Thursday, December 2, 2010
Law & Order LA “Playa Vista” Recap & Review
What do you get when you mix golf, a golf club, hookers, lesbians, sex addicts, a cheating husband and a bitter wife? Murder. Law & Order Los Angeles “Playa Vista” was a good old “yeah, we’re going there” ripped from the headlines story, inspired by the golf + golf club+ drug abuse + hookers + sex addict Tiger Woods scandal. In “Playa Vista” the murder happens because a golfer's wife refuses to see she’s a gold digging whore in her own right, and she uses her own son to murder a woman who threatens her lavish lifestyle. While the episode was predictable, I found it somewhat enjoyable - in a campy “CSI Miami” kind of way. It also painted a portrait of how kids can sometimes be unwittingly drawn in to their parent’s ugly battles and animosity towards each other when the marriage is unhappy, and the kids find themselves being used.
I enjoyed the entire cast in this episode, but the clear winning pairing is Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll. Stoll is the lucky one, as he seems to get all the witty lines, but he has the face and the personality to pull it off better than Ulrich, who sometimes seems a little too reserved. While Terrence Howard and Megan Boone seemed very comfortable in their roles, their scenes still seem lackluster. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I am just not seeing the same passion that viewers were accustomed to in the original Law & Order with EADAs Cutter, McCoy, and Stone. Dekker and Stanton seem a little too controlled and it’s almost unnatural. I don’t expect them to be yelling, screaming, ranting, or going off on tirades, it’s just something in the way they deliver some of the lines that makes it sound like they are just reading them off a script. I am warming up to them, though. Guest star Bellamy Young did a great job as the bitter wife and mother. All in all, it was a good episode and fun to watch.
Here is the recap:
Pro golfer Kristin Halstead (Maggie Contreras) turns up dead in a courtyard. Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and TJ Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) investigate the scene and it appears Kristin was targeted. They check her home and find evidence that she was having money problems.
They visit the home of Kevin Friedman who tells them that he knows of no problems but she seemed off her game lately. She showed up for a meeting late and she was a mess.
Later, the medical examiner tells them she was killed by blunt force trauma but can’t identify the weapon. She has pre-mortem finger marks on her arm, maybe about a week old.
They check her phone’s GPS and find the location where Kristin was Tuesday night from 9 to 11. The valet said Kristin would not let him park her car, she sat in there and texted the whole time. She had a view of the building entrance and the detectives wonder if she was stalking someone.
A computer tech tells them some texts were going back and forth between Kristin and a no name, throwaway cell phone. The texts were deleted, but every few weeks that cell phone was making calls from other golf locations around the country. Rex notices that one of the locations had no golf tournament at the time, it was in Las Vegas and there was a poker tournament in which married golf superstar Chip Jarrow was participating.
At the home of Chip Jarrow (Marc Blucas) and his wife Monica (Bellamy Young), Chip says the cell phone number is his. He uses it to duck the press and fans. Kristin was asking him about endorsements and career advice. He said Kristin played for the “other team.”
The speak with her agent who says that lesbian rumors dog the LPGA and he is trying to protect Kristin's legacy. He knows nothing of a girlfriend but says at a tournament last month Kristin got an all access pass for Carly Morris.
At the home of Carly Morris (Jenny Mollen), the detectives speak with her about Kristin. She admits that they had sex. She also tells them she is a student. While she gets the info to corroborate her alibis, the detectives see that Carly has all kinds of expensive things laying around. TJ sees a thank you note from a personal shopper in Belle Rouge.
They speak with the personal shopper who tells them the stuff is purchased for Carly by men, a different one every week and don’t ask for their names. TJ gets a message saying that Carly is not a student anywhere in California. Kristin appears to have been in love with a hooker.
Back at the Robbery Homicide Division, they ran Carly through vice but there is no information on her. Carly did have one legitimate job, she was employed by the A.K. Lounge. Lt. Arleen Gonzales (Rachel Ticotin) tells them to check with the lounge to see if anyone was setting up Carly’s dates.
At the A.K. Lounge, a “waitress” there tells them a few of the girls, including Carly, went to the “round” hotel with some old (almost 40!) white guy who told them to call him “Ace.” She said she is not a hooker. As she walks off , the detectives know that Carly has lied about everything so far and Rex says no 40 year old is that busy without a pill.
At the home of Steve and Jodi Morris, the detectives speak with Carly’s parents who says she has done nothing wrong. They said a friend at the club got Carly a “public relations” job and they flew her out to Greenville, NC and she had caviar on the flight. .
The detectives feel that she went out on a private jet and find a flight lease by Intelogue Investment Service in Irvine – and Chip is their spokesman. Later, at RHD, the “waitress” picks Chip out of a photo array.
Later, with Carly in interrogation with her lawyer, the lawyer says Carly is in love with Chip and she is the victim because she was led on by a powerful man. Carly tells them she dates Kristin briefly but is not a lesbian and Kristin would not accept her relationship with Chip. She said Kristin tried to talk to Chip.
Afterward, the detectives review this information with Gonzales. They also now have the deleted text messages from Kristin to Chip and Kristin seemed to be threatening to expose Chip for something and Chip says everyone will find out she is a dyke. Gonzales tells them to talk to Chip about the texts and wake him up if they have to.
They arrive at Chip’s home to hear yelling coming from the pool, and they race there to find Chip in the pool and his wife Monica swiping at him with a golf club. They yell for her to drop the club – she does – and Rex helps Chip out of the pool. Chip says he took a pill and must have been sleepwalking and he must have fallen into the pool. Monica says she grabbed a golf club to try to help him out.
Later, back in the house, Monica tells TJ their marriage is solid, and Rex talks to Chip about Kristin. He says he does not remember her. Monica says the night Kristin was killed Chip was home with her. Their son Luke (Hutch Dano) walks in. As Rex tries to get information from Chip, Chip’s attorney enters and he asks them to leave. When they exit, DDA Joe Dekker (Terrene Howard) is waiting outside, he heard about the domestic dispute over the scanner. They tell Dekker they got a cover story from the couple. They think he has other no name phones and Dekker says he will get them a subpoena for the other numbers – but to make it count.
At Westshire Country Club, the detectives speak with Doug, who was the last person that Chip called that night. He says they didn’t kill anybody. Chip just wanted to be hooked up and they drove around and Doug got the girls and the key for the Thompson and left Chip there, getting a cab for himself back to his car. He said Chip would have just paid off Kristin. He also tells them that Chip’s wife had her hand out. He said Monica busted Chip for screwing around 10 years ago and her lawyer made him tear up the pre-nup and draft a post-nup. She’ll be compensated to stay in the marriage and she hates Chip’s guts.
In Dekker’s office, DDA Lauren Stanton and DDA Decker discuss this latest news with the Rex and TJ. Kristin may have been planning to expose Chip to the companies he endorses. Chip’s alibi is weak. Dekker tells Stanton to get a search warrant for the house.
When Stanton and the detectives serve the warrant, Monica tells them Chip checked into rehab that morning – he’s a sex addict. The detectives find what looks like a towel bar in a plastic wrapper that looks like it has dried blood on it.
Back at RHD, Chip is in interrogation, along with his lawyer, who complains they dragged Chip out of rehab. He pleads ignorance when confronted about the murder weapon. He says on Friday night he was with three other women.
In the observation room, the detectives and the DDAs discuss the situation. There are no prints on the murder weapon but the dried blood belongs to Kristin. But there was no blood on the plastic wrapper – meaning it was put back into the wrapper dry. Blood was also found at the house on the floor under a tarp in the pool shed. The weapon was likely moved to where the police would find it, and think it was done by Chip’s wife. If Kristin blew Chip‘s endorsement deals, Monica would have as much to lose as Chip and if he goes to jail, she gets everything. Dekker mentions their 16 year old son who will know if his mother was home the night of the murder.
At West Palisades High School, Stanton and the detectives speaks with Luke. He says he is used to his parents fighting and his father does not care about them. His says his father was banging Kristin. He gets upset when they ask about his mother and when he starts to asks if they found something, he quickly clams up. He says his dad is the evil one. But Rex presses him on what Luke thought they would find and mentions the towel bar. But Stanton steps in and tells Luke not to answer that, she wants to take him to the police station and call his parents and have a lawyer meet him. Rex does not look happy. Afterwards, Rex asks what is she doing, and she says he is 16 and it was OK to talk to him as a witness but once he became a suspect, it’s game over. Until he gets with a lawyer, nothing he tells them is admissible.
Later, at RHD, Luke’s lawyer Kurt Simms (Peter Mackenzie) says if Luke is not under arrest he is going to take him home to his parents. Rex chastises Stanton but Dekker says she did the right thing. Dekker says get search warrants for every place that Luke has access to and to impound his car, bicycle, and even his skateboard. When the detectives walk off, Dekker stops Stanton and says ethics are nice, but he’d rather have a judge throw out a confession than not have any confession at all and the next time a suspect wants to talk, to let him talk.
At the forensics garage, the detectives search Luke’s car and find a mailing list from a charity event which had Kristin’s address circled.
While Luke is being booked, Monica says Luke is innocent and if anyone killed Kristin it was Chip or another one of his gold digging skanks. After she storms off, TJ tells Stanton that the mailing list was from a PGA/LPGA benefit which Monica co-chaired. They wonder if Monica gave him the mailing list.
In Dekker’s office with Luke, his attorney is surprised Dekker is charging Luke as an adult. Dekker says if he acted under the influence of an adult it would mitigate the charges, and Luke says it wasn’t his mother that killed Kristin it was that gold digging skank. After the two exit, Stanton notes that Luke and Monica both referenced a “gold digging skank.” She is also handed something which says that Luke’s private blog on Facebook where he said it’s just like his mom said, his dad is a whore chasing pervert. He also said that his mom had to get all the couches clean because his dad got his dirty whore juice all over the cushions. The police also had a report which shows that 3 years ago Luke was picked up for vandalizing his father’s Ferrari with a baseball bat. Dekker thinks Monica knew he was violent and was feeding Luke’s hatred. Dekker mentions and interesting concept he picked up from a friend’s custody battle.
Later, in Judge Cruz’s (Jodi Long) chambers, Stanton, Dekker, Monica, and Simms discuss parental alienation syndrome where one parent brainwashes the parent into hating the other, in this case Monica convinced Luke to kill and is an aider and abettor. The violence can be directed at something the parent loves, like a person or a car. Luke acted under the mistaken belief fostered by his mother that his father was sleeping with the victim. The judge allows Dekker to proceed to charge Monica but will not allow him to use parental alienation until she hears his case.
In Superior Court, Dr. Coburn (Heather Mazur), an expert, testifies about parental alienation and how it fits Luke’s situation. In her opinion, Luke is psychologically incapable of killing his father but would kill someone his father was in love with. Simms questions her, saying the syndrome is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. She replies it is recognized by the courts. Simms adds that this is in child custody cases and Luke lives with both parents. She says the case is atypical. Dekker redirects and notes that Chip was out of the home 48 out of the last 52 weeks so the case is not atypical.
Luke is on the stand talking about his father and his golfing. One his father took him to a bar while in Vegan for the charity tournament, and a waitress flirted with Chip and he said he’d be right back. He left Luke to sit there alone. He sat in the bar for 6 hours and his father never came back. Under cross examination, Dekker asks how Luke knew Chip was having sex with Kristin and he said he heard his father tell his mother. Dekker says that Kristin had relationships with women and they had a text message from Chip to her saying he was going to expose her as a lesbian. Luke says he doesn't care, he heard his father say that had sex while Chip was ageing with his mother. Dekker presses whether Luke actually heard the argument or if his mother told him about it. Luke says he doesn’t remember,. They were always fighting about his “skanks.” When Dekker reminds him that Luke had called them “gold digging skanks” and asks where he heard that term from, Luke says he doesn’t know. Dekker mentions the phrase “whore chasing pervert” and Luke doesn’t know about that one either. Dekker presents evidence where Chip said on Facebook that his father is “like his mom says, a whore chasing pervert.” When Dekker presses him about the information Luke gets from his mother, and cites many other examples of what Luke said his mother said, and brings up the baseball bat attack on the Ferrari, Simms eventually objects and the judge cuts Dekker off.
Monica is on the stand, and testifies that she has always tried to shelter Luke from negativity but he is smart and knows what is going on and it makes him angry. She never encouraged him to cause harm. Under cross examination, Dekker brings up how long Monica has known about Chip’s serial cheating and the post nuptial agreement. She agreed to stay in the marriage because she loved Chip and said she agreed to keep his infidelities confidential. Dekker says if they became public it would damage his business interests. She responds it would hurt the family. Dekker says that Kristin’s threats to expose Chip was more than a threat to her husband it was a threat to her and her lifestyle. Monica says they would have dealt with it and Chip would have paid Kristin off. Dekker says that Kristin didn’t want money, and Monica says they all want money. Dekker asks who she means, and brings up the other girls that Chip paid off, and Monica gets rattled. Luke is also visibly shaken. When Dekker presses Monica about Chip’s need for sex, she lashes out and said she knows Chip is a pig, a filthy pig. When Dekker comments that she says this in front of her son, Monica says Luke knows what is father is.
Back in Judge Cruz’s chambers, Cruz said Monica’s behavior doesn’t rise to criminal liability. She is going to instruct the jury to disregard all testimony on parental alienation syndrome. Dekker says PAS is his case and she should let the jury decide. But the judge stands firm, saying PAS is off the table. Dekker says if it is off the table, then it can’t be used to reduce Luke’s culpability, so the jury should be instructed not to include the lesser charge of manslaughter against him. They should only be instructed as to murder. Simms objects to this, but the judge, commenting “half a loaf” to Simms, says the manslaughter instructions will be withdrawn.
Back in Superior court, the judge gives the instructions to the jurors before deliberation, saying they can only consider the count of murder. As they adjourn, Stanton is worried this will backfire because Luke is only 16. Dekker says it is not about what the jury will do.
Later, Chip, Monica, and Simms are in Dekker’s office saying they will do whatever they have to. Dekker says no deals unless someone shares the weight with Luke on the murder. Chip says it was him, and he drove Luke to Kristin’s and gave him the weapon, whatever they need, he can’t let Luke go to prison. Monica is shocked at what Chip is doing, and Dekker reminds him Chip will have to plead guilty in court and serve time. He understands. He only asks to speak with Luke, and Dekker says he can do that, and Luke will know how much Chip loves him. But Monica gets upset, saying Chip does not get to swoop in and be the hero. She says she was the one, she helped Luke, and she told Luke Kristin was a threat to their lives. She gave him the address, she put him in the car, and she shut her eyes until he came home with blood on her clothes. She tells Chip that Kristin was a threat, and Chip was willing to risk everything but not her. After being humiliated all these years, there was no way she was going to let that lesbian ruin it all. She adds that Luke was a minor and even if he got caught, he’d only get a few years. She was there for him and Luke loves her, not Chip.
Back in court, Dekker tells the court that they reached an agreement, Monica will plead guilty to manslaughter and Luke will be re-charged as a juvenile. The judge declares the trial over and remands Monica and Luke. Luke looks upset. As they take Monica and Luke off, Luke yells out at his father, saying he hates him.
Later, Dekker and Stanton watch Chip on a televised golf tournament, the announcer making a comment about Chip’s comeback and that he still swings a big club. Stanton comments that it hasn’t affected his game. She says that is all he has now. Dekker says that is all he ever had. We fade to black.
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