Law & Order: Season 9, Episode 19

Tabula Rasa (20 Apr. 1999)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 66 users  
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The prime suspect in the murder of a college professor is a domineering father who kidnapped his children and disappeared 15 years earlier.

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Title: Tabula Rasa (20 Apr 1999)

Tabula Rasa (20 Apr 1999) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Nick Taska / Bill Fallon
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Eleanor Taska
Anne Bobby ...
Sylvia Fallon
Tracy Spindler ...
Alexis Fallon
Lacey Kohl ...
Susan Fallon
Joyce Gordon ...
Judge Lisa Holt
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Storyline

Detectives Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis investigate the death of Marian Hollis a philosophy professor at New York university who jumped - or was pushed - in front of a subway train. She was seen accessing the platform with a tall, well-dressed man. They eventually identify the man as Bill Fallon who is in the city from Cincinnati while his eldest daughter settles in at the university. He denies knowing the dead woman but the police find that he has no personal history prior to 1985. It turns out he is actually Nick Taska, married to Eleanor Taska, who ran off with their children in 1984. Eleanor and the dead woman were once good friends and ADA Abbie Carmichael thinks she may have recognized him on the street, leading Taska to kill her. He denies it and the prosecution face a dilemma when the man's youngest daughter claims she did it. McCoy comes up with a creative way of charging the father. Written by garykmcd

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20 April 1999 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the opening Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe refers to the transit worker urging him to release the train as "Benito". This is a sarcastic reference to Benito Mussolini, whose fascist regime in Italy was reputed to have kept the trains running on time. See more »

Goofs

Fallon's credit card records include a purchase from TKTS (half-price tickets for Broadway/Off-Broadway shows), but TKTS doesn't take credit cards, only cash or traveler's checks. (TKTS started taking credit cards in 2009, 10 years after this episode aired.) See more »

Quotes

Jack McCoy: Did William Fallon terrorize those girls by threatening to withhold his love for them if they didn't do exactly what he wanted?
Sylvia Fallon: Yes.
Nick Taska: You stupid cow!
Judge Lisa Holt: Mr. Fallon!
Nick Taska: Judge, you can't do this. The only reason I married her is so my children would have a mother.
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User Reviews

 
McCoy Buffaloed
8 April 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

This is a good Law and Order episode in which for one of the few times Sam Waterston is totally buffaloed by the perpetrator in this case, Jay Sanders. This man pushed a woman on a subway track because she recognized him in his previous identity. What had happened was that Sanders had fled New York State after a custody hearing went against him in a dispute with his ex-wife and took their two daughters with him and started a new life with a new identity in Cincinnati. The victim was the college roommate of the ex-wife who of course knew Sanders back in the day.

Jerry Orbach and Benjamin Bratt uncover the story. And it's a scary one. The two daughters are the psychological prisoners of an anal retentive man to the extreme. If the pillows are fluffed wrong, Sanders has a conniption. They so can't imagine a world without dear old Dad that the younger daughter, Tracy Spindler, confesses to the crime in order to save him.

Hence the conundrum for Sam Waterston. He and Angie Harmon decide to stretch the statute and prosecute Sanders for kidnapping instead. It's the only time on Law and Order I ever saw them go for a lesser charge because they can't make the murder case.

The real star of this episode is Anne Bobby who plays Sanders's second wife and stepmother to the girls. It's a frightening portrait of a meek and docile woman who caters to her husband's every whim. She's called by Jack McCoy as his witness and her testimony on the witness stand is a brilliant piece of acting. She's a rebuttal witness that McCoy pulls out at the last minute. Bit by bit he shows her the kind of Stepford existence she's made for herself with this man. In the end she sinks Sanders.

McCoy may have been buffaloed, but I do love Angie Harmon's comment at the end that some cosmic justice will be meted out to someone who likes to control and now will have his every movement controlled for 24/7.

It's one of the best Law and Order episodes.


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