Major Crimes Review “Cheaters Never Prosper”

Major Crimes (TNT) Episode 9 Cheaters Never Prosper

Well, it figures. Just as Mary McDonnell’s hard-edged, snub-nosed character on “Major Crimes” was really was starting to grow on me, the season has almost drawn to a close. With the penultimate episode “Cheaters Never Prosper,” things finally clicked for me, and I saw the true method behind her madness. It seems to me from the commentary I’ve seen on the internet, that some people love Raydor (McDonnell) and some actively do not, and it also seems that those who fall into the latter category tend to be the ones who miss mother show “The Closer” and Kyra Sedgwick’s indelible portrayal of Brenda the most.

I was among them, and it kind of threw me for a loop at first that they would even consider giving the lead to McDonnell’s character, who had been such a constant thorn in the side of nearly everyone on the show. Now I get it. The people behind “Major Crimes” went for the long con, and judging from their early renewal, it ultimately worked. The trick was subtly changing the character from the personification of an evil overseer to one who played it tough because she had to. You might not like Raydor’s methods as much as Brenda’s, but they too, get the job done.

Interestingly, more than a few have rallied to McDonnell’s defense, pointing out how the character had subtle shades to it that had revealed themselves gradually, trusting the viewer to be patient and hang in there, for ultimately, the reward would be great- when it finally came. Well, friends and neighbors, they may have taken too long for some people’s tastes, but by God, they’ve finally got there, and most importantly, without compromising the hard edge that made some gravitate to Raydor in the first place.

Note the sly nod to Raydor’s time in Internal Affairs in “Cheaters Never Prosper”- just to remind fans that, though Raydor may have a heart underneath all the gruff, when it comes to business, she’s got it well under control. In short, they hired the right person for the job.

As predicted, the business with Rusty came to an unpleasant head this week. I suspected the dastardly Daniel Dunn (Ian Bohen) was up to no good, and that proved true when, in a particularly nasty bit of business, he pummeled poor Rusty after he confessed his sordid past to his would-be stepmother. I have to say, although I certainly suspected Dunn to be up to something, I never would have thought he’d beat the kid up. That was kind of shocking and unexpected. Although, I don’t know what it says about me- or at least my mixed feelings about Rusty- that I afterwards wondered if maybe Rusty had done it to himself so that he could stay put with Raydor. I guess we’ll find out for sure on the finale. Whatever the case may be, it was the first time since his initial confession of what he’d been through that I truly felt bad for Rusty and sympathized with the character. Now.I’m not so sure.

Whatever the case, it led to some great emotional moments, with McDonnell in fine form throughout. Just as impressive was her ability to juggle that mess with her ongoing case of the week, a somewhat snoozy one about identity theft. If you watch a lot of TV, you tend to be automatically suspicious whenever someone relatively well-known crops up, so that blonde makeover didn’t keep me from automatically suspecting guest star Sprague Grayden, fetching though it may have been- she may well be the rare brunette even cuter as a blonde.
Grayden is a TV vet, from “24” to “Sons of Anarchy” to the late, great “Jericho,” with plenty of guest shots in between, plus a big ticket role in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. Is it coincidence that this premiered just before the next installment of the latter? Probably, but whatever the case, I knew she was the culprit here.

Speaking of TV vets, it was fun seeing the erstwhile Radzinsky, character actor Eric Lange in not one but two big shows, “Major Crimes” of course, but also including last Friday’s “Fringe,” where it looks like he’ll be joining in the fun for that show’s last season- for a while, at least. Lange excels at these sorts of characters, which is to say, computer-savvy pretentious a-holes. Ironically, he’s so funny and likeable on “Victorious,” also ending this year. (Hey, don’t judge- I have nieces! But seriously.Victoria Justice, I mean, wow. Ahem- back to our regularly scheduled program.)

Anyway, the main crime was so-so, but the cast was so good overall, it was hard to complain, especially after last week’s fun Tao-centric ep. On the whole, I’m going to give “Cheaters Never Prosper” a pass, if only because it was the week everything sort of finally fell into place for me.

What do you think? Is McDonnell finally coming into her own, or was she already there from day one? Did the writers do a good job with transitioning her into the lead or could it have been a bit more expedient? Do you think Rusty pulled a fast one? How do you think that whole plotline will play itself out? Let me know in the comments section!

Mark Trammell is the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s resident entertainment critic-at-large. Check out his work at: http://studentmedia.uab.edu/tag/marktrammell/ and his vid-cast at: http://www.youtube.com/user/uabkaleidoscope And follow him, if you dare, on Twitter at: @rip_mr_gordo

About The Author

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. His impossible dream is that "Twin Peaks" will one day be resurrected and pick up where it left off. Until then, he drowns his woes in anything remotely similar, from "Buffy" to "Lost" to "Pretty Little Liars." This has not always been a good thing-cough, "Ringer", cough- but now at least it can help pay the bills.

  • terracotta

    Well, she’s been my favorite from day one, but I think I’ve never seen her to be as hard-edged and awful as a lot of people did, perhaps because I wasn’t a big fan of Brenda’s and right from her first episode, I very strongly felt that she had a point, and that there was just as much animosity coming at her from the squad as she was directing back at them. The Sharon we see now was there from very early on (for example, the episode in which one of her FID staff was, apparently, beaten up and Sharon seemed devastated) but Mary McD is such a subtle actress that you have to really pay attention to catch all the layers she puts into the character, I think. They’re slowly being peeled away, and I’m really happy that people are starting to see the Sharon that I’ve seen from, well, from the start.

    Thank you for the review. It was great :)

  • ptjackson

    I was a big fan of the Closer and Brenda, and now am an equally big fan of Major crimes and Sharon, so not sure where there puts me in your classification system. 8-)

    Regarding Rusty-  others have been talking about Daniel, and what he was up to. Sorry to be dense, but while it was horrible that he beat Rusty, are you saying that was his plan all along? I’m still not seeing what his game was with Rusty – to get his rich girlfriend to shell out more backs to support Rusty too? While I agree that he is a terrible person, just still don’t see his big plan by way of reconciling with Rusty.

    I do agree that it is possible that Rusty did what he did to stay with Sharon, or maybe because he just thought he wanted to be up front for once – I mean, he did do the same thing when he started at the Catholic HS Sharon put him in, so not really all that surprising IMHO.

    Anyway, looking forward to the finale, and not looking forward to the hiatus…..

    • Mark Trammell

       Not sure what Daniel is up to either, I just felt he was up to…something. That may well partly be because that actor plays a bad guy on another show I watched, to be honest!
      For the most part, people seem to lean more towards Brenda or Raydor- but not both! You are the happy exception…but I’m getting there!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mark, 

    Just found your reviews of Major Crimes and I’m really enjoying them!

    Regarding this episode in particular, I’m probably in the minority when I say that I really wasn’t a fan of Brenda. It was actually MM’s character that brought me to The Closer at all. So, that being said, I’m probably not the best one to weigh in on Raydor’s progression, since I’m clearly biased, haha. I think MM is brilliant and nuanced in her portrayal, and I’ve loved her from the start. 
    I do want to mention my thoughts on Rusty, though. I warmed right up to his character, and absolutely love the dynamic between Raydor and Rusty. BUT, I too have a small, but nagging suspicion that Rusty’s wounds might have been self-inflicted. Rusty’s a damaged kid. Damaged and frightened. And now, just as he’s starting to trust Sharon, circumstance is threatening to rip all that hard-earned, desperately needed stability from his life. He’s NOT a bad kid. But, as someone with exposure to mental illness, I know that hurt people are willing to do all manner of things when they feel desperate and cornered and see no other way out of what they see as a terrifying situation. My heart breaks for Rusty. Either way (whether he genuinely was beaten or not), he’s going to need Sharon’s patience and trust and unconditional love now more than ever. Can’t wait ’till next week to see how it plays out! I really hope Rusty ends up coming back for Season 2. 

    Looking forward to your next review! :)

    • Mark Trammell

       I know lots of people who speak highly of MM bc of “Battlestar Galatica” but I never watched it, so I can’t really comment on it. I’ve seen her in some things, but this is far & away the most exposure I’ve had to her. I won”t lie & say she didn’t rub me the wrong way at first, but she’s def grown on me over the last few weeks.
      As for Rusty, I WANT to warm up to him, but it’s been slow-going. I don’t think he’s a bad kid, but rather, like many teens his age, can be super-annoying, lol. ;)
      I’m open to warming to him, though. We’ll see how the finale goes!

      • Anonymous

        He certainly can be! I think the reason it doesn’t bug me is because it comes from an honest place. 

        Looking forward to your review of the finale! So glad I was wrong about Rusty!!!

  • Guest

    I’ve never understood how people could not see the brilliance and layers in MM’s Raydor, and honestly wonder why some resisted her for as long as they have.  Glad too see people are continuing to come along side and understand what fans of MM, Raydor and Major Crimes have seen from the beginning.

    • Mark Trammell

       I think it was just a transition thing. A change can be a good thing, but sometimes takes getting used to, no matter how good a new cast member might be, acting-wise. I think what confused people was that she was set up on “Closer” as an adversary to Brenda, then Sedgwick decided to leave the show & the network had to decide whether to keep going or not without her. They- many would say wisely- recognized that they needed a new lead, rather than sticking with only the main cast, and thus had to slightly reshape and soften MM’s character to make her more palatable to an broader audience. It’s not easy winning over a audience taught to dislike someone, but I think they”ve done a pretty good job so far. My main complaint would be the shortened season, as they were just starting to get in the zone, in terms of MC having its own identity. However, it got renewed, so they can hit the ground running next season!

  • tbfh

    I wasn’t that fond of Sharon on The Closer, however, I love her on Major Crimes.  So glad we get a season two. Can’t wait!!!!   I love Rusty too.  I hope he stays with Sharon forever.  Love The Closer/Major Crimes guys.  Sykes is great too!!!  I do miss Brenda Lee!!!

  • Kemmellie

    Well, I was a fan of The Closer from the beginning of the series, but by Season 5, I was tired of Brenda Leigh Johnson’s single-mindedness and lack of progression as a character, so I had decided to stop watching until I saw that first episode with Capt. Sharon Raydor. The antagonistic relationship between Mary McDonnell’s character and Kyra Sedgwick’s brought me back to the series because it was so cleverly written and acted. I’ve loved Capt. Raydor since the first scene in her Season 5 episode arc and watching her character actually grow, learn and adapt as we all do while also staying true to the Raydor (I at least) originally fell in love with has been a wonderful thing to see. I completely agree with your review of last night’s episode! That nod back to Capt. Raydor’s FID days and her tough as nails approach to getting the job done in “Cheaters Never Prosper” was really the perfect blend of classic Raydor and the as many claim, “softer,” Raydor. 

    • Mark Trammell

       Agree completely! I think Sedgwick left at the right time…just as her character was getting sort of stale. The growth of Raydor is what ultimately sold me on the character. If she’d remained the same I don’t know if it would have worked as well. At the same time, I’m glad they kept her “hard” when she needs to be & haven’t completely “softened” her character, even if it made her tough to embrace at first.

  • Catchmysoul2

    Question for the author of this article: the reason why you don’t feel sympathy for a 16-year-old boy finding himself in a life of prostitution after his mother abandons him at the zoo and never comes back…is…what? Not to mention the fact that his mother’s boyfriend used to beat him up and he had to learn how to defend himself against johns that were grown men? That’s not enough reason to sympathize with a kid? Anyhow, I’m listening…

    • Mark Trammell

       Okay, stick with me here: I 100% sympathize with the scenario of the character- it’s a horrific thing to have gone through, and I did like that they went with a guy instead of a girl, as is usually the case (not that that’s any better, but its been done, so MC’s approach is unique in that sense). Obviously, going through that would make anyone damaged. So, to that extent, I completely sympathize. Where it went wrong for me is the casting. The actor didn’t do the greatest job of conveying the hurt and sadness someone who had been through, instead coming off as a typical petulant teen. Therefore, making him a recurring character seemed like a cynical bid on the behalf of the network to wrangle some younger viewers. You know, let’s get a young hunk and maybe we can get some of that 18-30 demo! THAT bugs me, not the character’s history.
      All of that said, however, now that a little time has passed, we’ve seen more of that damage rise to the surface and the actor has had a change to settle into the role- not unlike MM, I might add.
      Change can be jarring sometimes, and not all of it is going to work at first. Sometimes you have to be patient. I think if you go back and read the reviews I’ve done, you’ll see that I’ve softened on MM over the last few weeks, and have started to with Rusty. I think a lot of it will be determined by whether or not he’ll be back next season, which we won’t know for sure until the finale…if that. Once we get there, I’ll reassess, but forgive me if I’m a bit critical of the ACTOR, just not the scenario. All of that, I’m glad you pointed it out bc I may not have communicated that aspect of it as best as I could have!

  • mrpeenee

    I like both Raydor’s character and McDonnell’s work, but what I’m most pleased with is how the change as allowed the rest of the cast to step up as an ensemble, something that just couldn’t happen with Kyra Sedgwick front-and-center.

    I know Raydor and Flynn and Provenza have several times intimated they didn’t trust Dunn, but I don’t understand why.  Am I missing something?

    • Mark Trammell

       Agree completely. Love that the supporting cast gets to show their stuff more!
      As for Dunn, I think that they’re inherently suspicious of him bc they’ve grown attached to Rusty- maybe even more than they themselves realize. Also, don’t forget it’s their job to assess people’s character, and something just seems a little hinky about Dunn. There’s not hard evidence- yet. But we’ll see how it goes on the finale!

  • Smi4ari

    Why do people keep suggesting Rusty did it to himself? He never lied to Sharon or anyone the entire time he’s been on the show.  For him to beat himself up is totally out of character.

    • Mark Trammell

       I think on a show like this, where there’s always an element of mystery, you can’t help but be suspicious of everyone’s motives that isn’t a regular. Rusty may well become a regular, but until this thing with Dunn is resolved, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back, which I think makes viewers inherently suspicious, or at least have trepidations. After all, why get attached if he’s not going to be back next season? that’s not to say if the story has an unhappy ending I won’t sympathize, but until I know for sure, I can’t help but be a little skeptical. We’ll see Monday!

  • HG

    Raydor is a good leader, wise and inspiring. I thought she would be much more tyrannical, and I am pleased to see she is not. They are a team now much more than ever before, and this transition from the Closer was very thoughtful. I like addition of Rusty storyline in Major Crimes, it grew to a very exciting and emotional plot. Great work, really. I think though, it was a bit too much of Raydor’s “softer side” in season. But, as we can see from all the discussions, it was good move from creator’s side: so that those, who didn’t manage to see her feelings in The Closer, would be able to see them now. I think her character will find it’s balance in 2nd season – writers and Mary McDonnell will take care about that.

    • Mark Trammell

       I completely agree. The writers played it perfectly, I thought. It gave time for those who, like myself, were a bit skeptical of the character time to warm up to her, while at the same time, level out the character so she wasn’t TOO hard-assed.
      The jury’s still out on Rusty for me, but I’m open to accepting him if he’s going to be sticking around. I just need a bit more to go on, and right now, everything’s a bit up in the air.
      Whatever the case, I think the show will definitely come into its own next season!

  • Pressdl

    It’s the writing studpid! EWritin is horrible, amature and just boring!  We know it’s not the acor’s fault….they are all proven winners.  Get new script writers and save the show, PLEASE!

  • Pressdl

    It’s the writing studpid! EWritin is horrible, amature and just boring!  We know it’s not the acor’s fault….they are all proven winners.  Get new script writers and save the show, PLEASE!

  • Ronnie

    I think Mary McDonnell is an excellent actress.  I didn’t like her character in the Closer, but she played the part well.  I love her new role as Captain Raydor and the way the writers brought Rusty into her life.  I hope they continue his role in the show.  I enjoy the entire cast, they make a wonderful team.  I can’t believe the season finale is this Monday.  I look forward to watching season two.  Thank you writers and wonderful cast!

    • Mark Trammell

       Agreed that MM is a great actress. She’s definitely come into her own in the character. I like her way more on MC than on The Closer. And, of course, the team is great, though I miss Gabriel!
      Glad that it got renewed, to be sure.

  • Colleen

    Thank you for the reference to” John Jacob Jinglemeir Schmitz”.  It brought back wonderful memories, and slid right into the script without a hitch

  • Brighton

    I wonder if her husband and sons are dead.

    • Roosterbear

      Well, now we know (if you’ve been following the news on the show) that the ex-husband is alive, but that would have been an interesting plot twist.