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"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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    EXTRADITION

    A rare bit of sunshine for the two women as we follow them to California to accompany a suspect who's jumped bail back to New York. Only for him to disappear from the custody of the Californian police.

    The trip means that there are examples galore of Mary Beth's lack of worldliness, ranging from her excitement at the thought of seeing the stars' homes and tourist hotspots through her shock over property prices (including a scene where she has to hold onto something after learning the value of a property they're visiting) to her general bemusement at the Californian lifestyle, such as a scene where they question a man in a jacuzzi with two women:

    CHRISTINE: "We're very sorry to have disturbed ...whatever it is you're doing."
    JACUZZI MAN: "We were closing a deal."
    MARY BETH: "Uh huh."
    CHRISTINE: "Isn't that great. I love California."
    MARY BETH: "Working in a bathtub?"
    CHRISTINE: "Hot tub."
    MARY BETH: "A very weird crowd."


    Just as Exit: Stage Centre saw them commenting how weird actors are, some of the dialogue in this episode feels a little tongue-in-cheek and knowing.

    In a nice touch, Mary Beth persuades Chris to contact Brian, so we get more David Ackroyd and we see Brian in his natural environment. There's also an introduction to Brian's wife Anne and their daughters Bridgit and Lisa. It feels good to have the show's canvas broadened a little in this way and shows good attention to detail.

    The procedural plot proves enjoyable and also has some heart to it as they realise their suspect has become a valuable member of society in the eight years since his criminal act and persuade the powers that be not to waste their time indicting him. It's all quite convenient, but I believe these women understand the system enough to work it in this way, and it shows them at their most compassionate.
     
  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    A SAFE PLACE

    Now, the main plot was an interesting concept. Two thieves steal plutonium. One ends up poisoned and dying, and the other on the run. It sounds like a bizarre cross between Back To The Future and the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

    The procedural actually proved to be quite mundane, but what made this truly absorbing was the response of Mary Beth. She begins the episode filled with hope and optimism. She and Harv are looking at a house in Fresh Meadows and all looks rosy. Throughout the episode, as Mary Beth learns more about the details of the case, we're subtly made aware of her increasing concern over the state of the world in general through Daly's facial expressions. This all going on so close to her home fills her with despondency about the corruption in the world. This takes what is, on the surface, quite a fanciful scenario and brings it right down to a very human response with which anyone who has watched one too many news programmes can identify. It seems as relevant today as it was then. In many ways even more so:

    HARVEY: "Mary Beth, the government ...and the scientists, they are the ones running the show. People like you and me, we don't have a thing to say about it. You know, they may have kept the genie in the bottle for this long? They can't do it forever though."
    MARY BETH: "Well, what the heck does that mean?!! You and I are making a new home for our family! I'm planning on a future!"
    HARVEY: "Mary Beth, we are all sitting ducks. If somebody presses the wrong button... It is a fact of life, just like babies being born. You've just gotta learn to live with it, the way it was soldiers fought the wars. Today ...everybody's a target. Men, ...women, ...kids. It doesn't matter. The big balloon goes up. it's all over."
    MARY BETH: "Well, that's terrific, Harvey. With the big balloon out there, why do we bother getting up tomorrow morning?! We may as well give up right now. The way you tell it, we might as well put our hands over our heads, bend over and kick Fresh Meadows good bye!! Go in there and tell that to your brand new baby daughter!!!"


    There are a couple of milestones this episode. Mary Beth and Harv make an offer on the house and get it. Harv Jr's sadness over leaving his school and friends once again bring things right down to simple, easily identifiable, small character moments. There's a beautiful scene between Mary Beth and young Harv where she reassures him that everything is going to be ok and as it goes along it feels like her words reach herself as much as they do her son.

    MARY BETH: "I just think that when you want something very badly, you have to take risks. And you don't know if everything is gonna turn out to be the way you want. And that's a scary thing. You don't know. But you can't let that stop you. I think that if you want something badly enough, you have to try things. And hope and trust that they turn out to be all right. Hey, I know that everything does not have a happy ending. But I think we have to believe in it anyway. And how else could we go on if we don't believe that everything's gonna be OK?"

    The other milestone is Chris's "thirty ninth" birthday, which she eventually confides to Mary Beth is her fortieth. The event has brought on a crisis of sorts where Chris is concerned she is starting to look old. Throughout the episode Gless does this thing where Chris regresses to a younger version of herself. She wears her retainers all day long and there was a lovely, small scene where she visits a fairground with Charlie in which she was particularly youthful, wearing a baseball jacket and jeans, talking over old times and generally being Daddy's little girl. It was a nice moment for both Chris and Charlie. For some reason, throughout this scene I kept seeing Meg Foster's Chris - perhaps because there were similar colours between Chris and Charlie in their interactions during the first season.
     
  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    MODEL CITIZEN

    Following Season Two's Affirmative Action, this episode sees the return of Grace Zabriskie. This episode gives her a meatier role as the widow of a man who has been killed in an apparent mob slaying (found in the boot of his car at the bottom of the river with a bullet to the back of the head). Warming up for Sarah Palmer, she's thrust straight into full-on grief here. Her first scene is at the morgue, identifying her husband, and - just as in Twin Peaks - Zabriskie makes her character's anguish intense to the point of terrifying. On seeing her husband's corpse, her legs give way and she is escorted away barely able to stand.

    Zabriskie's striking features help perfectly. She has that Meryl Streep thing where she can look beautiful or plain; severe or frail as the role demands. In this performance there's a vulnerability to her that elicits the viewer's sympathy before she has even spoken. The twist at the end, when she learns why her husband was killed shows another side to her too as she goes to anger.

    Peter Frechette as her son also gives a great performance with a lot of subtlety. He cries silently - complete with the single tear - and expresses a great deal more than the words on the page, which pay off later in the episode when his character also gets to show another side. I recognised Frechette's name and face, but can't place exactly where I know him from after looking on IMDb, even though I've seen some of the shows on his resume.

    There are a couple more return visits this episode. Bridgit, Chris's niece from two episodes earlier is on a visit to New York, taking Chris's advice about travelling more to heart. And Stephen Macht has a brief scene as David Keeler, in the shower, wet and - according to the dialogue - naked. Even though I caught a glimpse of his underwear, I found the modesty more charming than annoying. Chris jumps into the shower with him - fully clothed. They're discussing Bridgit. As someone keeping on top of Knots Landing connections this blew my mind a little. Here's Karen Fairgate's brother discussing the daughter of the man who dated Karen Fairgate - the man who also originated the role of Karen's good neighbour. And it's all happening in the same episode which prominently features the woman who shot Karen.

    Chris's interactions with her niece are another great example of her connecting with young women because she sees something of herself in them. It builds on the theme set in Season Two's Hopes And Dreams which continued at the very beginning of this season in On The Streets. I liked that she recognised the similarity once again, and acknowledged being too similar as an obstacle to overcome. It's more evident in this episode because of the physical resemblance between the two and their blood ties. It's also built on when we learn that Bridgit is using Chris as a role model, something that Chris is uncomfortable with.

    There's a lighthearted story where Chris has bought Mary Beth a belated birthday present of a week's help from a genuine British nanny. Once again we get to see Mary Beth experience something of a culture clash with a world that's not familiar. This has been a bit of a theme for Mary Beth this season. In the last few episodes alone, she's responded with disbelief and almost naiveté to being in situations that are out of her experience - dealing with actors and Californians. Here it's the British culture that throws her, giving some delightful dialogue:

    NANNY: "Audrey Lancaster. N. B. N. A."
    MARY BETH: "Excuse me?"
    NANNY: "N. B. N. A. - National British Nannies Association."
    MARY BETH: "Oh. Mary Beth Lacey. NYPD."


    MICHAEL: "How come you never make scones, Mum."
    MARY BETH: "Because I'm not exactly sure what scones are, Michael."

    (This would have been even more amusing, in my opinion, had they pronounced "scones" the traditional British way here, instead of rhyming it with "stones". But it was still funny).


    NANNY: "Mr. Lacey's been so tired I said I'd prepare supper for him before I left. It's Lancashire hotpot, bubble and squeak and Bakewell tart."
    MARY BETH: "Beg pardon."
    NANNY: "Lamb stew, cabbage and potatoes and pudding for dessert."


    NANNY: "I am proud to say that my last post was with the Countess of Hargrave. And before that I raised the children of the Earl of Nottingham."
    MARY BETH: "Oh. Where did they live?"
    NANNY: "In Nottingham."
    MARY BETH: "Of course. Notting Ham."
    NANNY: "Hum."
    MARY BETH: "Hum."



    Fun as it was, this particular development did require a deliberate suspension of my disbelief. Firstly, I found it difficult to believe Chris would buy Mary Beth such an extravagant and personal present, particularly knowing that Mary Beth's home is sacred to her. Secondly, the timing almost seemed like a case of one-upmanship rather than genuine thought. In last week's episode, Mary Beth bought Chris a plant for her birthday. I'd guess the timing is accidental, and I was able to justify this one in my head as Chris being competitive and also overcompensating out of guilt for getting a present when she hadn't got Mary Beth one on her last birthday. It also felt predictable and derivative, with Mary Beth feeling threatened by the nanny taking such good care of her home and family - the kind of b-story that would be fodder for Desperate Housewives two decades later.

    So, it almost fails here because it's situational rather than character-based. That said, with all the responses being so in character it flies well, and it's particularly enjoyable when Mary Beth investigates Mrs Lancaster further to discover she's not all that she seems, leading to a scene that starts as a confrontation and ends with them bonding. And, Mary Beth's response is right in character considering my point about Mary Beth's home being sacred. So it worked for me.
     
  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    PARTING SHOTS

    It must be a gratifying thing to keep the Emmy wins in the family. With Tyne Daly having hauled three of them at this point, this episode saw her husband, Georg Stanford Brown get a directorial Emmy to sit alongside them.

    Back in Lottery, a casual peek into a search engine got me a major spoiler about the character of Newman. And this is the episode to which the spoiler relates.

    The opening scenes are notable for their almost mundane ordinariness. As we open, Chris is helping a nervous Mary Beth prepare for a court appearance. Newman - who'd led the investigation - has a new suit for the occasion. Isbecki is boasting about his latest conquest, Trixie. Samuels is pressing Chris for a report he's waiting for. Then we cut to the detectives exiting the courtroom, celebrating a conviction. Newman wants to take everyone to Flannery's, but Isbecki heads off to Trixie, Mary Beth has a PTA meeting and Chris has her report. That leaves Newman, Petrie and Corassa. Newman catches up to Chris and Mary Beth and asks Chris if he can borrow some money. Then two shots ring out, and Newman collapses to the ground with blood on him.

    The moment is slightly marred by the Eighties slow-mo of Newman collapsing and the horrified reactions of his colleagues. This is a top notch group of actors, and all know how to play a moment like this for the most impact, so it's a shame - and perhaps a sign of the times - that this decision was taken. In slow motion, the cries of "noooooo" and Newman's eyes rolling backwards in his head as he falls spastically to the ground start to look a little satirical. It's a throwback to Witness To An Incident where a similarly shocking moment was nearly ruined by slow-mo. Thankfully, it's over fairly quickly here, and when we cut back to real time the performances are strong enough to keep me invested. The rather horrific sounds Dan Shor makes as Newman struggles to breathe are particularly eye opening compared to the usual TV gunshot victims.

    The immediate aftermath gets across the squad's efforts reconcile things - dealing with the shock of seeing a colleague hit while also aware that they're in public and need to work efficiently to get statements and follow procedure. It also effectively shows the confusion and disorientation that happens in a moment like this, with no real sense of where the shot came from.

    This is followed by what is a bit of a TV standard: the hospital waiting room scene. While Newman is operated on, his colleagues sit around and wax lyrical. It's reassuringly familiar. But it only takes one little gesture to shake things up. Samuels walks towards the waiting room, and everyone looks up, waiting for news. Instead of saying anything, Samuels simply shakes his head and walks off. And so the only death of a series regular character plays out wordlessly and with understatement.

    Throughout the episode, there's a slow burn of the characters' responses. Corassa - Newman's partner - blows his stack several times and he has to be ordered to take a desk job rather than getting too involved. It's nice to see the character get to do a little more. He's been there in the background of the show for some time, but rarely gets his own little arc. Corassa's only previous moment of note was deliberately spilling coffee into Lowell's lap and leading the campaign of hate during Act Of Conscience. Due to that I've found it difficult to like him, so I'm glad to see him humanised a little here.

    Mary Beth has spent some time concerned that Harv would hear the news report in which Newman wasn't named. She's angered when he hasn't seen the report. Petrie has had to contact Claudia for the same reason.



    Chris's responses are the most interesting here. Her attitude for much of the episode that highlights two aspects of bereavement that frequently gets glossed over on TV shows. Firstly, her refusal to sing Newman's praises brings to light the human tendency to deify those who have died, regardless of their relationship during life.


    SAMUELS: You know, he was only a couple of years older than my own son, David. (taking a swig) Loved working undercover, huh?
    CHRISTINE: He was a hot dog.
    SAMUELS: He was a good cop!
    CHRISTINE: I didn't say he wasn't.




    MARY BETH: "Christine told me once that he was very good at poker."
    ISBECKI: "He was a hell of a basketball player."
    CHRISTINE: "What is this? A Jonah Newman testimonial."
    PETRIE: "Some of us care that he's gone, Cagney."
    CHRISTINE: "You saying I don't?"
    PETRIE: "I don't really know what you feel. I'm not sure you do either."
    CHRISTINE: "Petrie, go analyse somebody else."
    ISBECKI: "Come on, Cagney. What's your problem?"
    CHRISTINE: "Everybody's walking around saying what a great guy Newman was. Nobody ever said that when you wanted me to set him up in the poker game."
    ISBECKI: "We hardly knew him then."
    CHRISTINE: "Coleman knew him last week when he wanted McGyver instead of Newman to play shortstop on his softball team."
    PETRIE: "What's your point, Cagney?"
    CHRISTINE: "Suddenly everybody's going around asking 'Did he have a wife?. Did he have any kids?' Nobody even cared until he got killed! Nobody even thought about Newman's personal life! Hell, nobody even knew if he had one!"
    ISBECKI: "Corassa knew."
    CHRISTINE: "Fine, Corassa!" (Corassa turns his back on her) "For the last few days all we've heard about is what a stand-up guy Newman was. A really smart, hard working, wow, is he honest! It's enough to make you puke."



    And secondly the way people can use inappropriate humour to cope with a tragedy:


    MARY BETH (speaking about Coleman's caring new attitude): "Death can change a person, Christine."
    CHRISTINE: "Look what it did for Newman."



    Chris is unhappy about some of the things Samuels is asking her to do, such as breaking the news to Newman's mother and searching Newman's apartment to make sure he was clean. When Samuels will get pressed no further and lets her have it, it's a sight to behold. And it happens twice in this episode where he reminds Chris of her new rank and the responsibilities that come with it.


    Towards the end of the episode the killer is caught, which brings the revelation that, rather than a police serial killer or a revenge killing for one of Newman's previous cases, Newman's was just a random killer by someone who wanted attention. It's quite an anti-climax, but in the best possible way, as it drives home how senseless it all was. Newman's youth also helps to highlight how it can happen to anyone.
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Six - Quality Control


    [​IMG]


    SCHEDULE ONE

    Even after five years onscreen, Isbecki remains something of an unknown quantity. Perhaps the most notable aspect of his character is that he's shallow; his main topic of conversation being his latest conquest. The biggest revelation about his character came back in Season Two's Internal Affairs with the reveal that he had a huge trust fund.

    There have been moments that have fleshed him out a little. Chris's drunken flirtation with him back in Season Three's Choices comes to mind. As does his involvement with a rape victim that stopped him objectifying women (albeit temporarily). My favourite Isbecki scene also took place in Season Three, where he talked to Petrie in a bar about his willingness to give up his badge for his partner during A Killer's Dozen.

    But overall, Isbecki works as a vain narcissist. Knowing too much risks spoiling things.

    So, Season Six leading with an Isbecki-centric episode could have fallen flat. But in practice it's a corker of an episode.

    A perp arrested for petty theft wants to trade information about a 14th Squad officer he's seen scooping heroin, which once again puts Chris and Mary Beth in the uncomfortable position of having to investigate their colleagues - reminiscent of Internal Affairs. We see them taking various officers to cafes where the perp is waiting to identify the officer from a distance and signal yay or nay to the women. Here, once again, the series plays with expectations. The first couple of officers they take out are Corassa and and one of those background officers. Corassa has been struggling with Newman's death and is less reliable than usual. But the stoolie shakes his head no, which relieves Chris and Mary Beth. The other officer also gets a head shake. Then it's Isbecki's turn. He's under suspicion just as he was in Internal Affairs. This time it's because he's been taking time off to look after his ailing mother.

    The stoolie nods his head this time and it feels like the rulebook just went out of the window. It's clear that the consequences will be severe if an investigation proves the allegation true. But Isbecki is a series regular who has been around since day one. Could the series sacrifice another regular so soon after Newman's demise?

    The secrecy that the investigation involves gives some great character moments. As in Internal Affairs, Chris's apartment functions as a space for one of their discussions. So we get to see Samuels visit the apartment for (I think) the very first time. He comments how nice it is and frowns at her crushed Corvette which after its demise in Capitalism is still prominently displayed and flashing an indicator.

    These scenes are great, because they really get across the dynamic that happens when people who know each other professionally meet in a personal setting. There's an awkwardness to it and Samuels in particular looks very uncomfortable with the small talk. Mary Beth arrives and talks about her life being in boxes and Harv's labelling system. Samuels looks at her as though she's speaking Chinese. So she very clearly and deliberately tells him that she's moving. And Samuels continues to look at her as though she were speaking Chinese. In a nice touch, they have virtually the same conversation later in the episode while on surveillance. Mary Beth once again tells him she's moving and Samuels reacts as though it's the first time he's heard the news. It effectively shows how preoccupied everyone is with concern over Isbecki.

    Samuels comes up with a plan:

    SAMUELS: "We're gonna wave a carrot in front of him and see if he bites."
    CHRISTINE: "Great. Setting up one of our own."
    MARY BETH: "Are we talking entrapment, sir?"
    SAMUELS: "Will you stop making me the heavy here. I don't enjoy this, Cagney. I like Isbecki. Set him up for a phoney stash bag. Put it around we've been tipped. And then we may hit the place over the weekend. Then I'm gonna hand the file over to you, Cagney. I want you to plant it on your desk ...and walk away. We'll sit on the place. If Isbecki shows there, then we'll take him in the act."
    CHRISTINE: "I won't do it. I'll take part in the stake out, Lieutenant. But I can't plant that file."
    SAMUELS: "All right, then. I'll do it. But you think about this. Because this is how it works when you're the boss. The air gets pretty thin."


    There's a little moment where Samuels is leaving Chris's apartment and his coat catches on one of her dining chairs, nearly knocking the chair over. Chris apologises, Samuels stands a moment and glowers at her and then leaves. It looks like an on set accident, but it's capitalised as a little moment of realism.

    Isbecki takes the bait and the three later catch him with a stash of heroin on his person. Samuels' reaction is primal: he starts shouting and punching Isbecki in the stomach. Repeatedly. Until he's stopped by Chris and Mary Beth. It's a very raw moment and brings to mind Samuels physically assaulting his own son after his arrest. Which, strangely, shows that Samuels cares for Isbecki.

    Samuels demands to know Isbecki's motive. And this is something that I'd given thought to while watching. We'd already seen Isbecki visiting his mother in the hospital in a lovely, short, wordless scene earlier in the episode. But it's already established that Isbecki had his trust fund and was independently wealthy. So why would he need to sell drugs to cover his mother's expenses. I had wondered if this was going to be a continuity error, but the writers had covered that one earlier by mentioning that his mother's hospital bills were covered by medicare.

    ISBECKI: "I swear to you that this is only the second time I've done it."
    CHRISTINE: "Yeah, maybe we should canonise you."
    ISBECKI: "Yeah, she begged me to kill her. How do you pull the plug on your own mother? I couldn't do it."
    CHRISTINE: "So you get her street drugs."
    ISBECKI: "It helps her! How else could I get it? The hospital won't give it to her. The morphine they give her just makes her sick. And she's allergic to everything else. Look, my mother is ill. It's just her and me. She's all I've got. And this cancer's killing us. You think you've gotta be there for her. Six years in remission."
    MARY BETH: "Six years?"
    ISBECKI: "Then, bingo! It comes back and starts eating her up."
    CHRISTINE: "So you give her heroin."
    ISBECKI: "I just wanted to give her one good night's sleep."



    In a nice touch, Mary Beth looks genuinely terrified when Isbecki talks about his mother's cancer returning. Nothing is said, but the viewer knows exactly what is going through her mind.

    The knowledge of the situation creates an interesting moral dilemma for Samuels, Cagney and Lacey:


    SAMUELS: "I don't want you to make a decision today that you can't live with tomorrow. So I've instructed Isbecki to be in my office tomorrow at nine AM sharp. I want the two of yous to be there at eight with your votes."
    MARY BETH: "With due respect, sir, I think that this is a boss's decision. I'm a Detective Third-grade, not God."
    SAMUELS: "The thing is, Lacey, you've got no choice. ...I don't wanna tell it to you as how to vote. But if we're to let him off, it's gotta be unanimous."
    CHRISTINE: "One negative vote ...and we turn him in."
    SAMUELS: "That's the only way that this thing can work. Let's drop down to the bottom line here. What we're talking about is a felony. What Victor did for his mom, we would be doing for Victor. If word should get out ..somehow, ...we'd all be in the same boat together. No survivors."


    There are some heated discussions between Chris and Mary Beth, with Chris leaning towards overlooking it and Mary Beth feeling they should follow protocol. While both responses are perhaps characteristically expected for these two, it adds another layer when I think of the sometimes feudal relationship between Cagney and Isbecki and consider that Mary Beth has personal experience of cancer.

    Samuels is straight in with a vote to save Isbecki. Chris follows suit, leaving Mary Beth in a really uncomfortable position. She votes to save him too, though looks very uncomfortable with it. Isbecki is two hours late for the 9am meeting and arrives to announce that his mother had just died.


    While all this is going on, we see the Laceys moving out of their old apartment and into their new house. I enjoyed the back and forth. There was a nice running gag where Mary Beth would come into the apartment and go to hang up her coat, then realise the coat stand is no longer there.

    With this being a new season, I'm impressed that the apartment set is still there. Even seeing it full of boxes, and completely empty at the end of the episode, it's still convincing as a home. It didn't feel like an undressed set. It still felt very real and lived-in. So when Mary Beth spends some time alone wandering through, cleaning the stove and saying a tearful goodbye to the apartment, I'm right with her. The closed door at the freeze frame, with Mary Beth's footsteps heard over it feel like the perfect ending to a chapter.
     
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  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    CULTURE CLASH

    Whilst watching Season One, I commented that:

    On that level, this episode feels like it's getting back to grass roots. As with those Season One episodes - and with the world being what it is - the themes in Culture Clash are still very relevant today. Indeed, those themes have never been more in the public eye than it is in late 2016. So an episode that sympathetically shows a struggle to balance the values of two different cultures could be said to have been light years ahead of its time.

    The episode is surprisingly layered, and making a real effort to show all sides of the story. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chris in particular is the voice of dissent here, making little effort to try to understand. Mary Beth does get involved and is misunderstood in return. In typical C&L style, the viewer never feels patronised or told that one view is wrong and the other right. It simply lays out the facts as each character's truth.

    Robert Hallak and Jennifer Balgobin are particularly layered and both have arcs that are in some ways diametrically opposed. Hallak's character begins with anger and ends in resigned compliance, and Balgobin's character vice versa.

    There's a sub-plot with the Laceys meeting their new neighbours (mostly offscreen). Already in their new home, there's a sense that the Laceys have a whole new, upwardly mobile set of problems. They've been removed from a place that was humble but where they fitted in and got on with people. Now Mary Beth is lying about her job to fit in.

    There's also a sub-sub-plot with Isbecki trying to compensate for the events of the previous episode and irritating his colleagues in the process. There's a nice little denouement with Petrie encouraging him to be his usual sloppy self and toss his paperwork into the air. The whole plot almost goes under the radar, but it's appreciated that there's continuity enough for it to at least be mentioned.
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    SORRY, RIGHT NUMBER

    The balance continues with a nicely upbeat episode offering a welcome change of pace.

    The heatwave reminded me, naturally enough, of Season Four's Heat. I found myself wondering if Lacey herself had that association and it was quite gratifying to have that mentioned later in the episode, though it didn't come from Lacey herself. Isbecki - trapped in a lift with Mary Beth and having a claustrophobic panic attack - was babbling and mentioned that it hadn't been this hot since she was trapped in the box car, likening his situation to hers. Both times he mentioned it she steered the conversation away. The scene between them was a nice one, as these are two characters that don't interact on a one to one basis very often. Both actors kept it light and brought out the humour in the situation. I especially enjoyed the moment where Victor asked if he could take his shirt off, and Mary Beth replied that she'd take hers off if it would help take his mind off the situation, leaving him horrified when he thought she was serious.

    More humour came from Chris's latest relationship crisis where David wanted them to go away for a long weekend, leaving her panicked. Gless is very good at this side to Chris, giving a frenetic energy as she can't see a way out. It was another great excuse to see the two women's different outlooks. Naturally, Mary Beth failed to understand Chris being uncomfortable with intimacy, and talked about her honeymoon with Harv where they had a heart shaped bath and pink sheets on the bed (Chris, left alone at the end of the scene, was visibly nauseated at that thought).

    Mary Beth's conservative side came to the fore again when interviewing a sex therapist (who she later referred to as someone that gets paid for being a peeping Tom). Her wide eyed shock to discover such an occupation existed was enjoyable.

    I also enjoyed the humour that came from Mary Beth's failure when using her new microwave oven which she felt was going to change her life. Daly took a moment where Mary Beth was upset and crying and gave it both heart and humour. No easy feat.
     
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  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    DISENFRANCHISED

    Echoes of Season Four's Child Witness as the women support two sisters when the older one claims the younger sister is being sexually abused by their father. This one takes a different angle and shows the struggle the two girls have to be heard and believed - even with Chris and Mary Beth backing them up.

    Alyson Croft and Judith Barsi are both note-perfect as the girls. Croft is very convincing. I haven't seen her in anything else, but she's a great young actor. I know Barsi from Jaws The Revenge. She's also very convincing as someone who has suffered a trauma - unnervingly so for an eight year old. It's especially poignant watching her in this knowing that the young actor was suffering abuse at the hands of her own father who would murder her a year and a half after this episode aired.

    My favourite scene from the episode involved the two leads and the two girls in the dormitory of the home the girls are staying at. There are two conversations going on at the same time, and those with keen ears and the patience to rewind a few times can clearly pick both of them up. Mary Beth is tucking the younger girl in and encouraging her to recite The Incy Wincy Spider. It feels for real - like it's as much Daly supporting and bringing out a good performance in young Judith as it is Lacey caring for the girl. There's an endearing moment where the girl messes up the end of the recitation and looks genuinely shocked. It's lovely. Contrasting with this is the conversation between Chris and the older girl where the girl discloses that she's been abused too. Somehow, the innocent, ordinary backdrop makes the moment even more effective and powerful.

    Yet again, the series makes a statement about the system. As with other portrayals of rape trials, it shows how the victims end up being put through the wringer by having to be cross examined and accused of lying in a courtroom. It also highlighted the injustice that comes out of justice. Even though the two girls are finally believed and don't have to return home, they're going to be sent to separate foster homes. It would take the hardest of hearts not to be moved by the scene of them being taken in different directions to go off to their new lives.

    Mary Beth being affected by it continues into her home life where Michael is not settling into his new school and has psychosomatic stomach pains. There's an almost ironic scene where Harv points out to Mary Beth that her long workdays are affecting their own children.

    Chris also has a personal crisis when Charlie falls off the wagon when he doesn't get a security guard job he wanted, and gets to rant and shout at him. Once again, she is the adult in the relationship. Little plots like this that add layer upon layer to Chris and make her a fascinating watch.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ROLE CALL

    First off, let me just clarify (rather defensively) that the title is not a misspell.

    As the main plot was laid out, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this one: A glamorous actress from LA hangs out with Chris and Mary Beth to get a taste of police work to enhance her TV role as a cop. So we have Shannon Tweed playing Vicki Barrington who plays Dee Dee Pearce on N.Y.P.D - a fictitious show. It sounded very knowing and a little cheesy.


    [​IMG]

    In earlier episodes, there have been wry comments about actors being strange, or California being far more laid back than is comfortable for the characters. Those moments have been enjoyable in part because it invites the audience into a little in-joke. But they also serve as a momentary reminder that the viewer, too, is actually watching a performance by actors where many of the scenes are filmed in Los Angeles, even though the characters are in New York. For a moment that's fine. But to have a whole episode built on this very premise. Isn't that fouling the nest?

    Indeed, this episode is probably as meta as the series has been up to this point. Police show tropes and actors playing cops are discussed in-depth. Chris in particular feels they cheapen what she does. But as she speaks, I can't help but be reminded that she is an actor playing a cop. And then wondering how real cops feel about that. So there's a slightly mind-blowing thing as I watch this fictional show pull apart another fictional show.

    Right from the start, I did feel a slight agenda going on. Those involved in the production of Cagney & Lacey obviously feel pride in the quality of their show and are aware that it's a step above some of the less thoughtful police shows. So here's their chance to have a bit of a swipe at the lower end of the spectrum while implicitly saying that their show is more real than those others.

    It's a ballsy move that shows great confidence. But there are hints of snobbery and conceit that go along with it. Up to this point, I'd assumed they were above this kind of stunt. And how much of a statement can this series make about actors playing cops without shooting itself in the foot. Somehow, the very act of producing this episode risks cheapening their series.

    Yet there's something strangely refreshing about this episode. Despite my reservations, I found myself getting into it. It's probably not Emmy material, but I like that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Somehow, Chris's cynicism about the exercise and about Barrington's presence buffers any cynicism the viewer may have. It's great fun to see Chris run down Vicki's TV character, Dee Dee, who keeps her gun in her bra ("I fight the producers on that every season", Vicki fires back).

    We even see Chris imitating Dee Dee's gun-toting pose while reeling off her catchphrase: "Hold it, big boy". It's a moment that pays off later in the episode where Vicki takes it upon herself to draw her prop gun on a fleeing suspect and fire off her catchphrase, causing the perp to stop in his tracks. A slightly silly moment, but I went with it and found myself laughing out loud.

    The lighter tone feels welcome after the grittier episode that ran before it, although that contrast also has the downside of making Role Call appear even more frivolous than it actually is.

    While Dee Dee might be TV fluff (Chris actually uses the term "jiggle TV", bringing to mind Rosenzweig's Charlie's Angels connection once again), Vicki is shown to be more substantial and intelligent. I thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with Mary Beth which began awkwardly and quickly became one of common ground and respect. Throughout the episode, Chris's sometimes brutal negativity towards Vicki (I love how unapologetically frank Chris can be) is challenged by Mary Beth, Samuels and David Keeler, and her preconceptions are shown to be keeping her from seeing below the surface.

    There are arguably two messages at play in this episode that could both serve to defend C&L from detractors:
    1. We're better than other cop shows and we can mock them right along with you.
    2. If you have an issue TV cops, it's your problem not ours.

    More to the point, the episode starts out with option one, then moves to option two. It's a way of the show having its cake and eating it. And while the execution works fine and the resolution is satisfying enough (if predictable), any attempt at putting a message in here feels disingenuous.

    So my suggestion is to take it on face value and go with it. There's every chance you'll enjoy it.
     
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  10. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I did enjoy this episode a lot. For some time after whenever I would see Shannon Tweed (she had a run in Falcon Crest as I recall) I would say: "It's Officer Dee Dee!"

    Come to think of it, I haven't seen Shannon Tweed in quite a while. I wonder whatever became of her.
     
  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm a bit behind with the reviews, but last night I watched an episode where Cagney was channel surfing. We couldn't see the TV but could hear it, so there'd be a few seconds of dialogue from each show she landed on.

    On one of the stops, Shannon's voice could be heard saying "Hold it big boy". I laughed so loud my cat gave me a disgusted look, but it was a brilliant little touch.
     
  12. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Oh, yeah. I do remember that.:lol:
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE ZEALOT

    I do enjoy those courtroom scenes shown from the perspective of another function of police work. It's an aspect that I haven't seen very much in other police shows. Usually, once the bad guys are caught the credits role and that's it. Here we get an idea of both the tedium and the stress that officers face in such a situation. Here, for example, Mary Beth is giving evidence in an underage pornography case.

    Episodes where the lines blur between personal and professional usually work well for this series, and this is one of them. Here, Mary Beth tactfully declines when a handsome DA working on the case - Paul Brandman - invites she and Chris to dinner, leaving Chris to flirt like crazy over dinner. They're in some kind of conservatory area in a restaurant, and the rain is particularly noisy. I can't help wondering how actors cope with distractions like this. In their position I wouldn't be able to concentrate on a real conversation, much less remember what line I was meant to say next. Fortunately, both the actors here are a bit more on it than me. Chris alternates between admiration for a fellow obsessive worker and admiration for his rather lovely brown eyes and smile. Even when he leaves her to go back to the office, she's at least as impressed as disappointed.

    With those couple of scenes appearing to be paving the way for a new entanglement for Chris, Paul's being killed came as a surprise to me. I didn't see that one coming.

    Chris and Mary Beth investigate and learn more about Paul. They visit his home and see that he lived in mess. They also begin to see just how obsessive his work was, with newspaper articles about child exploitation covering the walls. Further investigation starts to chip away at Cagney's admiration. It's quickly revealed that he is using sex workers - and was with one when he was killed. A wife is also in the picture (they're estranged, but Paul was "too busy" to divorce her).

    Now, I thought there was going to end up being a reveal that Paul himself had been exploited when he was young. But to the show's credit it didn't take that route. Rather, the theme of Paul's dedication to his work being analogous to Chris's was built on. From her preoccupation with her cases to the time she puts in - often at the expense of her personal life. Rather than telling us about the similarities, the episode just lets Chris do what she always does and allows the parallels to resonate with the viewer. And while Paul's killer was caught, there was still a sense of anti-climax when Paul's "motives" for being so preoccupied with his work weren't explained away. This left me with a reflection about what he'd missed out on while working so hard, and wondering if he'd known how things would go if he would have enjoyed himself more. Which then got transferred to Chris. The final scene was very subtle, with the penny finally dropping for Chris and her making a small decision based on that. I was left with a sense of unfinished business that allowed the groundwork laid in this episode to continue resonating and even carrying over into future episodes.

    Mary Beth's personal plot complements the main thread perfectly. While in her work life she is focussed on child exploitation by adults, at home she discovers her young son Michael with T&A magazines. Once again, we see Mary Beth's viscerally honest response to the objectification of women. She and Harv see things differently, and he tells her to deal with it. And to her credit, she does. This gives us the scenes most lovely episode where she brings the magazine to Michael and speaks gently to him about sex, even forcing him to read through the magazine and talk about it (this echoes the courtroom scene at the top of the episode where an offending photo was passed round and discussed, despite objections). It's good to see Tyne Daly and young Troy Slaten have this little moment together. They bring out nice colours in each other, giving a very believable little mother/son moment.
     
  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    MARATHON

    Apartheid comes under the C&L microscope as a white South African marathon runner chooses to run despite coming under threat, meaning she needs police protection. In a way this episode is now a time capsule, but the theme of institutionalised racism is - sadly - timeless.

    I had a bit of a problem with Kathy the female runner being portrayed in a very unsympathetic light to the point of one dimensionality. She's shown to be very arrogant and completely uncaring about anything except her goal. This was taken to the extreme - where she refused to stop running even though her son's life hung in the balance. It would have been a greater achievement, in my opinion, to make a statement about apartheid without making the white South African the embodiment of self-centredness. To be fair, this was balanced somewhat by the character of Kathy's trainer, but the way Kathy was presented felt a bit too convenient.

    Conversely (and perhaps in contradiction to the above) Chris's unapologetic and unforgiving pragmatism serves the episode well. Her focus is completely on getting her job done. At one point, Chris and Mary Beth visit the National Freedom Committee where they meet a black South African woman whose husband was killed by security police the previous year. She tells how she was thrown into solitary confinement for attending his funeral and was forced to watch them split her son's head open because she spoke about it. It's a horrific and eye opening account that really brings home the suffering and brutality under the regime. As they leave the building, Chris and Mary Beth are seeing the same situations through different eyes:

    CHRISTINE: "I hate it when people talk stuff like that. All the emotional smoke in the world does not hide the fact that Wade has been threatened."
    MARY BETH: "Did you see that kid's scar, Chris?"
    CHRISTINE: "Yeah. And that is overkill, Mary Beth. You know what I mean."
    MARY BETH: "...She's a brave woman."
    CHRISTINE: "Yeah, she is. And you know what. I hope she does run."
    MARY BETH: "I was speaking about Ida Makeeba."
    CHRISTINE: "Her too."


    The more I watch this series, the more admiration I feel for Gless and the writers for continuing to show this politically incorrect side to Chris. With the sexist attitudes of her colleagues pretty much just a distant memory of the early days of the show, Christine is perhaps now the most flawed and cynical character.

    The 14th's assignment is jarring to Petrie for obvious reasons. And the force is very eager to have him "volunteer" for attendance in the interest of public relations, echoing Season Two's Chop Shop episode. In an interesting move, Marquette is the one to apply pressure to Petrie to attend the marathon:

    MARQUETTE: "I'm a little short-handed. I need every man I can get, especially good ones like you."
    PETRIE: "Don't you mean 'black ones like me'? A good man wouldn't run with them. A black man shouldn't even consider it."
    MARQUETTE: "I understand how you feel. I was in uniform during the '68 riots when Dr. King was shot. AB Squad, double shift pattern, that sort of thing."
    PETRIE: "Are you comparing the death of a great leader to a runner in a foot race?"
    MARQUETTE: "The situation was the same. I had a job to do. I felt kind of guilty being out there. I guess I didn't care what happened to Dr. King.
    PETRIE: We are talking about South Africa, sir."
    MARQUETTE: "Well, I ...am talking about America. There was a riot going on out there, man! People lives were in danger and I had a choice to make. So do you. Now - right now - you're high on the list for Sergeant. And I don't care what decision you make, Detective, as long as you choose to run."


    Marquette - a black, senior officer - speaking to Petrie suggests a tactical move on the department's part to give Marcus no get out clause or room to manoeuvre. There's a genuine hypocrisy underlying the scene: On the surface Marquette is telling Petrie that he must keep politics out of his police work. While the unspoken reality is that Marquette wanting Petrie there in particular is very much a political move on the part of the department. Both actors are great. Petrie has been sidelined for far too long now, and it's good to see him with a meatier storyline to get his teeth into. The moment where he arrived to run and took off his tracksuit top to reveal a bold anti-apartheid t-shirt felt as satisfying as possible under the circumstances.
     
  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    RITES OF PASSAGE

    The setting of the main plot reminds me so much of the original Black Christmas. Even the layout and decor felt quite similar to my mind - though it's a while since I watched it. And the cover up of the death by hazing felt very Prom Night too.

    The introduction Chris's handsome new neighbour Tony Statinopolis was commendable in many ways and a little strange in others. The show scores for allowing the viewer to get to know Tony through Chris's eyes. Their memorable first meeting in the hallway with instant chemistry. She proffered an invitation for wine at her apartment where some light flirting commenced as they got to know each other:

    CHRISTINE: "I noticed that you only had three dining room chairs. So I decided that either you liked to do very small dinner parties, had a fetish for odd numbers or... were involved in a divorce."
    TONY STATINOPOLIS: "You are a cop. One quick swivel of the head and you take in the whole lot."
    CHRISTINE: "Without glasses. So did your better half have the other three chairs? I've never been married."
    TONY STATINOPOLIS: "Neither have I. Legally anyway. We're still, shall we say …complicated."
    CHRISTINE: "Mm. Being a couple is tough."
    TONY STATINOPOLIS: "I'm sure you could cope."
    CHRISTINE: (laughs) "I can. But being single is a challenge."
    TONY STATINOPOLIS: "All the good men are married or gay."
    CHRISTINE: "Or wanna be!"


    There was a nice comic moment after the last line where Chris thought about what she'd said and had the kind of expression that showed she was wondering if she'd just said that out loud.

    Later in the episode Chris found some roses outside her loft door, read the card and realised they were sent to Tony from his ex-partner, Daniel. She gets angry then they bond late at night when he arrives with wine, warm bread and cheese. Chris has another nice little moment where she sulkily asks why he has to be so attractive.

    Their friendship is enjoyable, and as Chris keeps her romantic relationships fairly casual, Tony could be a good grounding influence and someone for her to bounce off in her home life. Looking back, it's easy to see that nothing he said in his first couple of scenes betrayed his true self. All the same, I do think he came across as being interested in Chris in those first scenes. There were lots of intense looks and some flirty body language. That said, I've met people who can't help this behaviour, regardless of the situation. I also know people who are quite intense and get misread a lot. So the situation was plausible enough, and the show definitely scores for going against stereotype and allowing Tony to be good looking, stable and secure.


    A rite of passage, too, occurs in the Lacey household where Mary Beth catches Harv Jr. and Tiffany in a petting session (a nicely awkward moment where Mary Beth comes in, switches on the light, realises what's going on, switches the light back off and stumbles round in the dark).

    Mary Beth and Harv Sr.'s arc in this episode is uncannily similar to The Zealot, two episodes ago. Here, as there, Mary Beth sees a concern around her son's preoccupation with sex, discusses it with Harv Sr. and asks him to have a fatherly chat with them. In this case, she wants him to broach the subject of using a condom, building on the sex talk he gave Harv Jr. in Season Five's Family Connections. As in The Zealot, he and Mary Beth don't share the same view of the importance. So it's left to Mary Beth to deal with.

    It's occurred to me that the Laceys' energy is very different in the new house. The kitchen doesn't have as many memories attached to it as some of the memorable scenes in their old apartment kitchen. This episode goes a long way towards rectifying that with a sweet and intimate scene between Mary Beth and Harv Jr. at their kitchen table.

    Mary Beth starts out by connecting with him. She's unhappy that he doesn't want to go to college, but rather than her dreams for him, she speaks to him about her dreams for herself. She's wanted to study for a while. From here, the scene goes somewhere incredibly special and unexpected with Mary Beth speaking to her son as an equal by sharing her own experience:

    MARY BETH: "There's a lot of things that you and I haven't talked about. The other night when I came home for instance."
    HARVEY JR.: "Yeah. Er, Dad already talked to me about that. About being responsible."
    MARY BETH: "Good. Your father is right. Contraception is very important. If you care enough about a girl to make love with her, you should also care enough to keep safe. You're a very handsome young man, Harvey, you know that. Young girls are very vulnerable to young men like yourself."
    HARVEY JR.: "Mum…"
    MARY BETH: "I know what I'm talking about here, Harv. Before I met your father I got pregnant. You were almost not my first-born, kiddo. I was nineteen and I was in love. I thought he loved me too, but I was wrong. That's why I decided not to have it."
    HARVEY JR.: "Mum…"
    MARY BETH: "Having sex is not just your bodies being close. It's feelings too. That's the hard part. Even for grown-ups. And if you're not ready for that part, you can be very hurt. I'm not gonna tell you that having sex is wrong. Even when you're so young. But I have to tell ya: I wish I would have waited."
    HARVEY JR.: "Mum. Was he very handsome?"
    MARY BETH: "I thought so."


    Once again, the chemistry between these two completely pulled me in. I really appreciate that this is information the viewer already had, but used in an unexpected place to drive this story forward and strengthen this relationship. It's a beautiful moment and a powerful one.

    Not important, but I watched this episode on 2nd December. Thirty years and one day after it first aired.



    EDIT: Doing a little research after watching Season Seven's "Button, Button", I've just discovered that this episode marked the first time the word "condom" was uttered in an American prime-time drama. How times have changed since this milestone.
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    REVENGE

    Following a bit of additional screentime in Marathon, this episode sees Petrie right in the thick of it when he sees a perp arrested by Chris and Mary Beth for assault wearing a piece of jewellery that belonged to his sister who had been raped and murdered almost a decade and a half before.

    The exposition of characters' backstories - particularly a character we've been familiar with for over five years' worth of story - is a minefield. As I've mentioned before, the professional setting helps. We only know what we need to know. So this new information doesn't feel like a retcon as it might in a show such as a primetime soap that features more personal interactions. The characters themselves even comment on the fact this wasn't known.

    It's good to see Carl Lumbly get the chance to delve deeper. He can handle any material he's given - and it's a shame that he's started to feel quite sidelined for some time now. Petrie has a range of emotions to deal with in this episode, anger, pain and hurt. He knows this guy is the person he's been after but can't prove it. Adding insult to injury, as the guy is released from custody Petrie is forced to hand back the necklace left to his sister by his grandmother.

    He has a particularly intense scene where he approaches the guy in an alley at night. When asked what he wants, Petrie snaps the necklace from his neck and stands staring him down wordlessly before the fade to the commercial break.

    So when the guy shows up dead, Petrie is a suspect. Throughout the episode, a number of characters close to Petrie talk about standing by him, and how nobody could blame him if he had killed the guy. Including the people closest to him. Not just Victor, but even Claudia. As a viewer, bearing in mind the information given during the episode, I even found myself having moments of doubt. After all, I didn't know about his sister. What else don't I know about him. Not that I ever seriously considered he could be a murderer. But I could see where the other characters were coming from.

    Like I said, it's just good to see more of Petrie. I hope this is the start of a trend.

    Kathy Bates's name made me sit up and pay attention. And she was great. It's a fairly small role, but pivotal and another in a roster of unapologetically un-PC characters.
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE RAPIST - PART II (AKA "To Thine Own Self")

    As the title suggests, this is another callback. This time we're reintroduced to Sara Jones from Season Five's The Rapist, facing trial for killing the rapist at the end of that episode.

    This builds on the episode nicely. Even when new, contradictory information is given, it's quickly highlighted as just that. This time round Sara reveals that the man she killed was the man who had previously raped her, contradicting information she gave Chris in Part I. Chris is puzzled but doesn't respond in front of Sara's lawyer. When Chris speaks to Sara alone, she confirms that Brown was indeed her rapist. And there's more:

    SARA JONES:"My attorney thinks that the reason you removed me from the case is that you knew that Brown was the man who raped me."
    CHRISTINE: "Why does he think that?"
    SARA JONES: "That's what I told him. The jury has to be convinced that he wasn't just a suspect. If you don't testify that on the stand, I don't have a chance. They've gotta believe he was guilty."
    CHRISTINE: "Sara…"
    SARA JONES: "If you don't, Forget my getting off! Murder Two is what they're gonna pin on me. For getting a rapist off the streets! Chris, That's not fair. As sure as hell it isn't justice. ...I'm depending on you."
    CHRISTINE: To lie for you?"


    There's a real undercurrent to this episode. Chris's frustration, annoyance and guilt are - arguably - the driving forces behind it. And she takes it out on the people closest to her: Tony and Mary Beth.

    This episode has as much friction between Chris and Mary Beth as there's been for a while, with Chris pulling rank and lots of back and forth between them both while on a stakeout.

    In both cases they reach an understanding by episode's end. Mary Beth and Chris have things out in the Ladies' Room (where else), while Chris and Tony continue their trend of bonding over good food when Chris invites him to her apartment for pesto and pasta.

    Chris also has a scene where she speaks to Sara to say she won't perjure herself. This scene is an example of Gless at her best. She subtly gets across far more than is on the page, leaving the viewer in no doubt that this isn't an easy conversation for her to be having. In case you're wondering, Sara got two years for manslaughter.

    Mary Beth - true to her word - starts a Literature course at Queens College, giving some really nice character moments. Coleman recites Hamlet Act III, Scene I in Yiddish. Mary Beth gets excited about seeing Derek Jacobi (she pronounces it "Ju COE bee") at the RSC - an opportunity she has to miss because Chris is driving her hard at work.

    The scene's best episode is Mary Beth at her nervous, fumbling best when she is put on the spot by Professor Boucher ("it looks like Bowcher" she explains to Harv, pronouncing it to rhyme with 'voucher', "but it's pronounced Boucher, like the French say it"). She awkwardly reads out part of Helena's speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream ("Things base and vile…"), her New York accent adding a new kind of charm to it:

    PROFESSOR BOUCHER: "Very good. Now what do you think that means?"
    MARY BETH (after a huge pause): "Who me?"
    PROFESSOR BOUCHER: "Yes, you."
    MARY BETH: "Ma'am. Professor. This is my first class in nearly twenty years."
    PROFESSOR BOUCHER: "Take your time, Mrs. Lacey. I just wanna know what do you think? Is this Cupid blind to anything in particular?"
    MARY BETH: "Oh, well, I think er ...he was blind to a person's faults. Like my husband's cousin Marie, when she was going with this vacuum cleaner salesman, and he was playing the horses all the time. Everybody knew it, but Marie didn't wanna see it. That's probably wrong, huh?"
    PROFESSOR BOUCHER: "No, Mrs. Lacey, that is exactly right."


    It's a wonderful little scene with a wonderful balance of humour and heart. Mary Beth getting so excited at finding the right page that she shouts over somebody else, or awkwardly clutching her bag as she stands to speak and then spilling the contents when she sits down all turn this ordinary, almost inconsequential scene into something extraordinarily special.

    A nice little timing thing: this episode is set over the Christmas period. Sometimes it's nice when the seasons in box sets are more or less suited to real world events at the time. Although watching a Christmas episode in July can feel satisfyingly rebellious too.
     
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  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've fallen behind with this thread and have watched seven or so episodes in the last four evenings. So I'll follow with just a few little comments about each from memory.

    WASTE DEEP

    A Silkwood-esque toxic waste storyline. With Frenchie from Grease.

    Stanley Kamel is back as Mick Solomon who first appeared in Season Two's A Cry For Help. This is his fourth episode, and it's so good to have that bit of continuity with the characters crossing paths infrequently as people do in real life.

    There's a silly-but-enjoyable sub plot about Chris's hunky young Swedish ski partner inviting himself to stay with her and wearing her out with his energy.

    The tie in to the main plot with Mary Beth's personal concern that her cancer is returning is what makes this one memorable. There was a scene where Mary Beth sat in the consultant's waiting room that echoed Who Said It's Fair?, Part I. Which I really appreciated. And that storyline got a happy ending that deepened the bond between the two leads, which is always a plus.
     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FAVORS

    Another Al Waxman directed episode that opens with a filmed show within a filmed show as the team film a loan shark then watch the playback.

    Some great tension between Chris and Charlie this season. Most of the episodes I've watched this week have been like a slow burn of challenges to their relationship. This time, the corrupt judge Chris is trying to bring down is an old friend of Charlie’s. There are some harsh words spoken between Charlie and Chris. And when Chris finds the judge at Charlie’s home, both of them drinking, the judge turns it around and accuses Christine of driving her father to the bottle. Powerful stuff.

    Mary Beth and Harv, too, have a lot of tension going on this season. Today there are heated exchanges when Michael discloses that his young friend’s parents allow their son to smoke pot, and they have offered some to Michael. There’s some inner conflict for Mary Beth who doesn’t want to make waves with their new neighbours and has promised Michael she won’t intervene. But what’s happened isn’t sitting well with her. Things aren’t made easier by Harvey flying off the handle. Mary Beth’s decision to speak to her neighbour puts her in the doghouse with Michael, and we get some nice scenes between Daley and Troy Slaten.

    There are some nice little running shorthands to the audience that indicate things that are woven into the fabric of the characters’ lives. The prime example being the Ladies’ Room, of course. When one of the leads calls a ‘conference’, we know that we’re going to get another great Ladies’ Room scene. One that I haven’t commented on so far is Samuels’ penchant for having “coffee” with a select member of his team on occasion - a euphemism for taking a shot of the whisky he keeps in his filing cabinet. No doubt this happened a great deal with LaGuardia, and Chris has bent elbows with him many times in his office. This episode sees Samuels on the wagon and decanting cold tea into his whisky bottle so as not to be caught out.

    So when Chris comes to his office and “coffee” is suggested, the viewer is immediately on board with the implications. Samuels produces two bottles and explains to a confused Chris that she’s earned ‘the good stuff’, while he’s drinking the ordinary. Then Waxman does a cute little dance where, after pouring while talking, Samuels seems confused about which is which. His expression indicates that he’s managed to work out which is the whisky and he kind of shrugs to himself and hands it to Chris. Then he sniffs his own and realises to his horror that he’s got the whisky. This telegraphs what’s about to happen just enough for the viewer to fully enjoy the moment when Chris gags on her foul-tasting drink, forcing him to admit the truth.

    There’s a delicious irony to this scenario: a reversal of Charlie’s own shame when Chris catches him with alcohol.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    AHEAD OF THE GAME

    While I’ve all but forgotten the procedural plot which had steroid use on a basketball team, there is a dramatic personal development when the Laceys’ home is turned over.

    There’s a really atmospheric scene where the family arrive home, realise their door is open and both Mary Beth and Harv spring into action after sending the kids to neighbours to ring for the police. It’s a very kinetic and tense scene. Mary Beth goes in through the front door with her gun while Harv goes round to the back. We follow Mary Beth stalk through their home which is ransacked, not sure if the burglars are still present.

    This is interesting because we’ve seen her enter buildings with potential danger many times, but this time she’s moving through her own personal belongings which are trashed. As I recall, most of the shots of her are from a distance, and there’s very little on screen to indicate what she is feeling as she moves through. Instead, the viewer is allowed to share the experience through being in a familiar environment that suddenly feels unsafe. It’s only after realising there is nobody in the house that she sits on the stairs and allows the personal repercussions of the situation to hit her.

    Not for the first time, we see a character experience police work from the other side. Mary Beth goes to the local station and speaks to an unhelpful officer. As always, there’s a real attempt to bring depth to a one-off signpost character (played by the Dad from The Wonder Years, by the way) by having little details about his personal life and foibles thrown in, along with plenty of humour:

    DUPNIK: “Do have a list of the serial numbers? [Mary Beth doesn’t reply] Do as I say, don't do as I do.”
    MARY BETH: “Detective, I was wondering...”
    DUPNIK: [answering his phone) “Dupnik here. Hiya, Kurt. No. No, I can't. I'm taking the missus to a show. Huh? No. No I don't know the name of the movie. It's a musical or something. Yeah, yeah, they still make musicals. Look. Look, Kurt, I've gotta go. There's something important here. OK.” [he hangs up and shouts across the room] “Arty! Arty, where's my pumpernickel and spinach?”
    MARY BETH: “As I told the officer, what we are most worried about is the gold candlestick.”
    DUPNIK: [to the uniformed officer] “No pumpernickel?” [to Mary Beth] “Candlestick?”
    MARY BETH: “It's, er, kind of an heirloom.”
    DUPNIK: [looking through a list of the missing items] “Candlestick.”
    MARY BETH: “You stick a candle in it. You light it with a match. It's a wonderful invention.”
    DUPNIK: “Detective Lacey, just because we don't have the slash and dash of the Fourteenth, that doesn't mean that this hasn't got our interest.”
    MARY BETH: “All I'm asking for is a little attention here!!”
    DUPNIK: “And I hear you. Loud and clear. Your belongings get ripped off. You want them back. But did you ever try wiring your house with an alarm? Putting up iron bars? No. Do you even own a dog? The average burglars feet barely reach the pedals if from where they stand they can see Lassie at the front door.”
    MARY BETH: “Lassie?”
    DUPNIK: “Detective Lacey, in all the years on the job, how many times have you recovered stolen property? Huh? We got zilch for prints. Not a single witness. What do you think we've got here?”
    MARY BETH: “It's important.”
    DUPNIK: “And ain't it always? ...All right. But if it's miracles you want, you should light a candle.”


    Mary Beth eventually realises if she wants back the candlestick that was left to her by her mother and the only way to track it down would be to go to a fence and make a bargain. This gives another moral dilemma, and another contrast between the characters of Mary Beth and Chris, who is quite blasé about the moral cost involved. By episode’s end, Mary Beth has decided against approaching a fence, feeling that it would cost her too much. It feels unexpected and quite anti-climactic and the viewer is left with that moment and the sad reality that Mary Beth will probably never retrieve a sentimental item.

    When the house was first turned over, I found myself wondering if it was related to Mary Beth’s warning to her neighbours in the previous episode. If it was, it wasn’t mentioned, but again that allowed me to experience the feeling of uncertainty and paranoia that such an unpleasant event can bring with it.

    There’s some nice banter between Chris and Mary Beth as Chris gets ready for the Irish Policemen’s Ball. Chris shares some happy memories of Charlie taking her when she was young, which come full circle later in the episode after Charlie has drunkenly embarrassed her at the ball. Chris’s earlier memories take this somewhere special. It’s not just another drunken Charlie episode, because we understand what it’s taken away from her.
     
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