Monday, April 27, 2009

Law & Order CI “Rock Star” Recap & Review

All photos from USA Network

This episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent (USA) “Rock Star” marked the long awaited premiere of Jeff Goldblum as Detective Zach Nichols. Fans of the show know that this premiere had faced a few delays, and eventually it was announced that Law & Order CI producer Robert Nathan bowed out after shooting two episodes and insiders said Goldblum’s character wasn’t developing properly. (USA).

This first episode was passable. It didn’t have the usual Criminal Intent “feel”, and the case was simply uninteresting and uninspiring. Even the criminals were boring. I was also disappointed in the character of Zach Nichols, who at times actually seemed a little too much like Jeff Goldblum. No offense to Goldblum – he’s an excellent actor and I think he did very well with what was given to him. But, it actually can be distracting when you see more of what seems like the actor’s personality than the personality of the role he is playing. In further defense of Goldblum, it is always been difficult for a new character in the Law & Order franchise in their first outing because the show sometimes tries too hard to establish the new character. I always felt that Law & Order works well with a “less is more” approach, and in this case we got too much Goldblum-isms and not enough of Zach Nichols. Goldblum is a great piano player, and the word “quirky” was probably already imprinted on his backside when he was born. We got to see both of these traits in this episode. I think at least for the first episode I would have liked to see a little less of Goldblum’s strengths, and more of a more challenging or intricate crime. While I would not want Goldblum’s personality to be erased on the show – after all, this is his big drawing point – in future episodes I would like to see a more of what makes Zach Nichols tick - and hopefully he will not be just like Goldblum.

So while I wasn’t thrilled with this episode, I also recognize that having problems with the Goldblum episodes on the production side (not with Goldblum as I understand it), it seemed evident this episode was short on substance and seemed thrown together. I believe that both Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Nicholson make an interesting pair, and hopefully once the production issues have been worked through completely the series will be just fine. Possibly once Kathryn Erbe steps in to replace Julianne Nicholson while she is on maternity leave will bring yet another interesting dynamic to the show?

Here is the recap:

A group of musicians are walking along the street, talking about their manager and possible gigs. The neighborhood that they walk through also contains Orthodox Jews and blacks. Arriving at the building where the musicians are all housed in some sort of communal area, the building manager shows one new musician the open area where he will be living. Later, as he strums on his guitar, another musician gives him pointers, which seems to annoy him. Later, after some members of the group go out for a beer, one of them stays behind to make a phone call. The next morning, one of the Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood makes a call on a cell phone – despite the fact he is told it is forbidden – and calls 911, as the man who we saw stay behind from the bar is dead on the street.

With the police on the scene, Detective Megan Wheeler says there is no wallet on the body, and a gash on it that looks like it was made with a knife. She asks if anyone found a knife, and Captain Danny Ross says ESU is looking. Wheeler wonders why this is a major case, saying she is going to go out on a limb and say someone stabbed this guy and stole his wallet. Ross says it’s not the crime, it’s the neighborhood, and there are worlds in collision – Orthodox Jews, urban blacks, punk rock stars of the 21st century – not a lot of love. But when Detective Zach Nichols arrives on the scene, he says the neighborhood is amazing; in his block walk, he picked up all kinds of ethnic foods and a tantric charm from a new age boutique. While Nichols continues to go on, Capt. Ross interrupts and introduces him to Detective Wheeler. She says, “My new partner,” and Nichols says, chewing his food and with a bagel in his hand, “It’s a pleasure. Can we shake hands later?” She says yes, and asks him if he wants to take a look at the crime scene. He looks over, and says, “It looks like somebody stabbed him and stole his wallet.”

Back at the Major Case squad, Capt. Ross tells Wheeler that he and Nichols were partners back in anti-crime. Wheeler asks how Nichols did when he wasn’t having breakfast. Ross says Nichols was amazing, he was a brilliant cop, very perceptive, and both his parents were shrinks. When Wheeler says shrinks' kids are crazy and that’s an establish fact, Ross says Nichols is not crazy... exactly. He says her that it was a loss to the department when he took his 7-year leave, and when Wheeler asks where he went during that time, Ross says, vaguely, “Sent me a postcard from Cleveland once. “

Later, Nichols and Wheeler talk to “Teeter’s” – the victim – parents. Teeter wanted to be an MC, and Nichols tells them that an MC is different than a rapper, the MC can rap but also run the show and leads the crowd – he must be someone special. He called his parents a week ago and said everything as great.

At the building where Teeter lived, the manager, Phillip (Daniel Gerroll) takes the detectives up the elevator. Wheeler asking him if the place is up to code, and he says it is. When they get to the living area, Nichols comments that he smells incense, urine, beer, and pot – a great place for a guy to fry his brain. Phillips reminds them they are kids and when he asks Nichols what he was smoking when he was young, he says “Bananas.” They take him to Teeter’s living area, where Hank (Ashton Holmes) is the next to move in. Wheeler notices a bed bug. Hank a says they were with Teeter before it happened, at a “Spelling Bee.” He clarifies this is a bar, and he was with Rafe, Teeter, Sue Smith, and Helen. Nichols speaks to Rafe, who tells them that it was nostalgia and beer, and says Teeter competed and lost. He tells him Teeter stayed behind to make a call, and Nichols adds that Teeter used his ATM card afterwards, withdrawing $400 at 2 AM. When he asks Rafe if he knew why, Rafe doesn’t know, but Nichols doesn’t believe him, saying he’s getting stoned just breathing in there. Rafe admits Teeter was into pot, and probably went to his dealer, named Dix.

Nichols and Wheeler talk to Dix, and when Nichols begins to scare off some of his customers, he tells him that Teeter newer showed up, he called and wanted to buy a lid but he never showed.

Back at the musicians’ commune, a makeshift memorial is set up for Teeter, while Hank strums his guitar. Phillip is consoling Sue (Gillian Jacobs) who says maybe she should just go back to Wisconsin. Rafe shows up and seems drunk or stoned. He hears Hank play and tells him he is definitely not sucking, and when Hank says he’s not getting anywhere, Rafe tells him it is tough out there. Rafe tells him he just got a real gig and it could be really big. He tells Hank that he has the goods, and is he after his spot in the band? Hank says no. Rafe leaves a flower for Teeter and tells Hank to hang in there, he is going to make it. As Rafe leaves, Hank says he knows it.

As Sue is telling Phillip that she just can’t do this tonight, he tells her she just can’t roll up into a ball and hide, but she says again not tonight. A loud scream “Rafe!” is heard, and we then see Rafe’s body lying at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

The police and Nichols and Wheeler are on the scene. They are told Rafe was drunk, and he just got a really great gig, the elevator was broken. Phillips says someone just didn’t shut the door and Rafe was drunk. Hank tells them that Rafe must have been drunk, because he told him how well he was playing. He didn’t see anything. Nichols announces that they are taking statements from everyone.

Back at Major Case, Wheeler says they took 27 statements and no one saw anything. When Ross reminds them this is an open loft, Nichols says it’s more like a rabbit warren with partitions, and smoky. But Nichols thinks someone waited until no one was looking and someone was in the wrong spot, and he seems to be unsure of the theory. When Ross asks "Then what," Nichols responds "I don't know, " clearly trying to think things through in his head. Ross tells him that he suggests “while you’re trying to figure out what’s on your own mind, you resume the investigation of the actual murder on your plate – the kid who got stabbed.” Ross gives him the ME’s report, saying the kid was stabbed with a knife with a serrated blade with a chip in it, and one dull edge. Nichols stands up and says “You are the boss.” When Nichols leaves, we get this exchange:

Wheeler: When does the brilliant part start?
Ross: Not big on trust at the moment are we?
Wheeler: I’m not talking about me.
Ross: One partner quits on you…
Wheeler: Quits on ME?
Ross: After saying your ex-fiancé’s about to go on trial, someone else you trusted?
Wheeler: Okay. Thank you Captain Freud. (Wheeler gets up and leaves.)

Later, Nichols and Wheeler head to the place where Rafe’s band was supposed to perform. They are surprised when they see Hank filling in for Rafe’s big spot. Afterwards, Nichols complements Hank on a nice set, and says he hopes this doesn’t break his heart. He cites a bunch of numbers of how many people try to come to the big cities to try to make it big, and only a tiny number of them actually make it big is only about 10 out of 50,000. Hank thinks he can be one of them, and says some people make their own breaks. Nichols decides to show Hank his point, and gets up on the stage and plays the piano and does an excellent job. When the crowd applauds and Nichols steps of the stage, he reminds Hank he is just a cop. But Hank asks him if he is one of the losers in the 50,000, and walks off. When Wheeler asks him why is he a cop, Nichols says it’s because he likes it, he’s good at it, and “that kid is a killer.”

Back at Major Case, Nichols is on a phone call, and when he gets off, he says it was the Utica PD, Hank had a stepfather he didn’t get along with and there were allegations of abuse but not enough to make a case, When Hank was 16, his stepfather had a fatal accident while fixing his roof and Hank’s problem was solve. When Ross questions Nichols if he thinks Hank killed Rafe for his spot in the band, Nichols thinks it fits, but Ross says, “If you’re a homicidal maniac.” Nichols thinks Hank would kill to succeed. But Wheeler wonders how Teeter’s death would fit into his theory, and Nichols said it got him a better apartment.

At Phillips apartment, Nichols notices that Phillip was in “Speckled Stallion” and played at Woodstock, Phillip saying they had the third longest set there. Nichols said they were “something.” Phillip tells him in those days it wasn’t about talent, you had to suck up to the executives. When they asks about Phillip managing Rafe’s band, and that he put Hank in there to replace Rafe, he says Hank is raw but good. Wheeler seems annoyed that Nichols is making small talk, and steers the conversation back to Hank, asking if Hank knew that he was in line to replace Rafe, and Phillips says yes. Phillips then wonders if Hank pushed Rafe, and Nichols says it is a motive.

Back at Major Case, Nichols is working on a chart showing everyone’s location in the loft at the time of Rafe’s death. He was also listening to “Speckled Stallion” and says those guys suck. When Wheeler says he told Phillip they were great, Nichols corrects her and say he said that they were “something.” They take his chart and head back to the loft to see Hank. He brings out his chart, and shows him where everyone was located, He drops the chart on the floor, and picks something up with a handkerchief. He shows Hank the chart and asks him what is wrong with it, and when Hank doesn’t know, Nichols tells him that Hank is not there – none of them saw him. He asks Hank to point out his location, and Nichols puts down a tag and asks Hank to sign it. He then “remembers” that a few others were missing from the chart, and places two other people in that area, and puts two more tags down, and none of them saw Hank. Hank tells them he is late for rehearsal and moves to leave, saying that he had too much to drink that night and has no idea where he was.

Back at Major Case, Wheeler tells Nichols and Sue Smith is also missing from the chart. When Nichols asks her why she would kill Rafe, Wheeler says she doesn’t know but she seems to keep popping up. When she mentions that Nichols chart was wrong, he says he wants Hank to think they caught him in a lie, it’s as stressor, and it may have him do something else, but hopefully not kill someone. Wheeler asks him what he picked up, and he shows her some bedbugs in a handkerchief, and he hopes the blood in them will be the DNA of anyone that may have been “sleeping” in that room. Later, one to the lab tech tells them that bedbugs have a slow digestive system and the blood can be in there for as long as two months. In one of the older ones they found Teeter’s blood, and from the same time a woman’s blood. The newer bug had the blood of a new man – but the same woman. It seems that Hank also got a pretty girl with his new room. They both begin to speculate that Hank killed Rafe because he wanted to be in the band, and killed Teeter because he wanted the girl, wondering who is in Hank’s way now.

Back in Hank’s room, Sue is there, and she is talking with Hank about her father. He asks her if he will see her tonight, and says it depends on how stoned Phillip will get. She complains that Phillip acts like she is his girlfriend but she is not, he just pays her rent. She compliments Hank and says they could have something good – except for Phillip. Later, Phillip tells Hank he is not ready to step up to a bigger gig, and then asks if he has seen Sue. Hank says no.

Back at Major Case, Wheeler and Nichols goes over the case with Ross. Ross asks exactly what the motive is as all kids sleep around. But Nichols is still wondering – they are looking at two different murders, one seemed planned, the other, spontaneous (Rafe’s). When Wheeler asks if he is saying they don’t fit, Nichols says they do and they don’t – does she see what he means? She pauses, and looks to Ross, asking “Do you see what he means?” Ross says, “Not a clue.” But Ross adds that in theory, Hank had motive and opportunity to kill Rafe and possible motive to kill Teeter, but what was the opportunity? Wheeler reminds him Hank was with the group right before Teeter was killed. Ross asks if he stuck with them, or slipped away?

Nichols and Wheeler question on of the women who was with the group when Teeter was killed, and she said everyone split up. She also said Sue said she had to get back with Phillip, and adds that Phillip pays Sue’s rent. She also said Rafe seemed to have big plans for his band, talking to record companies and big time managers about it. This seems to pique Nichols’ interest. Later, outside the building, they speculate about who had the motive, and Nichols says he has to make a call.

Hank is on stage with the band again, and after his performance, he heads to the bar and someone there tells him he was fantastic and he could be playing better venues than this. He hands him a business card, and Phillip sees it. Hank is surprised the man is Joe Lazar, who manages another big band. He says he was ready to sign him but Phillip wouldn’t let him go. He said maybe Hank can talk some sense into him. Outside the club, Lazar walks by a waiting Nichols, and tells him that Hank bought it, “hook, line, and sinker.”

At a later time, with Phillip, Nichols talks with him about Hank, Phillip complaining about Hank, and Nichols says Hank has an attitude. He tells him that Hank said some “hot shot manager” was after him. He thinks he is really going someplace, unlike Phillip, who went from rock star to landlord. Phillip says that it is a boarding house and he takes in talented musicians that he can help. Nichols says that Hank doesn’t see it that way, he needs a manager that is not a fossil, someone from the actual current century.

Later, Hank is on the phone with Phillip, and Hank wants to be let go, but Phillip says he will let him know when he is ready – and he is not ready. Hank says he can break his contract, Phillip says he can’t, but Hank tells him Lazar will pay for a lawyer. Hank asks of they can talk about it – is Phillip upstairs? He tells him he is in a park, and they can meet at the factory they scouted for a music video. Meanwhile, Nichols and Wheeler are listening in on a phone tap. Wheeler comments that Phillip is taking a hard line, and Nichols says someone must have gotten under his skin. Wheeler realizes the park Phillip was in was close to where Teeter was killed, and Nichols comments, “dangerous neighborhood.”

At the empty factory, Phillip calls out “hello” and Hank approaches. Hank says this isn’t working out. Nichols and Wheeler step out as Nichols yells “Hi” and tells everyone to hold it. Hank asks what is going on, and Nichols says a murder, but not anymore since now that they are there. When Hank asks what he is talking about, Nichols says, “Oh, life, death, unqualified success, abject failure, naked ambition.” Nichols continues to play off both Hank and Phillip, telling them that they are both sleeping with Sue, and Phillip acts surprised. When Hank indicates Sue is sleeping with everyone, Nichols says this is a powerful motive. Hank questions murdering over a “piece of ass” and tells Phillip if he wants her, she is his, he doesn’t care. Nichols seems surprised at this, and Hank confirms he doesn’t care about her. He says if he wouldn’t kill for love to forget that motive, but that Phillip would, as Phillip thinks she is his girlfriend. When Phillip says she is his girlfriend, Nichols says he is just “the rent” and tells him women actually like sleeping with guys about 30 years younger. Phillip says that rule doesn’t apply when you’re famous, and Nichols ridicules Phillips band at Woodstock, saying they wouldn’t get off the stage, that Speckled Stallion always left its audience wanting less. When Phillip reminds him he has a Grammy, Nichols taunts that Milli Vanilli also has a Grammy, and that Phillip is a has-been, adding “viva Viagra.” Nichols says when Sue started fooling around with Teeter, Phillip went nuts and killed Teeter. Hank seems stunned. Nichols brings up Rafe, but Phillip says he was in full view of other witnesses when Rafe was killed, and Nichols says Hank did that, because Phillip told him that Rafe was standing in his way. Nichols said Phillip wanted to get rid of Rafe and he knew Hank would do it because he saw that Rafe would do anything to get ahead. He says Phillip suckered him because Rafe wanted to escape so he could succeed, and Phillip’s ego could not stand that. Nichols approaches Phillip and finds the knife that likely killed Teeter, and Wheeler thinks out loud that Phillip was going to use that same knife on Hank. When Hank realizes this, he becomes enraged and has to be restrained, saying that Phillip told him that if Rafe was gone, he could get Hank to the top. Hank says he did it for nothing. As Hank and Phillip are led away in cuffs, Wheeler asks Nichols, “So the next time we go on a bust, you maybe wanna tell your partner who we’re busting?” Nichols says, ‘I was exploring options.” Wheeler, closing her eyes, adds “God almighty.” Nichols says, “Oh c’mon it was great. It was a two-fer. I would have been happy taking one scumbag suspect off the streets but two for the price of one, oooh, you know, maybe I should have come back sooner. This is, ah, sweet.” As Nichols chuckles happily, we fade to black.

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Shelly said...

I thought it was just me when I couldn't stay focused on this episode, despite my interest in seeing Goldblum's character. It WAS uninpsiring. I was also disappointed in what little they said about the Logan character. I thought you had posted something earlier saying they would answer the questions of what happened, why he left, etc. Well, I guess they consider ONE line to be satisfactory. I know the episode wasn't about him but i had expected a little more, considering the character's history on the franchise as a whole.

Thanks as always for posting your review and recap. They're always a fun and interesting read.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know I wasn't the only one who struggled with this ep. It seemed as though there was a significant change in format to focus much more on the suspects interactions with each other as opposed to the detectives investigating the crime.

Melvin Gaines said...

I missed the first 20 minutes when I realized the show had already started, and it was difficult to get into because I was not crazy about some of the acting. Goldblum was Goldblum (which was not all bad), but I agree that there should have been a stronger plot for the opener for him. In addition, one of the harder things about CI is that the expectations are very high that the show has to retain the traditional L&O feel when it may not be completely fair or realistic. As long as the show does not go down the road of NCIS or recent Bones episodes, that's fine with me. To me, those shows are unwatchable. Even a loose plot on CI is better than those other shows.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what jacket goldblum wore at the end of this episode? I think it had a zip front and zippered sleeves.

Melvin Gaines said...

I actually went back and ordered this episode via iTunes and watched it again in its entirety. I found myself actually liking this episode much more as I watched more closely the great acting job that Jeff Goldblum did. He really was very, very good in this role. The story line was average but not as bad as I originally thought. He helps even when the story line is mediocre. I believe that it will be an enjoyable season watching Jeff in this new role.

Anonymous said...

---Nichols and Wheeler question on of the women who was with the group when Teeter was killed, and she said everyone split up. She also said Sue said she had to get back with Phillip, and adds that Phillip pays Sue’s rent. She also said Rafe seemed to have big plans for his band, talking to record companies and big time managers about it. This seems to pique Nichols’ interest. Later, outside the building, they speculate about who had the motive, and Nichols says he has to make a call.--- I watched the episodes twice in less than 48 hours 'cause I was lucky to find it on again since cable tends to do that... But both times, even when I was waiting for that part, I failed to confirm if that woman was "Helen" as I wanted to identify the actress in IMDB... anyone knows?

(By the way... How anyone knows the actor taints the character? It is a very interesting character but I doubt any actor might have his attitude... My only criticism is for Hank's lines at the end, the actor over-acted them... Looked phoney)