Law & Order SVU “Friending Emily” was one of those episode where I struggled to stay interested. (I am ashamed to say that I actually nodded off a few times while watching.) I have never been a fan of episodes that focus too much on the personal drama of the lead characters and I believe that contributed to my general feeling of boredom. The fact that the case seemed very predictable and the writing banal, even brief appearances from Raúl Esparza couldn’t save this one.
The opening also seemed too long; these long openings often add nothing to the story and/or suck the mystery out of the case. It was obvious Wendy and Peter were involved in Emily’s disappearance. Why did we need to see Wendy meet up with the girls in the hotel lobby? If it were me, I would have cut that all out, and instead, when Rollins leaves with her sister, have the detectives get the call about the missing girls. Wendy and Peter would have been a complete mystery and the process of tracking them down could have been more interesting.
I also was scratching my head at why, once they realized that they could not track Peter’s web site, that they didn’t get the Feds or some other expert group involved immediately? I could understand Rollins running point on the matter but it seemed like they were expecting her to actually track down the site. I can’t believe that the New York City SVU team and TARU would be reliant on one jaded detective who works alone in a small office AND a hacker in prison to help track the web site. I would have to believe that a real SVU and TARU team would have real experts on call to help them in cases such as these.
The story of Rollin’s sister also seemed to go down a familiar path – the troubled sibling whose problems create turmoil for the lead character. There was nothing new to see here. I would have been more interested had they done 2 separate stories – one on Emily’s case, and another on Rollin’s sister, and gave the story with Rollin’s sister more depth. Putting these stories together only seemed to dilute both of them. The only good thing going for Rollins and her sister is that the actors seem like real sisters. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to work in an SVU case for Rollins that involved her sister; I think I would have been able to better tolerate the familial story line.
At least one thing is for sure, those that couldn’t watch the episode due to the recent power outages didn’t miss much.
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
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Lindsay Pulsipher – Kim Rollins
Chris Coy - Peter
Izzie Steele - Wendy/Jane
Neal Matarazzo – Mr. Culphers
Kathy McCafferty – Mrs. Culphers
Catherine Missal - Emily
Taylor Spreitler - Taylor Culphers
Jay Devore - Merc
Katie Chonacas – Misty Day
Katie Rogal – Katrine Kearns
Suzanne H. Smart - Mrs. Fleiss
David Raymond Wagner - Bob Contino
Kathryn Markey – Ellen Kalreiss
Brandon Tyler Harris - Chaz
Theiss Weckesser – Jeff
Michaela McPherson - Ashley Kalreiss
Joel Brady – Uni
Tyree Michael Simpson - Desk Sergeant
At SVU, Rollins’ phone is buzzing and as she checks to see who is calling, she is alarmed when she sees a blonde woman walk in, also on the phone. She races to meet her before anyone else can get to her. She tells the woman that this is her job and she can’t just show up here. The woman says it’s nice to see her too, and the woman replies she had nowhere else to go. Rollins says she does – her apartment – and tells her to wait here. Rollins comes back to her desk and Fin asks if everything is OK. Rollins explains she needs an hour. Benson asks if something happened to her and Rollins says she is fine, it is her sister, it’s family and it’s complicated.
Elsewhere, a few girls from Mulberry High School going on a class trip are waiting in the hotel lobby and one - Emily - gets off the phone with her mother. Another – Taylor - is bored. Yet another girl – who says she is Wendy - approaches Taylor and tempts her with an e-vite to a frat party, and Taylor types in her email address on the woman’s phone. Taylor’s sister Emily is concerned that Taylor will go alone and Wendy gives the OK for Emily to tag along.
Later, at the frat party, Emily is offered a shot and she passes, along with the help of another man - Peter. She tells him she is 14. Peter tells her not to trust Chaz, he is a spotter looking for drunk girls and setting them up. Peter says he is like everyone’s big brother and asks if his sister invited her. Emily says she invited Taylor.
The party continues and Peter still is talking with Emily when Wendy comes by and offers them both a soda. Chaz is making out with Taylor and another guy walks up asking who is the better kisser. Taylor says maybe she should try again, and she begins to make out with the other guy as the two man high five behind her back.
Emily knocks on a door and asks if Taylor is there, and when there is no answer she opens the door and sees two people making out but it Is not Taylor. She sees Wendy asks where is Taylor, and Wendy says she is sure Taylor can take care of herself.
Sometime later, we see a the naked legs of girl who is under the influence get into a car and we hear a man say he will get her home safe. He leads her to the trunk of a car and then closes it.
At SVU, Benson is looking at a cell phone photo with a picture of Taylor and a strange man which says she really “hearts” New York. Amaro and Benson are speaking with the class chaperone who said Taylor texted the message to a friend who texted it to half the kids there. The man in the photo does not go to Mulberry. She explains that Taylor is wild but Emily is not. They went to a frat party at Tompkins Square Benson gets on the phone.
Rollins, in her apartment, gets the information about the missing girls. As she gets ready to leave, Kim is on the couch and Rollins sees a large bruise on her body. Kim says she was tipsy and tripped. She asks if Jeff did that but Kim says Jeff is over. Kim explains she can’t go back to Atlanta and she knows how mom is. Rollins tells Kim to calm down and get a breath. Kim says she needed to get out of there like Rollins did and always admired her for picking up and leaving them behind to start over. Rollins asks if Mom knows she is there – she does – and Rollins asks if Jeff does, and Kim says Jeff does not know they are still in touch and is still mad at Rollins. Rollins gets a call and tells Kim she has to go, there is food in the fridge and the keys are on the table and she will see her later tonight. Kim says she is done with the drama and wants to hang out like sisters. Rollins agrees and tells Kim she is glad she is here, and she loves her. Kim says she loves her too.
At the Tau Omega Fraternity, Rollins meets up with Fin and he informs her the girls are not answering their cells. He says he’d think the older sister would look out for the little one, and the apologizes and asks how is her sister. Rollins calls her Hurricane Kim, and says she said she is taking her meds but says it’s her family. Fin says his brother says his son is not welcome at his house for Thanksgiving. Rollins asks if it’s because he is gay and he thinks it is contagious. Rollins knocks on the front door
Inside, they show one of the guys a video from the party and Rollins said she counted 12 felonies in the first 3 minutes. Fin wants the names of everyone at the party. The guy said it was on Twitter and Tumblr, Hookup and Facebook. Rollins shows him the photo of Taylor and the guy and he says that is his buddy, Merc. Rollins asks where is he – NOW. Fin gets a phone call and it is Cragen telling him that TARU got a hit on Taylor’s phone and it is 100 feet from where they are standing.
Rollins beats on the bedroom door and announces “NYPD” while Fin tells Merc to open up. The door opens and Merc asks what is going on. Rollins asks the girl sitting in bed if she is Taylor, and she says yeah, and that she didn’t do anything. Merc says he has a scrip for everything he finds, and Fin says he doesn’t care, asking how old is he. He says 21. Rollins replies “15 will get you 10, genius.” As Fin readies the cuffs, Merc says she never said she was 15. Fin says she is, and arrests him for statutory rape and stupidity. Rollins explains to Taylor that they are looking for her sister, Emily. Taylor is surprised she is not at the hotel and adds if anything was wrong, she would have sent her something. She checks her messages and tells Rollins that Emily texted her last night. Taylor says “Oh my God.”
Back at SVU, Cragen and the detectives watch a video that Emily took of her own abduction that she sent to Taylor before her cell phone went dead. Amaro informs them her parents are on the way. Rollins adds that someone installed malware on Taylor’s phone which accesses everything on the user’s cell which allows the user to profile his target. Benson reads back all the details, and says the predator uses this information to bond with the target. Rollins says Emily’s information is all over Taylor’s social media. Benson suggests that in case they are using this for kiddie porn they should run this through NCMEC, the facial recognition software has really come along. Cragen says the guy is a pro and to get Emily’s face out there fast.
Fin and Amaro have Merc in SVU interrogation. They press him about Emily and he admits that she hung back, but he saw her with Peter, he’s older and he does not know his last name. He was a brother was Tau Omega out west and he shows up at parties with supplies – drugs, alcohol – and is with his sister Wendy.
In the interview room, Taylor admits to Benson that she met Wendy in the hotel lobby and she got an e-vite from her. Rollins says this is how they got the malware on. Benson explains what they spyware did. Taylor describes Wendy as in her 20s, nose ring and she had brown hair and was taller than her. She recalls that she had a leather wristband with a round metal thing on it.
In the squad room, Rollins tells Cragen and the other detectives they got a hit from NCMEC, it was a web site called “link free or die” which is a web site for illegal hosts for guns, drugs, porn, etc. It hosts a kiddie porn site called Lolitaville and they see a video of Emily in a bed which is streaming live. Rollins is trying to trace it but says she is hitting brick walls, saying it is coming from nowhere. Emily says she wants to go home, and Benson says he picked the right victim, Emily is a people pleaser and will not fight back. Amaro thinks this will keep her alive. Cragen asks Rollins what is taking so long, and she says she is trying. Benson says at least they know she is alive and she will tell Taylor, and she asks for stills.
Benson shows the photos to Taylor, who is waiting in the interview room, and she identifies the bracelet in the still photo, saying it is like the one Wendy had. Wendy had said he was her brother. She did not see him leave with Emily. Benson says they know he is alive. Taylor asks Benson if they don’t know where she is at how do they know she is still alive, and then Taylor realizes what is happening. She cries and says why did she have to go to that stupid party. Benson consoles her.
Back in the squad room, Rollins complains to Fin and Amaro that she can’t track the video or the web site. TARU also can’t crack it, it’s on the dark net they can view the video but it is completely anonymous and finding Emily is hopeless. Taylor and Emily’s parents arrive and Amaro tells her to turn the video off. Mr. Culphers is upset when he realizes the hopeless comment was about Emily. Amaro apologizes and Mrs. Culphers
becomes upset. Taylor reunites with them and Mr. Culphers blames his wife. They begin to argue and Benson takes Mrs. Culphers aside as Cragen takes Mr. Culphers. Amaro takes Taylor to get something to eat. Fin asks is there is anything that anyone can do about the dark net, not even the Feds, and Rollins says they can ask.
Benson has Mrs. Culphers in the interview room and Cragen has Mr. Culphers in his office, who is complaining that his wife is too soft and should have never let them go. When Cragen asks if there are any issues with his daughters, Culphers asks what he is saying, that this is on him and he has a temper? Cragen says no one is saying that, and asks him to tell him about Emily, she seems like a good girl. Culphers says she is, she is perfect. She always does what she is told, and he doesn’t need a therapy session from Cragen he wants to know what he is doing to find his daughter.
At the Child Pornography Media Room in Federal Plaza, Fin and Rollins arrive and Rollins is shocked at all the photos displayed of missing children. Later, Fin tells the detective working there that he thought he had a hard job. The detective says he told Fin on the phone that the dark net was a black hole. He says there is not much to go on, he searches these videos until his eyes bleed. He says to get some luminal and they can see where the guy he replaced punched his ticket. Rollins reminds him a 14 year old girl is missing and he says he has thousands missing, his girl is close to looking legal and it is hard to prosecute those cases. Fin tells him maybe he should walk away from the job. The guy explains that you knock down one site and another one pops up. Fin sarcastically thanks him for his help, and the detective says it is a long shot but there is a hacker they just nailed who took down some dark net kiddie porn sites. He got arrested for taking down NYC.gov and the Yankees web site. Fin quips he should have gotten a medal for that. The DA was a Yankees fan – the hacker’s name is Joe and he is at Rikers, about to be transferred upstate.
As Fin and Rollins leave the office, Rollins gets a call from Kim, and she tells her to stay there. She hangs up and explains to Fin that it was Kim and she may have to go home for a minute. Fin tells her to do what she has to do.
Rollins gets home and finds Kim and a guy snorting coke on her kitchen table. She shows the guy her badge and orders him out. Kim says she didn’t need to do that and when Rollins is upset she is bringing a stranger into her house, Kim says he was a really nice guy. Rollins rinses the coke down the kitchen drain. And laces in to Kim. Kim throws Rollins’ gambling problem at her and Rollins says she is done with that. Rollins mentions Kim coming to a meeting with her, and Kim says she would love to follow her around and learn the job. She wanted to be a cop first and she took that from her. Rollins says OK and asks when was the last time she ate, and suggests she order pizza delivery. Kim agrees.
At SVU, hacker Joe is in interrogation with Fin and Rollins explains that web host is a clearing house, Cragen, Benson and Amaro watch from the observation window and Amaro explains that Joe will be using a digital Trojan horse. Cragen says some days he misses knocking on doors. They see that Joe got a hit and is tracking him, and when he tells them he now has malware on his site and he can shut him down, Rollins tells him not to do that, it is their only connection to the kidnapper. Rollins tells him to check every link he sent to “live free or die” and look for recent video files first. He finds a link to Emily part 2 which is streaming live. They watch the video and see Emily and the man is brushing her hair getting her ready for a shower.
Later, Benson shows DA Rafael Barba the photos and says the hacker found uploads from Peter going back 5 years. Every year it is a new girl and there are 5, Emily makes 6. Rollins explains that Peter starts in the bedroom then goes to the bath, and the nit depends on audience requests. Barba comments in the last video Peter asked the audience to submit requests, and then asks how long between posts. Rollins says sometimes a few days, sometimes more. Benson adds it is a windowless room and the clothes and the toys and furnishings are all generic. Barba comments that odds on when they are through the girls go into drugs or prostitution and they are probably in the system and he will issue warrants. Rollins asks for what, they are all victims. He replies she will think of something, they have to get Emily fast, it is too late for the other girls.
Outside the USDA Prime Strip Club, Fin sees that Beth Marks, AKA Misty Day, has gone pro, and Rollins said she had nowhere else to go. They see her walk up to the building and Fin and Rollins question her about Peter. She says they are all forced to do things to survive and she’s moved on. At least she was taken care of. Rollins calls her honey and says Peter wasn’t taking care of her. Beth says Peter takes care of Peter, she meant Wendy. Beth explains that Wendy would say she had it worse and that Peter saved her from the street, she was from somewhere out west, “like the U.P. or something.” Beth said they won’t catch him, and then reminds them she goes by Misty now.
Meanwhile, Benson and Amaro speak with Liza’s father who said Liza was not kidnapped, she ran away and came back with some wild story. When Benson asks if Liza mentioned she was forced to make Internet movies, he counters that he will tell them what he told her – he does not want to hear that. Benson explains it might be true. He asks why are they talking about this, she’s gone, she OD’d 3 months ago. She straightened herself out and then got a job but started using again when she ran into this girl – Wendy - and got all upset. Liza started in about all these kidnapping stories and he thought she was making excuses for using. He realizes she was telling the truth.
Elsewhere, Rollins and Fin see Katrine Kearns, who is doing an outside photos shoot. A man tells them this is a photo shoot for Norwegian apparel and they have their permits. Rollins says they want to talk to Katrine privately. He says he is her husband and lawyer and she is shy, he is not. Rollins asks her about Wendy and Peter and her husband says he knows all about that and says after those bastards were through defiling her they tried to sell her. Rollins tells him to let her tell it. Katrine explains that Peter gave her to this guy, a broker, and her husband says the man tried to turn her out, and he saved her. He says if that is all they need, he has a clothing line to push. Fin asks if he is selling clothes, why do the twins barely have any on? When Katrine’s husband walks off, Katrine says he did save her, and she has a career, she does private photos, family portraits. As she writes down some information, she asks Rollins if she has any kids, or nieces and nephews. Rollins tells her not yet. Katrine hands her the business card and when they leave, Fin asks Rollins what the guy paid his broker for her, she is his slave. She shows Fin the note on the card and says maybe not. The note says Wendy, Marquette MI.
Back at SVU, Rollins informs them that Katrine’s tip paid off. They found one missing girl, Jane Kalreiss, from Marquette, and her family is still searching for her. This could be Wendy. Rollins used age progression software and put the photo into several databases and has several possible matches. Amaro brings Taylor over and Benson asks her to look at the possible matches. She points out a photo of Wendy but says she now has a different hair color. Benson, walking off with Taylor, says that’s great and Taylor can tell her parents they are getting somewhere. Rollins brings up the data on the woman, she is Wendy Baker who has a Nissan. Cragen tells her to run the plates through the national vehicle location system. Amaro asks if they bring her in, it will scare Peter off. Benson suggests they make her their Trojan horse, spook her a bit, and hope she leads them back to Peter and Emily. An officer approaches and tells Rollins he has a call for her.
Elsewhere, a police officer is standing next to his patrol car and as Rollins runs up to the car, Kim tells the officer that she told him she would come, and he’s messing with the wrong family and she was just having a good time. Rollins tells Kim to shut up and apologizes to the officer. Kim says that “Opie” nearly ran her over, and he tells Rollins that Kim had an open container. Rollins pulls her out of the car and says it won’t happen again, and Kim tells the officer that Rollins busted him. Rollins pulls Kim away and angrily asks her if she is trying to sabotage her. Kim says no, she didn’t come all the way up there to sit alone in her apartment. Rollins tells Kim to get into her car and when Kim asks her to take the cuffs off, Rollins tells Kim not to push it. Kim gets in and Rollins slams the car door.
At a parking garage, Benson and Rollins see Wendy approach. Benson calls out her name Jane Kalreiss and Amaro announce he is NYPD. They see a bag with a Norwegian Apparel marking. They show her a photos of Emily and explains they know she spoke to her, they saw it on the hotel security cameras. They try to get information but Wendy doesn’t give them any info. When Benson gives her a business card and asks if she remembers anything to call her, Amaro says to make it easy, just call Benson right now so they will have her number. Amaro adds it is a missing girl form out of town and they have to go buy the book. She complies.
At SVU, Barba enters the interview room and when Rollins comments that he got the wiretap warrant that fast, he says he is quick and asks if they are live yet. The tech turns up the volume on the computer and we hear Wendy speaking with Peter. She says she is hitting traffic and asks him to take the dog to the vet. They track the phone to the south shore of Staten Island and the phone powered down and they lost them. Barba comments to tell Benson and Amaro not to lose Wendy, she is their only link to Peter now.
Wendy, racing down the street in her car, is followed by Benson and Amaro. Wendy stops at a house and runs out of the car, and Benson and Amaro race after her, Benson announcing she is police and not to move. Benson arrests her and throws the house keys to Amaro. Meanwhile, Peter has Emily and he tells her not to worry, they won’t get her. Amaro walks into the house, gun drawn, and elsewhere Peter is getting on his computer. Amaro finds the room they saw on the video but Emily and Peter are not there. They appears to be gone. But while in the garage, Benson and Amaro hear a voice telling them to be careful, and see a computer with a video stream of Peter on it, with Emily in the background. He tells them they are live.
Peter tells Amaro to ask him a question, and Benson whispers to Amaro that Peter can’t see him and to keep him talking. Amaro asks where is he and asks Emily if she is OK. She is prompted to say he has not hurt them.
Outside, Fin arrives and asks Benson if they missed them, and she says or they were never here, wondering if this is a decoy house. She explains that Peter is on a live video feed and they don’t know where. When Rollins comments they could be anywhere in the world, Benson replies maybe not, all of the other victims has a relationship with Wendy and she is valuable to Peter. He keeps her close. Fin says he will call TARU to trace the video feed. Rollins wonders if t hey can get Wendy/Jane to talk and Benson thinks it will not be easy; after all these years she has fused with Peter. Rollins hopes there is something left of Jane.
Inside the house, Benson un-cuffs Wendy from the bed post. Benson and Rollins both try to convince Wendy to turn on Peter while Amaro continues to stall Peter. Wendy is convinced that Peter has saved her and all the other girls, and Benson brings up Liza OD’ing after she saw Wendy. Rollins bring up Emily’s parents. Benson brings up the fact that Wendy’s parents had reported her missing despite that Peter said they didn’t, and Wendy continues to defend Peter. When she got too old, Peter let her stay and last year they went on a cruise. Benson says her family never stopped looking for her. Peter asks Amaro what kind of parents send their children to New York without them and Amaro says if it wasn’t for Peter, who knows what would have happened to them? Peter gets upset that Amaro is mocking him and threatens to turn off the feed. Amaro says no don’t do that. Peter says he never hurts his girls, even on request night. He is gently. He asks Emil to tell them, and she says he is gentle. Meanwhile, Benson and Rollins continue to work on Wendy and when Rollins shows her a live feed of her mother on a tablet, Wendy/Jane breaks down crying. She also sees her sister and hers a baby crying, it is her niece who her sister named Janie. Jane asks where is dad and finds that he died, saying it was too much.
Later, Rollins tells Fin that Jane does not know Peter’s address, he didn’t take any risks. He blindfolds her every time. Jane recalled is was a house with no front steps at the front door on a curving road. Meanwhile, Peter is still talking to Emily on the live feed, and when Peter begins to touch Emily, the police and Rollins break in with guns drawn. Amaro and Benson watch from the feed as Fin arrests Peter. Peter says this is being recorded and they are live right now, and Fin closes the computer saying “Not anymore.”
Back at SVU, Emily reunites with Taylor and her parents while the squad watches. As the family leaves, Benson comments that she hopes Emily gets to be a kid again, and Cragen replies they can only hope. He tells them all it was good job. Rollins exits and Cragen suggests to Amaro that he take tomorrow off to see his daughter, saying that is an order.
Rollins is in the elevator and Benson tells her to hold it up. Rollins asks her if she has plans for tonight, and Benson replies no, she is wiped. Rollins says she has a quiet night at home with her sister and hadn’t had the chance to catch up. Benson says she knows there is a lot going on with her and that it can’t be easy for her. Rollins says Kim likes to stir things up; it keeps Kim calm but she can handle it. Benson tells her to take care of herself.
Rollins enters her apartment to find Kim and her boyfriend Jeff making out on the couch and she tells Jeff to get off of Kim. Kim asks Rollins if she ever thinks of knocking, and Rollins throws Jeff’s clothes at him, saying he is leaving now. He tells her to chill, Kim invited him. Kim says Jeff said he was sorry and he will take her to Cancun. He says who can she count on if not Jeff? Rollins pulls out her gun and says he can count on her to shoot his ass if he is not out of her apartment in 30 seconds. Kim says she missed him and Rollins is never around and she was lonely. Rollins says this is better than being beaten bloody. Rollins starts counting down from 13 with her gun still drawn and when Jeff says now he knows where crazy comes from, Rollins says he ain’t seen crazy. She continues to count down until he leaves. She tells him if he shows up again – no warning. Kim is upset, saying she did not ask for her help, she can take care of herself. Kim storms off to another room and slams the door, leaving Rollins there alone saying “You’re welcome” to an empty room.. and we fade to black.
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