Law & Order recap: A murder case turns into a battle of wits

Law & Order
Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) and Samantha Maroun Odelya Halevi) talk on a case on Law & Order Season 21. Pic credit: NBC

Is getting a killer more important than undermining a movement?

After making its grand return last week, Law & Order was back with a brand-new episode clearly modeled after the case of Elizabeth Holmes. It took a turn, however, with Price and Maroun arguing about taking on accusations of abuse as a defense.

That real-life inspiration made Impossible Dream a daring take on a real-life scandal. 

A murder leads to a grand fraud

In a classic bit, a couple in a park is just about to have some fun when they stumble onto a man’s body. Bernard and Cosgrove are on the scene where the only identifying item on him is a pen belonging to a tech company named Hythena. 

The pair meet with Hythena’s CEO, Nina Ellis (Rachelle Lefevre) who’s shocked to identify the victim as Kyle Morrison, her COO, and fiancee. She couldn’t give any information as to why someone would want him dead as she last talked to him after an investor’s dinner. They were struck by how she went for a walk late at night. 

The pair talked to one of the women at the dinner, who discussed Nina being demanding but also worth $2 billion thanks to her company. A Hythena assistant said someone had called with threats against Kyle. 

The caller was a worker who was upset as his wife had taken one of the cancer screening tests Hythena sold, which said she was negative. Ten months later, she learned she had stage 4 cancer, and had it been caught earlier, it could have been treated. She was also his alibi of being at the hospital during the murder. 

As the cops discussed the possible fake results, they learned of an e-mail sent by the former technology officer, Derek Seaver, telling Kyle to stop tests as they didn’t work. 

The detectives met with Derek (Jordan Canfield), who brushed them off as he had signed an NDA. Nina insisted the tests worked and the FDA was okay with them. She claimed Seaver was about to be fired as he and Kyle constantly fought, including Seaver smashing Kyle’s computer with a golf club and stood to lose millions if fired. 

Thanks to a suspicious anonymous call, the cops found the pistol in the sewer and brought Derek in. His lawyer told him to forget the NDA with Derek denying the murder and he and Kyle were friends.

Derek said he quit because the tests were only 50% accurate and Nina had falsified data to get FDA approval. He had convinced Kyle of the truth and he was about to pull the tests when he was murdered.

When the cops brought up Nina being in love with Kyle, Derek scoffed, “the only thing Nina is madly in love with is Nina.”

At Nina’s apartment (packed with photos and magazine covers of herself), the techs found a coat with Kyle’s DNA on it. Dixon brought it to Price and Maroun, who were wary of taking on someone so powerful, but Dixon insisted Nina killed Kyle to cover up her grand fraud. 

Price warned that the evidence was still circumstantial, but Dixon said they were arresting her one way or another. Nina herself was about to head to London when the cops arrested her. 

A battle of wits begins

At the arraignment, Amanda Stanley (Zabryna Guevara) pushed for Nina to be remanded, but she made $5 million bail. Kyle’s father, Brian, (Brian Keane) was outraged by his son’s killer walking out and wanted her to pay. 

Nina played herself to reporters that she was a pioneer for technology and was being attacked on “archaic gender stereotypes” but would succeed. Price argued to allow some of the people who had received false tests to testify against Nina with Stanley firing off this was about the muder, not fraud and the judge agreed.

With the witnesses out, Price wanted a jury not inclined to listen to some “rich white woman being deceitful,” which Maroun was unsure of. Price’s opening statement emphasized Nina’s “end justifies the mean” attitude and ego. 

Price and Maroun’s lunch was interrupted by Nina changing to a “battered woman” defense, claiming long abuse by Kyle. McCoy noted how “honesty is not in vogue anymore” and to let Nina tell her story for Price to pick it apart. 

Nina tearfully talked of Kyle becoming controlling and abusive, even slapping her, breaking into tears with the jury buying into it. Maroun wasn’t happy about Price automatically assuming Nina was lying about the abuse and uncomfortable with disproving her. She was concerned that attacking the claims would undermine the progress of the MeToo Movement. 

While agreeing, Price said their focus was on the case, not a greater movement. Maroun realized that a few of the jurors had experience with abuse, which would play into a verdict. 

Tricking the killer out

Brian was again outraged, this time that his son was made out as an abuser and Price willing to cut Nina a deal. McCoy and Price talked it over with Price defending that this wasn’t about his own ego, just faith in the system working. 

Questioning Nina, Price brought up the false results with Nina brushing off they were improving it. He added the lawsuits by past employees and Nina not caring about the truth. She fired back, “what is the truth? It’s a tricky question.”

Price brought up Nina having a “fearless” attitude yet somehow never discussed with anyone the abuse she got from Kyle, Nina firing back she’d gotten a broken arm from him months earlier before Price ended it.

Maroun complained Price played into Nina’s hands, making her look sympathetic to the jury and calling her a liar. Price was more focused on how Nina never brought up the broken arm before. 

The cops learned Nina was indeed at the hospital for a broken arm with Price bringing in a Ms. Fox, who testified the broken arm was from Nina falling off a horse while practicing polo and Kyle was nowhere around.

The jury found Nina guilty, with Brian happy. While Price was pleased with no protestors and people seeing through Nina’s lies, Maroun still seemed unsure if they’d done more good than harm exposing her. 

It was an intriguing storyline with touches closer to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit yet showed the mothership can still pull off a “ripped from the headlines” tale well.

Law & Order Season 21 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.

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