This episode of Law & Order SVU, “PTSD” was actually more tolerable than I expected. The worst part was what was shown in the previews. I thought Mariska Hargitay was overacting to show Benson’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, the scene where Olivia seems to be losing it should have been stamped with a one of those black Law & Order title cards, with white printing saying “For Your Consideration” because you just know it will be submitted for an Emmy. Too bad that I don’t think Mariska pulled off the scene very well. I think it was the close up that was just a little too close. But enough of that for now, more later, here’s the recap and my review follows:
As the episode opens, Benson is at a meeting for victims of abuse. One woman, a marine named Michelle (Rosa Arredondo), tells the group about her rape. She says that since the rape, she carries a gun for protection. Benson, her cop side coming out, tells Michelle that she can't carry a concealed weapon, and the abuse counselor Margo (Brooke Adams) abruptly states the meeting is over. Benson tells Michelle that she has too confiscate her gun, and she does so, stating there better not be any bodies attached to the gun. . Margo chides Benson, saying that she crossed the line and asks to speak to her alone in her office. In the office, when Benson reminds Margo she is still a cop, Margo tells her that one of her patients is missing, Jessica Crewes. She says that Jessie was raped by a fellow marine and is carrying her rapists' baby.
Outside Jessie’s apartment building, she speaks to the landlord. He tells her he recently saw a Marine enter the apartment building to visit Jessie. Benson then gets a call telling her that Jessie’s car was towed to the impound lot. With the lot attendant there, they notice a bad smell. Benson tells the attendant to step back while she pops the trunk.. Inside, she finds Jessie's dead, bloody body. It also appears that the baby was cut out of Jessie’s womb.
At the morgue, ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) Warner tells Benson that Jessie was stabbed in the back and the baby was sloppily cut out, the murderer leaving the placenta inside of Jessie. Later at the crime scene a member of JAG, Grant Marcus (Frank Whaley), arrives and tells Benson he will take over the case, but Benson balks. She asks to see Jessie's military file, and Marcus tells her he can’t give it to her because it is part of a pending investigation regarding Jessie’s rape that occurred in Iraq.
Back at the squad, Benson discusses the case with Cragen (Dann Florek), Fin (Ice-T) and Munch (Richard Belzer). They talk about Jessie’s treatment for PTSD. Munch pulled surveillance photos, and they suspect someone was following her. But they don’t have anything solid. They assume it was someone that she worked with in Iraq, so they try to narrow the field down by going back to the therapist.
Margo stands by confidentially, so they go to try to get information from Michelle. On the way to see Michelle, Fin asks Benson if anyone else knows she is in therapy, and she says no. Fin assures her they won’t hear about if from him.
Later, Benson and Fin meet with Michelle at work site. Michelle says Jessie was raped at the barracks. Michelle says that Jessie was charged for having sex while on duty, and adds that Jessie went AWOL because she wanted to get away from her attacker.
Back at the morgue, Warner tells Fin and Benson that that a knife used to kill Jessie punctured her lung from behind, and was then twisted. Fin states this is a technique that prevents the intended target from screaming. Fin says that the method of attack is not taught in basic training, which implies more skilled military training.
Fin and Benson go back to Marcus. He refuses to give up any information regarding the rape. When Benson indicates that Jessie was murdered by a fellow Marine, Marcus says he will shut down Benson’s investigation, claiming jurisdiction, as the victim and the murderer are both marines.
Later, ADA Greyleck meets with Marcus and they spar about who should be handling the case. Greyleck tells him that the murderer is still unidentified and unless he was on active duty at the time, the murder is still a civilian and it’s her case. Realizing she trumped him, he asks what Greyleck wants. She asks for the duty roster for Jessie’s group the night she was raped. She also wants the current whereabouts of very marine in her squadron.
Back at the squad, Benson feels that Marcus is now burying them in paperwork, but Fin seems to defend him. When Cragen asks for an update, Benson said there are 5 that are possible candidates. Sergeants Kelly and Monroe are at Cherry Point; Gunnery Sgt/.Ditka and Master Sgt. Pruitt are on approved leave; Lt. Gary Rosten’s whereabouts are classified. As they talk, Jessie's mother arrives at the headquarters and as she approached Benson, she sees a photo of Jessie after the murder. She gets upset, and Cragen helps her away. Later in the conference room Benson apologizes for her having to see the photos, but she says she needed to see them to make it real. Jessie’s mother asks if she thinks her grandson is also dead. She says that she expected Jessie to face some harassment, but not rape. Jessie called her after the rape, but didn't say who attacked her. She told her to file a complaint, but she was already getting harassed. A sergeant lost a stripe for hanging around Jessie. He was a popular guy and the unit blamed Jessie. When Benson asks for a name, she said it was Dominic Pruitt.
Later as the detectives and Cragen review the information, it sounds like Pruitt was highly regarded, but there was no record of sexual assault. Benson says that means nothing. When Cragen reminds her that Pruitt passed a polygraph regarding the rape, she says “any psycho can do that.” When Cragen asks if they know where he is at now, Fin says they didn’t want to wait for the JAG officer to find out, so Munch ran his credit, and found Pruitt is in the city.
Fin and Benson go to his hotel. In the car, Fin tells Benson they need to discuss their approach, that Pruitt has been trained in how to handle questioning. Benson wants to sweat him in a cell, and Fin thinks Benson has already decided on Pruitt’s guilt. She says she knows it's easy to get defensive, as when a cop goes bad, but Fin says he never knew her to push so hard to clean house at One PP.
As they approach the hotel room, they hear fighting and they rush in. Two men are fighting, and they don’t seem to care the police are telling them to stop. As Benson moves in on one, Fin tells her to stop, but she gets pushed back and knocked against a wall with a picture, the glass in the picture breaking. Benson seems to be reacting badly to the fight, and she begins to sweat and breathe heavily. We then see her with a gun at Pruitt’s (Ryan Kwanten) head, and Fin asking her if she is OK, trying to get her to lower her weapon. Sweating more heavily, she lowers the gun. A woman runs in, who happens to be Gary’s (Dominic Fumusa) wife (Amy Spanger), who is lying on the floor. Fin tells her to stay put. Fin continues to try to calm Benson. He then takes Pruitt away in cuffs.
At the squad, Benson is at her desk, lost in thought. But when she makes a move to the interrogation room, Fin stops her, telling her she can’t question the suspect. She claims she is fine. But he asks he if she knows how much trouble she is in by pointing a gun at a suspect’s head. He also tells her she needs to get more help and talk to another doctor. She insists she can question the suspects without a problem, but Fin says it will either be with him present or Cragen. They overhear Gary’s wife yelling in Cragen’s office about her husband and that she wants to see him. She runs out of his office yelling, and Cragen tells her he will arrest her if she has to. She wants to know Gary’s whereabouts. As he walks her over, Cragen asks her why Pruitt attacked her husband, and what the consequences are for attacking a higher ranked officer. She says that he will be court marshaled. Cragen says that Mrs. Rosten seems pretty rattled, and she tells them that her husband was attacked and then the detective's gun was on him. Cragen said she should be used to that, seeing that her husband is measured by the number of his kills. She says she’s not a marine.
In the interrogation room, Pruitt tells Benson says that he spoke to Jessie a week prior to her death, and the last time he saw her was 5 months ago. When Benson asks him to define their relationship, he says Jessie was a fellow marine and a friend. But Benson isn’t buying it, indicating that rank was important to Pruitt and that he must have been angry when he got demoted. But he said Jessie was more important. Dominic admits that Jessie told her before where she was living, he had her coordinates. Benson says he tracked her like prey. Dominic says that he wanted to help Jessie to get her back to the Marines to get help, he looked out for her. When Benson indicated that was whether Jessie liked it or not, Pruitt notices how wound up Benson is becoming. He tells her that’s adrenaline, and that Benson almost killed him.
Later, Fin is talking to Rosten who said he knows Benson has PTSD, he knows that glassy eyed look. Rosten won’t press charges against Pruitt, he doesn’t want to get him in many more trouble. Under questioning from Fin, Rosten says he reported Pruitt having a “thing” with Jessie, and off duty he was all over her. He also said Jessie had a reputation of sleeping around.
Back with Pruitt, he is telling Benson that Jessie didn’t understand she had to prove herself, and Jessie didn’t get it. He denied raping her. Benson thinks there would have been trouble for Jessie if she reported the rape. Benson shows photos of Jessie's dead body and says that she thinks that he stalked her and killed her. Pruitt says if she thinks that’s true, Benson should have pulled the trigger when she had the chance. She said if she were like him, she would have.
Later with Fin, she paints Pruitt as a cold-blooded killer. He says she doesn’t have enough to hold him. But Munch tells her that Pruitt’s knife doesn’t appear to have been the murder weapon. Greyleck adds they need DNA evidence but don’t have enough for a warrant. When Benson asks “how about a witness” she admits to Cragen she screwed up with this and needs to go back to Jessie’s landlord. The landlord picks out Pruitt from a photo array, and Benson asks him to sign it.
She goes back to Pruitt and confronts him that he was there, and she has the warrant to collect a DNA sample. Marcus arrives with two military police and thanks Greyleck for her call. She said he had to, it was the law. But Benson says they don’t get him until they sign for him. Greyleck tell Marcus to enjoy it while it lasts, they won’t have him for long. He ways military justice is swift and sure, but she says she knows that they want to have Dominic executed. Greyleck tells Marcus that New York has a moratorium on the death penalty and she intends to stop him.
Greyleck and Marcus speak to a judge and they argue custody. Marcus says sovereignty is absolute, and the judge agrees. He informs Greyleck he will need Benson at the Article 32 hearing (court marshal) , and she’ll be surrounded by uniforms, so she should take a pill.
At the Article 32 hearing Benson testifies for Pruitt about victims and sexual assault. Pruitt’s attorney asks Benson if she likes the military and she says she doesn’t . She says she supports the troops, but her problem is with any institution that would refuse to address sexual trauma. The attorney calls Benson’s behavior a “crusade.” The attorney then asks if it is possible that Jesse consented to having sex, and that she cried rape to cover up a pregnancy. She says no; Jesse wouldn't risk the consequences of harassment from the rest of her unit if she weren’t actually raped.
Back at the squad, as Fin tells Benson the flashbacks will go away for her as they did for him, Cragen approaches and says there is a problem. Forensics came back on the cord blood and Pruitt’s did not match. Benson seems stunned and says they need to test it again. Cragen said they did, twice. Benson, looking shocked, says she was wrong, Pruitt’s not their guy. They go back and look at the other 4 original suspects, and Benson thinks it would be a person close to her that enjoyed ordering her around. She hones in on Rosten’s picture.
In interrogation, Fin questions Rosten. Benson, meanwhile, is questioning his wife separately. She told Rosten’s wife they believe Rosten killed Jessie and she helped. But she says that is ridiculous. Benson tells her that her husband’s blood matches the DNA of the baby, and Mrs. Rosten says there is no baby. Benson tells her about the umbilical cord. Benson and Fin continue to work to turn one against the other, and finally Mrs. Rosten breaks and says she didn’t know he was gong to kill her. Gary told her Jessie was the camp slut and in a moment of weakness, he made a mistake. A rape accusation would have ruined her family and she wanted to confront her. She said she tried to gain Jessie’s trust my saying if her husband was a rapist, she had to know in order to protect her family. Jessie felt sorry for her, She said Gary told her he threw the baby’s body in the Hudson, and she breaks down, crying.
Later, Cragen tells Benson that they found the baby, who probably died before he hit the water. He then orders Benson to take some personal time off. When she asks why, he says she knows why. She asks if it’s an order, and he says no, if it was, he’d have to make a notation in her jacket. He tells he to take off as much as she needs.
Afterwards, in the hall, Benson speaks with Pruitt, and apologizes. He said she did her job and got justice for Jessie. She says she doesn’t get him at all. He knew that his DNA would not match. He said he was just there to protect her, that’s his job. When she asks why he didn’t go to the CO, he says accusing an officer without evidence would send him to the brig. He wanted to help Jesse by confronting Gary, and he told Gary to confess or that he would not return from his next deployment. Benson asked if she would have killed him, he says, “Would you have shot me?” She says she can’t answer that, and says he deserves to know why. She tells him she was sexually assaulted six months ago, and as he moves toward her, she pulls back. He tells her she will get there. As he leaves, she tells he to be careful, and he says he is a Marine, “that’s what we do” and the elevator doors close.
As I said earlier, this episode was a little better than I expected. Sure, there was no Stabler (Chris Meloni) but that is OK , seeing that Fin and Benson actually seem to work very well together. In fact, I think that this episode was a little more revealing of Fin than Benson, as we saw a bit of his “softer” side…if one can call Fin soft and get away with it. Seriously, Ice-T is able to play both the tough detective and the caring colleague very well, and it makes Fin somewhat likeable.
While the episode was clearly focused on Olivia’s own problems, I expected it to be a little more overbearing and was glad that it wasn’t done to overkill. But, something about that scene in the hotel room where you can see the stress was getting to her made me laugh. At one point, I swear her whole head was filling the screen, and all I saw was sweat and eyeballs. I know they did not intent it to be funny, but sometimes the camera can get so close in order to capture a certain look on a person’s face that the real emotion gets lost. I think they tried too hard here. Sometimes a camera shot can help make a scene more dramatic, and sometimes it can ruin it. In this case, the scene became all about Olivia’s face and not what was going inside her head.
At one point, Olivia was asking everybody to sign things that I swear she was trying to get DNA off the pens. I don’t recall them ever asking someone to sign a photo array before, and she made such a big deal about Marcus having to sign papers I though they suspected him and wanted his DNA. Maybe that was a purposeful ruse just to make viewers think they were gathering DNA, if that’s the case it worked for me.
What I don’t quite get is that they all seemed to have decided that Pruitt was guilty, when really there was nothing but circumstantial evidence. How can someone get detained like this when there is really nothing concrete to go on? Worse yet, the military seemed to be ready to deal out the stiffest penalty possible when there was nothing solid to go on. It was one glaring flaw with the episode, I thought.
And while Olivia seems to be moaning to everyone about a cover up with the military, she seems to have no problem with Cragen making an exception for her by keeping her “personal” leave off the books.
The show needs to put Olivia’s trauma to bed. Frankly I am tired of hearing about it, and all the Stabler problems as well. Sometimes I think the show is trying too hard to get Emmys for Meloni and Hargitay by focusing on their personal lives. I don’t mind it in small doses – as we got with some tidbit today about Fin’s own dealing with trauma and stress. It seems more meaningful that way, rather than being beat over the head with it.
And again, Michaela McManus is stiff and wooden. That’s all I’m going to day on the matter.
But, for the most part, the episode was good. It shouldn’t leave viewers with any PTSD of their own.
PTSD Two Minute Replay
Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, here.
Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.