How Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy Left ‘Law & Order’: He Told His Opponent to ‘Go to Hell’

The actor’s final episode sees the beloved DA back in the courtroom to try one last case

Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy in his final episode of "Law & Order"
Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy in his final episode of "Law & Order" (CREDIT: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Note: This story contains spoilers from “Law & Order” Season 23, Episode 5.

After more than 400 episodes on “Law & Order,” Sam Waterston’s venerable Jack McCoy prosecuted his last case in Thursday night’s episode before resigning his post as Manhattan District Attorney, a noble gesture done to save Nolan Price’s (Hugh Dancy) job.

In the episode, titled “Last Dance,” McCoy took over a complicated murder trial from Price: an elegant way for the often fiery lawyer to have one more day in court, and the perfect send-off for a character we’ve known for 30 years.

The case began with the murder of Veronica Knight, whose body was found in Central Park. The number one suspect was wealthy tech billionaire Scott Kelton (Rob Benedict), who also happened to be a good friend of the mayor of New York (Bruce Altman) and his son.

The motive for the murder: Knight was about to go public with a rape accusation against Kelton from years before, as Knight’s therapist told Price. When the therapist refused to testify, Price and ADA Samantha Maroun (Odelya Halevi) were forced to find a witness who could confirm that the rape actually happened.

That sole witness ended up being Jordan, the son of the mayor, who would have to admit he was with his mistress in St. Bart’s when the assault occurred. Mayor Payne threatened to destroy Price unless he left Jordan alone. “If you subpoena my son, I will bury you,” he told Price. “I will pull my support from McCoy and use my immense power to make sure his opponent is elected. And the very first official act of this new district attorney will be to fire you in a very public and demeaning manner.”

When Price brings the dilemma to McCoy, the DA revealed he’d already heard from Payne: “I told him to go to hell. And that we intend to do everything in our power to convict Scott Kelton.” McCoy then told Price he was off the case, and took over the final segment of the trial.

In McCoy’s summation to the jury, the speech he gave not only summed up the trial, but the character’s entire journey on the series.

“When I was elected District Attorney, I gave a pledge to the citizens of New York to act fairly and ethically, without a bias or favor, to always act with integrity. During my time as District Attorney, I’ve tried my best to uphold that sacred oath in the pursuit of justice,” he said, before telling the jurors, “It’s your turn to act fairly, without bias or favor.”

The jury convicted Kelton, before we learned that McCoy had already handed in his resignation, so he’s beyond the wrath of the mayor. Because he is stepping down before the election, the governor will appoint a new DA “with integrity,” so Price’s job is safe.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” he told Price as they shared a farewell Scotch. Our last look at McCoy followed as he walked past the courthouse. He gazed at it for a few moments, then turned and walked away with a wry smile on his face.

“Law & Order” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.


One response to “How Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy Left ‘Law & Order’: He Told His Opponent to ‘Go to Hell’”

  1. Sharon Chaikin Avatar
    Sharon Chaikin

    Will miss him. 😢 Tonight’s episode was epic. Sam Waterston deserves an Emmy. 👏👏👍

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