Thursday, April 24, 2008

Law & Order “Burn Card”: Green Gambles With His Career

Photo NBC
It was fitting that Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) started his career on Law & Order with a reference to his gambling, and ended it by gambling on his career. It was an interesting episode that made for a memorable farewell for Jesse L. Martin. At the same time, we get introduced to his replacement, Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson).

This episode put Ed Green in the crosshairs of both Internal Affairs and the District Attorney’s office. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.

The show begins with Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Green investigating the murder of John Singer. The investigation takes the detectives to an acquaintance of the victim, and we discover that Singer was her sponsor for Gamblers Anonymous. During the questioning, Ed has a look on his face of recognition, as if he knows where this investigation may be heading. They find a bookie that tries to identify the suspect, and while doing so makes mention that the person he saw had a cauliflower ear and blond hair, making him stand out for a black man. Green suddenly finds an excuse to leave the squad, saying he has to visit a friend in the hospital, leaving Lupo somewhat perplexed that Ed is breaking away from the investigation.

While Lupo is trying (in vain) to get his dog to do its business, he receives a phone call about a shooting, and is shocked to see that the shooter being held is none other than his partner, Ed. The victim is “Bunny”, who matched the appearance of the suspect in Singer’s murder. Lupo is stunned, and Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) also runs interference between Ed and Internal Affairs, which are already digging into matters. This is where we first meet Kevin Bernard, who is with IA. We later find out that he was “drafted” for the job and it was not his preference.

Green is questioned by IA in the presence of his attorney, and Bernard puts pressure on Green to get ALL the facts out now rather than have them come out later with a grand jury. Green tells the whole story, and gets suspended. We also find out that Ed did know Bunny long before he shot him, and beat up Bunny in what appeared to be a dispute over gambling money Ed owed Bunny.

The DA’s office discusses how to proceed. Clearly McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) are conflicted about the matter, since they have worked with Green and believe him to be an upstanding detective. Cutter (Linus Roache) understands where they are coming from, but knows that he must remain objective.

Lupo stops by Cutter’s office and finds IA present and Cutter not willing to talk to Lupo at that time and brushes him off. Connie, however, runs out and catches up with Lupo and says:

Connie: Lupo! I’m guessing there was something that you wanted to talk about.
Lupo: Looks like I took it to the wrong office.
Connie: I have my own office.

We cut to the grand jury, with Cutter questioning a witness to the crime. Connie decides she also wants to question the witness, probably based on information received from Lupo. She proceeds to cut holes in his testimony, calling his credibility into question. Cutter is clearly annoyed, and he says to her:

Cutter: If you were planning on demolishing one of our witnesses, you might have, you know, mention it to me.”
Connie: Well, sometimes the only way to get your attention is to actually DO something.

Connie and Cutter argue the point, with Cutter clearly focused on trying to clarify Green’s intent in the shooting.

We then see Van Buren and Ed discussing the whole situation, and Ed confesses to Anita that when Lennie left, and then when Lennie died, Ed turned back to gambling in order to find comfort. This is the first reference that I can recall that Ed has made that acknowledged that he was affected by Lennie’s death. While they are talking, Anita receives the call telling her that Ed has been indicted, and she relays the news to him.

At that point, Van Buren receives a visit from Bernard, who explains his reluctant role with Internal Affairs. Anita still thinks there are unanswered questions about Ed’s involvement, as his side trip to New Jersey was never explained. Anita thinks that IA, and Bernard, has only done half of an investigation.

Ed is now on trial – and it’s strange seeing him in the defendant’s seat. Lupo is questioned by Cutter about the fact that Ed left the investigation that night and how unusual that behavior was. Another witness explains that Ed used to be a regular at the gambling place, and that night, Bunny was all “coked up.” She also mentions that Ed asked if someone else had been asking for Bunny, to which she said no. But Lupo thinks something is odd, and investigates further. He takes Anita back to the crime scene and walks through a scenario with her that indicates there may have been another person involved in this shooting that Ed is trying to protect. The crime scene is scoured in other directions, and a slug from Bunny’s gun is located. Lupo drops this information on Bernard, and they decide to head to New Jersey to hopefully find a pay phone that Ed may have used to call someone before the shooting.

They manage to get a phone number and identification for the person Ed called at the pay phone at the gas station, and it leads them to April Lannen (Carmen Ejogo, another “Kidnapped” alumni). They arrive at her home, finding her also arriving. They question her briefly about her contact with Ed, which she admits but gives little details. She is greeted at the door by the babysitter of her child, and when the sitter leaves, Lupo suggests they question her about Lannen’s whereabouts that night. I found myself wondering….could that child have been Ed’s? No one ever seemed to raise that question but if it were, it would be a motive for him to protect her.

Lupo and Bernard relay their theory to the DA’s office that it is possible that Ed was shooting to protect Lannen from Bunny, as Bunny was probably shooting at her. Cutter still wonders if they could have both been involved. They decide to leverage Green’s involvement with Lannen to get to the truth, and decide to indict her as an accomplice.

We are then taken to 256 West 30th Street, which turns out to be Ed Green’s place. And quite a nice looking place it was, something I would never have expected from a NYC detective. (Maybe Ed had made some nice money on his gambling habit?) Green and Lannen are talking the situation through, and Green promises he will take care of everything.

Green shows up at the DA’s office with his attorney, saying he will take a plea of Manslaughter 2. Cutter refuses to bite on the deal, bringing in Lannen and saying that they have information that implicates Lannen in embezzling and phony contracts with her job as Deputy Director of Purchasing at the school board. Of course, she folds and explains that Ed was covering because he felt guilty that he got her involved in gambling to begin with. She was going there to warn Bunny to leave to avoid being caught by the police, and so she would not be exposed herself in her own crimes. Ed beat Bunny up years ago because Bunny was forcing her into sex with others to cover her debts. Apparently Bunny though she was getting the police – not that she was warning him about the police - and he shot at her. Ed returned the fire in defense.

While Ed is essentially cleared of the murder, he decides that he’s too worn out to go any further, He asks Anita "How do you do it?" She responds "One foot in front of the other, for 30 years." Ed thanks Lupo for being a good cop, and departs.

This was a great episode to feature Jesse Martin and in a way, close the loop from when he started. He had a gambling problem then, and gambling – whether he really WAS gambling again or not I’m not sure of – brought him down again. The burning question that seemed to be unanswered is “Who the baby daddy?” When they kept talking about Ed protecting the woman, they all turned to the gambling angle, but nobody ever looked at the baby angle. Maybe I was missing something, maybe there was nothing there, but it sure seemed like they wanted viewers to speculate.

This was also a great introduction for Anthony Anderson. I think the last time they had the new character and the old character overlap may have been when Lennie (Jerry Orbach) came on board, replacing Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino), who had been shot in the line of duty. During that time, Logan (Chris Noth) was hoping that Phil would return, so we got to see him visit Phil while he was paired with Lennie. In this case, we meet Bernard on the side of Internal Affairs, but it gave him and Lupo a chance to get on their better side before they start working together as a team.

It also provided a little tension again between Connie and Cutter. Connie seems to be very strong willed and very passionate about the job and the law, and is also willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the cases are done right. I was glad to see that she stood up to Cutter and pressed the issues in Green’s defense. I also understand why Cutter did what he had to do, after all, he had to remain objective. But I think it's good Connie gives him a little bitch-slap now and then, so to speak, to bring him back down from his ivory tower.

All in all, this was an excellent episode that provided a story that properly allowed Jesse to shine, and to provide an interesting exit for his character. And while I’ll miss Ed Green, I think that Anthony Anderson will make a nice addition as Kevin Bernard.

And that’s a sure gamble.

Burn Card 2 minute replay

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samfan said...

Great summary! I watched the episode and I couldn't help but wondering if who's baby it was! That would have been a great angle! I am glad that Connie stands up to Cuter instead of both of them teaming up on McCoy. I think that it's good that people see that Connie will slap Cutter back into reality. Very good episode, I can't wait until next week. I think the new detective will be a good fit, I just hope no more changes for a while now.

Deleilan said...

It was a very touching ending, without any effusive hugs or tears, but you could still see that Anita, Lupo and Green were sad to part.

It'll be very interesting to get to know Detective Bernard over the next few weeks. I loved when he suggested he and Lupo should carpool to New Jersey... "'cause it saves gas".

Anonymous said...

I love Connie and Cutter. They're written smart and performed impeccably. This was Green's episode, but these two keep me watching every week.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I posted above and forgot to add this, but I agree with samfan. The revolving door needs to stop revolving for awhile. Cast changes keep things fresh, but too many too soon could be a real detriment to the show at this point.

DuskyJewel said...

6 years later and your recap is as appreciated today as it was in 2008. Your writing matches the tone and feel of the episode perfectly! Love detected green and am sad to see him go.

Juda Martinez said...

This episode could of been a season finally, it was a surprise that green didn't make it til final episode of season. There where pretty good episodes the rest of the season like strike, but it would of been great to see ed green make it 9 whole seasons, yes he missed 4 or 5 episodes in season 15. Thanks Jesse Martin for 9 years on law and order.