Law & Ordocki Season 3 #2 (#21): John Stamos is the Modern Day Montezuma
Hello again. I would like to first apologize for the length between last column and this one. I had a disastrous computer failure in which my almost completed piece on the SVU episode “Choreographed” was lost without a trace. Yes, I learned my lesson, which is to back up multiple times even when in mid-sentence. Expect my piece on that episode in the unspecified future. Now we must move onward, and that means another batshit absurd installment of SVU. If my laptop decides it doesn’t want my Bob Saget writing to see the light of day, how about I move over to another cast member of Full House. Unfortunately, Dave Coulier’s episode of Criminal Intent, “Disorder in the Court”, remains locked away in the NBC vault, its contents too salacious to ever disseminate to the public. That leaves “Bang”, a 12th season foray into depravity for Special Victims Unit in which John Stamos plays a man who’s a hit with the ladies…in fact, he’s too much of a hit with them. Stunt casting is often optimum when you don’t take the actor out of their comfort zone and instead just have them do what they do best and “Bang” shows that. I don’t want to get more into his character at this juncture because it’d ruin one of the twists. Oh, there are twists. For the first twelve years of SVU, the season’s number roughly corresponds to how many twists there are in a given episode.
Things start out simple enough: baby! A baby has been left outside Tumbleweeds Gym (a gym for children… gotta get that body dysmorphia starting young) and everybody wants to know who this baby is and to whom it belongs. “Why would someone do this to you?” asks Stabler, his hand reaching out for the baby to grasp. It’s long enough in this show’s lifespan that I wouldn’t have been shocked if the baby responded telepathically. In any event it’s not much of a one liner to trigger the opening title sequence. Ice-T traces the baby’s blanket to Bebetique, a baby store for rich people. How rich? Ice-T bought a blanket there for his niece’s baby and it cost him two weeks of overtime. I like to think this part of the plot came from an SVU writer really wanting to take expensive baby stores down a peg. “That’ll show those fuckers for charging $3000 for an ivory mobile of dolphin bones!” The store’s owner is very forthright in giving law enforcement as much information on their customers as needed, and that brings us to old single mother Dede Alston, whose nanny Imelda is found praying in Spanish in front of his crib instead of, you know, calling the police. Does praying in front of the crib help more? I’m pretty sure use of familiar objects is for summoning poltergeists, not retrieving missing babies.
I can’t make this exchange up. In what brings to mind a teacher catching a student in a lie, Stabler confronts Imelda’s “I was alone all night” story with a trash can topped off with a condom. Oh, Miss DeDe’s perhaps, but this is a fresh condom and she’s been gone for days. Man, how many times on this show has Christopher Meloni had to inform someone that there is mint condition ejaculate in, on or among something? I’d put it more than 30 times. Enter: JOHN STAMOS, aka Ken Turner, aka John Stamos. A former Nassau County ADA turn credit default swapper, self-proclaimed lover of babies. “I happen to be fond of that boy”, he says of Jasper, and it’s at this point the audience is wondering, would SVU do an episode about Uncle Jesse fucking a baby? If anybody’s up to it, it’s Speed Weed. Speed Weed is how white people get a leg up in the writing game, because no way are you not going to read a sample from someone with that name. Fortunately, a less disturbing web is weaved, in which Stamos is fucking the help while engaged to the mom. Stamos’ stink is over everything: he helped set up the adoption and through that he and Dede became close enough to commit to maybe getting married sometime in the future. But there’s the case of him fucking Imelda and spinning the “oh I’m just waiting for the right time to break it off with my other relationship” story that two-timers love so much. It shouldn’t surprise you that the collision of these lies creates a squad room would be catfight. You’ve got to fight for your right to Stamos.
This is all very exciting, but it doesn’t answer who stole baby Jasper. Suspicion falls on Dede when she admits she wasn’t out of town after all, instead holed up in hotel room and wondering how to deal with her pregnancy. Ken’s ecstatic that he’s about to be a biological father and the music starts playing as he offhandedly tells Dede “I’m happy that condom broke”. Music? That means someone’s put something together! Push in on Mariska Hargitay’s luxuriously oiled face! She pegs Ken (not literally, but wait a few seasons) as a “reproductive abuser”. It becomes so much the focus of “Bang” that perpetrator of the inciting incident is pawned off as the redheaded boarder who lives underneath Dede’s brownstone. SVU’s “rock solid” forensics consist of finding a red hair and Wade being the only ginger on the goddamn show. He sensibly points out that STAMOS is poison, a philandering jerk who can hypnotize women to do what he wants, while Stabler continues to focus on the element of him leaving an infant at the backdoor of a gym. “Yeah, by the back door, WHERE THEY PUT OUT THE GARBAGE!” Chris Meloni’s great at using finger pointing for emphasis. Wild eyed, paranoiac and bereft of secondary sexual characteristics he may be, Wade the redhead is right about Ken. Not only has he fathered 20 kids in the last decade, he’s actually Jasper’s biological father. THE MAN IS THE WHITE SHAWN KEMP! Incidentally, that’s my choice for the episode’s alternate title. “Bang” is still a pretty good choice though.
“These are my sex crime bifocals”, Stamos protests
Yet “being a creep isn’t illegal”, Stabler says. Ice-T retorts “That’s the hardest part of the job”. Yeah, I guess the hardest part of the job is not being able to arrest people who contradict your morality. Benson finds some woman who held a reproductive abuse seminar in the hopes she’ll help them figure out a crime with which they can charge Ken. I wonder if this is common, cops seeking the help of community college professors. An actual lecture would be more useful than this episode, which straddles the line between straightforward exploration of what a reproductive abuser is and how to avoid him and that season of Felicity that involved time travel and branching timelines. Her brilliant advice: ask the mothers of Ken’s other children if he committed sex crimes against them! That doctorate is well-earned. Jasper’s biological mother is a junkie working at the skate rink (prime territory for a private equity guy like Ken) who was going to be Mrs. Turner until “I just did a little blow” and Ken decided it’d be best if their son go to a woman on the upper west side where he’d be happier. They finally have something arrest-worthy because the skate rink cokehead would like her baby back and Stamos didn’t file all the proper paperwork. It culminates in the detectives using GPS to track Ken’s phone, finding him in a hotel suite bathroom, sitting on the toilet, poking holes in a condom while telling Stacy he’s going to rock her world. I like how Stamos has his glasses on for this scene. He’s the kind of farsighted that makes sabotaging condoms difficult without prescription lenses. I’m serious, I had to pause the episode I was laughing so much at the stupid, stupid image.
Kinda lazy for the one Hispanic character to be named “Barrios”…
By the time Stamos is talking about his “natural male urge to procreate” I’m wondering what fucking third act twist will turn this into a half-assed take on current events. He does get Stabler good by asking him his number of children, spitting back the “1.83” national average of children. Why yes, contrasting this guy with Detective Excessive Force’s bucket of kids would be a fruitful avenue to go down had it not just been a way for Stamos to imply Stabler’s sperm don’t work anymore. Stabler gets him back, saying that being a father is about being there for your kids, not simply procreation…and I guess in that respect Stabler wins out? I dunno. He claims to help his shitty kids with homework, but I don’t fucking see it. “You know you want to bang your partner. Watch her grow swollen with your child.” Come on, now Stamos is just reading Law & Order: SVU fanfiction, or he would be if he went on to mention Alexandra Cabot also impregnating Olivia Benson through a cursed strap-on. “You are a sick son of a bitch”, Stabler’s and everyone normal’s reaction to such fantasies.
Ken’s paperwork snafu is only worth a misdemeanor and ADA Not Appearing In This Episode doesn’t waste her time on misdemeanors, so he’s free to go to the bullpen and see SVU’s Plan B. Not their actual Plan B, a bit of that could’ve solved this episode’s problems. I’m talking about the Miracle on 34th Street-esque entrance of his children into the squad room. This doesn’t work because Stamos is incapable of shame. I would think that would be apparent given his participation in 38 seasons of Full House, but I guess Speed Weed felt the need (for speed and also) to stage a big scene in which even the dumbest in the audience will realize Ken = bad father. He no spend time with kids! He send check every month! The best is he spots someone unfamiliar and she regales us with the story of her daughter, and her daughter’s son, and how when Ken refused to move in with them she decided to stage her own episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. (That’s what I call carbon monoxide poisoning, try to keep up.) “She then got in the back seat and read Max Good Night, Moon. Until they both died from the carbon monoxide.” (Is that book shorter or longer than a carbon monoxide death? Did she have to start the book up again?) “She had no right to kill my son.” That’s how Speed Weed won that Pulitzer Prize and you’re sitting there, playing with your dingus, brilliant dialogue like that.
“As Seen On That Show About Rape”
It’s a clear “somebody oughta do something!” episode concealed by a multitude of narrative twists. The detectives fume that reproductive coercion as such isn’t a crime and hope that somewhere out there some law man in the Big Apple of the federal government (Washington D.C.) will pass a law about it. “Bang” raises awareness. I’m told that after this aired, New York legislators were inundated with calls “to stop that bad man who played with the Beach Boys”. Or they would if Ice-T didn’t bring news that Ken Turner’s chest exploded in Dede Alston’s garden. From the looks of the special effects job a xenomorph came out of his chest. There’s like seven minutes left at this point and SVU sucks at murder mystery even with all the time in the world. Ken was killed by a wasp injection knife that divers, Navy SEALS and other aquatic life use. Suspects: Redhead Wade! Dede Alston! Several G.I. Joe characters! Also apparently any woman whom Ken wanted to fuck, as Dede reveals she knew he was fooling around on her and didn’t want to confirm it. In fact, all the mothers of Ken’s army met the night of the murder, had a real pizza party situation going on. That leaves…
Surprisingly psychopathic Dr. Audrey Exposition! Benson and Stabler find her sitting in a chair in her apartment, wasp knife in one hand, glass of wine in the other. Apparently she’s a goddamn Bond villain. SVU makes a dumbass pivot to being against vigilantism, which never comes as genuine considering the moral alarmism sounded in every fucking script on this goddamn show. Audrey hospitalized a rapist of 10 year olds back in Buffalo and now she’s exploding Full House cast members. The actress plays this so poorly that even the best material couldn’t save the ending. I mean, what the fuck is this trying to say? That women who work in domestic abuse and sexual assault circles eventually snap and kill people? Maybe the thankless job attracts crazy people? Who knows! “I just meant to cut his penis off. BOOM! Ken bursts open! [laughs]” Audrey says. When Olivia tells her it’s time to go, she counters “Please, Olivia, a few more sips. They don’t serve wine where I’m going”, which is false. Toilet wine is a specialty in several New York women’s prisons. I imagine the phrase “for some reason” appears regularly in this show’s scripts.
“What took ya so long?”
“Bang” is a paper tiger that relies on John Stamos’ innate charisma, which I’m going to risk ostracism by saying I don’t think is all that special. The show treats him like Purple Man from Jessica Jones. In fact, if they don’t have any better ideas for Season 2, they could have Stamos show up as Kilgrave’s uncle. He has a superficial smarm to him that makes it ridiculous that no one can see through him and all these women are continually tricked by his words and deeds. It’s also pretty ridiculous no one realized he had dozens of children with as many women, that it’s some big surprise to everyone involved. “Honey, why are you writing out 35 checks? Why do you do that every month?” “Uh, don’t worry about it.” I don’t know, “Bang” is just thinly written and goes all over the place, as evidenced by the actual crime getting solved less than halfway through.
This matter is not limited to “Bang” but I want to complain about it anyway: half the fucking cast doesn’t appear here. No Cragen, no Munch, no B.D. Wong, no Warner. The cast bloat combined with rising salaries led to these kinds of absences and they don’t stop or peter out as the series goes on. Very rarely does everyone in the opening credits actually appear in an episode. This makes “Bang” feel unpopulated, with Benson, Stabler and Ice-T forced to do all the work that otherwise would be spread among more people. This is all Law and no Order; not only does no one step inside a courtroom, the ADA appears via an offscreen phone call. Perhaps if Cragen was around to advise his people the case wouldn’t have ended with a dude’s chest exploded all over a garden, a domestic abuse counselor going to jail and a football team’s worth of fatherless children.
Spoilers for Season 3 of Fuller House
It’s episodes like these that make it apparent why Meloni left at the end of the season. Despite the wackiness being appealing to cynical fucks like me who watch this shit ironically, it can’t be much fun for the actual personnel. The stories used to mean something and have recognizable stakes. SVU is completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots.