H:LOTS – S6E06 – “Birthday”
Written by: Julie Martin
Directed by Alison Maclean
1997′s breakout indie ingénue Alison Folland delivers a poignant, but unstudied performance as Grace Rivera a survivor whose attack becomes the lens for one of HLOTS’ more nuanced examination of sexual assault. Unlike other cop shows who serve their own female cast members up for tropelicious and problematic depictions, HLOTS opts to emphasis the actual burden placed on victims to assist in the investigation. It’s well handled thanks to the light touch of writer Julie Martin (hey gurl!) and lack of speechifying presented. I also thought it was very unflinching in its portrayal of a range of FEMALE introspection on the matter in a way I found intriguing.
While the subject at hand is given a light touch, the same cannot be said about the way in which the show seeks to shoehorn Falsone into our hearts and minds. His character is given the weight of the episode and it is not for the better. Seeing other more richly textured characters sidelined is frustrating. That said, pairing Falsone with Lewis yields some surprising narrative payoffs, the least of which is getting to see Clark Johnson in another brilliant, but subtle performance.
Speaking of sidelined characters, Bayliss and Pembleton get some nice moments while standing around various hallways and waiting rooms in anticipation of the birth of the Pembleton’s second child. Bayliss – who for some inexplicable reason seems to know a lot about pregnancy, childbirth and hospital waiting areas – suggests Frank take Mary to a restaurant whose seaweed salad is known to help kick start labor in post term pregnancies. Of course, Pembleton scoffs at Bayliss, but naturally the next scene is of him sitting in said restaurant with a very pregnant and gloriously coiffed Mary!
Until I actually sit down and watch various latter season episodes I often forget Toni Lewis was mostly a recurring character on the show until later in this season where she became a series regular. Terri Stivers is a great character and an awesome detective. She fits in so well and does a much better job of plugging the hole left by the departure of Melissa Leo and Isabella Hoffman than any of the other female characters added to the show in the later years. Stivers’ ties to Lewis and Kellerman are well established and her involvement in the Rivera case – she’s currently a Sex Crimes detective – have her interacting with Falsone, who you might remember has been sniffing around the less-than-kosher Mahoney shoot. While the tension between the three is fairly subdued, it’s clear during a side conversation with Lewis, the questionable shoot and its after effects (backing Kellerman’s play) is still very much weighing on Stivers. Det. Lewis adopts a pragmatic approach, which doesn’t make Stivers feel any better, but at least Falsone is too preoccupied with the Rivera case to pay much attention to whatever Lewis and Stivers are whispering about in the corner of the squad room.
Despite the Mahoney drama looming in the background, Lewis, Stivers and Falsone – who never discuss the case as a trio in this episode – work the Rivera case like champs. Well there are some false starts: namely Falsone promising Gee way more than he can deliver, a lack of physical evidence, a round of jurisdictional hokey pokey with Sex Crimes (because the victim is still alive) and the fact the victim cannot remember anything about her attack (TBI). Still, the trio manages to work together well enough to reasonably satisfy both LTs and without causing too much drama… Oh, except for that tiny little suspect beat down by Falsone and the less than happy resolution to jurisdictional tug-o-war. Spoiler: Homicide gets the case.
Perhaps the seaweed worked a little too well, because while standing around yet again, Ballard (in her sole appearance in the episode) gives Bayliss and Pembleton word Mary’s gone into labor and if they want to be present for the birth they’re gonna need to motor. And because nobody’s allowed an uneventful birth on TV dramas, Mary has “complications”. The is much gnashing of teeth and speeding of gurneys, but in the end Mary and Frank Jr. are just fine. Frank now has a son and by extension another captive audience member for his speechifying. Bayliss has another person who will divert Pembleton’s attention away from him. Everyone’s reasonably satisfied.
Kellerman spends the bulk of this episode having clandestine meetings with Georgia Rae Mahoney (played deliciously by Hazelle Goodman in the second of four episodes) who taunts him with surveillance tape she obtained from her brother’s condo. Kellerman melts down after procuring the surveillance equipment from Luther Mahoney’s condo (minus the tape) and realizing the tape could quite possibly lead to his downfall. Unlike previous grand jury near misses and accusations of being dirty, this time it all might stick. Kellerman’s isolated from his peers, not thinking clearly and making some terrible mistakes.