Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 6 Episode 9

Closet Cases

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Jan 02, 1998 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
27 votes
  • A crossroads for Bayliss and the series

    The lives of the characters on Homicide took all kinds of twists and turns over the series seven-year run. But the one that caused the biggest uproar began with the central story in ‘Closet Cases’. The reason that it invoked the uproar was not only because of the controversy of the subject but because it involved Homicide’s erstwhile center, Tim Bayliss.

    The story begins with the severe beating of a homosexual man in the dumpster behind a gay bar. Bayliss and Pembleton are called in. This isn’t the first gay-bashing episode the series has explored--- recall Season 4’s ‘Hate Crimes’, in which Bayliss seemed almost homophobic in his attitude towards the victim. Now we know Bayliss has explored his sexuality in strange ways--- his visiting strip clubs in a black leather jacket in ‘A Many Splendored Thing’ and his relationship with the morbid Emma Zoole--- but none of this brought him anything that could be considered happiness. In addition, by the end of the teaser, he has just ended his three-week relationship with Julianna Cox. This kind of thing would cause any man to start reflecting on his life.

    Then Bayliss meets Chris Rawls, the owner of the nightclub where the body was found. Rawls is the antithesis of the typical television portrayal of homosexuals (at least pre-1997). He is literate, subdued, witty and compassionate, most of which we don’t see in a lot of portrayals of gays. When the save is resolved Bayliss decided to have dinner with Rawls, something which is not unprecedented given Tim’s history. Frank, however, is floored by this. He has noted that Bayliss has improved in regard to homosexuality in the past couple of years, but that doesn’t mean he expected Tim to take a walk on the wild side. (Tim must sense that his partner is vaguely uncomfortable with this; though he will continue exploring his sexuality over the last two seasons of Homicide, he will do most of it when Frank is no longer around.)

    Most shows would be content to have one character make a potentially life-changing decision in an episode. But lest we forget Georgia Raw Mahoney is still out on the street and she appears to have Kellerman by the short hairs. Stivers learns about the possibility of a tape from Meldrick, and needless to say, she is incredibly angry. Stivers has been the most conscience stricken of the three detectives and she pushes for a meeting between the three detectives that’s about four episodes overdue. The meeting between them is very unpleasant but when it ends the three of them stand united--- they will not be blackmailed by Luther’s sister. This is the high point in their union, relationship between all three detectives are about to plummet.

    Kellerman confronts Georgia Rae and in a move that borders on suicidal, calls her bluff, saying that killing her brother is worth his badge. Georgia Rae ponders this, then near the episode sends Mike her response--- via videotape. (Hot in here, or is it just me?) On the tape, she admits that the existence of the videotape was a bluff but that she is now certainly that she killed Luther with malice of forethought and that she has every intention of wreaking revenge on him. And her revenge will not be as simple as a bullet between the eyes. It’s going to be one that will shake the squad to its foundation.

    If all this angst isn’t enough we have Falsone trying to negotiate a better custody agreement of his son with his ex-wife. Unfortunately, Janine is as determined to make sure that he does not change his custody arrangement, making it clear that there will be a long bitter fight.

    All this personal tension going on, you’d almost forget that there had actually been a murder. The beating of Alan Costello leads Bayliss and Pembleton into the gay sections of Baltimore, investigating both the nightclubs and the male hustlers that populate the city. It is eventually revealed that the killer was a gay prostitute that Costello had tried to ‘help’ and was repaid by being bludgeoned to death. This prostitute killed him as an apparent denial of his own homosexuality, and he shows disdain not only of his victim but of Bayliss as well. We see both sides of the homosexual fence--- the civilized, only slightly ostentatious atmosphere of the gay clubs as well as the anger and frustration of the community, and the general disdain of law enforcement for homosexuals. The murderer was the suspect of a similar killing in San Francisco but when he was flagged by a Baltimore cop, California refused to extradite him. More telling is the attitude of Missing Persons (in the form of the woefully inadequate Detective Higby, on another rotation from Homicide) when they learn that the man he’s helping look for is a ‘corn muffin ‘. NBC had a lot of problems with this episode, obstensibly because of the relationship between Bayliss and Rawls. However, it seems equally likely that the network was afraid of isolating viewers by showing cops with such homophobic attitudes. This is a controversial issue and Homicide doesn’t run from them.

    ‘Closet Cases’ is an interesting episode for many reasons, yet it doesn’t register as one of the better episodes of Homicide. (Though it must have inspired more fanfiction then any other episode of the series.) Mainly its because it tries to do much and therefore seems a little overloaded. There’s good acting by Secor and Diamond and fine work by Peter Gallagher as Chris Rawls but ultimately the episode seems somewhat less than the sum of its parts. It’s good, but we’ve come to expect more from Homicide, a lot more.
    My score: 8