Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Law & Order “The Taxman Cometh” Recap & Review

"The Taxman Cometh” was a slightly twisty and meandering case that went from what looked like one murder to another death of a member of the same family, a death that was orchestrated to coincide with making the best of an inheritance tax loophole. Throw in a lesbian relationship where one party adopts another to gain some family rights, add a questionable ruling by a judge in family court, then toss in a baby and Jack McCoy channeling Faye Dunaway in the film “Chinatown” and you get an episode that was dull yet strangely entertaining. It may have been the closest that a Law & Order episode has gotten to an hour of comedy in a long time, with Cutter seemingly getting into a deeper mess any time he tries to do something to advance his case. (By the way, in case you've never seen that infamous scene from Chinatown, I included it at the bottom of the recap.)

The ruling in family court, where the judge invalidates the adoption, almost went off the rails when the judge rules that the lesbian couple have marital privilege. Considering the history of the show where Jack McCoy argued and won a case that gay couples do not share such rights under the law, it was a surprise that they even allowed the judge to make what was clearly a ridiculous ruling, one that I don't think was in her authority to make. Luckily, they later get a judge who rules in Cutter’s favor, thus undoing that silly ruling. (Mind you, I am not saying that gay couples should not be allowed to marry and have the same rights, on the contrary, I think they should. It’s just that the family court judge is not the person who should be making a ruling on marital privilege for a gay couple that wasn’t even really married.)

It was nice that they had Anita be the one to connect the dots on the tax loophole. Clearly, money is on her mind and maybe even she is thinking of her own estate during the time that she has been ill. (They'd better not kill her off, I will never forgive them.)

Something that most people don’t often think about are the episode’s scenery and camera work – and I really enjoyed them in this episode. It was nice that they got Jack and Mike in a different setting such as the restaurant, and in general I liked how they framed many of the scenes, in some cases highlighting characters for maximum effect. Examples are those which featured the stunned looks on Mike’s face. Speaking of Mike, I think Linus Roache is doing a fine job in his role of EADA and he is becoming just as creative, and credible, as Jack McCoy was when he held that position.

Here is the recap:

At a night club, Annie Douglas (Morgan Lynch) complains to her cousin Randy (Daniel Abeles), that she wants to go home. He calls for someone to bring the car around. When the limo driver moves to let Annie out of the car, she falls out, dead. Later, with Detectives Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson) on the scene, Lupo is told there is a needle mark on the body and suspect and overdose. Bernard, meanwhile, I watching inside the house with Catherine Douglas (Robin Weigert), who has assumed her niece died from drugs. Annie was staying with her and she thought she could keep an eye on her. Lupo and Bernard question the driver who drove Randy and Annie home; he said the privacy glass was up all night and he could not see a thing. He took nothing from the back seat, and the detectives wonder if cousin Randy clean up.

The detectives question Randy with his attorney present, and he only admits to being out of the car at one time to urinate and to get some air. Later, back at the 2-7, the detectives brief Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). The home was that of her grandfather, Henry Douglas, who Lupo describes as a super rich guy who died of cancer last year and she was living there with her aunt. Van Buren tells them to find out where Randy gets his drugs.

They retrace his steps from the night before, and at one location see a guy who is taking out lots of trash. He says he has never seen Randy. Lupo sees that the doorbell is really a phone to the other apartments, so he moves to get the phone records. Afterwards, he contacts some of the tenants, and press one tenant about who came to see him at 3:00 AM and admits Randy came there and bought drugs.

Afterwards, they speak to ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) and tell her that they think Randy bought the drugs and then cleaned up afterwards. Lupo wonders if Annie was killed on purpose over money and wonder what was in his grandfather’s will. They decide to look into that.

At Catherine Douglas’ townhouse with Catherine her attorney and the co-executor of the will, Bruce Graham (Damian Young), they find the siblings shared in the estate and also the grandchildren which included Randy. Later, Randy is at the 2-7 with his lawyer in interrogation and they accuse him of murdering Annie for the money. He denies killing Annie and says it was an accident, he said she was very depressed over her grandfather’s death; she had visited him every day at the Balicheck Clinic She wanted to forget. His lawyer and Rubirosa agree to a charge of criminal facilitation, with 6 months in jail.

Afterwards, Bernard moans about the 6 months and Rubirosa tells him it was a weak case. Lupo comments that Randy said that his grandfather died at the Balicheck Clinic, and wonders why he didn’t go to his own cancer clinic for treatment. Van Buren tells them to check it out.

The detectives check out Henry Douglas’ own clinic and find that Catherine was not satisfied with his treatment there, taking him to Balicheck for experimental treatment. They then speak with Dr. Balicheck (Mark Linn-Baker) at the Balicheck Clinic, who tells them they do hormonal therapy with nutritional therapy. He says Henry came there too late, and then dismisses the detectives.

Back at the 2-7, the detectives give Van Buren an update. The AMA has the Balicheck Clinic on their watch list. They also find that many rich people have died there. Later, they investigate a person who sent his mother to the clinic and he said Balicheck offered them hope and he would do it again. At the Casey Penthouse, they also find another woman who sent her father there and said the clinic gave them 6 more months with him. As they go to leave, Bernard apologizes to the woman’s husband for upsetting his wife, and he says it has been hard and the last few months were hell on her father and describes the horrible treatment.

Back at the 2-7, the detectives think this last story discounts their murder for money theory. But Anita says this is perfect – all the people died in 2010 as the one who had longer life expectancies got it cut short, and the one who was supposed to die in 2009 was kept alive until January 2010. It is a loophole form the Bush tax laws, as there are no tax laws in 2010 and they get to keep it all. This may be the motive and that Balicheck may expect a kick back. Lupo says he will call Rubirosa for a subpoena.

They search the office of Bruce Graham, who is very aware of the tax loophole.

Back at the 2-7, they find no connection to Balicheck but do find that Catherine is spending a lot of money. They see huge payments to someone named Amanda Green, a name they saw on the Balicheck Clinic logs.

They question Amanda Green (Clea Duvall), who says that money was for her and not Balicheck, it was a settlement of their joint financial affairs, saying that she and Catherine had been lovers up until a few months ago. She met Balicheck when she visited Henry, and she and Henry had a good relationship. When the detectives begin to question her about the care he was getting, she recalls something and says she thought Catherine was kidding when, last year, she came home after a meeting with her accountant, and he had told her about the tax loophole and she was laughing about it, saying if he has to go he may as well go in 2010.

The detectives bring this information to EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) who thinks this may be a coincidence, but Rubirosa says Bruce Graham also worked for the other people the detectives spoke to whose parents also died at the Balicheck Clinic. He also worked for Balicheck. He may have been motivated by the huge fees he would get as executor. Cutter says they need one of the suspects to tell the story, and tells them to arrest all of them. Later, with everyone in the holding cell, including Balicheck, Graham enters with Catherine, both cuffed, and tells them not to say a word. When Lupo asks where to put those two, she tells him to chain them to the Coke machine.

With all of them at arraignment, they all plead not guilty. One defense attorney says the DA is putting on a show. But the judge asks for $1 million bail per person and their passports.

Taking turns with the attorneys and the defendants in Cutter’s conference room, they try arguing about whether it is a conspiracy. Cutter wants Balicheck to tell them how he came around to treat so many of Graham's wealthy clients. Rubirosa tells Catherine her former lover’s testimony will say what really happened, and Catherine asks what Rubirosa's former lovers will say about HER.

Later, at a restaurant, Cutter tells DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) that he thought one of them would fold, but Jack says with big game like that if they don’t go down in a single shot, you are in trouble. Jack tells him maybe Cutter shouldn’t have been so quick to arrest the entire upper east side. When Cutter asks if McCoy never went out on a limb, McCoy looks uncomfortable and doesn’t answer. Cutter says okay, they will go to war with the army they have. They have Catherin’s ex-girlfriend’s testimony with what Catherine told her after meeting with Graham, and says it all connects through him and he thinks the jury will see the pattern But Rubirosa enters and tells them that they were given a motion to sever and the defense wants three separate trials. When the hostess tells McCoy and Cutter that their table is ready, McCoy says that Cutter has to work.

A Supreme court motion hearing about severing the defendants, the defense attorneys argues their point. But the judge dismisses the case against Casey because she prolonged the life of her father and grants the motion to sever on the rest.

Back at the office, Cutter thinks they should now lead with their strongest case, Catherine Douglas. He thinks they can use the other two deaths, and when Rubirosa reminds him the judge severed the cases, Cutter says that the judge never said a work about People V. Molineaux. Rubirosa says they can now introduce evidence of uncharged acts to show a common scheme or plan. Cutter says they can bring in the other deaths without needing to prove them. Cutter wonders if anything with Amanda can be used against them, and Rubirosa checks records and says, “Oh my” and Cutter lets out a quiet whistle.

At Amanda Green’s they confront her with the fact that Catherine was not just her lover, Catherine adopted her, and she is her mother. Amanda says only in some fictitious sense, that gay people sometimes adopt each other to get family and property rights. They didn’t tell anyone about it. Cutter tells her now as Henry’s grandchild, she has a share in that estate. She says she never thought about that. She says she will still testify against Catherine, but they remind her if Catherine is found guilty she will not get a portion of the estate as she can’t profit from her crime, and it passes to her next of kin – her daughter – Amanda. This would give her motive to lie. They tell her she has to renounce the inheritance. But she refuses, as she doesn’t want the money to go to Henry's relatives who never cared for him. She then announces she is pregnant.

Afterwards, Cutter says they will have to renounce the inheritance for her as the adoption is a fraud and they will have it nullified.
In family court, Cutter says Douglas is there under the pretense of protecting herself from a murder trial. But her lawyer Haig (Christopher Even Welch) says she is there to protect the family rights of gay people. Amanda’s lawyer says that Amanda has no agenda. They discuss the adoption being a fraud and Amanda says that legally this was the only way they could be related. Cutter says they lived and behaved as spouses, not mother and child, and says the relationship was equivalent of marriage and the end should be the equivalent of a divorce. The judge agrees that the adoption was a sham and invalidates it. She takes an extra step and says since they were essentially married, she accords them marital privilege and bars Amanda from testifying against Catherine. Cutter is shocked.

Later, McCoy walks into Cutter’s office and comments that he hears congratulations are in order, and his brilliant argument just made new case law about the marital privilege. Cutter says it destroyed his case, and they are calling him "Boomerang Mike.” Rubirosa says the ruling is unsupportable and family court rulings aren’t binding in criminal court – and McCoy interjects, “Unless the trial judge says it is.” McCoy tells him the judge for the criminal case’s son got married to another man last year, and tells them good luck. Cutter stares, stunned.

In a Supreme Court motion hearing, Haig argues the people want things both ways. And Cutter says it is about the laws of the state of New York. The judge agrees and says Amanda can testify. Afterwards, when Cutter and Rubirosa exit the courtroom, They see Catherine and Amanda talking, and Amanda tells them it WAS about equal rights, and says her testimony won’t be much good to her as what she told the police wasn’t true, she was still mad about their breakup. She says they can call her to the stand but she will have nothing negative to say about Catherine.

Back in Cutter’s office, Graham comes in with his attorney and Graham says all he is guilty of is explaining the tax code. When they leave, Cutter tells Rubirosa that if the lesbian route in unreliable, they will go the non-lesbian route. Cutter wonders if they have been going about this backwards focusing on the people Balicheck killed, wondering how he kept Mrs. Casey’s father alive.

Later in McCoy’s office, they inform McCoy that Balicheck used chemotherapy, and Balicheck hates using chemo. McCoy says it violated Balicheck’s own principles and they can use it against him at trial. Cutter wants to use Balicheck against Graham. McCoy is confused as Cutter has been saying that Balicheck is the hit man. But they can’t find any suspicious payments to Balicheck. McCoy says maybe he got a back of cash and a blind pig in Chinatown. Cutter thinks Balicheck did it for free and maybe he didn’t know he was being used as s hit man. Cutter is going to drop the charges and use him as witness, as only he knows why he violated his own principles.

At Balicheck’s, Cutter and Rubirosa tell him they dropped the charges and says he did nothing wrong. But they bring up Casey’s father and his chemo treatment, and he says he was just trying to sustain him and ask him why, since this conflicted with his principles. He says it was Graham, who asked him to keep Casey alive until January due to an inheritance issue, or he will pull out all the other patients he brought to him. Balicheck says if he would have cured someone like Douglas he could have gained credibility. They decided to do an experimental stem cell therapy and he needed placental cells from a close blood relative, and Amanda volunteered. She conceived in vitro and the egg donated was from Catherine.

Back in Cutter’s office, they go over what they know with McCoy and now the issues with Amanda being pregnant. They comment that when Amanda was legally Catherine’s daughter, at one point the baby would have been both Catherine’s daughter and granddaughter. McCoy jokingly recounts the infamous Chinatown/Faye Dunaway “she's my sister - she’s my daughter” movie scene and they all smile. McCoy brings up King Solomon who threatened to cut a child in half, and when Cutter says they have no sword, Rubirosa says they have something better.

In the Southern District conference room, Cutter has Amanda, Catherine, and Haig to discuss what they know about the baby. Amanda says she will not testify, and Cutter continues to put pressure on her, including offering a deal to Graham. When she still refuses, Cutter says they made arrangements, and Rubirosa comes in with cousin Randy and tell him that with Catherine in jail, the baby would go to Randy, and tell them that Randy will inherit the money from Henry’s estate that will go to the care of the baby. Amanda tells Catherine to do something, and Catherine says the whole thing was Graham’s idea, and how they could save money if her father died this year and Balicheck would kill him whether he wanted to or not. Cutter says if she pleads to manslaughter the baby will go to Amanda. Catherine agrees.

Later in McCoy’s office, Cutter tells him that Catherine gave it up and Graham saw he was cooked, and he pleaded to a single count and took 10 years. McCoy says he would have never let Cutter give the baby to that idiot cousin, and Rubirosa answers, “And Solomon wouldn’t have swung his sword, it was theatre.” McCoy tells them “Bravo” and as they turn to leave and McCoy goes back to his work, we fade to black.

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Anonymous said...

The family lawyer was completely wrong in her ruling. New York does not recognize common-law marriage by its citizens regardless of their gender combination. Shame on the writers for not doing their research.

Michael Ejercito said...

Which is one reason the criminal court judge overruled her.

Lisa R. said...

Wacko plot for the mothership, but I too, felt that it somehow worked. Loved seeing Cutter in normal garb! And oh my, the previews for next week have left me worried. I don't want to see Van Buren and Cutter on the outs...

And thank-you very much, ATLAO, for the Chinatown clip! I thought it was funny when Jack did it, and when Connie mentioned Chinatown, I was like, 'ooh, must find the part where that happens' since I've never seen that movie. Makes it even funnier to see Jack do that with the sound effects :)

Unknown said...

Better plot than last week. This one though convoluted wasn't too much of a meander.

Is it me or are there way too many cancer plots this year? Doped (20x8) was about a cancer drug, this one was about cancer as is the next one. Then there's Van Buren's cancer side story.

Yes, Thanks for the Chinatown clip! I've never seen the movie so had no idea.

Excellent recap as usual, just a few typos. For example, the first sentence is missing a closing bracket: "At a night club, Annie Douglas (Morgan Lynch complains to her cousin Randy (Daniel Abeles), that she wants to go home." Also, in this sentence I think you meant "Henry's": "They tell her she has to renounce the inheritance. But she refuses, as she doesn’t want the money to go to Henry ;s relatives who never cared for him. She then announces she is pregnant." Also, in vitro is two words, "She conceived invitro and the egg donated was from Catherine." Finally, there's a missing e in one of the Catherine's in this sentence: "They comment that when Amanda was legally Catherine’s daughter, at one point the baby would have been both Catherin’s daughter and granddaughter. " Hope you don't mind my pointing out the typos. If you do, just let me know.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recap. i was really frustrated last night because i was racking my brain for who Catherine was. I knew I'd seen here somewhere before and couldn't put my finger on it. And like an idiot I missed the credits. IMDB and a bunch of other websites didn't have a cast list either. But thank you for telling me that was Robin Weigert. She was Calamity Jane in Deadwood, and she was absolutely brilliant at it.

Chris Zimmer said...

Scarlet, no I don't mind you pointing them out at all. Sometimes I read and re-read the recap so many times that after a while things just start to blur. (And spell check isn't always reliable!)

Anonymous said...

Can anyone identify the actor who played the family court judge? So far I haven't been able to find any credit.

Chris Zimmer said...

REL: the family court judge - I haven't been able to find her name either!

Colleen49 said...

I know this is 9 years past the question about who played the FC judge; she was played by Welker White.