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Series / Crossing Jordan

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The cast of the final season. From L-R: Lily, Bug, Garret, Jordan, Woody, Nigel.

This show has nothing to do with traversing a country bordering Israel (although the title comes from crossing the river of the same name) or with a certain former Page Three Girl.

Instead, it is an ensemble Forensic Drama created by Tim Kring and produced by Damon Lindelof, who also served as writer and executive story editor for the show. It centers around the life of Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh (played by actress Jill Hennessy), a rather tempestuous medical examiner in the Massachusetts State Coroner's office. Jordan is something of a Cowboy Cop, due to the murder of her mother as well as considerable additional exposure to police files and procedures at a young age by her now-retired cop father, Max Cavanaugh. As a result, she regularly ends up trying to solve homicides and other crimes herself.

The rest of the main cast consists primarily of Jordan's coworkers at the morgue and colleagues on the Boston PD, who get roped into helping with Jordan's investigations on a surprisingly regular basis:

  • Dr. Garret Macy, Jordan's crotchety superior (played by Miguel Ferrer)
  • Dr. Mahesh "Bug" Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurthy, a fellow medical examiner (played by Ravi Kapoor), his nickname refers to his knowledge of insects
  • Nigel Townsend, the morgue's resident lab rat and hacker (played by Steve Valentine)
  • Lily Lebowski, a sweet but eccentric grief counselor (played by Kathryn Hahn)
  • Woodrow "Woody" Hoyt, a detective for the Boston police and Jordan's on/off love interest (played by Jerry O'Connell)

The series debuted on September 24, 2001 and wrapped up on May 16, 2007.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Gender Flipped, in keeping with the show's female lead. Jordan gets a fair number of these just because she's, well, Jordan. Lily seems to view Det. Matt Seely as this at times, too.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Nigel. An entire episode is devoted to this. It isn't until several seasons later that the question is finally answered. Ironically, he's not.
  • And I Must Scream: A particularly dark Black Comedy example. The victim is shot and spends the most of the episode (shot from his POV) paralyzed. He used to be a prosecutor and Macy's friend, but underwent a Face–Heel Turn to Amoral Attorney when Macy refused to falsify evidence to put away a serial killer. He keeps pleading with Jordan and Macy not to autopsy him, promising he'll change. He's only saved when Macy digs the bullet out and realizes he's still bleeding. Turns out he and his two guests (who were killed) had improperly prepared Fugu, and his secretary shot him. On his way out of the hospital, Macy gives him a bell, and tells him that people used to be buried with strings attached to bells in case they were buried alive. The lawyer points out that Macy just effectively admitted the coroner's office is at fault, and he'll both be suing and representing the woman who shot him. Then he walks outside and gets hit by a car. The last shots of the episode is the team looking down into his body bag, and their evaluator asking if they're sure he's dead. The bag is closed up, using the same POV shot from the lawyer's perspective as earlier, and then we hear a bell tinkling.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: "Fire from the Sky" - a commuter plane from Baltimore to Boston crashes in the Blue Hills, killing everyone on board (including Devan), after the crew and passengers are incapacitated by a choking gas produced when sulfuric acid from a wheelchair battery (the plane's air marshal found a wanted felon on board, and during the ensuing scuffle one of them accidentally shot a hole in said battery) reacts with the borax used to clean the plane's carpet. Only problem is, the reaction of borax and aqueous sulfuric acid produces... sodium sulfate and boric acid, neither of which is a gas, let alone a choking one.
  • Ascended Extra: Steve Valentine's Nigel was just a background character for a handful of scenes in the first episodes, but the producers liked the way he demanded your attention on just those scenes, and turned him into a regular...
  • Asshole Victim: Where do we start with Shelly Levine? He used to be an ADA until a series of errors lead to great embarrassment when he prosecutes a guy that is actually innocent. He blames Dr. Macy for his failings on the case and becomes a defense attorney and takes great pride in making the morgue staff look like idiots. He's constantly taunting them, and even threatens to have Nigel deported. He collects trophies, weapons that where used by his clients to commit murders for which he has gotten them acquitted. While being shot at, he used his client as a human shield. Needless to say that the morgue staff are more than pleased when they see him on a slab. Woody stabs him with a needle out of sheer hatred.
    • Turns out he wasn't actually dead, having been paralyzed during the shooting. (See And I Must Scream, above.) As noted, rather than being grateful to the morgue staff for realizing he was still alive, he gleefully threatens to sue them all (and take up the defense of the woman who shot at him, his assistant, and his client, just out of spite). Then he gets hit by the car.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: After a number of heroin overdoses are reported by one person, Dr. Macy and Dr. Winslow decide to investigate and find a former medic running an unlicensed clinic. Dr. Macy realizes that even though the clinic is not up to the standards of a real hospital, it is doing good for the people it serves.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Kate and Nigel.
  • Berserk Button: Bug in an episode where a murder appeared to be racially motivated.
    • "Gray Murders" reveals Woody's absolute hatred of drugs, which stems from his brother's drug abuse problem.
  • Big Storm Episode: The main cast are effectively trapped in the morgue during a huge snowstorm that paralyzes Boston, ** during which there is a freak e.Coli breakout which sickens Peter, Garret, and Bug, and kills Elaine
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In the Season 1 episode "You Can’t Go Home Again", it’s Abby’s 17th birthday and Dr. Macy wants to take her to a Chinese restaurant that they’ve always gone to. However, Abby wants to go to a concert with her friends. Dr. Macy is right that he made reservations for the dinner and she can’t just back out at the last minute (not to mention that he’s still dealing with the events of the previous episode). Abby is right that she wants to do something with her friends and that she never liked the place, as it holds bad memories of being caught between her parents fighting. Unfortunately, they don’t reconcile. Dr. Macy refuses to see her point and Abby disrespects him by standing him up at the restaurant.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Abby Macy is a poster child of this trope. Although she’s also still reeling from her parents nasty marriage and divorce to the point where she spent years blaming herself.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jordan find out that many of the people she idolizes and has known for a long time aren't that great. Her father was a crooked cop who regularly planted evidence and framed a guy so he could steal his money. Her mother had another child in an affair and her mental state made her a danger to both children. Garret once ruled an obvious murder a suicide in order to help a politician.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Pretty much everyone at the morgue.
    Lily: He died because he had a big heart.
  • Catchphrase: "You want to be the victim or the killer?"
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Doctor Peter Winslow a recovering drug addict medical examiner who appeared in Seasons 2 "Perfect Storm" until season 3 "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?" and simply disappeared without explanation. Nigel makes a reference to Peter covering his shift in Season 5 "Thin Ice."
  • Clear My Name: Jordan is on the run after her boyfriend is murdered.
  • Cliffhanger: Several. Subverted in the final episode which was originally written to be a Cliffhanger but was then rewritten into a Happily Ever After when it became apparent that the series would be canceled.
  • The Coroner: Jordan, Garret, Bug, numerous others.
  • Cowboy Cop: Jordan constantly, Woody on a couple occasions as well, and Max used to be this going as far as planting evidence.
  • Crossover: With Las Vegas.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone.
    Woody: Is sarcasm a prerequisite for being an M.E.?
    Garret: It helps.
  • Double Standard: In the first episode Jordan's co-worker Trey Sanders tells her "I don't date white women." Had Jordan said the same thing regarding black men it would have undoubtedly been viewed as racist.
  • Eye Remember: Dr. Macy claims to have a machine which can recover a dead man's last sight, in order to trick/blackmail some violent thugs into letting him go. (He's totally lying, of course.)
  • Facial Recognition Software
  • Fair Cop: Woody.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: A series of murders based on The Wizard of Oz.
  • First Day from Hell: Twice. One doctor showed up just in time for a massive blizzard plus an in-morgue E. Coli outbreak, and Dr. Devan Maguire got kidnapped on her first day after the team was caught up in a poorly-conceived government terrorism drill.
  • Forensic Drama
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: "Friend" is stretching it quite a bit, but Dr. Kate Switzer definitely qualifies with her blunt abrasiveness and general uncaring "all-about-me" attitude.
  • Freudian Excuse: One of these frequently comes up in the show.
    • A Serial Killer justifies her actions with her dad's infidelity.
    • A man kidnaps and imprisons a boy in his basement. Garret correctly deduces that the chains had been previously used to chain up the man when he was a child.
    • Woody became a Cop because his Dad was killed in line of duty.
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: There was an episode where the Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult in Jordan's childhood neighborhood had recently died and a skeleton was found in the baseboards of her floor soon turns out that it was the remains of her husband who she killed several years ago to protect her mentally disabled son. This trope was played with in the sense that over the course of the investigation, she was shown to be a more of a human being. Though they did find the cedar chest where she kept all of the toys.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Subverted. An imprisoned serial killer genuinely wanted to make amends, and strived to become a better person, eventually becoming a model prisoner and devout Christian... too devout. When he caught a pair of guards getting frisky in the prison chapel, he was enraged that they would dare desecrate a house of God, so he murdered one of them, and tried to frame the other for it, completely convinced he was doing the right thing.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The morgue staff are sure that a guy has been murdered in the same building they work in. They just can't find where the corpse was hidden. It's in the crypt.
  • Homage: An episode with QuincyME star Jack Klugman as an aging medical examiner.
  • Improbable Taxonomy Skills: ANY time there are entomological traces found, ONE look was all Bug needs to tell what it was and how incredibly few but oh so conveniently dark and abandoned places it could be found.
  • It's Personal: Jordan's half-brother.
  • Jerkass: Detective Matt Seely. In "Locard's Exchange", he proves he has the "sensitivity of a lizard."
  • Jack the Ripoff: "Road Kill" is about a series of murders that emulate too many details of a previous serial killer. Many of them are details that where never released to the public.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In "Wild Card" Eric Brazil most definitely is a jerk. He seems to be unaffected by the murder of a teenager and is more concerned with taking down a gangster. Later he is suspected of killing said teenager and framing the gangster. In reality he was deeply affected by the death.
    • Dr. Switzer. She's blunt, abrasive and makes absolutely no effort to soften toward her co-workers but when she has to fill in for Lily as grief counselor at one point, she's extremely compassionate and understanding to the victim's family, to the point the Woody is absolutely shocked by it.
  • The Lab Rat: Nigel, Bug.
  • Locard's Theory: Mentioned by name in the episode "Locard's Exchange".
  • Love Dodecahedron
  • Love Triangle: Between Jordan, Woody, and Lou that ends with Lou getting mortally wounded during a riot. A brief earlier one exists between Macy, Lily, and Macy's ex-wife Maggie. Lily dumps him.
  • Mistaken for Gay: A tabloid runs a picture of Jordan and a lesbian talk show host, and implied that they are lovers.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Woody in the first two seasons.
  • Necro Cam: The series is notable for frequently superimposing lead characters reenacting a crime over Necro Cam footage of the crime actually occurring. There was even an entire episode told largely from the corpse's perspective, with running commentary, even. Turns out he wasn't dead, just poisoned, paralyzed, and aware.
  • No Social Skills: Almost every female medical examiner on the show: Jordan, Dr. Devan Maguire, and Dr. Kate Switzer.
  • Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds: Nigel and Macy are looking into the death of a pimp when one of his rivals comes in to pay his respects. He finishes a brief prayer by firing several shots into the corpse. It later comes out that the rival killed the pimp by shooting him and he ironically provided incriminating evidence in his attempt to obscure the cause of death.
  • Odd Friendship: Bug and Nigel.
  • Off on a Technicality: In one episode, a judge overturns the convictions against a child molester/murderer because the prosecutor (now the DA) had failed to disclose evidence to the defense.
    • For all the Non-American tropers, that's not a technicality. It's such a huge thing that not only can it ruin a prosecutor's career and get them disbarred, it also can require every case they were on to be retried.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Nigel.
  • Overly Long Name: Bug - that's "Dr. Vijayaraghavensatanaryanamurthy" to you.
    • And on a side note, the guy who plays Trey Sanders — Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.
  • Perky Goth: Lily, especially in the first couple seasons. And Nigel, a rare male example.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Sunset Division", though it was never picked up.
  • Put on a Bus: Max, several minor characters.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: One episode had Jordan's father call together the staff at the medical examiner's office for an exercise at solving a cold case. After playing out the scenario, they realize that modern technology could easily solve the case. They run the evidence through their equipment and come up with a culprit. They then set out to apprehend the murderer only for the elder Cavanaugh to inform them that the murderer died a few months earlier.
    • "Justice Delayed" had Jordan investigate a 40 year-old racially motivated murder, on request of the victim's son, who never believed the "official" ruling. Jordan finds out the local coroner lied about the weapon used under pressure from the local police, and has a likely suspect, but the widow doesn't want a trial stirring things up again.
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: The Blue Moon Killer.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: A father of a girl that was kidnapped, sold into sexual slavery, and believed to be dead exacts revenge on the child traffickers. Woody at the end even lets him out of his cuffs.
  • Temporary Love Interest: J.D. Pollack, Jeffrey Brandau, numerous others.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted — morgue employees are required to go through a yearly psychiatric evaluation, which they all dread. Bonus points for the recurring therapist character being played by Wallace Shawn.
  • Throwing Out the Script: In the first episode, Garret is supposed to do a presentation about coroners at a career day. He starts off with one that's fairly dry and unenthusiastic, which gradually becomes a rant that practically drives people away with the lurid descriptions of his work.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: All over the place here, but it's especially evident between Macy, Nigel, and Woody. Also tends to be present between Dr. Kate Switzer and anyone unlucky enough to have to work with her (usually Nigel).
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Dr. Jack Slocum and Special Prosecutor William Ivers star in two such story arcs.
  • UST: With pairings almost too numerous to list, but especially between Jordan and Woody.
  • Western Terrorists: On at least two or three different occasions.
    • Subverted in one episode, where it was just some kind of government sponsored test (which severely pissed Macy off).
  • Will They or Won't They?: Jordan and Woody, as Jordan's inability to commit to a relationship is best described as "homeric". During the Las Vegas crossovers, they would frequently hook up with Danny and Sam, respectively.