Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Season 1 Episode 9

The Good Doctor

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Nov 25, 2001 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
115 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

A plastic surgeon reports his drug-abusing wife missing, and ends up being the prime suspect after detectives learn he had good reason to want her out of his life.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • A woman disappears in ambiguous circumstances. Goren likes her husband, an ill tempered cosmetic surgeon, for a suspect and Carver decides to prosecute. Despite a lack of evidence to support their assertions, the jury convicts.moreless

    This is the first episode of Law & Order: CI that I found to be absolutely horrible. Considering it's not quite halfway into the first season, I find this rather disappointing. The entire episode lacks both a sense of verisimilitude, and dramatic tension.

    The evidence that the detectives gather is extremely thin. Despite being a presumably wealthy man, the doctor seems unable to find a decent attorney to represent him. Goren makes fatuous remarks, on the stand, in a successful attempt to bait the defendant. The doctor takes the bait and feels compelled to get on the stand to defend himself. It would have been all too easy to rationailse his impatience and meticulousness, but instead the audience is offered a character who can't help but incriminate himself.

    Carver's efforts to have the defendant hold a knife and demonstrate where to make incisions in order to dismember a body are laughable. The man is a surgeon, not a horror film aficionado, so there's nothing remotely sinister about his capacity to demonstrate this knowledge.

    If he could take medical supplies from the hospital, in order to clean his bathroom, then why couldn't he deposit her dismembered corpse in the biohazard disposal of the same hospital? The suspicious light aircraft flight doesn't really satisfy, since the partial body that is recovered is confirmed to not be the victim. So, there was no need to have that aspect of the plot unless you want to cast doubt over whether the doctor committed the crime for which he was found guilty. However, casting such doubts runs contrary to the vindictive certainty that Goren/Carver demonstrate, so it seems somewhat muted.

    Why wasn't a mistrial called?

    Instead, the episode ends with Goren and Carver gloating about their ill-deserved success. This seems as inconsistent as it is unappealing. A better script-writer would have ended in a mistrial because that ambiguity would have better reflected the ambiguity about the disappearance of the wife.

    Furthermore, no other suspect is explored at any length and the rich control freak is a hackneyed idea, so there's very little in the way of dramatic tension.

  • You don't want to be on this cosmetic surgeon's table!

    A cosmetic surgeon having an affair realises his wife might have found out. She's having her own affair anyway. He's a weekend pilot who takes an unscheduled flight and hey presto, wife is now missing.

    It's an interesting episode because there is no actual evidence that he's done anything to harm her. In fact he's the one who comes to Major Crime to report her missing and get them on the case. But his wife's family are convinced he killed her, and his actions are to say the least suspicious.

    Rob Knepper is great in the role of the cosmetic surgeon control freak up against D'Onofrio's Goran trying to trip him up.

    Again, Goran manages to get the perp by playing psychological games.

    It would be good if just for once Eames could be the one who 'solves' the case.moreless
  • Good doc.

    Valerie wanted to have children w/ her husband but was afraid b/c of his temper. Doctor's wife, Valerie, is cheating on him. Valerie broke up her affair because she wanted to get back serious w/ her husband. Valerie was about to find out about him cheating. Valerie wanted to stop seeing her boyfriend. They take the car adn inspect it. Another woman was found believed to be Valerie, but turns out it was another woman. They led Dr. to believe that it was Valerie. He throughly cleaned his bathroom believed to be the spot of the killing. Found wig and clothes of Valerie's last seen in appt of the mistress. Says she was trying to protect the doc.moreless
  • The slinky, adulterous, coke-head wife of an egotistical, bad-tempered, control-freak plastic surgeon disappears without a trace after he finds snapshots meant for her showing he was also having an affair, leading the wife's sister to accuse him of murdermoreless

    This was an interesting episode because of the acting and character touches that went into the detestable, intense, sharp villain, Goren's observations about his behavior and interactions with him and his doormat mistress, and the ongoing puzzle of how the police would catch him. These were enough to make the episode entertaining until the ending. While creative and dramatic, the ending was flawed and something of a let-down.

    A great challenge of an intelligent series like this that features criminals equal to the detectives is to come up with an imaginative, credible, satisfying way for the police to solve the case. Unfortunately, despite a good lead-up, this episode dropped the ball. It substituted implausible courtroom theatrics for a satisfying solution.

    The plot hinged on the doctor being provoked to take the stand, apparently at his own capital murder trial, by Goren repeatedly injecting damaging speculation and hearsay into his earlier testimony before the jury. That Goren would have been allowed to testify in this way without the judge or hot-shot defense lawyer long since calling for contempt or a mistrial stretched dramatic license past the breaking point.

    Nor did it go down well that ADA Carver, who an earlier episode had presented as a stickler for legal ethics, would deliberately collaborate in such an underhanded, prejudicial tactic (this was not a practice trial, for pete's sake, but the real thing). Carver even cavalierly bragged after the verdict that, though they may have lacked hard evidence, they won the case because they showed the jury that the doctor was unlikable. (This is the same type of problem with Carver's "wink-and-a-nod" behavior in "POISON.") Evidently, the writers hoped that this cynical observation about what is supposedly the "real-world" legal system, coupled with the reality that sometimes the police may never find a trace of the missing victim or strong proof, would make up for the shortcomings of the episode as a detective story and legal drama. Not so to me.

    Further undermining the ending were Carver's dramatic excesses in the courtroom. From his speaking as though he were shouting to the balconies in a Broadway play, to his stiffly brandishing a long knife in each hand (an awkward scene memorialized in the opening credits), and especially to his whirling breathlessly around from the witness box to the prosecutor's table and back, it was all too obvious that this was acting rather than reality. Instead of taking in and stringing along the witness, it would have been so fake and off-putting as to immediately put the witness and his lawyer on guard and shake them out of any sort of reverie. Of course, trial lawyers use showmanship. But this seemed amateurish and went overboard.

    No doubt, these theatrics were the energetic effort of an accomplished actor. But it was all too obviously acting all the same. Unlike another review, I think the series generally did a good job of depicting Carver, and I was sorry when he (and Deakins) left the series. His role as a prosecutor often put him in the position of appearing to be straight-laced, dry, and detached. Naturally, he would be more animated in court. But put the actor on the show in a different role if you want something this over-the-top. Rather than giving Carver a chance to "come into his own," this episode actually undercut the professionalism of the character.moreless
  • A New York City plastic surgeon's wife ends up missing and the surgeon becomes the chief suspect. During the course of the investigation we find both of them had cheated on each other and the doctor was planning to move with his mistress to Colorado.moreless

    A very interesting episode that deals with what happens when you have a solid suspect but no body.

    First of all the doctor had a really bad temper. He didn't think much of his wife's family, but the real kicker was the fact that he was a control freak and his wife didn't say how high when he said jump. Matter of fact she choose to go out and get her own lovers as well. The wife also had psychiatric problems which may have been cause for the drug use and it was what the doctor counts on when he finally reports her missing. Her cousin reporter her missing the day before and was afraid the doctor had done something. Her psychiatrist had also told the wife that her husband may cause her harm eventually as well.

    What I find interesting were the levels the doctor went to cover up the killing. He cleaned the bathtub with a solvent that they generally only use in hospital surgery rooms. Obviously he would have access. The bathroom had been painted and all the accouterments had been replaced with new things after her disappearance. He was a pilot. He took a flight on a Sunday to drop the pieces of the body and made sure he had no flight plan and no record of the plane rental. He had his car detailed multiple times right after his wife disappeared and it was absolutely immaculate.

    So no body but everything including the doctors actions pointed at him. The only surprise to me here was the DA taking this to a jury considering they had no physical evidence. Goren went on the stand and told what he knew but it was all hearsay and he got booted off the stand by the judge, but it was enough to get the overly confident doctor on the stand to testify on his own behalf. Checkmate. Overall a well made episode with some interesting situations. One of the few cases I have ever seen where they convicted someone without producing the body of the victim. They did say this case was loosely based on a real life situation at the beginning of course with the usual codicils. Basically the doctor made the case against himself. Thanks for reading...moreless
Robert Knepper

Robert Knepper

Dr. Peter Kelmer

Guest Star

Penny Balfour

Penny Balfour

Lisa Voight

Guest Star

Judie Aronson

Judie Aronson

Valerie Kelmer

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Robert Goren: (to the suspect about his mistress) She's enthralled with you. She's like a little puppy in your hands, pissing all over herself with excitement.

    • (While searching the apartment of the suspect's mistress.)
      Robert Goren: Are you intimately involved with him?
      Lisa Voight: We work together. Any relationship we have is strictly business.
      Robert Goren: (shows her the photo of her kissing the suspect) We got these photos from a private investigator. This thing you're doing to the doctor with your tongue, what business is that, strictly?

    • Dr. Peter Kelmer: You steal my car, you rip it apart. Didn't you talk to the witness who saw Valerie?
      Robert Goren: Well, you know us, we're like dumb dogs. We get a scent and we follow it.

    • Robert Goren: Your Honor, if we search his car and his apartment and it turns out that his wife is alive, where's the harm?
      Judge Albert Scholl: It's the 4th Amendment, detective, not the 3 and 2/3s Amendment.

    • Robert Goren: He did it. You saw him. You saw his rage.
      A.D.A. Carver: I did, Detective. But the jury never will. And his lawyer is no fool. She'll never put him up on that stand.
      Robert Goren: You can put me on the stand. I'll get him up there.
      (Carver smiles)

    • A.D.A. Carver: I've got a case without forensic evidence. A case without ... (laughs) ... I can't even prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim is even dead!

    • (Regarding the suspect's mistress.)
      Robert Goren: She believes everything you tell her. She's giving up her life to follow you to Colorado? I mean, she's even letting you hack into her face because you have an issue with her (laughing) cheekbones.

    • Robert Goren: (of Dr. Peter Kelmer) He thinks we're idiots; he's playing with us. I wanna shove a stick in Kelmer's cage and see what he does.

    • (After being handed a missing-person's case.)
      James Deakins: How do we like being an annex to the Missing Persons Bureau?

  • NOTES (2)

    • This episode includes the first of very few trial scenes in the show, unusual in that the rest of franchise is heavily dependent upon court scenes.

    • This episode's storyline was adapted (almost entirely) into Episode 1.05 of the French version of this show, Paris enquêtes criminelles, entitled "L'Homme au Scalpel".


    • Pilot: Recreational pilots, they all think they're Mercury astronauts.
      The Mercury astronauts were the original seven astronauts chosen by NASA in 1959. Their names were Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra, Gus Grissom, John Glenn and Alan Shepard. All of the "Mercury Seven" were military test pilots and most of them had also flown combat missions during the Korean War and/or World War II.

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Gail Bierenbaum case. In 2000, cosmetic surgeron Robert Bierenbaum was convicted of having murdered his adulterous wife in 1985 when she tried to divorce him for another man. Although her full body was never found, a torso was and it was believed he had tossed her dismembered body from his airplane while flying over the Atlantic Ocean.