St. Francis of Synopsissi, at your service: "A bag full of cash links the murder of an aspiring musician to the angry father of a young girl who was allegedly kidnapped, but Lupo and Bernard quickly use the girl's missing cell phone to uncover a massive terrorist plot."
First of all, when I think "bag full of cash," I picture a green dollar sign on the side of it. Nobody uses those anymore. Instead, they use McDonald's bags, and the "they" in question are rich fathers who are the targets of virtual kidnappings, wherein cell phones are stolen and used to call the parents, pretending that their pretty daughter is being held hostage. The "aspiring musician" in question was just dumpster diving, and was shot (but not actually killed, he lived — BAD SYNOPSIS! BAD! [hits with newspaper]) by the father, a.k.a. the mark.
It was all a pretty goofy situation that could have made its own intriguing episode, rather than jammed into the first 10 minutes. The father made a bad decision by bringing a gun to a ransom dropoff, and he was acting under duress because he thought his daughter was in danger. But his daughter wasn't kidnapped, and the trash diver wasn't actually a kidnapper, and he didn't really die. Anyway, it's all moot, because the virtual kidnapper, Sameer Ahmed (Ben Youcef) was also into something else.
On his next virtual kidnapping scam, Lupo and Bernard tracked it all the way, and caught Ahmed junk food bag-handed. Gulp! But he wriggled out of trouble by telling the police that he knew about some guys who were planning to blow up a synagogue. Well, son, you've just gone from suspect to informant.
Ahmed (who keeps wanting to be called Sam, because he's a PROUD AMERICAN) seems to be almost overzealous in assisting the police with following his three companions as they build a bomb to blow up a synagogue. Bernard went undercover as an explosives dealer who actually sold the gang some silly putty. Whee, fake bomb! And as they were setting up the fake bomb outside the synagogue, they were predictably apprehended by The Man. They were loudly telling the men to put their hands behind their heads and so on when … another synagogue four blocks away blows up.
Uh oh. Did the NYPD just get played? Punk'd? Pwned? Perhaps.
Since one of the Fake Bomb Foursome, Charles Cole (portrayed by The Wire's Michael Kenneth Williams), knew who masterminded the actual bombing, D.A. McCoy decided to group together the entire lot as co-conspirators. To string them up as a single entity, however, they'd need Ahmed's help, since he did seem to egg on a couple of the other seemingly inept yet dangerous-thinking conspirators. And the ending? It was actually quite moving.
Youcef delivered probably one of the best guest appearances of the year, if not the best. Characters like this only get less than an hour to develop before our eyes, but Sameer Ahmed really got the chance to shine and grow from an immigrant caught up in a world of crime to doing the right thing. Perhaps it was his voice that provided a sympathetic twinge for his character, but you really felt sorry for this guy in the end.
As for the storyline, episodes ensconced with the motif of terrorism sometimes seem overdone. "Ah, here we go again, another terrorist plot averted, and another lesson about how we need to do everything to stop it." But the way they used the word in this case was entirely apt. It wasn't an international conspiracy. It was a group of less than 10 guys who wanted to blow up buildings because they hate America. It doesn't always have to be World Trade Center-scale to be terrorism, and perhaps I always incorrectly envision another 9/11 when "terrorism" comes to mind.
Loo's Cancer Watch — They're really going to do this every week, aren't they? It looks like one scene, near the beginning, will track her updates. This week, she went to her first chemotherapy session. I don't mind this series of scenes, personally, although it seems out of place. The first few scenes are usually a jumping off point into the meat of the episode anyway and generally tossed aside. After all, Lt. Van Buren has pretty much been on the show ferfreakin' ever. She earned it. And perhaps at some point this subplot will coincide with the actual story.
McCoy Rating — 5 of 10. Lumping all the bombers together seemed tenuous, because some of them truly didn't know that a different plot with actual explosives was taking place. A bonus point goes to him for his trademarked "stick it to the feds" move by keeping with the undercover plot at home in NYC.
Cutter Rating — 2 of 10. Dude, he just didn't have it this week. Then again, he didn't have many opportunities. He didn't cross-examine anyone, and a lot of his own called witnesses' testimonies got chewed up by the defense. This was a Law-heavy show. Maybe next week.
The Verdict — We the people find this episode, "Great Satan," a very fun hour, and we hope to see Youcef in other films and shows. We still didn't get to experience a lot of Order's prowess, as this was mainly another episode in which Law got to do the heavy lifting. And would it kill the criminals to at least try to bring back the dollar sign-laden sacks of money?
Law & Order broadcasts at 8 p.m. ET Fridays on NBC.