Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Law & Order SVU Confession: Predictable

I have a confession of my own to make. I can’t stand Kim Grayleck or Michaela McManus. But before I go into my comments, here’s the recap, and you can find my review afterwards:

It’s unusually busy at the SVU squad, and ADA Kim Grayleck (Michaela McManus) is trying to inject herself into everybody’s business, annoying Cragen (Dann Florek). At one point, she comes into Munch’s questioning of a woman whose husband is in the next room being questioned by Fin, and she touches the woman on the shoulder. The woman winces and seems startled. Grayleck probably both scared her and hurt her with her careless touch. It seems obvious they are making Grayleck annoying on purpose, and it’s made worse by McManus’ flat acting.

When Grayleck decides to tag along with Elliot (Chris Meloni), Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) questions a teenage boy, Eric Byers (Marshall Allman) who walks in and says he has information on a sexual assault. He’s nervous, and Olivia tries to calm him. But she’s shocked when he seems to be admitting that he seems to have a twisted desire for his much younger stepbrother.

Olivia questions him in private and when she offers to contact his parents, he admits his dad left them and his mother’s new husband hates him. He just wants the pictures in his head to stop. He thinks everyone will hate him, and he can’t sleep or think of anything else. He is at wits ends and needs help. Later, Olivia, consulting with Capt. Cragen, is perplexed, as a pedophile has never turned himself in before, But she wants to continue to pursue the kid in an effort to get to the bottom of the issue and stop him.

Olivia visits the Kelley residence, where she is greeting by Dana Kelley (Teri Polo), Eric’s mother. She asks Dana if she’s noticed any problems with her stepson, Cory (Aaron Mayer). Dana insists there isn’t any problem, but when Olivia’s questioning turns to his school, Dana says the school overreacted when Cory was caught “playing doctor” on another girl. Olivia asks for the whereabouts of Dana’s husband; she says he’s plugging potholes, and Olivia says that he’ll have to meet them at the hospital. Dana is disbelieving of what Olivia is implying about Cory, and is stunned when Olivia tells her the story is coming from her son, Eric, who they believe has been abusing Cory. Dana still refuses to believe it and refuses to cooperate.

At the hospital, Dana and her husband Sean (Josh Charles) argue. A doctor arrives and tells them all there is no sign of any sexual activity, but she did have to give Cory a sedative. When Dana states this as proof that Eric didn’t do anything, Olivia crushes that when she says that sometimes there are no marks or signs, and sometimes there is no way to tell.

Elliot is back from his trip checking out a battered kid, who is now in foster care and his mother is in custody. Olivia states “Grayleck works fast.” (Yes, I guess if you only work on one thing you’re fast.) Olivia tells Stabler she’s not sure about whether the kid in her case even acted on his urges. When Stabler comes in with Elliot to question Eric, he hammers on the kid, and Olivia seems to add to the pressure. Eric is clearly distraught, and they continue to pressure him. He admits that he found people in the internet who were just like him, but said one guy told him that it wasn’t his fault, that he was “born this way” and that "Jake said not to” and to look but not touch. Jake runs a web site called Pediaphax, and he allegedly said he could help Eric with his urges.

Cragen tells Olivia and Elliot that they have to cut Eric loose as the child psychologist isn’t getting anywhere with Cory. Suddenly, though, Olivia and Elliot seem all sympathetic since Eric came to them for help. But there’s nothing they can do as there is no support system for people like him... since he hasn’t really done anything yet.

Munch tells the group about Pediaphax, which involves photographic stalking of kids without the parent’s knowledge, putting pictures on the Internet. The site is run by Jake Berlin, a medical supply salesman, who considers himself a pedophile's advocate – “look but don’t touch". They can’t close down the website because of freedom of speech, and besides, the kids in the pictures are clothed.

They question Jake Berlin (played by the ever creepy Tom Noonan) at his apartment, who says he likes little girls, considers himself a "pedosexual", and works to control his urges all day. He looks like he’s also testing his own blood while they are talking to him for what appears to be diabetes. When he asks to see a picture of Elliot’s kids, he says, he “promises not to drool.” (Ew.) Stabler looks annoyed but does nothing. Meanwhile, Olivia just got a call saying the Cory just admitted to being molested by Eric to his stepmother. But, his mother doesn’t know of Eric’s whereabouts.

At the Kelley home, Dana insists that she doest know where Eric is located, and she and Sean heatedly argue. The SVU team finds semen all over the laundry, which was transfer from a kids t-shirt. They send it off to DNA.

Later, Cory is being questioned by a psychologist in the “kiddie” room, his father looking on. Eric has still not surfaced. Grayleck says that since he’s a minor with no money, he must have gotten help to disappear. When the doctor comes out and tells Grayleck that he doesn’t think this will be going to trial, Grayleck snaps “don’t get ahead of yourself.” She just want to get the kid on the stand. The doctor says he’s too young for a courtroom and she counters with that they will videotape his testimony. The doctor say Cory was coached, and there was no sign of sexual assault. Someone told him what to say and do. But things get heated when Olivia asks Grayleck how much time did Grayleck spend with Cory, and why is Grayleck so anxious on taking this to trial. Grayleck gets miffed about the implication, and says it’s her job to believe the victim. She seems to be an expert on pedophiles, too. Elliot asks if she is interested in justice or is she“just showboating?” Grayleck wants them to “squeeze the pedophile’s mother till she pops.”

Back in the squad room, while discussing the case, they are viewing new pictures that Berlin had uploaded to his web site, and Elliot suddenly gets a shocked look on his face. Fin also says the semen on all the clothes belongs to Cory’s father, Sean. When they decide someone needs to talk to Sean, Elliot, still is distracted by the picture, begs off and asks Munch to take his place, saying he has to go do something. But Munch can’t, so it looks like Fin has to go with Olivia.

Confronting Sean on the job with the semen stained evidence, he says, “it’s not what you think.” He says that when Eric started drinking, he went from being a problem to a nightmare, and his wife blamed him. It killed his marriage and his sex life, and the bathroom was the only place where he could “self serve.”

Meanwhile, while Elliot is kicking down the door to Berlin's apartment, at the same time Munch is telling Cragen that he recognized one of the photos as Stabler’s daughter, Elizabeth, when she was much younger. When Cragen asks if Elliot saw it, and Munch tells him that he did, and then Stabler suddenly had an errand to run. Cragen leaps up, tells Munch to move his ass and alert Olivia and Fin.

As Fin and Olivia approach Berlin’s door, they find it unlocked, and they enter to see Berlin out cold on the floor, and Elliot trying to delete Elizabeth’s picture from Berlin’s computer, but he is unable to do so. Cragen enters and tells Elliot to get away from the desk and pulls him away when Elliot refuses. Munch tells Berlin to delete it, and he complies under the glaring eye of Stabler. Berlin says he wants to press charges against Elliot, but no one makes a move.

Back at the squad, Cragen gives Elliot a dressing down, and put him on unpaid leave. He also chides Elliot for putting his colleagues' careers on the line. As Elliot leaves, Grayleck is entering the squad room, asking if anyone has found Eric. When she gets some back talk from the group, and when Fin asks if she has something to get off her chest, she declares, “I’ve been dismissed, overlooked, and ignored. I deserve to be taken seriously. “ (Yeah sure.) Benson says she wouldn’t have called her if she didn’t. Benson and the group have doubts that Eric molested his stepbrother and feels uncomfortable with him being “railroaded.” But Grayleck still wants to push. They discuss their options, primarily finding ways to get Eric to plead out on possession of the questionable pictures and get him locked up and get him in a program. They argue about the value of they kind of help they can get for him that will work. Grayleck doesn’t like it, but offers to all the Feds to see what she can do.

But, Eric still can’t be located, and his mother has no clue to his whereabouts. His stepfather is resistant to help. Sean leaves the apartment, and Dana seems to be blaming herself. She’s abhorred at Eric's behavior and doesn’t understand it, and seems to feel guilty about it. Olivia tries to help her not to blame herself.

Fin and Olivia had an overnight stakeout of Dana’s place, thinking she would go after Eric, but she never did. They talk about Elliot. Fin seems to be somewhat understanding of Stabler’s reaction to Berlin, even commending him for his restraint. While they talk, Dana is going to her car with a box, and they think she’s making a delivery to Eric. They follow. When they follow her into a run down building, they hear Dana’s screams, and approach to find her bent over Eric’s dead, bloody body. She said she killed her son. (Of course she didn't.)

Later, while Dana waits in the police car, Olivia asks why Dana she didn’t tell them where she was hiding. She said she didn’t know until last night, when he left a message to ask him to pick him up. She was going to bring him in. The box contained more evidence of pictures. Dana said he did not know where Eric got the money for the place, but Olivia was skeptical. But Dana then says she told him he was on his own and admits she gave him $300. Dana says she loved him but is glad he’s dead.

ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) arrives at the crime scene, while the CSU team is using a scan station, which helps create court exhibits of the crime scene. She thinks cause of death is exsanguination, with almost a dozen stab wounds. The victim himself dialed 911, and we then hear the horrible playback. The detectives walk through the details of the crime, and as there was no sign of forced entry, they think Eric knew his murderer. They hope his attacker left his blood there and hopes that there was blood transfer. They suspect his stepfather, thinking he may have also heard the message Eric left for his mother and tracked down Eric. Olivia thinks they have enough for a warrant, but Grayleck says, “Those days are over since Casey Novak lied to a judge and got disbarred.” She says she’ll walk it through if they can place Kelley at the crime scene.

ME Warner informs Olivia and Fin that Eric also suffered from an assault with a foreign wooden object, and they trace the splinters to Sean Kelley. He said he didn’t kill Eric, he just assaulted him. Grayleck spars with Kelley’s attorney. Later, Fin and Munch tell Olivia that there doesn’t seem to be any blood transfer in the usual places to implicate Sean. ME Warner says she found blood in the corridor that did not belong to the victim, and that the blood belongs to a diabetic. Either the killer doesn’t know he’s diabetic or he’s not taking enough insulin. Olivia recalls that Berlin is a diabetic.

They pull up the Pediaphax web site to see what chatter is going on. They thought Berlin was Eric’s mentor, but they find that Eric said he did assault a kid, but never revealed a name of his victim. While they are arresting Berlin, he seems to think that he was doing a service by killing Eric – a life for a life - since Eric had killed the “spirit” of the boy he assaulted. Berlin thinks that he has more self-control. She presses Berlin for the victim’s name, but Eric didn't tell him. Olivia thinks that’s what set off Berlin, and Berlin murdered the one person who could lead her to him.

While Olivia is showing Eric’s picture to the press, we hear her voice superimposed over the scene, asking a young girl if she ever saw that man before. She says yes, at the playground. But he didn’t touch her or hurt her. Apparently there were at least 5 kids who talked to Eric but he apparently never touched them.

We also see a woman approach Munch. It’s the wife he was questioning earlier in the episode whose husband was beating her. She says she loves her husband and doesn’t want to do this, but doesn’t want to die. He asks her to have a seat, and talks to her as the camera pulls away.

My initial reaction to the show is that is was somewhat predictable. Still, they made good use of the cast. I especially enjoy it when Cragen gets all Captain-like and brings the hammer down. And it was a great choice of Tom Noonan for the pervert-du-jour, but he’s also so typecast as a creep that it was almost a given that he would be the murderer. Teri Polo did a great job as the agonized mother. And while Fin seemed to be understanding of Stabler’s restraint with Jake Berlin, Stabler’s behavior was too typical for words, since we all knew he would rush to get at Berlin. How exactly did Berlin get that picture of his daughter, by the way? Maybe I missed something but I don’t think that was really addressed.

But Michaela McManus is still just plain annoying. Part of it is her character, which I am sure they are purposely writing to be a harsh, competitive, and self-centered woman. I don’t know why they are making her this way unless they think the show needs an antagonist or that's how they think women in positions of power have to be. But McManus’s weak acting skills and blank face just can’t pull it off. It seems like they just cast a pretty face and asked her to be a mean bitch. It doesn’t seem real at all to me, and her character seems forced.

And frankly, I am getting a little tired of all the Stabler drama. I know there will be more of it this season, but I think it’s overkill. Some fans like all the melodrama, but I don’t like to be swimming in it. At least Olivia seems to have gained her footing, which is good. We have to have one person who seems somewhat grounded.

If the viewership continues to show low numbers as it did last week, I think the show producers need to rethink the direction they are taking the show, and maybe get back to the basics that once made it so good.

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Kyle said...

I agree, the Stabler drama is getting really old. You knew exactly what was going to happen the moment he tensed up at the pictures on the site. And we know there'll be a confrontation between Tony (Kathleen's boyfriend) and Stabler later this season too. Get back to the cases guys, not the personal drama.

John K. said...

Again, thanks for the recap, as my radio program was more important.

It feels like a bad sitcom: is Grayleck going to come in at the beginning of every episode like this?

Meanwhile, I have to admit, I think the SVU squad is being a tad unprofessional. Yes, you don't have to like the person, but you have to work with them. I know they hated Casey's original hands-on approach, but they weren't completely disrespectful (I don't recall). Or I need to double check my old episodes, in case I'm incorrect.

“Those days are over since Casey Novak lied to a judge and got disbarred.”

Well, I got my Casey reference, too bad it's so ignoble. Didn't they think it would piss off the Casey fans because of dramatic irony within Cold? Hm.

Other than that, good recap and you captured all the highlights.

daz said...

This show is a predictable joke at every turn.