Law & Ordocki #2: Law & Order: SVU: The Case of the Relevant Earprint
NOTE: In last week’s column I alleged a burlap sack full of gerbils wrote and illustrated Batman comics. I’d like to apologize to the gerbils. I am friends with a gerbil named Rowdy Roddy Piper and I do not want to come off as a gerbilphobe. DC Comics’ output would be much improved if more employment opportunities were afforded to gerbils, burlap sack or no burlap sack. I know for a fact that a gerbil wrote the majority of Darkhawk in the 1990s.
The Law & Order franchise is rightly praised for its stunt casting, whether it be casting the guy who wrote “Cop Killer” as a cop, repurposing prison psychopaths (on Oz, at least, but I’m pretty sure Christopher Meloni’s killed a man before) as Sex Crimes detectives, or famous asshole Chevy Chase as famous asshole Mel Gibson. In any given episode of any series, you’re likely to find someone famous either at the time or shortly before it. The episode for this week’s examination of cultural compost sports two, three if you count Johnny Sack: Carol Burnett (The Carol Burnett Show, Here’s Lucy) and Matthew Lillard (being amazing on The Bridge as community service to all the people who watched him in anything between Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College and The Descendants). Can SVU’s “Ballerina” waste these fine actors? Oh, you better believe it.
To understand SVU, truly understand it, you have to realize episodes can have 5 episodes’ worth of plot grafted onto the spine of a single entry. It minimizes the amount of “sense” things “make”, but aren’t those structures all arbitrary? 4 out of 5 stoners say “yes” (the holdout was asleep atop a pile of Highlights For Children copies and the box art of the new Cosmos). If you just go with it, it’s much easier to enjoy if you consider it not television but instead a rough assemblage of people yelling and Ice-T reminding people his son is gay against a canvas of 21st century New York City interpreted by people whose only friends are Jim Beam and a fishtank. So “Ballerina” begins with two NYC roommates having an argument over one of them having to move out. One brandishes a meat cleaver to exacerbate the moving out. As someone in their 20s who’s had multiple roommates, I guarantee this is completely accurate. The shooting turns out to be a whoops em’ up; the murderer meant to kill a Hispanic woman and her boyfriend. The fat fuck was collateral damage, just like when Kevin Smith suffocates on his own hockey jersey.
Benson and Stabler visit the Bailarina Room, which of course has a Hawaiian Luau theme for no apparent reason, and they learn female victim Tisa’s killer may in fact be the most cold blooded man of all: a Hasidic Jew whose facial hair looks like it’s glued on. Since SVU doesn’t want to do the “wow, this exclusionary, insular culture is weird” story that week, suspicion falls on Johnny Sack. He owns the property and shockingly wanted to have sex with a young Latina as opposed to Carol Burnett. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful comedic actress, a national treasure, possibly a sorcerer’s apprentice. She also looks like an extra from Shakes the Clown. Her character is an ex-Rockette and actress, which informs the plot not one bit. The couple lives with her (not really) creepy nephew, Chet. Creepy 45 year old nephew with pastel clothing, a scarf and a glued on mustache? It couldn’t be anyone other than Matthew Lillard.
I would NOT let Matthew Lillard mix me Martinis. No one knows the trouble those hands have seen…
The “who killed these Hispanics” is a bit of a nothing plot (who gives a shit about the deaths of non-whites played by non-celebrities anyway?), besides the amazing “match the earprint” nonsense and the introduction of a character somehow more irritating than Matthew Lillard, as Johnny Sack takes a swan dive onto a car right after Benson says “I can’t wait to see the look on this A-hole’s face” and some more stupid ass banter happens. It’s a testament to how shitty the episode is that I spent a considerable amount of time wondering about whether or not Stabler’s car insurance covers suicides. Even better, when they go up to Carol Burnett’s apartment, Chet answers and says “oh, detectives. Did you decide to try the martinis after all?”. Yes, Chet, the detectives decided to show up to have martinis served by a creepy 49 year old. If I had a red pen for this script, I’d circle everything and write “why?”.
DOSE MUTTON CHOPS
Naturally, suspicion falls on Carol Burnett (“Birdie”, because fuck it) and Chet, with the SVU detectives’ plan being the tried and true divide and conquer strategy. One of them will crack and turn on the other. It’s during these twin interrogations that certain facts are revealed, like how Chet isn’t really her nephew (it’s some adopting the son of a friend who died bullshit) and they’ve been fucking since he turned 18. (Fun fact: the mental image of Carol Burnett and Matthew Lillard is why vodka was invented.) More importantly, it turns out Birdie’s had five husbands, and all of them have died from something besides natural causes. It’s so obvious the detectives don’t even need a lesson from Dr. Huang about black widows and how they kill their husbands and are not questionable focus points of popular Disney-Marvel filmprodukt. Chet is the weak link, because not only is he what’s considered gay coding during the Hays Code era, he’s an exaggerated version of the man-child Lillard played for 20 years. I kept expecting Carol Burnett to take him outside to tend to the rabbits. True to Lillard form, Chet isn’t a realized abuse victim, he’s a caricature. Important emotional moments become unintentional comedy.
Neither Benson nor Chet’s first experience with pegging.
So Birdie admits to killing the man with whom she sought a marital dissolution. I could talk about her peculiarities making the bail hearing prolonged garbage, but I’d prefer talking about her Christian Scientist viewpoint. See, when she was 9, Birdie’s father went to the hospital. They said it was a kidney stone, he’d be fine in a couple days. He died. So she’s avoided medicine for over 60 years, even though medicine has advanced in major ways. Fuck you, smallpox vaccine! You doctors are peddling “poison”! She also excoriates Dr. Huang (Father Ray on Oz) for being a head shrink. Birdie is the point of origin between Christian Science and Scientology. Pills? Whatever, poison! (As though a former semi-star wouldn’t be doped up on Xanax or Valium. Try to remain within plausible reality, SVU.) At least she gets her just desserts with a whole lot of tumors turning her brain into the recommended swiss cheese for viewing Family Guy. There you have it, folks: visit a doctor more than once every 60 years, or else you’ll be Carol Burnett.
In classic fashion, the quickly perishing Carol Burnett decides to confess to Chet’s involvement in the various black widow murders. My two caveats are I don’t think he’s smart enough to pull off a murder and this gangly 52 year old man doesn’t have the core strength to overpower men at the height of their powers. It’s still a pretty great ending because it is Burnett giving a fuck you for Chet cracking under pressure. She’s gonna be a Rockette in Hell whereas…man, I’m not sure WHAT he’d do in prison. Become someone’s toilet wine pouring bitch? Schillinger’s prag? These possibilities are both more interesting and intellectually stimulating than “Ballerina”.
“You don’t take me seriously now, but wait until the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning has me do a fart joke!”
There’s a shortage of remarks about the recurring cast for a reason; from minute 1 they take a backseat to the guest stars. The only person to stick out is Noel Fisher as CSU tech Dale Stuckey. Even years later, he sticks out as a worthless, rage-inducing character poorly played. Saying more would spoil Season 10’s finale, which I plan on covering sooner rather than later, but rest assured that he is an unsympathetic collection of tics meant to get Christopher Meloni to punch him in the back of the head. Additionally, I think Ice-T and Belzer get a cumulative 5 lines. Maybe Law & Order only followed two detectives for a reason, you assholes?
“Ballerina” shoots for the moon and hits, I dunno, a gas station right outside Des Moines. Carol Burnett and Matthew Lillard are great actors utterly wasted by a shitty, simplistic script that mashes together multiple ideas with no idea how to create a coherent whole out of the mess. It’s a great comedy episode, however. For example, Chet whining about Johnny Sack’s alcoholism while his purpose in the household was to mix drinks. What the fuck did you expect? It’s also kinda worth watching for the inappropriate physical contact between Carol Burnett and Matthew Lillard. Oh, not because he grew up with her and it’s a predatory relationship regardless of what age they became intimate. Rather, because Lillard’s Of Mice And Menning it, while Burnett is adapting The Mummy Returns in her acting.
While I’ve contacted the Better Business Bureau for Beth failing to send me the sandwiches my work was dependent upon, I do plan on writing here for a while. I purchased a 105 page fan zine of Ice-T/Belzer slash fiction titled “Love Is The Law”. I will review it, even though it is more proof I do not deserve money.