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S02.E19: Return to Sender, Part 2 2014.01.13

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As Major Crimes hunts down Rusty's would-be killer, Rusty takes the stand in a preliminary hearing against serial rapist Phillip Stroh.

(season finale)

 

Edited by Bastet.
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The second part is as good as the first.  Sharon’s at times desperate grasp on her control – something we haven’t previously seen from her, other than the lesser version in part one – is perfectly played by Mary McDonnell; Sharon is so much less in control of her fear than she’s ever been in front of other people, but it’s not over the top.  The acting, directing, writing, editing, music, etc. do a great job throughout the episode of building the increasingly-frantic mood and heightened emotions.  Excellent season finale, with a beautiful closing scene when Rusty finally comes out to Sharon, and she says, “Rusty, what you are is who I love, and all of you is coming home." I like the time they took with that, and especially love how Sharon not only kept her own mouth shut, but ran interference to make sure no one else messed with Rusty’s process of figuring it out on his own.  

A lot changed in this episode (per the deleted scenes on the DVD) – things weren’t just cut, they were re-shot.  It feels as if they decided to beef up the closing action sequence where they shut down the streets and thus had to lose/re-shoot (or at least loop) a fair bit of earlier stuff to provide the extra time and to reinsert the information that went missing with some of those cuts.

Primarily, the sequence where they're in Wade Weller's office at the homeless shelter and figure out they've found their guy, then go on a manhunt for him, changed a lot.  Originally, we saw more of Wade and Tyler at Wade’s house – Wade has him go in first and make sure all is cool, since he’s paranoid, and there are jokes about his outdated furniture and the couch cover.  And, taking up much more time, we saw the squad arrive to search Weller’s house after Wade and Tyler had left. The team finds the photo collage of Weller’s victims, and the one of Rusty and the squad.  Looking at the latter, Provenza quietly tells Julio, “When we find him, you know how I expect you to handle it” and Julio nods.

It was originally during this sequence at Weller’s house that Sharon said they need to know not just where he is but where he’s going (you can tell they looped it into the scene in Weller’s office at the homeless shelter once they cut this one, because you never see her the entire time she’s saying it), we heard most of Fritz’s comparison about LAPD getting a warrant faster but the FBI being better able to track Weller’s location (you can also see where most of that was looped into the scene in Weller’s office), and Sharon said she doesn’t want the Amber Alert sent out yet because she wants to find Weller before she risks him knowing they’re looking for him (this was re-shot entirely to occur as she’s given the order to shut down the streets). 

If it was indeed making more room for that street-closing sequence, the changes were worth it, because that came off well.  Visually, it just looked good.  The pacing was great.  And it allowed for more great characterization of Sharon, where she is visibly desperate for it to work, but she always remains aware they have to put Tyler’s safety first in deciding how to go after Wade (wanting to box him in so he’ll leave Tyler behind and run, rather than just trying to pull him over and winding up in a car chase with Tyler as a passenger).

Provenza taking Weller out right between the eyes was great (no shot will ever top Sharon’s bean bag gun, but this one is great).  Between Julio telling Rusty, “Don’t worry about that guy; I’m going to kill that guy,” and the deleted scene of Provenza telling Julio, “You know how I expect you to handle it,” I was anxious the show was going to try to make me feel good about another extra-judicial execution.  But it turned out to be a legitimate shoot, with the nice twist that Julio doesn't have the shot, but Provenza - having scored a perfect target once he realized he needed glasses – does and nails it.  “He’s too close to the boy!”  Shot between the eyes.  “That created some distance.” 

The stuff at the courthouse was great, too (except for the fact both Rios and Rothman are dressed a bit too casually [at least Rios puts on a blazer this time, which pretty much pulls her look together] and Rios asks Rusty leading questions [which you can’t do on direct examination, only on cross]).  I can’t decide if I think it’s an oversight they should have made clearer than Rothman’s reference or a nice use of restraint that they don’t make explicit why they were able to get a preliminary hearing scheduled at this time: Because of the attempt on Rusty’s life, they need to get his testimony (that can be cross-examined, unlike his initial statement) on record, so it can be admitted at trial if he’s killed before trial and thus unable to testify.

There was a scene deleted from that first sequence at the courthouse: after Provenza advises Rusty and just before the deputy calls Rusty in to testify, Morales comes out from his turn on the stand; he doesn’t see Rusty, and starts telling Provenza how brutal Linda Rothman is.  When he realizes his mistake, he mouths an “Oops” to Provenza and tells Rusty, “You’ll do great; love your tie” and beats a hasty retreat.

I’m glad they did nothing to alter the scene when  Rusty gets the best of Linda Rothman, getting the previously-excluded (because Emma couldn’t prove the connection to Stroh) threatening letters admitted.  I love Judge Grove’s “To your own question?” scoffing when Rothman objects, Emma’s look of satisfaction, Rusty’s proud smile, and Rothman’s look of acknowledgment that she just got played.  It’s so well done.

At first, I was going to call bullshit on there being no indication Brenda was there to testify, but then I remembered all the shit she did to stalk Stroh and realized it can be explained away by saying Rios wouldn’t want to put her up there (where she could have her credibility questioned on cross); Provenza can speak to everything about the investigation she could have covered, and Rusty can talk about the events at Brenda’s house when Stroh was shot and caught.

A few additional notes:

- We have another character with the last name Perry (one of Weller’s victims); I think that’s number four. 

- Rusty's nightmare in the opening reminds me of A Nightmare on Elm Street -- the whole dream within a dream thing, and the part where he's stuck to the couch cover.  Graham Patrick Martin does a great job with it, and it’s well conceived – dreaming that he’s dreaming about his first encounter with Stroh and wakes up safe at home, only to discover the plastic on the couch and that Sharon is actually Weller – and then he sees Weller as himself.  Great stuff, including how it ties in to the “I’m just like him” talk at the end.

- People get cynical and burnt out, but the teen homeless program guy talking about “another hopeless kid” who is “more trouble than he’s worth” is disturbing.

- Among the deleted scenes is one that took place after Taylor made the “lied about his age” suggestion and as everyone was recapping the evidence (and that recapping of the evidence was more detailed originally; another example where they didn’t just delete but re-shot in order to convey the condensed info):  It was a more explicit conversation between Sharon and Provenza about how if they don’t find the letter writer, Rusty will have to go into Witness Protection and they’ll lose him, but they cannot be blackmailed into offering Stroh leniency in exchange for him giving up the information.

- There was also a scene after the hearing and the Weller manhunt were all over (before the scene in Sharon’s office when Rusty thanks Provenza and then comes out to Sharon):  Rothman is in the Murder Room with the squad, Rios, and Fritz (maybe Taylor, too; I can’t remember).  Everyone again tries to get Rios to make a deal with Stroh to drop the death penalty and put him away for life and end this now.  Rothman responds to Emma’s dithering about how it’s not her call by saying whenever she hears stuff like that, she thinks she should quit her crappy job and run to be her boss; she suggests Emma borrow some imagination and get it done.  There’s a good moment after Rothman leaves where Emma looks at Sharon, and Sharon acknowledges, “I can’t be objective,” and Emma says, “And I have to be.” 

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Thanks for the Part 2 recap, @Bastet, since my CW affiliate only airs one of each pair of episodes each weekend. I have a coworker who offered to lend me the DVDs, but the last time I borrowed some from her, one of the cases' prongs got broken, and although she didn't mind and didn't want me to replace it, I felt bad.

I remember really enjoying Rusty getting the letters introduced into evidence.

Good point about this:

37 minutes ago, Bastet said:

At first, I was going to call bullshit on there being no indication Brenda was there to testify, but then I remembered all the shit she did to stalk Stroh and realized it can be explained away by saying Rios wouldn’t want to put her up there (where she could have her credibility questioned on cross); Provenza can speak to everything about the investigation she could have covered, and Rusty can talk about the events at Brenda’s house when Stroh was shot and caught.

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