Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Law & Order SVU “Spectacle” Recap & Review
The episode was full of plot contrivances, which detracted from what could have been an interesting story. Stabler gets a text message from the person he believes is the kidnapper – Greg Engels - and without telling his colleagues, Stabler goes off to meet him alone. Just because a suspect asks a detective to come alone doesn't mean the detective can't tell anyone about it. Why didn't Stabler work with his colleagues to bring in Engels? I suppose after all these years, the writers would like us to think that Stabler still doesn’t use his brain, or doesn't trust his colleagues to help, or his ego is so big he thinks he can go it alone. (I doubt that if Benson was there that Stabler would have gone alone.) And, if Stabler felt that the squad room was being monitored via their own web cams, shouldn’t he have warned them that Engels may have hacked in and can see their activities? Luckily for Stabler, when he arrived at Engels' location, he wasn’t walking into any kind of ambush. Instead, he finds himself face to face with Engels who demands that Stabler help him find his brother who was kidnapped years earlier, and only then will he release the kidnap victim. I would have found this episode more interesting had the whole fake kidnapping scenario been omitted and the story center around the missing boy. Of course, that would not give them the excuse to repeatedly show a scantily clad woman tied to a bed, screaming.
Meanwhile, Fin and Cragen get worried that Stabler has suddenly left the building, he is not answering his phone, his car is gone and his wife hadn’t spoken to him since the day before. When Fin realizes that Stabler was staring at his cell phone with a funny look on his face, they decide to get his text logs. Cragen gets Stabler’s text logs, Morales analyzes them, Stabler is located, and the police arrive at Stabler's location. The apparent speed that these events took place was so fast it was almost laughable.
The reason for the kidnapping was to get the attention of SVU and force them to work the case of the boy abducted years earlier. Engels tells Stabler that Special Victims has one of the NYPD’s highest clearance rates, and Stabler asks the obvious questions: why didn’t Engels just pick up the phone and call them and what was the “crap" with all the monkeys? Good questions - I asked those same questions myself. It makes no sense that someone who spent so much time and effort trying to get people to help him find his missing brother would not have simply picked up the phone and called the one of the best detective teams to ask for their help. How could creating this elaborate kidnapping scenario be easier and more effective for him than just trying to make just one more phone call to the SVU detectives? (I suppose if criminals actually did things that made sense we wouldn't have any crime shows.) And the monkeys? Well, just like the film “12 Monkeys” - which coincidentally Chris Meloni was a member of that cast – the monkeys are really a red herring. The connection in this episode was in a photo of the missing boy, wearing a t-shirt with an image of a monkey, and Engels used the monkey images to pique the interest, and frustrate, the detectives.
Of course, the SVU team succeeds where all others have failed, and the missing boy is quickly found and the hoaxsters arrested. I was just relieved that the episode was over - this wasn't one of SVU's best for this season.
Here is the recap:
A group of Westmore University students watch via a campus intranet feed while a woman is being raped. Later, after police are called, Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) are called to investigate, and watch the video, noting the tattoo on the attacker’s arm. With help from campus security, they identify the source of the video as a vacant building on campus undergoing renovations. When they locate the room where the rape occurred, they see an image of a monkey on the wall with the words “see no evil” written below.
Later, with CSU Sung (James Chen) on the scene, the detectives are told there are no prints, no hairm no fibers. The room appears to have been bleached. They think the attack happened there but was pre=recorded and played back from somewhere else. Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) tells Benson that cops in Cleveland just picked up Nigel Clemmons and she’d better go pack and she is on the next plane out.
Fin (Ice-T) shows Stabler that the attacker paraded the victim right past the security camera. They wonder if she is still on campus and Cragen starts things in motion for the search. Cragen, Fin and Stabler talk to students about what they saw. Stabler hears from one student that a few guys on campus have the same tattoo as the attacker.
Back at SVU, CSU Tech Morales (Joel De la Fuente) says that the hacker broke into the intranet from the outside but he cannot trace from where. The video was apparently viewed only at the university and Dr. Huang (BD Wong) says the rapist did it as a spectacle to get attention, maybe to impress his friends or to create terror. Huang thinks the tattoo was trying to mean “try or die” but appears to be “pie or die”. Fin says the tattoo is not in the gang database. He did find one match with that same tattoo – Carl Cooper – a junior at Westmore who had been expelled last year and was collared the next day for sexual abuse and lives near the university.
Later, when Stabler and Fin approach Cooper as he is leaving his home, Cooper flees and they chase after him. Stabler catches up and slams Cooper against a car. While Fin heads to check Cooper’s apartment, Stabler finds drugs in Cooper’s pocket. Cooper says it is for Adderall and he has a prescription.
At SVU in interrogation, Stabler looks at the empty prescription bottle. Cooper says the drugs are legit and the previous charges against him were really from a misunderstanding. Cooper says he doesn’t know the missing woman and denies doing anything. The tattoo was part of a fraternity initiation and it means try or die and lots of guys have the same ink. He claims he has not been near the school since they kicked him out.
Later, Fin tells Stabler and Cragen that he tossed Cooper’s apartment and building and there is no sign of the girl. Cragen tells ADA Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) that they need a search warrant for the Phi Delta frat house but Hardwicke says they do not have enough – she needs a name. Stabler complains about this and Hardwicke says she does not make the laws. They bring up the Adderall and that it looked packaged for sale and she will see what she can do. Cragen tells Stabler and Fin to check with Cooper’s Phi Delta brothers.
At Westmore University Phi Delta frat house, Stabler and Fin find that Cooper was booted from the frat house for his behavior with women. They question a guy who says the woman came uninvited to a party, and her name is Lizzie Harmon and she goes to Julliard.
Stabler and Fin head to her apartment which shows no sign of forced entry but the inside is in disarray. They see 2 monkeys on the wall with “see no evil” and “hear no evil” also on the wall.
Later, with CSU on the scene, Stabler tells Cragen that neighbors thought they heard a scuffle in her apartment two nights ago and no one has seen her since. The media is also there. CSU Sung says they did find hair, fibers and prints but no blood. Fin says no one saw Lizzie being dragged out. Stabler sees a security camera.
Back at SVU, they review the photo of the masked perp from the surveillance camera. He was seen going in but never going out. They think he took her out through the service stairs as there is no camera back there. Carl Cooper has an alibi which checked out. They have to check out every frat person with that ink. Fin tells them patrol brought in Lizzie’s mother.
Cragen and Stabler speak with Mrs. Harmon who says she does not think Lizzie has a boyfriend, she practices piano too much. But she recalls that Lizzie said she met a boy a week ago but was not sure that she liked him and he kept calling her.
Fin dumped her cell and found dozens of calls to the same five numbers – all disposable cells. The phones were shipped to a check cashing place and they have surveillance photos of the people who bought the phones. Stabler recognizes one of the photos as a student from Westmore that he had questioned – Gregory Engels (Spencer Treat Clark). Morales calls them over – the attacker is back on line with Lizzie and she shows them the feed. As Lizzie screams for help, Morales tries to trace the source. Cragen says that Engels is a junior in computer science and has not been seen since early this morning. Morales said Engels did not put up a firewall this time and Morales has a location in Hell’s Kitchen.
Stabler and Fin head to the location and find it empty, except for a computer with the image of three monkeys with “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” displayed on it. The images changes to one of Lizzie tied on the bed and wonder how Engels is doing it.
Back at SVU, Morales says Engels used the signal of a law firm next door and he has no other information. Huang says the brownstone has meaning for Engels - its where he and his brothers grew up with foster parents. His real parents died in 2001 in a plane crash and no one knows where Greg’s brother Jason is at as he was abducted outside the brownstone two years after his parents were killed. Stabler recalls the case and it went cold. They think Greg snapped. There is a monkey on Jason's t-shirt in his photo, Huang adding this is Engels' twisted way of getting control back. Stabler gets a text message which says “I’m done playing games. If you want Lizzie back, come alone.” Cragen says Greg’s fingerprints are all over Lizzie's apartment. Stabler silently responds to the text, asking “Come where? Who is this?” the response, “ You know who. Drive north and I’ll send you directions.” He sees an image on his phone of a monkey which says “Leave now! I’m watching you.” Stabler looks around the room and sees the web cams.
Stabler heads to the location and sees a door painted with “Monkey see monkey do” and he opens it. He closes the door and head to an elevator where the Basement floor button is marked. He steps out of the elevator on the basement floor and calls out to Engels who is there and says he does not have a weapon. Stabler tells him he is under arrest and Engels shows Stabler a streaming video feed of Lizzie being held with another man present. Engels calls the other man his little monkey and if he doesn’t get a signal from Engels every two minutes, he will kill her. He asks Engels what he wants, and Engels hands him a folder of papers with a photo of his missing brother, and says he wants Stabler to find him.
Back at SVU, Morales is still trying to crack Engels’ laptop but is having trouble. Fin wonders why Engels targeted Lizzie. Cragen asks Fin where is Stabler, and Fin says Stabler left the building. Cragen tried to call him and gets voice mail.
Back with Engels, Stabler shows Engels that his cell phone is now turned off. Stabler taunts him but Engels yells at him to shut up and tells him to read the file. Stabler asks why Engels went through all that trouble to get him there and asks why. Engels says that Special Victims has one of the NYPD’s highest clearance rates, and Stable asks why he didn’t pick up the phone and call? Stabler asks him what all the crap with the monkeys is, and Engels ask him if that frustrates him, it’s what he’s been going through for years. He orders Stabler to read the file. Engels complains that the detective only worked the case for two weeks and then labeled it a cold case, and says not this time. Stabler says he wants to help him, but not like this. Engels says the cops don’t give a damn about Jason but as long as he has Lizzie he will make them care. Stabler grabs Engels by the neck but releases him. Engels says if anything happens to him she will be dead before he steps into the elevator.
Back at SVU, Cragen and Fin are still trying to find Stabler with no luck. Fin recalls the last time he saw Stabler he was staring at his cell phone with a weird look in his face. Cragen will call his provider to get them to cough up his text logs. Morales says he broke Engels' code and found a lot information where Engels was writing to law enforcement for help in finding Jason.
Stabler tells Engels that he did everything right to try to find his brother. Engels says at first people were polite and then they stopped paying attention, and says he will beer give up. Stabler asks where his foster parents were the day Jason was abducted and Engels said they were getting high off the money they were paid for taking care of them. Stabler goes through the police reports and look at all the people who were seen on the street that day and they all saw the whole thing and they did nothing. Stabler said it is the bystander effect, no one does anything because they think someone else will. Stabler reminds Engels that Lizzie is scared just like Jason. Stabler promises to help Engels but he says he promises him that she will be dead unless he finds his brother.
Back at SVU, they track Stabler’s movements from the text he received by matching the texts to his GPS. The realize he is with Engels somewhere in Queens. Morales think s he can trace the burn phone that Engels used.
Back with Engels, Stabler asks Engels to tell him everything he can about his brother. Jason used to call him Gigg because he could not say Greg. Stabler reminds him he was only 12 years old and it is not his fault, thinking he is doing this out of guilt. Stabler said he can’t imagine what that pain would make him do, and reminds him the pain Lizzie’s mother is going through. He asks Engels to tell him where Lizzie is. Stabler gives him his word he will work Jason’s case, and as Engels is getting ready to tell him, they hear a noise. Stabler says his phone is turned off but asks if Engels turned his off. They hear Cragen calling out to Stabler. Stabler yells back to him to back off, he is alright. Stabler asks Engels where is Lizzie, and he tells him to go to hell and smashed the iPad. The police burst in with Cragen and Engels tells Stabler she is dead, he killed her.
As they walk Engels out, he is silent when Stabler asks where is Lizzie’s body. Cragen says Lizzie is not in the building, and Morales said they signal died when Engels smashed the iPad. Stabler said he was getting into Engels’ head and wonders if he is that screwed up he would take Lizzie’s life. Stabler goes back to the squad car and gets in the back seat with Engels. He asks Engels why he is frowning, and says he thinks all Engels wanted was revenge. Engels said he just wanted someone to pay attention and to care about Jason. Engels begins to cry and asks Stabler what he knows about what he’s been through and he does not care about anything anymore. Stabler asks why he is crying, and Engels says that he never wanted to kill her, and Stabler guesses that she is still alive. Engels admits she is, and tells Stabler to find out what happened to his brother,
Back at SVU, Fin slams down the file and says the only thing colder than this case is Stabler making them start from scratch. Cragen asks Huang to check out all the sex offenders living in that neighborhood in 2003 and the rest of them will re-interview all the witnesses.
At SVU, they bring in all the original witnesses who recount what they see. Everyone’s story is different, especially regarding the car seen the day of the kidnapping. One woman says other than the boy getting grabbed it was a normal day. All the stories still hold up.
Benson returns and begins to help work the case. It seems that everyone saw different cars but all said it was a man who grabbed Jason. One witness saw a Mrs. Penner out there that morning but there was no Mrs. Penner on any of the reports. Stabler asks Engels about Mrs. Penner and he said he used to babysit her son Danny for her. He said she was not there they day Jason was kidnapped because she went back to Staten Island after Danny died, to live with her parents. Daniel died at 3 from leukemia. She said all she wanted was her boy back.
Later, they find Mariam Penner spent 6 weeks in the psych ward after her son died. She owned a green station wagon which is one of the cars a witness saw. They wonder if Jason was a replacement for her son. Fin also says Miriam’s parents live in Boca Raton. Benson called her number and said the woman who answered said she was the babysitter but Benson thinks it was Mariam. They wonder if she thinks they are on to them. Cragen says he will have patrol sit on her house in case she tries to bolt.
At the home of Mariam Penner, as Benson and Stabler arrive, a car tries to leave and they stop it. Stabler orders Mariam out of the car. They asks where is Jason, and they find him in the back of the car, apparently sedated. Mariam begs them not to take Jason as he is who whole life. As Benson arrests her for kidnapping, Mariam screams at them not to take her baby,
Back at SVU, Stabler tells Engels that they have Jason and now they are going to see Lizzie. Later, Stabler and police break into an apartment, guns drawn, where a man an Lizzie are there, and she looks fine. Stabler asks Engels what is going on and he is irate. Engels says Lizzie was not raped, Doug never kidnapped her, and no harm was done. Fin says to tell that to Lizzie’s mom and the dozens of cops he put through hell. Lizzie said they would not have done this had they found Greg’s brother years ago. Engels admits he is responsible for all of this but it was worth it. He just wants to see his brother before they take him in. Benson tells him to turn around, and Jason is there. Jason (Dylan Reiff) is looking at him stony faced, and then slowly walks to him and hugs him. Engels is thrilled to hug his brother. As Stabler looks on, we fade to black.
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