Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Plain Sight, "Duplicate Bridge": Leaving Norman

Because "In Plain Sight" airs at 10 on a Sunday and is one of those series that Hulu can't show until 8 days after it airs, it's often taken me a few days or more to get to each episode of this season, by which point it no longer feels worth the effort to blog about it. (Or I'm tied up with more regularly-scheduled features.) But this week's episode, which I finally finished a few minutes ago, was worth commenting at any time or place, and not just because it guest starred the great Clarke Peters, aka Cool Lester Smooth from "The Wire." Spoilers coming up just as soon as I write what I think you think is my biggest flaw...

"Duplicate Bridge" wasn't exactly an "Only 'In Plain Sight' could tell this" kind of story. With a few tweaks, I could imagine it on one of at least a half-dozen other crime dramas. But where that ordinarily signals one of the series' weaker efforts, this was one of the show's best -- suggesting that the problem with the "Was a witness killed because of his old life?" episodes isn't just that they're generic, but that they're not very well-executed.

Here, the writers (specifically, Lynne E. Litt) came up with an interesting character in Norman (played wonderfully, as you'd expect, by Peters), a story with several unexpected twists (specifically, that Norman was responsible for the bridge collapse) and, most importantly, centered it all around Marshall for once. Mary's a good character and obviously the show's bread-and-butter, but it was nice to see her take a backseat in this one, to have Marshall mostly be right about everything (he didn't suspect Norman's double/triple life, but he damn sure knew Norman was going to blow up the bridge, with or without Mary on it), and to see that Frederick Weller could more than carry an episode, and go toe-to-toe with Peters while doing it.

After a bad season premiere, I've been mostly enjoying this second season of "In Plain Sight," but "Duplicate Bridge" was a cut above. Nicely-done, people.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

Blogette said...

I also thought this was one of the show's best episodes. I actually thought the episode was equal parts humorous and heartbreaking, and I found that to be the reason why it was so good. Plus, it's nice to have Marshall front and center -- more Marshall-centric would be fine by me (please, no more Stan-centric, though...).

Toby O'B said...

My favorite Marshall moment came there on the bridge, where he quietly but pointedly told her, "I know my witness."

I'm really thankful for the lack of Jinx, and hope it can run for a while longer. I could probably take Brandi if she wasn't such a drain (and pain) on Mary's time.

There was a good example of something that's been getting some play this season - Mary's selfishness. It's always good for a diverting bit of funny business. This week it was her obsession with Norman's ribs and her insistence on having some. (The stapler bit was somewhat childish of her and I'm not seeing why she's so hostile towards the office manager. Definitely not siding with her on that.)

It was a great change of pace episode and I hope the writers find more ways around the same old same old. And return to some of the past cases now and then!

Kara said...

I agree that this was one of the best episodes of the series. And that it was very nice to see Marshall front and center - I think he is one of the more interesting characters on the show and Frederick Weller definitely proved that he's more than capable of carrying an episode. I've long suspected as much, but the writers just hadn't given him the opportunity. I hope the writers/producers paid attention to that and will give him more to do in the future.

I'm glad you wrote about this episode - it was definitely a step up in the writing department, nice to have some focus on Marshall and it definitely deserves to have a little spotlight shining on it. And it was a sort of double-pleasure since I've just been getting into "The Wire" on DVD and it was wonderful to see Clarke Peters.

M.A.Peel said...

I thought this episode was out of sequence. Brandi says something about Jinx being in lock up, but she returned 2 episodes ago. And her filling out college application seemed out of syn and since the Josh Malina development. But it was nice having Mary off center stage for a bit.

jcpbmg said...

was I the only one that LOVED the fact that the character built a model bridge- the only thing that could have topped it was a little model 18th century amour

Matt said...

I think they did resequence the episode, because the descriptions of several of the episodes on my DVR have not synced up with the show seen--I think this was supposed to be a few weeks earlier. Courtesy of Malina's Twitter feed, I know they were shooting with him up until after the season premiere, so they may have reshuffled to do final reshoots?

Nony M said...

Jinx was only home for a weekend visit -- they said so.

Tigerpants said...

After the previous week's abysmal episode, this one was such a breath of fresh air. Between giving the plot a new focus, and bringing a very talented guest star, I thought they really nailed it. As you say, I'd love to see more of how Witness Protection takes it's toll on those it's protecting, and less of the annoying people with whom Mary has surrounded herself. Oy.

maura said...

This was possibly the best "In Plain Sight" episode ever. Despite the tragic ending, I loved that he blew up the bridge. A lot of shows would have copped out on it, and had Mary talk Norman out of it at the last minute.

As Toby O'B mentioned, Mary's selfishness was very much on display this week. It's never been so obvious that she can be as selfish as Jinx and Brandi. It was appalling but real. However, I still hated Brandi for eating the ribs, even if it was much deserved karma biting Mary in the ass. I can appreciate that Brandi's redemption is going to take time; otherwise it wouldn't seem realistic. But it doesn't make her any less annoying while she's going through it.

A big "yay" to a Marshall-centered episode. He's certainly been more than a one dimensional character, but I liked all that "Marshallness" we got to see.

I have to give a shout out to Holly Maples and her portrayal of Eleanor. I was leery about them bringing in a new character, and was expecting yet another PITA supporting character to drive Mary crazy, but I love Eleanor. She's smart, funny, and has connections out the ying-yang. I wouldn't want to tangle with her.

Brandy said...

The stapler bit was fine with me because I would so do that if I had a spiffy new piece of office equipment, but I seriously hated her whole Norman's ribs bits. How pushy was that?

And Brandi eating the ribs? Eh. That one didn't bug me. Mary deserved it. And I'd have had more sympathy for Mary there had she not said that "she'd" had them flown in special.

Whatever, Mary.

Also, I know Mary's job is important, more important than anything Brandi will ever do, but a "oh, I missed your thing... um... yeah had to go out of town" before requesting that squish do her bidding? That would have been too much to ask?

Jennykins said...

Am I crazy, or was the actor who played WeeBay on "The Wire" on as well? The guy whose family was killed when the bridge collapsed, who later pretended to be Clark Peters' character so Clark could go blow up a bridge?

Alan Sepinwall said...

That wasn't Wee-Bey. That was the actor who played Michael Lee's stepdad in season four.

Vanessa said...

I'm going to stick up for Brandi & Jinx being in the show. Mary's family is part of who she is and as this season has gone on, I think Brandi & Jinx are growing as people in a good way. Their characters are helping me see Mary differently too.

I absolutely hated last season's drug plot with Brandi. And I hate watching Jinx being a raging alcoholic. But this year they are showing some parts of an alcoholic family that are relatively nuanced and accurate without being depressing or tragic.

One part of the alcoholic dynamic that didn't ring true to me was Brandi's meeting with Malina's character. I just don't think he would be that angry and betrayed, but maybe I'm cynical.

I thought one of the truest bits was the episode where Jinx came for a visit and Mary not only refused to throw out the tequila but left it under the kitchen sink. Talk about sabotaging someone so you can be the perfect one!

I don't always love the family scenes but I think it's because of how extreme they were last season.

I think that was the first Minneapolis bridge collapse inspired episode I've seen since the collapse. They used the footage of the bridge in the opening. And they did their bridge research pretty well as far as I can tell. It was a traumatic event here in Minnesota and I thought they did a good job with the material.

Anonymous said...

catsnbirds says
I thought this episode was one of the best -- certainly touched me. Can anyone identify the album left for Marshall or the artist playing? I recognize it but can't identify it, and it's driving me crazy.

bonitajustice said...

Did anyone else notice that when the Inspectors were in Omaha, Mary was using the last name of "Shepherd" instead of Shannon and Marshall was using "Miller" instead of Mann? I don't think I'd heard that before. I assume it has something to do with preserving the secrecy of WitSec, but does anyone know specifically why?

Cabbage said...

I agree with your review. The main problem with IPs is all the annoying peripheral characters. Just because they're there, the writers right stuff for them, and the episodes drag with plots I don't care to follow.
I find Marshall a subtler character than Mary, and I'm glad they finally gave him a chance to shine instead of his usual helping-mary-and-just-being-a-nice-guy thing. Fred Weller has a hard job, playing a male partner in a tv lineup full of male and female partners, but Marshall is one of my favorite characters on television.
This episode had an involving plot and was really well-written with some great quirks (like the stapler and the ribs)

I hope we see more episodes like this, and more Marshall.

Cabbage said...

I agree with your review. The main problem with IPs is all the annoying peripheral characters. Just because they're there, the writers right stuff for them, and the episodes drag with plots I don't care to follow.
I find Marshall a subtler character than Mary, and I'm glad they finally gave him a chance to shine instead of his usual helping-mary-and-just-being-a-nice-guy thing. Fred Weller has a hard job, playing a male partner in a tv lineup full of male and female partners, but Marshall is one of my favorite characters on television.
This episode had an involving plot and was really well-written with some great quirks (like the stapler and the ribs)

I hope we see more episodes like this, and more Marshall.

Anonymous said...

I agree with fellow-Minnesotan Vanessa about the bridge footage. I'm glad that the first show that I've seen using that premise was tastefully done, and recognized the severity of the event.

Anonymous said...

could some please illuminate me on the verse marshall quoted in the jail cell. was it a mason verse, i would really like to find it.

Calhoun said...

For Anonymous, in case you're still following this thread, yes, the speech Marshall delivered to crack the impersonator (with Mary out of the room) was a bit of Masonic degree work tied in with his having observed the detainee was wearing a Masonic ring. Once again he knew his witness. Made the entire show fascinating as it was full of Masonic references no one outside the fraternity would likely recognize.