Thursday, March 6, 2008

Law & Order “Betrayal”: The Betrayers Are Betrayed

This Law & Order episode had everyone turning on each other. The only exception may have been the murder victim.

A minor annoyance with the new season of Law & Order has the show starting with a more Criminal Intent feel to it. Mind you, I like Criminal Intent just fine, but always felt that for the original Law & Order, it’s always been better not seeing up front information on the victim. I always liked the way the show had people finding the murder victims in often-accidental ways.

We see the murder victim, psychiatrist Isaac Waxman (L&O repeat offender John Shea) talking into a tape recorder… and then he’s found dead in a spray of bullets. The detectives perform their usual inspection of the crime scene, the usual questioning of witnesses, family, etc, and the usual discussion of the evidence. It was all a little too patterned. The first half of Law & Order still seems to be inconsistent in its delivery. Green (Jesse L. Martin) and Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) work well together, but maybe it’s become a little to routine. And they seemed to have left Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) behind in this episode, giving her very little face time. My wish is that they could add a spark to this half of the show.

The detectives initially suspect the murderer is one of the psychiatrist’s young patients, who said the doctor always told him to repeat the phrase to “be a rock in a sea of chaos.” (For some reason, I kept thinking of the Seinfeld episode where George’s father keeps shouting "Serenity now!”) The problems with this young patient gives them an excuse to bring in their shrink on call, Dr. Olivet (Carolyn McCormick). Personally, I always preferred Dr. Skoda because he always seemed more in tune with his role with the DA’s office, yet still remained objective. It seems like Dr. Olivet has always been a little unpredictable, unreliable, and self-absorbed. Of course, she lived up to my expectations in this episode.

But, more evidence points to the doctor’s wife Catherine Waxman (Moira Kelly), coming from a wrinkle in her alibi based on comments from her daughter. She is arrested and the DA's office gets involved. This is when the show picks up a bit and got a lot more interesting. And, during the second half of the show, Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) suffers a few times from accent reversal and says “Emmer” for Emma, “lawr” for law, and “sawr” for saw. Not a big deal, I just found it funny.

Back to the case. Waxman gets her daughter to change her story, and this precipitates Cutter to go back and question the daughter about her statement. As he was questioning her, with Lupo present, I found myself wondering how people can get away with questioning minors without their parent’s permission. It seems to happen on Law & Order frequently and it always seems to be a problem when it’s discovered, so I wonder if it’s legal for them to do it. Cutter gets the daughter to tell the accurate story, but not before Lupo attempts to cut him off. Outside, Cutter and Lupo have an exchange, when Lupo accuses Cutter of roughing her up:

Cutter: Would you feel better if I offered her a lollipop?
Lupo: I’d feel better if you hadn’t roughed her up.
Cutter: How’d you think her mother got her to lie? I'm playing to win detective. Winning means putting Catherine Waxman in jail.
Lupo: Is this some kind of sport to you?
Cutter: Stick with your law books detective. On the page the law is a much purer thing.

While Cutter’s comments were somewhat dismissive and condescending, he was probably right to explain the real world to Lupo. Somehow, though, I sense Cutter is a little too big for his britches.

One segment of the show that seemed a little too contrived was the playing of the voice mail from Waxman to her mother, which conveniently had the sound of a cruise ship in the background. Of course, it points them to a specific dock where divers conveniently find the murder weapon. How does that work, exactly? Can a ship’s horns be only loud enough to be heard in a specific area? I would think that sound in the Law & Order universe would follow the same laws of nature and be able to travel outside the confines of one area or dock. Maybe it’s just me, or my unfamiliarity with the area in question, but I would think that the sound of a ship’s horn couldn’t be that precise.

Later, when Cutter retracts his plea offer, we hear the defendant offer up her story of being abused as a teen by her doctor/husband, and then proceeds to fire her attorney. Later, when Cutter decides to bring in a controversial expert witness, Jack has a bit of a cow but allows Cutter to go forward. And that’s when things get interesting.

The expert testifies that contrary to popular belief, it’s not true that in all cases of willing sexual encounters between adolescents and adults, it does not cause psychological harm or trauma. The defendant (now acting as her own attorney) attempts to discredit her credentials by saying the doctor was condemned by congress, which was to be expected.

Dr. Olivet, however, makes this all about herself, getting upset with the DA's office as she drops the bomb that the defense called her to testify. “She studies studies. I counsel victims” Olivet moans to McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Cutter. Cutter tells Olivet that Waxman is using her to support a bogus defense. Olivet whines that the expert’s position “devalues what I do, who I am….I’m going to set the record straight.” Jack retorts “ You understand you’re working for the other side now. That means the gloves have to come off. “ Of couse Liz, we know this is all about YOU.

Jack offers his help to Cutter with the problem with Olivet, and Cutter assumes it’s because Olivet was a rape victim herself and it may affect her credibility. Jack says, “No, not that.” Uh-oh!

Olivet gets the surprise of her life when her relationship with a detective who she counseled after the detective lost a partner is outed. I assume that this was in reference to a long speculated - but never actually proven on an Law & Order episode (as far as I know) - relationship that Olivet had with our one and only Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth)? I could see Olivet just seething. I enjoyed ever second of Ms. High-and-Mighty getting her comeuppance.

This brings me to the best dialog of the episode, in the parking garage where Jack is getting ready to leave on his motorcycle:

Olivet: That hurt, Jack.
McCoy: I warned you.
Olivet: You betrayed a confidence
McCoy: You went to bat for a woman who shot her husband in cold blood, and who would have killed anybody else she found in his office. If I had to betray a confidence to ensure she goes to jail, so be it. These are the rules we live by.
Olivet: This isn’t your finest hour, Jack.
McCoy: Nor yours.

Olivet can sure dish it out, but she can’t take it. I am so glad that Jack put her in her place one and for all. And maybe also added fuel to the Logan/Olivet rumors. It was worth sitting through a flat first half to get to this gem.

After that, things wrap up quickly. As expected, the defendant crumples during cross examination when the realization that the “Meredith” her husband was talking about on the tape recording was not another woman. It was the town to where the doctor drove the defendant to the psychiatric hospital as a teen and also the name of a memoir that her husband was writing about this time. Of course, this rattles the defendant and she starts repeating the phrase “ I am a rock in a sea of chaos.”

Later in Cutter’s office, Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) tells Cutter that the next time she says it’s a slam dunk to “drop that on my foot”, looking at a large piece of concrete marked as evidence on Cutter’s file cabinet. Maybe that was the rock in the sea of chaos we heard so much about in this episode? I have to say, they are trying a little too hard to bring out some of the stuff Cutter keeps in his office.

So let me get down all the betrayals here. The wife thinks the husband betrayed her so she kills him. Lupo thinks Cutter is betraying the law. Olivet thinks the DA’s office betrayed her by cutting her out, so she betrays them and testifies for the defense. McCoy betrays a confidence to counter Olivet’s betrayal. And it turns out Olivet betrayed her oath by having an affair with a patient. But wait, the husband really didn’t betray the wife after all, so she killed him for nothing.

I think I got it.

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Fred said...

My first time visiting your blog - good stuff!

I could swear I recognized the actress who played the daughter, but I missed the credits and as yet have not found her listed online ... do you (or any other readers) know who that was?

samfan said...

Great summary!!! I think this was one of the best episodes so far this year, we finally got to see Jack being Jack!!! Thanks for the update-you are right the best scene was Jack and Olivet by Jack's bike. I think that we are starting to see that Jack can be himself, but still take on the big role of DA. I agree the detectives are okay but Anita needs more face time.

TheMalau said...

Hey, great post. I also agree that the whole CI beginning is not my cup of tea. I am also not happy to learn today that Det. Green will be leaving the series this season. The one revered and long-established Black male detective on TV. Anthiny Anderson better represent.

About Olivet... Aren't you being a bit harsh on her? I mean you know, these doctors take theirs oaths, and their ethics quite seriously (otherwise they are bad doctors). And, I don't want to be PC - because God knows PCness gets on my nerves, but I am still a bit weary of talking about "put her back in her place", between a man in power, and a woman. Especially after watching an entire episode about the possible consequences of abuse of women by dominant men...

All Things Law & Order said...

TheMalau, being a woman myself, I am all too familiar with trying to be a succesful woman trying to be noticed over a a crowd of not-so-open minded men. But to use a sports analogy - which guys do a lot - you have to play ball if you want to win a ball game.

What I meant with her being put back in her place is that she can't have it both ways. She wants the respect of the DA's office, but it seems over the years, she's stabbed them in the back every chance her own opinions or feelings get in the way. She isn't always objective. If it was her ethics getting in the way, I'd say she had a point. But many times with Olivet, she is motivated by personal opinions. Sometimes her sanctimony just gets tiresome, and I think it really did get tiresome with Jack. What Jack did was put her in HIS place in a way, showing her in a very graphic way the results of her betrayals and how it feels to be on the other side of it.

Somehow I suspect the DA's office won't be using her anymore. For a while, when Skoda was their lead guy, she did work in opposition to the DAs office, so maybe she'll go back to that line of work?

samfan said...

All things L&O I agree with you. Olivet has been being this way for years and it is about time someone, if it was going to be Jack or not, let her know how the DA's office feels. And as Jack said “ You understand you’re working for the other side now. That means the gloves have to come off." And as you said Jack warned her. So she could have figured out what was coming. But as always great post!

Shine said...

This episode infuriated me! She was clearly an abuse victim. She was forced into sex by her shrink at the age of 15, coerced into marriage, forced into remaining in said marriage with threat of losing custody of her child if she left, etc, etc. "You did not have my permission to plant flowers!" and he ripped out the lillies??? Total and absolute abuse and control! I hated this episode.