning with the next season. I can't take my eyes off her in case I miss a little mannerism or expression. As a viewer I feel very connected to the character, not because of her circumstances but because it's always clear where she's at emotionally (on the surface, that's a little strange considering I'm far more Cagney like in being fairly emotionally private).

    Nelson Riddle is my biggest bugbear of this era. He keeps it reigned in for much of the episode, but when it matters he goes all out Batman on us. The score during fight scenes is as subtle as a sledgehammer, with brassy stings that punctuate every physical contact. All that's missing are colourful on-screen cards reading "Pow!" "Klunk!" and ""Splatt!". The opening titles feel quite bipolar, with a full-on catchy cop theme (nice, but not fitting the series at all) segueing into Ain't That The Way from the Pilot. I enjoy that Nelson's original theme music, the images and the font used don't feel gender stereotypically female. Some of his incidental music is quite funk-air, giving a late-Seventies vibe with plenty of kick drum and hi hat, which is nice. It's quite Wonder Woman-esque. And Riddle's "running music" for the theme is rattling round my head as I write. All the same, there's little about the opening credits that encapsulates the feel of the show.




    The end credits - Riddle's energetic instrumental version of Ain't That The Way - is very enjoyable, and I wish they'd kept that a little longer.




    I'll follow up with a few episode-specific thoughts.
     
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  3. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BANG, BANG. YOU'RE DEAD (a.k.a. You Call These Plain Clothes)

    There's a lot of good continuity from the Pilot here. A nice way to catch up without remaking it as some shows might. The women are still on "John watch", still parading as sex workers to arrest the men who use their service. With both wearing wires, we get a cute little moment where Mary Beth talks to her own boobs. At home Harv is still unemployed. At work, the undercurrent of sexism continues, such as Samuels "upgrading" the two women to homicide, feeling that the crime scene is so messy they'll have less complaint about going undercover as sex workers (he takes glee in sharing his motives with male colleagues as soon as they're out of earshot). This leads to a nice scene where Chris sees the body and tells Mary Beth she's going to be sick, to which Mary Beth retorts "Don't you dare". There's also a very similar mano a mano situation with Christine confronting the killer alone towards the episode's end (as they circle each other, Foster does a little of that strange slow jazz hand pseudo martial art stuff that seemed de rigueur in cop shows of the time).

    Incidentally, regarding the "alternative" title of the episode, which is spoken by Mary Beth on the opening titles in a reprise of a scene from the Pilot. On the season one titles, she says "these", but in the Pilot film she clearly says "this". So I'm going to stand by my choice of thread title.
     
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  4. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    POP USED TO WORK CHINATOWN

    Dick O'Neil as Charlie Cagney is great. His character feels very clear even this early on, and he brings out some really nice colours in Meg Foster. They're enjoyable to watch together. I loved when he went all old-school cop whilst trying to get information - donning a trench coat, hat and eyepatch, and physically intimidating someone to get information. As I write, I'm aware how larger than life it seems, but it fitted in perfectly.

    Harv's arc was interesting here - his joy at getting a hard hat job and Mary Beth's schoolgirl excitement at seeing her husband at work quickly balanced by a recurrence of his inner ear problem meaning he was let go.

    There's a nice character arc for both women when a man is killed from a bullet fired at the car by either Christine or Mary Beth. Mary Beth wants to know which of them fired the fatal shot. Chris seems less bothered but is nonetheless quickly on board because she can see how much it means to Mary Beth. I really appreciated that the emotional consequences of a tv shootout were given this space to be explored. To me, the "obvious" route here would be the have the laissez faire partner revealed to be the one who killed someone and to see what the response is. Instead, the insistent Mary Beth is revealed to have fired the fatal shot and it really feels like a blow.
     
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  5. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BEYOND THE GOLDEN DOOR

    I love those episodes where Mary Beth and Harvey both independently go through a crisis in their two separate worlds, and that's exactly what happens here. Harv challenging himself to rescue a trapped pigeon from a high rise rooftop was one that really invested me as a viewer. Part of me was thinking how stupid he was being - he has his inner ear issue, both his sons were begging him not to do it and you just know Mary Beth will be furious. But at the same time I was willing him to succeed. The direction of the scene was very subjective, and my palms were damp just watching him. One thing that didn't sit well was the live pigeon, which appeared to be genuinely tangled upside down in wire. One of those situations where the realism of that took me out of the show because I was bothered about an animal being potentially injured for real. Harv did succeed, by the way, dropping to his knees on his return to the safety of the rooftop. And who could blame him.

    Another advantage of the scene is that it really showed off what I assume to be some genuine New York location filming. I so love getting a feel for the area this way.

    Meanwhile, Mary Beth is posing as an illegal immigrant working in a factory. It's fun to see her speaking in Spanish (and we see her practicing it too, getting the phrases and intonation correct with the help of a colleague).

    There's another echo of the Pilot in this episode. In the Pilot, disguised as a sex worker, Mary Beth was pulled into a car and beaten (offscreen). We saw her thrown from the moving vehicle and followed her as she went home vowing to return to work the next day. There was a powerful moment where her two sons saw her and looked terrified. In this episode, Mary Beth deliberately creates a scene (in Spanish) to draw out the people who would silence her. At the end of the day we see her dragged into the ladies' room by two thugs. Once again, we don't go beyond the door. Whereas the assault in the Pilot lasted for a matter of seconds, this one is quite suspenseful. We cut to Chris and Isbecki, waiting for Mary Beth to emerge (they're undercover as staff in a grotty looking fast food place), we follow them in and up the stairs. They pass the closed door to the ladies' room on the way but continue up the stairs and try to gain access. They fart about for what felt like minutes before going back down the stairs, by which time Mary Beth had emerged, bruised and bloody. I felt physical relief once I knew they'd seen her. Once again there was a scene where Chris took her home to a shocked Harvey. And once again the boys walked in and were shocked to see her. I found it interesting that she didn't gloss over or cover it up, telling them she'd been beaten up. The horizontal family group hug on the sofa that followed was really poignant. And the youngest Lacey boy chose this opportune moment to tell Mary Beth about Harvey's rooftop adventure, which broke the tension nicely.

    After all that , it was a treat to follow Mary Beth back to the factory where she started mouthing off (Tyne Daly at her loudmouthed best). But it didn't end there. Once again she was captured and once again it took her colleages a while to find her. Given earlier events, there was a genuine sense of threat for this scene that made this a really intense viewing experience.
     
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  6. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    STREET SCENE

    I'm really enjoying how each episode so far is sensitively highlighting a different sub-culture or community of people. The gang culture in this episode continues our tour.

    Dallas's George O' Petrie appeared in this one, and I didn't even recognise him until he was pointed out to me (he had a great accent here).

    This episode is an example of the B-story being at least as intriguing as the main one. At least the concept. The women being excluded from Petrie's wife's baby shower was interesting. There was a hint that the wives were threatened by the two women. Chris, of course, decided they were going to put the wives' minds at rest. So there was a nice conversation where she ordered Mary Beth to wear a certain dress that she looked terrible in. Something about the execution didn't work for me. The wives came across as cliquey, insecure and bitchy, and I didn't believe it. It felt like Cagney and Lacey's characters' ongoing roles as feminist role models was at the expense of these other women, and that felt a little wrong to me. Intriguingly, this is one of the two season one episodes to be written by a woman.
     
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  7. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    SUFFER THE CHILDREN

    A pre-credits sequence in a 1982 show feels retro and ahead of its time both at the same time. It seems slightly anti-fashion to have these sequences in the early Eighties, so throwing one in seems a little surprising. And even more so as this is the only episode of the season that does it. This one does a nice job of establishing the tone of the series and giving the audience a hook. I particularly appreciated how prosaic and identifiable the beginning of the scene felt with some nice lines, banter and some great chemistry. Chris and Mary Beth buying food from a street vendor; Mary Beth reads the ingredients on a can of diet soda in horror, first silently (I LOVE the way her lips move slightly as she does this) then out loud to Christine. At the end of the nasty, chemical list, Chris quips "All that and only one calorie". Christine's wit, attitude and sarcastic edge is an aspect of the character that I love, and Foster is so good at this stuff. I'm reminded of Kirstie Alley in Cheers or Debra Messing on Will & Grace. This leads to the beginning of a discussion about health in general, where Mary Beth dismisses Chris's criticism of her smoking by explaining it helps her keep slim. Mary Beth smoking was one of the big surprises of this season for me. I don't remember her smoking at all, and even by season's end it never looked quite right. But more on that next episode.

    Anyway, they get a report of a girl on a rooftop and so it's action stations. With the two women being dismissively referred to as "girls" in every episode, I'd assumed the girl in question would be a young woman. But no - it's a child. As everyone has failed to talk her down, Mary Beth improvises with some pieces of cloth and, drawing a face with Chris's lipstick, Blue Peters up a doll. She then clambers onto the rooftop to talk the girl down, distracting her with the doll and grabbing her. It seems a little risky to me. Perhaps Mary Beth missed the day they did negotiating skills at detective school. But the efficacy speaks for itself, I suppose, and Daly makes the somewhat inappropriate act of heroism fly.

    And all this before the opening credits roll.

    The child abuse story is put together through the eyes of the women, so the audience gets the chance to put the pieces together as we go along which feels right. Gail Strickland is just wonderful as the mother. In her first scene her husband speaks for her every time a question is put to her. Strickland is literally wordless for the entire time, but the audience's attention is on her. And so is Lacey's. We're given fragments of information. The husband tells one story (I found it slightly amusing that he was named George Dawes and kept thinking of Matt Lucas); the wife another and the woman's elderly mother (Susan French who I remember best from Jaws 2) yet another. But long story short there's a child missing from the family that the parents don't want to acknowledge. Adoption is mentioned, and so is staying with relatives. And then a clay composite model of a dead girl's skull tells a darker side of the story. Mary Beth recognises it instantly.

    Their decision to break the woman down into telling them the truth gives one of the most shocking scenes yet. Mary Beth takes the mother to the clay skull, which has now been made up to look exactly like the missing daughter, complete with hair and clothes. It's reminiscent of the scene on Dallas where Hutch McKinney was similarly brought back to life. Here, as there, it's intended to shock. But this one - with the deceased being the woman's young daughter and the viewing arranged by someone we know as well as Mary Beth, it's absolutely chilling. And Strickland's resulting breakdown fully understandable.

    It's interesting to watch the dynamic with Cagney, Lacey and the girl's mother in the scene that follows. Cagney is composed and remains objective, whereas Lacey - mother to young children - finds it difficult to hold her temper and breaks into a couple of angry outbursts which stop because her partner intervenes. Chris normally being the fiery one, this turnaround brings some really interesting colours which flesh out the characters no end.

    There's a slight action scene as they arrest the father for his daughter's murder on the construction site he's working at, leading him to try to escape. As with the rooftop action at the beginning, it feels superfluous (and slightly illogical. Why did Mary Beth discuss his arrest while he still had a live blowtorch in his hand for goodness' sake). But I guess there was a required quota for cop shows of the time.

    There's a subplot with Chris involved with a man who turns out to be married, which is a nice opportunity to see some different facets to Meg Foster too.

    All in all, a very powerful story which was not only absorbing, it told us a lot about the characters of the two women.
     
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  8. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BETTER THAN EQUAL

    Once again, the episode opens with the requisite action scene. This one features an almost-siege at the station when a prisoner overcomes LaGuardia who is accompanying him to the toilet. There's a brief shoot out before he's recaptured, and - to be fair - it's an exciting little sequence. Cagney and Lacey arrive late onto the scene to see the captive being hauled away:

    CAGNEY: "What happened?"
    SAMUELS: "He wanted a car and a tank full of gas."
    LACEY: "Unleaded?"

    They quickly discover their newest assignment is to provide security for über-conservative WASP mouthpiece Helen Granger who opposes equal rights for women, believing that "every American woman has the right to be a full-time wife and mother without being forced to work outside the home… An awful lot of women insist upon going out to work and competing with men." Naturally, she's about as impressed with her female security as they are with her viewpoints.

    In the limo, Granger asks if they'd like to be put in the picture of the situation regarding her stalker. Cagney cooly reels off dates, places and incidents. The longer her recitation goes on, the more nonplussed Granger looks while Mary Beth beams with amusement. At the end of her little spiel, Chris casually flips her notebook closed and looks out of the limo window with disinterest. It's a really nice moment for Meg Foster as Cagney. I especially enjoyed the sardonic deepening of her voice as she said "you began to receive telephone calls of an obscene nature".

    The topic of feminism makes for some interesting discussion at the station:

    PETRIE: "You guys sure are touchy about that woman."
    CAGNEY: "How would you feel if you were guarding the head of the Ku Klux Klan?"
    PETRIE: "Might leave my gun at home."

    SAMUELS: "It's that Gloria Steinem feminism stuff, right? C'mon. C'mon, explain it to me. I wanna know."
    LACEY: "Men will not be truly liberated until women are. But Helen Granger doesn't want women to be liberated because she thinks men should take care of women."
    SAMUELS: "I don't get it."
    LaGUARDIA: "It's simple. Helen Granger says that women are already better than equal under the law. They don't have to serve in the army. They don't pay alimony."

    ISBECKI: "You ask me, it's all bull."


    There's more personal touch as the net closes on the stalker and the two women visit his home and speak to his mother. Mary Beth looks at photos and shows an interest in what's in them, drawing comparisons to her own sons. A similar thing had happened when visiting the murdered girl's grandmother in the previous episode. There's a sense that Mary Beth is interested in human stories - something that she uses to enhance her police work. And indeed, it's the information she picked up there that she uses to keep the stalker on the phone long enough for him to be apprehended.

    Julie Adams (I recall her as the Cabot Cove gossip in a semi-regular role in later Murder, She Wrote seasons) is note perfect as Helen Granger, poised at all times with an undercurrent of venom and resentment. I appreciated that she didn't respond on learning that Cagney and Lacey had been instrumental in capturing her stalker. There was a brief flicker of something that passed over her face (respect? astonishment?) and she went back to brushing her perfectly coiffed hairflip.

    Nelson Riddle goes all out on this one. It's as OTT as any of his six episodes. The opening siege has that jazzy Batman sound which at this point was (sadly) par for the course with an episode. An appearance or phone call from the stalker is heralded by stinging strings. He may have been going for Bernard Herrmann, but the end result is uncannily similar to the brash and unsubtle score Harry Manfredini did for Friday The 13th.

    In the previous episode, I mentioned Mary Beth's smoking. There's a (possible) end to it here when she hasn't had time to get Harv an anniversary present. He asks her to quit smoking, telling her that if it buys him ten more years with her, it'll be one hell of a present. For anyone who's wondering, Harv got her some sexy lingerie, and Daly had the rare chance to look extremely glam and show off a frankly rather amazing leg.
     
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  9. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    For anyone wondering about my previous form with C&L. Well, I watched a good many of the mid-late Eighties episodes as they aired. I know at some point I watched earlier episodes - including the Pilot film and first season - on TV later on. Perhaps in the Nineties. Whether that went into a full run, I can't remember. I certainly can't remember much about the plots and stuff, so I'm looking forward to discovering it and - probably - watching some episodes for the first time ever.

    I had the first Sharon Gless season on DVD and watched that a couple of times in the past decade. And I started to watch the entire run on DVD but got waylaid during the first SG season. There aren't any real distractions at the moment though, so the aim is to get right through to The Menopause Years.


    I didn't think I'd say this going into the rewatch of the first season, but I'm really going to miss Meg Foster. I know that Sharon Gless is going to bring some great stuff, but having warmed to Foster's version of Cagney more with each passing episode, I'd love to have seen what she'd have done with a full season or two.

    On the other hand, I shan't miss Nelson Riddle at all. Bring on Bill Conti.
     
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  10. Richard Channing

    Richard Channing Soap Chat Addict

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    Love your style of writing Mel. Even on subjects I knew nothing about, such as the old Ealing movies, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews. Keep up the good work!
     
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  11. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I've just ordered the Complete Series from amazon.
     
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  12. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    That's really nice to hear, RC. Thank you. :)

    Excellent stuff, willie. I hope you'll jump in here with a few thoughts as you watch.
     
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  13. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Two - The True Beginning

    [​IMG]


    WITNESS TO AN INCIDENT

    Boo. Season Two has previews. It's nice that they're included for completion but really - I find these such a pain. Why would anyone want to watch a summary of the story they're about to watch? Even when watching on TV with an endless number of commercial breaks? I suppose they serve the same purpose as film trailers: alluring little teasers. But then when did you last watch a film that had a trailer stuck on at the beginning of it? If you're already sitting down to watch it, isn't that preaching to the converted?

    But that's just one petty little nitpick. Now that it's over with, it's on to the good news. The first piece of which comes in the rather spendid style of Bill Conti's iconic theme, heard for the first time here. Ray Pizzi and Ernie Watts riffing for their lives on saxes.



    This has to be one of THE best TV themes. Ever (though I suppose we'll soon find out the definitive answer, eh @Willie Oleson?). And finally the sound and look of the opening titles completely encapsulates what's good about the show itself. Just look at how strongly the chemistry between the actors comes across (Chris thumping Mary Beth for distracting her while she's on the phone is so cute); the little character moments; the humour (Chris taking a good look at the flasher as they pass); a bit of gun-toting action; the warm, natural looking outdoors feel (the shot of the two women laughing in the car is a favourite of mine). Oh - and who doesn't love that middle aged couple top right of screen that turns to blatantly stare at the actors just as the "boxes" start at about 8 seconds in? They can be seen even more clearly in the still that accompanies the end titles. They're just brilliant.

    As the show itself starts, the story begins almost right away. But first there's a nice bit of business that tells the audience to expect the unexpected. Cagney and Lacey slow down their car to ask a sex worker to move along (her initial response on spotting them: "Sorry - no sisters"). She gives them some stick and they show her their badges. Except she isn't convinced, telling them a badge can be bought "for a dollar fifty nine". They threaten to take her downtown, and she reaches into her bag to show her own badge. She's a cop just having a bit of fun with them. Except Cagney and Lacey cuff her anyway, reminding her that a badge can be bought for a dollar fifty nine. So she's a streetwalker, then she's a cop, then she's a streetwalker again. We cut away to a pharmacist getting shot by a junkie, and when we cut back to Cagney and Lacey, they're casually leaning on their car chatting casually to their new friend when the call comes in, suggesting (though not definitively) that she's a cop after all. Nothing more is said. To the show's credit the audience is credited with being able to read between the lines without lengthy scenes or ADR.

    The main plot is incredibly tightly woven, and once again the audience sees things as the characters would. The aforementioned shooting attracts the attention of two Neighbourhood Watch types who call it in and give chase. Cagney and Lacey arrive and join the chase, and so does a young male officer. Mary Beth drives to the other end of the alley, while Chris joins the male cop on foot. Not clear on who is who, they shout warnings. One guy stops and turns. Believing he has a gun, the male cop shoots. Only to find out that he's just shot a pursuing Neighbourhood Watch guy.

    Now the immediate aftermath of the shooting gives the one moment in the episode I had a problem with, and it's purely down to the way it was filmed. Because things briefly go into Eighties slo-mo (I'm thinking there was probably some kind of heartbeat effect for good measure too, but maybe I'm misremembering). It's a fairly subtle version of slo-mo so I can mostly forgive it. Unfortunately, the second Neighbourhood Watch guy (that's the one who hasn't been shot) hams it up with a great big slo-mo "N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooooooo". It's a little embarrassing to watch, and for a few moments I'm wondering if there will be a twist and we'll find out this is some kind of spoof moment. But no - it's real.

    All is quickly forgiven though. Because we immediately move onto some major conflict between the leads as they go over their recollection of events. Chris says that she could see the man holding a gun before he was shot. Mary Beth is asked if she saw it. She saw the guy, but no gun. As it starts to dawn on them what this could mean, there are some wonderful moments for both actors. It's clear that Mary Beth is trying to support her partner as she expands with some plausible reasons why she didn't see the gun - the shadows; the different angles. She never says she doesn't believe her partner. Just that she didn't see what Chris did.

    There's an unsettling moment where a senior officer says he'll leave the two women alone to talk, telling them - in as many words - to collude on getting their story straight. But next morning Mary Beth refuses to sign the statement provided by D.I. Marquette (in his first appearance here. He's played by Ronald Jason who also provided post-shooting drama on Knots Landing as the doctor who told Karen Mackenzie she was dying). Marquette and Samuels aren't pleased. And neither is Chris. And things are complicated further when the Neighbourhood Watch man dies.

    Now, a few words about Sharon Gless. I've barely mentioned her debut so far. The main reason being she is Christine Cagney for so many. As I've said in previous posts, I thought Swit was great in the Pilot and I grew to really enjoy Meg Foster in the first season - to the point where I was sorry her run was ending so soon. The most noteworthy thing about Gless is that even though she is very different to the previous Cagneys (especially her direct predecessor), there's nothing jarring about her presence here. It just feels like she's been there all the time. I 100% believe that she's got a long history with Mary Beth and that she's been sharing banter with the guys in the office for aeons. The chemistry is that good. By the end of the first act the two women are in conflict. It could have been perceived as Tyne Daly arguing with some unknown actress playing a bitchy version of Chris Cagney. The safe thing to do would be to hold off on this episode for a few weeks until the relationship is more established. And yet within the space of those first ten minutes, I was so convinced by this relationship between colleagues and friends that I'm completely invested in the schism that comes with the fallout. I can't think of any other recast that has been this immediately convincing.

    So Gless gets some really meaty scenes in her first appearance, and the heart of Cagney beats strong. She clashes wonderfully with her colleague and remains fully in character thanks to some great writing. It's all in there - how important her career is to her, how she needs to have a partner she can trust (she tells Mary Beth that if she missed the gun this time, there's a chance she'll miss it again). And she eventually goes solo to try to resolve things in her own way.

    The ambiguity throughout the episode is especially pleasing. We're presented with the women's viewpoints, and left to try to read them. As the episode went on, the more Chris determinedly said she saw the gun, the more Mary Beth reasonably tried to resolve things between them. I found myself waiting for that moment where Chris realised she'd almost risked her career because she couldn't admit that she'd been wrong, and was curious about how she was going to make it up to Mary Beth. Until the reveal came…

    Talk about leading with strength. This is the best-constructed episode yet. The perfect balance of professional and personal. The conflict feels very real and powerful. And the story so carefully woven it's incredible to think it was packed into just 50 minutes.

    One note… Chris is asked if she's ever shot anyone and replies that she hasn't. Back in the Pilot, she fired two shots into someone who was attacking her. Either the Pilot is considered non-canon or the powers that be have forgotten a pretty significant fact. My feeling is that it's probably deliberately been forgotten and retconned out so that Gless gets to have that moment where Chris shoots someone for the first time. But that's for another episode…
     
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  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    No, this theme didn't win, however, I consider Cagney & Lacey the "Knots Landing" of the cop-shows. So...you were almost right:)
    Incidentally, I remember Mary Beth mentioning Dallas and Knots Landing and then Christine gave her that look, like, geez are you watching that stuff (or, do you have time to watch soaps?)
     
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  15. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ONE OF OUR OWN

    The cop getting shot and killed in the restaurant was gripping and all, but less than 24 hours after watching the episode the ins and outs have already faded in my memory. Apart from Bert Remsen was in it. He was a busy guy in 1982. Among other things, Knots Landing, Hart To Hart and “CHiPs” are also on his resume for that year. Here he’s an irascible authority figure.

    The B-story, on the other hand, was thoroughly enjoyable and quite memorable. Cagney’s discovery that the men have formed a baseball team and her resulting fight to get onto it was great.

    The scene of her discovery was so enjoyably staged. We see Isbecki talking about it in the locker room (his infamous shirtless clip from the opening credits), and it’s only after he’s finished that there’s a little space and we hear Chris’s voice asking him about the game. The we become aware of her silhouette on the other side of the hanging bedsheet which passes as privacy at the station. But we don’t fully see her. Instead we see Isbecki stand in silence as though trying to pretend he’s not there. By now I’m wating for the moment where she bursts though the sheet to confront him. We hear Chris again angrily ask the same question: “What game, Isbecki?!” Again Isbecki is silent. We hear a ticked-off Chris move and the silhouette looms large. For a moment it appears as though we’re going to get our confrontation. But it’s a trick of the light. She’s actually storming away and we catch a glimpse of her leaving the locker room in the small gap at the edge of the privacy sheet.

    There are a couple of little twists in this. For once we’re privy to something that the women aren’t as Isbecki learns that the force insists the teams are mixed gender (I couldn’t help wondering how, in that case, Midtown South would have managed before the arrival of Cagney and Lacey who are said in the Pilot to be the first female officers there). Anyway, the revelation means that Isbecki feigns a change of heart to Cagney who is delighted to be on board. Until Petrie drops him in it by expressing his relief. Out of the lighthearted little story comes a potent little moment where Christine - rather than the expected reactions of exploding with anger or playing games to make Isbecki suffer - seems to lose heart and reminds him that he’s picked a bad day for this (tying into the A-story of their colleague being shot dead).


    The game itself brings the episode to an upbeat close and there’s a brilliant freeze frame at the end, with Chris in the background cheering on an uncertain Mary Beth as she runs on to probable victory. It’s the perfect alternative actions shot, and I love that it completely encapsulates the themes of teamwork, partnership and empowerment that the show is all about.




    So true.

    I can't remember that. Maybe I've never seen it. Although it kind of rings very vague bells.
     
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  16. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BEAUTY BURGLARS

    Oh - that episode name. It brings to mind latter Charlie’s Angels episodes. Or maybe Hart To Hart (didn’t Jennifer once get brainwashed by her hairdresser or something). Or even the Fembots from The Bionic Woman.

    Fortunately, while the plot is something that would be a good fit on any of those shows, the execution ensures there’s nothing quite so camp here.

    The main story centres around a series of violent robberies at upmarket salons where rich Park Avenue ladies are relieved of their jewellery by a gang dressed as cops. We witness one of the robberies as the story opens, involving guns held to heads, threats of sexual violence and a couple of pistol-whippings (all done in the best possible taste, of course).

    As with the Neighbourhood Watch shooting episode, there’s a post-robbery moment where it gets a little hammy as one of the women cries hysterically (and badly) in close up, emoting for all she’s worth before we cut away.

    There’s a lot to enjoy about the story. Chris and Mary Beth are heading a task force for the first time, and their reactions appropriately in character: Chris thrilled because this is what she’s been waiting for. Mary Beth apprehensive in case they blow it. The dynamics of their interactions with colleagues (who for the purposes of this assignment are technically now their subordinates) is fascinating. There’s the sense that everyone is acutely aware of the slight power shift. Stroppiness and inappropriate comments from the men are met with sarcasm from Chris and with no-nonsense facts about the reality of the case from Mary Beth.

    A couple of the turns the story takes lean towards the convoluted at times. Several people they come into contact with in their routine activities mention people who have been robbed while visiting hairdressers, and Mary Beth conveniently spots someone wearing a security uniform that resembles those used in the robberies. But these are nitpicks that could be put down to the lead characters having their eyes open for clues.

    There’s some great character stuff for Chris as part of this storyline. She rants and raves about being ordered to make a compassionate visit to a hospital where one of the victims of the robberies is on her deathbed, resenting every minute of having to sit still and see people she doesn’t know bursting into tears. At the hospital, she appears composed and compassionate, but when she gets back to the station she really cuts loose, shouting that “he” (Samuels) can go next time (we don’t see Samuels’ reaction to this, we’re just very aware that his office door is open).

    The hysterical woman (who is also the friend of the dead woman) feels a sense of attachment to Chris and opens up that she is not coping well and agoraphobic since her husband left her. Chris’s response to this is particularly interesting. She makes polite but clearly perfunctory stock responses as she hastily tries to quickly exit the woman’s apartment. Chris is asked if she’d like to have lunch sometime, and responds in the affirmative - but essentially negates it in her next sentence about being very tied up with the case at the moment. Seeing Chris’s professional side, it’s easy to understand why the lonely woman felt compelled to open up. But knowing Chris’s personal attitudes towards personal responsibility and weakness (particularly in women), it’s quite fascinating to wonder what’s going on below the surface. There’s an interesting kind of low-level guilt that stays with her for much of the episode, with the simple fact being that she is not the right person to give this woman what she is trying to find.

    The “personal” story in this episode is equally compelling and has a long-time friend of Mary Beth’s visiting. Now wealthy and about to enter her second marriage, Theresa has come to go over arrangements with Mary Beth who is to be her Maid Of Honour. There’s a really cute scene where Theresa is met by Mary Beth and Chris. Theresa’s comment about not having been in a police car before is met with gentle teasing from Chris (“There’s a shotgun under the seat”). Theresa, by the way, is played by Christine Belford - one of the reliable actors who seemed to do the rounds of practically every tv show during the Seventies and Eighties. I remember her well as Baroness von Gunther in one of the earliest Wonder Woman episodes. And she went straight on from C&L to begin her short but memorable run on Dynasty.

    Operating in different strata brings up issues of status. Mary Beth tries to keep up by buying expensive pair of crystal candlesticks as a wedding present. This leads to some fun moments where she nervously clutches the giftwrapped box as they race round New York following a call to action.

    Things get more serious when she and Harvey go to dinner with Theresa and some of her wealthy friends. There’s an awkward moment where Harvey is asked what he does. After a moment he says he’s in construction, which is pretty much met with silence. There’s a beautiful scene that follows their arrival home, where Harvey - his self-esteem round his ankles - tells Mary Beth that she’s still pretty and it’s not to late to find herself a doctor or lawyer and have everything she deserves. Mary Beth says she already has everything she wants, then nervously keeps talking about her friendship with Theresa, how they used to curl each others hair with huge rollers they could put their arms through (“Did you ever do that with your friends?”, she asks Harv). As Harvey leaves, she blurts out that she loves him and it’s clear that he doesn’t know what to do with it so he says nothing. It’s such a poignant scene and tells us all we need to know about these two.

    The final straw is when Theresa encourages Mary Beth to buy a $400 dress (complete with turban) for the wedding. When Mary Beth says she can’t afford it, Theresa offers to buy her the dress. There’s another great Harv scene where Mary Beth relays this story to him as she holds one of their sleeping children (I can never remember which is which). On finding out about the proffered charity Harv clenches his jaw and his fist, loudly thumping the table before shouting the odds. Mary Beth’s first response is to cover the child’s ears, which is quite comical.

    The crux is that Mary Beth decides not to go to the wedding, but eventually talks it over with Theresa who backs down and says she just wants Mary Beth there, no matter what she wears. But somehow that’s not the key point. What’s important here is the journey, and the one taken with all characters involved has been a really engaging one.
     
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  17. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    HIGH STEEL

    While I've forgotten much of this episode already (party because I watched it very late last night and was quite sleepy), there are some key things that I've found difficult to shake. Any plot that draws Harv into the centre of the action has my vote, and this one does that by having a friend and colleague of his killed in a "fall" at a construction site. Seeing Harv and Mary Beth attend a funeral is notable, just because it's the first of its kind for this series and we get to see Harv interact with some colleagues.

    There are some fun moments to balance it. A favourite of mine being the scene where Chris and Mary Beth walk on a construction site to a barrage of wolf whistles. Chris takes it all in stride, and Mary Beth is lapping it up, grinning from ear to ear.

    As more is revealed, we learn that the fall wasn't an accident, and the guy was killed a la Karen Silkwood because he was onto sub par materials being used in the construction. Naturally there's the requisite "wrench dropped from a height, missing our heroes by inches" scene. But it's the last act where things get really tense. Cagney convinces Mary Beth to go on the down low with she and Harv and investigate the site at night. There's a little suspense with Chris stuck in traffic as Mary Beth and Harv are forced to investigate without her. Long story short, things get even more suspenseful as Mary Beth finds herself clinging to a girder at a great height, requiring Harv to try to rescue her while Chris watches. Mary Beth is in some kind of shock, and not responding. Intriguingly, Harv says he's seen this happen to people before, that she's got a "death grip" that nothing will undo. So we've got Chris watching helplessly. Mary Beth clinging in shock. And Harv attempting a rescue with his inner ear affecting his balance.

    The most shocking moment in the episode comes when Mary Beth won't let go once Harv has reached her. So… he punches her. I mean he clocks her good and proper. After watching their intimate relationship for ten episodes, this is as much a jolt for the audience as it is for Mary Beth and the horrified Chris. All the actors do such an excellent job that elevates this almost routine kind of setup into something very personal that the audience can feel. So Mary Beth's anguished primal cries on reaching safety echo the viewer's own relief and confusion at what they've just seen.
     
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  18. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    HOTLINE

    No Lynda Carter, sadly, but the episode didn't suffer because of it.

    This episode goes straight into the story by opening with a moody scene. It's night. We hear a siren. Lights from half a dozen police cars pick out the mist in the air. We're clearly arriving at the aftermath. In fact it feels like the aftermath of a prime time soap cliffhanger of the same era.

    Someone tuning in having missed the previous episode would probably be feeling they'd missed something. And that's what I love about this show. It's mostly episodic by nature, but it credits the audience with enough savvy to catch up. Which means that unnecessary scenes of pipe-laying can be excised in favour of a really meaty, layered story. It's a very effective use of time.

    Instead of everything being explained in a linear way, we are given exposition through fragments of dialogue. We quickly learn that Cagney and Lacey are on the midnight to 8am shift. That they've been called to investigate a strangling which is the third of its kind. That the victim worked for an insurance company in the Time Life building. We also learn that Samuels - more abrasive than ever - has been sleeping at the station.

    The women interview two girls who found the body ("We found her" "It was gross" "Totally"). The girls are heavily made up in gothic style, which gives us the first - but not the only - instance of Mary Beth's naiveté of the episode. After scrutinising them carefully, she makes a deduction and speaks up:

    MARY BETH: "Are you two in a play?"
    OPAL: "No"
    MARY BETH: "Costume party, right?"

    Turns out the girls are celebrating their 47th time at The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Which Chris then explains to Mary Beth, who looks as though her colleague has been speaking in tongues.

    Going to find "Pierre's Restaurant", in the tower block where the strangled woman was said to have worked, Cagney and Lacey are perplexed to find an answering service in its place. While waiting to speak to someone they overhear the conversations of the phone respondents:

    WOMAN #1: "Oh - you are a dirty boy. Yes you are. Yeah. You're just relaxing in your bedroom? Yeah. Mmm. What are ya wearing'? Yeah. (Laughs) Are you comfortable? Yeah. Sounds nice."
    WOMAN #2 (reading a book and smoking): "C'mon. I know we'd be terrific together. Ooh. Sounds like we like the same things."

    Lacey is most definitely not amused. But Cagney is.

    MARY BETH: "What is going on here?"
    CHRIS: "Well, these girls are probably just on their coffee break, talking to their husbands and boyfriends. You know? Don't you talk to Harvey this way?"

    MARY BETH: "Uh… Chris. You don't wanna go over there."
    CHRIS: "Why not?"
    MARY BETH: "She is talking about things that even I never heard of."
    CHRIS: "Well I may have."


    When the manager, thinking the two have come for a job, confirms that Pierre's is a cover for an erotic hotline, Chris and Mary Beth wordlessly respond as only they can:

    [​IMG]

    Mary Beth may be uncomfortable with others sexuality, but her own is in a good place. There's a morning scene with Harvey where they both want - and get - sex. Their urgent kissing was some of the most convincing I've seen on screen. They're very loved-up at the moment.


    Samuels has a really interesting arc this episode, clashing with virtually everyone. There's a nice moment where Mary Beth is on the phone to Harv (telling him that Samuels has just changed her back on to days, starting immediately) and Samuels drops some papers on her desk, scowling in disapproval. Including DI Marquette (again). This particular clash is very public. Marquette has just finished allaying fears by telling a team of TV journalists that there is no evidence to suggest a serial strangler. Samuels - standing right next to his superior - is asked for his opinion and directly contradicts him by saying he thinks the stranglings are related.

    JOURNALIST: "Then you disagree with Inspector Marquette?"
    SAMUELS: "Ya asked for my opinion an' I told you!"

    After riding everyone really hard, Samuels is deflated when he visits a funeral home in his obsession and feels that he's crossed a line by intruding on someone's grief.

    SAMUELS: "When I was a kid I… I saw a friend of my father's get his face bloodied by a detective. It was over nothin'. That cop was a fat slob who wasn't fit to be a human being, never mind a detective." [He points to a photograph on the wall]. "That's me. That's me when I got my shield. I promised myself that, no matter what, I would never do anything like that."

    He discloses that things with his wife Thelma aren't so good at the moment. It's the most in-depth scene that Samuels - or any of the characters outside of Chris and the Laceys - have had so far. And the execution is perfect.

    Chris gets the episode's best line relating to Samuels who, she feels, favours Mary Beth over her:

    "He tells you he likes your instincts. He tells me he likes my scarf."

    Samuels is proven right, when it becomes clear there is one strangler. All the women worked for the same hotline. From there, it doesn't take much for Cagney and Lacey to work out who the strangler is, leading to a nicely suspenseful scene - with an action-packed end - where they're against the clock to reach the potential victims in time.

    The denouement brings things to a satisfying end, with Samuels getting his moment of glory. Like the first Season Two episode, this feels like one of the more layered stories. In common, the two episodes dispense with a separate B-story and instead tie the subplots neatly into the main storyline. It makes for great tv.
     
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  19. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    C&L was a show I'd heard about and thought I would like but when it started they put it on at the same time as Dynasty so, in those pre-VCR days, I couldn't watch both. However, one week Dynasty was not on so, as it turned out this was the first episode I saw. Since all the characters were unknown to me, I had no idea which were regulars and therefore unlikely to be the miscreant. For that reason, I suppose, I found the A story to be more compelling - and the show itself certainly lived up to my expectations.
     
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  20. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    INTERNAL AFFAIRS

    The stakes feel particularly high this episode. There's a leak in the department, which has violent consequences for more than one of the team. Mary Beth and Chris are quickly thrown into the centre when they are asked to investigate their colleagues, leading to all kinds of moral dilemmas.

    This felt like a particularly twisty episode. The girls initially refuse to spy on their colleagues with heartening loyalty, but are backed into a corner when one of their peers is badly beaten. The call for the investigation is led by Berwick. All the characters pronounce it "burr-wick" which sounds strange to me compared with the British "berrick". Samuels is in on it… until Berwick visits Cagney's home to ask them to follow Samuels too (there's a nice moment where Cagney gets defensive when he comments on her nice apartment, saying she'd bought it years ago when the area wasn't so good with money she'd been left by her mother). I love Chris's apartment. It's a good mix of cosy and stylish. The bare brick wall, warmed up by the thick rug and the James Cagney posters. She has great taste.

    The scene that best exemplified the layers came in a meeting in Samuels' office with Samuels, Cagney, Lacey and Isbecki. Samuels says that nothing said in the office is to leave those walls. Except Isbecki doesn't know that Samuels, Cagney and Lacey are involved in the investigation, so they're hiding something from him. And Samuels doesn't know that Cagney and Lacey are tasked with secretly following him too. So there's a whole lot going on with the energy.

    The women following their colleagues is a clever way to get insight into the other characters on the show too. We learn that Isbecki has a $126,000 trust fund from family stock that he doesn't want anyone to know about (he's under suspicion until this is known as he's bought a hi fi costing almost $4000). We see LaGuardia meeting his girlfriend (he'd been under suspicion as he was dressing smarter). On seeing them, the women experience different reactions: Cagney laughs ("I can't stand it…!"), while Mary Beth bursts into tears of guilt and relief. The women also tail Samuels to an office where he's having therapy (they're assisted by a nosey female otis). The moment where he spots them as they try to make an exit is electric. He responds by telling them to do what they need to, but he has an appointment to keep. It's a wonderful scene for all three.

    Petrie is stabbed in the arm while the women are tailing him. They intervene and give chase. There's a great scene where the culprit then the gun-toting women burst into a dance class. It looks for all the world like a crossover with Fame, and I can't help feeling that wasn't unintentional.

    As the women fall under suspicion by their colleagues - even having a dead rat sent to them. When the women try to end their mission again, Berwick plays his trump card: Chris's father Charlie is trying to get a reference from the department for a part time job. Berwick knows that Charlie took bribes in the late forties and says they won't reveal this if Cagney and Lacey "choose" to stay on the case.

    We have some great Cagney scenes. We see Chris sitting on her apartment floor drinking wine and listening to Wagner (Die Walküre, if you're wondering.) before confronting her father about being on the take (he'd come to celebrate getting the job). Then she spends most of the episode avoiding him.

    As for the culprit, well, there are two guest-cops this episode, one of whom was taken out by the beating early on. That left another woman cop. Also, notably, this is the first appearance of the women's restroom, where they talked about their case. Ok - I was ahead of the women on this one, which wasn't ideal, but it played out with enough conviction for me to buy it. The brave, unexpected thing would have been to have had a regular be the person. Or to have the leak be someone who has appeared in a few episodes. Being several episodes into the new season, the new faces popped and highlight the almost disposable nature of episodic TV.

    BUT… consider that this was the first script commissioned for Season Two. If the episodes had aired in the order the scripts had been commissioned, it would have been very smooth indeed. So I can cut the show a break there.

    Plus we get insight into the background of several key characters, moral dilemmas and tensions. Altogether, this is one of the best episodes yet.
     
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