Law & Order SVU “Valentine’s Day” didn’t air around that holiday, but it certainly is an episode that fans should love watching. It appears that a crime has been committed - a rape and kidnapping of a businessman’s wife, Christine, from her home while her shocked husband watched helplessly via Skype, thousands of miles away. But it seems he was just a victim to his wife’s desire to have “play dates” with a delivery man. Not only is her husband in total denial, but she also uses the clueless delivery man to set up the whole scenario to cover her tracks. Of course, the entire problem could have been avoided if Christine would have just had her little play time before her husband returned – after all, he did have a 16 hour flight ahead of him. Instead, she concocts this elaborate story, possibly in order to swindle her husband out of some money in the process. She keeps up with her lies and is very practiced at lying, and she ultimately finds a way to ensnare a juror to have an ally in jury deliberations. Despite the story being predictable, this was an excellent episode with a great cast that complemented the story well. It was nice to have Diane Neal appear in the episode in more than just the usual cameos. As I am a huge Law & Order fan, I really appreciate it when SVU episode includes some courtroom drama.
While the detectives work the case, Nick Amaro has some time with his wife who has been home for only a short time. He senses that something is going on with her that she’s not sharing with him. Working the case and seeing how Christine’s husband Boyd seemed oblivious to the glaring evidence that his wife was a cheat and a liar, Nick takes to following his own wife and sees her enter the apartment of a strange man. Is it an innocent meeting or is there something else going on? It certainly does not look good for Nick’s marriage as trust issues are clearly brewing. I have to admit that while I really don’t care too much for the storyline of Nick and his wife, I thought that the coverage was just right.
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
Diane Neal – ADA Casey Novak
Chloe Sevigny – Christine Hartwell
Laura Benanti - Maria Grazie
Rich Sommer – Boyd Hartwell
Ron Rifkin – Marvin Exley
Jenna Stern - Judge Elana Barth
Shawn Hatosy – Kevin Fahey
Josh Randall – Justin Geld
Matt LoGuercio – Juror Number Seven
John Solo - Brad Hayes
Carsey Walker Jr. - Darel Jefferson
Angel Pai – Lien
Gameela Wright – Jury Foreperson
Lucy Fava – Madison Hartwell
At the Hong Kong airport, Boyd Hartwell is getting ready to return home. He’s on the phone with someone talking about a business deal and tells the caller that his wife wants to video chat before he boards the plane. He calls on Skype and reaches his wife Christine. They make small talk and she tells him their daughter Madison is at their mother’s house. He tells her that he canceled his London trip and she is coming straight home, and adds “Happy Valentine’s Day.” She seems happy that he will be home tomorrow. When she says she didn’t get him anything, he talks about what he likes – the see through thing with garters that he got her. She talks about the lingerie she is wearing now. He asks her to take it off and she vamps for the camera. The doorbell rings and she comments on the nice timing, saying it is the cleaners. She glances back at the web cam and he reminds her to come back as he checks his phone. But when he hears her sound as if she is in trouble, he looks to the computer screen and sees a man dressed in back holding a gun to her and she pleads and calls for help. Boyd uses his phone to take a photo form the screen and yells for somebody to call 911 in New York. The attacker pushes her against the counter and holds the gun to her head, saying to the web cam if he calls the cops she will be dead, and he shuts the web cam down.
At a playground while Madison plays, her grandmother speaks with Amaro and Benson. She is worried she did the right thing by calling the police. She last saw Christine yesterday afternoon when she dropped off Madison and she seemed fine. Boyd works a lot but his family comes first. She claims they are still in love after 10 years of marriage.
Back at SVU, Benson and Amaro bring Cragen up to speed. Christine has been missing for 12 hours and the only witness is in the air. There is no activity on her credit cards. Cragen thinks it may be somebody she’s crossed paths with. Rollins explains that Boyd and his partner Justin Geld started a hedge fund years ago and Christine is a stay at home mom. Fin adds they do the regular rich people mambo. Rollins states there were a few complaints about the hedge fund filed against Boyd’s partner and the company paid some fines and admitted no wrongdoing and the complaints were withdrawn. Benson says that Christine had lunch with Geld on Friday and a month ago her husband was in Brazil and there was another lunch. Cragen asks Fin and Rollins to check on Christine and her lunches and tells Benson and Amaro to meet Boyd’s plane at JFK so as to not give him a chance to go rogue.
At Newmarkets hedge fund, Fin and Rollins speak with Justin and they ask about the lunches. He admits they had lunch on Friday from 2-4. He walked her to a cab and she’d had a few and he went back to work, saying nothing inappropriate happened on Friday. Last night he was at the Waldorf with his wife, they order room service for Valentine’s day. He says he and Boyd have been friends since prep school and are like brothers. When Fin asks about the jam up with the SEC, Justin says it just gave Boyd something else to rag him about. He last spoke with Boyd last night but Boyd had to jump to video chat with Christine, and when she says jump…
At the airport, Boyd is on the phone talking to someone about getting the money and to tell him she is OK, and Benson and Amaro meet him and tell him to come with them. He begins to run off while he still is on the phone with Christine, saying he will get the money, he heard her - no cops - and says he loves her. Amaro catches up with him but Boyd says he does not need their help. He said that was his wife and they said no cops or they will kill her.
At SVU in the interview room with Benson and Amaro, Boyd says she was fighting back but he started raping her and shows them the photos on his phone. He does not think this is someone that knows them. When he landed, there was a voice mail from Christine and she said they wanted $250,000 but she had to promise no cops. When Amaro says it is not a good idea for Boyd to handle this on his own, Boyd forcefully says if they see cops, they will kill her. He says he has not slept in 20 hours and his head is exploding. Benson says they have to let them handle this and it is the best chance of getting his wife back.
Later, all the detectives are in Cragen’s office and listen to a voice message from Christine saying to leave the money in Madison’s back pack in the park at 6 AM tomorrow. She reminds them no cops or they will kill her and Madison and they know everything about them. Rollins says they are on the move with both calls and the calls are bouncing off towers in various locations; there is no more tracking as the batteries were removed from the phone after the call to Boyd. There were two other calls made from that phone to a unnamed cell phone and Fin explains they are tracking that now. Amaro says Boyd seems genuinely traumatized, and Cragen tells them to let him go home to sleep and to see his daughter but Cragen wants a uni on him. Benson does not think Boyd is in on this, but Cragen says Boyd ran from them once, he will do it again. Rollins confirms TARU has the traps on his phones. Cragen says to hope somebody shows up at the drop location tomorrow. Amaro sees his wife walk into the office and then moans “Oh man” and when Benson asks what, he adds “Valentine’s… dinner…and I forgot.”
Amaro walks out of the interview room to meet his wife and she asks if he forgot about dinner. He says no, gives her a peck on the cheek and adds she looks beautiful. He says he got jammed up, and she smiles, saying she’s been home for a week and he’s already taking her for granted. He laughs and says never, but asks for a minute. As he walks off, she looks around the squad room and sighs.
Later, at Chelsea Waterside Park, the money is in the backpack as all four detectives watch the area. A woman walks into the park and they close in on her as he reaches for the backpack. She runs and they apprehend her, and find it is Christine, who says they are watching and they will kill her, saying it is three black men. She cries and begs to let her give them the money. Benson looks at Amaro with a hint of disbelief.
Back at home, Christine outlines the attack to Benson, saying them men took turns, sometimes two at a time, sometimes all three, they made her do things to them. Benson asks for more details on her attacker but she is reluctant. She doesn’t think she has seen them before. Meanwhile, in another room, Amaro speaks with Boyd who explains he wants to kill the men that did this to her. Amaro says he gets that. He asks if there is anyone in his life that matches the description. He only knows a few black guys from the gym and his orthopedist. Christine tells Benson two of them had shaved heads and one had dreads and was stocky. The man who assaulted her in her home had a mask. Benson said they found a robe on the kitchen floor and asked if they let her get dressed, and Christine explains the man watched her and told her what to wear. They forced her out the back door, and there was a van and they pushed her in. They parked somewhere, she did not know if it was day or night. They said she was a rich bitch and she deserved it.
Meanwhile, Amaro asks Boyd to tell him about Justin Geld. Boyd says he is his partner and his friend – and Christine’s friend. When Amaro asks if Boyd knew Justin had lunch with Christine when Boyd was out of town, Boyd doesn’t seem to know and says he is sure Christine must have told him. Amaro explains that sometimes attacks like this are for revenge, and Boyd asks Amaro if he thinks he brought this on himself. When Boyd says he’s done things he is not proud of, Amaro asks if there is anything Boyd wants to tell him about. Boyd is clearly upset about the whole thing. Benson walks in and tells Boyd his wife is asking for him. Boyd runs off.
Afterwards, and Benson and Amaro walk down the staircase, Benson comments that most rape victims shut down, but not Christine. Benson says three black men in a van, maybe, or she doesn’t want them to know who did this to her.
Back at SVU, Rollins tells Fin that the no name cell that Christine called had other calls from Wall Street guys ordering deliveries from a health food store. Fin suggests they find out what kind of protein powder they are talking about.
At Rise Up Health Food, Fin and Rollins speak with Darel, a black guy with dreads, who is working behind the counter. When Rollins asks how he knows Christine Hartwell, he bolts. But Fin catches up with him and slams him against a shelf. Rollins asks why he ran, but he claims he does not know any Christine. As Fin cuffs him, Fin comments that he thought wheat grass made him smarter.
In SVU interrogation, Darel says on Monday night he was at a Rangers game with his girlfriend. When Rollins asks why Christine called him, he says maybe he should take the Fifth, When Fin reminds him he is on the hook for rape and kidnap and he need to help himself out and if he is just her dealer they don’t care about that. Darel says Christine wanted the usual drugs, saying that these white housewives are cracked out. After Christine called her, she sent a delivery guy to his store, a white guy with boots and short pants, adding that it is winter and asking what is up with that.
Later, in the SVU interview room, Benson and Amaro show Christine the photo of Darel and she does not know why that is. Benson says Darel said he is her drug dealer and that Christine has called this number before and adds there was cocaine and ecstasy in her system. As Christine looks more uncomfortable, Amaro says they have the rape kit results, and there is evidence she did suffer a sexual assault, but the DNA says her rapist was a lone, white male. When Christine only shakes her head and does not answer, Benson tells her to think very carefully about what she is going to say next. Christine pauses and takes a breath, then says he made her call. He wanted her amped up and he hit her with a gun. Benson asks who is he, and she says he has been stalking her and he said he had friends who would hurt her. Benson reassures her they won’t let anyone hurt her, but she has to tell them who he is.
Elsewhere, as Kevin Fahey, wearing shorts and boots, is loading a delivery van, is arrested by Fin and Rollins for rape and kidnapping.
In interrogation with Fin and Rollins, Kevin is surprised Christine said he raped her, and says that is not what happened. Rollins says they matched his DNA from the crime scene. Kevin says Christine told him to pretend to rape her. Rollins counters back asking if roughing her up was part of the plan too, adding that they know about his record. Kevin insists that she wanted it and thinks she got off on it a little bit. He claims they are in a relationship and it has been going on for 6 months. Fin asks if she like guys in green shorts. Kevin says yeah, the first time he made a delivery she answered the door in her yoga outfit and they hit it off right away. She asked him if he wanted a vitamin water, he came in, she started kissing him, then she pulled off her black pants and as he begins to describe the encounter in detail, Rollins tells him “Easy, you’re here on a rape charge.” Kevin says that was her game, she would answer the door in a towel or lingerie. Rollins says she got it, he is living the penthouse dream and asks why involve her husband. He says that part was a bad idea. They were supposed to go away for Valentine’s Day but her husband was coming home early and she was pretty upset. They had a plan, he would pretend to rape her and kidnap her but it was just about them being together. She brought up the money. He has no proof, they only talked when they made deliveries. He insists she set the whole thing up and it was supposed to be their "screwcation", adding she had a place set up, a cool loft in SoHo.
In the interview room, Christine asks why they are accusing her. Benson says there are just some inconsistencies in her story. Christine says he held a gun on her. She is not sure when she met Kevin, saying it may have been a few months ago, asking who remembers delivery men? She says she never had sex with him before. Benson sternly tells her to sit down, while Cragen, Rollins, and Fin observe the questioning. Benson says Kevin told them it was Christine who said where to take her. She says that is a lie, that she has never seen that place before in her life. When Benson asks what happened at the loft, Christine says they already went over this, but Benson whispers to tell her again. Christine says they had sex, everywhere, in the bed, on the floor, sometimes he is gentle or slaps her and calls her a bitch, makes her get on all fours. When Benson asks what was going through her head, Christine says she shut down, and then did what he told her to. He wanted drugs, she got drugs; if he wanted sex she gave it to him and if he wanted her to suck on his gun she did that too, on her knees, begging for her life. Benson glares at her silently and Christine gets more agitated, asking Benson “Don’t you get it?” Benson organizes her papers and says okay, she understands.
Meanwhile, Boyd sits with Amaro is looking at the photos of the scene and Christine approaches and tells him she can’t do this anymore. Boyd tells them he is taking her wife home, and as they leave, Benson tells Christine they will be in touch. Cragen approaches with Fin and Rollins and Benson explains that Christine was tired and she did not want her to lawyer up. Cragen agrees, adding there is still a chance she could be a victim. Rollins thinks she is lying. She is using present tense and mixing tenses. Fin adds it is like she is making it up as she goes along and she is trying to convince them. Benson says Christine said they had sex when she talked about what the rapist did to her and no real victim describes rape as that. Amaro says Boyd thinks there is nothing wrong with the marriage that blue box and thigh highs can’t fix. Fin says it is easier than couples counseling. Amaro gets a message on his phone. Cragen is aware that Kevin has a record but wonders if Kevin is just per patsy. Amaro says he can see her playing him, and then tells them he has something interesting, the owner of the loft, Mango LLC, is a front owned b Justin Geld, Boyd’s business partner. Cragen instructs Fin and Rollins to talk to Justin.
Later, with Justin, Rollins asks him if he knows the ransom asked for Christine is the same he owed for the SEC fines. He says no, and when Fin shows him the photo of Kevin, he says he has never seen him in his life. Rollins says his partner’s wife was raped there in his “F” pad and the amount of ransom could mean he is the one who set this up. He says off the record, Christine has been there before, a few time, and she knows the code. When Rollins asks of he can prove that, he says that is the whole purpose of an F pad, it’s discreet, no doorman, all cash. She knew the loft would be empty for Valentine’s day. They discussed Boyd at lunch and told her he knew Boyd was coming home early and she should act surprised when he told her. Fin says it’s a good story, too bad he can’t prove any of it. Justin replies that maybe he can, he has a motion activated camera over the bed and Christine does not know about it, he turns it off when she is there. When Fin comments about banging his partner’s wife, Justin says that can come back and bite you in the ass.
Back at SVU, Cragen and all the detectives watch the video of Christine and Kevin. Clearly Christine is the aggressor. Cragen comments that he is going to go out on a limb and say the jury will have a hard time seeing this as coerced. He looks at Benson and she is speechless.
Later, they show the video to Boyd, who heard Christine say not to worry about her husband. She also asked Kevin if he has another package for him. Boyd closes the laptop and tells Amaro that Kevin must have made her do and say those things. Boyd knows what he saw but he saw him brutalize her in his own home. Amaro acknowledges that must have been traumatic but says they believe she is complicit n this Boyd is in denial, saying she did it because she had to.
In interrogation, Christine insists that Kevin made her do those things. Benson says she has been doing this for a while, and to tell her what actually happened. Christine says he made her act like she liked it and she was not aware she was being taped. Benson bluntly replies it seemed pretty clear. When Christine says she was terrorized for two days, Benson shouts at her to just stop, but Marvin Exley quickly enters the room and tells Benson to stop browbeating his client. Benson tells him he is going to earn his paycheck on this one.
Benson walks out of the room to see Cragen and ADA Novak standing at the observation window. Novak moans that as if this case wasn’t bad enough, Boyd brings in Marvin Exley. Cragen says he can afford Exley and Christine is pathological. Benson says they can’t let her get away with it, every time a false accusation is made it makes it harder for the real victims. Novak suggests to cut a deal with Kevin and plead him down to second degree coercion. Benson thinks he’d be more than happy to testify. Novak says they will charge Christine with coercion, obstruction, and filing a false report. Novak adds that what scares her with cases like this is there is always another shoe.
Elsewhere, Amaro is out with his wife walking out of a shop with large cups of coffee. She seems surprised that after 10 years Boyd has no idea. Amaro says he thinks Boyd wants to believe it. She says he doesn’t want to know. Amaro asks how she is doing, saying she has been a little quiet since she’s been home. She comments it is two different worlds, her body is here but she is not sure she is yet. Amaro says that can take some time and reminds her that he is here.
In Superior Court, the jury watches the video taken from Justin’s loft. Christine, dressed in conservative clothing, looks embarrassed. Novak has Kevin on the stand, and he explains that they were having consensual sex and it was not the first time. He explains they began the relationship 6 months ago and had oral sex every time he made a delivery, they would play games and role play and it got kinky. He explains on February 13 her husband was in Hong Kong and they were going to shack up for a few days but she found out he was coming home early and she came up with this plan. She wanted him to pretend to rape her which he did. She timed it so she would be video chatting with him when he “kidnapped” her as she wanted him to see the whole thing. He did not know about the ransom and he freaked, but she told him it made her hotter when he hit her. Novak cuts him off and asks him about the conviction on his record. He explains when he was 19 he committed an armed robbery, and he served his time and deeply regrets his actions.
Exley cross examines Kevin and Kevin says he lives on Staten Island with his mother and has got his GED in prison. His last serious relationship was with Christine, but he has no proof. He says when she wanted to see him she put in an order. Exley outlines what Kevin says Christine did, and he says that is pretty much what she did. Exley counters that strains credulity. When Kevin doesn’t seem to understand the word, Exley explains that means he finds it hard to believe. Novak asks if there is a question here, but gets no answer. Exley asks if Kevin’s friends or coworkers knew about this relationship, and Kevin says no. When Exley says the only people he told were the police when they arrested him, Kevin replies Exley is twisting things. Exley asks if when the detectives interrogated him they told him he was looking at 25 years to life in prison, Kevin says it came up. When Exley asks now in exchange for his pornography-fueled fantasy – and Novak leaps up and objects and the judge sustains. Exley rephrases that in exchange for his testimony against his client was Kevin allowed to plead to a misdemeanor and serve fewer than 6 months, Kevin says yes. When Exley says Kevin cut a good deal, Kevin says he is not making this up, and when he tries to explain, Exley tried to cut him off. But Kevin manages to get in that Christine told him not to say anything because the guy before started to brag. Novak looks surprised as Kevin goes on that she stopped getting deliveries from the company that uses the service, Exley objects, saying he was never given notice of that testimony and the looks at Novak. The judge sustains his objection, telling the jury to disregard Kevin’s last comment.
Later, as Christine leaves the courtroom with Exley and Boyd, she says Kevin is lying and he is making it up. Exley says if there is anything in her past that can hurt them, but Boyd interrupts and says she told him everything. Exley turns to Boyd and says he needs time with his wife. She sends Boyd for cigarettes. Nearby, Novak asks Benson and Fin about the other delivery man, and Benson says he is out there, Fin adding they will find him.
Exley demands Christine tell him his name, NOW. She says Brad, something with an H from PHX Deliveries but insists nothing happened. He asked why she stopped using that company, and she explains their neighbors said he was gossiping about her. A juror walks out of the court room and glances over to Christine and she looks back at him. As Exley continues to talk, Novak notices the looks between Christine and the juror. Christine says she has to use the bathroom and walks off, following the juror Novak approaches Exley and says she was not sandbagging him, she had no idea that was coming. Exley says he loves cases like this because there is always another shoe.
In the stairwell, Christine meets up with the juror who is smoking a cigarette. She comments that she did not know one could smoke in there, and he replies he doesn’t think one can. She asks him for an extra and he lights it up for her.
Elsewhere, Benson and Fin approach deliveryman Brad Hayes and ask if he knows Christine Hartwell. He does.
Later, in Superior Court, Christine is on the stand saying what is not on the tape is what he said and did to her just before. He held a gun on her and said he would kill her and her family if she did not do what he wanted. He points out Kevin as the attacker. She explains she was terrified for her family. She says before this attack she only knew him from delivering packages, and there was no relationship. She says he never invited him into her home. She says she is a polite person and if he misconstrued…and as Exley says she has nothing to blame herself for, Novak asks if there is a question here. The judge tells Exley to keep it moving. Benson and Fin walk into the courtroom. Exley says earlier they heard Brad Hayes' testimony who said he had some sort of relationship with her. She has no idea why he said that, saying she barely remembers him, saying she had no relationship with him. She says two years ago her daughter was home all day with her daughter and the nanny and housekeeper and was never alone. She was busy taking care of her family.
Novak cross examines and recaps that Christine says she was kidnapped at gunpoint by three black men, and Christine says no. Novak sarcastically apologizes, saying that was Christine’s original report to the police and that she later says that her big green delivery man attacked her and took her to her husband’s business partner’s hideaway, a loft she claims she has never seen before and was raped there and called for her own ransom. Christine insists that is what happened and asks if she was making up a story, why tell that one. Novak comments, “Indeed, why would you?” Novak holds up a photo of Brad Hayes and says this was a man that Christine claims she barely recognized. Novak brings into evidence Brad’s PHX delivery schedule for the 9 months he was on the Hartwell’s route, and the average time between signatures in her neighborhood is 12 minutes but for her delivery and the next was 40 minutes. Novak asks if she can explain that. Christine wonders if he went for lunch. Novak sarcastically says sure, then adds the average number of deliveries to her home is 4 a week, same as Kevin Fahey, for 9 months. Novak adds suddenly she stopped ordering from companies that use PHX and asks why. Christine replies that he heard she was making rude comments about her. When Novak being sup Kevin’s testimony, Christine says he is lying, but Novak reminds her about Justin Geld testifying they had sex in his loft. Christine says yes, and also says Brad is lying too. Novak asks if the videotape was lying too. Christine gets tearful and looks to the jury and says because she is fortunate enough to have a wonderful family and comfortable home, some people see her as privileged and think she is self centered and take things for granted but that could not be further from the truth. She insists what they see on that tape is her fighting for her life and the only thing going through her mind is will she ever see her family again. She did what she had to do to survive. Novak has nothing further.
Later, back in court, the jury foreperson says they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Novak looks over to the juror that she previously saw share a glace with Christine. The judge does not accept it and orders them to continue to deliberate. Novak looks over to Christine who is now looking at the juror. Novak asks for a sidebar and tells the judge she witnessed eye contact with a juror and Christine both inside and outside the courtroom. Exley argues against it but the judge says she will question the juror.
In chambers, the juror says he may have passed Christine in the hallway or stairs but insists there has been no other contact, adding he is a happily married man. She thanks him and tells him he is dismissed. Exley asks Novak if he has any other tricks and she tells him she knows what she saw. Judge Barth says unless Novak has evidence, she is not going to dismiss the juror.
Later, the foreperson again says they are deadlocked. The judge declares a mistrial. Novak stares silently and Benson looks shocked. As Christine hugs Boyd, Benson and Amaro watch in disbelief.
As Boyd walks out of the courtroom with Christine, Novak tells Benson and Amaro that this case was a dog from the get. Benson urges her to try it again as she thinks Christine is guilty. Novak replies she will do her best but does not think the bosses will let it go to retrial. As the foreperson leaves the courtroom, Amaro asks her if she minds telling them what went on in there. She says it was 11 to 1 guilty, except for one juror who said he looked in her eyes and knew she was telling the truth. Benson and Amaro turn to see Boyd talking to the media about his belief in his wife, saying she has been to hell and back, adding she was raped again by the state and forced to suffer through a travesty of a trial. Christine looks on sadly as Boyd says she is the bravest woman that she knows. She stares past the reporters to Benson, who looks as Christine with disdain. Benson walks away, leaving Amaro standing alone.
Later, Amaro’s wife walks down a street to a brownstone. She opens the gate and climbs the steps and knocks on the front door and looks around. A man answers and ushers her inside. Amaro sees all of this from inside his parked car, through the driver’s side view mirror. He takes a deep breath, then sadly looks off as we fade to black.
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