Title: Wannabe (Season 11, Episode 23)
Memorable Line: “Whoa! We don’t need to see anything south of Key West!”
Plot: When a flasher with a tell-tale birthmark shaped like Florida on his abdomen escalates to raping girls in Central Park, Captain Cragen calls in extra bodies from five precincts for a task force to canvas the area on Sunday, when the perp usually strikes. All are briefed to keep an eye out for men in the mid-30s wearing baseball caps.
Once at the park, a uniformed officer named Fletcher apprehends a suspect he says was about to rape a girl. When Finn and Munch interview her, she says Fletcher got “handsy” with the suspect and ordered him to take his pants down. The officer produces a “rape tool kit” containing a box cutter and duct tape that he grabbed from the suspect. It’s good enough for Benson to arrest one Wayne Hanket. Stabler reminds the officer to maintain the chain of custody on the tool kit.
At the squad room, Stabler takes a picture of the birthmark, confirming Hanket is the perp. He attempts to flash Benson and she offers the episode’s memorable line. While questioning him, they try to get him to cop to the rapes.
Fletcher offers the tool kit to Captain Cragen who calls the whole thing a “good collar.” Fletcher mentions he’s out of the 27th Precinct; Cragen’s old command and the center of police activities on the original “Law & Order” TV show. He mentions he’ll put in a good word with the 2-7’s current Commanding Officer, Anita Van Buren. He also reminds Fletcher to bag the kit and tag it. As the officer leaves, Cragen gets a weird read off of him.
Out in the squad room, Fletcher attempts to write up his report when Finn calls out for him. He and Munch question the officer about the incident. Meanwhile, recently assigned ADA Jo Marlow (SHARON STONE!) listens in on Benson and Stabler grilling Hanket. The suspect finally admits he told his father that he thought something was wrong with him. Finn walks in and tells Marlow that she needs to talk to Fletcher.
She smacks him on the back of the head after congratulating him on the collar. She then lectures him on the proper procedure; by forcing him to reveal the birthmark at the park, Fletcher violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights. The whole arrest and everything the police learn from it could easily be thrown out thanks to the officer’s improper tactics. Marlow talks it over with Cragen and the two find Fletcher has fled the squad room, leaving the kit bagged and tagged, but still having broken the chain of custody.
Oh, and once Cragen calls Van Buren about the officer, he finds out Officer Fletcher doesn’t exist.
Fingerprints determine Fletcher is not NYPD officer and Marlow gets ready for the press assault. However, the situation has changed the case. The collar is now a citizen’s arrest and everything they learn from it is admissible in court. The SVU team has twenty-four hours from the arrest to track down Fletcher and get his signature on the complaint.
Well, more like eight hours.
One bit of good news: Fletcher’s police hat was recovered. It came from Marcum Uniforms who provides the NYPD with their uniforms and gear. Finn and Munch grill Marcum and learn Fletcher sounded right.
Five hours left.
Benson finds a Bill Fletcher who took the officer’s exam and could be related to their missing fake officer. The lead takes her to McGinty’s, a cop bar. Stabler and Benson find a detective there who recognizes Fletcher as “The Menace.” He says the kid picks up tabs and fishes for stories.
Three and a half hours to go.
Back at the squad room, Marlow debates whether or not to go through with identifying the suspect. She’s emotionally distraught, but goes through with the line-up. Two of the girls identify Hanket. When the third victim asks to thank the officer who caught the suspect, Cragen can only say he’s not available.
Two hours and change left.
Marlow is about to have kittens in the squad room when the detective from McGinty’s calls in a lead. Finn and Munch interview the director of the NYPD Explorers Program. While the program is supposed to help at-risk kids, the director tells them that Fletcher — now identified as Brad Fletcher — signed up the day he turned fourteen with a plan to become a real police officer.
Oh, turns out Brad’s still in high school. After Benson and Stabler get him to sign the complaint, they arrest him for impersonating an officer.
Attorney Miranda Pond (Alex Kingston, who plays River Song on Doctor Who) files a motion to exclude all the information from the arrest. In the judge’s chambers, Marlow explains Brad is being brought up on charges in family court. Brad pleas guilty to “attempted criminal impersonation of a police officer.” He’s given community service and must relinquish all police paraphernalia. He must also have no contact with police materials or related websites. If he is successful, his record will be clean when he turns 21, at which time he can attempt to enter the police academy.
Marlow gets Brad to agree to testify against Hanket and they go to her office to go over his testimony. There, he learns she was once a cop. He also hears her have a phone call with a … boyfriend? Back in court, the judge grants Pond’s motion to exclude. She also gets the case dismissed. Brad walks into court and hears the decision.
Later, Benson, Stabler, and Marlow stake out Hanket’s house where they hear shots. Brad staggers out the front door, shot by Hanket’s father. Marlow tries to stop the bleeding and he’s taken to the hospital. When he comes to, Marlow gives him another what-for as he’s violated his plea agreement. Brad tells her he wanted to get new evidence for the case. Oh, he also tells her that Hanket’s father was watching a video of one of the girls getting raped. Marlow tells him that info may have bought him another shot at the police academy.
Though the episode is over, it goes on for a while longer. Stabler and Benson get a search warrant and toss the Hanket home. Finn and Munch find Wayne with a baseball cap. Oh, there’s a micro-camera inside.
At the squad room, Benson gets Wayne to roll on his father. Turns out the elder Hanket was abusive and made Wayne watch him have sex with prostitutes since he was twelve. The old man, for his part, tells Stabler that he was trying to help Wayne get a girl.
As the episode ends, the Hankets meet one last time. While Wayne keeps yelling “I love you, Dad,” while his father shouts “You’re dead to me!” The camera closes in on Marlow, who has a “reaction.”
Top Five Contender? Sharon Stone appeared in far too few episodes. With only four to chose from, “Wannabe” is special because it really features Sharon Stone as ADA Jo Marlow. From the moment she slaps Brad Fletcher, she becomes personally involved in the case in a way that rarely happens for the District Attorney.
Well, except for that time Casey Novak got beat up in her own office.
Oh, and that time Alexandra Cabot had to go into witness protection … and I suppose that time she came out of witness protection to get a little boy to testify against an Irish bomber.
Anyway, while Stone gets an inordinate amount of screen time during her stint on the show, this one feels like the most “Sharon Stone” episode of the run — and that’s considering the episode where she uses a corpse as a prop. Her constant involvement with Brad (and the rape case) comes with a number of reaction shots that show case Stone’s “acting.” I get the impression Stone was in line to become the permanent ADA on the show and her short run was a try-out. This episode could’ve been one way to integrate her into the show. That is to say, take it over entirely.
Actually, that’s not fair. The cast is used fairly well in this episode, with only M.E. Warner and Dr. Huang missing entirely. Everybody gets ample screentime as there are plenty of people to question, grill, and search. Ice T, in particular, has one standout moment when he tells Marlow to question Fletcher. It’s an unusual amount of emotion from the character in general.
While I enjoy this episode a great deal, it does feature one important flaw: the resolution of the case. Once Brad gets shot, the evidence comes pretty quick and the Hanket house of cards falls fast. Brad also disappears when he tells Marlow about the video. The story is really about Brad’s zealousness threatening and saving the case. It’s over once Marlow tells him he may have one more chance at the academy, but it goes on for another twelve minutes. On top of that, the relationship between Wayne and his father is worthy of its own episode, but here it feels like an afterthought. Also, by losing Brad entirely, the episode feels a little lopsided. Once the detectives have their way in to Wayne’s mind, it almost feels like a new episode has started.
So, while a great episode, it just barley misses becoming a Top Five contender and, sadly, Sharon Stone didn’t last long enough to give us a bevy of other candidates.
Lessons Learned: When impersonating a police officer, it helps to know the name of your supposed commanding officer. Slapping a cop is not appropriate behavior for an assistant district attorney.