'Rookie Blue' Recap: Can Sam Close A Case From His Past?

August 2nd, 2013 8:52am EDT

Rookie Blue After going back into Gail's recent past last week, Rookie Blue gives us an episode full of Sam Swarek's backstory this week. Considering that Ben Bass is the show's strongest player, and one of the underrated actors on television in general, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this idea.
There's an opening shower scene with Chloe, but let's move past that, because look, it's time for another awkward Sam and Andy moment! "If you don't know me, I don't know who does," he tells her, and then she responds with "Maybe your girlfriend." Said girlfriend is having a conversation with her therapist at the same time, and it's not going well. "I'm just remembering what happened the last time you started a relationship," the therapist says, which isn't ominous at all. Cut to Sam and Marlo meeting up outside 15 Division, complete with Andy randomly walking by.
Inside the office, Oliver warns everybody that as it's Friday the 13th, things are going to get weird. It seems like they already are: Gail wants to talk to Nick, but he doesn't want to talk to her, so she makes a snippy comment to Andy instead. Marlo does not care about this relationship drama and wants Gail to get moving already. Dov and Chloe nearly run over a woman who wants to file a robbery report, who also declares that she's a witch named Celery. Yep, things are already weird.
While Nick tells Andy that he and Gail have broken up, Gail and Marlo find a skeleton in the woods. Enter Traci, Sam, and a forensic pathologist Gail decides she doesn't like. The latter identifies the victim as Robbie Robbins, and Sam recognizes the name - he worked the victim's disappearance ten years earlier. He takes Traci with him to visit his former training officer, Charlie (the talented Al Sapienza, House of Cards, Brotherhood), who's still technically the detective of record since the victim died in his division. Unexpected but awesome team-up, go!
Oliver, Chloe and Dov are still dealing with Celery and the disgruntled client who stole her stuff, who in turn accuses the witch of poisoning her just before she passes out. Nick and Andy, meanwhile, investigate a possible intruder call in a building that you don't want to be in after dark, and discuss their various fears while doing so.
Sam and Charlie banter about their past working relationship before Traci digs out some very old interrogation tapes from the investigation into Robbie's disappearance. This gives fans an opportunity to mock Sam's unfortunate haircut and to get an insight into Sam's past. Charlie tells us that he caught a teenage Sam stealing car parts, hauled him in but ultimately cut him loose, and "next thing I hear, he's in the academy."
Sam has come a long way since then, as he goes to the victim's father's house to make the awkward and painful death notification. Robbie's father suggests his son's "friend" (air quotes appropriate) Craig might be responsible, so Sam and Charlie interrogate Craig one more time. Craig, in turn, says that Robbie's dad was abusive. Essentially, the investigation just went in one big circle.
Sam gets further confused when Marlo tells him that forensics discovered codeine at the scene. Could it have been a suicide? Not so fast - Traci finds out just minutes later that as evidenced by the blunt force trauma to one side of his body, the kid was hit by a car. The pathologist goes on to tell Sam that Robbie suffered "a lifetime of broken bones," seemingly corroborating Craig's accusation.

Elsewhere, Oliver continues to practically fall over himself when Celery is around, and things get scary for Andy and Nick, who declares that "something weird is going on here." He calls for backup, only to find out the person he's worried about is actually a mannequin, so they get to be embarrassed in front of their fellow officers.
When Sam goes to arrest Robbie's dad for child abuse, he finds out that Charlie told the man he'd look the other way if he left Robbie alone. His spider-sense immediately begins tingling. He rushes back to the office, recalling that Charlie's theory was that Robbie had run off to Dallas. In the old paperwork is a memo from the Dallas Police Department claiming as such. Yet when he looks at it a second time, Sam finds a suspicious typo, and realizes he needs to have some words with his old FTO. Especially when Traci calls and says there's no record of said letter being written or sent, and that Robbie's real cause of death was drowning.
Sam wisely leaves his gun in his car before he pays an early-morning visit to Charlie and confronts him. It all makes sense to him now: Charlie was driving home drunk and he was the one who hit Robbie. While Charlie at first denies this, he collapses moments later, admitting to planting the codeine on the body and forging the letter from Dallas. But he defends his actions by insisting Robbie was dead when he got rid of him, which Sam corrects, rendering them both speechless.
Fearing the worst, Sam insists that he wants Charlie's gun, trying to placate him by saying that he'll burn the file and walk away from the case. "We've got each other's backs, right?" Charlie insists tearfully. After that wrenching moment, Sam returns to the office to pack up the case. He tells Traci that they're going to close the case with "no conclusive leads, investigation suspended" and asks if she's all right with that. She turns the question back on him, and he admits that he's not all right with it, "but that's what we're gonna do."
While Nick and Andy get good-naturedly mocked, and Dov and Chloe find out that the witch's alleged victim accidentally poisoned herself by eating something she wasn't supposed to (before they officially declare themselves a couple), Sam and Traci find Charlie waiting for them. He gives Sam another awkward hug before he walks off with Traci to be interviewed. This means his story likely isn't going to have a happy ending. it also means that Sam gets to watch Nick and Andy leaving together before he catches up with Marlo. She correctly deduces that his day was bad, which is why she seems to decide not to tell him anything, opting instead to give him a hug that leaves him wondering.
Just like Oliver warns at the beginning, "Friday the 13th" is a little weird for a Rookie Blue episode. In all of the aspects where it's expected to be strong, it is. We've stated it repeatedly, but it's worth stating again that Ben Bass can punch up any and all material thrown his way; you could give him a script where Sam reads the phone book and he'd still get something out of it. His performance gives us insight into Sam's head, his heart, and yes, his past. You come out of the episode feeling like you know Sam a lot better - which is appropriate considering he tells Marlo how he doesn't want to feel like no one knows him. Sam is probably one of the show's most popular characters, and if it were possible, this episode endears him even further to the audience.
It helps that Ben's performance is supported by two solid actors on either side of him. For one, there's Enuka Okuma, who's gotten even better since Traci became a detective last season. She's got poise and confidence, and the combination of Traci and Sam as partners has been a quiet strength in season four, both in how it's developed their previously unexplored relationship and in how well the actors play off each other. Sam confides in Traci a bit here, and that's a sign of how these two are forming that necessary bond that exists between police partners, which means hopefully we'll see them working together for awhile.
And then there's Al Sapienza, who is one of the great TV character actors (watch Brotherhood if you need proof of that), whose character isn't a fresh one - we've seen the episodes where someone's former partner or mentor ends up being the guilty party before - but who makes us forget that with the performance he gives. You couldn't ask for a better trio at the core of this episode.
Yet there's some stuff here that's not quite on point. It's clear that the whole subplot with Oliver and the witch is supposed to be the episode's comic relief, but it goes so far in that direction that it feels heavy-handed. Matt Gordon has done a bang-up job portraying Oliver for years - representing all the hard-working, put-upon, middle-aged, middle-of-life folks who never get the spotlight - but this time around, Oliver looks terribly desperate, even for a guy who's going through a divorce. It's laughable, but not in the way that it's supposed to be.
Then there's Nick and Andy. Contrary to what we surmised last week, it seems like the writers really are intent on pursuing a romantic entanglement between these two. Both of them certainly deserve happiness, but something still doesn't feel right about it being with each other - perhaps because the development of said relationship mostly occurred between seasons, so we as an audience didn't get the chance to see it happen and therefore believe in it. Regardless, this is happening, so the McSwarek shippers and the Nick/Gail crowd are just going to have to adjust to the speed bump.
What does all of this amount to? "Friday the 13th" isn't a perfect episode, with everything around the central storyline average at best, but for an A-story that gives the focus to a trio of great actors and the show's strongest character in Sam Swarek, it's a keeper.
If you didn't see it this afternoon, be sure to check out part one of my interview with Enuka Okuma, where she discusses tonight's episode with me. Stay tuned next week for more Rookie Blue!
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Related: Al Sapienza, Rookie Blue, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Drama, ABC

Photo Credits: ABC

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