Law & Order: Season 5, Episode 7

Precious (9 Nov. 1994)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 64 users  
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A false kidnapping claim leads to the prosecution of a married couple after detectives discover that three of their infants have died under mysterious circumstances.

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Title: Precious (09 Nov 1994)

Precious (09 Nov 1994) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Marty Willick
Julie Boyd ...
Eileen Willick
Sam Gray ...
Nada Rowand ...
Dr. Margaret Slavin
Maria Tucci ...
Joel Leffert ...
Robert Cole
Brooks Rogers ...
Dr. Henry Royce
Becky Borczon ...
Theresa Tritch
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Dr. Charles Webb
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Storyline

Detectives Briscoe and Logan investigate the disappearance of a three month old baby, Emily, who was taken while she and her father Marty Willick were in the park. He dozed off for a few minutes and when he awoke, she was gone. The detectives begin to have second thoughts about the veracity of Willick's story and finally the truth comes out: Willick claims that he and his wife found her dead in her crib. The medical examiner finds that the baby has symptoms of asphyxia, though it could have been a crib death. When they learn that two other of the Willick's children also died of crib death, they are certain one or both of the parents were responsible for Emily's death. Written by garykmcd

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9 November 1994 (USA)  »

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When the cradle falls.
21 February 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Brisco and Logan investigate the apparent kidnapping of a baby from a city playground and uncover the fact that the baby died at home and was buried by the parents in an ice chest in Riverside Park. It develops further that this was the third child who had died of "sudden infant death syndrome" in care of these parents. A fourth, foster child was removed from their house when the mother repeatedly took the baby to the hospital with mysterious respiratory or allergic symptoms.

This could be a very gutsy program, as this episode demonstrates. It deals dispassionately with a problem -- called Munchausen by proxy syndrome -- that seems to have peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The parents, usually the mother, cause the baby to become ill and they thrive on the sympathy of hospital staff and friends. If they try hard enough to make the baby sick, of course, it dies, and the rituals of compassion grow exponentially. What's more pitiful than a grieving mother who has lost a child? Now, those are not easy subjects to tackle -- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Munchausen's by proxy. Not even the medical profession is eager to take it on. Parental abuse as one of the contributory factors behind SIDS was pooh-poohed for years. The doc who finally drew an open connection between the two was openly attacked. Everybody loves babies, especially parents, and attacking motherhood is now worse than attacking apple pie, since we now buy apple pies in the supermarket. Nobody wants to challenge those kinds of axioms.

But this episode does, and it does so with some subtlety. The mother is overplayed by Julie Boyd but she's perfectly cast and groomed for the part. She's not a glossy beauty. She's plain. She smiles bravely throughout and her eyes seem constantly watery, as if on the verge of tears. She's described as having sat next to her babies' coffins all through the funeral service. "The only time she cried was when nobody was paying attention to her." The husband, well played by Kevin O'Rourke, a dumpy non-entity who loves his wife to distraction and supports her until the end. Not that men aren't responsible for infant deaths but, I would guess, they're more likely to cause death by physical abuse rather than smothering, poisoning, or some less obvious means.

McCoy is sufficiently outraged to bring up tubal ligation as a condition for a lesser plea. Kincaid objects that it sounds like Nazi Germany. McCoy -- in a few expertly-written lines -- argues that sterilization is a medical procedure and in itself is neutral. If it's used to exterminate a race, it's evil. If it's used to prevent the deaths of infants in the future, it's a moral act. It's the same logic used by gun enthusiasts. That position -- judging an act by its consequences -- is known as pragmatism.

Anyway, I didn't mean to get up on the soap box here but I did so only to applaud the impious character of some of these early stories.


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