Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 1 Episode 5

Three Men and Adena

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Mar 03, 1993 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
59 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Three Men and Adena
Pembleton and Bayliss have only twelve hours to grill their prime suspect in the Adena Watson case before they must let him go.

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  • This entire episode takes place in "The Box" where Risley Tucker (the fruit vendor) is being grilled by Pembleton and Bayliss. The detectives have 12 hours to solve the case.

    One of the most memorable episodes of "Homicide: life on the street". Pembleton and Bayliss' chemistry is really put to the test in this one and they excel. At first Pembleton appears friendly to Risley the fruit vendor. This seems like a good tactic, being paired with a rookie trying to nail his first case, and Bayliss comes out flying, pressuring the elderly suspect. In the beginning of the interview references to the word "cold" can be heard multiple times, during the latter stages of the interview the word "hot" can be heard. Hot, is exactly how the detectives get, as the defiant fruit vendor wont crack. There are numerous times where you think Risley is about to crack and confess to the murder, ecspecially when he goes into detail about the day 11 year old Adena Watson spending they day with him. After hearing Risley's words about Adena growing up and asking for more exotic fruits the viewer might expect him to confess to the rape/murder, but Risley stays defiant.

    After the 12 hours allotted to solve the case are up, Bayliss appears defeated. Bayliss worked long hours on his first case and he told Giardello numerous times he would nail it. Taking Giardello's advice, Pembleton has a talk with the depressed Bayliss and offers to buy him a drink, Bayliss rejects this offer. Bayliss may have lost the case, but he may have gained the respect of Pembleton, something that is not such an easy task.moreless
  • What they mean when they say \'this is Homicide

    A confession (since this is the place for them) . The first time that I saw this episode, I didn’t like it much. I didn’t like it because it was too claustrophobic, because none of the other characters were here, but mainly because I found the ending unsatisfactory. Ironically those are the exact same reasons that this is such a brilliant episode. Part of the problem was that I was only 17, probably not old enough to appreciate the intracasies of the show. Part of it was because I didn’t know the show that well yet. Whatever the reason, I didn’t watch all the way through again until nearly two years after I saw it the first time. And now of course I understand why people who write about the show called it ‘the quintessential Homicide’

    For fifty three minutes of the hour, we see only one setting--- the box—and we have only three characters---- Tim Bayliss, Frank Pembleton, and Risley Tucker, or as we have known him up until that point, the araber. (Until this episode I had never heard of these nomadic fruit and vegetable peddlers; perhaps they are native only to Baltimore.) The detectives believe that Tucker is the man who killed Adena Watson. But there isn’t enough direct evidence. Only a confession will end this case. And time is a factor--- if they don’t get it in twelve hours, the court will throw it out.

    So we watch these three men talk. Except they are not alone in the room. Something else--- the spirit of Adena, for lack of a better term is there. Bayliss and Pembleton do their best to keep it in there. Watching the two of them work is one of the most exceptional achievement s that the writers would ever produce. At its bare bones, it is nothing more than a variation of the ‘good cop, bad cop’ scenarios that we have seen on other TV shows. Pembleton is warm, cordial even pleasant to Tucker, while Bayliss unrelentingly questions him on the facts and inconsistencies that have developed in the Araber’s story trying desperately to cause a crack in this man’s façade. This goes on for half the episode.

    Then about halfway through comes an exceptional sequence. In it Bayliss and Pembleton begin to speak in precise rhythm drilling in to the Araber’s head what they know--- that he killed her.. It is an almost musical moment--- but it only lasts for two or three minutes. And then something that I had not seen before on TV, and only a few times since happens. Tucker, who has been presenting a rhythm of his own, variations of the same theme that he did not kill Adena , fires back. He attacks Pembleton in a very effective manner saying ‘you don’t like n----ers like me.’ Calling him a Pretender, a 500. And he attacks Bayliss by calling him something that we know this detective fears--- that for all his energy and beliefs, he is nothing more than an amateur. Moses Gunn who plays Tucker (in his last performance; he would die nine months after the episode was filmed) gives an exceptional performance. You have to work real hard to keep up with Braugher and Secor, but Gunn does so outstandingly.

    On any other television show up to that point, the episode would have ended with the Araber breaking down and confessing. Even if the networks had permitted a show to center on the same story for nearly five weeks would have ended with a successful resolution. It doesn’t happen. Not only does Risley Tucker not break, his defense remain almost completely impenetrable. There is a moment about halfway through the episode where we think that maybe, just maybe, he will break. But it passes and the wall of denial that he has built up, despite all the cracks that the detectives have made or tried to make, never breaks. Even more stunning then this is what the audience feels about Tucker’s guilt. We think that he is the killer, but the man never gives a hint one way or the other that he killed her. Especially telling is how the two detectives leave that final interrogation. In a rare moment of comfort, Pembleton tells Bayliss that he emerged from the interrogation sure that Tucker killed Adena. Bayliss responds by saying that now he is no longer sure that this is true.

    So the investigation into Adena Watson’s death ends--- at least officially. For Tim Bayliss, however, this case will never go away. When he is finished collecting the evidence, he takes out a picture of Adena Watson and puts it on his desk. It will stay there for almost the entire run of the series. The fact that it was never solved will stay with him for the length of the series. And unlike some TV shows where no one remembers what happened a week ago, much less a year, this spectre will haunt Bayliss for the entire series, and quite possibly the rest of his life.

    ‘Three Men and Adena’ was the only episode of ‘Homicide’ to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing. For many TV shows, it would be nearly impossible to do anything more excellent. For ‘Homicide’ this was just the first of several episodes that would leave the audience emotionally raw. It is not easy to watch this episode, but, like the participants, you will never forget it when you see it.

    Rank by Fans: 2nd

    My score 10


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • When Pembleton and Bayliss are grilling Risely, there is a point where the camera is doing a 180 degree turn and in the mirror behind the detectives you can see two of the camera crew for the show.

    • As noted with the first episode the Adena Watson case was based on the real life murder of a young girl named LaTonya Wallace. The "Fish Man" was the real suspect.

      After months of a painfully difficult investigation, Det. Tom Pelligrini (whom the Bayliss character was based on) called in a professional interviewer to help him take a last run at the Fish Man.

      For a moment, the Fish Man waivers as Pelligrini thinks that he's finally broken through the wall of truth. Then the old man steels his eyes and repeats that he didn't kill her. Pelligrini knew the case was lost.

      He kept in touch with Wallace's family over the years. When he made himself move on emotionally, he carefully packed away the case file material. The Fish Man, like the Araber, died without standing trial.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Bayliss: You want to know what the polygraph test says hum? You're lying. You're a liar. You even tried to hold your breath to cover up but you know what blew it off the charts, off the screen. Look here. Your heart. Your heart just blew those needles right off the screen. A man could get whiplash looking at your test.

    • (After the interrogation)
      Pembleton: I had my doubts but you're right. I am now convinced that Tucker killed Adena Watson.
      Bayliss: Really? I'm not so sure he did anymore.

    • Tucker: You got your dark side, and it terrifies you, and it frightens you. It scares you cause it's powerful and it makes you capable of doing anything. Anything. Without it, you look in the mirror, and all you see is an am-a-teur.

    • Crosetti: You got toilet paper over there?
      Lewis: No.
      Crosetti: You got five $1s for a $5?

    • Pembleton: She cried and she died!

  • NOTES (2)