Matt Lauria, Jason Clarke

The Chicago Code (Monday, 9/8c, Fox)
As often happens in the best crime dramas, the bad guy often gets some of the meatiest material. And Ronin Gibbons, the Chicago Alderman played so deliciously by Delroy Lindo, is no ordinary adversary. We get a better sense of what makes him tick in this episode, when the powerful politician is confronted by an armed teenage robber, causing Gibbons to look back on his own upbringing, back before he became so cynical about the city's corrupt ways. In another storyline, a bomber blows up a city building and promises more mayhem, putting a ticking clock on Jarek and Caleb's efforts to track down the culprit. This situation is not unlike the dilemma on ABC's Castle an hour later (10/9c), in the conclusion of a tense two-parter that finds Beckett and Castle teaming up with a fed (Adrian Pasdar) to avert a terrorist calamity.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Monday, 9/8c, Travel Channel)
Hard to imagine a more fascinating, and opinionated, travel companion than chef/author (and sometimes Top Chef judge) Anthony Bourdain, who launches a seventh season of this tasty travelogue series. Things get serious this go-round as Bourdain chooses locations that have become best known for enduring natural disasters or political turmoil (such as Nicaragua and Cambodia). In the season opener, he travels to Haiti, where his cultural investigations are haunted by the devastation of last year's earthquake. Along the way, he meets actor/humanitarian Sean Penn, promoting local relief efforts. On a much lighter travel note, ABC's The Bachelor finds Brad jetting his last three potential brides to picturesque dream dates in South Africa. The best reason to watch: ABC will be announcing the new cast of Dancing With the Stars during the show.

American Idol (Tuesday-Thursday, 8/7c, Fox)
Here we go again. Now it's America's turn to vote — including online this year — as the Top 12 semifinalist guys perform on Tuesday in a 90-minute special (bumping Glee), and the Top 12 girls step up to the spotlight on Wednesday. It builds to a two-hour results show on Thursday, when the season's finalists are revealed. And from there, it's anyone's game. If you're seeking musical respite from the competition this week, PBS complies with several specials: a Motown-themed In Performance at the White House on Tuesday (8/7c, check local listings) hosted by Jamie Foxx and scheduled to include Smokey Robinson, John Legend, former Idol winner Jordin Sparks and Glee belters Amber Riley and Mark Salling. On Wednesday, PBS' American Masters salutes the legacy of two icons with Troubadors: Carole King/James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, followed by the big-band/honky-tonk performance special Harry Connick Jr. on Broadway. (Check local listings)

The Middle (Wednesday, 8/7c, ABC)
On the last official night of the February sweeps period, The Middle ignites a new round of conflict between former Everybody Loves Raymond stars Patricia Heaton and guest-star Doris Roberts, as Brick's forbidding third-grade teacher Ms. Rinsky. When Brick scored a D on a math test, Frankie blames the teacher, but Ms. Rinsky thinks Frankie and Mike need to sharpen their own math skills and insists they sit in on class. (Get those dunce caps ready.) An hour later, on Modern Family (9/8c), Gloria does not take kindly to Jay's funeral planning — too soon, and she's too young! — while Phil sneaks off to the spa, leaving Claire at home mediating the sibling rivalry of sisters Haley and Alex.

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