First off, I have to apologize for the late review. Life interfered with my television viewing and it’s a shame, because this week’s episode was very interesting in a way that will have repercussions on the relationship between Foster and Lightman—and probably not in the direction hoped for by many of the show’s fans. The story is an intricate game of crossed loyalties, stressed loyalties and ultimately, competing loyalties, as we find out just how far Lightman will go to support a partner—though oddly, not his own partner.
The central theme of “Dirty Loyal” is summed up in a question an Internal Affairs officer asks Cal: “Is this about finding a corrupt cop for you or is this about saving your friend?” The writers have already explored the practical limitations of Cal’s science, in that it is not a hard science and there’s about a thirty percent margin for error even with someone as skilled as Cal. “Dirty Loyal” takes the margin for error a step further and asks what happens when Cal’s own motivations play into how he applies his science. The answer is not one that sits comfortably with Foster and, I suspect, with many members of the audience. I think the writers have taken a brave step in showing us Lightman’s flaws may extend to his character—but it’s a step that must have repercussions in later episodes for it to pay off. Lightman and Foster end up in a place by the end of “Dirty Loyal” that can’t be gone back on, because an exploration of corruption has gone hand in hand with the exploration of loyalty.
The story’s set up has Internal Affairs contacting Foster to show her a tape of Detective Wallowsky and her partner, Detective Farr, in which Farr is visciously beating a young gang member. The Internal Affairs officer knows Lightman is romantically involved with Wallowsky and want him to stay out of the investigation into the beating. Gilian is unhappy at Cal’s personal involvement with a possibly dirty cop and wants him to take a step back. Cal’s reaction, however, is to go to Wallowsky and confirm for the audience he is indeed involved with her. Cal is upset she won’t ask him for help in the investigation, and we are left to wonder at both characters’ motives.
Lightman refuses to back away and he convinces Wallowsky to bring Prince John, the beaten gang member, into his office for questioning. He quickly realises that not only does Prince John know Farr was on the take, but that Wallowsky knows it, too. He’s torn between conflicting loyalties when Foster asks him whether he thinks Wallowsky is clean of whatever corruption is going on. She points out his personal relationship may be clouding his judgement. Cal refuses to take a position on Wallowsky and just says he can’t back out now, he’s up to his neck in it. And he only sinks in deeper when Wallowsky is arrested for Prince John’s murder.
Lightman goes to Wallowsky in jail to get her to admit what she knows about Farr. At first glance, he appears to want to bring out the truth—but he then points out to his girlfriend that as the suspect in the gang killing, she’s not going to last long in jail. It’s not clear exactly where his focus on this case is. Wallowsky’s focus, on the other hand, is much more evident. She won’t rat out her partner. Cal doesn’t seem to really take in that she’s placing her loyalty to Farr above her loyalty to him. He’s endangering his professional reputation and possibly heading into obstruction of justice as he threatens the investigating IA officer so he can continue on the case. The IA officer agrees to allow Cal to continue as long he’ll turn over Wallowsky if she knew about any corruption. Cal doesn’t actually agree to this—and for perhaps the first time in the series, I am left to wonder about Cal’s ethics, as opposed to his respect for the rules. That’s a game changer for me in regard to Lightman.
The game is changing between Foster and Lightman, too. Foster quietly walks up behind her partner and startles him, which is very typical of their teasing relationship. But though both go through the motions of joking with each other, their exchange is loaded with suspicious undercurrents instead of humour. The undercurrents continue when Cal and Gillian interview the eyewitness who identified Wallowsky as Prince John’s killer. She’s sure of what she saw, saying she’s not blind. Cal tells her there’s many kinds of blindness. The audience can sense Gillian’s desire to smack her partner upside the head with his own blindness to what he’s doing to the firm.
Cal may be refusing to own his own compromised loyalties to Foster, but he does pick up that the grandson of the eyewitness is a member of a gang. He follows the young man to the scene of a murder, involving another member of Prince John’s gang. And most likely not coincidentally, Detective Farr is there, too. Cal puts together that the gang is at war with itself and one of the members, Suarez, hopes to take over. The case against Wallowsky looks even worse, because Farr seems not only to know about the internal warfare, he’s taken a side in it. The question is: did Wallowsky know about her partner’s corrupt alliance with Suarez?
Foster and Lightman both review interrogation tapes with Wallowsky, Farr and Suarez. They agree on Farr being on the take, but disagree on whether Wallowsky had knowledge of this. The Internal Affairs officer asks her key question about whether Cal is focused on exposing the corruption or saving his friend. The answer is not clear—and Cal further muddies the water with Foster by expecting her to lie about her conclusions. The dynamic between the two is very different from previous episodes, where Cal’s concern for Gillian seemed to imply he would always have her back. Here, his loyalties between himself and his lover and himelf and his partner are very strained—and in contrast to
Wallowsky, do not appear to be coming down on the side of his partner.
That’s a huge issue, as Cal manages to spring Wallowsky from jail by showing the eyewitness suffered from change blindness—seeing what she expected to see, not what was there. Wallowsky holds the line on refusing to turn on her partner, no matter the damage she causes not only to herself but also to Cal, who is now in Internal Affair’s sights as well. She tells Cal that there are two kinds of corruption: one involves who you are and the other happens to you slowly, a step at a time and sometimes begun with the best of intentions. The irony of corruption begun with good intentions underlies the next scene, as Torres, Loker and Foster realise from the interrogation tapes that Wallowsky had to know about her partner’s deal with Suarez. The question has to be asked: how did Lightman miss this fact? Foster’s answer is change blindness, but the audience knows Cal actually did not miss his lover’s implication in Farr’s dishonesty .
Far from sending him to his partner or to Internal Affairs, the knowledge instead propels him to Wallowsky and the two have an intimate scene at her house discussing the nature of corruption. The cop won’t budge on giving up her partner, until Lightman finally points out to her he is being disloyal to his own partner because she’s being loyal to hers—and her partner is a dirty cop. It’s a relief both to see Cal finally admit he has a case of competing loyalties and to see Wallowsky care. A story exploring the thin edge of the wedge in getting ethically compromised and the price of competing loyalties benefits from keeping the key players sympathetic to some degree and Wallowsky teeters dangerously close to unsympathetic until we actually see her struggle with her loyalty to Cal as well as Farr.
Cal finally learns Farr cut deals for Suarez because the young man is his son. And while Wallowsky and Farr feel loyalty for each other, Suarez feels none for Wallowsky. He tries to kill her in a raid on her home. He doesn’t succeed and the attempt gives Cal the opportunity to test Farr’s loyalty to Wallowsky, as he tells him he can try to help his partner or his son, but not both. The strong bond between the two cops holds and Farr admits his connection to Suarez and role in the killings.
Internal Affairs is aware the tentacles of corruption usually grow and the investigating officer has a face off with Foster, echoing Lightman’s words to Farr as she tells Gillian she has to choose between helping Wallowsky and her partner, because as Cal said, he is now up to his neck in the case. Gillian’s loyalty is with Cal and she shows the officer the photographs illustrating Wallowky’s increasing disgust with her partner. She recommends Wallowsky be brought in for questioning, because the cop won’t be able to keep up a lie if interrogated.
What she doesn’t know is Cal has own interpretation of loyalty and his isn’t centering on what he owes to Foster or the firm. He goes to Wallowsky to coach her on how to lie. The ethics of his decision are obviously an issue and the ramifications begin immediately, as Wallowsky both lets Cal know she loves him and she doesn’t know whether he’s protecting her or himself. She also points out Cal will never again be sure when she is lying, because she is a quick study.
Cal seems to have lost all objectivity as he bullheadedly continues to compromise his science, his firm and possibly his friendships to protect his lover.
Under the watchful gaze of Internal Affairs and The Lightman Group, Wallowsky successfully lies to Torres. Loker and Foster admit they didn’t spot a lie, but Foster will not back down from her stance that Wallowsky knew about her partner’s deals. The question of her own loyalty hangs in the air as she tartly says the cop was coached to lie and then leaves the room. Cal refuses to let her leave, running after her to explain he understands and values Wallowsky’s loyalty to her partner, saying he would do the same. Foster points out the irony of saying that to her while he compromises their relationship, but Cal simply puts her on the spot when the Internal Affairs officer catches up with them to ask them what their final position is with regard to Wallowsky.
Gillian supports Cal and lies to the officer and Cal firmly adds his own lie. Wallowsky goes free, but at what price? All the colliding loyalties to friends, family and ethics have damaged every relationship. Farr loses his son, job, partner and probably his life as he heads to jail. Wallowsky ends up giving up her partner and most likely her lover as they realise they can no longer trust each other. Foster has to grapple with the fact that Lightman put his loyalty to Wallowsky above his loyalty to her, while Lightman has to accept he has compromised both his relationship with his partner and his integrity in front of his team.
In the final scene, Wallowky tries to forge a relationship with Foster, intimating they have a lot in common because they both care for Lightman. Gillian spurns the connection—she may have taken that first step on the road to corruption in order to support Cal, but she is not happy with herself or Cal. The stage is set for some interesting fall out from “Dirty Loyal.”