Thursday, October 14, 2010

Law & Order LA “Harbor City” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCU

Fans were probably glad to hear that the Steve Zirnkilton voice over introduction has been added to the opening of Law & Order Los Angeles. Fans may even be happier that this episode was much better than the first two.

“Harbor City” covered a lot of various problems not necessarily exclusive to Los Angeles or to California: medical marijuana, gangs, surfing, and beach access. The various beautiful vistas with beaches and the city views helped give it that California feel. (Yes, believe it or not, we have beach access issues, gangs, and even (wind) surfing here in northern Ohio, so with the exception of the medical marijuana shops, that episode could have happened here and as a result it was very relatable.)

The whole cast seemed much more natural and at ease, and as a result, more credible in their roles. Since my preference is for prosecutors to be tough on crime and willing to be creative to make their case, I really like Alfred Molina in his role as DDA Morales, who seems very confident (and arrogant) in his ability to win. While I’ve been a little hard on Skeet Ulrich in his first two outings, he seemed less stiff and relaxed and I feel far more comfortable with Rex and TJ being compatible work partners.

It never ceases to amaze me that criminals can be so stupid, though. Even though the killers were young, I don’t understand why they would think of disposing of a wet suit by burning it in a fireplace in their own home no less. Wouldn’t it have been just as easy to wrap it in a few trash bags and then find a trash bin somewhere obscure and dump it in there? I can understand why thinking that burning paper money would be an easy way to get rid of it, but not a wet suit. I suppose that many crime shows depend on the stupidity of the criminals in order to help make their cases.

Here is the recap:

Pro surfer Trevor Knight (Yves Bright) is at his medical marijuana store and is later found dead in the back room next to the store safe. Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are at the scene and comment that there have been other similar robberies but the death may mean the burglars re accelerating.

The detectives speak with Toomey (Jeff Kober), one of the guys who works at the store, and he tells them a kid stopped in saying there was a narc in a blue low rider casing the place. He also says Trevor’s wife Dena has the store’s books.

The detectives are at the home of Trevor’s mother Liz Knight, who is ill from cancer. As Dena gets the records, TJ helps Liz prepare a joint and speaks with her about Trevor and says she knows his reputation, he quit fighting and drinking when he married Dena. Dena, meanwhile, gives Rex financial details and thinks there was a little over $100K in the safe. Trevor kept missing the armored car pickups and they installed the new safe last month.

Back at RHD, Rex says the blue low rider was not surveillance. They discuss the recent jobs over the last months. There are no real patterns. They decide to focus on the most recent case and check with the security company.

At Security Arms, a manager tells them Knight’s security was a mess. They see a truck that used to belong to the competition that Security Arms now owns. The other armored car companies involved in the other robbed stores are also now owned by Security Arms. They also consolidated the dispatch office.

They speak with a dispatcher who is in the process of a divorce. They ask about her ex and see her signature on a prison visitors log. They think she used her maiden name to conceal she is married to an armed robber and that her husband is involved in the 5 robberies at dope dispensers serviced by the company’s armored cars. She admits her husband owed a deal to someone inside – Chuck Roker – and she gave him a list of ten dispensaries and Trevor’s is on the list. She only has a phone number for Roker. They tell her to call him and tell him she has another target.

At Holistic Green, the detectives are inside the store with a team staking it out, and TJ admires the dope. A van approaches but before the occupants get into the store, another civilian enters. But when they try to hustle him out of the store, he realizes they are cops and runs out of the store, telling that there are cops in there. The van occupants try to scatter put the team of police detains them.

Back at RHD, they have Roker (David Meunier) in for questioning and he asked for a lawyer. TJ outlines what they have on him and Roker does not want a murder pinned on him so he waives a lawyer. He said they were never in Harbor City, he admits they did the other ones but it was not them. He staked it out but they were chased off by a big Samoan with gang tats who told him Harbor City belongs to SOS – Sons of Samoa. The Samoan’s car is a light blue Impala low rider.

At the LAPD Gang Unit, Detective Jorge Rivas (Julian Acosta) thinks the Samoan is Joey Fatu and his is currently out on parole. The emergency contact on his booking report is Dena Knight, Trevor’s wife. They go back to Dena and she says it is not what they think. She seems surprised they think Joey killed Trevor and that she used to be married to him. She said Joey was Trevor’s silent partner and Trevor gave Joey a cut every week. He said Trevor was training hard to get back on the surfing circuit. She doesn’t know what Joey thought of it. The detectives decide to go back to the old hippie that worked for Trevor to get information.

They find Toomey in his RV at the beach, the inside of his RV a mess. He said he came home and found the mess and thinks he was robbed. He has a cut on his hand and cheek. They show him a photo of Joey Fatu and he admits Joey tore the place apart and thought Toomey stole the money, and Toomey thought Joey did. Joey told him if he wanted to kill Trevor he would have done it at the beach.

Back at RHD they look at surveillance video and see the blue low-rider pull up to Trevor’s car. The car is registered to a Tracy Mathers at Hermosa Beach. They head to her address and the car is there and is still warm. They approach the house and yell that they have a warrant, and then they enter the house. Joey and Tracy are in the bedroom and the detectives and police barge in, Tracy yelling at them and waving a lamp at them. Joey seems to be trying to stop her but they tase him and he collapses on top of her.

Later, in interrogation, the detectives question Joey and he denies killing Trevor. He said he would have made bigger money off surfing endorsements for Trevor; he was going to front all of Trevor’s tour expenses. Knight was going to surf at a tourney and Joey told the competition – Del Broadleaf – not to show up.

They speak with Del, who tells them Joey tried to scare him off and he tried to check it out with Trevor who said Joey was out of line. Trevor told him someone ruined his board by some dudes at the bay. The detectives head there and see gang graffiti. They speak with a surfer who has a large knife and a battered surfboard. A resident yells out of his house and tells them they are trespassing. Winters and the resident argue about how much of the beach is considered public. The surfer says that guy yells at them daily. TJ wonders why the guy has to carry a knife to go surfing.

At the Sherriff’s station in Palos Verdes, the sheriff talks about the Moon Bay Crew that beat down a kid. He tells them the kids have their own web page.

Back at RHD, Rex shows the web site to DDA Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) and DDA Evelyn Price (Regina Hall). The site belongs to Carlton Campbell, Logan Rudman, and Patrick Scott. All three have sealed juvie records. Morales wonders who has the deep pockets, and based on the fact that Patrick Scott drives the worst car, he thinks he doesn’t have money and will have the worst lawyer so he wants to target him.

The detectives approach Scott (Aaron Hill) who has a cut on his hand. They arrest him and Rex says the cuts are teeth marks and likely match the dental records of a dead man.

Scott lawyers up with the detectives, but Morales says he will talk to him alone with the cameras off. He offers Scott and his attorney “Jimmy” a deal and reminds him he doesn’t have the money and he is not one of the group. Morales asks him to tell him what happened and Jimmy says it is off the record until they have a signed deal and Morales agrees. Scott says they just wanted to teach Knight a lesson and it was Logan’s idea to bust his board and key his ride but Knight would not back down. It was Carlton Campbell’s idea to get Knight at the store. They panicked when they saw the blood and thought they should make it look like a robbery. Carlton has all the money.

The detectives arrive at the Campbell household and it appears they are expected. Greg Campbell (James Morrison) asks them if they have warrants and they hand it to the Sarah Widmer (Catherine Dent), the attorney present, and they arrest Carlton and Logan and inform them they have the warrant to search the house.

Later, at the Campbell house, Greg Campbell voices his objections to Morales. Morales says they are not victimizing Campbell or his son. Greg claims his son is innocent and points the finger at Scott. Campbell appears to be working on a petition to limit beach access and they discuss the topic. Campbell tells Morales that his warrant doesn’t cover that room and Morales exits.

At arraignment court, Carlton and Logan are arraigned and they both plead not guilty. The judge agrees with Price’s argument and has them both remanded without bail. Afterwards, Widmer tells Price that Scott acted alone. Price reminds her all the footprints at the site match her clients’. Widmer says their star witness is a sociopathic liar, giving her a sworn affidavit saying Scott raped a girl at Carlton Campbell’s house. Morales, who has approached and heard this news, looks a little stunned.

Back with Scott in jail, Morales and Price question him about the rape and he says they were all drunk and Carlton and Logan pressured him to do it. He said Carlton’s father covered it up just like the kid they beat up. They were in that together and things got out of control.

Morales and Price discuss the latest development with Rex and TJ. Rex sees a photo of Campbell’s study with a bottle of lighter fluid and they have a gas fireplace. He thinks they needed a boost to burn something if they needed lighter fluid. The study, though, was not covered by the warrant, and Morales reminds them that the lighter fluid is in plain sight and tells them to talk to the judge.

Later, they confront Greg Campbell and Widmer with the lab tests on the chimney and fireplace which shows it is consistent with burning a neoprene wet suit. They also found rag paper used for money, which they think was stained with blood. They found prints on the fire tools. Campbell says his family has done nothing wrong. When Campbell and Widmer leave, Morales tells Price to tell the detectives he is filing on Ray Campbell with the willful promotion of gang activity. Price thinks he’s doing it because Campbell is arrogant but Morales hotly disagrees.

The detectives arrest Greg Campbell.

At the Superior Court Building, Widmer argues Morales’s action with the judge (Daniel Hugh Kelly). Morales says under the legal definition, Campbell is a member of the Moon Bay Crew. The judge agrees to a preliminary hearing.

On the stand, Detective Rivas explains that under California law, any on-going association or group of three or more persons, formal or informal, that commit crimes as one of its primary activities is considered a criminal street gang. A gang has a common name and identifying sign. Defending a territory and murder and rape as a group would also qualify and the Moon Bay Crew fits this description. Under cross examination, Rivas says the Moon Bay Crew’s primary activity is surfing, not crime.

On the stand, Amy Reynolds (Caity Lotz) describes how she got invited to a party by Carlton to a big house on the hill, they started drinking and she was raped and people were chanting “go, go.” She did not call the police as Greg Campbell came into the room and said she should protect herself and how calling the police would destroy her life as nobody believes rape victims and they are humiliated. He offered her $5,000 and drove her to a bus stop to get a bus back to Long Beach.

With Greg Campbell on the stand, he said he offered her comfort and money for medical expenses. He says he does not do any of those things and neither does his son. He does not recognize any of the gang graffiti near the beat. Under cross, Morales asks why Greg did not report the rape, and asks if he paid $10, 000 to Peter Markham because he was assaulted by the gang for surfing in the gang’s area. Greg said it was a misunderstanding and he was just paying for medical expenses. Morales insists that Greg was aware of the conduct and facilitated it and that his son is 100% depended on him, including defending his son’s turf. Morales also adds that Greg formed a group called the Palos Verdes Concerned Citizens which Morales says was to petition county government to limit beach access to keep non-resident off the public beach. Morales says Greg doesn’t want anyone who can’t buy into his neighborhood anywhere near that beach spoiling his view with their campers, their screaming babies, and $5 beach chairs. He says Greg is a thug defending his turf.

Afterwards, Widmer argues Morales did not prove Campbell is part of a gang. Morales argues that street gangs are known by the territory they claim and defend and the Moon Bay Crew and their defense of the beach is the same way. Morales says in the state, the beach is the great leveler where everybody is the same. Morales says Campbell drilled his beliefs into his son and materially support him and cover up assaults and rapes and he is up to his elbows in their bloody activity. The judge rules that Morales has met the minimum standard and the case will go to trial.

Later, Greg asks how they can ask him to turn on his own child. Morales says he will be going to jail with him, and suggests he could just as easy cut a deal with his son to get Greg sent to jail. Greg is stunned that this can happen, but then he tells him that he found Carlton trying to buy things, including bloody money in a fireplace. He said he knew he had to fix it and that is what fathers do.

Back in court, Carlton and Logan are pleading guilty to second degree murder and get 15 to life in the state penitentiary. Patrick Scott pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter and gets 6 years in the state pen.

With Morales and Price sitting at a picnic table on the beach, Price says the beach is not her thing, and Morales says she doesn’t know what she is missing. As they look out to the water, we fade to black.

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janethyland said...

Great recap Allthings. I love that photo of Morales on the beach and the one of the cops with LA as backgound.

Each week LOLA gets stronger-plus there’s plenty there to involve me when I get bored with the foreground or have to endure a “mini Mothership Moralogue”.

The name James Morrison in the credits as a guest star? Are you serious? Please tell me this isn’t a prank or a relative of Jim Morrison! (In the late 70’s I once stayed in an adjoining attic flat to that in which Jim Morrison of The Doors died in Paris).

Loved this episode. The cops were crisp, writing was tight, visuals were again stunning, and I had fun with the layers. An integrated aesthetics of words, visuals and music. And nice to see Morales as the man who likes to sit on the beach as well as approach the bench, comfortable in both places, crossing boundaries.

In this polarised world of citylife in LA the sun worshipping surfing culture is like a bunch of children. Theres the manly Knight playing at riding the waves with his childishly called shop “The Grown Up” selling “bubble gum”. Suspects from this community are treated like children by the cops, “come to me” and “look at me”. There are constant references to the telling of “stories”, and even the gun used on them is a toy gun...well, its a tayser!

However Trevor Knight has grown up and made choices that take responsibility. The once fighter has become a family man and the dope he used to use recreationally is now used medicinally for his sick mother.

Similarly the Moonbay Crew (graffiti, “Quicksilver Boys!) act like irresponsible children with their Patriarch father constantly bailing them out because “thats what fathers do..they fix thing” (echos of Proud Flesh ,LOCI here). But its madness to be “entitled to kill a man for riding a wave”. The father hasn’t grown up either and is a “thug defending his turf by intimidation”, head of a criminal street gang. He only grows up and takes responsibility at the end when he is cornered in court by Morales. Then he sees Reason.

In this LA world of divisions, (the open sun worshipping surf culture versus the secretive Moonbay Crew, the propertyless poor versus the acquisitive rich), it’s the cops whose role can mediate and balance (as one does here beautifully with the sick mother), and as the lawyer Morales does when he sits on the beach in his suit.

“At your service” / “compromised!” /”the beach is a great leveller” (So are playgrounds in Echo Park).

This LOLA is such fun and so thoughtful; brilliant!

1) Nice inner moments when Molinas deepens his character. Brothers.
2) Background panoramic shots of LA with ever empty streets
3) Names for a laugh: Trevor Knight/Dell Broadleaf/Holistic Green/The Grow Up
4) Nature all around, in the domestic flowerpots, gardening, and in exotic street cactus and palm trees. Its a domestic jungle! And what is that vibrant blue flower hanging from the Patriarchs beach house? Its not bougainvillea.
5) Great cinematography....through obscured foregrounds, and the low angles that “scare children” (!), and especially that prologue curtain scene shift that reveals the crime.

gahks said...

Yay! Some promise for 'LOLA'!

I'm not surprised it was a better episode, to be honest, given it was by Judith McCreary, who is an experienced 'SVU' writer.

All Things Law and Order said...

janet - James Morrison is for real and has many talents:

No relation to Jim Morrison, tho.

janethyland said...

Oh the irony of the name!

I didnt know she was an SVU writer.That is interesting, because these are LOCI themes from seasons 4-7.
Thanks for the info.

janethyland said...

just to add, I think ratings might be lower this week because of people watching all night coverage of the Great Chile Miners Escape!

chris said...

Like Night and Day. This episode was superior in every aspect to the first two and I wish they had started with this one as the pilot. At first, I was leery of the surfer aspect, but it didn't play out as stereotypical LA surfer dudes and was only a minor character in the plot. I think the first two episodes were rushed, and I don't blame the cast for that.

The acting was exceptional from the entire cast and the chemistry between the detectives is definitely developing nicely.

When Ulrich said: "Look at me!" to the dispatch divorcee, I jumped. So good.

Corey SToll is a very pleasant surprise. I thought his mustache would be distracting, but it suits him and his acting is quite solid and I find his voice and line delivery very engaging.

Alfred Molina is a superstar. Please keep him and stop with the alternating DA thing, that is my only complaint.

Also -- have a typical show intro with character photos and names to introduce the cast. I think they deserve that.

Anonymous said...

A decent episode and glad to see the L&O creators are getting a clue with the traditional intro. However, they need to go the rest of the way and add the theme music over the title cards.

Still not that good of a show though. Molina is just not very good and his ADA is terrible.

janethyland said...

oops,ratings for both SVU and LOLA were bad...but I sort of expected that because they were both up against the Chilean Miner special, instead of The Whole Truth. I mean I watched that live on the news all night too.

Chilean special pulled in 2.1 in the demo, which was 38% up on what the Whole Truth did last week. So this week cant be seen as typical.

SVU went to 2.2 in demo, and LOLA went to 1.9. However the rretention rate was high for LOLA,meaning those who watched watched all of it.

The retention rate for the Chilean special went from 2.1 in first half hour to 1.4 in second half hour. The demo rating for Defenders remained more or less unchanged.

This means the audience stayed loyal for LOLA and didnt swop around. It also means those who stopped watching the Chilean special either turned off TV or watched some other cable channnel.

Next week will be a better guage...however i do think two things. It might be too much Law and order on one night,too much of the same thing and I definitely think the awful Premiere damaged it. Also the Premiere had HUGE publicity including fron page it was bound to get good ratings. Unfortunately people were turned off by the premiere.

Wolf needs to do some politicing there!

Jon S. said...

I've seen first two episodes before this online because I missed them (forgot about LOLA premiering oops) and watched this episode on TV for first time. I'm pleased with all of first three episodes. To be honest, I'm more interested in storyline than acting but I guess I'm that old-fashioned. I didn't really see any problems with acting, though, but maybe that's because I'm more focused on storyline. *shrugs*.

What gets me, though, is utter lack of involvement from police Lieutenant herself and District Attorney himself in this and first episode. They were only shown in second episode. Looks like Lieutenant will be back again on next week's episode but not so sure about DA. Normally, in old Law & Order, you will see them in every episode, though in just few scenes.

What'd I like to see brought back is detectives briefing Lieutenant and DDAs consulting with DA or something just like they were in old Law & Order.

Other than that, really no complaint from me.

Anonymous said...

The idea of treating a group of spoiled rich kids as a gang was interesting. (The rich didn't do too well on SUV last night either - the Dems should ask for reruns to start playing before they begin trying to pass dropping the tax cuts on the highest brackets.) Morales shows McCoy-like possibilities, but the cops still seem like the pots and pans used by the chef.

Anonymous said...

The ratings for L&O:LA has been going down every week. The most recent episode garnered a 1.9 rating in its target demographics. That's pretty much identical to what the Mothership was getting last year, before it was so unceremoniously canceled. It looks like NBC made a huge mistake in dumping a 20-year stalwart in favor of LOLA.

I wish the original series was still on the air. Cutter, Rubirosa, Lupo, Bernard... the cast of characters for the final 3 years of the Original Series were the strongest it had been since season 5.

What are the chances that L&O will be brought back from the dead? Like Futurama, Southland, or even L&O:CI.

chillicothe20 said...

Alfred Molina is so west-coast Jack McCoy. The courtroom stuff was stellar.

The cop pair are getting better each week. I too loved the "look at me!" line. Very Mike Logan.

LOLA is growing on me. I still miss the pictures-based title theme part, but overall I am looking forward to next weeks ep.

Sally said...

I agreed with you 100%. It was like the first two shows were rushed so they could be shown on time, and now everyone can be more at ease and "slide" right into their characters. So glad also that you eased up on poor Skeet :) You have to admit that he tries his best with whatever role he gets. I think the show will do well.

Anonymous said...

No matter the storyline(or the acting) is good or bad, I just hope LOLA could get better(at least on the rating).

And just like Jon S. said,"I didn't really see any problems with acting, though"

janethyland said...

Ah, this explains where everyone was on Wednesday night and why ratings were low for both Law and orders....they were all watching Fox news coverage of Chilean Miners escape....8 million of them!

9 million were there while SVU was on.
8 million were there while LOLA was on.

Its understandable. That drama was a real example of what LOLA explores in fiction!

Elaine said...

I love Ulrich and the show had a fan because of him. But I was a little taken aback by the first episode. It has gotten better and I now truly appreciate Corey and Malina. The show is going to be good and I am going to be a regular fan.

Anonymous said...

janet - the FOX/ABC news of Chilean Miners escape may have some weak connection to LOLA's rating drop, but CBS's The Defenders still hold 2.5 in demo ,seems not affected by the Chilean Miners escape news. So I don't think ratings drop for both Law and orders is "understandable".

Maybe Wolf shouldn't use "Hollywood" as the premier episode,it leave a bad impression to the audiences.

janethyland said...

It might be connected to age group. Would the older skewing LOLA lose that agegroup to the News, where as younger skewing defenders still keep its audience?

We will know more next week, i guess....

Does anyone know the order of production? It might be different to airing order. Peter Coyote still isnt in Harbor City. He was appointed later in the filming schedule i think.

Anonymous said...

Peter Coyote was in last week's episode so perhaps it is a little out of order.

JJ said...

The main competition for LOLA is The Defenders on CBS and they have a better lead it. Jim Belushi had a full 3 segments on EXTRA promoting his show that night and the Defenders won the time slot. Entertainment shows have been pushing the Defenders waaaay more. Where is the promotion for this show NBC????? I saw one interview with Molina and one with Terrence Howard. THAT IS IT??? Jerry O'Connell and Belushi have been doing more interviews pimping out their show. High publicity does affect ratings. That is the ONLY way to explain Hawaii Five-o's success. It is a crap show, but it is in CBS and had a ridiculous and embarressing amount of press.


JJ said...

Lead IN (not lead it -- sorry)

Esaul said...

JJ...there have been tons of promotions for LOLA, especially on the internet. Sites like EW and Pandora heavily advertised LOLA on its debut. And also, NBC didn't decide to cancel the mothership in favor of LOLA either. LOLA was already months in the making PRIOR to the cancellation. I think also keeping LOLA in its time slot is probably the best decision. It's better that it faces off against a new show rather than a veteran that's still popular like NCIS, or Bones. I guarantee you that 95% of the new shows this fall WILL get canceled. It's just not working out this year it seems. However, I do predict LOLA will be sticking around, and I hope Chris and Mariska work out their contracts to keep SVU going on too. This season seems VERY promising as well as LOLA. And I personally don't want to see them go either, 'cause the Law and Order franchise, to me, are the best shows on tv, best writing, best actors, best location. I just love it.