This episode is a great installment and it really takes the viewer on a journey of low lows and high highs in the lives of our favorite inspectors. All that and a pretty solid case of deception with a very recognizable guest star in tennis pro Serena Williams. Not a bad way to spend an hour.
The case. This is a cop show first and foremost so the case comes first. This one took lots of twists and turns, some straightforward and predictable, others genuinely surprising.
Raina, Nate and Magda investigate the murder of Ray (last name I don't remember) who they find shot to death in his car. Who is he and who wanted him dead? Interviewing the surrounding neighbors turns up nothing until a search of the victim's motel room turns up a bunch of news clippings about a family who lives only two blocks away from where the victim was murdered--a story of a daughter (Serena Williams) being reunited with her parents after twenty years.
Turns out that the daughter Jennifer led somewhat of a checkered past in Vegas--one that she doesn't want her family to know about and Ray just happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Shockingly (insert eyeroll) he wants money.
Well, the twists keep coming. Turns out Ray has also been extorting money from the father. Throw in a P.I. who has also been paying off Ray and things start smelling fishy.
What it basically boils down to minus a few details is that the whole setup is a scam. Jennifer is well, not Jennifer. She was fed memories of her supposed childhood and her DNA match was faked. Oh, and she's the killer too.
In actuality, the biggest shock in the whole thing was that the dad didn't care it was all a scam and he knew "Jennifer" wasn't their real daughter. However, he and the family still continued to support her and love and treat her as such, even after the murder charge.
Serena Williams wasn't bad in her guest spot, but she wasn't particularly good either. The role, being as central as it was, would probably have been better played by a more experienced nuanced actress. However, I'm sure the producers were going for the big name to drive in ratings. Since I have no idea how this episode fared in the ratings, I have no idea if it worked in their favor or not. But the fact remains, Serena is a bit distracting in the part since I found myself never being able to believe her as a character and not herself.
There are two subplots and they are about as night and day as you can get. First is Nate. In this episode he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with his affair with Suzanne (Rebecca Gayheart) and finally breaks it off. While I was glad to see Nate come to his senses and end the relationship halfway through the episode, I was left thoroughly confused as to why the writers wasted time on this relationship that only lasted for three episodes. Was there a point?
It wasn't until the final twists that it hit home. I certainly wasn't expecting Nate to get attacked by Suzanne's husband and to take it without fighting back. I was even more shocked (and delighted) to see him end up on Raina's doorstep at the end, only to finally truly break down and reach out to someone.
It's amazing that for Nate this whole season has really been about his relationship with CD. Who knew an absent character could have such an effect? It seems for the most part Nate never dealt with his loss. He internalized his rage and grief and hurt and threw himself into his police work. With Suzanne, Nate probably thought he could be that guy--the easy sex with no tangible relationship guy--and it failed miserably. Nate has seemingly tried to cut off all real emotional connections in his life, but the emptiness is consuming him.
By the time Nate gets railed on by the husband, he feels he deserves it. But something makes Nate finally take the plunge and reach out and forge a connection when he is at his absolute lowest. A turning relationship in the partnership of Nate and Raina perhaps?
By extension the scene of Nate crying, bleeding and broken down is the first honest moment we've seen from Nate this season. Fine work by Jon Hamm in this episode.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jinny is at such a high in her life. A high that not too long ago she could probably have never imagined for herself.
In this episode Jinny gives birth to a healthy baby boy, with of course, Hank right by her side. The writers and directors handled it well. They steered clear of the stereotypical childbirth/going into labor scenes. We only see Jinny before and after the fact and that's really all we need to see.
In talking about journeys, there is no character on this show who has come as far as Jinny. It's interesting to see how already naturally maternal she is towards her baby when it was only last season she was scrunching up her face in disgust while Magda and Kate swapped baby stories. Something tells me motherhood will (and already has) softened up the often hard edged Jinny. Again, is this the same woman we were introduced to back in Season 1?
Plus we get the added bonus at the end of Jinny finally agreeing to marry Hank. The adorable way she springs it on him is well, adorable. After Hank's frustrations in the opening scene of the episode at unsuccessfully installing the baby's carseat, Jinny happily tells him at the end that if he can get the carseat installed in in under five minutes, she will marry him. Little does she know he's already done and waiting for her to set a date.
In all honesty, I think watching Hank during the process of her pregnancy and giving birth is probably what changed her mind and finally pushed her over the edge. Hank was nothing but supportive during the child birth and stuck right by her side the entire time--not just for the baby--but out of obvious love for her. He was always ready with a kiss or look or soothing touch. He was her rock and Jinny finally believes that Hank wants to be with her for her.
I love watching these two together. Jinny and Hank just work together on every level. Though many Jinny shippers feel she belongs with Teddy, there is something so real to life and charming about Jinny and Hank. Admittedly, the sexy Jon Tenney sure doesn't hurt the equation, but mostly it's the easy charm and chemistry between the actors that gets me everytime. Nancy and Jon work exceptionally well with each other (and look good together too).
As for the characters, Hank is the laid back take things as they come kind of guy which balances out Jinny's more cynical angsty personality--more so than Teddy or Jack. If there was a Season 5, I would have loved to see how these two fared in their first year as not only parents, but husband and wife.
Also of note this is Nancy McKeon's last episode for awhile as she goes on her own maternity leave at this point. She does return (as does Jon Tenney) later in the season however.