Thursday, January 7, 2016
Law & Order SVU “Catfishing Teacher” Recap & Review
Law & Order SVU “Catfishing Teacher” gives us not one but two teachers who prey on young boys, and one of those teachers gets justice served on them by one of their victims. We saw the first teacher in action very quickly, so it was fairly obvious that while she was a predator but was not pretending to be someone else, we’d get some sort of twist. Of course, the wrestling coach was the obvious choice, because, as Phoebe Burnap indicated, we hear lots of rumors about wresting coaches! In fact, the first time the wrestling coach made an appearance, I pegged him as the guy. Watching too many network crime shows over the years makes for little surprises. Still, there were enough surprises to make for an interesting hour.
It was a nice twist to see how the wrestling coach meets his end. It was also surprising to hear Benson encourage Nat, the coach’s torturer and murderer, to stay silent until his lawyer gets there. Regardless of whether she and Dodds asked Nat for his help to testify, she should not feel any responsibility for such a brutal action. While she felt that at one time Nat was also a victim, she should have a more level headed approach as did ADA O’Dwyer. I can understand her encouraging him to get a lawyer, but I don’t quite get her apparent sympathy for a person who killed someone in such a violent manner, prior victim or not.
In the opening of the episode, we see a bonding moment between Carisi and Rollins and her baby Jesse. Carisi seems to be a natural with the baby, and Rollins seems to be looking at him with new eyes. Personally, I think that Carisi was more enamored with the baby than he was with Rollins. He seems to look at Rollins as a close friend and colleague, but Rollins had that look that Carisi - someone who has annoyed her in the past – is becoming A LOT more attractive to her. Personally, if Rollins gets into another relationship, I’d rather it not be a co-worker again, at least not Carisi. I don’t see that kind of chemistry between them.
Dodds is also trying to establish himself as Sergeant and he takes the initiate to get performance evaluations rolling. He makes some very interesting observations which were spot on. Benson, probably a little too close to her detectives, counters all of Dodds’ concerns. Of course, Fin walks in and then seems to verify Dodds’ inference that Fin is a bit of a slacker and buck-passer. I admit that Fin has never struck me as being what Dodds’ calls a “kicker” but maybe, like Benson, I’ve “known” Fin for too long to see his performance clearly. It also surprised me that Benson seemed to be very comfortable with being short staffed, while it was only a short time ago she was making being short staffed such an issue. Maybe things are just slow enough at SVU because of the holidays that she can let Carisi do his legal thing and not worry about Rollins being off on maternity leave.
Dodds also stepped in it a bit with Benson when he had issue with Rollins making being a mother a priority. I guess he forgot about all the Noah drama with Benson and that she too was a single mother. How could he forget, when Noah has been front and center for so long (wink)?
Something that struck me as odd: How can Fin tell a woman’s age by her cleavage? Maybe I missed something but I thought he made that age comment after only seeing the photo of cleavage, not her whole face or body.
While I enjoy seeing Robert Sean Leonard again, I still don’t get Barba’s absence. Raúl Esparza is absent more that he is present. I would have loved to hear him at the end giving Benson that dose of reality regarding Nat. I am wondering if SVU is renewed for another season, if Raúl will be part of the cast.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.
Andy Karl – Sgt. Mike Dodds
Michael Gaston - Coach Donald Basinski
Robert Sean Leonard - A.D.A. Kenneth O'Dwyer
Jordan Gelber - Principal Bernstein
Missy Crider - Serena Foster
Erik Heger - Cole Foster
Kelli Barrett - Phoebe Burnap
Noah Fleiss - Nat Dennehy
Ted Sutherland – Zach Foster
Alberto Rosende – Jordan Massina
Judge Jeanine Pirro - Herself
Christopher Gray - Travis Barstow
Tony Campisi - Counselor Steve Roth
Alex Esola - David Faulkner
Brett Smith - State Trooper Al Clark
Lindsay Arnold - Megan
Mark D. Friedman - Counselor Parnes
Ngozi Anyanwu - Female Cop
Shanga Parker - Doctor
Kate Elizabeth Young - Melora
Rollins walks down the street with Carisi with baby Jesse in the stroller after meeting for lunch. She is going crazy on maternity leave but says being a mother is the greatest thing ever. She is not getting sleep and Carisi gives her advice on Feberizing and suggests she call his sister. The baby starts to cry and Carisi picks her up and consoles her, saying she is a good girl, while Rollins looks at him with a desirable gaze that she normally doesn’t give Carisi.
Meanwhile, Phoebe Burnap and a student, Travis, have sex in a car in the school parking lot. She tells him to hurry up or he will be late. He jokingly asks her to write him a note and races off to school. At the lockers, he runs into Jordan and Zach and Zach seems to know what Travis has been up to. The principal, with the wrestling coach, sees them and tells Travis and Jordan to get to class. Coach tells Zach he expects more from him if he wants a slot, and Travis tells Jordan that Zach will never get a spot on any team.
In class, the teacher, Miss Phoebe Burnap, gives them instruction as the boys gaze upon her, looking dumbstruck. The bell rings and as the class leaves, she wishes them happy holidays, and as Jordan moves to leave, she asks if she can get a little help. As Travis looks back with surprise. and then leaves the room, Jordan asks “Now?” and Phoebe says she needs a ream of paper from the supply closet and it’s on a high shelf. He says “yeah” and she smiles at him.
Later, in the supply closest, Phoebe comes on hot and heavy, kissing Jordan but then he quickly pulls back and he tells her to stop. She asks if he is playing hard to get. She moves in closer and asks if that is better, suggesting they see what they can do to get that average up. She continues to kiss him.
Later, Zach gets a series of text messages from someone unknown which gives him instructions on where to meet along with a photo of only her cleavage. He calls his father and says that mom is on the warpath about his girlfriend again and suggests it may be a better holiday if he ignores her when she calls. He packs his duffel bag and leaves.
Afterwards, he waits on a street corner and when the time to meet comes and goes, he gets concerned. A few hours later he sends a text to his contact and later, he sees a car flashing his lights at him and he smiles.
At SVU, Dodds brings up the issue of performance reviews to Benson, reminding her it is part of his duties and thinks he can make them more efficient. He says Carisi is studying for the bar and trailing Barba and he is not sure his focus is here. Benson states Carisi is learning the law to make him a better cop. Dodds asks if Rollins is really coming back, making a comment that it seems like motherhood is her priority. Benson reminds him you can be a good mother and be good at your job too. Dodds realizes he inadvertently insulted Benson. He thinks she needs someone there who is all about the job. She states she has him and Fin. He admits he is still getting up to speed and when he starts to mention Fin, Benson cuts him off and says not to underestimate him and that Fin knows more than anyone here. Dodds concurs that Fin does, but says Fin is a “kicker,” meaning that he boots any call that he can to someone else. Benson says that is not true. There is a knock on the door and Fin enters, saying that they got a call about a missing 15-year-old boy, missing over 48 hours. And the local precinct wants them to take a look at it. When Benson agrees better safe than sorry, Fin says he figures that Dodds and Carisi may want to check it out. Dodds shoot Benson a look and Benson asks Fin why not him? Fin says he has been racking up a lot of overtime lately. Benson says she will approve it and to go with Dodds. Before Dodds leaves, he turns and gives Benson a quick “I told you so” look.
At the apartment of Serena Foster on Monday, December 21, she tells Fin and Dodds that Zach told her he was going skiing and her ex, Zach’s father, Cole, has a time share in Vail. She has not been able to reach Zach and neither has Cole. His duffel bag and tooth brush is gone as is his iPad. Serena gets testy and Cole walks in and they two of them start to fight. Cole has a locater on Zach’s cell phone but his phone is either off or dead. They share a cloud ID and Fin reminds him then he can check his messages, Cole checks and sees the picture of the cleavage and one messages says she will teach him so many things he will be her favorite student. Dodds looks at the messages which told Zach where to meet and to bring his passport. Cole says Zach must have gone willingly, holing up the cleavage picture and says to look at her. Fin reminds him Zach is 15 and the woman is not.
Back in the squad room, Dodds states that the last texts are about going to the air train and the others are more explicit, accompanied by photos. Benson asks if they tracked Zach's phone, and Fin replies it died at Jamaica station. Carisi explains they traced the cell where the pics came from is a burner; it only sent texts to Zach and then it goes off the grid, but he is still going through the older texts. Benson comments that whoever this woman is, she knew exactly what she is doing. Fin adds she never shows her face, there are no identifying marks or tattoos. Dodds comments that the texts indicate she is older and she knew him from school; it has to be a teacher from River Park Charter High. Benson asked if they flagged his passport, and Fin replies he checked first thing, then he checked TSA – Zach never made it to the airport. Benson tells him to talk to MTA and see if he can get security footage from Jamaica station. Benson shakes her head and asks if there is anything else. Carisi adds in an earlier text she mentions the names Travis and Jordan and says if Zach wants extra credit, he should ask them about it. Benson concludes they are classmates and to track them down. Fin comments it won’t be easy as school is closed for winter break. Benson thinks somebody has got to be around and to start with the principal.
At the residence of Principal Bernstein in Floral Park Queens on Monday, December 21, Carisi comments about the drooping Santa display in the front yard as they knock on the door. The principal answers the door wearing a Santa hat and thinks it is pizza delivery. They announce they are police and a young girl appears, scantily clothed and also wearing a Santa hat. Bernstein tells her to go check on the pizza and the detectives explain why they are there and the info they have on the boys. Bernstein thinks they are looking for Travis Barstow and Jordan Massina, both on the wrestling team and Zach is the equipment manager.
Later, outside the school, Fin speaks with Travis and Benson speaks with Jordan. Travis thinks the only danger Zach is in is in getting laid, and Fin says if he is covering, he is an accessory to statutory rape. Jordan tells Benson the teacher wouldn’t go for Zach as he is still waiting for puberty and she likes guys with muscle. Benson says like him, and he says it is not like that. He says he didn’t want to, he had to, his grades were slipping and he didn’t want to get kicked off the wrestling team. He admits is it Miss Phoebe Burnap, their English teacher. She makes him do things in the supply closet. He go the perfect grade on his “Leaves of Grass” essay.
Back at SVU, Benson explains all this to Carisi and ADA O’Dwyer. Phoebe has only been at River Park for a year and a half but before that she was at 3 different schools over 4 years. Carisi adds she quit each time but she spoke to former administrators who said they heard rumors. They said rumors always follow young, pretty teachers. Fin says hot for teacher happens all the time but Benson says when the teacher follows through…O’Dywer finishes that is rape. Fin states Travis confirms the sexts came from her. Dodds asks why she would use her own cell for them and a burner on Zach? Benson wonders if she is learning or wants to take it to the next level. O’Dwyer wonders where are they, and Carisi shows the train station footage showing that Zach was last headed east from Jamaica station Friday night. Benson tells them to widen the scope to see if the teacher shows up on any footage outside the station and start a canvas. Dodds chimes in and says there is no need to; he ran her credit cards and she put a deposit down on a Vermont ski lodge and she bought gas near there Saturday morning.
Later, at Haywood Mountain Resort in Stratton Vermont on Monday, December 21, Benson, along with Carisi and Dodds, locate Phoebe in her room in bed with a young man, handcuffed to the bed, and she says this is her husband. He says he is 21. Phoebe explains they eloped Friday night. Benson tells them to lose the cuffs, get dressed, and she tells Phoebe she is under arrest.
Back at SVU, Phoebe is in interrogation and Benson, along with Carisi, confronts her with what they have. She doesn’t know where Zach got her picture. She tells them to check her phone, they did not come from her. Benson states they know it came from a burner cell. Phoebe says she is not even sure she knows what this is. Carisi states if she met with Zach Foster, she needs to tell them now; they are pulling the video from the air train entrance and they will put the two of them together. She is emphatic that she wasn’t with Zach and he is just a kid. Carisi asks with sarcasm that Zach is not her type. She says nothing, and Benson adds that Phoebe’s picture is on his phone, she asked him to meet her, and asks where is he? Phoebe states she doesn’t know, her husband David is on Christmas break from Oberlin and they decided to elope the night he came back, that is why they were in Vermont. They have been together the whole time. Benson, looking annoyed, tells Phoebe to stick to that story and she will end up in jail and on the registry for a very long time, asking if that is what she wants. Phoebe replies she wants a layer. Benson says, “Fine, But the longer it takes us to find Zach, the less likely you are to get a deal.” She adds that if something happens to Zach…and Phoebe shouts that she didn’t do anything and she wants a lawyer.
In the interview room, Dodds and Fin speak with David who thinks someone hacked Phoebe’s phone. Those are pictures she sent to him, and Fin says she also sent them to other boys. He explains he’s known her for years, they met when he was a senior in high school and her first year teaching. He outlines the timeline for Friday and getting married. They were together the whole time and she wore him out.
Dodds and Fin exit the interview room into Benson’s office and Benson, there with O’Dwyer, says the lodge confirmed the check-in time and other details. They discuss how the issue with Zach is very different than what she did with the other boys. Benson reminds them Phoebe is Zach’s last contact and she thinks David knows something. She tells them to keep him talking. Counselor Roth enters Benson’s office and asks on what charges are they holding Phoebe? O’Dwyer states it is rape in the third and possibly rape in the second, kidnapping, and sexual assault. Roth says on the rape, a jury will look at her and look at him, and asks if they think the jury will see it that way? Benson shoots an “I can’t believe this guy said this” look to O’Dwyer. Roth says he and his client will need a word. She opens the interrogation room door. Benson then tells O’Dwyer they can’t prove she took Zach but they have her dead to rights on the other boys. O’Dwyer says he is aware, nut right now Zach is missing and he is the priority; if Phoebe wants a deal, she’ll get one.
In interrogation, Benson questions Phoebe, with O’Dwyer and Roth present. She claims she never approached Zach or texted him and says she was looking out for the other boys. Roth says Phoebe was set up by someone and they know who. Benson is outraged. Phoebe goes on to say that Jordan had talked about her with the wrestling coach, Donald Basinski. She says if the coach used those pictures it was without her permission. Benson asks if Phoebe thinks the coach used the photos to lure Zach to him, and Phoebe says he is a wrestling coach, and you hear a lot of rumors about those guys.
Later in the interview room, Jordan admits to Dodds and Fin he showed Basinski the photos, and that he air dropped them to him as he said he needed the proof. He says the coach is a good guy and he always has time for you, no ,matter what.
In Benson’s office, Fin tells her that Jordan gave the coach the pics who then used them to catfish Zach. O’Dwyer says assuming Phoebe is telling the truth, this means they have two predators at the same school. Benson says it happens. Benson informs them the coach’s cell phone went straight to voice mail and TARU can’t trace it. Carisi says Basinski has a stellar resume; he’s been at River Park for 12 years and 5 time coach of the year. Dodds adds if he is a predator, this kid has no idea. Benson adds that predators know who to pick on. O’Dwyer asks where does this coach live, and Fin says Floral Park. Benson tells them to go – NOW. Carisi asks if they need a warrant, and O’Dwyer says he will get one.
At the home, the police break in and no one is there but there are two plates and two beers and Carisi concludes they were there. They find lots of pictures of other young boys in the basement, all over the walls.
Back at SVU, Benson and Fin conference on the phone with Dodds. They think Basinski is using cash, and Fin says his car was on the New Jersey turnpike headed north late Friday night. Dodds states the principal is going through the other boys’ photos. Bernstein can confirm those are the school’s wrestling uniforms but does not know the boys. He has not clue on Basinski’s whereabouts.
At SVU, Benson shows the boys’ photos to Travis and he knows some of them. One moved back to Columbia and didn’t speak much English. Jordon recognizes someone named Sam who killed himself.
Benson, along with Fin, speaks with Zach’s parents and break the news that it may be the coach. His mother says Zach reveres him and she recognizes one of the boys in the photo, saying it is Nat Phelps. Fin asks how can they find him.
At Public Works Municipal Building on Wednesday, December 23, Dodds and Fin speak with Nat about the coach and explains they are looking for the coach and Zach. They continue to press Nat and he says the coach had a place in Pennsylvania but he never went there. Nat said there was an old fashioned general store and coach used to bring back treats for the team. Coach said there was some kind of Viking sculpture in the parking lot.
Later. Carisi and Benson show the photo of Zach and coach to a worker at Valhalla Treats and Sweets in Marlin, Penn., and she recognizes “Coach B” and says they were both in over the weekend. When Benson says his parents are worried as Zach is not answering his cell, the girl says that there is no cell reception up there. She knows the coach fishes up at the reservoir and he must have a cabin near there. Benson asks if the coach still has that same SUV and the girl says yes.
Sometime later, a trooper knocks on the cabin door and manages to draw out Basinski under the guise of a problem with power lines and he wants to make sure his line is grounded. The trooper then holds him and Benson and Carisi race up and Benson identifies herself as NYPD and asks where is the boy. Basinski plays dumb. Benson finds Zach in bed, out cold, but he has a pulse. Carisi calls for an ambulance.
Afterwards, at a hospital, a doctor tells Benson and Carisi that there was alcohol and Rohypnol in Zach’s system but there is no sign of external injuries. Zach refused a rape kit and he is now asking for his parents. Fin and Dodds arrive and Dodds asks if they got a statement from Zach. Carisi explains Zach is receiving treatment and they are just about to go in there. Fin says the parents argued all the way up there. The parents enter and ask to see Zach. Carisi tells Dodds that Basinski is with the state troopers being processed so they can extradite him. Benson tells Fin and Dodds to head over, and they will talk to the boy.
The state trooper explains to Fin and Dodds that the coach has been coming there for years and they had no idea. Fin says that is how they get away with it. As Fin enters the interrogation room, Basinski asks how is Zach doing, saying he is having a tough Christmas. Fin asks if that is how this is going to go. The coach plays dumb. He says Zach comes from a broken home and neither of his parents wanted him so he ran away. Dodds says he drugged him but coach says he fed him. He gave him a beer or two, he wanted him to be like a man; he has no friends, no life. Fin says he knows how to pick ‘em. He says he does for the boys who need help. Fin accused him of grooming him. He says Fin has him mind made up but looks at Dodds and says he knows what he’s talking about – sports are good for young men and keeps them busy and channels that energy. He gives Dodds a creepy look and says he bets Dodds played football or boxed. Dodds tells him not to change the subject, Zach was terrified. Coach says the way they came through the door it scared Zach half to death. Fin slams his hands on the table and tells him to shut up, stand up, they are done. As they take the coach away, he spouts off his great record and to ask his boys. Dodds says they already did. The coach states he would like to exercise his right to counsel.
Meanwhile, Benson and Carisi speak with Zach who is sitting up in the hospital bed. He admits he thought he was to meet with Phoebe but then the coach showed up. They drove to his house and had pizza and a beer and they watched hockey. He must have drank too much; he doesn’t really drink so it must have made him pass out. He was in the coach’s car in a highway at night and the coach said he was driving him home. He fell back asleep and when he woke up he was in the cabin and the doors were locked. The coach was in bed with him and Zach said his mouth was on him and he wasn’t into it, he is not gay and he watches porn. Benson assures him it is not his fault. When he says he likes normal stuff - girls - Benson adds that it means nothing, it doesn’t mean anything. He was drugged and his body reacted, that’s all. She asks what else he remembers, and Carisi said whatever the coach made him do, that is on the coach, not on Zach. Zach states that nothing else happened, he just wants to go home.
At arraignment court part 17 on Thursday, December 24, Basinski’s lawyer pleads not guilty and says another teacher – a pedophile – implicated him and he requests ROR. O’Dwyer explains all the charges and how the coach was found, and his job. The judge sets bail at $500K. She adds that if he makes bond, he will be required to wear an electronic monitor and be forbidden contact with any minors.
Later, at the NY DA’s office, Benson brings in the Fosters to speak with O’Dwyer. They are having second thought about allowing Zach to testify. The coach is on bail and must wear a monitor, but they are concerned that this is all over the news and she is getting calls from other parents. Everyone knows Phoebe and the coach have been arrested but they don’t want Zach to be known as the kid who got it from the coach. Benson tries to explain but Cole cuts her off and coldly says thank you for your help and then tells Serena they are leaving. As they exit, Benson apologizes to O’Dwyer, saying that she tried. He says if hit was his son he doesn’t know what he would do. Benson says it is a reach but there are other boys. O’Dwyer says he needs one of them to come forward,
Later, Benson and Dodds meet with Nat and Benson thanks him for his help in finding Zach and the coach. Benson tries to enlist his help in the trial to get as many stories on the record, and Dodds explains Zach’s parents won’t let him testify. They ask him to testify and he says no, forget that. Benson explains if they get more stories, the coach might take a plea. Nat asks how many do they have so far, and when they don’t answer, Nat says forget it, he will not be their guinea pig. Benson and Dodds, unhappy, walk off.
Back at SVU, Carisi says he struck out with the other boys, Dodds states one is dead and another back in Columbia and some don’t want their spouses or family to find out. Fin reminds her when a boy goes through something like this they never tell anyone. Nat walks into SVU and says he thinks he can help them. He holds out his phone and says he has coach’s statement right there; he confessed to everything. Benson takes the phone and Nat smiles.
In the interview room, Nat shows his video of him torturing and stabbing the coach to get the coach to confess to everything. Nat says he “encouraged” him to confess. Fin and Carisi see the violent attack and get up and leave the room. As Nat’s video continues to play, the sounds of stabbing are heard. Nat looks to Benson and says the coach named four others and him, coldly asking Benson if that is enough. Benson looks at him with shock and says nothing.
Meanwhile, the detectives race to the coach’s home with police. The door is open and Carisi and Fin enter with guns drawn. They find the coach on the floor in a pool of blood, barely alive. Fin says they will need a bus. Carisi tells the coach to hang on.
Later, with Nat, in SVU interrogation with Dodds, Benson tells him the coach died in the ambulance on route to the hospital. Nat says he must have been in pain, and dry asks if he bled to death. Benson says yes, and Nat says good. Benson asks when did this happen, and Nat explains last night, he had his first good night’s sleep in 8 years. Nat asks if he needs to make a statement, and Benson says no, not yet. She explains he is under arrest for murder now and they need to read him his rights again. He takes a deep breath and as Dodds begins to read him his rights, Nat says he knows all that. Dodds goes on to say he has a right to an attorney and Nat says he doesn’t need one, and Benson says yes, he does. She tells Nat that she and Dodds will be right back and he is not saying anything until a lawyer gets here. She and Dodds leave the room and O’Dwyer is in the hall, and asks Benson if she usually encourages her suspects that they need to get a lawyer. Dodds says this is on them; they pushed the kid to testify. O’Dwyer states that is not what Nat did. Benson says he was trying to get a confession, and Nat was molested by the man he killed. O’Dwyer firmly counters that Nat planned this; he tortured that man and left him to die and was glad to hear that he bled out in pain. It was premeditated. Dodds questions that O’Dwyer is going to charge Nat with first degree murder which is 25 years. O’Dwyer says Nat’s lawyer can plead for leniency at sentencing. Benson says Nat’s life will be over. O’Dwyer tells Benson that Nat’s life was over at 15. He turns and leaves. As Benson and Dodds look at Nat sitting alone in the interrogation room, we fade to black.
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