The Return of The Closer: “Hostile Witness”

Brenda Leigh Johnson
What is going on around here?
Brenda’s back and she is not happy. In this episode we saw the return of Brenda’s nemesis, Philip Stroh, the defense attorney she believes is also a rapist/murderer messing with Brenda’s head. He was also named in the lawsuit against Brenda in previous episodes, a fact the writers don’t let us forget here. We saw Pope continue to distance himself from Brenda and we didn’t hear a whole heck of a lot about the leak. We spent a lot of time in the courtroom and met a female prosecutor named Claire Baldwin who is much like Brenda in her singular agenda to close her cases in her own way.

The Trial
We begin tonight’s episode in the courtroom where Brenda is testifying in a murder trial. Philip Stroh is defending a suspect on trial for a rape/murder for which the police lack irrefutable evidence. Brenda is sure that Stroh was involved in the crime.

The team finds out the suspect has a prior for the same crime, but the case was dismissed when the victim went missing. The prosecutor agrees to let Brenda try to find the victim. Since she can’t trust anyone else, she puts Fritz on the case. There are a series of flashbacks to the scene of the crime as Brenda testifies. Brenda stares at Stroh as she answers and he stares right back at her as if daring her to accuse him. Fritz shows up in the back of court and nods, so Brenda accuses Stroh in court.

Whoopsie. Mistrial. The suspect gets out on bail. Prosecutor Claire is fuming, but Brenda has a plan.

At the crime scene
One rape or two? One rapist or two?
If First You Don’t Succeed
As soon as the suspect is released, the Major Crimes team arrests him again. This time for the rape of a woman named Natalie, the victim that Fritz discovered. Stroh comes to LAPD because his client has been arrested and he stands menacingly over the chief saying, “I hate to say this Chief, but you are the worst loser I have ever met.” The shot cuts away and you see most of the squad standing behind Stroh ready to defend Brenda—Flynn, Provenza, Julio, Tao, Gabriel, and even Taylor.

Back in the conference room, Natalie confirms that there was a second man involved, but she doesn’t want to relive the crime. She is trying to get over it. Since Natalie doesn’t want to look at photos or ID anyone, Prosecutor Claire’s idea is to just nail the single suspect and forget about Stroh. Brenda wants Stroh.

Natalie needs some protection and Brenda wants to talk to her, so she invokes the Johnson rule and offers her a place to stay—with her and Fritzie. Brenda makes Natalie pasta and then tells her that if she doesn’t identify her attackers they may come try to find her again. Fritz comes home and he doesn’t like what’s going on. As usual, Brenda brings him around. Natalie remembers the name of the club where she met her attackers.

Nightclub Ambush
Next we see Tao and Provenza waiting for Stroh outside the nightclub that Natalie named and they lead him inside. The whole squad is there in different places in the bar. Stroh realizes he’s been set up but stays put.

Brenda and Fritz show up with Natalie and walk her slowly around the bar to see if she remembers anything, counting on the fact that she will identify Stroh as the other attacker.  But she doesn’t identify Stroh—she identifies Charlie, the guy serving the drinks. The squad takes down Charlie.

Phillip Stroh
Evil incarnate? Well, he *is* a lawyer.
Stroh approaches Brenda now that she knows it wasn’t him, and says, “Drugging women to have sex with them—I don’t understand.  It’s so unsporting. Not to let them even have a fighting chance.”

Brenda manages to control herself when she hears this veiled confession and he responds with, “Lighten up, you got your man, as always. Right?”

Later Stroh goes to shake Brenda’s hand. I didn’t think she’d take his hand at first but she does and she pulls him close and whispers in his ear, “You’ll see me again. Count on it.”

Pope Gets Tough
Too chicken to tell Brenda himself, Pope sends Captain Raydor to tell Brenda a couple of things we all know she is going to hate:

  • She has to start bringing prosecutors into her cases earlier and allow the District Attorney’s Office to be more active with the Major Crimes unit.
  • Brenda cannot investigate Philip Stroh in any way—personally or professionally—without the express prior approval of Chief Pope.

You can see Brenda’s anger in her facial muscles. And Raydor follows up by telling her, as a friend, to take these orders very seriously.

“Trust me I am,” Brenda tells Raydor as she walks away. But I don’t believe her, and I don’t think Raynor believes her either. What did you think of the episode?


(And don’t forget . . . you still have time to enter for a chance to win a Brenda Leigh Johnson purse!)

Deborah Lacy likes speakeasies, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crime fiction. She blogs over at Mystery Playground. You can meet her on Twitter @quippy.

Read all Deborah Lacy’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. Carmen Pinzon

    I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach while watching this episode. I know we are winding down to the finale; I’ve heard they are not going to kill Brenda but they have to ‘get rid of’ her somehow. I’ll probably enjoy these final episodes more upon re-watching them once I find out what happens. The suspense is killing me!

  2. Saundra Peck

    It went by soooo fast!!! I wish they had made the last 6 episodes 2 hours each, but then I guess I would just want 3 hours…. I agree, the suspense is awful, and knowing it is ending is distracting. I am going to try harder to enjoy!!!

  3. Deborah Lacy

    @bungluna – I had the same feeling. Stroh is really, really bad and he enjoys playing with her mind, much like he plays with his victims. He’s coming back before the end.

    @sk1336 – It did go by so fast. There was so much going on.

  4. sherry arena

    i hate to think this is the last of brenda lee. i look forwad for each session to start. my only hope is they make a movie every couople of years to satisfy the craving of that southern drawl of “thank you thank you very much”. watching these last 6 episodes is like not wanting to eat the las chip.

  5. Cindy K.

    I think this episode was very well done! A lot of tension, did he or didn’t he. Will Brenda finally snap? I’ll miss this show!

  6. Deborah Lacy

    @sherivia – Wouldn’t a movie be wonderful?

    @CindyK – Brenda looked pretty close to snapping last night.

  7. Terrie Farley Moran

    You really nailed this episode. I see dark clouds on the horizon and cannot wait for Monday night. Is anyone else afraid Brenda will wind up professionally in disgrace by the final episode? That would be a shame.

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