Judge Grove is back!
I've missed his sardonic comments, insistence on proper procedure, and surprising flashes of empathy.
He returned as part of a smartly executed, high-concept story on Major Crimes Season 5 Episode 16, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
Between an unusual format, an interesting story and Judge Grove's trademark sarcasm, "Quid Pro Quo" had a lot to offer.
But before getting to all that, there's a burning question I have to ask: What was Amy thinking, getting involved with Mark Hickman again?
Mark Hickman first appeared on Major Crimes Season 4 Episode 19. He was obnoxious, untrustworthy, and caused Amy a boatload of trouble because she kept sneaking off to meet him despite orders from Sharon to stay away from him.
So why, exactly, did she think this time would be any different?
Hobbs: It doesn't matter that you were cleared, Amy. No matter what he instructs the jury, they won't forget.
Amy: I know. I screwed up. I'm sorry.
Hobbs: Oh well. We'll see what else Linda has up her sleeve.
It was nice of Hobbs not to belabor the point after Amy realized she'd totally screwed up the case and apologized, and it was even nicer for Sharon to call it a learning experience that could have happened to any of them.
But the truth is, this isn't Amy's first experience with Hickman, and I doubt it'll be her last either.
After his previous behavior, it was no surprise to anyone but her that he'd run to Rothman to tattle the second he was finished with Amy. And Amy, for her part, backtracked on her angry promise to take out a restraining order if Hickman approached her again within hours of making the threat.
This is the closest thing I've seen to a cop involved in an abusive relationship on Major Crimes. I'm thankful that so far, it's mostly confined to work stuff, though Amy telling Mark he's secretly a decent person sounded too much like flirting for my liking.
Flynn: Life can turn around very quickly.
Sharon: Some people adapt to their new circumstances. Some don't.
Speaking of Mark, I'm stoked that the other Mark is back. I'm not sure whether Julio taking him in right now is a good idea, but one thing is for sure.
If little Mark is back, Julio will have a storyline again, and I was thinking moments before he showed up that it's been too long since Major Crimes gave viewers a Julio centered episode.
Little Mark's return was very abrupt, and people were already encouraging Julio to call Department of Children and Family Services and wash his hands of the kid. I'm sure he won't do that, but whether he can be the supportive father figure Mark needs while working full time at Major Crime remains to be seen.
I enjoyed the unusual format of the first half of "Quid Pro Quo."
One of the ways Major Crimes keeps things fresh is by playing around with the usual format. Every story is not a straightforward whodunit, and it doesn't always follow the same formula. This was one of those times.
I didn't mind jumping back and forth, though sometimes it got a little bit confusing.
The same story probably could have been told linearly without losing all that much, but the technique was effective when it came to revealing how stupid Amy had been and how, exactly, she messed up the case.
Plus, jumping back and forth added to the tension when Rothman caused problems during trial. Viewers had to wait to see what was going to happen, which added to the suspense.
Judge Grove: Mr. Beck, a word, please?
Rusty: Yes, sir, I mean Your Honor?
Grove: My wife tells me that you changed your major in communications to a minor and that you are now preparing to go to law school. Is that true?
Rusty: Y-yes Your Honor. I felt I could best help the people I wanted to help through telling their stories, traumatized kids, by going into Family Law. [pause] You're smiling.
Grove: Mr. Beck, as a judge -- and you'll learn this in law school -- I have to stay neutral, so I don't often get to say this while wearing these robes.
Grove: I told you so. I've also seen many people in your position think that they're going to go into Family Law. Well, time will tell. In the meantime, I'm glad to see you in my courtroom somewhere other than the witness box. Keep it up, Mr. Beck. I'm proud of you.
Judge Grove's advice to Rusty was one of my favorite parts of the hour. I love it when the judge shows his human side, and he seems to have a soft spot for Rusty. I was also glad to see some follow-up on Rusty's sudden change of major since it wasn't explained on-screen.
I'm also grateful that viewers got a break from Rusty's relationship drama. His constant back-and-forth with Gus is not entertaining, and he is much more enjoyable while observing the courtroom and getting a pep talk from Judge Grove.
Provenza: Well, I'm glad you're naming and sharing your sources, Sykes, even if it is at 7 AM. But what the hell is Hickman saying that is so damn important?
Sykes: I think he figured something out about the payphone.
Sharon: Not the phone. The successful businessman.
The resolution of the case was pretty comical, though I'm sure Judge Grove didn't think so.
I wasn't sure if Hobbs brought Paul Blum to court in the hopes that he and his brother would yell confessions at each other or not, but either way, it worked. Grove threatening to sentence them both to solitary confinement cracked me up even though in real life, solitary is no laughing matter.
Commander: Winnie Davis is looking at closely at you as she is me. I would hate for Major Crimes to get sidetracked by the classified nature of this crime.
Sharon: Commander, you're as much in the running as me.
Commander: I'm happy where I am.
Sharon: So am I.
Winnie Davis and the promotion plotline are still very much a part of the show, even though Winnie hasn't made another appearance in person. I hope she will later on. I love Camryn Manheim, and I want to see more of Winnie giving Sharon a hard time.
I'm not sure how I feel about Sharon's alliance with Commander Mason. I feel like this is going to blow up in their faces somehow.
There was only one thing missing, and that's that we didn't get any Sharon/Andy time. I guess that's because there were no scenes at Sharon's house at all. Hopefully, that is not the beginning of a new trend. Sharon and Andy's relationship is growing on me, and I really missed it!
What did you think of "Quid Pro Quo"? Do you think Amy will ever learn her lesson about Mark Hickman? Are you looking forward to whatever Julio does about his former foster son?
Weigh in below, and don't forget that if you missed anything, you can always watch Major Crimes online to catch up.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.