Law & Ordocki Season 2 #6 (#17): Scary Gaffigans Fill My Mouth
Remember when I said there were delineated purposes for each branch of the Law & Order universe? The episode I’m talking about today contradicts that. See, you want major crimes like murder and robberies and the Green Goblin, you go to Criminal Intent. If diddlers is more your speed, it’s time to visit Special Victims Unit. Never the twain shall meet, at least not until CI is axed and SVU becomes the last show standing for everyone’s crime procedural ideas. The Dick-Wolf compromise of 2002 states: “if one is sexually assaulted, their assault will be investigated by a rageaholic Catholic and a condescending whisper voiced woman who knows not the touch of a man. This also applies to children harmed sexually or not sexually. So sayeth the Dick Wolf”. I’ll be honest, when I heard the phrase “messes with kids” I was almost compelled to turn the episode off, denouncing it as blasphemy, false Criminal Intent. But I soldiered on for two reasons: Jim Gaffigan Month must end sometime or else the dimensional breach that allows him to exist in our world cannot be closed and for you, the readers. Along the way I learned looks can be deceiving, and sometimes pedophilia is made up by crazy black women with knives to their children’s throats. Maybe Roman Polanski is innocent! Discussions of Repulsion can be had on the Internet again!
We’re first treated to the day in the life of a dentist, the most suicidal of all professions (which is why it’s so hard to get an appointment), who smokes loose cigarettes, throws care packages of toothbrushes and other shit kids will ignore at children and get high on laughing gas. He’s not quite Alan Ruck from Justified, but he’s a badass-ish dentist. Someone holds the mask on his face and kills him with it, so basically he got high to death (there are some particularly terrible ‘effects’ of what such intoxication does). You’d think this would be an SVU case because dentists are considered a marginalized group in Bloomberg’s New York, but Major Cases is on it. We’re reminded that this is a work of fiction when Goren approaches a man selling loose cigarettes and does not choke him to death. Faux Eric Garner, who ironically looks a lot less like him than Vincent D’Onofrio does, directs them to a mother and her two boys, the boys having absconded with the dentist’s credit card and used it in an ill-conceived school sneaker selling scheme. Get the fucking debit card and get cash back, the code is probably BOSCO anyway.
The kid points the detectives to the crazy black woman glimpsed early on in the episode, and she indeed turns out to be the killer. I like how the kid responds “everybody in the projects is crazy” when Eames asks if the woman talked to herself as if to remember something or talk to herself in a crazy fashion. Then the mother just gives him a look. She’s the one who mentions that the dentist was molesting kids and that’s why he set up a clinic in Harlem in addition to his on Park Avenue. The crazy woman’s in a crazy person apartment, talking about the cops’ “radio show” downstairs and holding a knife to her child’s throat, and it’s Goren the Crazy Whisperer doing his regular thing. Dentist banged her son, made him do some stuff that killed him, case closed. Or is it? Of course it’s not, otherwise they’d have to fill the remaining half-hour with Vincent D’Onofrio doing Shakespearean monologues on a darkened stage. Franchise veteran Elizabeth Rodgers chalks it up in part to incompetent Labor Day weekend doctors; they should’ve run a tox screen that revealed the dead kid had alcohol poisoning and antifreeze in his system, also known as the Third Worst Cocktail Ronnie Gardocki’s Ever Had. Turns out these Harlem kids, independent of any coaxing, decided to get high on mouthwash. Again, mouthwash is bad news. It tastes terrible, barely gets you anything. Only the biggest pieces of shit get mouthwash drunk. …I only did it once.
He looks like an anthropomorphic lungfish, it’s astonishing.
What once seemed like a pedophile dentist becomes a tainted mouthwash supply issue, the most criminal of all criminal conspiracies. The episode “Smile” is from Season 7 and you can tell shit is running on fumes at this point, and not just because “Vincent D’Onofrio chases down a perp” has been consistently rewritten as “other cops run down the perp for Vincent D’Onofrio who just stands in place and tries not to die”. You know a conspiracy isn’t well-run when one of the participants claims the tainted mouthwash is used in China and no one ever gets sick there, since China is known for its rigorous consumer safety reporting as well as its whistleblower journalism. There are several candidates for hatching the conspiracy and killing of the would-be whistleblower who is hilariously allergic to everything. I think if you get near-death in the presence of cat hair you’re either lying to get out of having to date women who have cats (in which case, good move) or you’re an evolutionary cul-de-sac. These candidates include the ridiculously named Bing Schorr, the CEO of the company whose products have been counterfeited; Amy Acker who is in a lot of terrible Joss Whedon projects and works for the FDA, and her superior who brings us to…
All About The Gaffigans: Gaffigan appears around the 17 minute mark as the deputy director of the Atlantic division of the FDA, which covers Tampa Bay, Florida, Boston, Ottawa and Detroit. He’s buddies with Bing Schorr (who is played by the guy who killed Phil Leotardo) and it’s made clear early on that the Schorr/FDA relationship is every bit as sordid as the restaurant/health inspector relationship in that episode of Get A Life, albeit with markedly less Chris Elliott than desired. They went to Yale together and Bing basically got Gaffigan every goddamn job he’s ever had. This is a classic Jim Gaffigan performance on the Law & Order shows, that of the clueless dolt, the patsy, the Peter Principle From Hell. When he says “the ball is in our wheelhouse” I know he can’t be the killer. The killer wouldn’t mix metaphors like that! Just once I’d like for the detectives to pull a Bart-and-Lisa on a Jim Gaffigan character, claiming he’s too much of a pawn to commit to such a scheme and therefore it was actually the work of a Birch Barlow-like figure. Gaffigan both real and fictional could use the self-esteem boost.
Come on, that’s the civilian name of a bad Firestorm villain.
There’s a trend on these shows that making the dude the killer is too obvious, so the woman is the killer, and that’s the twist, because apparently female murderers remain a novelty act, like conservative rappers or Marco Rubio. The first time you go to that well, maybe. I guess the third time I might be surprised. But the fifty ninth time? Come on. I could see the twist coming from a mile away, that Amy Acker committed the murder and set Jim Gaffigan up to take the rap for it. A Law & Order show can do a twist – that a wo-wo-wo-woman committed the crime – but it cannot do the double twist of Jim Gaffigan as secret puppetmaster. Her whole scheme is to get her boss’ job and inherit the cozy relationship he enjoys with the guy who shot Phil Leotardo. She does this by leaking a memo the dead inspector sent warning them about the poison mouthwash to Goren. I never thought I’d write a sentence as simultaneously banal and soul crushing as “she does this by leaking a memo the dead inspector sent warning them about the poison mouthwash to Goren”. Poison mouthwash? This is what I’m doing with my life? Jesus. Anyway, helping the cops casts her as a sympathetic figure, and she further helps by informing them on the relationship between Schorr and Jim Gaffigan. They’re old Yalie buddies, both were in Skull and Bones (clearly Jim Gaffigan is the Joshua Jackson), and Schorr’s been helping out Gaffigan’s career since graduation. The Gaff gets a steady paycheck while Schorr is able to have an inside man who can deal with any counterfeit products before things escalate enough to necessitate a full recall.
Amy Acker, whose name in the episode is Lizard Lesbian or something similar, is established to be quite a piece of work from what some secretary or assistant woman character says. I was hoping there’d be another twist where this character was behind everything, going all “this is my design” and shit. Lizard claims to be a graduate of Yale and a marathon runner, but no evidence exists of someone with her name accomplishing either. It could’ve gone really exploitative with a twist of “SHE’S REALLY A MAN!”, and that’s where I thought it was going, but fortunately she’s just a serial fabulist. Like Stephen Glass. Her betrayal of Jim Gaffigan earns her Gaffigan’s office, hockey photo thrown out and replaced with marathon photo. Since it’s obvious she’s the killer before the episode gets to it, “Smile” is a lot of time spent getting to the point where Goren and Eames have enough evidence to confront the character.
Get it? SNOW? BALLS?
The murder of the FDA investigator dude turns out to be needlessly complex. Like, he died of an asthma attack, right? So not only did Amy Acker go to his apartment wearing Jim Gaffigan’s cat hair covered jacket, when he had the attack she handed him a faulty inhaler that everyone in the office had as trophies for a successful counterfeit inhalers bust. Yes. I’m not a fucking baby, Criminal Intent, I can take leaps as to where Amy Acker got something that would set off his allergies since apparently he was basically a fucking Bubble Boy, and I don’t need a fake inhaler treated as a talisman in some Holmesian mystery. Yes, Eames, write the case! Title it “The Case of the Counterfeit Inhaler!”. Crimes aren’t this stupidly convoluted; it’s what makes later seasons of, well, every Law & Order series inferior to the earlier ones. They’ve run out of straightforward plots that examine moral, social, ethical, political issues, it needs to be about inter-office politics causing a mouthwash chugging epidemic in Harlem. Why not bring the fucking tides into it as well? John Jameson turned into Man-Wolf and that was the hair on Jim Gaffigan’s jacket! And they’re gay lovers! Make “Smile” about same-sex bestial-man relationships too.
“Why are we meeting at the docks?” “Dick Wolf says a certain percentage of interview scenes have to take place at the docks or else it’s not authentic to New York.”
When confronted with all the evidence, Amy Acker does some fine overacting, including the classic line “those kids were stupid”. Which, you know, she’s not wrong. You’re not supposed to chug mouthwash. In fact, I think the writers of this show are overestimating the number of children who actually ingest mouthwash on a regular basis as opposed to “once before the dental appointment” or “a couple times after being shamed at a dental appointment”. And even then, like she says, you’re not supposed to fucking swallow it. She may be guilty in the eyes of our court system, but I say she is not guilty in the eyes of justice! Kids who chug mouthwash deserve to die, and I’ll stake my reputation (?) on it. As she’s being cuffed she makes the point that Goren will never make senior partner, Eames will never make captain and the former will likely take the latter down with him because of his instability. The kicker: Eames says she used to worry about Goren tainting her career, but now she doesn’t because “it’s too late”. FADE TO CREDITS. I love how much of a fucked up, depressing ending this is. Spoilers: everything Amy Acker says is true, though I’m not sure how meta Criminal Intent is being. Yeats was right, everything falls apart.
The other night I was watching some Jennifer Lynch movie no one’s heard of (as opposed to Boxing Helena and all the other Jennifer Lynch movies no one’s heard of), where Vincent D’Onofrio plays a serial killer who pretends to be a taxi cab driver, and I realized that his acting style in that and on Law & Order: Criminal Intent is not that different. This is not a criticism of him as an actor, rather it’s pointing out that Robert Goren is worse clothing and a fake cab away from abducting and killing women while training one of those women’s sons to become his serial killing Robin. D’Onofrio never slacks off either, so every episode of CI he does has his weird, creepy atmosphere to it that, despite you knowing it’s a procedural on NBC/USA, Goren’s weirdness and bear-like strength could turn the entire thing into a fucking bloodbath, a tableau of guts and gristle. He could eat a man and I would say “well, that is a logical and realistic evolution of the character”. Whereas SVU sagged a lot when people stopped giving a fuck about anything, a good 40% of CI‘s success is D’Onofrio’s refusal to half-ass. The man is a full ass, even when literally Skypeing into a movie (see: Sinister).
“Your shortcomings are why our careers are trapped in amber, Goren.” “Yep!”
“Smile” suffers from the complication posing as complexity of a lot of episodes of Dick Wolf’s empire, but it still remains a classic outing for our good friend Jim Gaffigan, who after these roles on Criminal Intent probably cut himself while doing his self-critical voice. Remember, Jim Gaffigan: 1 (800) 273-8255 is just a phone device away. Or just count your money so you don’t give a shit that you’re the go to guy to portray a hapless middle management type too short-sighted, ignorant and what the hell ugly to commit an almost perfect murder. So Jim Gaffigan Month may be ending, but that doesn’t mean it has to in your hearts. Maybe he’ll appear on SVU sometime! It hasn’t happened yet, and Mariska Hargitay’s weekly babyfest has no intent on stopping and they’re always in need of fresh bodies to accuse of pedophilia.