Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Closer “Identity Theft” Bait and Switch Case

Monday’s new episode of ”The Closer” (TNT) titled “Identity Theft” appeared to be one of those cliché’d cases where someone confesses to a murder to protect someone else. In this case, Russell Clark (Bruce Davison) takes a hasty plea deal for a murder of a doctor because he thought his son James (Michael Arden) was the killer. James was being treated by the doctor for schizophrenia, who was using alternative methods that weren’t working. Russell seems to be able to get away with his deception saying that he was angry that the doctor’s methods were not working, but during allocution, Russell’s version of strangling the doctor doesn’t coincide with what Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) sees in the crime scene photos. Compounding the matter is that the murder weapon had not been found. Brenda manages to get the DDA Andrea Hobbs (Kathe E. Mazur) to raise the issue to the judge, who grants them some time to sort things out. Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) and Lieutenant Tao (Michael Paul Chan) try to deflect blame for not noting the discrepancy earlier; it seems that Hobbs rushed in to make the plea deal before they had a chance to really question Russell.

A new addition to The Closer mix is Brenda’s niece, Charlene (Kyra’s real life daughter Sosie Bacon), who has arrived for a visit with Brenda’s mother, Willie Ray (Frances Sternhagen.) When they arrive at the courtroom, the defendant’s son James seems to be smitten with Charlene – who by the way insists on being called Charlie. Brenda finds out later over dinner that Willie Ray is watching over Charlie for a while, as Brenda’s brother Bobby and his wife seem to be having troubles with her as of late. It seemed to me that Charlie was going through the typical teenage girl phase, but I guess these days, parents think that passing off their child to someone else is a good way to "fix" their child. In any event, Willie Ray knows she is in over her head with Charlie, and begs Brenda and Fritz (Jon Tenney) to take Charlie for the rest of the summer. Brenda signals an emphatic NO to Fritz, but when Fritz has a one-on-one with the frustrated Willie Ray, he caves in and agrees to take Charlie for a short time, much to Brenda’s dismay.

But things work out when Brenda decides to use Charlie as a way to get to James Clark. Since James seems so taken with Charlie, and since James has so many mental issues including claustrophobia, Brenda takes Charlie into the Major Crimes squad room and allows her to be very visible through Brenda’s glass-walled office in order to keep James distracted and calm. It seems to work, as James recounts his broken memories of the crime. It seems like James may have been the real killer, but the issue remains that the murder weapon was still undetermined an unaccounted for. Russell claims he strangled the doctor with his hands; James seemed to imply he may have done it with a sock. But the marks on the body indicated something much thinner which left a very distinctive mark.

Brenda has an idea, and goes shopping. She also arranges to get the murder victim’s wife Robin Milano (Cynthia Watros) -who had been earlier very frantically asking to get her property back from her husband’s office crime scene – back to Major Crimes to pick up these effects. Instead, Brenda brings her into the room where they recreated the crime scene, and without asking a single question, manages to implicate Robin while a stunned prosecutor Hobbs looks on. Brenda manages to prove that Robin murdered her own husband with the chain strap on her purse (Brenda bought a purse just like that to prove her point). Of course, Russell and James are both thankful for Brenda’s attentiveness and her drive to find the truth.

While “Identity Theft” seemed to be an open and shut case from the start, it turned into a case that seemed to surprise everyone involved. The other surprise was that Brenda seemed to have made a connection with Charlie, and maybe her stay will not be so bad. For me, I worry when a show starts to bring in kids to the mix. In many cases with crime shows, adding kids under a certain age never seems to fit well into the mix. Two cases come to mind right away: Law & Order SVU, where fans often groan at any mention or appearance of Elliot Stabler’s kids; the other, “Shark”, a CBS show that was canceled last season, where the attorney’s daughter had a prominent role in the story line, much to the series’ detriment. I hope that Charlie’s stay will not last more than this episode, if necessary, maybe only one more. After that, I just want it to be over. It’s not that I don’t think that Fritz and Brenda’s relationship can’t handle it, it’s just that they give so little meaningful attention to Fritz as it is that I don’t want him to go from resident kitty-sitter to resident kiddie-sitter.

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