Thursday, May 15, 2008

Law & Order “Personae Non Grata” Just Horrible

Photo NBC

It’s rare that I find myself not even wanting to spend time recapping an episode, but this one is an exception. I found this episode tedious to watch and sometimes confusing, coupled with what I thought was a terrible case of stunt casting.

This episode is about the murder of auto mechanic Eric Greenwood. Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) investigate and are led to Bob Munsen (Barry Del Sherman) who worked with Eric. They initially believe that the murder is about the theft of antique maps from the New York library, but this is only a red herring. They find Munsen was involved in an online relationship that Greenwood had sabotaged, believing that Munsen was having a relationship with a young woman, Chrissy. Personally, I found this whole segment a little confusing and I had to keep watching the scenes over and over to make sure I understood what was going on. Part of the problem is that Chrissy, who Bob was having the on-line relationship with, wasn’t Chrissy at all but her mother Donna Cheponis (Melissa Leo), working a con. Cheponis was posing as her daughter, who in reality had been missing for over two years. Cheponis scammed Munsen to the tune of $60,000, and Munsen murders Greenwood in what was believed to be an act of jealousy – I think. To make a long story short – and I really want to – Cheponis agrees to testify against Munsen but further evidence implicates she incited Munsen to murder Greenwood. With that information, Munsen accepts a plea in exchange for his testimony against Cheponis, but Cheponis cons Munsen into recanting. Whew, my head is spinning. There were a lot of things that happened in that series of events but it’s too exhausting to detail.

To shorten the story even more, it’s discovered that Donna really murdered her daughter two years ago, (not a shock there), and Cutter (Linus Roache) uses props consisting of Chrissy’s skeletal remains to make Munsen realize he’s and idiot and has been duped by Cheponis into killing Greenwood, He testifies against her and she is convicted, I think of both the murder of Greenwood and her own daughter.

OK, let’s get to the real annoyance with the episode here. It was the stunt casting of Tom Everett Scott as Governor Shalvoy. I found Scott to be terribly miscast here. He seemed too young to be Governor, and he also didn’t act the part well. I think I could have gotten over the age issue had Scott’s acting made him even remotely believable, but it was not. The lines they gave him were corny and it was a literal joke to me when Shalvoy says to Jack (Sam Waterston) “You know, Jack, with my good looks and your brains, I really think we might accomplish something.” Puh-leeze! Every time Scott appeared and opened his mouth, I was trying to figure out if they wanted Shalvoy to be a condescending jerk, or that it was just bad acting on Scott’s part. It may have been a little bit of both. Still, it was clear that Shalvoy’s role in this episode was to show that he had the power to help Jack, and that may come back to haunt Jack in next week’s episode. The preview teased on the former NY Governor Elliot Spitzer-type scenario with Jack getting caught up in it somehow. Yes, we knew Law & Order would probably rush through a “ripped from the headlines story on this.

Also, at a formal reception of some sort – with Jack dressed in a tux (I call it a case of stunt wardrobe casting), Shalvoy’s wife asks about Jack’s daughter, and he responds that she got a job in San Diego. You know, I don’t mind every now and then when they throw in a personal tidbit about the characters, but when they seem to be so contrived and staged like this one, it loses all value and interest. I’ve ceased to even care about Jack’s relationship with her daughter, and didn’t even care about it last season (I think) when she actually made an appearance and met with Jack over lunch or dinner.

I did find the scene humorous where Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson) was posing as a younger woman to keep who they eventually discover is Munsen in an on-line chat while they could trace his whereabouts. But, several references to the computer tech’s “bon bons” were a bit overkill.

It’s very hard for me to write anything at all about this episode, that’s how bad I thought it was. “Personae Non Grata” almost made me ‘non compos mentis.”

Personae Non Grata Two Minute Replay

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Anonymous said...

I thought it was a very poor episode as well. Everything seemed disjointed and I couldn't make myself care about what was happening. I guess I felt the letdown even more because last week's episode was brilliant.

I love Linus Roache, but that scene towards the end where he's showing Munsen Chrissy's remains felt too long and was just plain corny.

I do sincerely like this new cast and this season in general, but I miss the earlier seasons when the "law" part of the show was more insightful and dealt with legal complexities.

John K. said...

The episode was alright until the ending, where Cutter handled the body parts in... his office. Wouldn't the morgue be a better place, where people are authorized to handle body parts, and he'd still make his point? It's the final nail on the coffin, as the logic that drew me to the show, is being slowly killed off, by the CI writers.

That said, nice place you have here.