Law & Ordocki Season 5 #3 (#37): Quarantine? They Should Call It Roundtine
There comes a point in chronicling the inanity of Law & Order: SVU that you wonder why bother doing it. Clearly Dick Wolf has a pact with Satan to keep it on the air. The writers aren’t going to stumble upon these and go “no, he’s right! We ARE hacks!”. I already know I hate it. I guess all that’s left is the love of the game. The love of mocking Mariska Hargaritay’s whispery voice and the poor efforts at social commentary via taking a popular news story, changing the names and adding in a rape or two as a twist. I guess you can say “Remember Me in Quarantine” couldn’t have happened until 2020. But it sorta could, which I’ll get to as the review goes on. Besides the topicality or the vestiges of that, there’s one reason to check this out: Tamara Tunie returns. Remember her? Medical examiner Melinda Warner, a main character when the show was good? Well, she’s back! “That’ll hold the little S.O.B.s”, showrunner Warren Leight remarks. It’s not the much hyped return of Stabler, but it’s something.
I’ve always wondered who these random perps in the opening credits are. Probably crew members, right? It’d be cool to be immortalized as an opening credits flasher on a show that’s been on since the DuPont network was around.
For some reason the beginning of the episode shows off that Mariska Hargitay can speak Italian. Yeah, we all played Super Mario Bros., Mariska, some of us don’t make such a fucking big deal out of it. SVU is out of ideas so they’re just writing in “shit the actors know how to do”; next week Carisi will sidebar a trial to burp the National Anthem. An Italian exchange student is missing (as shown by the game Mario is Missing, Italians love disappearing). Missing Persons normally handles, you know, missing persons but they’ve been “deployed to protests” so it rests on Benson, Italian knower, and her scrappy gang of corrupt malcontents to find the girl. They find blood in her old apartment so something is amiss. Again, she’s Italian, the dried red substance could easily be pizza sauce. They find her in the freezer of a nearby abandoned restaurant. Mama mia! Murder is the spiciest of meatballs.
Dammit, the Ice Flower is supposed to give her ice powers, not kill her! Is anyone on SVU staff acquainted with Mario lore?
The welcome return of a very tired Tamara Tunie to the show establishes that the girl was alive when put in the freezer. She is curt with everyone as if to indicate, yes, COVID is terrible, everyone’s sick of it, fuck off and let me do my job, detectives. Benson decides to take on the case despite the fact that it’s a homicide because what the hell else is she gonna do this week? Solve rape cases? No, better to relitigate the Amanda Knox case. I don’t remember how that all shook out? Did it turn out the butterfly did it? Who cares. The case is over a decade old and I’m reasonably certain SVU already did an episode on it in prior seasons. Maybe this can be their Treehouse of Horror; every year it’s a new iteration of Amanda Knox. Hey, one less “original story” (read: jotting down shit from the newspaper and changing the names, maybe throw in a secret identical sibling plot twist or three) to come up with.
The pool of suspects is as follows: roommate Brad, roommate Lexi, roommate Perry. Italian was found inside Brad’s hockey bag, and when DNA comes in Brad is forced to admit they on and off slept together. He also has a “sex pro quo” situation with Lexi. Perry’s getting nothing and moved out because no one was social distancing. Lexi is a suspect because she has sex with men whose names she doesn’t know and consumes edibles. I’d let it slide if SVU established it as the media’s issue but the cops slut shame her too. (Kat speaks in her defense and Carisi literally says “not now”.) It’s a very “damn those youth!” hour; you can really tell that the writing staff is composed of boomers who haven’t talked to their grandkids for years. I don’t know who’s older: congressional leadership or the SVU writing staff.
“I’m a white woman! Since when am I responsible for my own actions???”
The cops track down the man of mystery whom Lexi fucked and he’s a black guy named Sean who happened to have Maria’s passport and jewelry in his apartment. The two blame each other when interrogated. The dialogue is so terrible. No joke, there’s an exchange that goes like so. Lexi: “I told you, I was making bad choices!” Benson: “Does that include murder?” Sean claims he and Lexi had a three way with Maria, “turning her out like a pro”. “Remember Me in Quarantine” takes a weird turn towards drug alarmism because eventually Lexi confesses she was so high on edibles (gummies! GUMMIES!) that she didn’t know what happened or even whether or she killed somebody. Might as well have someone maniacally playing the piano at this point.
Everyone thinks Lexi did it, the media giving her a “Foxxy Knoxxy”-esque nickname, “Sexy Lexi”. Once the Knox similarities start to pile up the astute viewer can eliminate her as a suspect, because SVU isn’t tone deaf enough to do a “yeah but what if that bitch WAS guilty” show. Also, it’s very unlikely at this stage of the game for SVU to not include a twist. If the murder is “solved” with 15 minutes left, that means it’s not solved. The cops, convinced Lexy did it, try to tie up loose ends, like who cleaned out Maria’s room. They zero in on Perry, headphones listener and nice guy, because he routinely donates items to the church. The nun they talk to is even wearing Maria’s cashmere sweater, which just made me think of “The Red Dot” episode of Seinfeld. How great if the case hinged on them finding a red dot of blood on the sweater? How great if I just stopped with this crap and watched Seinfeld?
Oh, good times.
What’s annoying about “Remember Me in Quarantine” is the about-face on everyone’s part regardingb Lexi’s guilt. After treating her like an idiotic slut for most of the show, the likes of Rollins go “you know, I don’t think committed murder!”. Why? Cause she broke down in interrogation? Speaking of which, why the fuck did no one receive a lawyer until they were in custody for over a day? I know defense attorneys are seen as lower than escaped Nazi war criminals on SVU, but really. Sexy youths aren’t that dumb. Anyway, since it can’t be her, and prosecuting the black guy is a bad look in 2020, the culprit pool winnows down to Brad and Perry. To suss out who it is, you have to think like Law & Order: SVU. What is the most shocking/dumbest choice? Go from there.
I know the budget has been slashed to garbage thanks to the bloat of certain cast members’ salary, but this looks like total shit. Clearly someone in front of a green screen, not even a simulacrum of a real news studio. The cops may as well be watching a fucking YouTube unboxing video about fake Amanda Knox.
That means Perry did it! He freaks out when they mention Maria was alive in the freezer and soon after spills out everything that happened. Basically, he’s an incel. He was jealous that Maria got high on gummies and fucked Lexi and Sean, while when he leaned in for a kiss he got rejected. He thought he and Maria had a connection, based on both of them being fun ruining killjoys who hate noise, casual sex, drug use and our CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM to not wear a mask. He pushed her or whatever, she banged her head, he thought he killed her so he threw her in a hockey bag, put her in a freezer and sent some text messages to her dad alerting that she was okay. Dad was sick with Coronavirus, so Perry felt it optimum for guy to go to his grave not knowing his daughter died because a nerd iced her.
“Not only do I give to the poor, I sell my testosterone to needy trans men. That’s why I look like a reed.”
It’s a real twist on the Goofus and Gallant situation. The Goofus, Lexi, did everything wrong during the quarantine, and Perry did everything right, yet he’s the one who committed murder. I think this ties in with my recurring MASKWATCH feature (which we’ll get to in a bit). “Remember Me in Quarantine” posits that violators of social norms aren’t put together to kill somebody, whereas it’s the meticulous virgin who knows “when to put a mask on” and “what 6 feet is” who can kill. The show stops just short of saying adherence to quarantine made him do it. That goes to show, kiddies: anyone with “wear a mask” or “stay the fuck home” in their Twitter display name or bio is just a killer waiting to emerge. Furthermore, you should fuck strangers and cough on doorknobs. Who cares, we’re all dying anyway.
“Remember Me in Quarantine” is in some ways a meat & potatoes SVU but in some other ways it’s still straining for relevance. I’m sure a show in its 22nd year can say something about society, but I’m not certain SVU can. Rather than interrogate how the pandemic has changed people’s lives it plays as window dressing. “You know, because of the pandemic” crops up so many times in dialogue it felt like on Seinfeld whenever they automatically added “not that there’s anything wrong with that” when discussing homosexuality. It’s conversational filler, a thing you feel you have to say. Like, I’m pretty sure people partied before COVID-19 hit, and the fact that they’re adapting fucking Amanda Knox shows they’re not exactly pulling from our current era. What next, a riff on O.J. Simpson? Maybe we can relitigate Marv Albert. He’s been given a free pass for too long!
I know this is fucking mean but once I thought it up I couldn’t not make it, you know?
MASKWATCH: I’m firmly convinced the show is just fucking with me at this point. At the end of the first scene, after Benson and Ice-T have been talking for a while, she reminds him to put on his mask before he leaves. You’re barely socially distanced, you should already fucking have masks on! I’d frankly prefer it if SVU took place in an alternate reality in which the pandemic never happened. If they’re going to do such a half-assed, contradictory job, they may as well not bother. Like, a big plot point is that Lexi admits she doesn’t always wear her mask or socially distance and everyone treats it scandalously. NONE OF YOU MOTHERFUCKERS ARE FOLLOWING PROCEDURE EITHER! Last week Rollins, Kat and Ice-T were at a goddamn bar! Carisi was spitting in people’s mouths! Well, maybe not that last one, but the first one definitely happened.
The little touches like characters using hand sanitizer and getting temperature checks continue, but there’s still so many scenes of people in each other’s faces without protection. My favorite inconsistency is when Kat puts her mask on to arrest Sean. Oh, so that’s when it’s proper to wear a mask. Fine, you know, fuck it. I’m still gonna complain about the lack of cohesiveness on the show but I’m pretty much at peace that SVU has no desire to reflect reality or create a believable reality within the fictional universe. I think I’d rather they not have masks at all, because I don’t necessarily need to see 2020 reflected warts and all on television to enjoy myself. Well, it’s SVU so I’m never going to really “enjoy” myself per se but you know what I mean.
ARE CRIMINAL MINDS AND SVU IN THE SAME UNIVERSE???
I think it’s telling that the takeaway I’ve seen online about this episode is 0% about the episode itself and 100% about the revelation that Raul Esparza will be returning in 2021 for a guest spot. “How was this week’s show?” “Well, I’m looking forward to next year!” While it will be interesting to see Barba return, we’ve seen the template for the “ADA returns as defense attorney” episode across the franchise, and it rarely leads to cool character moments or poignancy of any stripe. Mainly it’s the current ADA acting aghast that the old ADA actually opposes them in the courtroom and won’t roll over and accept whatever plea deal they shit out. It’s almost if though an attorney’s allegiance hinges on who they represent or something! I hope Olivia goes “et tu, Barba?”. Anyway, throughout “Remember Me in Quarantine” my mood was reflected in Tamara Tunie’s: sick of everyone and everything. Just get it over with!
Geez, they’re dropping like flies this season! Oh, right, COVID…