Thursday, November 3, 2011

Law & Order SVU “True Believers” Recap & Review

Law & Order SVU “True Believers” was an excellent episode that forces viewers to feel uncomfortable and unsettled all the way through. First, there is a rape at gunpoint, and as the story progresses, the victim is treated like the criminal and the police treated like they are sloppy at their jobs. The process of collecting evidence in the rape kit is almost just as bad for the victims as the rape.  The crisis counselor seemed quick to throw in the towel, making it appear that she doesn’t believe the victim. Things get worse for the victim when she gets back to her apartment and finds it in a state of disarray, with black fingerprint marks left all over her walls.

It isn’t unusual in episodes about a rape to have the victim’s own behavior used against them. But, in this case, the victim makes it far worse by lying and by putting her piano grade above all else, causing her to delay the report of the attack. It was interesting that a girl that is so young and angelic looking was cast for this role,  it made her look even more childlike and naïve about how her behavior can be used to aid the defense. Despite all this, Benson knows all the signs of a true victim, and Benson stands by her until the bitter end. This was an Emmy-worthy performance for Mariska; she made it easy to feel Benson’s frustration with that hard loss to the defense. It’s always a tough case, though, when the detectives, prosecution, and the defense all are true believers in their case and their cause - sadly sometimes the good guys lose.

This episode also was the first one in a long, long time that offered an interesting legal case. It helped to have both Linus Roache return as Bureau Chief Michael Cutter to take charge of the prosecution, and also a formidable opponent in Bayard Ellis, played perfectly by Andre Braugher. I personally agreed with Ellis that the lineup was not conducted properly – and frankly I was surprised that the judge did not grant Ellis’ motion. I don’t see how it could even be remotely fair to conduct a line up on a dark street with the suspect being held in cuffs. I saw no reason why they couldn’t bring the suspect in to SVU for a proper line up. I also didn’t see anything wrong with what Amaro did when he saw the gun and moved immediately to secure it. While he may have had the suspect restrained, that doesn’t mean that someone else in that apartment couldn’t have gotten their hands on that gun to use it before Amaro and Benson secured the location for the warrant. Munch suggested to Amaro in the future that he should secure the place and then get the warrant, but I wonder why the detectives were not admonished and asked to be more cautious with the lineup.

The episode also maintained a very serious and somber timbre with what seemed like almost no background music. (The less music the better, in my opinion.)

This episode marks a reunion for Richard Belzer and Andre Braugher, who both previously teamed up on the series “Homicide: Life on the Street”. On that show, Belzer played Detective John Munch (a role which he carried to the X-Files before bringing it to SVU) and Braugher played Detective Frank Pembleton. But, in “True Believers,” Braugher plays a defense attorney. The reunion of these two actors on screen doesn’t go by without  recognition when, upon first seeing Ellis, Munch greets Ellis as if he knows him, and Ellis asks, “Have we met?” and then comments that he doesn’t get the joke. That’s OK – WE got it!

Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Richard Belzer – Sergeant John Munch
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro

Guest Stars
Tamara Tunie – Dr. Melinda Warner
Linus Roache – Bureau Chief Michael Cutter
Andre Braugher – Bayard Ellis
Sofia Vassilieva – Sarah Walsh
Cedric Sanders - Michael Wedmore

Sarah Welsh is practicing the piano and later she heads to the local store. She walks home with an armload of groceries and when she steps into the elevator, someone calls out for her to hold the door. A young black man steps in to the elevator and tells her “good catch”. He makes small talk with her, and holds the door open for her after the elevator stops on her floor. Sarah opens the door to her apartment and walks in the with groceries, leaving the door open. When she walks back to close it, the young black man steps into her apartment with a gun pointed at her, telling her not to scream. He closes the door behind her and orders to sit. She complies. She tells him her name and asks if he wants something to drink. He asks if she has a beer, and she replies she thinks so. She walks into the kitchen and moves toward the window and then to the cupboard to get a beer and a glass. The man watches her as she pours it. Her phone rings and she says it is her boyfriend and he might be coming over, but he tells her to leave it. He motions her back to sit on the couch. The man asks if she is a musician, and when she offers to play for him, he says no. She says she only has a few dollars cut he says he doesn’t need money. He begs him not to kill her. She asks what he wants, and he asks her to take off her clothes. She says he does not need his gun and she will do anything he wants her to. He puts it down and moves toward her. He orders her again to take off her clothes and he removes his shirt. He orders her to lay down and she complies. He lies on top of her and rapes her.

Later, Sarah is in the SVU interview room with Detective Olivia Benson and Benson is asking her to recount the details. Sarah says the rape occurred around 1:00 yesterday afternoon. Benson asks why she waited so long to report, and Sarah says she had a jury, which is a graded recital. She said she did not yell or fight back. Benson reminds her that he had a gun and it is rape, and she is alive and she did what she had to do.
In the observation area, Munch comments to Benson that Sarah is just a kid and asks what happened. Benson explains Sarah is a sophomore at Manhattan Academy of Music and she was raped at gunpoint yesterday. When Amaro asks if there was any outcry, Benson says Sarah showed right after and then went to a piano recital. When Munch suggests she and Amaro take her for a rape kit, Benson says she is still trying to get Sarah to trust her so Amaro suggests to keep it small. Munch advises he will send Rollins and Fin to the apartment with CSU and asks if she thinks they can get his DNA. Benson says he used a condom and flushed it. Munch replies “Good luck.”

At Mercy General Hospital, the rape kit is being conducted and Sarah explains the beer the man drank has not been moved and is on her coffee table in a plastic cup as she thought that would get the DNA. Benson says the bottle would have been better. Sarah coldly replies that she will remember that for next time. Benson apologizes and Sarah says it is fine. The curtain opens and Jen enters and announces herself as her crisis counselor. Benson tells Jen she can’t just barge in here. Jen tells Sarah she is there to help. The nurse doing the rape kit tells Sarah to move toward her and tells her she will feel pressure.

Back at Sarah’s apartment, Fin gets off the phone and tells CSU to grab the cup off the table. Rollins tells CSU to get a sample off the mattress and CSU cuts a huge hole in a stain in the mattress.

Back at the hospital, they are drawing Sarah’s blood, and Benson reassures her. Jen says that one of Sarah’s options is not to file charges. Benson is stunned. Jenny tells Sarah she showered and there is a lack of physical violence and those cases can be difficult to prosecute. Benson is incensed, saying that they also give you a voice to say that is not OK and to demand justice. When Jen says that prosecution can be emotionally grueling, Benson asks to talk to her outside.

After stepping outside the exam area, Benson asks Jen what she is doing. Jen says it is her job to make sure the survivor knows everything about the process and she does not sugarcoat. She hands Benson her card, and Benson asks she been a counselor for how long? Jen says yes Benson has been doing this longer but she has fresher eyes and the system does not always work. Benson replies that girl has just been robbed of all her power and her humanity and questions Jen’s advice to pretend it never happened and walk away. When Jen begins to say that is not what she meant, Benson sternly replies it does not matter and walks away from her.

Benson walks back into the exam area and gives Sarah Jen’s card and advises that Jen said to call her if she wants. The nurse gives Sarah meds to reduce her risk of STDs, HIV, and pregnancy. As Sarah takes the pills, the nurse informs her she will be right back with the hepatitis-C shots. Benson asks Sarah if she is OK and reminds her she is not alone and she will be there every step of the way.

Later, Sarah and Benson enter her apartment and Sarah is shocked that it is in a state of disarray after CSU has been there. Benson asks if there is anyplace else she can stay, like her parents, and Sarah says it is not a good idea, they were against her moving into the neighborhood. Benson tells her this is a huge burden to bear in her experience, and Sarah asks, “In your experience? Until you’ve been raped, you don’t get…” and she looks at Benson and stops talking. She apologizes and says she is on edge and needs some time. Benson says if she has her number and to call her, and when Benson lightly touches her shoulder, Sarah jumps and then she apologizes again. Benson gives Sarah her card and tells her to call her. Sarah says she will be fine as Benson leaves. Sarah quickly fastens all the locks on the door

Benson, in the elevator, looks up to the security camera in the corner and lets out a sigh.

Back at SVU with the security camera footage, Benson, Munch, Fin, Amaro and Rollins look at the low grade video. They see Sarah on the video and the man enter and Fin and Munch think he has been on the elevator before and knows where the camera is. Amaro comments they look almost friendly and Benson tells him Sarah says she had never seen him before. Rollins says she hates elevators and no girl is going to smile at a guy who tries to get into her car. Munch says to get a screen grab and start sweeping the neighborhood.

Back in her apartment as Sarah is trying to clean up the fingerprint powder off the walls, she hears a knock on the door. It is her boyfriend Paul bearing flowers and asks if she is still up for celebrating. She tells him it is not a good time and asks for a rain check. He asks what is going on and she says bedbugs and the exterminator was just there. He looks in and sees her apartment in a mess, and then blows her a kiss goodbye. She quickly closes the door and locks it.

At 137th and Broadway, Fin and Rollins scope out a group of black guys and they single one out and frisk him. Elsewhere, Sarah is in a bar having a beer. She sees the man who raped her and he glares back at her and then he nods. She knocks her beer over and spills it. She makes a phone call.

Afterwards, Sarah is in a car with Benson and Amaro explaining that she saw him and said he headed north about 5 minutes ago. Amaro tells her to keep her eyes open. She points out a man and says she thinks it is him. They stop the car and get out. As Amaro approaches him, the man runs and Amaro and Benson make chase. He runs to an apartment with a woman inside who calls him Michael, but Amaro pushes in the door. Amaro tackles him and it appears Michael threw something under the coach. Benson pulls her gun and announces they are NYPD and not to move. A young boy and two woman are in the apartment. Once of the women screams and the other says the man is her baby but Benson tells them to shut up. Amaro pulls a gun out from under the couch. Michael thinks this is all about weed, but Amaro says that is the least of his problems.

Back in the car, Benson tells Sarah they are going to do a drive by and asks Sarah to tell her if they see the man who raped her. She points Michael out, standing next to Fin who is holding his arm, his hands cuffed. Amaro and Fin take Michael in.

In court at arraignment, ADA Rose Callier tells the judge that Cabot has been called away. She states their case and asks for $50,00 bail. The clueless defense attorney gets his client’s name wrong and Michael’s girlfriend corrects him. Michael says his name is Michael Wedmore. As the defense attorney fumbles his papers, Michael’s girlfriend asks if they are serious and the judge calls for order. She tells Michael to ask for a new lawyer and he does, but Judge Serani tells him he is entitled to a court appointed attorney and he does not get to choose. When the judge asks if he can afford a lawyer, Michael’s mother walks into the courtroom with another man and announces that he has a lawyer, and the judge recognizes him as Bayard Ellis, who says he is there to represent Michael pro bono. When Michael agrees, the judge allows it.

At the SVU Bureau, Sarah asks Benson if Michael will get out on bail, and Benson says bail is set at $50,000 and that should hold him. Benson walks into Bureau Chief Mike Cutter’s office and introduces Sarah, saying he will be the lead prosecutor. Sarah asks if that is because Bayard Ellis is taking the case, and Cutter replies not to worry about him, they just have to be sure to vet every detail. Cutter asks her to go over the security tape, and she asks why he held the door for him, and she says she did not want him to think she was a racist. Cutter thinks that is fine. He goes on to comment that on the tape she appears to be talking to him.

Back at SVU, Munch calls to “new guy” Amaro and tells him it was good work last night. Amaro says he got lucky, but Fin says Wedmore is a dumb kid that doesn’t know better not to work his own neighborhood. Munch says he can’t be that dumb, he has Bayard Ellis defending him. When Rollins asks who that is, Amaro says Ellis is the go to lawyer for drug kingpins. Munch corrects him that Ellis used to be, until about 6 years ago when he won a huge civil suit, walked away and took the money and started the New York Center for Civil Liberties. Fin thinks he was trying to buy a clean conscience, and he thinks he is just putting criminals back on the streets. Munch says it is only if they don’t do their jobs, and asks if there was any funny business last night. Amaro motions no. Munch tells them to go find out what he’s going to find out before he finds it out.

Back in Cutter’s office, Sarah says she did not call anyone and tells Cutter she does have a boyfriend. Cutter asks for his name and Benson tells her they will need to talk to him. Sarah admits she did not tell him and she did not want him involved. He is her piano teacher at school and he could lose his job.

At the Manhattan Academy of Music, Amaro speaks with Paul about Sarah. He said at the jury, Sarah excepted her praise and walked out. He asks what this is about and Amaro does not reply.

Back in Cutter’s office, Benson tries to get Sarah’s attention back. Benson had asked about the last time Sarah had sex before the incident, and Sarah indicates it was two weeks ago, adding she has been focusing on her music. Fin enters the office and asks to speak with Benson.

Outside the room, Fin, with Rollins, tells Benson they went back to the bar when Sarah spotted her perp and it turns out she was there the night before. Benson says she knows, she told her she had a fake ID and she a beer. Rollins says it sounds like she was hitting it a little harder than that, she was playing air keyboards and singing along. Benson asks if there is anything else. Benson reenters Cutter’s office and tells Sarah the bartender saw her drunk and flirting with a guy the night before she was attacked. Sarah admits it was just some guy at the bar and she was stressed about the recital. Cutter asks if she went home with him and Sarah replies no and she does not like being treated like she did something wrong. Benson says no one is judging her, and Cutter adds they just can’t afford any surprises.

At Café Nougat, Sarah and her boyfriend Paul are sitting at a table and he asks he is she wants to tell him what is going on with the detectives, She says no. He says she is being secretive and distant and asks if she is seeing someone. She says no, she was raped in her apartment on Tuesday. He is stunned, and says he is so sorry, and he is the one who told her to move there. She scoffs and angrily says this isn’t about him – at all. She rushes off.

Back at SVU, Cutter enters the SVU squad room with Bayard Ellis. Munch says loudly “Counselor Ellis” and extends his hand. Ellis asks if they have met, and Munch introduces himself and tells Ellis he admires his second act. Ellis says he is not sure he gets the joke, and Munch replies he is not joking. Munch adds he could be NYPD and believe in civil liberties. Ellis says he is about to put that to the test. Cutter announces to the group that Ellis is there on behalf of Michael Wedmore. Ellis asks for a copy of the elevator surveillance tapes and also a the UF250s. Rollins asks “Wait…what?” and Ellis says two night ago several young black men in Hamilton Heights were stopped and frisked by a blonde female and black male detective team. Ellis says that would be you and…Fin raises his hand and introduces himself and informs Ellis they were looking for a rapist at large. Ellis asks if they can tell someone is a rapist by stopping and frisking them? No one answers. Ellis says he will need a report on each individual stop. Munch tells Rollins and Fin to take Ellis into the interview room and to bring him whatever he needs. Fin says it may take a while to get the reports in order, and Ellis says he is not worried, he is sure Fin’s partner keeps good notes.

As Fin, Rollins, and Ellis walk off, Amaro asks Cutter and Munch that you’d think a guy like that really found religion. Munch says there isn’t a lot of money in rape or the 4th Amendment. Cutter asks Amaro to tell him about the gun bust. Amaro explains it was clean and he’s worked hundreds of these. Cutter retorts that he’s seen hundreds of dropsy cases get thrown out. When Amaro gets ruffled at his comment, Cutter adds he is asking the question – he doesn’t know him. Amaro says “Detective Second Grade Nicholas Amaro. He threw the gun under the couch, I retrieved it. Now, I’m not sure if the girl was raped, but I do know there was a gun.” Cutter looks him straight in the eye and says nothing, but Munch butts in, saying they are all on the same team and tells Cutter to put him away. Cutter says to Amaro, “It’s not personal, detective. Ellis wins this case it’s not just open season on my office, but also NYPD. OK?” Amaro looks him straight in the eye and nods yes. Cutter walks off and Amaro turns away and throws down his pen.

Later, Amaro knocks on Benson’s apartment door and when Benson opens the door he apologizes for bothering her. She lets him in and asks if he is OK. He asks what is her take on Cutter and she says he is a good lawyer and dedicated. Amaro asks if that is to his batting average or the team. Benson says Cutter is on their side but he knows they are in for a battle. Amaro asks if they are clear on what happened with the gun. She says yeah, he yelled gun and she drew on him. He asks if she saw him throw it, but Benson says no you did, she got their after. Benson’s phone rings and she says it is Cutter and says they will be fine. Benson answers the phone, then says, “You gotta be kidding me.”

Elsewhere, Sarah’s phone rings and she gets an automated message saying that she is registered to receive updates about an offender, Michael Wedmore. The messages informs her there is a change in his custody status and that he has been released from custody. The message also goes on to say if she has any concerns about her immediate safety to contact her local law enforcement agency. We see Michael’s girlfriend wait for Michael to step off the bus from Correction At home, Sarah checks her locks while on the phone with Benson, who tells Sarah not to worry, Ellis posted bail but there is a pending restraining order and she is sending a unit over to her right now. Sarah tells Benson she has to go and hangs up the phone. Michael steps off the bus and hugs his wife. Sarah is on her couch curled in a fetal position. Benson is cooking at home and appears worried, and throws the pan of food she has been cooking into the sink.

Later, Sarah is in the car with her mother who thanks her for coming and tells her that she and her father loves when Sarah stays with her. Sarah is detached and says he has to go and is late for practice.

Back at SVU, Rollins comments to Benson that she heard Wedmore posted bail, and when she asks how is Sarah, Benson says she wants to go it alone and she doesn’t want anyone to know. When Benson says Sarah is 19, Rollins asks if she remembers when she were strong enough that she could handle anything by herself. They approach Munch and Cutter, and Munch tells them Ellis is doing his due diligence. Cutter says Ellis is moving for a map hearing on the recovery of the gun, and Benson and Amaro will both have to testify. Amaro says he is ready. Cutter adds that Ellis has also moved for a Wade hearing challenging the fairness of the ID. Munch tells Benson and Amaro it will be them again, plus Fin and Rollins. Munch jokes that they can carpool. Fin says that was good police work, and asks what Ellis is trying to do. Benson says “Death. By a thousand paper cuts.”

Elsewhere, Sarah is frantically practicing the piano and gets frustrated.

Later, in court, Benson testifies about what happened when they apprehended Wedmore and Ellis asks why she did not bring Wedmore in for a line up. Cutter interjects that the court has upheld show up IDs time and time again. Ellis argues that his client was ID’d while in handcuffs with the detectives and that in inherently suggestive. Cutter argues the victim was held by her rapist for almost an hour, and she has good eyesight, saying it is a clean ID. Ellis states that the New Jersey supreme court has noted a troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness ID, particularly those involving race. Judge Owens says this is not New Jersey and she agrees with Cutter and denies the motion and lets the ID stand.

Meanwhile, Sarah continues to play the piano at a frantic pace.

Amaro testifies about the apprehending Wedmore and states he saw Michael fling his arm and hear it slide across the floor. Ellis questions that he heard it – with a child crying and Wedmore’s family screaming. Amaro says yes, and he saw it go under the couch. Ellis asks if he knows it was the gun or he thinks it was a gun. Amaro says he knows what a gun is. 

Later, Benson is on the stand and Ellis asks if she saw the gun. Benson states it was chaotic and there was screaming and there was little boy there, and it was very dark. Ellis asks yes or no, reminding her she is under oath. She says no, she heard her partner yell “gun” so she pulled her weapon and held it on the suspect while Amaro restrained him. Ellis argues to the judge that Ellis was in custody and not a threat and the police already secured the room, they should have requested a search warrant. Cutter argues that the detective had reasonable cause and the plain view doctrine applies here. Ellis questions under the couch being plain view, but the judge denies Ellis’ motion.

Amaro walks out of the courtroom and walks over to Benson, and coldly comments “Thanks for having my back.” Benson replies “I can’t say that I saw something that I didn’t see.” Amaro nods and says, as he walks away, “That’s good to know…partner.” As Ellis also leaves the courtroom, Benson approaches him and tell him that they got the right man. But he says it was not the right way. Benson comments that there is no big conspiracy and asks Ellis what’s in it for him. Ellis says nothing, but thinks if thinks like this happen on ordinary cases it means they happen all the time. Benson raises her voice, asking Ellis if he is using this case to declare war on the NYPD. Ellis thinks the NYPD declared war on men of color a long time ago, citing 500,000 stop and frisks in one year. Benson raises her voice more, stating that son of a bitch raped her. Ellis counters that even if a black man is accused of rape, the burden of proof is still on the state. He walks away from Benson.

At Sarah’s apartment, her father lectures her about her upsetting her mother. Sarah says she is sorry and will call her later. He apologizes for being strict with her and says it can only explain her choice to live in this god-forsaken neighborhood. He asks her not to punish her mother for that. Sarah looks at her father and says, “Daddy?” and starts to cry. He asks what is going on and she says something has happened, and she moves in toward him and he consoles her as she cries.

In the ME’s office, ME Warner says that there is evidence of vagina fissures consistent with forcible intercourse but no foreign DNA. Warner did find Wedmore’s DNA on the cup. There was also semen on the bed from within 24 hours of the rape, but that is not Wedmore’s DNA nor from her boyfriend. Benson wonders who the hell was it.

Back at SVU, Sarah tells Benson and Cutter she does not remember his name, it was just a one night stand. It was the guy from the bar. Cutter asks her to please tell him he was not black. She says yes he waas. She also said she took the elevator. Later, they look at the footage of Sarah getting off the elevator with a black man and Cutter says they specifically asked her about this. She admitted she never picked up anyone at a bar before and she thought it might look bad. Benson says what looks bad is that she lied to them. Sarah says studying music is hard and you are alone and practicing all the time, that is how she would up dating her teacher. Cutter says there goes rape shield , and Munch mentions her lies on t he report that she gave to police. Cutter adds they have to inform the defense. Benson adds that Ellis will use the other man’s DNA to create reasonable doubt. Sarah comments that she was just trying to be a normal college kid for once. She asks if this means they drop the case. Benson replies no, he still raped her at gunpoint. She says they are saying the jury won’t believe her, but Cutter tells her to tell the truth and let him worry about the rest.

In court, Cutter outlines his case and we switch back and forth from Cutter’s statements to Ellis, with Wedmore testifying a different version from what Cutter has outlined . Ellis asks Wedmore about the gun and he says he never saw the gun before. He admits to being a small pot dealer and everyone knows a gun is a felony. He said he helped Sarah in with her groceries and she offered him a beer, and his mother always warned him to stay away from white women but she seemed nice. He said he wanted to go as he had to go back to work and she started acting weird and said she wanted to have sex with him. He said he did not have sex with her. He loves his girlfriend.

Back at SVU, Munch asks Amaro if he is OK. Amaro tells him Ellis tried to shake his story about the gun but Wedmore threw it under the couch and there was a kid in the house, what was he supposed to do. Munch says he gets it they have all been there in the heat of the moment, and tells him next time to cuff him, seal the room, and wait for the warrant.

With Sarah on the stand, Ellis asks about the video image of her in the elevator with Wedmore. He asks if she is sure she never met him before as she looks so friendly. Cutter objects and Ellis withdraws the question. He shows the video of Wedmore leaving an hour later with no torn clothing or signs of struggle. He brings up that she did not call the police or anyone and instead he went to the piano recital and got an A, which he says is impressive considering how late she was out the night before. Ellis shows the other elevator surveillance video with Sarah and the other black man from the night before. She admits she asked the man in to her apartment and that she had sex with him. Ellis asks if the injuries she sustained were from vigorous sex with that man before she med Wedmore, and she said it was not rough and it was consensual. Ellis asks if this man would be able to come forward and testify to that, and she says no, as she does not know his name. Ellis notes the resemblance of that man to Wedmore, and when Cutter objects, Ellis asks if it is safe to say Sarah has a type. The judge cautions Ellis to watch himself. He asks her why she waited so long to file a police report, and she explains she did not want anyone to know. He asks if she means her parents or her boyfriend. She answers yes. He asks if she did not want them to know she had been alone with her client or some random man the night before – the one who left his semen on the sheets. She does not answer and he asks which is it, telling her to take her time, it is confusing.

Later, Cutter makes his closing statement commenting about how t he defense put the victim on trial, saying it is the defendant’s actions that matter. Cutter reminds them that Wedmore admits to being in the building but to deliver pot and admits that he entered Sarah’s apartment but claims he just had a beer. Cutter says Wedmore won’t admit to raping her at gunpoint.

The jury later returns a verdict of not guilty on criminal possession of a weapon and also not guilty of the charge of rape. Wedmore hugs Ellis and Sarah’s father calls Wedmore a black bastard. The judge calls for order. Sarah moves to race out of the courtroom and Benson tries to stop her but Sarah angrily says “Don’t!” and she continues to race off. Benson catches her again and Sarah is furious and tells Benson not to tell her that was worth it, it was so ugly. Benson tells Sarah she did not let him get away with it, she accused him in public. Sarah responds “So what? He’s going home with his family!” Sarah tells Benson she would never let anyone go through that, Benson replying that is true and she knows that is how she feels. Sarah shouts that Benson has no idea how she feels. Benson replies that sending him to prison is not going to heal her, healing begins when someone bears witness. She saw Sarah and she believes her. Sarah parents walk up and take her away.

Outside the courthouse, Benson sits by the steps as Ellis walks out with Wedmore and his family. Ellis sees her and walks over. She tells him she did not ask for company. He comments that she got it. She asks him if he is proud of himself, he brought up every stereotype, he shamed that girl about her sexuality and he said that if a white girl in that neighborhood cries rape, she must have wanted it. She adds with sarcasm, “Nice work.” Ellis comments that their case, and their ID and the gun and not DNA – if Michael were white, this never would have gone to trial. Benson accuses Ellis of still playing the race card. Ellis states at 84% of the young men in New York jails are black and Latino. Benson snaps back that he raped her, and Ellis says “so she says,” none of them were there, and all they can do is believe their people and they do it without question. Benson says, “So that’s it. You’re a true believer. “ Ellis replies, “I am. And so are you.” Benson curtly says she just does her job, and as she gets up to walk off. Ellis says not everyone in the NYPD is like her. He wishes they were – he could retire. He says fighting this hard, win or lose, it comes with a cost and they both know that. Benson says she looks at the "unies" with all the kids in the squad room and all she can t think of is that she is so tired. Ellis says he gets it, this is what happens when you live for the job. Benson sighs and looks away. He tells her she needs an escape. He hands her a card, saying he coaches his daughter’s softball team . Benson says that must be hell on them. He suggests she come by and catch a game. Benson says she does OK on her own, and Ellis questions if she is sure about that. She grabs his card and turns and walks off. As she walks off, we fade to black.

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Laura said...

There was something about this episode that really put me off. Maybe it was because this episode felt a little too close to the episode last season with Terrence Howard. Maybe it was the fact that it was more like an episode of Criminal Intent than SVU. Perhaps it was both, although I suspect more for the latter reason than for the former.

I have had no problem with Warren Leight’s handling of SVU up until this episode. The first five episodes were of better quality than the majority of last season’s, and even with Elliott gone it still was quintessentially SVU. I thought he was doing an excellent job of what I presumed he was hired to do: rejuvenate SVU and try to retain viewers without changing the core of the show. With this episode, it seemed like the basic structure of the show was completely changed to match the style of a Criminal Intent episode. It was as if the cast of SVU were somehow transported into a L&O:CI episode and had to blandly act their way through it. It felt like they were all just going through the motions. I understand that Leight spent several years at the helm of Criminal Intent and that it would be unreasonable for me to expect him not to use that influence on SVU, but come on! They are two separate and (before last night) completely different shows. That doesn’t make it a good idea to transform SVU into a revival of Criminal Intent.

With that being said… Does anyone else get the feeling that Benson is losing her touch? She seemed to upset the rape victim more than comfort her. Especially at the end when they lose the case, her whole “It’s not about putting your rapist in jail, it’s about bearing witness to what he did and facing him in court” speech rang a little hollow, like even she doesn’t really believe it anymore. Even more disconcerting was at the very end of the episode when she’s talking to Andre Braugher’s character and says that she’s getting tired of doing this. I know several people on this blog have said that she’s signed on with her current role for the entire season, but it seems like they’re setting it up for her to take a step down.

My favorite part of the episode was at the arraignment where they have the judge ask yet another nameless ADA where Cabot is. “She was called away.” Not quite as good as the “She’s stuck in traffic” excuse from season 10, but still amusing. They could have come up with something a little more creative, like “She went on a bender last night and is trying to sleep it off” or “Her glasses broke and she’s out of spares.” They’re not even bothering to explain her absence anymore.

I’m starting to wonder why I still put up with this show. I know it’s never going to be even half as good as it was in its hey-day, but still every Wednesday night I end up watching it in the dim hope it will have some small, remote resemblance to the classic episodes from the previous decade. Last night I didn’t recognize it as SVU at all. I’m beginning to dread the rest of the season if they keep making episodes like this. That’s not to say it was a bad episode, it just rubbed me the wrong way that it was so similar to Criminal Intent. I just could never stand watching that show and always preferred SVU.

@ATL&O: Is there any way for viewers to voice their opinions to the producers, perhaps through twitter or something? I just really don’t want SVU to turn into a Criminal Intent reboot.

OhSusannah said...

"Every new beginning is another beginnings end" comes to mind when Benson mentions being "so tired".I'm pretty sure they're setting the stage for Benson's exit by next season,as much as I hate to see it come.I wondered when the jury read the not guilty verdict and the victim Sarah's father cried out,"Black bastard!" if he meant the rapist Micheal,or the Bayard Ellis. The young man clearly raped the victim, but sadly her sketchy sexual past and her lying laid the groundwork for a strong defense of the rapist.Andre Braugher was superbly cast as the tough-talking attorney....

All Things Law and Order said...

Laura, I've been told that some people affiliated with the L&O brand do read what's here, but if you have a twitter account, you could always try following @WolfFilms (Dick Wolf & Co) and SVU showrunner @warrenleightTV and communicate with them that way. (You have to keep it within 140 characters, though!)

nygma619 said...

Laura, earlier this year Warren Leight said SVU would have elements of SVU, the mothership, and Criminal Intent seen on this show since SVU is the only brand of the franchise left.

ConnorBehan said...

Laura, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but do you really think a producer would listen to a rant that sounds so entitled? It's OK to get emotional on a blog after an episode has just aired but if you end up having correspondence with Warren Leight, Dick Wolf or anyone else involved, it would be MUCH better to stay diplomatic. Here are some tips that I hope don't sounds too cynical.

* Avoid giving advice for specific plot lines. Some production companies have a policy about not accepting anyone else's story for liability reasons. So even if you get the best idea and the writers just happen to be incorporating that idea already, they will have to get rid of it and start over if you suggest it.

* Don't say that the show is less than half as good as it used to be. Have you heard the expression "Our brain has one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit?" You might say that the show has gone from a 5/5 to a 2/5, while someone else says that the show has gone from a 10/10 to a 7/10, etc. Once you arbitrarily decide on a "zero point" you start to miss the good stuff and only focus on the bad.

* Make it clear that you are trying to help the show's rapport with hardcore fans and not the number of viewers. It is sometimes easy to forget but what we want is often very different from what the average viewer wants. Did you know that the average SVU viewer didn't find out that Chris Meloni left until "Scorched Earth" aired? And did you know that the average viewer doesn't know about this blog and has never even typed "law and order" into a Google search? Not only that but if you mention the letter pairings "EO" and "AO" to them, they will probably give you a blank stare rather than a heated debate.

To give my own opinion, I'd like to add that I thought this episode was less like Criminal Intent than "Missing Pieces" but I don't know what to look for because I never really watched CI either.

nygma619 said...

This episode was an absolute belter. And easily the best episode of the season. And I enjoyed the criminal intent like writing in this episode, accept the focus was on the victim. It made me really feel bad for Sarah all through out the entire episode. Yes she commited sins (like adultry & underage drinking) but even with all the skeletons in her closet I still felt bad for her, that's how good the writing on her was. And I thought Sofia the guest star did a tremendous job in her role.

Andre Brougher was great playing the hateful attorney who brought up the race card. Yes SVU did something like this similar last year with Terrance Howard as Joe Dekkar, but Terrance isn't anywhere in Andre's league as far as acting goes. As hateful as he did come across I enjoyed his last scene with Olivia. And he's right, when your married to the job like Liv is, cases like these can hit you even harder.
On another note, as a fan of Homicide: Life on the Street. I enjoyed the 4th wall joke between Andre's character and Munch. :wink:

Now for a couple criticisms:

Can someone explain to me WHY SVU didn't do a proper lineup to begin with? They've always done that, and I found the squad members to be totally out of character in doing what they did. I mean the id got in anyway, so why bother doing it that way?

At first I thought Amaro dropped the ball in the apartment, but you brought up a good point Allthings. He might of secured Wedmore, but Nick doesn't know any of the people there, so how would he know if they weren't going to touch or use it? Unfortunately Amaro and SVU found themselves in the middle of 'a rock and a hard place' as the old saying tends to go.
While I'm on that scene, if I can bring up one of your most hated SVU cliches; I'm getting sick and tired of the cliche of SVU announcing their presence as the police to the perp (when they're like 15 ft away), then the perp running because they've got a chance. It's getting old and it would've REALLY benefited them in this situation to NOT do that.

On one more note, I felt Michael Cutter needed a stronger closing argument. No it's not the 1970's anymore, but thats just stating the obvious. And as they always say, stating the obvious never helped anyone. What Michael Cutter should've done was bring up the issue on what could Sarah possibly gain from crying rape @ her attacker during the closing arguements if it never allegedly happened? She never knew him personally, he doesn't have much money, and she also showed to have no race bias based on the night before. If whatever happened between them wasn't a crime, then WHY would she do something that wouldn't keep it under wraps? Fame/attention? If that's the case why not cry rape to the man before Wedmore, since she doesn't know either of them. Or how big this would get.

Other than that, this was the best episode of the season with Personal Fouls and Scorched Earth not being too far behind.

janethyland said...

This episode was the least like LOCI where the emphasis is on the psychological intent of the suspects and detectives involved. In fact it was most like Mothership where the emphasis is on court procedure and the dual-ism (!) of officers and departments wrangling over legal technicalities in the service of Justice.

Its a hard subject to sell to young people and more appealing to an older age group which may account for the slight fall in key demo ratings. Key demo was 2.0 and total numbers were 7.10.

Its my least favourite of the season so far because Im not a Law person, but I recognise it was well written and well overseered with some lovely moments like the Munch/Ellis introduction.The writer came from MadMen so thats an interesting change.

It caused a lot of controversy amongst fans and " controversy is the life blood of drama",whether you liked it or not.

Joanne said...

I haven't watched much L&O:CI so I can't compare whether this episode was similar, but it definitely did not feel like typical SVU. In the end I agreed with the verdict - there was too much reasonable doubt. I find it annoying when the victim starts getting angry at the way the case is going when they're at fault for harming their credibility by lying.

This was probably the most court-centred episodes this season yet they didn't have Cabot or Novak which is bizarre.

Laura said...

@ConnorBehan: Sorry I do see how that came off as a bit of a rant. I’m out of rant-mode now. Thanks for the advice, I will definitely take it into consideration. (By the way, I’m not an E/O nor A/O shipper. Sure, Alex is my favorite character and I wish she were on the show more, but that’s a far cry from wanting her and Olivia to be lovers.)

I think the things that most struck me as (to coin a phrase) “Criminal Intentesque” was the cold open and the focus on the victim’s life, coming in at times from her POV than from that of the detectives (for example, the scene where she’s in the car talking with her mother). I’ve never watched a full episode of Criminal Intent (about 15 minutes is as much as I can take) but the openings are really long, averaging about 5 minutes, and when they tell the story they tend to focus a lot on the lives of the people involved in or affected by the crime rather than just having the story revolve around the detectives’ investigation. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s just so different from the way SVU is usually done and it felt jarring to me. Before this season I don’t remember them ever actually showing the face of the rapist in the opening, making the viewer know exactly who did it from the very beginning. (I’m told they did that from time to time on Criminal Intent.) I’m really not used to that and it takes a lot of the fun out of the “whodunit” aspect of the show.

I admit I was off-base saying that the show “will never be even half as good as it used to be”; it’s like comparing apples and oranges. It’s better than the majority of last season, but the show’s just so different now that I hardly recognize it as SVU anymore. I noticed that more in this episode than in any other so far. I miss the basic structure they used to adhere to. Guess I’m just nostalgic for the way the show used to be. I don’t mind some changes but I still want this to be SVU and not have it turned into a completely different show.

On another note, I completely agree with nygma619 that Cutter’s closing argument was uncharacteristically weak. He could have done better. But I’m glad they at least had the court scene. Hopefully we’ll see more of that as the season progresses. (Still keeping my fingers crossed for an episode with both Cabot and Novak!)

I was also surprised that Amaro got pissed off at Benson for saying on the stand that she didn’t see the gun. What did he expect her to do, lie and say that she did?

Esaul said...

When I first heard Andre Brougher's name brought up, several sites teased that this could be a relationship for Olivia, and I was thinking oh great, that's not what we need. I was dreading this episode for quite some time because of that. However, I just finished watching it, and I have to say, I'm very impressed with the direction it went. It did have all elements from the shows mixed into one, it's a great feel. Should they do it every week? No, of course not. HOWEVER, it shows that SVU still has life in it. This is why NBC needs to keep SVU. Warren did what he was told to do, go in a different direction, and he did. SVU went in a unique approach with the storytelling, and I think it worked.

First, amazing choice in casting Andre Brougher. I haven't enjoyed a guest appearance since Jeremy Irons was on last season.

Second, I'm not surprised that the jury found the defendant not guilty. I didn't like the line up at all, I too am surprised the judge threw it out, and I wasn't entirely sure that was a gun Amaro "saw".

Third, I feel bad for the victim, as we're meant to, but I'm also glad that the People didn't win the case. The cops handled it incorrectly from square one. Piss poor line up, and no warrant for the gun.

Fourth, despite Cutter's closing argument, I'm glad to have him back. I've been missing his prosecuting, as well as Jack's...and his appearances.

Fifth, SVU has hope for another season, and they've proven they can survive without Meloni, no matter how much we love the man. They're going with an ensemble feel, which is working.

ConnorBehan said...

Thanks Laura (I didn't think you were a shipper btw :P).

I agree that the "whodunit" aspect is crucial to the show and needs to be in most of the episodes. I didn't like those Criminal Intent episodes where the audience kept finding out who the killer was before the detectives. But in my opinion, it was a necessary choice for this episode where the investigation was not the focus. If I had as much reasonable doubt as the jury, the verdict would not have made me feel sorry for the victim.

Arleen said...

Another excellent episode. All of the episodes so far this season have had an "authentic" feel to them unlike the last few seasons where the writers were making crazy stuff up. The focus this season seems to be back on the actual storyline, rather than the E&O relationship or all those famous guest stars and their overacting to try to win Emmys.

This episode followed a rape case from start to finish, showing the ups and downs and doubts in everybody's minds. I kept expecting some crazy plot twist (because they happened so much in previous years), but they stayed on a straight realistic course - which was actually a twist in itself. Mariska is doing a great job portraying Olivia as a very dedicated, but worn out and somewhat tormented character - just like I'd imagine a real person in her position would be. I also liked the fact that Munch is back (somewhat) in the action again.

Kevin A.K. said...

I'm glad I'm not the only person who's noticing that this season's episodes are similar to Criminal Intent's in plot structure. I guess with that show being off the air, the SVU staff wanted to pay homage to it somehow.

Anyway, as infuriating as this episode was in the end, it was probably the best episode of the season so far.

runrabbitrun said...

Does anyone know the name of the piece she was practicing on the piano? It was beautiful and I'd like to learn to play it only I can't find a title anywhere. TIA.

garegin said...

the victim was a very unconvincing character. almost felt like she was framing the guy. i guess i just have a prejudice against white nerds or the acting was just poor.

Teri O said...

Why did they not dust the gun for prints? Wouldn't that have proven that the suspect knew about it?

zzxcvbnm said...

From now on, when I watch this show, I want to be ENTERTAINED, NOT preached at!! I want the BAD GUYS TO LOSE and I want the GOOD GUYS to WIN!!. And DON'T tell me that's not how it is in real life!! TV IS NOT REAL LIFE!!!!!!

Nicole said...

This episode pissed me off. I hated seeing everyone, especially the lawyer, defend the rapist when he couldn't have deserved it less. But more importantly, I couldn't stand the lawyer being cruel enough to make every attempt to make sure the victim was shoved in the dirt. How cruel did this character have to be? I can't watch this show anymore, I love my sanity too much.