Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 4 Episode 15


Aired Friday 10:00 PM Mar 15, 1996 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
28 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The entire squad is put on 24-hour surveillance when a mass murderer has been identified, isn't at home and doesn't know that they know. Gee debates leaving the squad in the midst of the stakeout, so he can attend his daughter's wedding in California. As the detectives rotate through shifts on the stakeout, the main topics of discussion are the homeowners and Bayliss' plans to leave the unit.moreless

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  • The detectives rotate staking out a suspected serial killer, from the housenext door. Bayliss ponders leaving the homicide unit and pursuing a security company in LA, while Gee ponders heading to LA to attend his daughters wedding.moreless

    "Stakeout" is a fantastic episode that continues to explore the personal lives of the detectives in Gee's squad all while they sit in hiding, trying to capture a serial killer.

    The images in this episode are great, Gee can always be seen near a clock or a watch, and time is ticking as he contemplates heading to his daughters wedding in LA. We first see a watch in an evidence baggie, later Gee is seen near a large clock at the Buxton residence, Gee can also be seen looking at his watch throughout the episode.

    The mystery that is Pembleton susprises yet again in this episode, we think Pembleton is opening up to Gee when he tells him to go to San Fransisco to attend his daughters wedding, but really, he just want's Gee to leave so he can smoke. Yes, maybe Pembleton didnt exactly have ulterior motives in getting Gee to leave but he could have offered him a better reason to leave, such as maybe he will regret the descision of not attending his daughters wedding for the rest of his life. When Gee leaves and Pembleton smells his cigarette we begin to write Pembleton off once again. Pembleton later surprises again and redeems himself in another heart to heart conversation, this time with Bayliss. Bayliss is debating leaving the homicide unit and one of his reasons is the lack of a family atmosphere. Pembleton says they are a "real" family, that helps each other become better at what they do, while offering constructive criticizm. Maybe a fanily isnt what Bayliss wants, because as we see in this episode in the Buxton couple, families are not always picture perfect.

    Gee heads to the airport with the good intentions of attending his daughters wedding. When the flight is delayed Gee decides not to call his daughter to let her know, perhaps thinking that it will be just another incident where he disappoints her.moreless
  • Once again, little activity but a lot happens


    In Homicide’s early seasons (particularly in season 1’s ‘Night of the Dead Living’) we learned something very important about the show: police work can be dull. It’s not car cases and gun pulling, a lot of it is dull paperwork and drudgery routine. Even when you are involved in a case to arrest a man who has committed ten murders, there is a lot of hard, meaningless work.

    A prime example of this occurs in ‘Stakeout’. In the space of twenty four hours we find the identity of a serial killer from one of the thickest criminals on the show. Arrested for narcotic possession and stolen property, he confesses that he was involved with ten murders. He thinks that because he didn’t actually kill any of the victims he is less liable which proves as Bayliss puts it ‘Crime makes you stupid” The killer is en route from a trip back to Baltimore, so the Homicide unit sets up a stakeout in the house next door.

    So two detectives go there. And they wait.

    Three hours later the shift changes.

    And they wait.

    Every three hours, they change partners until twenty-four hours later when the killer is arrested in his driveway without incident. During the course of that time, they identify several of the dead bodies, arrest an accomplice who agrees to testify against the killer and build-up an air-tight case. So the investigation is actually the least interesting part of the show.

    What makes ‘Stakeout’ one of the highlights of the season is the emotional baggage that some of the detectives are carrying and that they unload while they try to pass the time. Part of this is expressed very well in the characters of George and Cathy Buxton, the people who own the house the detectives are using for surveillance. During the stakeout, the Buxtons argue, the husband storms out to get drunk, make love and return to normal. It becomes very clear that this marriage is built on a very shaky foundation and that their lives are barely hanging together. Every few hours, when the detectives shift, the Buxton keep reciting and recounting previous events to tell them what they have missed. In other words, their marriage unfolds like something on television. In a similar matter, the detectives past unfolds before us.

    This is impressive because Homicide demonstrates, unlike many TV shows that it has a long memory. The characters aren’t reinvented every episode, they have a past and some of them are still living with it. Some of the scars are minor. Kellerman is upset that he is still regarded on his shift as ‘the new guy’. Russert is bothered by her double demotion. Munch is upset that Bolander has not made any effort to make contact with his former partner since his suspension began.

    Others are more serious. Lewis, for example, is still aching over Crosetti killing himself two years ago. That his partner took his own lie without even trying to ask for help pains him. Giardello is upset because he may miss his flight to his daughter Charisse’s wedding. However, it becomes clear that he is more upset about the fact that his daughter made a decision to marry a man and fly off to San Francisco without asking for his permission or his blessing. Eventually when he does finally decide to go, he finds out that his flight has been delayed by fog. It is stunning to see the pillar of the Homicide unit paralyzed and afraid of what should be a joyful experience.'

    But, as is usually the case, Bayliss is in the most pain. For the first time, he is talking openly about quitting Homicide. Nor is this just a case of burnout which would be understandable. As we find out, Risley Tucker, the lead suspect in the Adena Watson murder three years ago has died and Tim is trying to face the fact that this case will now forever be in red. He is tired of having to give the news to a grieving relative that someone they love is dead. He is tired of Frank’s treating him like he was a doormat. And he is tired of having spent three years in the squad but still barely knowing any of the people he works with him.

    Frank is disturbed by this but as is almost always the case he brings him back. Homicide is like a family--- not the Cleavers or the Osmonds, but a real family—opinionated, troubled, challenging each other. They speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves and Tim is going to find it anywhere else. This doesn’t resolves all of Bayliss’ problems, of course, but it is enough to make him rethink leaving the squad.

    ‘Stakeout’ is an impressive hour of television. A near perfect mixture of the old and the new, it is ideal for introducing a new viewer to the show’s charms, revisiting the great strengths and flaws of the characters and showing how Homicide can really, really sing sometimes. It remains one of my favorite episodes.

    My score:10

Jim True-Frost

Jim True-Frost

George Buxton

Guest Star

Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh

Cathy Buxton

Guest Star

Tyler Miller

Tyler Miller

Paul Hassett

Guest Star

Max Perlich

Max Perlich

J.H. Brodie

Recurring Role

Helen Carey

Helen Carey

Maggie Conroy

Recurring Role

Harlee McBride

Harlee McBride

Dr. Alyssa Dyer

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Jim-True Frost who plays Det. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski on another show set in Baltimore The Wire appears. Also Kate Walsh who plays "Addison Montgomery" on Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice appears.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Bayliss: Those other guys? They're like a family. I have never ever felt that in Homicide. We are the best, the elite. But we are not a family.
      Pembleton: Yes, we are. But we're like a real family. Opinionated, argumentative, holding grudges. Challenging each other. We challenge each other to be better than we are. Kind of thing that doesn't happen at barbecues and ballgames. It happens on the job, where it's supposed to. On a case. Putting down a murder. The work itself is the most important thing, what we do is important. We speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves. And you're never going to find anything like that anywhere. Not in Vice. And not patrolling the grounds at … Disneyland.

    • Lewis: I'm open. I'm caring. I'm honest. So why don't people tell me their life stories on trains? And Crosetti--- I had no idea that Crosetti was going to kill himself. My own partner and I had no idea that he's in that kind of pain. Why didn't he come to me?

    • Bayliss: I can't stop seeing her face in the rain. She looked so tiny. I try not to care but I can't not care, because if I actually do stop caring, then I just stop being who I am. No job's worth that.

  • NOTES (1)

    • In a TV Guide article that came out for this week covering the "50 Great Things About Television Now", Andre Braugher in "The Box" was listed as number #44.