Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Law & Order SVU “Trade” Goes Over the Edge

First of all, full disclosure here. My local NBC affiliate, WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland, cut off 25 minutes of the episode for a lousy Cleveland Indians baseball game. This station is now officially dead to me, except for when I watch Law & Order franchise shows. Of course, this brings out another annoyance with me with NBC, since they seem to be the only network that doesn’t seem to allow you to view current episodes on line for a short time after they air. OK, rant over.

The show begins with a brownstone fire and the discovery of a woman’s body – Jenna Ludlow – who also happens to be pregnant. The victim’s fiancé, PJ Bartlett (Matthew Davis), comes under suspicion, and he is the son of a very successful and wealthy coffee broker Peter Bartlett (Stephen Collins). An affair with Jenna Ludlow and Peter Bartlett is uncovered, putting both father and son in the crosshairs of Casey Novak (Diane Neal). Casey suggests that Peter get an attorney of his own, since PJ’s attorney Avery (Michelle Borth) should not represent both father and son. Peter retains Trevor Langan (Peter Hermann, who I always refer to as Mr. Hargitay).

Father and son go to trial, with Casey pulling out all the stops. She challenges Peter about an email regarding the purchase of a coffee plantation, and that Jenna may have been using the email to blackmail them, thinking she would give away trade secrets. Casey also revealed $10,000 a month payments from Peter to Jenna as evidence of blackmail. Peter said the money wasn’t for blackmail, it was for the baby that Jenna was carrying. Casey then gets the son PJ on the stand, and tells him that his sperm is immotile, he’s “shooting blanks,” and that he has “funky sperm.” I thought the “funky sperm” line was weird and maybe overkill. We get it; he could not have fathered the baby. Casey also reveals that Jenna was not pregnant at the time the blackmail began, a fact that seemed to be a surprise to the defendants.

PJ’s defense attorney chases down Casey, who basically declares the defense attorney incompetent, says the trial is over, the only question is how long the jury will be out, and slams the door in her face. Cut to the jury verdict, who state they have been “hopelessly deadlocked” (why is it always “hopelessly”?) for nine days, and a mistrial is declared. Casey, though, is undeterred and vows re-file immediately. She also decides to check out what happened with the jurors, and finds that only one juror would not budge from the very first day of deliberation. It’s a woman, who is the mother of a disabled child, who was also facing foreclosure of her home. Casey trades information from her in exchange for no jail time.

Casey finds that the juror was paid off by a private investigator, and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) find that the PI has fled the country and his files are being shredded. But, there are files on the PI’s computer hard drive that show that he was tailing PJ Bartlett. When confronted with the information, PJ turns on his father, basically calling him an over-competitive control freak. PJ believes this is partly what drove his father to have the affair with Jenna. The detectives obtain a search warrant for Peter’s home and safe in order to confirm he has possession of the actual surveillance photos, and are thwarted with PJ’s attorney arrives with an injunction, saying they violated PJ’s right to counsel.

Somehow, Peter Bartlett arrives at the SVU squad before Benson and Stabler, who are informed by Fin (Ice-T) that Peter is rolling on his son. Realizing father and son are flipping on each other, Casey states the obvious, “What a mess.”

Elliott continues to watch a video with Jenna, and gets a minuscule glimpse of what they know is the murder weapon in the picture. Since they didn’t initially find a camera for this video, they go back to the burned apartment to try to find it, tearing apart mattresses and drawers and cabinets. Lucky for them, they find a digital memory card in the coffee can, download it, and soon afterwards find a camera in the wall that still has the video memory card in it.

Casey and the detectives have a sit down with Peter and PJ and PJ’s attorney, telling them about the video and that it shows the murderer. PJ’s attorney promptly tells them to turn it off, then storms out of the room. When father and son see that the murderer is PJ’s attorney, Peter expresses concern that she could be getting away. Casey says, “The front door is the only way out of here. I’ve alerted security. They’re not gonna let her leave.” No surprise we hear the alarm going off, and Casey exclaims, “The emergency stairs on the roof!” What a dumb mistake on everyone’s part. I don’t know exactly what the value was of letting her leave, only that it was a plot device to get her up on the roof to jump. While she stands on stiletto heels on a roof ledge, she admits she also tampered with the juror and hired the PI. Sometimes she seemed to wobble precariously on the ledge, sometimes she seemed quite steady. To make matters worse, PJ finally gets his arms around her legs, and none of them rush to help him pull her back, so she pulls PJ over with her. Another dumb mistake. In my opinion, the failure of Casey, Benson, and Stabler to keep a person who they know is a murderer in their possession cost two lives.

So while I missed part of the first portion of the episode, I think I saw enough. Because of an incomplete investigation and sloppy handling of suspects, Casey almost got two people wrongly convicted of murder, and allowed a suicide and another murder to occur.

That’s enough to send anyone over the edge.

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Anonymous said...

Where do you get the characters names?

All Things Law & Order said...

In some cases, I have a source where I get the info on the characters and the stars beforehand. But in a lot of cases, I get the actor's names from just watching the episode credits at the start of the show.

NBC doesn't seem to release full cast information like some networks do, so it requires a little research to match the character names with the matching guest star's names.

Erin said...

Sorry to comment over a year after you posted this, but I just saw this episode for the first time yesterday and want to say I agree with you so hard on that last part. I felt bothered the moment they let the attorney leave the room. They'd already viewed the video and seen who the murderer was; why didn't they just arrest her right away? Instead they decided to set up this big dramatic reveal and two people ended up dead. I know it's fiction but ARGH!!!!

All Things Law and Order said...

Erin, it's funny you commented on this. I saw the tail end of this episode over the weekend too and remembered how silly I thought that whole ending was. It still made me cringe, even after all this time!

Jimmy said...

I missed the first half of the episode, and just saw the end of the episode tonight.

All I can say is, "Good to the last drop."

Anonymous said...

Can you stop bagging on Casey? She has the highest conviction rate of any ADA on SVU ("Haystack") and is a great prosecutor. Your reviews are always cruel to her and it isn't right.

Anonymous said...

You really seem to hate Casey. Fyi, she has a higher conviction rate than any other SVU ADA.

Unknown said...

Smh that episode is the worst crap I've ever seen and most definitely be charged with some sort of murder or manslaughter charge for the sloppy handling of the case.i must also add i hate all the coincidences that fall in place for there conviction to happen and they themselves are criminals