Monday, August 25, 2008

Criminal Intent “Frame”: Goren Free At Last?

Watching the season finale of Law & Order Criminal Intent “Frame” was like watching Bobby Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) have his 19th nervous breakdown. It was, at times, painful to see. But as far as trying to wrap up a few storyline that in my opinion were drags on the series, I think it did a good job.

Here’s what transpired. The show opens up with Detectives Goren and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) wrapping up a case. When Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian) tells them to “take a day” call it quits after the paperwork is done, Eames tells Goren to go. Frank Goren (Tony Goldwyn), Bobby’s brother, is at a Narcotics Anonymous group session, spilling out his feelings about his dead mother, since today was her birthday. A blonde woman sits nets to him, thanking him for his comments, and viewers could clearly recognize the voice as that of Nicole Wallace (Olivia D’Abo), although we don't see her face. Bobby Goren, meanwhile, is at his mother’s grave with flowers. He finds an old, but apparently newly framed picture of him and his brother Frank, as young children. He looks around, but sees no one else there.

Frank is at a diner with his girlfriend talking about their son, Donny. When he goes to pay the bill, he finds that a woman left a message for him, as we see the back of her blonde head as she is exiting.

Alone in his apartment, Bobby reminisces about his brother, and decides to try calling him, and there’s no answer. That’s because we see Frank is ignoring the call. Clearly Frank is off the wagon already, getting ready to light up when there is a knock at his apartment door. Again, we see a blonde woman through the peephole, and we catch a glimpse of her face. It IS Nicole Wallace.

The next day, as Bobby is walking to his brother’s apartment, he finds the police and EMS are there. Concerned, Goren flashes his Major Case badge and makes his way to the alley area where the police are located. He finds a body there, and when he lifts the cover, he is shocked to find it's that of his brother Frank. Rocked by the realization, Goren looks like he’s well on his way to his proverbial 19th nervous breakdown, as he appears overcome by grief.

When police on the scene question him, he’s told that Frank had $800 on him, and asks if Frank had any enemies. Goren says that Frank was a gambler and junkie for 30 years, which could mean it’s likely. But, hasn’t been in touch with him for a long while, but that he decided to stop by because it was his mother’s birthday the day before. He mentions Frank’s has a son Donny who took off a while ago and Bobby has no idea where he’s at.

Dejected, back at One PP in the elevator with Eames, Goren is perplexed because he said Frank never blamed himself for anything, that he always drive his anger OUT, not inward. And where did the money come from? Eames says she’ll talk to the captain to make sure that a real investigation is done, and while she’ll keep Goren at arms’ length, she’ll keep him posted.

Ross and Eames at Frank’s apartment, looking for clues. She finds Franks NA meeting schedule, and it looks like Frank had an appointment the day before. They also see he had a meeting with “Evenly” for coffee at the Port Authority. But as they find evidence of recent drug use in Frank’s apartment, Ross comes to the conclusion that Frank’s presence at the meeting “didn’t take.” Ross also finds one blonde hair, and thinks Frank may have also had a companion.

Eames brings Goren up to speed. Goren thinks that the meeting was with Evelyn Carson, Donny’s mother. They go to talk to her, and she said she came into the city because Frank called her, saying Donny needed money for a lawyer. She hasn’t seen Donny in a year. She also tells Goren that she wished Bobby would have taken more of an interest in Donny, as Frank said he reached out to Bobby for help but that Bobby couldn’t, or wouldn’t help. Goren looks a little perplexed, since we know that’s not true. She gave Frank the $800, and Goren says that Frank always knew what to say to get what he wanted. Evelyn also tell him there was a woman at the coffee shop who left her number for Frank, that the woman never even spoke to him, but that frank could still “pull” after all these years. She describes the woman as blonde, but that she didn’t get a good look at her. Goren has a look of realization on his face, and as Evelyn says she thinks Frank then went home after leaving the diner, Bobby said Frank left a picture at his mother’s grave. Evelyn assumes that means Frank got in touch with Bobby, but Bobby shook his head indicating no. Evelyn said Frank didn’t even know where is mother was buried.

Back at One PP, Goren is sifting through the evidence from his brother’s place. Eames tells Goren that the woman at the coffee shop remembers the blonde – she ordered tea and paid cash - and was working with a sketch artist. They didn’t find any other prints on the picture and frame except Bobby’s. Goren says the nice picture frame would be out of character for Frank, who often just tacked up photos. As the autopsy is back, they head to the morgue:

ME Rogers: We found sperm in his urethra and trace saliva. We're running the DNA on that – good luck - and on the blonde hair from his bed.
Eames: So he wasn't alone when he fell from the window.
Rogers: He didn't fall. [to Goren]Your brother was murdered. Besides crack cocaine, there was Succinylcholine in his system, a paralytic.
Goren: Which makes you stop breathing.
Rogers: There's an injection point in his side.
Goren: Frank never used needles, he was afraid of them. Succinycholine. The blonde in the coffee shop.
Eames: Nicole Wallace.
Goren: She came after my brother.

Meanwhile, Nicole Wallace is at a florist, buying flowers to be sent to Bobby, and she seals the card with a kiss, not her signature, and says Bobby will know who it’s from. It also had the sentiment: “Oh, this is the poison of deep grief.”

Back at the squad room, Caption Ross is with Goren and Eames and says to Goren, “Nicole Wallace. I’m told she’s your white whale?” Goren and Eames run though Nicole’s MO (seducing, then killing with poison) and her victims. They also tell Ross about Nicole’s previous relationship with Gwen Chapel, the only person Nicole every loved. Ross says with the detective’s personal involvement with Frank that neither of them can go near the case, but Eames says they can go after her form jumping bail three years ago. He agrees, but tells them to do it quick before the ME makes a match on the DNA in Frank’s room. Bobby leaves the room, but Ross asks Eames to stay. Eames, when she returns to Goren’s desk, tells Bobby that Ross wanted to make sure Goren wasn’t being paranoid. Goren is looking the flowers left at his desk, sees the card and knows it’s from Nicole. She reads the sentiment on the card, and Bobby worries about his nephew who may be the next target. Goren is then notified that a hospital called, and that Goren was named as next of kin for a patient there. He’s worried it’s Donny.

Arriving at the hospital, it’s not Donny who listed Bobby as next of kin, it was Declan Gage (John Glover), a serial killer profiler who Goren knew previously and whose daughter was serving time for murder own and for her involvement in the kidnapping of Eames. Gage had been lecturing, and after the lecture, had been knocked down and drugged with the same paralytic used on Frank, but this time, not all of the dose was delivered. They assume that Nicole did it, and she got caught in the act. The doctor also tells the detectives that Declan was already in a weakened state from parasites he picked up previously, by eating months old Christmas goose. While waiting in the hall, another batch of the same flowers sent to Bobby arrive for Declan. Goren looks at the card, which this one had a message to Declan for speedy recovery, this one with Nicole’s name imprinted.

They speak to the man at the florist shop, who says Nicole purchased 2 sympathy bouquets, while in tears, and then later emails an order for one for Declan. One of the two went to One PP, the other went to Phoenix, which is where Gwen Chapel was taken because of her cancer. The stop by to visit Gwen, who is in hospice Gwen said that Nicole thought Bobby would come by, and that she left a note for Bobby inside one of her get well cards. Inside the envelope was a picture of Donny, with the words “tit for tat, blood for blood” written on it. Outside the hospice, Goren comments that the picture is an older picture, which Booby takes to mean that Nicole doesn’t know Donny’s location. Eames gets a message that the DNA from the hair is, in fact, Nicole’s. Goren knows that she left only one strand of hair on purpose, and when Eames says that this is just a game to Nicole, Goren says “Its’ the world cup.” He looks at the envelope on the card, and notices that is postmarked marked Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and that Nicole's is sending them on a scavenger hunt. When Eames asked what is in Pittsfield, Goren says “A while whale. That’s where Melville wrote Moby Dick.”

They go to the bed and breakfast where I assume was he return address of the package, and the proprietor seems to be expecting them, having the honeymoon suite ready. She has their room ready, and takes them to it, where a package is awaiting on the bed. It’s addressed to Bobby, from Donny When the woman leaves, Goren wastes no time to open it up, and finds a human heart.

At the morgue, Goren feels that the heart is Donny’s. But Rogers tells him otherwise, that the heart belonged to Nicole Wallace. Goren is in disbelief, and he thinks Nicole is playing them. He gets angry with both Ross and Eames when they both seem to side against him He is sure Nicole is out there and she has Donny. Goren leaves, and Ross apologizes to Rogers and explains Goren is under stress. He asks Eames to leave, and questions Rogers what she knows. He tells he that he’s warning her because Goren is vulnerable and Goren had a target on his back. Rogers spills the beans that Goren brought in some DNA from serial killer Mark Ford Brady to test with his own. When Ross presses Rogers for the results, she points him back to Goren for that answer.

This sets up an altercation with Ross and Eames, when, while Ross is discussing the matter with Eames and his concerns about Goren:

Ross: Your partner actually believes Brady could be his father?
Eames: Well, he knows Brady's relationship with his mom continued after her marriage.
Ross: And he's lived with that for a year. Now he gets paternity results, suddenly this spree begins.
Eames: What are you saying?
Ross: The victims, his estranged brother; his former mentor...
Eames: You and I both know he had nothing to do with these murders.
Ross: Then rule him out.

Goren is back at the hospital, recounting what they know so far with Declan. Declan thinks Goren just can’t accept that his “greatest nemesis” was brought down by someone else. Goren thinks it’s someone who knows his history with her, and Declan say Goren is being set up, and that they are probably already investigating him. As they leave the hospital, Goren asks about Declan’s daughter Jo. He says Jo is well, and says they sped more time together now than ever before. He tells Goren that Bobby needs to go through his files to find out who is doing this to him, and look at who has something to benefit from it.

Back at One PP, Eames is telling Ross that nothing on Bobby’s LUDs indicate he’s made no phone calls to the places in question. Ross says that no-name cells and someone else’s email. But when a forensic accountant comes in, Eames says that Goren had no money and tons of medical bills. The accountant looks at life insurance, but finds a general policy for Frank Goren for $500,000, and the beneficiary is William Brady, the name Goren used when he went undercover to help Donny. Back in Ross’s office, Eames says this can all be explained, that someone went though a lot of trouble to set Bobby up. As Ross is telling Eames he has to take this upstairs and get a psych consult, Goren barges into the room . He’s upset that they checked his LUDs, his credit union accounts and his emails, and asks Eames “You think that I'm a suspect?" She says he is right now, but he cuts her off, question whether she believes he could be capable of those crimes. As Ross walks through the probability of it all, highlights Goren’s stress, his suspension and mentions his father, Goren explodes, swiping his fist, "My father?" Did your GIRLFRIEND tell you that?” He is angered that Ross didn’t have the guts to ask him himself. He tells them his father was a killer, so that means he is too? When Goren leaves, Eames expresses her anger with Ross, but he said he had to ask the question, and that Mark Ford Brady IS Goren’s father. Eames still disagrees with Ross, who asks her if she has a better suspect than Bobby. She said she DOES have a witness, though, and that’s Declan.

Eames and Ross bring Declan into One PP to question him about his attack and his contact with Goren. Ross tells him the heart was removed before Declan’s attack, and Declan says it wasn’t Bobby, but points the finger at Eames. She storms out, and Ross says Declan’s accusation was uncalled for. Declan seems to think this is revenge. While he’s talking, Ross and Eames both get a message, and they both run out. It appears Goren is in the morgue, going crazy, yelling and throwing things, clearly upset with Rogers for leaking the DNA test to Ross. “This is my life!” and that she promised it would be confidential. When Ross asks if she’s OK, she said she “dropped her tray” but she was fine, but clearly rattled. Eames suggests to Bobby the go for a walk.

Later, outside, Eames tells Goren he was trying to rule him out, and she thinks he’s being set up. She also said there was an insurance policy set up, payable to William Brady.

Eames: Someone's gaslighting you.
Goren: That's what Declan said.

Goren goes to see Jo Gage, Declan’s daughter, but find she’s in a coma, and that Declan was the last one to see her before she bit off her own tongue.

They bring Declan in to One PP for questioning. But Eames thinks Declan cant help them, and she leaves the room. At that point, Declan tries to get Bobby in an emotionally fragile state, bringing up his father, and Bobby’s mother’s preference for his brother Frank. He hammers Bobby about Frank and how nobody even came though for Bobby, and how they failed Bobby. When Bobby turns the tables on Declan, saying, “You're good. For a man with diminishing capacity... you can still hold your own,” Declan seems puzzled. Goren confronts him that Declan hasn’t seen Jo as he said, and that he’s not even keeping himself clean or eating right. Goren tells Declan his frontal lobe has been blown out with drugs abuse. The knowledge of what would happen to Declan seems to have driven Declan over to the crazy side.

Goren: You cut and pasted the pieces of my life together..
Declan: Good, Bobby, you may be on to something...
Goren: You did this, didn't you. You killed my brother.
Declan: No, no that was Nicole.
Goren: How did you find her?
Declan: (Laughs) My latest book. I wrote about women serial killers, like Jo, like her. I knew she'd find it, then find me. (Laughs) She tried to seduce me Bobby! I think you and I may be the only two men whoever said no to her. It’s the only way to encourage her.

Declan recounts how he engaged Nicole, and how he let Nicole think that killing Frank was her idea. Bobby is appalled that it seems Declan did all this for him, and calls him a son of a bitch. But Declan says he didn’t want Frank taking Bobby down with him. He also said Bobby was the “son he never had” and "I wanted you to engage again, so I gave you a puzzle... to solve... to play." Bobby seems sick with grief. Declan also admits the Nicole turned on him, but that he was waiting, and she had said, when he realized it was her time, “You tell Bobby he’s the only man I even loved. “ He also asks, “Who are you gonna miss more, Nicole or your brother?” He says he didn’t kill Donny and wouldn’t be cause that wouldn’t have helped him. When Bobby didn’t understand what he meant by help, Declan tells him Frank, Nicole, and Declan himself were dead weight, and punctuates it with , “You’re free now, Bobby. You’re free. “ And as a somewhat blank face on Bobby Goren looks back, the episode closed.

There is only one thing I didn’t like about the episode, and that was the flashback scenes. It had a “clip show” feel to it. I also think that when an episode has to show clips to either remind viewers or bring other viewers up to speed on the background, that the story itself may be too complicated. Now, I could follow it just fine, but my husband was a little unsure as to who Declan and Jo were.

Overall, this was an interesting episode that had a lot crammed into it. One thing that was a plus is that it closed the loop with Nicole Wallace, who I never really liked. (I just hope she didn't get a new heart from someone else.) It also hopefully gets rid of Declan for a while, who I didn’t care much for either. In fact, I guess I am somewhat of a Law & Order “purist” in the fact that I really don’t like overkill on personal information about the lives of the main characters. It seemed that Criminal Intent had gotten a little too deep into it this season with Goren. I think I was fine with Bobby and his brother, but the whole Nicole as nemesis thing never did anything for me. And in this current episode with Declan, I never care for these elaborate crimes scenarios that people create just to make life interesting for the detectives.

One other thing that had a bit of a soap opera-ish tone to it was Ross and Rogers, and even Goren’s comment to Ross about Rogers as Ross’ “girlfriend” almost funny to me. I certainly hope this closes the book a little on that one, too.

Kathryn Erbe, however, seems to really have grown into her role even more this year. If anything, the drama in Goren’s life has only given her a greater opportunity to show the depth in her character of Alex Eames, who for many years has just been a shadow to Goren. The last episodes have also been good for Eric Bogosian, so let’s hope they continue to give him some meatier dialog next season, too.

But most of all, I hope that Bobby truly has been freed by all this personal drama. The Bobby Goren we saw this season is not the Bobby Goren that I had grown to enjoy. Funny, I was watching an older episode from the second season just the other day, and I realized how much angst and sorrow and baggage that they loaded on Goren this year, at times detrimental to telling the story about the criminals and the crimes. Maybe with no Frank, Nicole, Declan, and his mother to throw a wrench into his life, he can get back to a life where maybe he meets someone who can make him happy. (And no, shipper fans, I don’t mean Eames.) A major disappointment is that in all their effort to possibly give a story line over the whole season for Vincent D’Onofrio to hopefully show his acting range, he was shut out of an Emmy nomination. Now that is a crime.

So while Bobby has been freed, in a way, I feel like I, as a fan of the show, have also been freed as well. I can only hope with the new season we can get back to the basics. So I bid a fond farewell to Frank Goren and Nicole Wallace, and am hopefully Declan Gage won’t torment Bobby from prison and/or a mental institution. And I hope to bid a warm welcome to the old Bobby Goren, who hopefully will remain angst and sorrow free next season.

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Music Wench said...

I loved this episode.

I don't think they can go back to the 'old days' of LOCI now that the show is on a station that is 'character based.'

I for one like the insights into Goren. I am hoping he will not be as depressed next season. But I think it would be a mistake to go back to the strict procedural.

The show was losing viewers at that point when Leight took over. I was getting bored. With the delving into the personal background of Goren and giving Eames more to do, I think the show has gotten interesting again.

Everyone on this show should be Emmy nominated.

Jane said...

Good summming up, I have a theory maybe Declan was Goren's Nemesis all along and that Nicole was one of his "pupils" and he sent her to seek out Goren to give him a "sebastian" of his own so to speak, but I think he killed Frank not Nicole, I think she seduced Frnak though, but couldn't kill him, so a passed out Frnak was killed by Declan instead, then he killed Nicole because she refused him-I haven't seen the ep yet but that's just my theory anyway.

Jane said...

Sorry I mistyped, I meant Frank.

John K. said...

That's the problem with L&O continuity -- people may not care for an episode, especially if the original plotpoint was done years and years ago. Usually, they do a great job re-exploring the past case, via, exposition in dialogue. Not a CSI montage. Heh.

I'm surprised they didn't throw in a reference to "Great Barrier," and how Nicole was able to collect her own blood over time and plant it as evidence. Makes you wonder about that heart. Heh.

At least, we can finally wrap up the wank in "Grow" and Season 6-7's overal wank. A pity Nicole had a pathetic ish end, but it happens.

But I do agree -- I prefer the first three seasons, as that Bobby had fun. This one? He's a mess, but, hopefully, he'll be less of one, now.

Judy "the foodie" said...

Like everyone else, I hope last night's eppie heralds a turning point for Goren. Even though I'll miss that feeling of hoping Nicole Wallace will reappear.

Judy "the foodie" said...

Hi, I wanted to add to my comment. I agree with you. A little bit of intrigue into the personal lives is fine but even I'm starting to think it's overkill with the emphasis on Goren's personal life. Watching shows from prior seasons hints this what was unfolding all along. But this season, I've missed the screenshot announcements of time and place of interviews ("boing boing" the L&O trademark!) and the focus on the investigation. The pace is also a little much for me, and the flashbacks undermine the intelligence and loyalty of the fans. I'll always be a hardcore fan, but I'm missing the cache of the first couple of seasons. I sense it is because the franchise is wanting to entice the "Burn Notice" viewers and that of the show with the witness protection agent. But L&O has it's own brand and it needs to lead not follow.

John K. said...

Judy, they got rid of the time card/doink doink since Season Six. So, yeah, but the other two still have it.

I never thought about the Burn Notice angle, so good catch. It's the CSI angle I've observed more.

Judy "the foodie" said...

Hi, John, Thanks!

I just picked up on the doink doink being gone since last season. Thanks for pointing it out. I didn't even make the CSI connection, but maybe Goren is our Gil Grissom. At any rate, I'm curious to know if this style will carry through to next season. I am appreicating other forms of story-telling with the newer seasons but still missing the elements that make it L&O. I noticed this shift happening too with SVU though with the last season.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that the Goren of late isn't the same Goren from a few seasons ago. He is hardly recognizable. He just seems so....tired, sort of resigned to his fate at times. He seems defeated in a way. The worst thing they could do (although the potential is certainly there) is to let his mother's illness or his father's pathology manifest itself in Goren. Oh please don't make him go bad. If I was writing the show, I would let this last culminating experience be sort of cathartic for him - release him (and as you so brilliantly say, US). Let him take stock of how far down he's fallen, let righteous anger rise up in Bobby again. Remember the lean? Remember his high energy interrogations? He could be charming, dapper, almost hyper in some episodes. He almost ran two steps ahead of everybody in the past. Now he seems to struggle. Of course he is older and a bit worn down - aren't we all? But the old swagger and cockiness needs to return to Goren. He is still sooo hot. I was attracted to the character NOT because I felt sorry for him, but because he was brilliant, fearless, and all MALE. He just oozed masculinity. Now he seems broken, which is understandable considering all that's happened, but enough already! The best thing about the older, quieter Bobby is that little smile. It doesn't happen very often anymore, but once in a while his face is very sweet and tender (especially toward a child). So, to sum up, PLEASE take this big load of drama off Bobby. Maybe Goldbloom will stir up a competetive edge in him (are you listening writers?), and he will make up his mind to fight what he seems to have accepted as inevitable (schizophrenic mom, serial killer dad). I LOVE that man! Take the weight off Vincent and let him run with the character again.

J Atwell said...

Sorry, Bobby is not free...

The writers and producers have already said they want to get back to "procedural LOPI". But Goren's personal story is not over. Declan wants Bobby to be free (and so do we, as viewers), but I don't believe Declan has told Bobby the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I will not believe Nicole is dead until I see her entire body stone cold dead. At room temperature! I would not put it past her (or the writers) to give her a heart transplant. The story of Jo is not over -- she is still in a coma. She certainly knows something about what Declan might be up to. The "bit off her tongue" thing is screaming for some kind of explanation. And Donny is still out there. The only person Bobby is truly free from is brother Frank. Unless the writers suddenly start adding science fiction to the mix.

That being said, I am not at all tired of Nicole. I could stand to see her character again. Small doses of her are fun! I'm glad they are trying to explain Goren's complex character, too.

c r said...

Now that Criminal Intent is now over, and i think most who loved it, loved goren, am i the only who just can't believe they didn't pull off one final episode with Nicole Wallace and her "Bobby"? What i wouldn't give for HBO to pick up a contract and shoot a 2-4 hour "mini-movie" which really digs in between them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with c r's comment, in that this episode seemed a disservice to the Nicole Wallace character and her ongoing battle with Goren. They tamed her character down too much over her prior episodes, it would have been great to have her back at full-evil power and really sinister. And it would have been more fun to have her kill Declan, and Eames eventually kill her or die killing her or at least appear to die killing her. After all, if he is Sherlock Holmes, and she is Moriarty, then she deserved a similar fate. Really I thought this was lame episode conceived of by writers who wanted to be 'free' of old characters so they could go their own 'new and better' way.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that VDO didn't get any Emmy noms for LO:CI. Especially with the story arc that he'd been given and his level of acting. Truly is the unsolvable crime for CI.