Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Closer “Tapped Out” Full of Comedy

Photo from TNT

Monday night’s episode of ”The Closer” (TNT) titled “Tapped Out” was one of those episodes that was light on the drama and heavy on the comedy. “The Closer” can easily pull off both heavy drama and comedy from week to week without viewers feeling whiplash. Since my television viewing is heavily slanted toward crime shows, it’s nice to get an episode every now and then that takes a walk on the wild side and focuses on the funny rather than on the crime itself. I personally was highly amused in seeing the usual high-and-mighty Chief Pope get suckered in and be made a fool of by an amateur.

The episode begins with Lt. Flynn (Tony Denison) and Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) sitting down to a breakfast, purposefully oblivious to a crime scene unfolding right outside the restaurant window. Flynn is more interested in Provenza’s change in diet and lifestyle; Provenza is all too happy to tell Flynn about the woman in his life and all the ways she is making him very happy. When Asst. Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) arrives to work with the detectives for the day as "one of the guys,” he is a little annoyed that the lieutenants have no interest in the crime scene unfolding right outside. Provenza helps to solve Pope’s distraction by closing the blinds. But Pope decides to take matters into his own hands, and after a lecture to the detectives, heads over to the crime scene next door.

When Pope gets to the scene of a murder in a parking area, another detective from the central division is already there and seems to have everything under control. He introduces himself to Pope as Detective Richard Tracy, a new transfer to central division. Flynn and Provenza arrive on the scene, with Provenza still feasting on half a cantaloupe. Tracy outlines the crime and already has the evidence collected, and impresses Pope by reciting Pope’s mission statement. Pope, impressed, has no problem with handing back all the evidence to Tracy, who gets their business cards and drives off. But when a shrieking woman shows up at the crime scene, they are forced to get involved.

Back at Major Crimes, the team is being deafened by this woman – Marie - who continues to shriek. Pope asks Sgt. David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) why he wasn’t at the scene, and Gabriel informs him they never got a call. Meanwhile, Marie continues her shrieking, but they are able to find out from her that the murder victim was Mark Bernstein, also known as “Intrigue.” But when Marie gets concerned that she is being considered as a suspect, her shrieking gets so loud that it drives Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) out of her mind and out of the interrogation room. She then finds that the evidence hasn’t been logged in yet. Sanchez (Raymond Cruz), upon hearing the name “Intrigue” knows of him, he’s the "Hook-Up King" who created “The Intrigue Technique” - a way to pick up women. Meanwhile, Pope is on the phone trying to track down the evidence, and gets concerned when no one knows who Detective Richard Tracy happens to be. Brenda, upon hearing the name, makes Pope realize, to his dismay, that he had given all the evidence to a detective “ Dick Tracy.” Pope terminates his call and says, "OK, now, this is definitely a major crime."

After much ribbing to Pope, they continue to work the case, but find that “Dick Tracy” is one step ahead of them. And to their continued dismay, he is using the business cards he got from Pope, Provenza, and Flynn to pass himself off as the others and gain access to the victim’s family and apartment, taking even more evidence.

They spend some time talking to Intrigue’s brother, and also Jill, a cable network executive, who tells them they had been going over plans for the episodes for Intrigue’s TV cable show based on his technique. They also find that Intrigue was with Marie the night before, but they have been unable to reach her by phone (of course, she’s at Major Crimes).

But “Tracy” meets his match when they realize that he is using a web site, set up to highlight Pope’s work and the department activities, to work the case. They set him up so he will head to Marie’s place, and when he shows up, identifying himself as Flynn, they arrest him. Of course “Tracy” protests because he says he’s working for law enforcement.

The remainder of the episode involves Brenda trying to get “Tracy” – who they now know as Jonathan Baird and who had been turned down for the force because he failed the psychological portion of testing – to help them interpret the evidence. It seems all his notes are in code, and he put a password on the computer that he took from Intrigue’s place. They even allow him to write out all the information he has on the big white board and run through the scenario with them, barely tolerating his shouting at them. He does help Tao (Michael Paul Chan) when he tells him that even though he can’t get into the computer without his password, he should have checked the computer’s DVD drive. The drive contains some of the recordings for Intrigue’s series and how he picks up women, where Intrigue is stating, “She got tapped.” This seems to disgust everyone but Sanchez, who is clearly a student of Intrigue’s teachings. After watching one woman be humiliated in one of the eight episodes filmed, Brenda asks "He did this to eight women and he only got shot once?"

In order to get the password for the computer, Brenda tries to make Baird think that they will make him one of the squad, but he figures out their deception quickly. As they take him away, Baird yells for his union rep.

Gabriel gets the eight women from the Tapped taping. Brenda explains that she wants four in each room and she tells him to add Marie to the line up but only when she cues him to do so. Meanwhile, Brenda tries one more time to get the computer password from Baird, and when she is unsuccessful, she has to enlist a little help from Pope. Pope is concerned about how this will all play out, considering it’s his fault this guy even got involved, and he’s screwed no matter what happens. But Brenda says maybe not – and asks for his help. She uses Pope as the “good cop” to her “bad cop”, allowing Pope to feed on Baird’s ego and delusions. He manages to get Baird to give up the password – “Crimestoppers.” When they get access to the computer, they find the results of the focus group for the show.

They get Jill, the cable executive, into one of the interrogation rooms where the women for the show were being held, and also Marie. When a witness to the crime, who is watching all the action in interrogation on the monitor, picks out Jill as the person she saw with Intrigue, it’s all over but the shouting. It seems Jill wasn’t happy with the focus group results – which were overwhelmingly bad. She tells them that when they signed Intrigue they though he had a likable vulnerability, but when they got him on camera, he was more of a psychopath. She told him to change his style, but he wasn’t interested, and with him web business getting better all the time, he would still be in great shape even if the show never came to be. Jill, on the other hand, felt she would be ruined and she killed him because he used her.

Later, Brenda convinces Baird to write a full report, which she plans on using against him. For example, when he wrote that he "served a warrant," it will mean he "forged legal documents;" when he went into the victim's apartment it would translate to trespassing; when he removed evidence would become theft. She says when he signs it, it will be his confession.

Brenda later stops in Pope's office, where he's reading Flynn and Provenza's report of the events which seemed to be scrubbed of Pope’s mishap. Brenda tells him that the DA found the victim despicable and agreed to a plea, so Pope’s error will not be revealed. He is concerned what the team will think of him if he lies in his report, and Brenda tells him they'll think he's one of the guys - they lie to him all the time, and that’s the one thing that unites every division of the LAPD. With a wink, she says "Nighty-night, crime stopper."

Wasted in the episode, again, is FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) who Pope asks to get involved in the issue with Baird, but who really seems to serve no purpose except to give Brenda a kiss in the squad room. Such a waste of a character.

“The Closer” has the right mix of drama and light moments, but most of all, it has a great cast. Every character seems very well defined, which makes the major Crimes group seem more like real people solving real crimes. In fact, this may be the best ensemble cast on television these days. Hopefully the Emmys will give them the recognition they truly deserve.

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1 comment:

Bev Vincent said...

Mostly an okay episode, but I thought the idea that there would be a website that had all that information about active, ongoing investigations was pretty lame. Post the names of witnesses for all the world to see? Not likely. Also, they sort of brushed over the fact that the TV show was essentially setting up and filming date rape.