Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Law & Order “Brilliant Disguise” Recap & Review

All Photos from NBC

There is no disguising it, Law & Order “Brilliant Disguise” was a brilliant episode. The case, although a bit predictable, gave EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) an opponent that knew how to play more games, and possible had a bigger ego, than Cutter himself. The latter is a fact that DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) seems almost happy to point out to Cutter after they get a psychological profile on the murderer from Dr. Emil Skoda (J.K. Simmons), who, in my opinion, is the best shrink in the Law & Order universe. The writers seem to remember that Law & Order has some of its best episodes when making use of the excellent ensemble cast, and it makes the series feel re-energized despite the fact that it is well into its 20th season. Timothy Busfield made for a great guest star - understated, but still a presence.

While the case gets its usual first suspect wrong, and while the second suspect seemed predictable, the episode still succeeded in keeping the drama by creating a defendant who seemed to have found the perfect way to beat the rap. I was almost hoping that somehow he would get the best of Cutter just to give Cutter a blow to his ego, but I was still satisfied that Cutter was able to get his man at the end. I loved the look on Rubirosa face when Cutter brought up his previous use of Connie Rubirosa’s (Alana De La Garza) beauty to work a juror for a past trial. It appears Connie has accepted his apology, maybe because she also is starting to believe that they have to do whatever it takes to win. We also learned that Lupo may have a bit of an open mind when it comes to some sexual practices; maybe he'd make a great fit for the SVU team somewhere down the road?

Here is the recap:
When Justine Stebbins (Laura Campbell) is murdered in a hotel room, it first appears that lab technician Robbie Vickery (Adam Driver ) is the guilty man. He can be connected to the victim and a generic cell phone was used to make several call to the victim can be traced to his work area at Chelsea University Research Lab. After Vickery is arrested, he vehemently denies everything. Detectives Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) find that Justine was also working as an escort, a life she had been hiding from her mother.

When ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) gets concerned that Lupo and Bernard have been unable to produce any solid evidence – like a gun – to connect Vickery to the murder, they dig into the calls made on that generic cell phone, tracing one of the calls back to another woman who was also working on the side as an escort. When she outlines an attack that has similar traits to Justine’s murder, but she doesn’t identify Vickery as her attacker, the detectives go back to check out more calls made on that cell phone. They trace several calls that were made from an Indian Casino in Norwich CT, and then to Carrie Newton (Jess Weixler), who is spotted on a casino security camera with her fiancé, Alex Conway (Daniel Eric Gold) , a co-worker of Vickery. She covers for Conway. Meanwhile, the detectives think that when Vickery showed Conway a photo he took of Justine, Conway identified her as a prostitute and decided to set up his own meeting with her.

In the NYPD Criminal Squad, detectives Lupo and Bernard decide to set up Conway in a fake on-line chat, and after almost losing Conway, they finally get him to bite and he agrees to meet with who they think is a woman who wants to be tied up. When Conway comes to the meeting place, Lupo and Bernard move to arrest him. Suddenly, Conway’s fiancée Carrie Newton arrives on the scene, and the detectives find that what seems to be a .22 caliber gun on Conway is really a BB gun.

At the 2-7, they question both Conway, who seems to have rational explanations for everything, and Newton, who covers for Conway and is in major denial about him. The detectives come to the conclusion that Conway made them during the chat and just set them up. EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) thinks that maybe they can make Conway think he is still clever, hoping this will cause him to slip up.

At Conway’s arraignment, Cutter argues bail with Conway’s attorney, Ray Backlund (Timothy Busfield), getting interrupted by Newton’s father who offers to post some of the bail. When Rubirosa comes in and tells Cutter about problems with fingerprint information, Cutter must reveal this to the judge, all part of the setup to make Conway think he’s in the clear. Conway is released. Vickery is also released, but he is released with a wire, and, at the lab, tries to get Conway to spill the truth. Instead, Conway just gets irritated at Vickery and admits to nothing. Later, in Cutter’s interview room, Cutter reluctantly agrees that despite the fact Vickery didn’t get a complete admission from Conway that Vickery lived up to his end of the bargain, and he is released.

At the home of Oscar and Nancy Newtown, Cutter and Rubirosa try to get Carrie to realize that Conway is a murderer. She is forced to admit that he used her, and she breaks down.

Cutter and Rubirosa speak with Conway and Backlund in the prison meeting room, and Conway refuses their offer of 20 to life, telling Cutter that “This is gonna be fun.”

In DA Jack McCoy’s (Sam Waterston) office, Dr. Skoda (S.K. Simmons) says that Conway somehow got sucked in by the thrill of what he was doing and they are “not bloody likely” to stop him. McCoy tells Cutter to make the offer to Conway more attractive, but Cutter wants to go for it all. McCoy asks Skoda, “What were you saying about risk taking and an inflated sense of self? How many of those markers does Mike have? ”

Later, at jury selection, Backlund accepts a juror at Conway’ prodding – a man going through marital problems and who says he does not want to be there – and Cutter and Rubirosa wonder what Conway is trying to do.

At trial, while one witness identifies Conway and Backlund tries to discredit her, and when he also tries to discredit Vickery, Rubirosa notices that juror #7, Pinter, the man who didn’t want to be there, seems very uncomfortable and she thinks he has already made up his mind about the case. Pinter is questioned in the judges chambers and denies that he has. Afterwards, Cutter and Rubirosa wonder why Pinter, who originally wanted out of the trial, didn’t take this chance to get out, they realize someone got to him.

Elsewhere, Lupo and Bernard are tailing Pinter and photograph him with a woman, who they realize is Carrie Newton with her hair dyed. Cutter realizes they were played. McCoy is not happy at the news, telling Cutter “you wanted to go mano-a-mano with him Mike. How’s that working out for you?” Later, in the chambers of Judge Barclay ( Wayne Duvall), Pinter is excused from the trial and the judge tells him to get a lawyer. Cutter wants a mistrial but the judge says he wants to question every juror to see if Pinter influenced them.

Later, Newton is in Cutter’s interview room and Cutter and Rubirosa try to show Newton that Conway used her, but she’s in major denial about Conway. Afterwards, Cutter thinks that Conway was waiting for jury deliberations to begin before he asked Newton to put more pressure on Pinter to influence the jury. McCoy is livid that Cutter’s case is in shambles, but Cutter still wants to go all out.

Back at trial, Conway is on the stand, and Cutter is able to use Newton’s absence in testifying for Conway to get Conway’s ego inflamed. During questioning, Cutter also mentions that he one told Rubirosa to use her attractiveness to manipulate a juror, and Rubirosa seems to be taken aback that Cutter would even mention that incident. Cutter continues to poke at Conway and is successful in getting him riled up, Conway finally admitting that Newton does what he tells her to do, essentially making him admit that he is trying to use her to cover up the truth and manipulate a juror.

Later, the judge gives Conway his sentence of 25 to life, and Conway is led off. Cutter apologizes to Rubirosa about that comment about her at trial; she understands he was doing what it takes to win. Suddenly, Newton runs up to Conway as he is being led off, his name “Alex” written on her chest, screaming she will be there for him. Cutter turns to Rubirosa and says, "Love's a bitch" as we fade to black.

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Anonymous said...

Amazing what a true emsemble can bring to the table when given a wonderful script to work from. While SVU has lost some of that which made it great viewing (I still have hope they'll get back on track) the mothership has really turned the ship around and found new life with this cast. I loved the story and so enjoyed watching Cutter sweat a bit.

By the way ATLAO...bite your tongue!! :) I want Lupo on the mothership and no where else. This team is quickly becoming my favorite.


Anonymous said...

I think it was a solid episode but the murderer seemed to fall for Mike way too easily. Also don't think Connie was that ok with what Cutter did, the line "The right psycho won" pretty much indicates how she is feeling.

Good stuff though. Can't wait for next week!

aileen said...

i think the every episode from this series is getting serious and thrilling. They have the best actors for the series. the investigation scenes are well taken cared of.

Anonymous said...

I wish Rene Balcer could work all three L&O series!

He (and his team do) does (did for LOCI) the best written for them!

Neal Baer was not head honcho until seasons 8-9 of SVU which is why the stories have changed DRAMATICALLY.

The cast of L&O should stay like this for the 21st season to, but I won't get comfortable with it yet... someone is probably going to leave soon again. As long as it's not Merkerson or Waterston. I can try to adapt with Sisto, Anderson, Roache, or de la Garza leaving. But take Merkerson and Waterston and I'll show Wolf and NBC a thing or two!

Good stuff lately for L&O the ratings were down this week because TRUAMA NEEDS TO BE CANCELED... IT'S ALL FAKE PEOPLE! EMTS DON'T USUALLY DEAL WITH EXPLOSIVES! Maybe the peope who have been in one.

Jachelle said...

I totally agree that L&O is getting better and better this season. I was behind and I watched all four episodes from last week at once and I was riveted by the two L&O episodes. I spent the two SVU episodes doing other things. The only reason I watch SVU is for Mariska, I still love her and Benson.

Anonymous said...

L&O could go another 20 years. I actually think it's time for another cast change or two. Part of L&O's charm is the changing cast.

I really wish they'd bring the franchise together and do some CI/LO/SVU deals like they used to (TBJ/LO/SVU did) and CSI did a few weeks ago. Would be great fun.

I just watched an episode from season 1 (Entitled) where that happened...it was great. The only appearance by Schiff on SVU!