Now here’s the episode of New Amsterdam I’ve been waiting for: John’s sins of the past seem to be inextricably linked to the crime of the present, making me want to know more about both plotlines. Even the True Love plotline fit in relatively seamlessly. Finally!

Spoilers link us over time.

The victim of the week is a dead ringer for John’s son from way backing 1913. Unfortunately, "dead" is the operative word there — he was murdered in Chinatown. As the dead guy, Alex Spoor, was born into a prominent crime family, the Feds are guessing that this is some kind of gang war. John is, of course, consumed with guilt — something he did in the past made a branch of his family go bad!

So finally, the mysteries intertwine organically — how did Alex die? And why did the family turn to crime?

First, the past: back in 1913, John was a temperamental painter in Greenwich Village. Bohemian John drank, sulked, obsessed about his art — and oh yeah, had an affair with his model. While the art he produced with that model (Alice, a modern dancer of the Isadora Duncan mode) is fantastic, Bohemian John’s wife Samantha is feeling a bit put out. First of all, she used to be his model. Second, she’s getting older and he’s not. Hmmm.

Rosey, Bohemian John’s teenage son, catches artist and model in flagrante and doesn’t take it well. In the end, Samantha and Rosey leave Bohemian John just as he’s on the brink of his greatest triumph — the inclusion of his Alice painting in the Armory Show, which introduced Modern Art to the U.S. Bohemian John apparently withdraws his piece and spends his time painting his lost family.

Present-day John is convinced that the breakup of his family forced Rosey into a life of crime. He’s his own butterfly effect! Omar is having none of it, and besides, why doesn’t he angst about it all after they solve the crime, hmm?

That’s harder than it sounds — the Feds have been staking out the Spoor crime family for three years. One agent in particular, James Lawson, is there to "help," but he really doesn’t seem to be sharing much information. Mick, current head of the Spoor crime family, tells John that he’s got a week to clear the case before he takes matters into his own hands and blows the hell out of the Chinese gang that theoretically did this to Alex.

John does some searching on his own — he goes to Alex’s wake at the Spoor brewery and spies his painting of Alice. Mick says the legend behind the painting was that some dissolute great grandfather painted that before he abandoned his family. Ouch.

Lawson gets a highly convenient tip that about a storage locker Alex kept — it’s full of counterfeit merchandise. So it’s obvious, Lawson says — Alex was intruding on the Chinese turf by selling fake goods, they killed him. Let’s go home! But John thinks Lawson isn’t telling him something. He tests that theory by telling Mick that they’ve found a witness. The next day, Lawson demands details. Obviously, the Feds have got the Spoor brewery bugged, and they know who really killed Alex.

John calls in a favor — of Eddie, Eva’s father. He gets a former minion of his who’s now with the Feds to turn over the tapes. Those tapes reveal that Mick himself killed Alex — just like he killed Piers, another brother. The Feds have been using and protecting Mick to bring down other organized crime figures. When Piers found out, he threatened to expose Mick, so Mick killed him. When Alex found out Mick killed Piers, he, too, had to go.

So that clears up how Alex died — but how did the family go bad in the first place? John talks to Theo Spoor, the patriarch of the family, and Rosey’s son. After Rosey and Samantha left, Rosey took a job as a teacher. Wait, so he was good? John asks. So how… Well, there was this whole Depression thing, and I had to make money somehow, says Theo. I’m the one who started the family on this life of crime. It’s all my fault — Rosey had nothing to do with it.

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends:

  • Rosey’s full name? Roosevelt. So of course, he named his son Theodore. What’s even better — President Theodore Roosevelt was notoriously disdainful of the Armory show that Bohemian John was trying to get into, reportedly sneering "That’s not art!" I like to think it was an editorial comment from son to father.
  • Speaking of fathers and children: I was loving the interaction between Eddie and Eva. He’s this overbearing, protective father, and he has no idea what he’s doing to Eva. Finally, she snaps: "I work my ass off trying to get a tiny bit of respect, and then you tell my partner to take care of me? Everything I’ve worked for goes down the drain!" "That’s a point," Eddie says reluctantly.
  • Later, Eddie sees what Eva can do when she threatens Eddie’s former minion with criminal malfeasance charges. "So she’s the bad cop?" the minion asks. " She’ll kick your ass out of your mouth," Eddie replies, with no small amount of pride.
  • Omar still wins as progeny, of course. Favorite quote: "If I took responsibility for everything you did, I’d never get out of bed in the morning."
  • Sara is hardly present in this episode, but when she is there, it more or less makes sense. After leaving a gazillion voicemail messages, John finds her at the hospital and apologizes that his past is "complicated." Have you ever cheated? she asks. John can’t deny it, and that sends us right into another flashback.
  • My one quibble? Sara does an about-face for no apparent reason and ends up at Omar’s waiting for John. There, she grills him: Are you currently married? Gay? In the witness protection program? Terminal? John gets a funny look at that last question — "I’m not sure," he says, but you can tell he’s hoping.

Fun Facts about John (and New York):

  • We already knew John was with the CIA — now we know he was a spy for 10 years.
  • Ever wondered why New York tenement buildings are only six stories?  Because, John tells us, the water flowing from the Upstate aquifers would go that high without assistance. Any higher than that, and you’d need a separate pump.
  • John boxes to relieve tension. Omar holds the bag. Poor Omar!
Posted by:Sarah Jersild