Thursday, November 27, 2008

Law & Order “Falling” Out Between McCoy and Cutter

First and foremost – Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers!

This episode of Law & Order, “Falling,” opens with a crane collapse, and ends with a possible collapse in the working relationship between DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache).

The recap is first, and my review follows afterwards.

At a construction site, a woman who lives across the street complains about the jack hammering at 2 AM, and is told they will pass her complaint on. In her apartment, while she is complaining about the matter to her husband, they see a shadow of something large passing by their window. It’s the crane collapsing. Later, on the ground, Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) examine the scene of the crane collapse. Carlos Lazaro, was just near the crane when it collapse, was killed. They see Mr. Wayne Hardy (Frank Converse), who owns the company doing the construction, being interviewed by TV people and the detectives question him. He says he is committed to safety. He is concerned that homicide detectives are there, and they tell him that it’s a crime scene because someone was killed,

Later, Hardy is telling Lupo these kinds of things never happen on his construction projects. When they ask who is running the project, they are told it’s Gary Talbot, junior foreman. In talking to one of the crew - Nolan - Bernard sees that they see he was supposed to use another crane that day, a T65 crane. When Nolan says that was correct, Bernard say the one that collapsed looks like a T35, which is a lot smaller. Nolan says the job called for a smaller crane, so that is what they used, and that the city inspector said it was safe. They ask to take the invoices with the crane information.

At the NYC Department of Buildings, Lupo and Bernard talk to the inspector Mr. O’Connor, who says in 23 years he’s never had a serious injury on his watch, and now he gets homicide detectives. Bernard tells him it’s standard procedure. Lupo tells him the building department has received over two dozen complaints about the site, but has only followed up on half of them. O’Connor says he issued violations for noise complaints but there were no safety issues.

Later, a woman explains how the crane was anchored to the building. When the collars failed, the crane came down, the one on the ninth floor failed first, and the rest failed like buttons on a shirt. She says the T35 has a load bearing capacity of 6 tons per lift, but there was a much higher lift average on that crane.

Back at the 2-7, Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) reviews the matter with the detectives. Maybe someone was being paid to look the other way with safety issues, and she says the forensic accountants want to talk to the detectives. The forensic accountant tells them things don’t add up, that the petty cash kept in a safe was short several thousands dollars. Gary Talbot, foreman, was in charge of petty cash.

Talking to Talbot (Michael Kelly), he tells them some expenses can’t be receipted and have to come from petty cash., and he’s not the only one who has access. The night shift does as well. They talk about the overtime and the heavy crane loads. Talbot tells them they got the approval from the inspector every step of the way. He has copies of all the approvals. Talbot's wife enters,, and asks him to help with their daughter, Lacy. Lupo looks at the information and sees that Talbot did have the necessary approvals. But Bernard notices that the number that the approvals were faxed from does not match the number on the fax sheet. The area code is 613 – it looks like the inspector was faxing from the Hamptons on a weekday afternoon.

At a home in the Hamptons, the inspector is there, and he looks like he is packing to leave. He says he was lent the house by a friend, but it’s time to get back to the real world. Bernard asks if that friend is Hudson River Rentals, because they said his wife took a 3 month lease at $15,000 a month. Bernard notices his nice car, comments on the school for his kid, but when the inspector asks if they can do it tomorrow, they bring him in.

At the 2-7 he is being questioned, and he says he sees people take bribes all the time, but that’s not him. They tell him they can trace $200,000 worth of expenses back to him, and now there is a body. He said he never meant it, but Bernard says remorse with a confession is better. He tells them that Nolan the contractor was the one who first approached him about using a smaller crane for the loads. The foreman made the payment, and the night foreman - Talbot - was not in the loop. He also says Wayne Hardy was involved.

Later, they are watching Hardy being arrested on television, and he is protesting it as a miscarriage of justice. But Lupo says something isn’t adding up, the missing money from the petty cash that they thought the night foreman was using to bribe O’Connor, the night foreman got straight from Nolan. Maybe the petty cash was being used to pay off someone else?

Later, another detective brings Lupo and Bernard the content of the pockets from the crane fatality, Carlos Lazaro. They can’t get his next of kin, except for his wife, who is in the hospital in a coma. Bernard tells Lupes to check out the hospital bill for Lazaro’s wife Amelia and compare them with the record of payments. They match the amounts missing from the petty cash. Since they know Carlos probably can’t access the safe, it points them back to Gary Talbot, and maybe he is trying to help Carlos. But Bernard says no one is that nice, not even Robin Hood.

At St. Paul’s hospital, they are told there is no change in Mrs. Amelia Lazaro, who lays there comatose. When they talk to the doctor, it seems that the wife “dry drowned,” where a person takes in enough water in the lungs not to drown them right away, but it can occur later. During the process, the person can seem quite erratic before they lose consciousness. They ask if the doctor can pinpoint when she inhaled the chlorinated water, and he says it could have happened up to 12 hours before she came into the ER. When the nurse arrives and the doctor leaves, she comments that Carlos was there every day to see her. Sometimes some guy named Gary also came to see her. Lupo asks how often, and she says every week, Thursday late. Bernard says Thursday s late is when the payments were made from petty cash.

Back at the 2-7, they review the case with Van Buren, and suspect Talbot and Carlos’s wife Amelia were having an affair. Did Talbot pull down the crane on Carlos? She tells them that the Talbot is an important witness for the city inspector and the DA doesn’t want that case messed up. Bernard thinks she is asking them to bury the case of Carlos’ wife, but she says no, and tells him to just open another case, and the first item to do is to search Lazaro’s home.

At the Lazaro home, they question a neighbor. She tells them Mrs. Lazaro was afraid of the water. While they continue to check out the apartment, Bernard finds a prepaid cell phone with two numbers in the address book, one for Carlos, one for Talbot.

Back at the construction site, they confront Talbot with what they know. He says he loves his own wife and won’t talk to them anymore. They decide to talk to Talbot’s wife.

They talk to Talbot’s wife Sandra (Geraldine Hughes), she says the Amelia helped them care for Lacy, and they were paying her under the table. She seems unfazed when they tell her Talbot was paying her hospital bills, and she bristles at their suggestions of an affair. They see water wings there and ask if she takes her daughter swimming. She said it’s water therapy.

Back at the 2-7, they discuss Talbot’s pool access, but he also has an alibi for the time Amelia first took in the water. This leaves Mrs. Talbot. They also find a divorce petition Gary Talbot previously filed last year, which was withdrawn. They also discover that Sandra charged two metro cards, one for her and Lacy one for her. They track the cards and other credit card charges to a pool near the area where the charges were made.

At the pool, they are told that Mrs. Talbot and Amelia came in during a set time when no one would complain about the noise from the child. They are also told Emilia would stand near the edge of the water and hand Mrs. Talbot towels. She also said she heard a big argument and Amelia fell into the pool, but she couldn’t hear what the argument was about. Amelia was soaked and crying, Mrs. Talbot was dry.

Later, as the detectives conferred with ADA Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) they suspect that maybe Amelia was pushed into the pool. The detectives arrest Sandra Talbot.

At arraignment, Sandra pleads not guilty and says her daughter’s condition requires full time care. Her husband has to work. They set bail at $200,000. Rubirosa and the defense attorney discuss the case afterwards and try to negotiate. The defense gives her an application for all evidence the police seized at the pool.

In EADA Cutter’s (Linus Roache) office, Rubirosa and McCoy (Sam Waterston) review the case. McCoy doesn’t seem happy about the case since there are no witnesses and no evidence. But Rubirosa tells him they found Sandra’s prints on a float pole. Maybe she used the pole to pull Emilia out of the water? This could mean she tried to help and would mean renunciation. McCoy cautions them that Gary Talbot is key in their crane case and to try not to muddy that up. Playing with his baseball glove and baseball, Cutter tells Rubirosa to retrace Sandra and Amelia's steps.

Rubirosa rechecks with the neighbor and she asks why Amelia didn’t go to the doctor as suggested when Emilia first seemed to become ill. Amelia didn’t want any help. She said Amelia was told not to go by her boss.

Later, Cutter and Rubirosa are meeting with the Talbots and the Talbot attorney Goodwin says it was renunciation when Sandra pulled Amelia out of the pool. But, he is told that she can’t talk renunciation if she talked Amelia out of seeing a doctor. The defense attorney adds that a problem with her meds caused Lacy to spasm and kick Amelia into the pool. But Sandra tells them to stop it right now; Lacy has been through too much. Cutter wants the truth now or she takes her chances with the jury. She admits she and Amelia argued about Gary, she got angry and pushed her in but it wasn’t to try to kill her. She begs for mercy. Cutter says assault 2, suspended sentence, Sandra must allocate, but he wants a portion of Gary’s salary to go to Amelia's long-term care. The defense attorney thinks this is agreeable. As they leave, Rubirosa calls Cutter a “pushover” for the suspended sentence.

At the allocution hearing, Sandra tells them the story and said she lost her temper and pushed Amelia into the pool. She told Amelia to leave her family and husband alone. When the judge asks Cutter if the people are satisfied, Cutter is looking at Gary and seems to be having some second thoughts, as he does not answer the judge right away. Cutter asks the judge for permission to inquire. He asks how she leaned about the affair. She said when Amelia was giving Lacy a bath, Amelia’s phone rang. She saw it was Gary, she knew the voice mail code for the phone since she programmed it, and found that Amelia and Gary were gong to meet later that day. Cutter presses, and states that meant she confronted her that day. Sandra says no, but says it was the next day when she took Lacy to the pool. When the defense attorney Goodwin questions what is going on, Cutter withdraws the plea offer and stands ready for trial. Everyone is perplexed, but the judge agrees to the trial. Cutter says to Rubirosa, ”Pushover my ass.”

Back at the DA’s office, McCoy tells Cutter, “Pulling the plug in the middle of allocution. I hope you didn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” Cutter tells them that there was no call from Gary to Amelia that day or any other day, but the night before Amelia drowned, Amelia made a call to a Dr. Lucas Ziering, endocrinologist , it was a one minute call, probably leaving a message The next morning, Sandra Talbot got a call from Dr. Ziering, and was on the line for 20 minutes. He thinks something about that call upset Sandra.

Rubirosa tells them that they found a police report filed by Dr. Ziering about anonymous threats made to his office voice mail. The report was dated two weeks before Amelia was pushed into the pool. Maybe Amelia was leaving another threat. McCoy tells Cutter “a bird in the hand” and the next time a defendant wants to plead guilty let them, and he leaves the room.

At the office of Dr. Lucas Ziering, they are listening to the threatening calls from Amelia, which say something about “changing Lacy’s nature.” Ziering says that the Talbots approached her about restricting Lacy’s physical development, which was estrogen therapy to permanently stunt Lacy’s growth, and the removal of her breast buds and ovaries so her sexual organs would never mature. He is not the first doctor the Talbots came to. He told them to be discreet, and after he got another threatening call he told Sandra that he could not continue Lacy’s treatment. Sandra begged him to reconsider, but he couldn’t risk the publicity. He had to hang up on her. Cutter thinks she found someone else to vent her anger on.

Cutter and Rubirosa confront Gary with the truth, but he doesn’t want to talk about it so other doctors don’t get scared off. Lacy is their little angel. Cutter thinks they came up with the idea for the treatment to avoid the divorce, and Gary tells them to butt out.

Back at the DA’s office, Rubirosa says they traced payments made right before Sandra was arrested and found that some were made to Dr. Emmanuel, so he may have been the next doctor lined up which is why she wanted to stay silent. Cutter wants to stop the treatment, calling it an assault on a handicapped child, but Rubirosa is not sure. Cutter states why he thinks this is horrible, but Jack asks what this has to do with their prosecution of Sandra Talbot. Cutter says it’s one assault to cover another, this latest one on a child. Cutter and McCoy argue, with McCoy saying that they already have Sandra, and the DA’s office focuses on established crimes. After Jack leaves, Cutter says he is amending the complaint to add conspiracy to assault Lacy Talbot. Rubirosa tries to bring him back down to earth, but Cutter is unrelenting.

Meeting with the judge and the defense attorney, they argue Cutter’s actions. The judge is not sure it is a crime but will give Cutter a chance to change the judge's mind. Later, in the court hearing, another doctor discusses the procedure, it’s not sanctioned and she is calling it a slippery slope, and where does it end? Cutter says the convenience of the parents should not be a relevant factor. Another doctor is questioned by the defense, and he explains why the treatment is not problematic, seeing that the child will never have sex nor need her sexual organs in the future. Cuter challenges that the procedure doesn't “cure sickness” which is what doctors are supposed to do.

Sandra also testifies to the care and treatment of Lacy and the costs. She would never intentionally harm Lacy. Under cross by Cutter, he asks if she had a million dollars would she still consider this treatment, and she says it’s about keeping their angel where she belongs, with her family. He talks about the inconvenience with Lacy when she grows older. He hits on the fact that if she had all the money in the world she’d still do the procedure and treatment, as it’s easier to love her now, when she’s small, like a doll. She gets upset on the stand, and the judge excuses her.

Later, Judge Bradley (Peter McRobbie) rules the court is not satisfied that Cutter showed an assault on a child, and the amendment to Cutter’s complaint is denied. The judge also hopes they can reach a plea settlement. Later in the hospital while Cutter sits with the comatose Amelia, Rubirsoa comes in and tells him that Goodwin has agreed to a meeting, and that she thinks the judge was right. Cutter says that since Sandra has pushed Amelia into the pool, she has done nothing but lie and obfuscate, and now her reward is a “green light” to treat her child. Rubirosa says there are no clean hands here. Cutter says sometimes it’s hard to know where justice is but you have to do something, and try to save who you can save.

Back at Cutter’s office, he offers the defense assault two, suspended sentence, 5 years probation. Same terms for Amelia’s care as with the original plea. But, there’s more. He wants agreement that she won’t consent to the procedure with Lacy. The Talbots are outraged, but he says take it or leave it, or they go to trial.

Later, McCoy enters Cutter’s office, clearly angry, and throws some paper on Cutter’s desk and asks for an explanation. Cutter says he’s guessing he already knows, but McCoy continues that because of what Cutter attached to the plea, he violated Mrs. Talbot’s rights. The judge will repudiate it, and when Cutter says he can sell the judge on it, McCoy yells, “I’m repudiating it! You’ve gone completely off the reservation here. “ Cutter counters “Just imitating the master!” and cites similar cases that McCoy handled. McCoy remembers the cases, but he also recalls the judge reaming him out for one of them, and the judge was right. When Cutter says they get paid to follow their instincts, McCoy says, “You get paid to follow orders.” He says it’s time for Cutter to turn the page, but Cutter says he’s moving forward and if he wants to take the case away, that’s McCoy’s call.

At the allocution hearing, the judge expresses that he has reservations with Cutter’s stipulation as parental control and care of their children is a right protected under the 14th amendment. Cutter counters that it is not absolute, it gives way to a compelling state interest. Meanwhile, McCoy has entered the courtroom. The judge says he has already ruled on this issue, and Cutter counters that he ruled the operation isn’t a CRIME, which doesn’t mean the state can’t still take an interest in stopping it. The judge sees McCoy, and McCoy asks for permission to approach. McCoy says he has just been made aware of the substance of the plea agreement. He says his office does not sanction that stipulation and will remove it. He says he would like to apologize to the court and to Mrs. Talbot for the error in judgment. The judge rules that with the removal of the stipulation they can proceed with the plea agreement, while Cutter walks way, clearly frustrated and probably angry.

Later in the office, Cutter stands there alone, waiting for the elevator. Jack approaches, and they stand there silently. He moves toward the elevator button and presses it. He comments on the case that Cutter had previously cited that he “overstepped back then” and “one day, you’ll thank me for yanking your leash, Mike. Sometimes I wish someone had been there to yank mine.” As they stand at the elevator, Cutter still silent, they fade to black.

I admit I was wondering how they were going to work in the ripped from the headline crane collapse and twist it into something else. In this case, we got another ripped from the headlines story where a family wants to medically keep their child in a childlike state so she is easier to manage. I have a family member – a nephew – who is now 20 years old who is severely mentally and partly physically  disabled, and I can’t imagine anyone treating their child for any reason to keep them small just so they are easier to handle. My nephew is almost 6 foot tall now, and yes he has major issues with his care, but the thought of stunting his growth just seems like it would be so barbaric to me. I am glad that Mike went ahead with trying to press the issue and I’m sorry that the law seems to not favor his approach. I’m also a little surprised that Connie and Jack were not completely in their corner. After all, when Jack got reamed for his case years before, things may have changed in the world where maybe people would not take so kindly on such treatment for a child. In a way, I think we are seeing Cutter in the same idealistic place that Jack was at one time, and now, Jack seems to have been hardened a bit by experience, and maybe even his desire to keep his job.

I also am a little perplexed about Jack’s comment at the end that he wished someone had been there to yank his chain. I don’t remember who was DA during the case that Jack was talking about, but the only DA who may have been easy on Jack was Nora Lewin. Schiff was always on Jack’s case, and he also butted heads many times with Branch. Even Lewin didn’t let him get away with murder (so to speak). I guess I would have to know more about the specific case where Jack felt he wasn’t given a proper leash pulling. Frankly, even when his bosses pulled his leash, Jack did what he wanted to anyway. Jack may think he is trying to save Cutter from himself, but maybe it would be better for Cutter to learn his own lessons as Jack did.

This was another case where the second half of the episode was much stronger than the first. Considering that the whole crane collapse was really a red herring, it seemed like the first 20 minutes or so could have been wasted. And since Lupo and Bernard are both low key and there doesn’t seem to be much drama in the first half, the first 30 minutes of the show still remain weak. I still liked the episode a lot; I just wish they could bring a spark to the first half in the same manner that they have the second.

Frankly, I am glad to see Cutter growing more of a backbone and taking charge. While I would like Sam Waterston to be on the show forever, that may not happen, and I think Linus Roache needs to establish a strong character for Cutter so he can become a new draw for the show. While I am disappointed in the stance that Jack took with this case, I can also see where it is necessary for McCoy to start showing the effects that his new job and new role are having on his approach to prosecuting criminals.

Will this matter have any long-term effects on the working relationship between McCoy and Cutter? Let’s hope their small falling out won’t have lasting effects.

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John K. said...

I'll play the nerdy fanboy. Heh.

The case Cutter cited was from "Precious," which makes sense as I was noticing the parallel with the prior episode. An actual court case with remembering the character-of-the-day's name? Oshmores!

Actually, it was Claire that admonished him and his idea to have the defendant undergo tubal ligation as part of the plea (she kept making babies, which served as her victims). Admittedly, Schiff wasn't thrilled with the concept, either.

I thought the same in the final scene, as both Schiff and Branch did ream him good (Lewin did try, like in Equal Rights and Endurance, but her tone wasn't as strong as the other two). However, you're right -- Jack did what he wanted, anyway. Maybe he's feeling seeing how it isn't working anymore.

Otherwise, I think the second half is as closest we'll get to the golden days, so better take it.

Good recap, as always.

Aaron said...

When Jack talks to Cutter at the end, I think Jack's referring to the discipline board and ethics hearings of the bar. Countless times, Jack's been dragged up there and I think he actually wants to "lay down the law" to keep Cutter out of trouble. Unlike past DA's who headbutted with jack, they never really stepped in and stopped him.

John K. said...

Actually, Branch did it in "Payback," and came quite close in "Red Ball." Schiff definitely did it to him in "Ambitious." Plus, as Cutter reminded, Schiff wasn't thrilled with Jack's actions in "Refuge," which stuns me, as "you forgot the recent reference Cutter did, Jack?"

So, it has happened, but not as often as it probably should have been.

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