Law & Order SVU celebrated its 300th episode with a story that brought three members of the SVU squad back to an old 1999 child abduction case, one where Benson wasn’t convinced of the conclusions made at the time. When a current day child abduction brings her back to the same neighborhood as in the 1999 case, Benson’s spider senses turn on and she tries to make a connection. It isn’t until a wannabe cop surfaces, who has been following this case and many other child abductions, that the SVU squad is able to solve both the old and the new case and find both missing boys, one long dead and the other very much alive. Clips from previous episodes were used to help Benson and Munch flash back to the first case. There wasn’t an actual episode (at least none that I can find) which covered this initial missing child case, so some of the old clips appeared to be updated to weave new details into the flashback to fit them into the current story. The episode also featured a few actors from the pilot episode (“Payback”) and was directed by the same director - Jean deSegonzac.
This episode was excellent and brought me back to the fast paced style of SVU in its earlier days. While the current day kidnapping was shown, the opening didn’t reflect any obvious tip offs to the person involved in the crime, which, in my opinion, brings far more mystery to the story. The writers did an excellent job in creating a solid diversion in Steve Lomatin, who normally would fit the description of the perfect guilty party. Even though it was announced far in advance that Tom Sizemore was in this episode, and he was shown in preview clips and photos which made him the likely perp, I felt that the episode maintained plenty of dramatic tension leading up to his capture.
I know that some may have been amused at Amaro’s comments about cold cases, but I found it to be slightly jarring and out of place. I don’t want to be reminded that Danny Pino starred in CBS’s series “Cold Case,” especially not in an episode that should focus on those people that brought SVU through these 14 seasons. I don’t mean to open old wounds, but I wondered why they couldn’t even throw a bone to fans and mention Stabler’s involvement in that earlier case (assuming he would have had one), considering that Chris Meloni meant so much to SVU fans for the many seasons he was with the series.
I’ve already been asked who performed the opening and closing song – it was Norah Jones and the song is titled “Waiting.”
I certainly hope that Law & Order SVU continues on for many more seasons so come. This episode proves the series has plenty of stories yet to tell.
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
Tom Sizemore – Lewis Hodda
Hamish Linklater – David Morris
Mili Avital - Laurie Colfax
Alex Korpovsky – Steve Lomatin
Sue Kim - Detective Emily Ling
Madison McKinley - Claire
Chris Orbach – Duty Captain Briscoe
Ramsey Faragallah - Rudy Singh
Gordana Rashovich – Mrs. Lomatin
Sue Kin – Detective Emily Ling
Liza Colon-Zayas - Delores Hernandez
Luke Fava – Wyatt Morris
Jenna Wolf - Herself
Back in 1999, Delores Hernandez and Officer Lomatin put up signs for her missing son, Hector Hernandez. In 2000, the wall where she placed one of the posters now has a memorial and the wall is painted with Hector’s image and message that they will never forget him, and Mrs. Hernandez prays there. In 2006, life continues in the area, the wall being covered in spots with graffiti. David & Laurie Morris walk by the wall with their son Wyatt in a baby carriage. In 2009, The Morris’ walk by the same wall as Wyatt walks in front of them on a scooter. They both look unhappy and David walks away from both of them. In 2012, David walks past the wall; he is on the phone telling the caller he can’t talk right now, he is late for his son.
He arrives at his wife’s apartment and it is clear they are divorced. Laurie gets Wyatt ready to go out with his father and gives him a cell phone with their number on speed dial. As David and Wyatt walk past the wall, Wyatt asks when he is coming home. He avoids answering and suggests a treat. In the subway station heading to the Yankees game, they run for the train and Wyatt runs ahead, someone taps David on the shoulder and points downward where a $20 bill appears to have fallen. When David moves to pick it up, the man who tapped him on the shoulder pulls Wyatt onto the train. As the train pulls away, David screams for his son, then runs up the stairway to make a call. He screams that his son has been taken.
Later, Benson and Amaro arrive on the scene, Captain Cragen is already there. Cragen explains the abduction and says transit is stopping all the trains on that line en route to the game. David Morris is from the Morris Brother’s real estate family. Benson comments that they own half of the west side. No ransom demands. Benson looks around and recognizes the neighborhood and says that it has changed. She flashes back to a previous case where she recalls a young Mrs. Hernandez putting the missing child photo in her window and of herself pulling the same paper out of her pocket. Cragen’s voice calls her back to the present, and he asks if she is with them. She explains that the neighborhood is where Hector Rodriguez, a Dominican kid was from and he was the exact same age. Cragen explains to Amaro that it was a missing kid from 1999 and the dad took the son back to the DR in 1999. Benson says they don’t know that, adding that the mother never saw her son again. Amaro reminds her that this kid is missing now.
Later, Fin and Rollins are also on the scene. There is no sign of the boy and Cragen tells them to continue searching the trains. Amaro tells Cragen that the father wants to go uptown to continue the search, but Cragen tells Benson and Amaro to talk to both parents here. He adds that whatever went on between the two of them to get over it, they don’t have time. David and Laurie Morris meet up and begin to argue. Amaro takes David aside and Benson speaks with Laurie, who says her last name is Colfax. She asks where is Wyatt and Benson explains they are trying to figure that out now. Amaro speaks with David, and David describes the man who tapped on the shoulder as white, in his 40s with a cap and glasses, saying he is bad at faces.
Meanwhile, Benson speaks with Laurie and asks if David has visitation on Sunday. Laurie says he was supposed to be there at 9 and he was his usual 2 hours late. Benson questions that if he sees Wyatt only one day a week, does that make David upset; Laurie is rattled and says he is always upset, everything about him is a negotiation. Benson comments that her husband’s family is very wealthy and has she noticed anyone suspicious trying to talk to Wyatt or following her – anything like that. Laurie says no and asks if Benson thinks this is about ransom, adding they will pay or post a reward. Benson advises her to hold off on that as it will only bring out con artists and if someone wants to get in touch with her they will. Laurie wonders what will happen if nobody calls, and Benson replies they will cross that bridge when they get to it. Laurie has a sudden realization of what else may have happened, and she begins to collapse. Benson catches her and tells her to stay focused, David walks up to try to help her and Amaro moves him away. Laurie, now very distraught, begs Benson to find her son, and Benson says they will do the best they can. Laurie latches on to Benson and begs her again to find her son as she buries her head into Benson’s shoulder and sobs.
Later, at SVU, David explains to Benson and Amaro that he didn’t tell them because he didn’t think it mattered. They went to a pastry shop, he wanted Wyatt to have a fun day as the divorce has been hard on him. Benson asks if anyone can confirm that, and he admits the hostess can, he is seeing her and she used to baby sit for Wyatt. He didn’t want Laurie to know that.
At My Dear Lady Ann Bakery, David’s girlfriend says she thinks she saw them, and Rollins calls her honey and says they know she is involved with David. She asks Rollins if Laurie knows, and Fin answers that’s on her. He asks if they were here, and she motions an affirmative and says they were eating muffins and Wyatt had skim milk. Fin asks if she and the dad ever went anywhere private, and maybe leave the boy alone, and she says no. Rollins questions if she noticed anyone looking at Wyatt with dark sunglasses or a baseball cap. She says the place is full of dads like that, it’s playoffs. Fin comments the guy would have been by himself. She says there was one, he ordered tea in a glass, got up when they did and left $2.
Back at SVU, Fin shows them a video they got from a boutique near the café. Rollins says there is not enough of an image of the man for facial recognition software. She adds TARU is still checking other cameras in the area. Munch says 3 hours in an no ransom demand, saying the guy is a predator. He asks Benson if she is getting déjà vu and Fin says don’t have her start up again. Benson says it is the same neighborhood; hector disappeared on a bus, Wyatt on a subway. Cragen reminds them it has been 13 years and two different worlds; Hector came from working class family. Munch comments that is why they had a tenth of the resources to find him. Amaro asks is Hector was taken off a bus, and Benson says a witness said she thought that she saw him 3 hours later with his hair dyed blonde. Cragen says the father changed the boy’s appearance to get him out of the country, and emphasizes that Hector’s case is closed. He reminds them they have a lead on Wyatt and to follow it up.
Later, at Laurie’s home, David looks at the photo and says that could be him but he didn’t notice anybody from the pastry shop. Laurie argues Wyatt already had breakfast and asks what he was doing there. He walks away from her and Benson says the man may have followed them and knew the family’s routine. She angrily says she hasn’t seen anyone follow them and she is with him all the time except for schools and Sundays. When Amaro comments that Sunday is David’s day, he says he hasn’t noticed anybody. Laurie shouts that he wouldn’t and that the neighbors are pissed at him and he is clueless. Benson tries to calm them and Amaro asks pissed off about what? Laurie says it is his building renovations to condos and when he goes to community board meeting they want to kill him. David shouts back that it is Morningside Heights and these people act like the 60s never ended. Amaro asks to look at the photo again and if he saw the guy at a community board meeting. David says he doesn’t see anybody at the meetings, he tunes them out. As Amaro gets a call, Benson harps on David about tuning out a room full of people that he is pricing them out of their own homes. David says if he lets them control the agenda, nothing gets built and the neighborhood would still be a slum. Amaro calls to Benson and Laurie anxiously asks what is it?
At a small convenience store, Rollins and Fin question the shop owner, saying someone saw Wyatt come out of the store. He denies seeing them. Fin says they just found Wyatt’s cell phone in the dumpster outside, and threatens to shut the store down, and Munch tells him to think again. The store owner recalls the man had glasses, a cap, black hair. When his son acted up he bought him candy. and he bought blonde hair dye. Munch tells him to get somebody to watch the store, they will need him to come down to the station to meet with a sketch artist. Rollins wonders if they are looking at a Hector Rodriguez copycat, and Munch explains that the blonde hair dye was not release to the press. Fin tells Munch not to waste his time with “I told you so.”
At SVU, Munch looks through the files for Hector and flashes back to telling Cragen that he closes his eyes and sees Hector’s face. Cragen tells him to go home. Munch says he has two more tapes to watch. Cragen’s voice calls him back to reality, and the rest of the team is discussing whether there were any other cases where a kid’s hair was dyed blonde. Benson brings up Hector and Cragen says he does not want to chase ghosts, Rollins shows them security footage from old tunnels beneath Columbia University near the store and Amaro sees the boy’s hair has been dyed blonde. It is the last sighting. Rollins says there are no leads from the tip line and nothing from the other boroughs or the FBI. Munch says they have to take another look at Hector Rodriguez. He pins the missing child sign of Hector’s up next to Wyatt’s. Benson flashes back to Hector’s case, with her pinning the same sign up on the board. Back in the present, Benson tells Cragen that Munch is right, they could have been wrong 13 years ago. Cragen tells them to focus here. Amaro asks if anyone has been in touch with Hector’s family, and Benson explains she has spoken to the mother a few times and she still lives up in the neighborhood. When Munch offers to go up there with her, Cragen tells Munch to stay there and go through the files, and tells Benson to take Amaro for fresh eyes.
While they walk outside, Amaro tells Benson he gets the sense that Cragen wants him partnering up again. Benson wonders if Cragen just wants things the way they were, and asks Amaro if he is OK with that. He says yeah, he has enough separations in his life. They walk up to the building wall where the tribute o Hector was painted, and Amaro asks Benson if she and Munch were partners on Hector’s case. Benson said everyone in the squad jumped in; she did not think Hector’s father took him but she was a newbie back then so she let herself get stampeded. As Benson stops and looks up at the sign in Hector’s mother’s window, she explains Hector’s mother couldn’t move as she still thinks he might come home.
In Delores Rodriguez’ apartment, she asks Benson to read a letter Hector wrote long ago, saying she wanted to remind Benson who Hector was and he is a good boy. Amaro asks about the custody dispute, which she said it was a religious issue. She does not think he took her, she is in touch with his family and insists somebody else does. She is upset this is about the missing rich boy, and Amaro asks if she recognizes the man. She does not. She thinks they came here to torture her, and asks if they know how many people she gets letters from saying they’ve seen Hector, including psychics. Benson asks to look at the letters and said she threw them all out, except the ones she sent to Benson says she never got any letter. Delores recalls he told her to send it to cold case, the letter writer said he was a cop. He did not sign his name but said to keep pressuring his bosses or it would happen again. She got it on Hector’s 13th birthday, adding that cold case gave up, just like they did.
Later, Munch and Amaro are at the cold case files. When the detective working there says she would love to get to their unit and see some live bodies for a change. Amaro says there is something to be said for working cold case, the job doesn’t haunt you the same way. She says it haunts you in a different way. She gives them the letter and Munch and Amaro read it back, saying the guy sounds like a crazy. The detective explains they traced a fingerprint back to an auxiliary cop who said he was off his meds. Munch recognizes the name Steven Lomatin, saying he was on Hector’s search team, calling him a bed bug. Munch said he questioned him, calling him a real Boo Radley who didn’t have it in him. Munch guesses he is out looking for Wyatt, trying to be the hero.
At Morningside Park, Benson and Rollins approach Lomatin, who says he found a cap right next to the tree which could be the one Wyatt was wearing. Rollins says it is a nice catch but Benson looks suspicious. Rollins asks if he can come in and help them out. He asks the other officers there if they have this, and then says “Ladies, I’m all yours.” He offers to drive them to the precinct,.
Munch walks in to see Officer Lomatin and tells him long time no see. Lomatin appears apprehensive and asks Munch what he is doing here. Munch walks up to him and says he was about to ask him the same thing. As Lomatin walks away from Munch as Munch continues to move closer, Lomatin asks Munch “like last time?” adding that Munch treated him like a skell instead of a cop. He says it has happened again, just like he said it would. Munch tells him that every time someone goes missing in Morningside Heights, he is Johnny on the spot. Lomatin explains he is here to help, and Munch can’t talk to him like this. He says he is going back up there. Cragen walks into the room and asks Munch what he is doing here. Munch asks what he means, and Cragen apologizes to Officer Lomatin, saying the Sergeant isn’t running this investigation, adding that Benson and Rollins are. Munch pulls away and Benson and Rollins step into the office. Cragen tells Lomatin that he appreciates his assistance and barks an order to Munch to get into his office, NOW. He thanks Cragen and asks Benson and Rollins if Munch is a Sergeant now and comments they won’t let me on the job? Rollins tells him that finding the cap was nice work, the other officers walked right by it. He replies that’s just the way it is, you’d be looking at something and not see it until someone else comes along. Benson tells him they should have listened to him 13 years ago, and he says, “They? You were there. I remember.” Rollins looks at Benson and then tells him that she wasn’t. She asks “Steven” to talk to her, and he corrects her that it is Steve. He says these cases are all connected. Benson questions if he means Wyatt and Hector. He shakes his head and tells her she does not get it. He looks at Rollins and says she gets it, he can show her, it is all in his archive.
At Lomatin’s home - he lives with his mother – he brings Rollins and Fin into his room in the attic where he has amassed years of files on many missing children. Fin asks is this is a museum of lost boys. Lomatin tells Fin he doesn’t get it, but Rollins does and she sees what is going on. She says yeah, she thinks she does.
Later, with CSU on the scene, Rollins speaks with Lomatin, asking him to walk him through Hector’s case and asks about the blonde hair. He admits he bought the same dye to try to figure out where it came from. He got no leads, it was a common brand. The same thing for all the sunglasses he had. Rollins asks about the other pictures in his room, and Lomatin explains he has 7 unsolved disappearances over 13 years in 3 counties; 4 of the boys ages 6-9 were taken by men wearing a disguise. She says he is on to a large pattern here.
Meanwhile, Fin is on the phone talking to Cragen about all the things they found in the home and asks Cragen to see if anyone IDs him.
Benson shows Lomatin’s photo to Delores Hernandez who recognizes him from the neighborhood, Lomatin and Hector were friends. There were no real policemen walking the beat there and she told Hector if he got in trouble to go to Officer Lomatin. Benson tells her Lomatin was the one who sent her the letter 7 years ago. Delores says she is wrong, why would he send a letter when they never lost touch? He lights a candle at Hector’s memorial every year and he never gave up on finding him. Benson says she just wishes she would have told her about Lomatin being so helpful, Delores asks why, because he kept looking when Benson stopped?
At the Morris apartment, Amaro shows David the photo of Lomatin and David says he does not think so. But Laurie recognizes him, calling him a pretend cop from the playground. She is upset with David because he bent down to pick up a $20 and they begin to shout at each other. Benson pulls Laurie away and says that is enough. He says he knows where they are but they need to get past it. David and Laurie embrace and David apologizes. David asks Amaro to just bring Wyatt back to them.
Back in Lomatin’s attic, he outlines to Rollins a similarity with other cases and there were fires in the immediate areas within days of the abduction, thinking the abductors set fires to the building to get rid of the bodies. He thinks if they don’t find Wyatt soon another building will burn down, Rollins says this is good and wants to show her captain all his work, but then asks where he was today. Lomatin says he will tell her and she can verify it but she can’t tell anybody. She agrees.
Back at SVU, Cragen comments to Fin that Lomatin’s alibi is legit, and Fin confirms that the drug store has video of him at the same time Wyatt was taken. Cragen wonders why he wouldn’t tell them that right off the bat, and Amaro says he was picking up prescriptions for an antidepressant, anti anxiety and anti psychotic and was afraid it would kill his chances of making NYPD. Cragen says “good luck with that.” Fin adds that an hour later he was back at the drugstore picking up a child’s size baseball cap – the one he found on the street. The girl remembers because he paid in change. Cragen says so all of this is just the obsessive scrawl of a "wanna-be" hero taking anti psychotics. Rollins thinks maybe not, just because he’s crazy doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Munch says there does seem to be a connection between the missing kids and the arson and Lomatin may have been on to something, Amaro does not see a pattern, he sees chaos. Munch says some are right, but Benson says not Morningside Heights, the fire was 3 days before Hector disappeared, she remembers because they were always walking by the burned out lot. Rollins checks nearby building records and found that 4 days later a building claimed water damage from that fire, they got a rush permit for concrete work in their basement. They all seem stunned. Cragen tells them he will call the DA and get an emergency order to crack the slab.
Later, the floor is being jack hammered in the building and they find something.
Afterwards, Benson and Amaro arrive at Delores’ apartment and show her the photo of the backpack that was found. She realizes Hector is dead and she sobs.
Back at SVU, Benson explains that ME Warner looked at the dental records and the dyed hair and the finally found Hector. Munch comments that all these years they blamed his father. Benson says Warner found a fractured hyoid bone – he was strangled. Cragen asks if there are any leads on who poured the slab, and Rollins explains that in 99 the building belong to an overseas holding company and they sold the properly to another LLC, and they sold to Morningside LLC who acquired 3 adjacent parcels on the block. Benson said that block was all SRO hotels and tenements, which were emptied and converted to condos. Munch says these are all fronts, the buyer does not want anyone to know the block is in play. Morningside is another LLC but the condo managing agents are Sam and Frank Morris – David’s father and uncle. Munch said Lomatin was right, there are no coincidences.
Back at the Morris household, Benson and Rollins update Laurie and David. David thinks Hector’s body in the building has to be a coincidence and wants to know what this has to do with Wyatt. Amaro asks who put the floor in, and David wasn’t in the business then. As David’s father is gone, Benson says they need him to track it down,
Later, David looks into his father’s paper files and finds that the managing agent on that building was an L. Hodda. He recalls a meeting with a Lewis Hodda 4 months ago who was having money problems and said David’s father owed him. He was a troubleshooter – rent strikes, illegal tenants, drug dealers. His dad hired some rough characters. Hodda complained about a basement apartment he had on one of his father’s old buildings.
The police break down the door to Hodda’ apartment and rush in. They find Lewis Hodda in bed and pull him out and shove him against the wall. Fin and Rollins ask him where is the boy. When Lewis says nobody is here, Rollins calls out Wyatt’s name and begins to look around. Fin says they are looking for a missing 7 year old boy named Wyatt Morris and asks where is he? Lewis says he never heard of him. Fin holds up the missing child sign and asks if maybe this will jar his memory, Lewis worked for his grandfather. Lewis shakes his head no and Rollins says Wyatt is not here. Fin asks what Lewis did with the boy. When Lewis does not respond Fin asks again, yelling, what Lewis did with the boy. Lewis tells him to get out, they have nothing. Rollins holds up pill bottles and says they have a little something here, saying they are prescriptions for Vicodin and Oxycodone for an Amy Rosenthal and that is good enough for her. Lewis chuckles and asks if they bust his door down for a couple lousy bootleg scripts. Fin says now he is talking, and tells the other cops to get his ass out of here.
Back at SVU, Cragen asks the detectives is Lewis Hodda is their guy. Fin says the waitress at the pastry shop picked him out of a flipbook. Benson says the witnesses from the convenience store and the subway are shaky. Cragen asks about Hodda being the troubleshooter and Amaro informs them he called the precinct and Hodda was questioned 4 times in the 90s by marshals investigating arsons on SRO and tenements. Rollins found two police contacts for Hodda in the NCIC offline database, he was questioned twice near playgrounds in Brooklyn and Yonkers and Benson says those were the same years when 2 of the children went missing. Munch recalls in Lomatin’s timeline there were fires after the boys disappeared. Rollins says he would not be the first pedophile/arsonist. Cragen thinks they are getting ahead of themselves, asking who owned those buildings in Brooklyn and Yonkers. Benson says that with all due respect they don’t have time, they will make the case later. When Fin says ”Let’s go” Cragen tells them to just stop, saying that Hodda will be pissed at Fin and Rollins for bringing him in, and instead he tells Benson and Amaro to go.
Benson and Amaro enter interrogation where Hodda is waiting. Benson outlines all the fires saying Hodda was the torch. Hodda says no one died in the fires and there was nothing to discuss. Benson says Sam Morris made a lot of money off Hodda’s work and asks what Hodda got out of it. Hodda makes light of it. Amaro asks about another building fire and Hodda is fuzzy on the details. Amaro brings up Hector and he denies knowing anything but the detectives continue to press, Amaro mentioning the concrete delivery after the fire. Benson tells him the building was over 100 years from the fires and water damage could not have been possible. He thinks a pipe burst. He admits he was there when the concrete was poured but Hodda blames the other residents, Amaro brings up the cases where Hodda was question for kids’ disappearances and fires and Benson accuses him of starting fires to get rid of the boys bodies. Hector bangs his fist on the table, tells Benson to get out of his way, and tries to flee the room but Amaro stops him. Benson tells him it is over as they have witnesses putting him at all those crime scenes. Benson tells him that nobody likes a “chomo” especially not in state prison. He says he didn’t touch those kids, and Benson says that label on him at his age means hard time. Lewis denies it all, he says he never touched them. Amaro says if they don’t want the DA putting this on him he has to help them. Amaro continues to press him about his issues with Morris’s family, and Lewis said for all that he did for them, they should have given him the penthouse. He said the old man had balls but David Morris had no idea of what it takes to empty a building. He says you do it with fire. He says with his scars he should be in the hall of fame like Pete Rose should be. Amaro says Lewis took Wyatt not to do anything unclean, but because he wanted them to show him respect. Benson says so Morris owed them – they can put that out there and they can say there was a ransom demand. Amaro says with Hector, everybody knows he had asthma and he must have just stopped breathing when he was with him. Lewis shrugs. Benson says they can put all of that out there but if he wants them to do that, Lewis has to give them something – he has to tell them where Wyatt is right now.
At another location, Benson and the other detectives arrive, the police break in and they all and look for Wyatt. Benson hears him and finds him an another room. She opens the door and pick him up and asks if he is OK. She reassures him that he will be OK. Outside the building, Benson returns Wyatt to his parents who quickly take him away. Benson comments to Amaro that Wyatt was a brave boy, and after all this he will need both his parents. Amaro says he hopes they can keep it together. Benson and Amaro look at each other and walk off. The Morrises embrace each other with Wyatt.
At the memorial wall, flowers are being placed there for Hector and Benson arrives and puts her arm around Delores. She flashes back years ago, in her apartment, looking at Hector’s picture, with a sad and lonely expression as we fade to black.
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