Thursday, September 29, 2011
Law & Order SVU “Personal Fouls” Recap & Review
Law& Order SVU “Personal Fouls” received a lot of hype for the cameos by two basketball players, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. But these two were only window dressing for a gripping story about the sexual abuse of young boys by their coach, and the difficulties in getting boys/men to report such abuse. Mechad Brooks did a wonderful job is playing the egocentric, tough-guy womanizing pro basketball player, yet he was also able to convey the pain his character was carrying from the abuse he faced as a child. One can only hope that the episode may encourage others to speak out against sexual abuse that they experienced, especially if it was by a person in a position of authority.
The episode introduced Danny Pino as Detective 2nd Grade Nick Amaro, and Benson immediately calls him out for his Serpico look and track record. Considering this was after Cragen warned Benson to play nice with the new kids in the squad, it’s clear that it will take a lot more that a push from Cragen to get Benson to get back in the swing of things. I like the new attitude with Benson; she’s on the edge, yet she’s still a pro at her job.
It was smart to bring in Rollins and Amaro in separate episodes, and also smart to be mixing up the detective pairings. This allows viewers to better adjust to the cast changes and give a better feel for the SVU squad undergoing changes themselves. One of the hardest things for a show to get right is the feeling that the characters behave like real co-workers, and I believe that SVU is headed in the right direction in making the new detectives fit in as if they have always been there.
I know we are only into the second episode of the season, but I am very impressed with the story lines and the writing. I was worried last season that SVU was heading towards what I call a “cheesefest” of cheesy scenarios and trite dialog (think of CSI Miami defines the term cheesefest) but these first two episodes have put my worries to rest. It seems they are taking great pains to keep things real, and so far this has delivered stories that engage viewers on many levels.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Stephanie March - ADA Alex Cabot
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino = Detective Nick Amaro
Tamara Tunie – ME Melinda Warner
Dan Lauria – Coach Ray Masters
Mehcad Brooks - Prince Miller
Chris Bosh - himself
Carmelo Anthony - himself
Dwight “Heavy D” Myers – Supreme
Aaron Tveit – Stevie Harris
Mark Blum – David Arnoff
Coach Ray Masters is being inducted into the Metro Basketball Hall of Fame by former students Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Basketball star Prince Miller could not attend, but Bosh and Anthony present Masters with a solid gold key from Prince that fits any gym in the country. As Masters begins to speak, a lone clapping comes from the crowd, and a man enters and boos Masters, saying Masters should be in jail and he should be ashamed of himself. He adds that Masters knows what he did as security hauls him away.
Back at SVU, Detective Olivia Benson questions Captain Don Cragen that they are hiring another detective. Cragen says they are short staffed, adding he is a good guy who comes out of Warrants, and he starts tomorrow. Benson complains that it’s hard to train two rookies, asking if this is a day care center. He reminds her that Elliot is not coming back. When she complains that it takes her twice as long to explain the job than to do it herself, he tersely replies it is not her call. He says if she wants to be here, she has to start working with other detectives and to let him go. He adds that she can start by packing up his desk; they can’t keep it as a shrine. She glares at him and then walks out.
As she packs up Stabler’s desk, Fin watches. He then tells her they have something. She looks at it and says it is a disorderly conduct, asking why it is with sex crimes. Fin explains that the man claims his basketball coach sexually abused him when he was a kid and he wasn’t the only one. When Benson and Fin check out the man who is in the cell, he has collapsed onto the floor - Benson says he's jonesing - and Fin calls for a bus.
The next day, Benson tells them the hospital called and the man is stable so Fin says he will get a statement. Cragen walks in with a bearded Detective 2nd Grade Nick Amaro, and Rollins says about the 2nd grade ranking that he must have caught a big fish. He says he just kissed a lot of ass. Cragen says Amaro spent two years undercover in narcotics and then in warrants, and that he took down the MS13 case. Benson pipes in to say that “Well, this is a whole different world Serpico, not everybody has a stomach for it.” While the rest of the team looks uncomfortable with Benson's comment, Cragen tells Fin to ride with Amaro to get his feet wet. Cragen also orders Amaro to clean himself up, reminding him he is not on the street any more. When Fin says he has a guy that will shape him up real quick, Cragen cautions Amaro not to let Fin take him clothes shopping.
At the hospital, a clean shaven Amaro asks Fin about Stabler. Fin calls Stabler a good cop and that he and Benson were together for 12 years and that is a decade longer than his marriage. The see the empty chair outside the hospital room and that the handcuffs are attached to the bed but the suspect, Stevie Harris, is clearly gone. The officer returns, saying he had to take a leak. After Fin chastises the cop and the cop leaves, Amaro recognizes the suspect’s name as a basketball legend and he knows where his crew hangs out.
At a basketball lot, Fin and Amaro spot Stevie and Amaro talks to him about seeing him play. Fin introduces themselves and Fin chastises him about getting up and leaving, but says they can help him and want to talk about Coach Masters. Stevie says he was just high and talking crazy, and when Amaro confronts him about lying about the allegations. Fin asks him to get it off his chest, and Stevie later explains to the detectives that when he was 9 and playing in a tournament, that Masters “messed” with him during a bed check. Fin tries to get him to go into the details, and Stevie explains what happened to him and he breaks down and cries. Amaro asks why he didn’t tell anybody at the time, and Stevie said Masters was a friend of the family and Masters promised to help him get a scholarship. It was their little secret. Masters seems disgusted and asks when Masters stopped abusing him. Stevie says he was about 15 and there with other kids he liked better, he thinks he got too old and that’s when things started falling apart of him – when Masters stopped. When Amaro asks Stevie if he has any proof, he doesn’t have anything, but says Masters was paying him off every month and it Masters stopped at his last birthday.
At Riverbank State Park, basketball practice is going on and Fin and Amaro speak with Coach Masters. Masters calls Stevie a heartbreaker, and that he thought Stevie would go far. He adds Stevie was not wired for the pressure. He says the accusations are disturbing and he would never hurt one of his kids. Masters thinks Stevie wants to blame others for his own failures. When Fin comments about the hush money, Masters says he tried to help out kids any way he can and loaned him money, but when he saw it was going up his arm, he cut him off.
Afterwards, they talk to one of the young basketball players, Devon, asking what it is like to play for him. He says if you do for Ray, he does for you, and Masters is the ticket out.
Back at SVU, Cragen tells the detectives that abuse of power cases bother him most, but there are big issues with the outcry. Fin says Masters is still coaching and they should still be sure. Cragen says there is no evidence or corroborations and that Stevie has a long list of drug arrests, and Fin reminds him that doesn’t mean something bad didn’t happen to him. Amaro says he is pulling strings to get Stevie in outpatient rehab. Benson informs Amaro that the statute of limitations has run out, as Stevie is not alleging forcible rape, and in New York, the charges only carry to age 18 + 5 years. Stevie is 24, and Fin wonders if that is why Masters stopped paying him as Masters knew he could not be charged. Cragen says if they can prove he made payments and show that they were do buy Stevie’s silence, it is an ongoing crime. Cragen says it will not be easy as Masters has no criminal record. Rollins informs them not in New York, but there was a charge against him in 1988 which was sealed and then expunged and it would be nice to find out why. Cragen comments he will make a few calls, that New Jersey leaks like a sieve.
Later, at the home of Domenica Ramos, she talks to Benson and Rollins about her son Richie and that Masters molested him. Ramos explains the abuse that occurred when her son was 12. He said the church promised to handle it and when they did not, she contacted the police and had to beg them to do their job. Two days before the grand jury, her son hung himself in his bedroom. She asks Benson if they are going to get him this time, and Benson nods yes.
Back at SVU, Benson watches as Amaro unpacks his belongings on his desk, and he takes out a picture of his daughter and then put it back, replacing it with a photo of what looks like former colleagues. Rollins comes in and says Masters has been at this a long time, then offers Amaro a donut and he refuses. Benson questions “A cop who doesn’t eat donuts. How can I trust you?” Cragen asks where they are on the case, and Rollins says his finances are clean and no payments are showing up, and he only makes $50K a year. Amaro thinks Masters has shady dealings with agents, college recruiters, etc. and Cragen wonders where he is hiding it. Rollins wonders about Masters “Ray’s Boys Foundation” and Cragen tells her to look through the foundation’s records. Cragen then sits down and asks Benson if she is doing OK then before she can really answer, he tells her to help the new guys out a little.
Later, Amaro and Benson head to Masters office and Benson presses him on Richie Ramos and the sex abuse charge. He says they are finding all the jokers in the deck, and adds that Richie had no father and his mother was abusing drugs. He got them out of the shelter and found them housing. When he met Richie he was functionally illiterate and in 5 years he set him up for a full ride in Arizona. Masters tersely says he was the one trying to save Richie and that his mother had an idea about him that she would not let go. When Amaro tries to ask a question, Benson tells him to hold on and asks Masters what idea was that. He tells her let’s not be children, it is the same one she has. She asks if she is wrong. Masters says the relationship between a coach and the star player is very intense and easily misunderstood. Most of the kids gets one chance at a future and he is in a position to help them and they get very close. Benson comments this is a lot of power, deciding who stays and who goes. He says it is his job to find the special ones. Amaro asks him what he asks for in return , and Masters says that they succeed in life and pay it forward. Benson asks if it is like him paying them to keep quiet, saying it seems the mission of the foundation is to buy silence. He glares at her, stands up, and says, “Shame on you” and he says the foundation and his life is helping those kids. Benson stands up, gets in his face, and asks Masters if he thinks the law can’t touch him. As they move to leave, he tells him to talk to any of his boys, he is the only father they ever had.
Later, Fin, Rollins, Benson and Amaro speak to other players who say great things about the coach and that he is just helping them out. One, who is in jail, gets agitated about the idea that he would let someone touch him, Afterwards, Fin comments to Rollins that the coach knew how to pick his victims, and Rollins said there wasn’t much male on male disclosure un Atlanta. Fin says they are tricky to prosecute, and they talk about the issues that men have with what people may think about what happened or the implication they are gay. Fin tells Rollins it is still a stigma in the black and Latino community, adding that his son is gay and he had to deal with that garbage on the streets every day, saying his son is the bravest man he knows.
At the Hope Town Rehabilitation Center, Benson and Amaro speak with Stevie and they tell him they have hit a brick wall and that the other guys swear the coach is just helping them out. Amaro comments that right now, it is Stevie’s word against Masters. Benson adds they just need to have somebody else come forward who is younger and not on the foundation’s dole. He tells them there is somebody, his roommate at the tournaments, he thinks he may have been raped. He is reluctant to tell them but when they press, he looks up at the nearby billboard poster of Prince Miller.
Later, Benson and Fin arrive at Prince Miller’s offices and speak with Supreme, Prince’s business manager and his cousin. They admire his custom shoes with Prince’s logo on the sole. He asks Fin about him having his 20 years in yet and suggests he come in for a job, but when Benson asks no job for her, he asks if she can dance but then he laughs. They see that Prince has arrived along with David Arnoff, and Supreme says now Prince is a free agent and he doesn’t want all that they built destroyed.
Prince later tells them the coach prepared him for success. But Fin asks not about what happened on the court, but what happened in his life. Price says nothing has gone wrong in his life. Fin asks him if he can take off his glasses so he can see his eyes, but Arnoff thanks them for coming by and ends the interview.
Back at SVU, Fin complains that Prince was guarded and he will be hard one to crack. Benson thinks some crack like Stevie while others are super achievers to make others think they are OK. Rollins comments she is not so sure that Prince is OK, and she shows them the tape from Masters’ hall of fame induction and that Prince did not attend, he just sent a gold key. Amaro gets a message on his phone and then days he has to call his wife. Fin asks if she has him on a short leash, but Amaro replies that she is in Iraq, she works in propaganda, saying she works to win hearts and minds. He adds she has 8 months to go and if anyone can do it, it is her. Stevie arrives at SVU and asks if the met with Prince. He says Prince called him and invited him to his club that night, he wants to catch up. He asks the how they want him to play it and what the hell is he going to wear? Amaro asks how about a wire?
Later, with Benson and Amaro, ADA Alex Cabot asks what Amaro is proposing, and he tells her a controlled meet so they can hear what Prince has to say. She cautions him this is sex crime not narcotics and victims can’t meet on the record like that. the defense could say the victims are trying to get their story straight. Benson thinks they think Prince got is worse than Stevie did and if they can get it on tape admitting to being raped, the statute does not apply. Cabot worries it is risky and collusionary and if Prince denies anything happened it is memorialized on tape. Amaro asks if she has a better idea, and she thinks she does. She asks if all the incidents happened in New York, but Amaro said that they were mostly on the road, and when he mentions Boston as one of the locations, she says in Boston the statute of limitations would not apply in this case as they stop the clock on a child sexual assault charge the minute the victim or perp leaves the state. She explains it was because the dioceses would assign pedophile priests to other New England states until the clock ran out. Benson adds the legislature stopped the clock retroactively. Cabot tells them to bring in Stevie Harris and she will call the Boston DA.
As Amaro moves to make the call to get Stevie, Benson walks in to Cabot’s office and Cabot says she is sorry about Elliot. Benson nods, and her voice wavering, says, “Me too.” Cabot asks how the new guy is working out, but Amaro alerts them that Stevie took off saying he had to go to a meeting, and Benson tells him to call him on his cell.
At Players Only Club, Stevie is arguing with Prince, who is telling Stevie to stop telling those lies. Stevie says the coach is still doing it. Prince calls him a junkie trick ass bitch, and Stevie takes a swing at him. Prince’s bodyguards pull him off and throw him to the ground, punching and kicking him. Benson and Amaro arrive and Amaro breaks it up. Amaro tries to calm him saying they have to talk, bit Stevie says they can arrest him and he’s had enough of this and he runs off, saying to stay the hell away from him.
Later, Fin, Amaro and Rollins are getting coffee and Amaro tells them Stevie has still not shown up at rehab and he is not answering his phone. Rollins moans that Cabot finally found away to press charges and now they lost the witness. Fin thinks Prince is losing his cool and they should try another crack at him. Amaro gets a phone call and says they will be right there.
Fin, Amaro, and Rollins arrive at a crime scene where Stevie lay dead on the ground. Rollins asks the officer to get CSU over there and he questions it thinking this is an OD. Fin asks him if he is sure it is an OD, because he is not, and says they will need a full work up of the scene.
In the morgue, Benson can’t believe when ME Warner tells her the cause of death is from circumstances undetermined because of all the heroin in his blood. Warner counters that what is not determined is whether it was a homicide or a suicide. When Benson gets annoyed with Warner, Amaro says this is why the ME is separate from the police; they don’t jump to their conclusions. Warner tells him not to play her, and he replies "never," but suggest they take a look at it. He thinks if it was a suicide, Stevie was right handed and the injection is on the left arm BUT questions that it took 3-4 attempts to hi a vein. He adds Stevie was a career junkie and one think he knew how to do is shoot up. He looks at Stevie’s toes, saying Stevie was a sharpshooter. Warner tersely says she added that in her report. Benson suggests some guys held Stevie down and had trouble injecting him and they made a mess of it. Warner thinks that is one plausible scenario. Benson continues that since he just got into a fight outside the club a few hours before where threats were made – saying that there is someone that they like for this but they can’t bring him in…and Warner says she can’t get her there. Warner suggests that, since they saw the being at the club, he may have been concussed and he got woozy and couldn’t find a vein. Benson argues that if it could go both ways to give them a break. Warner tells Benson that Benson knows better. Amaro asks for one favor – not to release the report right away and say she is backed up, and he will owe her one. She makes no comment but it is clear she will go along with it.
Back at SVU, Cragen tells Cabot and Amaro that Prince knew Stevie was going to testify about Masters’ abuse, which would have made Prince’s own abuse public and this is not an image he wants to project. Amaro thinks Prince made sure Stevie stayed quiet with a fatal hot shot of heroin. Cabot reminds them that they have motive and opportunity but no witness or evidence. Cragen tells her Prince could have ducked them but he came in on his own. When Cragen sees others in the squad room staring at Prince, he tells them Prince is not signing autographs.
In the interview room with Benson and Fin, Price, with Arnoff, says he did not kill Stevie. Arnoff says that at the time of the murder, Prince was at his club and then went to his home with a few ladies. He shows them a time stamped video of Prince in bed with the two women. Benson says time stamps can be manipulated but he shows then consent forms the women signed before and after the encounter with the times listed. When Fin asks if he always films his ladies, Prince tells him there are a lot of false accusation out there and he has to protect himself. As they move to leave, Benson comments to Prince that Stevie said Prince got it worse than he did and asks when did Coach Ray stop raping him? He tells her she needs to shut her mouth because she has no clue about what she is talking about. She asks him why he gets so upset every time she brings it up? He replies nobody touches Prince Miller. Arnoff cuts it off saying this is harassment, and they leave.
In Cragen’s office, Benson and Fin enter and Cragen thinks that was a whole lot of nothing. Benson thinks it is obvious that something happened to him. Cabot says Prince is not good for it. Amaro does not see this as an OD as he thinks Stevie was really working the program. Fin thinks Prince is all about protecting his brand and suggests they see what Rollins has on the crime scene photos.
Rollins tells Benson and Amaro that only Stevie’s prints are on t he syringe but Amaro sees a footprint that appears to have Prince’s brand marking on it.
Later, Benson and Fin stop Supreme, with Prince in the passenger seat in his car and ask for his sneakers which are the prototypes. He talks them off and gets into Fin’s car. Benson speaks with Prince who think Supreme would not have done it. Benson says Supreme and coach are the same, Coach ran him for 10 years and now it is Supreme’s turn and that neither one of them looked after him. They were looking out for themselves. He says she doesn’t know what she is taking about, and he rolls up the car window.
With Cragen, Benson, and Amaro in Cabot’s office, Benson tells her that Supreme’s shoes were a match and Stevie’s blood was also on them. Cabot thinks this should be enough to start making a deal. Cragen comments this still leaves Coach Ray out there without Stevie to testify. Benson thinks they do back to Prince and when Amaro says good luck with that, Cabot explains they can compel Prince if they empanel a grand jury as they are not asking him to incriminate himself, just the coach. Benson questions forcing him to testify under threat of contempt, saying that is not the way to get it. Cabot seems surprised that she is trying to help resurrect Benson's case and Benson is questioning her tactics. Cragen says Prince put up the wall when he was 14 and had lied to them and wonders what makes him tell the truth now? Benson thinks they need to remind him what life was like before the wall went up.
Later, with Prince in the back seat of the car with Benson and Amaro, they take him to a street court were a summer league is playing. The kids surround him, and then Prince sees Coach Masters there. Masters tells Prince that of all his players, Prince was his favorite, and touches Prince's hand that he has holding onto the fence. Masters has Devon standing next to him and he tells him to get back to play. As Masters walks off, Benson comments that they are so impressionable at that age, Amaro adding that he’s got it, smooth as silk, and is a natural leader. Benson comments that Price must see a little of himself in that boy, all the talent in the world and the coach that can show him all the right moves. She adds the coach is going to a tournament on Friday in California with Devon and the boys and he will be doing bed checks and everything. Prince looks on, shaken yet silent.
Later, at the grand jury, Prince is being sworn in to testify. Afterwards, Prince holds a press conference and he talks about how they trust coaches at a very early age and sometimes they hold their dreams in their hands. He says one coach betrayed that trust. Prince tells them all he made an important decision – he told the grand jury the truth about Ray Masters and how he recruited him for the Baby Barons, the summer league team, when he was 10 years old, and how he started sexually abusing him on their first road trip, and continued until he was 15. Meanwhile, the SVU team watches the press conference at SVU, and Domenica Ramos watches from her home. Prince adds that he did not come forward then because he was just a little confused kid who was ashamed and he did not want to jeopardize his chances at basketball. He apologizes for keeping his secret so long because many could have been victimized after him. Devon also is watching at home with his mother, and as he leans over to her and cries, she asks what is wrong. Prince goes on to say he hopes the others come forward and tell their stories too, as he knows they are hurting. He voice waivers as he says truth can be the best medicine. AS he continue to talk, Coach Masters is being arrested by Fin and Amaro. Prince adds that they have to remember that shame is not theirs, it’s his. As his colleagues stand beside him, and as he looks on sadly to the press, we fade to black.
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