Law & Ordocki Season 5 #5 (#39): Call It Odorama Cause This Show Stinks
Another week, another SVU. What is there to say about “Turn Me On Take Me Private” that hasn’t been said about other episodes, specifically ones I’ve covered for this column? Well, I suppose the subject matter is something of a novelty. Camming isn’t exactly new, but it’s increased its prominence in the last few years such that even normal people have an idea of what it is. Law & Order: SVU tends not to do well with emerging technology and technological platforms; in 2000 they regarded the Internet with the kind of raging skepticism Frankenstein’s monster has towards fire and that continued well after then. So will the show do a “good job” of depicting the cam industry and the people who comprise their audience? Well, since I don’t know what would even constitute a good job, I’ll go with maybe. More importantly, we got John fucking Waters back again. Could NBC just give SVU’s timeslot to John Waters to do with as he pleases? That’d be swell.
Zoey is a girl with a double life: during the day she works at a soup kitchen and visits her elderly father. By night, she cams as Kendra Dream. The level of intimacy offered or pseudo-offered by camming causes someone to misunderstand the relationship, as during a “ravishment” roleplay a real dude enters through her apartment window and rapes her. At least one guy thinks it’s not part of the fantasy so he records it and takes the recording to SVU. He is who you think would be paying a woman on the Internet real people money to perform lewd acts, and his claims he’s not a creep have a “doth protest too much” air to them. Nonetheless, the detectives dutifully track down the leads they’re given.
Kat’s only in her second season and is making great strides at her “condescending, pitying look” that is a requirement for SVU
Thankfully the episode picks up early with the appearance of John Waters. His presence cannot be overhyped, because he is wonderful. As the master of camp I’m sure he recognizes the camp of SVU, though it has diminished over the years. Everything about him is great, from his dialogue to the fact that his character name is officiailly “Pornmonger Man”. SVU has its own Comic Book Guy, Bumblebee Man, Squeaky Voiced Teen! But before I talk more about John I must divulge the website he operates. SVU has a long history of terrible fake websites, from FaceUnion to MySite, Searchling to AnonymousQuickie. But I’d say SugarFap trounces all of those. It’s a combination of ludicrously false and stupidly plausible that makes it so endearing.
The thing is, John Waters doesn’t make the show’s piss poor writing any better. What he does do is read the lines he’s given in a Watersian delivery, which is far more entertaining than your average scumbag. “Proprieter of SugarFap” conjures mental images of guys in dirty bath robes, Croatians with body counts from “all that over there” who made a new life in the States, basically Peter Stormare. So putting Pornmonger Man in that position creates an amusing juxtaposition that will lead even me to have fond memories of this not very good episode. I mean, look at this.
“Cellar door” is no longer the most beautiful phrase in the English language, it’s now that quote. Really, they should’ve gone out on a high note and ended the episode right then and there before the moment of perfection was buried underneath a pile of gaffes and bad puns. But they don’t. Of course they wouldn’t. It’s SVU, think about it. The cops find Zoey and confirm she was almost raped, almost because I guess the guy’s dick didn’t work and he had to use his fingers. Hey, I’m just putting down what the show is putting out. Zoey makes mistake #1: “my fans are my friends”. I don’t care if you’re a writer, a nobody podcaster, a camgirl, the President of the United States: that is NEVER true. Fans are to be distrusted implicitly; at best they’re hogs for content and worst they’re, you know, this. So they start vetting these people and there’s a real cross section of freaks. The guy who watches with his wife because they’re trying to get pregnant. The stressed trader who got fired for masturbating on a Zoom call. It’d be funny if that throwaway line was the sum total of the program’s “take” on Jeffrey Toobin. Finally, someone named ‘shygabe’. WARNING! Any shy person, especially a self-identified one, is some sort of social malcontent, be it rapist or serial murderer. Sure enough, shygabe admits he attacked Zoey, though he thinks it’s part of roleplay they’re doing. Is there a creep wall of photos in his apartment? You better believe there is.
Has there ever been a decent human being who has a wall of pictures like this? Seems to me only serial killers and creeps go this route.
Gabe is not only delusional, he’s also a certified paralegal. Meaning he’s going to be representing himself. Zoey laments “why do we even have to take this to trial?”. Well, I suppose everyone being afforded the right to a trial has something to do with it. The dilemma is this: how real is camming? Zoey asked to be ravished on camera, and then it happens. Gabe believes she consented, so the whole thing rests on the jury’s understanding of the nuances of the world of paid intimacy online. Carisi does a lot of devil’s advocate on the matter, which rubs Kat the wrong way. There’s also the fact that the victim doesn’t want to testify for fear of her double life becoming public knowledge. I dunno, everybody’s got an OnlyFans nowadays. The only people who don’t are me and David Duchovny. It’s the 2020s, Dominick! He and Gabe’s original attorney strike a deal but Gabe refuses to plead guilty because in his mind he’s innocent. Thus, as I said before, we get a rare treat: the self-represented trial. Expect high quantities of tomfoolery, talking sass and horseplay.
It’d be funny if Benson had replaced her RBG photo with one of Amy Coney Barrett.
New discovery laws enacted by the state of New York allow the defense to examine the crime scene, ergo Gabe takes it as an opportunity to further creep out Zoey. SVU takes a number of moments for characters to voice their displeasure for the new law, making this episode something of a public advocacy hour. You heard ‘em, state legislature: repeal that law! Fuck defendants and their “rights”! At trial it predictably becomes a referendum on camming. Kat says “it’s supposed to be empowering”, but people say that about everything nowadays. Sex work is empowering. Infidelity is empowering. Yelling in people’s ears is empowering. It gets to be a bit much after a while. Gabe, who shaved his beard for the occasion (first Barba, now this guy. Does the NY courthouse have a Steinbrennerian facial hair ban?), makes it quite a show. First he gets the creep guy to admit he was masturbating when the rape happened, then he betters John Waters himself.
I’ve said this before about other episodes but–really? Four writers? On this? Did they give a writing credit to the person who filled the coffee and crullers order?
In fact, things seem to be going pretty well for the defendant until the second time he cross-examines Zoey. Before, Gabe plays the jury pretty well, forcing his stalking object to lay out the fake intimacy of camming, giving the jury the impression she’s leading men on by providing contradictory signals. He compounds the point by introducing video evidence. Given SVU’s attitude towards technology it’s pretty funny, and it’s pretty funny in general, because you’ve got someone asking someone else to read aloud an “I heart you” message to a user named TenInchNail. The climax is also the punchline to the episode-long joke: he wants Zoey to tell him she loves him, and when she refuses to do so he goes apeshit, to the point of actually ripping off the shield on the witness box. He has to be restrained and after that fiasco he accepts a deal that sends him to prison for seven years. Unfortunately, Zoey’s gone “off the grid”, even though there’s no indication her family and friends found out about her double life. By the end of things, Kat is just pissed off and, as Olivia says, “she just wants Zoey to be able to do what she wants to do”. END! Oh yeah, Rollins is absent without explanation. Maybe she died of COVID. Who cares.
I’ve come to the realization I don’t really care for Kat. In fact, I downright dislike her. Then again, I dislike everyone except for Ice-T, and that outlier is mainly because he is Ice-T. Now that Benson has to be the mature leader of men character, the wizened turtle man Donald Cragen, it seems as though Kat is the recipient of all the self-righteous characteristics. It gets to the point that I wonder why the hell she’s a cop, because even a Special Victims Unit officer would not be so progressive. You still have to have the love of the game, the game being beating up unarmed African-Americans for reasons that barely make sense at the time, much less in retrospect. In her big argument with Carisi she says “I just can’t believe you were ever a cop”. I can’t believe you currently are one! Get into social work or something! Her “victims come first” mentality certainly is at odds with the NYPD. There’s also the fact that she’s still only an officer. Get your detective’s shield before you back sass, kid.
This would be an unusual choice for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Turn Me On Take Me Private” tries to do a number of things, comment on a number of subjects, and it’s not really successful at any of them. I rolled my eyes when late in the game the show tried to make this shit about how screens warp your brain, man, and maybe these ‘social networks’ are actually keeping us apart, man. Ice-T has this line: “You stay on those screens long enough, you’ll convince yourself that’s reality and this…this right here is a simulation.” There’s a kernel of truth in that illustrated by the perp’s obsession, but it strikes me as alarmism. Again, SVU has had a skepticism of every emerging technological platform, so this is just the latest in a long tradition of out of touch writers fomenting discord among the senior citizens that make up the show’s viewerbase. “My grandson better not be giving tokens to no hoochie mama!” “Turn Me On Take Me Private” illustrates best the difference between being a good creep and a bad creep. A good creep like TenInchNail stops masturbating during an assault and informs the authorities. A bad creep like shygabe fills a wall with a camgirl’s image and visits her father at his assisted care living facility. In that respect the show could be useful: a do’s and don’t’s video for creeps.
MASKWATCH: I don’t really have much new to say here because the problems persist and haven’t made a change for the better. There is a noted amount of acknowledgement of COVID this episode, which is nice, I guess. John Waters makes a point to mention that camming is socially distanced, all the while sitting with Benson and Carisi and none of them had fucking masks on. I feel like Ricky when Cory and Trevor got the peace bond against him. “Six fuckin’ feet, boys!” Again, it’s the inconsistency that vexes me. If they just didn’t wear masks at all I’d get used to it eventually. But you’ll have moments where Carisi and Kat finish an up close confrontation sans masks with the former saying “mask up, we’re takin’ the subway”. SVU wants to eat its cake and have it too: address COVID and use it as a jumping off point for storylines but also not restrict the actors’ ability to convey through facial expressions. Look, I get it. Acting with a covering over half your face must present difficulties, from showing emotion to getting decent audio. But seeing people only half-adhere to the mask orders that exist across the country not only takes me out of the reality of the show, it pisses me off. I’m just short of screaming at my TV “PUT ON MASKS YOU FUCKS!”
How many times a week do you think he has to clarify that?
“Turn Me On Take Me Private” may very well be the best episode of the season thus far. Let me lay out my reasons: 1) John Waters. 2) John Waters. 3) The trial descends into a circus of violence and screaming. I’m of the belief that this show is never going to be good, so it may as well be insane and absurd. “Turn” (I’m not writing out the full title anymore) has some of the absurdity but it’s also still trying to do things that the writers must see as social commentary, but since it’s SVU it’s poorly done, didactic and overly simplistic. SVU should shut up and sing and be more like a John Waters movie. I saw Polyester recently and if SVU was that there’d be a marked improvement.