The first full week of May sweeps saw every procedural show upping its game. Big ideas were debated, and big-idea villains were trotted out as potential suspects. A casual cop-show fan was treated this week to a veritable parade of Nazis, Soviets, Jihadists, and Killer Clowns. There was a Brooklyn labor dispute on CSI:NY and a polygamy subplot on Ghost Whisperer. But it wasn’t all fire and brimstone. Engagement rings figured prominently (albeit fatally) in Castle and CSI: Miami. That rakish Tony DiNozzo on NCIS fell in love with a girl he’d never met. There were no guilty husbands and only one guilty wife. Between Cold Case, Castle, and CSI, this was a good week for secret out-of-wedlock babies. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead!)
But even though love is everywhere in procedural land, one show stands supreme:
Winner of the Week: Law & Order: Criminal Intent
This week’s CI villain was a mad-scientist type with a mad-scientist name: Dr. Abel Hazard. He kidnapped married couples, tied them up, and gave one spouse an ultimatum: Kill the love of your life, or be killed. Sound like Saw III? Maybe, but the episode turned into a surprisingly incisive exploration of the underpinnings of free will, complete with video footage of the Milgram Experiment. The final montage showed the terrifying results of the murderer’s test: Gunshot, gunshot, gunshot. A great outing from a show that seems to be only getting better, thanks to the surprising chemistry of the new Jeff Goldblum/Saffron Burrows team. Vincent D’Onofri-who?
MVP (Most Valuable Policeman)
Kimball Cho, The Mentalist. Tim Kang delivers fastball dialogue with so much flair that he regularly threatens to overshadow the show’s star. Two gems from this week’s episode: When asked what CBI is: “We’re like the FBI, only more conveniently located.” When confronted with a lying witness: “You should tell the truth. It’s easier to remember.”
Most Valuable Suspect
Erin Cahill played a suspicious nanny on The Ghost Whisperer and a suspicious girlfriend-of-the-dead-guy’s-best-friend on Castle.
’90s slang invented by this week’s Cold Case
“I gotta poptart!” apparently means “I have to run!”
“Oh, so now you’re all Boyz in the Hood?!” is how high schoolers never used to say “Oh, so now you think you’re a criminal?”
Gumshoe Fashion Showdown
Eddie Cibrian’s hypnotically purple tie on CSI: Miami soundly defeated Anthony Anderson’s dashing beret on Law & Order. (Note: Patrick Jane is blocked from the Gumshoe Fashion Showdown on account of possessing an illegal amount of prettiness.)
Most suspects for a single murder
Who killed Balthazar Wolf, the celebrity chef on this week’s Castle? Was it his assistant chef, who needed money for his family back home? The owner of his restaurant, who could collect on the restaurant’s insurance money if the chef died? His chief competitor on a Top Chef-style reality show, who swore to kill him on-camera? His married mistress? His engaged mistress? His bookie? Or was it his best friend?
Further evidence that Law & Order is the best ripped-from-the-headlines show ever
This week’s outing was a simultaneous riff on the White House Party Crashers, airport security concerns, the Eliot Spitzer scandal, and even featured a John Edwards/Andrew Young scenario. There was also a little nod to the health care debate: Lt. Van Buren’s ongoing battle with cancer led her to note, soberly, “I’m going broke.”
Further evidence that NCIS is the best ripped-from-random-pages-of-a-modern-American-history-book show ever
The two murder suspects in this week’s episode were a crew of Blackwater-style military contractors…and the Soviet Union.
Further evidence that NCIS:LA is the best ripped-from-season-2-of-24 show ever
A secret torture cell in Los Angeles. The shocking death of a main character who no one really likes. There was even a 24-hour deadline. Oh, NCIS: LA, you’re just adorable.
Most unexpected extended Vertigo homage ever
On this week’s NCIS, Tony DiNozzo became obsessed with a beautiful blond news reporter, missing since the death of her brother. He watched old clips of her on television. He learned everything about her. At one point, he broke into her house and played on her piano. Then he called her cell phone and said, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I feel like I know you.”
Ziva compared his obsession to the film classic Laura, but for my money, Michael Weatherly’s eerie performance owed more to James Stewart’s slow burn in Hitchcock’s classic. Is NCIS secretly the kinkiest cop show on TV?
Best throwaway line in an otherwise serious interrogation
Detective Nichols: (Pointing to a piece of furniture) “Bauhaus, is this?”
Crazy Dr. Hazard: “My grandfather could build Bauhaus in his sleep.”
This week’s Ghost Whisperer in a nutshell
Evil nanny? Polygamy? Nope, alcoholism.
This week’s CSI: NY in a nutshell
Labor dispute? Pot smokers? Nope, illegal underground boxing.
Most World-Weary Line of Dialogue
“Bra strap. Narrows down the ID to half the population.”
(Law & Order)
Best out-of-context line of the week
“A viking killed our gladiator.”
Best line that I swear sounded better in context
“Shut up with your Viagra and your hair transplants and your old man smell!”
(Law & Order)
Further proof that every line of dialogue in CSI: Miami is better out of context
“Somebody stole the stolen diamonds!”
“These motorcycles are made of gold.”
“Looks rubbery.” “That’s because it’s latex.”
Most Horrifyingly Twisted Twist Ending
On this week’s CSI, the wife killed the husband, the sister killed the brother, and the sister’s son was the uncle’s daughter.
Questionable Trend of the week
Incest as a red herring (see: Law & Order) and as an actual plot point (CSI).
This week’s cameo by a Wire alumnus
Hassan Johnson, a.k.a Wee-Bey, popped up on Cold Case as an ex-con convert to the Nation of Islam.