"Cruel and Unusual"
L&O, Episode 5.19
Production number: 69423
First aired: 19 April 1995
  th of 456 produced in L&O  
th of 456 released in L&O
  th of 1185 released in all  
Mrs. Vilardi and David Vilardi
Written By
René Balcer & Michael S. Chernuchin

Directed By
Matthew Penn


After a young man dies in custody, the detectives investigate the clinic near where he lived and find that unusual forms of therapy are being administered.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Concession stand clerk: Doesn't look too good.
Lennie Briscoe: Well, he wasn't feeling too well when we took the picture. You see him last night?

Alan Colter: And that's all there is to it.
Mike Logan: That's all? I'd rather have my teeth drilled. You call that therapy?

McCoy: You've seen it being used, haven't you? I can compel your answer, Mrs. Vilardi.
Vilardi: Yes. I've seen it.
Kincaid: On Kevin Jeffries?
McCoy: They use it on your son?
Vilardi: It works, Mr. McCoy.

You beat a dog often enough, it'll stop barking. He might even do tricks for you. But I wouldn't call that humane.

–Jack McCoy

Kincaid: He still has them convinced he was saving the children.
Jack McCoy: The only thing he tried to save was his reputation. He knew the therapy wasn't getting results, and instead of admitting he was wrong, he just turned up the voltage.
Mrs. Vilardi: Mr. McCoy! You're made them close the clinic. Why?
McCoy: Mrs. Vilardi.
Mrs. Vilardi: They sent him home. I can't take care of him. I don't know what I'm going to do with him. You took away the only place he had. Do you want him, Mr. McCoy? Can he go home with you now? I didn't think so.

Background information and notes

  • Revealing mistakes: When David Vilardi types out the word "FLOWR" with the help of his mother, in the courtroom, his hand never goes near the 'F' on the keyboard.
  • The story is based on the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, one of the few autism management centers that uses electroshock as aversion therapy.
  • The day the episode aired, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and wounding more than 800 people.
  • This episode marks the television debut of Steve Burns, who would go on to star as the host of Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues from 1996-2002.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Medical Examiner's
Wednesday, February 23

Apartment of
Mr. & Mrs. George Jeffries
665 W. 47th Street
Wednesday, February 23

Behavioral Control Clinic
40 Second Avenue
Thursday, February 24

4 5 6

New York
Health Agency
Monday, February 28

Home of
Mrs. Serena Davidson
701 E. 83rd Street
Wednesday, March 2

Chambers of
Judge Joseph Rivera
Friday, March 11

7 8 9

Apartment of
Francine Randazzo
440 Ovington Avenue
Tuesday, March 15

District Attorney's Office
Conference Room
Monday, March 21

Supreme Court
Trial Part 86
Monday, April 25

Previous episode:
"Cruel and Unusual"
Law & Order
Season 5
Next episode:
"Bad Faith"
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