Thursday, January 6, 2011

Law & Order SVU “Possessed” Recap & Review

All photos from NBC
Law & Order SVU “Possessed” covered the topic of the sexual abuse of children, and also touched on First Amendment issues where it involves “how to” books on how to commit a crime. There was a lot of attention given to the perverts of the week, but the episode seemed a little thin on addressing the topic of the rights to publish a pervert’s how to guide. Recently there was an issue with selling a how to book as described in this episode, and many people, including me, were sickened that any reputable bookseller would want to have anything to do with selling that type of content. The First Amendment does protect, in many cases, the publication of those types of books, but that doesn’t mean that bookstores are obligated to carry them or sell them. Things got even murkier in this case when Hardwicke was unsuccessful in establishing a link between the books and a recent group of crimes at the hand of a person who copied what he read in the book. It just seemed to me that they episode could have spent less time on the perverts and a little more time on the law by building a better case before taking it to court and covering the First Amendment issue.

I also found it odd that Daniel, while in prison, was allowed to easily lean over and whisper something to Larissa. Yes, I know they had been friends in the past, but he was still a prisoner and I thought prison security worked a little harder to keep some distance between prisoners and victims. I also wonder why Hardwicke didn’t seem to press Larissa on what Daniel told her. Ultimately that risked another girl being attacked and Larissa killing Underwood. And is it just me, or is Hardwicke becoming annoying? It makes me wonder if we will ever have an ADA that can work well with the SVU detectives and support their efforts, rather than be viewed as the roadblock of the week.

There are a few things that are constants in the Law & Order universe – it’s easy to get killed at the courthouse, and getting put in witness protection is as good as no protection at all (one usually ends up dead while under protection). It’s nice to know that there is another constant in this episode – that a person is likely to die in prison at the hands of another prisoner. Of course, in this episode, you just had to know that Balogh would find himself dead, only because they would need him later. Now maybe in New York prisoners kill each other all the time, then again, maybe the writers need to come up with a new plot device in order to create an interesting story.

(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:
Patrick Binder comes to the apartment of his girlfriend Larissa Welsh to find her tied to a chair and unconscious, wearing underwear with the name “Brandy”. He is then beaten by a naked fat man wearing a mask. Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) later arrive at the hospital to question the victims. Larissa is still unconscious from an overdose of rohipnol. She has many razor cuts on her, as her attacker shaved her from the neck on down. They question Patrick who describes her attacker. He says Larissa hated the name Brandy.
Back at SVU, Benson and Stabler, along with Munch (Richard Belzer) and Fin (Ice-T) discuss the case. They have no DNA but find the rapes match the MO of two others in Jersey and Connecticut, both little girls.

Fin questions one of the young victims and said her attacker showed her photos of Brandy, and he also said Brandy had a birthmark. Stabler speaks with the other young victim, Paula and she asks if he is testing her, that her attacker said people would test her into telling. Stabler says he can protect her. She asks what about the letter – and shows him a letter that she found under her pillow. She said “they” put it there and they call themselves “Coventry.” It is a photo of a heart logo with a messages that says they are watching her.

Back at SVU, Dr. Huang (BD Wong) says that these are underground pedophile symbols. Munch says they only use the word Coventry when then want to scare their victims. They watch a film of a young girl and Stabler notices Larissa has the same birthmark. CSU guy managed to get a print off the photo that was sent to Paula and it matches to Eldon Balogh (Devin Ratray). The police and detectives later descend on Balogh’s apartment and find a video of him with Larissa before Patrick had arrived. They also find many more videos. He also left his email account open so they open the files and see photos of Larissa at the hospital. Fin calls Benson and she races to Larissa’s room and finds that she has been taken for testing – and it was Balogh. She orders them to lock down the hospital and they all search for Larissa. Stabler find a locked door and security opens it. They find Larissa there, unconscious, and Balogh appears to have just attacked her. Stabler tackles him and beats him, and Fin pulls him off.
Later, Benson speaks with an outraged Larissa who is leaving the hospital. Benson says they caught him. Larissa finds that he took video. She admits this happened when she was a child – she was Brandy. She says people stare at her because they recognize her. She says perverts have that look in their eyes and they will never leave her alone. She said the man who attacker her was a fan, he broke in and shoved pills down her throat. He told her this is the happiest day of his life.

Back at SVU, Balogh admits to Stabler that it was the happiest day of his life, and he had been looking for her for years. He describes what he did in detail. He also describes what he did to the other young girls. He said it wasn’t rape, it was natural. He touches Stabler and Stabler is clearly creeped out by this. He said he is jealous of the old man and how lucky he was, and he didn’t mean to murder him. He said it was Underwood, he met him on the Internet and knew Brandy as a child and he just wanted him to tell him Brandy’s real name.

At the home of Orville Underwood, Benson and Stabler find him laying on the floor next to his bed. They call for help. He tells them it has always been this way ever since they accused him of raping that girl. He only gave Balogh Larissa’s real name because he said he would kill him. They realize that Underwood turned Larissa into Brandy.

At Brandy’s , Larissa tells Benson about her initial abduction and attack. Meanwhile. back at SVU, Fin tells the team that Larissa’s foster parents, Edward and Roberta Parker, had 7 other foster kids and they never reported Larissa missing. Larissa tells Benson about Daniel, another boy who was taken. She does not know what happened to him. Fin tells Stabler that later Larissa identified Underwood by his distinctive belt buckle and he was arrested and charged, but lack of physical evidence allowed him to be acquitted. Larissa tells Benson there were other girls before her but they were targeted for termination by Coventry. Fin tells Stabler that Underwood later became a lawyer fighting for the unjustly accused. Munch tells them that the lab found Orville’s DNA on the pillowcase found at Balogh’s house.
Fin and Stabler confront Underwood (David Patrick Kelly) about these facts and he says he was at Balogh’s place and “had the urge” so he decided to “peel the banana” (Stabler’s words). He reminds the detectives they need probable cause to hold him too much longer. ADA Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) gets the detectives out of the room and tells them to release Underwood. He says they do not have enough. She also casually tells them Eldon Balogh was beaten to death last night in prison for bragging about raping Brandy and the other girls.
As Stabler walks Underwood out, the two trade words and Stabler tells him he hopes he dies a slow and painful death and to have a nice day. As Underwood moves toward a taxi, Larissa steps out of it. Benson and Stabler see this and pull Underwood off, and Larissa throws up on Stabler.

At SVU, Stabler, Benson and Larissa talk. They tell her Balogh was murdered in jail, and that they are working to get Underwood and ask for her help. They ask her about finding Daniel and count him as a new accuser. All she can remember is Daniel’s smile the day she got away.

Watching from the observation area. Dr. Huang says Larissa has build walls between the past and present. He says the videos were not available to prosecutors until 1996 and that viewing the images may trigger more memories.

Later, she watches one of the videos and Daniel is in one of them. She said it is like a dream, she was drugged. He just remembers the jars of peanut butter which is what Underwood fed them, when they were empty Daniel would bury them in the backyard and put notes to his parents in them. He called them wishing jars and if they prayed they might be found. She wore the leather wristband that he was wearing the day she got away and buried in a jar in the backyard of her foster home. She made a wish that Daniel might find it.

Later, forensics people, with Munch and Fin are at Larissa’s foster parent’s home digging up the yard. The jar is located. Back at the lab, they got 5 partial DNA matches from the DNA on the wristband. One belonged to a missing boy, Daniel Brooks, from 16 years ago. The same DNA popped more recently for crimes by Daniel Brooks who now owns an abandoned factory in lower Manhattan,
The detectives go to this warehouse and see a Coventry logo on the wall. Elsewhere in the building, Daniel (Brian Justin Crum) is watching them on surveillance and tells kids there with him that they have to go. He races out with a boy, Michael, but leaves a girl there. Stabler chases him and Daniel dangles Michael over a railing and tells Stabler to back off. Stabler tries to talk him down and Daniel pulls Michael off the railing.

At SVU in interrogation, Daniel speaks with Benson and Stabler. He denies knowing Underwood. They show him a photo and he said the kid in the picture is not him anymore. He says he was a victim but he is not any more.

Later, the detectives speak with Huang, who says Daniel’s abuse at his age was tantamount to brainwashing. He thinks turning from victim to victimizer was his way of taking control of his screwed up life. Fin tells bring in a box of items found at Underwood’s behind a panel, it’s many book about writing how tos for the peds. Fin says this garbage should be banned. I also seems that Balogh used one of the guides to attack Larissa and they can use it to get Underwood.

At a pre-trial hearing, Hardwicke uses the book, as how-to manuals. to establish a conspiracy. Judge Moredock (John Cullum) asks if Balogh can confirm this and Hardwicke says that Balogh is now dead. But Underwood argues that her case fails to meet the criteria of a conspiracy. Moredock asks for 15 minutes to review the facts. Later, he returns and says that despite his contempt for the defendant, he grants a request for dismissal. He tells Hardwicke to spend her energy building a prima facie case for her charges as she can’t make the connection needed between the defendant and the co- conspirator who now cannot speak for himself. Larissa tells Hardwicke they have to get Daniel to testify , and she asks to talk to Daniel.

At Rikers Island, Hardwicke and Larissa visit with Daniel. He seems angry, saying that she never came back for him and she didn’t try hard enough. She tells them what he is doing with the kids and he seems to think this is a way to share his love. She tries to explain how Underwood spoiled them and they have to put him away and that he deserves to be punished. He says they are broken and nothing van fix them, it’s been 15 years and asks if she is fixed yet. He whispers something into her ear and leaves.
Back at SVU, Stabler says it is over and they should lick their wounds and move on. Stabler gets a phone call telling him that a girl named Brandy barged into Underwood home with a gun and then the line went dead. They arrive at Underwood’s to find police on the scene. As they stand outside a door, they hear talking, then gunshots. They enter to see Larissa standing at the foot of Underwood’s bed, holding a gun. Underwood has been shot once in the head and once in the chest. She drops the gun. They hear the sound of a young girl crying and they find her in the bathtub. Larissa said that at Rikers, Daniel said Underwood was still doing it.

Later, as Larissa walks out with the young girl who is being taken to an ambulance, Stabler asks Hardwicke what she wants to do. Hardwicke says Larissa used deadly force to stop Underwood from raping the girl, which is defense of a third person – Larissa walks. Stabler says it works for him. Larissa asks them if they are going to arrest her and Benson says it is over. Larissa says, maybe, and we fade to black.

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Anonymous said...

Good recap, as always. With both this ep, and the previous one, "Pop" I was a little perturbed that both assailants were let off scott free for their crimes.There is always an element of "The perp deserves whatever he gets" in SVU.You're left in no doubt how much this Unit despises the perps for their crimes.In both of these I was left with the impression that killing the perp was perfectly justified, esp. in the "Pop" episode with that very ambiguous ending.Sometimes SVU is very judgmental and heavy-handed, which we expect.These are heinous crmes after all.Still...

nygma619 said...

Did anybody else catch the irony of Moredock judging this kind of case, considering that he was the defense attorney for something like this in his 1st appearance?

Anyways I thought this episode was a mess the more I thought about it.

And I just knew that Underwood was going to end up dead the minute he walked, though I didn't see him being up to his old ways.
Also I found it hard to believe that Larissa could easily walk just like that, for a couple reasons:
1.) She shot Underwood on HIS property (at least I think it was).
2.) She took matters in to her own hands the minute Daniel told her about Underwood still having his way with children; instead of telling the police.

If they want to play it off as them knowing she would be guilty but not wanting to kick her while she's down (one I wouldn't instantly accept, but can swallow), than at least do something to hint to the audience the detectives and ada KNOW shes guilty but don't want to put her through anymore.

Jessica said...

Is there ANY way to find out who the actor was who played the adult version of Daniel? I have been driving myself crazy trying to figure this out since the episode last night!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, has there been an episode of SVU in the last few years or so when:

A. The obviously guilty and incredibly smug bad guy walks, and the cops say something to the victim like, "We'll get him somehow"


B. The victim DOESN'T end up assaulting or killing the bad guy in a way that's obviously not self-defense.

It was a great episode, but I knew from the moment the first bad guy (Balog) was introduced that the victim would either kill him or the original attacker.

John K. said...

You raise an interesting and valid point with your "Hardwicke as roadblock of the week" line. I think part of this stems from SVU's almost hyper caution with the law, vs. the rest of the franchise. Compare Jack McCoy to early Alex Cabot. Both worked within the law (most of the time), but if something was not airtight, but still otherwise viable evidence, McCoy still played through and took his chances.* Whereas, Cabot often would not, at least initially in a given episode. (There are exceptions, and someone will refresh my memory, I'm sure. Not to mention, I'm no legal expert.) It is all about readiness and motivation. Therefore, Hardwicke is acting accordingly, and not all that different from Cabot or Novak.

The other part is what Stabler said to Greylek in her first episode, per his "we don't care for the D.A. looking over our shoulder" line. Same goes with Cabot and Novak's introduction: there has always been an early detachment with SVU detectives and their A.D.A.s. It would be fine, except a core "Law & Order" theme is supposed to be cops and prosecutors working together. I don't know why SVU can't adhere as strongly with the Mothership or CI on this matter, but it's an issue.

*I'm not counting Cutter's legal manipulations, as they are in a different category. Of course, anyone is free to make a proper counterargument. If nothing else, Cutter's methods might be the ultimate anti-thesis to someone like Cabot's.

nygma619 said...

to John K., I think the problem stems more from us the audience not knowing Hardiwicke on a personal level. Right now she seems like Kim Greylek only with a more competent actress playing her.

If I have a big problem with the show right now, it's not the so called personal drama almost everyone brings up. It's that Jill Hardwicke hasn't really been given a fair shake as a character on this show. She just seems cold, calculating, and distant most of the time. Plus she rarely (if at all) comes across as personally motivated in cases. I had similar problems with Cutter in season 19 of the mothership, but season 20 ridded those problems for me.

Also I have to disagree with Cabot usually not taking chances, we saw her take an early chance in closure, part 2; that resulted in a mistrial. We also saw her get bothered by the cases in her work; whether it was in Guilt, feeling bad for prosecuting Sarah Brown in Mercy, or feeling she wasn't the right person to prosecute Cheryl in Fallacy.
We saw the same thing with Novak only to a larger extent.
These are the kinds of things that I wish we'd see from Sagemiller's character.
Wikipedia has mentioned an episode dealing with her past and having a connection to Benson. But it's wikipedia, so I'm not holding my breath.
Sure we saw her asking the detectives how they deal with it in the office, but it wasn't anything deep. Right now it just seems that Melissa Sagemiller's character has been limited to exposition, and I think she deserves better.

John K. said...

Nygma, you do raise a good point in that we don't know Hardwicke's motivation, like why she became a prosecutor. And, I, too, noticed the Greylek connection.

Nice to know someone else questioned Cutter's lack of motivation in Season 19, as well. (Agreed about Season 20, as it was his best season.)

And I'll go further with Cabot, as we don't know much about her, either. I didn't say taking changes never happened to Cabot, as you cited with "Guilt," but I think it's a vibe I get from her, occasionally. And it may not be her, personally, but on her vs. the series' super-high moral standard. (The Mothership and CI have them, as well, but SVU goes further, I think.)

Nevertheless, I'll concede about "Closure, Pt. 2," as I had forgotten Cabot's actions. Either way, it is wasted opportunity, as I'm starting to believe Gillian or Jillian is.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the shows are getting a bit predictable.

Am I the only one still annoyed the refer to McCoy as "The DA" and never by name?

I really hope that somehow they can mention the guy when they do the show about the DA getting murdered.

Anonymous said...

It was difficult for me to watch 2 episodes in a row of kids being abused. I realize that this is what SVU deals with, but hearing the blow-by-blow of the flight between Nikky and Ethan was just too much. And then to follow that with another episode with horrible victimization of children...I'm sorry, it becomes too much too handle.


Anonymous said...

@Jessica: I believe he is Brian Justin Crum (

daniel said...

This episode was not that good. I find funny that when the detectives screw even in a small way, they get hell from it, but when the DA's screw up it's like nothing happened. Stabler and Benson should of questioned Hardwicke as to why she did not try to find out what was whispered in the interview room. However, i actually do think that Hardwicke could be turned into a great character, because the actress playing her is good. Plus in the last 2 seasons they've had worse ADA's.

MUNCHMAN said...

New CSU guy,what´s his name?

All Things Law and Order said...

New CSU guy is James Chen, and Daniel was, in fact. played by Brian Justin Crum.

Anonymous said...

The idea that Larisa would get off without being charged with homicide was nonsense. There was nothing in the episode that indicated Larissa knew the little girl was in the bathtub. So she couldn't have shot Underwood to protect her. Because the girl was in another room, any claim of immediate danger will not work. And Underwood was on his back in his bed when Larissa shot him twice. He could not have been threatening anyone in that position.
Once again the writers didn't do their research or think out the story line.

Anonymous said...

As someone who really liked Hardwicke's character I'm extremely disappointed with what they've done with her in Possessed, especially after Pop. Did her non-evil twin replace her in this episode? What happened to the witch who tried to prosecute an abused boy for 25 to life? She's now letting Larissa off without any consequences what so ever?

I want the old Hardwicke back! Not a Cabot or Novak clone!

Anonymous said...

I think that Cabot, Novak, Greyleck, and Hardwicke all look too alike and have too similar personalities. Cabot and Novak got their own character arcs that developed them into distinct, interesting characters but the writers didn't do that with Greyleck (it was easier to blame the actress, I guess) and I hope they'll turn things around with Hardwicke. It's harder now than in past seasons to develop new characters, especially since the show has moved onto a tighter focus on the Stabler and Benson characters.

nygma619 said...

anonymous @ 6:03 Daniel had told her about kids like the girl. And we don't know if she didn't know, about her being in there. For all we know Larisa might of been threatening him the whole time.

Like I said, if there was something hinting that E & O and Hardwicke wanted to sweep it under the rug, fine (even if it's a questionable action); but there was nothing indicating that.

Anonymous said...

Actually all Daniel said was that Underwood hadn't stopped what he was doing. Underwood called 911 saying a girl with a gun broke into his house. That tells me she went there to shot/kill him without regard to the girl in the bathroom. And it is much more likely that Underwood hid the girl in the bathtub to keep her from the police as well as Larissa.

It is very obvious that neither the police nor the ADA wanted to go after Larissa for murder. Which is a big problem with SVU. They have forgotten Cragen's rule from the Payback: You don't get to pick the vic. As much of a scumbag as Underwood was, it is not alright to let his murderer walk.

Anonymous said...

Who was the little girl that played Brandy in the video. I have seen her before.

Keir said...

Another predictable ending where the only resolution to a plot which has stalled is by having the perpetrator slain by a victim who had never before shown any proclivity for violence (let alone access to a firearm). It turns out OK because a child happens to have been abducted and held captive at that very time by said perpetrator who happens to be ancient in years and not having been involved in such actions for some time. Another anticlimax to an otherwise intriguing story sensitively portrayed.

Tierney Houston said...

I was just watching this episode again and noticed what seemed to be a mirror image, like from an old movie, of a different girl with dark curly hair behind Olivia when she's carrying out the girl found in the bathtub. Anyone know what that's about? It was extremely creepy.

Law & Order said...

I am just wondering, does anyone know who portrayed YOUNG Daniel Brooks in this episode?

Chris Zimmer said...

@Law & Order - I can't find any name in the official credits for Young Danile Brooks!