Raymond Cruz and Mary McDonnell

The ability to communicate with others is something we mostly take for granted.  An expectation of understanding serves as the unconscious foundation of nearly every social, personal and professional transaction we undertake. True, the atonality of e-mail, or the micro nature of Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, can lead to some fairly interesting apologies.  And let's not forget how irritating autocorrect can be. But technological gremlins are not the only obstacles standing between us and perfect clarity. If our words sometimes fail to carry their proper meanings, maybe it's because we have said them too many times before, or changed them entirely from one day to the next. Our character, our reputations and our known opinions may provide our statements with unintentional context, so that we are not misunderstood at all but, rather, understood better than we realize.

Det. Julio Sanchez has always been in favor of short declarative sentences; his reactions usually tell us more about him than his verbal responses. Childhood memories of growing up in impoverished neighborhoods ruled by armed adolescents numbed nearly all his emotional reactions except rage. Confronting those who trafficked in the casual terror of gangland fuels Julio's anger like gasoline on an open flame. So when he appears at a parole hearing for a young man he put away nearly two decades ago for killing a fifteen-year-old girl, no one should be surprised to find his fury at the convict as palpable as the day he made the arrest. And when the prisoner in question, Dante Gomez, ends up saying one thing to the parole commissioners, who can affect his early release, and another thing to Sanchez and Flynn, Julio reopens the investigation with only one goal in mind. And who can blame him? Dante's contradictions do not square with his known character, his previous confession or even the evidence. And yet...

Julio isn't the only member of the Major Crimes Division forced to re-evaluate what was considered settled law. Sharon Raydor suddenly discovers herself face-to-face with the other Sharon in Rusty Beck's life. Captain Raydor marshals all her considerable discipline to meet this new challenge with a compassion and restraint.  But how does she really feel about the woman who abandoned her child at the Griffith Park Zoo, and ran off to do drugs with her boyfriend for three years? The answer appears to be buried in the question. And yet...

Ever Carradine's portrayal of Sharon Beck is vivid and heartbreaking, with so little distance between the actor and the material that one cannot truly say where one ends and the other begins. Ever's scene with Mary McDonnell, G. W. Bailey and Graham Patrick Martin provides an opportunity for all four actors to do some extraordinary work; they do not disappoint.

In "Personal Day," Julio Sanchez wrestles with one terrible misunderstanding, Rusty Beck grapples with another. Both may have misinterpreted events; both are required to pragmatically reevaluate their circumstances. And both must depend, in one way or another, on the deal-making prowess of Captain Sharon Raydor as they struggle to comprehend their own actions. For, whether we accept it or not, the expectation of understanding begins with one's self.

Duppy Demetrius writes and produces with his usual brilliance; veteran Rick Wallace once again demonstrates his own virtuosity. And Raymond Cruz delivers another of his seriously intense performances.

I have spent nearly ten years working with Ray, a collaboration that has led to a friendship that now deeply entwines our two families. When the cast of Major Crimes appears for benefits and fundraisers with law enforcement agencies, Ray's introduction always provokes an extremely hearty round of cheers. It's not just because his character is the tough guy, or the cop most likely to turn the rules upside down to shake out a criminal. Ray elicits this response because he strives so hard for authenticity in every single move he makes on screen. And the people wearing badges for a living understand that.

Next week, comic genius Andrew Daly returns as cop impersonator Dick Tracy, dragging Flynn and Provenza into an extremely strange double murder.

Until then — James Duff.