Spoilers: "Blue Christmas", "All the news fit to print" and "Revealed".
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Bug: If you love Nigel so much, why don’t you marry him?
Woody: We can do that in Vermont now.
“All the news fit to print” ep.#03007
A joking exchange that nevertheless reflects the subtext that had been growing increasingly clear as the third season of NBC’s Crossing Jordan progressed. And in fact, the dialogue between Bug and Woody throughout the entire episode, leading up to that exchange, has been threatening to turn subtext into text.
What is Crossing Jordan?
This show has been said to have jumped the shark from the very first episode. It’s certainly a quirky little programme. Instead of trying to be uber-serious like other crime scene shows on the air right now, it plays with the oddball personalities of the characters that work at the Boston Medical Examiner’s Office. The title character, Jordan Cavanaugh, is an ME with a fierce rebellious streak, which usually gets her co-workers in a fair bit of trouble.
But we don’t care about her today. We’ll be talking about Woody and Nigel, two of the ‘secondary’ characters on the show.
So who are Woody and Nigel?
Dr. Nigel Townsend (Steve Valentine) is a criminalist working at the Boston Medical Examiner’s office. When it comes to getting the work done, he’s a jack of all trades. He’s the one the others go to when they can’t figure things out, and he’s always testing out some new state-of-the-art gadget to help with forensic work.
When you first meet him, he seems to be a swishy, quirky Brit, of the kind so often found on American television. He’s charming, flamboyant, and very smart. On further viewing you begin to see that he’s more than just a secondary comic relief character.
His strength is his open-minded way of looking at the world. He’s not averse to bending the rules if it yields the necessary results, and he’s always open to the unorthodox, be it theories or methods.
In love, however, he’s not as successful. For some reason, Nigel can’t get no love! Mr. Valentine has said that Nigel has a crush on Jordan, though if this is translated into the show at all, it is in Nigel’s willingness to help Jordan whenever she asks him to do anything ‘under the table’. Jordan Cavanaugh, the show’s central character, often gets in trouble for going outside the boundaries of her profession in the pursuit of evidence. Once she’s latched onto a mystery, nothing can keep her from going after it. And her co-workers often get pulled in right along with her. Nigel ends up helping her, often begrudgingly.
The first season episode ‘Blue Christmas’ even went as far as playing with Nigel’s indeterminate sexuality. Having won a ski trip, and having no one to go with, Nigel invites a co-worker named Trey. During the rest of the episode, Trey begins to notice strange behaviour in Nigel which leads him to suspect that there’s a hidden ploy in the ski trip invitation. In the end, Nigel explains that he has no ulterior motives on him, but the door has been opened: is Nigel bisexual? It’s no big thing either way in the show’s saga, as Nigel remained more or less a secondary character, but it sets the stage for Woody to come in a week later.
Woodrow ‘Woody’ Hoyt (Jerry O’Connell) is a Boston PD detective who’s originally from Wisconsin. He’s your all-American high school quarterback Midwestern type. He’s young, and a little overeager at times, but overall a good guy, if a bit vanilla.
He almost immediately fell victim to the inevitable force of nature that is Jordan Cavanaugh. Since then, he’s been forever caught between doing things ‘by the book’ and helping Jordan in her crusades. Originally introduced as a potential love interest for Jordan, he’s drifted in and out of her romantic radar with not much progress.
Okay so, what about Woody and Nigel together?
When Woody isn’t tagging along with Jordan on another of her wild goose chases, he’s often paired up with Nigel. On the first episode of season 3, “Devil May Care”, Woody and Nigel visited an occult shoppe in pursuit of clues from what seemed like a cult killing. Nigel seemed to take a genuine interest in the occult, while Woody took a more sceptical approach. However, they did bond over their shared love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It’s the beginning of an interesting partnership, which continues in an arch that weaves through the rest of the season. It’s all straight-laced Woody can do to rein in Nigel’s more unorthodox impulses. It’s not so different from his interactions with Jordan in the previous season. (Perhaps it’s a case of simple replacement, as star Jill Hennessy was pregnant during much of the filming, and did in fact not appear in a couple of 3rd season episodes.) Perhaps on a deeper level, their kinship extends from their shared unrequited love of Jordan.
The way I see it, they’re both getting over Jordan at this point. Nigel, however, can’t stop being the pushover he’s always been. In the episode “Second Chances”, an already swamped Nigel just can’t say no when the newest medical examiner, Devan, tells him to drop everything and handle her evidence ahead of the rest. In the meantime, Woody has also been trying to get Devan off his back, by constantly reminding her she isn’t a detective and she should let him handle things. Having the ME’s invade ‘his turf’ has always been a peeve of Woody’s. However, being the kind of guy that he is, he wasn’t completely immune to her charms.
In a now infamous scene from that episode, Nigel and Woody discuss Devan:
“I’m finding her a tad pushy,” Nigel said.
“She is kinda hot, though,” Woody replied, smiling up at Nigel.
Nigel smirked, folding his arms. “In your squeaky-clean, white-bread world, perhaps,” he said, stepping closer to Woody.
Woody chuckled nervously, backing the hell up. “All right, you know what? Never mind. I don’t think I really need to know what makes your dough rise.”
At this point, Woody’s practically backed up against the doorframe, Nigel a mere inch or two away from his body. “Oh, Woody, I’d so love to tell you,” Nigel purred.
Without another word, Woody bolted into the hallway and away from Nigel. Nigel chuckled, shook his head, and muttered, “Too easy.”
The attraction of the opposites is encapsulated in this short exchange. Nigel is amused by Woody’s vanilla image. He’s attracted to it in the way a predator approaches its prey. Someone like Nigel would look at someone like Woody and think ‘Oh, the things I could teach this one...’ On the other hand, Woody is intimidated by Nigel, though he couldn’t tell you exactly why. Perhaps a large part of it is fear of his own sexuality. Yet he’s developed an attachment to Nigel that seems to go beyond a simple working partnership. Woody likes Nigel, despite himself.
In the episode “All the news fit to print”, which takes place three episodes after “Second Chances”, Nigel is absent. Woody ends up teaming up with Bug instead. Yet, throughout the episode, Woody can’t stop talking about Nigel. He wishes Nigel were there to help him, since he’s soooo much better at everything than Bug, at least the way Woody seems to see it. As you can imagine, Bug didn’t take that so well (and I leave it to the writer in charge of Nigel/Bug to figure that one out).
The bittersweet anti-climax of the Nigel/Woody story arch in season three is reached in “Revealed”, the episode immediately after. When Woody first sees Nigel, he greets his friend with an effusive “It’s so good to see you!” But not all is wedded bliss for these two.
When the case they’re investigating turns out to have some blatant supernatural overtones, Nigel is quick to jump on the vampire bandwagon, defending his right to have an open mind towards the possibility that vampires do exist. Woody, worried about an upcoming promotion, won’t hear of it.
Nigel hangs on to his beliefs, against all odds, and accompanies Woody as they follow the clues that point to the possible killer. They find themselves at a gothic bar. Woody, in his work suit, looks decidedly out of place, while Nigel’s donned gothic makeup and a long coat. “You sew those pants on yourself?” Woody asks, taking a look at Nigel’s trousers, right after Nigel’s teased him about his conservative garb. Nigel’s dressed up to fit in, but the ease with which he moves in the club and flirts outrageously with the girl that approaches them suggests the scene is not new to him at all. Again, a point of contrast. Woody is taken by surprise when the ‘vampire’ girl licks his cheek and guesses his blood type. It turns him on but at the same time scares him. He’s not used to giving in to his darker side. It’s there, he just doesn’t acknowledge it.
Nigel is aware of this, and he tries to hang on to his views about the case, but when in the end their so-called ‘vampire’ is revealed as nothing more than a lonely man who hides behind a dark persona, his illusions of a romantic anti-hero are shattered. As the vampire is unmasked, so is Nigel. All the confidence and attitude that he wraps around himself is torn away to reveal a lonely, uncertain man. He rests his back against the two-way mirror (the false vampire can be seen inside the interview room) and he sighs, while in the soundtrack a woman sings ‘I’m so lonely...’.
It signals a possible failure in the seduction of Woody. Nigel doubts that the detective will ever see things his way, that maybe the two are too different. It’s yet to be seen if this relationship will get back on track in season four, or if Jordan will come back with a vengeance and drive a wedge between them.
And of course, it makes great backstory for fan fiction.
So why slash?
I wasn’t looking for slash, or any sort of ‘ship, when my friend urbanfae first pointed me in the direction of Crossing Jordan when the show first started. We have similar tastes in television shows, so when she said that was what she was watching, I tuned in. At first it was all about Jordan, and I liked Jordan. But then I started noticing the other characters and their individual stories.
Still, I wasn’t ‘shipping. I don’t look for ‘ships.
The ‘shipping came in season three with the episodes I’ve outlined above. It just jumped out at me, particularly in the ‘Second Chances’ scene. Even if you take it on a purely platonic, heterosexual level, there is an interesting, amusing partnership between Woody and Nigel that’s worth keeping an eye on, and hopefully the writers will take us there again. Like the Odd Couple, but with dead bodies.
And the linkage (what little there is of it):
If you want the basics for Crossing Jordan, two sites I visit often, that have comprehensive episode and plot information are
The official NBC Crossing Jordan site
TV Tome: Crossing Jordan
Even with the help of my lovely assistant, I was only able to find four fics written about my boys, and all in the G/PG range. Fortunately, they’re all rather good.
In E and P, Nigel finally finds his backbone and learns to say ‘No’. Which leads to Woody saying ‘yes’.
In Reacquainting Woody has a revealing encounter with the town gossip when he takes a trip back home to Wisconsin.
The Letdown. “Woodrow, have I ever let you down?” “Never.”
And finally, in The Very, Very Gay Club, Nigel and Woody discuss the lab scene from ‘Second Chances’.
But as you can see, Woody/Nigel doesn’t get enough love. I hope I’ve given you enough of a taste to get interested and join the little fandom that could. At the very least, enjoy the stories I’ve linked.