'The Closer' recap: Lending a helping hand

Closer_lThere was a certain symmetrical poetry in last night’s episode of The Closer: The juxtaposition of silence and incessant chatter, the competing tones of goofy comedy and jarring violence, the sudden and unexpected shifts in power in the ongoing marital debate among Brenda, her parents, and long-suffering Fritz. And of course, for sheer lyrical beauty, nothing could beat the climactic scene of Brenda extending her hand to terrified, terrorized Kelly Rivers (Katherine Boecher), standing in that doorway, literally at the precipice of life and death, and displaying her fresh bruises with the subtlest of gestures. (Paging, Emmy voters: Can an actress score an Outstanding Guest Star nod on the basis of a brief, light-on-dialogue scene?) Heck, even the justice was poetic last night, right down to Pope’s apology to the murder victim’s dirtbag abusive spouse: "On behalf of the entire LAPD, allow me to say how very sorry I am that you lied to us so much, and that you knocked your wife around to such an extent that we considered you a suspect in her murder."

That kind of organic, effortless comedy is one of the things that makes The Closer such a treat, and separates it from the unrelentingly grim procedurals the big networks tend to favor. J.K. Simmons’ understated delivery was even more delicious during an episode featuring some serious scenery chewing by Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin as Brenda’s parents. Don’t get me wrong: I chuckled as Fritz conjured up (very quickly) an emergency scenario (airport bomb threat) far less sexy than Brenda’s competing crime (murder on a Hollywood set!) to escape the "when are you kids getting married?" shtick over a hot, homemade breakfast smorgasbord. (Did anyone else notice Fritz didn’t utter a single word during the entire awkward wedding convo?) It’s just that Sternhagen and Corbin scrambled a little too much ham into the eggs to suit my tastes. Then again, Brenda seems to view Ma and Pa Johnson as larger-than-life characters, the only folks she can’t (or won’t) steamroll, so perhaps their exaggerated behavior springs from their daughter’s exaggerated responses to them, and vice-versa.

And anyhow, all’s well that ends well. Brenda’s chin-held-high, lips-held-quavering ultimatum to her parents was as touching as it was amusing, though I have to admit I was totally blindsided by Fritz’s subsequent (and forceful) (and awesome) demand for a wedding date by the end of February. Fritz is fast becoming the ultimate spousal fantasy, a guy who tolerates, perhaps even embraces, Brenda’s flaws and quirks and eccentricities, but also knows when to put his foot down and demand that she be a better/saner person. Jon Tenney may not get a ton of screentime, but he certainly makes the most of it, no?

On the flip side of Fritz’s partner-y perfection were this week’s perp and prime suspect, the former a skeezy, out-of-control control freak, and the latter a slickly handsome abuser whose self-perceived coolness quickly disappeared in the interrogation room with Brenda. I loved the way she literally licked her lip as the skeezeball started describing himself as "passionate" and "sensitive" in an effort to defuse reports describing him as a wife beater. Her scathing assessment after the guy exploded in rage — "Well, I think it’s safe to say that you’re a freshman in anger management." — was the episode’s best one-liner. I was really hoping the episode would end with the victim’s estranged hubby behind bars, but the sudden shift in suspects resulted in a climax so emotionally riveting (see aforementioned doorway exchange between Sedgwick and Boecher), it’s proof the show’s writers truly know best.

What did you think of last night’s show? Is anyone worried the Times’ investigation will really lead to the end of priority homicide? Anyone else worried about Sanchez’s post-traumatic hesitations? Who else LOL’d at Gabriel’s wonderfully lecherous "if you think of anything else, give me a call" to that trollop of a makeup chick? And is it just me, or are you also completely fed up with  TNT’s ROARINGLY loud ad breaks?

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  • Anonymous

    Why so late today? Totally loved the ep–especially Pope’s “aplogy.”

  • AJ

    I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for a Closer recap, and while it’s certainly welcome to see Slezak tackling it as opposed to whatsherface who doesn’t seem to enjoy the show, when is The Closer going to get a REAL, full-blown regular recap that doesn’t appear in PopWatch? Is that really so much to ask?

  • KLF

    Finally, someone who gets the show! And it appears that TPTB at EW have listened to the posters and reassigned the other hack who didn’t get it! Yea!!!!

  • Patty

    Yea! Slezak recapping the Closer – a dream come true.
    I really don’t understand why they can’t leave Brenda’s mom and dad home alone. What kind of wacky sexual devices are hidden in that house?
    Liked the continuity of Daniels giving Gabriel a sidelong glance and Sanchez’s apparent issues.

  • Tink in Cali

    Slezak – I was so glad to see your name on the recap! I love it when you watch my shows. I totally agree with the Kelly Rivers scene at the end. It was awesomely written and directed. I also am enamored with the touches of humor and continuity of the storylines. Awesome show!

  • LisaMama

    Wow, what a treat! One of my favorite EWers writing the recap for one of my favorite shows!
    Now, as for the episode, it did feel like a let down after last week’s awesome Sanchez-centered episode, but it was still quite good. Brenda is human ans complicated relationships with her parents — and don’t we all love her more because of that? And Fritz was great last night. Now I just want him to say “About that baby thing…yes or no?”
    Loved the way everyone seemed to be helping Sanchez — Daniels, Provenza and Tao all had communication with him at different points.
    I saw the solution to the crime coming a mile away, once we learned that the victim had a roommate, but so what? I still loved the way Brenda handled it and the team got the scumbag.

  • Jenks

    What I liked most about last night’s ep were the subtle things that showed the awful dynamic of domestic abuse — how even as she was being rescued from almost certain death, Kelly was making excuses for her dirtbag boyfriend/husband (“he didn’t mean to kill her!”). And how after Pope’s “apology,” the victim’s husband whined about how nobody understands what he’s going through. Fantastic writing.

  • Jenks

    And another thing — thanks, EW, for putting Slezak on the job. And chalk up another vote for a full recap for the next season of “The Closer.”

  • Bobbi

    Loved your recap, Slezak, and love to see you recapping “The Closer”!
    This show was great. I loved the continuity of the Sanchez storyline with his hesitation and with everyone else helping him out throughout the episode. The juxtaposition of the domestic abuse storyline with Brenda’s personal storyline was storyline. Her ability to stand up to the bullying in her own life was critical. It was also critical for her to see how her own behavior could be seen as a very mild form of abuse/torture.
    The rescue of Kelly Rivers was incredible. So well acted and written! I actually gasped. That’s one of the things I love about this show. It makes me do that at least once a show.
    I totally agree with you about the commercials. I mute them if I’m not watching the show in a playback.

  • Patrick

    Yeah, more Slezak is always a good thing! It was a great episode, and I definitely agree about the commercials – why the heck were they SO MUCH LOUDER than the show?

  • Betsey

    LURVE this show. Much better re-cap than last week, thank you EW. Sanchez breaks my heart and i want a Fritz-y in MY life. He’s so sweet and patient, yet he gets what he wants out of Brenda too. I LOVE THIS SHOW.

  • popwatcher

    slezak, miss your recaps! i don’t watch this show, but its good reading.

  • Lilune

    Can I be the 400th (or whatever) to applaud that this week have a reviewer who acutally contemplates this show rather than recapping and comparing it to Saving Grace? EW bosses: please leave The Closer recaps to Michael Slezak.
    I loved this episode. Brenda’s parents always bring such humor and allow the other side of the other side of Brenda’s personality to be shown. I thought Sanchez was portrayed perfectly. They showed that he continues to grieve. Fritz was awesome at the end! That was a suprise. My husband and I had a bet on who could name the killer because we feel like we’ve got the show figured out and they totally suprised us when Kelly slightly shifted her robe to show the same marks that were on the victim.

  • KateDFW

    The last scene when they find the roommate and the tension building on if she would take Brenda’s hand was so good! These are the moments that make The Closer one of the best shows on TV.
    Best Line belonged to Brenda Leigh when interviewing the husband and he said he was taking anger management classes and her response was “Well, I think it is safe to say you are a freshman in anger management”! Loved it!

  • DanOregon

    It was nice that the “perp” wasn’t ID’d in the first 30 minutes and then gradually broken down. A nice change of pace.

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