Aftershock (Law & Order)

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Law & Order episode
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 23
Directed by Martha Mitchell
Written by Michael Chernuchin
Janis Diamond
Original air date May 22, 1996 (1996-05-22)
Guest appearance(s)

Jennifer Garner as Jaime

Episode chronology
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"Causa Mortis"
Law & Order (season 6)

"Aftershock" is the 134th episode of NBC's legal drama Law & Order, and the season finale of the sixth season. It originally aired on 22 May 1996.

"Aftershock" is notable because it abandons the typical Law & Order story structure of the police-procedural followed by legal proceedings. Rather than chronicling an investigation, the episode accompanies each of the characters in the aftermath of an execution by lethal injection.


Jack McCoy, Claire Kincaid, Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis attend the execution of a man each had a part in helping to convict who, in front of a crowd of bystanders, openly raped and killed a woman who rear ended his car. Kincaid and McCoy argue briefly about the death penalty while driving back to the city. Kincaid says that she feels sick, and agreeing that she must feel ill because she is coming down with the flu, decides to take McCoy's offer of a sick day, while McCoy returns to the office. Briscoe and Curtis have the day off and Briscoe invites Curtis to join him for lunch, but Curtis decides to finish up some paperwork.

Curtis has a scuffle with a disrespectful man in a holding cell and is ordered by Lieutenant Anita Van Buren to take the day off. He proceeds to meet a graduate student (Jennifer Garner) downtown and spends the day flirting with her while ignoring his wife's phone calls. He eventually spends the night with her.

Briscoe visits an off track betting facility and meets some acquaintances with "inside information." After losing some money, Briscoe is surprised there by his estranged daughter and they go to lunch.

Kincaid, obviously not ill with the flu, visits her former law school professor (who is later revealed to be her stepfather) to discuss her concerns about capital punishment, and more broadly, her feelings about the legal profession and her role in it. She then has a late lunch with Van Buren and discusses the morality of capital punishment.

After dispatching a few plea bargains and lunch with Elizabeth Olivet, McCoy goes to a bar and meets some blue collar workers where they play darts and talk about their fathers. McCoy initially speaks highly of his father, a former police officer. However, after getting drunk, he reveals that his father demanded perfection from him, and would beat him and his mother for the slightest failure. He also states that he "never talks about these things."

Briscoe's talk with his daughter begins on a good note, but does not end well. He walks into the same bar where McCoy is and orders a club soda, as he is a recovering alcoholic. Briscoe offers to drive McCoy home, but he declines and leaves in a cab. Briscoe seemingly becomes depressed after watching a press conference about the morning's execution and orders a vodka, followed by several more from the guys there with him who were talking to McCoy earlier. Those blue collar workers discover that not only can McCoy beat them in darts, but Briscoe punishes them at pool. Kincaid, whom McCoy had earlier called to get a ride home, meets a drunken Briscoe at the bar and offers to take him home.

While driving home, Briscoe laments the state of his relationship with his daughter, and says that he would have liked to have a child like Kincaid. As she tries to comfort him, another car slams into the side of hers as they cross an intersection.

The episode ends with a dazed Briscoe wandering in the accident scene, bursting into tears at the sight of Kincaid's apparently dead body, as Van Buren reads part of a letter she has been writing to her mother about the execution in a voiceover:

A crowd of people stood and cheered when he raped her. They were supposedly good people and they did absolutely nothing. Then he beat her to death with a tire iron, and today the State of New York got its revenge. It's not enough, and it's too much.

Initially, it was not made explicitly clear that Kincaid was dead, with Jill Hennessy stating in interviews that she hoped to return to the series. Kincaid's death was alluded to in the first episode of Season 7 ("Causa Mortis") with McCoy working with a new assistant and at the end of the story McCoy says to Briscoe, "You know, a few weeks ago she wanted to quit and I talked her out of it." and Briscoe replies, "And I could have kept walking past that bar." She's mentioned again in the Season 8 episode "Blood" by Jamie Ross who tells Jack he had brought her up during dinner with a woman, but nothing is stated on her dying in the accident. Additionally, a later episode ("Sideshow") in which McCoy is called to the witness stand to testify on his own behalf in an investigation, confirmed that Kincaid was killed in the accident.