The guest stars made Law & Order “SVU” Confidential into a great episode, albeit one that really wasn’t about a special victim. Lena Olin was riveting as Ingrid Block, legal counsel to the handsome yet smarmy business owner Richard Morgan, played by the handsome (but not smarmy as far as I know) Richard Burgi. The SVU team gets called in to investigate when someone sees what they think is a possible rape in progress on a security camera. I wondered why a security guy would have someone call the police and also specify to call SVU, and also why it seemed that SVU was first on the scene and not the police. I know the Law & Order SVU squad is special, but I find it hard to believe that they can always be on the scene with what seems like warp speed.
But no matter, once Olin and Burgi appeared on the screen I didn’t care why SVU was called. Lena Olin is a wonderful actress and she is a very compelling presence. The promos for the episode made it clear that Burgi’s character wouldn’t survive for long, so his killing was no shock. But why does it seem so easy for someone to get a gun into the SVU squad? Mind you, I don’t spend a lot of time in police departments, but the few times I’ve been required to visit the local courthouse (for things like jury duty or even something as simple as making a vacation notification to the police), metal detectors are in full use and they have been for years. If there is anyone out there who actually works for the police who reads this blog, please feel free to comment on how guns can still get in to a place like the SVU squad building.
It was nice to see that John Munch (Richard Belzer) still exists as I was starting to think there was some conspiracy going on. This episode made good use of the whole cast and, in my opinion, the episodes where everybody gets some screen time usually make for more interesting episodes. For Law & Order fans that were promised that Sam Waterston was going to make an appearance – after all, it was noted in the official NBC press release for this episode - there was no appearance from Sam.
The episode almost went off the rails when Stabler (Chris Meloni) decides to arrest Ingrid Block, doing so without consulting with Cabot, Cragen, or even cluing in his own partner, Benson. After they are well in to cleaning up his mess, he has second thoughts. (If I were Cabot, I would have smacked him right in the courthouse hallway!) I’ve said this before and I will say it again, Stabler should know better by now and I don’t know why the writers continue to make Stabler into a character that has shown no growth over the years, with Stabler constantly reacting before he engages his brain. I think Chris Meloni deserves better.
Here is the recap:
Security cameras record footage of what looks like a woman being pulled into a men’s room against her will,and then the security camera blacks out. The security company yells to call the police and Special Victims. Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) investigate the scene and find no evidence of a crime or a victim. Afterwards, while police and the SVU squad are at the building searching for the possible victim, the building owner Richard Morgan (Richard Burgi), arrives, along with his chief counsel Ingrid Block (Lena Olln) who vehemently objects to the police search. Cragen pleads for cooperation and Morgan agrees to their search. They later find the victim’s body in a trash dumpster that is just being picked up.
At the SVU squad, Benson and Stabler review what they know with Cragen and assume it is an inside job. Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) tells them that he recalls a similar case in October 1987 with Nancy Pierce who was killed in the same manner, and Daniel Hardy, the maintenance man, was sent to Sing Sing for the crime, but he is still in prison. Cragen sends Benson and Stabler to Sing Sing to talk with Hardy to see if he had any help in Nancy’s murder.
At Sing Sing, Hardy (Yul Vazquez) says he didn’t have a partner because he didn’t kill Nancy. He asks them to reopen his case and asks them to take his DNA to test it to prove it.
Based on a photo of the most recent victim, she is identified as Renee Simmons, a secretary for Mr. Morgan. When Benson and Stabler ask Morgan why Renee was not reported missing, he said he laid her off and 12 others Friday morning, and they collected their ID badges and swiped them out of the building and the employees left immediately. Morgan thinks Renee’s ex, Matt, did this as he went nuts after she divorced him, and he is a stockbroker for a company on the 58th floor. Later, Fin (Ice-T) and Stabler see Matt leaving the building and when they try to stop him, he moves to flee, but runs into a cart, knocking over his briefcase with a bag of weed falling out. They bring him in to the SVU squad for questioning about his ex-wife’s murder. He tells them Renee was “banging” Morgan, she and Morgan had “lunch” at the same hotel every Tuesday.
Afterwards, Benson and Stabler discuss with Cragen possible connections between Morgan and both Renee’s and Nancy’s murders. Morgan testified against Hardy at his trial. Later, when Stabler speaks with Hardy again in jail about Hardy’s case, he tells Stabler that Nancy was going to cash out of her firm and take her money and split but was soon found dead.
Back at SVU, Stabler says that Nancy was killed 4 days before the market crashed in 1987 on Black Monday. They wonder what Morgan had to hide, and Munch pipes In about Morgan’s money, saying Morgan is broke and Morgan is stalling on paying investors. It seems he may have a Ponzi scheme going. They also realize Nancy and Renee both worked in the accounting departments. Fin gets a call and tells the others that Renee was an informant working for the IRS, and they think Morgan found out and killed her. They decide to arrest him before he realizes they are on to him and skips town. They arrest him while dining with what appear to be clients, with Ingrid Block present to protest.
At arraignment, when the judge questions the charges, ADA Alex Cabot (Stephanie March) called Morgan “Bernie Madoff, the Karate Kid Edition.” He pleads not guilty, and the judge tells him to surrender his passport and be confined at home with electronic monitoring and she denies bail. Afterwards, Cabot tells Benson and Stabler that the US Attorney is indicting tomorrow, and Benson says if they are going to get Morgan on the murders it is now or never.
Later, Benson and Stabler are questioning Morgan, with Block present, about the murders of Renee and Nancy. Block says they have no proof and blows them off and says they are leaving. As Benson and Stabler enter Cragen’s office, they hear a man yelling “You ruined me!’ and then gunfire. They find Morgan dead in the elevator and an old man who the police said shot Morgan. The man says Morgan stole everything from him. Block stands there frozen in place, blood spatter on her face, and tells Benson she is fine.
As they lead the old man off, Block tells Benson what she saw. Benson offers an apology and Block leaves. Stabler says the old man is Thomas Rooney, 80, and his wife recently died of cancer and Morgan would not give him his money back. Stabler gets a call from the property clerk, while Benson looks at the photos of Nancy and Renee. Stabler informs her the DNA from Hardy’s case is gone so now Hardy is screwed. But Benson runs after Block, who is entering the elevator, and tells Clock she has a few more questions.
In a conference room, Benson shows her the pictures of the two women who were murdered, and says that Block seemed relieved that Morgan was murdered, asking why is that. Benson continues to push, and asks Block if she helped Morgan with his Ponzi scheme. Block said she did not help but she only had suspicions. Benson asks her to help her with Hardy, and Block tries to stand by confidentiality, and says her life was protecting Morgan, and she becomes very agitated about it. Benson pushes Block to step up to the issue. Block says she realizes that Morgan killed Renee on Friday afternoon - after he did it - and he didn’t tell her but she knew, because she knew that he murdered Nancy pierce 22 year ago. Block tells Benson that Morgan had a shadow box in his office that held every karate belt he ever earned, and last Friday afternoon Morgan brought it to her office and asked her to hold on to it for a while, and confirms that Morgan did the same thing when Nancy was killed in Trent Towers 22 years ago. Morgan said he was renovating and asked if he could leave the shadow box with her. She knew he just bought out Nancy’s accounting firm and later asked if he had anything to do with the murder, and he said “ as a matter of fact, yes.” Block goes on to say she pleaded with him about Dan Hardy but Morgan giggled and said he knew about Hardy and, isn’t it great? It bothered her for years.
But Stabler, watching from the observation room, is unmoved, commenting that Block let Hardy rot in prison for two decades. But Cabot says if she came forward she could have been disbarred or have gone to prison. And since privilege doesn’t die with the client, Block just committed career suicide.
Benson goes on and asks about the shadow box after Nancy’s death and Block said that the box was later back on Morgan’s wall. She tells them the box is now in her office, and when the box is later retriecved and taken to ME Warner (Tamara Tunie), she finds Nancy’s epithelials on one of the belts. She also found Renee’s blood and DNA on the belt too. Now they have evidence that can clear Hardy.
In the Supreme Court detention unit, Stabler tells Hardy he is getting out and why. But Hardy asks if he is sure it was Morgan. He asks how they found out, and Block walks in and tells them that she gave the belts to the police, and that Morgan was killed two nights ago. He asks her if she knew Block killed Nancy, and gets upset when she doesn’t answer. She defends her confidentiality but this enrages him, and she stares back at him and then walks out with Stabler.
In court, Judge Donnelly (Judith Light) apologizes to Hardy for his wrongful imprisonment and sets aside his conviction and orders his record expunged and his immediate release. Afterwards, as Cabot says to Hardy she wishes there was more they could do, Stabler says there is, and arrest Block for facilitating a murder, saying he is getting justice for Renee as Block put the murder weapon right back in Morgan’s hands. Benson and Cabot look stunned as Stabler walks out with Block.
Stabler puts Block in the SVU holding cell, and Cabot testily asks Stabler if he knows what he has done. Cragen is pissed because Stabler did not clear the arrest with him or Cabot and didn’t even tell his partner. Stabler claims it was a good collar and he read the statute, but Cabot says that is proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Cabot says that Block has a legal right to return the belt, but admits she is tired of defense attorneys hiding behind privilege in order to withhold evidence.
In Supreme Court, Stabler testifies about the belts as they related to Morgan and both murders. Block, defending herself, points out a photo of a man, Victor Tate, and asks if Stabler know who he is. He knows Victor, saying he arrested him in 1998 for rape and later found he did not commit the crime. He adds that Victor is serving out the sentence in Sing Sing, stating that the only man who can prove Victor’s innocence, the real rapist, committed suicide. When Block comments that Tate is still in prison even though Stabler did his job, Stabler confirms that is so. She accuses Stabler of arresting her to assuage his own guilt about Victor Tate, but withdraws the question after Cabot objects.
On the stand, Block testifies to her attorney-client privilege and that it is protected by law. She talks about the box of belts that Morgan gave her and Morgan’s admission of guilt and her only legal option was to give it the box back, but that it disappeared from her office and she did not know how Richard got them back. Morgan would not tell her how he got them back, and she insists this is the truth. Cabot challenges her on her violation of confidentiality, asking why she did not come forward 22 years ago about Hardy. Block, emotional, said she wanted to, and said Morgan was dead and there was no way to hurt him now. But Cabot continues to pressure her, and Block admits she should have stopped him, and Renee Simmons murder is her fault. This admission seems to take Cabot aback, and she says she has no more questions.
Outside the courtroom, Stabler tells Cabot she took Block apart in there, and she says she will take that as a compliment. But Stabler says this is wrong, and Cabot is confused, saying the only reason they were in court is because Stabler arrested Block. Stabler thinks he made a mistake and asks to drop the charges, but Cabot says it is too late, McCoy certainly won’t let her and the jury had no choice but to convict. Stabler says, ”Unless I give them one” and walks off.
Later, Stabler came back to the prison with Hardy along with him. Stabler points out Victor Tate as Tate mops the floor, and explains the situation with Victor and how Stabler screwed up the case. He asks Hardy to help him with Ingrid Block, saying he does not think Block gave Richard the belts back. Hardy asks if helping “that bitch” Block will get Tate out, and asks what he care, saying she should be punished. Saying if Block had not come forward that would be him - pointing to Tate – pushing a mop for the rest of his life.
Back in court, Hardy is on the stand, saying that Morgan asked Hardy to take the shadow box out of Block’s office and put it in his. Hardy had a master key he could use to get in to her office, and Morgan told him if Hardy told Block about it he would fire him. The next thing, he is being arrested for Nancy’s murder. Block thanks him and Cabot has no questions. The defense rests and Cabot has no rebuttal, so Block moves for a directed verdict of not guilty as the people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she facilitated the murder of Renee Simmons. Judge Donnelly agrees there was no intent to commit a crime, and for the record, says it is abhorrent to her that a district attorney would so blatantly use the system of justice as a means to a political end. Cabot looks stunned. Donnelly finds Block not guilty. Stabler offers Block an apology and Block replies she owes them her thanks. She adds that she represents Thomas Rooney on the murder charge (for Morgan) and he is 80 years old and sick, asking if Cabot can plead him out. She says she will see what she can do.
Stabler wonders why Block is defending Morgan’s murderer, and Benson wonders if she is grateful that Rooney took the monkey off her back, but Stabler wonders if she has a guilty conscience. Back in the SVU interrogation room, Stabler shows Block that she called Rooney two hours before he murdered Morgan, and Benson says Block told Rooney that Morgan was at SVU. She said all she did was make a phone call. Rooney did what she should have done 22 years ago, and said she hoped the law would catch up with Richard, and Stabler replies the law doesn’t always guarantee justice. She says this time she did.
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