Thursday, December 10, 2009
Law & Order SVU “Anchor” Recap & Review
This episode of Law & Order SVU “Anchor” was a great feature story for Ice –T, allowing the rest of the melodrama usually surrounding Benson and Stabler to take a back seat. It was refreshing to see Fin in action with the job – and also with the hopes that he will get some “action” with his new friend at the Ledger. I was somewhat perplexed as to why the murder of a child would not be considered a “special victims” case, especially when ME Warner indicated that SVU only works on sex crimes or cases of abuse. I felt vindicated when Fin challenged Cragen on that same issue, basically saying that if it were Benson or Stabler than Cragen would bend over backwards for them to have the case. And how does one know that it isn’t a case of a child being abused, for example, until they investigate it? It just seemed odd that for how many cases SVU has become involved in the last few seasons that weren’t strictly sex or abuse crimes that for this case for Fin it suddenly became an issue.
I don’t think this is the first time that a television show has become the defense for murder with the franchise. I recall an old episode of Law & Order – the name escapes me – where a person used violent cartoons as his excuse for murder. This case, whoever, seemed to provide a soapbox to get on the cases of the right wing media personalities Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly to name a few. Mind you, I can’t stand to listen to any of those people because their commentary is usually so one sided and sometimes irrational, so I didn’t mind the shots at these types of shows. But, along that same line, this episode does the same thing but it leans the other way, promoting what some may perceive as a one-sided, overly liberal view. Pot, meet kettle, I say. The Law & Order franchise is frequently accused of being far too liberal, and just because it is a TV drama and not a political commentary show doesn’t make their extremism any more excusable. This episode may have spent too much time on what some may see as far left viewpoints. The scene where Cabot and the detectives dissected Patty Hearst and related issues made me imagine the words, “Warning: Political Commentary” flashing on the screen; likewise with the scene with Keiko at the immigration center.
John Larroquette was passable in his role of Randall Carver. I swear he kept slipping in and out of that phony accent. I think it would have been much better had he just spoken normally. And the scenery chewing was in high gear at times; something about that courtroom scene with Garrison seemed a little to forced and cheesy. There were too many times that the dialog was too canned and predictable.
But don’t get me wrong, I liked this episode and felt it told a good story. Ice-T did a fine job in his role and was very believable in his frustration with not only with just getting the case assigned to him, but all the other roadblocks he faced, only to find the murderer acquitted. My mantra has always been "more Munch and Fin" so for now, I'm happy to see Ice-T get his day.
Here is the recap:
A man driving a car drops off a woman and she thanks a man for a great night. As she walks away, another man punches her for holding out. She says she didn’t, and he takes $70 from her and complains he was worth more, but she said he was a cheap bastard. He calls her a liar and grabs her hair, asking where is the rest of the money. He pulls off her wig and is stunned, and she runs away. He chases after her as she is yelling she is sorry, and when she runs into a pile of trash, he follows her. As he pulls trash away, they are both shocked to see he has uncovered a body of a little girl. He pulls the woman away.
Detective Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) drives up in his car and calls for Audrina. She comes out of her apartment and thanks him for coming. He comments he thought she got out of the game. She says she tried but the shelter was beat, her daddy promised he’d be nice to her, but Fin sees she was beaten. She says this is not why she called him, and shows her the body. She called him because the cops don’t give a damn about another dead ho, and she knew he would care. Fin says the girl is too young to be in the life. Audrina says he is probably right, the girl wouldn’t get a John wearing that t-shirt, which says “Jesus loves me.” Fin says somebody else sure didn’t.
At the morgue, ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) says the girl has been dead 12 hours, she was strangled by an open link chain. Fin comments she looks much younger all cleaned up. Warner says she is 12, she got that information from her mom who filed a missing person’s report last night. Her name is Ruby Brown, a 7th grader in Catholic school. Fin wonders if Ruby had a secret life her mother did not know about, but Warner comments it wasn’t turning tricks as her hymen was intact. Fin wonders how a Catholic school kid end up dead in a hooker area, and Warner asks if that is a question for homicide. Warner says it is not a sex crime, but Fin says she looks like a special victim to him. He asks for the mother’s address so he can tell her himself.
At Ruby’s mother’s home, they watch a video of Ruby that she made for her father who is stationed in Kabul. She blames herself, as she sent Ruby to the store to get milk. Fin tells her she was not “touched.” She wonders who would do this to her baby, and Fin promises to find out.
At the SVU squad, Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) tells Fin her death was not sexually motivated and there was no child abuse. He tells Fin to type up what he has done and get the file to homicide. Fin says it will just sit there, and Cragen says that is the reason to “turf” it, he’s getting killed on their closure rate. Fin cannot believe that Cragen’s stats are more important than the murder of a little girl, and Warner enters and tells them that it’s now two. There was another similar homicide in the Bronx – Magda Ibanez - last month with the same type chain, and also dumped in the same manner. Fin says it is a serial murder of little girls and Cragen has to let him work it. Cragen says he will call One PP and ask them to declare the pattern.
Outside Cragen’s office, Warner tells Fin that Bronx worked the case with no leads. When Fin says he will start again, Warner tells him the parents took the first victim back to Honduras with no plans to come back. Detective Elliott Stabler (Chris Meloni) says brass won’t issue a travel voucher for Central America. Warner tells them the perp leaves no blood or DNA, the only print is the chain pattern in the victim. Cragen enters and informs Fin it is now an official pattern and Fin is the assigned detective. Fin says they need to draft a press release but Cragen says no press as it will cause panic and when Stabler objects, Cragen says that is the way One PP wants it. He tells them to hit the streets and find himself a witness.
At Chusock Deli, a worker tells Fin that Ruby came in to buy some milk, and Fin asks him to put up a flier. Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) is also out canvassing, with fliers on nearby cars with no luck. Fin walks up and is frustrated that no one says they have seen anything. When Munch comments it is getting to the end of the shift, Fin says they stay until they find a witness.
Later, back at the squad, Fin tells Stabler they got less than nothing. All they heard was “sorry.” Fin thinks TV news could reach thousands. Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) pipes up and says when she was dating that guy from the Ledger she got to know a woman on the crime desk, Nicole Gleason, and when Fin says One PP says no press, Benson says Gleason is cute and she can introduce him. He says he does not need help hooking up, but Benson says he will need an alibi if someone sees him having a drink with a journalist. He tells Benson to have her meet him at the Lenox Lounge at 10.
At the Lenox Lounge, Nicole Gleason (Megalyn Echikunwoke) is glad Fin brought her the information. She says she will start on it tomorrow, but Fin says if she starts it tonight she can still make the morning edition. She says he will owe her, and he says it is a debt he is happy to pay. She asks if he has camera ready art, and he says he is way ahead of her, handing her the photos of the two victims. She says school photos play great on the front page.
The next day, Fin picks up a Ledger with a huge cover story on a Panda, with the headline “Crazy for Koko.” As he walks to the SVU building looking in the newspaper, Cragen catches up with him and tells him it’s page 17. Fin says it had to be done. Cragen tells him when the Chief of D’s gives and order, they follow up. Fin says unless Liv and Elliot bend the rules, then Cragen is out on a limb with them. Cragen tells Fin he disobeyed a direct order from his commanding officer, and Fin says he is only sorry he did not get the front page, he just got three inches and no photos. He adds if the victims looked like Elisabeth Smart they would have a task force and a million dollar reward. Cragen says this is not about race, and Fin says, “Sure. You keep telling yourself that.” When Fin walks way, Cragen asks where the hell does he think he is going? Fin says if he wants to five him a five day rip, fine, it’s more time to work his case. Cragen says Fin is not suspended –yet. He adds Fin’s little stunt gave them their best lead; two callers from Ruby’s neighborhood gave up a supermarket delivery boy who likes little girls and he had a drop off two blocks from her apartment the night she was killed.
At Columbia Market, Fin pulls a guy away from giving a lollipop to a little girl. Fin tells him he is going downtown, and when the guy says he has to lock up his bike, Fin, noticing a chain hanging tom the bike, says that is coming with them.
Fin takes the guy into interrogation, and the guy whines he does not want to be there. He guy sounds like a child. He says he never hurt anyone and doesn’t understand. Fin continues to interrogate but the man sounds even more childlike. Cragen enters and tells them they found another body.
At the scene, Warner is working on another body, Scotty Wu, dead 3 hours, and Fin has his suspect in the squad for 6 hours, so he is likely not the killer. A neighbor ID’d the boy, saying his parents work at a food joint downtown. Fin had to do the notification.
At the Chen Wu Café, the parents cannot believe it. When Mrs. Wu says Scotty was their anchor, Fin asks what that means, Mr. Wu quickly says she means in her heart. But Scotty’s mother says Snakehead did this, and her husband tries to quiet her, saying she does not know what she is saying. Fin says he is not worried about their immigration status, he is just trying to find out who killed their kid. Mr. Wu says they should not be talking to Fin, they tell them not to. Mr. Wu shows Fin a business card from Keiko Nishimura from the Center for Immigration Services. They tell him to call Keiko, she is their friend.
Keiko tells Fin and Munch that the Wu’s Snakehead was paid every dime, she delivered it herself. She makes sure they are safe. Munch says Scotty was not safe for long, and she adds is it terrible, especially after Ruby and Magda, the other two victims. She said all three families are CIS clients, they were helping all three families with naturalization. Fin comments that all three victims are anchor babies, but Keiko calls them American citizens. Munch comments that either way they are connected to the center, and that is no coincidence, and Fin comments someone may not be happy with what they are doing and that makes them easy targets. Keiko admits they have had troubles, including hate mail. She shows them some of the mail, and says many people don’t realize that these immigrants are just like them, living, breathing human beings. Munch says they will take all the letters, and she points to the television, saying that the people who write most of the letters are fans of Gordon Garrison (Bruce McGill), who Fin refers to as a racist freak. While Garrison rants on TV, Munch asks “Do we have to watch the collapse of western civilization?” Keiko says it is about to get better, Randall Carver is his guest. Garrison introduces Randall Carver (John Larroquette) who goes on his own rant, saying the only criminals are the police, who look the other way, and asks how many more children have to die before the “special victims unit” takes it seriously. Fin is incredulous, saying he just took on the case, calling Carver an idiot. Carver asks viewers to meet him outside the headquarters of SVU and demand that the police make the protection of their children their first priority.
Later, outside SVU, there is a crowd of protesters yelling about immigrants, and Carver is there with a bullhorn yelling about the children. Fin asks Munch to take his stuff so he can see how far he can kick that bullhorn up his ass. Fin approaches Carver and they begin to argue. A man steps in and gets in Fin’s face and Fin pushes him off. Things escalate with Carver, and Fin pushes Carver away, right in front of the view of the TV camera.
Of course, later on the news, we see this unfold, under the headline “Special Violence Unit?” The Chief of D’s (John Schuck) is in Cragen's office giving Cragen and Fin heat over it. Fin says to give him the rip, he doesn’t care, he wants to find the killer. As Fin walks out, Cragen calls out to him but the Chief tells him to keep on going out the door on to his next career, as a mall cop. Fin stops, and apologizes for losing his cool with Carver. The Chief tells him to go say it again to that asswad who is making their lives hell.
At the Carver Justice Center, Fin enters and some raised voices can be heard in the background. As Fin asks to see Randall Carver, he suddenly hears a noise, and then an interior glass window is shattered. The man who was yelling at Carver that Fin pushed away at the protest is yelling at Carver, and Fin tackles him. The man continues to shout that Gordon Garrison is a great American who is brave enough to speak the truth while liberal elites like Carver try to shut him up. Fin tells him to shut up, and asks Carver and another woman there if they are all right. She says they are fine. Fin tells Carver if he doesn’t know it, this is when Carver tells Fin thank you. He reads the guy his rights as he takes him away.
As Fin is taking him out, with Carver following, a mobile news van pulls up and Fin asks if he has them on speed dial. Carver says he did not call them, and adds he does not have to arrest Mr. Thagard (Thomas Sadoski) he is just a misguided Garrison fan. Fin says he gets his game, a thug attacks, the cops get heavy handed and Carver is Mr. Nice Guy. Carver says Fin’s captain said he came there to apologize, if he wants to make it straight he should let the guy go. The reporter comes up and questions Carver but he says for once the NYPD is doing the right thing, and Fin lets him go.
Back in the SVU squad room, Nicole Gleason is waiting for Fin. She says she wants to help, but Fin is skeptical. She says she wanted that story on the front page and blames her boss. Fin says his own boss is not happy with him right now because of her. She reminds him that he came to her and he got a lead out of it. He says the lead was a waste of time as the real killer got Scotty Wu. She says so that means the killing is on her, but Fin says it is his fault. He is going nowhere on the case and innocent kids are being killed. She says he does not have to carry it alone, and tells him to enjoy his pity party and she walks off.
Later, Fin is looking at the pictures of the three victims, and Benson walks up. He tells her if she came to give him a pep talk, to save it. She came to give him a pile of papers, and angry, he shoves them on to the floor, thinking it is paperwork. She tells him they are employee files of every vendor who does business with the Center for Immigrant Services, from t he company that does their payroll to the ones that clean their toilets. She figured one of the people that goes in and out of there on a daily basis may be their bad guy. Fin says she stuck her neck out running down leads for him, and she says this is the thanks she gets? Fin says he has been putting his foot in it with every woman that crossed his path today. As they move to pick up the files, Benson asks about Nicole Gleason, and Fin says he bit her head off and she was just trying to help him. Benson asks what it is about this case, and he says everything, their skin color, people just don’t seem to care. He thanks her for the files and she says the best way to thank her is to nail the bastard. Fin yells over to what looks like a snoozing Munch to get back on the hate mail.
Later, Fin complains that are not finding dick. Munch says he’s seen enough bad grammar that he thinks the problem is education, not immigration. Munch finds several letters from a man complaining about “anchor babies.” The letters are from Fallsburg NY, marked as inmate 13602, he’s in prison. When Munch says it is tine to get bored by the security tapes, Fin says, “You son of a bitch” and Munch responds, “Well screw you too.” Fin comments he wasn’t talking to him, and Munch asks if he has an imaginary friend now. Fin says “Joe Thagard. He works for the company that shreds the center’s paperwork. “ Munch says this would give access to the victim’s home addresses. Fin tells Munch he was the guy who busted up Carver’s office spouting anti-immigrant crap, and Fin cut him loose three hours ago.
The police break down the door to Thagard’s place, and they enter en masse, but there is no sign of Thagard. Munch finds a bulletin board filled with photos of the victims and other kids from the center. Thagard appears to have been taping some of the shredded paper files together to get information. Magda, Ruby and Scotty’s faces in the photos are crossed out, and it looks like he has four more kids to go.
Back to the SVU squad, they are taking some of the kids and parents in to make sure they are safe. Fin, meanwhile is in Bayridge, getting the Al-Haziz family. When Fin walks in the open door, he calls out but no one answers, He sees a man on the floor and a woman on the couch with her mouth taped shut. She motions to the hallway. Thagard steps out with the boy, and Fin, gun drawn, tells Thagard to step away from him. Thagard runs and fun tells the boy to stay in another room. Fin follows Thagard and stops him as Thagard tries to climb out the window.
Later, in the SVU interrogation room, Thagard swears he did nothing and drank a few beers and got into the wrong apartment. He denies doing anything, saying it was the family’s terrorist pals who did it. Fin continues to question him, and Thagard says they will never be “rid” of them, someone has to. Fin calls him a baby killer, and Thagard says he only has one word for Fin, “coon.” Fin gets close to Thagard’s face. Cragen and ADA Alex Cabot (Stephanie March) watch from the observation area, Cabot commenting that Thagard just signed his death warrant. But Cragen says Fin won’t take the bait. Fin says, ”That’s the best you got?” Thagard says Fin has nothing. Fin’s phone rings, and Fin tells Munch to tell him something good. Munch says it is all good here in "xenophobe manor." He tells him they found 50 gallon drums in Thagard’s garage and open link chains that CSU found blood and tissue on. Fin goes back and tells Thagard about the evidence. Thagard says what he did was right, saying those people wrecked his life and are destroying the country. Fin tells him Thagard will now be part of the rainbow coalition they call prison, which means he gets plenty of “them” to be his new pals. A knock on the door is heard, and Cabot enters with Randall Carver. Carver says he will be representing Thagard, pro bono. Fin can’t believe it. Carver says Thagard’s mind has been filled with hate by people like Gordon Garrison. Carver says Thagard is as much a victim as the three children.
In court, Thagard is being arraigned for three counts of murder in the second degree, and he pleads not guilty. Cabot asks for remand, and the judge agrees. Cabot says the parent in the city will sleep better at night, but Carver says they shouldn’t be, as the real criminal is still at large. Cabot asks if he is claiming Thagard didn’t do it, but he say no, he is saying that wasn’t responsible, handing Cabot a motion which indicated Gordon Garrison brainwashed Thagard. Carver says persistent viewing of the program “Flashpoint” convinced Thagard that undocumented immigrants pose a threat to national security. Cabot says that they’d better watch out because listening to NPR will turn them into zombies. Caver says to mock him, but hate speech from authority figures is the greatest danger to the country since McCarthyism. The judge says there are legal precedents for a brainwashing defense, and the judge allows it.
Back at the SVU squad, Benson and Stabler comment on the case, and Cabot tells them the defense did not work for Patty Hearst. Munch says that “Princess Patty wouldn’t have picked up a machine gun if the SLA hadn’t screwed with her cerebellum.” Cabot said she would probably get off if she was tried today, but in 1976 no one heard of the Stockholm syndrome or the Rev. Jim Jones. Fin comments that Jim Jones brainwashed his followers to drink the Kool-Aid, and Thagard never met Garrison. Stabler adds there are people who watched Flashpoint that didn’t hurt a fly. Cabot says Garrison is not on trial, all the jury can consider was if Thagard was nuts. Stabler says Thagard knew what he was doing, and Fin adds so was Carver, he was on every new show last night. Munch adds that is the point, before the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, kooks could Xerox pamphlets, and now any crackpot can go on television and get millions of lemmings to jump off any cliff they tell them to. Stabler comments that while hate speech has a wider reach, it hasn’t caused the murder rate to spike. Munch asks did he know that the department of Homeland Security issued a report on the rise of right wing extremism after Obama’s election. Fin asks if they could just leave the brother out of it? Munch adds that all his is saying is that they have to take these radical fringe groups seriously. Cabot says she will start by showing the jury who Joe Thagard really is.
In Supreme Court, Thagard is on the stand testifying about watching Flashpoint and said some of the things he said made sense. He could not get a job and Garrison said it was because of the illegals and rants about anchor babies and they get to stay forever because of it. But Carver adds not if their children are dead. Thagard says he must have been crazy to hurt those kids, and he knows murder is a sin. But when he watched Flashpoint it made sense, that desperate times call for desperate measures. He wanted to be a patriot. He adds he is not smart or rich and powerful, but he loves his country and Gordon said love isn’t enough, he had to prove it so he did it. He says he is so sorry he killed the kids and would do anything to bring them back. Carver says it was not his fault, he had a tough life and that made him vulnerable to that sleazeball Garrison. He wishes he never listed to Garrison.
Cabot cross examines Thagard, asking him if he truly believed that a patriot would murder children. Thagard, crying, says soldiers have to kill in wartime, but Cabot says he is no soldier, in fact he was dishonorably discharged from the Coast Guard. Thagard says he was persecuted by his CO. Cabot mentions the CO’s name, Eddie Velasquez, naturalized as a US citizen, and says Thagard said he was not going to take orders from a dirty beaner. Thagard denies it, saying Velasquez wasn’t qualified. Cabot comments that Thagard hated immigrants before Flashpoint and he has always been a home grown racist. Carver objects, asking if there is a question in that pretty little speech. Cabot rephrases to ask if he was truly brainwashed, why didn’t he take credit for the crimes or call up Flashpoint and crow to Garrison? Why not proclaim his deeds to the world? He says that never occurred to him. She contends he wasn’t brainwashed, he was just a murderer who didn’t want to get caught.
Later, outside, Fin approaches Carver who is sitting on a bench. Fin asks if Carver is not used to getting his cage rattled. Carver says score one for Cabot but he hasn’t brought out his big guns yet. Fin doesn’t get why Carver is defending Thagard, and Carver says Thagard is a symptom not the disease. Carver says that Garrison, Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly are like a cancer spreading ignorance and hate and the have convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system. Fin tells him to save the soapbox the cameras aren’t even running. Carver says his father was a clansman and told him stories about lynching, and when he asked his father why, he said some men just need killing. Fin comments, “Daddy issues, huh? If you get Thagard off, him and all those knuckleheads kluckers will be real proud of you, might even give you your own pointed hood.” Carver says he hates the klan and everything they stand for, but it taught him that a good man can be swept up by evil forces. The problem is bigger than Thagard, those kids would still be alive if Garrison had not driven them to kill.
Back in court, Garrison is on the stand and being questioned about his show and his immigration comments. One man stand up and yells that they love Garrison, and another yells that Garrison is a fascist pig. The judge calls for order. When Carver says Garrison can say whatever he wants on the air, Garrison says god bless the first amendment. Carver remind Garrison of the limits of free speech and says you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, but Garrison counters that you can if it is burning. He says this country is ablaze, and Carver says he is pouring gas on the flames. He says he never told anybody to kill, but Carver brings out a time where Garrison said they need to send the people back from where they came, on a boat, in the back of a truck, or even in a pine box. Garrison said he did not mean murder, and Carver said Thagard took Garrison at his word.
Cabot cross examines, and Garrison says he never met Thagard or had any contact. He says he did not brainwash, he is just a social thermometer, taking the temperature of the people. When Cabot asks if it is rectally, the judge chides her, but Garrison says it is OK. She doesn’t have to agree with him. He quotes what he says is a Voltaire saying about not agreeing but defending his right to say it, and Cabot corrects him that this was not Voltaire, saying as usual he is playing fast and loose with the truth. He asks whose side is she is on, and she says the truth, and what he is doing makes her want to reach for a barf bag. She adds that Carver thinks Garrison is a god to his followers, but all she sees in a impotent man spewing hate to line his pockets. He says to watch her tone, calling her sweetheart, and she asks, “Or what? You’ll do what to me, Mr. Garrison?” She calls him a powerless buffoon and an entertaining clown, half the people who watch the show do it to laugh at him and don’t take it seriously. Garrison stands up and yells, saying not to let her talk to him that way, and the gallery erupts, someone telling Cabot to go to hell bitch, while another defends her, and a fight begins. The judge tries to gain control, but the fight continues and the judge orders the jury out. Carver stands up and yells that she is trying to say these people aren’t brainwashed as one word from Garrison and they are throwing punches. Garrison is sitting on the stand smiling with glee over the mess. The judge says Carver is out of order, and Carver says Garrison is out of order, Garrison made this happen the same way he made his client kill.
Later back in Supreme Court, the jury returns with the verdict of not guilty on all counts, to the surprise of Cabot and Fin. Fin watches as Thagard seems happy and whispers something to Carver. Carver looks back at him with a shocked face. He turns back and looks worried.
Fin is in Cabot’s office, asking how this could happen. He wants to wipe the smile off Thagard’s face with a belt sander. Cabot says she underestimated Carver, he gave Thagard a makeover. Fin says Garrison looked like the real psycho, especially after his fans went nuts. Fin wonders why they even bother.
Later in a bar, Fin commiserates with a drink, and Nicole Gleason show him a Ledger which shows Thagard’s picture on the front with the headline ”Gordon Got Me Off.” She offers to buy the next round, but Fin says he is not sure he would be much fun tonight. She says she can’t be scared off that easy. Fin’s phone rings, and it is Randall Carver. He asks what the hell he wants, and then says he does not want to see him. But then he adds he is on his way. Gleason tells him to call tonight, she will wait up.
Fin arrives at Carver’s office and asks what is the big emergency. Carver tells him what Thagard whispered to him in court after the verdict: “Thanks, now I can go kill more of those kids.” Fin says they have to stop him, and Carver looks back. Fin walks up to see what Carver is looking at, and it is Thagard’s body, lying in a pool of blood. Fin looks back at Carver, and the camera pans down to Carver handing Fin the gun, zooming in as we fade to black.
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