Thursday, January 12, 2012
Law & Order SVU “Theatre Tricks” Recap & Review
I was little worried about this episode before it aired; NBC virtually ignored promoting it, and the network finally released a few preview clips the day the episode aired. That is usually the sign that the episode is a dog. It was not as bad as I expected; it was, however, very predictable.
The story was well written and the premise of the crime interesting. This season of SVU has provided far better cases and far better writing than in recent years. I also really enjoy how they are using all members of the cast (with the exception of Richard Belzer, who is missing from this episode) which gives the feel of a real working team of detectives. While I am still not sure if it is Amanda Rollins or if it is Kelli Giddish that doesn’t quite fit, it was less of a problem for me in this episode. The bonding attempts between Rollins and Benson seem forced, however.
Gilbert Gottfried’s TARU character simply does not work for me. His presence is jarring. The role is also a stereotype of tech people, implying that they all descend into geek speak even in situations where it is not appropriate. It is times like this where I miss Mike Doyle as Forensics Tech Ryan O'Halloran.
Once the judge explained that the encounter was arranged via email, someone should have asked him if he knew for certain that the emails came from Meghan. It also amazes me that any adult with any sense of brains would participate in any sexual encounter such as this without making sure that there was proper – meaning IN PERSON – consent. I suppose that people that engage in this kind of behavior are not always thinking with their brains.
At the end of the episode, Rollins tells Benson that she did not see it coming. She may have been the only one as I suspect the audience likely did.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Richard Belzer – Sergeant John Munch
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro
Stephanie March - ADA Alex Cabot
Fisher Stevens – Ted Scott
Kevin Pollak – Judge Gerald Crane
Gilbert Gottfried - TARU Tech Leo Gerber
Jenn Proske – Meghan
Grant Shaud _ theatre critic
Gayle Rankin - Holly
Adam Driver – Jason Roberts
Angela Pietropinto _ Estelle Roberts
Jacqueline Hendy – Crane’s attorney
Coco Nicole Austin – Venus
Larisa Bond – Woman #4
Gabra Zaxhman _ Counselor Debra Wagner
Molly Montgomery - Eve
Micah Stock – Goat Mask Actor
Mark David Watson = Paolo
An interactive theatre production is in progress. People begin to put on masks. The director Ted Scott brings in a bouquet of red roses in to one of the female actors, Meghan, for her first opening. She wants to take a photo for her scrapbook and says this is her first show and it seems like a dream. He tells her most of the critics are coming tonight and her life will never be the same. He moves to kiss her but she turns her head and he kisses her on the cheek and tells her to break a leg.
In the theatre. as a woman convinces another guy to put on a hawk mask, a voice announces that no one here knows them or will judge them. As they enter a doorway which is marked “Abandon all hope” they are told to strip off their inhibitions. Women begin to remove their clothes and everyone is encouraged to join in to touch the world of the forbidden.. A woman playing "Lust" enters and begins to kiss another woman. People begin eating food that is spread out over a woman’s unclothed body. The voice continues to encourage participation. The interactive play continues as the female character Francesca tells Paolo – who is not masked - that they are alone and he tells her to kiss him. But a man – who seems to be portraying the husband Giovanni – announces he is back, and "Francesca" and "Paolo" look shocked. Francesca tells Paolo to go and he runs off. The masked man who entered as Giovanni begins to attack Francesca and as another person holds her down, he says that she betrayed Giovanni and he saw the whole thing. She screams for help but the audience simply stands around and does nothing.
Later, after the audience is leaving, Meghan is still laying on the bed on the “stage” and Ted comes in and asks her what happened and she missed the finale. He asks if she is OK but Meghan stares blankly off and does not answer.
Elsewhere, Detective Olivia Benson and ADA Alex Cabot are watching people ice skate. As they chat, Benson’s phone rings. Later. Benson and Cabot are at the theatre with Ted Scott who says he blames himself, adding it is immersive theatre and he pushes the piece to be provocative and somebody took it too far. Benson asks if he is saying the actress was raped on stage and Cabot asks where was the audience? Ted says they were watching and thought it was part of the show.
Later, Benson is talking with Meghan who explains it is Dante’s Inferno – kind of. She plays Francesca and sleeps with her husband’s brother Paolo. Whoever did this was pretending to be Giovanni, her jealous husband. When Benson asks where was the actor who plays her husband, Meghan begins to cry and explains he is not in the scene, it is just her and Paolo – the betrayal.
Meanwhile, Fin meets up with ADA Cabot and asks if it is a little early in the game for her. She says she was in the neighborhood. Fin comments that Benson is with the vic and Cabot says the ambulance is on the way. She introduces the director Ted Scott to Fin. He tells Fin someone in the audience got caught up in the theatrics and believed he was Giovanni, raping his wife in revenge. Fin looks surprised and asks if the people in the seats get to act with the actors. Ted says there are no seats, it’s theatre interactive and the audience walks through Dante’s 9 circles of hell. Cabot explains that the victim was attacked in the second circle – Lust.
Benson continues to talk with Meghan, asking if she can tell her what he did to her. Meghan explains that at first she thought he was being weird. Benson asks if he raped her, and Meghan cries and says yes. Benson asks Meghan if she can tell her anything about the attacker, his physicality, but Meghan says it happened so fast and he was wearing g goat mask. He was white and smelled like he smoked. Benson sees marks on Meghan’s wrists and asks if he held them. Meghan says it was someone else, who was wearing a hawk mask. She adds that she just moved here six months ago and this was the first play she auditioned for and can’t believe this happened to her.
Fin asks Ted if anyone can get in once the show starts, and Ted say no, all the doors are covered. Fin asks for all his box office receipts and credit card slips. Ted instructs a woman named Eve to get them. Benson approaches and says Meghan said her attacker wore a goat mask and she asks Ted if they get those back at night, and he says yes. Benson says they will need them and the robes too and CSU will have to comb over his sets. He says they have a show tomorrow, and Benson says no, he doesn’t, adding this is not a theatre it is a crime scene.
Back at SVU, Detective Amanda Rollins comments to Captain Don Cragen that a girl moves to the city and her first job on the stage she gets raped and the audience applauds. Cragen replies this is why the NEA was gutted. He asks Benson if there are suspects. Benson tells him 150 – it was opening night and there was a full house and everyone wore masks. Detective Nick Amaro says they are tracking down everyone who bought a ticket by credit card and so far no one has a record or is on the sex offenders list. Cragen asks if they talked to anyone who was in the room when it happened. Rollins replies none that knew it happened; it was dark and they all had a few and they thought it was part of the show. Benson informs them the rape kit is in and there is no trauma except for wrist abrasions and there is no DNA. Amaro asks as this was their opening night, is there a chance this was for publicity? Benson says the girl just moved here from Hennepin, MN six months ago and she is pretty shaken up. Amaro notes that she is an actress. There is a long pause where everyone else looks around and Cragen finally says, “point taken.” He asks them to see if her story has changed overnight. Amaro makes the move to do so.
Rollins walks over to Benson who is now at the coffee station and asks what Amaro’s comment was all about, wondering if they think Meghan is lying. Benson says they don’t think that. But Rollins continues to press that it is something else is and she knows that Benson heard it too. Rollins comments she keeps wanting to think things have changed – and Benson tells her they have changed – compared to the way it used to be.
At the apartment of Meghan Weller, Benson and Amaro question Meghan. Amaro wonders if it was a fan, that is sounds like the person knew the play and he timed his move. She says there are guys who wait outside for an autograph and a couple of them she has seen more than once. Amaro asks if she would know their names, and she say no. She just smiles at them. A woman – Holly - enters the apartment and apologizes for coming in but Meghan says it is OK, explaining this is her roommate and they moved there together to be actresses. Meghan says they think it is someone stalking her, and her roommate refers to them as her stage door johnnies. Benson asks if any of them left messages or tried to see her outside the theatre. Meghan recalls that every Thursday and Friday during previews, someone left red roses and no card and she just thought they were being sweet.
Fin and Rollins are at the apartment building of Estelle Roberts, who was the last multiple ticket buyer. She doesn’t know anything about the play. Fin explains that a Diners Card in her name was used to purchase tickets on 12 different nights. She explains that she doesn’t have a Diners Card. Fin says the address in the card matches hers and it was opened two years ago and the bills have been paid on time. Rollins asks if anyone else lives in the house and she says her son Jason. Fin asks to speak with him, and Estelle says he is not home. When Rollins makes a move to go into his room, Estelle says Jason does not like strangers looking at his things. Rollins goes in anyway and sees huge photos of Meghan plastered all over the walls. Estelle says he takes a lot of pictures of his girlfriend, and Rollins sees a picture taken from inside Meghan’s apartment when Benson and Amaro were there the same day and realizes Jason has Meghan’s apartment bugged. Fin asks where Jason is now, and Estelle does not answer. Rollins looks up to the ceiling, and says she bets Jason is watching them right now – and we see her and hear her on a monitor in another location.
At SVU, Amaro and Rollins shows Meghan the photos taken from inside her apartment and it is freaking her out. Rollins asks if she knows Jason Roberts and she says he is her IT guy. Rollins says he is her stalker. She tells them she met him through a girl in her acting class set her up with him and he designed her web site and never charged her. She did not invite him to the show and did not even know he was there. She doesn’t think he raped her and he seemed harmless and sweet. Rollins reminds Meghan that Jason videotaped her while she slept and showered. Meghan is aghast and asks if they arrested him. They explain he has not been home yet and ask how she gets in touch with him. She says she calls him and he always calls right back. Rollins asks if she is up for it they want to set up a meeting with them, and maybe Meghan can convince him the cameras do not matter. When Meghan looks sick over this, Rollins says if this is too much they can figure out another way. Meghan looks stunned.
At Java Jake’s, Meghan is there as Jason walks in. He says his mom is freaking out about the cops, and Meghan replies she told them he is a good guy and she wants to hear his side. He explains the cameras were for security, and Amaro walks up and cuffs him as Rollins moves in. Jason tells Meghan she set him up, and she yells back that he spied on her in the shower and asks what else he did. He does not know what she is talking about, saying he didn’t do anything, he loves her. As Amaro takes him away, Jason tells Meghan she looks pretty. Meghan apologizes to Rollins for getting upset, but Rollins says she did good.
At SVU, Jason explains to Rollins and Fin he installed the cameras for security because there are a lot of creeps out there and Meghan is too trusting. Rollins asks about the credit cards and why he saw the show 12 times. Fin suggests Jason was staking out the show figuring when to strike. Jason doesn’t know what they are talking about. Rollins says he was hiding behind a goat mask - Jason said he was a donkey – and Rollins says they know he raped her. Fin says they know what he did, and Jason says he can prove it wasn’t him. He says he took video of the whole thing and thought Meghan was just acting. He is upset that he didn’t do anything and starts slapping himself on his neck.
Later, Cragen, Fin, Rollins and Amaro watch the video of the attack. Amaro hears an electronic sound on the video and Rollins notices that when the person holding her moved their hands away, the sound stopped. Fin wonders if the people are working together and if they are wearing earpieces and Cragen wonders if it is a hearing aid battery running down. Rollins wonders if it is one of those assistive listening devices that are lent out.
Afterwards, Fin and Rollins speak with a theatre critic who says maybe he forgot to return it and says he ran out of the theatre because he was on deadline. He says if he wanted to assault an actress he would do it in print, and he thinks Meghan is a promising ingénue. He was just interacting and Rollins tells him it was an actual rape and that he made himself an accomplice. The critic insists it was not real and becomes upset. He says he does not know who the other man was. He tells them when the other man pulled her hair, he was wearing cuff links and he saw one engraved with the word “sustained.”
Rollins and Fin walk out of the room to where Benson, Amaro, and Cragen have been observing. Rollins says please tell her they can charge this guy and is not impressed with his defense. Amaro wonders if he was just clueless but Cragen says he should have known better and he is calling the DA. Benson says the theatre handed out 20 goat masks and see if they can connect the cuff links.
Later, Rollins finds a cuff link site and find “sustained/overruled” cuff links, a popular gift for lawyers. Amaro suggests they check the ticket holder names against the member of the NY City bar association. Benson says there were 8 lawyers in the audience that night and Cragen also notes Judge Gerald Crane on the list, adding this case just gets better and better. Fin says the judge smokes like a chimney. Amaro wonders if he was planning on raping her, why buy a ticket with his own credit card. Cragen tells them to go to him first, role him out, and then apologize. He tells Amaro to let Benson do the talking.
In the chambers of Judge Gerald Crane, Benson sees a pair of cuff links sitting out that says “Guilty/Not Guilty” and she comments about them. Crane says he has the whole set of them. Benson asks him about attending the performance and he admits he did but claims to know nothing of the rape. They continue to question them and Amaro mentions the goat mask. The judge removes his robe from the hook on the wall and his goat mask is there. Benson comments that she is sure he has an explanation, and he says even better: an admission. He plainly and almost proudly states it was him and that it wasn’t rape, Meghan wanted it and that she arranged the entire thing and it as her fantasy.
At SVU, Crane’s attorney tells Benson and Amaro that Meghan had been emailing him for weeks detailing the sexual encounter she initiated. She says the judge has proclivities and knows that because she was married to him for 10 years, She insists there is no rape charge because there was no rape. Crane thinks this is a shakedown but admits she has not contacted him and there is no other explanation and thinks she set the whole thing up. Crane met Meghan through the Sugar Babyz web site, Benson calling it a site for wealthy old men looking for young women to exploit. Crane says role playing is healthy for consenting adults. He has not paid her, they only met that night on stage, he got an email that she wanted their first time to be a stranger rape fantasy. He adds she gave him all the instructions on what she wanted. An email from Meghan also outlined that if she resisted this means she wanted it more. The safe word was “Dixie” and she never said it and for all he knows, she emailed the other person who held her down too. He asks why would he risk his reputation? Amaro reminds him he was having sex in a public theatre. He said if for a moment he thought it was going too far he would have stopped, he does not enjoy hurting women. Benson reminds them that Meghan believed she was raped and the judge may still be guilty of sexual assault. The lawyer says good luck getting the DA on board.
Afterwards, Cragen looks at the web site and Benson says just because Meghan has a profile on the web site does not mean she solicited her own assault. Fin wonders why the web site is not prostitution, and Rollins says the girls never name a price. Cragen says maybe Meghan played the judge and SVU as well. Benson said if she wanted to blackmail him why go to the police? Cragen wonders why would the judge chance destroying his career? Amaro says the guy likes risks, but Rollins says this does not mean he is a rapist. Rollins comments she would not put anything past Jason and the judge and Meghan could be victims. Cragen asks them to see if Meghan can explain the emails.
Meghan is going over the emails with Benson and Amaro and says she did not write them. She does not know the judge. She is very upset and says this is not her Gmail account and did not set up the Sugar Babyz account and did not post her photo on that web site.
Jason is back at SVU with Fin, Rollins, and TARU Tech Leo Gerber. He shows them better photos of Meghan on his computer and while Rollins can’t believe what he’s doing, Gerber asks about what kind of camera he used. As they descend into geek speak, Fin tries to get them back on track. Jason says Meghan doesn’t have the skill to set up the account and he did not set up the account either. He asks if they checked the IP addresses and Gerber tells him was a café, which Rollins explains is across the street from the theatre. He asks for the dates and the times and Gerber begins to do so. Jason shows video feeds that show he was at home at those times.
Later, Benson and Amaro visit Meghan and explain Jason has an alibi and when they mention the café, Meghan says they all go there. Meghan can’t think of anyone who would have a reason to do this. She mentions the flowers being sent on opening night.
Back at SVU, Rollins explains that Crane has an alibi for every time the email was sent. Fin says there are no security cameras at the café and it is cash only. There are 100 people in there a night mostly from the theatre. Cragen wonders if it is a co-worker and Meghan may not recognize a predator. Rollins wonders if Jason’s cameras did.
Later, the Rollins and Fin show Benson, Amaro and Cragen a video of Ted Scott in bed with Meghan and he seems to be directing it as a stage production. Rollins says Ted has been over to Meghan’s apartment 8 times in the last two months for this “scene work.” Benson wonder why he would set up his actress and Rollins suggests it was for publicity. The rape story came out yesterday and ticket sales are now through the roof. Benson calls it a two-fer, he gets back and Meghan for turning him down and his ticket sales spike up. Amaro comments the judge may be collateral damage, but Fin says he found out the judge presided over Ted’s divorce 10 years ago and it ended nasty. Cragen says it is all circumstantial and asks if anything ties him to the emails. Rollins say she did a comparative statement analysis with Ted’s statement and the emails and they both use British spelling and grammar. Ted’s first New York play was titled “Dixie”, the safe word the judge was told to use. Cragen walks off without saying anything. Rollins says to pick your pervert and Benson says every guy in New York would see Meghan as easy prey. Rollins asks Benson how long she has worked for SVU. Benson laughs and says don’t ask, but Rollins goes on to ask how does she trust any man – ever? Benson says she trusted her partner, and she hasn’t given up hope there are good guys still out there.
Benson and Fin are back at the theatre and Ted is agitated that they have come in during the blocking rehearsal. Benson comments that his actress gets attacked and he is now using it in his show. Ted says he draws inspiration from life and is going for the meta. Fin says he is not. And he’s missing his show tonight.
Back at SVU in interrogation with his lawyer, Ted says he adores Meghan and he would never hurt her. He says they got his all wrong. If he staged a rape for every actress who slapped him down they would be there all night. He lawyer tells Ted he is not helping. Benson and Fin ask him about being at the café and using the computers, and he says no, he drinks the coffee. Benson says someone impersonated Meghan set up the rape, Fin adding they used Dixie as the safe word. Ted seems surprised. Benson mentions the faked profile on the Sugar Babyz web site and also the connection with Judge Crane. Ted thinks this is not about Meghan, it is about him. He mentions the judge with his divorce and he has a Sugar Babyz account, and Dixie was his play. He thinks he is being set up but does not know by who. The lawyer tries to end the interrogation but Ted goes on and says he is a director and he has control issue. He obsesses over details but was nowhere near the set when Meghan was attacked and asks if that doesn’t tell them something.
Meanwhile, Cabot, Cragen, Amaro and Rollins are observing and Cabot sighs, telling Cragen she does not have enough to charge Ted with Rape 1. She will also not charge a sitting judge until she has a clear chain of the crime/ Rollins says Crane confessed but Cabot says there are other justices watching to see how they treat this judge who has been targeted potentially over how he presided over another case. Amaro says it looks like Crane was used just like Meghan, by Ted. Cabot explains until they can prove that, she can’t charge any of the players. Cragen says they hear her, and as Cabot leaves, she says to keep her posted.
When Benson comes out of interrogation, she is surprised that Cabot is leaving. Cragen explains that everything linking Ted to the rape is circumstantial. Benson asks if they can take a step back and asks if Ted set this up, how would he know the judge would go for a public rape fantasy? Fin comments they are both members of the Sugar Babyz web site, and Rollins wonders if they shared fetish stories. Cragen adds maybe they shared a Sugar Baby.
Back in Crane’s office with his attorney, Benson explains they do not think Meghan sent the emails. He comments sadly, “Then I did rape her.” Amaro warns him that at some time the DA will have to file charges – the judge adding that charging him is the only way they can charge the real perp. He asks if they have any suspects, and Benson says Ted Scott, the director and Amaro tries to make the connection through Sugar Babyz. Crane says he just corresponds with the young women. Benson wonders if he and Ted have any of the women in common. Crane thinks it is possible. Benson says the emails detailed his fantasies and someone with whom he had been intimate would know. Crane asks if they will have to go through his dirty laundry hamper, and his lawyer says he does not have to agree to this. Crane says somebody committed a crime and he wants whoever is responsible brought to justice.
Back at SVU, Crane goes through his Sugar Babyz list and picked out Dena and Lisa, and explains what the girls would do. When Rollins brings up the rape role play in a public place, he says there was one, a bit plain, and it was his fantasy, not hers. As he explains the role play, he shows them the photo and Benson and Amaro look shocked. Amaro asks when they had their date, and Crane says it was six weeks ago, then goes on to confirm that two weeks later he and Meghan started emailing. Benson asks for all his correspondence with her, and he agrees. He says he will leave his iPad with him and will rely on their discretion. Cragen thanks him for coming in.
When Crane leaves, Amaro explains that the girl Crane picked out is Meghan’s roommate, Holly. Rollins says that can’t be a coincidence.
At the theatre, Amaro and Rollins enter the dressing room where Meghan is packing up her things and Holly is with her. Meghan says she just wants to go home, and Rollins says they think they found out who set her up. Holly has a slight look of concern. Rollins says it was Ted, and Holly looks shocked. Meghan says she thought he liked her and Amaro says they saw how he behaved on the surveillance cameras. Holly admits she was there when Ted was around. She says she knew Ted from the theatre, but Rollins adds also from Sugar Babyz. Amaro explains they know she went out on dates with Ted, and Meghan is shocked. Amaro said Holly is a big star on that site. Meghan asks why she would do that, and Holly replies she had to pay the rent. Holly says Ted put up the fake profile. Rollins and Amaro outline what they know about her and the judge. Rollins also brings up that Meghan got the role in the play and not Holly. Amaro presses Holly that she worked up to that role including sleeping with the director. Meghan is even more upset, and tells Holly she did not have to do that, adding that Holly is a better actor than she. Rollins says she gets it but Holly retorts that Rollins does not, asking how long she has been in New York and she is already a detective. She tells Rollins everything just got handed to her, with guys jumping up to help her and nice apartments and upgrade to first class and all Rollins had to do was show up. Holly yells that it was her audition, and Meghan just came here to help her run lines and as soon as Ted saw her, he wanted her. She adds that Meghan did not say no. She asks Meghan if she knew what she had to do for that audition, down on her knees with that pig and with Crane and all those guys. She is tired of being the ugly duckling and she wanted Meghan to know what it felt like to fell dirty and used. Meghan is appalled, saying she thought Holly was her friend, and screams that Holly had someone rape her. Holly tells her it is about time something bad happened in her life. As Rollins takes Holly away, Amaro stays behind to console a crying Meghan.
Back at SVU, Rollins tells Benson she did not see or hear a shred of remorse. With all the abuse in her life, Meghan was betrayed by a woman – she did not see it coming. Benson says it is hard enough out there, and you’d like to think we can look out for each other. Benson gives Rollins a knowing look, and tells Rollins good night. As Benson walks off, Rollins tells her to get home safe. Benson looks back and smiles, and Rollins smiles back. As Rollins looks to the camera, we fade to black.
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