Saturday, October 17, 2009
Law & Order “ Reality Bites” Recap & Review
The show takes a swipe at reality shows, and even makes a glancing blow at ubiquitous crime shows. It included a young character that wants to be a detective and bases his reaction upon seeing his dead mother on the floor to what he has seen on crime shows. When Bernard explains to the kid that his behavior by not calling the police could put him on the list of suspects, the kid says he didn’t see that one. I guess everybody is a detective these days and everybody knows how to cover up his or her crimes, thanks to crime shows.
Anita’s dealing with cancer may end up being a footnote in every episode and a weekly opportunity for a swipe against our broken health insurance system. Her concern with the lifetime cap on her insurance was this week’s dig, and it is something that people should be concerned about. One severe illness can get you to that limit very quickly. I enjoyed her comment about the Fraternal Order of Police; once they get your name on a list they never stop calling you. Someone made a donation to the FOP in my name over 20 years ago and I swear every FOB unit in every city in the US calls me yearly asking for money.
Lupo and Bernard seemed to be having some fun as they went though the case, and it allowed Sisto and Anderson the ability to use more comic facial expressions. Was it just me, or was Bernard acting like he was slightly scared at the mention of a rat? And was this really Lupo’s only “bad beard day?”
The guest stars were very good and Jim Gaffigan did a great job as Larry Johnson, the cheating, debt ridden reality show dad who probably did kill his wife. Oh yeah, his character was a poor liar, too.
At first when I saw the split screen scene between Connie and Michael on the phone outside the courthouse, I flashed back to the 1960s and “Bye Bye Birdie” and the telephone song, and I had a moment of worry about how this scene would turn out. I loved the fact that Cutter was enjoying his view of a clearly annoyed Connie, and it was fun to see both characters seem to act like real people. I was amused when Connie said in jest that she would kill Cutter and McCoy, only to have similar words come back to haunt them with one of the witnesses. I am not sure why they chose to use the split screen rather than just camera angles to show that Cutter was watching her from just across the way. I liked this scene because it brought out a fun side to Connie and Michael, yet felt the split screen was out of place. I do like the fact that they seem to be trying something different to get viewers talking. This episode may do just that.
I also enjoyed the obvious dig that Cutter makes about reality shows being scripted. They are far from real. What I found ironic is that the one thing that may be hurting the Law & Order franchise and scripted drama is not reality TV but NBC’s own Jay Leno Show. Maybe they are saving this theme for a later episode?
When I watched the ending of the episode last night as I watched it live, I almost had the same reaction as the legendary, “Is this because I’m a lesbian?” line. But after watching it again this morning while doing the recap, I think I found it more humorous. It seemed as if Jack wasn’t reacting much to the whole scenario until Cutter mentioned Arthur Branch. The whole reality show premise Connie and Michael outlined was both believable and far-fetched at the same time, a sad state of television these days.
Here is the recap:
Larry Johnson (Jim Gaffigan) arrives at his home with his van full of his 10 children. He tells them to stay in the car until he goes inside to get their mother. The kids seem perplexed. When he gets inside, he finds his wife Joy lying on the floor, dead.
The police and Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson) and Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) on the scene Inside, Bernard is being told that Joy Johnson was killed by blunt force to the head, time of death is between 12 and 2. A trophy for special athletics is nearby and appears to be the murder weapon. Outside, Larry Johnson sits on the doorstep talking to Lupo. He explains he had left work at 3 to pick up the kids, on Thursday they put the young kids in daycare to give his wife a break. Bernard tells Lupo that a neighbor saw someone leave the house around noon, a “bouncy Hispanic woman.” Larry tells them his kids saw nothing because he went inside first and they waited in the van. He explains all his children are special needs. When they realized they could not get pregnant, they adopted a girl with downs syndrome and then kept going. They now have 10, their oldest, Tim, is in high school, and he is a high performing autistic. When Larry says he should be home soon, Bernard notices Larry’s yellow book bag near the doorway. Larry approaches, and tells his father than mom is dead.
At the 2-7 in interrogation, Tim tells them he left school after 4th period and walked home. He saw his mom on the floor and he tried to wake her up but she was dead, and this is how he got blood on his hand. He didn’t call the police because they always suspect the one close to the body or the boyfriend. When Bernard adds it can also be the person that doesn’t call the police, Tim says he didn’t see that one.
Watching from the observation area, Larry tells Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) that Tim wants to be a detective and if this weren’t what it is, this would be the greatest day of his life. He adds Tim has never been violent to anyone in the family and is a good kid. Back in interrogation, Tim tells the detectives that the kids pick on him and this is why he left. Bernard asks why Tim was throwing pencils, and Lupo tells him they called the school who told them Tim was sent home early. They asked how he got into the house and he said his dad trusted him with a key. When they press him on what happened at school, says, “OK, I did it. I killed her.” Van Buren enters the room. Tim says he told his mom what happened and she got mad. Van Buren sits down and tries gently to get Tim to open up. He says DJ took his fanny pack and would not give it back. His key was in the left compartment.
They speak with Larry about DJ Lovell and he knows his parents and they are friends. They have been in his house. Lupo tells them DJ Lovell has a record for theft and petty assault.
Bernard and Lupo go to the home of Brad and Mandy Lovell, and DJ denies stealing the fanny pack. They tell him the key to the house was in there, but he admits he took it but didn’t know a key was in there. He threw the pack in the dumpster. When they tell him they will look around for the fanny pack and the $8,000 missing from the home, he tells them to go ahead. Mandy tells them she was over there Tuesday and that Joy got into a fight with someone on the phone and when Joy hung up, she said the woman was a psycho.
Back at the 2-7, Lupo tells Van Buren they found nothing. Bernard has the Johnson’s phone records, there were three incoming alls on Tuesday. One was from the school, one from the Fraternal Order of Police (Bernard saying they were probably asking for money and Van Buren says they don't take no for an answer), and the third from Belinda Alvarez – likely the “bouncy” Hispanic who left the Johnson home.
At the home of Belinda Alvarez (Nina Lisandrello), she is surrounded by her 10 children, 3 singles and 1 set of septuplets. She motions for her mother to take the kids out. She tells the detectives she was hoping she would get the new reality show. One of them was going to get the show, and she needed more than they did. She called Joy the other day to lay out the facts, saying that she is younger and prettier than Joy and has a better personality for TV. She did go to see her yesterday. She admits they argues on the phone but says when she went to see her, Joy said she didn’t want to do the show and as far as she was concerned the show was Belinda’s. Belinda says she was so exited and begins to bounce around in excitement. When Lupo and Bernard exit her home, Bernard says, “Hence the bouncy.” Lupo ads that he doesn’t think anything that woman could be involved in could be considered reality. Bernard says they should find her fertility doctor and arrest him o general principles.
When they go to the Johnson house to verify Belinda’s story, they door is open and they are met by someone who tells them Larry is in the basement and if they go down there they have to sign a release to use their images for the show. They sign nothing and head downstairs where a reality show in progress with Larry making breakfast for the kids. He detectives wonder if Joy wanted to pull out of the show but Larry did not. Later, with the kids gone, they speak with Larry while filming is going on, and tells them he signed a contract that they can film everything. He says he now has to stay home with the kids and needs a way to pay for that without the show. They step outside the sliding door to speak in private. They tell him about Belinda being over there, and that Joy said they were not going to do the show. Larry says Joy wanted to do the show and show the world their beautiful children.
Back at the 2-7, Van Buren wants to know when she will get to see her detectives on TV. Bernard says Lupo did not want to be on camera, and Lupo says he was having a bad beard day. Van Buren is checking her insurance plan, the lifetime cap. She says if she is cured within the next three months she will be find, otherwise she knows where they can get a good deal on a used Toyota. She says either the “septomom” or Larry are lying. Lupo likes Larry for it as Joy did not want to do the show. When Van Buren asks about the trophy, Bernard thinks the septomom brought so many into the world she may not mind talking one out to get her own TV. But since Larry got the show, Belinda wasn’t thinking like a TV producer. They decide to go talk to the show’s producer.
They speak to the producer at BTW Productions Artie Cramer (Michael Showalter ), and he says Joy had questions but Larry said she was totally on board. He dealt mostly with Larry. The contract had to be signed by both of them, but she never signed it. After she died, it only needed Larry’s signature. The contract was going down to the wire, and Larry wanted a higher “cooperation” fee. Larry wanted a lot up front because he has 10 kids and is also a real estate developer.
They go to Larry’s real estate office, where they find from Larry’s female accountant (Geneva Carr) that things are slow and staff seems to be cut. Bernard asks why she has her feet up on the desk, and she mentions there was a rat, making Bernard look a little distracted. She has been there all week going through Larry’s books. Larry was gone from the office by the time she got back from lunch the day Joy was killed.
Back at Larry’s, the detective confront Larry on his lie about his whereabouts. His sister is also there, she flew in from Chicago to help. He admits he was covering for an affair.
At the apartment of Suzanne Guiliano, she says she worked for Joy and Larry to help out at home. The affair just kind of happened. He was there the day Joy was killed, he came over at 1 and left at 3 to get the kids. He loved Joy and loved her. She would never take Joy away from those kids and she actually liked Joy because the children loved Joy so much. Bernard sees a man’s shirt in the laundry hamper, and she says it is Larry’s. and he changes shirts after their visit. His wife would not notice as he always wears blue shirts.
Back at the 2-7, Larry is in interrogation and they confront him with the new information and when they tell him they found blood on the shirt, he says one of the kids lashed out at breakfast and cut Joy and he must have gotten the blood on his shirt. Van Buren, watching from the observation window, comments that Larry has an answer for everything. When ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) asks what they have on him and Van Buren goes through the details, Rubirosa says she would convict him but what evidence to they have? When Van Buren mentions the blood on the shirt, Rubirosa said Larry explained that away. Lupo comes out and adds to the list, but Rubirosa is still not satisfied.. Lupo says his babysitter/mistress said every day when they get home the kids get out of the car and run into the house, except the day Joy was killed, when Larry made them stay in the car when he went in first, thinking Larry knew his wife was dead and didn’t ant the kids to see it. Rubirosa tells him if they can confirm that it would be enough to arrest him for murder. Lupo says they will go talk to the kids and Van Buren will try to stall Larry.
Bernard and Lupo are at Larry’s home, his sister questioning if it is really OK. Lupo questions the kid about what happens when they come home and has some trouble getting the right words out of the kids. Tim enters and helps them communicate and gets the kids to explain that their father stopped them and had them stay in the car that day their mother “got hurt.” When Lupo tells Bernard this is confirmation, they hear Larry come home with pizza. But the detectives motions Larry over, and then proceed to arrest him on camera. Bernard looks into the lens and says, “That’s a wrap.”
Larry is being arraigned, he pleads not guilty and his attorney Miss Novelle (Marin Hinkle) requests ROR because of this 10 special needs kids at home. But Rubirosa requests remand. The judge says to hold on $500K for now and she will review pending a report from Children’s Services.
In the DA’s office, DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) and Rubirosa watch the video of Larry’s arrest on “Larry Plus 10.” McCoy turns it off and says dryly, “Very entertaining. Whatever happened to the Cosbys?” Cutter replies, “They didn’t have enough kids.” Rubirosa tells them Children’s Services said if Larry makes bail he can get the kids back, and if he doesn’t the kids get split up. McCoy says it will look like their fault and that they are heartless – Cutter adding it will poison the jury pool - so McCoy tells Rubirosa to drop bail down to $100K but make the condition that he stop appearing on that “damn show.”
Later, as Larry and his lawyer and Rubirosa leave the courtroom, the producer of the show calls out to her. He mentions Swarthmore, saying she lived with Susie Nevin in senior year. She remembers his name – Artie Cramer – and knows he is the reality show producer. She walks away form him but he follows. He tells her the show is dead because they need Larry on camera, and she says it is not gonna happen. He asks what about her, and when she asks what about her, he says Larry’s sister is stiff but he can keep it alive if they allow him to focus on the trial. She reminds him cameras are not allowed in the courtroom, and he suggests outside the courtroom,. He thinks she can take the case to the public. He also has tapes of Larry and his wife during negotiations for the show, talking about whether or not to do it, and they disagreed. She says she can subpoena that takes, but Artie says they can fight it based on the First Amendment. He say she can get them hand delivered, and he walks off.
Back in the DA’s office, McCoy tells Rubirosa that the tapes could help. He says without their point of view it is all propaganda for acquittal. When Cutter pushes for her to go ahead, she says fine, why don’t you be on the show. Cutter says they didn’t ask him. She gives him a bit of a glare.
On another day, a crew is filming Rubirosa as she gets out of her taxi. They have a problem with the white balance so they ask her to drive up again, but, frustrated because she is late, she asks them just to film her getting out of the car again. They ask her to stop and tell them what she is going to do, she gets annoyed. Her phone rings and it is Cutter, calling her from behind the column at the courthouse entrance.
Cutter: You having fun?
Rubirosa: I am gonna kill you and then I’m gonna kill Mc Coy
Cutter: On camera?
Rubirosa: I don’t…I don’t care! I’d be better off in prison! Where are you?
Cutter; Uh, I’m in the courthouse. (he is watching her across the street) You almost here?
Rubirosa: Yeah. Uh-huh. (angry) Except first I have to tell my friend the CAMERA what’s going on!
Cutter: What are you gonna say?
Rubirosa (sighs): Don’t worry, just the party line.
She hangs up, and turns back to the camera and explains that they will begin to prove their case, and that Larry may look admirable because he surrounded himself with needy children, but the evidence will show…and we switch to Cutter, in the courtroom, who finished the thought that Larry’s business failings made him desperate to appear on the show. When his wife refused to along, he argued with her and killed her. The only person in the family that Larry Johnson cared about was Larry Johnson.
The defense attorney Miss Novelle makes her opening statement, saying that no one saw Larry kill Joy or saw them argue, then implicates Belinda, DJ, and says Tim actually confessed to the killing. She says no one knows who killed Joy.
Back in McCoy’s office, Cutter says there is no evidence against those others and she is throwing spaghetti against the ceiling to see what will stick. McCoy tells him that is exactly what he would be doing, some of it sounds pretty sticky. Cutter says the jury won’t like that Larry went on a reality right after his wife was murdered and is exploiting his disabled children. Rubirosa enters with the video from Artie of the interview with Larry and Joy, that she got “in exchange for peddling my ass on TV.” It is evident that Joy has reservations about going ahead with the show and being constantly on camera and is concerned about the kids. Cutter sees this as the seed of the argument that led to the murder, but McCoy says he didn’t hear her say she wasn’t going to do the show. But Rubirosa adds they do have a witness that she said it to.
Back at court, Belinda Alvarez is on the stand. She says that Joy said she could have it, and said Joy said it was “deletEErious”. When Cutter repeats the word as “deleterious” she says, ‘I had to look it up too. Like it would damage the kids.” She said they were not going to do it. But under cross, Novelle implies Joy said this to just get out Belinda out of the house. Novelle says Belinda says told a producer she would kill to be on the show, but when Belinda denies it, she brings out an audition tape of a Belinda saying just that on screen. Cutter shakes his head. Cutter leans over and tells Rubirosa that he guesses her friend Cramer made a deal with them too.
Later, after a recess, Cramer is on the stand, and he says he did not think Belinda meant her comment literally, she was just trying to impress him. Cutter brings out that the reality shows are actually scripted, and Cramer admits that they amplify what is there. Cramer admits that Joy was not eager to be on the show, and never told him directly she wanted to be on the show, he only heard it through her husband. He testifies how Larry stalled with the contract. He told him Larry that right before Joy was killed, that he needed the contract signed within 24 hours or he will do the show with someone else. Under cross, Novelle tells Cramer of all the suicides or suicide attempts surrounding reality shows. He admits people can get highly wrought and they try to week out the unstable, and when the defense tired to say this is why Belinda was ruled out, mentioning her pregnancy with septuplets that she could not support just to get the show, Cutter objects, saying there is no basis for that. The judge sustains the objection. She brings up the delay in the contract saying that Larry may have been trying to get more money. Cramer admits his accountant called him and asked him about how much money Larry would earn, and refers to the accountant as “he”. Rubirosa tells Cutter the detectives met the accountant, and it is a woman. He wonders who called Cramer.
Outside in the courthouse lobby, Cramer is there and he is on camera talking about his involvement in the case. He asks Rubirosa how he did, and she says fantastic, but she wants a word with him with no cameras. She is carrying her note pad under her arm. When he asks for her impressions afterwards for the show, she says she thinks the lines are getting a little bit blurred, and he cuts the camera.
Back in Cutter’s office, Rubirosa says Cramer had a call back number for the accountant and it is a finance company that is a front for Sammy Shiner, a loan shark. They suspect Larry owed him, and he can’t pay him back, which is motivation to get on the show and to kill. They want to get Shiner to testify and give him immunity. But Cutter tells her not to do anything yet so as not to tip them off. Larry will be on the stand next and all he needs to do is get him to say he doesn’t need any money, then they can use Shiner to rebut and it will look to the jury that Larry is trying to play them for fools.
Back at Supreme Court, Larry is on the stand, and after Larry says he and his wife were satisfied with everything with the show. He does not believe that Joy told Belinda she would not do the show. He said the day of the murder he altered his routine because Joy was tired that morning and she might be napping, saying it was not that unusual. He says he did not kill his wife.
Under cross, Cutter brings up Larry's affair with the babysitter, and from the time he left the office to when he went to see his girlfriend that day. Larry said he stopped to get coffee. Cutter tried to imply that Larry stooped in to see his wife before his girlfriend to talk about the contract, and Larry says he did not need the money that badly that he would kill his wife. When Cutter says he was deep in debt, Larry says he could do other projects. He may have owed a little money but it was not like it was life or death. Cutter whispers to Rubirosa to get the material witness warrant for Shiner.
Later, while looking at the recording from the show, they get the news that Shiner seems to be out of the country and he had just left, They wonder how the defense was tipped off, and Rubirosa realizes that her legal pad was in full view for the camera when she stopped to talk to Cramer after his testimony, and her notes were clearly visible on the video.
Back at Supreme Court, Cutter is telling the judge the rebuttal witness is not available, and says he has further questions of Larry. He brings up the name of Sammy Shiner and Uptown Finance, saying Larry owed him $400K. But Larry isn’t biting, and denies knowing him. Cutter mentions the call made to Cramer from an accountant at uptown finance, but Larry says he knew nothing about that. Cutter asks that Larry didn’t know he borrowed money from a notorious loan shark who is taking a close personal interest in his finances, and Larry says Uptown Finance came recommended and it was a normal business transaction. Cutter comments that Shiner’s non-paying customers sometimes wind up dead. The defense objects, saying they should bring Shiner in to testify. The judge tells him that is enough.
The jury is in, and tell the judge they are deadlocked. He declares a mistrial.
Back in McCoy’s office, Rubirosa tells Cutter and McCoy that they are searching the Caribbean to rebut Johnson’s perjury. Last they heard, Shiner was either in Anguilla or Antigua. Cutter says the producers have made some changes to Larry Plus 10. They are moving his family with the septomom’s into the same mansion on Long Island, along with the “human lie detector”; one of those people who can tell if you are lying by the way you blink. Cutter says the idea is to have both families compete for prizes and to figure out what head of household murdered Joy Johnson, the television audience gets to vote and, “They’ve asked Arthur Branch to be the judge. “ After a pregnant pause, McCoy looks at Cutter and says, “You’re kidding, right?” And we fade to black.
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