Connie seemed to be somewhat miffed at the attention that Cutter was getting from Carly the law clerk, and she voices some concern later which makes one think she may have been worried that Cutter was not being objective in the case as opposed to jealousy. It was amusing when Cutter’s ego seemed to have been bruised when he ribs Connie for what he saw as jealousy, then realizes that he chose his words badly and tries to dig himself out of his hole. Of course, Connie seemed to get back at him by wondering if his “male pride” was getting in the way with the judge. I think that those two have a great chemistry together, and while I am not one of those “shippers” who incessantly wish characters to hook up, I think that the fact that these two are able to trade barbs with each other means that there is a spark between them, but what that spark can set off is anybody’s guess. Personally, I would just be satisfied with her just getting on his case every now and them when he gets in his high and mighty moods.
Slightly surprising was Jack McCoy, who seemed to think as long as Cutter got one in the win column that he should just let sleeping dogs lie. Maybe he was preoccupied with his own issues; maybe he thought Cutter was being too hard on an old judge. Either way, it was a little un-Jack like not to want to root out a problem judge. I think at the end, Jack fully realized the sad state of the judge. Maybe Jack feels that age is crawling up on him as well, as evidenced by his complaints about the low light, making it hard for him to read. He could have been thinking that someday, someone may come after him because age could prevent him from doing his job. Of course, we all hope Jack McCoy will be immortal, don’t we?
I found myself wondering how no other defense attorney ever noticed that the judge seemed to be getting his information fed to him by his clerk during the trial. Did it really take the clerk overtly telling Cutter she’d fix everything to make someone wonder that the judge’s mind was slipping?
I always liked Sherry Stringfield when she was on ER, and it was good to see her in this role on Law & Order. I thought she was well cast as the controlling and overprotective law clerk. Likewise, Ned Beatty did very well as the feeble minded judge. This was one of those cases where the show brought in two well known names to guest star, and viewers probably knew in advance that the story would revolve around them. Sometimes it is to the detriment of the show, but in this case I thought it enhanced the story and gave Cutter a chance to show that he is willing to win, but win the right way.
The one person who seems to be getting lost in the shuffle this season in Law & Order is S. Epatha Merkerson, who seems to be relegated to brief commentary with the detectives. I wish they would give her more to do. I have to admit that I laughed at her reaction to stories about the Hartwig's “green” use of the bathroom, and Lupo’s own stories of the process. After my husband visited China a few years ago on business, he had to bring his own toilet paper to areas outside the big cites like Shanghai because once one gets into the outer area, toilet paper just isn’t available. Sorry, but that would be one area that I don’t think I will ever go green. One thing is for sure, I would never want to shake Lupo’s left hand.
All in all, though, I liked the episode, not so much for the case, but to watch Cutter go through the struggle to do the right thing. It was a nice chance for viewers to see Linus Roache as the center of attention. And I think he scored big.
OK, here’s the recap, and a video clip from the episode is also below.
Law & Order “Zero” Recap
Nancy Hartwig (Leah Curney), after leaving her husband and son at home, is found dead in her community garden in the community compost. Someone had heard her arguing with a man at about 3:30, but all her cash and credit cards are there. There is blood on a shovel.
At Hartwig's apartment building, Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) talk with Hartwig’s husband Joe (Derek Cecil) in the lobby. When they ask to talk to him in his apartment, he makes a move to the stairs because he doesn’t use the elevator. Bernard decides to take the elevator up. In his apartment, Joe says his wife left the house at about 1:00 to run errands and take care of the garden to be back before their son’s birthday party. They don’t use electricity, and power their computer with solar panels. They are trying to live without leaving a carbon footprint – he has a blog and she is writing a book about it. .
Back at the 2-7 they discuss the case. Hartwig was a freelance designer who worked from her home, and they review her whereabouts and her death. Her husband’s blog is called Zero Energy Footprint, and they don’t eat anything that isn’t raised outside 100 miles of their home. They don’t use cell phones, their car is in a long term lot, no paper, plastic, no toilet paper. With the latter, Lupo states “Left hand and a bowl of water. Half the world still does it that way” to which Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) responds, ‘That’s nasty. No wonder she was drinking.” It appears she had a martini shortly before her death since she had an elevated blood alcohol and they found an olive in her stomach contents. After Van Buren tells them to check out the bars in the area, Bernard asks Lupo about his work overseas “doing intel in the boonies” and leaves it hanging, Lupo responds, “Left hand and a bowl of water.” Van Buren responds again, “That’s nasty.”
Later, at Bronte Hotel Bar, Lupo and Bernard question the bar tender, who says Hartwig has been in often, and she almost always alone, but met up with a guy last week. They ask for a printout of names of credit cards. But if she was having an affair, they wonder who Hartwig would have confided in about it.
Meeting with Hartwig’s sister, she doesn’t know about any affair, or any man she met at a bar. She says Hartwig had doubts about her husband’s “green” efforts. She says she last saw her sister a few weeks ago when she needed her to watch her kids as she had a small medical emergency. She said Nancy drove right out, but Bernard states he thought driving was against the rules.
Back talking with Joe, he seems to think his wife would have taken the train. He also didn’t know his wife was stopping in at the Bronte Bar to use the facilities and have a drink. They ask to see their car, but when Joe looks for the keys they are gone. Outside where the car is supposed to be parked, the green Corolla is missing from its spot. Joe has no idea about where the car would be, but the car has a car tracker.
Back at the 2-7, the detectives tell Van Buren that the car tracker was a gift from Nancy Hartwig’s father. Bernard gets a call – the car has been located in Jersey, ditched in the woods with a half kilo of cocaine and a dead body. The detectives arrive at the scene where there are many police cars, and are told to get back in their cars. When Bernard identifies himself as NYPD, the cops states that “this is New Jersey” but they are brought in by another cop. It’s the cop who alerted them to the location of the car, and apparently there had been a cop killing. But the body in the car is not a cop, it is someone who killed a cop when a routine traffic stop “went sideways” They think a cop “killed him back” and the driver took off, abandoning Hartwig’s car and leaving the dead passenger. All the other police are out looking for the driver of the car. Is it a coincidence that the woman who owned that car was also killed the next day – or are the cases connected? They decide to share information.
At the police station, they watch the original traffic stop where the cop was shot and the car pulling away. The driver’s face can’t be seen. They found kid’s fingerprints in the back seat. The dead guy in the car is a local coke dealer by the name of Wayne Jankins (David Shumbris). Later at Jankin’s apartment, the NJ police are investigating his place and Bernard sees a hat in the closet with the name of an investment bank Burns Fisher that went belly up during the mortgage mess, but it looks like he only played on their softball team.
Talking to someone at Burns Fisher as they are packing, they speak with Mr. Dooley (Geoffrey Cantor), he tells them Jenkins was a ringer – he had “an arm” on him. But the defectives mention the coke connection. He tells them a guy name Chris Mason in institutional sales said he was going to buy some coke and wanted to know if Dooley wanted in. The detectives notice that Chris Mason charged some drinks at the Bronte Hotel Bar,
At Chris Mason’s (Ian Kahn) apartment, Lupo and Bernard question him and he seems to plead ignorance. He said he was home at the time in question, and never heard of Nancy Hartwig. When they confront him with the bar information, he said he did see Nancy but he didn’t know her married name, they went to college together and he ran into her in the bar, she was a “friendly ear”. He had just gotten divorced and lost his job.
Back at the 2-7, the talk about Mason, his ex, and his kids. He has visitation rights, and the kid lives in Nyack, which could have been on his way to where the murder occurred. He sold his Maserati and rented a car every weekend. Did Hartwig lend Mason her car to see his kid?
At the home of Ann Mason, she tells them Chris was up there that weekend; she didn’t see the car he was driving. Bernard asks the kids if they recall seeing the color of their dad’s car, and they state it was green, and they both rode in the back seat, one of the kids saying, “That’s the law.” When asked if her ex ever mentioned Nancy Hartwig or Wayne Jankins, she says no. When they tell her both have been killed and ask for her daughters’ fingerprints, she says no, and then walks back into her house. They need those prints, so Bernard picks up a ball that the kids left outside and takes it.
In local Judge Malcolm Reynolds’ chambers, (Ned Beatty) he reviews the search warrant that the detectives requested; his clerk Carly (Sherry Stringfield) is also there. She tells the judge the detectives have probable cause, and he signs the warrant. At Mason’s apartment, they find compost on his shoes and they arrest him.
In EADA Cutter’s (Linus Roache) office, NJ attorney Murdock wants to take Mason. But Cutter says he will have to stand in line. Murdock argues that Mason is wanted for a cop killing and he has it on tape, but ADA Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) argues that Mason can’t be seen on the tape, their own murder case has a witness that puts Mason with Hartwig. As Cutter plays with his bat, they continue to argue the point. Cutter says they will keep him, but Murdock says they will keep their extradition request active, but not mention what he said about his case to Mason’s lawyer. Cutter says, not sounding serious, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
In the jail conference room, Cutter tells Mason right off the bat that New Jersey has them dead to rights, but his attorney Estelle Adams (Deanna Dunagan) isn’t biting on it. When Rubirosa mentions the tomato seed on Mason’s shoe, his attorney says “ You got a time stamp on that tomato seed sweetie?” She says Mason’s story is he is not guilty.
In the hallway of the DA’s office, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) storms down the hall, asking angrily “Can anybody read around here?” When Cutter quips back that he thinks it’s a requirement for graduating law school, McCoy bitches about maintenance changing the light bulbs in his office to save energy and his seem to be about 3 watts. When Rubirosa asks McCoy - does he not want to save the polar bears? - he says he is going to have to save the Seeing Eye dogs. As Cutter begins to walk off, Judge Reynolds’ clerk Carly approaches, and tells Cutter that her judge grabbed his case – he likes a juicy story. Cutter introduces her to McCoy and Rubirosa, and McCoy calls Reynolds a brilliant man but he hasn’t seen him around lately. She says it’s a privilege to work with him. She asks to discuss scheduling issues with Cutter and they walk off. McCoy sarcastically cracks to Rubirosa, with a smile, “Scheduling issues” and Rubirosa looks a little put off.
In Judge Reynolds Chambers, Mason’s attorney Ms. Adams, Cutter, and Rubirosa are arguing about the case, with Carly looking on. While the judge makes comments about their arguments, Carly approaches and give him the research she said he requested on the matter. The judge denies Ms. Adams motion.
After they leave his chambers, Rubirosa questions Cutter’s relationship with the clerk Carly, and Cutter says they are friends, and we get this:
Rubirosa : “Friends. So we don’t have a conflict of interest problem, do we?”
Cutter: “No. And we don’t have a jealousy problem, do we?”
Rubirosa: “I was in preschool when you started to work here, remember?
Cutter, calling out, pleading as Rubirosa walks off: “That was Estelle Adams, not me.”
At the trial, Joe Hartwig is on the stand. He says he didn’t know his wife lent Mason the car, and said she wouldn’t do that as they were supposed to live by certain rules. But he said if Mason told her he was on hard times, she probably would have lent it to him. The defense corners him on his wife not following the rules, implying she was having an affair as well. During the whole process, both parties raised objections and the judge seemed to be ruling consistently in Cutter’s favor.
Detective Bernard is on the stand and the defense attorney objects to a question and asks to approach. Judge Reynolds says he can hear her from there, but she indicates she doesn’t want the jury to hear. He agrees to them approaching. The judge’s clerk Carly is also standing there. The defense argues the issue of Detective Bernard getting the kids’ fingerprints by stealing one of their balls, but Cutter argues that the ball is not being used as evidence against the children. When Carly pipes in, starting to say “that would seem to be the case,” the Judge appears annoyed, chides them for stealing a child’s toy, and excludes the evidence.
Later, on the courthouse steps, Carly chases after Cutter, apologizing, saying the situation was weird, and that the judge acted in haste without considering the precedence She says she can fix it. When Cutter asks, “Fix it?” she responds that the judge will reconsider and everything is under control. Rubirosa approaches at the tail end of the discussion as Carly leaves. She asks Cutter, “What’s under control?” he responds, shaking his head, “Everything, apparently.”
In the judge’s chambers, Judge Reynolds, with Carly standing behind him, admits that he acted in haste without considering the precedence. Cutter shifts in his seat, clearly uncomfortable. The judge reverses his motion to exclude the fingerprints. Ms. Adams can’t believe it, but he says it’s the law, it was just a misunderstanding. The judge, who seems a little tired, excuses himself. Rubirosa leaves, and Cutter looks at Carly oddly and she smiles at him. He asks her what is going on. She says the judge was just correcting his ruling, but Cutter calls her on the fact the judge used the exact same words that she did the day before, and he wants to know who is making the decisions here. But she doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong, she says she is supposed to help him research the law. Cutter presses on, asking, “And, your helping him has nothing to do with the fact that you and I have…” and she cuts him off, saying “Are you saying that I am throwing the case...for you?” He said she has said some things that makes him think this is the case, and he thinks they should be very clear. She says, “OK. How’s this for clarity. I like you, the judge made a wrong ruling, and he fixed it. Those two facts are not connected.” She walks off to answer a phone, leaving Cutter there to look at the judge’s desk. He picks up a document from the judge’s desk, and decides to take it as the judge walks in, surprised to see Cutter is still there. Cutter states he is just leaving, taking the paper with him. (Note to self – leave no papers on your desk when a lawyer is around.)
Back at the office, Cutter sits down at Rubirosa’s desk. She seems annoyed, and makes a crack about him staying behind to hash things out with his friend. But Cutter seems troubled, and says he doesn’t think that is what this is about. When he asks her if she’s noticed anything about Judge Reynolds, she says he always rules their way. He then asks if she noticed that he looks at his computer before every ruling, and that he relies heavily on his clerk. He wonders if Carly is sending him instant messages telling him how to rule. He pulls the paper he took from the judge’s office out of his pocket, and hands it to Rubirosa. She reads back what is typed on it, and it’s word for word what the judge said when he reversed his ruling. Not only were his words scripted, but Cutter shows her that he had a seating chart showing their names and where they sat in the room to serve as a memory aid. Cutter says he wants to talk to the judge without Carly, and asks Rubirosa what she’s doing for lunch.
At the Odeon restaurant, the judge and Carly are sitting at their table and Carly is reading through papers, under the eye of Cutter and Rubirosa from a table hidden from view. Rubirosa comments that she wished she hadn’t skipped the law school course on spying on judges. When Carly leaves the table, Cutter takes note, and tells Rubirosa to “lock her in a stall if you have to.” As Rubirosa follows Carly, Cutter approaches the judge, and the judge seems to not know his name, but says “you’re one of the attorneys.’ Cutter says he is, and he just wanted to thank him for his ruling this morning. The judge answers, ambiguously, “That’s my job, isn’t it.” But Cutter presses on, asking him what precedence he found most persuasive, and when the judge responds wasn’t that in his ruling, Cutter reminds him that the ruling was oral. The judge says he has to check his notes, and that he has very thorough notes. When the server brings their meals, the judge comments that it looks good and asks Cutter if he ordered that, and Cutter reminds him that he isn’t sitting there. The judge seems not to be phased, and asks who is sitting there?
Back in McCoy’s office, Cutter is recounting the situation, telling him of the judge’s memory problems. McCoy reminds him that the judge is over 70 and has to reapply for re-certification every year, but Cutter thinks that process is just a rubber stamp. McCoy talks about Reynolds' great record, but Cutter says his mind is going and he shouldn’t be on the bench. When McCoy asks Cutter if his defendant is guilty and if he is winning his case, Cutter responds yes to both, McCoy says some prosecutors wouldn’t see a problem there. McCoy moves back and turns on a light, saying “Light!” with a smile, because it is so dark in his office with the new light bulbs, and starts reading, almost signaling to Cutter that the discussion is over.
Later, Carly comes into Cutter’s office and asks what’s going on because she heard he spoke with “her judge” at lunch and she hopes he wasn’t talking about the case because that would be against the rules. Cutter bluntly says that the judge should withdraw from the case, and he should retire. She says he’s doing a fine job, and he counters that SHE’s doing the fine job. Cutter asks why she is protecting the judge, that he could retire with his respect and his pension. But she asks what about her pension? She needs the job. Cutter says bluntly, “So for you, we pervert the courts.” She argues back and doesn’t understand why he is so upset since things are going his way and everything has been legally correct. She says she knows what she is doing, but tells her he is not letting it go and he will take it to another judge. She says if he does that, Judge Reynolds won’t be the one who suffers.
Back in court, Cutter barges in an interrupts another case, saying he was there with an emergency petition. Judge Brannigan sounds annoyed as he reads what the emergency is about. The judge chastises Cutter, saying the proper procedure to request the medical exam is to take it to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, but Cutter protests that will take months. The judge seems to think Reynolds is serving well, but off the record he has heard comments about Cutter’s conduct in this matter. When Cutter asks to approach, the judge scolds “No need, “ telling him these kinds of things can get very ugly and that he might want to rethink what he is doing here. Cutter is stunned.
Back in Cutter’s office, Rubirosa, with McCoy present, is giving Cutter the bad news that “It’s all over Foley Square, that you colluded with your clerk girlfriend to take advantage of Judge Reynolds.” Cutter is flabbergasted, and he doesn’t understand why Carly would tell such a story and implicate herself. McCoy thinks it’s just a ploy to get him to drop the matter with the judge to avoid ethics charges and disbarment. When Rubirosa asks Cutter what Jjudge Brannigan said, Cutter indicated the judge blackmailed him in open court. McCoy reminds Cutter that the judges protect each other, and when Cutter asks if they must think they deserve to be hailed and saluted until they die on the bench, McCoy says yes, and plugs up the bottle of liquor on the table. But Cutter argues the story makes no sense, if he was trying to throw the case, why would he want the judge removed. McCoy responds, “Tell it…to the judge.”
Cutter approaches Judge Reynolds as he walks off the steps of his home. The judge doesn’t recognize him. When the judge asks what he is doing there, Cutter says he’s been trying to get him removed from the bench because his mind is not as sharp as it used to be and he should retire. The judge smirks, and, forgetting Cutter’s name again, ask him if he has done Cutter any harm, that he likes to think he is fair. But Cutter says it is not personal, he should step down. “And do what?” the judge asks. He doesn’t seem to have any outside hobbies or interests, his wife is dead and his only child is an alcoholic who lives in Las Vegas. He is doing what he wants to do. Arriving in her car, Carly calls out, telling the judge it is time to go to work. As he leaves, he asks Cutter if he will see him in court, and Cutter does not answer as they drive off.
Later, he is walking with Rubirosa who tells him he has now pissed of the clerk AND the judge. But Cutter doesn’t think it should be left alone. Rubirosa asks if this is about justice or his “male pride.” Cutter says it is about doing the right thing. His argument is that Mason is guilty but the next person may not be. The defense attorney Ms. Adams comes up to them, and wonders aloud how the judge will be ruling today. Cutter reminds her the judge won’t be in the jury room and Cutter is still winning. She counters that he has given her a lovely appeal issue, and he reminds her that she will be appealing to the same judges who are protecting him now. When she admits he makes a point, he insists to her that they have to set this right.
In the court room, Dooley is on the stand, saying how Mason called him when the firm went bust as he lost his whole life, and offered to sell him cocaine. Cutter looks over to the defense attorney and seems to signal to her. The defense attorney moves to strike that testimony, saying the Dooley was not on the state’s witness list and she had no time to prepare. Meanwhile, Carly is feverishly typing away on her computer. Cutter states they added the witness a week ago and filed the paperwork with a court. Carly is still typing as the attorney says she never got a copy. After he looks at his computer, the judge overrules her motion, but she continues, saying she is entitled to an inquiry – was notice sent to her or not? Cutter has no objection, and the judge overrules. But Cutter says there is nothing to rule on, the people consent to the inquiry and the clerk can tell them whether notice was or wasn’t sent to the defense. When Carly answers that it was sent out, the defense attorney asks to do this right, on the record. Carly types, and the judge seems to read that the jury should be excused temporarily while his clerk takes the stand.
Carly is sworn in. She proceeds to talk about the receipt of the defense’s copy, and Cutter objects, saying the witness has failed to lay a proper foundation. Stunned, she says, “What?” but Cutter presses the judge for a ruling. When Carly says the objection makes no sense, he tells her they are waiting for the judge’s ruling. When the judge is clearly looking for an answer on his computer, Cutter tells him there is nothing there, that Carly is there on the stand and she can’t send him a message. Carly says to Cutter, coldly, “You are out of order” to which he responds, “You’re a witness, you don’t decide what’s out of order.” When she tells the judge that Cutter is out of order, Cutter states “That’s the way it works, right? You tell him what to do… Judge…why are you looking at the screen?” As the judge pounds the keyboard in frustration, he points to Cutter, saying, “He’s the one who’s been telling the lies about me, isn’t he?” Carly again repeats that Cutter is in contempt, and tells the judge to tell him he is in contempt. The judge parrots, “You’re in contempt.” Cutter says he is sorry, and backs away. The judge turns to Carly and asks, “Now what do I do?”
In McCoy’s office, Jack is completing a phone call, and tells Cutter and Rubirosa that Judge Reynolds is taking a medical leave, and his clerk has been fired and she is being investigated by the attorney general. McCoy says the defense is asking for a new trial and they will probably get one. Cutter says they will win that one to and walks out. McCoy says, “Now we have to try every case twice? I’m not paying him double” as Rubirosa follows Cutter out the door. Jack then looks up to see Judge Reynolds in his doorway. He tells Jack he is leaving, and he says he is not really sick, just having a last look around. He said Adam Schiff used to sit in that chair, with a little refrigerator near to it where he kept his tuna fish sandwiches. The judge would come by and have a sandwich with Schiff, remembering the details of how Adam’s wife put sliced olives on the sandwich. He asks him how long he has worked here, and prompts Jack for his name since he can’t recall it. He tells McCoy good luck, and leaves, with Jack looking on as it fades to black.
"Zero" Video clip
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