The episode begins during a hen party in the LAPD break room. Pepper and Liz (Meredith Baxter) are surrounded by a crowd of young, female officers who are inexplicably giving Liz a kind of end-of-vacation shower complete with gifts and what not. (Is this normal when returning to work after just a couple of weeks off to take a cruise?) One of the participants is sad, mousy Sarah Rossi (she's just a brunette, poor thing), Liz' roommate and best buddy.
At one point, Crowley wanders in and gives Sarah a big hug, letting her know that her mutt Honeybunch has taken over his apartment during her absence. But have no fear, Pepper-- we're quickly disabused of our suspicions when Diana Scarwid, that odd girl who played Christina Crawford, makes a cameo at Pepper's desk. Lisp in tow, rookie Scarwid asks Pepper if Crowley and Liz are bumping uglies. So Pepper, always gracious and willing to make excuses for people, justifies Scarwid's morbid curiosity as that of a cop's need to be "nosey", going on to explain that Liz's dad was Bill's partner in 1964 and that during a liquor store robbery, Bill was saved from being shot and killed when Liz's dad took the bullet. "So now, Bill is like a big brother to her."
Liz's mousy roommate with mostly dubbed dialogue (which makes her seem even more mousy) has announced her exhaustion and desire to bed, so the usual foursome take Liz out for that steak and sit around making bad jokes about Pepper being "dingy" and everybody laughs. When Liz mentions that her roommate on her cruise was a woman who smoked a pipe, everyone again laughs, this time at the lesbianic implications.
During this merriment, we're presented a intercut scenes of Sarah going home alone, entering her apartment building, coming out of the shower and, suddenly, being stabbed to death by a ski-masked intruder. It's all very atmospherically done.
After her body is found, Crowley, Pepper and Liz discuss Sarah's empty life as a cop ("When you're in 'juvey' your job is your life", Baxter explains to the audience) and try to determine which urban scuzz, mostly greasy guys who beat their kids, might have had it out for ol' Sarah.
As they bury Sarah, a suspicious-looking man in period-funky garb looks on from a distance. At one point, Pete and Joe engage in one of the series' best car chases as they track him down: it's a young Edward James Olmos who, as it turns out, lost custody of his children due to Sarah's prosecution of him.
Yet after finding parallels to the executions of police women in other cities, it appears a crazed serial killer may be targeting female cops in general, if not Liz herself. Sarah was never the intended victim! There's an ominous red-herring scene of Pepper awakening in her apartment and going to her front door as lightning crashes and the doorknob rattles furiously. No, it's not Michael Caine but a cuter-looking Tom Cruise clone who's drunk and wandered up to the wrong door and still wants to come in because Pepper's so pretty. She sends him away, back to his wife "three doors down". Only Angie can seem so seductive yet ladylike while packing a heater.
Liz having foolishly denied protection, the killer smashes in her apartment window. Honeybunch barks and cowers in the corner. It doesn't go well.
The pair get to the hospital in time to learn Liz has died, giving Earl Holliman an opportunity to sob powerfully by a rainy window.
Reviewing photos of Liz's fateful cruise, Pepper prowls Liz's kitchen and determines that the killer may have been focused on Liz exclusively and that he might have met her aboard the cruise ship. Visiting the pipe-smoking dowager who'd been Liz's high seas roommate, a thoughtfully professorial lady, she reluctantly reveals that the waiter on board had an excessive crush on the comely Liz and that she'd had to keep brushing him off.
Well, no wonder. The way Liz brushes off an admirer in a brief bar scene earlier in the episode (i.e., "get lost!"), one can imagine just how gruff she'd get on cruise with a few margaritas under her belt and a slimy waiter making goo-goo eyes at her. The message is clear to the observant viewer: Liz is a closet bitch and, like all women rude to service people and extras, deserves to die. (Was it the same actor, brushed off twice?)
We then move to a tres '70s birds-eye lens shot of ships in an L.A. harbor as the squad cars move across the background on their way to collar the cad. His cabin empty, they find Liz's missing address book. There are lots of shots of Crowley and Pepper wandering the deck of the ship, dramatic tension courtesy of the unsettling music (Jerrold Immel's compositions anywhere have rarely been so plaintive and haunting) juxtaposed with a gloriously gorgeous Summer 1976 day at the harbor. You don't really want to go home.
Homicidal yet not a complete fool, the killer is able to guess pretty darned fast that those guys hiding behind ships' tackle must be law enforcement. A foot chase ensues with Pepper scrambling far behind a long line of male cops, the murderer finally captured amongst a huge ship rotor; Crowley attacks the man in a most unprofessional way and the stalker is carted off.
The episode ends with a quietly forlorn little scene in Bill's apartment after Liz's funeral, just he and Pepper: she pours a drink and Honeybunch runs out of the back and jumps into Crowley's lap; Pepper offers her assuring wisdoms that Crowley's encouragement of Liz's becoming a police officer, "was the right thing, because that's what she wanted". Crowley doesn't respond directly, only mumbling his earlier observation that Honeybunch is, "a dumb name for a dog".
Fade to black.
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