Law & Order CI “Traffic” was another interesting episode which featured a crime that seemed to have many players, but turned out to be a simple case of a power hungry woman who couldn’t handle criticism. It also seemed to highlight a difference between Detectives Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) and Stevens (Saffron Burrows) and how they approach a case - Nichols drawing on psychology but Stevens relying on her instincts. In this case, Nichols seems to have the winning method by pitting one suspect against the other, and then using their words as a trap to catch the real killer.
The guest stars all did a fine job, and actually drew some attention away from the fact that Nichols and Stevens seems to be a rather lifeless pair of detectives. Sure, they are both smart, but it seems each week they are toned down more and more to the point that the guest stars seem to steal the show. I was worried at first that when Jeff Goldblum came to the show that his mannerisms would overpower that of his characters, and now I think they have gone too far the other way and have made Nichols a little too bland. It is also possible that Saffron Burrows’ character is not being written with enough personality where the two characters can play off each other in a way that is not sleep-inducing. I do fear that Captain Zoe Callas (Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio) is becoming a little too one-dimensional in her role - as the authoritative road block. For the most part, I do like the way they are telling the stories this season - and their casying choices for the guest stars - which has helped keep my interest.
Here is the recap:
Connor James (John Bolger) and Mia (Conor Leslie) are in bed after some “romance” and he says he has some rotten work ahead of him at the office but he will see her later at the party. She tells him she can’t come because she would spend the whole night starting at him and "she" would see and then she would know.
Connor gets to the office and is very critical of Frank Bollinger’s cover for the magazine and says Frank can do better. Frank (Ian Kahn) gets enraged and throws papers that on Connor’s desk all over the office and storms out.
Mia gets home and tells Patricia (Tracy Pollan) who is getting ready for the party, that she is not going. Mia puts her phone on in a bowl on a table in the entry in front of Patricia and says she doesn’t feel good. Patricia asks if she wants her to call Dr. Harris, and she picks up the phone. Elsewhere, a man is with a woman who is pretending to be a young girl and says she deserves to be spanked. Later, her pimp says the doctor likes him and she thinks he will be a regular. And again in another place, a woman brings another group of girls to Dmitri, who seems to have someone preparing a lot of passports.
At the party, Patricia is there and is surrounded by a lot of guys and is getting compliments about one of her articles and speculating it may turn into a serial. Connor tries to apologize to Frank and Connor, after looking over at Patricia, tells him he will pass on his party plans for tomorrow night. As Frank walks off, Patricia approaches Connor and says he considered her serialized piece, and says it won’t happen. She says that is not funny. He says it is not a joke – one and done - but she thinks an article on the Russian mob will be hot and doesn’t want to be shut down because the people in the checkout line didn’t buy his 9,000 words on the art of Myanmar. He says when she is running things, publish whatever the hell she wants and until then, suck it up. Then to much applause, Connor thanks them all for coming and raises a glass to toast that after 50 years, while others have folded, Inset is still here. Patricia’s phone rings and she gets a message.
Later, at Connor’s place, Frank stumbles around, appearing drunk, and calls out to Connor saying he is sorry. He walks into a room and is shocked to see Connor on the floor, dead.
Later, Detectives Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) and Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows) are on the scene, and speak with Frank who said he had a lot to drink and blacked out. Frank doesn’t think anyone else was in the house. Nichols also notices blood on Frank's shirt and Frank admits he hugged Connor but he was dead. ME Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix) says Connor was dead 5-1/2 hours with 2 blows to the head, first by a blunt heavy object on the left temple and then to the back of the head, the latter either from a fall to the floor or the killer smashed his head against the floor. Nichols sees lacerations on Connor’s hands; Rodgers suspects it is from something he held. Stevens wants an object that seems out of place – a trophy - checked foe prints. It is a publishing award and there appears to be blood at the base.
Back at home, Mia walks in and asks her mother - Patricia – if she has seen her phone and she sees her embracing her father Forrest (Bill Sage) and she asks what he is doing there. She wants to know what is going on, and they tell her Connor was murdered. She is clearly upset.
Back at Major Case, Captain Zoe Callas (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is reading Connor’s last editorial – “Everything Must Die”. The detectives tell Callas what they know so far, and they suspect Frank is gay and maybe it was a lover’s spat. Callas says the king is dead, who is moving on the throne?
At Inset Magazine, Patricia tells the detectives that the stockholders asked her to take over as editor and she could not refuse. She says they will hear that she wanted the position and she did, but not like this. She said Connor was cautious and she leads with her chin but each month they got the “book” – the magazine – to the printers. She said Connor was Frank’s mentor, but said Connor was straight and fond of Frank but Frank worshipped him, and Frank was sensitive about his work and admits she was too. She said Connor trashed Frank’s cover design for the next issue and Frank lost it, and threw all of his work in his face. She then tells them she has a lot on her plate to get rid of the detectives.
Back at Major Case, they find Frank has an assault record, arrested at a bar. His prints match those on the murder weapon. Later, with Frank in interrogation with his lawyer, they tell him his prints were on the murder weapon. He says he may have picked it up. Nichols asks him if a quarrel escalated into something physical, and Frank says he has no future without Connor. Connor put up with him and he loved him. He says Patricia Caruso hates him and his work and will replace him with some wannabe. He’s gone – a ghost – and that “bitch goddess prevails.”
Elsewhere, a man tells Dmitri that Frank was arrested and they don’t want him to talk.
Later, Nichols and Stevens are in Connor’s office reading Patricia’s article on the Russian mob and see something where Connor wrote a complementary note to Mia on another piece and wonder who she is. Patricia walks in and sees them reading her piece and says Connor reduced her series to a one and done and may have been afraid of the Russians. She said her ex-husband was Forrest Caruso, who Nichols recognizes as a great defense attorney. He would not defend the Russians. She said she got home that night around one and both her daughter and her ex-husband were home. Mia is a part time fact checker there and also goes to NYU. Nichols says his father, a psychiatrist, wanted him there talking notes while people were on the couch and here he is now, a cop.
Back at Major Case, he looks at Mia’s essay and says Connor’s praise was well deserved, but Stevens wonders if Mia is attractive and comments Nichols thought that of Patricia. He asks if he was that obvious. Stevens wonders if maybe Connor was attracted to her and they decide to go to the memorial service. When they get there, Patricia and Forrest seem cozy and see Mia is attractive. Forrest walks over to them and tells them this is hardly the time but Nichols reminds him it is a murder. They ask about the article on the Russian mob. He says they spent the night at Patricia’s and he has corroborated Patti’s alibi and that is all they need. After he leaves, they agree Forrest is slick.
At Rikers Island, Frank is in the shower area getting undressed and a guy comes up to him and says he knows who he is and has seen his face in magazines. He follows Frank into the shower. Later, Nichols gets a phone call and says that Frank was stabbed to death in Rikers but lived long enough to ID his killer. Later, Stevens and Nichols are at Rikers talking to the guy that followed him into the shower – Ivankov - and they also found the shank in his bunk. He said someone who hates gays killed Frank. Nichols says Ivankov is a hired gun and he says he is a pest exterminator. Ivankov says they have no evidence and he has been extradited and they can’t stop it.
Back at Major Case, Callas confirms it is true, Ivankov is being extradited. They try to discuss the connection between Patricia’s essay and the Russian mob and think that Frank’s and Connor’s murder are connected. Callas wonders if they are sure Connor was straight and Stevens suggests they talk with another woman who was close to him. Later, they speak with Connor’s maid who said he was always with the girls. Nichols sees a chest on a coffee table that was not there when Connor was murdered and she said he put it in the basement to make room for the party. They look inside and see tons of photos of women, all young, who look like prostitutes, plus a few DVDs that appear to be home sex videos. Back at Major Case they review one of the DVDs and Connor accuses one woman of being too old for what he paid for. He then calls Frank and says he needs another girl. It seems Frank was his connection to the younger girls and maybe Connor was afraid his name would should up on Patricia's Russian mob piece so he cut it. They see a DVD with Mia’s name on it.
The detectives go to Patricia’s home and say they want to talk about Mia. He tries to blow them off, and they tell her Connor was sexually involved with Mia and with Russian prostitutes and while they are speaking, Forrest walks in. Forrest wonders if this is why Connor butchered her piece, and Stevens says Connor recorded his exploits on DVDs and had quite a collection. Patricia gets upset and seems unaware of his involvement. They want to talk to Mia, but Forrest tells them since Mia is not under arrest it is a family thing and they should leave them alone.
Back at Major Case, Callas tells Nichols if they want Forrest in there they do it on a material witness warrant. Nichols says an arrest is the only way they can isolate Forrest from Patricia and Mia while they question them. Stevens says Mia’s phone is in her father’s name, which means her records are his records. They find a text message sent from Connor’s phone sent to Mia during the party, but Callas says it does not prove he knew about the affair. There is also a call at 2:13 AM where Mia called her father which was the same time Connor was murdered, which is the time Patricia said they were all home together – and if that is the case why would he call her. They wonder if Forrest helped Mia in a cover-up and framed Frank. They get a call from ME Rodgers.
In the morgue, Rodgers tells them that the mark on Connor’s hand formed a radiating pattern and is from something square and sharp, showing them a photo of the wound. She thinks she had the object in his hand for 20-30 minutes after he died and sometimes a victim’s hand has to be pried open. Stevens wonders why kill him and wait 25 minutes to remove whatever it was?
Back at Major Case, Nichols is using the photo he got from Rodgers to draw what he thinks the object would look like, they seem to know now what it is, and they decide to issue warrants for Forrest, Patricia, and Mia.
With Mia and Patricia in questioning, they tell them Forrest is in custody and says he may have helped Connor cover up Mia’s murder of Connor. She denies killing him, and she said she was not there. They tell her that her cell phone records and GPS track her to Connor’s. Mia gets upset and says she wants her father, that Connor was murdered because of the crap Patricia wrote. They tell Mia they are holding her pending arraignment and they arrest her. Patricia protests and Mia denies everything. As they take Mia away, Callas warns Nichols that he know how she feels about this, it verges on breaking rules and whether it works or doesn’t work he’d better make it fast.
Patricia, still in the interrogation room, complains. She then worries about her “poor baby” and says she tried to warn Mia away from Connor, she knew he had a crush on him. When she heard about his death and Mia was not home that night she worried it was Mia. She said whatever Mia did she is not to blame. Callas comes in and says they brought Forrest Caruso, and Patricia says he will not accept it and is not ready. Outside the room, they know they have to cue Patricia’s testimony to just the right spot so Forrest does not get a whiff of what they are doing – working them against each other. Stevens doesn’t like how this is going but when Nichols says he can go it alone she says she says even he thinks this could go wrong. Callas calls it a career ender, and Callas wants them to talk. They go into her office and Callas says they don’t have an admission, Patricia only made an accusation and it could get an innocent girl convicted. If Patricia lawyers up she could be in the grand jury indicting her daughter and they could end up as transit cops. Nichols says he wants to go it alone but the only way is forward, and Stevens says he has a terrible way of being right.
With Forrest in interrogation, they go over their evidence with him and bring up the recording of where Patricia said she was not aware of an affair, and saw a crush developing and when she heard Connor was dead and Mia was not home…and Forrest tells them to stop it. He says Mia is innocent and then gets very upset and yells again for them to stop. Forrest said they don’t know who made that call, and says his daughter did not do it. He tells them Patti was frantic, she hit Connor with something during a struggle and she panicked and called him for help. He said it was her reaction to Patti finding out about Connor and Mia. When they mention there was more than one blow, he said that was from him. When he got there, Patti’s earring was in his hand and he would not let go and he slammed his head against the floor and finished him off. He said he killed him.
Later, Stevens enters the cell where Mia is being held, and tells her she is being released and that her father said he killed Connor – along with her mother. It was out of rage for finding out about Mia and Connor. Afterwards, Nichols tells Stevens they are not letting Mia go until they are finished. Stevens disagrees, seeming sympathetic to Mia, but Nichols says she stays there until the arrest process is done and that is what they do. Nichols says they have to understand Patricia’s intent, and they argue a bit, with Stevens saying he should have been a shrink like his father wanted. He tells her he doesn’t care about complaining husbands and cheating wives and treating people with nervous acne, but he is driven to understand why come people are so different that they disrupt our sense of all behavior and logic. She says he will do whatever it takes. He doesn’t buy Patricia killed to protect her child, that is not who she is = they don’t know who she is.
Later, in interrogation with Patricia, Nichols tells her that her husband told them everything, and she says he is desperate to save Mia. He shows her the photo of Connor’s hand wound and how it matches the earring she wore to the party that night. Stevens says since that night, Patricia has been wearing clip-ons, and she removed them – one ear looks like an earring was pulled out. They tell her they think she had Mia’s cell phone and intercepted a message from Connor to Mia. She said it was filth, that he bragged about Mia's first orgasm in detail. They have the text, and it was really about Mia’s excellent writing, adding that nothing is owed to a mother who suppressed and denied her talent. She sticks with calling it filth. Nicholls says Mia’s writing is superior to hers but she said he is a cop and can’t judge what she creates and doesn’t care what he thinks. He said she did care what Connor thought. She says she writes tough and it sells and that is why she is running the place. Connor said to Mia what he said to get laid and she learned a decade ago exactly how he works. He said Forrest killed him, and does admit to striking Connor and when Forrest got there they both saw Connor move and Forrest slammed his head into the floor and he never moved again. Nichols said it was muscle contraction as part of rigor mortis and it was really her blow that killed him – and she killed him for reasons far less noble that she would like them to think. Stevens says she went from framing her daughter to accusing her ex-husband who still loves her. Nichols says Patricia is finally starting to arrive at reality and it is time she heard her rights.
As the police lead her off in cuffs, Stevens tells Nichols he is a stickler for behavioral theory, and reads back a passage from what Nichols thinks is a psych text book, and which he said described narcissist personality disorder, and also Patricia. Stevens says or it is also the sign of a zodiac, and holds up the book which is an astrology book, saying Patricia is a Scorpio. Nicholls looks a little surprised and then says his father would kill him for saying this but “equally valid.” As they smile at each other we fade to black.
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