Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 5 Episode 8

The True Test

0
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Nov 22, 1996 on NBC
8.5
out of 10
User Rating
26 votes
1

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Episode Summary

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The True Test
AIRED:
Lewis and Bayliss investigate a homicide at a boarding school. Gee goes to Frank's house to pick him up for a trip to the gun range. Kellerman wants the investigation into corruption in his old arson unit to move along, but he finds out that all the real guilty parties have made plea bargains. Frank's firearm test looked promising. The tiny little voice in Bayliss' head tells him that McPhee Broadman might be their suspect despite the fact that his mother is a powerful judge in Baltimore. A student comes forward and confesses to the student's killing; however, the detectives aren't convinced he alone was responsible. Frank passes the exam and can return to active duty, but as far as he is concerned the real test is in the box.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Elijah, what have you done?

    8.2
    The detectives at Homicide haven’t yet had to investigate the murder of a teenager so far this season, which is odd considering how many young people get murdered in Baltimore. So Lewis and Bayliss are called into investigate the stabbing of another young African-American --- only this time the body didn’t fall on the streets but in a wealthy private school. Marshall Buchanan, the victim had been accepted on a scholarship in a school that doesn’t have a lot of blacks in it. In a more upper-class environment, his parents clearly hoped he’d be ‘safe’. Clearly they were wrong.



    From the beginning of this case, Bayliss is pissed off at the teachers and student body at this prep school. As we learn from him, this comes from something in his childhood. His cousin Jim (who we met in Season 3’s ‘Colors’) had dreamed of getting in and when he was turned down, a vital part of him was crushed. Bayliss has never been able to forgive that slight and it nettles him. Perhaps for that reason, he goes after the main suspect with more vengeance than per usual.



    That’s not to say that the main suspect doesn’t deserve it. McPhee Brodman, a seventeen-year old upperclassman is one of the cruelest characters we have ever met on Homicide. He is an egotistical, self centered, racist punk who taunts the detectives throughout the entire show. He seems to have the ability to manipulate younger students into doing various harsh and cruel things--- including Marshall’s murder. Former child star Elijah Wood (pre Lord of the Rings) gives one of the most unnerving performances on Homicide playing a teenager with no code of ethics at all.



    He thinks he’s above the law, and he has good reason for thinking so. His mother is Judge Susan Aandahl, a semi-recurring character we first met in season 4. In many ways, her blindness to the obvious cruelty of her son is even more frightening then McPhee’s actions. She knows that he is capable of violent actions--- he firebombed a car at age seven--- but as she puts it she’s a judge, but she’s also a mother. In a private conversation she has with Bayliss, she admits that she is afraid of her son. Yet she is determined to protect her son, no matter what. This is revealed in the climax of the episode when McPhee reveals that he had Marshall murdered because he wouldn’t carry out an assignment--- his mother’s murder. The look on Sagan Lewis’s face when she hears this is one of pure shock--- yet minutes later, she is trying to get her son’s statement suppressed. One wonders if maybe McPhee won his duel with the detectives.



    Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this case occurs when Bayliss reveals that he admires the judge for standing by her son no matter what. This is a small crack in the hide of Bayliss, which has been getting tougher and tougher as the season progresses.



    Though the main focus of the show is on Secor and Clark Johnson, the writers do not forget to look in on the other two detectives who’ve had ongoing problems. In the course of this episode, Pembleton once again takes his firearms exam. This time he manages to pass and is finally allowed back on the street, even though he admits the real test is in the box. Things seem to be looking up for Frank--- but he’s not looking closely at his life. In a scene at the start of the episode, Mary Pembleton reveals that it hasn’t been easy dealing with her husband for the last month. Looking closely at it, Mary clearly sees that there are some problems in their marriage, which will come up again sooner than Frank realizes.



    In contrast, there is little brightness in Kellerman’s life. The three other arson detectives under indictment have all copped pleas, insinuating that Mike, the only innocent man in the bunch, is going to be the one hung out to dry. Even his own attorney thinks that he should plea out. Mike’s life is so crappy, he invites Brodie to stay with him on his boat, despite Munch’s warnings.



    The one bright spot for Mike occurs in the first act, when for the first time, he meets Dr. Cox. The two of them strike up a dialogue and its clear, there’s something there. The byplay involving Cox and Kellerman is peculiar, considering the heavy flirting that was going on between Juliana and Bayliss in the past three episodes. One wonders why Fontana suddenly changed directions on this, as it doesn’t seem to deal with the continuity of the show. Still Diamond and Forbes do have some chemistry, and it will continue to spark.



    For all the strengths of ‘The True Test’ (especially because it was the highest rated episode of Season 5) the episode isn’t quite up to the level of some of the other episodes. The acting is very high-caliber, yet the story itself seems a little less sound--- there aren’t a lot of seventeen-year- olds like McPhee in the world of Homicide, so it doesn’t have the same resonance despite Wood’s great work. However, it ends with a rare optimistic note for one of the characters, and hints that maybe better things are on the way, especially with Braugher going back on the street. It’s been good watching him recover, now seeing him back on the job has a lot of promise.

    My score:8.2

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Elijah Wood

Elijah Wood

McPhee Broadman

Guest Star

Christopher Northup

Christopher Northup

Dean Hord Highsmith

Guest Star

Andy Bowser

Andy Bowser

Derek Delmond

Guest Star

Sagan Lewis

Sagan Lewis

Judge Susan Aandahl

Recurring Role

Ami Brabson

Ami Brabson

Mary Pembleton

Recurring Role

Pat Dade

Pat Dade

Monica Murphy

Recurring Role

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