Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Law & Order SVU “Transitions” Hopefully Transitions Greyleck Out The Door (Recap & Review)

This episode of Law & Order SVU (NBC) tells a very interesting story about a very difficult subject – transgendered children. It is a subject that most people likely don’t have real-life experience with, yet these circumstances do exist, often putting a great strain on families. The first 5-10 minutes of the episode had a few gratuitous scenes of scantily clad women included in it, probably in hopes of luring viewers to into an episode with a difficult theme. All the guest stars were well cast, especially the transgendered teen, Henry/Hailey, played by Bridger Zadina, and her guidance counselor Miss Blaine, played by Aisha Hinds.

Anybody home? (All photos from NBC)
Where the episode misses greatly is with any scene that includes the stone-faced Kim Greyleck. I was hoping that we wouldn’t be seeing Michaela McManus any longer, but I suppose they had to throw one more episode with her in it before her character head off for a while, hopefully never to return. McManus’s inability to show any range of emotion has really hampered the show’s ability to have any decent courtroom scenes where the prosecution shines. In most episodes with Greyleck handling a case, it usually means that one of the guest stars will steal all the scenes. I swear in the scene with Greyleck and the detectives in the courthouse hall, that Benson wanted to just smack Greyleck across the face. Many times during the trial, McManus was unable to pull off any kind of emotional response that seemed real. Alex Kingston, playing the defense attorney, did a great job. While McManus was clearly a big part of the problem with Greyleck’s character, it also seems evident that they never wanted her character to be likeable, which frankly made any appearance almost intolerable to watch.

The story itself was very well written, but I have to admit that the first second I laid eyes on the guidance counselor Jackie Blaine I knew exactly where the story was headed. Still, it did not detract from the story at all, maybe because all the supporting actors all did very well in their roles. I felt very badly for Jackie and I was appalled that Greyleck seemed completely unmoved by Jackie’s background. I can only continue to hope that Michaela McManus won’t be on this show, or any other in the franchise, any time soon.

Here’s the recap:

After a fight erupts between two strippers, Misty (Heidi Marnhout) and Sapphire (DeQuina Moore) at the Sugar Pops strip club, Sapphire is leaving the club and hears a noise. She races to her car, and after she gets in, a man approaches her with blood trailing down his crotch, and he collapses onto her car. Later, at the hospital, Detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) Stabler (Chris Meloni) talk to the doctor about the victim, who is in a medically induced coma to help him recover from his injuries. The man’s scrotum had ruptured and he was also scratched and beaten in the head, a long fake fingernail found at the scene. It also appears the man had been the recipient of some oral sex before he was attacked. His wallet was found with no ID, just a picture of him with his son.

Capt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek) and Fin (Ice-T) discuss the fact that the man’s fingerprints aren’t in the system, and they are unable to release the man’s picture to the public, as he was a victim of a sex crime. Cragen assumes the attacker works at the strip club, so Fin and Munch (Richard Belzer) make the hard choice to visit the strip club. There, they speak to both Sapphire and to Misty who had their own fight the night before, and Misty adds that the club bouncer – Frankie, a very brutish looking woman – beat up a man at the club the previous night. In talking with Frankie, she points them in the direction of Psycho Sid, a creep who frequents the club area. Later, Benson and Stabler meet with the creepy Sid, who says he saw the victim in his tow truck in the back alley of the club.

Back at the club, Benson and Stabler and other police are examining the man’s tow truck, and inside is a bloody tire iron. The paperwork in the truck says the man’s name is Mark and he works for a repo company. When Fin and Munch go to Mark’s place of employment, they are told Mark works nights, and that he went to the club to repossess a Toyota from a woman named Molly. They follow the trail to Molly’s parent’s home, which are perplexed because Molly has a Mercedes-Benz, not a Toyota. They give the detectives Molly’s home address. When the detectives knock on the door, Molly answers, and it’s none other than Misty from the strip club.

Later at the squad in interrogation, Molly/Misty denies hurting Mark. She admits to the oral sex. She adds she is an anthropologist who studies people and their behaviors in their habitat, and she is writing a book called “Play Misty For You” which involves her having to work at the strip club to study the behaviors. When Molly moves to leave, Benson notices Molly seems to be wearing a wire of sorts, and they find she has a flash drive on her with recordings of her activities for the week, which include her interaction with Mark. They confiscate it, and later listen to the recording, which seems to indicate Molly left Mark without attacking him. (Was Frankie’s voice also heard?)

When they hear that Mark Van Kuren (Frank Grillo) is now out of his coma, Benson and Stabler head to the hospital. He seems to think his ex-wife Ellen (Wendy Makkena) is the only one having a reason to hurt him, as they are having a custody disagreement about their son, Henry, apparently Ellen was threatening to kill Mark. When Benson and Stabler head to Ellen’s home, she says she didn’t mean she’d literally kill him, that people having problems like that sometimes say things they don’t mean. She says their split is complicated as they have different ideas on how to raise their child. When Stabler asks is Henry is a handful, a girl comes down the stairs and corrects him, ‘It’s Hailey. My name’s Hailey. Henry is dead.” They discover that Mark and Ellen’s son Henry is transgender, and she is now going by the name of Hailey (Bridger Zadina). Ellen says Mark does not accept her son as being a girl and that Mark is in denial about the matter. Henry/Hailey is also going through puberty, and they were told Hailey will have to take hormone blockers to stop it, but Mark won’t allow it. Ellen indicates she was at work when the attack occurred, and when the detectives make note of her black eye, she says that she got it from Hailey when she found out she had been sneaking back into the home through a window at 2:00 AM and they got into it and Hailey punched her. When they ask where Hailey had been the night she crawled back in through the window, she said she was “striking a blow for her freedom.”

The enter Hailey’s room, and she seems embarrassed that she is topless, gets angry, and quickly puts on a bra. When they tell her about her father’s attack, she seems happy and indicates she wishes he were dead. But she says she was with a boy when she was out of the house that night. Her mother asks if she is gay, and she says her mom still doesn’t get it, she is a girl and is supposed to be out with boys.

Back at the squad, Dr. Huang (B.D.Wong) is explaining to Cragen that Hailey’s anatomy is irrelevant. Because of something that may have happened in utero, Hailey’s brain is wired like a female while she had the body of a male. Huang thinks that Mark being beaten in the crotch is symbolic. But Stabler adds that she also gave her mother a black eye, that it’s not much of a leap to attacking her dad. Cragen tells them to head over to the school and to verify her alibi, and Huang adds they should also check with the guidance counselor.

Later, at Lincoln Middle School, they speak to the guidance counselor Miss Blaine (Aisha Hinds), who tells them that Hailey has had a difficult time and faced some ridicule and was once ordered out of the girl’s bathroom by other girls and fought with some students. Some fights occurred, and now Hailey uses the gender-neutral bathroom. When the guidance counselor brings them to her office where Hailey is waiting, she is not pleased to see them. When they begin to question her about her alibi and tell her they will have to go through her email and cell phone records, Hailey is concerned and then blurts out that she was the one who tried to kill her dad.

Back at the station, Cragen is made aware that since there was no parent present and Hailey is a minor, the confession is inadmissible. They hope that when Hailey’s mother Ellen arrives she will waive Miranda and let them speak to Hailey. They have no such luck. But, they do get a warrant to search the home, and in doing so, Fin finds several boxes of hormones, both male and female: estrogen, testosterone, and leuprolide. Back at the squad, Huang tells them that the leuprolide is used for hormone blocking to stop puberty, but why would Hailey have testosterone, a male hormone? He also says that he found that several pharmaceutical warehouses were recently robbed, stealing drugs used to transition.

Later, with Hailey, Ellen, and an attorney in interrogation, they question Hailey about the hormones but the lawyer attempts to block the answers. They say they know she had to work with other people to pull off the robbery, and that a manifesto was left at one of the crime scenes, signed by the “Children of Ariel.” Ellen becomes upset and decides to start talking. She says Hailey said she was going to a support group, and, despite Hailey’s protest not to say anything, she says she dropped off Hailey once at a church in Chelsea.

Fin and Stabler head to the Good Shepherd Church, and meet a transgendered man named Blake (Daniela Sea), and Stabler brings up the robbery. When they say they found the stash in Hailey’s bedroom, he asks if she is OK, and that Hailey is just a friend. When Stabler tells Blake to “be a man” Blake gets upset and tells Stabler he doesn’t know what it is like, and the drugs are a lifeline. Stabler says that they are like “Robin Hood and Maid Marian, all wrapped into one.” When they tell him that they believe Hailey tried to kill her father, Blake seems stunned, and says Hailey was with them when the group raided the warehouse, she just showed up but didn’t go into the warehouse, he just told her to wait in the van. She was only stashing the drugs until it was safe to move them.

Back at the squad in interrogation, Stabler tells the lawyer, Ellen, and Hailey that she didn’t attack her dad, that she was at the robbery, that Blake told them. When Ellen questions why she said she hurt her dad, Hailey said she was afraid to get the others in trouble, and she would do anything for Blake. Later, Stabler tells her she is free to go, but she will have to come back and answer questions about the robbery. Hailey sees Blake being brought in, she says she didn’t tell them anything, and that she loves him. He says it is not her fault, and they take him away. She screams that she loves him. Mark arrives, and begins to chastise Ellen for her parenting. She refuses to discuss the matter there and she is going home. He says they are not going anywhere, Hailey is staying with him, and he tugs at her, but when he is told to let go, he apologizes and he loves her and her mother. Hailey asks him that if he loves them, why does he go to the strip club and screw trashy sluts? Stabler asks who told her about a stripper, and she says her guidance counselor, Miss Blaine, who she said Ellen told her. But Ellen said she didn’t know about that, either. Stabler wonders how Blaine knew?

Back with Jackie Blaine, she said that she did tell Hailey, and in retrospect it was inappropriate. Benson said she is right, because they never told Ellen about Mark and the stripper, and Stabler says she could have been there herself. He asks if she followed him to the club, and she moved to a closet and pulls out a bloody coat. She said she could not get his blood out. When Benson asks her why she did it, she said Hailey’s pain got to be more than she could bear, she just wanted to protect her.

Back at the squad, Benson asks ADA Greyleck (Michaela McManus) if she got enough of the story before Jackie lawyered up. She says that based on what the detectives were told and the bloody coat, there is her case, signed, sealed, and delivered. As Greyleck leaves, Hailey arrives and says she wants to take it back, that Miss Blaine never told her about the strippers, she doesn’t know where she heard it. When see sees Jackie Blaine being locked up, she runs over and apologizes, but Stabler holds her back. Blaine says it is OK. Hailey says she has ruined everyone’s lives. Benson sees that Hailey had blood running down her hand, and gets her to sit down. When Benson pulls up Hailey’s sleeve, she sees her wrists are cut. Benson calls for a bus, and Blaine calls out to Hailey. As Benson reaches for her pulse, Hailey looks faint and says she is cold.

Later, at the hospital, Hailey is recovering, and Benson talks with Ellen. Benson tells Ellen she can help her get a lawyer. But a voice comes from behind, saying that she never expected to hear Benson suggest legal representation. It is Miss Pond (Alex Kinston), Jackie Blaine’s lawyer, who says her client was concerned when she saw Hailey collapse. When Benson tells her she can go, Pond says she wants to see for herself. Benson tells Ellen to close the blinds to Hailey’s room, and tells Pond she has no business being there. But Pond says that the mental health of a key witness against her client is her business. But Benson said her client confessed, she’s guilty.

At the trial, Pond says that Jackie Blaine loves Hailey like a daughter and Hailey needed to be saved from her father’s abuse regarding her gender issue. Back to at the squad, Greyleck tells Benson and Stabler the case is in trouble, that Pond is making Blaine looked like the patron saint of abused children and the jury is buying it. She needs Hailey to testify against her. But Benson thinks Hailey is a mess, and Stabler thinks that Hailey could play into Pond’s hands if put on the stand. Greyleck shows them a picture with Mark and “Henry” and says that this man loves his son, the relationship may be mess up but they can’t tell them it’s not worth saving.

In Hailey’s room, she is looking at the same picture and says that her father carries it around with him like it is proof she is a boy. Her father loves Henry, and is ashamed of who she is. She tears the picture, and says she hated the truck that was in it – she asked for one present that year – Barbie. He father just screamed at her about that. Stabler says her father can’t let Henry go, Hailey says it is like he loves a ghost. When Stabler asks if she ever lost someone she loved, she mentioned her grandmother, and that she cried for weeks. He says that is how her dad feels about Henry. She asks what Stabler would do if his son came home in a dress – would he still love him? Stabler pauses before answering, and says he’d try to understand, but that it would probably be hard and that he would probably make a lot of mistakes but never stop loving him. He puts his arm around Hailey as she cries into his shoulder, and he consoles her.

Later at trial, Hailey is on the stand being questioned by Greyleck, she says never asked Blaine to hurt her father. She is mad at her dad, but Greyleck pressures her to answer the question if Hailey wanted Blaine to hurt her dad. She answers an empathic no, she didn’t want anyone to hurt him. Under cross, Pond asks about the bandages on her arm, and denies trying to kill herself. She says she was just upset, and Pond comments that this wasn’t the first time she was upset, wasn’t it? Hailey asks what she means, and Pond asks if she ever talked to Blaine about wanting to kill herself. Hailey admits she had mentioned that a few times, and Pond says it was 8 times in the last 5 months, and every time she gets upset at school she goes to see Miss Blaine. Pond continues to hammer her on the issue, and if she ever talked with Pond about her father. As Greyleck attempts a concerned look, Hailey says she does not remember. Pond moves to refresh her memory that, according to Miss Blaine’s notes, every single time she spoke to her, she said she wished her father was dead. Hailey admits that is true. When asked if she thinks Jackie Blaine cares about her, Hailey says she knows she does. She asks her if her father cares about her, and Hailey answers she does not know. Pond reiterates that she told Blaine she wanted her father dead, and now says she wouldn’t want anyone to hurt him, which is it? Hailey says she does not know.

On the stand, Pond is questioning Blaine, who says Hailey was upset that her father did not want her taking the hormone blockers. Blaine said Hailey was devastated. She looks to the jury and ask them what if they woke up in the body of the opposite sex but nothing else about you had changed, how trapped and desperate you would feel? That is how Hailey felt, and that’s when she knew she had to save Hailey, she didn’t want her father to kill the beautiful girl inside her. Under cross, Greyleck sarcastically comments that Blaine’s love for Hailey is very touching, but did she ever think she was getting too involved? Jackie said Ellen is a good mother but Blaine is a professional, trained to handle these issues. Greyleck presses if she gets involved in the issues of other students in the same way, does she get involved in their lives in the same extent? Blaine said Hailey is special. Greyleck asks if she counsels students who have been victims of rape, incest, drugs, etc. and Jackie says yes, but Hailey is different. Greyleck says she hasn’t tried to kill the parents of those other children, they must not be special enough to deserve her devotion. Blaine says she does not understand, she has no idea what we go through. Greyleck asks, “We?” and stares blankly. When Blaine sits in silence, Greyleck pulls back, with a half look of realization on her face. She asks, “Miss Blaine, have you even been known by another name?” Pond quickly objects, citing relevance, and the judge overrules. Miss Blaine answers yes, it was Harold Franklin. Hailey, in the gallery, looks stunned, and whispers, “What?” When Pond asks to confer with her client, the judge denies the request. Blaine says she needs to explain. She says she always knew she was a girl, but things were different back then, there were no pills, counselors, or support groups. One had to live as a woman for three years before a doctor would even consider doing surgery. It was hard, but she had no choice. She was leaving a bar, and three men grabbed her and they called her a freak. They dragged her into a vacant lot and pulled up her skirt and one of the took out a knife, and said he would make her a woman, and he cut her. Greyleck continues to stare blankly.

Outside the courtroom, Mark tells Greyleck he wants to stop this, the trial, everything. She says it’s too late, but he says he is the victim and he wants to drop the charges, but she says he can’t, it’s not up to him. He said none of this would have happened if he would have just listened to his daughter. He was just thinking of himself. But Greyleck says Blaine can’t get away with it, and says she is sorry. Stabler and Benson look on. When Mark leaves, she turns around and sees the detectives and says “Oh no, not you too.” When Stabler says that Mark has a point, she says not every person that has been a victim can have am automatic get out of jail free card when they go looking for retribution. When Benson says, “You’re new here, Kim” Greyleck says, ‘What, you’re gonna give me the SVU is gray speech?” Stabler gives her a smirk, and Benson gives her a look that she wants to bitchslap her, but hold back and says, “Some cases have no right answer.” When Greyleck thinks this mean they expect Blaine to walk, Stabler says no, just offer them a plea bargain. When the detectives walk off, Greyleck attempts a look like she is thinking about what they said.

Later, back in court, the judge says she understands the defendant wished to change her plea, and Jackie says that she does, she says she is guilty. The judge says that in accordance with the arrangements made with the district attorney’s office, she is sentenced to 8 years. After the bang of the gavel to adjourn, Hailey moves to talk to Jackie, and Jackie apologizes. Hailey says her dad says she can take the hormone blockers, and Blaine is glad for her. Hailey hugs her. Hailey tells Benson she wants to go home, and leaves with both her parents. Benson and Stabler look on, as we fade to black.

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Muze said...

Disappointed stone-face was in the episode. You hit the nail on the head - they don't intend the character to be sympathetic. And for that kind of character to work, she either has to have paid her dues so the viewer will respect her, or the actress has to elevate the material with interesting choices.
They still need someone the audience will root for, not cheer when she gets her head slammed on the table.

I'm not sure there is any cooperation between USA and NBC - but it seems like they are coordinating reruns with new eps. Yesterday they ran Guilt, which is obviously the perfect companion episode. Of course we had Cabot empathizing with the defendant and trying to figure out where her personal ethics fit in with her job.

Overall this continues a run of much better episodes.

samfan said...

I liked this episode, it was different. I wish they would get stone faced no talent what's her name off of the show. It was a good episode though, not the Benson/Stabler drama, or at least it wasn't front and center.

L said...

I like Grayleck in the sense that she at least purports to do what a prosecutor is supposed to do. I thought it was appalling that as soon as Miss Blaine revealed she was transgendered and had suffered abuse because of it, everyone believed she should be excused of a crime very similar to the one she herself experienced (e.g., mutilation)! A true prosecutor would absolutely use that experience as airtight motive to seal the case against Blaine.

However much the episode attempted to make the father look bad, he WAS still the victim. And he required justice, just as Blaine ought to have gotten for what happened to her all those years ago.

candice said...

I was extremely disappointed with this episode. I am a huge SVU fan but am really disappointed with the way they portray transgender people.

In fact, SVU *NEVER* portrays transgender people in a positive light. They are either victimized or villainized, and that's really it. It's trashy and as far as I can see, many of the things written into this story line were done for shock value.

Transgender people are real people.

Muze said...

Candice the Law and Order franchises certainly have mixed record on these issues, I agree.

L, justice is rarely as black and white as we want it to be. One of the biggest and worst problems facing the criminal justice system today is prosecutors overcharging criminal defendants. It's one way they force people to plead out, clogging our jails with people who should not be there doing time for crimes they didn't commit, doing longer sentences than is reasonable under the law. I think whenever the show tries to show the shades of gray, that is a good thing all the way around.

daniel said...

I agree great episode. "Mcmanus's inability to show any range of emotion" LOL that made me laugh coz its really true. When you compare her acting skills to alex and casey theres no comparison.

Cecilthedarkknight_234 said...

this episode covered a lot of issues that needed to be covered in society and deserves props for doing so. I do agree with you it's very well written/handled despite the few flaws you also pointed out. I think this was the biggest highlight of season 10 for me but that's opinion.