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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At first Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth are investigating a reported
kidnapping of a baby by the father Kevin O'Rourke. When his story
doesn't add up Briscoe and Logan are soon getting a different story of
how he buried his infant whom he says died of crib death.
O'Rourke is a beaten and shattered man who is shielding his wife from the law. He's got good reason to shield Julie Boyd from the law, two other of their infants died similarly in different jurisdictions.
Boyd is described as a 'sympathy junkie'. It's a special kind of narcissism where she gets to be the center of attention through the death of her infant children. She smothers them to gain such sympathy and O'Rourke just won't confront the possibility either to the world or worse to himself.
As for Sam Waterston he's frustrated by the fact the judge rules that the prior deaths can't be introduced. How it all turns out is for you to watch the episode.
I will say Boyd is one frightening human being and she gives a great performance.
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