Rubber Room (Law & Order)

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"Rubber Room"
Law & Order episode
Episode no. Season 20
Episode 23 (#456 overall)
Directed by René Balcer
Written by René Balcer
Production code 20023
Original air date May 24, 2010 (2010-05-24)[1]
Guest appearance(s)
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"Rubber Room" is the twenty-third episode of the twentieth season and the series finale of NBC's long-running legal drama Law & Order. In the episode, Detectives Lupo and Bernard search for an anonymous blogger who has posted plans to blow up a school, while Lt. Van Buren struggles to keep her personal issues private.

The episode was written and directed by René Balcer and received positive reviews from critics and a 1.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic in its original American broadcast.


After Van Buren discovers a blog site featuring video of an alarming amount of explosives, Detectives Lupo and Bernard race against time to find the anonymous blogger before he can make good on his threat to blow up a school. The Department of Education's refusal to take the threat seriously and resistance from the teachers' union further complicate the investigation. Fortunately, an administrative assistant at the teachers' union, Alicia (Lindsey Vonn), gives the detectives a tip to lead them in the right direction. Meanwhile, Van Buren struggles to keep her personal issues from becoming public.

In the last scene of the episode, at a local bar Lupo and Bernard planned a debt party for Van Buren, where her colleagues get together in a bar to make contributions to help pay her medical bills. She arrives with Frank Gibson (Ernie Hudson) and they all applaud her. The Chief of Detectives provides a few checks for the collection jar. She introduces Frank as her boyfriend, but says as of that afternoon, he is her fiancé. Van Buren's phone rings with a message; it is her doctor. She cries briefly after she gets off the phone, then composes herself, saying "thank you, thank you, thank you." She whispers into Frank's ear, and they embrace. Although the exact nature of the message is left ambiguous, it is implied from Van Buren's reaction that she has received good news about her cervical cancer, perhaps remission.

The elements of the plot were inspired by an ongoing controversy surrounding New York City's policy and union rules for teachers in early 2010.[3]


In its original American broadcast, "Rubber Room" was viewed by an estimated 7.60 million households with a 1.9 rating/5% share in the 18-49 demographic.[4]

Mike Hale of The New York Times called it "the best finale of all", saying, "There was the show that ended with its cast in the buffet line for heaven, and the show that ended with its homicidal hero on his way to retirement at the beach. And then there was the best finale of all: the show that ended with a very sick police lieutenant excusing herself to take a phone call and getting good news. The last episode of Law & Order written and directed by the show’s longtime executive producer Rene Balcer, was finished before the series’s cancellation was announced this month. Yet it managed to be an entirely appropriate send-off, and its low-key last moments were more moving and honestly emotional than the endings of Lost and 24, shows whose finales received much more attention."[5]

Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the episode a positive review, saying "That’s why Law & Order in eternal reruns is so comforting. You can enjoy episodes even when you remember the case or the outcome, because you want to immerse yourself in that Law & Order feeling that didn’t insult your intelligence."[6]


  1. ^ "Law & Order: "Rubber Room" Episode Info". MSN TV. Microsoft. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Rubber Room Cast List". CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ Fertig, Beth (April 18, 2010). "NYC To Close 'Rubber Rooms' for Teachers in Trouble". NPR. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ Seidman, Robert (May 25, 2010). "TV Ratings: Jack Bauer, Law & Order Say Goodbye, Chuck Sees New Low". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ Hale, Mike (2010-05-25). "A 'Law & Order' Farewell: These Were Their Stories -". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  6. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 25, 2010). "The last 'Law & Order' review: How can we miss you if you never go away?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 12, 2010.