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Recap / Law & Order S2 E3 "Aria"

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Directed by Don Scardino

Written by Christine Roum & Michael S Chernuchin

At a prestigious drama school, a student named Priscilla Blaine collapses and dies from a drug overdose. Logan and Cerreta learn that Priscilla's mother pushed her into a stage career and then into working in porn - even signing her up for a leading role in a hardcore movie against Priscilla's wishes. Stone reluctantly agrees to bring charges of criminally negligent homicide against Mrs. Blaine, on the grounds that Priscilla wouldn't have killed herself if not for her mother forcing her into porn.

The DA's office must now prove that Mrs. Blaine knew her actions were making Priscilla suicidal. In order to get vital testimony from Priscilla's psychiatrist, they successfully petition a probate judge to appoint Priscilla's older sister Patricia as executor of her estate in place of Mrs. Blaine. At trial, Stone produces a tape that Priscilla recorded before her death, in which she performed a dramatic monologue where her character tells her mother of her intention to commit suicide. Mrs. Blaine had seen the tape a week before Priscilla's death, evidence she knew her daughter was suicidal. Robinette recalls that at the probate hearing, Mrs. Blaine stated that she had encouraged Priscilla to ask her co-worker for drugs in order to relax her enough to have sex on camera. The judge admits Mrs. Blaine's testimony from the hearing as evidence, and her lawyer agrees to a plea deal for manslaughter. Later, Stone and Robinette reflect that Mrs. Blaine did love Priscilla but will probably never realize why she was wrong.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Driven to Suicide: For much of the episode, the theory of the prosecution is that Priscilla was. Even at the end, they're not sure she wasn't.
  • I Have This Friend: Since Priscilla's psychiatrist refuses to break with patient confidentiality (and her mother, who would need to give consent for a warrant, refuses to do so), Robinette uses this trope to encourage him to speak about a "hypothetical" patient.
  • Important Haircut: Priscilla did this as a way of rebelling against her mother.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: The probate judge deciding Priscilla's estate says that he doesn't think either side has the moral high ground; but, given the murder charges against Mrs. Blaine, reluctantly grants the DA's office their request to have the sister take over.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Invoked. Mrs. Blaine believed that the controversy from having starred in porn could help her daughter launch a mainstream acting career.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Mrs. Blaine goes on trial for being criminally responsible for the death of her daughter.
  • Porn Creator Going Mainstream: The victim's mother was pushing her to do porn so that she could later invoke this trope and use the controversy to bolster her career, modeling after "other famous actresses" who had done the same (whether for legal reasons or pragmatism, no actual examples are named in the episode). The mother is put on trial for murder for basically driving the girl to suicide when she didn't want to be involved in porn at all. Seeing a video "performance" that served as a suicide note actually swayed the jury to conviction.
  • Sadistic Choice: Invoked by the probate judge deciding the executor of Priscilla's estate, who explicitly states that he doesn't think either of the applicants are capable of being the executor and is also well aware that the prosecution had something to do with setting up the hearing in the first place. However, he also notes that with all that said, he can't in good faith ignore that one of the applicants is accused of murdering Priscilla.
  • Stage Mom: Mrs. Blaine was a very dedicated example, who drove her older daughter away and her younger daughter to suicide:
    Patricia Blaine: My mother couldn't decide whether I was Martha Graham or Helen Hayes.
    Phil Cerreta: Who were you?
    Patricia Blaine: I was Patty Blaine. So I got out before I wasn't.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Priscilla was a technician when it came to acting, while her sister Patricia is said to have been a performer (before she gave it up altogether).
  • The Unfavorite: Patricia became this to her mother when she quit acting, to the point where she was kicked out of the house and had not spoken to her mother or sister (the latter likely at the mother's insistence) in years.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: It is mentioned that Mrs. Blaine had wanted to be an actress, but had to give up her dream when she had children.