April 14, 2015
SVU #35, Undercover Angels: Spy vs. Spy
Summary: We pick up pretty much where the last book left off, with Bruce upset that Paul hustled him in a tennis game, and Elizabeth going over the details of the investigation in her head. She teases Bruce about calling the police on Paul to report that he’d stolen money he’d actually won. Bruce mentions that he gave Paul a check, which is news to Elizabeth, since she knows Tom saw him with a bunch of cash, including the bill Tom wrote “buena suerte” on, supposedly for a club employee. So the newest wrinkle in the investigation is that money one of the employees collected went to a club member.
Paul’s father, a congressman, is having a reception at the club, and somehow Dana was invited and asks Tom to go with her. Tom is basically done with Dana, but he needs her to get access to the country club, since you can only go there as a couple. What a stupid club. Elizabeth and Scott are also going to the reception, if anyone cares. And of course Lila and Bruce are going, because Lila practically lives at the club now. Lila chats with Paul for a little while, and then he heads off to switch cars with someone, getting into a van with a missing mud flap. Jessica happens to see this.
Elizabeth and Scott review the investigation, so I might as well, too: A caddy named Dwayne Mendoza was discovered dead in the lake at the country club. Brandon Phillips, a fellow caddy and SVU student, was arrested for murder after some of Dwayne’s things were found in his locker. A busboy named Manuel Coimbra has gone missing, and Elizabeth has uncovered possible voter fraud involving him – he got a voter registration card, despite the fact that he wasn’t a citizen. Plus, the card spells his name Manoel instead of Manuel.
Scott and Liz go to the county records office to look for Manuel’s address. None exists, but there’s info on Manoel. Except Manoel was from Brazil and died in 1991 at the age of 76. So it seems someone was employing some good old-fashioned fraud by collecting the votes of dead people. While Elizabeth is busy doing some actual investigating, Jessica snoops in her things to find out what she’s uncovered about the case. Liz catches her, and Jessica mocks her for keeping secrets so she can compete with Tom, instead of trying to solve the case and get justice.
Tom talks to Carlos, the waiter he gave the “buena suerte” bill to, and starts to think that Paul’s extorting the club employees who are working illegally. This makes a lot of sense, but I hate that Tom was the one to figure it out, because I don’t want him to be right about anything ever. Meanwhile, Scott and Elizabeth pose as lawyers so they can visit Brandon in lockup. Except Scott didn’t tell Liz that he’d planned this, which is pretty rotten of him, since I’m pretty sure they could get in a lot of trouble for this. All they really learn from their conversation with Brandon is that Dwayne may have figured out that Manuel was using someone else’s identity, and was killed so he couldn’t tell anyone.
Reception time! There’s a funny scene where Lila gets upset that Bruce isn’t dressed nicely enough for the reception at the club, so she fake-cries until he changes, because she knows Bruce can’t handle tears. If anyone else did this, I would be disgusted, but since it’s Lila, it cracks me up.
Jessica spots Tom and Dana making out, and she’s so surprised that she accidentally breaks character (as Perdita). Lila overhears her and figures out that she’s Jessica. Jess hightails it out of there. Elizabeth also sees Tom and Dana together, so Tom ditches Dana to try to get Liz to agree to work with him on the investigation. Scott shows up, as he always does, and Tom’s so mad to see him that he decides not to tell Elizabeth anything he’s learned, since she would inevitably give the information to Scott. Lila tracks down Jessica but doesn’t care what “Perdita” and “Chip” are up to as long as it doesn’t keep her and Bruce from becoming VIP members.
Congressman Krandall addresses the guests at the reception, and Bruce seems to be the only one surprised that it’s really a fundraiser. Why else would a politician hold an event for rich people? Bruce refuses to give Krandall any money. While he and Lila are fighting about this, Tom overhears him mention that he gave Paul a check after he was hustled, so now Tom is confused about where Paul got all that cash, including the “buena suerte” bill.
Tom goes looking for Carlos, but he’s busy, so Tom tries to talk to a busboy instead. The busboy doesn’t seem to speak English, but Tom knows someone who speaks Spanish: Perdita! Ha, I knew this would come back to bite Jessica. He pulls Jess in to translate, but unfortunately, Carlos arrives before she can really make a fool of herself. Carlos warns Tom to stop snooping around. While Tom’s trying to figure out if Carlos is threatening him or helping him, Jessica breaks her cover again. Tom tries to get her to tell him about the investigation, but she won’t.
Lila’s mad enough at Bruce to tell him they’re through. She can put up with a lot, but not a cheapskate! She thinks Bunny’s bored with Paul, so she just needs to get in good with him to be able to stay at the club. Speaking of Paul, the van Jessica saw him driving has been found abandoned with a few dozen people inside. Nick and Jessica are sent to talk to one of the people, who reveals that they were brought over the Mexican border after being promised papers and jobs by a guy using the name Wil E. Coyote. So Nick and Jessica head out to check out the van. Tom sees them and follows, while Elizabeth and Scott see him and follow.
While this caravan of fools drives around, Bruce goes back to the club and announces that people are being extorted. Carlos thinks he’s uncovered the whole illegal-worker thing, but Bruce is just talking about Paul’s hustling. Lila hopes that the two guys start fighting over her. Oh, Lila. Bruce makes a big scene, then leaves, stealing the trophy from the tennis tournament Lila fixed. Lila falls in the pool. I don’t know.
The others all meet up at the van, where Nick almost shoots everyone because it’s a little sketchy for people to be tailing a cop. He’s pretty ticked that reporters are running around, getting involved in this investigation but not sharing any information. He’s ready to arrest everyone, even though he doesn’t actually have anything to charge them with. Jessica tricks everyone into getting into the van (AKA the crime scene – come on, Jess), then says they can only get out when they start working together. She wants them to feel the way the immigrants felt when they were abandoned in the van.
Nick, Elizabeth, Tom, and Scott finally start sharing information, which leads to them deciding that Congressman Krandall is Wil E. Coyote, and he was using fake votes from illegal immigrants. They also think that Paul was extorting the illegal employees at the club, so they were getting doubly screwed. They ask to be let out of the van, but Jessica’s in no position to help them – Paul has followed them all out there and has stuffed her in the front of the van, which he plans to drive into a reservoir.
Jessica accidentally knocks herself out, which is pretty spectacular. When she comes to, she manages to get out of the van, like I’m so sure Jess was able to jump out of a moving vehicle without killing herself. She heads off to get help, and just happens to come across Bruce (who, hilariously, doesn’t realize at first that Perdita and Jessica are the same person). They head after the van as Jessica fills Bruce in on Paul’s crimes.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures that Jessica’s dead, and though the others convince her that Jess is probably okay, they know they’re going to have to save themselves. They face off with Paul, who reveals that Dwayne wasn’t murdered after all. Paul was just going to beat him up, but when he threw Dwayne in the lake, he quickly discovered that Dwayne couldn’t swim. Also, nothing bad happened to Manuel; they just sent him back to Mexico. (Later, Jessica finds out that he was one of the immigrants in the van, having come back across the border for another shot.)
Paul’s accomplice arrives, and the investigators realize that Paul isn’t Wil E. Coyote. So who is? It’s Carlos, the waiter Tom gave the “buena suerte” bill to. This was a nice twist I didn’t see coming. Paul plans to kill all the investigators, starting with Elizabeth. He shoots at her, but Tom shields her, because they’ve kind of reconnected and she’s given him a reason to live, or something. Carlos doesn’t think Paul’s plan is the way to go, and Tom seizes on his conscience to try to talk him out of helping Paul any longer.
It’s a moot point anyway, because rescue comes in the form of Jessica. She shows up with Bruce’s tennis racket and helps the captives overpower their captors. Carlos ends up with the gun, but Tom talks him into not using it. Then Bruce arrives and knocks Carlos out with the tennis trophy. Then Lila shows up, somehow. Why are all these people driving around in the middle of nowhere at the same time? The bad guys are taken into police custody, and Elizabeth and Tom come close to kissing.
The whole mess with the club leads to Lila deciding that she doesn’t want to be a VIP member after all. Also, she’s turned on by how brave and strong he was. He hit someone with a trophy, Li. Calm down. Tom covers the story on SVUTV, and Scott encourages Elizabeth to write about it for the paper. He also makes out with her, and this time, she’s into it. Too bad he’s about to leave – he was accepted into some investigative-reporting school in Denver. He thinks Liz should apply, too. And in other career news, Jessica announces to Nick that she wants to leave SVU to become a police officer. He tells her he wants to leave the police force and go back to school. Womp womp!
Thoughts: Why no, I don’t know why the book is called Undercover Angels. Thanks for asking.
Bruce: “I’m not obsessing. I’m venting. There’s a difference.” I’m stealing that for future use.
Dana wears zebra-print jeans. ICK.
Lila carries a papier-mâché clutch shaped like a sea cow. Uh, what? Rich people are weird.
My favorite thing in this book as how Jessica keeps saying “adios” and running away from Tom before he can completely figure out who she really is.
Nick gets mad at Tom and kicks the van. Jessica: “Why are you kicking the van?” Nick: “Because it’s illegal to kick him.” Hee.
Elizabeth with a gun pointed at her: “Yikes!” Okay, Liz.
“We’re just two college students, completely unarmed except for a tennis racket and a tin trophy cup. What am I supposed to do? Yell ‘Freeze or I’ll double fault’?” Bruce, you’ve just given me a great idea for a unique new action hero…