The Ecstasy and the Agony

First, my apologies for failing to appear in this space last week, as promised. For those still concerned, the theme of our third episode, Medical Causes, revolved around the innate lack of fairness in what we call unrequited love. Written by Michael Alaimo and directed by E.R. veteran, Paul McCrane, this story ends with a painful recognition by Sharon Raydor's new permanent houseguest, Rusty Beck, about the nature of his relationship with his mother.

This week, in a lighter vein, Major Crimes explores the injustice of having to start over from scratch, and we expound a little further on the concept of deal-making as Special Agent Fritz Howard returns to action, swooping in with Special Agent Morris (played by one of our favorite recurring actors, D.B. Sweeney) to "collaborate" with the LAPD. As a fresh murder throws the morning off track, Rusty has to figure out how to introduce himself at a new school, a murder victim's wife tries to escape the witness protection program (and a new identity that will take her to Tulsa, Oklahoma) and Lt. Provenza struggles to find his way forward after losing command of Major Crimes. As the investigation begins to fill up with Israeli mobsters, Hollywood wives and possible hit men, Provenza becomes fascinated by an amiable Lothario named Thorn, working as an Intuitive Life Strategist (with a degree from the Sedona Institute of Spiritual Learning: Los Angeles Campus). Played by the hilarious Michael Weatherly (stepping away from his popular day job on NCIS), Thorn is insightful, empathic and a bit of a dreamer, still clutching boyish ambitions. Mr. Weatherly uses his performance to demonstrate the dynamic range that has made him one of the most recognizable actors on earth, and his scenes with G. W. Bailey make me laugh out loud every time I see them. Arvin Brown directs with his usual charm as our Major Crimes regulars embrace the new beginnings life has offered them in another witty script by Adam Belanoff.

Now, as promised, I offer a few thoughts on the art of the deal.

The justice system was not designed to be a bargain, but, rather, to insure the progress of civilization. The idea that police officers and District Attorneys might sit down with murderers, and attempt to agree on a form of punishment that short-circuits the criminal courts might upset some viewers, but this is exactly what happens in real life. It may not be pretty, but when you consider how much it costs to fight appeals and retry cases, the efficiency of putting a killer in prison for the rest of his life sometimes trumps our desire to inflict the maximum penalties.

It costs a lot more money to execute a murderer in California than it does to lock them up for life. Suspects aren't even allowed to plead guilty to any charge with the death penalty attached. No matter how clearly the prisoner says, "I did it," there absolutely must be a trial. Add the cost of automatically fighting the case over in federal court before appellate judges, the price of paying retired detectives to keep on taking the stand (over decades), the money spent on keeping eternal track of each and every witness, plus the tab for added security, and the sums expended on Death Row, and it's easy to see how, in an economic crisis, having someone agree to their conviction in advance could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. This isn't about politics; this is about arithmetic (a skill apparently beyond the ken of both our political parties). Would I prefer to take all of our killers to court? You bet. But do I want to do that over educating our children, or keeping our fire departments open? Let me get back to you.

Next week, DNA evidence in the case against Phillip Stroh yields unexpected results while a body found at a recycling center sends us into one of our darkest and most dangerous stories ever.