Thursday, January 18, 2018

Law & Order SVU “Flight Risk” Recap & Review

“Flight Risk” was heavily promoted as SVU’s take on the Harvey Weinstein case, but the only resemblance this episode bore to that case was a man using his power to take sexual advantage of women. It seemed completely unrealistic that the whole case was investigated, went to trial, a sweetheart deal cut with the Feds on what I see as a hijacking, and a grand jury convened, all within a matter of about a week. Is Barba so good at what he does that he needs little prep time, and is scheduling a case for the grand jury to hear really that speedy?

I thought this case opened strong and they did an excellent job on the airplane scenes.  For this season,  the stories are well constructed and the scenes structured and filmed for maximum interest. But I keep getting stuck on what feels like improbable timelines.

This episode also shows Chief Dodds acting like a supportive boss and friend to Benson, but later we see Fin isn’t buying that act. I’m pleased with how Fin handled Dodds and really like how they are writing the character this season.

But first, the case, which opened with a calm plane flight, run by Optimum Air. It turned tense as the co-pilot, Tara Sidnana, locks the pilot, Logan Carter, out of the cockpit and then flies erratically in order to land, terrifying all the passengers. What surprised me about this scene was how easily the pilot, with only minor assistance, could break into the cockpit. Tara is quickly subdued and the aircraft safely landed.

Later, Rollins gets a call saying that Tara claims she was raped. Of course, the SVU must investigate the rape claim, and they speak with Tara who is being held at the airport jail. They are told they don’t think she has any link to terrorists. Tara explains she just wanted to land the plane and get the hell out. She says she was assaulted months ago and Optimum Air had told her if she kept her mouth shut she’d get fast tracked to her wings and never have to fly with Captain Carter, who she claims raped her. Carter was the pilot in this current flight. Maybe Tara is a bad pilot; if all she was doing was trying to land the plane, she certainly didn’t seem to have very good control over it. I am in no way excusing Carter raping her, but I don’t think this is any excuse for commandeering an airplane and terrifying all the passengers. It seems her answer to her being assaulted was to assault others with terror.

As the detectives investigate the case, they find that Optimum Air has a culture of objectifying their female employees and withholding promotions, docking salary, or threatening reassignment to women who don’t cooperate.

As she pursues the case, Benson gets pushback from Dodds, who says if she proceeds with this case, he suggests he get herself a big umbrella because the skies are going to open up and a lot of federal crap is going to come raining down. Benson counters that her umbrella is plenty big. As Dodds leaves her office, Fin walks in and when he sees a frustrated Benson, asks her if she wants him to cut Dodds, as he knows how to do it. Benson sees it as humor but Fin is probably serious.

In the Law & Order SVU universe, cases move at lightning speed. By January 15, the case is going to trial. Carter has been viewed as a hero, but Tara is scorned as she walks to the courthouse. She testifies that she pleaded guilty to federal charges, and she will serve two year and lose her pilot’s license. Two years for commandeering a jet and terrifying passengers seems far too light a sentence to me. I can’t imagine the Feds going easy on her, or any pilot, regardless of the explanation of her actions.

The detectives uncover another case of rape by Captain Carter and this gives Barba leverage to cut a deal with Captain Carter for two counts of rape and 10 years prison time.

When discussing the matter of the culture at Optimum Air with Barba, Benson states, with sarcasm, that being sexist, misogynist pigs isn’t a crime. But Barba thinks it should be and decides to convene a grand jury to pursue charges against Optimum Air. This begins on January 17. During part of the grand jury, one female employee testified that "Male pilots are worse than passengers. A pilot will pretend to hug you so he can look down your bra or text you “what color panties are you wearing” ". I found this testimony alarming as it lumped all male pilots into one category of being sexist pigs. She seemed just as bad as the men at Optimum Air who have negative opinions of all women.

One employee finally comes forward with evidence of an email that she typed which came from the top - Mr. Fleming – which said there is scientific data that women, no matter how well trained they are not mentally or emotionally equipped to captain an aircraft and that it is not a natural career choice for females. The memo added that the resulting anxiety can lead them to make poor decisions which may have severe consequences, including endangering lives and that women may be better suited for flight attendants. (Strangely, this is exactly what Tara did; her anxiety led her to make a poor decision that endangered lives.) Barba makes an impassioned closing argument and gets his true bill indictment charging Optimum Air and all its employees with grand larceny.

Wait, what? Charging ALL its employees? This would mean even down to the low level employees, men AND women, would get charged. This was a ridiculous statement and I am shocked that a grand jury would have bought into it. I’m surprised Barba would have cast such a wide net, even if he knew it would ultimately not be workable.

Later, Barba tells Benson that Optimum will probably make a motion to dismiss and says they will win, but he gets to appeal, but his odds of winning are 60/40 against. He thinks at least he got the wheels turning. Benson shows a New York Ledger headline which highlights the airline’s misdeeds, commenting she thought grand jury testimony was secret. Barba’s explanation is that the courthouse leaks like a sieve. He thinks the company will be declaring bankruptcy by next week, and Benson calls Barba a feminist icon.

Within this episode we see some interaction with Benson and Dodds. Benson was off 3 weeks, and Noah has returned to school – Dodds, checking on Benson in her home, offered her a few more weeks but she counters “…I think if Noah and I spend one more day together, we’d both end up in strait jackets” (which is what many fans have been saying for weeks). Dodds mentions after his son Mike died, every night for 6 months he’d go into the bar where Mike tended years ago and he’d drink too much. He could tell Benson not to beat herself up too much about Sheila, but one thing he hates is a hypocrite. So Dodds seems to be very concerned and supportive for Benson…but later Fin gets the win and shows Dodds’ true colors. At the end of the episode, when Dodds returns to SVU, Fin confronts him about Benson and says she is the only one that can do the job. Fin brings up rumors that Dodds was interviewing replacements for Benson, and Dodds explains that he wasn’t sure Benson was coming back and he had a department to run and bosses to answer to. At face value, this seems like a reasonable explanation. Dodds thinks Fin understands him and Fin does, but not the way Dodds expects, Fin shows Dodds a memo – we don’t see what it says – but the contents must be damning as Dodds is clearly rattled. Fin says he wants to make sure they DO understand each other. Dodds says he does. While we don’t see what’s in the memo, we can only assume that Dodds is not in Benson’s corner and may be actively working against her. This is one story line that would be very interesting to pursue.

Update January 20, 2018 – a deleted scene has been added below.
Update January, 21, 2018 - another deleted scene had been added.

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.

Guest stars:
Peter Gallagher - Deputy Chief William Dodds
Yasmine Al Massri –Tara Sidnana
Martin Donovan – Captain Logan Carter
Ned Eisenberg - Roger Kressler
Reg Rogers - Carl Fleming
Roxanna Hope Radja - Alexis Sidnana
Anastasia Barzee - Jeanne Howell
Ana Maria Jomolca - Ellen
Blair Busbee – Erin Kay
Tyrone Mitchell Henderson – Kevin Reed (HR)
Sonia Manzano – Judge Pepiton
Iliana Guibert - Sandy Sullivan
Tom Day – Agent Doherty
Phae Lewis – Molly Harrison
Liam Craig – Traffic Supervisor
Jennifer Dorr White – Passenger
Jonathan Schenk - Passenger #2
Felicia A. Dinwiddie - Passenger 3
Molly Crowley – Passender 4
David Scott Purdy – Air Traffic Control Employee
Sara Brophy – Ms. Mile High
Peter Saide – Mr. Mile High
Holly Holcomb – Grand Juror #4
Deja Blaise - Juror #17
John Mack – Air Marshall

Deleted Scene Added January 20, 2018

Deleted Scene Added January 21, 2018

Deleted Scene Added January 23, 2018

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Jodi Stephens said...

IMHO, Everyone understands the timelines on the "legal" shows are fictitious. It takes almost 2 years to get a killer to trial (and I can't imagine in NYC how long), at least in my location. This is a really good episode showcasing Barba (finally for this season; my favorite person). To be based on the Weinstein events, it didn't really use the Weinstein basis (too close to network home) which was "sleep with me or you'll never work again" but dealt more with rape and women accepting payoff to keep quiet. I was surprised that the Flight Attendants had not gone to their Union when realizing they were punished by their routes and times. There is a "whistleblower protection act." Women talk to each other when they perceive a problem; a little "have you noticed that" opens up a lot of dialogue. It does bring the "MeToo" movement to the forefront which is good, but way past doing any good except publicity. I agree that Sidana should have found another way to get her point across and not jeopardize an entire plane. I found the sequence confusing when the plane was shown being out of control, and then categorized as her trying to "crash" the plane or not having control of the plane (which reinforced she was a lousy pilot). It wasn't defined. I believe the script writers could have done some things better. FIN: this is not the first time Fin has been against Dodds; remember when he called him a prick? Dodds still holds Benson responsible for son's death. Wouldn't be surprised to see another detective put into the squad (Liv keeps saying they are not fully staffed) who will be a snitch for Dodds.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Jodi - they have always compressed the time frame on all the Law & Order brand shows, but lately they are compressing them just a little too much! We used to see weeks pass by, not days. My take is that the time stamps on those date cards have become so unbelievable that they'd be better off just getting rid of the dates on them.

Unknown said...

I think we have to give them a break with the timeline. It can never be realistically portrayed in one hour. In regards to Dodds, he is suspect for sure. His son was his pride and joy and it didnt seem realistic that he would let her slide. Benson is the senior officer and didnt check munson for guns. She has more experience and she has been held hostage before. She could have told Dodds to take the children out and she could have stayed. The chief has it in for her for sure.

Barbara made a hell of a stretch with the charges but I think he was just trying to get peoples eyes open, not win. Women could have been charged too but lets not forget that women can help spread misogyny just as strong as men.

Suzi said...

After watching alllllll seasons of svu, I’ve never once looked at dates!!!! I very occasionally look at location but mainly because of my nyc obsession. I can understand why it irks you however!! X

Chris Zimmer said...

The original Law & Order was more believable on the timelines. The more I think on the idea of SVU getting rid of them, I like it more. It could eliminate the continuity errors that sometime pop up when the writers aren't careful.

@Unknown & Jodi Stephens: I agree on the Dodds issue. He admitted to Benson how hard it was to get over Mike's death and he likely ISN'T over it and blames Benson. I wonder if Fin's threat will do anything to have Dodds watch his step more closely?

Laurie Fanat said...

I agree the writing and overall production this season has improved. The character dynamics seem better and it is refreshing to see Fin be Fin instead of fading into the woodwork.

On the timeline issue, it's a real joke. They've got to know how silly the dates are when they write the episodes, and I don't understand why they continue to paint themselves in the corner with them. If they were gone, no one would miss them but while they are there, they annoy.

Barba wanting to charge every employee of the airline was ludicrous and it bugs me that he found a jury that gave him a true bill on such an outrageously widely-scoped charge.

Tara was an awful pilot. AWFUL. Okay she was rattled to see the captain but she had the sense enough to lock him out of the cockpit. Maybe they had good reason not to promote her? And 2 years for what amounts to a hijacking is not credible. Not in this day and age.

Travis Sanchez said...

My biggest gripe is that we are supposed to feel like sidnanas action isn't as bad a what happened to her but I kept thinking that her response was way tooo much, we can assume the best that she was trying to land the plane but from the look of her she wasn't doing to well and was in a state of shock. Her actions could have killed dozens of innocent passengers. I feel like she was given way too much leniency by the courts. If Barba can justify charging and entire company with grand larceny every single person then she should have been charged with reckless endangerment and faced serious time. I just feel like this episode the victims actions made me not sympathize so much with her and the later actions of the episode showing blatant stretching of the laws makes me feel like she was let off way too easily.

Jessica said...

The takeaway from this episode was less a literal parallel to the the Weinstein case, and more a commentary on institutionalized sexism - where sexual harrassment and misogyny are so rampant in a given industry that everyone normalizes it.

Jess said...

If any procedural followed actual real life timelines, most shows would be unwatchable. Suspension of disbelief on that score is essential. There is really no reason not to scrap the timeline placards. I know I pay zero attention to them anyway.

Barba was for sure showboating with his, "Make the whole company culpable!" thing, but that was, I thought, the point. Sending a message, vs. winning appeals.

The Dodds storyline is fascinating, and they've been slowly building up to Fin being in a position to drop the hammer on him for several episodes, now. Well played.

Jessica F. Norick said...

"She could have told Dodds to take the children out and she could have stayed."

I could have sworn she did exactly that at one point in that ep.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Jessica F Norick & @Unknown - I checked my recap on that episode (Heartfelt Passages) and Benson made the move to get the kids out and Dodds nodded back at her as she did this. This tells me that he felt he wanted her to take the kids out and he would stay, seeing that he seemed to be taking the lead in talking with the guy. I don't see anything where Benson told Dodds to take the kids out. She should have been the one to stay, but I can also see where, if Dodds had been taking the lead in connecting with the guy, why she thought it was okay for Dodds to stay.

Chris Zimmer said...

Update! A deleted scene with Mariska nad Raul has been added.

marcntip said...

Maybe Tara was traumatized by the rape and relived it, during the flight. Maybe she wasn’t trying to scare passengers and just thinking about being raped y a man who she now has to work with (again). Sounds like she was traumatized to me and not intentionally trying to hurt the passengers!

Chris Zimmer said...

Another deleted scene with Raul Esparza has been added, enjoy!

Erin said...

"The takeaway from this episode was less a literal parallel to the the Weinstein case, and more a commentary on institutionalised sexism - where sexual harassment and misogyny are so rampant in a given industry that everyone normalises it."

Further to Jessica's comment above, something that made me want to lose my lunch in this episode was how much fawning and congratulations came Barba's way.

"You're a feminist icon, Rafael."

One could easily say giving rape victims a bum deal, refusing to prosecute serial sexual harassers, victim blaming and misogyny have become so rote and run-of-the-mill in law enforcement and the justice system that when a prosecutor steps up and actually does the job he is meant to do, people fall over themselves to congratulate and laud him, forgetting to empower and congratulate the victims who powered through, the real heroes of the piece.

Unknown said...

I agree, I do like what Raf did in the ep, esp saying that misogyny should be illegal (or for shits sakes at least had repercussions!), but I think the real hero was the secretary who went behind the bosses backs! She lost her job over it (since they were going to go bankrupt), yet still did the right thing.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I wonder how Barba would react if someone in the DA's office were accused of assault, and the argument was that all male DAs were pigs...

Chris Zimmer said...

Update: A third deleted scene has been added. I think the first deleted scene was removed by NBC SVU as some people took offense to it.