Saturday, April 21, 2018

Law & Order: SVU Episode 19: Sunk Cost Fallacy

This week's episode was another tough one for our ADA Peter Stone but not in the courtroom. He is told by the doctor in charge of his sister, Pamela's care that she is suffering from tardive dyskinesia, a disorder resulting from long term use of anti- psychotic medication. It manifests itself in uncontrolled and repetitive body movements such as jerking, smacking lips, grimacing, and pursing of lips among other symptoms. The doctor informs Peter that one possible treatment is to up the dosage of her medications even though it seems to be completely counter intuitive. Peter asks about taking her off them all together, but the doctor tells him the last time they stopped her medications, she attempted suicide. Peter does what anyone who is unfamiliar with medicine would do, go with what the doctor recommends. Unfortunately, the doctor cannot make the choice for Peter.


I do not know what Philip draws on to bring out his emotions but he always seems to get it right. The struggle and pain and uncertainty of what to do is written all over his face. I know what it is like because this, once again, hits a nerve with me in regard to my mother. My family was faced with the same type of decisions toward the end of her life. Given two options, not knowing which one will work because the doctors can only give you a list of "what might happens", but knowing once you make a choice there is no going back to try the other if the chosen one doesn't work. Making the decisions even more stressful is having to make the choice "sooner rather than later", just like the doctor told Peter. Once you make the choice, if the results are not what you had hoped for, you constantly live with the agony of "what if I had made the other choice".

For Peter, the stress he faces is only compounded with the case that was brought to him by Benson. What started out as a kidnapping of a woman and her daughter, veered in murder charges against the husband/father, and culminated in a $50 million lawsuit against Peter, Olivia, the DA's office, and the city when the mother and daughter were found to be alive. Their "deaths" and the planting of evidence that pointed toward the father/husband was orchestrated by none other than former ADA Alex Cabot.



While her intentions are great, trying to get victims of domestic abuse away from the abusers when the system fails them, her methods are very illegal. She doesn't deny the fact when Benson asks if there are other men sitting in prison for murder because of what she has done. Why she is not brought up on charges by Peter is beyond me. Again, I feel the writing of the show fails big time in this episode. Is the husband/father in this a total dick? Absolutely! He likely did orchestrate his wife's death at the end and injured a police office in the process but the investigation into that just falls flat and nothing is done to Cabot, who is now costing the city $50 million because of her actions. I know, it's only an hour long show. However, it just seems like everyone is happy to let everyone walk away from their misdeeds. Two wrongs (Cabot & the husband/father) don't make a right.

Benson's speech to Peter after all is said and done with the case is misplaced coming from her. She made it known that the wife and daughter were still alive because it was her obligation to the law, but, since when has "taking yourself out of the equation" (as she said) ever made a difference in her decisions? She has consistently made ones that push, if not completely step over, the lines of what is legal because of her emotions and sense of morality. I was equally shocked earlier in the show when Peter jumped right into charging the husband/father with murder without so much as one piece of hard evidence. Maybe he was just heading Benson off at the pass because he knew she'd push him on it. Maybe the thoughts of his sister weighed too heavily on his mind. Or, maybe it could be chalked up to inconsistent writing along with Benson's speech.



In any case, Benson's words struck a cord with Peter and the tough decision he still had to make about Pamela. He decided to up the dosage of her medications in hopes of stopping the tardive dyskinesia or at least keep it from getting worse. He asks the doctor what if he had chosen to stop the meds all together and the doctor said "That would have been the right choice, too." Peter then goes to sit with Pamela and hold her arm. He loves his sister, even if she doesn't know who he is, and thanks to Philip's beautiful acting, we see he is still struggling with the choice that he made. I dearly hope, somewhere in this season we get to see more than just a few minutes of Philip's acting. I understand this is an ensemble show but please, let him show off what he can do in a character centric episode! And delve into the past relationship between Peter and Pamela.

As a last, but no less important note, mad props must be given to Amy Korb and her portrayal of Pamela.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Law & Order: SVU Episode 18: Service

This week's episode seems like another routine case where a prostitute is raped and almost beaten to death. However, throw in a somewhat reluctant victim and three Army servicemen, two of whom want to keep to the military code of silence to cover up for their CO, and the SVU squad has it hands full. 




The victim, Sky aka Sandy, doesn't really want to pursue the case of her rape and beating, knowing what most people think about prostitutes. Eventually, she starts telling bits of the story of three men, one who raped and beat her, one that she hit with a lamp, and a fresh-face shy young man whom she was paid to have sex with. That man left his money clip behind which led the detectives to a local Army base where they locate one of the trio, Sgt Jim Preston, who had sought treatment for a gash on the chin and just happened to be off base with two other service men at the time of the attack. He refuses to speak of the incident though, simply citing his name, rank, and ID number as an answer to all questions. 

When presented with pictures of members of the Army from the base, Sandy picks out Sgt. Preston, Pvt. William Shaughnessy as the shy young man, and Staff Sgt. Tyler Jones as the man who attacked her. When confronted, Pvt. Shaughnessy says he's the one who raped her but the detectives already know this isn't true.

Benson goes to Stone with the positive IDs of the men and pushes for prosecution. Stone pushes back. I'm glad to see him not letting Benson pressure him into a case. He knows he needs more corroboration than just the victim's ID. He feels for her, but her word alone will not make a case. He tells Benson he needs one of the three accused to flip on the others. Olivia almost storms out of the office, not pleased with Peter's decision. And the look on Peter's face...  he's definitely not pleased with the attitude that just left. Annoyance, frustration, and tinge of disbelief all at once. Philip does it perfectly.


The Private eventually spills the beans about what happened and both Jones and Preston are arrested. Here we get to see a "Chicago Justice" alum come to NYC for a visit. Defense Attorney Olson, from the episode "Friendly Fire", reappears here to defend Staff Sgt Jones. And his attitude is just like most... "She's a hooker, Peter." As if that makes her less worthy of justice. Peter's reply: "And your client's a rapist."

It looks like Peter has this case in the bag though. He has the young Billy's statement saying exactly what went down, Staff Sgt. Jones raped and beat Sandy. But to Peter's shock, once on the stand Billy recants his story. Says he lied in that statement. Peter knows he's trying to protect the Staff Sgt out of a somewhat misplaced sense of loyalty to the man and the military code. Billy insists Jones is a good man. But what "good man" would rape, beat, and nearly kill a woman? Billy has perjured himself and will now spend time in prison and that doesn't bother him one bit. "I'd rather be a criminal than a traitor." 



With his case crumbling a bit, Peter turns to Preston, hoping to get him to realize protecting Jones isn't the honorable thing to do. Now we learn the real reason Preston is so reluctant to testify... the lab results from the blood on the lamp Sandy hit him with has the DNA markers of a female. Preston is transgender and he knows the precarious place transgender troops have in the military even if they are highly decorated and have a spotless record. Peter drops the charges against Preston with the understanding he will instead be subpoenaed as a witness and failing to appear will cost him.

And yet again, Benson is not satisfied with what Peter is doing.She wants him to convict Sandy's rapist yet says bringing Preston on the stand could ruin his life, knowing this is now Peter's only way of winning the case. Peter replies back: "And if he doesn't, you'll ruin Sandy's. It's your choice." I like that he leaves the decision in her hands since she is the one that pressed for it.

Preston proves to represent what the military stands for and does the right thing and testifies against Staff Sgt. Jones. In what is truly the best moment of the show, after having the fact he is transgender made known to the courtroom and the Staff Sgt. convicted, the members of the Army base that are present stand and salute him as he walks out.



Now, for what bothers me about this episode. Both during Sandy's testimony and Preston's, the judge allows the defense attorney to verbally attack both of them, ignoring almost all of Peter's objections. Philip was wonderful at showing his frustration at the judging letting it go on and I certainly shared it!  This would not have happened in a real courtroom. Yes, I know this isn't a real courtroom but doesn't SVU pride itself on it's realism? Just like in a real police unit, the commanding officer would have never let someone like Rollins, who also verbally attacked Sandy, remain on the case. Rollins' attitude, based on the fact her boyfriend was cheating on her with escorts, was completely ignored by Benson. After Rollins first outburst with Sandy in the interrogation room, Benson should have yanked her off the case and gotten to the bottom of the attitude, not let her continue to let Sandy be victimized and devalued. Rollins apology at the end didn't even seem to be enough to make up for the way she treated Sandy. The writers would have had much more powerful episode if they hadn't overlooked these issues.









Saturday, April 7, 2018

Strike Back Retribution Episode 10

When we left Stonebridge and Scott last week, they had just rescued Novin from the clutches of Stillwater, the dirty PMCs sent to do clean up. They take up places covering all the entrances, slowly picking off the bad guys with Novin's help. Scott breaks away from his spot to pressure Novin for information about Lowery and the Atlas. Novin doesn't budge or backdown. She's not afraid of these yahoos. This affords Reynolds time to sneak in. She recognizes Stonebridge and Scott as ex Section 20 members. Now disavowed by the British military, they do the jobs that the British need done but don't want to get caught doing.



Sully and Philip play brilliantly off each other. You'd never know it's probably been at least 2 years since they portrayed those characters together. Unfortunately, Novin and Reynolds both seem a bit unimpressed with our intrepid duo as they banter about something that took place in Sao Paolo that distracted them from chasing down Lowery and the Atlas. I want to know what the writer's had in mind for what took place! Or what Sully and Philip think happened. What did Mikey get himself into that Damien would probably use against him in the future?? We will likely never know.

Reynolds gets a call from Wyatt with news that they know where the Atlas is. With her and Novin being closer, they decide to head out to the island where it is being kept. Stonebridge and Scott agree to hold off Stillwater so that the women can get away. Before they take off though, Stonebridge tosses Reynolds a cell phone telling her to keep in touch.

Now, something I don't get. Scott asks Stonebridge if they are still going to steal the Atlas from the new team when/if they get it. Why? Don't they work for the same team? Do they only get paid if they hand it over? The dialogue just seems out of place.


Guns once more ablazin', our duo makes their way out. It's also great to see Sully and Philip easily slip back into the weapons handling habits they learned on the show. Granted, Sully keeps his a bit honed thanks to Blindspot but the deadliest thing Philip gets to pick up now is probably a letter opener on SVU.

While the new Section 20 is oh so close to the Atlas, the dirty Russians are able to make off with it. Disheartened, knowing the Atlas is their only hope of keeping the section and themselves alive, Reynolds makes use of the cell phone Stonebridge gave her and calls him for backup.

We join five of our heroes at a old KGB safehouse now bar to figure out their next step. Five?? Wait... where is Scott? Late as usual, according to Stonebridge. In reality, mother nature kept Sully away from some of the filming so we missed out on one of the now infamous Scott shagging scenes.

But first things first. In episode 8, the team lost one of its members. Will Jensen (pronounced Yen-sen), the computer tech/comms guy, got taken out by the team's CO at the orders of Whitehall. Novin, particularly attached to him, grabs glasses and a bottle of liquor to mark his death. It made me tear up. I adored Jensen. He reminded me so much of Baxter, who also met a tragic end. And then I got mad remembering Scott & Stonebridge's Section 20 never marked Baxter's death. I blame the writers 100% for this.

Stonebridge remains quietly in the background, knowing all too well what it's like to lose a teammate and a friend. Even if you didn't know Stonebridge had lost far too many of them to count, the beautifully, subtle facial and eye expressions by Philip would tell you he's touched by what he is witnessing.



The team has no idea where to find the Russian GRU Black Ops who took the Atlas so they decide to find something to trade. And, low and behold, not too far from where they are is a Russian data bank of servers. All they have to do is break in and steal them. Except for all those pesky security protocols. Unless, Stonebridge suggests, they take out the power grid to give themselves a window during which only the barest of security will be online. The team thinks this is a great idea, except for Wyatt, and convince the reluctant Stonebridge to handle that part of the plan.

Scott suddenly bursts into the bar and is greeted by the barrels of 5 guns pointed at him. Much to his chagrin, Stonebridge ushers him out of the bar without so much as a drop of beer to inform him of the new plan.

The new teams heads to the GRU site and the last we see of our dynamic duo, they are shooting up the power station to bring down the grid. And with a toss of his phone into the burning equipment, Stonebridge says they should head back to Sao Paolo.

The new team does steal the server and makes a trade with the GRU, unceremoniously dumping the server rack out of the back of a truck and causing my techie/geek heart to cry a little. In true covert ops fashion, the Russians turn on them and try to kill them after the trade. The episode ends as they take off in the truck still in a firefight with the GRU team.

It was just announced this week that Strike Back was renewed for a 7th season. Will we see Stonebridge and Scott back again? Never say never but both Sully and Philip have made it clear they come as a package. I loved seeing the boys together again, loved their banter, and how beautifully they play off each other. I'd love to have this every week again but, they've cheated death too many times already. I'd rather have them never be on the show again and know they're alive than see them again and worrying they may die. Besides, the new team has built their own dynamics and adding them into the mix shifts everything around.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but it's the new team's Strike Back now. Dan MacPherson, Alin Sumarwata, Warren Brown, and Roxanne Mckee have worked hard and gave it their all. They really started to gel over the last half of season 6. As they head out for destinations not yet unannounced for the new season, I can't wait see how much better it gets with them.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Strike Back Retribution Episode 9

There's only one thing to say about this episode: The boys are BACK!


Catch next week's episode 10 of Strike Back for more of Scott and Stonebridge on Cinemax at 10pm Eastern.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Law and Order: SVU Episode 17: Send in the Clowns

This was quite the episode. The case this week started out as, well... “normal” for the SVU squad and their intrepid ADA. 16 year old Haley, on a field trip with her music class and male music teacher (James), disappears after sneaking out to a club. The prime suspect is a very creepy guy who works in a butcher shop and has a fetish for clown masks. He has no alibi. Her blood was found in his apartment and car along with some of her belongings and he was captured on camera dragging a very heavy bag around in a landfill. There’s just one thing missing.... A body. And the creepy clown guy claims he’s innocent. 




So what’s Peter Stone to do? It’s not a slam dunk case by any means. He’s hesitant, and with good reason, to charge the guy. He’s trying to relax in the bar but the case is all over the news. Benson then walks in and starts to press him to charge the guy. It’s been three days. The family needs closure. The news shows the young girl, a music prodigy, exquisitely playing the piano. Peter is obviously moved by this, or maybe by the memories the footage stirs up. We don’t quite know. But in any case, he turns to Benson and says he’ll charge the guy. Now, you would think after all the pushing she did, Benson would be supportive and glad he’s agreed. Well not quite. She then questions his abilities and whether or not he can get a conviction. What the heck, Benson? Or maybe the better question is, what the heck writers?? 





As the case goes to trial, we notice an interesting pattern with the defense attorney. He does not question any of the prosecution’s witnesses. Why? Well, plain and simple... no body. That alone casts a reasonable doubt over the case even with all the evidence they have against the defendant. But Peter presses on. He tells the parents and James to trust him. Between the dad’s testimony today and James’ testimony tomorrow, he is confident they can win the case.

That confidence goes out the window when James, his star witness, is a no-show in court. Things take a very warped and twisted turn here. James and Haley appear to have set up the clown guy for murder so they could flee the country together. Benson pushed Peter to prosecute the wrong man. Maybe next time he will go with his gut and not with Benson’s heart.

Haley and James profess their love for each other as they are pulled out of bed and driven down to the police station where we get another twist in this tragic tale. It turns out Haley’s mom had an affair with James and that resulted in... yes, you guessed it... a love child... Haley. So not only is James sleeping with a minor, he’s also sleeping with his own daughter. When Haley learns of this, she is excited and happy. She truly is special and not the daughter of a garbage man. I can only echo Peter’s utterly confused reaction about it all while he walks out of the courthouse with Benson after James’ trial.

But now... now is when we learn the heartbreak that is keeping Peter in NY and are treated to more brilliant acting by Philip Winchester. Earlier, he had to skip Finn’s birthday party because he had an appointment he couldn’t miss. That appointment is his sister Pamela. Choking back tears, he tells Benson she is in a facility in upstate NY because she suffers from schizophrenia. Their dad would visit her every week, and with him gone, it is now something Peter promised he would do. He gave up the entire life he had built in Chicago to be in NY for his sister.



The heartbreak continues to pile on for poor Peter when he goes to visit Pamela and we see she has no memory of her brother, a brother who obviously loves her very much. The pain floods over Peter’s face. She calls him dad even after he says who he is. Possibly some dementia, too? He tries to laugh it off but it hurts, badly. This is one of Philip’s many shining areas of acting. He doesn’t need to breakdown completely for the audience to see that immense pain. In fact, that makes the impact much more powerful (for me anyway).

Now, let us hope the SVU writers don’t drop this storyline for Peter and we continue to learn what his and Pamela’s relationship was like growing up. Was she the older of the two? I tend to think so. We’re they close? I can only imagine they were, or at least Peter really looked up to her, for him to selflessly walk away from an entire life he built.


And wishing Philip a very wonderful birthday today! Thank you for bringing us such wonderful and complex characters to enjoy.

Law and Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9:00pm Eastern on NBC.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Law and Order: SVU Episode 16: Dare

This was very powerful and overall well written episode about organ donation without consent. In NY it is illegal wrong to harvest organs without consent. Period. Only one color on that palette. Morally, however, the palette is covered in shades of grey. Colors that Peter Stone is becoming all too familiar with.


The subject matter hits a bit close to home for me so forgive me for going off on a tangent a bit for a moment. Six years ago my mother passed away suddenly. The day after, I received a phone call from the hospital because they wanted to harvest one of her organs but she wasn't listed as a donor on her driver's license. Because her passing was sudden, I never had the chance to speak with her about her true wishes. The decision was one of the easier yet hardest things I had to do. She hadn't consented so did I have the right to change that decision after her passing? I ultimately said yes, for a myriad of reasons I won't go into but, whether or not I really had the right to go against what appeared to be her wishes always tugged at the back of my mind.

In the case Peter Stone was handed, again a no-win scenario, a child's organs were harvested without her parents' consent. Her heart was seconds away from being flown to another city to save a child's life. Had this been a one off case, maybe the doctor would not have been held accountable. But 31 other children were victims of the same thing.  Yet, 31 children were alive because of it. The doctor had forged signatures on consent forms so the donor organs would be accepted. The case, however, isn't about the legality of organ harvest. It's about forgery, which Peter sees as cut and dry. Out of the courtroom though, the morality of it is what each of the SVU squad and the ADA struggle with.

Peter struggled on two fronts with this and that struggle was beautifully played out by Philip Winchester's acting. Facing the young boy, Harry, who was denied the harvested heart, the sorrow was plainly seen on Peter's face. Later fighting back tears and nearly losing the battle, he tells Olivia of how his father passed when he'd left the hospital room for a few moments and how upset he'd have been if he came back only to find his father's organs had been removed. The dialogue was well written and excellently delivered with those emotions.


However, my first big gripe with the way the episode was written comes when Peter says he's seeking jail time to make an example of the doctor because he doesn't want to "seem like a pushover". Wasn't he, for the past two shows, worried about being a hard ass? Make up your mind please writers... how about consistently in the middle of the two? My second issue is when Olivia throws the emotional confession about his dad's passing back in his face by suggesting he's overcompensating for his guilt by seeking the jail time instead of just letting the doctor lose her license. You just don't do that to someone who you supposedly have respect for. I, personally, might have a lost a little respect for Benson over that. As if all that wasn't a punch in the gut for him, Rollins comes in to tell them that Harry died about an hour prior. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, instead of trying to describe the sorrow, I'll end with a touching picture of it.


Law and Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9pm Eastern on NBC.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Law & Order: SVU Episode 15: In Loco Parentis Review

I'm not really going to recap this episode. I am going to assume (dangerous, I know) that you've seen it 😊

THE GOOD

  1. While I have issues with some of the material and direction he was given (covered The Bad and The Ugly sections), Philip did an outstanding job in this episode. One thing that always makes for great performances from him is his ability to convey emotion in his body language and facial expressions. From the tilt of his head to the furrow of his brow to the drumming of his fingers on the notebook, it says more than dialogue ever could or makes the dialogue all the more powerful.
  2. High five to Finn for defending Peter. Telling Rollins to stop blaming Peter for Barba's action was great and 100% spot on. I have a feeling Rollins is going to be the major thorn in Peter's side for awhile. Which is fine. I don't expect everyone to like him from the get go. But make sure you're not disliking him for the wrong reasons.
  3. Benson's faith in Peter's abilities when Carisi questions them. Peter may be new to SVU, but he has plenty of solid and successful prosecution experience behind him.
  4. Peter doing what Peter does best... kicking ass in the courtroom. He is great at getting the defendant riled up by pretending to agree and condone their actions. Sympathizing with them and their anger and frustration. And then, the defendant does the rest: insert foot in mouth, salt and pepper to taste. Nothing like getting the defendant to admit his own guilt right up on the stand.


THE BAD

  1. This is yet another case, within a few months, in which an SVU detective is personally involved. What is this, the Kobayashi Maru SVU style for him? Sorry for those who don't get the Star Trek reference but these cases are almost no-win scenarios for him. If he loses, he sucks as an ADA. If he wins, he sucks because he put one of their own or someone they care about behind bars. This week is an exception to the last one because winning was good but if he had lost, Carisi would have hated him. It's like the writers are giving every opportunity for the squad and fans to dislike him.
  2. The dinner invite and blatant flattery. If having dinner with Benson is strictly a throwback to the history of his eating meals & discussing cases with Anna, I'm good with that. But if it's hinting at anything else, especially with all the uncomfortable flattery and what happens in The Ugly section....
  3. When did Peter forget that he's a kick ass prosecutor? Telling Benson he's used to going to trial with more evidence... back in Chicago, he took on weak cases with extreme self-assuredness frequently, much to Mark Jefferies' chagrin.
  4. Benson telling him that if he's in this (meaning the prosecution of sex crimes) to win, he's in the wrong place. Really? I think maybe some of the previous ADA would disagree with that. Sure, you want to go to trial, as she points out, so the victim can tell their story and confront their attacker, but you want to win, too. Prosecution and conviction is the ADA's purpose. You want justice for the victim, don't you?


THE UGLY


  1. The gratuitous shirtless scene. Okay, from a strictly aesthetic standpoint, those few frames are quite pleasing to the eye. But from a character and necessity standpoint, what the heck?? Peter would have never changed in his office in Chicago. Yet he changes here and doesn't bother to lock the door or even find out who's knocking before telling them to come in. Aren't there bathrooms or a locker room or some place he can change? Or is he living out of this office and that's why he doesn't have all his ties yet? It was pointless. It marginalized and sexualized the character in a way that has never happened before on the show. And again with the forced flattery/charm to Benson with the Mets tickets for her son. Writers: PLEASE stop making Peter try so hard. Let his natural pleasant personality win the SVU folks over. 




Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday nights on NBC at 9pmET.