Law & Order

Season 17 Episode 5

Public Service Homicide

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Oct 20, 2006 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
52 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

When Carl Mullaly is discovered murdered in his apartment, Green and Cassady learn that he had recently been profiled on HardFocus, a tabloid talk show that exposes sex offenders who are caught via the ScumWatch website. With an eight-year-old girl as the only eye witness, detectives arrest the murderer, but McCoy and Rubirosa soon learn that HardFocus is a lot more involved than they claim.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Does even a pedophile deserve justice?

    Society's fascination with so-called "reality" television is the central point around which this episode of "Law & Order" revolves. Running on a format that compares with NBC's predator-catcher "Dateline," the episode opens with a pedophile trapped into appearing at what he believes is a fourteen year old's house. Caught on camera and shown on television, only hours later the same pedophile winds up dead.

    Through a long and winding trail that leads to several red herrings and finally to the man's "girlfriend," the show takes a hard-nosed approach to justice, saying that as revolting as the man might have been, he didn't deserve to be stabbed to death. Then comes the twist, that the woman responsible wasn't a girlfriend but a former victim of his sexual misbehavior... and what's more, the producer behind "Scumwatch" set her up to "confront" her abuser.

    Psychologists disagree on whether or not confrontation is helpful in cases of sexual abuse, but what bleeds forth here is horror at the behavior of the producer. Not only did she insensitively thrust an unstable woman into a dangerous situation, but she also hoped to profit from it by getting it all on tape.

    Some could argue that she wasn't completely responsible for the actions of the murderer, but others could say that the mental imbalance of a victim of sexual abuse made her incapable of choosing better guidance. It's a shame the show didn't delve a little more into that aspect, but as it stands, it's harsh, grating look at reality television. Is it as honest in its approach as it seems, or do the producers create confrontation just to make people tune in week after week?

    The answer, of course, is yes. The peculiar thing to wrap your mind around is the realization that "reality" television is not quite as honest as "Law & Order," a show based on recent headlines but fiction in its improvisation. Now that's something to ponder.moreless
  • Shows how society is so twisted with ratings and profits

    Tabloids, reality tv, ratings, and money are all involved and when you throw in the thing called murder, then it becomes so heckteck and chaotic as a tabloid tv show tries to grab ratings and profit off of a murder. The producer is behind the tv show is a suspect and seems to not care about the person getting killed. Shows us how sick society will go to make a buck and draw ratings. Sad but true.moreless
  • A sex offender, a tabloid talk show, the producer and the grown up sex victim.

    I've been reading some L&O forums and a lot of people are talking about how they already did a reality show themed episode. This is why I sometimes like the fact that I have an awful memory cuz until I read some of the forums, I never would have remembered the episode they were talking about. Sometimes it's nice to have a bad memory....

    This episode opens up as a delivery guy arrives at someone's apt. I have two problems with some things that happened in this scene. First of all, the delivery guy rings the bell and then waits all of 2 seconds before he has this look of desperation on his face and he keeps ringing the bell. Why so desperate? You have to give the person a moment before you go nuts with the bell! Second, if the door is open, why do you walk in? Just because the door is open doesn't give you the right to walk in! Yeah, I know, it was crucial to the storyline that the delivery guy found the body but still...I'm sure Mr. Wolf could have come up with a better way. If I had been the delivery guy and I saw the door was way in hell am I going in especially after I rang the bell and there was no answer! I'm gone. Call my boss but I don't walk into the apt. *exhales* Ok. Got that out of the way....

    Who could have killed Carl Mullaly the sex offender? Was it the neighbor with the 8-year old daughter? Was it the deliveryman? Was it the TV producer? Was it his "girlfriend"? Yeah, we can pretty much say no to the delivery guy but everyone else looks guilty....

    The key to the whole investigation was the 8-year-old witness next door who says she saw Mullaly's "girlfriend" slip a note under the door of her apt. I don't understand why neither Greene nor Cassady addressed this when they went to question Hannah. It was already established that "someone" had slipped a note under the neighbor's door about Mullaly being a sex offender. If the girl saw Hannah do it, how could they not figure Hannah is the one who alerted everyone that Mullaly was a sex offender???? So, the 8 year old sees the same girl that slipped the note under their door run from Mullaly's apt the night he was murdered. Everyone assumed (as did I) that Hannah was Mullaly's girlfriend (perfectly set up for us to believe it) until we learned she was a former victim of Mullaly's (for 4 years) when she was 8 years old. Hannah had answered an ad in the paper asking for people who wanted to confront their abusers and she was placed with 4 other people in a posh apt. The show gave Hannah self defence classes and even a hunting knife to defend herself in case her abuser came after her. This smells like the Jenny Jones case in which a man was booked on a show whose segment was titled "Secret Crushes". The man was under the impression that a woman he knew was going to reveal herself as the secret crush, when it was seen that the crush was actually a male neighbor he flipped and murdered him. Not exactly the same but the set up was there. While I don't think Jenny Jones could have seen this coming I think it should have been revealed to the straight guest that his crush was a male. But that was then. The producer provided all the tools necessary for Hannah to kill her former abuser and that is exactly what she did. Hannah had said as much when the producer interviewed her...she said she wanted to cut his heart out. She was in a rage and the producer took advantage of that. Jack McCoy was again brilliant in his closing arguments. When the defense atty was babbling, I said, "Now watch McCoy wipe the floor up with you...."

    Perhaps this storyline was revisited but the story was not the same. After faithfully watching this show since it's inception, while I admit there have been a few episodes that fell flat for me, I have to say that I still love this show. The ONLY exception for me is Milena Govich as Cassady. It's been a few episodes and she's still not doing anything for me. I keep waiting each episode for that realization that she fits right in but it never comes. I want it to be there because I do like the actress but she is, as of right now, my female Reynaldo Curtis...I could never get into him either and I couldn't wait until he was gone. Feels like Cassady is a one season role...the George Lazenby of L&O.moreless
  • Very entertaining though a bit recycled.

    Don't get me wrong, I love this season of Law and Order, especially the recent character portrayals. However, this one was a little bit weak in terms of originality. Not long ago there was an episode where Jack tried a 'reality tv' producer because someone was pushed from a roof. And before that, there was an episode that was even closer to "public service homicide". The investigation was terrific; the plot twists were intriguing as usual, and McCoy proscecuted it with the zeal and determination that keep me tuning in. I just don't understand why all the "ripped from the headlines". One of the joys of "Law and Order" compared to its spin-offs is that it was less 'over the top'. All these episodes meant to mirror famous headlines (example: Mel Gibson in a couple of weeks) make Law & Order like a sort of 'reality tv show' ...and that bothers me. If you disagree, I can understand it, I liked the episode too, you'll notice I gave it a decent score. but I think this is a legit observation and worth pointing out.moreless
Mark Alhadeff

Mark Alhadeff

Dax Salenger

Guest Star

Greg Naughton

Greg Naughton

Kevin Poulos

Guest Star

Amber Joy Williams

Amber Joy Williams

Abigail Fleming

Guest Star

David Sajadi

David Sajadi

Hospital Uniform Cop

Recurring Role

Hudson Cooper

Hudson Cooper

Arraignment Clerk

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Jack McCoy: Television acting as judge and jury makes me a little queasy.

    • Connie Rubirosa (about HardFocus): They wanted to land an interview with Jack.
      Arthur Branch: What'd you tell 'em?
      Jack McCoy: Something they can't quote on TV.

    • Ellie Harper: This is a news program. Journalists in Fallujah don't pull over roadside bombers and ask them to sign release forms.

    • Arthur Branch: In my day, television was a different animal. Husbands and wives in separate beds. Picture postcard towns where the teenagers drank only malteds and went to sock hops together.
      Jack McCoy: So the crap that passes for entertainment now is okay because the programmers have caught up with the reality?

    • Jack McCoy: The motto of a journalist used to be, "You two fight, and I'll write about it." But the reporter didn't set up the fight.

    • Ellie Harper: I'm a producer. A journalist. Not a criminal.
      Jack McCoy: Journalists report the news, but you create it, don't you?

    • Greg Hightower: This never would have happened if that show hadn't violated my civil rights!
      Nina Cassady: So, you just walked into the HardFocus sting to ask for directions?

    • Anita van Buren: (about HardFocus) It's train wreck TV, it's not an investigation.

  • NOTES (3)


    • Jack McCoy: Even reality TV's biggest fans know that 20 people on a desert island competing for a can of soup or drinking goat's urine for $50,000 is not that real.

      For thirteen seasons (as of the original airing of this episode), CBS has aired Survivor, where a selected amount of 'castaways' end up in a deserted location (typically a desert island) where they are forced to survive using the tools available to them but can occasionally win additional prizes or benefits by performing well as certain tasks. The season airing at the time of this episode began with twenty castaways (other seasons have started with different numbers).

    • Jack McCoy: If people want to watch a man crawl through a tunnel full of rats, I can only shake my head.

      A reference to the game show Fear Factor, in which contestants perform dangerous or revolting acts to win money.

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the current cases coming about from shows such as Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" (HardFocus in the episode) segment, and the online organization Perverted-Justice ( in the episode). Perverted-Justice exposes online pedophiles, and has come under fire in the past for what detractors say is a form of online vigilantism, and "To Catch a Predator" is a hidden camera segment on NBC which often works in conjunction with Perverted-Justice to identify online pedophiles.