Monday, July 7, 2008

Criminal Intent “Kissinger” Gets My Letter of Recommendation

This week’s episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent had probably the longest title in Law & Order franchise history: “Please Note We are No Longer Accepting Letters of Recommendation from Henry Kissinger.” Despite the long title, it was a fast-paced episode, filled with interesting twists, turns, and red herrings. It also seemed to end some of the awkwardness between the detectives.

It began with Wall Street analyst Skip Lowe (Jason Pendergraft) who seems to have his hands in a lot of things, including hooking up with men on the side. He’s walking his son Leo in a stroller in the park and it looks very late, making me wonder why he’d take his son in the park for a walk at such a late time. Skip is shot dead, and his son is left in the stroller.

As Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) work the case, we find that it probably wasn't that late at night when Skip was murdered. Because night falls early at that time of year, Skip was walking his son home from the park, and he was late to pick him up due to his hookup at the gym. Goren and Eames also believe that he knew his murderer, because the gunshot indicated the murderer was up close and personal. While investigating Skip’s murder, they interview Marla Reynolds (Sarah Jane Morris), who was watching Skip’s son until he arrived to pick him up after his “encounter.” We also meet Marla’s mother-in-law Eleanor Reynolds (Jessica Walter), who seems to be wound a little too tight and slightly obsessed with her grandson. We also see Goren – AKA “Big Foot” – lure in Skip’s liaison at the gym for questioning.
But before they get too comfortable with that case, another murder in an identical style happens; Paloma Renzi is also found dead in the same area of the park, her son and dog left alone. Goren and Eames try to connect the two murders with a Wall Street scheme that they think Skip and Paloma had going, and shed some light on John Eckhart, who seems to have lost $50 million dollars recently and holds a grudge against Skip.

Things get muddled when Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian) alerts them to another murder that fits the profile – but it happened 10 days before in Far Rockaway, NY. The victim, Denise Myler, has no connection to the stock market. Instead, she was holding a job at a soup kitchen far from home, in an effort to help get her child a scholarship in the exclusive Carnegie Hill Day preschool. While investigating this murder, Goren and Eames come to the realization these murders have nothing to do with the stock market, and start looking at Carnegie Hill Day. They find that the wait list for the school seems to have turned into someone’s hit list.

The detectives seem a little miffed that the preschool never alerted the police to a coincidence with these murders, and find that the admissions director Janeane realized a connection but didn’t report it as she was trying to protect the school’s reputation. But they get the list of the school’s attendees and the wait list to investigate. They find themselves back with the Reynolds family, and an encounter with the suspicious mother-in-law, Eleanor. A great help to them was when Eleanor was fumbling for her keys, a gun drops out of her purse, which later they find is the weapon used for all three murders.

While interrogating Eleanor, Goren realizes she is on high blood pressure medication. Eleanor also seems to confirm for the detectives that she has a low opinion of her daughter-in-law Marla. Goren and Eames also realize that Marla seems to be a little afraid of Eleanor and possibly being unable to live up to Eleanor’s high standards. It seems for sure that Eleanor is the killer – after all, she had the murder weapon and was obsessed with getting her grandson into Carnegie Hill Day. She had also befriended Janeane, the admissions director, under the pretext of being a dog lover, when earlier she made derogatory comments about Paloma’s dog, implying she hated dogs.

Goren, however, notices Eleanor squirming because she needs to get to the bathroom, and he concludes that she must be taking diuretics with her blood pressure medication. This would make her an unlikely murderer, seeing as she could not be away from a bathroom long enough to commit some of the murders (Ross called it the “public restroom phobia defense”). When returning to the Reynolds' residence, they find that Marla has left her son in the home alone and went to Carnegie Hill. As Goren and Eames investigate Carnegie Hill, they discover Marla has tied up the teacher and the admissions director, and is holding the sleeping kids in another classroom, with a gun.

As Goren gets her to move away from the children, Eames gets the kids out of harm’s way. Goren then works his magic to make Marla feel at ease, but she still seems ready to kill herself. Goren makes her feel needed, and she surrenders her gun to him. He does a complete 180 and forcefully pushes her into submission and arrests her. Of course, she’s perplexed – she thought Goren liked her. We all know that Goren did what he does best: lulling the suspect into false sense of security so he can trap them.

This episode had quite a few good things going for it. Goren and Eames seemed to be back on a more stable footing. While they both still may be stinging underneath, they showed their professionalism by working the case well together, without any hint of bad feelings. Quite funny and appropriate was using the name “Big Foot” for Goren when trying to lure our Skip’s secret rendezvous partner. Of course, Ross showed some loosening up with this “restroom phobia” comment. In fact, Ross seemed the most natural and comfortable than he has all season. Eames also was perfectly dismissive when, while checking out Skip’s work computer, she told Skip’s co-worker “you can go now” to tell him to get lost.

While I was expecting this episode to be reminiscent of a previous Law & Order episode “Kid Pro Quo,” it wasn’t like it at all. In fact, I think this was a far more interesting case. Making things even better in this episode was the perfect choice of Jessica Walter for the role as the somewhat unbalanced mother-in-law. She turned in an excellent performance and really had me fooled that she was the murderer. I give the show tons of credit for not taking the obvious route there.

This episode is a sure winner, and it gets MY highest letter of recommendation.

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Music Wench said...

Agreed! I thought it was a refreshing break from angst.

However, I don't feel quite so relieved as this episode was filmed out of sequence and I am assuming it should have happened even before Untethered - though it was filmed right after.

Because it's out of sequence I got what I expected. No sign of Goren/Eames angst as it had not yet happened.

This makes things somewhat disjointed for the viewing audience who does not obsess as I do about the show and makes it seem Goren and Eames are back to normal.

Personally this kind of out of sequence thing bothers me but in this case, because I so disliked Untethered and Purgatory, I am quite fine with it. It helps me pretend those episodes never happened. ;-)

Miss Kitty Fantastico said...

I loved this episode, though I must agree with music wench about the sequencing. It throws a monkey wrench into the dynamic of Goren/Eames and how they're dealing with their work interpersonal relationship. Plus, Goren looked much thinner than he did in the previous episode.

As for the episode itself, it was riveting. I loved Jessica Walters role. I had her pegged as the killer at the beginning. Later as the episode went on I thought hmmmm, this isn't going like I thought. Once they found the gun I thought that she knew who put the gun in her bag and was willing to take the hit in order to get the boy into that school. (On a side note--the rich are nuts!!!) Such a great ending as well. I was thrilled to see the old Goren back. This side of the show is really going great guns.

Next week looks pretty good. Can't wait to see Joan Jett, if only for a few minutes.

John K. said...

The secret elite school angle also reminded me of Mothership's "Wannabe," but it's all good.

As for the out-of-sequence airing, well, remember that Falacci's intro episode didn't air until much later. So, we had to assess her without knowing her story first off, which didn't do the character any favors.

And it also doesn't help that since the show removed the time cards, there's no more sense of time. Can only assume time elapsed, instead of gone forward or backward. And, of course, they overlapped, but, at least, you were able to compensate for holes, like in the script. Goren and Eames might have been pissy early on, wouldn't be towards the end as we'd jump days, weeks and months ahead.

And I also pretend Untethered didn't exist, either. Heh.

Katherine said...

Just thought that you ought to know that this episode was filmed prior to the writer's strike, so therefore the tension between Goren and Eames doesn't exist yet.

Anonymous said...

What was Goren's line at the end of this episode??? What did he say about kids?


All Things Law & Order said...

I don't have the episode on my DVR anymore, but I think he said something like "yeah, they had kids too," making reference to the parents the woman killed so her child could get into the school.

Anonymous said...

check out this article that one of the actors from this episode wrote for the New York Observer - an interesting angle on the show

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As a mother to 2 of the boys that played Henry on this episode, it was a wonderful episode. I loved it so much. My twins had to be there early every day they were shooting and it was such a wonderful experience. Everyone that was part of the crew were so nice and wonderful with my twins. I can't wait to do this again with my boys.