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Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 1 Episode 4

The Faithful

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Oct 17, 2001 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
107 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The Faithful
Goren and Eames investigate the death of church sexton Morris Abernathy, but soon find their chief suspect, Kevin Donovan, dead in his apartment. After realizing someone had performed last rites over Donovan's body, the police believe a priest was involved in the murder, and are led to a priest who has been desperately trying to keep a twenty-year-old secret hidden. Goren risks the prosecution's case by protecting an innocent third party who could lose everything if his own secret is revealed.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • A church employee is killed, apparently for money from collections, and investigation reveals embezzlement from the church, a secret relationship from many years ago with a woman, and a violent, young, illegitimate sonmoreless

    This was an unimpressive entry in an intelligent series. Acting and technical details were professional, as always. Goren contributed some distinctive touches, but there were signs of a problem even there.

    In a gratuitous scene, Goren stands high on the back of church pews, pawing for balance at the heads and shoulders of police photographers, who are obviously annoyed. I was likewise disappointed by a scene in an earlier episode when I found out that one of my favorite shots from the opening credits -- Goren leaning halfway over to the side in the interrogation room -- was a completely unnecessary, if not counterproductive, gesture, taken after he had already convinced a reluctant suspect to start writing a telephone number and confession. Goren's mannerisms should not be manufactured as a gimmick to serve as cheap oddity or slapstick humor.

    But the serious problem here was that the story line was not interesting or original, just dismal. The motivations and themes were forced or hopelessly muddled. By creating a vivid, detestable villain in the son but basing the story on the priest instead, and then abruptly dropping the son completely, the plot zig-zagged uncomfortably, and there was never any satisfying confrontation between right and wrong. The writers have the priest engage in outrageously bad behavior -- breaking his vows, stealing large sums from the church for years for the sake of an illicit relationship, covering up all of that misconduct and apparently one murder, and, incredibly, committing another -- yet present him as some sort of conflicted, sympathetic sad sack who does good works for the poor. The portrayal was confused, strained, unconvincing, and unsatisfying, the acting tortured and adrift.

    The plot hinged on the situation of an "innocent third party" who the priest and Goren seemed willing to go to any lengths to protect. Yet, the story completely dropped the ball on creating a predicament so vivid and desperate that it even came close to justifying going to such extremes, as Eames herself observed. Why, compared to the alternatives, would the world have ended for the person if the truth had come out? Was there no legal, responsible way to handle this -- nothing short of murder, by a supposedly humane person? Rather than taking the time to develop a rich, compelling portrait, the writers skated over the surface of the "third party" and her situation, evoking little or no feeling. And if protection were so powerful a motivation, and the man were in fact so fundamentally decent, then it would not have taken all of Goren's admittedly eloquent but aggrandizing exhortations and going behind Carver's back (drawing a sharp, deserved rebuke) to get a guilty plea. In fact, the entire turn of the story toward a claimed homosexual relationship and "battered spouse" defense seemed like cheap sensationalism and plot contrivance.

    If the writers were trying to say anything original, affecting, or meaningful about any of this, it came across as a mess, and a pretentious one at that. The implausible, contrived lengths the episode went to appear shocking and different should not be confused for genuine quality, as some shallow, naive, flowery praise would have it.moreless
  • After a church Sexton is killed a trail of lies and deceit leads to a surprise twist.

    This episode spends a lot of time trying to blame different people for the crimes committed. First they point toward the Sexton, then toward Donovan, then toward the church and the diocese, but finally on the responsible party.

    There was nothing to lead you to believe that Abernathy the church Sexton was guilty of anything other than being a hard worker. It seemed he was doing his job and doing it well. When the detectives visited his home it also showed that money was not an easy thing to come by. This was a man who worked hard and had faith.

    Donovan was a methhead. It was hard to pin anything on him other than the rage he had. It was obvious to me at least that Abernathy was not the man who bailed him out. Donovan was not thinking straight and based on the final information we got it is a little easier to see why he lost it. The murder he committed was squarely on the shoulders of the eventual responsible party. It has always been interesting to me how church's in general feel like they should be treated like a foreign country. Like they should have diplomatic immunity because of what the do and stand for. Fortunately in any free society everyone has to play by the same rules even those who think they should have special privileges. Part of the problems with the economic times today are those few people that think they are above everyone else and feel that the current rules don't apply to them.

    Finally I rated this a little higher than most other people because I think for once the twist didn't fall out of thin air. Goren and Eames made a huge discovery. The priest was to willing to plead the case he was going for with his attorney too quickly. It was as if he was hiding something, but what it was was outside what we all probably were thinking. Once Goren had the truth it was a matter of pinning the blame on the right person and making them plead out to the right sentencing.

    I could have done without the very flippant final scene with Carver threatening Goren. It was ridiculous, but I guess they felt it created a little more drama. Sort of like when Deakins threatens his detectives because he can!

    A very entertaining episode that kept you guessing despite the fact it seemed pretty straight forward. Thanks for reading...moreless
  • A murder takes place in a church, leading the detectives to unravel a complicated web that spans back a couple of decades.

    I liked this episode because of the storyline, which I thought managed to surprise me a couple of times. But what really made me love this episode where the moments where Goren is interviewing the "less than normal mentally functioning" suspect. Him jumping around in the back of the interview room was just the funniest thing I saw that day. Anyways, the plot twists were something that made this episode be nice to watch, and I rather liked the approach they took to the priest's involvement to the entire thing. It wasn't overly exagerated like in other shows, and in the end you get a glimpse into what was going on with these people, and their reasoning. But Goren totally steals the episode, IMO.moreless
  • Last few years have been open season on priests on tv dramas, but this storyline managed to combine nobility with weakness in a priest role.

    This episode was okay, not overly an interesting storyline, imo.

    It's highlights were some glimpses into how the characters' relationships were developing five shows or so into the first season. So it was more than worth watching.

    Tho Eames was wisecracking at Lenny Briscoe capacity, she was also starting to trust Goren. She allowed the "lapsed altar boy " to make a judgement call that could have gotten them both in deep doodoo. While she would not be guilt-tripped into feeling sorry for the woman who bore the priest's son 20 year earlier, she let her partner's compassion for the "innocent party" take priority.

    Goren was intent on seeing that the woman's secret not be made public, and while he was successful in doing so, by getting the priest to accept 25 to life instead of a jury trial, this was certainly, as a detective, not HIS call. His relationship with Carver was put on shaky enough ground that the DA had to threaten the det. with his badge. (episode ends with camera lingering on a VERY grave-faced, baby-faced Goren).

    The Deakins-Goren relationship was lightening up enough so that Deakins was busting BG's chops with "so what about you..no dazzling insights today"? Line delivered with obvious affection. (this actor can put a sparkle in his eye like few can)

    So anyway, the chief characters interactions were fleshing out quite a bit in this one, even if the story itself was rather ho-hum.

    One rather unsettling scene: Goren interviewng a mentally ill (manic) man..came across both patronizing and insidious. A revealing quote was his comment, when complemented on his technique, that he had had "plenty of practice". Was this a preview of his mother's issues? My guess is yes.

    Two Tulips....one of her guy doing some odd hip hop hand fling, and the other of sitting so far back in his chair he was practially, uhh, prone. (in the scene where Deakins busts his agates)

    If you've got the DVD, check 'em out, Tulip. Just more unique D'Onfrio mannerisms you know we both love.

Peter McRobbie

Peter McRobbie

Father Capanna

Guest Star

Alex Feldman

Alex Feldman

Kevin Donovan

Guest Star

Renoly Santiago

Renoly Santiago

Chiggy Rios

Guest Star

Leslie Hendrix

Leslie Hendrix

Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Declan: Next to the Immaculate Conception, how the church handles its money is one of the great mysteries of the faith.

    • Robert Goren: You know, you shouldn't have taken a swing at my partner.
      Kevin Donovan: I didn't know she was a cop. (to Eames) I mean, you're way too hot to be a cop.
      Alex Eames: You're way to smart to think I'm gonna fall for that.

    • (Watching Goren applaud a suspect's singing.)
      James Deakins: Great, the Goren show's back in town.

    • Sheridan Beckworth: This is outrageous! This warrant is unconstitutionally broad; this is pure harassment.
      Alex Eames: You have no idea how many times a day we hear that.

    • Ron Carver: Kevin Donovan was given the last rites? … (understanding) By the priest who killed him.

    • Kevin Donovan: I don't like when you talk to me like that, Morris.
      Morris Abernathy: I don't care what you like or don't like. You're a good-for-nothing junkie.
      Kevin Donovan: I'm just one of God's children.
      Morris Abernathy: You're a sickness.

    • (Picks up book on Goren's desk.)
      Alex Eames: Liturgy of the Catholic Church. You thinking of converting? 'Cause I think Father Capanna would love to baptize you.
      Robert Goren: Too late. You're speaking to a lapsed altar boy.
      Alex Eames: Ah, I should've known. The disregard for authority, the fascination with bad behavior.

  • NOTES (1)