Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Law & Order SVU “Unstable” Recap & Review

This season premiere of Law & Order SVU “Unstable” certainly lived up to the hype. While Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) was conspicuously absent, the guest appearance of Wentworth Miller as Nate Kendal certainly more than made up for it. Wentworth’s breathy delivery seemed to only make him appear more steely and headstrong, and his behavior certainly made him appear on the edge. We learn he had a daughter and a wife who were killed in a meth lab explosion, so he has got some baggage. I would love to see Wentworth as a regular on any one of the shows in the Law & Order franchise.

A new addition to the team is Executive ADA Sonya Paxton, played by the very talented Christine Lahti. Some of the comments I’ve received from readers who have seen the preview clips seem to classify Paxton as quite the bitch. I think it is the contrary. She’s been sent there by District Attorney Jack McCoy to clean up the “he said – she said” division because there have been far too many overturned convictions. She has a job to do and she is going to do it, and she has the backing of higher powers to get it done. I think this show has needed more tension between the main characters and Paxton may be the person to help spice up the show. There has been talk that the tension between her and Stabler is sexual tension that is OK with me. (Sorry Benson/Stabler shippers!) Paxton seems to not be able to go anywhere without her cup of what I assume is coffee, from which she constantly sips. I guess and EADA needs an extra jolt to keep things going. Maybe that isn't sexual tension we see, it's too much caffeine.

Strangely enjoyable was the face slap that Benson got early on in the episode. I don’t know why I enjoyed it, maybe because it was very unexpected. I have to admit, though, that Benson's "calm down" approach was a little grating to me for some reason.

Toward the end when Foster asked to go to the bathroom, I knew there was going to be trouble ahead. But the big question is, did Foster jump or did he get pushed by Kendal? The somewhat dazed look on Kendal’s face in the restroom made me think that Foster took a leap, but Benson seemed certain that Kendal pushed him out. It is a question that won’t get answered anytime soon I suspect. Stabler gets tied in a knot big time after he makes a flippant comment indicating he could care less that Foster is dead, until he finds out that it totally screws up Victor Tate’s ability to get out of jail. I wish Paxton would have been able to come up with some creative ideas to help, but the law moves in mysterious and sometimes unfair ways.

This episode may have proved that the “he said – she said” squad does need to do a better job in making sure they have the right person the first time. I never thought they did a bad job, but if Jack McCoy and other higher ups had concerns, there must be something to it. I suspect that Paxton’s mission will cause her to butt with more heads during her tenure with the show.

The only fault I saw in this episode was my usual pet peeve – the detective announce themselves when they are too far away from the suspect, or not yet in a position where they could prevent a suspect from fleeing. They really need to get closer before they tip their hand.

All in all, an excellent episode and a great start to the season!

Here is the recap. (Please note that since there were so many clips available so far in advance, some sections of the recap contain detailed dialog, which I don’t usually include to this extent)

The episode opens with Nate Kendal, in the back seat of a car with someone who appears to be under arrest.

Nate Kendal (Wentworth Miller): “You are not the type to off yourself. Don’t know why, since you’re just a waste of skin. (We see him pointing a gun at someone.) A lousy puss sack, so you know it’s coming. What I can’t figure is why the hell you’re crying about it. (We see Kendal has the gun in the “lousy puss sack’s” mouth)

The man, grimacing, makes a slight noise and we hear a knock on the door and someone says, “You got fives waiting so quit playing with this douche.” Kendal pulls the gun out of his mouth and the man is relieved but wincing.

Later, outside the police car, the police sergeant asks “What’s that smell?” and Kendal answers, “Suspect vacated his bowels, Sarge. Couldn’t be helped.” As Kendal walks off, ME Warner walks up and Kendal asks, “What’s it look like? “

ME Warner (Tamara Tunie): “COD is blunt force trauma.”

Kendal: “It’s what happens when a methhead mistakes his three month old for a basketball.”

Warner: “ The girlfriend claims it wasn’t her fault.”

Kendal: “Soon as I get a warrant for blood I’ll be charging her ass too.” He sees a woman with a sheet wrapped around her body running across the street. To Warner: “Call a bus.“ He runs after her and catches up with her.

Woman, screaming, “Let me go leave me alone!”

Kendal: “Nate Kendal, I’m a cop.” (shows his badge)

Woman: “He raped me. He raped me!”

Kendal: “Alright, let’s get you some help.”

Woman: “ No no please help me please help me don’t leave me, please (etc.)” (She grabs on to him and sobs.)

Later, at a hospital, an elevator door is opening and Benson and Stabler step out.

Kendal “You SVU?”

Stabler: “Stabler, Benson.”

Kendal: “Nate Kendal the 2-4. Your victim ran into my crime scene. “

Stabler(Chris Meloni): “You get any info from her?

Kendal: “Rena West, 35, raped in her apartment. Superficial knife wounds and wrist restraints, doc says no semen but evidence of tearing, everything was bagged, tagged, and sent to forensics.”

Benson (Mariska Hargitay) : “ Great. We’ll take it from here.”

Benson and Stabler walk in to her room. Stabler: “Miss West?”

West (Jennifer Ferrin): “Don’t come near me. Get out.”

Stabler: “We’re sex crimes detectives (shows his badge). We just wanna hear what happened..”

West, rattled: “I can’t. No no not again, where’s Nate? He was there. I already told him. No I can’t do this!”

Benson: “Try and calm down. Listen to me, we’re here to help you. (West runs to the window and grabs at the blinds). “Rena, Rena, Rena you’re safe now, okay? (moves to her) Try and take a deep breath…”
West: slapping Benson: “NO! Don’t touch me! Never touch me! (Benson reels away, holding her cheek.)

West, sobbing “Ohhh, where’s Nate? (slides to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably) Nate! Where are you?” (Benson and Stabler look on)

Back at the SVU squad Stabler asks Fin (Ice-T) what they got from CSU for Rena's apartment. He says there was no forced entry, no foreign prints, no semen, just bloody sheets and green fibers. Fin thinks this is not the perp’s first party, so Benson asks him to check the database for open rapes.

Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) asks if the detectives got a description from Rena, but they haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet as she had to be sedated. When Cragen asks why they aren't waiting back at the hospital for her to come to, Stabler admits they set her off and she bonded with Nate Kendal. Benson adds that Rena sees Kendal as her hero because she saved her, and she told them to get lost. When Cragen asks where Kendal is now, Benson says they left messages on his cell phone and at the precinct and he could be out in the field. Cragen picks up his phone and calls Paul at the 2-4 saying that they need to talk to Kendal, and Cragen is told Nate is on loan to street narcotics pinching small time dealers.

On the roof of a building, Kendal is doing some surveillance with binoculars, and after he communicates information to law enforcement on the ground, he watches them move in to apprehend their target. He turns away and sees Benson and Stabler moving toward him, and mutters, “What the hell.” Benson asks if he remembers them, and he admits he got their messages but doesn’t have time. Stabler says they will be fine without him but Rena West won’t. Kendal says it is not his problem, but Stabler and Benson continue to push. Kendal admits he doesn’t like victims because “they cling.” But Benson says not after they bag the trash that assaulted them. Kendal sighs, and says the vic's hands were loaded with groceries, and the doer offered help and told not to be afraid of the black guy, only truth be told s when he said he didn’t want her purse. When Stabler asks if she remembers what he looked like, Kendal says “average black guy.” Stabler comments that Kendal doesn’t believe her, and Kendal says the focus was probably on the knife at her throat; the perp got her inside and checked he mail and closets. He bound her wrists and raped her with his clothes on and flushed the wrapper. When Kendal turns and walks off, Stabler asks how Rena got away, and Kendal stops walking and turns back and looks at the detectives, thinking about that comment.

Back at the SVU squad in an interview room, Rena tells Benson that the man went to cut more cords from the blinds, and she assumed since her hands were already tied he was going to kill her. When he went in the other room she just ran out and ran for blocks. Kendal pipes up and said that was the first smart thing she did, but Benson reminds Rena it was not her fault. Kendal says, “The hell it’s not” and goes on to say her gut was churning the second he approached her on the street. Stabler quickly stands up from his chair and tells Kendal he is in the way and to leave, but Rena says no, Nate is right, they guy was wearing a nice suit and was polite. Kendal says she told herself only a racist is afraid of a black guy, and he read her. Benson reminds Rena she survived and that is the only thing that matters. Stabler asks for a description. She can’t give one, and says she only want to talk to Nate. But Kendal says he doesn’t catch rapists, Benson and Stabler do. She says it’s him or no one, but Benson indicates that is not how it works, she will have to repeat her story to lawyers, a jury, a judge. Rena balks, and Stabler says that the guy that raped her will rape again and again. But Rena says she does not care, that she is alive and Benson said that was all that matters so they should just take her home. But Kendal says, “You aren’t going anywhere. The bastard who did you is out hunting his next mark. You gonna let her get screwed because you’re fragile?“ He tells her to “park it” and she sits back down. She says she can’t do this, but he says there is only one way to find out, and asks Benson and Stabler to give him and Rena a minute. They don’t look thrilled, but they step out.

In the observation area, Stabler moans to Cragen that is it a mistake, but Cragen disagrees, saying it isn’t if it helps catch the rapist. But Benson wonders then what – Kendal won’t hold her hand through the trial. Cragen reminds them that Kendal has the victim talking, but Stabler thinks Kendal is not experienced enough in dealing with sexual assault victims, and Benson says if he works the case, they will have to watch him every second.

Capt. Cragen : “We’re out of options. Either work with him, or I’ll find somebody who will.” (He walks over and opens his office door. Kendal enters.)
Kendal: “Average height, weight, and build. Round up the usual suspects.”
Stabler, looking annoyed: “If you knew how to talk to victims you’d get more facts.”
Kendal: “Here’s one: victims make lousy witnesses. Hope you catch your man (he moves to walk out the door).
Cragen: “You’re not done yet, detective. I need you to stay with Ms. West.”
Kendal: “I am not a babysitter.”
Cragen: “You talk like you have a choice.”
Kendal: “Sounds like you already boned me with my captain.”
Cragen: “You’re mine until I don’t need you anymore.”
Kendal: “ So what next? “

Stabler says they know their guy is not opportunistic, prepared, or controlled, and didn’t stalk her, he picked her up off the street. Benson adds that he could have picked her up at the local market, which was her last stop. They move to leave.

At Domingo Deli and Grocery, they speak to a woman who recognizes the sketch of the suspect and the woman thinks the face is familiar but doesn’t know who it is. The security camera she has at the store is just “for show” and she tells them to talk to Spencer, the neighborhood spy who is always watching. She points across the street, and the detectives see an apartment window with three security cameras aimed around the area.

The detectives head over to the location where the cameras are located, and a man by the name of Tommy introduces them to his brother Spencer, who is standing in a darkened room looking at many monitors. Spencer sounds like he may have some sort of mental impairment. He recognizes Benson and Stabler from the store, but says he saw them there two years ago. Tommy says Spencer never forgets a face, and also says Spencer is autistic and that loud noises and human contact unnerve him and this is his way of being social. He brings up a screen capture of Benson, in a low cut dress, walking away from the store from April 12, 2007 at 5:28 AM. Stabler asks, dryly, “late night?” Benson shows him the sketch, and Spencer says it was 7:54 PM, he was pretending to read the paper. Spencer proceeds to bring up the screen capture of the man in question.

Later, the show Rena a photo array, she looks to Kendal and says she wants to be sure. She picks out the same man Spencer showed in his video. Kendal asks if she is sure, and she says yes.

Outside in the snazzy new media area, Fin tells them that facial recognition got a hit, the man is Mark Foster (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), 32, who liked beating up his ex-wife. He did time for aggravates assault and when he got out, she filed a restraining order. But he has no record of rape. He was evicted from his midtown condo after he lost his job as s trader and his recent W-2 shows him working in the meatpacking district, quite the comedown. Stabler says they should go pick up the “butcher” and when Kendal says he is riding with them, Stabler says they got it, and blows him off.

Benson and Stabler arrive at London Meats, and when they spot Foster carrying what looks like a huge hunk of beef, Stabler calls out “Mark Foster, police” from several feet away. Of course, Foster drops the beef and runs. They both run after him, but Foster gets hit by a car as he runs through the lot. It’s Kendal behind the wheel, and Stabler asks, “What the hell was that?” as he catches up to Foster. As he cuffs Foster, he asks Kendal if he was trying to kill him. Kendal says, “I hate to run” with a devious grin on his face.

At the SVU squad, as they bring Foster in, Kendal is waiting there and Benson and Stabler approach him, both agitated. Benson comments that was excessive force with a car, and asks if he is out of his mind. Kendal say they ID’d themselves and he ran, period. Stabler thinks Kendal’s stunt has damaged their case, but Kendal says they have no case, citing that it took Rena 15 minutes to pick Foster out of the photo array and memory recall is immediate. He thinks Rena just wants it to be over, and Benson can’t believe that she wants it so badly that she picked out the wrong perp. Kendal says cross racial identification isn’t reliable. Fin comes up and seems to defend Kendal’s comment. Kendal wonders if she was focused on the weapon and not his face, and when Stabler says it was his face, Kendal wonders how he can be so sure. Stabler says because she told them and he isn’t going to put her through any more than he has to. When they walk to interrogation, Kendal makes a move to come along, and Benson slaps the file on him, saying, “Oh no, four’s a crowd.” .and she walks away.

Stabler steps into interrogation and Foster asks if they make a habit out of hitting people with their cars, but Stabler asks why Foster ran. Foster says they can ask that question when his lawyer gets there. He denies raping anyone and says he knows a white woman was raped and every brother within 20 block is waiting to get hauled in. Benson asks him where he was two days ago, and he says he was working and then went on job interviews. He used to live in the area of the market where the victim shopped, when he had a real job and his ex still lives in the area. When Benson asks if this is the ex that had to file a restraining order against him, and comments that he has a short fuse. Foster laughs and says his fuse is plenty long, and she should see it. Benson snarks back, “What for? Couldn’t keep your wife happy with it. Is that why you beat her up?” Stabler brings up the point that because Foster now has a record, he can’t trade stocks, and it cost him his home, job, and freedom. Benson says he took it out on Rena, but he denies it. Benson asks for an alibi, and he says that he violated his RO when he went to see “that bitch” he was married to. Benson tells him that is smart, that he confessed to a misdemeanor to get out of a felony. He counters that she has custody of their kid and she is a crackhead. We then hear a voice come over the intercom that says “93 seconds.”

A woman enters the room and tells Stabler that the suspect asked for a lawyer, and he kept questioning him for 93 seconds, which is a violation of his right to counsel. Benson stands up, saying she will leave her to her client. But the woman is not his lawyer, she says she may be wearing couture but she doesn’t represent scumbags. She represents the people, she’s Sonya Paxton the new ADA.

Cragen walks into his office with Benson, Stabler, and Paxton behind him. Benson asks where Cabot is, and Paxton says she is training in Albany and when she is finished she will take Paxton’s spot n appeals. Stabler says they he means no disrespect, but they do things a little differently down in New York City. Paxton, her arms crossed, says. “Oh really. I was trying homicides when you were fresh out of the academy, walking a beat and trying not to piss yourself. “ Cragen jumps in and tells Stabler that “Executive” ADA Paxton got the first capital conviction when Governor Pataki brought back the death penalty. She acknowledges that and says when she says to quit playing fast and loose with defendant’s rights, that’s what they will do, or they won’t be working there. She grabs her coffee and takes a sip. But Cragen says that is the commissioner’s decision, not hers. But she tells Cragen he is wrong, that there have been far too many overturned convictions, especially in the “he said - she said” unit. She adds that Jack McCoy sent her here to clean house. She adds that One PP thinks it’s a really swell idea so why don’t they walk her through it. She takes another sip of coffee.

In the media room area, Stabler tells Paxton that the victim ID’d Foster from a photo array. When she asks if it was sequential, Stabler tells Paxton that's not procedure, but the photo array is by the book. Paxton says their book is :out of date” and argues that showing the photos one at a time is more accurate and studies show the traumatized victims can’t take in too much detail all at once. She adds that 75% of wrongful convictions are from witness mis-identification, and Benson pipes up, saying they are supposed to be victim’s advocates. Paxton reminds them that putting innocent people in jail costs the taxpayers money and leaves the real perps on the street. She asks if there are forensics evidence, and takes another sip of coffee. Benson says there were a few green fibers that CSU says are mass-produced carpeting from vans discontinued in the late 80s. When Paxton asks if foster owns such a van, Stabler says no, but he could have borrowed one or stolen one.. Benson says he was careful – he kept his clothes on, he wore gloves, a condom, he wasn’t stupid enough to show up at the crime scene with his own car. Stabler says they are saying he is not a first timer and has his rape routine down pat. But Paxton challenges Stabler on this statement, saying she thought there were no open rape cases that matched this current case. Stabler says there aren’t, maybe the victims didn’t report it, and his gut is telling him that he’s done it before. Paxton says maybe it’s his acid reflux, as she sips more coffee. Stabler smirks, and Cragen says they will widen the search and find his priors. Paxton tells them to call her when they get them, and walks off. Cragen tells them to break Foster’s alibi and go talk to his ex.

The detectives are at the residence of Layla Foster. They hear a baby cry, breaking glass, a slap, and a man yelling. The race in to find Nate Kendal grabbing Layla, yelling at her to pull herself together. Stabler pulls Kendal away, who tells Stabler to get off him, but Stabler tells him to calm down. Benson sees a young child sitting on the floor against the wall. Stabler asks Foster if she is hurt, and she says real bad, she needs her medicine. Benson moves to console the child. When Stabler asks what Kendal is doing there, he says he can’t make out Foster’s alibi, and that the “stupid bitch is worthless.” She was sucking on a crack pipe when he got there and the kid is filthy, and there is no food in the fridge. But Stabler says that doesn’t give him the right to rough her up. Kendal thinks she is lucky that he didn’t shoot her. Benson tells Kendal if he needs something to do, to take the little girl to social services, NOW. When Kendal approaches the girl, he says his little girl likes cheeseburgers, and asks “how about you?”

Benson and Stabler attempt to question Layla Foster, but she is out of it and says she needs some rock. A phone rings, and Benson answers it. Benson tells Stabler than Fin is on the phone, and they have another problem.

Back at the SVU squad, Fin tells them NCIC pinged a rape that matched the MO right down to the green fibers. It is a ten year old case that got someone 25 years. It was a case of Stabler’s, and Stabler looks stunned.

Later, Stabler tells the group that in ‘98 he collared Victor Tate for the rape of Katie Harris who threatened her with a knife and then tried to raped her but couldn’t perform so he beat her. Paxton adds he left the same green fibers at the crime scene that were found on Rena West, but Benson argues vans were the perps’ vehicle of choice and many have the same carpet. Kendal pipes up that maybe they got the wrong guy, and Benson glares at him, asking if that is his professional opinion. Cragen tells them to test the old fibers against the new to check for a match, but Stabler says the lab used up the whole sample ten years ago. When Paxton asks if there is no way to forensically link the cases, Stabler argues that they are not connected and Tate’s M.O. does not match. Kendal argues that guys adapt and he had a decade to improve his technique. Stabler counters that Tate gave a false alibi and the victim ID’d him. Paxton pushes back and says that 10 years later, someone is attacking women with remarkable similarity. Cragen reminds them they are basing Tate’s innocence on green fibers they don’t have, but Paxton says she is telling them to take a second look. She reminds them that 53 convictions have been overturned in the state, and that even one is too many. Benson says those men were exonerated by DNA and there is a difference. Paxton says they were falsely imprisoned for decades because, “oh yeah, detectives didn’t do their jobs in the first place.” Stabler tersely comments that isn’t the case here, and Tate is guilty. Paxton says with sarcasm, “Really? Oh! Well that’s great then! You don’t mind calling me after you re-interview Katie Harris and show her a sequential photo array.” Cragen tells Stabler to take Fin with him.

At the residence of Katie Harris (Geneva Carr), she doesn’t understand why she has to do this, so they take her through a sequential photo array. She points or Victor Tate, and wonders why they are making her do this again. Stabler tells her there is a slim possibility they caught the wrong guy. He husband is upset over this, and when Fin says a recent case may mean that Tate is innocent, Katie gets very upset. She doesn’t understand why they are doing this to her. Stabler says he would not be there if he had a choice. She asks if she thinks he is innocent, and when Stabler stays he is not sure, she tells him not to come back until he is sure.

As they leave, Fin asks Stabler if he is alright. Stabler says he has been going over the case in his head. Tate’s alibi checked out for the weekend before, Tate has always said it, it was his questioning that mixed him up and that’s why he got the dates wrong. But Fin tells him not to beat himself up. But Stabler wonders if Tate is innocent. Fin says the man had a fair trial and if he isn’t the rapist then the whole system failed him, not just Stabler. Stabler’s phone rings, and tells the caller they are coming in. He tells Fin they found two more victims.

At the squad, Benson says 12 years ago two women reported being raped at knifepoint and there were more green fibers on the scene. The cases never hit their desk because both of the victims are prostitutes and they gave phony names. When no one believed them they took a powder. But when they wonder how they can find victims from 12 years ago when they used aliases, Kendal says if you want to find a whore, ask a pimp.

Kendal and Benson approach a man, Willy, who is talking to a woman. Kendal comes up to him and tells the girl she will be in Lycra and plastic heels before she knows it. He grabs the man and says he was a baller back in the day and probably knows every skirt in the city. He shows him a picture of the victims from 12 years ago. He says the woman is dead, strangled by a trick.. The other girl wasn’t hooking long before she got the beat down, and she disappeared after that. Benson presses for a name, and Willy says he has to make a call. Kendal tells him to make it fast. When Willy walks off, Benson grabs Kendal and says “Hey, you don’t get to knock heads even when it’s about a kid.” Kendal says, “It’s no surprise we don’t see eye to eye. “ But Olivia responds that “It’s more than that. You slapped a mother over a six year old and you’re threatening him over a girl recruit. What’s the matter with you?” Kendal says she reminded him of his daughter, Kelly, who is 10. He gets two see her two weeks out of the year, his ex ran to Seattle to get away, and his kid ends up dead because he wasn’t there. Benson looks taken aback, and says she is sorry. He adds that his ex got herself involved with a meth dealer who blew them up cooking it. Willy comes back, saying he got him a name.

Benson is on the courthouse steps, holding the picture of the victim, and stops a woman, asking her if she is Beverly Neal (Cherise Boothe). Beverly asked where they got the picture and who are they? Benson identifies herself, and says they are investigating another case that matched her case file. She says there is no case, didn’t she hear, she made up the whole thing. As Beverly walks off, Benson and Kendal follow, and Benson tells her about the new case. Beverly says she is a court reporter now and she has seen what goes on in rape trials. Benson reminds her there are laws to shield the victims, but Beverly says there are tactics to get around them. Kendal jabs back that Beverly just doesn’t want them to know about her past. She stops dead in her tracks, telling Kendal he has balls and that she dropped that baggage long ago and now he expects her to pick it back up? Benson said the way she was treated was wrong. Beverly says that because Benson says so, she is supposed to just bend over, adding that is how primps talk. Kendal says women are being raped, and threatens to subpoena her. She says “fat chance” to which Kendal replies ”You don’t know cops if you think that’s an empty threat.” She says she is not a whore or a victim and she sure as hell won’t let him treat her like one. She storms off.

Back to the SVU squad, Benson tells the group that one victim is dead and the other victim won’t cooperate. Kendal says he is going to call Paxton, but Cragen tersely tells him that one doesn’t call the ADA without clearing it with him. Kendal and Benson argue about the value of Beverly Neal, and Kendal wants to twist her arm. Stabler says why trust her and not Rena West? Fin says it is black on black crime, and if Neal picks foster they can’t claim a cross race ID. Cragen says it doesn’t matter now, Foster is in the tombs and there has been another rape, a vacant lot in midtown and the victim is a minor. Cragen sends them all out to the scene.

At the scene, EADA Paxton is there, and Stabler asks if she is checking up on them. She says there is a standing order at central dispatch that says she gets called when they do. The victim is Lynn Rivers, 16, her parents are out of town. Warner says the preliminary COD is exsanguination, with several slashes to her throat, chest, and her carotid was severed. Fin says she was not killed there as there is not enough blood. He also finds a cell phone. The victim’s cell phone shows 14 missed calls from an Angelina Lupino. There are also more green fibers on the scene and she is practically covered in them. Paxton tells them that Foster isn’t in the tombs any more, he made bail. When the group is shocked to hear this, Paxton said they did not have enough evidence to argue remand without bail. The judge set bail at $50K, and Benson says he throws five grand at a bondsman and he is free to murder. Paxton tells her to blame the constitution, and if she wants to be a prosecutor to go to law school. She adds, “Or better yet, just do your jobs guys. Find me something I can use to put him away. ” Paxton storms off.

At the morgue, ME Warner is reviewing this latest victim. She tells them them to look for a blade that is long an tapered. There was vaginal tearing and she is missing both areola, which were removed post mortem. The comment that Foster never took trophies before, but this is his first kill and they stressed him and he is decompensating. The girl’s tox screen came back positive for with THC and alcohol. The decide to check with Angelina Lupino.

The detectives speak with Angelina who said it was more like a make out session and they were having fun. It was at Tommy Porter’s house, in Rena West’s neighborhood. She was elected to get more beer because she had a fake ID. She never came back.

At the squad, Kendal says that the store manager turned Lynn Rivers away. There are no hits on the canvas - no one saw Foster in the area. When Cragen asked if they know where Foster is, Stabler says if they knew when he was going to be released they could have tailed him. Paxton takes offense to this statement, and tells Stabler if he wants to play the blame game, then if Foster is their guy, he put an innocent man in prison for 10 years. Stabler is aware of that, and Paxton reminds him he has brought her nothing to put Foster in chains. When Stabler refers to Foster as a predator, Paxton asks how he does it without a car. Fin pipes up and says he borrows it from his old man. His ailing father lives in the Bronx and let the registration lapse on his late 1980s van. Cragen asks, “You satisfied counselor?”

At the residence of Malcolm Foster (Helmar Augustus Cooper), they are searching his home, and tell Malcolm they are looking for his son. He sees knives are on the warrant, and he doesn’t seem surprised. Benson sees a bag of many knives hanging on a hutch and opens to find many knives and wants them tested for blood. Malcolm says he was a butcher for 40 years. Benson says the murder weapon was not there. When asked about his van, he says no one drives it, it is in his neighbor’s garage next door. When Kendal sees smoke outside, Benson and Stabler run out, and see a parked van with smoke coming out of it, and Benson thinks Foster is destroying evidence. The make their way over, guns drawn, and announce themselves and ask to see Foster’s hands. But he throws a pail of gasoline on them instead and holds out a lighter. Kendal approaches from the other side, his gun drawn and tells Benson and Stabler to pull back, but they will not. Benson reminds him they need Foster alive. While Kendal and Foster face off, Benson tells him not to do it. Foster turns his back on Kendal and he knocks him down, then pulls out the gas soaked rag from the gas tank. Foster says Kendal should have taken his shot, and Kendal says there is always tomorrow.

In interrogation, Foster’s lawyer asks what they are offering, and Paxton says life without parole. Benson shows them the murder weapon that they found in the van. Paxton says leniency depends on what he tells them about his crimes. He tells them to “stick a fork in me” and Paxton says he is so lucky it is not a needle. Foster admits there were two whores, and choked one of them, and one of them ran scared. She was lucky; he had plans to gut her. He admitted to forcing Katie Harris upstairs with a knife and cutting her. Katie Harris is watching from the observation room and is shaken by this news, and asks about Victor Tate. Stabler says they have to get him out. Foster says he did not feel the urge for a long time until he lost his job. He then admits to raping Rena, and Rena sees Foster in the lineup. He also admits to killing Lynn Rivers, saying she wanted him to buy her beer, and he called her the easiest mark he ever saw. Foster comments that the cops like to brag when they pinch the bad guy, and do they ever wonder how many times they get it wrong?

Meanwhile, Stabler is at the jail where Victor Tate is brought in to see him. Tate is clearly bitter. Stabler tells him he made a mistake and he wanted to tell him himself that they arrested Katie Harris’s rapist. Tate says he never thought he would hear those words coming from Stabler, and Stabler says “That makes two of us.” He says another man confessed. Katie also heard him describe the attack in detail and there is no doubt. Tate becomes upset and yells that no one believed him 10 years ago. His life just stopped and he lost his woman, his friends. Stabler says they will fix that, he owes him a debt and he can’t pay it, and he wants to get him out of here as soon as he can. He holds out his hand, and says he promises. Tate does not shake his hand, and instead asks if this is really happening. Stabler tells him to believe it. He reaches out his hand to Stabler and they shake.

Meanwhile, Foster is in holding, laughing over the whole thing. He says, “Sloppy work Elliot” adding that he is surprised they let him hold a badge. Kendal tells Stabler to take a break and he will take Foster to the tombs, but Foster tells them to take him to the can first. Kendal tells him to hold it, he can go later. Foster says he will do it in his car, and asks again to take a leak. Stabler walks as Kendal leaves with Foster. Rena walks in and asks Benson if Nate is there, and Benson tells her Kendal does not work in this precinct. When Rena gets insistent, Benson tells her Nate can’t prop her up forever, and says she needs counseling, giving her a card of someone to call. Rena takes it and leaves. We then hear a crash of glass, and Benson and Stabler rush out. They race to the mens room, where they see Kendal standing at a window, looking down. They look out and see Foster lying several stories down on the ground in a splatter of blood. When they ask Kendal what happened, Kendal says Foster just took a header out the window. Benson loudly asked if he jumped or if he tossed him. Kendal stands there looking a little confused and does not answer. Benson and Stabler look out of the window again as the camera zooms onto the body lying on the pavement.

On the scene, ME Warner comments that Foster’s neck was broken. Paxton asks if it was before or after he grew wings. Warner says there is no way to tell. Benson approaches Kendal and he comments that she thinks he killed him. Benson says she would not put I past him. He said he didn’t touch “the hump”, and he will wait upstairs for IAB. As he walks off Benson says, “He did it.” Stabler says, “Who gives a damn? At least Foster won’t be able to rape again.” As Stabler walks off Paxton calls him back and tells him that Foster can’t testify in court now, which leaves Victor Tate stuck in prison. Stabler is shocked, and she tells him that all they have is hearsay, and that a dead man’s confession does not meet the rules of evidence or allow cross in front of a jury. It is inadmissible. Benson asks about early parole and they would testify for him, but Paxton says an inmate had to admit guilt before a parole board will let him go. Stabler says he just told an innocent man he would be released, and Paxton tells him he jumped the gun. Stabler says he is getting him out of there if he has to hire a lawyer himself. Paxton says he can do that but it won’t change anything, he will still serve the whole time, which Benson says is another 15 years. Paxton says she does not know what to say, and she is sorry. She walks off, and Stabler pulls her back. He asks her to tell him what to do. She says that there is not a single thing he can do. She walks off, leaving Stabler there looking stunned, as we fade to black.

NBC Two Minute Replay: "Unstable"

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John K. said...

Awesome recap, as always.

I need a little transcript when Paxton addresses Foster the second time. From the start of the scene to "stick a fork in me." Thank you if you can.

Again, spiffy recap.

CanadaGal said...

OMG!!! I am still about an hour away from the season premiere but I AM SOOOO HAPPY you enjoyed it. Thank you for the review..I only read the first couple of paragraphs..I didn't really dig in as I haven't seen it yet. THANKS AGAIN!! Great job as always.

SVUchick said...

I'm praying the "tension" between Paxton is Stabler is NOT sexual! Yeah I'm a E/O shipper, but c'mon! Who thought of that? Paxton is like... 58 & ell is like 45. Good review! but u didn't mention the part, where they were at the van, & the killer spills gas on Elliot & Olivia & Elliot says "step back" & like he almost grabs Liv's 'u know what' & then Olivia says "I'm not goin anywhere" the the killer guy says "Oh how sweet"...... Yeah I'm like a big shipper.. It was cute though right[=

Anonymous said...

Both Wentworth Miller and Christine Lahti played their characters well, and their antagonism came across as genuine and not forced. This was a good episode by any metric, not just in comparison to some of the weak SVU episodes from the previous season, with a logical plot, a closely-wound and realistic script, and dialogue that seemed both truer to the characters and more 'real' than the low points of seasons 9 and 10. I have to wonder if the creative staff were almost winking at themselves with the character of EADA Paxton, who comes in to clean up the 'mess' that the Special Victims Unit has become...the writers probably find themselves in much the same predicament with the state of their show.

A couple of notes: Det. Kendall may have been using his job as an outlet for his anger issues, but the writers got the point across that there is only a hair-trigger separating Det. Stabler from going the same route. Regardless of what Kendall did or didn't do to Foster, though, it was no worse than some of the things Munch did way back in the Homicide days.

Also: Still waiting to see what has happened to ADA Cabot - the writers still haven't really explained what happened to the character prior to her 'return' last season.

If SVU can deliver this kind of quality consistently I will be pleased. Neal Baer may yet make good on his promises...

Shelly said...

Anonymous, you stole my thunder... lol... I agree completely. This was a good first ep to the season, and one hopes they have righted the ship and continue to produce eps of this quality the entire season.

And great point about Paxton coming in to fix the mess, and the writers/producers needing to do the same on the show....

I do wonder where Munch was though....?

Shelly said...

Oops... where are my manners? Meant to add thanks for posting the great recap...

John K. said...

Ditto what Anonymous said.

As a side point, it's interesting that in the previous episode, we had a murder of a long-time character, O'Halloran. And yet, our squad in this episode are acting as if nothing happened. Of course, the season has just started and we'll see how the drama unfolds, if it does.

Although, the non-recall is a little disconcerting. Of course, that could be just me.

All Things Law and Order said...

John - here's the transcript:

Lawyer – What are you offering?

Paxton – How’s life without parole sound?

Lawyer: Overconfidence

Paxton: Really? For second degree murder and four counts of rape, believe me if I could I’d…mix the cocktail myself.

Benson: Your sentence also comes with free cable and a gym membership. (Benson throws the bagged knife on the table)

Lawyer: What’s this?

Benson: It’s the murder weapon that we found in your client’s van.

Paxton: Leniency depends on what he tells us about his crimes and, um, better be the truth or I’m gonna take it personally.

Foster: Stick a fork in me.

Paxton, laughing: You are so lucky it is not a needle.

Keep your fingers crossed that I will be able to find these episodes download in the future. All my usual sources who have the episode available the following day dried up and had nothing. I'm worried about getting this Friday's L&O episode on line to download. If I can't get it, it may make detailed recaps like this impossible.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really really liked this episode (and the review, of course). It's kind of a throwback to season 1, with the Homicide: Life on the Street depressing episodes.

It was kind of odd that Munch wasn't there, but to be honest this was a Nate Kendall-centric episode. Fin was actually in this episode and he had like three lines of dialogue. The show has pulled back from using the old seven-character roster that it used to have, and to a certain extent the episodes are a lot stronger because of it.

John K. said...

That's perfect. Thank you.

I'll definitely keep my fingers crossed, as your recap is a major time saver in my analysis. If that happens, we'll deal with it, and I'm getting better at knowing people with video feed, and I can hopefully help out, at least on the Mothership end. We only see what happens.

Jojo said...

Thanks for the wonderful recap - I love reading them after the episode because I'm always missing dialog. Sometimes when Stabler (or especially Kendell in this episode) speaks in a low and breathy voice, I listen to it over and over and still have no idea what was said.

I really liked the episode, the guest actors were strong and the story was solid. My bugbear is that as a CSI fan, I hate when the L&O detectives pick things up without gloves.

EADA Paxton is an good character and she does create some interesting tension. My problem with her, though, is her attitude. I don't disagree with the things she says but she is unnecessarily rude. She also appears a little holier-than-thou. She doesn't like the blame game but all she does is blame people.

I'm also annoyed that the wrongful convictions and all those problems seem to be dumped on the detectives. As Fin said, "The man had a fair trial. If he's not the rapist, then the whole system's failed him". The conviction doesn't go through without the legal part, so surely it's not entirely police work gone wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well you can't really expect DA McCoy to publically acknowledge responsibility for the actions of his people. It's easier to blame the police rather than acknowledge ADA Cabot's occasional misconduct, which could jeopardize all of the legitimate cases that she's won through skill. Besides, it's not exactly as if SVU doesn't need reform.

Kate said...

They definitely need to acknowledge poor O'Halloran's murder! And I agree- Paxton is unnecessarily rude and blames the wrong people sometimes, but it'll be fun to see her character develop. Man, I hope they come back to Victor Tate's case- at least have Stabler send it off to an innocence project or something.

So glad to see someone else is bugged by the handling of evidence without gloves, and the detectives always leaving room for suspects to flee! And man, I've seen plenty o'gore on TV, but something about Foster's death and the splatter gave me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it's my slight fear of heights?

John K. said...

Actually, Jack routinely chided Cutter and has fired the character-of-the-day D.A.s ("Illegal"). However, you're right in a sense, as Cutter's past incompetence should have gotten him fired long ago. Although, Jack does have the occasional blindspot.

And the legalese is a moot point in SVU, or they are half-assed about it ("Crush").

Anonymous said...

Actually, Jack routinely chided Cutter and has fired the character-of-the-day D.A.s ("Illegal").

I was talking about publically. He never came across to me as someone who likes to air out his dirty laundry in loud press conferences. Even when he was fighting for his career, he prefers to do it in a courtroom or a dingy little Grand Jury room rather than in a press conference. Besides, it's not as if Cutter has ever done anything that McCoy hasn't done in his career.

And the legalese is a moot point in SVU, or they are half-assed about it ("Crush").

It wouldn't bug me so much if they just got rid of the A.D.A. character.

Criminal Intent has even crazier criminal investigations than SVU does but there's no District Attorney to tell Goren that he can't use a confession that he extracted at gunpoint or tell Nichols that he can't trap someone in his office and interrogate them without Miranda. SVU makes it more distracting and annoying by having a character whose job it is to point these things out, then have her go ahead and break the rules anyway without acknowleding it. I never expect these shows to adhere to the letter of the law, but SVU shouldn't draw attention to the bloopers so much.

daniel said...

thanks for the recap/review. This episode was excellent. The new ADA was good and apparantly she will be back in spisode 9 with alex cabot, so should be interesting.

Will said...

I never expect these shows to adhere to the letter of the law, but SVU shouldn't draw attention to the bloopers so much.

My thoughts exactly. The last scene, where Paxton tells Stabler that Tate's statements would be inadmissible in court under hearsay rules is entirely inaccurate. While Tate's statement was certainly hearsay (an out of court statement offered as the truth,) it would be admissible under a number of exceptions to the rule - noteably as an admission and as a statement against interest. No judge would refuse to admit that evidence, particularly if it was endorsed by the DA's office.

Other than that, the episode was strong - but hanging the "moral" on such a gaffe left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anonymous said...


I really hate it when they don't bother to listen to their legal consultants for the sake of "drama". You are partly right. It would be admissible as a declaration against penal interest. Rules on that are that it is a declaration implicating the declarant in a crime, and that the declarant is unavailable to testify. Dead qualifies as unavailable. The defense has the right (usually) to confront the accuser, so many forms of hearsay aren't allowed against a defendant in a criminal case. The prosecution doesn't have the right to confront the declarant so the wrongly convicted guy could use it to get out.

It wouldn't be available as an admission because an admission (full description "admission by party opponent") must be made by a party (e.g., the defendant) and brought in by the other party. It would be available as an admission in the dead guy's trial (if he had had one) but not in someone else's trial.

Oh, and setting aside a prior conviction is a question for a judge, not a jury.

Man, they managed to make a lot of mistakes in a couple of sentences.

If anyone who works on L&O sees this, please hire some competent legal consultants and listen to them instead of just making stuff up.

Mari said...

Hey, congrats for this amazing recap.

I need a little transcription too. Before "Let's pick up the butcher", what Elliot says? Minute 11:10.


All Things Law and Order said...

Mari - Stabler says:
"“A short jump to carving up women. Let’s pick up the butcher.”

I hope this is what you were looking for!