Paul Haggis has a co-writer credit on the script, which seems to mean—among other things—Hillary Danner is going to get some things to do and Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s going to be good because the writing for him is better. Santiago-Hudson has less to do than last episode, when the writing wasn’t Haggis and was bad, but he’s much better while doing the less. Though the scene where he teases David Caruso about going on a date is weird. Danner’s part is to go off, do work, find results, bring them to Caruso, which ends up being better than Rebecca Rigg, who just sits around with Caruso and spit-balls because she’s the only person smarter than him.
The episode’s a riff on Ransom (the remake not original) with dirtbag FBI agent (dirtbag even for FBI agent, also note how much they code him as working class) Larry Joshua maybe or maybe not framing mail carrier Brad William Henke for a kidnapping of a child. Henke says he rescued the kid on his route, Joshua says he grabbed him and let him go. Henke and his lawyer—a fantastic Amy Aquino—are suing for ten million; Caruso and company are stuck defending Joshua.
The episode doesn’t go full kidnapped child exploitative with the original case, instead contriving a reason to put Caruso’s nephew—Jimmy Galeota, who’s his regular medium grade annoying, nothing more, nothing less—in danger of a child predator. It also tries to show Caruso as the most progressive one in the office about Joshua being a bad cop, though if he’s guilty and Henke’s completely innocent and a real hero, it’s wrong Henke wants damages. Vindication fine; damages no. It’s also unclear what’s supposed to happen to Joshua other than Caruso not having to deal with him. The show’s maybe two steps away from being at least somewhat self-aware. There are a lot of “it was still the nineties” caveats, though it would’ve certainly been better on dirtbag FBI agents than TV would be for years to come. It’s pre-9/11, after all.
Galeota’s got a subplot about loan sharks showing up looking for dad David Cubitt, who shows up for a couple scenes for the first time in a while. Mary B. Ward’s got a couple too. Nothing much of consequence happens in either of them, except Caruso letting Cubitt commit three or four crimes in his effort to be a better bad. There’s a magical bad dad toxic masculinity scene where Cubitt implies Galeota’s pride in him is why he’s got to be a criminal and put he and Ward in danger from aforementioned loan sharks.
The script’s a little more sensational and less procedural than it ought to be—its issues are fundamental—but it’s a decent episode. Caruso’s quite good most of the time, especially in his reactions (somewhere the script’s also strong). Even if some of his reactions are reactionary. And Joshua’s a very effective antagonist guest star, which is more important than him being good in an impossible—for numerous reasons—part.