Jonathan is careening around Brooklyn in the Fab Five SUV like Daphne in the Scooby gang’s Mystery Machine, if Daphne had designer stubble. “Where are we going mes amis? Oh hello New York girls! Work!”
He waves out the window to a couple of young women holding up their phones to take selfies of their new manis. They scream with joy at seeing him, and the team blows kisses out the window. Tan claps his hands with joy. “Did you see that t-shirt she had on? ‘Cinnamon rolls not gender roles’.”
“Amen!” sings Karamo.
Flipping his hair and ignoring the traffic, Jonathan turns to the shotgun seat where Bobby is flipping through a manila folder. “Bobby bubbe, who is our NYC go-see?”
Bobby has to raise his voice to be heard over Karamo and Antoni making a fuss over a bar they’ve just passed, which apparently serves a hell of a caipirinha, “...and the bartenders are total snacks, I’m saying,”
“Our hero is Sonny Carisi, and hello - he’s a looker.”
Waving the headshot at the back seat to avoid Jonathan grabbing it and driving onto the sidewalk, Tan, Karamo and Antoni immediately scream.
“What a honey!”
“Now that’s a snack!”
Cut to a studio shot of Antoni in black and white explaining that “A ‘snack’ means a person who is easy on the eyes, like - I’d like to snack on him. And Sonny is definitely a unqualified snack.”
“What is his story?”
Bobby’s tone shifts into Serious Documentarian Mode. “So Sonny is another boy in blue - he’s a NYPD Detective.”
Karamo raises his eyebrows higher than the Chrysler building and immediately turns his head to look behind them. “Are we gonna get pulled over again?”
There’s a general freak-out at the possibility, but Bobby doesn’t make his tone any lighter. “I really hope not, because Sonny works for the SVU - Special Victims Unit. That’s for victims of sexual assault.”
“Oh my god.”
“Yeah,” Bobby’s still reading from the file. “He’s been cited for awards for his work investigating rape cases, and has helped get justice for victims who usually don’t see convictions.”
“Because sex crimes are notoriously hard to prosecute,” Karamo is leaning forward, “for a whole bunch of reasons, including victims not wanting to deal with an unsympathetic system.”
“That’s one of the reasons Sonny transferred into the unit, it’s lead by a female Lieutenant who has increased the conviction rate for SVU cases to an all-time high in New York City. Their department has also broken ground in the US for compassionate treatment of victims, and their methods have been studied by Columbia University to be replicated across the country.”
Tan and Antoni are leaning into each other, looking crushed. Tan says, “So he’s out there dealing with some of the worst criminals and most upsetting cases”
Jonathan’s hand is clutched to his chest. “The things he must see and hear, it makes me want to cry,”
A close-up of Jonathan addressing the camera. “I’ve had friends who were sexually assaulted, and it’s so traumatizing to hear about it happening to a loved one. But for a professional, I can only imagine what that’s like to deal with every day of the week.”
The next talking head is Karamo. “People who work on the front lines dealing with abuse and assault, like social workers, counsellors, and yes, the police. They not only have incredible amounts of pressure put on them, they have to do a lot of emotional labor that the systems they work in don’t always recognise.”
Back in the car, Karamo asks Bobby, “How does Sonny deal with the stress?”
“Well, listen up Antoni - he loves to cook, and bake, and he also likes going to the bar.”
“Don’t we all!” Antoni agrees, and Jonathan snaps out his approval.
“Speaking of bars, he was studying in night school to become a lawyer, while working full time as a Detective, and recently passed the bar.” Bobby shakes his head incredulously, “That is a huge achievement for anyone, but imagine doing it with that job.”
Tan presses Sonny’s photo between his hands. “This guy is an overachiever.”
“He has a big family from Staten Island - ”
Karamo laughs, “Staten Island! Wu-Tang represent!”
“But his sisters, who nominated Sonny, say that he was always a positive, happy guy, who used to hang out with them, make everyone food, however in the last year since he passed the bar he’s been really closed-off to them, and seems to be really down.”
Bella and Gina are being interviewed in Gina’s kitchen. They constantly talk over each other, and do spot-on Sonny Carisi impressions.
Waving her hands around imploringly, Bella addresses the off-camera interviewer. “My brother is the greatest guy in the world, but…”
Gina breaks in, “He is killing us.”
Bella nods furiously. “To death.”
“We never meet any of his girlfriends. We never get invited to his place. He passed the bar last year and when we tried to throw him a party, he kept putting it off, and it’s still never happened, and then there’s his moods,”
“He’s been different lately. Not his usual self, and we all thought it would pass - ”
“But he’s still walking around with a bug up his ass,”
“And he won’t talk about it. He just says ‘I’m fine’ and ‘leave me alone’,”
“‘Stop being so annoying’,”
Bella rolls her eyes. “We’re his sisters, and we are Carisis. Being less annoying is not an option.”
Back in the car, Karamo is waving the file around like it’s a Pride flag. “It sounds like Sonny is carrying the weight of the world. He’s got a high-stress job, three sisters who want to know everything about his love life, he’s just accomplished a long-term goal, and maybe he’s gotten burnt out?”
“Well, we’re going to find out from the man himself.”
“Let’s get some Son-shine in New York!”
Bobby spots a location and gestures towards it, “Pull over here,”
Jonathan looks over to where Bobby is pointing. “Is that a bear bar?”
“Close enough, it’s a cop bar!”
Karamo and Antoni scream in unison, “We’re going into a cop bar?!”
Tan pulls out finger guns. “C’mon punks, make my day.”
A series of the world’s least-threatening gun noises escalate as the team pour out of the car and descend on McGill’s Irish Pub.
Interior pub: cops in and out of uniform are drinking and watching the TV, but turn once five Netflix megastars swarm in yelling for Sonny Carisi. The camera catches big smiles and high five requests, with talking heads saying “Hell yeah, Tan!” and “I need to get a picture for my wife.”
“It’s the Queer Eye guys,” one older cop explains to a grizzled looking man. “They do makeovers which make people cry.”
The grizzled guy looks over at his partner. “They make you cry?”
He laughs. “It might’ve gotten a little dusty, someone was cutting up some onions near me...”
“Sonny! Son-shine! Where are you boo?”
Over in a booth, Amanda has her arm around Sonny and a big smile on her face. Fin looks slightly concerned, as if someone had just explained to him that the kids were now taking a new street drug called Hee-Haw that could only be ingested by wearing assless chaps and riding a mechanical rodeo horse. Still, when Karamo sat down next to him he gave him a dap and let himself give a tiny smile at Carisi squirming opposite him. Clearly, if Rollins wasn’t restraining him, he’d be breaking a speed law getting out of there.
“Hey doll hey!”
Jonathan nestles up to Rollins as Bobby, Antoni and Tan lean over the table.
Amanda looks thrilled. “Hiiiiii!”
“So you’re Amanda, Sonny’s partner, right?”
She gives Sonny’s shoulders a squeeze. “That I am. And let me get this on the record, I love this kid, but he needs serious help, guys.”
What sounds like the rest of the bar, and maybe the entire NYPD force, howls with laughter, and Sonny attempts to claw through the table.
“That is what we are here for darling! C’mon Sonny,”
For the first time, Sonny talks. “Do we have to do this now?”
Karamo thumps the table. “Oh hell yes we do.”
In the blink of an editor’s eye, they’re inside Sonny’s tiny apartment.
“You’re a cook, I wanna see the kitchen,” Antoni elbows his way past a cluttered coat rack into the postage-stamp sized cooking space. He gets busy burrowing into the cabinets, while Sonny is carried in after him by four enthusiastic voyeurs.
“What is this?”
Tan is waving around one of his paddle graters. Sonny starts saying, “It’s for root ginger,” and Karamo’s face falls.
“I was hoping it was something kinkier.”
“We’re only in the kitchen!” Tan sounds hopeful.
“But seriously, man,” Bobby was moving the tax return forms Sonny had meant to tidy up from the counter, “You have so much cooking stuff here, you’re like practically halfway to Antoni already.”
Jonathan chimes in, “You just need tighter jeans.”
Bobby continues, “There’s a lot of gadgets here!”
Rootling around the counter, Karamo adds, “And takeout menus - wait, is this a Chick Fil-A napkin? Sonny, you can’t be eating homophobic chicken!”
“Ooooh!” Jonathan looks scandalised.
Karamo flings the napkin at Sonny, and Jonathan retrieves it to mop his brow down.
“We’re not going to be fooled by your cooking tech and spice racks, you’re secretly eating fast food.”
Sonny holds up his hands in defense. “It was when I was on assignment in Kentucky, OK? There’s not a lot of gnocchi on the ground there.”
Antoni emerges from his excavations in Sonny’s pantry. “I eat Chick Fil-A sometimes. The biscuits are amazing.”
Sonny nods at him, “Thank you!”
“But do you feel awful about yourself afterwards?”
Jonathan waves Sonny’s favorite spatula at Antoni, while wearing the Kiss Me I’m Italian apron Sonny’s sisters had given him for Christmas three years ago.
“I always make a donation to the Trevor Project whenever I eat there, karmic re-balancing.”
Sonny laughs but he eyes up the jar of capers that Antoni was holding. He is clearly embarrassed by the takeout menus and fast food packaging, but his kitchen is obviously a well-stocked place, given the ship’s-galley size of it. They’d had to stick Bobby in the doorway just to fit everyone, and Karamo was sitting up on the counter to give Jonathan twirling space.
Leaving Antoni behind, they move the party into the single room that makes up Sonny’s lounge, dining room, and storage area. Tan asks Sonny how tall he is, and jokes about a giant being made to live in a dollhouse.
Bobby’s eyes are bulging a little. “The kitchen is functional and feels loved, but what the hell is this? Sonny, it’s like a Staten Island Goodwill threw up in here.”
“Isn’t the vintage look in?” Sonny is trying, but he looks flustered.
Tan is horrified by the tufted velour of Sonny’s couch. “There’s vintage, and there’s dreadful manky old rubbish. Was this upholstered in the skin of dead Muppets?”
“It was my uncle’s, I used to have it in my dorm room, we’d play video games on it, there were good times on this couch.”
“WAIT, DID YOU LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY ON THIS THING?”
Jonathan administers the sniff test and makes to pass out, while Sonny pleads the fifth. Bobby waves at the piles of boxes, books, magazines, DVD sets, and sports memorabilia.
“Why is there so much stuff everywhere? Didn’t you hear what happened to the Collyer brothers?”
“I’m not a hoarder, it’s just been - I’ve been doing stuff. These are study notes.”
Sonny is waving at his coffee table, where carefully-arranged stacks of paper sprinkled with post-it tabs and colour-coded index cards cover the entire surface. It’s the only organised space in the room.
Tan holds up a hand. “Oh, the study notes are impeccable. It’s the rest of the place that would make any grown woman run screaming.”
“He is risen!”
Bobby is wielding a giant garish portrait of Jesus on the cross and shaking it at an aghast Antoni.
Sonny facepalms. “Oh, God,”
Karamo jumps in, “Don’t you mean, ‘Oh, son of God?’”
Reeling back to look at the painting, Bobby squints. “Why is this glorious artwork crammed behind your couch under a garbage bag?”
Antoni crosses himself discreetly. “I feel so judged just looking at it.”
Bobby tells Sonny that as a young Evangelical “I saw a lot of painted Jesuses, but never one with this much bloody gore.”
Sonny throws a t-shirt at the painting. “My Mom gave it to me. It used to hang up in my Nonna’s sister’s house and when she died no one else wanted it.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“I bet this gave kids nightmares for generations.”
Bobby positions himself behind the painting to hold it at face height. “SONNY CARISI I COMMAND YOU TO THROW OUT THAT COUCH.”
Tan has already turned away. “Guys! Bedroom!”
Jonathan dives through the door and lets out a scream worthy of Tippi Hedren.
The room is not dirty, or filled with junk, and there’s no particularly embarrassing artwork on the walls. That’s because there’s nothing on the walls; the wallpaper has been stripped down and not repapered. There’s a bunch of wires poking out of a light socket, and neatly stacked against a corner is a wrapped bunch of baseboards.
“Sonny, honey, why do you sleep in a construction zone?”
“Why do you sleep in a giant safety hazard?”
“Is the roof going to fall in? Do I need a hard hat?”
Bobby pokes at the exposed wires and mimes a heart attack. Jonathan presses his finger to the exposed plasterboard wall and gets a load of white dust on it. “This room has dandruff,”
Antoni is hugging Sonny, looking distraught. “How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who hurt you?”
Bouncing on the neatly-made bed, Karamo looks up at Sonny, “I mean, the mattress is comfortable. Pity it’ll never feel the touch of a human woman,”
Tan adds, “Unless she’s electrocuted and needs somewhere to lie down and die.”
Putting his arm around Antoni’s shoulders, Sonny tries to explain. “I’ve been meaning to finish this off.”
“But you thought you’d go with Death Trap Chic instead?”
“After I passed the bar, this was going to be my next project. I got go-ahead from the landlord - he’s a friend of my uncle’s - and I had plans to fix it all up. See the paint swatches?”
Peering at the three nearly-identical shades of green on the wall, Bobby shakes his head, all color draining from his face. Karamo hugs him and looks accusingly at Sonny. “You hear that? That’s the sound of Bobby’s heart breaking. You did this when you left this room unfinished.”
“I’ve been busy - ”
Antoni lies on his bed and looks through the books on his night stand - mostly on law and New York history, with a slim Ed McBain crime novel on one side. “How do you read these in bed, when you don’t have a working light fitting?”
“I use the flashlight on my phone.”
Antoni nearly falls off the bed in despair. Karamo has fished out a locked box from under the bed. Between him and Bobby they’re trying to see whether they can break the combination lock.
“Is this full of sex toys?”
The box gets put back promptly and their hands are wiped on each other as if they’ve gotten cooties.
“Look, there’s one bright spot, lads.” Tan is absorbed in the giant hulking wardrobe that dominates one side of the room. “He owns some nice suits.”
Sonny looks relieved, until Tan pulls out a maroon hoodie and says, “But then he also owns a hoodie that Andre the Giant rejected for being oversized.”
“Why is it so big? It’s bigger than your kitchen?”
“They use this to cover Staten Island when it rains.”
“And what about this designer item?”
Tan is flapping about a Kermit the Frog t-shirt, with Kermit posing as Marky Mark from the Calvin Klein ads.
Sonny shrugs, “It’s fun?”
“It was fun in 1995, Sonny! Which is when most of these looks were at their peak. I mean, this color scheme - orange, lime green, and don’t get me started on your fake Burberry,”
The offending hat is thrown at Sonny, who doesn’t see the problem. “Isn’t this in?”
“Not unless you’re Puff Daddy when you were dating J.Lo and it’s the actual designer label, not a Chinatown knock-off.”
Jonathan rescues Sonny from the Fauxberry shaming to go into the bathroom. This, at least, is intact, though Jonathan makes Sonny demonstrate how he gets his “giraffe-sized ass” into the “Mary Lou Retton-sized shower.”
“I sort of lean like this, and move around a lot.”
Sonny hunkers over like a retiree at a bingo board and mimes scrubbing.
“I feel like this is not great news for your lumbar region,”
“My lumbar region gets cleaned!”
“Wait,” Jonathan is distracted, “what is this? Wow, it really is 1995 in your apartment, but I love,”
He’s holding up a bottle of Polo Sport aftershave. “So fresh and outdoorsy!”
Climbing out of the shower, Sonny says, “Yeah,I got it for my birthday when I was 16, so now I always ask for it at Christmas, my sister Bella gets it for me,”
Karamo’s head pops through the doorway. “Sonny, that’s kind of tragic.”
“What, it does the job?”
But Jonathan is sniffing at the bottle, and examining it like Indiana Jones would look at a recently unearthed artifact. “Um, Sonny, you realise this bottle is produced by a Ralph Laurin, L-A-U-R-I-N?”
Karamo starts laughing. Sonny’s face creases with confusion. Karamo clasps his arms around him, “Man, you’re a detective, right?”
“...It’s a fake?”
“A professional detective?”
“I’m going to kill Bella.”
Back on the couch that taste forgot, Sonny is surrounded by the boys, who are wearing various items from his apartment. Tan has a bright green mesh basketball shirt on, Antoni is wearing the novelty apron with the moustache-twirling cartoon chef across it, Bobby has on the Kermit t-shirt, Jonathan is wearing the massive hoodie as a cape, and Karamo is working the hell out of the fake Burberry cap.
Tan is leaning forward, “Explain this to me - we grab you from your afterwork drinks, where you’re dressed in a well-cut suit, you’re a NYPD Detective in one of the most important units, you passed the bar after studying part-time - that’s insanely accomplished - you have a love of cooking, a huge family who adore you, so what the hell is going on?”
Karamo taps Sonny’s knee, “Your sisters say they never see you, and you turned down a party to celebrate your law degree.”
Antoni pipes up, “I can’t believe that this is a place where you can have people around to cook for them.”
“Your bedroom is an actual health hazard,” Bobby still looks ashen, “and you are not getting laid in a room without a working light!”
Keeping his hand on Sonny’s leg, Karamo asks, “Is what your sister said true, is stress getting to you? Because I don’t get how someone who is so high-functioning in so many areas of his life is using knock-off aftershave and spending his evenings reading books by the light of his phone.”
Suddenly everybody has stopped talking and it’s Sonny’s turn. He doesn’t look like the physical contact is making him uncomfortable, but he’s got a half-smile that keeps wavering, like he’s waiting to make a joke and let this whole thing pass over. But Karamo is not dropping the eye contact.
“Whew, I’ve been in interrogations less intense than this,” he begins, and Tan clasps his shoulder as his voice drops to a lower register, “It’s been a tough year. My family went through some stuff, my workload was intense, and I got to the end of this thing I’d been working on for so long, my law degree, and in the end it didn’t feel like I was doing anything important.”
He sighed. “But everyone wanted to celebrate, even though I didn’t. And the stuff I liked doing, seeing my friends and family, redoing this place, even cooking, it just wasn’t fun as it used to be.”
Jonathan asks, “What do you do for fun lately?”
“I guess I go drinking?”
Holding up a sad-looking throw cushion, Bobby says, “Hi, I’m Sonny’s liver, please put me out of my misery.”
Sonny laughs, but before he can make a joke, Karamo is right there, and he’s not letting up on the eye contact. “And are you dating?”
Antoni broke in, “Do you even want to?”
“Uh. Well. I. Yeah, I do, but it’s hard with the job...my last relationship, we broke up. I had to break up with her, over work stuff, and it didn’t end well. I’ve not been dating since.”
It’s not sure what Sonny thought that confession would result in, but unlike any interrogation he’s been part of, this ends in a group hug plus one very crumpled Burberry cap.
Amanda is being interviewed at what looks like a coffee shop. “Our job can take a lot out of you, by the end of the day, it’s true. There’s no time for self-pity - you just won’t cut it if you wallow - so we all have our ways of dealing. I hang out with my daughter, who’s the best person in the world. Though she’s not much of a drinking partner - Sonny’s much better for that. I’m always grateful that I get to work with him, particularly since he shaved off his awful moustache.”
Bella and Gina are laughing and holding up pictures of younger Sonny. “This is his prom picture! He genuinely thought the cream suit was a good idea, and came home with it covered in cranberry juice,”
Gina rolls her eyes. “Because one of his boys decided to try and make Cosmos to drink in the gym bathroom.”
“And here’s the famous moustache! It was even worse in real life.”
Rafael Barba is shot against a backdrop of the court building. He’s wearing a coat and scarf, carrying a file, and looks like he’s begrudgingly spared the crew two minutes between hearings. “Detective Carisi? I think he may be color blind. I once witnessed him he wearing brown shoes with a navy suit. And that moustache should’ve been a criminal offence.”
After some footage of the Fab Five dancing, there’s a montage of work in progress, from Bobby flipping through swatches, Tan flicking through jackets, and Antoni just hanging around looking gorgeous.
Bobby says to camera, “Sonny is in a transitional stage with his life right now, and his living space reflects that. He needs to let go of the old stuff that doesn’t work anymore, and let himself grow and change. Instead of being a teenage boy in Staten Island, he’s an extremely accomplished professional who deserves a nice place to live in.”
Wearing a nice patterned shirt that’s definitely not neon green mesh, Tan outlines his approach. “With Sonny, we have a guy who is completely nailing his work wardrobe, but has no casual style. If he has something great to wear when he’s off the clock, he can feel great doing things that aren’t defined by his job.”
“A job like Sonny’s is so high pressure. He regularly sees the worst of humanity,” Karamo pauses to lean forward, “And no matter how good you have been at managing stress in the past, old coping mechanisms don’t always keep working. On top of that, he’s finished his law degree and felt like it was an anti-climax, plus had a bad break-up. I need to find out how to reconnect Sonny to that kind hearted, passionate spirit that his sisters miss about him - but do it on his own terms.”
Jonathan shakes his head. “We all have noses, and your scent matters! It doesn’t have to be expensive, but like Mary J. Blige told us, it’s gotta be real.”