Thursday, May 17, 2018

Law & Order SVU “Mama” Recap & Review

Law & Order SVU “Mama” involved two elderly mothers who are living in retirement/nursing care facilities, and one self-absorbed mother whose son became so obsessed with gaining her affirmation of love that he turned to rape. This was a strong episode with a great guest cast, and I was surprised that I liked it. It reminded me a bit of an SVU season 2 episode, “Pique”, which also had a similar mother/son dynamic. Many times with bigger name guest stars it’s the guest star who is the perp, and I was glad when Joe Piscopo turned out to be a red herring, and that Hal Linden was just an old man who had deep love for the victim, Maddie. The story had an interesting premise: people with memory disorders can be targets for abuse simply because they aren’t lucid enough to be credible, and people in nursing care facilities with no family to oversee their care can be at a similar risk.  But this risk can apply to any gender and not just to the elderly. I have a nephew who, at one point, lived in a large group home for profoundly special needs young adults and one of the staff reported he had been abused. It turned out to be false; the employee claimed that another employee abused him to get that employee in trouble.  He is in a smaller home now, but  I still have to be vigilant for any signs of abuse, even though the caregivers have an excellent record. (You never know.)

What really impressed me about the writing in this episode – and overall as this season has progressed – that themes carry through the story and help tie things together (in this case, flowers), and that situations in prior episodes (Fin’s assignment) get closure. In Fin’s case, as the episode opens, Benson is on the phone with Chief Dodds, hearing the news that Fin finally has his Sergeant assignment: he’s going to the 21st (the 2-1) precinct. She’s surprised that Fin didn’t tell her first. The squad is happy for Fin and viewers likely felt a bit of sadness. But wait! At the end of the episode, we get a feel-good moment when we hear that Fin’s assignment has changed – he’s staying with the SVU at the 16th precinct. Benson wonders how Fin managed to get this switched, and WE have a good idea how Fin did it. In Law & Order SVU “Flight Risk” (season 19, episode 11), Fin shows a memo to Dodds – the contents of which we do not see – that is clearly damning to Dodds. Fin likely threatened to use the information in that memo to get Dodds to change the assignment. (Hopefully, nothing will happen in next week’s season finale that will change things.)  I thought that closing the loop on that incident in “Flight Risk” was a brilliant move.

Also in the opening was Stone, out for a walk in the park with his sister showing her flowers. The scene felt out of place at first. But later, this scenario will convince Stone to pursue a case for Maddie, and flowers helped Maddie reconnect with an old friend. Speaking of Stone, he rolls over a bit too easily when Benson presses him to take the rape case after he calls it a long shot, probably because he was feeling guilt over his own sister being in a care facility. But I object to Benson’s gross mischaracterization of women in nursing facilities. Clearly Maddie was not left “out on the curb for Wednesday pick up", nor was she “shoved in” a hospital or a facility. Maddie clearly was loved but could not be taken care of at home.  It had nothing to do with her expired "sell-by" date.    The same applies to Stone’s sister who seems to be very well cared for.   People need these facilities in many cases because they simply cannot be cared for in their own home or a family member's home.  I recognize Benson's comments were made to pull at Stone's emotions and  convince him to pursue a case for Maddie, but it was a losing proposition and he should have stuck to his guns.  This may have been the place for Stone to suggest leaking the story to the press.

The first victim of rape is Madeline “Maddie” Thomas, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and living in the $18,000 a month Escano Gardens. When it’s time for her medication, she mentions to a nurse that she was raped. Because of her illness, it’s difficult to determine if she is telling the truth or if this is just fantasy. She previously owned a café/bakery, and seems fixated on marzipan cookies. This is a clue that will help identify her attacker.

Maddie is taken to the hospital for an exam but they find no evidence of rape; there is no semen. The Frank Sinatra impersonator from the facility is questioned. Maddie continues to show signs of stress from the attack and while Rollins questions her in the dining area of Maddie’s facility, Maddie picks up an knife and points it at Rollins. It quickly becomes apparent that something did happen to her and her assault was not recent. She mentions a name “Max.”

When Rollins and Carisi question the current owner of the bakery, they find that Max is Professor Leonard Maxwell, someone that came into Maddie's café daily. They track him down at Hudson Park and then Rollins questions him at SVU. He is very charming and says he loved Maddie, even though they were both married to other people. He says he stopped going to the bakery in 1966 as they had made love one night in the bakery kitchen and it was beautiful be she felt so guilty she said they should not see each other again.

They bring Leonard in for a line up but Maddie cannot identify him as her rapist. In fact, she doesn’t recognize him at all. They have an accidental meeting as she exits the squad room and he clearly knows who she is but she doesn’t know him.

Later, another woman, Patrice Connelly, living in at the Silverwald Retirement Home, tells the detective she was attacked. She describes the rape in detail. She mentions her attacker’s name was Dan, and he was new at the facility. They find his full name – Daniel Hammerson – but this turns out to be a dead end as Daniel Hammerson has been dead a year. The person using his identity had been using the ID of a man from another nursing facility. He worked in places as a nurse, orderly, and a chef. He also worked at Maddie’s place, in the kitchen. Benson thinks the smell of cookie brought Maddie back years to the bakery and to Leonard.

Carisi and Rollins speak with employees at Silverwald with no luck. Back at Escano Gardens, they find “Dan” simply delivered food from the kitchen to the residence in their rooms. He was always humming show tunes, things that Trudy Morris sang. He said he knew her.

The detectives question Trudy in her home, who is preoccupied with herself. She identifies “Dan” as her son Henry Phillips. Henry returns home and the detectives quickly arrest him. Trudy is appalled.

Carisi and Rollins question Henry in the interrogation room, and he said he used fake names because of her mother’s career and celebrity. He acts like a self-absorbed jerk. He says he is very close to his mother and they have a similar attention span. He lawyers up.

Later, Benson meets up with Fin in a bar and they have a brief discussion on his new assignment. She says her hands are tied on this one, and Fin says he dug his hole, he’ll eat the dirt. Benson gets a call from Carisi; Patrice is dead. At the morgue, Carisi tells Benson that Patrice had a coronary. They found Henry’s DNA but without her testimony, he will claim it was consensual. Benson wants to charge him with two rapes, hoping Maddie will identify him.

Back at Maddie’s with her daughter, Benson shows her a few photos and Maddie freaks out when she sees Henry’s and mentions cookies.

Benson confers with Stone who calls the case a long shot. She says nobody has any need for these women any more, their “sell-by” dates have expired and they can’t just leave them out on the curb for Wednesday pick up. She adds we shove these women in hospitals and facilities and give them old records and coloring books. Stone adds that we show them the flowers. Benson says they least they can do is keep predators out of their beds, and Stone tells her to stop, she wins. He hopes they get a judge who loves his mother.

Later,  Stone makes his arguments to Judge Lisa Peck, Maddie is there and when the judge questions her, it becomes quickly clear Maddie is not lucid enough to testify. The case is dismissed. Stone delivers the bad news to Benson and Maddie’s daughter Christine. Stone realizes there is no press there and Henry’s name is not as big as Henry thinks. Stone also thinks the press would like the scoop. Benson heads off, presumably to leak the story.

Back at SVU, Benson looks at the headline of the New York Ledger with a cover picture of Trudy and Henry with the headline “Broadway’s Bad Seed.” Carisi quickly informs her that more people have come forward with stories that their mothers have been assaulted. Benson orders Henry to be arrested.

Carisi and Rollins come to Trudy’s home to arrest Henry and Trudy is focused on herself, saying Henry and his father were fame whores. She calls his other “fathers” clingers. Henry is devastated and angrily wonders who is the whore here. He says they didn’t care but he did; he saw how beautiful she was, and talks about brushing her hair in the morning and her skin was so soft after her bath. He says he loved her and asks why she couldn’t love him back, just a little. He cries and Rollins reads him his rights as she cuffs him, arresting him for rape in the first degree. Trudy hugs her dog and looks sad.

Later, Benson tells Maddie and Christine that Henry will go to jail for a long time. Maddie takes a necklace off her own neck and puts it on Benson’s. Benson says it is not necessary, but Maddie says that is what best friends do. Leonard walks in with white chrysanthemums and Maddie still doesn’t know him, but as she smells the flowers she smiles and it seems to bring her back. Outside the room, Benson attempts to return the necklace to Christine, saying Maddie didn’t understand. Christine refuses it, saying that yes, she did.

Back at SVU, Benson is surprised to see Fin is still there. He explains he got transferred back to SVU. She asks how did he pull that off, and when Fin gives her a look, she asks if she even wants to know. He says, “No, you don’t.” She then tells him she would like his DD5s reviewed an on her desk ASAP, calling him Sergeant. He says “Yes Ma’am” and gets to work. Benson walks into her office, shaking her head. Fin looks back in her direction as we fade to black.

Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.
Philip Winchester – ADA Peter Stone

Guest stars:
Hal Linden - Leonard Maxwell
Anne Archer - Trudy Morris
Joe Piscopo – Frank Sinatra Impersonator
Fionnula Flanagan - Madeline Thomas
Kathleen McNenny – Christine Ritchie
Rutanya Alda – Patrice Connelly
Todd Alan Crain - Henry Phillips.
Lucy Martin – Lynn Hammerson
Neil Hellegers – Dr. Malcolm Lee
Leo Finnie – Arnie
Nicholas Ryan – Kev
Molly Leland - Nurse Chastain
Adaku Ononogbo - Ronica
Anne Bates – Nurse Irene
Emily Casey - Deb Edwards
Nikkie E. Walker – Adilay Jones
Barbara Miluski – Judge Lisa Peck
Christopher McLinden – Alec Vale
Danielle Slavick - Alicia Brown
Brad Aldous – Timmy Post
Jonathan Rayson - James Ricord
Amy Korb - Pamela Stone

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Mollie Davis said...

So Fin threatened Dodds with the memo again, but what the hell is in that memo that Dodds is so scared of? I struggle to believe it's just him seeking candidates for Liv's job. I hope we eventually find out and it's not just another dropped side plot.

Selina Noack said...

I could imagine that Dodds said something rather damning against women in high positions, seeing Olivia took time off to be with Noah after his kidnapping. I doubt that would look good. But who the hell knows.

gayle said...

Interesting that you mention "Pique" just after we learned of the death of Margot Kidder, who played Chad Lowe's incestuous mother.

gayle said...

I was really put off at Liv's mention of "coloring books" made available to residents of seniors facilities. Those "adult coloring books" are a lot more mentally challenging than they appear at first glance - trust me.

Sharla Madewell said...

Dodds should do something with Olivia.

Laurie Fanat said...

Benson's commentary about women in these nursing-type homes was WAAAAY off base and uncalled for. Maddie was well cared for and Stone's sister looks to be in a great facility too. Patrice may not have been in a high end nursing home but at least they knew to contact SVU when Patrice reported the rape. There is always an element of trust in places like these and there are always chances for something bad to happen even in the expensive places but my thinking is that the majority of these places show proper care.

Someone should tell Benson that sometimes elderly don't get the best care at home.

Benson and her "sell by date" comment was laughable. She's clueless. People get old. Women AND men. People can't always be cared for at home. I also don't see a problem with having people enjoy music or even coloring. These things can be calming, especially music. Music, for someone with memory issues, can be very soothing as many times it can bring back happy memories.

I thought this episode was very good. I was surprised too when Joe Piscopo's character came and went so quickly, I thought maybe he'd be the perp. SVU has gotten better as the season went on and it gives me hope that the next season will be great.

Good for Fin, he played Dodds and got the job he wanted.

Mending Wall said...

I agree with Benson's statement. I think she was referring to women in nursing homes in general. It may not be true in this episode but it is true for many people. My aunt worked in a nursing home for 30 years and many people do fit this bill. Many old people are tossed away like trash after they are no longer useful and I saw it happen to my own grandfather

Margot Undercliffe said...

Personally I can’t believe Dodds is stupid enough to put things in writing. The second time Fin has blackmailed Dodds. I’m not sure it will end well.

Rick W. said...

If I recall, way back in the olden days of 1977, Anne Archer was up for the role of Lois Lane that we all know went to Margot Kidder.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Rick W - very interesting! Thanks for that bit of trivia!