Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Father Figure in The Closer & Major Crimes

Provenza and Sanchez in The Closer

Today, as I watched Julio Sanchez on The Closer break down in tears in his superior’s arms, my heart shattered for him. Sanchez is strong. He’s a fighter. He became a cop when everyone else in his neighborhood joined a gang. And his brother was killed because he was wearing a baseball cap. The baseball cap Julio had given him for his birthday only a month prior. And when he clings to Provenza, their relationship moves beyond mere coworkers and more into the realm of family. No one else knows quite what to say to Julio, how to be there for him, what to do, but Provenza just let him cry out the grief and guilt.

There’s this weird belief in American society that real men don’t cry. Well, you don’t get more masculine than Julio Sanchez. But being strong wasn’t what helped him start down that road to healing, it was the tears, the ability to let his emotions out, that helped him more than anything else. And that’s why I love Provenza. Oh, I know, he’s had somewhere in the realm of 4 marriages and failed at all of them. He’s a smartass and gets into loads of trouble at least once every season, always accompanied by Flynn. But he’s also the Daddy of the group. He’s the supporter, the healer, the listener, because deep down under that gruff, grouchy exterior, Provenza cares.

And that hasn’t changed even though The Closer has ended and he’s now on Major Crimes. The very beginning of this new season of MC finds Rusty and Provenza deep in conversation. Now, anyone familiar with either show knows that Rusty, an abandoned teenage boy, was a prostitute on the streets. There’s no nice way to say it, no way to sugarcoat it. And he witnessed a crime. Which is why he’s now in protective custody by the new head of Major Crimes, Captain Sharon Raydor. Anything to keep him safe so he can testify at trial, but more than that, Rusty has become the heart of Major Crimes just like Provenza was the heart of The Closer.

Rusty has spent his entire life searching for acceptance and love and someone to take care of him. He finally found it with the members of the Major Crimes division of LAPD. But he’s afraid. He’s made so many personal advancements, put so much of his former life behind him, and now the new ADA needs to cross-examine his testimony before trial, asking why he was out in the woods that night, what he was doing when he witnessed the criminal act, etc. And he’s afraid, because he was turning tricks, and even though every member of Major Crimes knows about his previous life, he doesn’t want to remind them of it. It might change how they perceive him, to hear about his actions all over again, the life he led.

Sharon, Provenza, and Rusty in Major Crimes

A kid’s worst fear, anyone’s worst fear really, is that if someone finds out their deepest, darkest secret then the people they care about the most won’t like them anymore. This is Rusty. He’s at his most vulnerable when he pleads to Provenza, "I need you, Lieutenant. I need you to be my friend." This kid is bruised and battered, but healing, and the one person apart from Sharon who is helping that healing process is Provenza. What Rusty doesn't realize is that Provenza has heard and seen it all, and nothing in the world could ever change Provenza's mind when he decides to like someone.

It’s an incredible feeling, the realism of these two shows. Provenza is Daddy to Julio in the 4th season of The Closer and he’s Daddy to Rusty in Major Crimes. The father figure is so important, so necessary. And when it’s not there, when he’s not there, it makes you feel incomplete. You need someone to lift you up, to hold you, to tell you that even in this darkest time, everything will turn out all right someday.

That Father figure in the lives of Christians is the Lord, at least it should be. The hardest thing, though, is that He doesn’t have a physical presence in our lives. He can’t physically wrap us in His arms, wiping away the tears with the back of His hand, and a part of me really envies Jesus’ disciples because they knew Him, really knew Him. He could embrace them, laugh with them, wash their feet, weep for them during His prayers. After Jesus' death and resurrection, believers had to put much more stock in faith, in believing and trusting what we cannot see. And that is so hard to do sometimes when it feels like the world comes crashing down. But He’s still there. All we have to do is reach out to Him because He is always reaching for us. He is the ultimate Father.

The Lord is never going to be the one to pull away from His children. Unlike human fathers who make a myriad of mistakes every day, God is perfect and loves us unconditionally. We’re the ones who let little things, and big things, and in-between things block out that intense love. We forget just how much our Father loves us. When we remember His love, those problems shrink in size until they feel no bigger than a speck of sand on a beach. It’s the getting there that proves hardest, and that’s when we have to trust, to lay ourselves on the line, to weep honestly and let the Lord see who we really are. He knows who we are anyway, despite the walls we erect, but He wants us to show ourselves to Him, no matter how ugly we are on the inside. Just like I hope someday Rusty can trust Provenza with the dirtiest part of himself, I hope someday I can do the same with my Heavenly Father. One step at a time.


  1. Excellent post.

    The neat thing about Rusty is that all his sins are out in the open -- everyone in the squad knows about them. He may think they don't know his deepest, darkest secrets, but they know enough to probably guess most of them -- and they love him anyway, unconditionally (well, except for Buzz, heh). That's what our relationship with Christ is like. He's seen the worst of us -- and He loves us anyway, even when we try and hide from Him.

  2. What you just read is an example of the writing style my teachers have struggled so hard to encourage in me. It's like an essay/journal entry and is a format I really, really enjoy.

    I think Rusty wishes that he could just sweep everything under the rug. A part of him knows that everyone in MC is familiar with his sins, but I think he gets so caught up in chess club, and essays, and wanting to drive the car that he tries to forget who he was. MC lets him, but when something pops up that reminds him of the ugliness of his former life, he suffers through the fear of rejection all over again. These people would never reject Rusty, Sharon and Provenza least of all, but the fear is still there. We saw Rusty at his most fragile in that scene with Provenza. The brave boy we see is only a facade of a very frail soul who's afraid of losing everything . . . again.

    I LOVE this show. There's no other way to say it. When a tv show brings me to tears, that's when I know it's one of the great ones. I'll be honest. I never, ever thought I could draw a parallel between Provenza (of all people!) and Christ, but there it is, Hollywood again proving that there are parallels even when they don't realize it.

  3. Rusty does want to overcome the past and move on -- but until Philip Stroh is out of his life, he can't. People are always going to drag up the past. His insecurities and abandonment issues don't help either.

    It's a good show. Rusty was a brilliant addition. And it says a lot more to us than even the writers intiended.

  4. I read a comment the other day about Rusty from someone who had disliked him at first, but now can't imagine the show without him. So cool!

    At least they're keeping that thread of the trial a constant throughout the series. We probably won't get there until season 3, at least, so folks have got to keep watching if they want to find out what will happen to Stroh. I think I'm coming up on those first episodes with him pretty quick!


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