Thursday, January 6, 2011

Law & Order SVU “Pop” Recap & Review

All photos from NBC

Law & Order SVU “Pop” is a story about domestic violence, and those usually spell murder somewhere down the road. During the course of investigating a boy’s death, the SVU team stumbles upon a fighting/gambling group and one family where the stereotypical evil stepfather beats his wife and stepson. It’s certainly not a new scenario, but at least Drea de Matteo turned in a fine performance as the abused wife.

Stabler (Chris Meloni) also shows that he still has some anger management issues when dealing with suspects. Again, this comes back to haunt him when the abusive father accuses Stabler of beating him up, and his wife backs it up. Of course, Internal Affairs doesn’t believe Stabler, a story line that is getting a little old. If IA continues to have such doubts about Stabler, they should make an effort to have him removed from the job. Otherwise, I think IA should not outwardly say that they don’t believe Stabler, especially in front of those people who are accusing him.

Of course, evil stepdad gets killed – did you expect anything else? – and it looks like the boy did it. But at trial, the truth – or is it? – comes out. With what seems like poor forensics work at the early stages of the crime, we will never know the answer. While the story was predictable, I still found it enjoyable, likely because of solid performances from the guest stars, including the brief appearances of Olympia Dukakis, who I’d love to see more of on this show. Still, I am sure that the little screen time for Mariska Hargitay will disappoint many of her fans.

(Note: Cab # 5Y62 appears in both “Pop” and “Possessed”, both episodes which aired on January 5. In “Pop”, it’s the cab driven by the killed boy’s uncle. In “Possessed”, it’s the cab that drops off Larissa Welsh at the SVU precinct. I guess that cab is the “SVU Express.”)

Here is the recap:
A boy is found dead at carousel and he appears to have been beaten. Detectives Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) are called to the scene. The boy has no ID but is traced back to being dropped off by a cab. The cabbie, Joe Gilbert (James Carpinello) happens to be Ethan’s uncle. ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) says his death may be an accident; Ethan had a broken rib which punctured his lung. Later, Ethan’s mom thinks a kid at school did it – Blake Murphy. Stabler and Fin (Ice-T) talked with Blake’s mom and Blake said Ethan hit him and said his Uncle Joe was teaching Ethan how to fight.

The detectives track down Joe and find he is part of a fight club betting on their fights. They arrest a group of men. Back at SVU, they question Nicky Roberts (Al Calderon), whose adoptive dad Hank Roberts (Adam Senn) was also arrested at the fight. Nicky calls him “Pop”. His mom Sandra Roberts (Drea de Matteo) arrives and she is highly agitated and will not allow them to question Nicky.
ADA Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) lets some of the others who were arrested be released – the law considers the fighting sport. She doesn’t seem to know Ethan Gilbert was dead from apparent beating. Stabler, questioning Hank, thinks Joe paid Hank because Ethan lost a fight to Hank’s son Nicky. Fin questions Gilbert. Hank seems to have records of domestic violence calls, but it’s Stabler who loses his cool and Cragen (Dann Florek) has to pull him off Hank. Joe tells Fin that Nicky went after Ethan and Joe tried to stop the fight and Hank held him back. Hardwicke agrees to charge Joe but releases Hank. Stabler is concerned Hank will beat Sandra and Nicky, and she secretly passes Nicky his business card as the family leaves. Cragen tells Stabler to stay away from the Roberts family.

Of course Stabler doesn’t listen, and waits for Nicky at his school. Nicky appears to have been beaten – after Hank found the business card that Stabler passed to him the night before. When Stabler takes Nicky back home, he finds Sandra accusing him of beating up Hank, and Lt. Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke) from Internal Affairs is already there and does not believe Stabler’s denials.

At SVU, Tucker questions Stabler. Cragen questions Hank and Fin questions Sandra and they both stick to their stories. But it’s Nicky who spills the beans and exposes Hank for being a child and wife beater. They arrest Hank. Later, Nicky explained how Hank forced him to fight and beats him when he loses a fight. Nicky also says that he told Hank it was not a fair fight with Ethan and that Hank wanted him to knock Ethan out and his father egged him on to keep beating him and Nicky could not stop.

Sandra tells Cragen that Hank hates his job as a cab driver and says he adopted Nicky because he loves him. She also tells him she is having Hank’s baby and won’t break up the family.
Hank Roberts is being arraigned for many charges including homicide. He gets $50K bail and there is an order of protection for Sandra and Nicky. Stabler arranges the protection. But later Cragen tells them they have to cover it themselves as patrol was pulled off, and when he and Stabler get to the residence patrol is already gone. They hear gunshots and race in to the house to find blood on the floor. In the basement, they find Sandra on the floor beaten, and Hank dead. Nicky is holding a gun and Stabler gets him to drop it. He tells Stabler that Sandra let Hank in and he started beating her up and he did not know what else to do. Later, as they take Sandra into the ambulance and Hank’s body away, Stabler coaches Nicky not to say anything unless a lawyer tells him to.
But things are not as they seem – evidence in the basement shows that Nicky shot Hank when he was either kneeling or getting something out of a low cabinet. There appears to be no imminent threat to Nicky’s life.

When Stabler and Hardwicke question Sandra in the hospital, she describes how she let Hank in and he beat her. They tell her the evidence does not show self defense. She tells them not to go near her son. Later, Stabler and Hardwicke argue over the handling of the case and Hardwicke tells Stabler to arrest Nicky for second degree murder – and he tells her to do it herself.

Later, Benson appears at the precinct and she and Stabler discuss the case. She tells Stabler to fight fire with fire. In interrogation, Hardwicke arrests Nicky, his mother present, and his lawyer, Debbie Marsh (Olympia Dukakis) arrives to defend him.

In court, Stabler is on the stand, being questioned by Marsh for the defense. He describes the environment that Nicky lived in. Hardwicke, though, questions Stabler about what Nicky said to Stabler after the shooting, and Stabler reluctantly said Nicky said he was glad Hank was dead for what he did to his mom, and that Nicky said he put the gun to Hanks head.

Outside the courthouse at recess, Sandra is reluctant to testify. She feels she didn’t do a thing to protect her son and doesn’t want to admit she was a bad mother. Stabler says this is her last chance to protect Nicky.

On the stand, Sandra testifies about how Hank beat her that night and then says she can’t let Nicky go to prison for something she did. She says she killed Hank, he was going to kill both of them and snuck up on hank and killed him. Hardwicke whispers to Stabler that her parade just became a circus.

Later, they run a computer simulation which indicates Sandra could have done it, and that they later ran a test on her clothes which were saturated with gunshot residue and fine blood spatter. But either of them could have done it.

Stabler and Hardwicke question Nicky and Sandra and tell them neither of them will be charged but they want the truth. They both say they did it. Stabler tells them they are free to go. As they leave, Hardwicke says they will never know which one of them did it, and Stabler asks “does it matter?” and we fade to black.

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Anonymous said...

I kind of enjoyed watching "Pop", if only because it was so Stabler-centric, something woefully missing this season.I like the Liv storylines a lot, but they are partners and he deserves equal time.Having said that, the brutality of grown men "pimping out their kids as punching bags" was very difficult to watch.SVU does this kind of storyline very well, though.It seemed real to me in a heartbreaking way, esp. as Elliot interviewed Nicky and he confessed that he knew that fighting Ethan Gilbert was unfair;he was just a "little kid".Very compelling story,all in all.The part where Elliot went home and viewed his own sleeping toddler Eli was superbly done , I thought. That any man could deliberately harm his own child this way was just brilliantly portrayed by Christopher Meloni.How he does not get award noms for his portrayal of Elliot Stabler is a mystery to me!I find the scripts for SVU very heavy-handed and over the top at times, but I never fault these wonderful actors for their portrayals.

Anonymous said...

Only thing that bugged me was not IAB showing up, but Lt. Edward Tucker. It's not that IAB doesn't believe Stabler and wants to remove him from the job, it's Tucker. Whenever there's been an allegation against SVU, Tucker is the only one who shows up.

The only time we don't is when Liv confessed to someone else in IAB about Simon Marsden and an earlier case involving Sgt. Karen Smythe.

Is it personal bias or is he the only one who gets this particular precinct? For ten years with one promotion and no transfers?

It's like he takes any evidence at face value and doesn't do any real legwork to back it up.

Anonymous said...

What I enjoyed most about Pop is similar to the above comment. I liked it because it was Stabler-centric. There has been so much focus on Benson this season it feels like the entire rest of the cast is being pushed aside, particularly with the first 3/4 eps and then the Calvin storyline. Chris Meloni's acting is what makes me tune into SVU. If Stabler is not a main focus, the episodes quickly bore me. Pop and Possessed benefited, I feel, from having Stabler's viewpoint being shown more adequately than has been the case in recent seasons. I'm also looking forward to Mask to see Jeremy Irons and Chris Meloni interact onscreen. I'm not looking forward to Dirty at all.

Anonymous said...

I liked "Pop. " I think Chris Melloni a great actor and I also think he deserved an Emmy. But SVU without Olivia Benson is orphaned. Mariska is great, is remarkable. For me the ideal is to see the two working beautifully. As only they know.

Anonymous said...

I tend to really enjoy Christopher's centric episodes more than I do with Mariska's centric episodes. So I wasn't very disappointed that Mariska wasn't in this episode much.

Also, you forgot to recap the brief scene between Elliot, Eli, and Kathy.

Anonymous said...

I find Chris Meloni to be a remarkable actor. I enjoy episodes that don't focus on Benson. I don't have any interest in episodes without Stabler. Chris's last SVU ep will be the last one I watch.

Anonymous said...

The episodes are still a mess and this one was terrible. The only way I can watch SVU is with Benson in the episode. If she's in it than I can tolerate Stabler. I don't see why the writers need to have them working seperately. They are partners and should be working together.

I never really cared for Meloni and find Stabler centric episodes very boring. The entire Stabler family just needs to disappear for a while.

What about the rest of the cast? Instead of having Munch/Fin being sidekicks, they should have a few episodes with them as the leads.

daniel said...

I agree the episodes need more munch/fin in them, it's been ages since i've seen a munch based episode. But this episode was still good. Thanks for the recap.

nygma619 said...

Nice to see Robert John Burke earning his pay for being on screen for less than 3 minutes.

I have to agree on Tucker being too gullible and believing what anyone says about anyone in SVU. At least from what they've shown us.

Also considering how heavily involved Olivia was in the last episode, I think we needed a break from her for one episode.

Jill Hardwicke came across as a witch it felt like in this episode. And it doesn't sound like the squad has been getting along with her, if Benson telling her to shove it is anything to go by.
Also when is Melissa Sagemiller gonna get her own credit listing? If Mikaela McManus got one than she at least deserves that.

Other than that a decent episode.

Fatana said...

Hey I have a few questions for you...

Why weren't they able to charge they with his murder?

Also why did you say "Sandra tells Cragen that Hank hates his job as a cab driver and says he adopted Nicky because he loves him. She also tells him she is having Nicky’s baby and won’t break up the family." ?

All Things Law and Order said...

Fatana, thanks for catching my goof. I meant Hank's baby! I fixed it.

I think they could not charge either of them for murder as they could not prove which one of them did it. Personally, I think if they had done proper forensics at the time Hank was shot, they probably could have proved which one of them did it.

Anonymous said...

Pop was definitely better than Possessed if for no other reason than much less Olivia. It would have been good to have Munch or Fin work the case with him.
One thing that was missing was a scene with Kathy and Elliot where he brought up his own father beating him as a kid. Longtime viewers would remember this but it would have explained Elliot's intense reaction.
But the biggest problem with this episode is the murder scene. Cragen and Elliot go in and Cragen sees blood on the floor. That shows Hank beat up Sandra upstairs. Nobody brought that up.
Then the cops go down stairs and Hank is lying parallel to the cabinets which are closed and clean. If Hank was kneeling to open the cabinet to get the flask so that the bullet went through the cabinet door, why was there no blood splatter on the cabinet? And since the bullet went almost straight down, wouldn't Hank have been opening the cabinet in front instead of to the side.
And the new CSU tech doesn't know his stuff. Two people can not be in the same place at the same time. The GSR and blood splatter would have been different between the shooter and the person grabbing the gun. Watch the video simulations and you will see that the person grabbing the gun will have stuff on the left side only while the shooter has their whole front exposed.

Anonymous said...

The show has been declining steadily for the last couple of years. I wish they would go back to having the enire team solve a case. I thought Possessed was better than Pop not necessarily because of the writing but because everyone was involved. I usually just watch out of habit now but if the episode is focused on Stabler I just don't bother with it. I'm still surprised that NBC decided to cancel the Mothership and keep SVU on.

Anonymous said...

What happened to SVU's old squadroom? They've switched twice! The new one is very cheesy and ugly, bring back the 90s!

ironclownfish said...

Does anyone have any ideas as to who actually shot Hank? Also, I really liked this episode, although my favorite this season has been the one with the abusive boss. "The Bully" I think it was called.

Anonymous said...

I was sort of bothered about the loose ends on justice for the dead little boy. Why was it never an option to try Nicky for killing Ethan? I know he didn't mean it, but the result is the same whether he meant it or not.

interverlarschlich said...

Nicky wasn' charged fo Ethan's murder because he acted under duress, which means he only did so because he felt like he had to in order to save his life or that other a 3rd person. In this case, Nicky was forced into the ring by Hank and he was afraid of what Hank would do if he didn't fight the child. Hank would be the one charged for faciliating a murder.

Unknown said...

Yeah me too, this episode was very sad.