Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Law & Order Criminal Intent “Delicate” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCU

Law & Order Criminal Intent went back to basics in “Delicate” with an episode that gave viewers a look into the mind – the intent – of the killer. While the story had a somewhat predictable outcome, the investigation still kept my interest, and plain old investigative persistence paid off in the end. While Saffron Burrows is still a little too low key for me, I found myself warming up to her a little with this case, and felt that she and Nichols may eventually make a good team. In fact, this episode gave me hope that the Law & Order CI may continue to have life after the D’Onofrio/Eames/ Bogosian departures.

Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio, while getting little screen time this episode, seems to fit well in the role of captain and hopefully they can give her more to do then just be the rubber stamp for Nichols and Stevens.

Viewers who watch Law & Order Criminal Intent to get a good, solid story will not be disappointed. The only drawback is that the guest stars seemed to steal the show from the lead actors in the process.

Here is the recap:
At a dance class, one student seems to be annoying the others by her condescending attitude. When another student, Jessilyn (Melissa Benoist) who has a hurt foot, falls, the teacher says she is not ready and replaces her with the annoying student, Alona Landau. Later, the teacher is critiquing the practice, Alona gets super critical and Jessilyn leaves the class in a huff. When one of the other students, Paulette (Vivien Cardone) follows Jessilyn and says things will get better, Jessilyn tells her not while that bitch is here.

Later, Alona is making out with the teacher in his office. When she makes a move to leave, she tells him he doesn’t own her, and says she would hate for this to end badly. Later, as Alona is dancing at a club, a man watches and his phone rings, then he pulls Alona off the dance floor in a jealous rage. Outside the club they fight and she says to let go of her. They continue to argue about who called her and as she runs away from him, he falls. At another location, Alona is confronted by a masked person who knocks her out and drags her away, then pushes her over the stairwell balcony. She lay dead on the floor below.

Later, ME Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix) and Detectives Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) and Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows) are on the scene examining the body of Alona Landau, student at the Schumann, and Nichols notices she reeks of alcohol. MR Rodgers notices there is a blow made with something with an edge. Stevens comments that Alona's clothes are intact, and Rodgers adds there is no evidence of rape. Nichols notes that her legs are toned and muscular, like a dancer. Rodgers estimates time of death at between 1:00-4:00 AM. Rodgers notes how the body is laying flat on her back, and Nichols thinks she was pushed, Stevens guessing the victim knew her killer. Nichols thinks the Schumann is a good place to start looking for her killer.

Nichols and Stevens interrupt the dance class of Ethan Johns (Lorenzo Pisoni) and tell him of Alona’s murder. With the class watching, Johns asks for them to talks somewhere more private. Johns then comments about how gifted Alona was, but says students can clash there as part of the process. He indicates everything was fine yesterday. When Johns tries to wrap things up, Stevens says that they will be done when he tells them what he did last night. Johns says he is done when he decides to stop speaking, but tells them that, in the interest of cooperation, he was here where he is every night, honing their performance. His set designer was with him until about 2 AM. With that, Johns storms out of the room. As Nichols and Stevens follow him out, Stevens refers to Johns as a pompous idiot. Nichols decides they should go see how Alona lived while perfecting her art.

As the detectives check out Alona messy apartment, they smell something unusual but can’t figure out what it is. They see all the photos of Alona and comment about her self esteem. Nichols admits he almost went to this school himself as his parents considered him a piano prodigy. Nichols sees a vomit stain in the bathroom by the toilet and sees all kinds of meds around and Stevens thinks Alona was purging. They see an invitation to party on the bathroom mirror.

At the apartment of Cole Musgrave, the man that Alona was fighting with at the party, they discuss the party and that he was with Alona and that he got rough with her. He says he loved her, but Stevens notes the scratches on his neck. He says some guy named “E” kept calling her at the club and that is why they fought. Nichols sees the tear in Cole's jacket and Cole said he fell on the curb, but Nichols takes the jacket anyway. Cole tells them he went to another club afterwards, and insists he didn’t do this. He gave her something no one at the school ever did – freedom.

At the morgue, ME Rodgers says the cause of death was a puncture would at the skull. They try to figure out what caused it. She also had large quantity of drugs and alcohol and notices the signs of vomiting. She also pulled two semen samples.

At the Major Case Squad, the detectives talk with Captain Zoe Callas (Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio) about the case. They tell her Cole alibi checks out, and that the calls from “E” seem to be from Ethan Johns. They decide to get a subpoena for his DNA.

At his office Johns watches a recording of Alona perform, he gets chocked up. He then leaves and goes out into the practice hall and watches Jessilyn practice, with Paulette reassuring her. Jessilyn gets the dance step right this time and they both celebrate while Johns watches happily.

At the school, Nichols and Stevens talk with a student, Riley, about Johns, and she seems to have an upset stomach. She tells them there was a bad scene with Jessilyn Kerr and Alona and they were competitive. Jessilyn cut her foot and had once accused Alona of doing it.

Back in the hall, Jessilyn practices while Paulette plays piano, and Nichols and Stevens arrive, Nichols complementing Paulette on her playing Brahms. But she insists she wrote the piece. He says she altered it, and plays it to show her what he means. He calls it appropriation. They tell her they are there to see Jessilyn and Paulette leaves. They talk with her about that day, and Jessilyn says that Alona crossed the line during “truth circle” where they critique each other as part of the creative process. Alona made it personal with her and Alona wanted everyone to be her rival. Johns arrives and tells her she is late for stretch, and tells the detectives he will tolerate them but not to impact those young people. When Johns walks off and Stevens gives Nichols a glance, he says that doesn’t make him guilty.

Back at Major Case, they discuss theories. When Nichols asks Stevens why she is so sure Johns is the guy, she says when she was in college she was dumb enough to get involved with someone who was talented and charming, but she doesn’t finish the story. She says she will go to Callas to get the rehearsal tapes and student records and will check Johns’ priors.

Back at the school, Johns talks with Jessilyn and tells her she will take Alona’s role next week. She is thrilled. He touches her and says she will be a star, and when he moves in to kiss her, she pulls away and stands up, saying she will not disappoint him.

Back at her room, Alona tells Paulette the news and what Johns did, and Paulette says he felt him coming on to her. They agree that sometimes they feel like the same person, mimicking her movements. When Paulette wants to celebrate, Jessilyn says she has a thing with her parents, and even though she hates them, they pay for all this. Paulette is clearly disappointed,, but Jessilyn says Paulette can come along.

Back at Major Case, Nichols is looking at a Ledger article about Paulette Bartol who was expelled for stalking, and that she was disconnected from reality and has a potential for violence. Stevens enters and tells him there is nothing on Johns. She still thinks he’s bad guy. He shows her the information on Paulette and wonder if she snuck out of the dorm that night. Stevens gets a message which says that Johns’ DNA matches one of the semen samples, adding he doesn’t need priors, they have physical evidence, witnesses, and the phone call. Nichols decides to run it by the DA to get an arrest warrant.

Later, with Johns in the interrogation room, the detectives tell him his alibi checks out and that he was with another woman after the time of his alibi, a rich socialite whose attorney called them once they heard Johns is being questioned. He says that is not a crime and they can’t hold him.

Elsewhere at dinner with her parents, Jessilyn gives them the news but her mother says not to get ahead of herself, her father saying is a long road. Jessilyn complains about the food, saying she can’t eat the stuff and she is already 2 pounds over. All they want to do is ruin it an Ethan Johns believes in her. She storms off while Paulette follows her to the bathroom. Paulette starts getting enraged, saying that she just wanted to make Jessilyn happy and screams everything is wrong. She says that Jessilyn will go with Ethan and she will be alone again, and she did it for her. Jessilyn says Paulette knows what she is feeling, and they hug each other.

Back at Major Case, the detectives and Callas watch the rehearsal tapes. They decide to go back and talk with Riley, wondering if she also had a relationship with Johns. Later, with Riley being questioned, she admits she did have a relationship with Johns 6 months ago and when she complains again about her stomach, she adds everybody’s got it. But it feels different and she is wheezing all the time and has a weird taste. Nichols asks to smell her breath, and asks Stevens to do so as well. She knows the smell – it was the same smell in Alona’s room.

Back with ME Rodgers, she tells them the smell is ethylene glycol – antifreeze. It was masked in Alona’s first tox screen because she had been drinking. A small amount can throw the body off. Nichols realizes the only people who don’t seem to be complaining of being ill are Jessilyn and Paulette.

Back in Paulette’s room, Jessilyn is thrilled about dancing the lead, and when Paulette says the word is hers, Jessilyn says it is ours. Jessilyn looks at what Paulette is reading and it is a journal. When it seems that Paulette had admitted to something in her diary, she also reassures Jessilyn not to worry that she is gone. They are both happy.

Back with Callas, the detectives talk about Paulette’s issues and that bed check had them in their rooms that night. Jessilyn requires a second bed check and it was confirmed she was there, but Paulette is a different story. They see the rehearsal video which shows Paulette giving everyone sports drinks which could disguise the antifreeze, but that she gave Jessilyn water. Callas tells them to find out what else she is hiding.

The detectives are searching Paulette’s dorm room, and find Paulette is a no show at classes today and Jessilyn ‘s father pulled her out of school. Nichols sees something sticking out of a closet and finds a shrine of sorts. They also find sports drinks, anti freeze receipts, and other evidence. Nichols realizes that a small, model-sized piano has legs on it, and stockings with marks in it that match the legs of the piano, which could be the murder weapon.

At Jessilyn’s parents, she says they can’t keep her from Paulette and her father says she will not be seeing her anymore and it is for her own good. She spits and them and her father slaps her and then takes away her phone when she tries to call Paulette. She screams at them as they close her in her room. As it looks like she is going to kill herself, a knock comes to the window and it is Paulette. They decide to run away together. But the police come in and take them both as Nichols and Stevens and her parents watch.

At Major Case, Jessilyn is in interrogation, accompanied by her parents. Her father is upset and says they will not let her do this and the lawyer is on the way. Nichols says there is no deal until she tells them what she knows. But she just smiles.

With Stevens, Paulette is refusing to cooperate, and she says only she and Jessilyn know the truth and they will never tell. They bring in Paulette’s mother who asks Paulette what she did, but Paulette wants her out of there, screaming. Outside, her mother says she should have kept her away from all this, and that Paulette is sensitive. She says she was a dancer too and used to take Paulette with her to practice but she could not afford it.

In Callas’ office, they tell her Jessilyn is committed to being part of the murder, and the girls don’t care about evidence or reality and they are in love. Callas thinks if they hand over both of them when only one of them is guilty, the lawyer will use that against them to confuse the jury. Nichols thinks they should allow them to be together and then land on them with reality.

Later with Paulette and Jessilyn in the same interrogation room, Nichols is complementary of Paulette on her journal, but Paulette says the journal is “ours” and Jessilyn is part of everything they do. She also says they can communicate in ways others can’t, like they can feel each other’s energy. As they hold each other’s hands, Paulette says nothing will take it away. The detectives talk about jealousy and the journal entry. Stevens brings up the fact that Paulette was giving all the dancers antifreeze. When Nichols comments that Jessilyn didn’t get the antifreeze, Jessilyn says Paulette did it for her and she loves her. Nichols brings out the small piano and puts it in the stocking and they are told that the imprint and the blood mentioned that the blood matches Alona’s. But they bring up the shard of glass that hurt her foot that Jessilyn thought Alona was responsible for, Nichols finds an entry in Paulette’s journal where Paulette admits she did it. Jessilyn refuses to believe it, but Paulette tells her she can never understand. She says it feels so lonely to walk into a room and no one turns around and she wanted to feel special. They mention her mother’s dreams of being a dancer and that Paulette did not want her own dreams to die like her mother’s, so she attached herself to the real stars. Paulette says Alona was ungrateful and that Alona turned on her and called her a crazy freak for what Paulette did. Nichols comments that Alona dumped her for Ethan so Paulette moved on to Jessilyn. Jessilyn realizes now what has happened, saying she has been used. Paulette says she can feel Jessilyn leaving her, and Jessilyn says she has to, and leaves the room as Paulette screams out for her. Paulette’s mother, watching form observation, hangs her head and cries.

Later, as Stevens leads Paulette out of the room, she tells her to hang on, that someone is coming down for her. Her mother comes up and hugs Paulette and says she is so sorry as Paulette sobs. Stevens walks over to Nichols and he asks if she is alright. She looks like the situation has bothered her, but she nods she is alright. Nichols looks at her intensely as we fade to black.

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Anonymous said...

I think that Goldblum's character has the most fun around artists and musician types. This episode sort of reminded me of that Poet episode from the previous season.

I prefer these episodes (the ones where you know who the killer is and get a lot of scenes from his perspective, like "Major Case", "Family Values") to the ones where the writers stupidly try to keep you guessing by packing the episode with a bunch of identical, interchangeable actors ("Alpha Dog").

Shelly said...

I pretty much enjoyed this episode too. I did figure out the killer fairly early, but probably not as early as I should have...

I think they did too many "I'm bothered by this" shots of Stevens. And since she doesn't have seem many different facial expressions, it's really hard to read her... I get that she was upset by what was going on, but you couldn't really distinguish that much from her normal expressions.

I did like that each detective, early on, had their own prime suspect, but each was willing to listen to the reasoning of the other. I do agree with All Things that eventually, maybe they will make a solid team.

Jachelle said...

I thought this was a pretty good episode. It held my attention throughout and I liked that they went back to the original premise of LOCI by showing what the criminals motivations were. It was a good study in the psychology of how two emotionally disturbed people might be harmless by themselves, but put together become quite dangerous. I actaully thought that Jesslyn knew Paulette was a freaky stalker and was manipulating her to get what she wanted. So, it came as a surprise to me that Jesslyn was really just caught up in the fantasy of it all. I agree with you All Things that the guest actors were excellent and stole the show.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone know the ratings for this episode? I'm very curious...

Anonymous said...

You think just because you give this show a good review I will change my choice on watching or not?

I will not! I'm no longer watching LOCI, not until D'Onofrio/Erbe return, if!

Sorry. (D'Onofrio) Erbe and Bogosian were wrong and it's wrong to watch after the fact since we know they were fired! It's WRONG!

Esaul said...

I just watched some old CI episodes today on USA, and it really shows how different things are without D'Onofrio and Erbe. But I did watch Tuesday's episode, I wasn't thrilled about it, but it wasn't bad either. A lot better than the first three of the season. Still don't like Stevens' character. For some reason I think she'd be a better fit with Logan. I actually used to dread any episodes with D'Onofrio coming on, and sometimes I would just turn it off, waiting for the Noth episodes. Now I really regret it.

NotAUSAMole said...

Ratings for this episode were up on par with the season premiere in total viewers, and level with Goren and Eames' exit in the demo.

janethyland said...

Season premiere was slightly higher.The numbers/demo is below the average for season 8 and much lower than Classic LOCI with Goren and eames.

It is well placed to reap the advantage of having SVU repeats as a lead in.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the ratings info! I'm a little surprised by the higher numbers, because there are very few comments and reviews about the episode itself. I guess people tuned USA but actually didn't watch or pay attention to... JMO.

Wallyhorse said...


The ratings were slightly above what they were for the Goren-Eames finale. The Goren-Eames finale got 3.47 million viewers while this episode got 3.5 million. This shocked me because I thought with the mass exodus of VDO-KE fans that this episode will tank. Since it didn't, it leads me to suspect one of two things:

1. Many of the more casual fans of "CI" who don't post and were not vocal about leaving because of VDO and KE's departure stayed with the show, and there may not have been as many who were solely fans of VDO and KE who left in the first place. The NBC repeats in the summer might wind up being a better indicator of this.

2. Many people missed the first airing of the Goren-Eames finale because that episode had the misfortune of in most of the country airing directly opposite two major sporting events: An overrun of Yankees-Red Sox (biggest rivalrly in baseball) that was airing in New York on YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) in New England on NESN (New England Sports Network) and in the rest of the country on MLB Network AND the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Game on ESPN. The NCAA Women's title game drew 3.5 million viewers on ESPN and got the same 18-49 numbers as the finale of Southland on TNT while Yankees-Red Sox probably got a combined 2-3 million viewers between YES and NESN (as that rivalry is a sacred cow to some) and another one million viewers elsewhere on MLB Network. Those two events between them probably took away a considerable number of viewers from the Goren-Eames finale, which the rating for "Delicate" now strongly suggests actually happened.

Wallyhorse said...

Also to add about this episode:

While it was known Serena had a child (it had previously been mentioned she was a single mom), however, this was the first mention of her having a daughther. Based on Serena's comments about her freshman year at college and the fact she said her daughter's room was "pristine" compared to Alona's (the victim's) room, I would say Serena is about 35 and has a 15-16 year old daughter whom she became pregnant with late in her freshman year and had midway through her sophomore year. Further, since it was mentioned in an interview Saffron Burrows did that Serena is also divorced, Serena likely married the child's father either while still pregnant with her or not too long after she gave birth, but that marriage in the end failed and they divorced.

As for the episode itself, it was well done. Agreed that dance instructor was creepy and was having an affair with Alona, which made him a suspect right away, as well as Alona's boyfriend. Paulette I realized midway through was the one who killed Alona, but I thought she also was going to kill Jessalyn before the episode ended the way it appeared to be going before the cops came and arrested both.

PeterG said...

Episodes after D'Onofrio and Erbe has been bland. Wonder if they can reach those intense moments like at the end of Shrinkwrapped, or the final episode of season 3, Poison season 5 with Michael York, and the double In the Wee Small Hours? Those showdowns and when Goren cracks open the souls of the perpetrators are what made Criminal Intent worth watching for me. And I loved Cpt. Deakins: "Step into him!" :)

e jerry said...

Still, the antifreeze was total crap. Precisely because people were using ethylene glycol to kill people, the antifreeze manufacturers reformulated their products to include denatonium benzoate so that it would be impossible not to detect by people being poisoned.

Yet again, Law & Order makes a bunch of artists seem like a bunch of cutthroat bitches when we actually spend far too much time working to improve ourselves and our craft to have much opportunity to formulate murderous plots to take out our "rivals."

Melanie said...

Can any of you recall which Brahms piece Nichols claims Paulette is appropriating? It would be a big help!


chillicothe20 said...

I am watching this rerun now on USA. I noticed two things.

1) The main dancer girl (Jesslyn) was just in WHIPLASH last year (with L&O alum JK Simmons). I knew she was familiar.

2) The plot seemed lifted straight from Heavenly Creatures (except for the end). Just like in that movie, the two girls have an unhealthy close friendship and are sort of lost in their own world/goals. They are distant from/resentful of their parents. If anything, that parallel only made this episode better, as Heavenly Creatures is a terrific film.

SusannahS said...

This episode was totally Heavenly Creatures meets Black Swan.

Re: Heavenly Creatures - based on the true story of Paulette Parker (now known as author Elizabeth George)and Juliet Hulme.
Pauline - Paulette
Juliet - Jessalyn

SusannahS said...

Oops - Julie Hulme is Elizabeth George. Typo in previous comment~

cello said...

Juliet Hulme is author Anne Perry-not Elizabeth George

cello said...

Correction- Julia Hulme is author Anne Perry