Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Law & Order SVU “Penetration” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCU

Law & Order SVU “Penetration” brings back guest star Marcia Gay Harden as FBI Agent Dana Lewis, this time as a victim of rape. She tries to enlist the help of Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to find her attacker and apparently Dana doesn’t know Benson as well as she thought because before Dana knows it, Benson has Stabler, Cragen, Fin and Munch helping to work the case. They ultimately cause Dana’s current cover to be blown and forces the FBI to raid a compound earlier than planned and many deaths result. It’s one of the flaws of the SVU team – sometimes they go in head first without thinking of unintended consequences.

The story line dovetails with the SVU season 7 episode titled “Raw” where the SVU team first meets up with Dana, not realizing she is working undercover. In "Penetration”, one of the parties involved in the case from "Raw" finds a way to reach outside his prison confines to exact his revenge on Dana.

It’s surprising that it Dana didn’t realize the connection between a comment her rapist made, telling her “you sure are a star”, and one of her undercover aliases, “Star.” Benson had to point it out to her after Dana mentions it on the witness stand. It is odd that this comment the rapist made wasn’t mentioned to the detectives earlier in the investigation. I know that Dana only wanted them to run the rape kit and not get involved any further, but seeing she was so worried at first that one of her covers had been blown, it seemed that she should have made the connection much earlier without help from Benson.

Benson has apparently decided that being the legal guardian to Calvin (from last week’s Law & Order SVU episode, “Trophy”) means she can take physical custody while she works to track down his father. I found the opening scene with Calvin playing with a squirt gun somewhat odd, and felt that the comment Dana made saying now that Calvin knows she’s FBI she’ll have to kill him was a bit weird, especially since Dana had no idea who this kid was.

On a side note, I don’t recall Benson being called a bitch in the episode, so maybe the series finally broke their streak. I may have missed it, though, being somewhat distracted by references to Stabler’s “ample ass” and the gratuitous yet welcome scene with a shirtless Stabler. In fact, I think I don’t remember much of the episode after that scene (just kidding). Yes, watching SVU does have its fringe benefits.

Despite NBC initially listing Melissa Sagemiller’s character as being named “Jillian Hardwick”, she now is “Gillian Hardwicke". Yes, I know this may be nitpicky but I find changes like this simply annoying, it suggests a lack of attention to detail. It’s not the first time this has happened in the Law & Order universe, and it happens quite frequently, especially with the character names for guest stars. Why is it so hard to get the name right the first time?

It was nice to see Richard Belzer again – he seems frequently absent from the show these days – and I was glad that he got to use his paranoid conspiracy expertise to help work a case. After all, it's what Munch does best!

Here is the recap:

Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is asleep on her couch and a shadowy figure approaches her with a gun. But it’s just Calvin (Charlie Tahan), the boy to which Benson had recently be made legal guardian, and it’s only a water pistol. She grabs the water pistol and shoots back, and then tells Calvin to get to bed. There is a knock on the door, and it’s FBI Agent Dana Lewis, and she asks Benson to test a rape kit as a Jane Doe – and the rape kit is her own.
Later, on the rooftop of their new precinct, Benson and Detective Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) tell Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) about the rape kit for Dana. The secrecy in the case is because Dana can’t tell the Feds or they may pull her out of her undercover operation. Because of this, the SVU team can’t contact Dana but she promised to contact them.

At St. Paul’s Chapel, the detectives meet with Dana and she is not happy that Benson brought Stabler. She only wanted the lab report, but the detectives try to convince her to let them investigate. She tells them she will give them the address of the location where the rape occurred and they can meet her there.

The detectives go to Dana’s beautifully decorated “crash pad” where she was raped. This is her own apartment. She is still married to her husband and they have two kids who lives with their father in DC. She walks them through the rape and describes her attacker and how he disabled her. He injected her with a paralytic agent and she could not move or scream. The drug wore off after he left and she did her own rape kit. She wants to go right back to work and the detectives express their concerns. She does allow them to come along to help her but says they must blend in so as not to blow her cover.

At Park51, there is a protest going on against building a mosque there. Benson makes a comment in order to antagonize the group. Dana uses this situation to ditch them but they see her and follow, but someone is racing off with her in a van. Benson sets a photo of the van’s license plates.

Back at SVU, Fin (Ice-T) tells Stabler that the van is registered to David Worthy from Akron and a BOLO is out to notify, not apprehend. Cragen won’t tell Fin and Munch (Richard Belzer) what the case is about and Munch gets testy about it. Munch says that Worthy is on 6 different watch lists and is a high ranking member of the SCB – Sovereign Citizen’s Brigade - which is an anti-US government group. One of their members, acting on their own took out an IRS agent. Cragen tells Fin to call Elliot back and let them know who they are dealing with.

The detectives arrive to the location where the van was found burned and abandoned. The officer decided to follow the van. There is a male body in the driver’s seat, burned to a crisp. The trooper said Worthy was driving. She also saw the explosion in the rear view mirror as she drove past them. There were 5 men and one woman in the van and when the trooper got back to the van the others were gone.
At FBI headquarters, Benson and Stabler tell an FBI Agent (Dion Graham) that they have to pull Dana Lewis out, but find that she is not working on a case for the FBI, she left the bureau a year ago.

Outside the bureau, the detectives wonder who Dana is working for. They think she is playing them but decide to call in their expert of paranoid conspiracy theorists. That happens to be John Munch.
Later, at the Learning Arena, Fin and Munch arrive at a seminar being conducted by Tom Marshall head of the SCB. Marshall is talking about a secret identity everyone has that was created at birth called the “straw man” which is linked to an account at the US Treasury which the government uses as collateral on foreign debt. .Munch chimes in and says if you file the right documents at the right offices, that money can be yours. Fin asks how he can break his shackles and as Marshall explains the process, Fin and Munch take over and tell the seminar attendees that it is a scam. Fin shows his police badge and they arrest him for fraud.

Back at SVU, Stabler questions Marshall about Worthy and mentions the kidnapping of a Federal Agent. Marshall says Worthy started to sound crazy on his blog and said the time for non-violence was over. This is not the way of the SCB, but says Worthy found someone who would go for the violence. Later, Stabler, Munch and Fin tell Cragen about Patriots Against Tyranny and they are stockpiling weapons. Fin finds their compound is in Staten Island.
When Benson and Stabler arrive there, police and FBI are already all over the scene and bodies are everywhere. They also see the same FBI Agent they spoke to about Dana is there. They are pissed that he lied to them but he said they never gave him the code and if Dana wanted to share information with them, they would know it already. He adds they are interfering. Benson sees the guy from the alley who shoved Dana into the car, he's laying dead on the sidewalk. The agent says the detectives’ surveillance blew her cover and they had to get her out, she was embedded when the raid went down and she is in the house. They think she may be dead but she is very much alive and annoyed with them. She says the van explosion would not have happened had the state trooper not followed them. They wanted to kill a cop and the death of the trooper would have allowed them to blow up more cops at the services. She stopped it by reminding them all the PATs were supposed to be there when the spark was ignited and they were a few members short. But had the raid gone down when it should have, the big boys from out west would have been there. When Worthy pulled off in the van he accidentally hit his brights and they thought he was signaling to the trooper. The others came straight to the compound. She is upset that she killed three people today that she meant to take in alive. She asks them for her lab report and tells them to direct all the evidence to the FBI as they will be handling it.

Back at SVU, Benson says she will not hand it over to the FBI and Stabler tells her to let it go and Dana will never cooperate. Munch tells them they need to get Dana down there ASAP because they found another rape case with a similar MO to Dana’s. The victim is Jennifer Briggs and she is an accountant. She is also dead.

Back at the FBI, they speak with Dana who is at a desk handling paperwork. They tell her there is another victim who is now dead. They give her the lab report which had no DNA. They tell her they need to work the pattern and can’t do that without her. She suggests they talk about it elsewhere. They then show Dana the photo of Jennifer and she does not know her. As Jennifer worked in the diamond district, Dana thinks that may be the connection and wonders if she was caught stealing diamonds from her employer, Kauffman Fein Jewelers. Jennifer’s fingers were all broken. They wonder if the rapist had a closer connection to Jennifer as he seemed more angry with her. Dana said when the attacker was done with her, he held her hand and he said, “You’re just lucky you never did anything to piss me off.”

At Kauffman Fein Jewelers, Munch and Fin speak with Kauffman (Bruce Winant) who says Jennifer was a model human being. She wasn’t seeing anyone and spent her time doing charity work for many organizations. She used to write to prisoners and used a pen pal service that only reached out to Jewish inmates.

Back at SVU, Munch and Fin tell the others that Jennifer corresponded through Project Mitzvah and she corresponded with 8 different prisoners. Dana doesn’t recognize any of the names. Three of the 8 prisoners are out and when they look at their records, the most likely fit is Seth Coleman but they don’t understand what would be his connection to Dana.

At the Division of Criminal Justice Services, Munch and Fin find Seth was a jailhouse convert to the Arian brotherhood. He was very hard to place since he was a sex offender. Elsewhere, Stabler and Benson check out one of the possible locations and Dana is there and she seems to be following them. Stabler sees Coleman (Jeremy Davidson) walking down the street towards them and Coleman spots them and runs. Dana chases after Coleman on her motorcycle as the detectives race to catch up on foot. They see her motorcycle parked and they run into the building, guns drawn. Dana has Coleman at gunpoint and Coleman is pointing a nail gun back at her. Dana taunts him, but Coleman wisely decides to put the nail gun down. This only incenses Dana more, and she shoots at him, purposely missing. But Stabler cries out in pain, Benson holds his shoulder saying that the bullet ricocheted off the beam.
Later, Stabler is in a hospital bed, recovering and Dana arrives with flowers, apologetic. She tells them they rook her gun away and she is suspended without pay. He chastises her. He tells her that Coleman confessed to raping and murdering Jennifer Briggs and they found his DNA. Back at SVU in interrogation, Benson is questioning Coleman who denies raping Dana. Benson brings out other rape cases and Coleman says they women were asking for it. Jennifer stopped writing to Coleman when he asked for naked pictures. He says he just hung out with neo-Nazi’s in prison for protection. Observing the interrogating, ADA Gillian Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) asks Cragen where Benson is going with the questioning. She only has three hours before she has to arraign him and thinks Munch and Fin would do better than a women in interrogation.

Later, Munch and Fin are questioning Coleman but he continues to deny having anything to do with Dana. He asks for a lawyer.

At Hardwicke’s office, she tells Dana that Coleman refused all pleas and they are going to trial. Dana is reluctant but Benson and Hardwicke tries to encourage her. Dana tells them to make it go away. Benson says it is the only way she will ever find peace.

Later, Dana heads to the jail where Coleman is being held and Benson follows her trying to talk her out of confronting Coleman. She goes ahead anyway and asks Coleman for an explanation. He says he does not know her but Dana continues to press. Benson tries o pull her away and as she does so, Coleman whispers “ bye bye sweet dreams, I know I will.”

In Supreme Court, Dana testifies about her rape and being paralyzed. It comes out that she pulled a gun on an unarmed man and that she did not ID herself as law enforcement and that she took her own rape kit. Hardwicke has Dana go through the rape and Dana repeats what her rapist says. She goes into detail and breaks down on the stand. When she says the rapist said “you sure are a star” Benson, listening to the testimony, gets a look of realization. The judge, seeing Dana very upset, orders a 10 minute recess. Benson asks Dana about the star comment, and Dana also gets a look of realization.

Back at SVU, they look at a mug shot of Brian Ackerman and a photo of Kyle Ackerman and Dana says she should have put to together herself. She said she has not used that alias Star Morrison for over 4 years. Brian ran the Revolution Arian Warriors and knows Coleman from Attica, where Dana put him. She killed his son Kyle to save Stabler’s “ample ass” in that courtroom shoot out.
Stabler, Benson, and Dana head to Attica and speak with Ackerman (J.C. MacKenzie). Dana asks how much he paid Coleman to track her down and rape her, and he said it was bargain. He says he’s already doing life and think they can’t do anything more to him. He adds it hardly makes it even for her killing his son Kyle. Stabler says Ackerman will get solitary but Ackerman says replaying everything Coleman did to Star will get him through. She says her name is Dana, and she will get past this. She will go home to her loving husband and she will watch her kids grown up. Unlike him, she will have a life. She turns and walks away, leaving Ackerman to sit there as we fade to black.

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Joanne said...

One of the best things was that the whole squad was in on it, I love when there's the whole team interaction.

I had to laugh when Dana was telling Benson and Stabler off for blowing her cover - those two sometimes seem to have little grasp of the meaning of being undercover.

Dana not making the connection with "Star" I put down to rape trauma. It seemed that on the stand was the first time she was really voicing what happened and she had probably been trying to block it out earlier on. I assume she's also probably used various aliases since then, too.

It was a treat to see Marcia Gay Harden again, I really like her character. And I always did love FBI agents called Dana.

Thanks for the recap and review =]

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that Dana Lewis does not have any experience in sex crimes.

Frankly, SVU didn't blow the op, Dana did. She should've either broken protocol and told the Detectives what was going on or waited until after the raid. She didn't.

nygma619 said...

Benson probably made the connection before Dana did because it's one of the few names that Olivia remembers her by since they've only met less than a handful of times. Dana on the other hand has probably gone through many aliases and phony names through out her career that it probably gets hard to keep track of for her, especially when it's been four years. And maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it was made knowledge to Dana that her attacker was a Neo-Nazi.

Anyways I loved this episode as it followed up one of my favorite SVU episodes, and Marcia Gay Harden's return did not disappoint. Brian Ackerman was a character I did not think I'd ever see again on this show.

I actually liked some of the quieter moments Olivia shared with Calvin at the beginning. We rarely get to see Liv smile like that anymore. While I don't think everything with her being Calvin's guardian has been worked out legally, I think things will develop later on.
Great to see Munch again, how many episodes has it been since we've seen him. Him and Fin carrying off that one guy and denouncing him as a fraud was pretty funny.

Oh, and Elliot can not go without getting hurt around Dana's presence, can he?

Only one thing bothered me, Dana said that the guy bit her breast. So couldn't they had gotten the DNA off her bite mark? Was there not enough of a mark to get dna off of?

Anyways that aside, this was a fantastic rebound episode after last weeks clunker.

Joanne said...

"Only one thing bothered me, Dana said that the guy bit her breast. So couldn't they had gotten the DNA off her bite mark? Was there not enough of a mark to get dna off of?"

I'm guessing that was probably the problem with Dana doing her her own rape kit. She might not have thought of it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your recap.. but you missed one interesting scene at the beginning when Calvin meets Dana.
Calvin "Is this you girlfriend"
Liv: "Noooo"

maybe it's just me but i think the "nooo" sounded a little .. i don't know... I think have to watch it again

Nikki(: said...

I have to say this is my favorite ep of the season(:
I <3 MGH and I think she did a brilliant job. Yes it was weird that she didn't make the connection--I think she was like too traumatized to think about it.
I absolutely hated the opening scene, it just goes to show how misleading the promos are and Calvin seems like a little smart ass by pointing the gun at Liv and referring to MGH's character as Liv's "Girlfriend" when she took him in and she could've just abandoned him like his mom did/: I'm not a fan of the kid... but other than that the ep seemed pretty good to me. It was nice to see the entire squad again.
The courtroom scene really got to me and for the first time this season I remembered the show I had fallen in love with because this was the one ep where the producers didn't try so hard to "make it good."

Anonymous said...

She had me from the motorcycle ...

Anyway, this is one of the few SVU episodes I've come away from happy. Usually the only satisfaction comes from the cops doing their job and putting somebody away. The victim is dead, in most cases, and while relatives are assumed to want "justice," I'm not convinced that there's anything that can help after losing a kid, a wife, anybody close. If the cops ever use the line on me "don't you want to catch the guy who did this?" I'll have to work to overcome the urge to ask "whatever for?" Being a good citizen would be far done on my list of things to do at such a time, I'm afraid. The cops' work and the result are necessary, but not sufficient. (Unless they prevent a bomb from going off, but that was another show.)

But here the good guy actually won. She faced the rapist and her fears in court and then went on to confront the one who instigated it. She was able to take away the pleasure he expected to enjoy in the future in imagining her pain by herself flaunting (the flaunting was important here) the true pleasure she'd enjoy in living her real life. And she made it life-affirming and convincing. Good going!

Anonymous said...

This was a good episode. I also agree with the person above that having the full cast was a welcome addition.

I also liked the fact they actually had a scene at the DA office, for once. I'd like to have seen McCoy walk in however. The lack of mention of McCoy continues to be a problem and leaves an obvious hole in the storylines when the ADA starts to get fussy. It seems including McCoy would add a lot.

Anonymous said...

Actually, we didn't get the whole cast. Both Huang and Warner were missing. Huang didn't have a role to play in this episode. Bit I would have liked to have seen Warner's reaction to Dana's self administrated rape kit. If Olivia once again didn't have the proper paperwork, would Warner have even tested the kit?

Anonymous said...

Did anybody else notice that Dana was wearing Benson's necklace in the final scene? Benson usually wears two necklaces. Watch the last 10 minutes of the show, Benson is wearing both. When they are at Attica, Dana is now wearing her necklace and Benson is only wearing one. I think it's the Fearlessness necklace from Me & Ro. I thought it was a great touch.

Joanne said...

Anon @ 7:pm - Nice pick up on the necklace, I hadn't noticed that at all. It is indeed a great touch.

You're right, it is the Me & Ro Fearlessness necklace. It's the Joyful Heart charity version - the original Me & Ro fearlessness slate has "fearlessness" written in Sanskrit on the front and English on the back, whereas the Joyful Heart one has fearlessness written in English on the front, and Joyful Heart written on the back. I like the original one better but I sort of wanted to get the Joyful Heart one because it's for charity, so I'm still in a state of indecision.

Joe S. Walker said...

This episode felt like it was playing to the hardcore fans - return of a favourite guest star, the "girlfriend" bit for the shippers, the jokey bit with Elliot getting injured (and appearing bare-chested). Never a good thing in my opinion.

nygma619 said...

joe s. I agree if it's done in large doses, but there's nothing stoping newer fans for tracking down information they might not know, and it was explained why Brian Ackerman hated Dana for newer fans.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite chapter, I have seen this program from three years ago, and have always been fascinated with those so many different cases.

To me this idea of rape is something that you just need to psych up what to do at that time, if it were to happen and that's it, you could easily get out of something like that.

But 10 months ago I had to go through this, the day less expected, and as Dana on the show, I felt strong, as if nothing had really happened, and often I think it didn’t affected me at all, is difficult for me to get these hidden emotions, as Dana let them go out in court.

I wish I could understand my emotions and take them out too, but don’t know how yet. Really this has been my favorite chapter.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite chapter, I have seen this program from three years ago, and have always been fascinated with those so many different cases.

To me this idea of rape is something that you just need to psych up what to do at that time, if it were to happen and that's it, you could easily get out of something like that.

But 10 months ago I had to go through this, the day less expected, and as Dana on the show, I felt strong, as if nothing had really happened, and often I think it didn’t affected me at all, is difficult for me to get these hidden emotions, as Dana let them go out in court.

I wish I could understand my emotions and take them out too, but don’t know how yet. Really this has been my favorite chapter.