Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: November 30, 2003 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 16.47 million viewers, 10.8/16 in Households, 4.3/10 with Adults 18-49
As soon as the first minute or two was running past my eyeballs, I started remembering the outcome of this episode from when I watched the season for a second time some time ten years ago when I really tried to get into the habit of watching crime procedurals, as THE MENTALIST had just premiered and I loved the first few episodes of that show. It looks like this episode mad made itself into my memory banks, and the somewhat unique conclusion to this murder case was new enough for me back then to consider it the first of its kind, and the first time of something is remembered by everyone on this blue and burning planet. It really makes for an interesting story in a crime procedural, when one of the twists of the episode is that there is actually no killer and that the victim or victims died for nothing. Yes, there was danger and yes, there were suspects who could have hurt the victims in their own way, but Toya didn’t die because a man hurt her. Toya died because her mother thought the men in her life would come to hurt her, and she was too traumatized to ever get over that fear.
That premise makes the episode special and more emotional than it probably had any right to be. That the writers would go even deeper with it by including a social worker who is also a pedophile, a father who has physically (and as implied, sexually) abused his daughter when she was still a child, and a central character whose first layers of a back story was being uncovered, almost makes this episode of COLD CASE necessary viewing in case you want to watch the most important episodes of the show, instead of going through seven seasons of Whodunit episodes. It’s an essential episode, and thankfully it’s also a great episode. Not just because of the story, but because the script must have been so good, the cast members were able to take out the emotional impact of the premise and direct it towards the camera. Laura Regan delivered as Rosie, and the fact that I never really knew in hindsight whether Rosie was going crazy over all the trauma she received, or was just really protective over her little girl that it had to lead to their deaths eventually. The writers could have helped themselves by explaining that Rosie became a little manic and crazy and had hallucinations, but it turns out that trauma is the most dangerous thing one can have, because it makes you think illogical things and it shuts you out of life.
That this episode wasn’t super perfect has to be blamed on the red herrings. COLD CASE hasn’t been known to do that over the previous seven episodes, but this episode had three to four suspects the detectives needed to go through to come to the ultimate conclusion of what really happened that night in Toya’s bedroom. Angel, Rosie’s father, the pedophile social worker, and even the black pizza delivery guy — all four had to be questioned by Lilly and her new partner (who may or may not have been inquiring about Lilly’s home life over the course of this episode) and that is something COLD CASE focused on doing for the first time. Maybe because the writers thought that the conclusion was unique for them and needed to be waited out and brought as late as possible. Maybe because the unique conclusion was unable to expand the story into a 44-minute murder mystery, because then the episode would have transformed into a story about how traumatized Rosie had been, which means the abuse she got from her father would have been the B story and the threat of the evil social worker would have loomed over the entire episode and not just during the fourth act.
Victim/perpetrator rate: A female child died in this episode, but in a legal sense there was no killer for her, although technically it was Toya’s mother who killed her. Eight episodes in and I already have difficulties counting the people who were the killers of the story. I guess there will be a new count now: Killers who were not prosecuted by district attorneys for whatever reason, which makes Rosie the first person in this count. I will however count her as the killer — like I said, Rosie technically killed Toya, which means this is the first episode of the show in which a woman killed someone of her own gender. The victim rate is Men 3-5 Women (one of the women was a little girl), the perpetrator rate is Men 8-3 Women (one of the women was not prosecuted for the murder).