Bullet-riddled police captain on the floor...Jordan's dad, holding a gun...Jordan missing, after ingesting truth serum, after confronting her unhinged brother, after nearly solving her mom's 23-year-old murder... That is how last season ended, right? Crossing Jordan has been on hiatus for nearly a year (due in part to star Jill Hennessy's pregnancy), but rather than deal with these fairly reverberant issues, the writers, in one collective, ballsy ''do-over!'' decided to ignore them all.
Season 3 has Jordan Cavanaugh (Hennessy) back slicing up stiffs (and solving crimes) at the coroner's office, her pop (Ken Howard) back pouring drinks, and her brother (Michael T. Weiss) just plain gone. The sole mention of last season's mess: Dad brushing Daughter off when she asks, in one whopper of an understatement, ''Don't you think we should talk about the elephant in the room?''
We should. We won't. Fine. Although NBC hints at an eventual return to this Cavanaugh-clan potboiler (somewhere poor Weiss is watching his old ''Pretender'' episodes and checking to make sure his phone works), the show is tiptoeing around the elephant just fine. ''Jordan'' has always had the comforting vibe of an Applebee's: The menu's solid; the staff is competent; and the end result, while never dazzling, certainly does the job. Its slogan might as well be ''Crossing Jordan -- We're Totally Above Average!'' This season, quirky evildoers abound, from the high school aggro-nerd who thinks he's committed the perfect murder to the unlikely serial husband killer who apparently gets really, really annoyed by messy toothpaste caps. When she's not chasing these baddies down, Jordan continues to clash with head coroner Garret Macy (the deftly subtle Miguel Ferrer, who makes mumbling kinda hot).
The show's gotten breezier overall: Jordan, relieved of all that family drama, borders on lighthearted, and Jerry ''Kangaroo Jack'' O'Connell is a surprisingly welcome holdover from last season. As rookie detective Woody Hoyt, he adds a sly jauntiness to that sedate Boston office. The pace will also get brisker with the addition of intern Devan Maguire (Jennifer Finnigan), one of those bossy type A blondes in the grand tradition of Emily Procter's Ainsley on ''The West Wing'' or, heck, Shelley Long on ''Cheers.'' It's all fine. Really -- just fine. But ''Jordan'' still needs to address that whole ''Dad may have killed a cop'' thing. Likeliest scenario: Our girl has a Bobby Ewing-in-the-shower-style dream! Hey, if ''Jordan'''s writers think we're loopy enough to have forgotten last season, they surely can't imagine we'd remember ''Dallas.''