Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Law & Order LA “Carthay Circle” Recap & Review

Law & Order LA “Carthay Circle” was one of those episodes that only confirms for me that Alfred Molina was the better choice for DDA. Don’t get me wrong, I like him as a detective too; I think can Molina perform well  in just about any role. He made Morales into a powerful and formidable prosecutor who doesn’t let politics deter his drive for truth and justice. This episode also made me realize that it was the right decision to jettison Rex Winters. While Skeet was fine in this episode, he still came across as a little bland, especially since Corey Stoll stole every scene he was in. I think that the 2 people that I enjoyed most with the series is Molina and Stoll.

This episode had great guest stars with Charles S. Dutton and Isaiah Washington providing compelling performances and Currie Graham and John De Lancie (who will always be "Q" to me) as great window dressing. I also enjoyed the story, which touched on the issue of gay marriage and laws being pushed to prevent it, and also voter fraud and a scam to make money off it. But maybe I missed it - where was Carthay Circle? Was that where the church was located? Again, they missed the chance to give the episode a name that had real meaning to the story.

Here is the recap:

Kim Ho Lee (Elizabeth Anweis) is found dead by a neighbor, Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and “TJ” Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene. Lee lives with her boyfriend Derek Joyner who is not home. She had been stabbed. Derek is a project manager at Corrigan Strategy Group. They see a receipt which places Derek in the home earlier in the day. A phone call comes in and Rex sees it is from Lee’s father. He asks to meet with him in person.

Rex and TJ speak with Mr. & Mrs. Lee and her sister, in an attempt to find Derek. They speak separately with Lee’s sister who says her parents have a problem with Derek because he is black. The car was leased through her father’s practice and they think he took Kim’s car.

At Union Station, the car is located outside the station, and they later find Derek got a ticket and left the station. They find calls on his cell records to a branch office in San Diego to his employer.

They speak with Derek’s boss Ben Corrigan (Steven Culp) at Corrigan Strategy Group and find Derek was project manager on Prop. 128, the California Marriage Protection Act. Derek was working out of the Crenshaw field office. Derek had a rep with the ladies.

Later, while Rex and TJ talk about Prop. 128 they hear the police arrested someone using Derek’s card. At the Garden Grove Police Department, they speak with the guy who used Derek’s card who tells them he found it – and the whole wallet cash and all - in a dumpster. He denies ever seeing Derek.

Back at RHD, the detectives discuss this development with Lt. Arleen Gonzales (Rachel Ticotin). They think something is not right with this. They found evidence at the scene that indicates someone may have been in the house crawl space. They head back to the home where crime scene people find Derek’s body wrapped in black plastic.

Back at RHD, they discuss that Derek was beaten and strangled and it appears he was killed first. The fugitive routine was staged, and it appears Derek was the target. There was a taxi receipt in Derek’s pocket.

They speak with the taxi driver who said he got a call to pick up Derek at his office. While he waited his car was hit by a sprinkler and his windows were open. There was a black guy who was parked near the house and he saw him go up to the house but not go in. They think Derek left work early and maybe someone tipped him off – maybe someone at Derek’s work.

At Prop 128 headquarters, a woman said Derek wanted to work from home and everyone knew as she had to reschedule meetings. She asks the detectives to sign the petition and Rex says he will think about it. She said one of the meetings had been canceled at the last minute. The person running the meeting, Roland Davidson, who had a family emergency. Roland is co-sponsor of Prop 128 and his father is Reverend Davidson. TJ asks if father and son got along, and she indicates they yelled sometimes.

The detectives speak with Roland Davidson (Isaiah Washington) who worked closely with Derek over the last year. He was at the office that morning and they did yell but they smoothed things out. He tells them he was at a fundraising dinner for the Promise Women’s Shelter and got there around 7 in time to hear his father give the blessing and he left at 9:30. Derek told him he was having problems with monogamy and he had an eye for the ladies.

Afterwards, they see that there is a car in the parking lot that looks like it has been hit by a sprinkler. They decide to check out Roland’s alibi and head to the Promise Women’s Shelter. They find Roland was late for the dinner as he was stuck in traffic. TJ sees a nice poster and asks who designed it and she tells them Roland got someone to do it for free. TJ notices the poster signature is Kim Lee’s.

They speak again with Kim’s sister who said she met Roland through Derek. They tell her they found calls from Kim to Derek. She indicates Kim only shared religion with Roland. She always wore a cross and Rex asks where she kept it when she wasn’t wearing it. She kept it in a box on her dresser that she got from her parents.

The detectives head to the church where Roland and the Reverend (Charles S. Dutton) are watching the choir practice. Roland says he has never been to Derek’s home but they tell him that they found his fingerprints on a jewelry box there. They arrest him.

The Reverend is at the DA’s office with DA Jerry Hardin (Peter Coyote) and DDA Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) and DDA Evelyn Price (Regina Hall). The Reverend says Roland is the pillar of his church. They argue about justice and politics and the Reverend gets upset when Morales quotes Dr. King to him. When the Reverend storms off, Hardin tells Morales that was unnecessary, but Morales comments that Hardin enjoyed it. Morales thinks the Reverend is using the church to oppress but Price tells him gay marriage is a huge issue in black churches. Morales thinks it is a great way to get people to open their checkbooks. Hardin thinks the case is thin and that when the Reverend speaks, their parishioners vote.

In Superior Court, Morales thinks they have probable cause to proceed, but Roland’s attorney Mr. Miller (Rick Hoffman ) says Roland was only having an affair with Kim Lee and says the evidence is inconclusive. Judge Avery Staynor (John De Lancie) agrees with Miller. Morales decides to withdraw the charges and reserves the right to refile later and the judge agrees. Afterwards, Morales tells price there are many ways to attack the case and is perplexed as to why they offered one that gave them motive. Maybe the murder was about something else.

Back at RHD,  Hall goes over any other motives with the detectives. They wonder if it involves money and decide to go back and look at the fancy car. Later, the detectives check out the car and TJ finds a signature sheet for Prop 128 with names highlighted.

At the home listed as Trevor Watkins, there is no one living at that home with that name. They later find there are 11 phony names on the list and asks someone at the county clerks’ office to check some of the names. They find all 11 names are also on the voter rolls. Later, Rex and TJ tell Morales and Price that someone messed with the petitions and also the voter rolls. They think Corrigan has a scam going to get money for each signature. They think Derek found out. They also wonder how many other initiatives Corrigan has scammed. Morales tells them to get a warrant for Corrigan’s office and the Prop 128 office. Morales says he has to give Jerry a heads up as it will give his favorite reverend a coronary.

With warrant in hand, the detectives and the DDAs arrive at Corrigan’s office, who is holding a press conference to say he performed and audit and found that Derek was involved in fraud. He says they will get rid of the fake signatures and start over. The Reverend also says the work that will go on, and says Morales is there to help clear up the mess and to clear a path for them so they can start their important work. Morales looks a little trapped and then plays along to the crowd.

Back at the office, Price and Hall give Hardin the bad news on the scope of this fraud, and two of the laws Hardin campaigned for. Hardin is worried about a constitutional crisis but Morales is worried about the little picture – the murders. They think the fraud is why they were killed and they are still sorting it out. Morales wants to take another run at Roland Davidson.

The outline what their theory with Roland and his attorney and tells them they want Corrigan and they will deal for him. They offer 30 to life with no death penalty. Roland tells them he did not know about the phony signatures until Corrigan called him telling him that Derek was going to report them. His father staked his whole reputation on Prop 128 and the scandal would ruin him. Corrigan said it was up to Roland to stop Derek. He said he went to Derek’s and everything went sideways. He lost his temper and killed him and then Kim walked in and he knocked her out. He called Corrigan and he came over to decide what to do and Corrigan stuck a knife in her. Corrigan killed her.

Later, with Corrigan in custody with his attorney Max Hern (Currie Graham) present, Hern tells Morales and Hall that Corrigan had nothing to do with it. Morales then gets information from Hardin that Corrigan is off limits, Corrigan reached out so someone in Sacramento. The investigation of the initiatives has been taken over by the attorney general’s office. Morales thinks Hardin and the AG just gave Davidson his defense on a silver platter. When Hardin tells him he is overreacting, Morales says, “You watch.”

In Superior Court, Roland is on the stand. He talks about what happened at Derek’s house and what happened with Derek and Kim. He says he called Corrigan and he came over and killed Kim and then told him to hide Derek’s body and then make it look like Derek was on the run. Before he left, he saw Kim did not have her cross on and he found it in her room and put it on her neck. He took the train, threw away the wallet, and met his father at the charity dinner. Hern cross examines him and tries to poke holes in his story and brings up Roland wanting to take over the church and that for Roland it was about the money and power. Roland denies making a deal with Derek and it was not about money. Roland insists he is not lying. Hern brings up Roland lying about the affair and Roland apologizes for lying about that.

At the office, Price preps Reverend Davidson about his upcoming testimony. He is worried about Corrigan’s lawyer. The Reverend says his one son made a plea bargain to save his life and worries what would happen if Roland was lying. She tells him the deal would be off and Roland would face the death penalty.

Back in court, the Reverend testifies about his contract with Corrigan to pay him for valid signatures. Hern cross examines him and only asks if Roland ever told him there was a problem with signatures or to keep an eye on Corrigan and he says no. Dutton is slow to step down and then tells the judge he would like to change his answer. A month before Roland committed the crimes he noticed an error in the petition. There was an address that he knew 6 blocks from the church. Lucy Meriwether lived there her whole life but that was not the name on the petition. He told Roland and he said he would look into it.  A few days later Roland told him he straightened it out with Derek and it was just a clerical error. Hern says they cooked up a lie to cover the fraud. Morales asks for time to prepare a redirect and the judge adjourns until Monday.

Later, Morales and Price speak with Roland who says his father is lying. He insists he did not find about the fraud until later. Morales asks why his father would chose Corrigan over him and wonders if the Reverend was in on the fraud with Corrigan. His father said all summer the money was flowing in like a great faucet.

Back in court, Morales has the Reverend on the stand who says he was just trying to protect his son but his son lied. Morales brings up the fact that the Reverend asked what would happen to Roland if it was discovered that Roland lied. The Reverend said he had to do the right thing. Morales brings up the other projects from the church and some of the donations, and that a large one was made by a person who was listed as a phony name on the petition. There are others just like that – over 1,000 made to his projects from phony names totaling a million dollars – the same amount that Corrigan is accused of defrauding from the Prop 128 campaign. Morales says the Reverend knew what Corrigan was doing and then squeezed him for money and now Corrigan is squeezing him so he made up the story about Roland and Derek. The Reverend accuses Morales of being cynical, and Morales brings up all the things the Reverend has done for the cause of human dignity and brings up Prop 128. Morales thinks the Reverend is sacrificing his own son to save his own skin. The Reverend again says he misspoke and now says he is not sure when or if he spoke to his son about the mistakes on the petitions or that he said anything to him about Derek. At his age, evens become confused an apologize for wasting the jury’s time.

At a later time in court, Corrigan is found guilty of one count of murder in the first degree. As the courtroom clears, the Lee family glares at the Reverend who walks off alone. As Morales and Price leave the courtroom, we fade to black.

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janethyland said...

Wow! this one was brilliant. I have to find out who the fathr/son actors were and watch it again.

Hey CBSplaysdirty, did you watch it? It was so intense and beautifully acted by everyone.

Such a pity they didnt stick to the pre christmas set up and give it a chance to establish itself. The balance between the three sets of Law and Order writers was so much better and more enjoyable.

I wonder what the ratings are...

ReviveLawandOrderLA said...

I myself found the episode to be fair, and the story was interesting to say the least! It's the cast that aggravates me, Skeet and Regina weren't too good in this episode (although they leaned towards her character/Molina's DDA in this episode), I think it was set to air before Playa Vista in 2010.

I give the episode a 7.5/8 out of 10 really... the acting of the guests and Stoll & Molina was OUTSTANDING! Skeet and Regina, I think the directors needed to work with Skeet and Hall more hands-on like they needed to work with Terrence Howard.

Overall it was one of the good "Law & Order: Los Angeles" episodes.

janethyland said...

sadly, ratings werent brilliant. they maintained the higher numbers overall at 6.2million, but key demo went doen a bit to 1.3. I guess people have stopped watching because they know its ending.

Both LOLA and LOCI were down in ratings on NBC. Does thisspell the end of the procedural as we know it!

On a brighter note, LOLA got into the top 25 last week for its total viewers. It came 21st with 6.59 million.It hasnt done that since before christmas.

cbsplaysdirty said...

I must admit, although it was a little heavy on the LAW side, I enjoyed this episode. Not as predictable as previous episodes and nice twist with Morales dropping the charges initially to refile. The plot wasn't believable in terms of the politician stabbing the girl when she was unconscious, suffocation would have been more realistic, but I understand for television effect they have to have a pool of blood somewhere.

I liked the kidding between the two detectives, and Regina should not have been let go -- she and Morales had a good rapport. This is moot now, but I think that they just should have dropped Howard and Boone and this show had potential.

The part with the cross was a nice touch and didn't seem forced or heavy handed, so it was a nice little element to the story.

Did the writer for this show write any of the other episodes?

cbsplaysdirty said...

"At 10 p.m. ET, "Law & Order: LA" delivered a 1.3/3 in 18-49 and 6.2 million viewers overall. "Law & Order: LA" built on its lead-in by 44 percent in 18-49 and 37 percent in total viewers."

janethyland said...

Yes, the Law side is always a problem...so abstract and tedious,unless you want to be a lawyer!

I really like the Dekker character but they ruined it after christmas.

Do you think they deliberately ruined their own show?

janethyland said...

Oh I do agree about Regina and Morales.They should have rearranged her caracter instead of bringing in amothership da which just annoyed people like me who were actully watching. Last thing I wanted to see was a mothersip character.They said it woul bring in following,but it didnt.

janethyland said...

I misspelt there because of typing toofast!

Anyway Debra Fisher also wrote Passadena, which i liked.

Next week its pete Blauner, who is a LOCI writer so the mothership crowd wont like it!Thats how it goes, it seems!

cbsplaysdirty said...

I think the fact that they rushed this show into production and didn't even have title cards for the actors at the start of the season was a strong indication that this was a throw-away show from the start. I don't understand why they would pick it up for the whole season, then put it on hiatus for MONTHS, then reboot the whole show - that doesn't make sense. And to kill off Winters instead of just seeing how ratings went without him for a few episodes would have been better....transfer him to another division, or as some viewers had hoped for, have him in witness protection -- leave yourself an out to write him back in if ratings dip.

Oh, and LOLA last night was the third most watched show in prime time (I THINK). So, though the numbers are low (still high relative to the reboots), ratings are a relative game and to be the third most viewed show of the evening confirms my belief that they shouldn't have messed with the chemistry of the show and just promoted it more and drop one of the lawyer teams. I would have kept Morales.

cbsplaysdirty said...

As I recall, I liked Pasedena. I had to look it up, as others have said the idea to name all the episodes after cities was not wise. It sounds great in theory, but from a viewer's perspective, I had NO IDEA what the plot for that episode was and had to google it. I liked that episode and it had a good twist with the car not being in the garage and there were enough turns in the story that it wasn't completely predictable. No MacGuffins that I can recall off hand....

janethyland said...

And i would have kept Howard. Ha!

janethyland said...

I think ratings were down for other shows on Monday too so i must have been a bad night all round. TVbythenumbers has the rundown.

ReviveLawandOrderLA said...

Hall had more potential than Skeet Ulrich to me. They said she would have made a return to the show, but alas it got canceled before that could happen.

NBC is to blame for this show's demise for rushing it on air and rushing the Mothership off air.

janethyland said...

Carthay Circle” or “Roland to the Dark Tower Came”!Ha!

Back to the pre Christmas format with all the set detail to keep me occupied; the chequered corridor flooring, the office details of the DA are back( globe and statues and paintings etc) and there’s more in Rolands office, boats and drums. The knight statue in Morales office. Giggled when Coyote mentioned tsunamis after a shot of the book on his desk called “Storm”. That sense of fun all went after Christmas. The rainbow lined poster in the Womens Centre, Rolands idyllic indoor garden. I love all that attention to detail from the production people, a LOCI influence. Balcer started it off with paintings but it kept developing and now it has a language all of its own.Wild! After Christmas Balcer seemed to remove all evidence of himself from the episodes. What went on there? Did someone else take over?

Acting was superb, the easy brotherly rapport between Rex and TJ, and those moments between Coyote and Morales especially, the close up cameras alternating on face to face encounter, Coyotes crumpled face. The lighting on Morales in the interview with Dutton. Thats the best Ive seen Morales since Harbor City. Wonderful...also the close up camera work on Washington and Dutton. They are both so intense, the slightest intricate expressions.

The looks and silence of the Ending speaks much louder than any words too, more powerful. Silence was an important presence in these earlier episodes.

Again its the disturbance in paradise (“so much for domestic bliss”), and the elderly acting as neighbourhood watch. They were building some interesting themes. The ambiguity of the use of “coon” in the teaser. More mention of animals, this time vermin like possums and rats, nuisance animals. Skeets sweets,”jellies”.

The irony of Morales saying “the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice”...well not according to his post Christmas decision to leave the legal profession! And Justice depends on point of view. Its periodic and comes and goes, not linear. Moments of Justice dissolve back into barbarity. American Justice is no different from Roman Justice, and after Rome came Italy!

Skeet talking about the 3 motives of murder: Love, money, revenge. And “keeping whales from getting married”. Nice dig. I enjoyed that.

What a pity they retooled it.It was much better balanced before Christmas,better sense of humour too.Ater christmas it just got stodgy and stuck in the Law and that was a bore! I wonder if that was Wolfs decision or was he badly advised? Anyway at least we are seeing all the earlier made episodes now. Lovely episode. One more to go i think.

nygma619 said...

No janet, you just didn't like it after the break, that doesn't mean other people didn't. But yeah, Molina should've been the dda.

And other people actually enjoy the court room stuff unlike you and cbs.

ReviveLawandOrderLA said...


"No janet, you just didn't like it after the break, that doesn't mean other people didn't." - I agree with that.

"But yeah, Molina should've been the dda." - Half and half with that one. I thought the Morales cop felt more natural really. It seemed like he always had a jump with some policital issue (which Morales dislikes).

"And other people actually enjoy the court room stuff unlike you and cbs." - Major agree. If they would have gave Terrence Howard something better to work with, I'd like him more as lead DDA. Howard was outstanding in "Silver Lake", "East Pasadena", and "Benedict Canyon".

Nothing but Skeet Ulrich lovers (the man's a good actor true enough, but he's no Alfred Molina). I would have loved to seen retooled LOLA during this time with no real competition! Way to go NBC.

I'd actually like to see Law & Order: Criminal Intent star Alfred Molina if D'Onofrio wouldn't want to do it anymore - or heck, they could alternate again!

janethyland said...

You hate me,dont you NYGMA619.

But i agree with you on all counts here!

However the numbers didnt!

cbsplaysdirty said...

I didn't say I didn't like the law side -- I did enjoy a lot of Molina's performances as the DA. His performance could negate the weak writing whereas Howard overacted and with trite dialogue, it was very cringeworthy.

The Reboot had instances where they had no real competition as the other network aired all repeats, and the numbers were still low.

I think there is far more to the story as to the implosion of LOLA than is made available for public consumption. They presented the retool as a purging of actors, but I have a feeling some of them left on their own or voiced concern or something....the ratings were not so bad as to incite a complete overhaul and a lengthy hiatus. It was set up to fail from the start and we are not privy to the rationale -- whether it was some sort of payback to NBC for not allowing Mothership to reach the milestone, or what???

Not having title cards or a solid intro at the beginning of the series was a huge red flag and not just a function of the rush to air. Even Youtube fans could (and did) slap together interesting intros to draw in viewers, and yet a Network couldn't? Didn't? It just leaves me baffled. They also did very little to promote the show -- Howard had one appearance on Leno, and Molina had a 45sec appearance on the Today Show. Contrast that with their original competition The Defenders, their cast was on every entertainment show for weeks leading up to the premieres. I was actually surprised LOLA did as well as it did considering the lack of support from the Network.

janethyland said...

You could be on to something here....that they didnt expect it to get the numbers it did get in the early stages....that it surprised them they were successful.

So they rebooted it to make sure it failed,for whatever reason.

Something dishonest has gone on behind the scenes.There is a discrepency between what they say publically and what happened privately.After all, Wolf is not a business novice and knows exactly what he is doing.He should have realised the folly of it.

Its possible Skeet was not interested in doing a full 22 seasons, that he was fine with 13 but 22 was too much commitment.

cbsplaysdirty said...


I have a feeling that Molina or Howard wanted more air time and that is why Ulrich was booted. He's not the type to sign on to something and then renege. He did all the Jericho episodes and even pushed through the rushed 7 episode second season to pay back the fans who had resurrected that show. He had to put another offer on hold just to film the new Jericho episodes and potentially lost another gig because of it, but he felt obligated to the fans for working so hard to bring it back. He wouldn't just up and walk away from a commitment.

Plus, Wolf said that it was his decision (with NBC exec) to change the cast. If Ulrich left, it would have been publically stated that way. No actor would want it in Variety that they were recast mid-season when the ratings were NOT that bad.

My theory -- just a theory, is that something happened and Ulrich is one to speak out about injustices or whatever on set. Maybe early call times, or prima donas? I don't know. Doesn't matter really. Just the fans get screwed yet again.

But I do think there was more to the story and unfortunately, we will never know.

janethyland said...

well my original and immediate thought was that this decision by wolf was not about Reason but about emotion.

He made the change to make LOLA more like Mothership because it had just got cancelled. Mothership is the love of his life. He did it out of sentiment for Mothership.And thats why it all feels so irrational.

All these business men pretend they work from hard nosed business propositions, but most of the time its still about emotion.They just dont admit it.

The other thing I noted which felt like desperation at the time, was all the "politically correct" interviews the actors were clearly being asked to make, about how wonderful Mothership was and how glad they were about the changes and how much they needed secure employment.It was so overboard and absurd.In fact it was plain weird!

None of them seemed to talk about LOLA as a show in its own right anymore.Although Molina did make the point that he didnt see anything wrong with what they were doing anyway before the changes. Thats about the most honest comment that was made.Its a point that most critics made too!

So that again persuades me that Wolf made an emotional decision out of his love for Mothership.