Thursday, May 14, 2009

Law & Order “Exchange” Recap & Review

All Photos from NBC

Last night’s episode of Law & Order (NBC) “Exchange” provided another case where Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) wins by a slight of hand. It’s also another case where Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) expresses his disappointment in Cutter. I know just how Jack feels. It seems that Cutter can’t win a case straight up with just the evidence and the facts. I am a little surprised that they never thought to check more for a motive for Dennis Teal wanting his sister to go off the deep end, and with their mother’s death, I am surprised that they didn’t dig more into the possibility of her estate as a motivator. It possibly would have given them the evidence they needed right up front in the first place. Still, I have to give Cutter props for using Teal’s own testimony against him in his summation. Maybe Cutter learned a little too much of creative prosecuting from Jack McCoy over the years and thinks that he can twist and use the law any way he can so he can get a win. Still, Jack seems so disappointed in Cutter, and this sometimes does not ring true as Jack himself is just as guilty of this behavior when he was EADA. Either Jack is just getting mellower with age, or politics are getting to him, or he has gone a bit senile and forgot all the tricks he used to pull himself.

Connie (Alana De La Garza) seems to be the only one with a brain in the place, as her spider senses told her right away something was just not right with Wendy's confession. She should have gone ahead and told Jack and Cutter, ‘I told you so” because she certainly deserved to.

Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) are becoming quite the tag team for dry humor these days. They seem to work well together, but sometimes they do see a little too low key and almost just going through the motions in their roles. They either need a little excitement in their jobs or some conflict. The drama was just missing in their half of the episode. Woefully underutilized is S. Epatha Merkerson, who, despite her acting talents, rarely gets a chance to use them much on this show. Anita Van Buren could be played just as well by a rubber stamp. Please give this woman a meatier role, she deserves it.

Here is the recap:

Two people are siphoning off grease into a pail. They take it to a nearby apartment. Later, a man comes up to a police car, saying he needs to talk to somebody now, and he looks like he is burned. He collapses and begs the police to help someone in the apartment. Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) enter the apartment and call out for anyone to answer. It seems clear, but Bernard smells crispy French fries. He opens another door and enters a smoky kitchen. They call out again for anyone and find two burned bodies on the floor, one male and female. Bernard quips that he is definitely getting off the fried foods now.

Later, with more police and fire on the scene, the detectives are told by the landlord Sturgis (Peter Appel) that the victims are Colin and Geraldine, exchange students – scientists - from England who went to Cortland Tech. He never saw a problem with the guy in 2A, Charlie Headlind (Christian Anderson), but Charlie is bipolar with paranoid tendencies, and was there from a halfway house. He got some complaints from other tenants about the grease, they kept buckets of it in the hallway. They used it to run their van.

In the apartment, Bernard points out some stab wounds on the victim and thinks someone used the grease to set a fire. They wonder if Charlie did it – and they find that Charlie died 15 minutes ago.

At the ME’s, Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix) confirms the victims were stabbed before being set on fire. Charlie died from inhaling superheated air. There is no blood on him, and the burns are just on his hands and face. They think Charlie tried to save the people that were already dead.

At Cortland Technical Institute, the detectives speak to one of the instructors and said both students had great promise. Oil companies and other energy business were reaching out to them but Colin and Geri wanted to remain independent. It appears Colin was approved for two more years but Geri ’s application was pending. There was an issue with an energy audit and one of her assistants filed a sexual harassment complaint against her, but she denied it. The story was broken by their on-line newspaper.

At the on-line paper office, the guy in charge says the story is legit. The information was given to him anonymously. He tried to contact the man who complained but he has been up in the Artic for the last six weeks. He also found a faceplace page she kept under another name, Geri Knickers, and found that she was cheating on her fiancé Colin. Lupo wonders if big oil tried to buy the kids’ technology so they could bury it and killed them when they wouldn’t sell. Bernard asks Lupo if he really believes that - and Lupo says maybe if Bernard read something besides the sports section. Bernard asks “Lupes” what is the matter, did Jenny close up the kitchen on him? Lupo tells him to shut up. Lupo continues to read on the faceplace page that Geri left the lab early and rang up “Sturge” - the landlord - to come fetch his reward for painting their flat.

They head back to the landlord Sturgis and he says that he never “visited” Geri in that manner. He says he heard a rumor about him and her and a paint job, the city said he had to paint it, he got a letter from the housing department telling him he had to do it.

At the 2-7, Bernard tells Lt. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) that Sturgis’ gave them a letter from the housing department that looks legit but the city has nothing on it, The sexual harassment beef also seems false, they confirmed with her assistant up in the Artic that there was not harassment. Lupo adds that the tech people verified that Geri never accessed that page from her home or her office, and the bikini shot on the page is photoshopped. It appears all of it was made up. Van Buren thinks this is more than a college prank, maybe a city employee.

Lupo and Bernard question a supervisor from a city office; she asks them if they have a subpoena and Lupo says they will be back. As they leave, Lupo gets a text message saying that the computer that hit Geri’s page most often belonged to Charlie Headlind, and his computer also visited the student paper website to read the sexual harassment article. They don’t think he murdered them, though, and wonder if it was all just a show for Charlie’s benefit to convince him Geri was promiscuous, maybe to get him to stay away, like a mother or jealous girlfriend.

At Charlie’s apartment, the detectives they see a picture of Charlie in a heart shape on a canvas in a collage. They think it is from Charlie’s girlfriend. But no one called them to inquire about Charlie’s death. There are newspapers in the collage from articles from last year’s primaries. They wonder if it is from someone from the halfway house where Charlie had been. At the halfway house, Bernard tells Lupo that since painting is part of the therapy, it’s confidential and the same for who Charlie’s girlfriend may have been. Lupo enters another room and complements a guy on his painting and the guy tells Lupo he has his taste in his ass. Bernard shows him the picture of the collage and says they want to talk to the person who painted it. He doesn’t know but points out another one just like it. It was done by a Wendy T. They go back to the city tax department and look for the supervisor, and are told by another worker she is having tea in the lounge. But Lupo tells her they are looking for an employee named Wendy T. but she doesn’t know her. When they head to the lounge, the supervisor catches up with them. She knows Wendy Teal (Gretchen Hall), and says she just saw them talking to her. They chase after her but apparently don’t catch her as they are now at her desk. The supervisor tells them someone saw Wendy leave with her coat and purse – she also said Wendy moved two weeks ago so she has no address. She did say Wendy may have moved in with her parents as she said she would be sleeping in her mother’s bed.

Back at the 2-7, Lupo says Wendy’s mother died three months ago and the apartment was vacated a month after that. She must have been staying somewhere in Queens as the metro card she bought has her taking the 7 train at Elmhurst Avenue every morning. Bernard tells him two months ago she filed a criminal complaint against her brother, she wanted him arrested for burglary and trespassing at their mother’s place.

Later, at Eastside Day Academy, the detectives speak with Wendy’s brother Dennis Teal (David Lansbury) who says he hasn’t seen her sister since she tried to have him arrested. He says it is time consuming and emotionally draining to be constantly picking up after her. He doesn’t have a current address for her. He did not know she had a boyfriend, and he tells them to just ask him. But when they tell him Charlie dies Tuesday night, he says he got a call from a doctor at a west side hospital that they were holding Wendy for a pysch evaluation and seemed very manic, which only happens when she goes off her meds. She seems to have skipped from the hospital by the time he got there. When they tell him Wendy said she would be sleeping in her mother’s old bed, he says that is not possible, that’s what she tried to have him arrested for – it’s all misplaced grief. He put his mother’s furniture in storage – in Queens. They head to the storage facility, and find Wendy there, laying in the bed. She asks if they will take her somewhere warm. They find a bloody kitchen knife.

At court, Wendy is being arraigned for the murders. She pleads not guilty, and ADA Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) requests remand. But the defense attorney Miss Grubman says Wendy’s brother is there and wants her to be released to him and he will insure she will be properly medicated. But Wendy shouts she does not need that. The judge says Wendy will be confined to her brother’s home and wear a monitoring device, the bail at $250,000. Afterwards, Dennis Teal tells Rubirosa he knows what he is dealing with and wants to see if she will make a deal. Wendy gets upset and tells Rubirosa to talk to her lawyer. Wendy storms off, and her lawyer tells Rubirosa she will be in touch with her about a plea.

At the conference room with Rubirosa and EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache), defense attorney Grubman (Elizabeth Marvel) says Wendy will plead to two counts of second-degree murder for 20 to life, and no opposition to parole. Rubirosa asks Wendy to tell them what happened. She says she was off her meds and her mind was racing and thought Geri was trying to steal Charlie. She tried to discourage Charlie but he was weak. When she went to his place she saw Charlie had flowers, she thought for Geri. She took the flowers to Geri’s apartment and brought a knife to cut up the flowers and things got out of control. She recalls stabbing Geri and killed Colin first when he answered the door, and Geraldine came into the room and she killed her too. She was so angry. Then, she set them on fire and she ran away. She says she is sorry, she knew it was wrong but she did it anyway. She went to the emergency room, she knew she needed a shot and was out of control. Grubman said her client was manic but she knew what she was doing and this is what she wants. Rubirosa says they will get back to them, and Cutter seems surprised.

When Wendy and her attorney leave, Rubirosa says it’s not just Wendy and the lawyer pushing for a deal, it’s the brother too. She asks what if Wendy was legally insane when she committed the crime? And what if after sitting in jail for a while she is not quite as sorry as she is now – do they want to risk a reversal on appeal?

At Westside Hospital, they speak to a doctor who was in the ER and describes what she saw when Wendy came in. Wendy kept saying she was the little girl no one wanted and she needs her sweetie bear. Wendy had a four month old prescription with three unused refills. She was in a full-fledged psychotic episode. As soon as she was stable she checked herself out. She says that she told her brother AFTER she left the hospital, and that is not what he told them. The doctor said they did not see him. Rubirosa asks to see security.

Later, in Cutters office, Rubirosa, Cutter, and DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) are looking a video footage from the security cameras, and she sees Wendy arrive, being dropped off by a car that drives off afterwards. They see a sticker on the car from Eastside Day Academy, where Dennis Teal reaches drama, and the car matches the one he drives. But the story he told does not match what happened, and now he is pushing for a deal. McCoy says Dennis is being a realist, he read her statement, Wendy knew what she was doing and there is no basis for an insanity defense. When Cutter says that Connie felt they should dot their “I”s, McCoy says to consider them dotted and make the deal. When Rubirosa begins to protest, McCoy says we should all be lucky to have a sibling who puts their neck out for them and he leaves. Rubirosa says she will pass on Dennis Teal’s martyr act, and Cutter says that is cold and they should draw up the plea agreement. Rubirosa says that Wendy said she knew what she was doing was wrong, but the ER doctor said Wendy expressed no such remorse, she was full on manic. She wants to know what she talked about with her brother before he dumped her there.

Elsewhere, Rubirosa and Cutter are speaking with Dennis Teal and calls him on the conflict in his statement and what really happened. He said she thought she had been raped. He tells them that she said she hurt some people. Cutter asks why he didn’t call the police, and he says that he blames himself for what happened to her, he had been avoiding her since she tried to have him arrested. She just kept saying she had done a bad thing and he asked where her clothes were and she said she had blood on them. He thought he should just take her to the hospital to get her meds. He panicked – between Wendy, his late mother and his new baby, everything landed on his shoulder. Even though she won’t take her meds and drinks like a fish, he had to try. Cutter comments that Dennis realizes Wendy is violating the terms of her bail, and says he can’t fore her to take her pills, he does not want to make her angry. When Dennis leaves, Cutter states he knows there is one brick they can take off his shoulders.

In Supreme Court, Cutter brings up the fact that Wendy has been self-medicating with alcohol. When Wendy hears her brother had given them this information, she calls him a son of a bitch. She tells him he doesn’t care and has no soul. The judge revokes bail. She creams at Dennis that he is a heartless bastard and she is not garbage. She is restrained as they take her away. She yells she wants her sweetie bear as they take her off.

Back in the office, Cutter says the fact that she got rid of her bloody clothes indicates a consciousness of guilt and removes legal insanity. They have dotted every I and it's time to get the plea agreement on paper. But Rubirosa shows Cutter a document that set up a medical trust for Wendy set up by her mother and Dennis was set up to be responsible for her medical care. She adds that it is hard to take your meds if you don’t have them in the first place. He hadn’t filled her prescription in three months. Rubirosa gets a phone call, and she says that Wendy just hanged herself at Rikers. She is beginning to think this is what Dennis Teal wanted all along.

At the 2-7, Rubirosa and Dennis Teal speak with Van Buren on the case. There is a photo on Wendy at a pay phone at the prison, she said she wanted to call her lawyer. She was just out of the guard’s sight for less than 7 minutes. Teal blames Rubirosa and her “pal” and said he wanted to take care of her. But Rubirosa calls him on the fact that he did not refill her meds. He said he was just trying to be a good brother and thanks for meddling in hi family, and he storms off. Van Buren shows the burglary complaint that Wendy filed about her mother’s place where everything in her mother’s apartment was listed. Rubirosa sees on the list a “sweetie bear”, a small bronze object listed as priceless. She recalls Wendy’s references to the sweetie bear, and wonders if her mom’s stuff is still in the locker. At the storage locker, Lupo, Bernard and Rubirosa are there, and find a picture of a young Wendy and something that looks like a bear. Lupo thinks it is a Chinese bronze.

Back in McCoy’s office with Cutter, Rubirosa tells them that it is a bronze from the Western Han Dynasty circa 200 BC and Wendy’s grandfather probably got is while on one of his trips to Asia. It is up for auction next month for about $300,000, the seller Dennis Teal. He gave the auction house an address of Colin and Geraldine’s vacant apartment in London. She thinks she stole the bear to sell it and keep the money and knew that Wendy would find out so he withheld her meds knowing she would end up dead or locked up, and he would get all the assets. He found out about the British students that were Charlie’s neighbor and used their London address to hid his tracks from Wendy. He drove his sister crazy for her share of the bear. McCoy says he thinks Rubirosa nailed Teal - and them, and adds ”If you feel like saying I told you so, by all means go ahead.” She says she would rather say “gotcha” to Teal. Cutter says they can start with charging Teal for the murder of Colin and Geraldine for depraved indifference.

At Supreme Court, Dennis is on the stand telling his side. He says he thought Wendy could fill her own prescriptions. He did not notice her behavior charge. The night he dropped her off at the hospital, he tells them Wendy admitted she did something bad and got rid of her bloody clothes and there was a knife where she forgot where she put it. She was coherent. Cutter asks if she was so rational, why did he risk her to the hospital to get her meds, and why did the doctor diagnose Wendy as in a full-fledged psychotic episode? He can’t answer that. Cutter presses if Dennis coached Wendy. He says he told his sister not to tell them what she did. He did tell her to say what she did at the plea agreement, and Cutter hits on the fact that Dennis had a week with her under his roof to coach her on that too. He denies that he did not want Wendy out of the way so he could sell the antique bear. He said Wendy knew all about it, it was all her idea. She told her to sell it overseas, there was a tax advantage, and Wendy was the CPA in the family. He insists Wendy came up with the scheme and gave him the address in London.

Back at the office, Rubirosa says Teal threw Wendy under the bus and made her out to be a tax evading cheat. Cutter says he just handed the jury reasonable doubt. Cutter decides to change the theory of the crime and say that Dennis conspired with Wendy to sell the bear overseas and evade taxes, and when Colin and Geraldine found out their addresses were being used, Wendy killed them. But Rubirosa says be definition you can’t conspire with a psychotic person, there is no meeting of the minds. But Cutter reminds them that Dennis and his lawyer spend the day stating Wendy was rational, and suggests they “steer into the skid.” McCoy questions that Cutter wants to paint Wendy as a conspirator in a cold-blooded killing when he has evidence to the contrary. He adds this isn’t a con Cutter is running on a defendant in some back room, he will be in open court in front of a jury. Either she is a victim or she is a co-conspirator, not both. Cutter says he is not going to apologize for doing what needs to be done to put this monster behind bars. McCoy says, “A trial is a truth-seeking process, not a vehicle for you to obscure the truth to win a conviction at all costs. You have a greater duty than that.” When McCoy leaves, Rubirosa tells Cutter she wants to see Teal behind bars too.

Back at Supreme Court, Grubman says in her statement that the people have not shown Dennis did anything wrong. Cutter counters that in his opening statement he would establish Teal caused his sister to have a psychotic break, fully aware of her potential for violence and killing the victims in that state. He admits he failed to meet his burden of proof. But, the evidence shows Dennis conspired with his sister to commit tax fraud by selling the valuable item overseas, and they know this because Dennis admitted that under oath. The used the victim’s London address for the fraud and Wendy killed the victims. Even though the people are under no obligation to prove motive, it is reasonable to infer that the victims were killed when they found their addresses were used for tax fraud. When the defense lawyer objects to this statement, the judge overrules it. Cutter says it does not matter if Wendy acted with or without his consent, they conspired together and he is responsible for any act she committed in furtherance of the crime. “In the eyes of the law, you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound.” He says they must find him guilty. The defense lawyer asks for his whole summation to be stricken, that he cannot offer a completely different theory of the crime. But Cutter counters that he has not changed a single element of the crime, he simply incorporated a new fact offered by the defendant that he conspired with his sister. The judge reminds Grubman that she is bound by the testimony of her own client and Cutter is within his rights to present it. Grubman says Wendy was an unmediated, bipolar psychotic , it is black letter law that you can’t enter into a conspiracy with someone who is mentally incompetent. Cutter agrees, but has Rubirosa read back some of Teal’s own testimony, saying that if he saw something had changed with Wendy, he would have done something, but she seemed fine, she was rational, coherent, and aware of what happened. Cutter says what better witness to Wendy’s state than from the testimony of her caring, long-suffering brother. The judge overrules Grubman’s objection and allows Cutters summation to stand.

Later, in the conference room at the DA’s office, Teal and Grubman talk with Cutter and Rubirosa about his life and how unfair things are. Teal is getting a little crazed with the pressure and he points to Grubman and says that “this one” tells him to take the stand and testify about her state of mind. He says he doesn’t know anything about it, he’s not an expert he is just a drama teacher. But Rubirosa says he is just an infant, and if he thinks his life sucks now, wait until he wakes up tomorrow. And unlike his sister’s condition, this will be a nightmare of his own making. Cutter makes him the offer he urged his sister to take – 20 to life. He refuses, but Grubman tells him it will be worse if they wait for a verdict. He glares at her, and says, “Bluff much?” He leans back in surrender and Grubman tells them to send her the paperwork.

Later, McCoy enters Cutter’s office, and Rubirosa tells him Teal took 20 to life. McCoy is not sure that congratulations are in order. Cutter says they avenged Wendy Teal, but McCoy questions he did it by assassinating her character, and tarnishing Cutter’s. Cutter looks back at McCoy as he leaves Cutter’s office. Cutter and Rubirosa look silently at each other, then go back to work as we fade to black.

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samfan said...

I didn't think it was a great episode, but I thought it was okay. I thought the detectives were great, they are really strengthening the show. I think Cutter needs to win more, and more fairly.

Nikita777 said...

I think the show had better story lines last year. I believe the show will be renewed, but if they don;t get their act together, it will probably be the shows last year.

Redrose said...

Linus Roache is starting to look like James Woods.

Anonymous said...

I thought I read that this show is not coming back and that it has met its maker. Is that true???

JB said...

I thought the case itself was blah, but I liked this episode because of what it did for the Connie character. On the show side of things, I liked that Alana de la Garza had another chance to shine. I really like her in this role; I think she does a spectacular job, in fact, I think she's become my favorite ADA.

On the actual story side of things, I just liked the confirmation that Connie's not just an associate there to do research and assist at trial. Cutter, at least, seems to see her and respect her opinion as more of a partner, despite what their titles are. It was clear he knew that she wasn't just trying to "dot their 'i's," and he would have been well within his rights as EADA to tell her that it's over and they're taking the plea right from the beginning. But he trusted her judgment enough to let her lead them where she would.

I know there's only so much they can fit in to the second half hour of an hour long show, but I've really, really liked their giving more respect to the ADA character.

John K. said...

I was going to ask for a transcript on the Lupo/Bernard Big Oil exchange, but you basically already did that. Thanks.

I thought the episode was a convoluted mess. So, she killed the couple, because of the boyfriend, but it then turned to the brother wanting a golden bear of the sister and figuring a way to drive her insane, and then, using the dead people's address as a part of the scheme? God, my brain hurts. Of course, it was written by one of the Illegitimate writers (Stephanie Sengupta), so now we know where Illegitimate's convoluted plot came from.

On the plus side, yes, Connie got to shine. Although, why she was so hell-bent to persue the brother is another story. Oh, well.

Given the premise (mental condition and family dynamics), why no Olivet? She would have been useful, there. To add insult, Olivet is in "Skate or Die"'s promo, so.

All Things Law and Order said...

To the anonymous poster - the show is not on NBC's fall schedule, but NBC will be coming out with more information supposedly sometime next week on shows such as L&O. Rumor has it that it will be a January start up with a shorter episode order - something like 13. Stay tuned.