Thursday, December 11, 2008

Law & Order “Sweetie” Stay. Watch. Learn.

This episode of Law & Order, “Sweetie” kept me “rooted to the spot” to use of the lines from the show. It wasn’t a particularly complicated crime and the premise seemed obvious early on. The real fun in the episode was with the interactions between the regulars of the show. It seems that rather than add drama to the first half of the show with the detectives, they seem to be adding some dry humor and getting the characters in situations other than just pounding the pavement for information, and it works very well. Maybe this is the spark that will liven up the first half, which has been just going through the motions since the Lupo/Bernard pairing began. It was great seeing Lupo playing truck driver cruising for some fun, and hearing both Bernard and Lupo getting a little weirded out by Van Buren knowing so much about cruising a truck stop. These two are getting much better lines as of late and I think it is really helping them present themselves as believable work partners.

The supporting guest stars also do a good job in this episode, enhancing the show opposed to overwhelming the show, which is what has been happening on Law & Order SVU. Law & Order seems to work much better when they don’t make the show revolve around the guest star and seems to pay more attention to the regulars, which is why this episode worked so well.

Continuing to be satisfying is the McCoy/Cutter dynamic. I just knew that when Cutter told McCoy to “Stay. Watch. Learn.” that Cutter was going to be witnessing his own smackdown. It was funny to watch McCoy give Cutter the deserving dig when things didn’t work Cutter’s way. When things blow up for Cutter in the courtroom, Cutter thinks McCoy is enjoying it. While McCoy denies that is the word he would use to describe it, I think Jack may have been thinking of something Adam Schiff said to him years ago, “Lit your own petard, my boy." And Connie seems to serve as the voice of reason, always trying to dig Cutter out of the hole he got himself into.

The only fault I saw in the case was the fact that they didn’t seem to think to check out Kate Tenney’s record much earlier, seeing that she clearly had motive to keep the circumstances surrounding the book secret. This may have given them reason to check her story and her whereabouts much sooner.

Still, this episode is a clear winner. I a really liking Law & Order these days. It seems like the show has been given new life, and Jack McCoy’s role with each case, while diminished from years past, still packs a very welcome punch.

Here’s the recap of the show, and a video clip is at the end.

At a book reading, a man (Jeremy Gender) is reading a segment of his memoir to a crowd. It’s about his life as a child prostitute. Afterwards, he tells his agent he’s been asked to the club “Orchid” and his agent reluctantly agrees. Later, he turns up dead at the pier, and is identified by someone in the crowd as author Sweetie Ness.

Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) are referred to Sweetie’ Ness’s agent, Kate Tenney (Vivica Fox). She says Sweetie has no family. His mother was a prostitute and sold him for sex when he was 10 but he turned himself around. They ask if this was the case, why was he at the piers? She doesn’t know. She said he stays with when he is in town. She tells them that they were first at the book reading and then Sweetie went to the club. When she left at one, he was still partying. She gives them a copy of his book, “Little Whore” so they can get to know more about him.

When Lupo and Bernard question the manager at the club, they are told Madonna was also there last night, and he drew quite a crowd. Madonna was there with her entourage. When Lupo asks, “Madonna…the singer?” the manager responds, “No, the Mother of our Lord” and he smirks. Bernard quips, “You know I didn’t know she traveled with an entourage.” When they ask with whom Sweetie was hanging, they cut to Lauren Claiborne (Taylor Gildersleeve). She was with Sweetie and the paparazzi were crazy. She asked Sweetie to take her to a dive bar near the piers to experience the world Sweetie Ness came from. Lupo states dryly, “ That would mean children getting raped for $50?” She moves away in disgust. She tells them that the last she saw of him he was being harassed by a fat girl who kept asking about a poem she sent him.

Back at the 2-7, they are going through letters from obsessed fans and stalkers who wrote poetry for Sweetie. Lupo picks one letter out that seems like a prime candidate, and the person signed her name, Janice Dunlap, and gave a phone number. As he calls the number, Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) reads one of the other poems, and comments, “ This girl needs to cheer up.” Lupo finds she is on vacation in New York. When they track her down, Janice Dunlap (Heather Matarazzo) recalls being rejected, and trying to take Sweetie’s picture but her phone got knocked out of her hand and she never found it. She remembers seeing a blonde man approach Sweetie outside of the club who was also following Sweetie. The guy grabbed his arm and they were arguing. She tells them what he was wearing. Since the paparazzi were out in full force, they decide to check it out and see if any pictures may shed some light.

When they visit Starshot Photos, they want to see the pictures taken that night and threaten the photographer with a warrant and shutting down his operation for a few days while they go over everything. He decides to cooperate. As they are looking through the pictures, Lupo says “Am I just ignorant, or are these not really celebrities?” Bernard says “ Just ignorant.” They see a picture of a blond man standing near Sweetie Ness and Lauren, wearing a red jacket that says “ Regal Towing“ with the name of Jim on it. They go to Regal Towing and speak with Jim, who says he lost his jacket in the subway. But they’re not buying it, and they take him aside to talk privately. He admits that he lost the jacket playing pool, and when they ask where, he whispers “The Mine Shaft”, which Lupo identifies as a gay bar. When he is shown the picture, he identifies the blond man as Sweetie Ness, leaving the detectives bewildered.

They check out the Mine Shaft, and the bartender says that the blond man did say his name was Sweetie Ness. He points to a man at the pool table that had bought “Sweetie” his drinks that night. The detectives walk over to him, seemingly uncomfortable at being checked out by the clientele. The guy admits that he figured out that it wasn’t the real Sweetie Ness when he saw the pictures in the Post of the real Sweetie. But the guy also had the cigarette burns on his butt, which he saw when they went to his hotel.

When they go to the hotel, they are told the man hadn’t checked out yet. When Bernard says he’ll get a warrant, Lupo tells him to hold on, and asks the man if he spent the night with the fake Sweetie at the hotel. When he says yes, Lupo says that means he was a co-occupant of the room and that he can give permission to go in and look around. He gives them the OK, and they enter. They find Sweetie’s book there. Bernard sees a t-shirt with what looks like a bloodstain.

Back at the 2-7, they find the blood type on the shirt matches the victim’s, but they have a while to wait for DNA. The blond man has not returned to the hotel, and Lupo says the main suspect for killing Sweetie Ness is still Sweetie Ness – or someone who wants people to think he is. The check the hotel phone records and find three calls to Kate Tenney, Sweetie’s literary agent.

At her office, she says she doesn’t know who it was that called her. She pretended to listen to the calls. When she is told that the fake Sweetie had the same burns that Sweetie mentioned in the book that his mom gave him, she says she doesn’t want the world to know, but in his book, Sweetie may have exaggerated some of the gory details. She gets a call and they leave.

While they exit the building, they discuss what Tenney just told them. They decide to check out the body of Sweetie at the morgue. ME Rogers (Leslie Hendrix) says there are no burns on his butt and no evidence he was a prostitute – he was an “anal virgin.”

At the 2-7, discussing the case with Van Buren, they wonder if Sweetie’s book is a fake memoir or a stolen one. But the prints from the blond guy’s hotel room turn up a person named Cody Larson, who does have a record for prostitution, amongst other things. It looks Cody may be the real Sweetie Ness, and they figured Cody came back to confront him. Was the agent in on it or was she conned? They decide to check her out, her bio said she used to be a journalist.

At the Village Voice Newspaper, they find she interviewed a lot of kids with stories like Sweetie’s. They confront her, saying she ripped off these kids’ stories. They tell her that they ran the prints of the guy in the morgue against missing persons and it turns out he is an actor, Dale Marx. His mother said he came to New York for a job and never came home. They accuse her of hiring him to play Sweetie Ness. She sighs and says she thought no one was speaking out for these children so she told their story. She didn’t think it wouldn’t get anyone killed. She admits that the real Sweetie called her and he was angry, he wanted the world to know he was the real guy and he asked for money. She sent him money twice to keep him quiet. When the ask how she sent the money, we cut back to the 2-7, where Lupo is telling Bernard and Van Buren that the money was sent by wire transfer and the one just before the murder was sent to the Cross Bronx Truck Plaza. Van Buren recalls the place from when she worked vice. There are many ways in and out and the truckers and hustlers can smell a cop a mile away. Lupo asks, “So what should we smell like?”

At the truck stop, Bernard and Van Buren wait in a car, and Lupo drives up in a big 19-wheeler. Van Buren walks him through on what to do next – like how to look for a date, which involves buying mouthwash and making sure everyone can see it. Bernard tells Van Buren that what she said weirds him out a little. Lupo tells him, “That’s a big 10-4, buddy.”

In the truck stop, Lupo makes his mouthwash choice, in sight of many. As he walks to the counter, the clerk asks him with sarcasm if there will be anything else. There isn’t. He walks out of the truck stop, and a lady approaches him, asking him if he’s looking for a party. But he says he wants a man that’s all man. But she says – in a deeper voice – she’s more man than he can handle. But he wants someone whiter and younger. She mentions she has a friend. A half hour later, they see someone coming. It’s the maybe-real Sweetie and they discuss price. Lupo puts the book out and asks if he read it. He says that is him. After Lupo mentions the murder, he arrests him, and asks for his $50 back.

Cody Larson (Billy Magnussen) is being arraigned for the murder in the second degree. He says he didn’t kill that faker but he is remanded anyway. At jail, EADA Cutter (Linus Roache) and ADA Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) confront Larson with the fact that he broadcast his motives for killing Marx at his arraignment. Larson says he is going to be taking the Sweetie name and they are filing suit to claim royalties from the book. The defense attorney (Christopher Evan Welch) gives them a motion to exclude the bloody shirt they found at the hotel because they had no warrant. They remind him the other occupant consented, but the defense lawyer says Mr. Dewey only rented Larson, not the room.

The review the case with Judge Mark Kramer, and they argue what Dewey said to the police and the police’s permission to enter. The judge thinks the cops should have known better and should have gotten a warrant and grants the motion to suppress.

On the courthouse steps, Cutter and Rubirosa discuss what other evidence they have. They decide to go back to their one witness, Janice Dunlap. But Dunlap is waffling a bit, saying her subconscious mind may have influenced her perception. Cutter isn’t buying it. Rubirosa shows him the visitors’ log from Rikers and it appears Dunlap was visiting Cody Larson in jail and she still must be fixated on the person. But is even Cody the real Sweetie? Some of Larson’s story doesn’t match the book. He has burn marks but he was raised by his aunt, went to Catholic school until he ran away. The come to the conclusion that Sweetie Ness is a composite from many of Kate Tenney’s stories.

Outside McDell Holt Publishing, Cutter and Rubirosa talks with Tenney, who says that she is in trouble with her publisher. These kids really have troubles that need to be exposed and stopped. All the kids have grown up and she is not sure she has the notes any more. When they ask for her notes and she balks, they threaten her with a warrant for her and her publisher, she agrees to send them what she has.

At the DA’s office area, they are questioning several people whose stories were likely used for the book. DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) enters, and asks why the office is flying in gay prostitutes from all around the country. Cutter responds it’s for the Larson case. McCoy says Larson is entitled to a jury of his peers – that’s fellow citizens, not fellow hustlers. Cutter says they have a witness problem, and McCoy questions if these people are the solution. When Rubirosa announces “she’s here,” Cutter puts his open hand up in a stopping motion, and tells McCoy “Stay. Watch. Learn.” McCoy answers, “Rooted to the spot.” They bring in Janice Dunlap, and she says she doesn’t know what else they want from her. Cutter brings in three men, and introduces them and tells her they are all Sweetie Ness. The guys all show her where they fit each part of the Sweetie Ness story, telling her that Kate Tenney used all their stories and Cody Larson is no more Sweetie Ness than the rest of those men. But she still is resistant. Cutter works on her, saying she needs to tell the truth. They get a knock at the door, and it is a process server with three subpoenas from Larson’s attorney to get their three visitors to testify for the defense. When Jack asks how they knew the guys were here, one admits he keeps in touch with Cody. McCoy puts his hand on Cutter’s shoulder, saying “You just gave the defense three alternate theories of the crime. If they’re all Sweetie Ness, they all had motive to kill Mr. Marx. (He pauses.) Oh. I stayed. I watched. What is it I was supposed to learn?” Cutter looks sheepish.

On trial, one of the guys testifies for Cutter. He says that Cody said he was going to head to New York to set things straight. Under cross, he also says he was in New York and it is implied he also had motive, but he said he didn’t care about the matter. He got married to a nice, generous man a few months ago and didn’t need to rock that boat, which was not what the defense wanted to hear. Kate Tenney testifies that only Cody Larson had complained about their stories being stolen. She says that many of the stories were Cody’s, and when Cutter asks if she means that the stories came from Cody, she says no, he may have helped him out with a few other things that she picked up, but Cody Larson was the author of “Little Whore” and he is Sweetie Ness. Cutter is stunned, and asks her to confirm that she told Cutter before the trial that she wrote that book drawing on the lives of a dozen young men, but she said she told them what she wanted him to hear. She said Cutter threatened her and so did Rubirosa with search warrants of her publisher’s office and they would have dropped her. She says Cody/Sweetie has another book coming out. Cutter reminds her that she had Dale Marx say he was Sweetie Ness, and she admits they hired him because Cody wanted to protect his privacy, he was in no shape to face the public. With things getting crazy, it could have even gotten Sweetie killed.

Outside the courtroom, as McCoy gets ready to indulge in a weenie with mustard , Cutter is livid, saying to McCoy and Rubirosa that Tenney is lying to protect her fortune and the chance for a new book. McCoy says it just shot their motive to hell. Cutter thinks McCoy is enjoying this, and he says, “Enjoying? Watching my prosecutors lose control of their witnesses and their case, that’s not the word that leaps to mind. “ Rubirosa reminds them that there was one crazy fan that was there right before the fake Sweetie got killed – meaning Dunlap.

At Janice Dunlap’s apartment, she is showing them the autographed books that she has received from Larson as Sweetie. She said Tenney said her poems will be in his next book. She also said he told her things only he would know. She gives an example that the great love of his life, Chris, that it is a girl, not a guy, Sweetie wasn’t really gay. Cutter tells her they will charge her with perjury if she doesn’t tell the truth. Rubirosa asks if he really wasn’t gay, that Janice may have been thinking she had a chance for a relationship. She admits that “I did it. I killed the fake Sweetie.” Leaving her apartment, Cutter feels Janice is lying. He tells Rubirosa he will put her on the stand, and to call the authorities in Iowa or wherever she came from.

On the stand, Dunlap is testifying about what happened that night. She said Marx said she was bothering him, and he shoved her hard and stabbed him. Cutter asked how many times he stabbed her but she said it was like a dream. He presses that she doesn’t know because she didn’t do it. She said it happened after Cody left. He asks her if she loves Sweetie Ness and she says kind of, but she admits it may not go both ways. Cutter indicates that Larson is only being chummy with Dunlap now because he needs her to testify. Cutter brings up “Chris” and confronts her that this information was old news and that taken from an interview two months ago with Dale Marx. Cutter tells her she is selling herself cheap, but she says she is not selling anything. He continues to dig at her, saying that Marx blew her off because he was hanging with someone beautiful. She begins to get upset, and Cutter continues to work on her, asking her if she has any friends. She says sure, but when he asks about a boyfriend, she says not right now. But Cutter brings up Chuck, a truck driver who had to get a restraining order against Dunlap to keep her from bothering him. She says that was a mistake. He continues to tell her the defense is using her and to tell the truth. He asks her point blank if she killed Dale Marx, and she says no, the last time she saw him he was with Sweetie/Cody, and she breaks down and apologizes.

Later at the DA’s office, Rubirosa finds something but Cutter says the trial is over, they are just waiting for the jury. But she presses on, saying that Dunlap said Marx was using a phone when he left the bar. But the police checked his cell and he didn’t make any calls that night. McCoy asks how, then, was he using a phone? Rubirosa said Dunlap lost hers, maybe Marx picked it up? Cutter gets a page – the jury is back. The verdict is guilty. But Cutter seems to be having second thoughts, and asks Rubirosa to pull Janice Dunlap’s cell phone records.

In McCoy’s office, she tells him and Cutter that one call was to a limo service that was short and possibly interrupted by Cody. The second call was 30 minutes later, but Marx should have been dead by then. Cutter said Larson gave Marx a bloody lip but left him there alive. The call was made to Kate Tenney. The detectives had lifted her prints from a book she gave them and found they matched something. McCoy reminds them they just convicted someone else of the murder. Cutter says he knows, and says they will go see Tenney.

At Tenney’s office, she’s in a rush because things are busy for her now. Cutter and Rubirosa tell her they know she had a record as a hooker, and that there were sealed arrests when she was 12 and 13 years old. Cutter says that is why the book is so convincing – she is Sweetie Ness. Tenney denies it. Cutter presses, speculating that Dale Marx called her after Larson smacked him around, saying he wanted out, and she had to go down there and keep him quiet. She tells Cutter he has a wonderful imagination, and maybe he should write a book? Standing very close to him, she asks him, “You ever wanna party with somebody nice and tight, sugar daddy, you just give me a call. “ He looks at her, and she excuses herself, saying she is late for a meeting. Rubirosa and Cutter stand there, Cutter dumbfounded.

In McCoy’s office, Rubirosa tells McCoy they searched Tenney’s home and there was no sign of a murder weapon, and no one saw her that night. Cutter says he is moving to vacate the conviction of Cody Larson. But McCoy says they can’t prove she did it. Rubirosa hopes something may turn up, but when McCoy asks what if that doesn’t happen, Cutter states, “ She wins, we lose.” They leave McCoy in his office as they fade to black.

Sweetie Clip

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samfan said...

I totally agree with your review. I thought that the detectives are getting a lot better. I really enjoyed the first half of the show. I too, wondered why they had not checked Tenny's record, but I thought that that was just me. I think that the second half was good, I busted out laughing when Jack said that to Cutter! I can't believe Cutter didn't think that the defense would hear about him bringing in all of those gay Sweetness'. But I thought that your review was spot on. Great Job!

Anonymous said...

Loved this episode. Can you explain the mouthwash "code"?

Anonymous said...

I would love to see more of the guy who played "Dewey". He is Tony - nominated actor, Lou Liberatore. Great stage actor who tore up the stage with John Malcovich in Broadway's "Burn This". He actually looks a bit like Hugh Laurie (HOUSE). I could see him playing his brother.

Anonymous said...

Love Law and Order. Love your blog!

I've come here more than once when I doze off two minutes before the end of a rerun I never caught before. Thank you!

MrPepperberry said...

Small question: I've always wondered why Cutter just let Tenney walk out of her office; I can understand that most men would find an attractive woman standing close and whispering sexual innuendos highly disconcerting, but this is Cutter we're talking about! Why would he not continue to go after her, true to his 'hard arse' nature?

Secondary issue: I have no idea what the mouthwash is supposed to signify. Somebody please explain?

Cheryl N said...

The mouthwash is used after oral sex.

Wil H said...

Does anyone know the name of the actor who played the now married prostitute who testified?

Chris Zimmer said...

@WillH - I didn't track the cast in some of these episodes but the IMDB page does have a full cast listing for this episode, maybe you can find that person's name on it?