Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Law & Order SVU “Smut” An Unclean Case

Today, my review is first and then the recap. This is one kind of SVU episode that we won’t be seeing any more, if/when Law & Order SVU moves to a 9:00 PM time slot in the fall to make room for Leno’s 10PM show. The subject matter was dark and disturbing, as were the many video images shown as part of the evidence. This is to be expected for a show that is about special victims, but it does make me wonder how much they will have to sanitize SVU next season because of an earlier time slot.

I’m not quite sure how I felt about this episode. It was just OK. I thought that the case itself was interesting and at least it actually involved special victims, but the focus on replaying all the videos of the assaults was overkill. I also wondered as I was writing the recap how I was going to get around all the references to porn so my advertising wouldn’t show up with wacky offbeat ads. I try to keep my content clean to attract good sponsors, but this episode made it hard to avoid certain negative words.

The episode seemed off balance at times. When Stabler had zero concern for one of the victims by confronting the husband with graphic video of his wife’s assault, it seemed very out of character, even for him. He seemed to think that he knew better than Olivia on how to handle the matter. Sadly, it was Olivia who bore the brunt of Stabler opening this can of worms when she got slapped for later trying to help fix Stabler’s mess. But, the real oddity was the dolphin video. I mean really, did we need that? I wonder how Mariska and her Joyful Heart Foundation, which has used dolphins for therapies for victims, felt about that. And, can someone explain just how exactly Olivia got access to Moredock’s private server to get the video to begin with? They seemed to imply she got the emails from a former clerk he had fired, but I don’t quite get how she got access to his server.

And how exactly did they miss that Lutz at one time had a finace? It seems they didn’t interview any of his friends or acquaintances that may have flushed this out sooner. They appeared to do very little background checking on Lutz before the trial – I would think that the $18,000 Tiffany’s bill would have popped up sooner.

What I also though could have been used by the defense is when Lutz raised something more than an objection in the courtroom when they showed the video of one of his attacks. If anything, could that not have proved for the defense that he indeed had a problem with becoming aroused by this type of video. I wondered, since he admitted he was going through therapy, that his lawyer didn’t ask him, under cross, if this is exactly why he needs rehab.

I found it amusing when Fin called out Benson and Stabler for being a prude and choirboy, respectively. But a good line in the courtroom where the defendant was raising something other than an objection was wasted on the deadpan Greyleck.

On the upside, Michael Trucco did a great job of playing Lutz, and he was particularly creepy at the end as he yelled out to the victims.

OK, enough of my commentary; here’s the recap. The video clips and the two minute replay are at the end of the recap. NBC doesn’t keep them up very long so catch them while you can.

A woman is in the park walking with her kids, and their dog starts running off with one of the kids in tow. The woman foolishly leaves her other child alone in the stroller. (My note here – what kind of idiot would leave their kid unattended in a stroller these days?) When she hears the baby cry out, she sees a woman standing over the stroller. When she approaches, she sees the woman is in an overcoat, wearing only a bra and panties underneath, blood trailing down her leg.

SVU Detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) are called to the hospital to investigate what appears to be a sexual assault on Kelly Sun (Kelly Hu). She is highly agitated, telling them she has to be in Korea by Friday. But that day is Friday, and they tell her she’s lost track of time. She has no recollection.

Later, Olivia talks to Kelly alone. She tells her that her bruises are from her attackers knees. Kelly is upset because she can’t recall the event, but Benson tells her that she was probably drugged with GHB. Kelly is upset with herself, saying it is like someone took control of her body. She does recall that morning she was getting ready for her trip to Korea, and she ran into someone she knew - Riley - while she was out. They both work for the same publisher. He had written a book about biking in Indonesia and he had never been there, and Kelly thought that was unethical so she reported him to the publisher and he was fired.

Stabler and Benson are talking with Riley as he is biking, and he wasn’t angry with Kelly for reporting him as it got people to read his book. Red-herring Riley also said Kelly got a free round trip ticket to Korea by working as a courier for Pakidala. When the detectives meet with man in charge at Pakidala, he says that Kelly was moving uncut diamonds to Korea. He also says the jewelers will have his ass because a bling ring has hit them before, and they thought she’d fly safely under the radar. But, he wonders where are the diamonds?

Back at the hospital, Kelly admits having the diamonds and recalls going to the airport with them but can’t remember much else. The detectives watch the surveillance video from the airport and see Kelly getting her boarding pass, and then going to the layover lounge. A man is sitting with her, and they have a few drinks. Their view is blocked for a moment so they can’t see if the man drugged her drink. Later, Kelly and the mystery man go into a taxi and leaving the airport without her luggage. They decide to trace where the taxi was headed.

It leads them to the home of Eric Lutz (Michael Trucco). They show Eric a picture of him and Kelly entering a cab, and he says that he met her that day but denies hurting her. Eric says that Kelly consented to sex and when he woke up she was gone. Elliot finds Kelly's bag in his apartment, still sealed. When Benson starts to pressure him, he says maybe he should call his lawyer. But Stabler says they are done and leaves.

Back at ADA Greyleck’s (Michaela McManus) office, they find the (red herring) uncut diamonds are still in the bag, but she tells them that is not enough to prove that Eric stole it. Since Kelly hasn’t claimed rape and Eric says the sex was consensual, they can’t even get Lutz for that. But Elliot had just received information from ME Warner that Kelly was not drugged. Benson fells strongly that Lutz raped her.

When Benson and Stabler go to the hospital to see Kelly, Lutz is there and they pull him away from her. He says he is just checking to make sure she was OK. She says she doesn’t recognize Lutz, but after they show her a picture of her with Lutz, she throws a vase at him, says he raped her, and that they should arrest him. Lutz appears puzzled at her reaction and Stabler walks him out of the room.

At the squad, they question Lutz who denies raping her. They verified that his flight got grounded but hers wasn’t. He indicates Kelly left with him willingly. At the hospital, Benson is talking with Kelly, watching the video of her and Lutz, and doesn’t quite believe what she is seeing, why didn’t she fight back. Lutz tells Stabler she was “totally into me.” Stabler thinks he went to see her at the hospital to see how much she remembered. But Fin (Ice-T) enters and tells Stabler and Lutz that they found blood that is the same type as Kelly’s on Lutz’s sheets. He says that he knew that Kelly was having her period and that it “'wasn't a deal breaker.”

ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) says that Kelly was menstruating, and Stabler is annoyed that yet again Kelly hasn’t given them important information. Warner adds that Kelly might have been drugged with scopolamine; under the influence of that drug, the victim stays conscious, but is controllable. She says that the victims usually don't remember what happened.

At Lutz’s apartment, they are searching for the drug but he denies even knowing what it is. TARU Tech Morales (Joel de la Fuente) finds that Eric has a huge collection of rape porn on his computer, and that he has an encrypted partition on his hard drive – a hidden drive on his computer. He accesses it and shows Benson and Stabler videos of Eric raping several women, including Kelly. Olivia states that Lutz is a serial rapist.

At the squad, Benson tells Kelly that they have video of her being raped by Lutz, and she says she wants to see it. Separately, Stabler tells Lutz they have evidence of him raping the women. He claims says that he was just being rough and the women consented, it was just role playing. Lutz’s lawyer (Christine Ebersole) enters and tells Stabler that the interview is over and they leave. While doing so, they attorney runs into Greyleck, and says “Kim Greyleck, from the beltway to the Big Apple.” She tells Greyleck the judge will laugh the case out of the courtroom. Stabler says, with sarcasm, that it’s always nice to see lawyers getting along. When the lawyer and Lutz leave, Greyleck tells Stabler that Lutz's lawyer right, the evidence is not sufficient. When Kelly walks up to them and is upset Lutz is being released, she is told they need time to build a case, When Kelly walks away, Greyleck, Stabler and Benson discuss the matter. They need to identify the other women in the videos. This may prove difficult as the women may not even know that they were raped.

Dr. Huang (B.D. Wong) reviews the information with the detectives, telling them Lutz is a classic serial rapist. Huang says the scopolamine prevents them from fighting back. Benson and Greyleck disagree on how to best identify the other victims, Greyleck not convinced these women were raped. Fin enters and says they found date and time stamps on the videos, and it helped them to tie these dates to Lutz activity with “Exquisite Express, ”an online escort service. Fin enters the description of victim #2 into a recommendation database. They find that the website recommends a woman named Denise, who looks like their victim.

Later, at a restaurant, Stabler meets with Denise. He shows her a picture of Lutz, and she says he’s just your average sicko. He was” into the act” but had “troubles on his end.”

Back at the squad, Morales tells them that he was able to get more information on his cell phone wi-fi tracking. One location was near a gym called ‘The Fitness Factor” where he could have dosed the victim. Morales emailed them a photo and they matched it to one of their members, Laurel Andrews (Christy Pusz).

Benson and Stabler head to Andrews’ apartment. She doesn't remember any assault. She seems highly agitated, saying she doesn’t remember Lutz. Her husband arrives and Benson says they are leaving. Afterwards, Benson tells Stabler that she doesn't want to ruin Laurel's memory of having a happy life. She says right now the woman is not a victim. They try for victim #4, but they still can’t locate her. Greyleck wants them to use Andrews, and when Benson balks, Greyleck barks to changer her mind and convince her. Benson still resists and Stabler thinks Benson is enabling Lutz. Benson wants to put a tail on Lutz. When Benson walks off, Greyleck tells Stabler they can’t just let Lutz walk.

On his own, Stabler goes to Laurel's house and meets with her husband. Elliot shows him a video of Eric raping his wife, and says that Laurel doesn't remember the assault. Laurel enters, sees the video, and is horrified. Back at the squad, Benson is clearly angry at Stabler for showing Andrews the video. They disagree on what was best for Laurel. Benson thinks she could have protected her from the damage, but Stabler disagrees, saying she should know that better than anyone.

Benson goes back to meet with Laurel at her home, who tells Benson she doesn't want to talk to her. Benson tells her that she herself was sexually assaulted a few months ago. Anger didn’t help her get over it, admitting it happened and putting the man who was responsible behind bars and getting counseling is what allowed her to move on. She will never be over it, but she can live with it now and has her life back. Laurel remembers meeting with Lutz at a juice bar at the gym. She woke up at home and found her legs bruised. She started to remember bits and pieces, and says that Eric raped her and she couldn’t face it. Benson says she needs her to testify against Lutz. Later, Benson and Stabler arrest Lutz.

In court, he is arraigned for two counts of rape in the first degree and pleads not guilty. Greyleck convinces Judge Moredock (John Cullum) to set a high bail because Eric might leave town. The defense attorney makes a motion to sever the cases as it implies a pattern and is highly prejudicial. He denies her request to sever. She changes Lutz’s plea to not guilty due to a mental disease or defect because his is addicted to porn. The judge allows it. And the victims in the gallery seem stunned.

At the squad, Benson is unhappy with the turn of events. Benson thinks there is a connection between porn and rape and Fin disagrees. When Stabler chimes in, Fin tells him “lighten up, choirboy”, that you don’t need to be a perv to enjoy it. Clearly they all disagree on the subject. Greyleck hopes the jury isn’t swayed by Lutz’s expert witness.

At trial, Lutz’s lawyer calls in Dr. Crossway. She testifies that the chemical response to these images can alter a person's mind and be addictive. This dependency might have driven Lutz. Under cross, Greyleck cites some studies which say that when porn is easily available, fewer rapes occur. But Greyleck cuts the doctor’s response short, and on redirect, Crossway adds it is like alcohol, and like an alcoholic, Lutz needs rehab, not prison.

On the stand, Lutz says it ruined him life, and he is addicted to it. He tried to stop, but it was like going through withdrawal. He thought that the women that he was with were consenting and that they were into it. He apologizes and says he is in therapy. Greyleck cross examines him, and asks if he watched so much porn because he wasn't good in the sack. She asks many questions about what he liked to watch. He says there are no strings attached with just watching. She says it’s the fight that turns him on. Greyleck plays one of the videos that the detectives found on his PC, and the victim leaves the courtroom, upset. Lutz asks her to turn it off, and she thinks he is getting turned on. He Greyleck asks if Eric likes when women struggle. Lutz stands up and yells to turn if off. But she notices that Lutz has raised something more than an objection, and makes note of it to the courtroom.

Back at the squad, Stabler says that Greyleck told him that Lutz is “going down” because he “popped up in court” today. But Benson is not happy about it, saying Greyleck put Laurel Andrews through this for nothing. She shows him a video of a dolphin looking as if it were having sex with a woman. It was on Judge Mordock’s file server along with other suggestive images. Someone may be gunning for Mordock. If it comes out, it could trigger a mistrial.

Confronting Mordock he tells Greyleck he is skeptical this information came to the detectives via anonymous email. He thinks it’s from the idiot law clerk he filed last year. He said they were goofy pictures on his private email. She tells him it jeopardizes the case, and he says that he has to recuse himself and declare a mistrial.

Back at the squad, Laurel approaches Benson and slaps her. Laurel is angry for the mistrial, and for Benson making her remember, and that she won't testify again. When Stabler asks Benson if she is OK, she says no.

Later, while Benson is revisiting all the information, Cpt. Cragen (Dann Florek) tells her to go home. But she refuses, she’s to try to find another angle in the case. She finds that Lutz has a receipt from Tiffany's for $18,000, but can't figure out what he bought. She then finds a photo of one of the victims wearing an engagement ring and thinks that Lutz was going to marry one of the women in his videos. She approaches Lutz outside his apartment and shows him the photo of the woman with the engagement ring and asks if he was going to marry her. He tells her she is trying to intimidate her and she is harassing him. He says she won’t get away with this, and snaps per picture. She says he just loves taking pictures of women and walks off. As she walks off, Lutz gets on his cell phone. Benson walks to a van, and Morales is inside. She asks Morales if Lutz took the bait. Morales says that Lutz made a phone call and his is tracing her name and address.

At some later time at Greyleck’s office, Lutz and his attorney are there, complaining about Benson’s behavior. Benson enters, with Shannon Browning, Lutz former fiancé. Lutz looks like he’s just been caught. Benson states that in a phone call last night, Lutz threatened to kill Shannon if she talked to the police. Shannon says she remembers everything. She was dating Eric for a while. She says that Eric picked her up at Grand Central Station and then proposed. Shannon says that when Eric brought her home, he raped her over and over again. Eric calls Shannon an ungrateful bitch, he would have given her everything. But when Benson brings in Laurel and Kelly, Lutz says that “you sluts loved it” and his attorney tells him to shut up. She asks Greyleck what they are offering, and she says 25 years in jail. Benson tells the women they are done, and as they walk out, he yells out that he’s the one they will always remember, they will never get over him, he’s the best thing they ever had. As he continues to yell and the police restrain him, they fade to black.

Two Minute Replay


Video Clip




Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, here.

Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.

9 comments:

John K. said...

Can you transcribe Greylek's comment of "Hockey Moms getting a Brazilian wax" and all that, please? It was when the squad was discussing porn. Thanks if you can.

Good recap, as always.

Amy29 said...

I don't know about the need for content changes when SVU is forced to move to a 9pm time slot. There are already local broadcast stations that show the syndicated reruns at 8 or 9 pm in a lot of cities, like my own. Plus, there's that whole mid-west time thing without any problems.

All Things Law and Order said...

John, here's what Kim said, in context:

Stabler: Women making porn? Looks like the whore on the corner working her way up to pimp. Doesn’t make it right.

Fin: Lighten up choirboy. You don’t have to be a perv to like porn.

Benson: Oh yeah? Then how come people don’t put “V for Vagina” next to “Vertigo” on their bokshelves?

Fin:’Cause their being afraid of being judged by prudes like you.

Benson: (scoffs)

Greyleck: Even hockey moms are gettng briazilian bikini waxes to look like centerfolds. Porn is mainstream now.

Benson: But Kim, this is my point. Porn makes normal women want to emulate hookers and tells rapists that their sick fantasies are OK

John K. said...

Most excellent; thank you very much.

Also, good catch on the implications of the dolphin porn video. Might be an interesting story.

Anonymous said...

Who played Lutz' defense lawyer?

Anonymous said...

The name of the woman who played Lutz's lawyer was Christine Ebersole. It's already listed in the recap.

Katie said...

When Olivia Said that she could protect her from the damage and Elliot said that she couldn't and that she should know that better then anyone

What did he mean by that

Anonymous said...

@katie Benson went undercover in a women's prison earlier in season, in order to catch a rapist who had an std. She got cornered and assaulted in basement and Fin saved her. She then had to go to counseling.

Anonymous said...

what did Lutz make Laurel tell him in the video?