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Push... the... button!
~ Rook trying to force Elliot Stabler to "torture" Olivia Benson.

Merritt Rook is the main antagonist of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Authority". He is an engineer whose wife and child died as a result of medical malpractice, who now manipulates people into committing acts of sexual violence in order to make a point about subservience to authority.

He was portrayed by the late Robin Williams, who also portrayed Rainbow Randolph in Death to Smoochy, Walter Finch in Insomnia, and Seymour "Sy" Parrish in One Hour Photo.

Biography

Early Life

When Merritt Rook was a teenager, Rook burned down a house in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut that a gang of thugs, led by the local police chief's son, had gang-raped a little girl in. He was arrested, but given a suspended sentence after he explained his motive, as to make sure that none could never use the house to hurt anyone again. The experience left him with a passionate hatred of abusive authority, particularly by government and corporations. He resolved to have as little to do with corporate America as possible, shunning chain restaurants and eating only locally grown organic food.

As an adult, he worked as an audio engineer, married a woman named Juliet, and became an expectant father when she became pregnant. He lost his family, however, when Juliet and their unborn son died due to the malpractice of the attending, inebriated obstetrician Dr. Francis Slifkin gave Juliet an unnecessary C-section that caused her and the baby to bleed to death.

When Slifkin escaped punishment, Rook swore revenge and began stalking him. Using voice-altering sound equipment, he hounded Slifkin with threatening phone calls, claiming that he was "Detective Milgram" and had gathered enough evidence linking him to Juliet's death to put him in prison. Slifkin eventually committed suicide.

Authority

Merritt Rook first runs afoul of the Special Victims Unit when he terrorizes a Happy Burger restaurant; as "Detective Milgram", he calls the restaurant manager, tells him that one of the restaurant's servers named Trini Martinez has been stealing from the cash register, and orders him to strip-search her. The employee calls the Special Victims Unit for help, and Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler arrest the manager, who claims that he was only following "Milgram"'s orders. Benson and Stabler discover that "Milgram" had made several calls to area businesses ordering employees to commit crimes.

Benson and Stabler eventually track the calls to Rook, who claims to have been out of town at the time the crimes occurred. When the detectives unravel his alibi, however, Rook admits what he did, and claims that he was trying to make a point about blindly following authority. He is then arrested for conspiracy to commit sexual assault.

Rook acts as his own attorney, arguing that the entire trial is an excuse for powerful interests to silence his anti-authoritarian message. He also uses his engineering expertise to point out flaws in the NYPD's sound recording equipment, which are the only solid evidence linking him to the crimes. When Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak brings up his arrest record, Rook says he was only trying to protect children in his community, winning him sympathy from the jury. Finally, he delivers a passionate closing argument in which he tells the jury to think for themselves instead of being "sheep" and convicting him because the state tells them to. Rook's strategy works, and he is found not guilty.

Rook uses the publicity from the trial to spread his message of non-conformity, even giving interviews while holding a sheep he names "Elliot" as a jab as Stabler. However, Benson finds out that Rook had instigated Slifkin's suicide, and tries to arrest him during a flash-mob he had organized at Grand Central Station. Rook gets the better of her, however, by claiming that has a bomb and will detonate unless she comes with him. He takes her to the recording studio where he used to work, and holds her hostage inside a sound booth. He then calls Stabler and threatens to kill Benson unless he meets with him.

When Stabler arrives, Rook tells him that he has wired Benson with electrodes, and orders him to press a remote control that would inflict electric shocks on her. When Stabler refuses, Rook presses the button, and what sound like Benson's agonized screams issue from the booth. Rook tells Stabler that he blames himself for the deaths of his wife and child, lamenting that he had been a "sheep" for complying with Slifkin's orders. He then claims that he has increased the voltage, and that he will kill Benson unless Stabler agrees to shock her with a decreased charge. Stabler still refuses, however, saying that too many people have died already. Impressed, Rook reveals that Benson is unharmed, the screams are pre-recorded, and the remote control is only a garage door opener. He then tells Stabler that he is not a sheep, but a human being.

Rook willingly surrenders to Benson and Stabler, who handcuff him and lead him toward their squad car. Rook asks permission to tie his shoe, which they grant. As he bends down, however, he activates a sonic device strapped to his leg that causes an explosion. He uses the commotion to escape from the detectives, and commits suicide by diving into the nearby East River while still handcuffed.

Trivia

  • Robin Williams won an Emmy Award for his performance as Merritt Rook.
  • Rook's alias, "Detective Milgram", is a reference to the infamous Milgram experiment, in which participants administered what they believed to be severe electric shocks to each other because an authority figure told them to.

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