Thirty Balloons was the title of Episode Five of Chicago P.D. which aired on Wednesday, Feb. 5th. Looking ahead, the show will be on hiatus for the next couple of weeks due to NBC’s Olympics coverage. Although I hate it when shows get taken off the air for a bit – as you lose some interest and anticipation because the hook that a show has set into you, somehow comes out. But having said that, this was a strong and very fine episode.
I’m really liking the show’s grittiness. These guys aren’t working like those Miami Vice guys from nearly 30 years ago. Olinsky doesn’t cruise around in a Ferrari, and no one on the show wears flashy clothes. Rather than appearing somewhat attractive and heroic, our cops on Chicago PD do stakeouts laying out flat on a rooftop, or responding to a call about a shoplifting event in a local bodega. And all of them have to live their lives on their own time, while dealing with the worst life can toss at them while on the job.
It’s far from easy to be a cop, and as I watch them, I wonder what drew them to the job in the first place.
Back at Thirty Balloons – a case develops when a girl goes psychotic in the streets. There’s a reason of course. She was working as a mule, bringing in drugs from Mexico by ingesting thirty balloons filled with 89% pure drugs. The drugs were packed in inferior quality casings (condoms) and one ruptured inside of this girl – hence she was poisoned from within.
So Voight and team have to wait for the girl to come out of surgery. Find out who she was carrying for, then save her three girl friends who also were in it for the money – 5k a head.
I thought the episode was very effectively and smartly produced. I say this – and I can back it up. What follows are some strong highlights. Not so much for the writing per se, but more of the way the scenes played out and the way the director positioned his cameras. If you like testosterone, you’ll see plenty of it this week – and from both the men and the female cops.
Voight gets a call from a cop who has just busted Voight’s CI Maurice. This is the same Maurice who gives Voight money, and the same Maurice who Chicago PD Internal Affairs wants Voight to bust. Voight clears it with the uniformed patrolman and takes Maurice around the corner.
Maurice [offering up a roll of dead presidents]: Two grand.
Voight [slapping the money roll to the ground]:I didn’t come across town for no two grand.
Maurice: It was gonna be 5 until you chumped me in front of my crew. I don’t pay you to get disrespected. Know that.
Voight: Wanna go toe to toe with me Maurice? I’ll have five grand… in my mitt… by the end of the night… or the ground is going to open underneath you.
Now Maurice is way bigger than Voight. So the challenge was ballsy, especially since Voight needs Maurice for street intel. But the scene plays out well.
Ruzak’s gf drops him off at the office. Olinsky is outside waiting for Ruzak. He introduces himself to Wendy (the gf) as Ruzak’s partner. Only Ruzak had never mentioned Olinsky to Wendy. As they make their way in to the district office, Ruzak is rattling on and on about his wedding and the planning, and all that entails. Finally Olinsky has heard enough.
Olinsky [to Ruzak]: You through? ‘Cause when you’re here… you’re here. So don’t pass through that gate until you are.
A telling sign for sure. We’ve already had our doubts about Ruzak. He is so impulsive. He never thinks things through. He takes chances he never should, and Olinsky is all too aware of it. Anyway they get a lead, and Voight and Halstead go off to some bar to question a guy. This guy doesn’t much like Voight ‘s style, so they get into. The guy and his friend were both packing (which we didn’t know), but Voight clobbers both with a pool cue before they can make a move.
With the guy on the floor, Voight gets on top of him –
Voight: Your nephew Shawn is out there right now with three kidnapped girls. Odds are they don’t make it through the night if I don’t find them.
Voight puts his revolver into the guy’s mouth.
Voight: They got a stash house somewhere. You got three seconds to give me the address, or I’m going to blow your brains all over the floor….
Another strong scene for Jason Beghe as Voight. He’s sure one tough dude. And at least two or three times a week, they make sure we see this. While this was noting creatively new, it was definitely a tense moment.
Later, the stake out of the hangout of the nephews pays off as Shawn shows up with two of the girls.
Olinsky radios for backup, but Ruzak, as always, he’s too eager to wait. He doesn’t wait, and against Olinsky’s spoken order to wait for the back up, he kicks in the door and rushes in.
Turns out they had earlier found one of the three kidnapped girls already dead, and the other two were about to be sliced open for the dope. While Ruzak was right, had they waited, two other girls would have died.
That night, Ruzak heads over to Olinsky’s garage apartment:
Ruzak: Al, you were right. I shouldn’t have rushed in there without you. And I’m.. you know… I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.
Olinsky: You know, I took a chance on you man… there are moments when I think you could be a great cop, and other moments when working with you is like spinning a cylinder in Russian roulette.
Olinsky: You can be right, but you can be dead right. You know what I want you to do, go work Michigan Avenue, or some other cushy assignment. Check out before you kill the both of us.
Ruzak leaves, likely chastened, but Olinsky is pissed.
Turns out that Erin recognized Justin’s friend, Joey Catalano. Justin is Voight’s son, and Erin’s almost brother. She’s looking out for him. So hanging out with a known criminal, Justin’s former cell-mate, catches her attention. She shows up at a bar.
Erin [ordering a drink]: Whatever he’s having…
Catalano: Last time I drank with a cop I ended up in County.
Erin [she tosses down her drink]: I know how this works. You looked out for Justin inside, and now you think he owes you. Justin doesn’t owe you anything.
Catalano [tossing down his drink]: You can’t arrest a guy for hanging out with his friends.
Erin: But I can arrest you for the half a kilo I’m going to find in the trunk of your car.
So Erin is steely tough too. While she isn’t Voight’s daughter or gf, they share similar traits, as well as the ways they do their police work. I’m betting Catalano is bad – as in all bad – and to borrow something Voight said earlier – Catalano will find the ground beneath him open up. Book that.
As I said up top – this was a strong episode. But I must say something about the show falling into patterns. Each time there was something violent – instantly that led to a break for commercials. Each time. We do see the IA officer who was dealing with Voight. Once with him, and then, later on she approaches Detective Dawson. At least for once, they didn’t close an episode with her. And we learned her name. And yes, she still wants to toss Voight back into jail if he doesn’t honor his end of the deal.
Speaking of patterns. Remember when NBC used to label upcoming episodes of certain series as ‘Must see TV‘. Well that has changed. These days they call it – “Just can’t be missed“.
Next episode is Wednesday, February 26th.