Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Law & Order SVU "Confidential" Recap & Review

All photos from NBC

The guest stars made Law & Order “SVU” Confidential into a great episode, albeit one that really wasn’t about a special victim. Lena Olin was riveting as Ingrid Block, legal counsel to the handsome yet smarmy business owner Richard Morgan, played by the handsome (but not smarmy as far as I know) Richard Burgi. The SVU team gets called in to investigate when someone sees what they think is a possible rape in progress on a security camera. I wondered why a security guy would have someone call the police and also specify to call SVU, and also why it seemed that SVU was first on the scene and not the police. I know the Law & Order SVU squad is special, but I find it hard to believe that they can always be on the scene with what seems like warp speed.

But no matter, once Olin and Burgi appeared on the screen I didn’t care why SVU was called. Lena Olin is a wonderful actress and she is a very compelling presence. The promos for the episode made it clear that Burgi’s character wouldn’t survive for long, so his killing was no shock. But why does it seem so easy for someone to get a gun into the SVU squad? Mind you, I don’t spend a lot of time in police departments, but the few times I’ve been required to visit the local courthouse (for things like jury duty or even something as simple as making a vacation notification to the police), metal detectors are in full use and they have been for years. If there is anyone out there who actually works for the police who reads this blog, please feel free to comment on how guns can still get in to a place like the SVU squad building.

It was nice to see that John Munch (Richard Belzer) still exists as I was starting to think there was some conspiracy going on. This episode made good use of the whole cast and, in my opinion, the episodes where everybody gets some screen time usually make for more interesting episodes. For Law & Order fans that were promised that Sam Waterston was going to make an appearance – after all, it was noted in the official NBC press release for this episode - there was no appearance from Sam.

The episode almost went off the rails when Stabler (Chris Meloni) decides to arrest Ingrid Block, doing so without consulting with Cabot, Cragen, or even cluing in his own partner, Benson. After they are well in to cleaning up his mess, he has second thoughts. (If I were Cabot, I would have smacked him right in the courthouse hallway!) I’ve said this before and I will say it again, Stabler should know better by now and I don’t know why the writers continue to make Stabler into a character that has shown no growth over the years, with Stabler constantly reacting before he engages his brain. I think Chris Meloni deserves better.

Here is the recap:
Security cameras record footage of what looks like a woman being pulled into a men’s room against her will,and then the security camera blacks out. The security company yells to call the police and Special Victims. Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) investigate the scene and find no evidence of a crime or a victim. Afterwards, while police and the SVU squad are at the building searching for the possible victim, the building owner Richard Morgan (Richard Burgi), arrives, along with his chief counsel Ingrid Block (Lena Olln) who vehemently objects to the police search. Cragen pleads for cooperation and Morgan agrees to their search. They later find the victim’s body in a trash dumpster that is just being picked up.

At the SVU squad, Benson and Stabler review what they know with Cragen and assume it is an inside job. Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) tells them that he recalls a similar case in October 1987 with Nancy Pierce who was killed in the same manner, and Daniel Hardy, the maintenance man, was sent to Sing Sing for the crime, but he is still in prison. Cragen sends Benson and Stabler to Sing Sing to talk with Hardy to see if he had any help in Nancy’s murder.
At Sing Sing, Hardy (Yul Vazquez) says he didn’t have a partner because he didn’t kill Nancy. He asks them to reopen his case and asks them to take his DNA to test it to prove it.

Based on a photo of the most recent victim, she is identified as Renee Simmons, a secretary for Mr. Morgan. When Benson and Stabler ask Morgan why Renee was not reported missing, he said he laid her off and 12 others Friday morning, and they collected their ID badges and swiped them out of the building and the employees left immediately. Morgan thinks Renee’s ex, Matt, did this as he went nuts after she divorced him, and he is a stockbroker for a company on the 58th floor. Later, Fin (Ice-T) and Stabler see Matt leaving the building and when they try to stop him, he moves to flee, but runs into a cart, knocking over his briefcase with a bag of weed falling out. They bring him in to the SVU squad for questioning about his ex-wife’s murder. He tells them Renee was “banging” Morgan, she and Morgan had “lunch” at the same hotel every Tuesday.

Afterwards, Benson and Stabler discuss with Cragen possible connections between Morgan and both Renee’s and Nancy’s murders. Morgan testified against Hardy at his trial. Later, when Stabler speaks with Hardy again in jail about Hardy’s case, he tells Stabler that Nancy was going to cash out of her firm and take her money and split but was soon found dead.

Back at SVU, Stabler says that Nancy was killed 4 days before the market crashed in 1987 on Black Monday. They wonder what Morgan had to hide, and Munch pipes In about Morgan’s money, saying Morgan is broke and Morgan is stalling on paying investors. It seems he may have a Ponzi scheme going. They also realize Nancy and Renee both worked in the accounting departments. Fin gets a call and tells the others that Renee was an informant working for the IRS, and they think Morgan found out and killed her. They decide to arrest him before he realizes they are on to him and skips town. They arrest him while dining with what appear to be clients, with Ingrid Block present to protest.

At arraignment, when the judge questions the charges, ADA Alex Cabot (Stephanie March) called Morgan “Bernie Madoff, the Karate Kid Edition.” He pleads not guilty, and the judge tells him to surrender his passport and be confined at home with electronic monitoring and she denies bail. Afterwards, Cabot tells Benson and Stabler that the US Attorney is indicting tomorrow, and Benson says if they are going to get Morgan on the murders it is now or never.

Later, Benson and Stabler are questioning Morgan, with Block present, about the murders of Renee and Nancy. Block says they have no proof and blows them off and says they are leaving. As Benson and Stabler enter Cragen’s office, they hear a man yelling “You ruined me!’ and then gunfire. They find Morgan dead in the elevator and an old man who the police said shot Morgan. The man says Morgan stole everything from him. Block stands there frozen in place, blood spatter on her face, and tells Benson she is fine.

As they lead the old man off, Block tells Benson what she saw. Benson offers an apology and Block leaves. Stabler says the old man is Thomas Rooney, 80, and his wife recently died of cancer and Morgan would not give him his money back. Stabler gets a call from the property clerk, while Benson looks at the photos of Nancy and Renee. Stabler informs her the DNA from Hardy’s case is gone so now Hardy is screwed. But Benson runs after Block, who is entering the elevator, and tells Clock she has a few more questions.

In a conference room, Benson shows her the pictures of the two women who were murdered, and says that Block seemed relieved that Morgan was murdered, asking why is that. Benson continues to push, and asks Block if she helped Morgan with his Ponzi scheme. Block said she did not help but she only had suspicions. Benson asks her to help her with Hardy, and Block tries to stand by confidentiality, and says her life was protecting Morgan, and she becomes very agitated about it. Benson pushes Block to step up to the issue. Block says she realizes that Morgan killed Renee on Friday afternoon - after he did it - and he didn’t tell her but she knew, because she knew that he murdered Nancy pierce 22 year ago. Block tells Benson that Morgan had a shadow box in his office that held every karate belt he ever earned, and last Friday afternoon Morgan brought it to her office and asked her to hold on to it for a while, and confirms that Morgan did the same thing when Nancy was killed in Trent Towers 22 years ago. Morgan said he was renovating and asked if he could leave the shadow box with her. She knew he just bought out Nancy’s accounting firm and later asked if he had anything to do with the murder, and he said “ as a matter of fact, yes.” Block goes on to say she pleaded with him about Dan Hardy but Morgan giggled and said he knew about Hardy and, isn’t it great? It bothered her for years.

But Stabler, watching from the observation room, is unmoved, commenting that Block let Hardy rot in prison for two decades. But Cabot says if she came forward she could have been disbarred or have gone to prison. And since privilege doesn’t die with the client, Block just committed career suicide.

Benson goes on and asks about the shadow box after Nancy’s death and Block said that the box was later back on Morgan’s wall. She tells them the box is now in her office, and when the box is later retriecved and taken to ME Warner (Tamara Tunie), she finds Nancy’s epithelials on one of the belts. She also found Renee’s blood and DNA on the belt too. Now they have evidence that can clear Hardy.

In the Supreme Court detention unit, Stabler tells Hardy he is getting out and why. But Hardy asks if he is sure it was Morgan. He asks how they found out, and Block walks in and tells them that she gave the belts to the police, and that Morgan was killed two nights ago. He asks her if she knew Block killed Nancy, and gets upset when she doesn’t answer. She defends her confidentiality but this enrages him, and she stares back at him and then walks out with Stabler.

In court, Judge Donnelly (Judith Light) apologizes to Hardy for his wrongful imprisonment and sets aside his conviction and orders his record expunged and his immediate release. Afterwards, as Cabot says to Hardy she wishes there was more they could do, Stabler says there is, and arrest Block for facilitating a murder, saying he is getting justice for Renee as Block put the murder weapon right back in Morgan’s hands. Benson and Cabot look stunned as Stabler walks out with Block.

Stabler puts Block in the SVU holding cell, and Cabot testily asks Stabler if he knows what he has done. Cragen is pissed because Stabler did not clear the arrest with him or Cabot and didn’t even tell his partner. Stabler claims it was a good collar and he read the statute, but Cabot says that is proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Cabot says that Block has a legal right to return the belt, but admits she is tired of defense attorneys hiding behind privilege in order to withhold evidence.

In Supreme Court, Stabler testifies about the belts as they related to Morgan and both murders. Block, defending herself, points out a photo of a man, Victor Tate, and asks if Stabler know who he is. He knows Victor, saying he arrested him in 1998 for rape and later found he did not commit the crime. He adds that Victor is serving out the sentence in Sing Sing, stating that the only man who can prove Victor’s innocence, the real rapist, committed suicide. When Block comments that Tate is still in prison even though Stabler did his job, Stabler confirms that is so. She accuses Stabler of arresting her to assuage his own guilt about Victor Tate, but withdraws the question after Cabot objects.

On the stand, Block testifies to her attorney-client privilege and that it is protected by law. She talks about the box of belts that Morgan gave her and Morgan’s admission of guilt and her only legal option was to give it the box back, but that it disappeared from her office and she did not know how Richard got them back. Morgan would not tell her how he got them back, and she insists this is the truth. Cabot challenges her on her violation of confidentiality, asking why she did not come forward 22 years ago about Hardy. Block, emotional, said she wanted to, and said Morgan was dead and there was no way to hurt him now. But Cabot continues to pressure her, and Block admits she should have stopped him, and Renee Simmons murder is her fault. This admission seems to take Cabot aback, and she says she has no more questions.

Outside the courtroom, Stabler tells Cabot she took Block apart in there, and she says she will take that as a compliment. But Stabler says this is wrong, and Cabot is confused, saying the only reason they were in court is because Stabler arrested Block. Stabler thinks he made a mistake and asks to drop the charges, but Cabot says it is too late, McCoy certainly won’t let her and the jury had no choice but to convict. Stabler says, ”Unless I give them one” and walks off.

Later, Stabler came back to the prison with Hardy along with him. Stabler points out Victor Tate as Tate mops the floor, and explains the situation with Victor and how Stabler screwed up the case. He asks Hardy to help him with Ingrid Block, saying he does not think Block gave Richard the belts back. Hardy asks if helping “that bitch” Block will get Tate out, and asks what he care, saying she should be punished. Saying if Block had not come forward that would be him - pointing to Tate – pushing a mop for the rest of his life.

Back in court, Hardy is on the stand, saying that Morgan asked Hardy to take the shadow box out of Block’s office and put it in his. Hardy had a master key he could use to get in to her office, and Morgan told him if Hardy told Block about it he would fire him. The next thing, he is being arrested for Nancy’s murder. Block thanks him and Cabot has no questions. The defense rests and Cabot has no rebuttal, so Block moves for a directed verdict of not guilty as the people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she facilitated the murder of Renee Simmons. Judge Donnelly agrees there was no intent to commit a crime, and for the record, says it is abhorrent to her that a district attorney would so blatantly use the system of justice as a means to a political end. Cabot looks stunned. Donnelly finds Block not guilty. Stabler offers Block an apology and Block replies she owes them her thanks. She adds that she represents Thomas Rooney on the murder charge (for Morgan) and he is 80 years old and sick, asking if Cabot can plead him out. She says she will see what she can do.

Stabler wonders why Block is defending Morgan’s murderer, and Benson wonders if she is grateful that Rooney took the monkey off her back, but Stabler wonders if she has a guilty conscience. Back in the SVU interrogation room, Stabler shows Block that she called Rooney two hours before he murdered Morgan, and Benson says Block told Rooney that Morgan was at SVU. She said all she did was make a phone call. Rooney did what she should have done 22 years ago, and said she hoped the law would catch up with Richard, and Stabler replies the law doesn’t always guarantee justice. She says this time she did.

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TP said...

Wait wait wait...MUNCH WAS IN THE EPISODE!! WHAT?? I don't believe it I don't believe it...okay I saw the pictures..I believe it. HE'S ALIVE!!! Finally...but I guess that means it will be another 3-4 epis before we see him again.

I haven't seen the epi yet but heard it was so-so but apparantly next weeks looks better.

With regards to Stabler lacking growth...hmmm..just putting this out there perhaps that is why Chris Meloni is leaving...hmmm....he has played Stabler as far as he can. The writers need to do better for his final season. BETTER!!

Off to watch...later!

Anonymous said...

I was one of the L&O fans (I love SVU too) who tuned in all excited to see the rare (should happen more often) appearance by McCoy, yet they didn't show him. There was a clear missing scene too between Stabler's arrest and Cabot looking undecided and the jail scene (where Cabot says McCoy won't let me drop it) and then the trial when the judge blasted the District Attorney for a political stunt. Well, she was blasting McCoy, who in the previews, would have made the decision to prosecute. It was so painfully obvious they deleted the scene.

Frankly, as a huge fan of the franchise, one of the things that irks me is the number of SVU cases were McCoy's name is mentioned or there is an obvious scene needed for the DA to comment or say something, but they don't include him, even a 15-30 second scene.

It would help bring the franchise together and its a gigantic missing piece. Finally, for the first time since McCoy yelled at Novak, they were going to do it, they advertised it, and then they don't show it.


Anonymous said...

I will say I really loved the episode, overall though (despite my complaints about McCoy's scene being dropped) because of how it made you think about people in prison who can't get out even when they are found innocent.

Michael Ejercito said...

Why did the rapist committing suicide keep Victor Tate's evidence from being proven?

I mean, I saw that episode, and the rapist's confession was corroborated by at least four different individuals.

By contrast, in the Law & Order episode "Blackmail", Michael Cutter threatened to use a diary entry of a murder victim as evidence to support a charge of drug distribution against a witness in the murder case, to get her to testify. Note that the witness's attorney did not claim that the diary entry would be inadmissible, even though no one saw the victim make that particular diary entry.

And it sucked that McCoy's scene was deleted.

Shelly said...

While Stabler's back and forth on Block was frustrating, I did enjoy this episode overall. And it was great to see Munchkin again!

Why does NBC continue to hype things that never end up happening in the actual episode? McCoy's appearance, the kiss from last week's... Those of us who are fans would watch regardless, but it is annoying to see one thing in the previews, etc., and another thing when you actually sit down to watch the ep... is this intentional, or does NBC do something in editing?

Thanks for the recap All Things...

TP said...

Apparantly there was a conflict between the taping schedules with SVU and the Mothership that is why "McCoy" Sam Waterson did not appear on the episode but I agree if you are going to mention him then perhaps he should appear in the episode OR have a phone conference.

Anonymous said...

I am hoping to catch this ep sometime this weekend because it sounds to be a good one. Lena Olin is a wonderful actress.

ATLAO, is there any truth to the Meloni departure at the end of the season ? Seems that the writers are gearing up to give him a less than spectacular send off and truly it is a disservice to such a terrific actor.


Michael Ejercito said...

Apparantly there was a conflict between the taping schedules with SVU and the Mothership that is why "McCoy" Sam Waterson did not appear on the episode
So then NBC knew McCoy would not appear in the episode but hyped the appearance anyway?

John K. said...

I was going to go with the deleted scene theory, although, the scheduling theory makes just as much sense. Although, if the former is right, it's right there with the recent strain of editing with Shadow and P.C.

Didn't the same thing happen to a Munch scene in CI Season 8, which never aired? Or never filmed, or...?

Anonymous said...

If there was a reason that Waterston didn't appear. they should have corrected their press releases. I think they left it in on purpose to draw in more viewers, I don't trust those NBC promo weasels at all. Think about the "lick my boot" scene getting cut and the Mariska/Kathy Griffin kiss scene being cut. The NBC people like to create fake exictement but viewers are really getting tired of it. I think it's that Neal Baer dude because they don't pull that funny business with Rene Balcer and L&O.

Emma said...

Hey there! Great blog- just linked to you! "SVU" has been going through highs and lows this past year, BUT I really want it to end in a HIGH. I can't see Benson w/o Stabler! I DID like Naveen Andrews' role when he guest-starred as the posh/white collar det.

Shelly said...

Anonymous, thanks for reminding me the other mysterious disappearing scene was the "lick my boot" one. I couldn't come up with that to save my life. lol..

Ol Cranky said...

I have to admit, after all the hype about McCoy being in the ep, I was wondering how I missed it. Glad to know I hadn't gone nuts

Jojo said...

I don't watch much TV so I never see the previews - which I'm starting to think is really great because I had no idea that Morgan was going to die so that made for abit of surprise.

Nor did I know McCoy was supposed to be there...however, I'm not a L&O fan so I wouldn't have been too bothered either way.

However I am a Judith Light fan, so I was stoked to see Liz Donnelly again, but saddened to see her chewing Cabot out because Stabler is out of control. Back when SVU wasn't so intense, Mariska and Chris did the light bantering stuff so well but now Stabler is always so high strung and uncooperative. I agree that Meloni deserves better.

I like the continuity with the Victor Tate case, too. And Munch! Awesome to see the whole squad getting in on the action.

Good episode, and Lena Olin was brilliant.

Thanks for the recap.

Joe S. Walker said...

Meloni leaving? Has this been confirmed or denied?

Another weak episode, I thought. Would Hardy really have spent twenty years in prison, knowing that someone else did the crime, and not thought, "Hey, I wonder why the boss made me move that box and threatened to fire me if I told anyone?"

All Things Law and Order said...

Joe, the Courier Mail stood by the story they published where Meloni said he was leaving, and several sources hacve indicated and NBC rep was also involved in the conversation. I think Melomi DID say he was out after his contract was up, but whether that's how things really end up when it comes down to it is anyone's guess. Who knows, it could be a contract negotiation stunt?

All Things Law and Order said...

PS: New story from Courier Mail, Mariska not ready for Chris to leave:

Anonymous said...

I mean, I saw that episode, and the rapist's confession was corroborated by at least four different individuals.

The law used in the franchise, especially SVU and Criminal Intent, is usually pretty shaky. They have to change the real law to make the plot work and the story more dramatic.

Michael Ejercito said...

The law used in the franchise, especially SVU and Criminal Intent, is usually pretty shaky. They have to change the real law to make the plot work and the story more dramatic.
And not consistent within the franchise itself , as I pointed out with the example of Cutter threatening to use a diary entry of a murder victim as evidence to support a drug-related criminal charge to get a witness to testify against a murder suspect. (Neither the lawyer for the witness nor the murder suspect claimed that the diary entry would be inadmissible and thus useless.)

Anonymous said...

As far as getting a gun in a police station, people do it all day, every day, but it depends on the station. For example, in many cities, you have to actually carry your weapon into the police station in order to register your gun. Most have signs that say "unload all sidearms," but until the person checking the serial number on the gun actually sees it, no one really checks whether you have followed through on the request.

9-year law and order fan said...

I want to see more of Munch and Fin in the episodes. And it would be nioe to see McCoy and Donnally more often as well :)

Laura said...

Isn't it funny how Stabler goes through all the trouble of arresting Ingrid and having Cabot prosecute her for facilitating the murder, then he changes his mind and helps her defense, and Cabot gets berated in court by Judge Donnelley for using the law for a political end when absolutely none of it was her fault. Alex really should have told Stabler to go to hell, we all were thinking it.

Daniel said...

Maybe I'm slow, but why would testimony about the secreting of the shadow box back to the owner's office be enough to find the Lena Olin character innocent of the charge of facilitating a murder?

Jack Spicer said...

Daniel --

The reason is because the prosecution accused Olin of facilitating a murder because she allegedly gave the killer the shadow box containing the murder weapon back to him after he told her that he used it to kill the first victim.

If that other guy was the one who returned the shadow box without Olin's knowledge, it can't possibly be her fault.

9083393204 Mcdonald said...

What ever happened with Victor Tate it's crap to let him finish out his sentence get the governor to pardon him

Misha Mehta said...

I just rewatched this episode, and I have a question. At the very end, Olivia says something about how Olin's character knew they couldn't touch her for the phone call she made to the old man telling him where Richard Morgan was - why? They have the phone call in her records and she basically admitted what she'd done to them - so why wouldn't they be able to charge her for that?

Chris Zimmer said...

@Misha Mehta - because all she did was make a phone call and I think it would be too hard for them to make anything more stick. Of course, anything could have happened after that last scene in the episode!