Rewind Recap – Third Watch 1.05: “Responsible Parties”

Original Air Date: October 31, 1999

It’s time for a time warp. Welcome to the first edition of ‘Rewind Recaps,’where I’ll be recapping and reviewing series that got away the first time around. The first show to get the spotlight is NBC’s Third Watch (1999-2005), a top-notch drama about New York cops, paramedics and firefighters that I regret never having watched. Walk with me through the best of the first season of Third Watch

In any group of people, there’s always the responsible one. The one who is always the designated driver, the camp counselor, the person who keeps everyone else from screwing up (or at least screwing up more) and generally doesn’t get much thanks for it. They’re just expected to always be there and always be the voice of reason. Speaking from experience, it’s not an enviable position to be in. This episode is a brilliant depiction of exactly that.

This is only the fifth episode of Third Watch, and already the characters are better formed than I’ve seen in some first seasons of shows. Already, Ty (Coby Bell, Burn Notice) and Sully (Skipp Sudduth) are already bantering about Sully’s pretty much dead social life. Similarly, in 55 David, Bosco (Jason Wiles, Persons Unknown) and Faith (Molly Price, Bionic Woman) are snarking about Faith’s attempt to finish her daughter’s Halloween costume in the front of the RMP. ‘I’ll try to make sure no one knows we’re together,’she says. ‘Won’t be the first time.’No sooner has he given her a mirthful look then shots ring out, and in a heartbeat, they’re instantly on it. As great as the humor on Third Watch is (and it’s funnier than some sitcoms I’ve seen), when it’s time to get down to what matters, these characters are all business. The show doesn’t play cute or funny with serious issues, and there’s nothing more serious than a child who’s been shot. Complete with the most bloodcurdling scream I think I’ve ever heard.

Faith decides they don’t have time to wait for paramedics to arrive, and the pair decide to transport the victim themselves. In the category of ‘acting beyond what’s been given to you,’listen and watch closely to Jason Wiles as he helps her to be able get the kid out of the RMP without knocking the child in the head. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t scripted, and it’s just a line, but I always like to see actors who are on their game and not just on the page. The decision has consequences — when they arrive at Angel of Mercy Hospital, the new doctor, Dr. Morales (Lisa Vidal, in what would become a recurring role), chews Faith out for not waiting for the ambulance. The struck look in Molly Price’s eyes still sticks with me.

Meanwhile, paramedics Doc (Michael Beach) and Carlos (Anthony Ruivivar, Traveler) attend to a woman who likes exercising way too much (thus starting their fight over which of them Morales has a thing for), and ex-spouses Kim (Kim Raver, Lipstick Jungle) and Jimmy (Eddie Cibrian, CSI: Miami) have another tiff when Kim has no choice but to bring son Joey to the firehouse. Ty chases down a guy who has the bad fortune of stealing a purse which belongs to a mobster’s mom.

Things get worse once Faith — and we — learn the child has died. Convinced that the kid was caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs, she suggests to Bosco that they go chat up Cesar Dominguez, who is the boss of one of said gangs. Bosco is all too happy to agree, but he’s also worried about his partner, who continues to insist that she’s fine. (Memo to everyone: if your partner, spouse, or relative insists that they’re fine, they’re probably lying.) I love this scene because of Third Watch‘s trademark use of shooting into and through lockers during conversations. You’d think it would just complicate the shot, but in actuality there are some great frames to be had here.

55 David rides to the corner in order to roust Cesar and his boys, who already don’t like Bosco (in fact, the first thing Cesar says is a snide comment about him). They’re not going to like Faith much either. She roughs up Cesar a bit and Bosco warns her in his tone that she might be going a little far. If Bosco is warning you not to do something, chances are you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Still, Faith hauls Cesar in on a trespassing charge anyway.

Ty and Sully are having an entirely different day trying to deal with the purse-snatcher, who’s convinced that if he stays in jail, he’s going to be safe from the mob. To that end, he’s willing to confess to anything and everything, as long as they keep him locked up. He freaks out when Sully tells him that they can’t hold him, since his victim has declined to press charges, even going so far as to (weakly) attempt to hit Sully to get an assault charge. (Sully: ‘I forgive you. You hit me again, you’re going to be a free man with a foot up his ass.’) Both Coby Bell and Skipp Sudduth are capable of comedy, so it’s easy for them to carry the comedic B-story and counterbalance the wrenching drama that their counterparts are going through.

Speaking of which, Bosco and Faith are driving Cesar through enemy territory. When he says he has nothing to tell them about the shooting, Faith threatens to leave him there and let the rival gang have their way with him, complete with using the car’s PA to announce his arrival. Needless to say, several unsavory characters show up as they haul him from the car. The threat is enough to get him to admit that the shooter is the kid of his most recent girlfriend…an eleven-year-old. Witness the ‘˜WTF’expressions on the faces of Molly Price and Jason Wiles. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when I was eleven I was still sitting inside watching Law & Order reruns and playing hockey on the weekends, not shooting people.

The pair go to the girlfriend’s apartment to find out she neither knows nor cares where her son is; she’s too concerned with getting in with the gang. She only gives up a vague idea of his possible location when Bosco points out that he doesn’t deserve to die over her relationship status. Still, as he tells Faith, ‘If we’re going to try and rely on me being the level-headed one, we’re gonna have some problems.’How very true: after all, this is the guy who got busted for having sex in his RMP with the boss’s teenage daughter two episodes ago. Even so, he’s still trying to look out for his partner. I have a soft spot for real, honest partnerships among cops on TV, since I know for a fact that’s how it really is (at least among the ones I know), and the Faith/Bosco partnership — along with the Sully/Ty partnership — is one of the most realistic I’ve seen on television. It doesn’t hurt that the two actors pair perfectly together.

Back at the precinct, the detective assigned to talk to the purse-snatcher is equally confused that the guy wants to stay in jail. The guy squeals about a few bank robberies, and when that doesn’t seem to work, decides to…well, you’re going to have to watch it and see. Needless to say, it’s ludicrous but worth a laugh. Not to mention leaves Sully and Ty laughing to themselves. No sooner have they handled that, though, then they roll up on a suspicious traffic stop. Sully warns Ty to relax a second, but the gung-ho rookie will have none of it. It nearly gets his head blown off as in the moments while they argue, the driver shoots at 55 Charlie and then initiates a car chase that ends with him driving into a storefront.

The chase is on for Faith and Bosco to find the shooter before someone else does. It’s here we learn that Bosco has an entirely different reputation on the streets: even the wannabe thugs know him by name. They’re too late, though — they hear a call for EMS to respond to the shooter’s home address, and arrive there to find him brutally stabbed. When Faith asks his mother who did it, she tearfully gives up Cesar. This time, when Faith throws him into the squad car and takes him downtown, she’s determined. While she gives an almost-tearful rant on the new level of scumbag he is, watch Bosco’s utter silence and the blank look on his face. He has no idea what to say to his partner.

This time, however, Faith isn’t going to be stopped. Even though Cesar confesses and Bosco tries to warn her off, she’s intent on leaving him there. When he tries to come after her, she punches him (and then Bosco knees him for measure — don’t ever hit a cop’s partner). When she tells him to drive, Bosco tries to warn her one last time that she’s not going to like herself in the morning. (I say again: if Bosco is giving you a warning, you may want to rethink yourself.) She tells him that either way it doesn’t matter, and they leave Cesar in the street to presumably be killed by a dozen of his worst enemies. Meanwhile, Faith goes home to her kids and is soon in tears.

‘Responsible Parties’is one of those episodes that stuck in my head and in my heart when I watched it. I almost appreciated it more after I’d seen it, because it gave me food for thought: what would I do in Faith’s situation? Would I agree more with her or with Bosco? I came to the conclusion that I honestly didn’t know. It’s heavy subject matter, and it’s nicely counterbalanced by the comedy of Ty and Sully’s day. Yet even then, the show isn’t done: Ty learns a lesson from Sully, we see the beginning of the Doc/Carlos/Morales triangle, and there’s even the further hint of a possible drama between Bobby, Jimmy and Kim. Every character moves forward, even if it’s just a little bit, but there’s not anyone being left hanging. That said, this episode really belongs to Molly Price (with a little help from Jason Wiles), and she owns it. She’s a mother and a cop simultaneously, and she can’t — and won’t — separate the two. This is an examination of what happens when those two things collide, and how it doesn’t end well.

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