Thursday, May 16, 2013
Law & Order SVU “Brief Interlude” Recap & Review
This episode was clearly mis-titled. It should have been called "Law & Order SVU: Struck Comatose." It wasn’t only Ariel Randolph who was rendered comatose in “Brief Interlude.” I suspect most viewers dropped into a coma-like stupor after watching the banal plot and tepid acting. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this episode was written by a computer script generator. There were too many times that the characters stated the obvious, the writing seemingly dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. One case in point was the scene where the CSU guy goes though an explanation of the tides and the route the boat took, and then Benson asks him, “Who dumped her in the rowboat?” I can’t imaging Benson really asking such a dumb question (which did not seem rhetorical). Most of Cragen's dialog has been reduced to stating the obvious and talking to the detectives as if they don't know how to do the basics in an investigation. And, when Benson found she was connecting to Ariel’s kids via the web chat, why did she introduce herself to the kids as a detective? It seemed odd – especially for someone who deals with special victims - that she would do so and risk alarming the children. I would have said I was a friend of their mother’s and that I needed to speak with their dad.
In real life, crimes can happen to people by people that are total strangers. The problem with this episode is that viewers had to traipse through a whole host of people who interacted with Ariel in some way before her death but who ultimately had nothing to do with it. It was a tedious process and a chore to watch. I had a bad feeling during the intro where a few minutes were spent in the club and some of the suspects were introduced to viewers. It’s a style of open that I have never liked for SVU; I prefer a mystery and felt the episode would have been far more interesting and suspenseful if it opened with the detectives in the park and allow viewers to learn along with detectives how this woman interacted with others before her death.
For Ariel, it wasn’t simply her giving the wrong man a half of a sandwich. She made several wrong decisions and as a result, she ended up dead, but not at the hands of acquaintances. She met up with the wrong people, took drugs, left the club alone, got into a car with a man that she didn’t know as well as she thought, and then decided to go off by herself. Were viewers supposed to come away with a message like “don’t go to New York alone” or “Don’t interact with strangers?” Usually I come away with something after watching SVU but in this case, I came up with nothing – except a lost hour.
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
Tamara Tunie - Dr. Melinda Warner
Richard Thomas – Nat Randolph
Kerry Butler – Ariel Randolph
Russell Saylor – Charley Landry
Nick Mills – Phil Desapio
Max Baker – Colin Bennett
Bridget Barkan – Hooker
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick – Wayne Randolph
Rhys Coiro – Santiago
Danielle Lieberman - Maureen Walsh
Christopher Sears – Todd Harper
Waymon Arnette – Jasper Barron
Ranjit Chowdhry – Hotel Manager
Julian Rozzell – Jerry
Tracy Westmoreland - Slick
Jesse Coleman – Grant Randolph
Ariel Randolph parties at a music club, and, in the ladies room, accepts a drug from another woman who kisses her on the cheek. Back on the floor, she kisses one of the band members and dances with him and another woman who kisses her on the neck. She gets uncomfortable and walks out of the club, alone.
The next day, a woman with a stroller out on a jog sees two men standing over an unconscious woman laying in a rowboat on the stream. One of them tells her it is not a good day as the other goes through the unconscious woman’s things. They run off and the jogger calls the police.
Later, as the unconscious woman is being loaded into an ambulance, Benson arrives on the scene who tells her it is a female Jane Doe who is non-responsive but alive. There was blunt force trauma, bite marks, and bruises on her thighs and scrapes on her knees. There is no phone or wallet or jewelry and a jogger found her in a rowboat. Benson asks if people row on Gracie Mansion. There are no boat rentals. Benson says they have no way of knowing who she was or where she floated in from.
Later, Cragen, also on the scene, speaks with Benson and Amaro who recaps what they know. Amaro explains there were two male teens, one black and one white, hovering over her body and they ran as she approached. Meanwhile, Rollins and Fin speak with the jogger. Benson, Amaro, and Cragen continue to assess the scene. Fin and Rollins press the jogger for details and find out that she was there to buy Adderall from one of the boys, Jasper, who has a scrip for the drug. She says she has to go as she has a baby yoga class, but Fin tells her not today.
Meanwhile, Cragen comments there is no way to ID the woman and Amaro thinks with the way she was dressed she could be a working girl. Benson tells him he needs to get out more, everyone dresses like that now. Cragen tells Benson to go to the hospital in case the woman regains consciousness and Amaro says he will check the databases and missing persons. Cragen says he will tell One PP that the investigation I proceeding but they have to answer just a few questions: who, what, when, where, and why.
At Bellevue Hospital, while the woman lay in intensive care, Amaro tells Benson that the Jane Doe is not in the system and no one is reported missing. Benson says ME Warner thinks the woman was likely sexually assaulted and is collecting samples now; when a half naked woman washes up in the Mayor’s back yard, everybody jumps. Warner explains the woman’s injuries and that she had Ecstasy in her system. Warner says the woman had stainless steel stitching from a hernia, uncommon in this country. Amaro wonders if her prints are in ICE. Warner says the woman had at least two children and urges she find them fast, this could turn into a homicide.
Back at SVU, Amaro explains to Cragen ICE has no info on prints yet. Benson says there is no info on the boat. Cragen asks what harbor and aviation know and Rollins says if SVU can tell them when, they can tell them where, and if they know where they can tell them when. When Cragen quips that is not as helpful as he would like, Warner says it would be more helpful if she were dead, and she explains that with rigor they could backtrack the time of death, Benson says she is glad they don’t have that. Cragen reminds them it has been 8 hours and they have nothing, and Rollins says it is almost three and schools are about to let out. When she makes a move to leave, Cragen stops her and asks about her “wing” but she insists she is good to go.
Back in the park, Fin and Rollins conduct a “sting” with Rollins dressing as a mom with a baby carriage who got a referral from a woman at a baby yoga class. She approaches Jasper and his friend and when she gets Jasper to agree to sell her drugs, she shows she is a cop. While Rollins arrests Jasper, the other kid runs off but Fin catches up with him and arrests him.
Back at SVU, Rollins and Fin question Todd who puts it all on Jasper. Meanwhile, Benson and Amaro question Jasper who puts it all on Todd. They detectives go back and forth with the suspects who deny raping the woman. Jasper says she had a hotel card.
Later, at the Times Square Motor Lodge, Benson and Amaro get the manger to open the door and also to give them the pass key for the room safe. Benson also instructs him to give them the security footage and the record of all calls made to and from that room and her Wi-Fi use. They enter the room at it looks to be ransacked. Benson sees all kinds of new clothing and assumes the woman went on a shopping spree, and Amaro sees no money has been stolen. Amaro finds the woman’s Canadian passport in the safe – her name is Ariel Randolph who entered the country 4 days ago. Benson sees a power cord for a tablet and cell phone charger but no phone. Amaro thinks there is something that someone didn’t want others to see.
In another room in the hotel, Benson looks over the hotel Internet records and sees mp3 files which look like live music. Amaro, looking at surveillance videos, sees someone enter the room who is clearly dressed to mask his identity from the cameras. Benson clicks on a call going to the same video chat number twice a day and it connects to a young boy who wonders who is Benson and asks where is his mom. Another boy enters the picture and Benson asks to speak with their dad.
At SVU, Amaro recaps that Ariel Randolph, 32, from Edmonton, is a music blogger and podcast host. Her husband, Nat Randolph, is 55 and a local celebrity in western Canada and hosts a show called “Canadian Days and Nights.” Benson adds that they have two sons; Wayne, 12, and Grant, 10. The family barely caught their flight and are en route now. Cragen wonders what a married mother of two was doing on her own in New York City. Fin replies that she told her husband she was here to do podcasts on something, and asks Rollins what she called it. Rollins explains it was the Caravanserai World Music Festival. Rollins states she was not lying about that, she had dozens of mp3s of different bands, most of which played during the festival last week. Cragen wonders when the last time the family heard from her, and Benson advises that it was the morning before they found her; they kept in touch and video chatted twice a day. Amaro says she told others that night she was going to pack and edit her podcast and her husband seems to have no idea about her night life. At home, she teaches piano and runs a PTA craft fair. Cragen comments she would not be the first spouse to keep a part of her life secret. Benson wryly comments it doesn’t mean she was asking for it. Fin wonders if she was into something other than fiddles and accordions. Cragen instructs them to find out what or who, and start with whoever ransacked her room. Amaro says the hotel manager says Ariel took out two keys when she checked in and maybe she has a friend. Rollins says she has several calls to several different phone numbers on her cell phone. Cragen tells her to track them down; the family gets there in 6 hours and he would like to give them some answers.
At the residence of Phil Desapio, Benson and Amaro speak with Phil about the phone calls who says he was editing her podcast and he just met her a week ago at a gig. He says she spoke to her recently about the Tomorrowland Festival and Ariel said she would join them. He did not know where she was, and has an alibi for last night. He said Ariel seemed like a groupie in search of a group.
At P.S. 27, Rollins and Fin speak with the man who handles admissions = Charley Landry - who says Ariel asked him questions about the school being a good fit for her two boys. They explain what happened to Ariel. He claims to know nothing.
At the morgue, Amaro tells Benson that he heard from Rollins and they are now 0 for 5; no one Ariel called in the city knows anything. Warner says the DNA info shows no cold hits or matches and nothing matches the teens from the park. There is no semen but saliva and bite marks from one male, DNA from saliva on her neck from a second male, and DNA under her fingernails from a third male. Benson thanks Warner and then tells Amaro they are now looking for 3 assailants, and Amaro thinks Ariel came to New York to party and fell in with a bad crowd. Benson gets a message which says the family is on the way to the hospital. Benson comments that will be a tough conversation with the husband, and Amaro tells her he has it and he will be fine.
Nat Randolph and his two kids arrive at the hospital. Benson tells Nat he should be prepared, his wife was hurt badly. He says they know, they talked about it on the plane. The kids just want to see their mom,. They enter the room and see her in a coma, and Benson promises to do everything they can. Nat encourages the kids to talk to her, and Grant asks his mother if she can hear them.
Later, in the hospital cafeteria, Nat says he was told his wife has an intra- cerebral hematoma and it is putting pressure on her brain stem. He tells Amaro they’ve asked him to sign a DNR and he’s done broadcasts from stroke wards and he knows what that means. Amaro explains she is getting the best care possible. Nat mentions the other injuries the doctor referred to, asking if his wife was raped. Amaro replies they think so, yes, and asks if Nat has thought of anybody she might have been in contact with. Nat notes that Amaro does not think this was a stranger, and Amaro slightly shakes his head. Nat thinks it was someone she met here. Amaro questions if she talked to Nat in any detail about what she was doing here, and Nat says no; he knows she was going out to concerts but when they talked it was mostly about their boys. Amaro asked if, when she left for the trip, that the two of them were on good terms, Nat pauses and then says yes. Amaro asks if she had taken other trips by herself, and Nat replies not really, just to visit family. This was her first “adventure” as she called it. Amaro asks Nat if he was okay with that, and Nat explains that to be honest, he wasn’t thrilled, but the boys are older now and Ariel had to give up a lot of her dreams when they started a family so this was important to her – for her career.
In the hospital gift shop, Benson and Rollins try to occupy the 2 kids and they manage to get them separated so they could talk to the individually. Wayne tells Benson his mother wanted them to see the world more than she did when she was young and meet other kinds of people. She did not mention meeting anyone there. Wayne picks up a tabloid newspaper and asks if anything they are saying about his mother is true. Benson says they are just trying to sell newspapers, and that Wayne knows who his mom is. As Benson turns, she walks into Phil Desapio who is holing a flower bouquet. He says he came to see Ariel who tells the boys he is sorry about her mom. When he asks what room she is in, Rollins explains only family is allowed. He asks Benson to give Ariel the flowers for him, and she agrees.
Meanwhile, Amaro continues to speak with Nat, who says Ariel bought the clothes here, and never saw the photos on her Facebook page. He says he has to trust his wife. Amaro mentions a few exchanges Nat had with Ariel where he seemed upset and was questioning what she was doing, and Nat said he must have sounded like a jealous old man. Amaro says he gets it. Nat says he is an older man and knew Ariel wanted friend her own age and he was afraid that if he held too tightly he might lose her. Amaro asks if there is anyone he can think of that his wife mentioned meeting, they need to know. Nat says OK and continues to look at the photos. He says there was one musician that she really liked who played guitar, and he picks out his photo. He does not know his name but this guy came to Edmonton last year and Ariel went to his concert. Amaro asks Nat if he went, and Nat said no, it is not for him.
Back at SVU, Rollins shows the others a photo from the FOD lounge 2 nights before the attack. Fin explains it was taken on Ariel’s iPad that they found in Santiago’s loft, who claims that she loaned it to him. Amaro adds that Nat confirmed the iPad is Ariel’s. Amaro insists that Nat is not good for this, Nat was in Canada the whole time and is barely hanging on. Rollins explains that Landry works at P.S. 27 and is married but apparently straight but likes to party in women’s clothes. Benson adds they are not sure that Ariel knew he was a she but Charley’s DNA is a match for the saliva they found on the back of Ariel’s neck. Cragen concludes he was with her at the night of the attack and find out who else was.
In the interrogation room, Amaro and Fin question Santiago who admits he took the iPad so the photos would not get out, for Charley’s sake. He is his cousin, who has a wife and daughter. He claims Charley is straight – he just likes fabric –and they have been doing this since they were kids, Ariel did not know about Charley; she just wanted to have a good time and that her old man was an old man. He last saw her Tuesday when he was playing the Club Kismet in Astoria. He denies having anything to do with what happened to Ariel. She left before they did, she panicked when she found out, adding that Ariel is Canadian and they have their limits. He said when Ariel left, Gabriella subbed for her and they went back to her place, Amaro asks if all three of them will vouch for each other, and Santiago says he can call it that.
Meanwhile, Benson and Rollins speak to a worried Charley. He admits they met at the FOD lounge and Ariel though they were kindred spirits and they did talk about moving her boys here. Benson asks about how his DNA got on her body, and Charley says they hit it off, had a few drinks, and then went dancing. He says nobody broke into her hotel room, she gave him her extra key and after Santiago saw the news he took the iPad. He was trying to protect him. Rollins asks if it was him or Santiago that bashed her head in and raped her. Charley is shocked at the accusation but says maybe they pushed her too far outside of her comfort zone without preparing her and he apologized to her when she realized he was not who he said he was. He thinks she felt betrayed and just ran out. Benson asks why he didn’t allow her and just let her go, and Charley says he can’t run in heels. Rollins asks what time was that,
Back in the squad room, Rollins shows Cragen that Santiago and Charley are telling the truth so far, and shows him the video footage of Ariel leaving Club Kismet on her own. Benson says she was easy prey and she did not know where she was, but Cragen says they do – she was in Astoria at midnight. He tells them to call harbor and aviation back and see if they can figure out how she washes ashore at Gracie Mansion. Fin says they won’t need to use them, and says this is why he brought his rope guy, Collin Bennett. Bennett explains how the tides worked and shows how the tides from an area called Hell Gate, where the tides from the Harlem River, the Long Island Sound, and the Upper Bay all converge and how the tides moved the body from the Hell Gate area to the area where Ariel was found. Benson asks if that was the route, who dumped her in the rowboat? Colin says he is afraid that is a mystery beyond the pull of the tides, but Amaro says it is not beyond the pull of the street cams. Rollins brings up the footage from near the club and Ariel can be seen getting into a white van. Benson says they’ve seen that truck before. Cragen tells them to go.
Later, with Phil in interrogation, Rollins shows him screen grab form the video and asks if he forgot to tell them something. Fin reminds him that he lied, but Phil says he thought it would look bad, he was just giving Ariel a ride. His girlfriend gets jealous. He went to the hospital because he was worried, and insists he did not hurt her. Rollins asks if they will find his DNA under her fingernails, and when Phil moves to cover his arm, Rollins grabs it and exposes some scratches. Phil says it was a misunderstanding, he was just trying to help her, She looked upset and he offered her a ride and she got in. He took her out to eat, she said she was confused and hungry, it was a diner on Ditmars. Fin notes that is right by Hell Gate, where the rowboats are. Phil continues to deny it, saying they just had a sandwich. All he did was try to kiss her and she wanted to go to the river at 2 AM and he tried to get her back. She pushed him away and scratched him and headed into the park. Rollins asks if they will find the bite marks are his, and he says no, he just tried to stop her from going into the park. He adds no matter what he says he is screwed and then invokes his rights. Rollins says if he does that they can’t help him anymore, and he says they can’t help him either way, and he wants a lawyer.
Meanwhile, Benson, Amaro, and Cragen are observing and when Fin and Rollins leave the room, Cragen asks if Phil is good for it. Benson states that Phil lied to them and followed Ariel out of the club and picked her up in his truck and she scratched him and it does not look good. Fin adds Phil asked for a lawyer, and Cragen says the timeline checks but they have nothing to tie Phil to the assault. Rollins suggest to get dental molds to see if it matches the bite marks. Rollins says it may not, he knows Phil had Ariel in his truck but questions that he would carry her through the park and dump her in a rowboat and that someone should have seen them. Cragen instructs them to see if any witnesses can put them in the diner or that park and to go back to the husband and see if Ariel said anything to him about Phil.
Back at the hospital, Benson speaks with Nat about Phil and Nat says Ariel mentioned Phil was a good engineer. Benson is sympathetic to what Nat and the boys are going through, but Nat is just worried about what the tabloids will say about their mother. He did not know that Ariel wanted to put the boys in a school there, He adds he should not be surprised, in his heart he knew Ariel may not be in it for the long run. When Amaro says he can’t be sure about that, Nat replies that he knows who he is, and he knows who she is. This children need their mother and he made a deal last night – he told God if he lets her wake up, then he will let he go without a fight. Nat says he would just like to be with his wife and boys now. He goes back into the room as Benson and Amaro step away.
Back at SVU, Rollins asks Amaro for an update, and Amaro mentions the tabloid stories. Rollins is thankful the boys have a good dad. Fin asks if they have the security footage and that Cragen in waiting.
The detectives watch the footage of Ariel at the diner with Phil. They also see surveillance of them leaving together from across the street and see the back of Phil’s truck. Rollins adds this is where Phil claims they parted ways when he tried to kiss her and she went into the park. Amaro wonders if she misread the neighborhood. Benson says they need an eyewitness putting Ariel in Phil’s truck after they left the diner. Rollins explains that they started up a grid search in the park. Cragen tells everybody to go up there and see if anybody saw Ariel, the truck, Phil, anything to tie them to the water’s edge and the rowboat. Cragen notice a man standing bear the diner and suggests they try to find this guy as he must know something.
With many police on the scene doing the search, Benson and Amaro speak with a woman to get information who wants to be paid first. Fin and Rollins speak with a homeless guy who has a makeshift tent on the shoreline, calling it his “a-park-a-ment.” Rollins and Fin show him photos and Rollins sees a long red scarf in his belongings. The man calls out to “Slick” in a neighboring “tent” and says they want to know where he got that gypsy rag. It is the man in the video footage outside the diner, and he throws a bag at them and runs. Fin and Rollins call out to Amaro to stop him and he and Benson both arrive to block his exit. He says he didn’t do nothing, and when Rollins asks where he got the scarf, he says again that he didn’t do nothing. Benson cuffs him.
Back at SVU, Rollins leaves the interrogation room and tells Benson the guy says he lives in the park as he has nowhere else to go. Benson says he is right, he is a level 3 sex offender. Cragen adds that Phil’s story checks out and they have their man. Amaro says the blood on his clothes match Ariel’s and his dentals and DNA match the bite marks on her breasts. Benson says they found her phone, purse, and an oar with Ariel’s blood on it in his tent. Cragen thinks he put her in the rowboat so she would not be found anywhere near where he lived. Rollins adds they found glue and bath salts in his tent but if they are looking for the why, it’s not going to be there. Cragen tells them to let the family know.
Benson and Amaro are back at the hospital with Nat, who is shocked it was a homeless man who did this. Amaro explains his wife gave him half a sandwich outside the diner and he followed her into the park maybe thinking he could get more from her. Nat says this had nothing to do with these news stories, and Benson confirms that, saying his wife was kind to the wrong stranger. Nat explains that Ariel always told the boys they were blessed and they should look after those who don’t have as much as they do. Wayne calls his father into the room and Nat rushes in to find Ariel dead. He consoles his sons while Benson and Amaro watch sadly.
Back at SVU, Cragen tells Nat they are sorry for his loss, and Nat thinks Ariel hung on until they caught the right man. He adds that the boys are taking it hard. Amaro says they found her phone in the park and Ariel left them a message, and Benson says it is something he and the boys should see.
They play the recordings back of Ariel who has left a very long message for Nat and their sons, and thanking Nat for letting her making the trip on her own. She tells the boys being their mom is the greatest adventure she wants to have. She tells them she loves them and to listen to their dad. She says she will see them in her dreams. As the boys and Nat look on sadly, we fade to black.
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