Dr Robbins’ wife becomes the prime suspect when a genealogist is found dead in their home.
Judy Robbins calls 911 to report that there is a dead man in her bed. Judy tells Brass that she was talking to the victim, Dan Traxler, about business, and she left the room to answer the phone. She was gone for twenty minutes, and he was not in the living room when she came back. She called his phone and heard it ringing in the bedroom, so she headed inside and found him dead in the bed. She assumed that he got the wrong idea about their interaction and had a heart attack, but he was smothered.
There are traces of cat litter inconsistent with the Robbins’ cat in the house, and Dan’s briefcase is missing. The team looks into his genealogy business to see if there’s anyone who might want him dead. One of Dan’s other clients, Carla Duggan-Smith, hired Dan to locate her grandfather, Samuel Duggan, so the man could walk her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding. DNA from the pillow used to smother Dan is a familial match to Samuel’s son Jimmy Duggan, a man who is serving a life sentence in prison for armed robbery. The killer is a direct male relative.
DB speaks to Jimmy, who says he doesn’t have any brothers. However, Dan’s colleague Donna says there’s evidence that Jimmy’s mother Eunice was pregnant when she and Samuel filed for divorce in the 1970s. The baby was abandoned at an orphanage, and he was raised as Patrick O’Toole. He has a sick cat, and he tracked the litter into the house. The team brings Patrick in and tests his DNA with Eunice and Jimmy, and they make a shocking discovery: Jimmy is Patrick’s father. Patrick found out he had a family, but he also learned the truth about his own birth. He killed Dan and tried to make it look like an affair so the murder would be pinned on Judy.
“Genetic Disorder” is a one-episode gap between the start of Catherine’s exit storyline in “Zippered” and it’s continuation in “Ms Willows Regrets”. Luckily, this is no filler episode. Doc Robbins is front and center this week, and fans get a look at his marriage and home life as both are thrust to the forefront of a murder investigation.
Things don’t look so great when Dan Traxler is found dead in Doc’s bed, naked and surrounded by candles while romantic music plays. Doc doesn’t want to believe that his wife would have an affair, but he doesn’t get the opportunity to speak with her while the case is being investigated. The situation leads to two intense scenes featuring Paul Guilfoyle and Robert David Hall. Brass seems convinced that Judy was cheating on her husband, but the evidence points to the real killer: Patrick O’Toole. Fortunately, when the truth is revealed, Brass is willing to apologize for his mistake and acknowledge that his personal experience clouded his judgment. Doc appreciates the apology, and there’s clearly a deep respect and understanding between the two men during their final scene.
Hall is really the star this week, and Wendy Crewson does a wonderful job as his wife Judy. Their marriage is under a microscope, and it does not emerge unscathed. Doc truly wants to believe that his wife would never step out on him, but he knows that it is a possibility. It seems to be the logical explanation for Dan’s presence at the Robbins’ home, but he tries to think with his head and not his heart during the investigation. Judy is exonerated when the evidence proves that she didn’t kill Dan, and she tells her husband that she wants to explain everything. However, Doc is still feeling vulnerable, and he’s afraid that the truth will ruin the trust he has in her. He just needs some more time. At the end of the episode, he heads home to see his wife. It’s only then that he learns the full truth about Judy’s interaction with Dan Traxler: he was helping her to research Doc’s genealogy as a gift, and she presents the beautiful family tree to him.
The episode offers a great look at Doc’s relationship, and I appreciate the realistic approach to a couple who has been married for twenty-five years. Things are not perfect between these two, but they love each other and work through their problems. In fact, Doc tells Catherine that he cheated on his wife in the past. He wanted to prove to himself that he was desirable, and the affair hurt Judy deeply and nearly ruined their marriage. It adds a new dimension to the situation at hand, and it’s clear at this point in the story that Doc wonders if his wife may have strayed due to a similar weakness. Despite this possibility, he doesn’t hesitate to call a lawyer on his wife’s behalf.
Viewers also get a glimpse of Hall’s reality in the episode when Greg and Hodges are in Doc and Judy’s bedroom, and Hodges sees the wheelchair in the bathroom. There’s a montage of Doc removing his prosthetic legs and settling into the wheelchair for the night. Hall is a double amputee, having lost both legs following a car accident in 1978, but his prosthetics are rarely mentioned on the show. It’s a good thing that Hall’s disability is not the sole focus of his character, but it’s also nice to take a moment to step back and look at the extra challenges he faces day-to-day. Doc Robbins, like Hall himself, is an inspirational man, and he is a talented, remarkable human being who doesn’t let anything stand in his way.
Brass isn’t the only character who offers his opinion on what happened between Judy and Dan Traxler. DB and Morgan, who have never met Judy before this investigation, keep their interaction professional. Morgan has developed a nice relationship with Doc since she joined the team, and she shares a moment with him in the hallway before she speaks to Judy about some evidence from the living room. Morgan reaches over to touch his arm briefly, and they grasp hands for a moment before they get back to the case. She and Doc get along well, but they haven’t known each other for very long. The simple gesture is fitting, and it allows Morgan to offer the man some support without pushing too far. This is a major contrast to David, who is overtly emotional from his first scene in the episode. He has known Doc and Judy for years, and he can’t believe this is happening. He hugs Doc before taking the body back to the morgue, and Doc reveals to Catherine that David has been asking how he’s doing every five minutes.
Catherine tells Doc that they’re all concerned. Like Brass, Catherine knows how it feels to be betrayed by someone you love, but she responds to the case in her own way. She’s understanding of Doc’s situation, and she doesn’t automatically assume that Judy has been cheating—although it’s clear that she would not be surprised if that were the case. However, she is surprised to learn that Doc had an affair, and this information prompts her to explain that when she was married to Eddie, they went back and forth hurting each other. She wonders if perhaps Judy has hurt Doc in response to the way she was hurt in the past, but their conversation is cut short.
Hodges has a great deal of respect for Doc, but he doesn’t question the initial findings. He seems sure that Judy was having an affair, and his words are callous when he talks about it. Greg is determined to remain unbiased during the investigation, and he quickly reminds Hodges to keep it “neutral”. As Morgan tells Judy early in the episode, evidence can prove guilt and innocence. Greg accepts that Judy may have had an affair, but he lets every piece of evidence lead him toward the truth without letting his feelings get in the way.
Greg also gets a chance to interact with genealogist Donna Hoppe throughout “Genetic Disorder”, and it’s a really fun, interesting subplot within the episode. According to writer Elizabeth Devine, Nick was originally going to work with the genealogist, but they had to change it to Greg at the last minute after George Eads had a family emergency. I’m curious about how the story would have evolved with Nick in Greg’s place, but I feel like the genealogy subplot really works with Greg’s character. He has always had an interest in Las Vegas history, so it makes sense for him to discover an interest in his own personal history as well. I like to think Greg and Donna got together after the episode ended to continue to explore his genealogy—and perhaps he’ll take her advice and start to hyphenate his name. Greg Hojem-Sanders does have a certain ring to it.
See also: “Genetic Disorder” episode guide