Thursday, May 10, 2012

Law & Order SVU “Learning Curve” Recap & Review

All photos © NBCUniversal

Law & Order SVU “Learning Curve” had a lot of twists and turns, beginning with a gay bashing which morphed into a story about a naughty teacher who later becomes a naughty, dead teacher.

Fin’s son Ken, who is being cautious about telling his father he is getting married to another man, gets thrust into it when his fiancé is badly beaten and sexually assaulted. This case gets resolved relatively quickly. The reason for the gay bashing seemed lost when the SVU team gets distracted with what looks like another gay bashing. It’s this secondary case which takes the detectives down the twisty path. They are forced to sift through what seems like a mountain of lies in order to find the real sex pervert - a teacher who destroys several lives and who ultimately loses her own in the process of covering her lying tracks.

There was a lot packed into this episode – maybe too much. This could have easily been split into two separate stories. There was no hard connection between both cases; they both began as beatings but the similarities ended there. Still, it was another great episode and in my opinion, SVU season 13 seems to have the best stories in many years.

Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Richard Belzer – Sergeant John Munch
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro

Guest stars:
Stephanie March - ADA Alex Cabot
Ernest Waddell - Ken Randall
Dylan Minnette - Luca
Tony Hale – Rick Sims
Betty Gilpin – Natalie
Jane Adams – Joanne Parsons
Martha Stewart – Eleanor Hastings
Miguel Govea – Alejandro
Justin Gregory Lopez - Cesar
Lenny Venito - Ray Gabardelli

Munch is at a restaurant with Fin’s son Ken, and Ken informs him he is getting married. Ken explains he has not told his father yet and is hoping that once Munch meets his fiancé Alejandro – who will be arriving in 5 minutes – that Munch can help him break the news.

Elsewhere, Cesar, whose girlfriend Marisol is very pregnant, tells her how hard he is working. He opens the door and lets in a few other guys and kisses his wife goodbye.

Back at the restaurant, Alejandro has arrived and introduces Munch as his father’ partner. Munch smiles and says he prefers long-time companion. They talk about how to inform Fin. After dinner, Munch advises Alejandro to just be himself, that Fin may seem imposing but there is a lot of depth there and a heart. It appears that someone is watching them from a parked car. After Alejandro leaves, Munch tells Ken that his dad is proud of him and he says it all the time. He wishes Ken good luck.

Meanwhile, as Alejandro is walking down the street, a group of men including Cesar jump out of a van and pull a hood over his head and force him into the van. They take him to an empty apartment and throw him to the floor. One of the men hands Cesar a bat and tells him to teach this pretty boy.

Later, Ken races in to SVU and rushes to his father and hugs him. Fin looks mystified at this behavior.

At Mercy Hospital, a badly beaten Alejandro explains to Benson and Amaro that he was taken to an empty apartment and beaten and sodomized and then left for dead on the sidewalk. He thinks there were four men who were speaking “Spanglish” and they may be Dominican, and they knew his name. It was a dark van. He says he listed Ken as his next of kin and not to tell his family that he is there.

Meanwhile, Ken speaks with Fin and he knows Alejandro is his boyfriend, but Munch adds they are getting married. Fin pauses and then says OK, and says he is in good hands here and they will find who did this. Benson enters and tells Ken that Alejandro is asking for him, and Ken races off. Amaro explains what happened to Alejandro and Munch says hate crimes is on their way, but Fin says they are not giving this to hate crimes and he walks off.

Back at SVU, Rollins informs them that she knows there has been an increase in gay bashing and recalls an incident from 2 weeks ago with the same MO. Barry Flaco from the Brown, was jumped outside a gay bar. He is Dominican. Amaro wonders if it is a gang initiation rite. Flaco also was covered with a hood and he told hate crime he did not remember a thing. Munch tells Benson and Rollins to re-interview Flaco and tells Amaro to check the gang unit. Fin says he can check the local precincts. Benson explains that the Captain called from his conference and doesn’t want Fin anywhere near this. When Fin objects, Munch reminds him he is personally involved. Benson tells him to go be with his son, they have this.

Later, while Fin waits outside Alejandro’s room, Amaro approaches and asks how is he doing. Fin explains they upped Alejandro’s morphine and he is still out. Amaro says another victim saw and “X” tattoo under the eye of one of the attackers and they are looking at a Dominican group, BX9, and Fin wonders why they names themselves after a bus route. Amaro says all the good gang names are already taken. Amaro hands Fin a book of mug shots and tells him if he gets a decent one to call him. As Amaro leaves, Ken walks out of the room and Fin comments that Alejandro said the attackers knew his name and asks Ken if Alejandro hung around with any gang members. Ken says Alejandro is a stylist, not gang material. Fin asks about his family.

At the home of Marisol Pavel in the Bronx, Fin thanks Rollins for coming. She says she owes him. He asks what she told Munch, and Rollins explains that she didn’t. Marisol is Alejandro’s cousin and Ken says her boyfriend Cesar rolls with the BX9. Fin knocks on the door and when Marisol opens up, Fin shows his badge and quickly walks in. As Fin walks around the place and Marisol asks if they have a search warrant, Rollins tries to keep Marisol from interfering. Fin finds a gun on the desk and asks if she has a permit and she says she knows her rights. Fin tells her to call her boyfriend now and when she says he is at work, Fin forcefully tells her to say she is in labor.

Later, Cesar is in interrogation at SVU with Amaro questioning him and accusing him of being involved in a gang initiation. He says Alejandro is not his family. Amaro says Cesar didn’t want to do this and when Amaro shows him photos of Alejandro’s injuries from the baseball bat, Cesar denies doing anything with a bat. Amaro says then he was there, and asks who else was there.

Meanwhile, Benson questions Marisol in another room. Rollins and Munch watch from the observation area and Munch questions that she brought Marisol in by herself and asks about the gun. Rollins tells him the gun was in plain sight as she entered the apartment. Munch tells her to work her story before they call the DA.

Cesar claims he knows nothing about the gun, and Amaro says he believes her, saying it is Marisol’s. When he starts to talk charges against her and threatens to tell her that Cesar sold her out, Cesar folds and says the gun is his. Amaro says until Cesar tells him what happened with Alejandro, the gun is hers.

Later, Benson, Amaro, and Rollins bring in the rest of the gang to SVU and they tell Fin and ADA Cabot that Alejandro identified them all and so did Flaco. CSU is working the van and the apartment and Cesar will testify. Fin says he will tell his son, and he walks off.

Elsewhere, another man, Rick Sims is abducted in the same manner as Alejandro. Later, Benson and Amaro question Sims who says he is not gay. He says he was dragged into the van by three guys but he was not sexually assaulted, but he was hit in the balls with a baseball bat. He swears he is not gay. They called him fag, homo. He says they had dark hair and were maybe Puerto Rican, and he did not know the color of the van. He does not know why he was attacked and does not want to press charges.

Fin walks into Alejandro's room where Ken sits at his bedside. Fin asks if Ken has family here and Ken explains his father stopped speaking with him when he came out. Fin says they may not have gotten them all, there was another attack last night.

Back at SVU, the detectives talk about the differences with Sims' attack. Benson wonders if someone is trying to make a beating look like a gay bash. Sims is a high school math teacher recently separated from his wife. Munch comments about the separation, saying if there is mud, she’ll throw it, and tells Benson to go bond with Mrs. Sims.

Benson and Rollins speak with Mrs. Sims who says she is sick over this and Rick is not gay. She says Rick makes no enemies, and Benson says he seems to be the kind of guy who lets people walk all over him and asks if that is why they separated. Sims says that she can live with, Rick could not commit to a career. He was on Wall Street when they got married then 3 years ago he said he wanted to be a teacher. Three weeks ago he came hold and out of the blue said he quit teaching and said he needed to do something else.

At the offices of headmaster George Overby at Millicent Fawcett School, and while he is talking with Benson and Amaro, Joanne Parsons, head of the upper school, walks in. They ask her why Sims left the school and Overby asks what this is about. Amaro explains he was assaulted and Joanne is shocked. Overby says the circumstances of Sims leaving is confidential. Benson says not if they involve an allegation of child abuse. Overby cuts the questions short, saying he has to talk to counsel, but Joanne looks like she is ready to talk.

As Amaro and Benson leave, Benson comments that Joanne wanted to talk and suggests a grand jury subpoena. Amaro asks who is Millicent Fawcett, and Benson says she was a British suffragette – she looked it up. They see a photo on the wall with Sims, Joanne, and another woman, who Amaro says looks friendly.

As school lets out, Benson and Amaro speak with this other woman, Natalie,   who says Rick did not tell anyone why he left. Benson says this is about a police investigation, and Natalie says so they know what happened. Natalie says Rick is lucky that they let him leave quietly but she can’t say any more as she could lose her job. Amaro asks if she knows that failure to report allegation of abuse is a crime and Benson adds she could lose her teaching license. Natalie says the second she knew what was going on she went to the administration and they told her they would handle it.

Back at SVU, Sims says he loves being a teacher and wouldn’t do anything to any of his students. Benson comments they knew one of the teachers reported him but he insists he did nothing. Three weeks ago, Joanne called him into the headmaster’s office and said a student made an accusation about him. They never told him who accused him or of what, and in this system, to be accused is to be guilty. He resigned and he shouldn’t have, his wife left him and he got beat up.

Afterwards, Benson guesses a parent found out he molested their kid and beat him up. Amaro says they don’t know if he really did anything and does not make him as a predator. Benson explains that the best predators blend in and two of his teachers, Natalie Relais and Joanne Parsons think he is guilty. Rollins informs them that Cabot is working on a grand jury subpoena but in the meantime she accessed the schools on line parents directory and it’s lawyers and hedge fund guys. Fin doubts Sims would pick a rich kid, Benson adding a wealthy family would not let them sweep it under the rug. Benson suggests someone less sophisticated – blue collar, bridge-and-tunnel, scholarship. Rollins suggests to start with the handful of families that are not upper east side.

Rollins and Fin go to check out a family that lives in New Jersey, the father runs a produce distributor out of Hunts Point. Fin says Alejandro is not out of the woods yet, his son is holding it together and he is happy to be working.

At Gabardelli Produce, Fin and Rollins speak with Ray Gabardelli and ask where he was two night ago and says he was bowling. But when they press him to show him which van it was, and Rollins says after what Sims did to Luca he is not going to press charges. Gabardelli says he would do it again, the sick bastard molested his kid. He said he did not want the school to humiliate his son and go public.

Benson and Amaro speak with Luca with his mother present but she leaves when Luca gets uncomfortable. Luca says he is over it, and worries if his father will go to jail. Benson asks why his father went after Sims. Luca explains that a month ago, Sims asked him to stay after class about his grades. He said he was not cutting and he knew it had to be hard for him, coming from Jersey. Sims said he would look out for Luca if Luca looked out for him.

Later, Amaro and Benson stop Sims outside a coffee shop and say the good news is they found the guy who beat him up; the bad news is he is under arrest for sexual assault of a minor.

Back at SVU and in interrogation, Sims is shocked at Luca’s allegation and he denies it. He admits he had Luca stay after class once and was trying to help him. Benson continues to press and Sims says Luca was falling asleep in his class. Benson continues to press and Amaro wonders if Luca misinterpreted something, but Sims says no, he is not gay or a pedophile. He says none of this makes sense. Rollins comes in with an attorney sent in my his wife and says he can work out the legal fees in the divorce settlement.

Outside the interrogation room, Munch questions that Sims has no record nor prior complaint, and Rollins said he just became a teacher this year. Amaro thinks Sims has been genuinely blindsided. Benson adds she has seen that affect on pedophiles 100 times. Cabot asks how credible is Luca’s story, and Benson thinks something is going on with this kid. Rollins thinks they should go back to the family but Cabot suggests they go back to the school to see who Luca outcried to and when.

Back at the school, Overby says he was just trying to protect the privacy of the student and the Gabardelli family was adamant about not making this public. But Amaro says this is not their choice or his now.

Later, with Natalie, she admits Luca told her about Sims and Overby said she could not say anything for Luca’s sake. Benson says now she can. Natalie says three weeks ago she was giving a lecture on human sexuality and Luca’s face was red and she saw tears in his eyes. The next day she asked him about it and he confessed that after winter break, Mr. Sims had unzipped his pants and propositioned him. Amaro asks what exactly did he describe, and Natalie says Sims asked Luca to put his hands on his penis. When Luca said no, he started touching himself. She believed Luca. Benson asked then what did she do?

In Joanne’s office, she explains to Benson and Amaro when she first heard the accusation she was in Overby’s office with Natalie and Luca. Luca said that Sims had exposed himself and put Luca’s hand on his own genitals. Joanne did not speak with Sims as it was against school protocol. Amaro asks if Luca could have been making this up, and she said she was concerned about Luca all semester and he was clearly struggling and she had several conferences with him. She never had any concerns about Sims and in hindsight it did make her wonder why he suddenly decided to be a teacher.

Outside, Benson tells Amaro they gave the pedophile a severance and sent him on his way and the school’s record remains spotless. Amaro makes note of the differences in Lucas’s stories to the teachers. Benson thinks something happened to Luca, but Amaro says before the prosecute Sims they need to be sure what.

Back with Luca, he goes over his story again with Benson and Amaro. His mother wants them to stop calling Luca a liar but Amaro says they have to clear up the inconsistencies. They continue to question him. Luca said Sims dropped his pants and asked him to touch it but when he wouldn’t, Sims touched himself. Amaro shocks Luca’s mother by asking Luca if Sims was erect, and Luca says he guesses. Amaro asks him to describe if it was circumcised or uncircumcised and continues to press Luca who says he does not remember. Amaro asks if he saw his penis at all, and Luca says no, then yes, and his mother steps in and says they are confusing him. Benson tries to get Amaro to back off but Amaro tells Luca he will have to go in front of a grand jury to testify and he’d better get his details straight. Benson suggests a break but Amaro continues to press and Luca’s mother says that is enough and stops the questioning and tells them to leave. As they walk out, Benson tells Amaro he went at that pretty hard and he says she went easy, and asks if she knows he is lying. She does, but is not sure why.

Back at SVU, Rollins asks Fin how things are at the hospital, and he says Alejandro has internal bleeding and they may have to operate. He says his son has had it rough, being black and gay. Rollins asks if he’s ever had a problem with Ken being gay, and Fin admits he had to address it. But what keeps him up at night is the stuff they see on the job and worrying that something like this would happen to Ken.

Meanwhile, Munch comments to Benson and Amaro that Luca’s father had Sims beat up for a crime he did not commit. They comment about Luca’s weak story and Munch thinks now that Luca’s father has gone vigilante that Luca can’t recant. Benson comments that Luca said the attack occurred a month ago but he grades started to fall after Christmas and thinks if something happened it has been going on a lot longer than he said. They see Luca enter SVU with his mother.

In the interview room, Luca apologizes for lying. He could not tell the truth as he did not want to get kicked out of school by Joanne Parsons. He could not say it was her before as she would expel him. He didn’t know why he blurted out Sims name. He explains that Parsons made him have sex with her. It was in her office and once at her house in Brooklyn. She made him swear not to tell anyone. He describes her home, it was her great aunt’s, the home has a 4 poster bed and embroidered pillows, and she read poems to him from a book on her nightstand called “The Pearl”. He saw her naked and she has a birthmark on her inner thigh shaped like a question mark. Amaro walks out of the room and asks for a minute. Benson and Cabot are waiting and Cabot wonders about this new accusation. Amaro says this time he has a lot of details, Benson adding that Joanne said Luca had been in her office several times this semester. Amaro asks Cabot to get a search warrant.

Later, the police execute the search warrant at Joanne’s home, and they see the four posted bed and embroidered pillows. Amaro also sees the book called “The Pearl”. Benson tells the CSU team to bad the sheets.

Back at SVU, Benson photographs the birthmark on Joanne’s thigh. After doing so, she and Amaro question Joanne about Luca. She insists Luca has never been to her home and he is lying. She doesn’t know how he knows all the details or her birthmark, and she becomes ill and collapses to the floor. Amaro shouts for someone to call an ambulance.

Later, Cabot enters SVU and tells them Joanne is resting at home and her aunt posted bail. Cabot says Luca has already lied to them once and she wants more than just his testimony. Fin says she has not record or prior complaint. Rollins adds she switched schools 3 years ago from Linden Forest Academy. Cabot tells them to find out why she left.

At the office of Eleanor Hastings at Linden Forest Academy, she informs them they gave Joanne a glowing recommendation as part of her separation agreement. She says there was no inappropriate behavior, Joanne is just emotionally vulnerable. She had a nervous breakdown and said she could not continue teaching there. She was very close to another instructor, Lisa Roncardi, who is now Lisa Wiens, who left teaching to get married. That is when she fell apart, she felt she lost a friend. Hastings says Joanne belongs in another era, this one is too harsh for her.

At a street vendor while Benson is picking up some food along with Munch, Cabot wonders if Joanne is a lesbian. Benson tracked down a former colleague who says Joanne was in love with her, but it was unrequited. Munch says Joanne does not seem to be interested in men or boys. Benson wonders if someone told Luca about the birthmark. Cabot wonders why Joanne did not explain she was gay. Benson gets a message that Joanne just tried to kill herself, two hours ago she filled her pockets with stones and walked in to Prospect Park Lake. Munch wonders who is she, Virginia Woolf? Benson says she is on suicide watch at Brooklyn General. Munch suggests Benson bring her some flowers or a sachet of lavender.

At Brooklyn General Hospital, Benson brings Joanne some lilies. Joanne says she never touched Luca and would never touch a student. Benson explains she believes her but how could Luca describer her bedroom and body? She wonders if it is possible someone else she was involved in betrayed her. She says she and Natalie are dear friends, they met last May when she came to the school to interview with her and Mr. Overby. She was so lovely and kind. They went to the botanical gardens and poetry readings and Natalie was in her home. They were content. Benson asked why the friendship ended. She said Luca is a manipulator and a liar. Benson asked if Natalie told her Luca seduced her, and Joanne says no, she saw them together at school in the rare book archive. She turned to her with a look of sadness and promised she would stop but she didn’t. The next week they took her to Overby’s office and accused Sims, and this was after Natalie admitted her relationship. Joanne says Luca is very clever and was worried she would say something and so he accused Sims. She said it worked well and now how could she say it was not Sims but it was Natalie? Joanne thinks if she would have told the truth, it would have destroyed Natalie.

Back at SVU, Benson tells the others that Joanne has been repressed and is living a lie and it finally caught up to her. Rollins adds her life would have been easier if she had come out. Fin notes that Ken and Alejandro are out and look where it got them? Amaro enters and says Natalie is there with her lawyer and they are ready for them.

In the interview room, Natalie says he was comforting Luca and says she feels sorry for Joanne. Her lawyer says Joanne has fantasized a relationship with Natalie and there was none, adding that the woman is emotionally unstable. Natalie says she has not been to Joanne’s home, she invited her but Joanne lives in Brooklyn and asks what were they going to do, crochet? Benson holds up the book of poetry and says Joanne gave her a copy for Christmas and though Joanne had a crush on her, adding it is a good thing Joanne goes for boys. She adds she did not see that side of her.

Benson and Amaro walk out of the room and Benson tells Cabot that Natalie is lying every time her lips move. Joanne walked in on Natalie and Luca and they framed Sims as a cover story. Amaro thinks they picked Sims as he was new to the school and an outsider, the perfect scapegoat and when that fell apart, they turned on Joanne. Cabot says it is now Joanne’s word against them and she looks the least stable of the three of them. Amaro is surprised Natalie will walk, and Cabot asks him if he wants to try this case. Benson says they can’t charge her now but they can tell the school and Luca’s parents right now.

Meanwhile, Fin is racing out of SVU and tells Rollins that Alejandro had emergency surgery and is now in a coma. Rollins offers to drive Fin there. Fin gets to the hospital and Ken tells Fin that Alejandro is still out. Fin presses for details but Ken says he is not allowed to go in. When Alejandro went back into surgery Ken though he should call his father and she showed up and saw him holding Alejandro’s hand and flipped out. His father told the hospital that he was the next of kin and had Ken thrown out of the room. Fin asks where is he, and Ken stops him. But Fin says they are both fathers and to let him talk to him, and for once to let him do something for him, he has this.

Back at SVU, Amaro tells Benson that he visited Luca’s father at Rikers, when he thought Sims molested his son, he had the guy gay bashed. He seems proud now that it was Natalie. Rollins adds that because Natalie is beautiful, instead of getting help, he’s getting high fives. Munch enters and says maybe not, Luca just went off the deep end and locked himself in the biology lab and taken Natalie hostage.

Later, while police wait outside with guns pointed at the lab, Amaro speaks with Luca, saying Natalie toyed with him. Amaro tries to calm him and let him know about all the police outside. He asks Luca to put down the knife and tell him what happened. Luca says he bought them bus tickets to Montreal and told Natalie that he could speak French and they could get a place there. She said that wasn’t happening and that they had to stop seeing each other and they could not tell anyone about it. He told her he could not live without her. Natalie is laying dead in a pool of blood on the floor as Luca holds the knife to his neck. He says Natalie laughed and asked why would she do that? Amaro says he doesn’t know and says he is sorry she laughed. Luca adds that Natalie said she had a fiancé in LA and she said she was getting married in June. Luca loved her. Amaro continues to move in closer and says he knows she did. Amaro continue to try to calm him and get the knife. Luca lets Amaro pulls it out of his hands and Luca leans into Amaro, crying.

In Alejandro’s hospital room, Fin sets by the bedside. He stands up and walks to the bed, telling Alejandro, who is still in a coma, that he wanted to let him know they got the guys he ID’d and they are going down for Federal hate crimes, and they are never getting out. He adds that since Alejandro is going to be his son-in-law, he is sorry they didn’t get a chance to meet before this. As Fin continues to stand at Alejandro’s bedside, we fade to black.

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Esaul said...

The twists and turns were probably a bit too much. It's still a good episode though. Seeing more of Munch is a huge plus. I do miss Cragen now. I hope everyone returns on SVU.

Icy said...

@Esual- I think we would have already heard if someone from the cast wasn't returning.

Anyways, great episode.

janethyland said...

Final ratings are 1.8 key demo, 5.9 million viewers.
This means SVU is still holding steady.
It also means it was level with Smash ratings again. In fact I think SVU got slightly more eyeballs.
NBC must be worried about Smash.

Lets hope they team SVU with Chicage Fire next year. Anything would be a better fit than Rock Center or Harrys Law,both of which skew old.

LDanielle said...

Did anyone else happen to notice in the opening scene that Munch was drinking a glass of wine at the restaurant?

Tamaru said...

I'm guessing these last two episodes were the last we'll be seeing Cabot or Novak again this season.

I'm a little disappointed. I wanted more of them. Here's hoping they become regulars in Season 14. If we're gonna have a revolving door of ADAs, at least give us 2 we love.

OhSusannah said...

I think this was a very solid episode , in the style of older seasons of SVU in that they introduce too many sub-stories and extra characters as red herrings.The only thing to tie the gay-bashing hate crime to the subsequent crime of sexual exploitation was the teacher Rick Sims. He too was jumped,albeit as a gay bashing, quite by chance. How it morphed into the bigger crime about the teacher-student exlploitation was very well done and again a classic L&O tactic. My only
real complaint was that it was a bit too obvious that the attractive blonde teacher Natalie was somehow involved. I did like the twist that they tried to frame the bookish Joanne as an unrequited lesbian love interest to the attractive Natalie.Quickly Liv and Nick were able to deduce they were all intent on framing the clearly troubled Joanne to cover up the crime of student-teacher sexual abuse.All in all, a very solid, well-told story.Very pleased to see NBC has the foresight to recognize that this newer SVU is well-worth renewing.Warren Leight at al has been able to take the best parts of the classic L&O and morph in a few new interesting characters, and new dynamics.I am curious to see how the last S13 episode will play out now that its been renewed. I don't think this has happened before- they got a renewal before or as they were filming last episode.Should be good!Very good review and recap as always.

Joanne said...

I agree that it was too much packed into the episode but it was interesting nonetheless. Nice to see Cabot around and having decent screen time even though it wasn't in a court room.

Thanks for the recap.

April Bayer said...

What happens to Kens fiance? Do they get married or do Alejandro die? That was the only thing I didn't like. They left you hanging. on that part. Too much for one episode. Other than that it was a terrific episode. Learning Curve season 13.

dalia.hasan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phoenix said...

Love Law and Order: SVU. I could watch marathons 24/7!