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"People may be created equal, but they do not die that way."
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson
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The Closer (2005—2012) was a crime drama on TNT starring Kyra Sedgwick in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performance as Brenda Leigh Johnson, deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department (and former CIA agent), who transfers to Los Angeles. She leads a special LAPD unit that solves high-profile murder cases, with her supervisor being an ex-lover of hers.

Largely self-contained with several character-driven story arcs (most notably, dealing with Brenda's romance and marriage to an FBI agent, among others), the series began with and maintained considerable popularity and helped TNT, after several high profile failures, successfully launch its own programming block of shows on the network.

The series aired every summer beginning in 2005. The last season aired in 2012, giving the show an seven-year run. It was followed by Major Crimes, starring Mary McDonnell as Sharon Raydor. Most of The Closer's main cast returned for Major Crimes, which takes over its parent show's 9pm timeslot.

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This series has a character sheet.

Not to be confused with the 2004 film Closer.


This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Brenda's pursuit of a rapist who used his power as an attorney to stay out of jail was seemingly dropped after a few episodes. Subverted when he's mentioned in Howard Goldman's list of cases where Brenda has allegedly violated suspects' civil rights at the end of the Season 7 summer finale before eventually being brought back toward the end of the series. He finally gets caught (and shot) in the finale, albeit non-fatally. A running subplot through Major Crimes is the preparations for his trial.
    • Played Straight with Dennis Dutton, who appears for two episodes before being completely forgotten. To wit, he first appears as a suspect in "The Butler Did It" for killing both his step-mother and later the family's butler before being cleared. He then returns in a Season 2 episode where again he is a suspect in a murder before, again, cleared; both times it's brought up that he was suspected of murdering his ex-girlfriend and escaped prosecution note  He's also implied to be much smarter than anyone gives him credit for and shows an interest in Brenda, hinting that they would clash again and Brenda would nail him finally. He never appears again.
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  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Johnson's. Let's just say "Culture Clash" and leave it at that.
  • American Accents: Particularly Johnson's very "Dixie" sound.
  • Amoral Attorney: Philip Stroh.
    • Peter Goldman, who's already an unfettered Jerkass Has a Point when it comes to Brenda, crosses the line into this when he pays off Ann Mason to become The Mole by getting close to Gabriel, who he said was a dirty cop.
  • And a Diet Coke: An obese victim in the episode "Junk in The Trunk" had a last meal that consists of four triple burgers with extra cheese, six orders of fries, and a diet Coke.
  • And Zoidberg: (Possibly) Inverted
    Brenda: I was promised a crew of elite detectives, and what Captain Taylor here has given me is a bunch of junior varsity wannabes and Provenza.
  • Anger Born of Worry: In "Help Wanted", right after he kills a corrupt ICE agent who was in a standoff with (and about to shoot) Brenda, Fritz freaks out and yells at her to never do that again.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Brenda's interrogations often may violate the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Once a suspect asks for a lawyer, the interrogation must stop unless the suspect initiates further conversation. Otherwise the entire interrogation may be tossed.
      • Played with in "Identity Theft". Brenda gets the confession, but Deputy District Attorney Hobbs panics because the suspect wasn't read their rights. Taylor and Provenza correctly point out that Brenda never actually asked a question, using only statements and a mockup of the crime scene to get the confession.
    • As of the seventh season (especially the finale) all of Brenda's enormous law mistakes come back to bite her.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Lt. Tao. Dear God, Lt. Tao. If he and Grant Imahara stepped into a room, that room would explode. Or turn into a giant robot. Whatever. And that's before we learned in Major Crimes that Tao attended med school for a while.
  • Asshole Victim: Seen in "Problem Child", among others.
    • The victims in "Heart Attack" were all gang members who raped a 12-year old girl. Their killer is a surgeon who kills them and steals their organs to perform transplants.
  • Attempted Rape: In Season 1's "Fantasy Date", Brenda goes alone at night to check something at a crime scene. She is attacked and nearly raped before she manages to draw her gun and force the would-be rapist to back off. Turns out he was responding to a sex ad and thought Brenda was playacting when she resisted.
  • Backhanded Apology: Brenda turns this into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards the FBI, District Attorney's office, and Robbery-Homicide Division in the Season 1 finale.
  • Bathroom Breakout: Happens to Provenza and Flynn in "Layover", when they allow two stewardesses they are arresting to use the bathroom before taking them down to the station. To add insult to injury, the stewardesses then steal Provenza's car.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The gambit of "Detective" Richard Tracy in "Tapped Out".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: So gloriously averted. Fritz and Brenda's relationship begins with liking each other and enjoying each others' company. It's a shocking concept for television, no?
  • Berserk Button: Sitting on Provenza's desk is a bad idea.
    • Fritz is in AA. Disrespecting that, or trying to hand him "special" brownies, is liable to be hazardous to your health. (Keep in mind that he's an FBI agent. Doing this would make most people Too Dumb to Live, but..)
    • See Sharon Raydor. See Sharon Raydor get played. See Sharon Raydor team up with Brenda Johnson and take the bitch down. See the birth of a dynamic duo that will one day undoubtedly rule the LAPD.
    • Probably not wise to screw over Brenda. Her squad is... protective... of her.
    • Crimes against children are a special kind of evil to Major Crimes. Even Provenza and Flynn are affected (since they have kids of their own).
    • Brenda's particularly sensitive to cases involving sexual assault or domestic abuse. And she has no patience for anyone who abuses the elderly or sick, as a crooked nursing home manager and a cancer drug salesman find out.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The end of "War Zone," with the suspect facing the Bolivian Army of his neighborhood.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Fritz gives this to a corrupt ICE agent in "Help Wanted", while he's in a Mexican Standoff with Brenda and her division. The moment his gun points at Brenda, Fritz takes him down.
  • Bookends:
    • In the pilot, all the members of the newly-formed Priority Homicide squad turn in requests to be transferred to other departments because of their overly demanding new boss. Chief Johnson demonstrates her displeasure by dropping each form one by one into a trash can while giving each of her subordinates an assignment. In the last episode of the first season, when an anonymous complaint puts Johnson's job at risk, an almost identical scene occurs, but with the team's letters of resignation, effective immediately upon Johnson's termination, being discarded instead.
    • Also happens in season 3. The opening credits of the season premiere are interspersed with crime scene footage from Buzz's new camera. The same technique is used later, in part one of the next-to-last episode.
    • Used for the series itself. We are introduced to Brenda Leigh Johnson standing over a dead body, holding a mask to her face and saying sarcastically, "It looks like love." As television says goodbye to Brenda Leigh seven years later, she ends the series finale holding a new handbag full of her favorite snack as a gift from her team. Tears in her eyes, she says with utter sincerity, "It looks like love." End show. Cue blubbering.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Practically Once an Episode.
  • Bratty Teenage Niece: Brenda's niece, Charlie. Emphasis on "bratty".
  • Breakout Character: Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) started out as a walk-on role in 2009. In 2012, Sharon Raydor took over as the head of the Major Case Squad when Sedgwick (and Brenda) left the show and The Closer became Major Crimes. Apparently Mary McDonnell is just that good.
  • British Brevity: While obviously not British, each season consists of only 15 episodes. note  This can be attributed to it being a summer show produced by TNT.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Johnson is extremely successful at work, but her personal life...
    Pope: I'm sorry. She sometimes forgets there are other people. In the world.
  • Call-Back: All of Season 7 is one for Brenda, as every civil rights violation she's committed over the course of the series comes back down on her in a class-action lawsuit. Goldman even names the victims.
    • A more specific one occurs in Season 5's "The Life". When gang members start turning up dead after a 12-year-old boy is killed, Brenda learns that the gangsters were gang-raping a girl over multiple days. When the squad starts brainstorming connections to the rape victim, Sanchez says "How about a brother?" (Two episodes earlier, in "Maternal Instincts", a vengeful brother fatally shot his sister's boyfriend, who he believed had raped her.) This rape victim doesn't have a brother... but the slain 12-year-old did, which leads to a break in the case.
  • Catchphrase: Johnson's distinctive "Thank yeeeww".
    • The emphasis she puts on the "so" in "Thank you so much" is generally a clue as to how sincere she is about it.
    • Also, "Uurrghh, that woman!" whenever she shares an episode with Raydor.
    • "Oh, for heaven's sakes!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: At least half the episodes have some seemingly irrelevant detail that ends up becoming the final lynchpin Brenda needs to close a case...
  • Chekhov's Gunman: ...and about half of these have a person of interest or the lead suspects themselves revealing said detail under interrogation, Miranda warnings and the Fifth Amendment be damned.
  • Christmas Episode: Season 3's "Next of Kin", Season 6's "Living Proof", and Season 7's "You Have The Right to Remain Jolly".
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Fritz's sister, Claire. Played by Amy Sedaris.
    • Dr. Terrence also qualifies.
  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: Chief Delk collapses during a speech at the end of "Unknown Trouble". In the next episode, we find out he died of an aneurysm.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: As far as regards to Brenda. Characters who are helping her will wear colors that match or complement her clothes. A prime example is in season one, where she and Captain Taylor collaborate on an operation after several episodes of rivalry. There is a shot of them Power Walking in beautiful matching blue.
    • Also especially prominent in Season 7's "Silent Partner". Brenda wears a blue blazer with a dark purple scarf while Sharon Raydor, who has increasingly had Brenda's back in Season 7, wears a lavender blazer with a blue shirt.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: The entire squad is torn between Taylor and Johnson during Season One. Poor Gabriel tends to be the lightning rod for this particular clash, however. Johnson even sympathetically acknowledges this in a season one episode where he was especially torn. Naturally, all their loyalties eventually switch to Brenda.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Brenda ends up having to do this with Bill Croelick in the Season 4 premiere.
  • The Coroner: Dr. Crippen, followed by Dr. Morales.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In "Saving Face", the funeral of a former police colleague of Flynn and Provenza takes an unexpected turn when the casket is dropped, revealing not only their friend's body, but that of a nude, blonde woman.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Brenda lives in fear of turning into one of these and, after her cat (who she thought was male) has kittens, she wonders how she became one of those single women with too many cats.
  • Cute Kitten: After Brenda's cat dies, her husband gets a new kitten, Joel. Joel's presence provides much needed "cute relief" from the horrific events of the episode's murder case.
    • There's also the episode where Brenda and Fritz decide to stay in Mexico for a vacation after closing a case there. Brenda gets Sgt. Gabriel to look after a litter of kittens at her house. Getting a bunch of kittens to behave the way he wants goes about as well as you'd expect.
      "That is not a litterbox!"
  • Cuteness Proximity: Combined with Cute Kitten. One Season 6 episode had Major Crimes working from Brenda's dining room, since Pope had taken over their office for a major operation. Brenda had to shoo Joel, the kitten, away before they could get any work done, since he was such a cute distraction.
  • Da Chief: A rare example of this archetype as a primary character, in the case of Johnson. Pope is this to her.
  • Dead Man's Chest:
    • In one episode, a morbidly obese man is stuffed in the trunk of his own car for several days. The decomposition and the sheer size of his body makes it impossible to get him out of there in one piece.
    • In another episode, a cooler containing a body is left in a storage facility for five years. The owner of the facility has no idea what's in it but nevertheless thinks there's something not quite right about someone abandoning a cooler sealed with duct tape, and tries unsuccessfully to get the LAPD to take a look at it. Finally, he has enough and mails the box to the Major Crimes Division. The squad does the same thing to catch the killer.
  • Diet Episode: In "Blue Bloods", Brenda starts a diet that prohibits sugar and processed foods. Needless to say, it doesn't last very long.
  • Did Not Think This Through: The wealthy parents of a perp in "Good Housekeeping" stand out. They helped their son flee to Mexico to avoid being tried as an adult for rape and murder of a teenage girl because Mexico would refuse to extradite a minor who faces a life sentence. The father tries to use this as leverage to get his son a favorable deal. This rapidly turns into an Epic Fail because neither the father nor mother had considered that their actions — helping their son flee the country and interfering with the authorities — puts them in very serious legal trouble. Because the mother was using easily-traced bank accounts and checked into a luxury resort, the mother and son were easy to find. Their son also didn't realize that he did have the right to ask for consular assistance no matter what Brenda said. Nor did he realize that he was confessing to the rape and murder of a Mexican citizen in front of Mexican police officers, while ensuring that he'll not get extradited to the US. So, all three of them face prison with the son ending up far worse off had he simply stayed put and got a lawyer or simply kept his mouth shut.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Brenda becomes... very cheerful after rampant sex.
  • Disaster Dominoes: "In Junk in the Trunk", the car containing a decomposing body that could burst if not handled carefully breaks loose from the tow truck, rolls the hill, smashes (trunk first) into a power pole. And then a hot wire and transformer falls on it. And then the car catches fire.
  • Door-Closes Ending: The last we see of Brenda in the Grand Finale is her eating one of her long-missed chocolate cakes as the elevator doors close.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Brenda and Fritz never directly discuss whether or not they want kids, picking their way circumspectly around the subject while house-hunting.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: A version where Provenza takes one for the team and only embarrasses himself, in "Off the Hook". He's trying to conceal that he's talking to Brenda on the phone:
    Pope: Is that Chief Johnson?
    Provenza: No, it's my proctologist.
    Pope: You're asking where your proctologist is?
  • Embarrassing First Name: Lt. Provenza's first name is "Lieutenant" to you.
    • It's Louis ("Louie"), but as that can also be short for Lieutenant, we still might not be sure.
      Provenza: Call me that one more time, Flynn, and Georgette won't be my only ex-partner without a penis.
    • When being served with a subpoena, his name is officially confirmed to be Louie M. Provenza.
    • Buzz's real first name turns out to be Francis.
  • Enemy Mine: Brenda and Capt. Sharon Raydor. They loathe working together, but they just happen to be nearly unstoppable when they team up. Which completely baffles them both.
  • Enhance Button: Doubly subverted. When asked to "blow the picture up," Buzz just gives Chief Johnson a look. She corrects herself by asking him to make it bigger... only for the picture to come out perfectly anyway. Actually, Buzz's look when Brenda almost suggests he "blow it up" is because earlier in that same episode, Brenda's crime scene was blown up. This episode contained several explosive puns.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Once an Episode
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Murder the friendly old neighborhood shopkeeper and his grandson, and the local gang will kill you. Brenda exploits this to do an indirect Vigilante Execution on the murderer, who had been given immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony.
    • That's not the whole story. The shopkeeper and his shop were under the gang's protection. Turell, the gang member who killed the shopkeeper, placed the blame on Reggie, a fellow gang member who went into the shop as Turell left. Turell subsequently gave Reggie's name to the police. Reggie tried to kill Turell in an act of revenge. The rest of the gang didn't get involved until Turell sold Reggie out in return for immunity. Reggie subsequently called the others and filled them on Turell's numerous betrayals.
  • Exact Words: Brenda does this several times, letting a perp know that if he gives her the information she needs, she and the LAPD won't have any further business with them. Every time she says this, she's telling the truth... because this is always followed by Fritz and the FBI moving in to make their own arrest.
  • Fair Cop: The show stars, among others, Kyra Sedgwick and Mary McDonnell. This trope, of course, is in play.
  • Funny Background Event: In the episode, "Mom Duty," Brenda's mother comes over to visit the station while they're discussing a case. After being grossed out by the case in question, she leaves the room, taking pictures of the rest of the station. The flash from her camera is visible and frequent.
    • In another episode, when they receive a suspicious package, Provenza rouses himself from his crossword puzzle long enough to call the bomb squad. As the bomb squad sniffs around the box, you can see Provenza in the background still casually working away at his crossword puzzle!
    • "Relative Matters" has Brenda confessing to Chief Pope that her father has cancer. She wasn't sure if she could work the case and talked about how her father's sick and has massive mood swings and that she has to be there for him at home. While she was talking, Chief Pope saw her parents entering the Murder Room and handing out presents and smiling.
    • In "Junk in the Trunk", while Provenza is on the phone trying to convince Johnson that she didn't just hear Sanchez at the crime scene when he's supposed to be on desk duty, the car with the body breaks free and rolls down the hill behind him with the rest of the squad chasing after it.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Priority Homicide was originally called the Priority Murder Squad. The acronym went on their stationery. Brenda was not amused.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Fritz's face has shown this more than once whenever Brenda does something particularly clever.
  • The Glomp: When Johnson becomes worked up, stressed out, upset, or emotional—in other words, Once an Episode—she has a tendency to fly at the nearest character for a cooldown hug or in extreme cases Cry into Chest. Her common targets are Fritz or Pope, but she's occasionally targeted others. On one or two hilarious occasions, a deeply uncomfortable Gabriel finds himself awkwardly patting his boss on the back.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Fritz and Brenda's relationship (and later marriage) is most definitely of the passionate variety.
    Durcet: Piece of work. My opinion? She needs to get laid.
    Fritz: [deadpan] I don't think that's the problem, really.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Mentioned several times as being the case in the intelligence world when Brenda is enlisted by the CIA to help them deal with a situation involving terrorists getting a hold of plutonium. Her former mentor expresses his feelings about being involved in a situation where this time was one of the few where it was a clear case of good guys versus bad guys and he was on the right side.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Averted in most cases. Johnson is Genre Savvy enough to not answer the bad guy's questions unless it is advantageous to her. Which is how it actually works in real life. Of course, from their perspective, she's the Hannibal.
  • Happily Married: Brenda and Fritz seem to be developing into this; a rare dramatic example. Not that they haven't had their ups and downs, but their relationship has been solid since season one.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Captain Taylor starts out as a stereotypical sleazy, underhanded cop looking to climb the ladder, especially unhappy about Brenda essentially taking over his division. Through Character Development and mutual respect, he eventually becomes supportive of Brenda's position, even if he'll still point out her failings, and by Major Crimes has taken strong steps towards becoming a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Johnson to Sanchez in a mid-season cliffhanger. He was wounded taking bullets for Provenza, and there wasn't much notion that he wasn't going to survive.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Don't try to run out of police headquarters, especially when Gabriel and/or Sanchez is around. You will not make it. Especially since Priority Homicide specifically is located somewhere on the middle floors of a high-rise.
    • Additionally, as we learned in "Overkill", if you pull a gun in the murder room, you're going to die.
  • Improvised Weapon: Flynn is attacked in a parking lot, and stabs the guy with a windshield wiper.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: Gabriel returns fire on a fleeing murderer but the gun isn't found and it appears he's shot an unarmed man. Brenda realizes that the shooter, the man's partner in the original murder, had been standing right by him and disappeared in the darkness after Gabriel returned fire.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Brenda's questioning of a suspect rattles him to the point of mentioning a detail of the murder he shouldn't have known in "A Family Affair".
    • Also happens in "Problem Child". The police never established a time of death...
    • Raydor tells Pope and Taylor she received a job offer and is considering retiring, knowing that would get back to Priority Homicide. When the lawyer who apparently has inside information on the unit, Goldman, mentions it, she tells him there was no offer and he's just confirmed he has a source inside the department leaking information to him.
  • Internal Affairs: The Force Investigation Division, with the ridiculously Obstructive Bureaucrat Captain Sharon Raydor.
  • Innocent Bigot: Johnson's parents show the faintest, most innocent shades of this, with their gift of maracas to the (hispanic) Sanchez, and their implied denial of a son's homosexuality ("I don't understand why he spends so much time with that roommate of his!")
  • Intoxication Ensues: Johnson delves into her niece's "special brownies" during Season 5. Fritz is not amused when he discovers this.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: In "Elysian Fields", Provenza complains when Detective Olin is brought in to advise on a case.
    Provenza: "He wrote me up for using bad language, which is bullshit!"
  • It's All About Me: Brenda says this word for word in "Forgive Us of Our Trespasses".
  • It's Personal:
    • Priority Homicide are True Companions. This makes the murder of Det. Sanchez's brother personal for the entire squad. That said, Sanchez, naturally, takes it harder than anyone else.
    • The Season 5 finale gives Captain Raydor massive amounts of this in the central case.
    • In the Season 7 summer finale, Brenda asks the lawyer who's been hounding her if she personally offended him in some way. He says no; he simply thinks she is a menace, and he plans to end her, leaving her trembling.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Goldman, the lawyer prosecuting Brenda for every shady call she's made over the course of the series. She, well, actually did everything he's accusing her of. Similarly, Ricardo Ramos, a reporter who accused them of focusing on media-attracting/"important" people's deaths—which was, y'know, kind of true. Were both men dicks? Yeah. They also happen to be right.
    • In "The Big Picture," Brenda accuses Taylor's men of doing a shoddy job investigating a murder, because they considered the victim "just some Russian hooker." Taylor points out that he didn't hear her clamoring to have the case named a "priority homicide" until it turned out the victim had well-connected politicians for clients, and asks if that was because she thought the victim was just some Russian hooker. Brenda doesn't dispute it.
    • Captain Raydor may be (by her own admission, no less!) a total bitch, but the work she does is necessary.
      Johnson: When officers are shot and killed in the line of duty, they're investigated by me. When they shoot back, they're investigated by you. That means that they'll think twice before defending themselves. That hesitation means that more good cops will die. I have to ask — have you ever considered what your principles cost?
      Raydor: Seventy million dollars — that was the settlement in the Rampart case. One hundred — that's how many convictions were overturned due to renegade policing and lack of oversight in one division alone, not to mention the loss of trust the LAPD needs to remain effective.
      Johnson: There has to be a better way.
      Raydor: Well, until then, you've got me.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Happens at least Once a Season between Brenda/the LAPD and Fritz/the FBI.
    • Season 1 opens with this between Brenda and Capt. Taylor.
    • And in Season 5's "Strike Three", Brenda and Captain Raydor butt heads over an investigation: the two officers killed in the line of duty are Brenda's investigation, but Captain Raydor's investigating the dead civilian killed at the crime scene, who may or may not have been a suspect or a victim.
  • Karma Houdini: Bill Croelick is a particularly odious example. He's a Sociopath with a Dark and Troubled Past who's sexually aroused by burning women to death, but gets off for a variety of reasons: first the only witness against him ODs, then in both the cases where he's a suspect, the real murderer turns out to be someone else. He's also a Manipulative Bastard who loves to harass Brenda and company while staying just within legal bounds. At least Brenda gets him to leave her jurisdiction and never return.
  • Killed Off for Real: Brenda's mom, the first of the series.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Sharon Raydor, pre-Major Crimes. Provenza too.
  • Knight Templar: Brenda, in spades. Twice in the first four episodes suspects are shown to be beyond the reach of the law. One is a foreign police officer who ordered a jail hit on an innocent man. Brenda has the foreign cop sent to prison using the innocent man's name. The cop is murdered in jail. The second is a serial rapist and murderer who is protected as an FBI informant against his father. Since she can't arrest him, Brenda just mentions his informant status in front of the family lawyer. The suspect is dead in the next scene.
    • She does this frequently over the years, though less frequently than in some other shows. Unusually, it gets deconstructed in a major way: Every single case that she did something wildly illegal or resembling street justice over the course of the entire series comes back to bite her in the form of a massive federal class action lawsuit. Her job is threatened, the city may be out millions, she's running out of money, and her work is hampered by constant oversight.
  • Know Your Vines: In "Lover's Leap", Brenda ignores Buzz's urgent attempts to tell her something while she is examining a crime scene. What he was trying to tell her was that she was standing in poison oak. This later becomes an important clue in revealing the killer.
  • Language Fluency Denial: In one episode, the suspect claimed that she didn't speak English, so Brenda had Buzz question her in Spanish. It turned out that the suspect spoke perfect English but barely spoke Spanish!
  • Last-Name Basis / You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious / First-Name Basis: The evolution of the relationship between Brenda and her squad. Note that refers to what she calls them—she's always going to be Chief Johnson to them.
  • Lawman Gone Bad: An Immigration, Customs & Enforcement agent in "Help Wanted", who made a habit of raping illegal immigrants and then deporting them so they couldn't press charges.
  • Left the Background Music On: A rap song plays while the team investigates a crime scene in "Unknown Trouble". After Provenza complains, Tao finds the remote and turns off the TV that's playing the music.
  • Lethal Chef: Claire's all-vegan selection, judging by Fritz and Brenda's reactions.
  • Lying to the Perp: The Series
    • Summed up in this little chat:
      Lawyer: (To Pope about Brenda) Is she lying?
      Pope: You're her lawyer, of course she's lying.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Brenda, Brenda, Brenda... we know you want to close the case, but sometimes you go just far enough to be almost too far.
    • Surprisingly, Fritz shows he can be this, manipulating Brenda into closing an investigation in a way the FBI wanted, while simultaneously taking her mind off the recently-deceased Kitty.
      • He tries the same tactic again using Brenda's father's cancer diagnosis. This time, Brenda sees right through it.
  • May–December Romance: The much-married Provenza heads in that direction during Season 5. It doesn't end too well. But on the plus side, as Flynn puts it, at least the relationship ended before Provenza got married again. He finally broke the cycle.
  • Meaningful Name: An ultra-ironic one: Dr. Crippen.
  • Military Brat: Johnson. Causes an It's Personal moment when a group of soldiers are murdered.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: One time when Brenda's parents are visiting, her (more than usual) random emotions lead Willie Ray to think Brenda's pregnant. Brenda quickly corrects her, informing her mother that she's actually going through early-onset menopause.
  • The Mole: The leak in the department was Gabriel's girlfriend Ann. Goldman hired her to cozy up to Gabriel for inside information about the LAPD and Brenda's cases especially. Gabriel is legally cleared of wrongdoing, since everything he shared with Ann was said in confidence. He's still heavily scorned by members of the team for his accidental role in the leak.
  • Mood Whiplash: One episode starts with Flynn and Provenza talking on the phone, apparently setting up a comedic Breather Episode. Then Flynn witnesses a hit-and-run and talks to a young motorcyclist as she dies.
    • There's a rare moment of utter familial peace and comfort between Fritz, Brenda, and her father at the breakfast table, with Clay finally feeling back to his old self after his cancer treatment. Brenda then goes to have a heart-to-heart with her mother and include her, only to discover that her mother died that night and start screaming for Fritz. Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap...
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Brenda puts off a heart-to-heart with her mother. Who then manages to die in the roughly ten hour span that Brenda put it off. Oops.
  • Never Suicide: Subverted once, in a fairly painful manner.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: The "EE" kids in "Time Bomb". Natural Selection does not work that way!
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Tapped Out" features the murder of a parody of VH-1's Mystery, from The Pickup Artist. However, instead of being a guy in odd clothes who's good at chatting up women, "Intrigue" is actively a dick, taping his sex with the women he picks up, showing his "students" how to make a clean getaway, and showing the videotape to the woman later. He is an exaggeration of every negative image of a Pickup Artist, ever. The idea, presumably, is to make him so over the top even actual Pickup Artists hate him.
    Brenda: Oh my Lord, this man is horrible.
    • The preteen singer and her fame-hungry father in "Star Turn" are likely based on Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus.
      • Seemed more like a female Justin Bieber (with the singing career starting on YouTube) crossed with the "Balloon Boy" hoax.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted in the side story of an episode where Brenda constantly fought with Fritz over their clogged toilet. She wanted him to fix it, he wanted to call the landlord. The only problem was they had a cat (forbidden in their lease) and Brenda thought it was much easier for him to fix than to hide the cat for a day. The funniest part of the whole situation came when Brenda asked why he wasn't as fed up as she was about waiting until they left the house to go. When Fritz replied "I took a shower this morning," Brenda's horror was priceless.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Brenda Leigh Johnson is a sweet, scatterbrained Southern eccentric — until her suspect slips up and gives her a piece of information she wants. At which point said suspect learns that Brenda Leigh Johnson is also a CIA-trained interrogator.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Pope starts being this when Brenda competes with him for the Chief position. He eventually relents when she gets to the next step of the process... and he doesn't.
  • Once a Season: Starting with Season 2, there will always be one comedic episode that starts with Flynn and Provenza getting in trouble and the team investigating whatever situation the two find themselves in.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Very rarely, but this has happened to Kyra Sedgwick on occasion.
  • Organ Theft: The victims in "Heart Attack" are killed for their organs.
  • Outranking Your Job: The Major Crimes Division consists of three Lieutenants (Flynn, Provenza & Tao), two Detectives (Sanchez and Daniels, who later transfers out) and one Sergeant (Gabriel), with a Deputy Chief (Johnson) in charge. Ordinarily a police unit will be headed by a Lieutenant or Captain, with the rest of the squad being no higher ranked than Sergeant. Lampshaded in the series premiere of Major Crimes, when Provenza has been given command of the squad... for all of a week until Captain Raydor transfers in.
    • A conversation between Cmdr. Taylor and Sgt. Gabriel acknowledges this, as Taylor explains that in any other squad, 'Sergeant' would be a supervisory position.
  • Overly Long Scream: A 6-year-old girl did this in the police station to demonstrate what her parents told her to do if the recently murdered child molester living next door ever approached her.
    • In Season 5's "Tapped Out", a grown woman does one of these when confronted with a dead body... and continues to do so throughout the investigation, to the point of it being a one-episode Running Gag.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: Brenda can make "Thank you so much" and "bless your heart" sound like insults.
    • She's a woman from the Southern United States. "Bless your/his/her/their heart" is an insult. At best, it's an expression of pity for the terminally stupid.
    • Father Jack and Flynn both make "Bless you" sound like an insult, especially when saying it to each other.
  • Pass the Popcorn: The squad considers Johnson's interrogations a spectator sport.
  • Police Brutality: Sgt. Gabriel gets an admission out of a child molester by giving him a black eye. To cover it up, Taylor arranges for the suspect to be sent to central booking, and lets slip he's a child molester. The resulting beatdown is significantly worse than a black eye.
  • Police Procedural
  • Precision F-Strike: In the Season 6 summer finale, Brenda and her team corner an aspiring suicide bomber in the LAPD parking garage. He's carrying an oxygen tank filled with Sarin nerve gas, and when he gets shot, it rolls down a ramp and towards a concrete pillar... until Tao steps in and stops it with his foot. Cue realization of how close he is to death and "Holy CRAAAAAAAP!"
  • Prison Rape : Is mentioned as a sort of karmic justice for a rapist, who was the son of an L.A. County Sheriff Commander.
  • Prone to Tears: Despite being a tough Action Girl, our heroine is always one blink away from tearing up.
  • Put on a Bus: Detective Garth disappears from the squad without explanation during Season 1.
    • Actually disappeared after the pilot episode. The actor playing him probably found other work between filming this pilot and TNT's purchase of the show.
    • Detective Daniels, who gets promoted out of the squad after season four.
  • Raging Stiffie: In "Layover" Provenza had taken some viagra before having 'fun' with a flight attendant before finding a dead body in the bathtub. He had to stay seated to hide his erection from Brenda and Tao.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Kitty's death. First, one of the two cats playing Kitty died; then, the second one also became terminally ill, prompting the storyline.
    • Priority Homicide's transfer to the Counter Terrorism Bureau in Season 3, although played as a bureaucratic paper shuffle by Sgt. Gabriel, mirrors the real life transfer of Major Crimes to be under the Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau.
    • Also, Major Crimes' move to the new LAPD HQ, which happened in the same year the LAPD moved out of Parker Center.
  • Reaction Shot: In the season 7 summer finale, "Fresh Pursuit", Brenda wins her case about the man she left to die. Then the lawyer shows up with several more of her case files, and tells her he's going to Federal Court, and plans to end her. After he leaves, there's a shot of Brenda trembling with rage, or fear, or both.
  • Right Behind Me: Provenza starts a Season One episode at a crime scene imitating Brenda giving instructions to the team. Then Brenda pops up and adds that those are all great ideas and everybody should get on them.
  • Running Gag: In "Fate Line", people scaring Brenda with near-collisions (Pope) and sudden loud shouts (Claire and Tao). Through the whole show, Fritz and Brenda's recurring argument over which pronoun to use for Kitty.
    • And in Season 6, Commander Taylor's office. Or lack thereof.
    • It seems like every time Sgt. Gabriel is present at an autopsy, the coroner will offhandedly give him a body part to hold while he goes through his findings with Brenda. He gives a disgusted reaction each time.
    • "I can live with that/this" in "To Serve with Love."
    • Throughout the whole series, Brenda keeps referring to Kitty as "he", despite Kitty being conclusively proven to be female by giving birth, and Fritz keeps exasperatedly correcting her. (The only time he doesn't correct her is when Brenda is greatly upset over the fact that Kitty is slowly dying.)
  • Run for the Border: The murderer of an illegal immigrant's daughter flees to Mexico to escape prosecution. Brenda waives extradition in exchange for his confession. Subverted in that Brenda's investigation revealed that the victim had been born on the Mexican side of the border, so the Mexican police have grounds to arrest and prosecute the culprit for murdering one of their citizens. And Mexican jails are much worse than American, especially for a pretty-boy white American. Prisoners in general don't like people who hurt kids, and rapists are only slightly better off than pedophiles. Brenda doesn't tell him the girl was Mexican until he's finished, and there are two Mexican cops in the room. He desperately tries to get her to take him back, but it's too late.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Fritz Howard is the low-key point of stability for the very flighty and energetic Brenda.
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Provenza and Flynn really should have figured this out a lot sooner in "Layover".
  • Screaming Woman: Marie Morgan, the love interest of the victim in "Tapped Out", kept on screaming so loudly that Flynn and Provenza had to wear ear plugs part of the time.
  • Season Fluidity: Surprisingly low for a crime drama, especially with regard to Johnson's personal life (usually the B plot of each episode). Each season also has its own theme that even carries over into the cases. From season one to six, the themes have been a woman in a man's world, partnerships, family, power, change, and adjustment.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Provenza and Flynn get taken for a ride by a pair of sexy flight attendants in "Layover".
  • Sharp-Dressed Man:
    • Flynn has excellent taste in suits, if the $500 jacket he's wearing in "To Serve with Love" is any indication.
    • Provenza, in Season 5 (for romantic purposes). Flynn is horrified.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • "War Zone": Twin brothers. One is a dedicated soldier with a spotless record, the other a banger who killed a kind old man and a little boy over a six-pack of beer. Guess who's the victim of the week. Not that Brenda's unwilling to set it up so that Laser-Guided Karma will take care of him.
    • There's also the calm, grounded, FBI Agent Fritz and his younger sister Claire, who is a vegan spiritualist who has been a soap maker, a glass blower, a yoga instructor, and then a psychic.
    • Buzz is an inquisitive, wide-eyed optimist, while his TV weather girl sister Casey is a world-weary cynic.
  • Sleuth Dates Cop: Brenda's boyfriend-then-husband Fritz is an FBI agent. Brenda belongs to the LAPD, but she has often found it useful to have an inside source in the FBI who can get information or do things that the LAPD cannot. He will sometimes offer to help, but there have been times when the FBI and the LAPD both had mutually exclusive interests in the same suspect (for example, a suspected murderer may be a mid-level member of a crime syndicate, and the FBI may consider his usefulness as a snitch above the interests of the LAPD). In these cases, Brenda will do something underhanded, in essence tricking the FBI, and, more personally, Fritz. Fritz will often take this very hard, and will call Brenda out, often gaining the sympathies of the audience (Brenda will often take an "ends justify the means" defense with Fritz when he reacts this way).
  • Smug Snake: So many perps. Tend to be either people with power (or who are adjacent to power) or younger people who think their age will protect them from serious consequences.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: Pope is incredulous that Provenza and Flynn are invoking this in "Tapped Out", as they're having breakfast while police cars are rolling up to a crime scene across the street. Flynn points out that they're in Central Bureau's Area of Responsibility, and that if they're needed, Central will call Major Crimes and they'll go over.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Johnson is, well, a closer, phenomenally skilled at obtaining confessions.
  • Spousal Privilege: Appears on several occasions; see the trope page for details.
  • Stereotype Reaction Gag: In "Culture Shock," Provenza asks Tao to talk to some onlookers who apparently know only Chinese. Tao proceeds to address them in English, then dryly points out to Provenza that he's fourth-generation American and doesn't know any Chinese.
    • He does know Japanese, but only because his wife is Japanese.
    • Performed again later, when Sanchez expects Tao to know about ninjas.
      • Of course, being a nerd, he does know all about ninjas!
  • Sorry, I Left the BGM On: The source of the music playing over the opening of "Standards and Practices" is revealed to be a CD player at the crime scene.
    • Happens again in "Unknown Trouble" with a music video being the source.
  • Sweet Tooth: Johnson's habit of stashing junk food and candy anywhere she can hide it, including her purse and desk drawers.
    • TNT has caught on to this, and featured Product Placement for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on the show.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Carmen, a girl who shot a 12-year old wannabe gang banger, who was guarding her for the gang members who'd gang-raped her for several days. Nobody in Major Crimes is very keen on charging her for murder.
  • Taking the Bullet: Sanchez does this for Provenza in "Time Bomb."
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Brenda and Captain Raydor. Though they work together much more peaceably by the middle of Season 7.
  • Those Two Guys: Flynn and Provenza. If you think procedural cop dramas are immune to the Police Are Useless trope, just watch any episode where they get A Day in the Limelight.
  • Throw 'Em to the Wolves: In "Good Housekeeping", spoiled rich youth Austin Philips flees south of the border to avoid prosecution for killing the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. Knowing she can't get him extradited, Brenda goes to Mexico to get the full story from him, and he refuses to come back to the US no matter what she tries. Brenda meets him in a Mexican police station and asks him for the story so she can close the case, and offers to drop the accessory charges against his parents. The killer tearfully confesses that he did it by "accident". Then Brenda hands the Mexican cops evidence the victim was actually born in Mexico, not America, which made her a Mexican citizen. As she leaves, Brenda points out that the Mexican justice is not going to go easy on a rich, arrogant gringo who killed a poor Mexican girl. The Mexican cops take Austin into custody despite his sudden pleas to go back to the US with Brenda.
  • Time Skip: Four months pass between "Overkill" and "Serving the King."
  • Title Drop: One episode was about a dead hooker inside a dead cop's casket. The funeral director gets interrogated and claims he is "The Closer", meaning the last guy to shut the casket before it's sent to the wake.
  • Title-Only Opening
  • They Do: Brenda and Fritz, done remarkably well.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Raydor in the Season 7 episode "Death Warrant," where she shocked Brenda's whole team by shooting a bad guy right between the eyes with a bean bag round.
  • Tranquil Fury: Brenda was a master of this, usually dramatic (questioning a horrible killer) but also for laughs (see anytime Provenza and Flynn pull a screw-up).
  • Tricked into Another Jurisdiction: An inverted version occurs in "Good Housekeeping", where a perp flees Brenda's jurisdiction but she tricks him into confessing to a crime he can be arrested for in the new jurisdiction. Spoiled rich youth Austin Philips flees south of the border to avoid prosecution for killing the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. Knowing she can't get him extradited, Brenda goes to Mexico to get the full story from him, and he refuses to come back to the US no matter what she tries. Brenda meets him in a Mexican police station and asks him for the story so she can close the case, and offers to drop the accessory charges against his parents. The killer tearfully confesses that he did it by "accident". Then Brenda hands the Mexican cops evidence the victim was actually born in Mexico, not America, which made her a Mexican citizen. The Mexican cops take Austin into custody despite his sudden pleas to go back to the US with Brenda.
  • True Companions: Priority Homicide. At first they're united in that they despise Brenda; by the end of season 1, they're united in that they'd put their jobs and lives on the line for her.
  • Undying Loyalty: In the most unexpected of places. Raydor's loyalty, over the course of three seasons, has come to rest wholly with a woman she once despised. Johnson is stunned when she realises it.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Done in the pilot. The victim, a fugitive, had gotten plastic surgery and was living as a man. When the woman they were having a non-physical affair with found out, she snapped and killed them.
    • Poor, poor Sanchez.
    • Provenza has this happen as well, when his former partner George Georgette shows up.
  • Verbal Tic: When she's flustered or upset, Brenda will often repeat the operative word of her sentence three, three, three times. Willie Rae does it too.
  • Vigilante Execution: "Heroic Measures."
  • Villainy-Free Villain: It seems that we are supposed to cheer for Brenda when she gets one over on Captain Raydor, but the Captain is a professional, zealous, by-the-book investigator who is doing exactly what her job description says she is supposed to do, which is to investigate misconduct within the LAPD. Given Brenda's underhanded tactics, Raydor had good enough reason to track her every move.
    • Not to mention that she was trying to help Brenda become Chief of Police.
    • And in Season 7, she is doing her best to stop investigating Brenda and her team, to the point of opening up the investigation by emphatically telling Brenda that she was being forced to investigate and, at numerous points in the investigation, trying to give strong hints to Brenda that she was being forced to continue the investigation against her will. Brenda is so insulted by the idea that she's being investigated at all that she just brushes Raydor off without thinking about the meaning of her words. By the mid-season finale this appears to have changed somewhat, as Raydor is the first person Brenda looks to after she is cleared. Raydor's face is wreathed in smiles, and Brenda nods her thanks to Raydor before the scene ends.
  • Weirdness Magnet: There have been at least three instances outside where Provenza and Flynn met outside of work, stumbled across a dead body, and failed to react properly. Three. The half-naked lady in Provenza's garage, the naked lady in their buddy's coffin, the random actor who fell on Buzz's car...
    • Up to four, with Provenza and Flynn picking up two flight attendants and going home with them where Provenza finds a dead man in the bathtub.
    • In Season 7, they stumble into a robbery at a pawn shop. Before they even notice what's going on, the crooks get away with the gold and they find a dead man in the back of the store.
  • What a Drag: In "Elysian Fields", a suspected rapist and murderer is dragged behind a car by someone torturing to get him to reveal the location of the body of his victim.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Johnson gets this treatment when she blackmails her niece Charlie into signing a sworn statement about Jake's ex-girlfriend getting pregnant with his child and her father's subsequent threat by threatening to send Charlie's parents a tape of Charlie describing in detail all the sexual high-jinks she got into with her ex-boyfriend.
    • Sanchez gets this in Season 6 when the team finds out that his search for a child's missing, deported mother was actually him searching for babysitters and schools, and that he hadn't called anywhere in Mexico to even start looking for the mother.
    • Johnson has a tendency to put closing the case before all else, sometimes including other people's investigations, even Fritz's. Notably, in "Live Wire", she scares the murderer out of taking a deal with the FBI so that he'll go to jail rather than get off on a lighter charge, despite this screwing up Fritz's case against a major drug cartel. This was after messing with Fritz's investigation through out the episode. He calls her out on it.
    • Brenda also gets this... well, all the time when someone finds out that she was circumventing procedures and throwing pre-existing investigations off track, but especially throughout Season 7 when she is facing the repercussions of blatantly setting up an untouchable murderer to be executed by his own gang in Season 6.
      • She herself kept giving one to Fritz about the FBI (and the LAPD, as he keeps insisting that she remember) doing something similar when they set a dangerous drug dealer on a rap star in order to get him to do something incriminating. And then she did the exact same thing, only it turns out that the FBI/LAPD's actions didn't cause the crime, but hers did result in three people being badly beaten in an incident that involved shots being fired. Though in all fairness, one of those was the criminal and she did get to arrest a bunch of criminals, including one that the FBI considered "untouchable."
    • Another one occurs in the second season episode "Borderline". Brenda leaves the scene of a minor car accident (which occurred while she was on her cell phone) to get to a crime scene. She's then, to her annoyance, told to fill out an accident report and may lose her driving privileges. When the captain in charge of the Traffic division personally reminds her of the reports, she scornfully dismisses his "silly investigation". He quietly responds that car accidents cause as many deaths in L.A. as murders do, and the victims' survivors mourn them, and even build roadside shrines to them. There is nothing silly about his job. Not only is Brenda put in her place, but this provides her with a clue to her current case.
  • With Friends Like These...: Flynn and Provenza, although it's usually Provenza instigating whatever goes wrong this time.
  • Worthy Opponent: Brenda may detest Captain Sharon Raydor, but even she thoroughly, if grudgingly, respects Raydor's investigative skills. See also Enemy Mine.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: On her wedding day, Brenda was scared because while she loves Fritz with her whole heart, she feels that her heart is tiny. Fritz reassured her that she has a big enough heart for him, the job, and then some.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Another character advances this opinion, about Brenda, to Fritz (unaware of the latter's relationship to the former). Fritz's utterly deadpan response is to opine that he doesn't really think that's the problem.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Played absolutely straight. Brenda adopts a stray she calls 'Kitty' whom she assumes is male. Up until 'he' gives birth.


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