Thursday, November 11, 2010

Law & Order Los Angeles “Hondo Field” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCU

Law & Order Los Angeles “Hondo Field” involves a murder of a male oil worker at the hands of female boss. She tries to use self defense - and attempted rape - as excuse. But DDA Dekker (Terrence Howard) outmaneuvers the defense attorney and gets a murder conviction. The episode had an good first half, with the detectives having to head out to an oil rig as part of the investigation. But the second half didn't deliver. I found Terrence Howard much better in this episode, and saw glimmers of a personality in Megan Boone’s character. But, there is something about the dialog that I just can’t put my finger on. Sometimes it seems the actors are delivering the lines as if they were just reading them off the script. There is still a sort of stiffness with the delivery – with everyone, even the secondary characters like the judges or people being questioned by the detectives. The dialog sounds as if the characters are automatons and not real people.

I usually don’t have a hard time writing reviews for the shows I cover, but in this case I feel that I have nothing much to put my arms around. The case didn’t move me or pull me in at all. The episode was neither bad nor good; it’s middle of the road TV which isn’t drawing any real emotional response from me. Overall, I do like Law & Order Los Angeles but wonder if I am watching it out of habit or to pass the time than to be truly entertained or be drawn into a story. Even with the worst episodes of Law & Order SVU I am left with something, and in the case of “Hondo Field” I am coming away with no real opinion whatsoever. There is no solid attachment or bond that I am making with any of the characters and I think that is very important – at least for me – in order to enjoy a show. I am not sure what I want to get out of Law & Order Los Angeles; all I can say is I do want more than what I’m getting. I'll be the first one to admit that the problem may be with me and not with the show, so I would appreciate any feedback from fans about this episode.

Here is the recap:
A man, Freddy Ramirez, is found dead in the water by a couple taking a late night swim.
Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and TJ Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene, the body now on the beach. Freddy is a oil worker, a rig is also spotted in the distance.

The Medical Examiner (Tamlyn Tomita) tells the detectives said there were peanuts and alcohol in his stomach. TJ says Freddy clocked in at the Hondo Field rig at 2:36 AM, and assume he was drunk and fell off the rig and drowned. But the ME says he did not drown, he was dead before he hit the water and believes he was beaten. Since he washed up on their beach, it’s their case.

At the offices of Goldshore Oil, they speak with Mr. Braden who tells them they have a zero tolerance for alcohol on board. They have a warrant for Freddy’s personnel file.
Later, they look at the personnel file, and Freddy has had four suspensions for violations. They head to the rig. On the rig, Freddy’s hat was found with what may be blood or drilling mud on it. He was missing for 18 hours before it was reported, his buddies had reported him on duty. Lucas (Jeffery A. Baker) saw him at check in. They speak with Freddy's co-workers and they say his supervisor was a pain in the ass. The detectives speak with his supervisor, Valerie Roberts (Sprague Grayden) who does not think anyone from the crew did it and she thinks she would have noticed if trouble was building. No evidence was found on the gangways or railings, so they go to check his bunk.

In his room, the detectives find nothing and wonder why Lucas was the only one that saw him at check in time.
At the San Pedro Motel, they speak with the hotel manager who lets them into Freddy’s room. They find a notebook with numbers and dates and a federal certificate of inspection saying the rig passed. Rex sees some stuff on the floor that the hotel manager thinks came from the newly paved parking lot. They also find some of the same stuff in the parking lot lot and it looks like the stuff that was on Freddy’s cap. Rex thinks they are being played.

They head back to the rig and press Lucas who sticks to his story. They think he’s lying and press him and he finally admits he took a break and when he got back he saw that Freddy had swiped himself in – he didn’t actually see him. TJ gets a message – the lab matched the dirt on Freddy’s cap to the tar at the hotel, it was mixed with his blood so they think he was killed there and then dumped at sea. They think the killer swiped him in at the rig and planted his belongings there so it would look like he fell off the rig.

The detectives head to a bar and speak with the bartender who identifies the rig workers were there and said Valerie was there with Zack, her boyfriend, who does not work on the rig. He last saw Freddy on the pay phone at 11.

At the home of Douglas Kasdan, he says Freddy probably called their maid, Lucy. They speak with Lucy Ramirez, Freddy’s mother, who is crying over Freddy’s death. When he last called he said he would be away for two weeks. Stephanie Kasdan, Douglas’s daughter, comes in to console Lucy; Stephanie and Freddy grew up together. Freddy also told Lucy that Freddy said he may have to quit because it was getting dangerous. Outside, the detectives wonde, based on the notebook and the certificate that they found in Freddy’s room, if he had a beef with the company.

At the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the manager is surprised that Freddy had the certificate in his home. There was a complaint filed by Jason Callahan, a floor hand on the rig, for a safety valve problem that has been fixed 6 months ago. The detectives show the manager the list of numbers that Freddy was keeping and he says it looks like a record of feet drilled per day, and it looks like they are drilling faster every day. They ask for a copy of the file.

Later, they speak with Jason about the complaint and said his supervisor Valerie Roberts made his life living hell over it. They wonder if Freddy decided to stand up to her.

They head back out to the rig and Valerie is not there and someone else is using her berth. The guy is a former “jarhead” and said he just finished cleaning up, saying there is nothing worse than female mess. He adds there was blood there. The see blood on the floor, maybe from her boot and decide to call the crime scene people back out there.

Later, Rex and TJ find Valerie at the bar with the other workers and they arrest her.

In court, Valerie is being arraigned and Sarah Goodwin (Natalie Zea) is her attorney. Valerie pleads not guilty. DDA Lauren Stanton (Megan Boone) request $1 million bail because of the brutal murder and cover-up, and the judge agrees.

Later, Stanton tells DDA Joe Dekker (Terrence Howard) that Goodwin has the case. Stanton says lawyers who do TV belong in the 7th ring of hell. He tells her not to let Goodwin distract her. Goodwin made a motion to exclude the blood found in Valerie’s berth.

Goodwin arrives at the courthouse and meets up with Dekker and Stanton. They discuss the case and Goodwin says it’s men behaving badly, saying the male ego is responsible for all society’s ills.

In the chambers of Judge Martha Dreyer, Goodwin argues the detectives had no right to search the berth because the guy who gave them the OK to search is not her roommate – the berth is shared on alternate shifts. She adds that Valerie did not know someone had replaced her on that shift. The judge rules the blood evidence inadmissible.

At the Robbery Homicide Division, Stanton, Rex, and TJ go over the evidence collected form Valerie’s apartment. They do find a t-shirt from Zack’s Dive Tours, and a dive boat may be been a help to Valerie in dumping the body. Valerie's boyfriend’s name is also Zack.
They bring Zack (Sam Ball) in to interrogation and tell him they found Freddy’s hair on his dive boat. He says he took him diving once. They also found a plastic bottle of crude oil. They tell him they can use the blood evidence found in Valerie’s berth against him. He admits that Valerie called him and said Freddy was drunk and hit his head and she said they had to get rid of the body. Then Zack asks for a lawyer

In Superior Court, Goodwin makes a motion to exclude saying Zack’s statement can’t be admitted without corroboration. Stanton tries to argue back with no luck. Dekker says their problem is charging Zack as an accomplice. In court, Dekker says there is no evidence Zack is an accomplice, and reads back Zack’s statement to police which supports that he did not help Valerie and they are not charging him as an accomplice. The judge tells Dekker this was well played and when Goodwin has no counter argument the judge allows Zack to testify against Valerie. Goodwin then asks leave to file for an affirmative defense, saying that Valerie killed Freddy in self defense as he tried to rape her and she was sexually harassed by the male workers on the rig which was aided and abetted by Goldshore Oil.

Goodwin and Valerie are on a TV news show and Dekker is watching in his office. As Goodwin talks about the issues women face in blue collar jobs, Stanton walks in. She says that it seems to her that Goodwin has Dekker’s mind now, and she walks out.

At Superior Court, Dekker makes his opening statement, saying there was no evidence of attempted rape and says the evidence was staged to make Freddy's death look like an accident. Goodwin counters by describing how it was for Valerie to work with the boys and the harassing comments they made and she was the lone woman among 150 men. She says Valerie’s complaints were ignored by the oil company. When Goodwin asks the jury what they would do if they were in alone in the dark with a drunk illegal Mexican , Dekker objects and Judge Dreyer orders them to her chambers.

In chambers, Goodwin shows that Freddy is illegal. Dekker reminds them Freddy is the victim and asks for mistrial, saying it is prejudicial and the bell can’t ne un-ring, but the judge denies his request.

Later, Dekker is out having a beer and Goodwin approaches. She asks if he really thinks he is a racist, and when he doesn’t respond, she says maybe racism is in everyone’s DNA. She thinks all she needs is one woman on the jury, but Dekker asks her what about the truth. She brings up when they had law classes together. She asked why he never asked her for help in class, he asked Mike for tutoring instead. He asks if she is implying he was being sexist. She says, “res ipsa loquitur” (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”). He says they just didn’t click.

Back in Superior Court, an oil rig worker testifies about how difficult it was working with Valerie. Freddy was like her whipping boy. Goodwin cross examines him and brings up how they burst into Valerie’s shower.

Back in the office, Stanton and Dekker discuss the case. They need to find a witness who can say something good about Freddy and Stanton can’t reach Freddy’s mother. Stanton gives him the number and Dekker calls it and is given another phone number to reach Freddy’s mother. The number Freddy called before he was killed was Stephanie Kasdan’s – not his mother’s.
Dekker and Stanton speak with Stephanie who says she and Freddy were friends since they were kids. Dekker says they will put her on the stand, and she says her parents do not know about her and Freddy and they would fire Lucy. She says he called her to apologize for not seeing her before he left and he was with his buddies. She said Freddy would never rape that woman and if there was a problem it was with Valerie, she would never leave Freddy alone. Valerie would call and text him non-stop and it was so bad he had to get a new phone and a new phone number. She saw some of Valerie’s texts to him telling Freddy to do things like wash her car.
In Superior Court, Valerie is on the stand saying how tough it was on the rig, that they call the women clams and how they broke into her shower. She said she was told it was just hazing. She said that with the increased pressure after the Gulf Oil disaster, the crew took it out on her. She could have lost her hand a few times in accidents they caused. She said he was just helping Freddy that night because he was drunk and claims Freddy tried to drag her into his room and she told him to stop. She said he said he was illegal and would just run away to Mexico. She describes the attack and said she was scared because he was like an animal. She kicked him until he let go and saw he was dead. She panicked and called Zack and made it look like Freddy fell from the rig. She says she is sorry and it was stupid but she just felt it was her against all those me.

Under cross examination. Dekker asks if that was the first time she heard Freddy was an illegal alien and she says yes. Dekker shows the jury the text messages Valerie sent to Freddy, where she told Freddy to detail his car, to fix her garage door, Dekekr saying that she was blackmailing him. He shows a message where she tells Freddy to “get with the program or you and mama will be on a bus back to Mexico,” the message dates two months before she said she learned Freddy was illegal. She says Dekker does not understand. Dekker says she used Freddy to watch her back and she threatened him. He goes on to say the more they others harassed her, the more she put pressure on Freddy. Dekker continues to push on her, showing a message where Valerie said, “My little brown man, ur only here to make me feel good” which was sent two days before he was killed. Dekker asks if that was one of his chores. Dekker also shows a naked picture of Valerie that she sent to Freddy’s phone two days before he was killed. Dekker says Valerie was sexually harassing Freddy. He shows another message where Valerie told Freddy “4 get ur grlfrnd. Out there u belong 2 me” which was sent the day he was killed. Dekker says Freddy was resisting her and says that Freddy defied her and said he would report her . She counters that Dekker does not know what is it like, saying how hard it was for her to work there and the men will not let her forget that she is just a chick.

Later, Valerie is found guilty of murder.

Back in Dekker’s office, Stanton said Valerie found the one guy on the rig that couldn’t fight back. Dekker says the guys humiliated her and she humiliated Freddy – it is the nature of oppression. Stanton said Valerie is like a lot of women, they still haven’t learned that nobody is going to give them power – they just have to take it. Dekker asks if that is Gloria Steinem, and she says “Roseanne Barr.”

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Anonymous said...

Hondo Field was ok but nothing special. I agree there is something missing here. My opinion there is NO SUSPENSE. That could be why you don't feel you are being drawn in.

janethyland said...

Sadly my computer crashed just after they mentioned "mentrual blood"...which was a bit of a cliff hanger in itself....and its only just re-connected so i havent watched the episode yet.

terrible storms here. Apparently there was this special massive surfing wave off the West Irish coast that attracted surfers from all over Ireland. It looked amazing,hollow in the middle. See, we have surf waves too, but not with sunshine!

I wont read the comments til Ive watched it...but i like that photo of the detectives going down to the boat...nicely staged.

Anyway ratings are in. It was a bad night because some award show was on with 16million watching it! All the dramas suffered i think.

SVU dropped 9% to 7.7million viewers and 2.0 in key demo.

LOLA dropped 11% to 6.7million viewers and 1.75 in key demo.

Josh Morton said...

I'm going to be honest All Things;

I actually enjoyed "Hondo Field" (the better of Terrence Howard/Megan Boone episodes IMO) I think Howard should portray Dekker like he did last night. I actually 'want' to see next weeks episode (which he's in). And I agree Boone is opening up some [it takes time] we just need more you know.

The episode was written by Michael S. Chernuchin (L&O/L&O: CI) EP, so as I said; the better of the Dekker/Stanton episodes.

I'd feel more comfortable if Blake Masters left as executive producer though. I'd actually like to see Warren Leight come to LOLA (yeah Leight) as EP though.

But I think "Hondo Field" was 'okay' myself. I can tell that Balcer had 'some' involvment with this episode from the way the characters acted. Notice that Ulrich's Winters seemed to act like D'Onofrio's Goren; when he did that clapping thing to get the guy to talk.

ansley said...

Do you have the NBC promos for "Gray" and "Ballona Creek"?

All Things Law and Order said...

ThI posted the NBC promo for "Gray" here:

I don't have the promo as yet for Ballona Creek but will upload it if/when I get it.

Margot said...

I do think that the detectives are the best part of Law and Order LA. I have a feeling that the lawyers won't be anywhere near the level of the original's lawyers. I'm still trying to put my finger on what it is I find lacking in this show. Part of it is that the lawyers just aren't convincing, perhaps cause I have Jack McCoy, Michael Cutter, and the other amaazing actors from the original to compare them to. If it weren't for Skeet Ulrich getting my attention, I wouldn't be watching. Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll make this show.

Anonymous said...

The first half continues to be better, if only because the cops are out and about. I've never been on an oil rig, so it was interesting to get a look at one, hear something about life on them. I would have watched, even without the murder. And the cops at least talk to each other like human beings, with the married one describing how the topic of the day had affected his own wife's behavior as a cop. Nothing unique or unexpected, just reassurance to the viewer that the two of them are alive in some sense.

The lawyers, on the other hand - maybe it's the lack of humor? It doesn't have to be jokes, just the occasional ironic observation would do, an expression in response to another character's words or actions. Something to demonstrate that the characters amount to more than the lines they recite. It was only after watching Goren and Eames interact that I realized how much an actor can silently add to what's written out in a script, insights that a page of description in a novel wouldn't equal. Maybe they all just need time to get used to each other, but the actors at Det. 187 seemed to be able to handle it from the very beginning.

Anonymous said...

My reaction to this episode:

1. I'll say it again -- the lack of a theme song introduction and title cards is ridiculous. They didn't even have a short "5 second" version like they previously used. It was oddly missing and continues to be a glaring omission on behalf of NBC/Wolf/etc. Part of the tradition of any show/franchise is the theme song -- Hawaii Five-0, for example. L&O's is part of it's history and charm, and not having it included is completely annoying.

2. Megan Boone is improving and Dekker continues to outshine Morales by a good margin in my view. Boone is decent while the other ADA is terrible.

3. The continual lack of the full set of characters is annoying. Why no Ticotin or Coyote last night? Here the show is in its first season and we're trying to get to know the cast and anywhere from two to four characters are missing in each episode.

4. The storyline last night was too "SVU" to me. The oil rig thing was a good basis for it, but trying to drag in sexual harassment and oil politics into it was a little much.

LOLA is just average. It's not the greatness that was the mothership but it's okay.

xfool said...

I want to like this show, I really do. But there IS something missing. The mothership at least had some suspense, even if I knew what was going to happen they knew how to build the story. LOLA starts off OK with the detectives and then once the prosecutors come in, I lose interest fast. Alfred Molina is good, and Terrence Howard WAS better in this episode, but the two female DDAs need further development or something.

I don't think the show is doing a good job of conveying the feel of Los Angeles like L&O did with the city of New York.

LOLA is in need of a shot of adrenaline in the second half because it is Just.So.Dull. ! By 10:30 PM ET LOLA needs to crank it up a notch if they expect viewers to stay awake to the end.

Shelly said...

All Things, I can't answer your questions, but I think we watch as much out of habit as anything, and there's nothing else on the other networks during that time. We'd already decided if SVU was as bad as last season, we'd dump it, and so far, it hasn't been.

As for this ep, I have a question and while it's not a big deal, it nagged at me. We find out the victim had a mother because he called the house where she worked on the night he was killed. Yet, during the investigation before that point, did they ask any of his co-workers if he had a family? Isn't that usually one of the first questions you should ask? Again, it's not a big deal....

Thanks for the recap All Things...

Sheila said...

I agree with Josh when I say "I think Blake Masters may be slowing down some of the progression of this show (i.e. Brotherhood)"

"Hondo Field" seemed to be the most alive episode of the season so far (thank you Michael Chernuchin). We DO seem to have a recurring Medical Examiner; that's good I guess. The case was an interesting one; but I think TOO much input was done as far a male/female sexual harassment goes; it's like they wanted to soapbox with the topic.

BOTH Terrence Howard and Megan Boone were SO MUCH better in this episode than their previous ones. I think the "ORDER" half of "Law & Order: Los Angeles" needs some work; it feels like they are trying to 'rush' through the case [and notice a scene with Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) on the stand was cut from the episode]. I think that Alfred Molina and Regina Hall have more interaction though than Boone and Howard. The prosecution does seem to pick up and/or get weak after the investigation is over with; that needs some work done to it. (I see that Ticotin/Coyote did not appear - why?) No complaints this week on Skeet and Corey (they basically are this show; like Goren/Eames are CI and Benson/Stabler SVU).

As for the opening sequence; what the hell is going on? I mean COME ON! How hard is it to use the closing theme (extend it of course) and add a few cast pictures and titles with some images of Los Angeles crime, police, courtrooms, the DAs office, the Superior Court, and let the cast do a 'walk-in' or a gathering (both teams separate of course; Morales/Price & Dekker/Stanton)? They've done it SO MUCH with Criminal Intent like it's nothing! I see fanvideos on YouTube doing a LOLA opening sequence and they look BETTER than something Wolf and the crew could do! That's called: LAZY! I saw where they added "Created by DICK WOLF" in the opening crew credits!

"Law & Order: LA" needs some shaping up and a storyline that will attract viewers.

Wen said...

On the pronlem of the opening sequence, I do have a "theory" that its so hard to make another "classic" remix theme song like CI did. CI's theme song, while it keep the tune of the mothership's theme song, it also perfectly combinated with some HIT elements(like the electric guitar)

janethyland said...

What happened to the ominous theme opening with the glowing sunrise on Los Angeles and the name of the creator god, Dick wolf? Did they remove it this time? I missed it.

This one was too Mothershippy for me but Ill try and get to grips with it. I didnt like what Chernuchin did with LOCI during deason 8 and I didnt like this one much either. I liked what he did in early mothership, but times have changed and the sexism debate has moved on.They will lose viewers if they get too moralistic and preachy.Ratings of 1.7 for this one is in the same range as mothership ratings last year.

However i want to be balanced so Ill go back over the episode.

janethyland said...

wow. Looks like ratings were bad for everyone on Wednesday. Criminal minds was down 23% and defenders was down 22%,so it doesnt matter what channel people were watching.I guess country music is very popular over there?

janethyland said...

Hondo Field or “Paradise Lost”!

Primal instincts in the Californian fields of “Paradise”. This opening poetic sequence of a modern day “Adam and Eve” naked in paradisal bliss until the Evil of a murdered body disturbs them, says it all without saying it. That paradisal imagery is also present in the fountained gardens of Mr Kasdans house, where illegal aliens lurk.

What follows is a fallen paradise of divisions where competitive men are doing “mans work” and women submit by taking on those same values. Val and Goodwin might appear to be strong and dominant but in fact they are no different from the system they despise. (“that women pisses standing up”/”imagine my thrill when I knew we were going to cross swords”).

In this primal world men are “animals..pigs..with more balls than a brain can handle”, but women are also predatory as Val intimidates the immigrant and Goodwin stalks the corridors of power in her stilettos, taking on the male fantasy of female power driven sexuality. This basic primal male world of the oil rig is reflected in the basic primary colours of blue-yellow-red.

In this environment it’s a woman who takes on the most basic primal instinct of all; survival. In Darwinian theory (I prefer Kropotkin!), her survival is dependent on victimizing the weakest link, an illegal immigrant. Val becomes the system as Goodwin becomes the system by taking on the typical legal adversarial arguments that we’ve all heard before.Goodwin deserves her name! So they perpetuate divisions by becoming the system better than the system becomes itself. They lose their differences as human individuals and take on mob values in order to be successful. This is the real inverted“7th level of Hell”.

Hopefully Dekker will keep his differences on a human level, whether he is a man or not, that he won’t just “click” in and pretend to be like the others, “ letting the Goodwins into his Mind”. How can he remain himself, given the typical adversarial divisions of a court room? Must we always inhabit a binary world? How will he make a difference by being different?

janethyland said...

Visuals. This is the best part of the show…the poetic opening with reflected lights, the fairylighting in the bar, the symmetry of staged scenes, ornaments of glass, the abstract art of Goldshore offices where people don’t count, the Rig colours, mirror work, views through open doors and beyond…but especially the pink (!) safety ribbons on the construction site. That had me in fits! These production people are brilliant and light up my life.

Verbals. Goodwin’s over used legal arguments can be excused as deliberately placed, but the throw away ending was definitely weak. Weve heard it all before and it was dull. Hero/knight imagery continues…as does “ not growing up” imagery of “boy scouts/cookie cutter feminists/comics. Sometimes the detective repartee reminds me of Shakespeare’s repartee with his low life characters . He often overdid it too!

Humour. Pink safety ribbons. “The rig passed with flying colours”, says Ulrich. “Yes” says I, “mostly red, yellow and blue!” “The numbers keep going up”, says one of the detectives, and so do the numbers on the door fronts behind them!!! Wicked , sneaky sense of humour. I love that.

Ambiguity. “This voice has changed the Minds of a lot of women”,says Dekker.Pause “Sometimes theres only so much an outsider can see”, says Ulrich. Pause. So true. There’s much unsaid in those pauses.

Post script. Its not just “blue collar work” where women are in equivocal positions. They could have focused the content of this episode more poignantly on themselves as a TV franchise, about the position of women there, why women are acceptable as writers but not as directors or showrunners, whether women in the entertainment business can keep their differences and run things, or whether they have to submit to its dominant male ideology and compromise their own identity. Given LOLAs location, that would have been topical and might have shaken the dust a little. Note the use of the Conditional there!

In the late 70’s I did work in an all male blue collar environment as one of two women post workers amongst hundreds of men, mostly ex R.A.F., in Hull, a real blue collar town in the north of England. There were no dispensations and we carried equal weight post bags on our backs in the snow. At the time I wanted to redress an imbalance in myself because I felt I had been too academic for too long . Ironically, by putting myself in that extreme I did become more balanced and my identity gained. It was a positive experience.

jj said...

NBC is a pathetic network. There has been NO PROMOTION for this show and I agree with the lack of an opening sequence. Familiarity breeds likability. There were a few awkward and stupid lines in this episode like the menstrual blood -- very odd and unrealistic line. But it was a uniquely twisted episode. Howard was better but I still prefer Molina and Boone is just too young. Regina Hall was strong last week, but she needs to put down that dorky briefcase that overpowers and dwarfs her in every scene. It makes her look awkward when she walks like she is carrying luggage.

Ulrich and Stoll are very watchable and real and I enjoy that part of the show more.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I saw Sprague Grayden in this episode played that girl.Those Jericho fans may have some mixed feeling when they saw Sprague and Skeet again.

robinepowell said...

Whoever wrote Meghan Boone's last couple of lines, has a sense of humor and most likely a woman. To quote Roseanne, is priceless. ;)

I laughed when I heard that. Roseanne may not have been a feminist like Gloria Steinam, but she was a woman of her time.