Watch Body of Proof long enough, and you’ll start to think that there’s never a slow day in Philadelphia. The show’s covered things that look like demonic possession, rabies, and now a possible death that isn’t one.
You have to feel for Tommy Sullivan. He’s had a terrible couple of weeks. Following his being accused of murder last week, he loses a conniving hedge fund manager, Gerry Roberts (that’s Mark Valley’s former Harry’s Law costar Christopher McDonald) that he’s supposed to be protecting. A bystander is killed by the getaway car, too. Then there’s the video where it looks like Roberts is executed. But is it real? Or did this rich guy with a lot of enemies just fake his own death? Only one of these options keeps the episode going longer than seven minutes.
Chief Martin (Lorraine Toussaint, still playing the same one note) takes Tommy and partner Adam to task for Roberts’ apparent death, ordering them to find the killers in order for “something positive” to emerge from the fallout. At the same time, Megan and Ethan examine the bystander killed at the scene of Roberts’ abduction. Her name is Jennifer Sanchez, and she’s one of the people Roberts swindled. When Megan presents this information to the cops, Tommy asks her if Roberts could have faked his death. “Can’t be sure without a body,” Megan admits, while Adam flails. Tommy is now like a dog with a bone. This is a perfect opportunity for him to prove that no fake murder charge is going to keep him down.
Adam visits the FBI to ask their video analysis team to review the death tape, and hears something that tells him which railyard the movie was filmed at. He, Tommy, Megan and Ethan go there and find a burnt car with what’s left of a corpse in the back. The doctors locate a fibula and some dental implants that appear to have survived the blaze, and the DNA matches Roberts, which makes Tommy sulk. At least until Curtis walks in right on cue, and points out that he found a moss in the car’s tire treads that grows in China. Roberts stole quite a bit of money from the Chinese government’s private investment fund. Ethan says they’ve also recovered paint chips that prove Roberts was kidnapped in a consular vehicle. International incident ahoy!
The Chinese consular rep makes a few veiled threats, like most diplomats who appear on procedurals do, and Megan is unimpressed with how Kate handled the situation. This prompts a team huddle that doesn’t last long. Right after Megan tells Tommy to find something, Adam cuts in with “I found something,” and Tommy doesn’t miss a beat in following his partner. It’s a perfect comedic moment. Too bad that means our cops don’t get to see what happens next: back in the lab, after examining Roberts’ dental implants again, Megan officially comes around to Tommy’s theory that Roberts has faked his own death. Score one for Detective Sullivan.
Kate needs a few minutes to process all this information. Chief Martin needs to be quiet. Megan needs to get her mom out of her office. Then there’s Officer Dunn (guest star Marisa Ramirez), Tommy’s other potential love interest, who pops up after being forgotten last week to ask him if he wants to go to a basketball game. He politely declines, after which Adam calls Tommy out for making up an excuse, so the senior detective reveals to his partner that he and Megan “turned a corner” when they went out for drinks the second time. Adam wants details, but can’t manage to get any.
Their analysis of Tommy’s romantic life comes to an abrupt end when they notice the good samaritan who tried to help save Jennifer in surveillance video shot in the lobby of Roberts’ apartment building. The mystery man is forensic pathologist Dr. Colin Olsson (guest star Dennis Boutsikaris), who also comes up as technically deceased. “Clearly he’s good at this,” Megan deadpans.
With Tommy looking on from across the hall, Megan chats with Olsson’s widow Ruth (guest star Robyn Lively, whom you might recognize from her role as Vivian Blackadder in the pilot of NCIS) in hopes of learning information that will help the detectives track down the doctor. The only fact she really gets is that he was addicted to online poker. When Adam takes the website to his new friends at the FBI, they’re able to pull account information that ultimately leads to a hotel room…which is where the cops locate Olsson and tackle him to the floor.
In interrogation, they confront him with his true identity (and all of his fake ones). When Tommy brings up his wife, it strikes a nerve with Olsson, who declares that “faking my death was the only way out” of his old life and starts talking how he’s now got an enterprise helping others do the same. After a staredown with Tommy, Olsson apparently cracks – as that’s the last we see of him and the cops are now on the hunt for Roberts. Tommy, Adam and Megan walk in just as he’s preparing to go under the plastic surgery knife. Now not only is he going to finish standing trial for his original charges, and they have a line on the money he stole in the first place, but he’s also got the death of Jennifer Sanchez to answer for.
Oh, and Megan informs Olsson’s wife that he’s not dead – just arrested. Understandably, she explodes, slapping her husband before storming off. “She’ll be okay, right?” Tommy comments after the blow-up, adding that he’s worried about Megan. The lab results from her father’s suicide note are due to come in that night. “You may not get the answer you want,” he warns her, and later personally delivers the paperwork to her apartment. There’s a partial foreign fingerprint on the note. “I know whose fingerprint it is,” she tells him. “It’s my father’s killer.” Ominous blackout. Chew on that for a week.
“Disappearing Act” continues Body of Proof‘s streak of setups that are a little out there compared to the ones you’d find on other procedurals, and like some of those earlier episodes, parts of it work and parts of it don’t. It’s perhaps more obvious than it should be that Roberts faked his own death; if he didn’t, there’s no show. Just like in “Skin and Bones,” we knew there weren’t really zombies, because we weren’t watching The Walking Dead. In that sense, these false pretenses seem like diversions more than anything else.
Having said that, the opening of this episode was still pretty entertaining to watch, even knowing what was coming. The same goes for the conclusion, too. Christopher McDonald has kind of developed a niche playing the smarmy guy who rubs you the wrong way, and he does it again here (although, to be fair, it’s worth noting that both he and Mark Valley have voiced Superman in DC animated projects – McDonald in Batman Beyond and Valley in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Part 2 – so McDonald can play a hero as well). This episode’s intrigue comes not from the “what” but the “how,” trying to deduce where Megan and Tommy are going to find enough evidence to peg the bad guys. Throw in some actors who are familiar faces to TV audiences, and it’s a good, solid way to spend an hour, even if it’s not novel.
It’s nice to see the continued development of the partnership between Tommy and Adam, whose banter and timing seems to improve with every installment, like what you’d really expect from a new team. The show has done a fine job of integrating two new characters into the ensemble, and should Body of Proof go to a season four, it will be interesting to see how they further develop with tenure.
There’s less certainty when it comes to the recurring storylines, like Kate’s political ambitions and even the mystery surrounding Megan’s father’s death. The true evaluation of those plots is going to come when all is revealed and we know if it makes sense for the characters and what it means for the show. Right now, there’s not enough to even generate too much suspense in either category. Who didn’t expect evidence corroborating Megan’s suspicions to be found? Audiences will have to wait and see if these journeys were worth taking. Yet if nothing else, Body of Proof‘s third season has been worth it because it’s found a new dynamic that’s just as entertaining, in its own way, as the one that audiences loved before.