Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 4 Episode 17

Shibboleth

2
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 27, 2005 on USA
8.8
out of 10
User Rating
72 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Shibboleth
AIRED:
When Phoebe Morton is murdered while on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator, Goren and Eames take the case and soon realize Morton is one of five women murdered with a similar connection: the killer known as Body By Jake (B.B.J.). Their investigation leads them to Keith Durbin, a recently released parolee who appears to be perfect. Goren has his suspicions about Durbin, who doesn't seem right to him. When they learn there are similar earlier murders, Goren and Eames focus their attention on a new suspect, and realize, although he's not guilty, Durbin is the key.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • More of a plot-driven and ensemble piece than usual, this is one of the better episodes of Criminal Intent. Solid acting all around, a tightly plotted and compelling story, and an absorbing atmosphere make this episode especially satisfying.moreless

    9.5
    (Warning: This review contains spoilers.)



    This is one of those rare episodes of Criminal Intent in which Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Goren does not steal the show. Not to say that he is not on point in this episode--he is--but the quality of the episode does not hinge on him as much as it does in many other episodes. The result is an all-around solid episode that is one of my favorite episodes of Criminal Intent.



    While the acting on part of everyone cast in this episode is top-notch, I think that the quality of it has to do most with the quality of the script. The crime is a little more gruesome than usual, and the twist is one I found to be more unexpected and interesting than it is on average. The plot is complex but not so much so that it becomes confusing and labyrinthine; the story is dense, but tightly plotted. Though the episode has the same running time as other episodes of the show, it feels especially long, but not in a bad way. This one plays more like a TV movie than an episode of a show, given its gritty nuance, in-depth characterization, and absorbing atmosphere.



    That said, the actor Kevin Conway, who plays Frank McNare, also has much to do with the success of this episode. His on-screen presence is compelling and riveting; he is perhaps one of the most disturbing "villains" the show has ever seen, both in the heinous and sadistic nature of his crimes and in his ruthless, unremorseful demeanor. There is something frighteningly real about his cruelty and viciousness, which is perhaps evinced as much by the quality of his voice as by his facial expressions and body language. His charisma is such that he's a fair match for D'Onofrio in several scenes, which is saying a lot.



    Perhaps the central theme of the episode is the issue of nature versus nurture, and the extent to which the "sins of the fathers" are visited upon their children. Keith Durbin is a fascinating character, played well by Paul Starks, who captures Durbin's vulnerability and psychological torment with convincing realism. Here is a man whose home environment was never safe, stable, or loving, and whose father rejected him almost completely early on in his life. He grows up into a man so damaged by his past he can barely function in the "real world," most notably in how he is unable to form healthy or trusting human relationships. He feels incredible guilt and shame for his traumatized psyche, and as a result, it is as if his mind is not even his own, something he must use all his energy to fight against. This makes him a very poignant figure who elicits great pity and compassion.



    It is fascinating to ponder the implications of one of the pivotal plot points: that exposure to just one image can haunt a person for life. It seems convincing to this reviewer that an image of a woman in mortal terror, hidden away in a parent's car and never explained, but known to the child to be something "forbidden," would be so disturbing that it could forever alter a person's development. That such an image would be found to belong to a child's father would heighten the impact, as parents are supposed to be figures of trust. A child seeing evidence of his father being such a violent and dangerous individual would forever make it difficult for him to trust anyone else--or himself, another point focused upon in the episode.



    Another plot detail provides some interesting food for thought. It is revealed that McNare desisted from his homocidal activity for years. This is attributed to his involvement with a wife who ultimately died of cancer, her death prompting his return to killing. The detectives muse and theorize that she indulged his kink consensually in a way that prevented him from seeking it nonconsensually. This detail is an interesting foil to the relationship between Durbin and McNare. Whereas McNare's actions caused untold suffering for untold numbers of people, and damaged his son so severely it prevented him from ever functioning as a normal adult, the actions of one woman were enough to prevent a great number of instances of torture and murder, having stilled the worst impulses of a severely disturbed individual.



    McNare's wife had no idea that in the love, acceptance, and kindness she showed a man who would have undoubtedly been hard to love, she was bringing grace into the world. It was not her duty or her intention to do so, but it was what she did nonetheless, simply through the goodness of her person. Of course, she may have been terrorized and abused, which would cast her actions in a different light, but the script seems to suggest that this was not the case, and that she somehow managed to have a happy relationship with a man who was a cruel and vicious killer underneath whatever she experienced with him. It seems that through her, McNare experienced a period of grace in which he overcame the worst of the monster inside of him. Either way, she died without knowing how many other women she had saved from a horrible fate, an unsung heroine.



    When we act with cruel, evil, and selfish intent, we make the entire world a worse place for it; when we act with kind, good-hearted, and generous intent, we make the entire world a better place. The results of our actions reverberate endlessly throughout the world around us. McNare's cruelty made the world that much more full of suffering. Yet the kindness of McNare's late wife, and his son's brave battle with his own mind, in turn made the world a little safer. We are what we do, not what we think. Durbin feared that he was evil because of what he thought about, but it was his choice to valiantly resist the fate he knew could have been his own--to be a killer--that defined who he became. As such, his ultimate release from his secret fear and shame is especially cathartic and moving.moreless
  • A 911 call reveals the murder of a woman who has been strung in such a way that if she lowers her tired tied leg, she strangles herself. The sick killer resusitates his six victims for added 'pleasure'. Goren and Eames have a major wacko to track down.moreless

    8.4
    A bit too graphic for my tastes, but one of the the better written storylines. Suspicion first points to a recently paroled killer who had a similar MO. But Goren and Eames realize they've made a mistake after the grand jury indict the man for the six murders.



    Bobby my favorite amateur linguist nails the criminal by semi-understanding a speech trait - the perp doesn't flap his double d or t words in word like putting or pudding as is common in North American English, but pronounces each alveolar consonant separately. Even though this is how most British English speakers do it, dear Bobby pronounces it a genetic quirk. And actually, in Brookyn careful enunciation probably is. :)



    This one takes the sins of the father being visited on the son to a whole new level.moreless
  • This is my all time favortite CI episode. It's ingenious, well done and nail biting. Goren and Eames are at thier best. The opening scene alone makes the episode number 1 in my book, but when Goren figures out how the victims die, it just gets better andmoreless

    10
    This is my all time favortite CI episode. It's ingenious, well done and nail biting. Goren and Eames are at thier best. The opening scene alone makes the episode number 1 in my book, but when Goren figures out how the victims die, it just gets better and better by the minute. Very unique and almost scary, death by unvoluntary suicide.
Paul Sparks

Paul Sparks

Keith Durbin

Guest Star

Candy Buckley

Candy Buckley

Cheryl Durbin

Guest Star

Yolanda Ross

Yolanda Ross

Regina Alcarese

Guest Star

Leslie Hendrix

Leslie Hendrix

Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Goof: Marcia Waverly's driver's license lists her address as "25 Rathbone Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07042". Hoboken doesn't have a Rathbone Ave., and "07042" is actually the zip code of Montclair, New Jersey.

    • Goof: Goren mentions that a commuter from New Jersey took the PATH train and would transfer at West 4th to get to Lexington. Except the PATH doesn't go to West 4th, it goes from Christopher Street directly to 9th.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • (Discussing Phoebe Morton.)
      Robert Goren: Anyone else know about the affair?
      Paul Riddick: No. Nobody knew, not even at work. We were very, very discreet. Phoebe'd leave first, and then I'd drive over and… call her when I got there to tell her to come up.
      Alex Eames: You made her wait out in the cold? Well, get dressed, Galahad, we're taking you downtown, get some DNA samples.

    • Frank McNare: Your own father. How could you?
      Keith Durbin: How could you, Dad?
      Frank McNare: Dad? You're no son of mine.
      (McNare is lead away, handcuffed)
      Alex Eames: That's the nicest thing he could have said to him.

    • 911 Operator: 911, what is your emergency?
      Man: She's not breathing.
      911 Operator: What is your location, sir?
      Man: Send someone to 90-- Wait, wait.
      Phoebe Morton: (weakly) Stop! I can't… don't kill me, I don't want to die. (choking, gasping sounds)
      Man: Now she's not breathing.

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (4)

    • Alex Eames: Well, get dressed, Galahad…

      A reference to Sir Galahad of the Knights of the Round Table, found in Arthurian Lore. He was renown, among other things – including his quest for the holy grail – for his gallantry.

    • Regina Alcarese: Something's always eating at him. He used to remind me of that guy in the space movie. Where that thing came popping out of his chest?
      This is a reference to the 1979 Ridley Scott film, Alien.

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the B.T.K. case. The B.T.K. (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer started killing in Wichita, Kansas, in 1974, and was only revealed in 2005 as Dennis Rader. In August of 2005, Rader was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

    • Deakins: Battery City. A shibboleth.

      The term shibboleth refers to words or phrases spoken that identify the speaker as belonging to a certain group. It is spoken on-air in reference to the words 'Battery City' -- where the speaker clearly enunciates the 'T' in both words.

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