Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Law & Order SVU “Trials” and Tribulations

This season premier offered an interesting story, peppered with personal drama and a flat introduction of the new ADA Kim Grayleck (Michaela McManus). Here’s my recap and review:

The episode begins with a van driving out of control and being chase by police. When the van finally stops, hitting a car, a young boy gets out, asking the police “What’s your problem? It turns out he’s 7 year old Christopher Ryan (Jae Head).

We also meet the new ADA, Kim Grayleck (Michaela McManus), who walks into the SVU squad room and proceeds to apologize to Elliot (Chris Meloni) for being a week late. She was held up in Washington DC on personal business. She says she made a lateral move from the office of violence against women. The team is underwhelmed.

Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) tells Grayleck that they have a case; it’s a 7-year-old named Christopher Ryan who said he had to escape from his foster parents because they were abusing him.

At the hospital, Olivia and Elliot are in the elevator. Elliott is on the phone trying to work out an issue with his credit card being stolen. Olivia is tired; she didn’t sleep well the night before. She was supposed to go on a blind date but didn’t. In taking to the doctor about Christopher, they are told he doesn’t have a bruise on his body. When they enter the room, the kid is not on the bed and his clothes are gone. Elliot realizes he’s just under the bed. He tries to run off, but they stop him. Christopher says he hates his foster parents.

Back at the SVU squad room, Cragen (Dann Florek), Munch (Richard Belzer), and Fin (Ice-T) are with the boy’s foster parents Gwen (Julie Bowen) and Noah Sibert (Luke Perry). Noah is remaining calm, but Gwen is uptight about the whole matter. Cragen tells them there is a lot of paperwork to be done because of what Christopher did with the van, and it’s clear they are trying to separate the parents for questioning. But Noah is on to the tactic, saying that they didn’t do anything, saying that when they got Christopher he was angry, malnourished, and ”psychically damaged.”

Back at the hospital, Olivia and Elliot are in the courtyard talking with Christopher. Elliot takes Christopher’s drink away from him and throws it out, and the kid freaks. It seems he’s a little unhinged because his parents never let him have that kind of stuff. Clearly the kid had anger issues when he rages over his parents making him eat vegetables.

Noah, meanwhile, is telling Munch it’s all a misunderstanding, he’d never hurt a child, and he has nothing to hide. He says Christopher is an unhappy kid and he has serious abandonment issues. Munch tells him to try psychotherapy, that he started “in utero.”

Fin is questioning Gwen, who seems to be unhappy with Christopher. Gwen and Noah had a luxury clothing line before Noah came, which she had to quit to raise Noah. She said the kid makes up wild stories, and tells outright lies.

Olivia and Elliot take Christopher back to the squad, but the says he has to tell them something that had to be a secret from Noah. He says Gwen made him take his clothes off, and "they" gave Gwen money, in a hotel.

Apparently this kid told him this all happened at the Lydia Hotel, which Cragen says has been closed by vice earlier in the year. The kid could be lying. Cragen tells Olivia to stay with the kid, and tells Fin to go out to the hotel with Elliot. Fin balks. He has a beef with Elliot, and doesn’t want to work with him. Fin asks what’s holding up his transfer and Cragen, who promises to check it out with the Chief of Ds.

Fin announces to Elliot that he’s driving, which Elliot is OK with. He’s too distracted with his stolen credit card and the wacky charges on it to care.

At the Lydia Hotel, they find a lot of people standing in line. They look like college kids. It appears there is medical drug testing going on there, and they are told that it is for Phase 1 clinical trials, testing on people. They surmise that Gwen has been taking Christopher there for drug testing. Elliot calls Grayleck for help.

Kim Grayleck is serving the subpoena when Elliot and Fin arrive, saying they will take over. She informs them that she’s been a “desk jockey in DC for the past three years, drafting legislation, making grants…it’s great to finally be out in the trenches.” Elliot and Kim spar, he wants her to get lost and get out of their way, she tells him in DC they used to call her “The Crusader.” Fin is just standing by, looking annoyed. But when Elliot walks away because Dr. Eikenberry (Mary Beth Evans) will see them, Fin tells her “Don’t worry about cranky balls. He’s only nice to the victims.”

Elliot and Fin challenge the doctor about her testing methods, and she indicates things are very controlled, especially with kids. Christopher was being given and ADHD drug, and he already had a record of problems before the test began.

Back at the squad, Noah is outraged that Gwen was having Christopher drugged. Gwen is at her wits end. Olivia arrives with Christopher, who announces he’s starving, and Noah caves in to his request for chocolate ice cream. As they step into the elevator, Christopher asks to press the button, and when Gwen says to press 1G, he starts pressing all of them as the door closes, Olivia looking on and seeing a frustrated Gwen. Cragen tells Olivia to report the doctor to the group who is supposed to be monitoring the test, but to do it tomorrow, that she needs to go home and get some sleep.

Instead, she goes to the coffee machine, having flashbacks of her experience where she went undercover in prison ("Undercover"). She is startled when someone approaches her; it’s Tonya Majeski (Lisa Strum), who worked with Olivia on another case and is now Christopher’s caseworker. She hands Olivia the file, and Olivia sees that Christopher’s mother is someone she knows – Caitlyn Ryan (Sara Gilbert), a rape victim from a case Olivia had before.

Olivia goes to Caitlyn's apartment, and says she needs to talk to her about Christopher. Caitlyn looks like a wreck and so does her apartment. Olivia tells her she met Christopher through the Siberts, and wants to know why she gave up Christopher. Caitlyn says that at first she could function, but then she started reliving the rape. She lost her job and apartment, she just wanted to sleep. When Christopher was begging her to eat, she just let him go hungry. She wasn’t a fit mother. Olivia tells her she has rape trauma syndrome, a form of PTSD. Caitlyn says she’s tried to get help, and she actually met Gwen Sibert during this as Gwen was a rape victim too.

At Morningstar Park, Olivia is talking with Noah, and asking why Gwen didn’t tell them she was a rape victim raising another rape victim’s son. Noah said it was 5 years ago, before they we married. They watch Christopher as he continues to be bratty. Noah said the rape was reported, and they lived in Jersey City at the time. The rapist was not caught. Olivia said that Gwen met Caitlin in therapy but Gwen previously said it was Noah’s idea to take in Christopher. He says it was his idea, that he likes to “fix things.” He said he and Gwen fell in love when he went over to fix something at Gwen’s place. Christopher , overhearing they are talking about his real mother, asks about her. Olivia says his mom cares for her, but Noah says she hates him. “That man” made her sad, he was wearing a mask. Olivia realizes that Christopher was there when Caitlin was raped.

The SVU team believes there is a pattern to a group of rapes, finding other victims: Annabelle Ashton, Emily Johannsen, and Natalie Clay. The rapist told all of them they were bad mothers. Fin notices that in the case of Emily, they had questioned a bartender located in a place very close to Caitlin’s apartment.

Munch and Fin check out Alony’s Pub. Munch reminisces about his bar in Baltimore, and then talks to Fin about Fin wanting to leave the squad. Munch moans, “ you know, if one more person dumps me, I’m gonna start taking it personally,” recounting all his partners. Speaking to the bartender, he says he looked at Emily’s ID, but was turned off when she started talking about her kid. He said he never raped her.

Elliot is questioning Emily, who admits she was sloshed but she remembers her rapist voice to be a hoarse whisper. She believes it was a person from an on line dating service, and when Elliott says they checked them all out, she said they never checked the person that stood her up, “Dave Jones”, which she thought sounded like a fake name.

Olivia is questioning Caitlin, who says she never went into the bar, but admits she did use an on line dating service as a trial. She said she picked one guy, who never showed up.

Olivia and Elliot are talking to Natalie, who insists she did not use an on line dating service. When Natalie is called away, Elliot gets a call about his stolen credit card. It seems a “Bonnie and Clyde” pair used his card to both get tattoos. But Elliot notices a label on some clothes hanging in the store, and realizes it is the logo for the Sibert’s company, "The Greenline.”

Back at the squad, they work to make the connection with the clothing line, the Siberts, and the rapes. Noah’s old punk band “Public Vagaries” had twins in it, Dave and Danny Jones. The theorize that Noah used their names for the dating service, and that he married a rape victim (Gwen) then began raping women who had little boys. And now he’s raising on of those boys.

Noah is in for questioning, and Olivia shows him the pictures of the other rape victims Elliot says that they are all single moms working outside the home. They remind him that he likes to “fix things” like neglected little boys. Olivia says they know he ran away when he was six, and thinks that he is raping women to punish his mother. He says he left home to join a band. Elliot asks him to do a voice line up, saying “You’re a bad mother.” Caitlin identifies Noah’s voice out of the line up, but Emily and Natalie didn’t.

When Grayleck tells Noah’s attorney she’ll be in touch, Olivia is unhappy, asking Grayleck that she thought they called her “The Crusader.” Grayleck says she needs more to pursue this case.

Noah announces they are taking Christopher home, but Caitlyn sees him and comments on how big he is. Gwen moves to separate them, as she calls Caitlyn a “worthless bitch” and “miserable ingrate” for all they did. Caitlyn is confused when Gwen rages that she is upset they were saddled with the kid and now she’s making accusation against her husband. Caitlyn doesn’t get it, saying she was just there for a line up. Caitlyn then realizes that it was Noah who raped her. Noah says he will fight to get Christopher back.

A DNA swab is taken from Christopher, and he asks Caitlyn why she gave him away. She says she’s been very sick but will get better so she could be a good mom. Toyna (the case worker) arrive and Christopher says he needs a hamburger, right now. Elliot tells Caitlyn she’ll get him back.

Meanwhile, Cragen tells Fin he has just heard from the Chief of Ds, and asks Fin if he knows a Greg Berkle. Fin says “Oh no.” Fin used to work with him in narcotics, and Greg’s wife started calling him after their divorce. Now he is at One PP processing transfers, and Fin says he assumes he’s not going anywhere soon. Munch is happy with the news. Elliot gets off the phone and declares they have the person who stole his credit card, he’s at Hudson U and he’s going over there. But, he’s stopped in the hall by his daughter Kathleen, who is angry he had her boyfriend arrested. He’s confused, but she says that “Tony” didn’t steal his credit card, she took it to buy books. He figures out what is going on and calls her on her lie, and she gives him some lip, and Elliot is angry. He tells her she has to have the tattoo removed, and she reminds him that he also has a tattoo.

Benson, still on the original case, found that Annabelle Ashton, the 4th victim, had moved back to Iowa and killed herself. Munch breaks up Olivia’s guilt and regret by saying they got a hit off Noah’s DA. The next we see Noah, he is being arrested, and Olivia tells Gwen that Noah only left his DNA once – and that was when he raped Gwen. Gwen begs Noah to tell them they are wrong, instead, he tells her she will tell them what “really happened” that she filed an incorrect police report, that the sex was consensual. She is stunned…she realizes she married her own rapist. She kicks him in the groin, and Stabler comments “sorry about that" and leads him away.

Grayleck returns to the squad, announcing Noah accepted the plea deal. Fin is surprised she offered him one, he thought she was dying to “strut her stuff in the courtroom.” She declares it’s not about her, it’s about the victims, now they won’t be dragged through trial. She got him the max, by threatening him with an extra 25 years for a hate crime attached, as he targeted a specific subset of women. When Munch says no one has even pulled that off, she declared that Noah knew she intends to be the first to pull it off, she wasn’t bluffing. It’s her pet project. She asks how this works now – do they all go out for a celebratory drink? Munch, still thinking about his bar in Baltimore, says if they had a bar, drinks would be on the house. Grayleck asks where Olivia is at, and they cut to Olivia in therapy, recounting her undercover case at the prison. She says she is starting to relive it. She jumpy, she can’t sleep, she feels out of control. The doctor tells her that rape victims often blame themselves. She knows, but now she feels like she doesn’t deserve to be there, she feels like he stole something from her. She needs help.


All in all, a decent episode. They seemed to work in some of the personal references (Munch’s bar, Fin’s history with narcotics) very well. The personal drama, though, was a little much. Elliot’s credit card problem, while annoying at first, had an interesting twist with the “thief” being his own daughter. But, it also means that we may get more personal Stabler drama than we want (as evidenced by the preview). Olivia’s demons with her assault during her undercover operation also seemed to be a set up for more issues for Olivia down the road.

The story line was also interesting, with all the guest stars going a very good job and playing their roles.

But the train wreck was the debut of Michaela McManus, whose character, new ADA Kim Grayleck, came off as pompous and aloof. Tragic was that McManus delivered her lines with the zeal of Elisabeth Rohm – which is not good. Sometimes I think that the Law & Order franchise has consistently done a horrible job in introducing new characters. This one was probably the worst that I can recall, well, next to Nina Cassady (Milena Govich) as “Detective Beauty Queen” on the original Law & Order. Grayleck’s “The Crusader” was just as bad, and her “pet project” an annoyance. Frankly, as far as she is concerned, I was underwhelmed.

Two Minute Replay







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8 comments:

John K. said...

I missed the episode last night, so I really appreciate the recap.

It's interesting they introduced Grayleck right off the bat. That hasn't been done in a long time (Cabot was the closest, as she was introduced incredibly early, but she had time to space it out). And apparently, Grayleck likes exposition, as the sentences you cited seem to be infodumps. Then again, most A.D.A.s don't have a backstory, whenever they begin. So, yeah, cramming all that in a sentence feels awkward.

Meanwhile, Fin's transfer was absolutely useless. Surprise, surprise. And foreshadowing to Stabler's wacky daughter. Lovely.

Still, it was worth it for Munch's line.

John K. said...

I forgot to mention on Novak and Chester Lake. Oh, wait, I forgot they no longer exist. Headdesk.

All Things Law & Order said...

You are right about the whole issue with Fin's transfer. It seemed like just filler. I guess they felt like they had to tie up a lose end from the end of the season when they painted themselves in the corner with the issue to begin with!

John K. said...

Whenever I saw on how weak Cragen's transfer was after the hoopla with "Screwed," I figured, "see if the actor actually goes, before I get concerned." Also, remember, to SVU, "Status Quo is God." So, yeah, that's why I didn't care about Fin's transfer. Although, the fans were in an uproar about it, as they ought to be. But then, I did see the scene between Don and Fin over the transfer. Man, how forced was it?

This is the by-product of my becoming more genre savvy and cynical in my eventual old age. Heh.

I'd rather focus on Lake and Novak, as their finales were far too open-ended for my tastes. Shrugs. Oh, well, back to force myself to pretend they don't exist.

Wallyhorse said...

Actually:

As I have said elsewhere, I now think Fin's transfer was done because when "Cold" was written, the writers already knew that Chris Noth was leaving "CI" and may have been thinking of having Ice-T move to "CI" to replace Noth before Jeff Goldblum joined "CI."

John K. said...

Wallyhorse: Really? I had not known that. Can you verify that? Because if that's true, that would be very interesting.

Though, Fin at the chi-chi Major Case, man, that would be most... I'm not sure how to end that.

Emily said...

I really enjoyed the episode this week. I was glad to see them bringing up Liv's undercover work in the prison, and that they are showing that it is having some effect on her. I just hope it is nmentioned again and not considered to be cured after 1 therapy session.

Laura said...

I just watched this episode for the first time when I got it on DVD the other day, and I know it's almost three years after this recap was written, but Elisabeth Rohm's character was never half as bad as Michaela McManus's. I've heard quite a few people say she's a terrible actress, and I admit I never saw her on Angel or Heroes, but I thought she did a great job as Serena Southerlyn. In fact, next to Cabot, she's my favorite ADA in the L&O universe. So please, enough underhanded remarks about her acting ability.