Thursday, November 18, 2010

Law & Order LA “Ballona Creek” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCU

Law & Order Los Angeles “Ballona Creek” was an episode truly worthy of the Law & Order name. It was an interesting case that was skillfully presented. Some shows glamorize serial killers but this episode seemed more grounded in reality ; serial killers often seem to “hide in plain sight” which is why sometimes they can get away with killing many people before anyone can put the pieces together. The episode also touched on the issue of the use of familial DNA to crack a case, in addition to related privacy issues. Should law enforcement be able to go through your trash to pick out your DNA? Trash left outside is usually considered fair game, but should there be limits on when law enforcement can go through your trash to get it? Just because trash out on the street and can be taken by anyone shouldn’t necessarily mean that police should collect, store, and compare your DNA without cause.

I think there was a great improvement in Terrence Howard’s delivery and thought the closing scene was very well done. Megan Boone is still a bit of a weak link; there is something so bland and expressionless with her face, at times it seems mask-like. Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll carry their segments very well and I loved the scene where Valdez is arrested and TJ comments that it is like a cop movie. I also liked the way all the scenes were staged and shot; they use some interesting camera angles.

All in all, this may be the best episode so far for LOLA!

Here is the recap:
When a worker from the Public Works Department, Luis Valdez, finds the body of co-worker Don Heller (Dan Kinsella) stabbed to death in the creek. Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and TJ Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene. They speak with Louis Valdez (Julio Oscar Mechoso) who last saw him at 4:00 and some gang kids were throwing things at Heller.

At the Robbery Homicide Division, Lt. Arleen Gonzales (Rachel Ticotin) and the detectives speak with Heller’s wife but she offers no insight. After she leaves, they find Heller’s truck was found two miles from Ballona Creek at Marco Place – the Venice 13 turf.
The detectives check out the truck and they find water samples with dates and locations. They head to where the last sample taken which was at Ballona Creek at Berryman Street. At that location, they find Heller’s hard hat and blood – the crime scene. But this is not gang turf.

They speak with his manager and check out Heller’s car which was parked at work. They get the locations where he was at from his GPS. They check out the location in South Central and come up with nothing and don’t know why Heller was there.

They check with his wife and she has not clue either. But TJ sees information that Heller was collecting on murders of woman that happened in the area over many years. One of the locations matches Heller’s GPS.

At RHD, they map out all the murders and the locations of the murders that Heller was following. Four of the cases had been investigated by Bob Reedy from Southwest Division who retired 10 years ago. The killer stopped after 1991. They found one case where the victim survived, Diana McDermott, and they have a sketch of her attacker.

The detectives speak with Diana and she can’t pick out a picture from an array. She recounts her attack. A man offered her a ride home and she got in. He later put a knife at her throat and pinned her down. He fondled her and sucked on her bra. He pulled her out of the car and started stabbing her. She still doesn’t see the person in the photo array.

Later, the detectives get a call to another crime scene where a woman was stabbed and murdered. There is no ID on her. The possible weapon used matches the ones from the other murders.

Back at RHD, their working theory is that Heller may have been on to the killer and knew who he was. The killer left no DNA and Gonzales suggests they use new technology to check out the old evidence. They do so, and find the evidence is a mess and not tagged very well. Rex recalls that Diana’s attacker sucked on her bra and wonder if they can pull DNA off of it. But which bra belongs to who?

At the home of Sheila and Charles Watson, the detectives tell them they may have a lead and ask them to ID some of the clothing. Her mother recalls the pink bra. They tell her that other girls were killed by the same man – 9 girls in all. They are shocked and upset to hear this may be a serial killer and there were four others before her daughter.

Outside the house, the detectives are also angry that no one told the residents that there was a killer on the loose. TJ gets a message – retired Detective Bob Ready just came in to RHD.
Back at RHD, Reedy (Bob McCracken) tells them they called them the Betty Basehead murders and he worked all of them. They did not want people to panic and it wasn’t his call not to tell anyone about it. After the Rodney King riots they got pulled off the case, no one wanted to have anything to do with cops.

Later, as DDA Lauren Stanton (Megan Boone) reads a new story in the Los Angeles Post about the “Slauson Slasher” and the detectives tell her that the lab found trace DNA but is not in the database. They want to run it against familial DNA. Stanton said she’ll work to get the OK from the Attorney General.

At the State DNA lab, the detectives get a familial match to a Brandon Duffy born in 1992. He has a record for joyriding and got probation.

As they wait outside Duffy’s home, his father and Brandon drive up. They see Mark Duffy throw a coffee cup into the trash. They tell him about the partial match and ask him for a DNA swab and he refuses, saying he is calling a lawyer and to stay away from his son. TJ picks up a cigarette butt from Duffy which is laying on the ground and thanks him for it.

Back at RHD, they were able to get Mark Duffy’s DNA off the cigarette butt but it will take a week to run the match. There are 4 males in Brandon Duffy’s family who match the profile but none have priors. Gonzales gets served with a restraining order from Duffy for the evidence and the ACLU is backing him up.
In Superior Court, Duffy’s attorney and Miss Caffey (Sophina Brown) from the ACLU argue that the police went through the families' trash to get DNA and it targets innocent people. DDA Joe Dekker (Terrence Howard) argues that the police had permission from the AG. Judge Farbricant does not agree with Dekker and issues a restraining order to stop further testing of the Duffy DNA and to stop investigating and surveillance of the family without probable cause.
Outside the courtroom, Dekker is unhappy that the appeal could take months and the killer could disappear. Rex comes in and alerts them that another body has been found. Dekker stops Caffey as she exits the courtroom and shows her the latest killing in the same area as the others. He tells her the next one is on her.
Back at RHD, the detectives and the DDAs but their heads together. They had found that Mark Duffy and his family were granted an order of protection from Maria Cordero, a 47 year old Latina living in Santa Anna. Dekker thinks Mark Duffy has something to hide.

At the home of Maria Cordero, she tells them her lawyers say she cannot talk about it. She then says she just wanted to see Brandon. He daughter was raped 20 years ago and she got pregnant from the rape and Brandon is her son who was adopted by the Duffys. Maria just wanted to see her grandson. Duffy did not want Brandon to know how he was born.

Back at RHD, the detectives have to look for relatives of Brandon’s biological parents – Angela Cordero and her rapist. The check out the others who lived at the address where the Corderos lived at the time of the rape, and hone in on a Louis Cordero, 54, whose last address and job say he was a janitor at the Rampart Division.

At LAPD Rampart Division, one officer recalls a man there who used to listen to the scanners that they called “Echo” because he would repeat the last thing you said.
Later, the detectives come back to Louis Valdez and they ask him about his other job at Rampart. They mention Louis Cordero and Louis runs off, with Rex tackling him in the water from the creek.

The detectives search Louis’ home and find he is taking medication for an enlarged prostate. They also find a hunting knife that seems to have been bleached. They find bras stuffed between the mattresses, TJ calling it Louis’ trophy case.
At arraignment court, the prosecutions presents the information against Valdez and his attorney Mr. Solomon (Patrick Fischler) says the bras could have been found in the creek. Dekker says Valdez is a master at hiding in plain sight. Dekker also mentions that Valdez took his mother’s maiden name. He wants him remanded without bail, and the judge agrees.

Outside the courtroom, Mark Duffy races up to Dekker and Dekker says they won’t be bothering him or his family any more. But Duffy wants their help as their son doesn’t know how he was conceived and is concerned it will come out in the trial. When Duffy asks Dekker to plea bargain with Valdez, Dekker says he does not hog trade with a serial killer and he has to speak for the murder victims and their families.

In the Chambers of Judge Ridgeway, the DDA listen to Caffey make her argument about protecting the fact that Duffy is a child of rape and says that his DNA was inappropriately taken when he was 15 which is how it got into the database. Even Solomon argues that all the police evidence against Valdez connects to that tainted DNA match. Judge Ridgeway agrees with the defense and dismisses the charges and released Valdez. This distresses Dekker and he reminds the judge there is one victim who survived that may be able to ID Valdez and ask to have him put in a line up. The judge allows the lineup.

Later. Diana McDermott is viewing the line up and she is not sure.
Afterwards, Dekker, Stanton, Rex and TJ watch as Valdez is being led out by Solomon, and Dekker tells the detectives he wants 2 cars on Valdez 24-7.

Back at the office, Dekker knows that now they have to start from scratch. They have to get Valdez’s DNA back into the system but he has to get arrested again. Dekker says they have to make that happen, and Dekker wonders if something already has.

Dekker speaks with Maria Cordero who said Louis is her brother in law and Angela’s uncle. Dekker asks why they moved out of the house they once all shared, and she tells them that she did not feel comfortable living with Louis. Dekker asks Angela about her rape and says she can help them, maybe with many cases. She says that when they just moved into the house, she was sleeping in her bedroom and she woke up and this man was on her back raping her. She couldn’t see him, he pushed her face into the pillow. She did recognize his voice. Dekker shows her the photos of the other dead woman and says she can stop him. Her mother urges Angela to tell him. Angela said he whispered in her ear, like she was underwater, but she knew it was Louis. He said if she told her mother or told the police he would kill her. Her mother did take her to the doctor and she was bleeding. Dekker says the rape happened outside their jurisdiction so he needs to report it to the police in Santa Anna. Dekker promises her she will never have to face him or to testify and says she needs to be strong and to stand up for herself.

At the Orange County DA’s Office, Dekker and Stanton speak with Karen and explain why it took so long to report it and the records that they do have on the matter. Dekker says they just need her to prosecute him for the rape.

Later, Rex and TJ watch as Louis is working, and the Santa Anna police arrive in force. TJ says it like watching a cop movie. Valdez is arrested.

Back at RHD, Rex says their Jane Doe has been identified - Kelli Torneau, 17, from New Orleans. They see that Valdez DNA is now in the database and it matches the DNA found on victim Sylvia Watson. They have him.

Back in Superior Court, Dekker explains that they now have Valdez properly in the database and the arrest was proper. There is also no time limit on a sex crime against a minor. The judge denies Solomon’s motion to dismiss.

Later, Solomon tells Dekker even if Dekker wins at trial, Solomon will have him tied up with appeals for the next 10 years. Dekker says he will be riding shotgun with the AG on any appeal. Dekker says the case will end when Valdez receives a lethal injection from the state of California. Solomon thinks Dekker won’t go for the death penalty but Dekker says he will enforce it. Valdez says he was good when he took those pills, but if Don Heller wasn’t so nosey…Heller found out he changed his name and he asked him questions all the time and would not leave him alone. He said he will take the pills again and be good again, and he begs Dekker not to let them kill him. Dekker says if he can convince a jury that he deserves mercy, so be it, but Dekker will show hi the same mercy he showed those women.

At trial, Dekker makes his opening statements describing the murders and how the murders were not given the proper due by police and the evidence was packed away and the cases faded away and the victims were forgotten except by their families. He says he will prove Valdez is a vicious serial killer and everyone will know the names of his victims. On a monitor, he shows pictures of the victims and their names. He says finally they will all have their day in court. As we see their faces on the monitor, we fade to black.

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, on All Things Law And Order.

Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.


RAN said...

Great episode! I like Boone, still not sold on Howard. It looks as if he is gonna burst into tears all the time. I wish they would not have went with these "big name" actors for the DDAs because you know they are not going to last 5, 10, 15 years like Stone/McCoy/Cutter did.

janethyland said...

Ratings are in.
SVU got 2.1 in key demo and 7.63 total viewers.
LOLA got 1.96 in key demo and 7.83 in total viewers.
Neither is much different from last week. However LOLA did tie for first place with Defenders in demo.

In context, that makes SVU highest rated drama on NBC this week, and LOLA is second.

The other dramas seem to be dropping.Event got 1.7 in key demo, Chase got 1.2, Chuck got 1.8 and Parenthood got 1.8.

Comparatively speaking the Law and Orders dominate the NBC network. But overall the networks those numbers are low for dramas.

The last two episodes of LOLA have felt more like traditional Mothership, and the ratings are more like traditional Mothership too. (Last season Mothership hovered between 1.5 and 1.9 in key demo).

Maybe thats tactical. I liked Echo Park,Harbor City and Sylmar which felt different and got higher ratings. But maybe its tactical and maybe they are trying to satisfy a range of people.That pattern will emerge eventually.

janethyland said...

Hide and see!
Its an episode about visibility and how we watch over each other. The youngsters at play watch over the creek, the retrieving of a bike or a body. As a civilian, Don is watching over a series of unsolved murders that should have been the duty of professional policing. Rex and TJ, bespectacled (!), watch over Louis’ arrest, “like watching a cop movie”! Duffy watches over his adopted son by hiding his origins and appointing professionals to hide evidence in inadmissibility or technicality or endless Appeal. Dekker watches out for the victims, “young women whose deaths weren’t shown on TV” by naming and showing them in court for all to see. And the camera men are there in the courtroom to watch over and record the proceedings, as we, in turn, watch over it all from behind the cameras of the TV screen. So it’s a network of visibilities that keep people safe and in place, that keep Order.

To reflect that, sight imagery runs throughout the episode, from the pair of spectacles placed next to the bra (!), to the almost supernatural eyes on the artists impression of the killer or the silly sunglasses of the detectives, from comments about “can you see him in your Mind/remember his face/what did he look like?” to the women who “couldn’t see” their rapist in the act or in the photos. Then there is Angela, the one “victim who was “overlooked”,unseen.

So not surprising that its not the face in an ID parade that identifies the killer, but his voice, his parrot like “echo speech”. This killer doesn’t have a human face because he is likened to an animal throughout, a predator “on the hunt with his hunting knife”, “a wolf loose and no one told anyone, drawing us off the scent…with knife sharp as wolves teeth”. When he does “get a name and a face”, it’s not an animal but Uncle Louis, a family member who has hidden his identity by changing his name. Finally we see him clearly for what he is.

In this hunt the chasers are likened to “cowboys” or “cavalry, riding shotgun in their cowboy outfits”, an allusion to the Wild West of Los Angeles.

The episode keeps things simple and procedural to expose the killer, working with the tangibles of evidence and legal technicality. It might feel pedestrian but maybe that’s good practice.Its very different from Swerens other episode, Sylmar, almost like its counterpoint.

janethyland said...

1)There was a sense of storytelling in the two women as they recalled their ordeal, and in Dekkers opening speech at the end which almost seemed like a fairytale with wolves etc. That was an unusual change in register. And I really liked the open ending, that the ending was in fact the beginning of something that we never see. That nicely tied into the prevailing theme of the episode as something unseen by us. I also liked the way Dekker advised the killer to appeal to the jury for mercy, even though he himself was not prepared to show it. He accepts the role of providence or chance…whatever name we give it…things beyond control and irrational. He is a different sort of lawman, not just about manipulation and control and winning.

2)Dekker has been sketching on his easel. Atli Orvarssons theme music was humming ominously in the background. I miss its lack of prominence. Very dark and Nordic! Im really missing Coyote asDA.

3) The slashed shadows/lighting through blinds and in several scenes seemed to reflect the nature of the crime being investigated, the “Slausen Slasher”. Noirish.

4)Lots of echoes to LOCI episodes..I forget the name of the one that also focused on speech idiosyncracies as the tell. The retired detective reminded me of Declan Cage recalling Sebastian. The echo speech marked the killer out as odd for me straight away.

5)I like the recurring presence of film crews and allusions to the Wild West, and I really like Echo and the Bunnyman. I saw them once in the 80’s.

Are they pulling back from their creative surge into something more predictable and safe, or is this part of a rhythm as they try to accommodate disparate fan groups? I liked Swerens Sylmar better, more challenging. This one was more comforting.

Anonymous said...

This is the first LOLA I bothered with since the first two episodes. I found the promo that aired during SVU's commercial break interesting, so I figured, what the hell.

Gotta say, huge, huge improvement. Howard seems to fit well, Boone's just kinda there but she's eye candy. Stoll and Ulrich seemed to gel really nicely, looks like LOLA's finding its niche.

Janethyland, I think I know what LOCI episode you're talking about. The one that featured the same guy as criminal as whoever played Jackie Dooley on Broad Channel. Just can't recall the name or the specifics of the plot.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who the actress is that played Angela? I've seen her before but can't place her. For some reason her name isn't showing in the credits.

janethyland said...

Yes thats the one!
I think this episode,like last weeks, would appeal to the brand fans, but how will they keep new audience up. They might lose the casual or non-brand fan numbers....except for the Howard fans.

Wolf is right to go on the Coilbert chat show to appeal to a wider and casual audience.Mothership fans wont be enough to keep it going on their own.

Dekker is a gift of a character, in the tradition of Stone and Goren, charismatic but also different. Dekker is their secret weapon!

janethyland said...

Heres a review in LATimes. Its nice to collect different means the show is alive and accommodating differences, and thats a good thing.

Id worry if people were all in agreement. That means a show is dead and meaningless!

'Law and Order: Los Angeles': Like 'CSI' but better
November 18, 2010 | 1:45 pm

"Law & Order: Los Angeles" took on a big one last night, making fiction out of Los Angeles’ Grim Sleeper, a serial killer targeting young black women in South Los Angeles for decades.

It was an ambitious gambit. Trying to condense a case of that scope into an hour of TV can’t be easy. And, as seems to be their way, the show’s writers weren’t content sticking to the strict contours of the real case and needed to add a few fictionalized twists and turns of their own.

All in all, I thought it was entertaining enough. With so much to tell in such a short period, however, I felt at times as if I were watching "CSI," as DNA tests and results that take months in real life were resolved in seconds with a click of a computer mouse.

Also, Deputy Dist. Attny. Dekker’s horse is getting a little too high for me. All those morality speeches, delivered in that breathy sotto voce, are wearing thin.

(For those interested, Christine Pelisek, then of the LA Weekly, tore the lid off the real Grim Sleeper story here . My colleagues and I wrote several pieces on the case as well. (See: "Grim Sleeper: How LAPD followed the DNA to an arrest " and "DNA leads to arrest in Grim Sleeper killings.")

-- Joel Rubin

laken said...

Frankly I think Terrence Howard needs to seriously take a new approach instead of sounding as if he's about to have a break down. I can tell he's trying to "Jack McCoy" it a little... a little too much. Other than that I actually like LOLA, didn't think I would! =)

Also, ATLO do you know if LOCI's set is supposedly being remodeled and if they are still in casting/"crewing"? I heard those rumors of that being the reason why the show hasn't been filming for s10 yet.

Anonymous said...

Laken; I agree with you 100% on Terrence Howard's 'semi-breakdowns'. He does okay on everything else. He doesn't seem to be 'high-horsing/soapboxing' to me (except for the episodes "Echo Park" and "Sylmar")!

As for CI, I don't know what All Things has heard (if anything) but I've heard that the show is still in the middle of casting (IDK if they are remodeling/selecting crew members). They are likely casting previous recurring cast and other minors plus guest stars for episodes 10x01/10x02, if anything. (Unless they are still in Stage 1 casting; did MEM stay or leave, we've heard about Goldblum/Burrows).

Plus, Leslie Hendrix (Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers) might not have signed her contract to return as a recurring star; since back in June/July 2010 people were in uproar about the show possibly meeting an abrupt cancellation (like the Mother Ship) and her first set of papers were likely drawn in 2007 when CI first moved to USA). She might have taken the option to leave after the 9th season (I hope not though) if she thought the show was in jeopardy!

That's my answer; do YOU know anything All Things?

janethyland said...

Yes,Dekker is a controversial character that divides opinion,much as Goren did. Alot of poeple hated Goren as character.

Morales would be a more typical Law and Order character.

Its interesting how they have put those two actors out of their comfort zones.

Molinas is an experimental actor committed to his craft (see his most recent "Roger and Val just got in",more like a one act half hour play), but here he is taking on a more conventional role and playing it very well.

Howard is playing a character atypical to his usual choices.Here he is quiet and restrained and caring.There is a lot of rage in that actor in real life,isnt there?It will be interesting to see how he handles this role.

Likewise they have picked writers from all the Law and Orders and brought them together so the appeal will be as wide ranging as possible...inevitably episodes some like, others will not.

So they seem to be challenging everyone.Ill have to put up with episodes that are Mothershippy with moralogues, and others will have to put up with episodes that arent.It will all be about compromise.

All Things Law and Order said...

As of right now I've heard no news on casting, sets, crew, etc. for L&O CI!

Esaul said...

Did I miss an episode, or has there been two weeks of Howard on LOLA? And if that's the case, then he's gonna be on the episode too coming back next week...which is breaking the pattern of the alternating DDAs. I do agree though, that was by far the best episode of LOLA. And I love Boone a lot, idk but she's my favorite character on LOLA atm.

All Things Law and Order said...

Esaul, you didn't miss any episodes. I think we're getting a few Terrence Howard episodes in a row, not sure why. I assume it was some sort of scheduling thing with Alfred Molina - but that's just a guess on my part!

janethyland said...

Not sure where to put this...but are reporting that Neal Baer has just signed with CBS and will be leaving SVU when his contract expires this season.

Does it mean a new showrunner or is SVU going to retire because of costs etc?

Esaul said...

People seem to think that this is the final season of SVU. With Baer gone, and with Meloni and Hargitay's contracts up this year, and how they want more money, this really could be it for the show...:\