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Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy Gets a Sweet Shoutout on First Law & Order Episode with New DA

Jack McCoy has left a lasting legacy in the district attorney's office on Law & Order, as evidenced by a reference made to him.

By Jill Sederstrom

Law & Order’s Jack McCoy may be gone, but the veteran prosecutor’s presence is not forgotten.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 24 premiere of Law & Order Thursday, October 3 at 8/7c on NBC

Executive Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) gave a sweet shoutout to his former boss and mentor in Thursday’s all-new episode as he relied on the former district attorney’s steady advice over the years to guide him through a difficult case. 

Earlier this year, Sam Waterston — who played district attorney Jack McCoy for decades since first taking on the role in 1994 — announced he’d be stepping away from the show.

His character said a final goodbye during the February 22 episode after making the difficult decision to resign as district attorney. 

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In true McCoy fashion, the district attorney opted to pursue a high-profile murder trial to achieve justice rather than yield to pressure from the New York City mayor to settle the case for a much lesser sentence. After stepping into the courtroom one last time to successfully argue the case, McCoy tendered his resignation in a noble attempt to prevent the fallout from his decision from impacting the rest of the district attorney’s office.

DA Jack McCoy sits at a desk in court on Law and Order Episode 2305

McCoy’s replacement, the politically-motivated Nicholas Baxter, played by Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn, arrived this week to step into the role of the new district attorney — but Price still found himself relying on his memory of McCoy to guide him.

How did Nolan Price honor Jack McCoy? 

Price found himself conflicted about how to proceed while prosecuting a “financial dominatrix,” or someone who controls men through their finances, for the murder of a wealthy Wall Street phenom. 

Just as the case against the woman started to pick up steam, the suspect turned to prosecutors hoping to cut a deal. She offered to help take down a big-name actor who allegedly confessed to violently raping more than 10 women in text messages and taped video sessions he had with the BDSM expert, but prosecutors were left without any further proof of the misdeeds.

RELATED: Law & Order’s Odelya Halevi Has Been "Crying for Days" Over Sam Waterston's Departure

Baxter encouraged Price to “pursue” a deal for manslaughter in exchange for a 10-year sentence if there was any truth to her claims, concluding the actor was a “far bigger threat to public safety” than securing the murder conviction.

Ada Samantha Maroun and Ada Nolan Price in an office on Law & Order Season 23 Episode 7

While grabbing a drink with Assistant District Attorney Samantha Maroun (Odelya Halevi) later that night, Price questioned the new district attorney’s direction. 

“She’s a con-artist. What are the odds she’s not hustling us? But Baxter wants headlines,” he complained. 

Maroun came to her new boss’ defense, arguing that taking down a violent serial rapist was a noble pursuit.

“That’s a good thing. It’s something the DA should be trying to do,” she said. 

It’s then that Price made the touching tribute to his former boss. 

“But, nothing trumps murder, Sam, nothing,” he replied. “That was one of McCoy’s favorite lines.” 

RELATED: Sam Waterston's Final Law & Order Episode Reveals Why Jack McCoy Has to Leave

While Maroun clearly missed McCoy too, she was quick to point out there had been a changing of the guard at the district attorney’s office and they’d need to adjust.

“We have a new boss now,” she said. “He wants to do things his way. Can’t blame him for that.” 

Price and McCoy tried to get a continuance in the trial to track down the actor’s rape victims and verify what he said on the tapes was true, but when the judge denied the request and Price was unable to get ahold of Baxter to find out out to proceed, he relied on McCoy’s words of wisdom to get him through. 

Price decided to skip the plea deal in favor of finishing the trial. 

The decision seemingly paid off when the suspect was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Da Nicholas Baxter sits at his desk on Law And Order Episode 2307

How does Nicholas Baxter feel about his predecessor, Jack McCoy?

It wasn’t the only nod to McCoy in the episode. Baxter referred to McCoy as a “legend” in his first exchange with Price. 

“Jack McCoy speaks highly of you,” he told Price during their initial meeting together. 

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It was clear Baxter was already looking for ways to make McCoy’s office feel “more contemporary” as he stepped into the veteran prosecutor’s big shoes and tried to establish his own identity.

“I suppose it’s going to take some time to figure out how to do that. Jack McCoy was an icon,” Baxter remarked. “He was here for what, 30 years?”

To find out more about the changes at the district attorney’s office, tune in to Law & Order Thursdays at 8/7c p.m. on NBC stream episodes the next day on Peacock.