This week's episode was true to the form of "Rookie Blue" in the sense that it was about the characters and not the crime. If you have seen another episode, you can not help but fall in love with the characters, and you would have enjoyed this episode much more. For newcomers to the series, I could see how this episode may have been a bit dry as there was not a lot of action.
However, despite the fact that there was not much danger up until the climax, the structured writing makes "Big Nickel" able to stand on its own.
My favourite plot this week was what it should have been, the 'A Plot' of Andy and Sam. The writers crafted storyline very well with reversals (to build their relationship), raised stakes (to create tension/suspense) and finally with the episode's theme (facing your past) to connect it to the other storylines. The episode started with the rookies training at the shooting range doing a drill called "shoot/don't shoot." This provided a good call back to a previous episode "Hot and Bothered" when the drill was put into real life and Andy passed by knowing to shoot the bad guy - which saved her life and others. That previous episode was the reason why Andy was the only rookie to pass the drill first try and it made sense for the writers to make this decision.
The scenes with Andy and Sam stuck in the car together were entertaining, cute and awkward, but what made these scenes effective were the reversals that were later attached to each scene:
(1)In the beginning Sam made it clear that he would be the only one driving, but after some bonding time in the "When Harry Met Sally" diner, Sam actually allowed Andy to take the wheel.
(2)The change of dynamic between Sam and Andy when the prisoner came into play. It went back to professional with Andy taking Sam's orders (well, mostly).
(3)Sam's demeanour about finding the prisoner changed when Andy asked him what happens if they don't find the prisoner. Off Sam's look it was clear that Andy's job was on the line. It was the moment when Sam realized he doesn't want to loose Andy as a partner (or friend) and the stakes are raised for him on why he HAS TO find this guy.
(4)In the beginning of the episode, Andy said she hates 'plea deals' but in the end she tried to use one herself, even though she doesn't think they are right. (5)Sam telling Andy "are you allergic to silence" then telling her that her best weapon is her ability to talk.
I'm sure there are more reversals if you look for them. But there was another good call back to the start of the episode with the "Shoot/don't shoot" drill when Andy accidentally pointed her gun on Sam. Fortunately, she knew better than to shoot.
The stakes continued to rise for Andy and Sam but at a much more rapid pace. This was fantastic work by the writers and it worked great to build suspense as well. Here are the beats:
prisoner escapes and is on the run --> prisoner gets out of handcuffs --> prisoner is actually the murderer --> Sam and Andy don't know he is a murderer --> Sam and Andy are alone in the woods trying to catch a murderer --> Andy is alone in the woods trying to catch a murderer --> Andy looses her gun --> Andy looses her ability to talk (her best weapon) --> Andy almost loses her life.
This raising of the stakes and the rollercoaster ride that the characters are put through is what made the climax of this episode so effective. The Sam and Andy storyline wrapped up sweetly with learning the reason why Sam became a cop. Andy saying "as long as you drive" to Sam was a subtle reminder to how far their friendship had come in the course of a day.
However, I am still trying to wrap my head around why Sam went to talk to Luke and basically tell him to take Andy back… I guess he was accepting the fact that he and Andy can only be friends. Then part of me thinks that all the talk about his sister brought back his protective instincts – this time towards Andy. Sam wasn't lying when he said Luke was a good guy, and he knows that he will take care of her. Which means, for the time being (or next few episodes anyway) I have a feeling it is going to be Sam trying to move past his feelings for Andy. All you "Sandy" lovers out there – don't panic!! Really, you know that Sam and Andy CAN NOT get together right away. (Whew, aren't you relieved I added "right away"). The fun with these characters is in the tension, the awkwardness, and those fleeting moments of connection that make our heart race as much as the characters. It would be a shame to rush through all these moments. Remember that TV has been taught to drag these relationships on (i.e. Ross and Rachel, Jim and Pam, Meredith and Derek, Chuck and Blair/Serena and Dan, Carrie & Big, etc.) because it is so effective with the audience.
While the Andy and Sam storyline was nearly flawless in structure, there were just a few, minor loopholes in the other plot lines that kept me from giving the episode an even higher score:
(1) Dov's girlfriend Edie being a stripper. What? Really - that sweet girl in the hospital? Alright…
(2) Gail and Chis' whole story line! This has been going on for a few episodes. One of my biggest problems was Chris' breakup with his girlfriend of 7 years. "Fragile" Chris should have been DEVESTATED. Fine, maybe he didn't want to get married, but even so, he should at least show some emotion on the subject. Seven years is a long time!
(3) This one I can let slide because it was a good gag, Tracy and Chris acting out Luke and Jerry. I have no idea how that could have been remotely helpful, but like I said, it was funny so let it go.
The theme of "facing your past" really worked terrific to tie the episode in together. It was obviously present in the B plot (Dov, Gail and the man with amnesia) with some quotes that blatantly stated the theme: "it might be a blessing not being whoever I was," "it might be nice to have a different past so no one could hold it against you." In addition to the man with amnesia who couldn't remember his past, Gail's character also stated the theme (her desire to escape her family ties to the division that make her friends see her as "a white-shirt waiting to happen").
In the case of Tracy and Jerry, it was Jerry who had to relive the past to recreate his notes; which brought up the old wounds from his divorce and left Tracy to wonder what she is to him. Then of course there is Sam and Andy who tried to pretend that their romantic past never happened, only to have it blow up in their face. Sam relieving his own past to Andy (with his sister) was a big step for Sam's character and it was obvious he had not talked about it much. Finally, Luke also had to confront the past and make a decision about his relationship with Andy.
Wow, that would have been a perfect episode for Chris to reflect on the past with his girlfriend. Missed opportunity!
All in all, "Big Nickel," although filled with less action and more talking, was a terrific episode because of the educated structure and solid theme behind it. An original idea is important, but a strong foundation is always needed to hold the show up.
I'm excited for next week!