Monday, August 4, 2008

Criminal Intent “Legacy”: Pranks Gone Wild

While Law & Order Criminal Intent “Legacy” opens with a long set up to the crime, it makes for a beginning to an interesting story about entitled kids, not so entitled kids, and the harm a hatred that gets passed from parent to child can do in the long run.
When the episode opens, we find that one student, Tessa Nobile (Sarah Steele), seems to be excited about going to the prom with someone she’s talking to on-line, "LUV40" AKA Joe. We also see a few boys making bets on whether Joe will get Tessa to strip for the web cam. But when Joe messages Tessa and tells her “prom’s off, freak” and accuses her of being a lesbian, Tessa is crushed and doesn’t go to the prom. This is to the dismay of fellow student Paul Phillips, who seems anxious to see Tessa at the prom. Paul is in for some trouble, as the girls on the lacrosse team – Tessa is a member – decide to exact revenge on him for spreading rumors of Tessa being a lesbian. The girls, with their heads covered by their hooded sweats, ambush Paul and beat him up. Paul decides to exact his own revenge by creating a photoshopped cartoon video using Tessa and Keana Richmond’s (Sonequa Martin) faces, showing them stripping and implying a lesbian act. He emails it to all the students in Tessa’s mother’s class, who happens to be one of the teachers at Manor Hill High. Tessa sees the video, runs out of the class in embarrassment, and her mother runs after her. But, her mother finds a door open to a restricted area, and, following the corridor; find the body of Paul Phillips hanging in the boiler room.

Detectives Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) are called to Manor Hill High School to investigate the hanging; apparently they are called in because the schoolmaster doesn’t think the local police like his son. While talking to Mrs. Nobile (Joanna Adler), Goren’s eagle eyes notice she has paint chips on her clothing, which she explains is from the boiler room when she tried to help Paul. Goren and Eames also question Paul’s parents, and his father Bill seems to have control and anger issues. Paul’s mother, however, takes Goren aside and tells him that her son was being treated for depression, but they were also on the lookout for schizophrenia, since that runs in Bill’s family. Goren seems to indicate understanding and empathy.

ME Rogers (Leslie Hendrix) finds that Paul was hung, but after he was killed by a blow to the head, and he was also heavily bruised from an apparent beating. In the meantime, the lacrosse girls are trying to delete files off their computer hard drives.

When Goren and Eames question one student, Jack (Anthony Carrigan). whom they were told was a friend of Paul’s, he is clearly uncomfortable being questioned under the watchful eye of his classmates, and so they decide to talk to him at his home. Jack’s father (Law & Order repeat offender John Shea) is present. When the detectives tell Jack that Paul was beaten, Jack decides to show them the video that Paul had made. This is enough for the detectives to open the lockers of Tess and Keana, who were the subject of the video.

It appears that the girls’ efforts to delete a file off their hard drive fails because the program only moved the file to another area of the hard drive. They are perplexed as to why the girls would delete the photoshopped file that Paul made, until they are shown the video of Paul being beaten. Even though the people have their heads covered with their hoods, they are wearing sports glasses and Eames identifies their posture as being typical for lacrosse players.

They bring in Keana for questioning, with her father (Peter Francis James) who is also a lawyer. Keana is mouthy to the detectives, and her father is being the typical lawyer. Keana denies knowing the subject of the beating video, and they show her father the photoshopped video. Her father implies that Keana is beyond this behavior because she grew up on Park Avenue. When Eames indicates that Keana just plays the ghetto act for school, Keana dismisses it, telling the detectives she knows more about the projects than they think.

Goren and Eames determine that Tessa is the weak link because her mother probably can’t afford a lawyer. They get a warrant for her laptop, and when they say they are going to look at emails and instant messages, Tessa admits that she didn't participate in the beating, but that it took place as revenge for Paul spreading rumors. She was supposed to go to the prom with Luv40 (Joe), but that Paul spread rumors she was a lesbian and Joe ditched her. She asked Paul why he hated her, but he said he didn’t, he loved her more than Joe. When she told Paul he was the last person she’d ever love, he ran off into the tunnels. She admits she told Keana about what Paul said before lacrosse practice. Keana told her not to worry, she’d put an end to it.

Now being questioned at One PP, Keana tells them that she was at lacrosse practice when Paul was killed. Eames said they did verify that, but the coach said she was one half hour late. But Keana said that she never had anything against Paul until he started dissing her and Tessa. But Goren thinks it’s because Paul dissed Keana, and her father says his daughter isn’t a murder OR a lesbian. Eames retorts, “Which of those scares you more, Mr. Richmond?” Keana said she only intended to jam his bike lock and make him walk home, and they’d strip him, stuff him in a car trunk and dump him in the south Bronx. But, Mrs. Nobile caught her, which gets the attention of Goren. Keana says Mrs. Nobile saw the video and said she’d talk to Paul.

We then see Jack coming in to talk with Mrs. Nobile, and she says he was a good friend to Paul. He says, though, he hopes Tessa wasn’t involved in this, because of she was, “she’s gonna pay.”

Back at One PP, Goren and Eames discuss the case with Capt. Ross (Eric Bogosian), who wonders how they missed checking closer on Anna Nobile. With her credentials, she didn’t appear to be questionable, but they also realize that she must have decided to teach at the high school in order for Tessa to get a full scholarship. Ross gives them the excuse to threaten the schoolmaster with all kinds of press coverage to allow them access to Anna’s office. They find Paul’s backpack there, and while they are leading her away, someone is seen filming her exit, clearly congratulating themselves.

Anna Nobile insists that she had nothing to do with the murder, and says she’s really upset with Joe, the boy who dumped her. But, she admits she’d never met Joe, and that Tessa only met him once. She only saw his web page and read his emails (with Tessa’s approval), which seemed to have “such poetry.” She said that Joe left pictures of Paul’s beating under her office door, also saying Tessa was a part of it, and that he’d post the video on line unless she resigned. Goren questioned if she told anyone at Manor Hill, but Anna scoffs, saying Tessa’s be kicked out of school.

Eames tells Ross that Anna’s story checks out when they see the pictures and a letter from Joe Cardinal. They are still trying to find Joe Cardinal at Bristol Academy, but they are not being cooperative. The computer techie finds Joe’s old web page before it was taken down. Only two friends of his go to Manor, one was Tessa and one was Paul.

Goren and Eames discover that there is no student at Bristol Academy at that school, but they find Joe’s picture on the cover of a course catalog. They are told those are models, not students, used for the pictures. Joe Cardinal does not exist.

While the detectives review the case with Capt. Ross, they don’t think Tessa created Joe, and wonder about the IM Tessa received asking her to strip. Was humiliating Tess a means to an end? Why did they want Anna Nobile out of the school? When Ross indicates that this whole thing seems to have started with a hoax, escalated to a beating, and ends with a murder, all just to take down a teacher, he finished with a wry, disgusted quip, “Lord of the Flies up there”

Back to questioning Tessa and Anna Nobile, they find that Tessa met Joe – or at least she thinks she must have, she’d had a lot of “punch” – at Eric Nessing's party. She was contacted the next day by Joe, who said he liked her dress and how she danced. She says she still emails him but he does not write back. Talking to Mrs. Nobile alone, Eames tells her that Joe is fictional, and when asked if Paul could have written the poetry, she said it’s not possible, Paul just didn’t have the skills. She also indicates that she is a tough grader and made the students do community service as a requisite to graduation.

While Goren, Eames, and Ross are back at One PP looking at photos of the party on-line, they find several students from Manor High, including Paul, but since they aren’t sure it’s him who's behind the murder, they decide to look at other students. When Ross thinks casting a wide net of the kids at school would upset the parents, they decide to “line catch” a suspect, by faking a promotion for Mrs. Nobile to see if that would flush out the person who seems to have something against her.

A notice is posted that Mrs. Nobile is promoted to the chair of the Ethics Department, and an arm is spotted ripping it off the bulletin board. Someone then slips a manila envelop under a Mrs. Nobile’s door, and Goren opens the door immediately to find a young boy there. When they read a threatening letter out loud and begin to question him the kid raises he hands and says, “Lawyer?” But, in front of the schoolmaster, the kid balks at making a call, and when Eames threatens him with “juvie” rather than Ivy League, he admits that someone from Scouts and Scholars asked him to drop off the envelope. He also says everyone knows “The Jack Pack” runs Scouts and Scholars, and Eames tells him to write down all the names. They hone in on three of the names, Eric Nessing, Jack Walker, and Brad Williams. While questioning Brad and Eric, none of them seem to have a problem with the prank against Tessa or getting back at Mrs. Nobile for the community service, but none admit to murder. But all fingers seem to point to Jack, since Brad said Eric is the “Picador” and Jack is the “Matador”, in bullfighting terms.

Goren and Eames make a trip back to Jack’s home, with Jack, his father, and lawyer present. When the detectives state all they really want is to go after Joe, Jack’s father tells him to answer the questions, but Jack refuses to be a rat. His dad tell him not to be an idiot and run his future protecting a “sociopath” and the lawyer says Jack has bright future. Jack still refuses, and his father gets angry, reminding Jack they donated money for a computer room in the school just to keep him enrolled, and to Cambridge for the last five years. The detectives prey on Jack’s insecurity about his father needing to help Jack stay in school.

When Jack’s father refers to Joe as a moron, Jack seems to be offended, saying his dad would like Joe, and mentions how often his father has bitched about the school and Mrs. Nobile, and Joe would stop it. Goren says it was a plan to make the “less desirable suffer” and Jack acknowledges that. He says Paul was a suicide waiting to happen, and called Tessa “a loser on scholarship” freeloading off tuition. He also made references to Keana’s race as his reason to target her. When Goren says that “Joe’ could have orchestrated things better Jack’s father’s friends, Jack says he should have been thanking Joe. Eames says “He should be thanking YOU. There is no Joe. Your son created him.” His father asks Jack to deny it, and Goren pounces that Jack’s dad won’t even give him credit for creating Joe. Jack’s dad agrees, saying Jack isn’t creative enough and doesn’t finish what he starts. Of course, Jack admits he did it all for his dad, and tells the lawyer his dad thinks he is a tool too. Jack also says he knew Keana had a crush on Tessa, and played her against Paul, and that it worked when the girls beat up Paul. When Paul came back with his own video, Jack said he told Paul not to do it. He said Paul came at him, and with one little shove, he went down. While Goren cuffs Jack, his father says he will bail him out, but Jack says his dad just doesn’t get it, he can't fix this one.

I liked this episode on many levels. Despite the fact that it was somewhat ripped from the headlines of the real life story of a girl who killed herself over a fictional Internet acquaintance, “Legacy” seemed to allow for a more complex set of twists and turns that didn’t make the outcome so obvious. There were a lot of students involved in the case, yet really only one had involvement in the actual crime of murder. And all the pranks and antics leading up to the murder left so many students with ruined lives or ruined chances at a better education, a lesson that hopefully would be picked up by anyone of high school age watching the episode. Sometimes people – even adults – don’t think about what goes out on the Internet and the long term effects it can have, and the problem may be even worse these days with teens who think that there isn’t anything they can do on the Internet that can harm them. (They’re wrong, of course.) So in a strange way I think this episode may have done better in getting a message across than most, because it wasn’t as heavy handed or preachy in its method of delivery.

The only real flaw is that it seemed to take the detectives forever to even suspect "Joe", even though he did turn out to be fictional.

Goren and Eames seem to be back to normal: Goren with his eye for observation and Eames for her cool, dry wit. Goren also seemed to bring out his empathetic look when Paul’s money talked about schizophrenia, but also had a genuine smile when the young kid near the end knows he just blew his chances with the Scouts and Scholars. I also really enjoyed Eric Bogosian in this episode; he seemed to be very comfortable and actually delivered some decent lines very well. This is the Captain Ross that I would like to see going forward.

It was a little obvious once John Shea appeared in the show, that since they didn’t give him much air time that he, and his son, would somehow figure into the murder later on. But this wasn’t too horrible, seeing that the detectives had plenty of suspects from which to choose.

It also is becoming more obvious that the Goren and Eames episodes seem to be more carefully thought out and developed as it relates to the two detectives. It may be a moot point at this time that the episodes with Logan and Wheeler just don’t seem to carry the same interest, seeing that Chris Noth will be off the show at the end of this season’s run. But it makes me very happy to see that they seem to have Goren in a more “happy” place with his job and his co-workers. He may not be happy inside, but at least he doesn’t seem to be in such mental agony as he had been in earlier this season.

So all in all, “Legacy” left me with a good feeling about Goren and Eames going forward, and hoping that the show continues the trend as this finish this season and start working on the new one.

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Music Wench said...

I thought it was a good episode but nothing special. Looks like things are indeed back to normal for Goren and Eames but I'd like to know what's going on behind the scenes. That's why Vanishing Act was more of a favorite for me. There was the implication that despite looking normal on the surface there's still some unresolved issues of trust between them.

I do like a less morbidly depressed Goren, however, so this episode was a nice respite from the angst. Guess they're giving us breathing time until the season finale with the dreaded Nicole Wallace. Even if she's not in it and just mentioned it makes me nauseated.

Hope if she does show up they finally kill her off to put her out of my misery. LOL

John K. said...

Besides Lori Drew, I think the hanging was supposed to be the Jenna 6, which was the horrible aftermath of a prank, to say the least.

Also, you can't go wrong with John Shea, nope.

And I second what music wench said about Nicole Wallace -- definitely not looking forward to that.

Anonymous said...

"a suicide waiting to happen". "He wouldn't have lasted one year in college". so little rich kids play with the lives of little poor kids. someone should investigate how many suicides are caused by rich kids and change them to murders. Rich kids play those games even if they go to public school. I knew a guy... son of a psychiatrist... Good marks, great marks even, are not enough. You have to know how to play the rich man's games, and there's only one way to know, it's to be rich. Old boys club. University IS for the rich, even where it is public.

David Shields said...

I want to know who Tessa Nobile is in the real world; I just watched an episode of SVU entitled "Vanity's Bonfire" that has a baby named Tessa Nobile, I just stumbled on this page after quick search. Any clues?

Chris Zimmer said...

No clue as to if this does have a foundation in a real person BUT if my research is correct, Warren Leight is credited with writing the story for both. Maybe the name has meaning for him or translates to something that has a special meaning in another language? Warren is on Twitter...maybe you should tweet him and ask? It could be that he just likes the name and didn't think anyone would notice he re-used it?!