Chicago PD season 5, episode 19 recap: Payback

CHICAGO P.D. -- "Payback" Episode 519 -- Pictured: Jon Seda as Antonio Dawson -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
CHICAGO P.D. -- "Payback" Episode 519 -- Pictured: Jon Seda as Antonio Dawson -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC) /

Chicago PD tackled cops crossing the proverbial line, including Hank Voight, this week. Here’s what happened in Chicago PD season 5, episode 19.

This week’s Chicago PD lived in the grey areas that the show is well known for inhabiting. But did it give anyone any clarity or just muddle the waters further?

Wednesday’s episode is called “Payback” and it starts with Alvin Olinsky and Hank Voight (Elias Koteas and Jason Beghe) meeting up to discuss their, erm, little problem. Through a source, Voight has identified the witness against Olinsky—a junkie named Ruben.

Voight declares he’s going to check out Ruben and look for something to “destroy what little credibility he has left” so that his testimony is worthless. Um, okay?

Meanwhile, Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) gets a gun pointed at him by a drug dealer named Ray Denza (guest star Demetrius Grosse, Banshee). That wasn’t what was supposed to happen, because Ray is really an undercover ex-cop, now a CI, who is trying to maintain his cover.

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He, Ruzek and Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) all want to know who’s been ripping off stash houses. And though Ruzek feels guilty for “what happened to Ray,” that doesn’t make it okay for Ray to point a gun in his direction.

We can keep arguing over that later, though, as our guys get a shots fired call. They race over to locate two dead bodies and a third victim barely alive, who’s just a young boy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now Ruzek has something else to be pissed off about.

Voight takes the case over from old friend Kenny Marino and his annoyed partner. What do you want to bet one or both of them are more than just doing the paperwork?

The boy’s mother tells Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati) that she saw two young Hispanic men going down the fire escape and leaving the scene in a dark car. Unfortunately, her son has died from his injuries, and we soon find out this shooting is tied to the string of robberies that Ruzek and Atwater were just mentioning.

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Chicago PD circles back to Ruben, with Olinsky giving Voight his address, and Voight telling Al to stop touching things. Instead, leave it to Voight to lurk in his car until he can walk up to Ruben’s drug dealer on the street and introduce him to a fence. But he has nothing to hold the guy on, so he has to turn around and walk away.

Atwater and Ruzek find Ray at his apartment and inform him about the shooting. He offers to help, but only if they give him “hazard pay.” Ruzek balks at the payoff and tells him to deliver the information, before the whole Intelligence Unit rolls up on a house where their suspects are in hiding. They make two arrests and find some heroin. Interrogation time!

But the interrogations don’t involve Voight, because he’s got “some stuff” he needs to handle.

When one of the suspects plays the race card, Ruzek has had enough crap for one day and gives him something to be afraid of. Wisely, he backs off before doing any serious damage, because we have some words of wisdom from Atwater:

"Atwater: He’s gonna get his."

But the kid’s mom can’t identify either suspect from the scene of the shooting, and Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos) backs that up with pictures proving these two were out buying beer. Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) wonders how they arrested two innocent guys, which sends Ruzek out to get pushy with Ray again. He threatens to cut him off, so Ray says he’ll “make this right.”

Voight is still stalking Ruben, and walks in on his Narcotics Anonymous meeting, where Ruben is testifying about his sobriety and his family. He really has worked to turn his life around, and will Voight wreck that to protect Olinsky?

But hey, remember Detective Moreno? Chicago PD points out that Moreno had sealed warrants for all of the stash houses that have been hit, meaning the crew got their information from the cops. Time for an uncomfortable talk. Voight proposes Moreno set up a fake stash house to draw out both the thieves and the dirty cop. Well, not so much proposes as tells.

This allows for a surveillance van, which allows for Voight and Olinsky to be in it, so Voight can ask why Olinsky filed his retirement papers. Olinsky claims he’s not retiring; he just wants to use the paperwork as a flare to see if Internal Affairs will make a move. Voight then admits he’s not going to be able to bend Ruben.

"Voight: There’s no sign he’s using. He’s got a daughter, job.Olinsky: So? We improvise.Voight: Guy’s trying to go clean, Al. Hey, we’ll find another way out of this."

Chicago PD turns the sting into a full-on shootout, and only one of the two thieves is alive at the end of it. The team is able to confirm his gun matches the bullet that killed the boy, so this is the right guy this time. Antonio is also able to identify the dirty cop—Romero’s partner. You know, the one who protested too much. But they can’t connect her to the thieves, and she’s not talking now.

The surviving suspect promptly dies off-screen, yet he has a cousin named Frank who may have run afoul of Narcotics at some point. Frank is dumping drugs down the toilet when they arrest him and admits there is a dirty cop, but can only identify where they met. Our heroes check the bar’s security cameras and find Ruzek’s old frenemy Ray. Romero’s partner admits that she used Ray as a CI, just like Ruzek, and she’s just been played.

Guess who gets to bring Ray in? Yeah, you know it. Chicago PD ends its third act with Ruzek and Atwater finding out Ray’s gone on the run. Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend sells him out.

"Ray: It was just bad guys killing bad guys.Ruzek: Yeah? What about the kid?"

Our heroes chase down Ray through a boatyard, and he ends up with Ruzek now holding a gun on him. This time, it’s not a stunt. Realizing he’s been had, Ray tells Ruzek he has a gun in an attempt to commit suicide by cop.

We find out that the incident that ended his career was an officer-involved shooting that sent him to prison, which makes sense with his earlier argument over Ruzek not testifying in his defense. Atwater tackles Ray to defuse the situation, and arrests him while he’s still wishing he’d been shot as Trudy Platt (Amy Morton), in one of her two scenes this episode, asks Voight why Olinsky’s pension was flagged by Internal Affairs—just as Olinsky predicted.

Chicago PD ends with poor Ruben getting arrested with drugs that were clearly planted on him. He swears he’s innocent in front of his wife while Olinsky, not Voight, watches from across the street. Voight doesn’t seem to know much about this, saying only that Narcotics “got an anonymous tip” that we all know damn well wasn’t anonymous.

With just a few episodes left in Chicago PD season 5, “Payback” is setting the wheels in motion for the conclusion. Voight identifies the witness—although has anyone else gotten tired of how he or someone else always seems to have a source somewhere to dig up things in a pinch?—but it’s a welcome change that it’s someone he doesn’t automatically intimidate.

That idea of Voight not being able to just steamroll over problems or sweep them under the rug is sort of an unofficial theme in season 5, but here’s where we really see it become more than an idea. And it’s necessary; there have been more than 100 episodes of this show, and the main cast has gotten away with a lot. That’s part of the conceit of the show, but one could argue they’ve gone well past that and started to get away with too much.

Yet because of that, it’s really getting hard to root for anybody right now. Can we really feel good for Olinsky that the witness against him is compromised, knowing that he did the compromising, and ruined this guy’s life? Ruben wasn’t doing anything except trying to tell the truth and live a good life. He wasn’t being pressured by Denny Woods or looking for personal gain.

This episode actually ends on a bit of a disappointing note, because how can we not actively dislike these actions, even if we like the characters?

On a positive note, it’s great to see Adam Ruzek get another episode, because he really hasn’t been featured since the whole mole arc. And there’s a whole story about how Ruzek has kind of been on tilt throughout all of the season (remember Upton having to literally grab him?) that hasn’t been explored the way it should be.

Although it’s fairly easy to determine that there’s something wrong with Ray from the way he talks to Adam, and to figure out one of the Narcotics cops has to be involved (or why would they be there?) the benefit comes from the extra screen time for Patrick John Flueger, who makes the most of it.

“Payback” pays out from a performance standpoint, and gets bonus points for not easily waving away the real problems facing Voight and Olinsky. The show needs to dig the hole deeper, but now we have to ask: how’s it going to get out of it with just weeks to go?

Next: Chicago PD's Tracy Spiridakos on her first season

What did you think of this week’s Chicago PD episode? Leave your reaction to “Payback” in the comments.

Chicago PD airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC.