Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 1 Episode 16

Phantom

1
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 17, 2002 on USA
9.0
out of 10
User Rating
91 votes
6

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT

The detectives investigate a slain bank robber and check out his sister, who is involved with a bogus United Nations economist. As the detectives close in on the suspect, Goren learns the suspect wants his children's approval and must stop him before he commits any more murders.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Has some good moments...

    6.5
    Has some good moments, but I found the premise to be a little too close to unbelievable. How could this guy keep that secret for so many years? There's just too many ways he would have been found out by his family and friends to make this episode believable.
  • The story of a man who has lead an incredible sixteen year life of lies. We meet an just released con, his socially challenged sister, and a man who appears to be a UN Economist, but things are not always what they seem.moreless

    8.0
    A story that has to be seen to believe. A man who is willing to do anything not to reveal the lies he has been living. When the level of lies becomes too much which based on the lifestyle this man was living had reached would have been many years before this, things start to unravel.



    The man moves to do the one thing he has had to in his past to hide his lies. Murder. So after an ex-con shows up dead and then his sister is left in a coma we begin to see the reality as it is revealed to us.



    The UN Economist is a con man of the lowest form. He's not a very good one at that. Unfortunately people believe what they want to and perception is reality so this man has been able to keep this up for a long time.



    The acting was good in this episode. The principals are fine as always. The believability factor of this episode is what drops the score down. How many people had this man killed or discarded during his lifetime to keep all of these secrets? Let's face it, people are gullible, but are they all this gullible. Personally I don't think so. Someone would have noticed something in the past. Were these the first time his father-in-law and father asked for some of this money they have been investing back? Also no one knew what those marks were that were on the bodies of the father-in-law, etc.? Sorry, not buying it. Thanks for reading...moreless
  • Another compelling, ripped-from-the-headlines story about a New Jersey man, disappointed with his lot in life, who becomes ever more desperate to keep up the charade of a family man/UN economist/world traveler. Tense and well-written.moreless

    9.4
    Any episode that gives Vincent D a well-written, terse monologue like the climactic one in Phantom is at the top of my faves list. As usual, writer Gomard Meyer shows why she is one of the best scripters for LOCI - nicely paced script, compelling ripped-from-the-headlines story, great interaction between the principals. I loved seeing Brooke Smith again...haven't seen her since she played the victim in the well in Silence of the Lambs. She did a great job as Gerry's intelligent-but-still duped wife and mother of his two children. Bobby Goren had a little more to do in this one than to lean in and snatch a confession. This time, he was at the wrong of a shotgun. Great episode - definitely one of the best for this series.moreless
  • An intense and suspenseful episode that inspires with its contrast between the path of the hero and the path of the coward.

    9.5
    (Obligatory spoiler warning: Don't read this review if you don't already know, or want to know, what happens in this episode.)



    The criminal in this episode is a bit preposterous. Yet his antics, which would be darkly funny in a different context, are painfully poignant in the service of a darker narrative turn. While extreme, Gerry Rankin's actions are nonetheless believeable, as they are inspired by common human motives. Everyone, save the sociopaths in our midst, desires approval and affection from others, and fears the loss of these things; everyone fears disappointing those who give them their love, respect, and admiration. The tragedy of Gerry Rankin's story is that the desire to do good for his family and to feel worthy of their love could have made him the kind of person he wished to be, had he had the courage to own up to his failures and try to redress them, rather than desperately trying to hide them and cover them up.



    As another viewer has pointed out, Gerry's narrative illustrates how one simple lie can be the first drop in what ultimately becomes an overwhelming sea of deceit. If one is unwilling to own up to having told a lie, the inevitable result is more and more lies to cover up for the first. Gerry's fear of having his lies exposed is visceral; in his mind, his whole life depends upon his ability to sustain his deception. His terror is so powerful that the threat of exposure pushes him over the edge into murder. In his desperation and his bumbling short-sightedness, Gerry fails to anticipate that the act of committing murder was more likely to tear his life apart, expose his lies, and devastate his ability to keep it all together than anything else he could have done.



    All Gerry can see is the potential of his lies being exposed, and all he can think of in his actions is the defense of his self-image. The importance of preserving the illusion becomes so powerful that he is willing to kill his own children to prevent the shame of their discovery of his lies and his failures. He doesn't stop to think that it is his children's and his wife's love and approval that he has been seeking in the first place, and that such a heinous act would push him beyond the pale of being loved or approved of by anyone ever again. He doesn't stop to think that in destroying his children, he is annhilating the very reason to fight to preserve the lie of his success in the first place. This is why Gerry is such a ridiculous and pathetic character. But the fear underneath his behavior is so universal and powerful that watching it taken to such an extreme extent is horrifying rather than humorous.



    Goren's insights, achieved through sympathetic identification with both the criminals he pursues and with their victims, are the pivotal moments of the show. His moment of revelation in this episode is depicted especially powerfully. Looking at a craft project Gerry's children did to show their admiration for their father, one can practically see Goren entering into Gerry's inner world, like a shaman in a trance enters into the unseen realm. Suddenly, a horrifying thought comes to him, and just as suddenly, Goren becomes convinced that this terrible possibility is on the verge of becoming reality as the seconds tick away. The urgency with which everyone steps into action is conveyed to great effect by the actors, especially Erbe, D'Onofrio, and guest actress Brooke Smith. This is very easily one of the most suspenseful and viscerally thrilling episodes of the series for this reason and for others.



    One of the other reasons is the scene that follows, which in this viewer's opinion is one of the highlights of the entire series. Goren, while certainly depicted as flawed and fallible, is also obviously an idealized character. He is a heroic figure: selfless, brave, insightful, and brilliant. But it is his willingness to suffer for his work and to push himself beyond the border of fear that may be his most heroic quality. Not everyone can have a genius mind or nerves of steel, no matter how much they would like them. But everyone can face the situations in their lives with the willingness to turn toward fear and difficulty rather than run away or hide from them. This is the essential contrast between Goren and Gerry. Goren walks steadfastly into the heart of fear, exposing himself to annhilation over and over agin in his work, while Gerry does everything he can to hide, to run away, and to protect himself.



    When Goren enters into the hotel room in which Gerry is holding a gun on his sleeping children, it is a symbolic moment. Goren has crossed a threshold, willingly and with knowledge. The power conferred by that choice gives him the power to dispel the dark trance into which Gerry has fallen. This power is the power of taking the weaker position, in the sense of letting oneself become vulnerable and undefended. It is impossible to defeat one who is not afraid of death and who holds the higher moral ground, whose actions are based in willing self-surrender for the sake of others and not in any desire for personal gain. It is hard not to thrill as a viewer when Goren puts himself between Gerry's gun and Gerry's children. Goren is confident that he can talk Gerry down, but not certain, and his choice to risk his own life to save two children is the ultimate act of heroism.



    Were such acts of heroism impossibly remote to the average person, this episode would not be as powerful. Yet this is not the case. One does not need to do work in which it is required to step in front of a gun to access the bravery depicted by Goren in this episode. All one needs is the same willingness to place oneself in front of the barrel of one's own fears. This is no easy task--or else it would not be heroic--but it is an ability that is available to everyone. Intentionally or not, this episode functions as an effective allegory for two different approaches to dealing with fear. In addition to tight plotting and fine acting, the power of this episode lies in the equal access every person has to either Gerry's cowardice or Goren's bravery. The choices we make shape who we become, and this episode shows one way of walking into the heart of darkness, and the fear one inevitably encounters there, with dignity and grace.moreless
  • A recent parolee whose bank heist score was never recovered is found dead, leading the detectives to his sister, who re-created herself. The sister is put into a coma by her mysterious boyfriend who has been living a wierd double life.moreless

    9.0
    This episode has plenty to recommend it, including a lot of Eames-Goren banter and some character revealing scenes for the latter. D'Onofrio watchers will really love his scenes with three different women - and the cooking bit was adorable.



    But what really stood out here is the final act. The most unbelievable 'hostage' scene imaginable. Laughable, but engaging.



    The man who has been living a lie, the ersatz Columbia educated economist who doesn't really work for the UN and instead has been living off the 'investments' of his parent's and in-laws money is holding his drugged children hostage in the motel room he uses when he's really supposed to be overseas on UN business. We know he's killed before. Now, in desperation, he is going to kill his own children, and disappear. Or does he plan murder-suicide?



    This "Phantom" has an automatic weapon trained on his sleeping kids when Bobby Goren saunters in the room and pulls exactly the kind of "I know who you are" act that invariably infuriates his victim. The fact Goren adds a 'not your fault' tagline to the litany of the man's failures hardly qualifies as soothing - in the real world, the two bullets in the rifle would have been implanted in the detective's skull in seconds, and certainly by the time Bobby gets around to sitting down on the hotel room bed a foot from the gun muzzle, looking up into the barrel with his Botticelli's angel face, well, he wouldn't have HAD a face.



    It woulda been KABOOM!, baby, on 99.9% of planets in the universe, 99.999% of the time..but for sheer entertainment and teflon-plated chutzpah, the scene was delightful.



    Alternate reality, for sure.moreless
Michael Emerson (I)

Michael Emerson (I)

Gerry Rankin

Guest Star

Andrew Fiscella

Andrew Fiscella

Frank Caspari

Guest Star

Cara Buono

Cara Buono

Charlotte Fielding

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Alex Eames: The only money I ever got from my family was $50 for my prom dress.
      Robert Goren: Was this the same year you were selling apples outside of city hall?
      Alex Eames: They were matchsticks. It was snowing.

    • Robert Goren: One thing this line of work teaches us is that guys will do anything for love.
      Alex Eames: And money.

    • Robert Goren: That's what I live for, Valdez, to make your life easier.
      Detective Valdez: I take it you'll be by later to wash my car?

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (2)

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Jean-Claude Romand case. Romand fooled his family and friends for 18 years into thinking that he was a successful medical professional and researcher in the World Health Organization (when in reality, he never passed his second-year medical exams). Also, like Gerry Rankin, Romand made his living off of fraudulently borrowing money, pretending that it was being invested. Once he feared that his secrets might be found out, he killed his wife, his two kids, and his parents.

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the John List case.

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