How do you bring back Rookie Blue? With an episode that focuses on the season’s two most uncomfortable relationships. One plot is played for laughs and the other is decidedly not, but both of them keep the drama going at 15 Division.
Everything starts innocently enough with a friendly game of paintball, but then gets weird when Andy starts asking Traci questions about Marlo, like if her relationship with Sam is serious. As if on cue, Sam walks right into Andy’s path, and the two banter for a second before he walks off and Andy looks uncomfortable. But she’s not going to get away from him that easily. Sam and Traci brief the entire division on a string of ATM robberies, wanting the uniformed cops to track down ten possible suspects.
In the middle of said briefing, Frank introduces his goddaughter Chloe, who’s a transfer from 27 Division. This promptly freaks out Dov, given that he slept with her at Frank’s engagement party. Finding out that Dov knows Chloe (but not how well), Frank assigns her to ride with him and warns him to “keep her out of trouble.” Start laughing now, especially since Chloe doesn’t know how to stop talking. Dov tries to leave Chloe with the squad car while he goes to check out one suspect, but she doesn’t listen and jumps his interview. “You were so much more fun when you were drunk,” she complains.
That’s not even the worst assignment of the day, as Andy gets teamed with Marlo, and things are awkward between the two ladies before they even leave the station. They can’t agree on anything, from who gets to drive the squad car to who they should look for first. But they very quickly get on the same page when someone drops a TV through the windshield of their vehicle. Investigating that leads them to breaking up a dispute between neighbors. While Andy does her best to calm down the mentally unstable woman she’s dealt with before, Marlo’s approach is to get tough with her neighbor, chastizing the man for the fight and the damage to the squad car.
Back at 15 Division, Gail and Nick are doing inventory, and Nick is uncomfortable when a guy shows up with an urn that he doesn’t know what to do with. And on the road, Oliver suggests to Diaz that he needs to talk less about his new fatherhood.
Andy and Marlo finally locate the first suspect on their list, and he doesn’t help himself by almost immediately trying to run from them. Marlo takes him down and promptly into custody, but within moments they realize he’s not the man they’re looking for as another armed robbery call comes in. They meet Sam and Traci at the latest crime scene, and are joined by Dov and Chloe a short time later. Sam isn’t happy with anyone: he doesn’t like Marlo and Andy for pursuing a suspect not on their portion of the list, and isn’t fond of Chloe for discussing her love of antiques. He walks away from the whole group with an unimpressed expression on his face. It’s another one of those small moments which reminds us that Ben Bass is great.
“I know this is an uncomfortable situation,” Marlo tells Andy when they’re back in the car, adding that “I’m not trying to replace you.” They don’t really get to have much of a discussion because they’re called back to the scene of their domestic, to find the mentally unstable woman missing and blood on the wall. So where’s Wanda?
Cruz visits the apartment of the neighbor Wanda was fighting with earlier, and finds him face down on the floor, bleeding from a stab wound. She warns Andy to be careful just before Andy comes across a manic Wanda in the basement, holding a kid hostage and dousing herself in gasoline. Andy radios back to Cruz, and when Cruz rushes to help her new partner, all she sees is Wanda with a knife possibly about to use it. She makes the decision to shoot Wanda, which infuriates Andy. “You’ve been second-guessing me all day!” Andy snaps, just before Sam arrives to break the two of them up. As is procedure, the two of them are separated and taken back into the station until the shooting can be investigated.
After Marlo’s interview with the investigators, Andy happens to come across her and thanks her for “having my back, doing your job. You were just doing your job.” It’s a first step between the two, but it doesn’t do much for Marlo, who’s still brooding over having pulled the trigger. Andy watches as Sam walks Marlo to her car, telling her to call if she needs him. He turns around and sees Andy there. “She’s great,” Andy says, adding that “I know when to quit. I know when the odds are against me, when to walk away.” And she does, while he watches her go and the hearts of McSwarek fans get squeezed all over again.
Tying up the rest of the episode’s loose ends, Gail has decided to take home the mystery urn after finding out from Nick that the ashes inside were just going to be flushed, Chris gets a tattoo of his son’s name on his arm, and Chloe tells Dov that working with him “felt good.” He retorts that it was “one of the most abnormal days I’ve ever had.” And he turns down her offer of going out for a drink.
Elsewhere, Chloe’s love of antiquing comes in handy as she points out all the robberies have taken place in areas with antique shops, leading them to one suspect in particular. Right after they visit his place, they find him trying to sneak out the back door. It’s a little moment of redemption for Chloe.
While the general premise of “Different, Not Better” requires a certain suspension of disbelief (Andy just happens to get assigned to ride with Marlo – for the second episode in a row, we might add? Dov’s new hookup just happens to be Frank’s goddaughter?), that’s forgiven because it sets up things the audience wants to see. We want to have Andy have to deal with Marlo, and as the title implies, their interactions in this episode show their differences but don’t declare that one of them is better than the other.
One of the things Rookie Blue has done so well this season is keep from demonizing Marlo just because she’s now the third wheel in the Sam/Andy love story. There’s no doubt that most fans want Sam and Andy back together, but part of handling that relationship in an adult manner is writing the other woman like a full fledged character, not just a roadblock. It’s particularly important given that one figures Marlo will remain part of the show after her relationship with Sam ends, unless she goes the way of Luke Callaghan.
Unfortunately, Chloe doesn’t fare nearly as well. Her character will definitely have to do some growing, because as she’s written in this episode, she’s neither entertaining nor someone that we can take seriously. As written, she comes off as a wide-eyed motormouth who is not the least bit believable as a serious cop. Chloe having the breakthrough that leads to locating their robbery suspect thus seems like an attempt to legitimize her by making her the hero. Here’s to hoping that time spent with Dov and Frank might get her to calm down and talk less, so that we can begin to warm up to her.
Rookie Blue has established itself as not really a cop show, if you truly look at it. What drives this show are these characters that the writers and a perfectly constructed cast have made us care about, and the relationships between them that always come across as authentic and worth our investment. “Different, Not Better” reminds us why this show has such a devoted fan base. These people could be teachers or circus performers and we’d still find them just as watchable, because we care about who they are, not what they do.
Rookie Blue is preempted next week for the holiday, but will return in two weeks. And in case you missed it, check out my interview with Gregory Smith about tonight’s episode.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.