Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Law & Order SVU “Beef” Recap & Review

All Photos from NBCU
I don’t have too many beefs with the episode of Law & Order SVU titled “Beef.” Oddly, I found this episode weirdly entertaining, you know, in that CSI-Miami campy “it’s so bad it’s good” kind of way. Oh sure, the case really wasn’t about a special victim, and it gets preachy about the process of bringing beef to the table. In typical Law & Order franchise fashion, it uses an example of beef processing that may be at the extreme low end as an excuse to get on the soapbox about beef processing in general. But I sometimes forget that we’re talking about New York City here and the fact that they likely have a lot of smaller meat processing companies, maybe this is an accurate look at how beef is processed in New York City. (Ewww.) But beef processing on a large scale is nothing like what we see in “Beef”, with cleanliness taken very seriously. Before meat haters get on their high horse about e-coli in beef, there have also been past reports of e-coli in sprouts, bacteria in spinach and lettuce, and salmonella in ice cream. Food growing and processing, no matter if it is animal or vegetable, can be a problem if everything is not kept immaculately clean, including growing conditions for vegetables.

The main cast got plenty of screen time and they stirred up the detective pairings at times which kept things fresh. Dr. Huang however, was not present; as I am sure he would have a hard time analyzing a side of beef. (Then again...) The running dog jokes early on were funny (Stabler: “Sit. Stay!”) and I don’t know why, but the actress who played Mama Rosa (Lynn Cohen ) made me think of that old lady who used to do the famous Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” commercials. We also got a treat – Benson undercover in something other than a slinky dress for the second time this season and playing a Russian no less. “Beef” was not one of those episode where you needed to engage your brain, but if did entertain.

Here is the recap:
A young couple returning a dog to its apartment finds the dog's owner dead in bed. Later, with ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) on the scene, she tells Detectives Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) and John Munch (Richard Belzer) that the victim’s name is Laura Santiago, and she bled out from a cut jugular and there were fluids. She swabs the dog’s mouth to see if by any chance the dog bit the killer. They search the apartment and walk into the hallway where Fin (Ice-T) is taking to the super, who heard nothing and does not know if the victim had a boyfriend. She did see him with a guy who seemed to have his own key. CSU Keegan (Jabari Gray) guy finds a laptop that literally had nothing on it. He also found her cell phone with recent calls from someone named Jan – when they show the super the picture of Jan from the cell phone she says and that’s the guy she has seen her with.

At the apartment of Jan Eyck, Stabler and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) speak with Jan and he tells them he teaches yoga and Laura is in his class. They want to take him downtown and he asks to feed his dog first. He asked what happened to Laura’s dog and is worried about it. Later in interrogation, Jan seems shocked Laura was raped, and he says he never forced her. He thinks someone came in after her. He says that he was walking the dog and had a fight with the neighbor that night, and continues to worry over Laura’s dog. Stabler tells him to “Sit. Stay.”

Benson asks Fin to check out Jan’s alibi, and Warner enters, telling them she found two blood types in the semen on Laura. They wonder if Jan walked in on Laura and another man. They go back in to question Jan and try to imply he killed her in a jealous rage, and he promptly invokes his right to a lawyer.

With Benson and Stabler watching Jan from the observation room, Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) walks in and sees Jan in the interrogation room mediating. Cragen tells them that Jan’s alibi with the neighbor has been verified. He tells them to get his DNA before he goes. Stabler suggests that Laura’s parents may know the second boyfriend.

At the home of Laura’s parents, the detectives tell them about Laura. Benson sees that Mr. Santiago’s hand is cut and he said he did it at the restaurant and was out with friends. He is upset they think he killed his daughter. They came to this country so Laura could have a chance. But they tell her Laura went from job to job and was last working at a store but she lost that job.

At the store where Laura last worked, someone tries to sell Benson some “tough but sexy” leather boots and Stabler a purse for his wife. They press him about Laura, and he says she was lovely at first but then there were problems. He shows them a video of Laura going nuts in the store, screaming for people not to buy anything here. He said she ran out and he never saw her again. As Benson and Stabler talk about this outside the store, Stabler’s phone rings – it is Morales, who got something off Laura’s computer, Stabler says about 10 GB of women’s butts.

At SVU, Morales (Joel de la Fuente) shows them a wall of photos of women’s behinds, and while Benson, Stabler and Fin muse over this, Munch tells them that Laura’s father’s alibi checks out. Morales said someone took the time to try to wipe her computer, he was able to recover some things. In addition to the photos of the women’s behinds, there are also a few of cockfighting. They see Laura’s father in one of those photos. A street sign in the photo is marked Pennsylvania Avenue.

Later, the SVU detectives are arresting the men involved in the cockfighting ring and they question Laura’s father again, that the cut on his hand was from getting a peck. He tells them Laura just showed up at one of them and they just argued and she took that picture three weeks ago, the last time he saw her. She told him unless he started treating the birds right that he was no longer her father.

Afterwards, they realize the Laura is an animal activist. Benson gets a text from Warner saying that Laura’s dog had evidence of fibers from two pairs of pants on Laura, blue polyester and hemp.

Later, Munch and Fin question Jan again, who said Laura’s dog got jealous when they had sex and the dog bit him. The show him the photos on Laura’s computer and he said she dabbled in documentaries and knew she was interviewing people. He says he and Laura were supposed to eat at their favorite raw food restaurant this afternoon after a book signing in Tribeca.

Later, at Mavia’s Book Shop, they see some of Laura’s photos and a woman – Lisbeth Handler - lecturing a crowd on how women – and animals - are sometimes viewed as a piece of meat and that we can’t stop the objectification of women until we stop eating our four legged brothers and winged sisters. Later, Benson and Stabler speak with Handler and she tells them Laura found all the photos for the book. She mentions Laura was filming an expose on meat. She refers them to Dean Jones.

They speak with Jones, who is in a wheelchair, who tells them he got e-coli from a burger and it put him in a wheelchair. Laura wanted to show it all. He does into how all the bacteria from a bunch of cows can go in to one burger and that some companies treat their meat with ammonia. He says a man name Jake Bradshaw was helping her. The detectives then speak with Bradshaw and he said he met Laura at a rally. He said he tried to mentor her and she interviewed him for her film. He thinks the film would have angered the big lobbyists or even the USDA. He thinks he can help them if he sees the film, and Stabler says they will get back to him. When Bradshaw walks off, the detectives think that Bradshaw knows something.

Back at Laura’s apartment, they search for the film. As they search, Benson gets a message from Fin saying they have info on Bradshaw.

Back at the precinct, Fin tells them Bradshaw was in the office when Laura was murdered, but his articles show he is out for blood - a whistleblower guy. They see an article on big meat and immigrants being used to process meat. Munch adds that Bradshaw was fired two years ago for hiring a kid to go undercover to drive a race car and the kid was killer, Bradshaw settling with the parents The case was sealed, but Munch “sweet talked” it out of a clerk. Bradshaw now works for the web site The Real Version.

At the Real Version office, Bradshaw says Laura did not work for him, she just gave her advice and he never saw the film. He says if they get the film he wants to do the story. Stabler brings up the kid that got killed fom Bradshaw's earlier story, and he asks what Laura was doing. Bradshaw says Laura was working undercover at Donna Rosa Meats processing plant and she wanted to see how bad things were, she was going to call her film "Inside the Slaughterhouse. "

As Mrs. Rosa Doletti (Lynn Cohen) is filming a commercial for her meats, Munch and Fin talk to Mr. Riley (Robert Petkoff) who is foreman there. He hired Laura and said she was a nice girl. They also speak with some of her co-workers and everyone seems to like Laura and the workers are happy. One worker, Jorge Vargas, seemed very interested in her. They speak to the workers about Vargas and find he was a flirt and was grabby and he was fired. He was pissed about it, and just took off and did not clean out his locker. The detectives check out his locker and find he played basketball when on breaks. They find Vargas outside playin basketball and question him. They see a cut on his arm and they accuse him of raping Laura and they tell her she is dead.

Down at SVU in interrogation, Vargas tells Benson and Stabler Laura was helping her. He had fight with his wife and went for a walk that night. But Cragen comes in and tells Vargas that the DNA on Laura’s body matched his – and they got his DNA from his sneakers. He said he never touched Laura. Jorge still denies everything. Cragen tells the detectives to check out the Vargas place.

At the Vargas place, his wife is very upset and says she is throwing him out for cheating. She remembers that he had a pair of blue pants that he just threw away that were torn and had blood on them.

Back at the precinct, Warner tells them the fibers on those pants match the blue fibers in the dog’s mouth and the blood on them was Laura’s. But she also found a sweat stain in the inseam which does not match Vargas’s DNA. Someone else was wearing his pants. Stabler recaps what they do know and wonders how they can explain a third man’s sweat, and wonder if someone is setting him up, someone like Mrs. Vargas.

Back at the Vargas home, they confront Vanessa Vargas with a photo taken from a security camera the night of the killing showing she was out and carrying a cooler, but she said she knows her husband was cheating. A woman took photos of Jorge with other women and sent them to her with a letter, saying Jorge didn’t want either of them anymore and is going to run off with Laura. She asked Vanessa for a short and a pair of Jorge’s pants and some of his semen. She put a used condom plus the clothes in a cooler and left them where she was told and they were returned the next day and a note said to give it to the police if they came by. They arrest her for obstruction.

Back at the precinct, Munch allows Jorge to go free. Stabler, Cragen, and Benson still wonder who is behind this, and the detectives decide to check out Donna Rosa’s Meats.

At Donna Rosa’s Meats, Benson, undercover as a worker named “Tanya” and speaking with an accent, goes to work. Her boss asks her to “say something in Russian, baby” and she does. He likes it, and says he will see her tomorrow. Stabler, listening in, asks Benson through her earpiece what she said to him, and she says, “go swing an elephant’s balls.” (I think that's what she said!) She goes on to say the place is filthy and disgusting and there are cockroaches. She begins to check around and sees rat droppings everywhere. She hears a noise and says someone is coming. She sees another cleaning woman who goes into the bathroom. She follows her into the bathroom and they talk about the filth. The woman tells her not to ask too many questions. The woman tells her about a girl who used to work there was caught taking pictures and the foreman (Riley) took her away. The other cleaning woman races back to work, and Benson reports to Stabler she is going to Riley’s office to look around. She rummages through his desk and files and finds what looks like a tape from a video camera. Riley walks in and asks what she is doing there and she says she is cleaning. Stabler hears this and races out of the surveillance van. Riley says he thinks she is snooping and he punches her. They struggle and she drops the tape and Riley’s foot comes down on it, breaking the cassette. Stabler rushes into the room and announces he is the police and he pulls Riley off, arresting him for assaulting a police officer. Benson adds that as soon as they get their DNA, it will also be for murder.

With Riley in interrogation, they ask him about Laura and tell him that he is going to prison. But he says they have no proof. Benson tells him to take off his pants, and he says if she wants to see his ass, she has to start with a little foreplay. Stabler tells Riley to drop ‘em. He does, and there are no signs of dog bite marks.

Later, they tell Cragen there are no bite marks; they assume the dog got the pants and no flesh. Cragen thinks Riley will plead out on assault as he can say he thought Benson was robbing him. Warner enters and tells him that the DNA on Riley’s toothpick matches the sweat on the pants. As Cragen tells the detectives to tell Riley he is dead meat, they hear Munch trying to stop someone from coming in the squad room. It is Mrs. Rosa and she is upset. She is accompanied by Mr. Sarafini, her lawyer, who goes in to see Riley while Mrs. Rosa goes to Cragen’s office. Mrs. Rosa tells Cragen she does not understand because Riley is a good man. Cragen tells her that Laura found problems in her plant and Riley was covering up. Meanwhile, Sarafini tells Riley to relax when they tell him they have evidence of him at the crime scene. Mrs. Rosa enters and pleads Riley to tell the truth. He says nothing and she leaves. Stabler tells Riley to listen to her and be a man and tell them. He says he did it, and the Sarafini tells him to shut up. But Riley goes on and says Laura was going to get them shut down and Laura was going to ruin his life.

Later, the video taken by Laura was pieced together by Morales and Munch is watching, and it is an expose of the mess at Donna Rosa’s Meats. Rats, bacteria, bad stuff going into the grinder, etc. Benson approaches and watches with him. Laura says, “You are what you eat” and goes on about how what the beef eat – corn they can’t digest, hormones, etc. Munch doesn’t get why Riley confessed so quickly. Benson, watching the tape, notices Riley hacking at some meat with cleaver in his left hand, and the way Warner said Laura’s throat was slit means that the killer was right handed. They realize someone else was there, Benson adding it was someone with the most to lose.

At the home of Rosa Doletti, Benson and Munch enter and Rosa is very pleasant to them. They bring up Laura’s murder and she can’t believe he did it. Munch says neither can they, and the detectives notice many pictures of Riley around Rosa’s home. They add they are getting closer to finding out who did it, saying it was someone who was related to Riley. He also confessed the minute Rosa showed up as if he was trying to protect her. Benson says that she believes Riley is her son, using all the photos of his family around to emphasis the point. Rosa admits Riley is her son by her late husband. Munch says the family name is Riley and she is not even Italian. Rosa says she is black Irish; they took the name Doletti because the people think the meatballs are made by I-ties. When Benson confronts her about having the typewriter that she used to write the letter to Vanessa Vargas, Rosa denies having one, but Munch easily finds one in a roll top desk. When Munch says it is smother dirty lie exposed, Rosa runs to the kitchen and grabs a huge knife, pointing it at the detectives who do not flinch. Benson notes that Rosa went straight for the knife and got it with her right hand, just like Laura’s murderer. Rosa says Riley was always too weak and she could never stand him; she gave him to her sister to raise. Benson reminded Rosa that she hired him, but Rosa says he always did what Mama Rosa told him to do. Benson said Riley went to the apartment but couldn’t kill Laura when she told him to. Rosa coldly says she has been cutting meat all her life, she is a butcher’s daughter and does what she has to do to protect what she works for. Benson says now she will protect herself by putting down the knife, and Rosa complies. As Benson cuffs her, Rosa asks what about her dinner and the family will be there any second. Benson says they will enjoy dinner just fine without her, and Munch adds, “as long as they don’t know what’s in it” We see a pile of meatballs as we fade to black.

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John K. said...

I believe Rosa's actress is the same as Judge Mizerer from the Mothership, Lynn Cohen. If so, that's too amusing, as she was one of the sterner Mothership judges.

Nice recap, as always.

Jojo said...

The soapbox angle was abit heavy but like you said, it was entertaining in a campy sort of way. Benson's undercover was cute and I liked having the whole squad around.

The last scene when Rosa picked up the knife, I thought to myself "she's going to stab herself", and I was really quite happy that she didn't because obviously it's not as predictable as I thought.

I noticed that Riley was a leftie when he punched Benson, but didn't think it was relevant. I would have thought she'd think of it too if she recalled the arm swinging at her face, but I suppose getting punched in the face happens too fast to notice small details.

As always, thanks for the recap.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you...I heard a tonne of bad comments about the episode so I tried watching it with an open mind and ended thinking it wasn't that bad. It had its funny moments and gross moments but all in all it was an okay epsiode. I would give it 7 out of 10.

Torch looks good BUT I hope the writers don't waste our time with the EO shippiness and keep it as the crime drama we have all grown to love.

khadada said...

omg the actress who plays mama rosa is Definitely Miranda's nanny for Brady on Sex and the City (series and movie)

Anonymous said...

I have a really small gripe with this episode (besides what "All Things" mentioned). This show seems to be doing a decent job with Spanish speaking characters whenever they have them on, but give anyone on the show a line in Russian - and it's a total farce. I'm glad that Benson provided Stabler (and us) with a translation with that great line of hers about elephant's balls, because otherwise I would've assumed she's speaking Martian. She didn't say a single word that sounded remotely close to Russian or even tried to. I suppose it's too much to have writers finding out how to say something in a genuine language, but in a way it made me feel (and I'm sure I'm not the only Russian speaking person in the audience) like that guy whom Olivia was talking to - like we're so dumb as the viewers that we'll take any mambo jumbo thrown at us and just go with it. Like, why try to be impeccable and make a good research? The audience is too dumb to know the difference...
But I do know that I'm griping about tiny details... :)

Jojo said...

Speaking of languages, on occasions where B.D Wong has spoken Chinese I tend to burst out laughing. I can't quite remember when exactly he's done it, however if I recall, it was still somewhat understandable. Certainly better than the time I watched 'Charmed' many years ago and thought the guy was speaking Korean.

I don't really expect much anymore from Western shows when it comes to portraying Chinese characters. Who knows why they don't try a little harder though, since a fifth of the worlds population lives in China?!

Anonymous said...

This episode was Absolutely HORRID. Proof positive that TV is CRAP. What a waste of an hour that i can never get back.

Anonymous said...

Irony - as Benson and Stabler are talking to Bradshaw a truck passes behind them with "Janowski's Hamburgers" (a real company in Rockville, L.I.) written on its side.