Thursday, April 29, 2010
Law & Order SVU “Torch” Recap & Review
Making matters worse is that ADA Jo Marlowe – who seems to know what Stabler is going to do in interrogation because she taught him everything he knows – lets him walk into an interrogation with a wastebasket filled with paper and matches to question a “pyropheliac.” She then has the nerve to get upset when Stabler uses the matches and the fire to get a confession, Marlowe saying that Stabler sexually aroused him and then calls it rape.(Eeewwww.) It wasn’t for one moment believable that Jo Marlowe was a cop who taught Stabler everything he knows. I suppose that she should take the blame that Stabler has no self control and he acts like s hot headed jerk at times? And seriously, what was it with that stunt with Stabler needing raw onion to conjure up tears? Even wrapped in a handkerchief a raw onion would smell and Frank would have been on to him – or maybe think Stabler just had a bad case of body odor. I also noticed that despite the attempts to make it seem like there had been a spark with Marlowe and Stabler, there wasn’t even smoke there; they seemed completely devoid of any chemistry. Nobody seems to be carrying a torch here.
Other oddities with this episode: 1.) Frank runs out of his house –where we see no fire yet – and yells for someone to call for help. Wouldn’t a person’s first instinct be to get to their OWN phone and call 911? Luckily a neighbor did it for him, and the fire department is there in a nanosecond. I suspect Frank ran into the street for dramatic effect. 2. Did they forget that Pizza Face/Parisi confessed, and did they just chalk that confession up to Stabler’s arousing him? What would have happened if Marlowe’s fire expert showed that Frank didn’t set the fire but someone else did? Parisi could still be a suspect. But nooooo, they let him go. 3. How did Frank get that huge knife into Rikers AND into the interview room? 4. Marlowe discredits the fire marshal and calls what he does “junk science.” Doesn’t that open up other cases in which he was involved and they got convictions to appeal? She should have gone to McCoy and told him her findings outside of the courtroom to keep from discrediting the fire marshal in open court. She now may have put other cases and convictions at risk. 5. Where are they getting some of these supporting, "bit" actors from? The opening scene seemed like amateur hour. And while we are on the subject of acting, I think there was enough scenery chewing in this episode for an entire season, just from Sharon Stone alone.
The only thing that could have made this episode more bizarre was if they brought back Law & Order Sergeant Max Greevey (George Dzundza) from the dead so they could recreate the interrogation scenes with Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” Oh wait; there are still a few more episodes where they can still do that.
Here is the recap:
Two “dudes” are out walking when Frank Sullivan (Kevin Anderson) runs out into the street and says his girls are in his house and it is on fire. The neighbor said she already called 911, and the house explodes in a bal of flames. The fire department arrives and Frank says there are two girls in the back bedroom and they race to fight the fire.
Later, Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) arrive on the scene and are told that two girls, 8 and 10, burned to death and the single dad is being treated for burns smoke inhalation. One other daughter, Emily Sullivan, 18, was out babysitting. When Stabler asks why they were called in for an arson, the officer said that “she” told them to, “she” is their new ADA. Stabler sees her and says, “Oh man” adding she used to be a cop, and his old partner.
As they approach the crime scene Stabler asks Benson what she is talking about; he’s been telling her Jo Marlowe stories for years. Benson comments except the one where Marlowe is actually a woman. Jo Marlowe (Sharon Stone) asks Benson if Stabler told her she was his training officer and says she taught him everything he knows. She says, “Elliot friggin' Stabler, what’s it been 10 years?” He tells her it is closer to 15, and he introduces Marlowe to Benson. Marlowe says Benson is a lucky girl to be working with “El,” Benson quips that’s what he keeps telling her. Marlowe explains there are two dead little girls and she thinks the Ledger will it on the front page and doesn’t want to be caught with her pants down. She begins to dress in firefighter garb. Stabler says pants down is SVU, but wonders why they were called in to a fire – if it’s arson it’s homicide. But Marlowe says that when the DA sees dead little kids, he thinks special victims. She tells them she had been transferred to SVU, adding that Elliot never got over it when she left him for law school. She comments to Benson that it looks like he has been in good hands. She tells Stabler she will catch up with him later and then moves toward the building. The Deputy Marshal Kurek greets her on the stairs and he tells her he found signs of an accelerant in the girl’s bedroom and he is ruling it arson. Marlowe tells Benson and Stabler that the dad is down at Mercy and tells them to go talk to him.
At Mercy General Hospital, the detectives speak with the father, Frank Sullivan, his daughter Emily sitting at his beside, and tells them he woke up to his daughters Kedzie and Faye yelling for him. He smelled smoke so he ran to the room and the door was hot and he burned his hands. His daughter says she should have been there. Benson tells them it was arson. They ask him if he has any enemies. Emily comments that his ex-wife Marcy was a psycho and wonders if she did it. He asks her to get him some orange juice and she leaves the room. He tells them Emily's mom died when she was 10 and doesn’t like her step mom, Marcy. She left him and the girls.
Back at SVU, the detectives comment that the judge gave full custody of the kids to Frank. Fin (Ice-T) tells Benson and Stabler that Marcy failed a court ordered psych exam and he cites all the weird things she did. She flipped out and told Frank if she couldn’t have the kids, nobody would.
At Marcy Sullivan’s apartment, she is shocked that they are gone. She seems out of it. They criticize her mothering skills and her drinking. She says he had an audition at a club that night and went home with one of the owners. She mentions a guy who grabbed at Kedzie at the club she told Kedzie to talk to Emily about it.
The detectives speak with Emily (Justine Cotsonas), who tells them they call the guy “pizza face” as he has bad acne. It happened in a bodega but she thought Kedzie was just being a drama queen about it and didn’t believe her. She says there was a cat in the bodega that Kedzie used to pet, but then she later found it in the alley burned and told her that pizza face told Kedzie that’s what happens to bad pussy.
Later, Benson comes out of the bodega and approaches pizza face. She gets on him about harassing little girls. She identifies herself as a detective and he tries to run. Stabler stops him, and Benson, who has pizza face’s jacket which came off when he ran, pulls out a lighter and fluid from it.
Back at SVU with Benson and Marlowe, Stabler says that “pizza face’s” real name is Michael Parisi, 23, with 3 prior arrests for sex abuse in the Bronx and all the victims were underage girls. Benson adds that none of the cases went to trial as the victims were too scared to testify. Stabler thinks Parisi set the fire to frighten Kensey Sullivan into silence and the blaze got away from him and he ends up committing two arson homicides. Marlowe asks, why set a fire and not threaten to kill a pet or her parents? Benson says “Mikey” is a firebug, they found a lighter and accelerant in his pocket. Marlowe thinks maybe be smokes, and Benson adds no cigarettes. Marlowe says they have a perv that likes to play with fire and little girls, and it looks like they are double dipping into the motive pool. Stabler says to Benson that he told her she would say that. He brings up video taken at the crime scene, assuming the arsonist is in the crowd watching. They see Parisi there but his eyes are closed. Benson thinks he is having a “private moment.” Stabler thinks he’s a pyropheliac getting off and he bets Marlowe his paycheck that’s what’s happening. She asks how he will prove it.
With Parisi in interrogation Stabler comes in with a wastebasket filled with paper and Parisi says he didn’t do anything. Benson and Marlowe watch. As Stabler works him, Marlowe is whispering the next steps out loud to Benson, as if she knows Stabler knows what to do because she taught him. Parisi said he only talked to Kedzie. Stabler says that Parisi has a thing for fire and begins to explain the beauty of fire, and he lights a match and Parisi starts talking as Stabler lights matches. He says he copped a feel but that was all. As Stabler continues to light matches and then lights the paper in the wastebasket, Parisi says he did it. He set the fire. Watching from the observation room, Benson tells Marlowe there goes her paycheck, and Marlowe says that’s not all it is going to cost her. She thinks the defense will say that Stabler sexually aroused his client to elicit a confession and Parisi was raped at SVU.
As she walks out of the room, Marlowe tells Benson his confession will be thrown out and Benson argues they have pizza face on the video. Marlowe counters that it is along with half the neighborhood. Benson says he molested Kedzie, and Marlowe says those charges died with her. She thinks she should talk with the dad to see if he can put the bastard there. Benson comments that Frank says he didn’t see anyone hanging around there last night. Marlowe observes that Benson doesn’t think Marlowe trusts Benson’s interview skills, and Benson observes that Marlowe has a more hands-on approach than most DAs. Marlowe snaps back to Benson to cut the euphemisms. But Benson thinks just because Marlowe was a cop does not mean she is on their side. Marlowe retorts that she was not just a cop, she was Elliot’s partner and she wouldn’t betray him any more than Benson would. As Marlowe walks away, Benson follows and comments that Marlowe transferred back there to work with Stabler again. Marlow says that Jack McCoy needed to replace Cabot so she was drafted – it was a happy accident. She adds, “Speaking of Elliot, you and he ever…” and Benson answers, “No. He’s married.” Marlowe smiles and chuckles, says “Yeah” and turns and walks away. Benson asks her where she is going, and Marlowe says she is going to rescue their case against pizza face, and asks if Benson is coming.
At the Sullivan residence, Benson is there with Marlowe and fire Marshal Kurek arrives to meet them. Benson and tells him that Parisi confessed, but Kurek is there to have Frank Sullivan arrested as he is sure he did it. He explains who the fire traveled through the house and says the arsonist trailed the accelerant backwards through the house and then walked out the front door. He says Frank's story is BS and if he had run through the fire as he claimed, his feet would have been burned. As Frank approaches, the fire marshal explains he is sure of his findings. Marlowe tells Benson to cut Parisi loose and arrest Sullivan, and the fire marshal begins to yell at Sullivan, calling him a scumbag. Benson moves to cuff him while Marlowe reads him his rights. Marlowe gets his hand loose and slaps her across the face. She stands up and glares at him and Benson asks if she is OK. Marlowe replies, “Your cuffs on our killer, I’m fine.”
Back at SVU, Marlowe wants to know why Sullivan killed his kids. Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) says Sullivan has been lying, he hasn’t worked since last summer and his financials are a mess and his house was insured for the full value – $1.1 million. He has no insurance claims, but Emily Sullivan did for the torching her own car. Marlow thinks this is what she needs to convince a jury, and Stabler says only if the car fire was daddy's idea. Marlowe scoffs and lightly hits him on the shoulder as she walks off.
Benson walks into an interview room where Emily is waiting. She says the detectives are making a mistake. Benson says if Emily wants to help her to talk to her and help her get to know her father better. Emily says he is a great dad and he never let her sisters worry about money. Collection agencies were calling all the time, and he said everything would be OK. But she is supposed to start college and doesn’t know how she will afford tuition. Benson brings up the fact that she couldn’t afford her car payment and then the car got conveniently stolen and torched. Emily asks is she in trouble, and Benson says it depends, asking whose idea it was. Emily said it was her father’s idea. She said they got no money the insurance paid off the loan. Benson tells her their house was in jeopardy now and if it worked before, why not do it again? Emily is now worried that he really set that fire.
Benson speaks with Frank who is in interrogation and brings up the problems with the house. Stabler accused him of torching the house for the insurance, and brings up Emily’s car. He still denies it all. As Stabler continues to hammer on the kids dying in the fire, seemingly faking tears of emotion, Franks tells him to stop. But Stabler continues to go on, saying he understands, just tell him Frank says there is nothing to tell, he did not kill his babies, and he wants a lawyer. Stabler answers, “And I don’t want to breathe the air in here anymore.”
As Stabler walks out into the observation room where Benson and Marlowe are watchdog and Marlowe says Frank really got to him. He is surprised that she bought that act, but she says she knows real tears. But Stabler shows her it was just a raw onion in his handkerchief. Marlowe says he really got her, but Stabler says he didn’t get Frank. Marlowe says they have enough to charge him, and now it is her turn to put on a show – no tears.
At arraignment court, Frank, with his legal aid attorney Shankman (Jason Jurman), pleads not guilty. Emily yells out that Frank is a liar and says she hates him as the judge orders her escorted out. Marlowe asks for remand and says she has the proof from the FDNY investigator. The judge remands him. As the judge orders a 5 minute recess, Marlowe says to Shankman to give her the blue back. Marlowe asks Shankman if she has to school him, his client killed two girls and he is guilty - he knows it and she knows it. She adds this is the time he is supposed to come up with some hare-brained theory of justification – like he was sleepwalking or he was delusional because he was up all night worrying about paying his bills. But Shankman says he was actually going to ask for a deal.
In Marlowe’s office and over lunch with Stabler, Marlowe tells them that she told Shankman to plead to the indictment and she doesn’t ask for consecutive sentencing on the two deaths, doing 25 to life. Shankman told his client to take it and she almost hopes it doesn’t. Stabler says when she tastes blood she has to be in there for the kill, and she replies that he still gets her. Her phone rings and she tells the caller to give her a half hour. Sullivan called himself and he wants to talk.
At Rikers in the conference room, Frank tells her he wants to talk to her alone and that he fired Shankman because Shankman thinks Frank is guilty. She says whatever he says can and will be used to crucify him on the stand. He knows. She says she is not some priest there to hear his confession and forgive him; her job is to put him away. He reminds her she is there to get justice for his daughters. He wants to be heard, he will even take a polygraph or any other test. He admits to a number of little things but will swear on his graves that he did not kill his girls. She says it is a nice speech but is she supposed to let him waltz out of there while she chases after a mythical killer. He says his daughters are dead because he could not save them and he can’t live with the guilt. She says he should have asked her to bring a razor blade. He asks her if she thinks is a joke, and he stands up with a knife, and she stands back, yelling “10-13! 10-13!” As the alarm sounds, he begins to cut into his arm. The guards race in and restrain him and he asks if she believes him now.
Back at SVU, Marlowe tells Benson and Stabler that Frank will be OK, he is on suicide watch. Stabler calls it a stunt and she Marlowe says it worked, she was a cop for 10 years and she knows when somebody is lying and she does not think Frank set that fire. Benson tells her that her BS detector is on the fritz, and Stabler says Frank is a con artist. She still stands by her opinion. She says they need to look t the case with a new set of eyes. She says there is one witness they haven’t questioned – the house.
At the lab of Dr. Iggy Drexel (Brad Dourif), Marlowe explains her case and thinks the guy in innocent, which confuses Drexel as Marlowe is a prosecutor. She needs an expert because the fire marshal refuses to take a second look at it. Drexel says there was a case just like this in Texas that got an innocent man executed for an arson homicide that was really an accident. Drexel says Kurek’s whole case is half assed; he cites Kurek’s findings about the glass at the house and feels that the spidering was caused by the cold water from the fire houses hitting the superheated glass, that it was not proof of an accelerant. He needs to see more information from the fire scene and the witness statements to verify of the fire marshal’s findings are flawed.
Marlowe, along with Stabler and Drexel, has Frank back at the house and has him walk them through the night of the fire. He says he was sleeping and heard the girls call for him. Smoke was pouring out from under the doorway. Drexel notices spots that the fire marshal thought was from the accelerant. Frank says that he tired to open the door but the knob was too hot and the door would not break down. Drexel says the heat would have expanded the wood and he would have needed an axe to open it, and if he would have opened it he would have been swallowed up by flame. Frank says he ran to the front door to get help and opened the front door. Drexel explains that once he opened the door the fire raced there for the oxygen. He says this theory is plausible and so is Kurek’s, but he can’t prove it.
Afterwards, Marlowe moans that she thought Drexel would blow the fire marshal out of the water. She says they screwed up and it’s up to them to clean it up. She asks Stabler what happened to her partner that used to back her play. He says they haven’t been partners for a long time. She gives him a light punch and says yeah, she has been replaced. As Benson arrives, Marlowe says it looks like the party is over. Benson says it is just getting started, DA Jack McCoy is at the squad room waiting for her and he sent Benson to bring her in.
As Marlow, Stabler and Benson walk back into SVU, they see Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) on the phone and Marlowe tells him he can hang up. He says, “So your phone isn’t broken.” She counters that she was busy, and he fires back that he heard, adding “When I call, you answer. When I tell you to do something, you do it.” When she asks even if it means sending an innocent man to jail for the rest of his life, he questions Frank's innocence, saying Frank had lied to her, he torched a car and attempted suicide – with her there to call for help. McCoy tells Marlowe that Frank is snowing her, and Marlowe tells McCoy when she first came to the DA’s office he told her to stop thinking like a cop since probable cause wasn’t good enough in court. She needed proof beyond a reasonable doubt. She asks him aren’t her doubts reasonable? McCoy replies that the fire marshal does not think so. She counters that Drexel’s theory is equally viable. He says to let the jury decide, that’s what they’re for. He tells her emphatically, “Go to trial, Jo.” She replies, “I remember what you told me about trial Jack, that a good prosecutor got convictions and (she and McCoy finish the sentence in unison) great ones get justice.” McCoy says “I give that speech to all new ADAs.” Marlowe comments, “Well, I believed you. Now I’m asking you to believe me.” He turns and looks at Benson and Stabler and asks Stabler if he believes her. He says she is worth listening to. He asks Benson if she thinks Frank is innocent and Marlowe looks over apprehensively. Benson says she does not know. McCoy says there is not one shred of evidence that anyone else set this fire, and tells Marlowe to take him to trial. When McCoy leaves, Stabler says they are all in this together and Stabler and Benson wonder about pizza face, who confessed to the crime, and Frank. Benson says they need a smoking gun and Stabler suggests a smoking house, but Benson says they can’t burn a house down. Marlowe says she can, and walks off.
Marlowe goes back to Drexel, who calls her idea crazy but says it could work. He is going to recreate the fire and record it with sensors and heat resistant cameras. He sets the fire.
Back in court, Marlowe shows the recording of the recreation with fire marshal Kurek on the stand. She asks him to interpret what he sees on the recording and he says the results of that recreation are the same as what he saw at the Sullivan house. He says only an accelerant can cause those burn patterns and he is sure of it. But Marlowe says that no accelerant was used to start the ire with the recreation. He seems surprised and she shows him how the recreation was done. Drexel started the fire with a short with wires on a space heater next to the bed. Kurek says it is impossible, and he says he knows what he saw. But she goes on to show an animated recreation of the fire Frank the point of view of Frank and his home, saying when Frank opened the door it caused the fire to flash over. Marlowe tells Kurek the fire was not caused by arson. She looks over to Frank and then to Kurek, and says, “That is the danger of junk science.” She tells the judge that based on this new evidence the people move to dismiss the case in the interest of justice.
Outside in the hall, Frank tells Marlowe he does not know what to say. She says he does not have to say anything. The elevator doors open and Benson is there with Emily, who rushes to her father. She apologizes that she thought he did it, but he hugs her. Marlowe walks off, telling Benson now she has to give McCoy the bill for the house she just burned down. Benson asks her if she wants some back up, and Marlowe said sure, and they walk away as we fade to black.
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