Law & Order: Season 8, Episode 16

Divorce (4 Mar. 1998)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.4
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The murder of a couples psychologist is connected to a bitterly-contested Catholic annulment and the couple's two feuding lawyers.

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Title: Divorce (04 Mar 1998)

Divorce (04 Mar 1998) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Sheila Atkins
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Molly Kilpatrick
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David Harrigan
Dennis Predovic ...
McGiven
John Wojda
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Paul Redfield
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Storyline

A marriage counselor who also works on Roman Catholic annulment cases is murdered in her office. The suspect is a woman who was contesting the annulment of her marriage because it would make her son, for the church, illegitimate. The lawyer who handled her legal divorce uses the situation to squeeze more money from the ex-husband. Written by Hops Splurt

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4 March 1998 (USA)  »

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Det. Lennie Briscoe: Divorce lawyers... God's way of telling you to stay single.
Det. Rey Curtis: Or married.
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User Reviews

 
Adam Schiff: "Where did these people learn ethics?" Jack McCoy: "Law School" Adam: "Of course!"
25 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is certainly one of the sharpest written and twisty Law and Order episodes, because of the secret at the base of it all.

A marriage councilor is murdered in her office, and soon Detectives Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis (Jerry Orbach and Benjamin Bratt) are investigating how the killer got into her office in a city hospital. There are one or two typical red herrings: A madman who thinks he is the Pope, and who liked the therapist who helped get him shelter, and the idiot running hospital security who has an excuse for every error that the police find (at one point Orbach says, "I smell a big law suit!" looking at the hidden room of one of the transients the idiot security man boasted they ran out of the building.

When the red herrings start to settle, it turns out that the therapist was supposed to be speaking as an expert witness in a divorce action between Molly Kilpatrick (Haviland Morris) and Billy Kilpatrick (Craig Lawlor). The couple's attempt at an amicable divorce was shot down in flames by their two lawyers, Sheila Atkins for Molly (Jill Claybergh) and Paul Redfield for Billy (Tony Roberts). Subsequently we learn that the two attorneys were once married themselves to each other, and that may explain the harshness that entered the divorce as claims, counter claims, injunctions, demands for discovery, new proceedings, are all being called in the name of the two clients by the attorney.

Roberts keeps insisting that Claybergh is on pointless fishing expeditions to annoy his client. Claybergh keeps insisting that the husband has hidden assets with the connivance of Roberts in off-shore accounts. She may be right, but (as Sam McCoy (Sam Waterston) finds out) the paperwork on the case from Claybergh is very petty at times.

The beginning of the end comes when Claybergh begins to act at supposedly cross purposes from her client's criminal lawyer in trying to arrange a three to five year manslaughter rap for her. Morris is horrified that Claybergh is doing this, insisting she is innocent, but Morris is a pill abuser, and the best suspect. But to get Claybergh to bring Morris to accepting this sentence, McCoy must assist Claybergh in proving that the money laundering is going on.

Roberts brings in an attaché case full of subpoenas and similar documents created by Claybergh to show what he's been up against. One interests Waterston and his assistant Jamey Lowell (Carey Ross): a special request to nullify a Church edict that nullified a marriage on the grounds of a violation of Canon Law. The case actually seemed to have merit, but Claybergh abandoned it...two days after the murder of her star victim. And suddenly the open and shut case against the unstable ex-wife turns into a different direction.

It is a clever episode that shows the superiority of the best of the Law & Order plots. And the incredulity of the story is brought home when the broken hearted widower of the therapist tells off the perpetrator in court. But the final word is ever that of D.A. Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) and Waterson and Ross on the weird twist given to ethics by two venomous lawyers.


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