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TV Review: Law & Order – “Human Flesh Search Engine”

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Warning: mild spoilers

Synopsis or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat: "Lupo and Bernard initially believe the death of Sid Maxwell, an underwear fashion company photographer, to be asphyxia-related, but a photographer's revelation leads them to a discovery of the victim's true identity and a suspicious website with threatening posts."

Hell of a show title, isn't it? After a couple weeks of getting bogged with BlogWorld and Technorati work, I missed a heck of L&O review opportunities. One episode trashed reality television, Jon & Kate Plus 8, and starred Jim Gaffigan. That's a Sussman triple play.

But this title, "Human Flesh Search Engine" … I couldn't ignore that. The title forced my hand. Plus, this one guest stars The Daily Show Rob Corddry. He may not play a murderer or a deviant, but he sure as heck can pull off the prototypical Internet tough guy.

But the episode begins with a blonde girl doing a scandalous photo shoot. Hey, that's fine by me. That night the short-tempered photographer of the shoot is found dead in his own apartment, David Carradine-style. The sooner everyone stops talking about AEA, the better. And wouldn't you know it, after their first suspect fizzles out (these guys never seem to get it right the first time, and yet they're the best in the business), they stumble on a second motive — one time he was text messaging while driving. Kill him!

No, seriously, kill him. That's what a vigilante social justice website (fictitiously labeled flashposse.net) did when they posted a picture of Maxwell DWTXTing, following that up with more personal info about him.

The title "Human Flesh Search Engine" is an allusion to a Chinese Internet community that pools its collective knowledge to reach a common goal. One was notorious for uncovering the identity of a woman who killed a kitten with a stiletto shoe. And in Flash Posse's case, "concerned citizens" found Maxwell's car registration, which led to the posting of his address, and the security code to get into his apartment. So somehow after an AEA death, things get weirder.

They eventually find a — how do I put this gingerly — crazy-ass psycho banshee who makes her daughter a human sacrifice who posted on Flash Posse, and sure enough, she had the means and opportunity to finish off the undie photographer.

The way they found her — by rounding up all the Internet tough guys who posted about Detective Bernard and Sid Maxwell on Flash Posse and grilling them in the interrogation room — was masterful. Moreover, it's every Internet user's dream, isn't it? Don't you just want to find that one person who comments on Blogcritics that you just absolutely cannot fucking stand, get them in a room and shine the light on their face, nullifying any purported intimidation? Tough skin and pasty skin are mutually exclusive, and they cast the perfect Brian Posehn-pigmented characters for the role.

The other beautiful imagery was ADA Cutter trying to indict every single person who provided information that led to the crazy-ass psycho woman being able to murder Maxwell, and having them all crowd around the defense table.

And the trickery came when Det. Bernard's credibility came into question on the stand during cross-examination, thanks to Flash Posse administrator Jim Leary (Corddry) and his posse's ability to dig up his embarrassing past. The finish is fantastic, and ties back to the theme of the well-intentioned hivemind.

The prosecution does zing the comfort zone of the First Amendment, trying to hold Internet tough guys accountable for their empty threats. New-age social media and even the simple bulletin boards and Usenet groups continue to thread the line between fact or fiction, real or imagined, and private or public. But the conclusion seems to be that such volatile information is only dangerous in the hands of unstable people, and if people know each other beyond the Internet and can reasonably infer they could be a danger to others, that's the only way the Human Flesh Search Engine could be tantamount to handing someone with a loaded gun. Or, in this case, handing someone a ball gag.

Loo's Cancer Watch — The chemotherapy continues, and the wig is on. And beyond some nausea, the scene was throwaway and we continue onward.

McCoy Rating — 3 out of 10. He doesn't seem to mind his prosecution going against Internet users, especially when Cutter throws McCoy's own history of activist tactics back in his face.

Cutter Rating — 7 of 10. If nothing else, he tried to indict Internet tough guys for murder. God bless him.

The Verdict — We the people, find this episode "Human Flesh Search Engine," still a hilarious name, but not nearly as perverted as I thought it would be. We find Rob Corddry kind of strange in a serious role, but we'll let it go. We recommend people who may have turned their back on Law & Order to revisit this season, because so far their episodes are starting to pick up, even though the format is incredibly simplistic. We're still waiting for Jack McCoy to be Jack McCoy, and we don't mind holding our breath on this.

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  • denise michaelson

    interesting article.

  • mary

    When i saw this episode i was surprised to see the similarities of the things that are happening to me. I am trying to find a way to stop what is going on but i am unable to since i am not computer savvy. Im looking for anyone that can help me in finding a way out of this situation im in. If there is someone out there that has extensive computer skills i would appreciate the help. [Personal contact info deleted]

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