Our next-to-last episode of the season presents Brenda and Fritz with the unexpected problem of providing constant supervision for their imperfectly behaved teenage niece, Charlie, while continuing to do their jobs. This problem, which will be almost too familiar for most of our audience, challenges our heroic couple in ways both small and enormous.

Exactly how much responsibility does one assign to a child? How should a kid be raised? What are the guidelines for discipline within a family unit? Brenda knows what she expects from her division, but making these decisions about a sixteen-year-old girl — and managing them in concert with her husband — overwhelms her.

Does Deputy Chief Johnson have what it takes to be a good mother? Can she change enough to accommodate the appearance of a child in her life? Can her relationship with Fritz survive such an addition? Will disagreements over how to treat Charlie come between Brenda and Fritz in a meaningful way?

And that's the other mystery running beneath an investigation that starts with a deadly shooting in a school parking lot, forcing Deputy Chief Johnson into the customary role of first responders everywhere: running toward gunshots while all around them run away.

Forgive the brevity of this posting. I promise a longer one next week. And just allow me one more word of thanks to a long-time member of The Closer family before I sign off. David McWhiter has been the First Assistant Director of all our odd numbered episodes and has worked on the show since the pilot. An enthusiastic, intelligent, organized presence, he has never failed to execute our complicated schedule with skill and humor. "Maternal Instincts" marks what I can only call his extremely impressive debut as a director in his own right, a hard won opportunity that shows he was paying strict attention during the period of his apprenticeship. He brought a great script by Leo Geter to vivid life and we are both thankful for and proud of his accomplishment.

— James Duff