Frame (Law & Order: Criminal Intent)

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Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode
Episode no. Season 7
Episode 22
Directed by Norberto Barba
Teleplay by
Story by Warren Leight
Production code 07022
Original air date August 24, 2008 (2008-08-24)
Running time 45 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Last Rites"
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"Playing Dead"

"Frame" is the seventh season finale episode of the police procedural television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It originally aired on USA Network in the United States on Sunday, August 24, 2008. In this episode, a case hits close to home for Detective Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) when his brother's (Tony Goldwyn) apparent drug-related suicide turns out to be a murder, caused by his nemesis, Nicole Wallace (Olivia d'Abo).

The episode was written by showrunner/executive producer Warren Leight (story), Julie Martin (teleplay), and Kate Rorick (teleplay) and was directed by Norberto Barba. The episode features brief guest appearances from Tony Goldwyn and Olivia d'Abo, who reprise their roles of Detective Goren's brother Frank, and Goren's long-time nemesis Nicole Wallace, respectively; "Frame" also was their final episode of the series, along with John Glover, who portrayed Detective Goren's mentor, Dr. Declan Gage. "Frame" also marks the final episode of Criminal Intent being run by Warren Leight, who chose not to return to the series for its eighth season.

According to the Nielsen ratings, the episode's original broadcast was watched by 5.20 million total viewers, making it the most watched original episode of LOCI on USA Network, the next closest episode to score that many viewers being the season ten premiere episode "Rispetto".


In the Season 7 finale, Detective Goren brings flowers to his mother's grave and finds an old framed picture of him and his older brother Frank. When Frank is found murdered the following day, the victim of a poisoning meant to look like an overdose, Goren deduces that his nemesis Nicole Wallace killed his brother.

Soon afterward, Goren's mentor, Dr. Declan Gage, is also found to have been poisoned (but alive); subsequently, Bobby Goren and Eames are led on an interstate scavenger hunt, which leads them to Wallace's former stepdaughter, Gwen Chapel, in Arizona — who is now dying of cancer, which is believed to be the factor that triggered Wallace's recent actions — and ends at a hotel where they find a box with Goren's nephew Donny's name on it, containing a fresh human heart. Although Goren believes that Wallace murdered Donny to torment him, M.E. Rodgers confirms that it is in fact Wallace's heart in the box. Goren refuses to believe this, stating that Wallace has "nine lives". Gage suggests to Goren that Wallace had a partner who acted on her wishes, and that they were trying to frame Goren for her murder and Frank’s. The captain orders a secret investigation of Goren (in case he is the actual perpetrator), which Eames only agrees to as a means to exonerate Goren. Later evidence turns up that Frank Goren had a life insurance policy naming William Brady (Goren's undercover alias) as his beneficiary, supporting Gage's theory. At this time, Goren reveals that he has confirmed that serial killer Mark Ford Brady is his biological father.

In a twist ending, it is revealed that Dr. Gage engineered this entire chain of events as an elaborate plan to "free" Goren from all of the negative people in Goren's troubled past—people who had created the metaphorical demons that have increasingly tortured Goren throughout his life. Goren realizes this after he notices someone has "tried to glue the pieces of his life together" throughout the case. He learns that Gage wrote a book on female serial killers (such as his daughter Jo, who, as it turns out, was in a coma after biting off her tongue, just hours before Goren tried to meet with her) to attract Wallace's attention. Knowing that she would try to seduce him, Gage spurned her advances to trick her into attempting to kill him. Gage suggested to her that he also hates Bobby, to manipulate her into killing Frank. Knowing that Wallace's next move would be to kill him, Gage killed Wallace, cut out her heart, mailed some flowers in her name (aside from the ones she herself mailed to Goren), and faked his own poisoning to set the scavenger hunt in motion. Gage thought that Frank was "going down anyway", and that such people in Bobby's life—including himself—were "dead weight" that would inevitably cause Bobby to completely self-destruct (since Goren felt too responsible for them to voluntarily shut them out of his life). In Gage's twisted view, he did this to give "the son he never had" (but always wanted) a "clean slate": a fair chance at having a healthy, happy life free of emotional baggage. Gage assures Goren that his nephew Donny is unharmed and still missing, as killing him would never have served his goal of "helping" Goren.

Gage also tells Goren that Wallace's final words were "Tell Bobby he was the only man I ever loved".


Vincent D'Onofrio   Det. Robert Goren
Kathryn Erbe Det. Alexandra Eames
Eric Bogosian Capt. Danny Ross


"Frame" was filmed between July 11 and 22, 2008 and was written by show runner/executive producer Warren Leight (story), co-executive producer Julie Martin (teleplay), and Kate Rorick (teleplay); and it was directed by Norberto Barba.[1] "Frame" marks the last episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent for Warren Leight, who chose to leave the series at the end of the season to join HBO's In Treatment."[2] However, Leight wrote one of the final episodes in season ten ("Trophy Wine"). Julie Martin left the series as well after "Frame", and returned in season ten to write three episodes ("Cadaver", "Icarus", and "To the Boy in the Blue Knit Cap"). "Frame" is the first season finale since season four's "False-Hearted Judges", that Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe were the lead actors.

Tony Goldwyn, Olivia d'Abo, and John Glover reprised their roles of Frank Goren, Nicole Wallace, and Dr. Declan Gage for "Frame", respectively. Archive footage and scenes from episodes "Anti-Thesis", "A Person of Interest", "Grow", "Endgame", and "Untethered" are used as brief flashback scenes in the episode, Courtney B. Vance in his role of Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver was seen in one flashback with Nicole Wallace. Daniel London (Mark Bailey, "Anti-Thesis") and James McCaffrey (Daniel Croydon, "A Person of Interest") were also seen as well at the moments where their characters died by the hands of Nicole Wallace. Wallace (d'Abo) herself only appears in two brief scenes in "Frame," before the opening credits in brief flashes with her face concealed, and in the flower shop mailing flowers to Goren. In contrast to previous episodes featuring her, the focus is shifted towards Goren and his personal problems, and Wallace's role in the crime is more of an extension of this theme.

In "Frame's" original airing, this episode was dedicated to Harry Darrow, who was an art director with the show from 2001-2007 before the series moved to USA Network. Darrow died of lung cancer on December 30, 2007.[3]


  • The title of this episode, "Frame", may refer to either a presumably innocent person who is caused to appear guilty or a decorated border for a picture – or both. In this case, Goren is framed for killing his brother, Frank, and he discovers a picture of the two brothers framed near his mother's grave.
  • This also notes that Goren's nephew Donny Carlson, is still missing; not even Nicole Wallace or Declan Gage knew where he was; because Goren stated, "Nicole doesn't have Donny, if she did she would have sent a more recent photo."
  • This episode also denotes that Donny Carlson is Goren's only known or mentioned living relative. In "Faithfully" (which was the episode set to air after "Frame") Goren is seen sitting with family at the dinner table, so he possibly has more siblings than Frank. Later in that episode, he shows Eames a picture of his niece. He also hints in "Frame" that Wallace thought Frank was all he had, next to Donny.


Critical response[edit]

Days prior to "Frame's" original airing on USA Network, E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos said of the episode, "[...]it does, however, deliver a series of astonishing shocks not unlike the ones you would receive if you repeatedly drove your car into a power transformer." Santos went on to conclude, "it ties together a ton of long-running storylines, it's totally bizarre, and it's completely captivating."[4]

Vanity Fair's James Wolcott started his review of LOCI: "Frame" with "The dramatic peak of Sunday night's viewing wasn't the submersive emotions dulled from rusty disuse on Mad Men (which more and more seems like a simulation exercise) but the phenomenal season-end arc climax on Law & Order: Criminal Intent" Wolcott spoke highly of the final interrogation scene between Goren and Gage, "The psychic clash of Goren's sunken-vessel misery and Glover's glinty-eyed dementia against the bluish confines of the interrogation room elevated the series to an existential plane without losing the edge of glee that comes from actors seizing the electric moment."[5]


In its original American broadcast on August 24, 2008, "Frame" was viewed by 5.20 million viewers. "Frame" is the most watched original episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent on USA Network, followed by "Rispetto" on May 1, 2011, which had approx. 0.10 million less viewers than "Frame".[6][7]


  1. ^ "The Reel-Frame". July 9, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ Finke, Nikki (May 31, 2008). "Leight Leaves ‘Criminal Intent’ For HBO". Deadline. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Harry Darrow, Scenic Artist/Art Director, Dies at 57". Lighting&Sound America Online. January 8, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Dos Santos, Kristen (August 20, 2008). "L&O: OMG! Sunday's Criminal Intent Finale Is Kuh-Raaazy". E! Online. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ Wolcott, James (August 25, 2008). "Black and Blue". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ Seidman, Robert (August 26, 2008). "More Weekly Cable Ratings Miscellany". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ Seidman, Robert (May 3, 2011). "Sunday Cable Ratings: More 'Death of Bin Laden' Ratings; 'Khloe & Lamar,' 'Law & Order: CI,' 'In Plain Sight,' 'Army Wives,' 'Housewives,' 'Game of Thrones' & Much More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 

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