Thursday, October 20, 2011
Law & Order SVU “Missing Pieces” Recap & Review
Law & Order SVU “Missing Pieces” was sure missing something. The episode was dull and predictable, and all the actors seemed like they were going through the motions. This was the first episode that I got the feeling that they were cramming as many actors in the scene as possible in order to get the feel that the whole team is on the case, and at the same time get the audience acclimated to the newer additions to the cast. An example is the scene at the beach (where 4 detectives stood around and waited for the body to be located) and even at the end, where they were standing around watching Tim and Ali hugging each other. Casey Novak's presence was not much more than window dressing.
I also became bored quickly with the scenes of the parents in for questioning. Too many scenes of one person questioning another slows the momentum. It doesn’t make a difference to me whether they switch back and forth between the characters being questioned – I have a tendency to mentally “drift” when there are too many scenes in interrogation or interview rooms, which themselves are visually boring.
While the SVU squad is involved in the missing baby case, we get constant reminders of how much time has passed. Sadly, it felt like the same amount of time passed while I watched this episode…hours and hours and hours. I know that the detectives wanted to soft pedal their interrogation tactics with the parents to avoid getting lawyers involved, but there were times that I felt that taking a tougher stance may have been more effective and gotten to the truth faster.
I have to echo Rollins’ question at the end when she said “Really?” when Benson said they had to let them go. This action made no sense whatsoever. Sure, these parents did not kill the baby, but they lied and led police and the media on a wild goose chase. Amaro’s comment that they are going to be paying for it for the rest of their lives was laughable. My youngest sister died in her crib in 1966 and yes, this death has affected the whole family for our lifetime. But my parents didn’t cover it up – in fact, the first reaction was to call for medical help to try to save my sister. Tim and Ali abused the Amber Alert process to cover what they thought was a death by their own negligence. They also buried a body on the beach! I can’t believe they weren’t charged with something just to make a point that what they did was wrong.
There was a scene where Benson and Amaro left the morgue that seemed off. Benson asks Amaro if they should tell the parents that the baby died of natural causes and Amaro says no, the ME is not positive. Benson is supposed to be the experienced one and she should know that you don’t tip your hand until you have the facts. I can understand if their dialog was reversed and Amaro had asked that question…but it seemed uncharacteristic for Benson to not know that she should keep her mouth shut about the ME's suspicions.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Richard Belzer – Sergeant John Munch (did not appear)
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro
Tamara Tunie – Dr. Melinda Warner
Diane Neal – ADA Casey Novak
Lisa Joyce – Ali Martel
Dennis Flanagan - Dennis Flanagan
Charlie Tahan - Calvin
It’s Halloween and Benson is out for Halloween festivities with Calvin and Amaro is out with his daughter and his mother. Fin and Rollins are checking up on sex offenders to make sure they are not opening the doors for trick or treaters.
Ali Martel walks into a store looking for organic diapers, and suddenly she runs out of the store and screams. The detectives all get phone calls and have to cut the Halloween activities short.
Ali tells the officers that they stole her car and her son was in the back seat. She cries out that someone stole her baby, her son.
Later, Captain Cragen, Benson and Amaro are on the scene. Benson tells them that Ali said that her car was stolen with her 3 month old in the back seat. There were no witnesses and nothing on the traffic cams. Amaro says the parents, Ali Martel and her boyfriend Tim Holland are tourists from Buffalo. Tim went to check out a rental apartment and Ali won’t go to the precinct without him. Cragen does not want to give her a choice.
Benson and Amaro approach Ali and she is frantically trying to reach Tim by phone. She last spoke with him an hour ago. Meanwhile. Fin and Rollins speak with the store manager who never saw a baby.
As Benson and Amaro strongly coax Ali to go to the station, Tim approaches. Ali tells him that Nate was in the car when it was stolen. He becomes very upset and explodes. Benson and Amaro separate Ali and Tim. Amaro speaks with Tim. Tim says he was out meeting a jerk who screwed them out of $200 for a rental for an apartment Tim made on Craigslist because the apartment already had 6 gay guys staying there. Tim said they were a day late and got a slow start and they were tired so he pulled over and slept in the car. Ali tells Benson that the baby was sleeping and Tim parked the car and said he would be right back. Ali says they need to find Nate as he is lactose intolerant and only drinks soy formula. Benson assures her they will find her baby.
Back at SVU, with Nate missing 3 hours, Cragen, Fin, and Rollins watch TV coverage on the missing baby. Cragen complains that is just what the city needs, another tourist horror story, and he asks Fin and Rollins to tell him they have a lead. Fin says “stone cold no.” There is nothing on the surveillance camera and no witnesses to the car theft. Rollins adds that they have an alarm out of the Accord but there have been no hits at the toll booths. As Benson walks in with Ali, she asks where it Tim, and Benson explains he with Detective Amaro. Benson asks if she can get her anything, and Ali says she guesses she can’t smoke in there. Benson offers to have someone take her outside, but Ali replies she has to quit anyway, Nate started to grab the butts out of the ashtray,
Meanwhile, Tim is in an interrogation room with Amaro, and when Tim asks why he is there, Amaro says it is to give Tim privacy. Tim asks if Ali is OK and Amaro says to give them a minute.
Cragen tells the detectives to verify the parents’ version of their stories and to pull their cell records, credit cards, and track their route into the city. He asks if there are any holes in the story, and Benson says they are backing each other up, but Amaro says Tim has some issues. Cragen says he will get in touch with Buffalo so see what’s not on paper and tells Fin and Rollins to talk to the Craigslist renter.
Later, Amaro is on the phone with his daughter, and when he hangs up, he tells Benson everything with his daughter is a negotiation. Benson comments that she wonders where she gets that from. There is no sign of Nate, Benson asks Amaro what is his gut on Tim, and Amaro says they got off to a bad start and he got Tim’s ego up. Benson said Ali saw him as protecting her. They decide “do-se-do” and switch who they question. Cragen tells them he just heard from the precinct captain in Buffalo saying that Tim Holland has a domestic violence report from 6 months ago. It was called in by Ali’s sister as Ali refused to cooperate. No charges were filed.. Cragen is sending Fin and Rollins to Buffalo and tells Benson and Amaro to get Ali and Tim’s version.
At 4 hours missing, Fin and Rollins are at The Stuffed Monkey walking to the Craigslist guy. He tells them that Ali and Tim showed up a day late. He only met the guy. Fin gets a message and tells Rollins they are on the next plane to Buffalo.
Back in the interview room, Amaro speaks with Ali about the domestic violence issue and she says he never hit he. Tim found out she had a drink with an ex and Tim found out and twisted her arm and her sister overreacted. She says she can handle Tim and his moves is like waves. She says Tim fell in love with Nate and shows him a photo of Tim in the delivery room, saying Tim was bawling at the time.
Meanwhile, Benson speaks with an agitated Tim. He says the report from Buffalo was a misunderstanding. He said her bitch sister hates him. He loves Ali and she knows it. He apologized about it and he was on his knees. Benson asks if he apologized when he get angry and does things he regrets, and she hears a knock and moves to leave the room. Tim jumps up and says he wants to talk to Ali and asks what are they putting in her head. Benson calmly tells him to sit tight.
Cragen tells Benson and Amaro they have a lead on the car, it was abandoned at the Willis Avenue Bridge.
Benson and Amaro race to the car and sees that the window to the car is broken. They pop the trunk and there is no baby. Benson calls out that they need a level one mobilization to check the hillside, woods, and the river.
Back at SVU, Cragen comments it has been 16 hours since Nate went missing and there are no leads. There is no sign of could play with the car and the only prints on the steering wheel were Tim’s. Cragen comments that either the car thief wore gloves or this did not go down as they say. He tells Benson and Amaro to keep them talking.
Amaro speaks with Ali and tells her they found the car but not Nate. He asks about Nate being on the car seat. He begins to question her about why they made the trip and other small talk about her life. He also asks about Tim and his job and she indicated work is sparse but it is hard for everyone up there.
At 17 hours missing and at the home of Ali’s sister Moira Martell, Fin and Rollins, Moira explains that Tim stays with his mom and Ali stays with her. She has never seen him abuse Tim. She said that Tim twisted Ali’s arm so bad it was purple for a week. She says Tim is in Ali’s blind spot. Fin asks to look in Nate’s bedroom, and he sleeps with Ali. She last saw Nate on Sunday before they left. They got a late start as the car needed a new fan belt. She saw them put Nate in the car, sucking on his toy key and holding his dinosaur.
Back at SVU, Tim asks Benson when are they going to find his son? She tries to reassure him but he doesn’t understand why all the questions. She explains that anything he remembers may help them. But he claims he wasn’t even there. She knows he was meeting about the Craigslist rental, and adds that she talked to the guy. He claims he is not lying about that. She continues to try to calm him but he is upset he was not there to protect his boy. He says he screwed it up, and Benson whispers that it is OK. He says it is not and that she doesn’t think so and that Ali doesn’t think so. He thinks Ali will find a way to blame him.
A man walks in to SVU with a car seat and says he needs to talk to somebody, adding that he didn’t do anything. Later, Cragen tells Benson and Amaro that Mr. Hernandez bought the car seat from a peddler in Tompkins Square Park and his wife recognized it as the one from the news. The car seat matches their photo, down to the toys. Cragen adds CSU is processing it and he has officers canvassing the park. Cragen tells them to take Hernandez to the park to find the peddler.
At Tompkins Square Park, the peddler is located and he is selling baby items. Benson asks him where he got the stuff and when he says he has suppliers, Amaro asks for their names. The man says it is confidential, and Benson tells him to have it his way and Benson arrests him for larceny.
Back at SVU in interrogation with Amaro and Benson, Mr. Coogan says he didn’t see a baby and won’t admit to breaking into the car. He realizes that they don’t care about the stolen items - this is about a baby. He then admits to breaking the window and taking the items, but no baby. The car was locked. It was just as it was getting dark. He then asks for a lawyer.
Afterwards, Amaro tells Cragen that guy did not take the kid, and ADA Casey Nowak asks where are they with the parents. Benson says that neither of them are hard core criminals but something happened between there and Buffalo but though they would come up with a better story. Novak instructs them to keep them talking as they don’t have enough probable cause for an arrest. Amaro has the prelim report on the items in the car – the lab found traces of fecal matter and soy formula in the cooler. When Benson asks if they put the baby in the cooler, Cragen adds it was the baby’s body.
Later, Amaro walks into the interview room where Ali is sleeping. He stares at her and then closes the door loudly enough to wake her. She knows that they haven’t found Nate yet and asks if he is dead. He asks if that is what she thinks, and she says he would have found him by now. He asks her to go back to Buffalo and retell her recollection of events, saying that sometimes the smallest detail makes a difference.
Meanwhile, Benson is with Tim and she shows him photos of the recovered items and he says they are his but when she shows him the photos of the cooler he gets quiet. He then says the coolers all look alike. He starts to evade her but she says this one has his fingerprints on it. She also tells him what the lab found in the cooler. He wonders if Ali put a diaper in there, but Benson counters that no mother pouts a dirty diaper in a cooler. Benson tells him he has two choices – the good outcome would be that this was an accident, that the baby fell and hit his head, and the bad outcome would be that he lost his temper and maybe shook Nate. When he says that did not happen, she asks him to tell him what happened. He becomes irate and gets in her face and tells her not to attack him. She glares right back at him and he begin to cry and calmly says he is sorry. Benson whispers that that doesn’t matter and asks how did Nate end up in the cooler. He doesn’t answer.
Later, Benson tells Cragen that Tim is overloaded and he shut down. Cragen tells her that Amaro and Ali “haven’t left Buffalo yet.”
Amaro continues to talk to Ali about what happened that day. When Amaro brings up them getting into New York late, Ali mentions that Tim was too tired to drive so they slept at a rest stop. Amaro coldly tells her to stop it, saying so far she has been telling the truth, but the thing with sleeping in the car is a lie. She say it is not but he tells her again to stop. She explains they had to sleep in a motel, the Binghamton Motor Lodge. Tim did not want her sister to know. Amaro looks out to Cragen and Benson who are observing behind the mirrored glass, and Cragen moves to make a phone call, saying that is the first lie. He gets Fin on the phone and asks where is he.
At the Binghamton Motor Lodge, Fin and Rollins speak to the motel manager and he says he saw Ali and Tim in there, and Nate was there in the car seat under the table. Ali and Tim acted like he wasn’t even there. They were arguing about Nate’s Halloween costume. They were there until closing time at 4:00.
Back at SVU, Amaro questions Ali about what they found out about her being in the bar at the motel. She said they had to bring Nate in, there was no one to watch him. Meanwhile, Tim tells Benson Ali lies sometimes and likes to tell people what she thinks they want to hear. Benson question him about the motel, adding whatever happened was not his fault, it was the alcohol. She does not think he left the house with the intent to hurt his son. She thinks it was not intentional. Tim cries and said he didn’t do it. Benson said it was Ali and that they had been arguing in the bar. Amaro is trying to get Ali to admit that Tim did it, but she says she just wants to go back and make it not happen. She says she is so sorry. Tim tells Benson that Ali is smarter than he, and she talks faster and sometimes he needs her to shut up. Benson tries to push Tim, and he mentions the stupid costume. When Benson quietly suggests that Tim was frustrated and he took that out on Nate, he says no. he says that Nate was in his car seat and the car got stolen, like Ali said. Benson reminds him he just said Ali is a liar and asked which one is it.
Observing, Novak asks Cragen when is this guy going to give it up and Cragen says Liv is getting to him and he is going to go. Novak asks if they have been Mirandized, and Cragen replies early on. Amaro walks in and says Ali is going to draw a map of where they buried the baby.
At Twin Island on Orchard Beach at 39 hours missing, the baby is found buried with his blanket and his toy. Amaro says Ali did not want him to be alone.
In the morgue, ME Warner tells Benson and Amaro that Nate was healthy and well developed an there were no signs of abuse and the way he was buried indicate he was loved. She does not know how he died. There is no signs of trauma, no needle marks. They will have to wait for the tox screen. She says it would help to know where he died, and Benson says they are working on it. Benson catches up to Amaro who is walking away and asks if he is OK. He doesn’t answer, but says whatever happened Ali and Tim are covering for each other. Benson says they aren’t going anywhere and suggests that Amaro go home and hug his daughter. He says she is taking a nap. Benson tells him she used to be him, and he says he knows. She said she is the last person giving parental advice. He says this kid needs them.
Back at SVU, Amaro and Rollins speak with Ali who comments that they found him and if he was OK. Rollins asks Ali to tell them what happened. Meanwhile, Tim tells Benson and Fin that he did not kill his son and Ali would not either. Benson asks how this happened and he says he does not know. He wants to talk to Ali. Amaro and Rollins continue to work on Ali to turn on Tim, but she won’t. Fin presses Tim to make a decision and when Tim asks if maybe he should call a lawyer, Fin says a lawyer will only tell him to stop talking and look out for himself and that Tim is not that kind of man. Tim says he asked Ali to marry him when she was pregnant but she did not want to do it like that. He didn’t feel obligated. Benson says he loves her and that is why he is going to do the right thing. Benson asks him to tell them what happened in the hotel room.
Ali tells Amaro that she didn’t take care of Nate, but Amaro says the ME said Nate was loved and cared for and that she will tell him what Tim did to Nate. Tim tells Benson that Nate would not stop crying and he just wanted him to stop so he could close his eyes. Tim cries and said he picked him up and shook him. Ali was screaming at him. But he kept shaking him until he stopped crying. Buy Ali says it was not Tim’s fault, and says she did it. Nate was crying and she thought if she gave him a bath he would quiet down. She put him in the tub and dozed off, and when she woke up he was under water.
Outside of interrogation, Cragen comments to the detectives and Novak that Ali and Tim are still protecting each other. Benson reminds them Warner saw no signs of trauma. Amaro said that Warner said there were no water in the lungs but what Ali said seemed real. Rollins wonder if they are playing them to create reasonable doubt. Benson does not think they are that sophisticated. Novak says they have two confessions and she will charge them both and let a jury decide. Cragen asks on what – there is no cause of death, and suggests if she wants to help, she should lean on the ME.
Warner tells Amaro and Benson if that is what the parents told them, they are both lying. The baby was not dropped, shaken, drowned, or smothered. There is nothing on the tox screen and it was not murder or an accident. Warner needs to examine the motel room and the home, and asks if the mother was a smoker. Amaro answers yes. Warner indicates that is a risk factor for SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome. It will take a while to confirm but that is what her gut is telling her.
Afterwards, Benson tells Amaro that they each confessed to killing Nate because they love each other. Benson asks if they tell them the baby died of natural causes. Amaro says no, the ME is not positive, and they need to tell them what really happened and until they do, they will never know for sure.
Back at SVU, Tim admits he did not shake him and the truth is he does not know what happened. He passed out and when he work up Ali was holding Nate on the bed. Separately, Ali tells Amaro Nate was fussy and wouldn’t settle and she was afraid she would wake Tim so she put him in their bed on his back. She was careful. No covers, no pillows. She work up and Nate was not breathing. Tim said she was rocking him and singing to him and he asked her what was wrong. She did not answer him, and she just kept signing. Ali said she tried to get him to wake up and tried to breathe into his mouth. She did not call for help as she doesn’t know who would believe them. She said it was her idea to put Nate in the cooler and drive to New York and bury him. Tim left the car under the bridge and then she told the police that the baby was taken as everyone knows in New York City bad things happen all the time. She says she did it, and she must have rolled over on him or something. She cries and said she killed her baby. But Amaro tells her that the ME says that Nate died of SIDS and that sometimes babies just die. She asks if he is sure, and he says yes. Ali says that the three of them lying in bed together – Tim snoring – it wasn’t perfect but it was good and she was happy. She asks why us. She said when Amaro woke her up before, she was dreaming Nate was dead and then when she woke up she thought maybe it was just a nightmare and he was just asleep and everything was fine. Then she remembered. She asks if she can talk to Tim now, and Amaro says yes.
As Tim is led into the room, Benson, Amaro, Fin, Rollins and Cragen watch as he and Ali embrace. Cragen asks now what. Benson says they let them go. Rollins asks, “Really?” and Fin adds “After what they put the city through?” Amaro says they will be paying for this for the rest of their lives. Benson shakes her head, and says “Just send them home.” Tim and Ali hug each other and Benson and Amaro watch as we fade to black.
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