Law & Order wrapped up its record tying 20th season and, at least for now, the episode “Rubber Room” - a place some fans have already gone after hearing the series had been canceled - looks to be their last. With the finale being such an excellent episode, it makes the series’ end even sadder. We can only hope that someone with more sense than NBC will pick up this show and continue on.
“Rubber Room” not only provided and interesting case that for a change was not a murder, it provided a wonderful close for a beloved character, Lt. Anita Van Buren, played by the wonderful S. Epatha Merkerson. I am so thrilled that not only does it appear that she has been given a clean bill of health, but she is now engaged to Frank, who stood by her during the worst times of her illness. Anita deserves to be happy, and since this is also Epatha’s last appearance with the series, we should also wish her much happiness as well. (Thank you Epatha for entertaining us all these years!)
It was about time that we saw Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) completely blow his top, but even more wonderful was at the end when he praises the whole team and they all enjoy the moment - and Anita’s announcement - at the fundraising party. It was a very nice end for the season, and if this does prove to be the end of the series, it will also serves as a nice close to 20 years of wonderful cases, wonderful characters, a great cast, and good producing, writing, directing, etc.
Here is the recap:
Parents, upset at their daughter posting a topless photo of herself on the internet, find a blogger, “Fighter Boy”, who is posted a video of their daughter and other young girls. When they take the information to Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), she sees something that disturbs her and she takes it to Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto). Van Buren tells Lupo to log on to a website for “Fighter Boy” that depicts lots of weapons and bombs. They watch a video which shows a bomb being detonated, and then sees a trunk of a car with propane tanks in it. Lupo comments it could take out a whole city block, but Van Buren comments not just any block, and asks him to check out the license plate of the car – it’s from New York State. Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson) suspects it is a New York City block. At home, while “Fighter Boy” - real name John Nolte -is in bed ignoring his wake up alarm, the detectives break in and Bernard and Lupo yell for those inside not to move. They yell to confirm the guy laying in bed is Fighter Boy and he says yeah. They ask where the weapons are and he doesn’t know what they are talking about. They take him down to the 2-7. At the 2-7 in interrogation, he says the only weapons he has are video game weapons. They show him a photo of the propane tanks in the car trunk that was on the video on his blog, but he says he just found that video and thought he’d put it on his blog. Bernard tells him the sex cops want to talk to him about his videos of underage girls. Lupo tells him no more pretend, he’s going to do some real time now.
Lt. Van Buren tells the detectives that the photos and bomb video were downloaded from another source on the net that they can’t trace. The detectives say the apartment was searched and they found nothing so they think “Fighter Boy” is a watcher not a doer. There are too many of the make and model of the car in the video to track it down. Lupo says it is like fishing for a needle in the ocean – an old Chinese saying. Van Buren says “Just do it. Old American saying.” She wants to stop something from happening.
Later, at the Imaging Center, a doctor talks about Van Buren's last MRI. He asks her to lie on the scan table and tells her the doctor will compare the pictures they take today with the ones taken three months ago to see if there has been any change. He tells her how the scan will work and then gives her the call button in case she has a problem. She looks apprehensive. He begins the scan.
Later, the bomb video is being analyzed and the technician helps the detective locate where the bomb video was taken, on Staten Island. Later, with NYPD people on the scene of the video, a fragment of threaded pipe is located. The police captain tells them they found a pipe bomb a few weeks ago in a gas station rest room a few miles from there, and it was rusted and was a dud so they thought it was a prank.
Back at the 2-7, the detectives tell Van Buren what they discovered, and that they found prints on that pipe bomb, plus also eczema cream. They are tracking every silver Civic from Staten Island. Van Buren gets a phone call, and tells the detectives to go back to the gas station and check out the “prank.” Her phone call is about applying for a line of credit because of her medical bills and Lupo overhears.
At the Richmond Gas & Snak, a guy who works there tells them they don’t need a key from the restroom but remembers kids on BMX bicycles and that they hang out at the park. Later, the detectives, in casual clothes, play hoops at that park and Lupo floats the idea of a fundraiser for Van Buren and Bernard thinks Van Buren will not go for it because she is a very private person. The kid come up on their bikes and when the detectives try to ask them a question they try to take off but Lupo grabs one of them and they see what looks like eczema on his hand.
Later, at the 2-7 with the kid and his father, they tell him they tied his son to the bomb by the eczema cream. The kid says he found the bomb in the field, he saw the video online of the explosion and they recognized the place and they went there and found a piece of the pipe but later ditched it at the gas station. He wanted a piece of history, saying it is going to be epic. He shows them the web site where he saw the video, called “Moot’s Countdown.” It is the same video on Fighter Boy’s blog. The text of the video talks about taking down a whole school.
Later, in Van Buren's office with the Chief there, Bernard comments that Moots has been running his blog through a server in Romania and there is no way to identify him or trace him. The Chief asks if this is a credible threat as the blog doesn’t mention the school or borough or even a specific time frame. Another guy from Counter Terror there says that he has a high point 9mm carbine with 20 ten round mags, a glock 21 with 5 boxes of hollow points, 15 pipe bombs, and a body harness to carry it all, plus 3 propane tanks wired to go. He says this is as credible as any threat he has seen in 8 years of counter terror. The Chief says that is what he will tell the PC, and tells Van Buren he will have the Chief of School Safety to her directly. As they leave, she thanks them. She tells the detectives that this boy has had this blog for three months and is talking about blowing up a school, and asks how many people read it. Bernard tells her it had 2,300 hits, and she wonders why no one thought to report him. Lupo thinks nobody likes a snitch, even on the net. She tells them to bring in some help and see if they can profile the boy from his writings and start working on an email and maybe they can smoke him out.
Later, Dr. Emil Skoda (J.K. Simmons) is watching Lupo put a message on the message board to Moot, faking setting up a coinciding event in LA that will be “epic.” He makes a reference to Columbine, saying the kids think those guys were heroes instead of what they were – a grandiose psychopath and a suicidal depressive. Skoda thinks Moot is more of a depressive, but that Moot has given out no personal details they can work with. Bernard comes in and says the lab got a serial number off the high point carbine and the gun was stolen from a gun store heist in Massachusetts and thinks Moot bought the gun from him. The thief was caught and is sitting in Otisville awaiting trial.
The detectives speak with Duane Phillips and tell him they can’t offer him anything, and when they try to convince him to help them stop the terror attack, he tells them they’d better go talk to the Feds.
The Fed guy Schlicter tells EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache), ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza), Lupo, and Bernard that Duane Phillips is a potential witness against a gunrunning network that extends all the way up into Canada. He’s not wasting Federal leverage on a nothing state investigation. This infuriates Cutter, who disagrees, saying they are talking about a credible threat against a high school full of children and teachers. But Schlicter is skeptical since it comes from a blog, and he tells Cutter to get real. Rubirosa angrily reminds him of the very real video of a real pipe bomb explosion. He sarcastically asks if she’s checked the internet lately, it’s filled with videos of dumb kids blowing up crap with pipe bombs. He walks away and the door shuts in their faces. Later, they find Schlicter’s boss won’t see them either. Bernard realizes ATF gave them the dumps off Phillip’s cell phone and he made a few calls upstate to Ghent NY which coincides with a line used to access Moot’s blog.
Back at the 2-7, Van Buren gets a call from Dr. Knight and she needs her to come back in, telling her there were problems with her MRI and the data was corrupted and they need to re-do it. She agrees but is clearly rattled over it.
At the home of Morgan Jones in Ghent, her mother tells her to tell the detectives what she knows. She met Duane at a skating rink and she found Moot’s blog by accident and she wrote him and he wrote her back. She says Moot told her he was looking for a rifle and Duane said he could get a rifle like that and she took $100 out of her savings and bought it for Moot. Her friend Lee though Moot may be a freak so he gave him a rifle and he took it to Moot. They ask to speak with her friend Lee – and we then see the detectives standing at Lee’s grave. He drove through a red light and an 18 wheeler struck and killed him.
Back at the 2-7, Bernard tells Van Buren there was nothing in the emails from Moot to the girl. Lupo says Moot’s blog says he found that the police are reading his blog and now that someone is paying attention he will have to be more careful and the plan goes on, the end has been written. Later, they find that Morgan emailed Moot about their visit. Van Buren, Bernard, Lupo, Cutter, and Rubirosa discuss this with Skoda, who thinks the kid is very smart and that teachers seem to be his favorite subject. There is one teacher he wrote about – a science teacher who was a religious zealot who burned crosses on the arms of his students.
At the department of education, Lupo, Bernard and Rubirosa speak with Mr. Fontova who says the teacher involved was the subject of a proceeding but it got resolved prior to arbitration and he refuses to discuss it. Rubirosa comments about the bomb threat but he says union lawyers are more serious than a bomb threat.
Later, speaking with a union guy, he tells them the file was sealed. Rubirosa assured him the unnamed teacher is not the target of their investigation but he may have important information. He tells her he has a collective bargaining agreement to enforce, and comments to the detectives that as members of a union he is sure they can appreciate that. An assistant (Lindsey Vonn) is watching and gives a look to the detectives, and Lupo asks if she wanted to talk to them and asks if she knows how they can find the teacher. She tells them the teachers have a web site where they bitch about their job and she gives him the information on how he can log in. She suggests if they leave a message there maybe someone there can help them find that teacher.
Meanwhile, Van Buren is back in the MRI room and very testy. Frank tries to calm her but she doesn’t like being shoved into the machine “like a pot roast.” When the tech guy tells her he is ready and reminds her not to move, he almost rips him one but Frank tells her to bite her tongue.
Reading a “high school horrorshow’ web site, Lupo talks with Rubirosa and she tells him she was a kindergarten teacher for a year. Bernard tells Lupes not to go there. Lupo gets an answer to his message, which says the teacher he was talking about sounded like Ron Koslowski, a science teacher in Suffolk County.
They speak with Kozlowski, who says he didn’t brand anybody. He shows them a Tesla coil and did a demonstration with it that left an electrical mark on the kids. He admits being religious, and they ask if he can identify the student that wrote on his blog but it doesn’t ring a bell. He says more than one student who filed a complaint and the department of ed would not tell him. He says he is sorry they had to drive out there and Bernard says he is sorry he ended up out here. He says after 4 months suspension he quit New York and took a job here – half the salary and trice the commute but at least he is teaching.
In Cutter’s office, Rubirosa, with the detectives in tow, tells Cutter that the department of education won’t release the names of the students. The detectives add that not even in the student in Kozlowski’s class, and Moot could be a kid in another class who just happened to hear about Kozlowski, and they really need the names of all the kids in that school. Rubirosa says the department of education is standing on principle protecting the privacy of minors. Cutter thinks they are not taking this seriously. He tells Rubirosa to book the grand jury, they need to move for an indictment and start issuing subpoenas.
In the Grand Jury, Bernard testifies about what they know. Cutter concludes and asks them grand jury to authorize the subpoenas on the department of education on all records for John Locke high school and wants to seize all computers on the premises. When they find out they want to search the records of 2,872 students, they balk. Cutter reads back a blog post from Moot, but a juror comments those are just words on a computer. They are clearly not buying what Cutter is selling.
Later, in her office, Van Buren gets the call that Cutter was shut down by the grand jury. When she goes in to the squad room she sees something on a computer and asks the guy what he was looking at and asks her to open it back up. It is about a fundraiser for her. Van Buren then tells the detectives that the DA crapped out with the grand jury so stopping the kid will come down to police work. She plunks down a flier on a table which is for a fundraiser in her honor, and tells them they are not going to have any time for a fundraiser, so cancel it. Lupo comments that was supposed to be a surprise, and she looks at both of them and says if they respect her, respect her privacy, and she walks out of the room. Bernard says, “Told you.” Lupo responds, “Screw that, I’m not gonna cancel it.” Bernard notices a new posting on the blog, where the blogger says people are closing in, and the only power he has left is when he chooses to end this, adding he can’t wait any more and by the end of next week they will all know his name. Bernard comments that it is on and the doomsday clock just moved up three minutes.
Later, Cutter gets on Skoda's case because Skoda had said that Moot was slow, deliberate and not impulsive, and Skoda reminds him he also said the kid was suicidal and could go off any minute. Van Buren says they can settle this later; she wants to know how to catch him. Bernard thinks if they cross reference the teachers Moot has a beef with to a class schedule they can point him, and Lupo says they went on the teachers’ web site if they can identify him. They got replies with names. Most of the teachers responding were from Queens in a temporary reassignment center.
They go to the temporary reassignment center, which is called the “Rubber Room” where teachers who are accused of incompetence of misconduct are assigned pending a hearing. They are not teaching. They report there daily and do nothing but keep themselves busy, and some teachers have been waiting for two years for their hearing. If they don’t show up they don’t get paid their full salary. They later speak with a teacher who said he swatted a kid's hair but they said it was assault. They get the names of the kids in his class. Another teacher says he called a kid a little bastard because the kid punched her and tried to take her eye out with scissors. She gives them his name and those of his friends.
Later, Lupo finds none of the students cross reference with the list. Bernard wonders if Moot is a teacher who heard all those stories from other teachers. Bernard thinks Moot wanted them to hear all the stories of teachers who got screwed by the system. Rubirosa thinks all the teachers Moot mentions he could have met in rubber rooms except one, Maura Scott, who was never reassigned there and has been at the same school for the past 5 years and they think Moot works with her.
They call Van Buren at home and she tells them to put a radio car outside Scott’s building and wait for her to come home. She tells Frank they have a good lead and will go in to work for a while. Frank comments that getting a loan would be a lot easier if she could show two incomes, but she says she only has one. She asks what he is saying and he says they will talk about it when she gets back. She doesn’t want him feeling sorry for her, and he brings up the fundraiser, telling her to be glad people want to help her. But she doesn’t want a pity party, and says they may need to do this for her and she is not the only one who feels helpless against the disease.
Maura Scott arrives to meet with Cutter and Rubirosa and the detectives and she has a lawyer, Mr. Kralick (Paul Schultz), who says the union rep contacted him to come. She denies calling a student stupid and said she did not say that. They ask her if any teacher at her school that would have known her situation spent any time in a rubber room. When they mention the car, she seems to know who it is but the union rep stops her from talking, saying they need a subpoena, and they leave. Lupo gets pissed, but DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) who has heard all this, races after her and says they need her to talk to them. Kralick says that he knows McCoy knows what a subpoena is. McCoy snaps, asking “Just how far up your ass is your head?” He argues with Kralick who argues back of all the problems teachers have, and McCoy acknowledges those issues, but says. “but if your obstruction allows a massacre to happen I will crucify you Mr. Kralick. I will charge you with negligent homicide and after I convict you, I will resign my job and represent the families of the victims in a wrongful death suit against you and the union. By the time I’m done, you will be finished, so my advice to you is GET OUTTA MY WAY!” McCoy asks Scott to talk, and she does later explain the man – Rick - was good teacher but having problems with classroom management. One student asked to go to the bathroom but being in the hallway alone was not allowed and recess was coming up in 10 minutes so Rick told the kid to wait, but the kid went up to the front of the class and peed in the trashcan. Rick tried to stop him and the kid accused him of molesting him and the department started proceeding he spend months in the rubber room, but the complaint was later dismissed. Rick was told he would never get tenure. His girlfriend left him, his name was Rick Benson and lives with his parent’s in Brooklyn.
They go to his parent’s house and Rick is not there. They see his computer with the web site up and empty boxes of ammo and black powder. The parents say he is a substitute teacher for a school in Queens but does not know the name. They find the name of the school and race to it, the school being evacuated. Security saw Rick going into the school with a backpack. The detectives raced to the cafeteria and they find one bomb. As everyone clears out the detectives hear gunfire. They approach the area with guns drawn and a window of a classroom is shot out. Kids race to escape, and Lupo and Bernard, along with a math teacher, enter the room as see a wounded kid. The math teacher tries to calm other kids. Meanwhile, they hear Rick on the phone talking with a woman and he is angry with her. When Lupo calls out, Rick shoots at him. Rick says he has nothing and he is a dead man. Lupo says he talked with Moira and knows he got screwed. As Rick tries to reload his gun, he is distracted and Bernard comes up behind him and restrains him, with the math teacher helping. They get the pipe bomb out of his hand.
Later, at Reade Street Bar at the party for Van Buren, Lupo tells McCoy, Cutter and Rubirosa what happened and that they were lucky. McCoy says luck was only a part of it, and said they all did good. Van Buren arrives with Frank and they all applaud her. The Chief provides a few checks for the collection jar. She introduces Frank Gibson as her boyfriend, and then says as of this afternoon, Frank is her fiancé. They are all thrilled for her. Van Buren’s phone rings with a message, and she steps away to make a call. It is her doctor, and we hear her sigh. She says she understands, and they says goodnight. She begins to cry and then composes herself, saying thank you thank you thank you. She whispers into Frank's ear and he is happy and they embrace and as we pull back into the crowd, we fade to black.
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