Law & Order: Season 9, Episode 19

Tabula Rasa (20 Apr. 1999)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 77 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 8.1/10

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


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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Release Date:

20 April 1999 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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As is often the case in Law & Order, the Path train stands in for the New York City Subway. See more »


Fallon is depicted as the ultimate control freak -- won't let his super-docile second wife see her family, insists that there's only one way to fold a towel, etc. -- and the plot hinges on his daughter's enrolling in college in Manhattan even though the family lives in Cincinnati, yet someone who micro-micro-manages to that degree would never let his daughter attend college in another city. Similarly, the plot hinges on his removing his daughters from his first wife's custody, but his first wife is independent and able to think/act for herself; Fallon would never have married someone he couldn't control. See more »


Jack McCoy: Did you ever seen a movie or read a book or had a friend your father didn't approve of?
Susan Fallon: No.
Jack McCoy: Why not?
See more »

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I Married A Phony.
4 January 2013 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

J. O. Sanders' wife is getting uppity so he takes his two daughters and skips town, establishing a new identity and marrying a more compliant type to provide a mother for his children.

On a business visit to New York City, he runs into his first wife's college roommate. She recognizes him and he evidently pushes her onto the tracks in front of an oncoming subway train.

Briscoe and Curtis manage to track him down and uncover his real identity. At the trial it becomes clear that he's an obsessive personality who must command his environment. The pillows must be folded exactly right. His wife isn't allowed to visit her own family. His two daughters are so browbeaten that "they can't tell where they begin and he leaves off." The younger daughter is so afraid of losing Dad that she lies and claims that she herself killed the woman in the subway. Nice performance by the second wife, as Sam Waterston puts her on the witness stand and brings her to realize finally that her own life has faded away as if by magic.

There is no physical abuse involved, only the imposition of an iron will. That's what makes this episode interesting. Beating the wife and kids would have been too easy, a cop out, so to speak. The father is the king of the castle, and that's that. The new wife and the children are only instruments of his determination to rule the castle. Reminds me a little of my marriage, except there was no king, only la Reine des Guêpes.

There's a nice wisecrack towards the beginning, a Briscoe specialty. A mangled body lies out of sight under the train. The representative of the subway system asks how long before the tracks will be cleared; the system is proud of always being on schedule. When they're about to roll the train back, he asks if Lennie wants to check out the body. "No, thanks. It's all yours, Benito." A lot of people will miss this, so I'll add that when Benito Mussolini ruled Italy in the 1930s, his supporters boasted of him that "he made the trains run on time." It was a common joke.

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