HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS
"Three Men and Adena"
Emmy Winner for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
written by Tom Fontana
directed by Martin Campbell
*Normally I'd just post a clip or two from whatever I'm talking about. This instance is the exception. Not everyone has access to the show, and when I saw nearly the entire episode was posted on youtube, I just couldn't pass it up. This is required viewing.*
Sometimes you just don't know what you've got until you see it.
I've read online that this episode was only written after Tom Fontana witnessed Andrea Braugher and Kyle Secor act the hell out of an interrogation scene in the first episode of the series. Acting upon the advice of Barry Levinson, he decided to write an entire episode based in the box.
And it would be important.
Bayliss's (Secor) first murder was Adena Watson. It wasn't a dunker, it was a true whodunnit, but Bayliss knew he had the right guy, despite Pembleton (Braugher) "knowing" he was wrong. But Bayliss went with his gut, and brought in "The Arraber," Risely Tucker for questioning. It wasn't the first time he brought him in, but if he didn't get a confession within twelve hours, it was going to be the last.
If he was going to solve the murder, it had to be now.
My God, that look he throws the detectives! Tell me that's not a "you can fuck with me any way you want, you still ain't getting shit" look.
But Frank's prepared. See, he's going in with the whole "good cop" routine. And he makes it look soooooooo smooth. Charming him, asking about his employment, but allowing Bayliss to interrupt him periodically with the "bad cop" bits. Back and forth, back and forth.
It's like they're fishing. They give Tucker some line, let him run with it before reeling him back a bit more. It's so damn skillful, watching them bounce between the hard and soft questions. And while Frank gets all the props for his "salesmanship," Bayliss holds his own.
And then it starts to get intense. Pay close attention to the foreshadowing with the hot pipes.
All those who would have expected that from Bayliss, raise your hands. Come on, anyone with their hand up is a liar. This is milquetoast Bayliss, the rookie, not Vic Mackey. But the anger is slow to burn, and justified. Constant stonewalling from Tucker, knowing he needs this confession, it can beat any man down. And Bayliss is the one cracking, not the arabber.
Then it's Frank's turn.
Killing him with kindness, offering up excuses. You see mothers do it all the time. "It's okay if you broke the lamp, as long as you tell me the truth." Frank is fantastic at offering criminals "outs," something they can admit to, make the truth a little easier to swallow. And he dangles every carrot he can in front of the arabber.
And then it's time for the team up.
There is nothing I can say at this point. I'll just shut up.
And there ends the Adena Watson case. Unsolved. It's not something we are used to on television, especially back then, when the show aired opposite Home Improvement. Situations were not supposed to end badly, they ended with kind words from neighbors and children happy. But that wouldn't be real, wouldn't be truthful.
The episode ends with Pembleton attempting to cheer up Bayliss, even going as far as to admit that Bayliss was right. He knows Tucker killed Adena. Bayliss isn't so sure anymore. Not that it matters.
The phone rings, he takes another call. Tucker, free and clear, watches television in the station while he waits for a ride, hardly looking like a guilty man.
And we will never know who killed Adena.
Such is life. Having read the book, I knew where this case was headed. It was heartbreaking to read about the real murder, and it would have felt like cheating had it ended any other way on the show.
It's an ending that took guts.