Graham Patrick Martin
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Monday's episode of TNT's Major Crimes. Read at your own risk.]
As Major Crimes' Rusty Beck learned on Monday's episode, keeping secrets can actually just lead to more pain.
The episode, which was told mostly from Rusty's point of view during a therapy session with Dr. Joe (Bill Brochtrup), featured a murder that implicated a foreign diplomat whose daughter, Lina (Rima Rajan), was set to wed the victim in an arranged marriage. Although the diplomat used his immunity to escape questioning and potential punishment, the real killer turned out to be Lina's American boyfriend, whom she had kept hidden from her parents.
Major Crimes: Will Rusty put his secrets behind him?
Realizing how Lina's secret had destroyed multiple lives, Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) finally decided to get past his own fears and tell the members of the squad his truth: He is gay. Although the show has hinted at Rusty's sexuality over the course of its two seasons — and Rusty basically came out to his guardian, Capt. Raydor (Mary McDonnell), in the Season 2 finale — creator James Duff says Rusty's decision is still significant. "It's about him being honest," Duff tells TVGuide.com. "It becomes more about trust and honesty — being honest about oneself and trusting that people who know and love you will go on loving you."
Below, Duff explains how his own life experiences shaped the story line and discusses what's next for Rusty now that he's out.
The show has been building to this moment for some time. What did you want to convey with Rusty finally coming out?
James Duff: In 1973, I came out to my friends. Even though it's about 1,000 times easier to be and live as a gay person [now] than it was in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s, the act of coming out is still somewhat traumatic, especially for a young person. Just saying the words out loud to the people you care about is unnerving and upsetting and hard to do. And yet, normally, when we tell the people who really love us, there's not much change. In Rusty's case, [the squad] already suspects and they've been clear about that all along. So, it's about him being honest. It becomes more about trust and honesty — being honest about oneself and trusting that people who know and love you will go on loving you.
Major Crimes: Check out creator James Duff's blogs
How important was the fallout between Rusty and his mother in the previous episode as it relates to Rusty making this declaration?
Duff: That was him refusing to take responsibility for her issue. She made him choose between his idea of himself and her idea of himself, and he chose his idea of himself. That was a pivotal moment. It gave him a choice, and once having made that choice, it became easier for him to say what he had to say. "I'm not a bad person because of this."
Was that way of thinking part of what held him back?
Duff: That's one of the journeys that gay people go on: recognizing that the judgment of a society that's filled with corruption... on something as ordinary as who we love [is] crazy. There's really not very much difference between gay people and straight people except in how we love and whom we love. But it's still love. If people could make that one last, little turn in the road, our society would be so much better for it.
But Rusty still isn't 100 percent comfortable being honest until he meets Lina and sees the details of her case.
Duff: It's not unusual to find ourselves projecting our problems onto other people. That's why Dr. Joe is able to use it because it's something we all do, whether we're conscious of it or not. [Rusty's] worry is dramatized by this girl who held on to her secret too long. Because she held on to her secret, people died and people's lives were ruined. The idea that you can live a secret life is just not true. You can live in secrecy, but you never really know who you are, and people are damaged by that. Rusty's identification with Lina and Dr. Joe's help in connecting the dots that tie them together helps him move forward.
So, now that Rusty has officially come out, what's next for him, besides trying to figure out who the Village People are?
Duff: [Laughs] Well, there was some fairly heavy cruising going on in the break room between [Rusty] and one of the suspects! I think his awakening to a different form of intimacy is probably helping fuel this. He still doesn't know how to communicate very well with people his own age and he's still looking for purchase inside his peer group. You're going to see him continue to struggle to find a path into friendship and dating and all the ordinary stuff that we all take for granted. He's still suffering from trauma, and the trauma doesn't end because he's being honest about some aspects of his life. He's still going to have to deal with that trauma and overcome it in order to be a complete person. His journey is long from over.
Photo Gallery: Check out celebs who are out and proud
Will we see him get involved in a relationship?
Duff: We will see him develop a crush on someone. I think that generally how it starts. I mean, I can only speak for myself. What helped me get over my reluctance to admit that I was gay was a crush. I think it would be crazy to show a teenage kid who had no romantic interests at all; it's not realistic. I think he's going to try and spread his wings, and he's going to think he's falling in love with somebody and it's just not going to work out — there's an age gap that's inappropriate.
Is this someone we already know?
Duff: We're looking for the placement of this character, and he doesn't yet exist.
Speaking of romantic partners, Sykes is dating Lt. Cooper! Will we see more of him regularly or are you going to just check in on that relationship?
Duff: You're going to see how it goes over time. I think Provenza's turning [Rusty's coming out] and using it as a way to make Sykes be honest was a great way to demonstrate what we were trying to do. Provenza's been dreading this conversation and announcement, and he's glad it's over too.
Any final thoughts on this episode?
Duff: I was glad to see that we were able to do it in the way that I had hoped: where people didn't treat it as nothing but also that it wasn't as big a deal as it used to be. This is a big episode. I wanted to be sure we did it properly. I wanted the mystery to tie into it in way you didn't expect. I was really happy to have this story about the power of diplomatic immunity being contrasted with the power that love has to wrap us up and keep us safe. The real immunity we have in this world, the immunity that carries us through and really protects us, is the people who love us. That's what you have to depend on.
What did you think of Rusty's big moment? Major Crimes airs Mondays at 9/8c on TNT. Watch past episodes here.