She’s looking mighty chic these days, our Brenda Leigh, and I don’t think she took even a nibble of junk food (did I miss something?) in The Closer‘s 4th season opener. Her quirks have often annoyed me, but I think I like Brenda best when she’s at her most socially dysfunctional, gobbling Ho-Hos in a droopy cardigan and severe black glasses, rooting around in her giant tote, and shouting at her superiors. She’s all about the work — all about the chase — and there’s something beautiful in her unselfconscious absorption. It gets lost when she looks like she spent the morning shopping on Rodeo Drive. Or doing crunches. That little bra-and-panties parade tonight seemed totally gratuitous and wrong for her character.

Is Brenda becoming more blandly glamorous? Or is it my imagination? Or am I reacting to the fact that, for once, Kyra Sedgwick had competition for the spotlight?

There’s almost never anyone on the show attractive or charismatic as she, certainly not in the LAPD, and rarely among the guests. So it was a treat to welcome back Brenda’s longtime nemesis, the psychopathic arsonist Billy Croelick played by Jason O’Mara, a first-class scenery chewer who could be Bill Clinton’s hotter younger brother. I think he actually upstaged Sedgwick, which may be a first. While he gave his wonderfully creepy soliloquy at the site of the Griffith Park fire — blissfully inhaling the aromas of roasted flesh — Sedgwick was left with nothing to do but preen in a broad-brimmed hat and fancy shades.

I’m fascinated by how Brenda can’t handle Croelick. Usually so chipper and self-confident, when faced with this slippery operator she turns blank and nervous as a jackrabbit. I know she can’t fall for the guy, but I like seeing Brenda a little unsettled by a man.

More Closer after the jump…

addCredit(“Kyra Sedgwick; Peter Hopper Stone”)

I want to mention something here, get it out in the open because I’mnot sure where people stand on the issue and I may be starting a fire,bad pun intended. I think The Closer is one of the least sexyshows on television. Because I was traumatized by his performance onOz, I have never seen Pope as a lust object, especially when he wearsthe LAPD uniform, which makes him look like a little boy or arole-playing pervert.

And while Fritz is handsome and kind and great, etcetera, etcetera,yawn, I’m not all that invested in the Brenda and Fritz love story,especially now that they’re fighting about plumbing.

Now to the plot. The arson story was sadly timely, given thewildfires currently raging throughout California. In hindsight I couldsee the clues were scattered breadcrumb-like throughout the hour, but Inever picked up the trail and found it somewhat unconvincing whenBrenda suddenly figured it all out. The denouement came too abruptly –probably because this episode was really about Croelick and the writersjust needed to pin the crime on some poor fool before the credits.

I will finish with my favorite moment of the evening: the glove.Stomach-turning yet funny. That’s Brenda at her goofy bloodhound best,so determined to follow a lead that she’ll slip the charred, debonedskin of a corpse over her own naked flesh. I just wish they’d shown herwashing her hands afterwards. I’m not compulsive or anything, but shereally did need to wash her hands.

So what do you think of the fourth season opener? Will Croelickresurface? Will Fritz stop peeing in the shower? Will Brenda startsnacking again — and do we want that?