Michael Hayes (1997) s01e03 – True Blue

So, given the episode uses footage from the pilot—the pilot, not the “Prequel” episode they made after they brought on Paul Haggis to save the show, but the original, Haggis-less pilot—to kill off Dina Meyer, who was in stable condition after being shot last episode… it makes sense she’d be less than interested in coming back in that pilot do-over. Even though it turns out she and David Caruso were dating long enough for him to be her sole beneficiary on her life insurance—also, holy crap, it’s a Robert Musgrave cameo because someone on “Michael Hayes” loved Bottle Rocket, or so I’m telling myself.

Caruso spends the episode sad about Meyer’s death and talking around it with various cast members because he’s a soulful white man but he’s a man and he’s just going to stare off into space and then leave the room whenever anyone asks if he’s feeling okay. Caruso’s really good at it. He’s excellent the entire episode—a nice change from last time—even during expository dumps (so long as you can embrace the righteous white male savior) and the rest of the cast does a good job keeping pace. Except Ruben Santiago-Hudson, whose single expression is really getting in the way of his performance. Santiago-Hudson gets looped even when he really shouldn’t, like when wife Tembi Locke explains he can’t turn in dirty cop Julio Oscar Mechoso because Mechoso’s got a wife and three kids (just like they do).

We’ve already heard from the New York District Attorney Stanley Anderson (sadly not a visible Rudy analog) you can’t go after dirty cops because then all of the cases they perjured themselves in will get overturned and an occasional criminal will go free with all the people they framed and then what’ll you do; the episode does an excellent job laying out the nonsense excuses for police corruption, which is just the cops just robbing people—including stores—not murdering or raping anyone because even “liberal” Hollywood didn’t realize how it was always the worst.

The episode’s about Caruso having to take down a dirty precinct because D.A. Anderson too chummy with assistant police commissioner Dan Lauria to do anything about police corruption. While Lauria’s a fine cameo, the episode neglects to acknowledge they killed off the actual police commissioner last episode, who was also entirely corrupt so maybe the problem doesn’t start at the bottom. Former cop now U.S. Attorney investigator Santiago-Hudson goes to pal Mechoso for help, only to soon find out Mechoso’s not being truthful about his lack of involvement. Meanwhile, Caruso’s got to break the case while mourning for Meyer and dealing with his family troubles. Recently released ex-con brother David Cubitt still hasn’t gone to see wife Mary B. Ward or son Jimmy Galeota; Ward shows up at Caruso’s doorstep, expecting Cubitt to be there too (Cubitt’s crashing at Caruso’s apartment, which is far less ginormous than in the pilot episode). Only Cubitt’s not so she and Caruso hang out, going from water to wine to ginger ale.

Ward’s good this episode. She’s been shaky before and the character’s not great (Caruso’s back to telling her to take Cubitt back, after telling her to dump him in the pilot, but telling her to take him back in the pre-pilot, clearly Haggis is Team Take Back), but she and Caruso’s scenes are very well-acted, very well-timed. And episode director Fred Gerber gets how to shoot the actors to emphasize their performances, especially Caruso, who’s very restrained chewy. Chew the scenery with your mouth closed, David. It works out quite well and this episode’s easily the series best.

Not to say they should’ve made it the pilot but… who knows. Maybe.

Mechoso’s only okay as the cop. He ought to be better. But he does try. It doesn’t help Santiago-Hudson’s so flat in their scenes together.

Rebecca Rigg shows up for a scene to make jokes about sex workers with other female lawyer Hillary Danner—I’d forgotten nineties male-written feminism—she’s good in the scene but disappears once they decide the best way to crack the cast is toxic masculinity. Danner gets to do all of the legal work in the episode, spending all of it sitting in a conference room by herself. Not the best use of the only two workplace female regular (sorry, special guest stars because SAG chicanery), especially since Jodi Long gets a bunch of good material. She’s Caruso’s new assistant; she came with the promotion and quickly tires of his anti-blue blood decorating complaints.

There’s a very peculiar postscript bookend with the Meyer storyline—oh, that reused footage doesn’t have her talking so they don’t even credit her (because then they’d have to pay her)—giving the episode a nice, odd close, and some impromptu character development for Caruso.

It’s a little bumpy, but it’s a solid episode with some outstanding acting from Caruso.

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