Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Law & Order LA “Hayden Tract” Recap & Review

All photos from NBCUniversal

Law & Order LA “Hayden Tract” was an incredibly disjointed episode that tried to cram two stories together that deserved a full hour of their own. TJ’s hunting down of Rex’s killer seemed shoehorned into an otherwise interesting story about a schizophrenic man who killed many people because of an imaginary daughter. I also found it hard to believe that the killing of a State Senator and 6 other people would have been handed off to two detectives on a Robbery Homicide team. I would have expected many more people working the case, such as the Feds or even Homeland Security. But with only the LA Robbery Homicide Division on the case, the whole investigation was flat and bordering on boring.

While I don’t have any issue with a storyline involving TJ (Corey Stoll) wanting to hunt down Rex Winter’s killer, I felt that it detracted from the story about the mass shooting. If I were telling TJ's story, I would have picked up an episode with TJ getting his smackdown in the parking garage, and have that incident trigger finding Vargas and getting him in custody and then to stand trial. Maybe that will be coming down the road – but since Law & Order LA is now on a very short road, I’m not sure if we will get closure on that issue. Maybe at the time this episode was filmed the producers felt they were going to have time to build a continuing story about finding Rex’s killer.

As far as the legal side of the show, had it not been for Alana De La Garza, I would have hated it. Terrence Howard completely failed in this episode. I had hopes in the first two episodes after the reboot that Terrence would settle in with his role. This episode only made me realize that I was dreaming. He is just not right for this role and in my opinion, may be one of the biggest reasons why Law & Order LA is not resonating with fans of the Law & Order brand or with new viewers. He’s too stiff and too unnatural in how he delivers his lines; I compare him to one of those giant standup cardboard cut-outs. I am not saying Terrence is a poor actor; I don’t think that this is the right role for him. Terrence Howard doesn’t have chemistry with ANYONE on the show. The whole argument between Dekker and Rubirosa about the proper legal course of action seemed forced, which didn’t help matters any.

Shawn Hatosy did a fine job as the crazy killer, it’s just a shame that TJ’s side trip and back story detracted from Hatosy’s time on screen. I also enjoyed Currie Graham's short time in this episode; nobody does a creepy/slimey attorney like he does!

Here is the recap:

At a rally with State Senator Celeste Kelman (Jennifer Riker) a gunman, screaming about his daughter, opens continuous fire on the crowd, killing 7 people, including the Senator. Detectives Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) and “TJ” Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene, along with other police and medical. They ask for all the cell phones to be gathered up, and speak to a man who had a carry permit but happened to be away from the scene at the time of the shooting. They speak with a man from the Senator’s staff who thinks it was a right and left wing kooks. He tells them someone in the crowd yelled something about his daughter. They speak with another witness who confirms the man who shot them yelled something about his daughter. The man’s son noticed the shooter was wearing skateboarder shoes.

Back at RHD, the detectives, along with Lt. Arleen Gonzales, watch the phone videos and hear the shooter yelling about his daughter. They see the man has a glock 17 and the shoes, and also see he ran into the nearby building.

They return to the building and find that an access card is required to get the elevator and staircases. A security guard said that a week ago, he saw someone from a messenger service a week ago go into a maintenance access corridor who said he got lost. They check with the messenger service and find that John Freeman was the man who was at the building that day, he hasn’t been at work for a few days and his daughter Ariel went missing last year. She disappeared on her way to school, and it broke up his marriage. They obtain a flier from when John was trying to find her.

Later, Morales tells TJ that Ariel is not reported missing on the National Registry but her name comes up on web site listings about missing children. Freeman seems all over the place in trying to find her, including at the Mormon Temple in LA. The detectives head there and find that Freeman caused a disturbance and accused another group of taking her, and the church is not affiliated with that group.

Back at RHD, they also found that Freeman was picked up at the Elizabeth Smart trial but was later released. But, Freeman used the name Lawrence Sheppard, who has no record but bought a gun in a store outside Lodi 3 years ago, a glock 26.

When they arrive at the home in Lodi, with reinforcements, a woman (Robin Weigert) with two children approaches as they are at the door and tells them that is her house. She says Larry Sheppard is her brother, he hasn’t lived there for 2 years and now lives in Stockton. They also find Larry has no daughter - he’s schizophrenic. He was diagnosed in college and never hurt anyone. He also can’t have a daughter as he had a vasectomy. Morales says they will have someone watch the house and says if she hears from him she has to let them know.

Back at RHD after a search of Larry’s Stockton apartment, TJ finds Larry was at a lunch for the Senator months ago, buying a ticket under the company name. They look at a video of the lunch and Larry asking an odd question and the Senator responds that it may not be the best time to talk about Shadow Hill but the problem may be his patch. Shadow Hills is a computer game about a man and his missing daughter, and the Senator’s previous company made the game.

They go to the company, Helix,  and find they get inquiries from players on codes, but one person called for information to get into the architecture of the game, which is proprietary information. The man later tried to hack into their mainframe.

Back at RHD, TJ is looking at surveillance photos of Cesar Vargas, and in one of the photos sees a woman with tattoos, including one of a skull.  He writes back to b.stevens and says “Caborca – need local contact.” He quickly shuts down his PC as Morales approaches. He tells Morales he found messages on a Shadow Hills web site that could be from Sheppard. They were 3 days before the shooting and all about a missing child and that it seems he is still on the hunt. Someone seems to be leaving Sheppard messages which seems to be encouraging Sheppard. Morales says two computers were used in the hacking attempt; one is untraceable, the other is in Fontana.

At the apartment of Samantha Lorber, they speak with a young girl and she says it is not her. She then says she just tells “John” to not give up. Samantha herself was abducted and she tells them about her ordeal and how she escaped and no one came to rescue her. They tell her Ariel does not exist and "John" does not have a daughter. They tell her he is mentally ill, and show her photos of all the people he shot. She does not know where he is at, but said he wrote her a note saying soon Ariel would be free. They ask her to get a message to him and tell him that she has good news.

Later, when Sheppard (Shawn Hatosy) goes to meet Samantha, he’s met by an undercover cop but he disables her and runs. The detectives and police chase him and corner him on a rooftop. They order him to put down his gun but he puts it up to his neck, but Morales reminds him about Ariel. He puts it down and is then cuffed. He is irate and asks them how much they are paying them.

Larry Sheppard is at arraignment and his attorney pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. But another attorney, Max Hern (Currie Graham) enters and announces he is now representing Larry. Larry pleads not guilty. ADA Joe Dekker (Terrence Howard) says they will be going for the death penalty. The judge orders a 1368 exam to see if he is competent and holds him without bail, his sister says she is here for him.

After Larry is taken off, Dekker and ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) get on Max about why he is going the not guilty route. Max says Larry did not shoot those people and there is more than one bloody hand on that gun.

Meanwhile. TJ heads into Mexico – with a gun.

Back in Dekker’s office, he and Rubirosa watch Max point a finger at Celeste Kelman for defying both extremes of the political spectrum and that Larry is just a patsy served up my lazy cops and cynical prosecutors. Dekker doesn’t speak highly of Max Hern. Rubirosa says Max is exploiting a mentally ill man and asking for the death penalty plays into his hands. Dekker says they need to use any means to keep Sheppard off the streets.

TJ is in a bar, giving a man a photo of Cesar and the woman, and the man tells him to go back to his hotel.

At the California Institution for Men, a doctor tells Rubirosa that Larry is deemed competent to stand trial. It wasn’t within his scope to determine if Larry is insane. Rubirosa asks what would happen if Larry went to State Prison, and he shows her the small cages where the mentally ill inmates are held during therapy sessions. If Larry was found not guilty by reason of insanity, Larry would go to Patton State Hospital where he would get treatment appropriate to his condition,

Back in Mexico, TJ meets with the tattooed woman and he speaks with her about Cesar. He tells her that Cesar killed his partner in front of his wife and daughter. She gives him a number and says when he is ready,  to call. When she leaves he points his gun at the door, but take his eyes off the door to see Morales calling him.

Back in court, Morales is on the stand taking about how they arrested Sheppard. Under cross examination, Hern brings up what he thinks were other death threats that he says the detectives did not investigate. Dekker says they have shown cause to proceed to trial, and Hern says to bring it on. He adds that Larry is sure he does not want to change his plea. Rubirosa tells Dekker this is appalling and says Hern is not acting in Sheppard’s best interests. Dekker says Sheppard was found competent to assist in his own defense and it is not up to them to interfere.

Afterwards, Rubirosa speaks with Larry’s sister who is also upset with Hern but says Larry is afraid if he says he is insane they will stop looking for the girl. Rubirosa says they would be willing to take a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and that Larry would get proper treatment.

Back in the office, Dekker says now Sheppard wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. He adds that Hern told him about her discussion with Larry’s sister. Dekker is irate about what Rubirosa did and tells her not to use this office to push her social issues. She reminds him that the fair administration of justice is a social issue. He tells her he had dinner with Mike Cutter in New York and that he told her she tried to pull something like this before. He says that they have higher crime rates in LA and have no room for a loose cannon.

Later, TJ returns and as he gets out of his car, someone hold a gun to his head. They move to beat him up but TJ fight back and shoots one of them. As the other one fights with TJ, TJ eventually wins the battle and cuffs the man to a car.

Later, with police and Morales and Gonzales on the scene, Morales thinks the men had plans to take TJ away in the trunk of their car. Gonzales asks him if this is about Vargas but he minimizes it. Morales also said he knows TJ was in Mexico and asks what is going on. They find that one of the men had Casey’s address on it.

At Casey Winters' (Teri Polo) home, TJ tells her she has to pack up and take the kids to her mother’s, as Vargas sent two guys after him and they had her address. He adds he had to start something and now has to finish it.

Meanwhile, Sheppard makes a new plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and confirms to Dekker he committed the crime. Dekker brings up that he also has to admit that he is deluded that he has a daughter. Dekker tries to press Sheppard’s buttons but Sheppard keeps silent and the judge allows the change in plea. The judge orders a psych evaluation.

Afterwards, Rubirosa and Dekker argue about Sheppard. Dekker is not convinced mental illness made him pull the trigger, and now the burden of proof is on them. He is putting Rubirosa in charge of the team of experts and if they can convince a loose cannon like her that Sheppard wasn’t motivated by his insanity they should have no problem with the jury.

Later, Rubirosa and the psych doctor watch a recording of Sheppard talk about Ariel and he seems to talk about a miscarriage. The doctor says Sheppard is shoring up his delusions with facts, but the methods Sheppard talked about are 10 years old. Sheppard was in college then, and that is when he was first diagnosed.

At Meadow Hill Park, they speak with Sondra Miller who was Larry’s girlfriend in college. The picture he used of Ariel is really of Sondra and that while she was pregnant she noticed changes in his behavior. She had an abortion after Larry got sicker. Larry was furious and sent her letters warning anyone who got between him and his child. Dekker asks her for the letters.

In the prison meeting area, Dekker and Rubirosa meet with Sheppard and Hern. They show him a sonogram they got from Sondra Miller and that Sondra had an abortion. They also bring up the violent letters that Larry wrote, and that Larry felt the Senator got in his way of finding Ariel. Larry becomes irate and then uncontrollable. Dekker tells Hern that this is what the jury will see and they will reject his insanity plea and with victim impact statements, Larry will get the death penalty. Hern counters with life without parole and asks that the death penalty come off the table. Dekker says he will get back to him.

Dekker speaks with the victims and families. After doing so, Dekker makes his decision. We then see Larry in court, allocating to his crime. Dekker asks, in lieu of having victims and their family testify later for a possible release, he asks Coroner Miwako Nishizawa (Tamlyn Tomita) to read the autopsies of the seven victims, and she does so.

Back at RHD, Morales tells Gonzales that TJ had some sick days coming, and then walks off to make a call. But he gets no answer. Elsewhere, a phone sitting on a bed rings, and we fade to black.

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candycane said...

The episode was great but I agree with you on the fact they crammed 2 stories into 1. It grieves me that the show will be cancelled. Maybe the cast can make guest appearances on SVU as their LOLA characters. My husband and I agree with you about Terrence Howard too. The optimist in me says maybe they will revive it in a year. Who knows..anything is possible. For now it makes me sad to see a great show not getting the credit it deserves.

redtrek524 said...

Did anyone else notice Vic Mackey in the surveillance photo with Vargas?

ReviveLawandOrderLA said...

I think I would have liked this, if it had aired as the actual season finale... a Skeet Ulrich pre-revamp will be the finale (stupid NBC, all the way around).

IMO Terrence Howard is 'wishy, washy'; he's outstanding in one episode, and then he's so "melodramatic" in the next. "Silver Lake", "E. Pasadena", "Benedict Canyon" he was alright for real, "Reseda" he was okay., "Runyon Canyon" too melodramatic, "Hayden Tract", good at times, poor at others. All it is really is Terrence is trying TOO hard, in SL, BC, E.Pasadena he was more relaxed and the lines flowed naturally; and he didn't seem to want to break down. And in SVU Reparations I thought Howard was awesome, still think he was better on SVU than LOLA at times!

Fans (LOCI, LOLA, Mothership) are pretty much spitting on NBC. If you search right you'll find fans are trying to petition Dick Wolf/TNT to renew both the original series and LOLA. - Crazier things have happened in the television industry over the years, but Dick Wolf will want to have to take a pay cut and drop the commanding officer/district attorney roles down to recurring (as he has done w/ LOLA w/ the D.A. role); if Sam Waterston was to return his fans might be ticked, but hey; he'd still be there.

I really wish TNT would adapt both the NYC & LA series, they are two excellent L&O shows (LOLA after April 11th) that got cut down in their prime.

I'm hoping Alfred Molina and Corey Stoll do a crossover with LOCI, if it gets renewed an 11th season. D'Onofrio and Molina in the same episode(s), on the same side of the interrogation table... SOMEBODY HELP ME!

xfool said...

"Hayden Tract" missed the mark by a mile. ATL&O I have to agree with you, Terrence Howard sucks the life out of the second half of the episode. He's wooden. I agree with you on the chemistry issue. He does not seem to mesh well with the rest of the cast.

Molina and Stoll are great and I feel sad that with the show being canceled we won't see this team develop more. It was wrong of them to overlap TJ's hunt for Vargas into this other story, it wasn't fair to Corey and it detracted from both main storylines. I am convinced that producers still don't know what kind of show they wanted LOLA to be.

LOLA should just fade away - but I wish they would bring back the mothership.

Mad Monkey said...

I really feel bad for Garza though. She's a fantastic actress playing the best prosecutor character since Jamie Ross, and she's easily this show's strongest asset. I almost wish she'd go on to be SVU's prosecutor, except that show has been wasting its non-police characters ever since Diane Neal left and I feel like they wouldn't do enough with Garza or anyone else.

On the positive note, there was a Michael Cutter reference.

janethyland said...

Nice shoes...

Esaul said...

I did love the reference. I'm like YES! I actually loved this episode for the most part, other than the bit of Corey's part. However, that's establishing the finale, which is supposed to go more into Rex's killer. Also, I disagree about Terrance completely. I thought he was quite good in this episode. He isn't depicted as a perfect lawyer who always does the right moral thing.

Don said...

I think this episode was intended to be the season finale. Rene Balcer released a Youtube video before the show was cancelled and said that the season actually ended on a cliffhanger, which probably explains TJ mia at the end. Airing the older pre-reboot episodes after these episodes is only confusing viewers.