Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 5 Episode 21

On Fire

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM May 14, 2006 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
103 votes

By Users

Episode Summary


Goren and Eames investigate a fire at St. Gerald's that led to the death of a Church employee. They soon realize an arsonist is targeting churches. Throughout their investigation, they realize St. Gerald's was the arsonist's primary target, and clues lead them to Justin Reid, who had donated $100,000 to rebuild the Church, his step-mother Regina, who they soon learn had seduced Justin when he was only a teen, and his half-brother Glynn, who works for a clean-up crew that had worked at all the churches that were burned down shortly after they were renovated. Deakins comes under fire when an email surfaces that insinuates he persuaded Martinez (from "To the Bone") to lie about the Logan shooting by getting him a promotion. The email is soon traced back to former cop Frank Adair (from "My Good Name"), who is doing time for murder.


Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • An old church lady dies with a secret in the first of a series of church arsons, drawing Goren's and Eames' attention to a hot-shot, yuppie parishioner, his buxom wife, his muddle-headed kid half-brother, and their "vamp" step-mother (Theresa Russell)moreless

    The only redeeming features of this episode were the typically excellent, smart performances of the regulars, a couple of entertaining interrogation scenes, and the dark, clever subplot about decent, dignified Deakins' resignation.

    The main plot was a forced, uninspired exercise in sensationalism, dressed up by skilled technicians with the trappings of a crime drama. The writers even tried to inoculate themselves by having one of the characters express such a lament himself ("I see a tawdry light at the end of this tunnel," says ADA Carver). But nothing can obscure that the overall story was a disappointing mess.

    The characters, their motivations, and their actions were poorly developed and explained. There was no meaningful connection between the elements of religion, fires, or personal lives. The episode came off as mere strung-together, clunking contrivances, implausibly investigated.

    How did the church woman know the secret, apparently imparted in the confessional? Why would she behave as she did? Was it sheer convenient coincidence that she was killed in the fire (something presented with great flair -- flailing out into the street burning alive, setting up the opening credits -- but that no one in the show even seemed to care about)? Why would the step-mother and step-son behave as they did? Worst of all was the arsonist, portrayed until the unconvincing end scene as shallow, dopey, and ineffectual. It was completely unbelievable that the arsonist was undergoing a supposedly intense personal upheaval and would react by carrying out an elaborate scheme of complex burn patterns and multiple arsons, involving a conveniently available, ready-made confederate. Piling contrivance on contrivance, others with no apparent predisposition to such an act then jump in, on their own, to commit a cold-blooded cover-up murder. The detective work tracking all of this was similarly strained. And it has been suggested that there were sloppy factual errors about religious practice.

    The producers of this series developed a slick, cool, dark, clinical technique for presenting crime stories. But mere technique is not enough. It cannot disguise the gears of a clumsy, hollow, mechanical effort like this episode. And even where the plot is imaginative, technically skilled, and well-executed, it helps to have some sort of meaning or insight or emotional truth or expression. As shown by others' criticisms of the abruptness of Deakins' end scene, that element may too often have been lacking.moreless
  • Favorite episode of the series

    This is my favortie episode of the series, though I haven't seen all of it. I mean this twisted story is so gripping and troubled that you really feel so bad for these innocents trapped in it's web. A married man finds out this his younger half brother is really his son, after this man's affair with his step mother when he was 14 comes into the light. This young boy is so troubled and harmed by this knowledge, which he already knew, he had taken to arson. A the young man, in defense of his brother/son murders to protect him. If this young boy isn't completely messed up for the rest of his life I was be very surprised.moreless
  • Arson is afoot with death resulting. Goren and Eames track a serial firebug, and are led to one of the more bizarre motives in the CI 'whydunnit' annals. Notable guest stars are Theresa Russell as an aging vamp and Michael Rispoli's reprised Frank Adair.moreless

    Goren's pattern seeking brain notices a similarity between the geographical sequence of fires and the route a former glorified altar boy (and current benefactor)would take during church ceremonies. When Bobby draws a "Z", you know the case is angled to solution.

    Implausible as Goren's eureka was, the epi was well-done, even if the storyline was a bit too Payton Place-ish for Criminal Intent.

    Three perps here - a scheming, middle-aged sex pot (Russell) who twenty years earlier impregnated her 14 year old step-son, and passed his progeny off as her hubby's; the formerly seduced and now successful 'big half-brother' whose marriage provides plenty of envy-ops for step-mom; and the pitiful offspring who with a wacko partner lit the pyrotechnics after learning of the deception.

    Wacko firebug gets offed by step-mom and her former seductee, so all three are roped in by the detectives as killers. Russell pulls off an amazing final scene in which she physically shrinks in Wicked Witch of the West fashion under the shame of her now revealed secret. I'd recommend this epi just for that fascinating command of actor's 'space.

    The epi was also notable for the storyline that signals the end of Jamey Sheridan's role as Captain Deakins. His nemesis is ex-detective Frank Adair (now redder and curlier haired - prison life must feature some hair stylists) who reaches out his long cop-sticky tentacles to lay the big set-up on the Cap'n. Goren and Eames are able to trace the plot, but can do naught about the big blue wall that is about to fall on their friend and captain.moreless
  • Goren and Emmes ... still suberb but trapped in predictable episode.

    Okay, first comment on this episode is: I KNEW Glynn was the brother\'s son. I knew it. For starters the step mother was very stereotypically the \'vamp\' who devours whatever she wants. The actors looked alike and the brother\'s wife looked like the step mother. Not really a big shock that Glynn was indeed their son.

    The burning of the Churches though, from the baptismal font and the path the altar boys walk was well done.

    However, the biggest event of this episode was the resignation of Deakin. Though I knew it was coming from the updates I recieve on the show, I though the emotion was a little flat surrounding his leaving. Surely there would have been a little more to it than \'i\'m going, bye\'.

    Overall, i found this episode more of a lead up to Deakin\'s resignation than an episode in itself.

  • The eppisodes were great although, the goodbyes were a little to flat.

    I thought they were a great eppisodes, they had good story lines. The only thing I wish they had done different, are the goodbyes. They should have thrown Capt. Deakins a large goodbye party with all the cast members or a big group hug or something to that effect. The farewells were a little to flat if you ask me. After all, he has been Gorens and Emaes captin since the begining, and you would figure them to show just a little more emotion at the end. But besides that I thought the wrighting was great as well as the acting, Very Good way to end the seasion!moreless
Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton

Justin Reid

Guest Star

David Zayas

David Zayas

Fire Marshal

Guest Star

Adam Scarimbolo

Adam Scarimbolo

Glynn Reid

Guest Star

Leslie Hendrix

Leslie Hendrix

Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Michael Rispoli reprises his role as Frank Adair in this episode, bringing closure to a story arc begun in season four's "My Good Name."

    • Nitpick: Goren discusses crucifers and processionals, however typically only the Evangelical Lutheran Church uses these, not the Lutheran Church. Nor would there be a baptismal pool in either church, as the theology supports a sprinkling type baptism, rather than immersion.

    • Nitpick: Goren refers to the group of assembled church leaders as reverends when they are all meeting together. This would be incorrect, as not all Church leaders are reverends. As a lapsed Catholic, Goren would certainly know this.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Charlie Taylor: (sees a race car wreck on TV; squeals) Woo-hoo! Look at that!
      Robert Goren: You like car races?
      Charlie Taylor: Oh yeah! I got a need for speed! I'm– not that I break the law any more, officer. I got plenty enough tickets to last me a lifetime, but no DUI's. I don't drink. I got an allergy.
      Robert Goren: Your job. You're always climbing around in those vents, that's dangerous, huh?
      Charlie Taylor: It's fun!
      Robert Goren: (to Eames) Dangerous and fun.
      Alex Eames: (deadpan) Woo-hoo.

    • Chief Steve Yarrow: You know, Jimmy, everybody warned you Logan was a mutt. So don't be surprised if you got fleas.

    • Robert Goren: Maybe he had trouble accepting her as his new mother. Maybe Regina seduced him, to win him over.
      James Deakins: She couldn't just get him a new baseball mitt?

  • NOTES (1)