Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Law & Order SVU “Baggage” A Heavy Case (Recap & Review)

Photo NBC

Yesterday’s episode of Law & Order SVU (NBC) “Baggage” was another excellent show. I always worry when the show over-hypes the guest stars that the stars will cause the story to suffer. In this case, Delroy Lindo did a perfect job as a man so obsessed with a case that he’s lost all sight of it. At the same time, he also has his daughter to worry about, who is hospitalized in a coma from a car accident that also took the life of his wife. I have to say that the ending of this episode made me feel so incredibly sad, and it brought a tear to my eye. This rarely happens with any show in the Law & Order franchise.

I must admit that I did not miss Mariska Hargitay one bit. I am sure this is not something she would want to hear, seeing that both Mariska and Chris Meloni are gong through contract talks.

The regulars were also very strong in this episode, with Chris Meloni playing the territorial act to perfection, and Munch and Fin providing their usual steady support. There was very little humor if any in the episode – Munch’s short rant about his issues with how the DNA is used to identify family members came the closest to a lighter moment. Considering that the case involved such brutal murders, and with Cragen under attack by the new Chief of Detectives, along with Moran’s comatose daughter, humor would have been not only inappropriate, but it would have completely busted the somber mood of the entire episode.

There was one section that gave me pause. It was the scenes where Fin gets a call at the squad saying that a suspect is being chased, and then we see Stabler and Fin right on the scene joining in an apprehending the suspect. Now really, how lucky were they that they suspect was being chased so close to the SVU squad that the detectives could get there before anyone else could – especially considering New York City traffic? I found that very hard to fathom.

It seems that the whole issue with the leak was dropped - at least for now. I suspect that the issue will come up in some later episode.

All in all, this episode was one of SVU’s best!

Here is the recap:

A man and a woman are going up in an elevator. While the woman talks about some artwork, the man comes on to her. As they enter the apartment of her friend Casey Chapman, they see her there, dead on a table. Later, with forensics on the scene with Detectives Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Fin (Ice-T), we find out that Chapman is an up and coming ceramics artist. There is no sign of forced entry, and she was tortured and hog-tied, with what looks like a scald burn. It also seems that the killer is a repeater.

In the morgue, ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) says the victim was strangled and there were some fractures. But she can’t confirm she was hog-tied like the previous, similar victim. They were similarities in that both victims had their mouths glued shut, and both hyoids were broken. The new victim wasn’t sexually assaulted and the killer used more glue to seal her rectum than with the previous victim.

Back at the squad, they try to determine the similarities in both cases, but the latter may be a copycat – or two guys. April Silva was the first victim, she was raped, but not Casey Chapman. Chapman was an artist, Silva, a post grad math student. The only similarities is that they lived in Harlem. As they discuss the case, Detective Victor Moran (Delroy Lindo) from Major Crimes enters. He tells them that there are other similar crimes – there are 5 dead, all hog tied with their mouths glued shut. These other crimes happened outside of Harlem. Stabler wondered why, when he ran the cases through VICAP that the cases never came up, and Moran said he blocked their access. Fin calls him a “glory hog” but he says it’s not about him, it’s about the victims, and he didn’t want anyone in his way. Moran says the case is his, and the Chief of Ds is in with the captain right now.

In Capt. Cragen’s (Dann Florek) office, Cragen tells the Chief of Detectives (John Ashton) that his squad can handle the case, and he counters that he knows Moran can close it. Cragen says. “You just got promoted and your first order as Chief of Detectives is to bend me over my desk? “ He answers that this is no reflection on his squad, but Moran knows the case and it’s the only one on his case. In the squad room, Moran tells them he knows more than they do. But Munch (Richard Belzer) tells him that serial killers usually stay within their ethnic group, Moran thinks the killer is a black Latino male but the victims are white. Moran counters that the killer is targeting minority areas. The Chief of D’s exits Cragen’s office, telling him to give Moran what he needs and stay out of his way. We later see Stabler throwing a box of files on a table on which Moran is leaning, and Moran asks him if he feels better. Stabler says not if he is using those victims to get a gold star. He asked what stalled Moran’s career – did he stop being a team player about a year ago? Moran says he’s better by himself. They continue to argue the reason for Moran to handle the case, ending with Moran telling Stabler he’d like some privacy.

Back in the squad room, Fin tells him he has a potential witness on the Chapman murder, Debra Huggins, who lives one floor below Chapman. Stabler tells Fin to keep Moran occupied, he just doesn’t want to roll over and play dead just yet. Fin approaches Moran in the other room, who asks where is Stabler. Fin tells him he needed a break. Fin decides to throw Moran a bone and tells him that Silva’s parents didn’t know she had a girlfriend – she was Catholic – and she was into kink. Munch says there were no matches to the pubic hairs found, and Moran is frustrated, thinking the killer should be in the system. Fin suggests to widen the search with familial DNA, and he barks for Munch to just do it. Fin tells Moran he’s been in the way since he got there.

Stabler arrives at the home of Debra Huggins, who says she did not know Casey Chapman well. She saw a man waiting for the elevator when she came home, and he was wearing maintenance clothes with no company or name patches. He was black, mid to late 20s, 5’10”, lanky build, and he had no toolbox. She asked him where he was going and he did not answer. He asks her to come down to talk to a sketch artist.

Back at the squad, they have no solid leads from the sketch. Cragen asks were is Moran, and Stabler tells him Moran left with the files. Fin tells them someone matching the sketch is being chased by a group of young men out for blood, and Stabler and Fin give chase. They catch up in their car with the gang who is beating up the suspect, and they break it up. One of the kids says he saw the sketch and saw the man going into the building where his nana lives. The kid found lock picks the suspect dropped on the street. As Stabler tells the police officer to cuff him and bring him in, the suspect thanks Stabler for saving his life.

In interrogation, Fin and Stabler question the suspect - Stefan Henriquez (Victor Anthony)– about the murders. They portray him as a violent man with a violent temper, they have a witness and they have DNA and he denies doing anything. He says he always wears gloves, and when Stabler says of course he does, he’s not stupid, Stefan says he didn’t mean that and he thinks he wants a lawyer. He says he is getting a raw deal, and he is getting very rattled, asks them not to touch him. Stabler holds him down off the table and tells him to get off of him. Fin says they are going to need a mop, as Stefan seems to have wet himself.

As Stabler and Fin leave the interrogation room, Cragen asks, “What the hell was that?” Stabler tells him the social worker put it in his file, and they figured stick first, carrot later. But Cragen says that’s not his grounds for an assault charge while he is in custody. Fin says he’d like to see his lawyers try, but when Cragen says he did ask for one, Cabot reminds him that thinking of needing one and asking for one is debatable. She says he’s an idiot, but is he guilty? She can’ reconcile “that jellyfish” with the brutal murders. Stabler thinks he’s a killer, and Fin thinks he’s just getting started. Cabot would like to indict but with more evidence, and when Stabler asks what she needs, she tells him to find the murder kit and that will bury him. But Munch enters, saying the suspect may not be the only one getting buried – the Chief of Detectives has returned - and he is upset. He says he thought he took them off the case, and Cragen said they had a lead and they ran it. The Chief of Ds said the press blindsided him about a serial killer being lose in the city and the DNA left behind, and Cragen indicated they have a leak. The Chief of Ds gets in Cragen’s face and tells Cragen, “C’mon. You’re pissed off. This is SVU grandstanding. And now you got a pooch-screw.” Cragen responds that it is anything but, and they have a suspect in custody. When the Chief of Ds asks if he confessed, and when Fin says they are still talking to him, The Chief of Ds say this means no. Stabler says they will get it done, and the Chief gets in his face, saying that Stabler didn’t know about the other victims until Moran set them straight, and he linked those cases together on his own time – with a kid in the hospital. Fin asks what the Chief wants them to do, and he says to bring him up to speed and mind their own damn business. After the Chief leaves, Cragen tells them to finish the interrogation and to transport the suspect when they are done. Stabler says that the Chief will take Cragen’s command, maybe even his badge. Cragen says only if they do not close the case – all One PP cares about is results – never forget that.

When Fin and Stabler return to the interrogation room, at first they think Stefan is gone, but then they find him on the floor, bleeding from a self inflicted wound. He apparently had tools hidden in his belt that were not caught when he was searched. As Fin goes to call for a bus, Stefan tells Stabler he didn't mean to hurt anybody. Later, the EMTs arrive and take Stefan away, Fin going to the hospital with him, and Stabler says he called Major Crimes and Moran is already had the hospital and he will call him. Fin tells him to tell Moran that Stefan confessed.

At Mercy General Hospital, Stabler arrives, seeing Moran there with his daughter, who has been there for over 5 months. His wife was leaving him because he was working too much on the case, and she took their daughter Joy and left, and they were in a car accident. His wife was killed on impact, Joy smashed her skull on the window. Stabler says solving the case will not bring his family back, and he is obsessed with the case. Stabler continues to get on him about it, and thinks that there needs to be fresh eyes on the case. Moran asks him what he has, and Stabler tells him they have a suspect, Stefan Henriquez, in custody. Moran wants to know if he was trying to cut him out of this, and Stabler says he didn’t give them much of an option. Moran accuses him of leaking DNA evidence to the press, which Stabler denies anyone on the squad did that. Moran gets a message, and tells Stabler there is a problem with his suspect – there is another body.

At the latest crime scene, there appears to have been a fire, but a piece of rope remains and it seems the victim may have been hog-tied. Stabler asks for a time of death, and Warner says she will do her best. Moran thinks she was set on fire to cover the DNA because it was mentioned on the evening news that they had DNA.

Back at the squad, Cragen tells the Chief of Ds that it seems this latest victim’s murder happened when Stefan was in custody. They also have no information on who leaked information to the press, it could have been from up to 20-30 people. But Moran says Stefan is not the killer, he was just a burglar and victim, and old man, fought him and died of a heart attack The Chief says the squad screwed it up, but Moran defends them and asks to continue to work with them and the Chief agrees and leaves. Cragen asks Moran if he saw the light, and he says maybe. Cragen tells him he is not a team player, and he’ll have his ass if he holds anything else back.

Back in the squad room, Stabler looks over the victims’ photographs. He tells Moran that the victims are all the same age but racially, socially, and professionally diverse. But Stabler tells him to look at the victims that were not assaulted. One had her hair dyed, and the killer would not have known that until he unclothed her. Fin said another had “new boobs” - and Stabler says that the killer is a purist; if the women are not natural he won’t rape them, and he glues them shut. Moran says the profile has now changed, the killer is likely someone in their 40s, and they think the man has been raping for decades. Munch tells them that familial DNA comes back to Angela Ocurro, Tyrone Beckwith, and David Paige.

At a party rental place, Munch and Fin talk to Paige, and ask him if he has any brothers, and he says his brother never killed anyone, and he buried him months ago. Stabler and Moran speak with Ocurro, and she resists helping them until Stabler brings out the cuffs, she agrees to give them information on her 4 brothers. In jail, Cragen speaks with Beckwith, and he says he has a brother, Lance Corporal Tyrese Beckwith.

Back at the squad, Cragen says Beckwith is on active duty in Afghanistan, and has had no leave in a year. Paige OD’d last summer. This leaves Luke, Mark, John, and James Ocurro. John can’t be located, James is in rehab, Luke lives in North Carolina is a farmer, and Mark works for the airline. Moran asks for them to bring up the last crime scene photos, and he looks for baggage – which he sees in the picture. They realize that all the victims had just come back from trips. Mark Ocurro is a deliveryman who returns lost luggage.

At an apartment, we see Mark Ocurro (Nelson Vasquez) at the door, telling a woman they found her lost luggage. The suitcase is heavy so he walks it into the apartment to the bedroom as she asked. As they walk to the bedroom he begins to attack her, but Stabler is already there and gets a gun on Ocurro and as she cuff him, Stabler reads him his rights. Outside, Moran has searched Ocurro’s van, and found the mother lode – rope, gloves, condoms, with a list and all the female names circled.

In interrogation, Stabler and Moran question Ocurro about all the murders. When they show him the photos, he said he doesn’t recognize the women. They run through the scenarios of how he murders and poses the victims. They tell him they are searching his apartment. Ocurro asks for a lawyer – now. Meanwhile, Munch and Fin are searching the apartment, and Munch finds a bunch of books on homicide and autopsy textbooks. Munch also notices the wire hanging some pictures on a wall are twisted in a very peculiar way, saying an obsessive compulsive like Ocurro would never tolerate that. They turn the pictures backwards and look behind them and find magazine cover pictures of women who have been hog-tied.

Back in interrogation, Ocurro is there with his attorney Patrice Larue (Jeri Ryan) and she says a lot of people collect those magazines. But, they tell her about the DNA matches, Stabler telling Ocurro he is screwed.

At the Supreme Court pre-trial hearing, ADA Cabot (Stephanie March) outlines the charges to Judge Petrovsky (Joanna Merlin). Saying the victim bondage method for all six murder is the same. The defense attorney Larue argues that he used the bathrooms in those cases, which could have transferred the pubic hairs, but there are no prints there because he didn’t wash his hands. But Cabot argues that they found gloves in his van as part of his “murder kit” which included rope, latex, and glue. The Larue argues all those things are used to repair damaged luggage, but Cabot argues that the condoms can’t be used for that. Larue says the condoms were in the glove compartment, and they should assume he is just sexually active. She also says that they have a witness who says Ocurro never left the house at the time of Chapman’s death – his mother Elena Ocurro – and her bridge club. The judge says that if the defendant’s alibi is verified then the linkage between all six cases is broken and she will have to dismiss.

Later, Stabler and Moran talk to Elena Occuro, and she says knows nothing about those murders, Mark called out of the blue and asked to come over She doesn’t like her own son, which is why she called the bridge club to come over. She says he once tied a cat to a bus – and that her son is a mistake. He did not leave his apartment the whole day and she could not wait for him to leave. As Moran walks off, he tells Stabler than Ocurro planned this and he had to create this alibi – and also thinks that they are basing the time of death on Warner’s calculation which could be wrong.

At the ME's, she tells them she could have been a few hours off but not a whole day. When Stabler asks if Ocurro could have accelerated the process, she tells him extreme heat or water would have done that, but there was evidence of neither. Moran asked what if he had turned the heat up, and she said residential heating wouldn’t do it. But Stabler wonders about a kiln.

Back at Casey Chapman’s home, they look at the large kiln. It takes 8-10 hours to get hot, but twice that long to cool off. Cragen wonder that Ocurro opened the window because it was still hot. There are no prints on the kiln, but Fin tells them that the power company confirmed that Chapman’s kilowatt hours doubled the day of her murder. Moran says that this means Chapman was killed on Monday night, not Sunday when he was with his mother, and Ocurro turned on the kiln to accelerate the decomp, causing an inaccurate time of death. Cragen tells them to pick him up.

At the airlines claim area, they go to pick up Ocurro, but his is out making deliveries. They ask the manager to print the delivery list, and they ask him to call Ocurro on the cell phone and tell him he has some wrong luggage and to come back, but the cell phone goes to voice mail. Stabler and Moran suspect that Ocurro is readying for a kill. Moran tells him that they should look only for redheads, as that was the next order on the magazine covers that Ocurro had in his apartment. Fin is back at the squad, looking at the driver’s license pictures of the women on the list, reading the information to Stabler on the phone. They zero in on red-headed Vicki Hennegan, and they get to her apartment and catch Ocurro in the act. Moran cuffs Ocurro, and then begins to kick him. Stabler tries to get him to stop, saying they don’t need to give him a reason to walk. When Stabler tells Moran it’s over, he answers that is what he is afraid of.

Back at Mercy General Hospital, Moran is in the hallway waiting. His daughter is in surgery, but Moran says it’s a good thing. Stabler tells him that Ocurro confessed to a few other homicides in the Dominican Republic. A doctor comes out and asks Moran if he wants to see Joy, and he does. A person exits the room with a cooler that held lungs for transplant, and then more people come out with other coolers with more organs. Stabler realizes that Joy’s organs were taken for transplant, and a somber look comes over his face as he looks on the sad face of Moran. Stabler says he is very sorry, but Moran says it is a second chance – everyone needs one. As Moran walks into the room to look upon his daughter, Stabler looks on, and we fade to black.

Two Minute Replay Baggage

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © unless otherwise noted

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

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


Melanie Atkins said...

It was a good ep, but I missed Mariska.

John K. said...

Well, Mariska still had her injury at the time of filming, so I assume that's why she was out.

Can you please transcribe the exchange between Munch and Fin over the D.N.A. and Fin's "six dead women, Munch"? Thank you.

All Things Law and Order said...

John, just out of curiosity, what do you do with these trascriptions? I don't have access to scripts so this is a manual process.

Here it is!

Munch: Aw, this is not right.

Fin: Six dead women, Munch.

Munch: That man had a genetic test to establish paternity and we use the results without his consent to try and catch a killer.

Fin: Uh huh.

Munch: That’s invation of privacy, man!

Fin: Six dead women, Munch. Let’s go.

John K. said...

Thank you very much. I know how tedious the process is, which is why I'm trying to ask for the essentials.

To answer your question, I use your transcripts as discussion and debate fodder for my Law & Order messageboards. You're credited accordingly, of course.

I no longer have a working VCR (as I usually tape) and I can't use the internet to access a copy (bandwidth issues and I have a malfunctionaling computer). Since you do a very thorough recap, you're a good person to ask, outside my usual source.

So, there's my answer. I know it's a courtesy you don't have to give me, so no worries if you wish to stop.

But I'm incredibly grateful for all the transcripts you've done for me. Thank you.

John K. said...

Oh, I forgot, once I do have a working VCR again, then I can do the process, myself.

Believe me, I don't like to impose, unless I absolutely have to.

Apparently, the new season has given me a lot to discuss and debate, so there I go with it.

All Things Law and Order said...

John, it is not a problem. I was really more curious than anything else!

It only becomes a problem if I can't find the episode on line. My DVR fills up fast so I can't keep the episodes longer than 24 hours for the most part. Usually I can get SVU eps on line, but for some reason the L&Os aren't always so easily accessible. (My source isn't always consistent!)

John K. said...

Well, I should have said more, "this is why I need them." Hehehe. It's also for context, as I trust my memory, but I may miss a crucial feature, so it's better to cross my t's and dot my i's.

Right, you mentioned that before, and I'm lucky to take what I can get and try to be timely about it. Although, I do find that weird that SVU is easily accessible, yet "no" about the regular L&Os. Sometimes, that just happens.

Ms Lovely said...

Yeah, that was a good episode. And I didn't miss Mariska either. I don't mind episodes with her in them, but if it doesn't have Stabler, I can't watch.

Emily Milerz Cali said...

I really really missed Mariska. i would stop watching the show if it wasnt for her.