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SVU - Send in the Clowns - Review

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15.12 – "Send in the Clowns"
Directed by Alex Chapple
Written by Julie Martin & Brianna Yellen
Reviewed by KathM

The story this week is about Haley, a young woman who meets a man in a clown mask at a club and subsequently disappears. Team SVU searches high and low to find her, eventually bringing a case against the clown to trial without a body. However, is there more to Haley's disappearance than meets the eye? It's SVU; of course there is. Also, we get to see Fin and Stone spend a bit of time with their families, some of which is bittersweet.

At the beginning of the episode we see a man wearing a clown mask slithering around a club with a circus theme. He's looking for someone young to play with, and and the eerie camera view shown from the perspective in the slits in his mask allow us to watch as he surveys the various and sundry women (and their body parts). After reviewing various honeys he settles on a pretty girl dancing with her friend and carrying a while boa. He slides up and offers to buy the girls a drink. Non-alcoholic, of course; turns out that it's a 16 and up club, which is a great change from the usual “we sneaked into an adult club because we're from the stix and have never seen a bar before.” SVU trope. The girl with the boa is Haley who, with her friend Jenni, is up from Beaver Falls, PA for Spring Break. Haley is a piano prodigy, Jenni offers, apropos of nothing. Oh, and if you watch the scene where Clown Boy is talking to them, you can see a much more terrifying man dressed up as an evil mime in full makeup. Frankly, I thought he was scarier than the Clown Boy by a mile.

Haley dances and hangs out with Clown Boy, and when curfew calls Jenni can't find Haley. Nobody remembers her in the club, and as Jenni stands on the street screaming into her phone as she leaves Haley what is most likely another voicemail, you get the idea that Something Bad Has Happened. Or may have happened. It's hard to know at this point.

Instead of going back to the hotel and talking to her chaperons, Jenni spends the entire night going to places that Haley might want to go, like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. In the middle of the night. In New York City. It seems that the story could easily have become What Happened to Jenni, but the episode didn't go there. Instead she and the two chaperons (James Turner and Charlotte Cooke) appear at SVU, desperately hoping for help to find Haley. Benson talks to Charlotte in her office, where she gives she the standard Small Town Angel Lost in the Big City story: Haley is a good kid, no problems, no boyfriend, close to parents, didn't know anyone in NYC, and a music prodigy (this, it would seen, is still more evidence that Haley is sweet and blameless and the Big City ate her).

Suddenly, out of his SPAM folder, Turner finds a video that Haley sent him last night. This is where the episode begins to go wonky for me. Because the video seems specifically designed to give the police everything they need to find her, or at least to find Clown Boy. As Fin, Benson, and Turner watch, we see: Haley frightened in a car, shots of Clown Boy, who is driving, saying menacing things, then Clown Boy suddenly pulling off his mask, clearly showing his face to the camera. There's also a shot of a wrapper on the floor for Balzarini Brothers Butcher Shop, a popular shop in Brooklyn.

I'm sorry, but while I buy that Haley was able to get some shots with her camera, I doubt they're the shots she sent Turner. She had clear images of everything she needed to tell her story, and Clown Boy didn't seem to have any problem with her shooting his face, masked or not. She doesn't seem to be hiding what she's doing, which is not something one is able to do when one is actually in trouble. Not that she didn't end up being in trouble, but I'm just saying.

Carisi and Rollins head off to Balzarini Brothers Butcher Shop where, coincidentally, Clown Boy works. In the back. Chopping meat. His name is Vinny Drago, which is a great name for a suspect, and he has some convictions in his past, including a restraining order against him filed by his last girlfriend. Seems the threatened to cut her head off with a cleaver. Not what you want to have on your record, particularly when you're being questioned about a missing Musical Prodigy. He says that they went back to his place, where they didn't have sex because she was only sixteen. Then he conked out on the couch and when he woke up she was gone. Clown Boy = Ultimate Party Machine.

To prove that Haley isn't at his place, Vinny heads over to his apartment with Carisi, Rollins, and a couple of uniforms. Oh, Vinny, it sucks to be you. Not only is there blood on a shower curtain and inside the tub, we also see a bloody white feather boa on the bathroom floor, So, back Vinny goes to Interrogation, where we find out still more incriminating evidence against him. Was he at home all night like he said? NO! He made two calls to a burner cell, then was seen on a security camera unloading a big, body-shaped bag near the waterfront. It is not looking good for Vinny right now. But wait, he has an explanation! He's been selling meat past its “sell by” date to a restaurant meat buyer called Jose for a little extra cash. Vinny's boss has no idea if it's true, and SVU can't find Jose. So the only recourse they have is to search dump sites for Haley's body.

While all of this Vinny stuff has been going on, Haley's Ma and Pa (the Sadlers) arrive from Beaver Falls, anxious and angry. Dad is a big bear of a man, desperate for to find his “Princess” and tear Vinny to shreds. Ma is also worried, but in a kind of annoyed, distracted way. She blames Pa for the whole because he let Haley come on the trip, and she's not speaking from from a place of histrionic love and concern. Hummm...interesting dynamic. The pair go on television standing in front of the courthouse with a picture of Haley, and Pa talks about how much “he” oh wait “they”. Right, “they” love Haley. Okay, at this point I'm thinking incest, but not really. It just sounds like it. The television news also show a video of Haley playing the piano and a lovely shot of Vincent in jail where he mumbles creepily that they will never find Haley's body. I think he wants to come across as innocent, but he isn't bright enough to realize that what he's doing isn't cutting it. Cutting get it? HA! Since he is sitting right next to his lawyer, and his lawyer is not a guest star, I know that most likely Vinny has nothing to do with Haley's disappearance.

They don't find Haley's body in the dump, possibly due to a scheduling error, but her parents make for lovely camera fodder when they arrive at the dump themselves. Pa Sadler has to be held back by Carisi when he tries to get to the trash bags himself, shouting that he has to find his daughter. I think that will be running on the late news on every channel.

I've been bored and only mildly interested in what's happened to the Haley the Music Prodigy for some time, but it's when SVU doesn't find any evidence of Haley and Stone still decides to put Vinny on trial that I know it's all wrong. Because if anything had happened to Haley we would have seen her by now, maybe in pieces or in a cage, waiting with some other captive appetizers. Or she could be on the run, or hiding from her Pa. The thing is, Vinny didn't have anything to do with it. If SVU were really interested in finding Jose, Vinny's meat-buying friend, they could have asked around the various butcher shops and most likely found him. And I don't see them running any kind of background check on anyone, like the chaperons or the parents. They aren't doing anything, and it doesn't look like anything is going to happen. At this point, why am I worried about Haley? I'm not.

We then visit the trial, which is pointless. Why is Stone trying Vinny with no body and circumstantial evidence is beyond me. Doesn't seem like something he can win. The witnesses for the prosecution on Day One consists of Jenni, who talks about how she and Haley met Vinny/Clown Boy and he was the last one she'd seen Haley with (relevant), and that she recognizes Vinny despite the fact that he was wearing a mask because of his “creepy eyes” (calls for speculation, or something). Pa Sadler also appears on the stand, and his testimony is about how much he loves Haley and what a good girl she is. I'm not sure how he's relevant to the case at this point, but he adds some emotion to the courtroom and gives the jury what a great person Haley is/was. Vinny's lawyer has no questions for either witness, but reiterates that the prosecution has no body. I like the way he shrugs when he says it; I'm shrugging, too. I really want something to happen. I'm bored and I've eaten all of the ice cream with nothing to show for it. Scar me, SVU. Creep me out. Something!

In the hallway the Sadler's tell Stone they are worried about what the defense lawyer said about there not being a body, and how they will impact the trial. Stone reassures them and then James Turner, one of the chaperons who had been standing with Ma and Pa, says that maybe they should just hold off on the trial until they find her body. AH HA! Haley is alive and he has her stashed somewhere! That, or his brain is incapable of processing basic concepts because you don't put a trial on hold. I don't think they can try Vinny again because Double Jeopardy, body or no. It isn't like pausing Netflix when you go get ice cream. Stone reminds Turner that he's up first in the morning to testify for the prosecution, and Stone will see him there tomorrow. Um, no, There is no way Turner's coming back.

In the morning Stone goes into the SVU squad room and said that Turner didn't show up for trial. Surprise! Suddenly SVU is interested in Turner, to the point of having Carisi and Rollins drive all the way to Beaver Falls (a six hour drive) to talk to Turner's wife instead of just calling her. Mrs. Turner did talk to her husband last night, as a matter of fact; he was nervous about testifying. Yeah, I'll be he does. She then goes on to say that even though Haley is dead (“it's a tragedy”), it did kind of annoy her how much time her spouse spent with Haley, going to concerts with her and watching her recitals. Talking about her constantly. Hello, warning bells! Now, she only met Haley once, when she came over to borrow some sound equipment from Turner's studio, and they were down there for hours. Really, honey? Really? You have NO idea why they'd be down there? I just can't...when Carisi and Rolling head downstairs they do find all kind of sound equipment and instruments and, oh, some not remotely pornish pictures of Haley. I mean, she's licking a lollipop and in one shot has her blouse unbuttoned, but nothing worth selling. So now they, too, know that Turner most likely has something to do with Haley's disappearance.

Benson is talking to the Sadlers, who suddenly remember that Turner does have a friend in NYC. His name is Alan Hubert; he and Turner worked on a dog food jingle long ago. Hubert is now rich and beyond full of himself, hurrying toward his car because he's late for a meeting with Lin-Manuel. He does manage to tell the detectives that Turner is a loser, while he, Hubert, is not. He did feel sorry for Turner the last time Hubert talked to him, though. So he gave him the key to his house in Oyster Bay. Three guesses where he and Haley are!

Yep, there they are, cuddled up all naked in a bedroom together. Could we not have gotten to this sooner? As they pull Turner out of bed Haley begins screeching that she loves James, she loves him!!! In fact, she tells Rollins on the way back to NYC that they were going to move to Vienna together and he'd write sonatas for her to perform all over the world. Which would be interesting because she's supposed to be dead and all. For his part, Turner thinks of their love as a fugue, and he and Haley fit together as perfectly as two instruments whose names I blocked out because ew.

Oh, and Vinny? Haley is sorry about that. But he looked creepy and thought he'd be someone they could throw some suspicion on as she and James made their getaway. How could they know they'd picked the one patsy dressed as a clown in New York at that club that night who threatened a women with a meat cleaver? Surely nobody would arrest him and put him on trial or anything, right.

I've moved on from bored to baffled about these idiots, and I must see what's going to happen.

Now Haley, Ma and Pa Sadler, and Turner are all in the squad room with the SVU posse, and all hell breaks loose. You know Ma? Well, as she tries to get close enough to Turner to kill him, it comes out that Turner had seduced HER about 17 years ago. Math, anyone? Turner has been sleeping with his own daughter!!! And as Pa breaks down at the betrayal of the one-off between him and the creepier than a clown Turner, Haley is happy that her dad isn't a garbage man, after all. I'm sorry, that? She and ActualPa are both just so very, very, very messed up. Then Turner gets arrested for incest, and that's about it.

The best part about the end of the episode where Benson throws in a blasé explanation to Stone about GSA (Genetic sexual attraction), which is what ActualPa and Haley were experiencing. Apparently it's becoming more common. Ick. This would have been an interesting topic to explore in more detail, but I think Law and Order: CI did it years ago. Or SVU. I can't remember.


This episode just lumbered along without very much actual sleuthing until the very end of the episode with the shocking reveal. Frankly, I could have done with it sooner. Or intimated that something interesting might happen. At some point. There is just nothing going on until the end, when the episode speeds up and they toss in a much as possible. I'm actually past caring; I wasn't even freaked out about ActualPa Turner and Haley and we saw her psychotic love. Honestly, I laughed when Ma Sadler told them. It just seems thrown together, you didn't learn anything at all about Haley until the end, when you found out she was delusional and possibly dangerous. Isn't she supposed to be the focus of the episode, even a little?
But there were some bright spots.

One was Fin's birthday party in the squad room, with a cake picked out by his baby grandson, Jaden (hate the name). Fin's son Ken and his husband Alejandro have brought Jaden and his choice of a cake (with a clown on top!) and balloons and birthday cheer. Fin is thrilled to see them all, and it's good to see given the history he and Ken have had throughout the show. Ken sets the theme for the episode by saying that regardless of how busy their lives are, “Family's family.”

Stone also spends time with a loved one; his sister, Pamela. He tells Benson that Pamela is schizophrenic, and their father visited her every week at her clinic in Upstate New York. Now that he's back in the Big Apple, it's his turn. When he visits Pamela in a nice-looking house, she calls him “Daddy” as she takes the gift she's given her. She has no idea who he is, and it no doubt hurts him that she thinks Stone is his dad, but he stays for a while. Why? Because Family is family.

And some families, as we've seen in the last ten minutes of this episode, are creepy and deserve their own scary clown masks.

Fun Fact: In the third season of Law and Order, Ben Stone mentions Pamela in the episode “Skin Deep”.

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