In the hotel suite of movie star/comedian Monty Bender, a fire breaks out; in trying to save his adopted infant son from the smoke, he accidentally drops him out of a window. The baby dies, and now Briscoe and Green are investigating the incident. In talking to Monty's staff, the detectives realize their accounts of what happened are suspiciously similar, suggesting they were coached. Then a former associate who confronted Monty in his suite shortly before the fire admits that he had helped Monty find kids to meet and invite to his mansion — and that Monty might be a pedophile. This dovetails with the increasingly suspicious circumstances of the infant's death, so he is arrested.
Further investigation leads the detectives to take a close look at an out-of-court settlement Monty made with a screenwriter and his family over claims their older son made years ago that he had been molested by the star. The family accepted the money and dropped the charges for the sake of their younger son, who's chronically ill; the involved parties now claim the accusations were untrue in the first place. But suspecting that the accuser (now a young adult) was telling the truth, and that the parents made him suffer for the sake of his brother, they are arrested as well.
In court the accuser asserts that he lied back then, but McCoy ultimately draws the truth from him when he produces a check Monty made out to his parents that was dated before the fateful visit to the mansion. Monty offered them money if he were allowed to do what he wanted to the boy, and they agreed. The parents are sent to jail, and when Southerlyn reflects on the Irony that the younger son will now be without them after all they did for his sake, McCoy says simply, "He's better off."
This episode contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Who let one child be abused for the sake of another (and likely their own greed as well).
- Bad Humor Truck: Serious example — Monty's assistant drove him around in an ice cream truck to visit playgrounds to find kids for him to befriend.
- Bland-Name Product: A "Yah" search engine appears at one point.
- Buy Them Off
- Double-Meaning Title: Ostensibly Monty was trying to save his son from the smoke filling the apartment. But as they say, "Where there's smoke, there's fire" — investigating the suspicious death of his infant leads to the detectives learning that he might be a pedophile. From there the story of the settlement with the family of one of his child friends suggests he really does have a lot to hide.
- Downer Ending
- Fate Worse than Death: Monty's victim explicitly says this is what his parents condemned him to.
- Left Hanging: The initial matter (whether or not the death of Monty's son was accidental) is never resolved.
- Offing the Offspring: What the parents did is almost — if not equally — as bad as this, and it's possible Monty did this to his son (yes, he was adopted, but still...).
- Ripped from the Headlines: The inciting incident takes off from Michael Jackson dangling his infant son over a Berlin hotel balcony railing in late 2002; the plot then draws upon the out-of-court settlement he made with the family of Jordan Chandler in 1994 after the boy accused him of molesting him. Specific details include the father of the accuser being a screenwriter (Chandler's dad was one on the side) and a police transcript of the boy's accusations appearing on a Smoking Gun-esque website years later. As it happened, by the end of 2003 Jackson was once again accused of molestation; compare and contrast this episode with Law & Order: SVU's 2004 take on the second round of allegations, "Sick".
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: This was clearly Monty's attitude, and the parents and his staff apparently didn't mind.