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Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 3 Episode 3

The Gift

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Oct 12, 2003 on USA
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Gift
Santeria cultists kill the son of a women that believed from them she had psychic powers.

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  • A cameraman is found dead in the trunk of his car, his throat slashed. Goren and Eames learn that some adherents of Santeria are involved in the murder, and that the motive is not spiritual, but material. The culprit is a con man...moreless

    ...whose specialty is convincing folks they've caught psychism.

    The detectives' investigation first centers on the relationships among the victim's mother, the anxiety-ridden heiress to a copper mine fortune, her husband, out to make himself financially independent (but of course by his wife's funding), and the husband's beautiful business partner/mistress.

    But they soon learn that the victim's body was found in the cross hairs of three churches for a reason. "Ritualistic touches", like the animal bloodtraces found in the victim's wounds.

    The too-wealthy-for-her-own-good mom was convinced she had developed psychic abilities, when she had really been the victim of spiritualized suggestion. (Hence, the title 'The Gift") An ex 'bible-thumper', and current Santeria sheik was executing the con that never sleeps, and using his female partner, who believed herself to be a psychic, to influence the mother. Of course, for cash. Passing on psychic abilities appears to come with a price tag of about a half mil.

    Naturally the guilty are found out and it is discovered that the psychic is actually epileptic and that her maestro has known for eight years, but he genuinely loves her and is concerned about her care when he's sent up river. Which is exactly where he's a'goin.

    So we have a relatively novel take - a sympathetic charlatan, a fraud with a heart, played rather sweetly by serious hunk Bobby Cannavale.

    My first pretty visceral reaction to this episode was that D'Onofrio and Cannavale on the small screen together constituted way too much charisma, sex appeal, and five o'clock shadow for a family hour viewing.

    My second was that per usual, what could have been an excellent epi (as compared to just good) was sabotaged by one character's behavior and affect- one note just a few degrees too false to maintain the old disbelief suspender in hum mode. And that was the mother of the dead young man. When you combine monumental culpability with affect so flattened that a victim's own mother could visibly and quickly accept her central role in her son's death....well, you just feel vaguely dissatisfied that credible human emotion is being sacrificed once again to plot twist.

    VD'O was primo in this one tho - from his in-your-face but silent sarcasm to the father's mistress, to his quality of interest in the relationship between the con man and his devotee. The first Goren interview with the Cannavale character was lovely.- Bobby all sarcastic dead-panning "oh so you were on a spiritual journey", etc, and the suspect cautiously glowering into his face.

Jane Adams

Jane Adams

Sylvia Campbell

Guest Star

Anne Twomey

Anne Twomey

Lyz Webster

Guest Star

Florencia Lozano

Florencia Lozano

Octavia Ruiz

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions