blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Michael Hayes (1997) s01e10 – The Confidence Man

The curse of the John Romano co-writing credit continues. Otherwise it’s an excellent episode about David Caruso’s old cop partner, Scott Lawrence, coming for help. An FBI informant (a slimy but not too slimy—or not in it enough to be too slimy—Alan Blumenfeld) is threatening fetching bank teller Tracy Douglas over bad checks. Douglas goes to the cops, meeting Lawrence; they get romantically involved.

So while Caruso’s trying to figure out whether or not he can disentangle an active investigation from Blumfield, which brings in a kind of wonderfully tepid Dann Florek as the handler, there’s rising concern for Douglas. And then a subplot about Caruso’s ex-con brother, David Cubitt, pulling jobs to pay off his debt to loan sharks. There’s no B plot exactly, just a bunch of C plots, including Jimmy Galeota’s tenth birthday party, Caruso telling sister-in-law Mary B. Ward how Cubitt thinks they’re lovers, then a weird thing about all the women in the office wanting to do things for Caruso and him being uncomfortable.

Like secretary Jodi Long being willing to pick up his laundry—leading to a weird attempt at a sitcom-esque gag (Long’s so good and has so little to do on the show) but then associate Hillary Danner being willing to date an FBI agent for information.

At least Rebecca Rigg—in her single scene—comes in to tell Caruso not to be stupid and only agrees to his orders under duress and with complaint. No wonder Romano never uses her. The Long and Danner stuff feels very much like what I’d expect from a Romano episode.

The scene with Ward and Caruso has promise but goes nowhere. It at least lingers long enough to give Ward some silent rumination to essay. Dan Lerner’s direction is rather patient, especially with Caruso, who will get his one-liner, then Lerner and editor Elba Sanchez-Short hang on it long enough for Caruso to act a beat. Certainly the best handling of a Romano episode so far.

Unfortunately, the finale is a disaster because it just sets up another cliffhanger in the Cubitt subplot. Cubitt’s real bad this episode… real bad. Maybe even worst ever. It’s particularly grating because the scene before, where Caruso and Lawrence do manly emotional labor for one another, is excellent.

Lawrence is pretty good, even as his character’s stuck in unlikely situations—wait, I just realized real NYPD cops are allowed to rape suspects in custody so never mind. A consensual relationship with a witness and victim is no doubt all good on TV in the nineties.

Decent Ruben Santiago-Hudson investigating material. Some excellent Caruso moments.

If they’d just forgotten to tie up the Cubitt subplot, it’d be a pretty darn good episode. Sadly, thanks to the cliffhanger setup—and Cubitt’s lousy performance—it’s not.

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