Tao is the Priority Homicide Division's and later Major Crimes Division's forensic specialist and often leads the processing of the crime scenes.
At some point in his career, he worked at the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division and has been described by Taylor as a "technical genius". He is apparently also the MCD's unofficial liaison with the SID. After his time in the Scientific Investigation Division, he has held detective assignments in the Robbery-Homicide Division (“Hindsight, Part 1”) and in the Vice Division (“Family Law”).
In “Before and After”, Tao gives some advice to Det. Sykes when she asked him why Lt. Provenza doesn't like her. Tao told Amy that Provenza doesn't like anybody but also gave her a tip to care more about the victim and not what everybody else thinks about her.
In “The Ecstasy and the Agony”, Mike became frustrated with himself after he was unable to remember something he thought was important from the crime scene. He eventually remembered that he saw that the victim had opened the peep hole on his front door and therefore wouldn't have opened the door except if it was someone he trusted. This realization helped MCD to discover a new suspect as their victim would have never opened the door for their original suspect.
In “Out of Bounds”, during an investigation, Mike notes that his son, Kevin, is new behind the wheel and if you put him on the road, add a little rain "which makes every LA driver crazy," there is a good situation for road rage. He also later jokingly asked Det. Sanchez why he went alone to the crime lab to analyze some paint chips with the fourier transform infrared spectrophotometer, because as a technical person interested in forensics he would have liked to have seen the process.
In “Dismissed with Prejudice”, the Major Crimes Division re-investigates a case which Tao had worked on in 2004 when he was still a Detective (most likely Detective III, as he was the sole investigator on the case) in the Robbery-Homicide Division. The conviction was overturned when the victim's (and suspect's) daughter recanted her statement about seeing her father stabbing her mother, and new blood evidence placed another person at the scene of the crime, just like the original suspect had said but which Tao did not believe.
Tao apologized to both the daughter and the father for his actions during the original investigation and promised them that he would get to the bottom of the case. The daughter, Lydia, also accused Mike of manipulating her to testify against her father. Tao refuted this, telling her he only wanted to help her remember but maybe didn't dig deep enough into what she was saying because he didn't want to traumatize her. Mike asked Lydia to watch the tape of his initial interview with her and see if he still acted in bad faith in her opinion.
Back at the PAB, Mike gave the MCD squad a walkthrough of the events that happened in 2004 but concluded that Will Reichman's defense attorney was right: he hadn't given any credence to Will's intruder theory and always thought he had done it "from the get-go." Lt. Provenza noted after this that it was probably because "he's guilty as hell", which Capt. Raydor noted to be a very bad statement to make at this time, as Mr. Reichman's civil attorney is suing the LAPD for millions of dollars in damages. Reichman is also suing Mike, the LAPD, and the City for wrongful imprisonment.
When the LAPD started to investigate their new suspect with the FBI, they find out that he is missing, and has been since 2004. The FBI suspects that he is somewhere in Costa Rica, living off of $1.8 million dollars he embezzled. The suspect's wife (who he left behind in Colorado) tells the LAPD that because his husband was a cheater, they should look for a woman who dissappeared at the same time as they are most likely together. They then realize that their original victim fits that description and looked further, finding out that their original victim and this new suspect were lovers. Based on this new information, they re-examine the orginal case and surmise that their new suspect is also dead, killed by Will Reichman the same night he killed his wife.
When confronted with the new evidence, Will Reichman takes a deal of life in prison and a gleeful Mike once again arrests him for murder. Tao speculates to Lydia that the deal was to prevent her from having to testify against him, again, and also his way of saying he was sorry. When Lydia faces her father for the last time, he tells her his only regret is that he didn't murder her too, leaving Lydia visibly and understandably distraught, hugging Mike as Lt. Flynn escorts Will out of the squad room.
|“||Will Reichman, you're under arrest, again, for extremely premeditated homicide. Or, as we like to call it around here, murder in the first degree.||”|
— Lt. Tao
During “Risk Assessment” he explains to Rusty Beck that he originally wanted to be a doctor but found that doctors spent too much time protecting themselves. He instead joined the LAPD who protect each other and others.
In “Open Line”, Tao is forced to fatally shoot a suspect and it clearly affects him greatly.
In the 5-part story arc "Hindsight" of Season 4, Mike came in contact with his old partner Mark Hickman. Hickman is a disgraced former detective who committed perjury on the witness stand and lost them the murder case of an LAPD police officer. He had protected his partner during an IA investigation which was handled by Captain Raydor when she was still in FID, by not telling her about Hickman's extramarital relationship with a murdered LA County DDA, but he had no problem "throwing him under the bus" when he lied on the stand.
When Hickman later gained access to the MCD murder room with a visitors badge he was supposed to have returned, Mike got very angry at him, something that is nearly never seen in him. Even when Hickman was most likely drunk and acting aggressively, Capt. Raydor ordered that it was not a use-of-force situation and told every detective to calm down, Mike disobeyed that order, something he has never done before, and forcefully attacked Hickman to remove his visitors badge. He later apologized to Raydor in her office and told her that he won't cause anymore problems. He has been a man of his word as that kind of behavior has not been seen since.
In “By Any Means, Part 4”, Tao is forced to kill Phillip Stroh's accomplice Dylan Baxter in self defense. As a result, Tao is forced to wait in a house with a possible bomb until FID arrives to clear him for the shooting. After checking Dylan's computer, Tao comes to believe that it's a dead man's switch leading to information being sent to the LAPD and FBI rather than a bomb. Tao is proven right when the countdown ends and Dylan's dossier is sent to both parties. He is cleared by FID and joins the majority of the LAPD at the airport to await the arrival of Stroh.
- The Sniper (alongside Lt. Flynn, Det. Sanchez and Det. Sykes) (“Long Shot”)
- Felix Kosta (“Open Line”)
- Dylan Baxter (“By Any Means, Part 4”)
- Tao is married to a Japanese-American woman, Kathy, and has children, one of them a teenage boy named Kevin.
- Tao still has friends in the SID and sometimes gives them Kahlua as gifts to expedite their processing of evidence in cases he works.
- While not as close to Rusty Beck as Sharon Raydor or Buzz Watson, Tao is shown to be fond of the boy. At the beginning, he is also shown to not dislike Rusty as much as Andy Flynn and Buzz did, giving up money to bring Rusty's mother to town but not saying anything bad about him as the other two did. When Rusty faces down Daniel Dunn, Tao stands with him with the rest of the squad and signs on as a witness to Dunn giving up his parental rights to the boy. He is later clearly unsurprised when Rusty admits to being gay, showing how well he knows Rusty and is very proud of him graduating high school. At Rusty's graduation party, Tao pulls Rusty aside and tells him that he hopes that everything the squad has done for him has impacted him well and moments like Rusty graduating are why they help him so much. Tao congratulates Rusty on how far he's come since they met and shakes hands with him. He later aids Rusty in his search for Alice Herrera's identity by giving him advice on hacking her voicemail and is immensely proud of Rusty when he succeeds, telling him proudly "you did it Rusty. You did it."
- In “Do Not Disturb”, Tao is shown to be amused though he tries to hide it when a missing girl's friend flirts with a taken-aback Rusty.
- He is the only person who knows that Fritz Howard has had a heart attack and wears a pacemaker (having taken him to the hospital after blindly promising not to tell others, including Brenda, what Fritz is about to tell him).
- Mike has started a second career in Hollywood as a technical advisor for a show called Badge of Justice. He has even won a story credit award for his work on the show. It is indicated that he makes a great deal of money from this job and often references Badge of Justice and things done on the show. On at least one occasion, he used Badge of Justice equipment to help solve a case (“Hostage to Fortune”).
- In “Heroic Measures”, Mike mentioned that he did a year of medical school. Later in Major Crimes, “Risk Assessment”, he explained to Rusty why he quit. It was due to red tape and doctors covering their backs instead helping patients.
Career Information Edit
- Mike was promoted to Lieutenant some time between December, 2004, and June, 2005, when The Closer premiered. Mike was a Detective (most likely Det. III) in the Robbery-Homicide Division in 2004, based on info from “Dismissed with Prejudice” and “Hindsight, Part 1”.
- Lt. Tao's badge number is 2641.
- When in uniform, Mike wears six service stripes on his uniform. Each stripe represents five years of service in the LAPD, meaning he has served for 30–34 years. (“By Any Means, Part 1”) Taking into consideration that Mike served during the 1984 Summer Olympics, he had at least served for 33 years at the time of the episode.
- When Mike was seen in his uniform in “Repeat Offender”, he could be seen wearing four stripes (20–24 years of service). This of course does not match his latest count of stripes and awards, as he could not have served during the 1984 Summer Olympics if he had joined between 1987–1991.
- Medals and service awards worn by Lt. Tao: (“By Any Means, Part 1”)
- Medal and service award goofs:
- Lt. Tao could be seen wearing the standard Detective Service Ribbon on his uniform, meaning 5 years of service in investigative units as a detective and/or lieutenant even though he has served more than that. He would at least wear the Detective Service Ribbon with a Bronze Oak Leaf cluster but it would not be impossible for him to have the Silver Star either.
|The Closer Characters|
|Brenda Leigh Johnson • Sharon Raydor • Fritz Howard • Will Pope • Russell Taylor • Louie Provenza • Andy Flynn • Michael Tao • David Gabriel • Julio Sanchez • Irene Daniels • Buzz Watson • Dr. Fernando Morales|
|Major Crimes Characters|
|Sharon Raydor • Louie Provenza • Andy Flynn • Michael Tao • Julio Sanchez • Amy Sykes • Wes Nolan • Camila Paige • Buzz Watson • Rusty Beck • Russell Taylor • Leo Mason • Fritz Howard • Dr. Fernando Morales • Andrea Hobbs • Kendall|