Thursday, March 23, 2017
Law & Order SVU “Genes” Recap & Review
Law & Order SVU “Genes” was a muddled episode where the case of the original rape victim is quickly abandoned for catching a bigger fish: the “River Rapist,” a criminal we haven’t heard about until now. Unlike the “Push-In Rapist” from a previous season, who had been mentioned in more than one episode, the River Rapist had never been mentioned by the SVU (at least not that I can find). Coupled with the “my genes made me do it” excuse used by the rapists, the story was all over the place, not one element covered in any depth to be meaningful. Doctor Lindstrom’s appearance in a therapy session with Benson discounting the genes defense was worthless; instead it would have been more interesting having this point actually be argued as part of the court case.
While on the subject of Benson’s session with Dr. Lindstrom, it seemed ludicrous that Benson would leap from her son Noah having an altercation with a girl over a “toy or a cupcake” to worrying that he too has a bad gene from his father that will manifest itself later in life. She’s smarter than that. It’s as if motherhood is dumbing down Benson. This episode’s purpose served as a vehicle to bring out Benson’s own issues with her being a product of rape, something that I thought she came to grips with long ago. If she becomes worried every time Noah has problems - like any typical child - that he is going to grow up bad like his father, she’s clearly taken a big step backwards about her own issues with her father. Yet, at the end of the episode, she is insistent there is no such thing as a rape gene and that she’s researched it. Apparently in reality she can’t come to grips with the facts.
A missed opportunity was not explaining why Counselor Derek Strauss crossed over from being an ADA to the “dark side” for the defense. Some background on this would have been interesting.
Something about the SVU wiring Nick while he was participating in the group session felt sloppy to me. I know that the SVU has infiltrated a group session before (I think Stabler did it), but if I recall correctly, it was with the permission of the group leader. I also think it was a court appointed group session. In the “Genes” case, they didn’t seem to do any checking on the person leading the group before they sent Nick in there wearing a wire. They set themselves up to fail. I'm also confused as to how they were allowed to use Will as a witness. I don't think they found out about Will until the group session, a session which the judge later ruled that the confession - and anything else that came from it - could not be used as evidence. Had it not been for that session and that Rollins and Carisi nabbed Will at that session, they would not have known about him.
A piece of the story seemed to be missing when, when the witness Will is nowhere to be found, that Carisi blows up at Barba, blaming Barba for not taking his advice to use a Delaware case to help win the motion to suppress hearing. I thought when I first watched the episode that maybe I dozed off and missed something, but when doing the recap, I found nothing prior to that scene that covered this issue. It would have enriched this story – and helped make Carisi’s fury more understandable – had they actually had a scene where Carisi offered that Delaware case to help win the motion.
A possible goof at the end: when Benson tells Noah “Goodnight sweet boy” her lips don’t appear to move.
The only redeeming element of this episode was Raúl Esparza and the passion he brings to his character. Sadly, even he can’t save this episode.
Please note: Still proofreading, please bear with me!
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.
Greg Germann - Counselor Derek Strauss
Bill Irwin - Dr. Peter Lindstrom
Dalton Harrod - Will Stein
Emily Shaffer - Jessica Walcott
Michael Torpey - Nick Brown
Sean Patrick Reilly - Richard Witt
Jared Zirilli - Rodney Marsh
Catherine Wolf – Judge
Steve Rosen – Public Defender Guthrie
Alex Hurt - Sam Dalton
Christopher Halladay - Mark Brown.
Eli Bridges – Chris Perry
Joel Brady – Officer Nolan
Lauren Noble – Carmen
Sara Vesser – Sara Perez
Tanairi Vazquez – Kim Espinoza
Mary Elizabeth Kelly – Robin Landry
Rosalind Lilly – Allison Buckley
Jack Nawada-Braunwart – Noah Porter Benson
Jessica Walcott is working at her job as a bartender. A man – Rodney – asks her to dinner the next night and when she says she is working, he said to forget dinner, just marry him. He continues to come on to her and another man nearby says that she is just not into him. They begin to argue and Jessica tells Rodney to back off.
As she leaves work, Rodney approaches her again and she continues to rebuff him and when he grabs onto her she tells him not to touch her. He says he just wanted to say goodnight as she storms off.
As Jessica walks to her car and opens the car door, she is attacked and screams for help before being shoved into her vehicle by her assailant.
Sometime later, an officer is leading Rollins and Carisi to the scene, who tells them Jessica is 26 and works at a bar at 7th and Avenue B. He explains someone pushed her into the car and raped her in the front seat. As Jessica is being tended to by EMTs, Rollins says she is so sorry about what happened and asks if they can ask her some questions. She agrees. Carisi asks if she saw the man who attacked her, and she explains, no, he came up from behind her when she opened the car door. She did hear his voice; he talked a lot afterward. She explains he said he was sorry and he started to cry, saying it wasn’t his fault because he was born to be a rapist and it was in his genes. Carisi and Rollins give each other a questioning look.
Benson is at the hospital with Jessica, who explains her attack. The attacker just kept saying he was sorry. She thinks she knows who did it – Rodney – who comes to the bar a lot flirting with her and always asking her out but she says no. He was at the bar last night. He tries after she closed up and followed her to her car. She confirms to Benson that the attacker cried and said it was because of his genetics. Jessica comments this is odd, asking if that is real, and Benson replies no it’s not real and it’s ridiculous.
At Manhattan Motorcars at 711 11th Avenue on Friday, February 10, Rollins and Carisi question Rodney Marsh, who is a blowhard car salesman. The ask about Jessica and he said he asked her out and she said no. Carisi explains she was raped and Rollins comments even money Rodney is the guy. He dies it, saying he was just flirting with her and tried again when she closed the bar. When Rollins comments he couldn’t take no for an answer, he was not like that, he’d never rape somebody. He denies following her to the car and the minute she blew him off so he walked away in the opposite direction. He got a Quick Ride and went home. When Rollins asks for a DNA sample, he says to swab away. Carisi and Rollins give each other a look and Rollins sighs in disappointment.
Back at the SVU, Rollins tells Carisi that a security cam from a bodega near the bar corroborates Rodney’s story. Benson approaches and says Rodney’s DNA does not match the semen in the rape kit but they got a familial hit to a guy named Mark Brown, arrested in 2013 for rape 1. Rollins says he is doing 7 to 10 in Sing Sing. Benson tells them to go to Sing Sing and talk to Mark and get the names of all male family members living in the area.
Later, at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on Friday, February 10, and when Mark is reluctant to give information, the detectives makes up a story that a family member was in a car crash and the person needs blood and they matches it to Mark’s DNA. Mark says he has a brother Nick and asks if he will make it. Rollins says she is not sure, and Carisi says if he gets this transfusion the docs think he will pull through. Mark eventually spills that Nick is an accountant at one of those giant accounting firms.
At RCFY Accounting Services at 1217 Sixth Avenue on Friday, February 10, Rollins and Carisi arrive at the office and Rollins calls out to Nick Brown. He acknowledges them, and when Carisi identifies themselves as NYPD and asks Nick to come with them, Nick asks if they are there about the bartender. Rollins says yes, asking how did he know that. He states he heard someone attacked her; he heard from a guy he knows at the bar. When Carisi asks him to come down with them, Nick recoils and then admits he did it, he raped her. Rollins and Carisi look quizzically at each other, and Nick explains he couldn’t help it. He adds he was born this way; he was born to be a rapist. Carisi tells Nick to stand up and turn around, and Nick complies. As Carisi cuffs Nick, Rollins reads him his rights as they walk him out of the office.
Later, Nick is in SVU interrogation with his lawyer, being questioned by Rollins and Carisi. He says his father was a rapist who did 7 years in jail and he couldn’t help himself. It was in his DNA and now in his. As Benson watches, Nick continues to say it is in his blood before his lawyer stops him and says his client has information that can help them solve an outstanding case involving a serial rapist but he wants a deal. Rollins replies they will run it up the flagpole but they will need a little taste, and Carisi adds that they want something that tells them he is credible. Nick says he knows who the “River Rapist” is, and when he says he gags his victims with socks, Carisi congratulates him that he reads a newspaper. But Nick adds that they are wool socks, because they are thick and course and it makes the girls gag; the weapon is not a knife as they say in the papers, it is an ice pick. He smells like cigars, he’s always smoking the cheap cigars with the plastic tips. Carisi says they will talk to the detectives on those cases to see if what he says checks out. Nick asks them to tell the bartender he is really sorry. Rollins sarcastically asks if he wants them to send her flowers too.
Afterwards, Benson is coming into her office and Carisi and Rollins explains they checked Nick’s story and it checks out. Benson says she will call Barba to see what kind of deal he can make and Carisi reminds her to tell Barba that Nick says he was born with a rape gene. He moans that these excuses these guys come up with never ceases to amaze him. Benson suggests they call Jessica to explain they arrested the assailant and he confessed and wants a plea deal. Carisi walks out of the office but Rollins lags behind. She comments to Benson that Benson obviously did not tell Carisi about her father, and Benson comments neither did Rollins. Rollins explains it is not her place and asks if Benson is okay with all this talk about genetics, and Benson says yeah, thanks. Rollins leaves her office.
At the office of Doctor Peter Lindstrom at 26 West 82nd Street on Saturday, February 11, Benson is discussing a disagreement that Noah had with a little girl over a toy or cupcake that he wanted. She wonders if it was something more, worrying that…and Lindstrom finishes that Noah may turn into his father. She says yes, and Lindstrom asks if she turned into her father. She says she didn’t turn into a rapist but she thinks about him all the time and what he did and the choice he made. She thinks about it a lot, for a long time even before she met Lindstrom. She worries that no matter what she does, she still worries that somehow his darkness will overpower her life and her choices. She’s been there before; she’s been angry and violent, He says he knows and knows how much this frightens her, but she doesn’t believe that’s who she really is. His opinion is her strength and her moral compass and belief systems are more powerful than her father’s DNA. He says there is no such thing as a rape gene, male or female; there just isn’t. She nods.
At Rikers Island Correctional Facility on Saturday, February 11, Barba is there with Benson to offer Nick and his attorney a deal - rape 2. Nick’s lawyer tried to object but Barba says that’s as good as it’s going to get or they are walking. Nick says it sounds fair. Benson asks who is the River Rapist and Nick says his name is Sam but does not know his full name or where he lives or works. But Nick knows where he will be tonight at 10.
At 2336 12th Avenue on Saturday, February 11, Nick is there with other men and a man – Richard Witt - opens a meeting with a prayer. Rollins and Carisi are in a surveillance van and Rollins is incredulous a meeting of sexual predators opens with a prayer. Carisi says it is like a Saturday Night Live skit but it is real, and Rollins adds there is a lot of that going around these days. Nick is wearing a hidden camera. He begins to tell his story and explains that he raped the bartender. One of the other men – Will - gets upset with him, and Rollins, in the van, hasn’t hear Sam’s name mentioned. Nick continues and says he made a mistake and he is sorry. The man leading the group says they are not responsible for their genetics and stop hating themselves. Will says he despises himself and worries that he will eventually ruin his life and the life of another woman. Another man arrives and it is Sam and the leader of the group explains what is going on. Sam says he feels like he turned a page and went on a proper date with a great woman. Nick asks if they can have a normal relationship and when Richard says it is a process, Nick brings up that Sam assaulted 3 women. When Sam asks why he is going so negative, Nick says he is trying to make sense of it. As he continues to talk specifics, the group starts getting argumentative and one man – Chris - thinks Nick is asking too many questions and he eventually pulls out a knife, and Richard tell him to put down the knife. As Carisi and Rollins race out of the van and into the building, Chris continues to hold the knife out towards Nick as he recoils but Chris opens his shirt and sees Nick is wired. Nick says to kill him. He deserves it. But Carisi and Rollins race in with guns drawn and other offices block the exit as Rollins stops Sam. They begin to cuff everyone as Rollins says they are going down to the precinct and continue this fascinating group chat.
At SVU, Benson is there with Barba who states Nick was telling the truth that he was part of a rape therapy group. He laments they did not get a confession. Benson states they tried like hell but Nick pushed Sam Dalton too far and things went sideways and they had to break things up. Barba asks if they have anything on Sam and Benson says no, and he suggests they invent something.
In interrogation, Rollins speaks with Richard Witt and they discuss the group and he says they support men with nowhere to turn or talk to. He adds that they listen and encourage but don’t judge and most haven’t done anything wrong. Rollins pushes the issue of Sam Dalton or anyone else who omitted a crime. Richard won’t betray his group, and Rollins gets riled, commenting he would betray the victims. Richard worries that he will lose credibility and then the group vanishes and lots of decent men who are fighting their impulses and genetics will have nowhere to go. Then there won’t be one rapist, there will be 10, 20, 100. Benson and Barba are watching and Barba comments it is a decent point, better have them at a warehouse then act on their violent impulses. Benson counters in theory, but it could make it worse as it gives them a forum to rationalize and legitimize their crimes. Barba looks to the other room where Carisi is speaking with Will Stein and asks what they have on him. They have nothing, he’s clean. Carisi speaks with Will who explains they go there to get better but Carisi explains Sam raped three women. Will doesn’t know about this and Carisi presses that it is a crime to lie to a police officer. Will says it is not his fault his father raped someone and he inherited his genes. He wants to do the right thing and make sure his evil never manifests; he goes there to control his urges. Carisi reminds him he is not a shrink or a priest, he wants to talk about actual crimes. But he knows nothing about Sam. Barba stops listening and tells Benson to let him know about Sam Dalton. He leaves. Benson looks at a photo of Noah on her desk.
Later, Benson and Rollins speak with Sam about evidence that he assaulted three women. He asks why they haven’t arrested him and Benson says to hear his side of the story and explains himself. She says he’s in the therapy group so he is remorseful, asking if he wants to come clean and get the guilt and shame off his chest. Rollins says he is going down and if he owns up to it he will redeem himself. Benson says the judge will take that into consideration at sentencing. Benson says it may make him feel good. He asks if they know what would make him feel good – a thick steak. Benson says he is not alone in that but she doesn’t think that is gonna happen for him right now. He gets up to leave and they ask where he is going, and he says he’s going home. But instead they arrest him for trespassing and Rollins explains they weren’t allowed to be in that warehouse as it is private property, and also for the marijuana. He says he wants a lawyer, and Rollins says she is sure he does but first they are going to process him, Benson shakes her head.
At a later time in Barba’s office, Benson explains all three victims identified Sam Dalton – his face, voice, and the stench of cheap cigars, and they are all excited to testify. Benson gets a message saying the crime lab confirmed that Dalton’s DNA is a match to all three vics. Barba’s assistant brings in a motion document which Barba explains it is to suppress Sam’s confession to the therapy group. The defense claims it is inadmissible for clergyman-congregant privilege. Benson thinks this is a stretch and Barba says it is, the law is evolving. If they lose the motion, Barba says they are screwed; they will lose everything else as fruit of the poisonous tree.
At a later date, Barba is in court for the motion hearing with Counselor Derek Strauss who is arguing for the motion with Sam. He brings up Sam’s upbringing with his father but that Sam was trying to get help with the group. He says he is trying to provide context for the therapy group and Barba begins to heatedly argue that Sam confessed. Strauss says that it was 4 men at the warehouse – and a minister. Barba says, “Excuse me?” and Strauss explains that Richard Witt, the founder of the group, is an ordained minister and a member of the Third Avenue Baptist Church. He says the group is a spiritual fellowship in the vein of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that state and federal courts ruled is a religious organization. Richard is in the hallway waiting to be called as a witness. Barba looks less than pleased.
Richard Witt is on the stand, explaining they begin the group with The Lord’s Prayer and after that they can say whatever they want. It is a forum to explain their complex issues. He is the founder of the group. He is a minister. The meetings are spiritual. Barba cross examines and asks what is his occupation. Richard says he is a man of God but Barba says he thinks of him as a private security guard who works at a topless night club called Bunny’s. Richard says he works for the security company and they tell him where to report. Barba counters that the past month they have been telling him to report at Bunny’s. Richard says yes, and Barba says that 100% of his income is from his work as a private security guard, and Richard says yes. Barba states that Richard preaches for free and states this is a hobby. Richard is stunned and says nothing, and Barba stand up, saying some men play golf and some collect wine, Richard preaches. Richard states he preaches because he has a desire to help others and he is good at it. He was ordained at the Church of our Holy Savior, and Barba counters that he means “The Church of Our Holy Savior – dot.com.” Richard confirms that is correct but counters that he studied. Barba says he has nothing further.
After the hearing, walking in the hall with Benson, Barba clearly has just informed her that it was ruled as a religious meeting. The judged ruled that the rape therapy meeting is akin to the purpose of AA to help people overcome demons and addiction. Benson, annoyed, says that because they recite the Lord’s Prayer and that Witt studied on line for all of two weeks, it’s a religion and the communication is privileged. Barba thinks the judge got nervous, adding it is a complicate issue and there is lots of case law. He mentions the Cox case, saying that if a murder confession in an AA session can be considered privileged, then why not a rape confession in a rape therapy group. Benson asks if the confession is inadmissible, what else is out. Barba replies Dalton’s DNA and the three victims. He adds if it weren’t for Nick’s improper disclosure of Dalton’s rape confession they never would have known who Dalton is or what he looked like. Benson is frustrated and Barba says the photo they showed the victims is no good and their IDs are no good. Benson says they have nothing, and Barba confirms correct. Benson asks about communication outside the group, and Barba says if the conversation took place away from Witt and the warehouse they are good, but all these guys are tainted. Benson counters all except one – Will. He has no priors, DNA doesn’t match any outstanding rape kits, he has a great job and he looks like an Eagle Scout.
At Grand Media Consulting at 37 Grand Street on Monday, February 20, Carisi and Rollins speak with Will and ask if he spoke to Dalton outside a therapy meeting. Carisi reminds him Dalton is a predator and that if Dalton does it again it will be on Will. Will admits they had coffee at a diner, and Rollins says if he said anything about the victims.
In Barba’s office, Will states that Sam said the victims enjoyed it, that they don't scream or fight back and he wanted to punch him in the face but he didn’t. He adds that Sam is really scary and he is not that tough so he didn’t but he really wanted to. Sam told him that he raped three women and there was just the two of them there. Barba tells Benson to call the three victims and tell them the case is back on and they will testify first thing tomorrow. When Benson asks if Will’s testimony is enough, and Carisi jumps in and says that Dalton’s coffee shop confession to Will is admissible, there is no religious privilege whatsoever – Barba looks at Carisi with surprise – and Carisi says they can ask the victims to ID Dalton based off this. Barba says with mild irritation, “Thank you, Carisi.” Barba tells Will he appreciates his help, he saved their case.
In court in opening statements, Barba outlines his case of Sam raping three women – Sara Perez, Robin Landry, and Kim Espinoza. He says Sam is a violent predator and his semen was found on all three. There is no question he is responsible, and that Sam confessed to attacking these women. He says Sam is a predator who should be punished by the fullest extent of the law.
Later, Sara Perez is on the stand and she describes the rape and points out Sam. Strauss brings up that she told the police that he pushed her onto the floor in seconds, in the dark, and questions that she saw his face. He questions her memory and suggests she is a liar, and Barba objects, and Strauss withdraws the comment.
Strauss then questions Robin Landry about her description of Sam which does not fit Sam. She says she is not good at describing people but she is sure he raped her.
Strauss questions Kim Espinoza and implies, because she had four glasses of wine, she was intoxicated.
Barba calls Will Stein as a witness and when he finds Will is not present, then quickly calls for a recess. Benson and Carisi race out of the courtroom to confer with Rollins. After the judge calls for the recess, Barba also races out of the courtroom and asks where is Will. Carisi comments he keeps calling him and he is not picking up. Rollins explains the receptionist said Will did not show up for work and he is not at his apartment. Benson says they need to find him fast because without him they don’t have a case. Carisi says they understand and Barba says he doesn’t care if he understands, just find him now. Carisi becomes agitated and walks back to Barba, saying they are going to find this kid but for Barba not to hang this on them. Pointing a finger at Barba, he chastises Barba for losing that motion to suppress as he showed him a case with precedent and directly on point about a white supremacy group. Barba argues back that is was a Delaware case and not applicable. Carisi states that is Barba’s opinion and adds sarcastically it worked out great for them. Rollins moves to pull Carisi away and they walk off, leaving Benson and Barba to look at each other.
As Carisi runs down the courthouse steps with a full head of steam, Rollins races after him. She asks what this was all about and he says it was nothing. Rollins counters it didn’t sound like nothing, and Carisi says he doesn’t care about Barba but he gave him a good case that would have kept the original confession alive and they wouldn’t be in this position right now where a rapist is about to walk. Rollins says she hears him but they are where they are now. Rollins explains she tried to call his friend Allison and she has no idea where he is but she suggests contacting the preacher Witt.
They find Witt and learn that Witt spoke with Will last night and told him not to testify. Rollins says that is tampering with a witness and they continue to pressure him. He says he doesn’t know where Will is and Rollins tells him to call Will and find out. He complies.
Soon after, Rollins is on a rooftop and Will looks ready to jump, worried that he must kill himself before he hurts an innocent woman. They try to talk him off the ledge but he brings up his gene problem. Benson arrives and tells Will there is no such thing as a rape gene, she’s done the research and she has talked to doctors and psychiatrists. She says she is like him and recounts her own story of her father being a rapist. She says she knows this one and has been dealing with it her whole life, but it doesn’t make her bad or evil. Rollins asks about the group therapy and how do the guys’ stories about rape make him feel. He says they are disgusting, and Benson reinforces that they repulse him because he is not a rapist. Benson nods and Carisi lunges for Will and pulls him away from the ledge and says he is okay. Benson sighs of relief.
At Supreme Court Part 9 on Wednesday, February 22, Will testifies that Sam said it was okay to assault women and rape them as long as you prayed for forgiveness afterward. Will said he told Sam he was wrong and that raping someone was horrible, Sam told him he didn’t get it, the women enjoy it. Sam told him he raped three women. Will then identifies Sam as the man who said he raped three women.
As they leave the courthouse, Benson tells Barba that is a hell of a thing to think you are destined to be a rapist and every normal, healthy urge is a warning or an omen that something bad is to come. Benson’s phone buzzes and she answers it, and after hearing some information, thanks the person for calling. She ends the call and tells Barba it was Noah’s school; he fell playing tag and cut his knee, it’s no big deal. Barba says it’s just like pushing a kid in the sandbox; Benson says she hopes he is right. He says he is.
Later, back at home, Noah is in bed and Benson looks in on him. He has his face in the pillow and says, “hi mommy.” She sits on the bed and strokes his head, asking if he is still awake. She tells him goodnight and says she loves him, and she will always love him, no matter what – no matter what. She kisses him on the head and tells him to close his eyes. She leans in to him and says, “Good night sweet boy” and gets up and moves to close the door. As she stands in the partially opened doorway, she gazes at Noah as we fade to black.
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