Mary McDonnell

We are born with an expectation of family; there is no other way for a baby to survive. Humans are so frail and weak during infancy that, without adult protectors and providers, they would be dead within a day. But relatives are not only present to feed and defend, they are also shapers of character, first teachers in the subjects of life, last words on rights and wrongs: they are the personification of fate; they are a form of destiny that we must either embrace or escape (and sometimes both).

But what about those for whom family is not a given? Children left behind, as it were, or set aside, or forced by circumstances from their original cribs? For example, I was adopted. Born September 3, 1955 in the Parish of New Orleans to unknown biological parents, I was plucked from a Southern Baptist "baby home" by a couple from Texas, given a new name and raised inside the family of Jim and Blanche Duff as if I were their natural son. My only physical relationship to my sister is that she, too, was adopted from the same "baby home" (almost four years later), and her name was changed as well. This was destiny writ large, and my soul trembles to consider what might have become of me except for the loving purpose of my parents, the two most profound and enduring influences of my life. Still, the expectation of family is such a basic feature of humanity that it wasn't until I was "all grown up" and living away from home, that it began to dawn on me that my youth was, in reality, a miracle. As for my identity, my parents did not merely give me their name, but also their values, and more than a little of their perspective on the world.  Who I am is their son; who I became is partly a result of their careful and determined guidance. Without them, what would I be?

We confront a version of this question in "Jane Doe #38", as Major Crimes finds a body inside city property and spends nearly as much time identifying the victim as it does finding the killer. Lt. Andy Flynn, who carries with him regrets over his own role as a father, finds himself unusually affected by investigating the murder of a homeless, unsupervised teenage girl. Where did she come from? Why does no one step forward to claim the body? How is it the victim ended up so far away from her "M state" of origin? Is Flynn's anger at the killer only what it seems, or is it an outward projection of his own guilt and regret? That he can't quite articulate the passion of his experience helps explain where the Major Crimes Division goes to finish up this particular investigation.

As we search for one family, another might be dissolving before our eyes. Captain Raydor's husband, Jack, returns to consider two sets of documents, either of which could change the nature of his marriage.  Sharon's determination to codify her relationship with Rusty finally reaches its natural culmination in a scene between Mary McDonnell and Tom Berenger that reminds us that "chips off the old block" are created by people wielding axes.

For the second time this season, Steve Robin directs, leading us, with tenderness and bean bag rifles, through a story about a nameless young girl whose life ends violently and too soon.  This script also features the debut of a new writer who has been dutifully tolling away at our company for the last five years. Kendall Sherwood, a young woman I first met through the agency of the Emmy Intern Program, has steadfastly and consistently performed invaluable work (in assignments that fell far beneath her intellectual capacity). Teamed here with veteran Michael Alaimo, her name appears on a produced television script for the first time, right under those two most beautiful words "written by." Leo Geter, Det. Mike Berchem, Jim J. Leonard, Adam Belanoff, Duppy Demetrius, the aforementioned Michael Alaimo, Ralph Gifford & Carson Moore and Damani Johnson are proud to welcome Kendall to full-fledged membership in our chosen profession.

Next week, the expectation of civilization comes under threat as Major Crimes teams up with the LAPD's Special Operation Bureau and the FBI to conduct our largest manhunt ever. Featuring another appearance by Jon Tenney, and Special Guest Stars Laurie Holden, Lindsay Price, Hampton Fluker and Brock Harris, we observe what happens when a double homicide suddenly explodes into a citywide search for a crazy killer.

Until then — James Duff