SVU Episode # 14-14: “Secrets Exhumed”

After last week’s Mike Tyson debacle, I was hoping SVU would regroup and come back with a strong, realistic episode. Instead, “Secrets Exhumed” eschewed plausibility and focused on creating unbelievable plot twists. It succeeded … in being unbelievable.

Recap: A cold case is re-sparked when a Florida prisoner’s DNA matches a series of five rapes from 25 years ago. When Olivia and Nick fly to Miami to pick up the suspect, wheelchair-bound Brian Traymore, they’re met by an FBI agent played by Marcia Gay Harden, who cheerfully suggests they all investigate together. Olivia happily agrees to work with Marcia, who has periodically guest-starred on SVU over the years.

Olivia and Nick quickly extract a confession from Traymore, who was a serial rapist until a car accident severed his spine. But he only admits to four of the five rape/murders. That is, until Marcia comes into the room and, using a voice as soft and creepy as a snake charmer, convinces him to confess to rape/murder #5, the attack on a beautiful young kindergarten teacher named Kyra.

The case seems closed, until Kyra’s fiancee, Noah, shows up at the station and greets Marcia with a hug and an exchange of guilty glances. Nick’s Spidey sense tells him something’s off. And he’s right.

Turns out, Marcia used to date Noah in college. He broke up with her just a few weeks before getting engaged to Kyra – who was pregnant at the time she was killed.

Although SVU conventions demand that at least one investigator be personally involved with a victim or witness to the crime (case in point: the preview for next week, where Amanda shoots her sister’s boyfriend), Nick is shocked – shocked! – that Marcia had a relationship with Noah.

Is she covering for him? Quite the opposite.

Nick and Olivia trick Marcia into waiting in the interrogation room, telling her that Traymore has soiled himself and needs to be cleaned up. Then they proceed to interrogate her. How long did you know Noah? Did you ever meet Kyra? When did you find out she was pregnant? Marcia nervously asks, “Am I being interrogated?” at which point Nick reveals the shocking backstory he just learned from Noah.

See, Marcia didn’t just casually date the victim’s fiancee. She dated him for seven years. Then she got pregnant with his child. He convinced her to have an abortion. Two months later, he proposed to pregnant Kyra.

Marcia sobs her confession: “I went to talk to Kyra. She described how he got down on one knee – and she looked SO HAPPY! The next thing I knew, her body was in front of me.”

What? Marcia, our FBI profiler heroine, is actually a cold blooded killer (and, needless to say, serious obstructor of justice)? Yep, afraid so. Marcia was intimately familiar with Traymore’s MO. So, after she killed Kyra, she trussed up the crime scene to make it look like this was just another in Traymore’s series of assaults.

Cragen – registering only a world-weary resignation at the fact that his longtime friend and colleague is a murderer – leads Marcia away in handcuffs.

Verdict: C+

What they got right:

Having watched the promos, I was prepared to mock the detectives’ trip to Miami as another SVU boondoggle and an excuse to film some pastel scenery. But they got this part exactly right. If a warrant issued for the arrest of a detective in Miami, NYPD would extradite him and send a detective down there to pick him up. (Probably not two detectives, but hey Olivia could use a break after spending all her personal days in Ohio exonerating Tyson.) They didn’t even stay in Miami long enough for us to see a palm tree or Nick in a pair of Speedos.

The way Traymore was caught after 25 years was realistic. He might have escaped detection forever, since DNA at a crime scene is not useful unless you can match it to a real person. Once he was arrested for his cocaine felony, though, his DNA would be entered into CODIS, the national DNA database of profiles of convicted felons, and it would be matched to the DNA at the old crime scenes. (The three-month turnaround from cocaine conviction to CODIS hit was pretty speedy, however.)

Kyra’s killer being a romantic rival was a realistic twist in one sense: you are more likely to be killed by your ex’s next partner than a stranger. Murder usually involves either the drug trade or someone who knows you or your loved ones intimately.

What they got wrong:

The minor stuff: That iPad Ice-T used to conduct his photo lineup. I wish! Despite this optimistic Apple ad, most real cops don’t have iPads or iPhones. In D.C., most officers use their own cell phones, which they have to pay for. I’ve never seen a photo lineup done on an iPad. That said, just last month, NYPD launched a crime-fighting iPhone app for civilians. Real police involvement in iPads and iPhones usually takes the form of investigating their (very common) theft.

The big stuff: It was completely implausible that Marcia Gay Harden was the killer. The woman was a squeaky clean, highly decorated FBI profiler and undercover officer for years, tasked with the FBI’s most difficult situations and dangerous assignments. Under incredible amounts of daily stress, how did she manage to keep the homicidal part of her personality hidden for so long?

And keep in mind that she was a rape victim too, back in season 12, when a white supremacist injected her with a paralytic drug, tied her up, and sexually assaulted her. I’m not surprised that Marcia Gay Harden can play FBI profiler, rape victim, and murderer — she’s a great actress – but all in the same SVU storyline?

Finally, for a criminal mastermind, she sure made some stupid moves. First, inserting herself into the investigation. If she hadn’t been around, no one would have connected the dots – it was only her constant meddling and ex-boyfriend-hugging that caught SVU’s attention. Next, can you imagine a real 25-year-veteran FBI profiler confessing after five minutes of waiting for a soiled prisoner? No way. She knows how interrogations work. She would have shut up. Or turned off the videotape. Walked out of the room. Called a lawyer. But one thing that kick-ass, criminal genius, FBI Agent Marcia Gay Harden is NOT going to do is break down sobbing and confess to a crime she’s managed to cover up for the last quarter century.

What do you think SVU fans? How busy has Marcia Gay Harden been, between profiling, surviving rape, and whacking romantic rivals? When will every person on the planet have an iPad? And … cough… will SVU ever work in a scene with Nick in swimwear? Leave your comments.

Comments

  1. James Pollock says:

    Was that an effective waiver of Miranda? It seems to me she has a shot at getting the confession suppressed, once she comes to her senses and remembers that she isn’t going to like prison.

    • I don’t think Miranda came into play, James, because although it might have been an interrogation, it wasn’t custodial. She was free to leave at any point, and she knew it. She thought she was just waiting for a prisoner.

  2. “Finally, for a criminal mastermind, she sure made some stupid moves. First, inserting herself into the investigation. If she hadn’t been around, no one would have connected the dots – it was only her constant meddling and ex-boyfriend-hugging that caught SVU’s attention.”

    I can buy that she’d want to keep tabs, and that she probably thought because of her friendship with Olivia she thought she was above suspicion. Little does she know, Olviia knows a thing or two about skeletons in the closet. ;)

    “Next, can you imagine a real 25-year-veteran FBI profiler confessing after five minutes of waiting for a soiled prisoner? No way. She knows how interrogations work. She would have shut up. Or turned off the videotape. Walked out of the room. Called a lawyer. But one thing that kick-ass, criminal genius, FBI Agent Marcia Gay Harden is NOT going to do is break down sobbing and confess to a crime she’s managed to cover up for the last quarter century.”

    You think it’s bad on SVU these last 2 years? Never watch law and order: criminal intent. As a prosecutor, I imagine that show would drive you nuts. Nearly 90% of the episodes ended this way. It’s only because it’s no longer around that Warren Leight has added this element to the show,

    “Under incredible amounts of daily stress, how did she manage to keep the homicidal part of her personality hidden for so long?”

    By taking up other aliases in undercover work for so long. If she was someone else, she didn’t have to face her skeletons, and she felt her good deeds would balance out what she did. Not sure if this was accurate to real life, but that’s the explanation Olivia gave us in this episode.

    Having said that, I thought this was absolute character rape on the writers part. All in the name of shock value.

  3. I have to say that as soon as she went in to interrogate Traymore – no now that I’m thinking about it, when Traymore said he didn’t know Kyra, that he doesn’t like redheads – I knew that something was up. Dana’s pushing Traymore only solidified it in my mind that she was the killer of Kyra. We only found out the motive later…

    Regarding the “stellar” 25 year FBI career; Olivia said it: Dana spent 25 years trying to make up for that bad act.

  4. Warren Leight is single-handedly ruining this show. There is no realism in his world. Anyone the fans love he makes bad and corrupt, i.e. Dana Lewis, the fan favorite ADAs. Don’t even get me started on the Mike Tyson debacle. Warren has no business being in charge of this show. He and Julie Martin co-wrote this episode. Theirs are always the worst, most boring, and most unrealistic episodes.

  5. so this she killed a women just for going out with her X boyfriend, but had enough self control not to shoot the guy who RAPED her back in season 12…..?

    • I think thats a bit of an exaggeration. The way you describe it we’d expect to see someone kill someone every time they get angry, JUST BECAUSE they did it once.

      Example, one time when I was 18 I punched a mirror and broke it (I had to go to the hospital and get stitches on my hand after that, but that’s besides the point). I was angry because I felt I wasn’t getting a fair chance on the baseball team by my HS coach, and when I did get a chance I choked. I was angry with myself, but was frozen in horror at what I just did when I was angry, I was scared of getting that angry again. Now I’ve gotten angry plenty of times after that, but I never punched a mirror again. Why? I didn’t like what I felt then, so I made conscious effort to avoid doing something THAT rash.

      I imagine the same thing applies to Dana Lewis, she had a moment where she snapped right then and there. She didn’t like what she did and felt then, so she made a conscious decision to not do something like that again. I’m not saying it makes her action then forgiveable (or mine for that matter), I’m just saying I can buy that someone would not want to do something like that ever again. And would show discipline in not doing it.

  6. I agree with jaime…In this season alone, he has tainted the memory of every beloved character on this show. The only character that is clean, at this moment, is Olivia…and even she has been having elicit affairs with God knows who! (Not that I blame her…she is HOT!) But in all seriousness, Warren Leight is definitely wrapping up this series…and I do not like the ending so far! I was so happy to see Dana Lewis return, and, man, what a let down. Not only was the twist on her character most implausible, but very sad and dishonorable of her character. I think the best way to sum it up was the last look between both women (who have been thru a lot of shit together over the years)…tear-filled and shocking! Unbelievable!!!

    Just a thought…any wagers on how long before Olivia is pregnant by Mr. X and she has to choose between the job and and being a parent? I am thinking sweeps week…whenever that is! Guaranteed… this episode is the precursor and foreshadowing for this type of drama! ;)

    • James Pollock says:

      Sweeps are on right now, then again in May.

      You can tell when sweeps are on because all of the network shows have new episodes.

  7. The Supreme Court will hear a case (Maryland v. King) in a week or so about whether it’s OK to take a DNA sample after an arrest, but before conviction.

  8. I’m beginning to think that SVU must have a set of standard formulas for episodes in each year. This episode is the one where the intelligent but not-so-pretty woman gets jealous of a beautiful woman and ends up going a bit crazy to get revenge. It reminded me of the episode (last year?) where the plain college girl plotted for her pretty & popular roommate to get raped. Just another twist on the old “jealous women are evil” theme. I’m sure it happens occasionally in the real world, but it shouldn’t be an SVU storyline as often as it is.

    Sadly, the writers decided to permanently destroy the career and character of FBI Agent Dana Lewis. Sad because I will miss Marcia Gay Harden’s occasional cameo-appearance character. Apparently (the writers are telling us) women are just too emotional and unbalanced to handle certain difficult, intense careers. We all are under such pressure to find a husband and become mothers. It’s a wonder Olivia Benson has made it (as a single) as long as she has.

    • James Pollock says:

      There’s a limited number of plots available, and if a show is on long enough, they have to start repeating. How many times did Star Trek try to make a point about the seriousness of things by killing off one of the main characters, only to resurrect him by the end credits. One of the main achievements of the Next Generation is that they killed off a character and she stayed dead.

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