Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Law & Order CI “Palimpsest” Recap & Review

All Photos from USA Network

The episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent “Palimpsest” seemed to be an attempted mash-up of Dan Brown Meets Agatha Christie Meets Sherlock Holmes Meets Clue. It all boils down to “the butler did it” – they called him a caretaker but he really was just the butler. Ancient books, an excommunicated priest who belonged to an extremist Catholic sect, along with lots of flashbacks plus a mystery woman all made for an episode that had possibilities but quickly descended in to the category of cheap drugstore mystery paperback. When Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) says the case was anything but standard, this was the clue that this episode was going to go way off formula, if this show even has a formula any more.

We aren’t given a reason why Nichols is in London speaking to the Mystery Woman, I can only guess that since Goldblum is starring in a play in London called “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” that the producers of CI wanted to take advantage of his presence there by filming a scene or two. The series also seems to be working hard to make sure Goldblum is surrounded by beautiful ladies, since his partner Serena (Saffron Burrows), his previous love Lenore, and Mystery Lady were all beautiful (maybe it is in his contract). In a strange way I liked Goldblum in the episode – he looked great, and the back story seemed to fit Zach Nichols. I think Goldblum fans would like this episode because it showed the romantic, soft side of Zach. “Classic” LOCI fans probably hated it because it was far outside the traditional method of storytelling for the show. For once viewers got what really seems like a Major Case – two dead guys in a mansion – and the writers blow it with a cheesy story.

There was also an odd scene in the Major Case Squad when Nichols goes to a computer to research Granius Licinianus and the computer screen is completely black; Nichols types in what seems like two or three keys and magically the picture of the person he was looking for pops up. Completely unrealistic and sloppy.

By the way, guest star Louis Cancelmi is married to Sam Waterston’s (Law & Order) daughter Elizabeth, and is also brother to Annie Parisse (Law & Order).

Here is the recap:

Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) is in London, and meets with a mystery woman and talks about a case he had just worked. While he tells her the story, he flashes back to a murder scene at a mansion, the mansion belonging to Palmer Abrigaile, dealer and collector or rare books. Palmer and Dylan Weld, art collector, are dead in Palmer’s home, with Major Case – Detectives Nichols and Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows) on the scene. Nichols knows the Abrigailes. They view the scene where Palmer and Dylan lay dead, and at first look it appears Palmer and Dylan killed each other with swords. ME Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix) tells the detectives both had bled out. Nichols sees that Palmer has the sword in his right hand which is strange because he had a condition in his right hand which would have made that difficult.

Nichols meets Palmer’s daughter Lenore (Mili Avital), with whom he has a past, and who seems quite spacey and out of it. He is happy to see Nichols and he has to break the news to her that her father is dead. When she becomes upset, he consoles her. Later, Nichols tells Stevens that his father and Palmer were old friends (he and Palmer had played chess) and his father had treated Lenore and she appeared to be developing schizophrenia. Nichols says she was “wonderfully odd.”

Later, Stevens speaks to Captain Callas on the phone and she is worried that Nichols is being affected by the case and thinks he should go home. The caretaker, Richard Celeste (Erik Jensen), with blood on his clothing, approaches her and hands her a camera. He tells her that Palmer recorded a message on it the previous week and said if something happened to him to give the camera to police.

Merrill Abrigaile (Brennan Brown), Palmer’s nephew and executor of the estate, approaches Nichols and Stevens and tells them that Palmer was in heavy debt. When Nichols introduces himself, Merrill tells him he is listed in Palmer’s will to receive a chessboard. Lenore is set to receive the bulk of the estate.

The detectives watch the video of Palmer and he tells them that he is being blackmailed by Dylan and if he is dead, it was at Dylan’s hands. He also said what Dylan was doing to Lenore was unspeakable and Palmer says he will try to end it soon. He wants Lenore to be able to stay in the house because she is best there. ME Rodgers entered and tells them that both men had disabling blows to the head and had been stabbed afterwards – she believes the crime scene was staged. Lenore walks in the next room, and dances and spins in front of them as in her own little world.

Back in London, Nichols continues to tell his story, saying that he still loved Lenore and what she had once been. He hoped she would say she killed both of them so he could have gotten out of there. Back at the crime scene, Nichols and Stevens speak with Lenore who seems to think that her father is away and she is without a protector. When Nichols seems to be playing up to Lenore, Stevens tells Nichols he does not think it is right to charm Lenore.

Back at Major Case, Captain Zoe Callas (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) says that the ME has ruled it as a double murder. Nichols tells her the ME thinks the scene was staged, but nothing seems to be missing. Callas recalls reading something about an especially rare book , and this jogs Nichols memory, who recalls the book “The Lost Licinianus” written by Granius Licinianus, which is part of early Roman history, and the book is priceless, if it even exists. The book was allegedly passed though collectors over the years but one did not admit they had it. Bernard (Louis Cancelmi) and Regina (Geraldine Hughes) enter, very upset, saying they are friends of the Abrigailes. They later tell Nichols and Stevens that Dylan was a parasite and would sell books to people that they would later find were stolen. He would then blackmail them by telling them he would make their possession of a stolen book public. Palmer paid the blackmail and then allow Dylan to have his way with Lenore. When Stevens tells them they got a call that a moving van has arrived at the crime scene, the two become worried.

Nichols and Stevens arrive on the scene and they order Merrill Abrigaile to stop moving everything. Nichols get very upset. Later, he speaks with Lenore and she calls Merrill a thief. She said Merrill was there the night before to try to convince her father to get her to move out. She gives Nichols a book that belonged to her father. She tells Nichols she loves him but is not free to marry because she has to take care of her father but says if he promises not to tell anyone they can be lovers again. He asks her to tell him about who was there last night after Merrill left. She said Dylan and the “man who comes at night” and says no one sees him. She says if Nichols comes one night maybe they can look for him.

Later, as Stevens updates Callas via phone, Nichols catches up with her and they see Merrill in a scuffle with Bernard and Regina trying to get Bernard to open his coat. Nichols makes him open it and they see Bernard has stolen a book. The caretaker looks on.

Back at Major Case in interrogation, Bernard tells them they have kept Palmer afloat by pilfering. Regina shows them their checkbook showing this. They said that Lenore lives the same day over and over again When Nichols asks if they ever heard her refer to “the man who comes as night”, Bernard can only think of Merrill, who was always pressuring Palmer. Back in London, Nichols tells his lady friend that Merrill wanted Palmer and Lenore out of the way to take care of the estate, saying that greed may be the standard reason for murder but this case was anything but standard.

Back at Major Case, Callas tells the detectives that Merrill is facing disbarment, accused of setting up various legal clients with blackmailer Dylan Weld. Stevens also finds that Celeste’s British passport is fake. Nichols gets a note that was left on his desk, from Lenore, they were invited to a dinner party, a formal wake for Palmer.

At the Abrigaile mansion, Lenore is having her party, with the detectives, Bernard and Regina, and Celeste is waiting on them. Nichols dotes on Lenore. She tells Nichols that her father bought the book “The Lost Licinianus” and her father says she has seen I a hundred times but has no memory of it. She has no idea where it is. Nichols asks if they can take a look for it after dinner.

Later, Lenore takes them into the library and they all look for the book. Merrill tried to get Bernard and Regina to assess the value of the book. They are unable to do so but add that the book is part of one of two portions of Granius' history of Rome, the other is a fragment in the palimpsest in the British museum; the palimpsest being an ancient book that has been erased and written on a second time. With modern technology it is possible to read both without destroying them. The book make contain a Roman view of the trial of Jesus that may differ from what we now know. They hear a strange noise and the detectives head off to search for the source. They reach Palmer’s room and find Celeste saying he was putting Palmer’s clothes away. Stevens notices a sleeping pill and Celeste said he left it for Palmer last night. When Nichols asks about how to get to the attic, Celeste says he does not know. When Celeste leaves, Nichols checks the cabinet that Celeste had been in, and sees a small case with a priest’s case used for the last rights, and wonder if Celeste was a priest.

Stevens has her laptop with her, and they find that Celeste was born in Quebec and ordained in Canada, and he served for 9 years as part of a sect called “The Conclave” who they say are more extreme then the Opus Dei. Celeste had been excommunicated for destroying church documents relating to the purging of Jews from Spain. Nichols says this is all helpful but they need to find those noises at night and the attic.

Nichols and Stevens search the house and find a hidden doorway to the attic, with many books stored. They also find lighting that would help a person read a palimpsest. Someone set it up and would come up there at night looking for “The Lost Licinianus” and Nichols has an idea who.

Nichols speaks with Lenore about the book she always carries and when he asks to see it she gives it to him. She lays down in bed and he covers her. She says he is lucky he is not sick like she is sick. She says he had no choice to leave him, she understands, and he should not be sad. She says she is fine her in this place. He tells her some things are going to happen – confusing and disturbing things, but this will always remain her home.

Later, they ask Celeste to get everybody except Lenore to the attic and he is going to reveal the killer.

Back in London, Nichols tells the woman that he didn’t know if he was right but the pieces were starting to fit. He did not want Lenore there to risk a breakdown but he wanted to know who wanted it most and why. Back in the attic with the group, Nichols first accuses Merrill, telling him that Dylan did not kill Palmer, the scene was staged. As Celeste brings in refreshments, Stevens tells him to be careful as the bag on the table contains evidence. Nichols continues to pressure Merrill, saying that since he is in the will, he can contest it and he tells Merrill to get an attorney. He turns his attention to Bernard and Regina, saying that Palmer saw who was in the attic and wrote it down in ancient Greek, and the paper dropped out of his pocket. Bernard can read Greek but says he did not read the paper, and Nichols says only one person is there who had read the name, and it was someone who wanted the book, and Nichols turns to Celeste and asks who is he. Nichols tells Celeste when he mentioned to him in the hall he found Palmer’s killer that Celeste froze momentarily in concern. He adds Celeste smiled when he brought in the brandy and he saw the note in the evidence bag and read the name and it was Bernard’s. Nichols mentions the seminary and the Conclave and The Lost Licinianus and Celeste says that he did read the note but he did not kill Palmer and the note says so. Stevens tells him that Palmer didn’t write it, Nichols did, and that his reaction is as good as a confession. Nichols says that the book Lenore had is a palimpsest and he shows Celeste the text that appeared under the special lights. Nichols says Celeste wanted to burn the book because it posed a threat to his single minded faith. Celeste says killing Palmer was not his intent, it was just an obstacle. Celeste lunges at Nichols and the book and he is deflected, but then pulls a gun and shoots it but Nichols deflects the shot as well. Celeste says he is on a mission from God. Nichols holds the book in front of him and Celeste asks if he can have and touch the book. Nichols says no.

Back in London, Nichols tells the woman when he found the priests kit in Palmer’s drawer, that is when he knew – Celeste killed Palmer and Dylan and then gave them the last rights. The woman asks what will happen to Lenore, and Nichols says she will be OK; the book collection turned out to be very valuable and she can stay in the house as long as she wants. Back at the mansion, we see the police taking Celeste away, and Lenore asking Bernard and Regina why. Bernard says things will come back to normal and they will continue to be part of her life and look after things there. Lenore walks up to Nichols, who says he is leaving. She asks him why he never kissed her. He says he will and when she asks when, he says tomorrow. We hear Nichols back in London speaking with the mystery woman, saying that you only fall in love for the first time just once, and Lenore was that person for him. She was not just beautiful, she was magic. As we see him walking away, we hear him saying he is going to finally let go of this, and that it is so mysterious, it is not like when they first fell for each other, and if you really love somebody, maybe it never goes away…and we fade to black.

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Shelly said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who had absolutely no clue who Mystery Woman was. I truly thought we missed something... sigh... I guess they want to keep it "mysterious" but some sort of clue or two would have been nice.

I was thinking of The Thin Man series of movies when Nichols gathered everyone together at the end... that was used in probably every movie of that series for the "reveal" of who the murderer was... it seemed a little cheesy back in the 1930s and really cheesy today... I guess I applaud them for trying something a little different, but I'm not sure that it completely worked.

Thanks All Things for the review, as always...

Jachelle said...

While watching this episode, all I could think was "What the h___?" ATLO, you beat me to the line about the story being Agatha Christie meets the Da Vinci Code. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was thinking that. If it was supposed to be an homage to that genre - Christie, the Thin Man series, it didn't work. Donnez moi un break as Nicole Wallace would say. I really like Jeff Goldblum and his character Zach Nichols and I'm trying to stick with the show for his sake, but it takes more than one actor to carry a show. The writing has been haphazard this season. One episode will be fairly decent, the next almost unwatchable. After last night's episode, I really don't care if it gets another season or not which is sad really because LOCI used to be my favorite show.

gahks said...

Leave London for "Law & Order: UK"! "CI" doesn't belong here in England. Unless anyone planning on a UK remake...

Joshua Morton said...

All I have to say is nice knowing you CI!

Amen gahks and ATL&O. This episode was FAR from a CI story. This was a damn romance-murder.

Anonymous said...

Whatever. I liked it was different and I liked that they tried to change it up a little. I don't know what fan wouldn't want a show to grow and try different forms of storytelling once in a while. Maybe people who watch Jay Leno.

I also liked Nichols voiceover. I think he should've been telling Stevens instead of some mystery woman though. Still, the voiceover made it feel personal vs. an episode that's supposed to be personal like Stevens' but turns into a by the numbers CI episode anyway.

"FAR from a CI episode" There were episodes from earlier seasons that were "FAR from CI episodes". I was hoping they would move away from whodunit episodes and get back to the episodes earlier in the season that dealt with the psychology of the criminals. Then again you all hated those too so...I guess it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

I've watched every season finale of CI I have on DVD. On Fire/The Good, Endgame/Renewal, Last Rites/Frame, and All In (& Alpha Dog)/Major Case/Revolution.

I gotta say I think I like those more than I'm going to like the finale on Tuesday.

Joe S. Walker said...

I couldn't sit through this one - and it appears that if you did, the framing sequence was utterly pointless.

Anonymous said...

Watching this episode made me think of Sherlock Holmes right away. Though I am not a big fan of Goldblum, I really enjoyed seeing the soft, romantic side of him in this episode. Nichols is absolutely right when saying that if you really love somebody, it never goes away... I feel at peace now keeping the memory of my first love forever in my heart :)

Sheila said...

While others may have liked watching this 'Palimpsest'!

I prefer if "Law & Order" was actually "Law & Order" (in which CI hasn't been CI since the 8th season)

These kinds of episodes, I can do w/o!

metaf said...

It was different, sure, and not entirely effective. But this episode hasn't shaken at all my loyalty to this excellent show. The script had a wry knowingness throughout that made it a self-conscious "mash-up" as the reviewer writes above. It also functioned to set up Nichols' romantic side... which might become relevant in his relationship with Stevens?

Anonymous said...

@ metaf,


CI hasn't been CI since s7.

Melvin Gaines said...

Sorry, but I enjoyed this show because it was, in my opinion, well written and a good story. I guess there will always be hard feelings because of Goren & Eames, but the writing for this season, for the most part, has been very good...much better than the last few seasons of SVU.

janethyland said...

This episode is not a deviation from the norm at all. Its very much part of the LOCI aesthetics.The "staged" Agatha Christie style plot/acting and the ensemble aria is evident in many previous episodes like Masquerade,Privilege,Slither etc.

The London location may well be a homage to Sherlock holmes,Wolfs hero,where it all started and where,hopefully,it will now end.

Anonymous said...

melvin gaines,

YOU NEED HELP! I think SVU was better this past season than CI this sason.

Anonymous said...

i am really starting to hate CI. Bad as SVU is now, is getting worse. yes, you can shake things up and start something fresh, but by no means go down the CSI:Miami route. Even with Goren and Eames the story was always about the CASE and not the characters. Go down the road to Horatio territory and it won't be L&O anymore but rather some cheap knock-off that borrows the franchise's good name. God, they should have tried to save L&O Prime and canned this.

janethyland said...

No more to say really. This episode says it all, says it all.

russica said...

Does anyone know where in New York this mansion is located?

Eldridge said...

Probably the worst L/O CI episode I had the displeasure of watching. And this is being fair.

Anadæ Quenyan Effro said...

. . . russica ~~~ Alder Manor, North B'way, Yonkers, NY