Stahl goes too far, and the truth about Woz comes out

By Ariel Kay
January 22, 2016 at 02:46 AM EST
Peter Kramer/NBC
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Believing she passed Wozniak’s polygraph test, Harlee wakes the next morning feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready for a new day of underhanded police work. That is, until several FBI agents start pounding on her door. A home visit from the Feds is not a good sign.

She’s taken to see Stahl’s supervising officer, Gail Baker (Leslie Silva). Harlee is surprised Baker is running this operation because they already know each other, though the extent of their relationship remains a mystery. Baker gives Harlee just one day to bring her something she can use to prosecute Woz. (This can’t be how real FBI operations work, right? Stahl has been setting this sting up for months, and now they have an arbitrary 24-hour deadline before it’s shut down? Shades of Blue’s timeline could use a little work.)

Over at Casa de Woz, the lieutenant is spending his morning reassembling his sizable handgun collection. This activity transitions abruptly into a conversation with his wife, Linda (Lolita Davidovich), about their deceased daughter, who committed suicide when she was 19. This loss explains a lot about Woz’s close relationship with Harlee, whom he sees as a surrogate daughter. It’s an important insight into who this guy is, but the information is dropped so suddenly and artlessly into the episode, any emotional impact is lost.

This morning is also not going so hot for yet another detective on the squad, Tess Nazario (Drea de Matteo, finally given a subplot substantial enough to recap). Tess calls her partner, Det. Carlos Espada (Vincent Laresca) to help her out with a little problem: She found a dead body in the alley outside her house this morning. Worse yet, she moved it. You see, Tess is trying to sell her house, and a pesky police investigation might drive away buyers. This is the thinnest of thin excuses to feature de Matteo’s character more prominently.

After she’s released from her FBI interrogation, Harlee meets Woz for breakfast to talk about their plans for Zepeda’s new trial. Harlee’s worried her doctored evidence won’t stand up in court and her abusive ex will get released. Woz assures her that, as long as he testifies, it’ll all work out. Considering his growing suspicions that Harlee’s the rat, though, I wouldn’t bank on his help. After breakfast, Woz goes from one clandestine meeting to another. He slides into Donnie the Dirty Internal Affairs Agent’s unmarked car so they can discuss what to do about their Harlee problem. Donnie is ready to take her out that very night, but Woz still wants to believe she’s loyal. Donnie reminds him they’re about to move a lot of illegal cash, so they need to get this issue resolved, stat.

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When everyone finally gets to the station after their extremely busy mornings, Stahl calls Harlee for an update (didn’t they just see each other like 20 minutes ago?). In desperation, she tells him about the little black book Woz keeps on all his unsanctioned activities. It’s in a locked filing cabinet in the lieutenant’s office, but she knows where he keeps the key. Stahl wants Harlee to bring him the book, but she can’t go through with this betrayal. Anyway, she’s interrupted mid-burglary by ADA Nava. Harlee doesn’t have time to straighten up Woz’s office before he gets back, so she’s stuck with the cabinet key, which he immediately realizes is missing.

NEXT: That kiss

When it rains, it pours: As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with, Harlee overhears Tess and Espada discussing the problem of the dead body. Espada found the victim’s NYU student ID: he’s Amir Abbas, the son of a boardmember of a local mosque that was recently firebombed. Suddenly, Tess is at risk of becoming a suspect in a hate crime. Harlee’s wheels start turning: If she gives Stahl evidence of a religiously motivated murder to occupy his time, maybe he’ll get off her back.

Before Harlee leaves to help Tess sort out Amir’s body, she tries to placate Woz by nonchalantly handing him back his key, saying she needed to go through his files to make copies for Nava. It’s a lame excuse they both know he doesn’t buy. Woz goes to the district attorney’s office to check up on Harlee’s explanation, and of course Nava unwittingly blows her cover immediately. Woz then tails Tess and Harlee to Tess’ house. In turn, Stahl and Chen follow Woz to the same location.

It’s halftime, let’s check the Guilt-O-Meter:

Harlee: 5 out of 10, Neutral Party

This is the first week we’ve seen Harlee actively helping Stahl nab Woz, even if her conflicting loyalties caused her to back out at the last second. Not only is she aiding the investigation, she also alerted the FBI to another murder, despite knowing it could backfire on someone in her squad. Then again, she is also conspiring to take away an innocent man’s one chance at freedom. No one ever said Harlee was an uncomplicated woman.

Tess: 7 out of 10, Quite Guilty

This cop moved a body and disrupted a crime scene, all so she could host an open house. ‘Nuff said.

Harlee and Tess investigate the spot where Amir died, and Harlee discovers shells and other evidence of the shooting. She quickly pieces together what happened: Amir inadvertently shot himself, when a bullet he fired during target practice ricocheted off a dumpster. Then, she finds something else: the “murder” weapon — only it’s not your typical Glock. This gun is white plastic and looks like the product of a 3-D printer. Both cops are relieved no crime was committed, but they can’t do anything with their evidence, because then they’d have to explain why Tess moved the body and never reported the crime.

Still waiting for Tess and Harlee to reappear on the street, Woz glances in his rearview mirror and spots Stahl and Chen. He’s been doing this long enough to know undercover Feds when he sees them, so he splits. He goes to meet Donnie in the hotel room where the agent has been hiding out before their big play. Finding the FBI on his tail has finally convinced Woz of his worst fear: Harlee must be working with them behind his back. Donnie says they have to get rid of her…tonight. Woz agrees, then steps toward Donnie, and they start MAKING OUT. Whaaat.

On a show in which a lot of background information has been inelegantly dumped in our laps already, this clearly takes the cake. The revelation about Wozniak’s sexuality doesn’t feel like solid character development. (There was no lead-up: no fights with his wife, no Paul Woodrugh-Approved Longing Glances™, no rebuffing of advances from female colleagues that suddenly make sense.) Rather, this turn of events comes across as an unoriginal stab at making Woz more complex. It’s 2016, and the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name angle is stale. (For real complexity and originality regarding a gay senior police officer, see Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Southland.) My guess is that Harlee is going to discover Woz’s secret at some point and use it as a bargaining chip to save her own neck. I just wish the show had found a less regressive secret to use as leverage.

NEXT: Nothing good happens at marinas

Harlee gets a call from Woz, asking to meet her at the marina in two hours. (Pro-tip: never go to “the marina” if you don’t want to end up with cement shoes or if you’re allergic to mobster clichés.) Before Harlee goes to get dumped in the Hudson, though, she has a date with Nava, whom she’s hoping to sweet talk into upholding Zepeda’s conviction. Stahl follows her to the restaurant and corners her in the bathroom. Harlee’s pissed he’s tracking her and compromising her cover, but Stahl has more pressing concerns: He’s listening to Woz’s phone calls, and he knows where she’s going after her date.

Stahl demands Harlee undress so he can wire her for the meeting with Woz. Obviously, Harlee feels less than comfortable getting naked in a tight space with a man she loathes and who has complete power over her. But she’s got nowhere to turn, so she strips to the waist. Stahl reaches to attach the recorder, but she slaps his hand away and tells him never to touch her. He grabs her arm and forcefully pulls it behind her, before pushing against her and whispering, “I will touch you whenever and however I deem necessary. Because I own you.” No one does sexually vulnerable like Lopez, and the scene is the most haunting moment yet on Shades of Blue. I retract all previous predictions of an eventual Santos-Stahl hookup.

Cut to Harlee arriving at the marina. Woz is waiting for her, and he wastes no time before pulling his gun and announcing he knows she’s the mole. The truth has caught up to her, but Harlee doesn’t give in. Instead, playing the hurt friend, she invites Woz to search her bag. No recording devices in there. Doubting himself, Woz is considering letting her go, but Harlee needs to fully convince him of her loyalty. She takes off her dress to show she’s not wearing a wire. Ashamed, Woz turns and leaves. We then see Harlee from behind: a red recording button blinks on a box attached to the back of her bra. She was wearing it the entire time.

Having narrowly avoided getting shot by her boss, Harlee invites herself over to Nava’s apartment to blow off some steam. She quickly seduces him, knowing all the while that the wire is still recording, and Stahl can hear her having sex with another man. The message is clear: Harlee gets to decide who touches her, and Stahl never will again.

Final Guilt-O-Meter:

Stahl: 8 out of 10, Real Guilty

Using the threat of sexual violence to coerce Harlee into doing his bidding is about as low as he can go.

Woz: 7 out of 10, Quite Guilty

Wozniak didn’t commit any new crimes this episode. In fact, he stopped himself from killing Harlee (which isn’t saying a lot, but I’m putting it in the “redemptive” category). I’m not yet sure how his relationship with Donnie factors into his overall culpability, but cheating on his wife is not a positive sign.

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seasons
  • 1
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  • 01/07/16
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  • In Season
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