Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Law & Order LA “Westwood” Recap & Review

It was a sad ending for Law & Order LA – sad in that they finished with such an uninteresting episode. In “Westwood,” a man is killed, and hours after recapping the episode, I still can’t quite remember why. Maybe it was because it was one of those “spur of the moment” murders that happened without premeditation, or maybe it was because the characters all seemed wooden, but I just wasn’t drawn in to the story enough to care about the outcome.

One thing is for sure – Alfred Molina is the only person on Law & Order LA who could take a lackluster story and bring life to it. This season, every time he was on screen he made Ricardo Morales into a force to be reckoned with. I found myself caring about what Ricardo was going through, the actions that he took, and his thoughts behind his actions. He was decisive, he was determined, yet he was not without feeling. My opinion is Alfred Molina is one of the few actors in Law & Order brand history that took a character and made him come alive from day 1.

The rest of the episode had everyone going through the motions. Usually Corey Stoll is enough to keep me interested in the first half of the episode, but even he could not save “Westwood.” While this episode was the last episode aired for Law & Order LA, it wasn’t the last episode filmed. Had they continued to air episodes during the show’s retooling, viewers wouldn’t be left feeling that the series is limping into oblivion. I still have hopes that someday Law & Order LA, or better yet, Law & Order The Mothership will make a triumphant return. But I’m not holding my breath.

Here is the recap:

After a UCLA soccer practice, Javier Gomez (Stevin Espinoza) is found dead under the bleachers. Later, Detectives Rex Winters and “TJ” Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are at the scene, it appears the body was driven there and then dumped. There is no ID or wallet but there are keys to a Honda. He has a tattoo that indicates he is a Latino home body, and his fingerprints reveal it is Javier Gomez, who has a record. He also was a high school dropout.

The detectives speak with Javier’s parents Jorge and Inez Gomez (Tony Plana and Marlene Forte) to find that “Javy” had a job and was a loving son. Their daughter Malia is a student at UCLA and is there on a soccer scholarship. Javy worked so she could practice.

The detectives head to campus to tell Malia (Alyssa Diaz) of Javy’s death and she does not know why he would be on campus. Malia’s boyfriend Eric (Taylor Handley ) enters the room and consoles her. Eric speaks highly of Javy. Eric grew up in Brentwood and his dad made coat hangers. Rex notices it appears something had been thrown at Malia's window. She tells them someone threw a rock at the window last week.

The detectives speak with Malia’s RA who says she reported the broken window last week. She also had graffiti written on her door with words like slut and whore. They find she is being cyber bullied. There is a web site called “big sluts on campus” and campus security is investigating.

Back at RHD, TJ tells Rex that Javy’s car showed up parked two blocks from campus and there is not much in it – food wrappers, a photo of Javy and Malia,  and a parking receipt for the day he was killed from a garage on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica. Rex tells him the autopsy report puts the time of death between 8 and 11 PM and there were splinters in Javy’s wounds from white ash. Their computer tech checks out the web site which appears to contain photoshopped images of Malia. They search the news for the girls names and find that Malia and 3 other girls signed a petition to challenge the university’s compliance with Title 9 which claimed women’s sports are not getting their fair share of the athletic budget, which could take money from the men’s sports.

The detectives speak with Eric who tells them that Malia was getting threats because she signed the petition. He thinks Javy knew about the threats He tells them that the sport most affected by the Title 9 challenge would be baseball. After Eric leaves, the detectives agree that the white ash in Javy’s wounds was likely from a baseball bat.

Later, the detectives are searching the baseball frat house. They speak with Gus about the web site and tell him if he doesn’t help them, Title 9 will be the least of his problems. He says the web site was a joke and he knows nothing of the murder. He said he told that to the other guy – a black guy about 6’ who looked like a cop who come to the bar where he worked asking questions about Malia and maybe trying to dig up dirt on her. The guy did complain about traffic and getting back to Santa Monica, Rex thinks this was a private investigator, and TJ recalls Javy being in Santa Monica he day he was killed.

At Davies Investigations in Santa Monica, they speak with Mr. Davies who says they have the wrong man, he does corporate work. He tells them to get a warrant. Afterwards, they speak with an office security guard who identifies Javy from a photo and said he tried to get in to see Davies but he would not be allowed up and Javy had a fit. They think a PI was checking up on Malia, but Javy was checking up on the PI and it may have gotten him killed.

The detectives speak again with Javy’s and Malia’s parents and their mother said the coach said someone came by asking questions about Malia – about how she grew up and when she started playing soccer.

Rex and TJ speak with the soccer coach who identifies Davies but said he was someone from UCLA. He seemed interested in a job that Malia got over the summer in Mexico and she bought her parents a car with the money she saved. Afterwards, Rex speculates the money may have come from a drug cartel.

At the Zapata Community Center, they speak to a manager there and find it was a legit job but they don’t have records of paychecks. She played soccer there professionally. Javy told him to keep quiet about it – her playing pro would violate NCAA rules - an Javy freaked when he heard someone was asking about it. The guy said he told Javy that Davies was cool as he saw the UWU was a supporter of the community center and did work for the union.

They speak with the man in charge of the community center who has nothing nice to say about Davies. Davies is a hired gun for manufactures, and they find Davies has a connection to Kentner Hangers and Racks, Eric’s father’s company. They also find that Kentner came through a picket line once using a baseball bat.

The detectives head back to UCLA and Rex speaks with Eric while TJ speaks with Malia. Eric says his dad was with him and Malia and makes an excuse to get to class. As they leave, the detectives agree the Eric and Malia are holding out.

They speak with Bob Kentner at his company who says he used Davies for business.  He says he loves his son and wants him to be happy. He knows about the web site and said he does not recall meeting Javy. He said that night he and his son and Malia went out for pizza in Westwood. TJ notices Kentner has a class ring from UCLA and Kentner says that is not a crime.

Later, TJ tells Rex that Kentner is also a UCLA athletic booster and was on campus Friday night for a meeting. As Javy was dumped from a car, they wonder if Kentner has a UCLA parking pass.

At the campus parking structure, they find Kentner’s parking pass was swiped in at 7:45 PM and out at 10:08. Pass holders can drive anywhere on campus. CSU finds a tooth near the parking spot. Later, as he is being arrested, Bob Kentner says he want to talk to his son and Rex says after he is booked.

Bob Kentner is being arraigned for murder and DDA Evelyn Price (Regina Hall) asks for an gets bail set at $5 million.

Later, at the DA’s office, the detectives tells Price and DDA Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) that they have no evidence from his car or residence to connect Bob Kentner to Javy. Eric does not believe his father hired a PI to check out his girlfriend and Morales says it is time to open Eric’s eyes.

Rex and Morales breaks the news to Eric, while TJ and Price outline to Malia about the issue with her playing soccer professionally. She says Javy cleared it with the school but they tell her this is not the case. Rex puts pressure on Eric and he wants to talk to his dad’s lawyer. Malia says they were with his father. But Eric says Javy thought his dad insulted his parents at a soccer game and that Javy was all worked up. His dad thought Javy reached into his pocket for a gun and his dad hit Javy with a baseball bat to protect himself and killed Javy. He said his dad panicked when he realized Javy did not have a gun and he put the body in the trunk and dumped it. Eric tries to leave but Rex puts his hand on his arm to get him to sit back down. Morales looks angry and then gets up and goes in to speak with Malia, telling her that Eric told the truth about his father and she can stop protecting him. She says she loves Eric and can’t hurt his dad. Morales says they know he killed Javy and it was not self defense. She says she did not know what to believe and she loves Eric and thought if they stuck together, everything would be OK.

Later, Morales and Price speak with Bob Kentner and his attorney who says Kentner was in fear of his life. Morales brings up the baseball bat. Bob says Eric is all he has since his wife died, and Morales says Eric will testify against Bob on the stand. The attorney comments – if they get the testimony in.

In Superior Court, Eric is on the stand and he said he wanted to talk to his dad’s lawyer but they would not let him and that the detective said he had to stay where he was. Morales questions him and Eric says Rex put his hand on him and he felt he could not leave. After his testimony, the attorney says Eric felt he was in custody and he was denied his right to counsel. Morales said Eric asked to speak with his father’s lawyer, he was also there as an alibi witness, and that Eric is not a suspect. But the judge does not agree and grants the defense motion and suppresses Eric’s testimony.

Afterwards, Eric races out to speak with Malia but she says she can’t talk to him. Malia’s parents are worried that Kentner will go free but Morales assures a conviction.

Back in Morales’ office, Price tries to reassure him this was not his fault. But Morales says he was in the room there with the kid and without Eric’s statement they may not get past reasonable doubt. Morales gets a phone call and his look becomes serious.

At Bob Kentner’s home, the detectives are there and Bob Kentner is laying on the ground, dead from two shots to the chest. A .22 was found in the hedges and Eric heard yelling then the shots and saw a car drive off. An officer says they picked up a suspect running a red light, and they see that it is Malia and Janie’s father.

Later, Winters and Morales question Mr. Gomez who said it was self defense. At first he wanted revenge. The gun was in his hand and said Kentner should pray to god for his son. But Kentner told him since his wife died, he never prays. He put the gun in his pocket and walked away but Kentner picked up a shovel and hit him. He shows them the bruise, and adds he crawled back to his car but Kentner kept coming and Kentner said he would kill him so Gomez shot him. Gomez shows him how it happened. He knew what Kentner did to his son and did not want to die.

Meanwhile, Eric tells TJ and Price what happened. He said he did not recognize Gomez’s voice at first. He wishes none of this happened.

At RHD, Rex says some of the evidence supports Gomez’s story, but TJ says the angle of the gunshot wounds indicates the shots were fired from a standing position. Morales thinks Gomez lied about what happened and tells Price that Gomez being hit with the shovel is mitigating circumstances. Morales says they should charge him. Price says a murdered son can get a lot of sympathy from the jury, and Morales agrees.

Morales and Price attempt to cut a deal with Gomez’s lawyer. Morales tells him that Javy’s death does not give him the right. Morales says he went to the gun to demand self respect so he should take it, and not claim self defense. Gomez refuses. After Gomez and his attorney leave, Morales tells Price he had to try. He tells Price there was only one person his father would listen to when he was in a mood – his mother.

Morales and Price visit Mrs. Gomez to enlist her help in getting a deal. She says he won’t listen to her and he wants everyone to know he shot Kentner to defend her son. Malia says he wanted to be a hero. Mrs. Gomez tells Morales he does not know what it is like, but he says he grew up 5 blocks from there in Boyle Heights. She says all she can do now is pray.

Afterwards, as Morales and Price return to their car, they are stopped by two men who make a comment about Price and Morales gets in their face, asking if they need a lesson on respect. Morales is intimidating and the neb walk off.

In Superior Court, Eric testifies what happened when his father was shot. He says he saw his dad in the driveway with a shovel saying “I’ll kill you, you spic” and he wound up to swing and hit a tree branch. Morales stops him and asks if Eric saw his father swing a shovel, and Eric says yes but he hit a branch. He did not mention this to the police or at the preliminary hearing as he did not think it was important and he forgot. Morales angrily asks if there is anything else he forgot, and when Eric continues to talk, Morales cuts him off and says no more questions.

The defense attorney cross examines and Eric says he only saw his father, and mention his father has a history of anger issues. He says his dad also had the anger in him and believes his father Javy. Morales asks for a recess and gets it, Morales tells Price to call the detectives.

At the Kentner home, Morales and the detectives realize Eric could not have seen his dad from where he said he was in the house, but they also see a mark in the tree that could be from the shovel and there was sap on the shovel blade. They wonder if Gomez saw it and Eric or Malia heard this from Gomez, but Gomez was also not in the right position. Gomez did test positive for gunshot residue, but just on his hands.

Later, Gomez is on the stand explaining what happened. Morales cross examines him and mentions that Gomez crawled away on his knees and asks how he saw Kentner hit the tree. Gomez says he heard it. He says Eric saw it from the staircase landing. Morales brings up a photo of the landing showing that Eric could not have seen it happen from there, and asks if anyone else was there. Gomez says no. Morales says the Gomez says he shot Kentner over his shoulder but shows there was no gunshot residue on his shirt. He asks if someone else shot the gun and when Morales continues to press, Gomez insists it was only him. When Morales says he wants to call an additional witness, Gomez stands up and says he now wants to take the deal and insists he killed Kentner. The judge tells him to step down.

In the conference room, Gomez’s attorney tells Morales that against his advice, Gomez will take the 15 to life in exchange for a guilty plea. Morales asks if he is sure and he says he is. Morales says he invited his family there so they would understand but it is his decision. He agrees. Morales says with this plea there is no chance of parole and he could die in prison. Malia says he does not have to do this but he says no more trial. Morales tells Mrs. Gomez that she will be without a husband for the rest of her life and Malia will go on with her life, and she will be alone every night. But when Mrs. Gomez expresses her dissatisfaction with her husband, Finally Malia breaks down and says she can’t let him go to prison for her. She says not to blame Eric, she asked him to lie. She said she was there and saw Bob Kentner hit the tree.

Later, Malia is allocating as to what happened. She knew her father had a gun and he begged him but he would not listen. He father turned away and gave her the gun, but then Kentner hit her father with the shovel and then Kentner looked at her and said she does not deserve his son and that Eric was too good for her. Kentner did not seem afraid and she wanted him to feel afraid as Javy did. She had the gun and she hot him. He father took the gun from her and told her to run away and he would protect him// She knows she is giving up everything but could not let that man get away with what he’d done to her family. Morales states he is satisfied with her statement. The judge says pursuant to the agreement to the charge of manslaughter, he sentences Malia to 11 years. As they take Malia away, her parents cry.

Afterwards, as Morales and Price leave the courthouse, Price asks Morales if he wants to grab a drink, but he says no. He thought he would go have dinner with his father. As he walks off alone, we fade to black.

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © allthingslawandorder.blogspot.com unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, on All Things Law And Order.

Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.


maculae said...

What was the point of not airing this episode prior to the reboot? It sucked yes, but the were planning on forgetting the episode ever existed anyway so why not air it?

It was a pretty lackluster ep. Did the actors know that this was going to be the last episode as the show was then? Perhaps the terrible acting was because they knew it was being reboot so no one cared.

"My opinion is Alfred Molina is one of the few actors in Law & Order brand history that took a character and made him come alive from day 1."

I'd say Vincent D'Onofrio goes on that list as well.

All Things Law and Order said...

Yes, Vincent D'Onofrio is on that list, along with Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, and Chris Meloni & Mariska Hargitay!

L&O Buff said...

Question: What does Morales say to the two guys who disrespect him and Price? This point is glossed over, but it seems to be in another language and seems to intimate that Morales is an ex gang member or somehow connected. The two men seem to immediately understand. If so, that adds dimension to Morales and opens the door to examining his relationship with his father, which could shed light on Morales.

All Things Law and Order said...

In the scene right before, Morales tells Mrs. Gomez that he grew up in the neighborhood 5 blocks away. I think he used a phrase with the two guys in their on language to indicate that he is from the area and to respect him. I don't have the closed captioned version of this episode any more but at the time, I looked up the translation of what I thought he said and I think he was saying it was his mother's street.