It’s rare that an SVU episode is so awful that I was tempted to not write a recap and review. But, I trudged through it, thinking that I have a responsibility to warn others who haven’t seen the episode to watch it at their own risk.
Even Denis O’Hare could not save the one. By the way, Denis epitomizes the moniker "Law & Order repeat offender,” having been on 4 Law & Orders, 1 SVU, and 1 Criminal Intent. The later was as the same character he portrayed in this episode, a worthless value as his previous connection to the L&O universe was never made in this episode.
One thing I know for sure, I never want to see another Christmas themed Law & Order SVU. EVER. Some fans like to see their favorite SVU characters in real life situations, but I am not one of them. I don’t mind a little personal story line here and there, but the holiday themed subplots in this episode were overkill.
When the ADA commented that “a carjacking is not a sex crime” a said loudly to the television, “Thank you for stating the obvious.” While this ADA seemed written with the sole purpose to annoy, he called that one correctly. Ultimately the carjacking did lead to a years old instance of abuse of a child at the hands of a cleric, but it was an awfully convoluted way to get there. To make matters worse, once it seemed there was an SVU case in there somewhere, the story became horribly predictable. This was another episode that attempted to jump start an SVU crime with a non-SVU crime, and in my opinion, it diluted the telling the story of the special victim.
Some of the dialog and behavior seemed out of character and just…odd. Examples were when Benson said “screw you” to Fin (even though it was to preface her offer to help despite his protests) and later when she referred to Rollins as a “Georgia peach.” And let’s not even go there with what seemed to be going on with Fin and ME Warner.
I also didn’t care for the ending where Benson is flying off to her vacation with a mystery companion, of which we only saw a hand and part of an arm. Was this a bone to throw to shippers to get them talking and/or to fuel their hopes that it was Elliott? Was it a woman with "man hands?" Or, is Benson now dating “Thing” from the Addams Family? I found the scene laughable.
The acting and the writing were wooden (except for Denis O’Hare, who was wonderful as always). There was nothing in this episode that made me feel anything for any of the characters.
As the Christmas music was playing over the ending scenes, I was hoping that maybe I had fallen asleep during the episode and I was really having a nightmare.
One thing that was good to see was the use of a video camera to record a suspect’s questioning. As the NYPD recently caught up with most of the US in wider use of video during questionings, it’s good to see SVU also adopt the practice.
Some episodes are better forgotten. “Presumed Guilty” is one of them. But, as they often say in the Law & Order Universe, sometimes one can’t un-ring the bell.
(The nightmare before Christmas)
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
Tamara Tunie - Dr. Melinda Warner
Denis O’Hare – Father Chris Shea
Erik LaRay Harvey – Sam
Melissa Marsala - Margarita
LisaGay Hamilton – Teresa Randall
Peter Gerety – Judge Peter Harrison
Nathan Lee Graham - ADA
Daniel Raymont - Benitez
Theo Rossi - Enrique
Tony Plana – Monsignor Menendez
Gizel Jimenez – Angelica Rodriguez
Nicolette Pierini – Sofia Santiago
Rene Ifrah – Office Bracken
Alison Fernandez - Zara Amaro
Jon Freda – Public Defender
Rene Ojeda – Old Latino Man
Jaden Harmon – Dante Randall
At a Christmas party in the ME’s office with the SVU and medical examiner groups, Rollins is “cornered” by an ME worker and when she enlists Fin to help her get out of the conversation, he isn’t much help. Benson tells ME Warner that she is working tomorrow but Christmas Eve she is off to the Bahamas, but when Warner asks with who, Benson says it is with “a friend.” Warner laughs, accusing Benson of taking the 5th.
Elsewhere, Father Shea is at a Christmas party and says he has a doll for a special girl. Later, Fr. Shea is in his car as the young girl - Sofia - runs up and gets in the car, telling him she forgot something – she made him a Christmas card.
At Amaro’s home, he is there with Zara and she hands him her Christmas list, saying she wants a bike, an iPad mini, a puppy, and mommy and daddy to be together. He asks if they should call her mom and say goodnight.
Back in the car, Fr. Shea thanks Sofia for the card and hugs her. Someone slams what looks like a tire iron into the car windows. Fr. Shea tells Sofia to run. Someone pulls Fr. Shea out of the car and beats him while Sofia watches. Another man calls out asking what the man who is beating Fr. Shea is doing.
Back at Amaro’s, he speaks with Maria on the phone about Christmas, saying he did not get Zara too much and that Zara wants a puppy. He adds his mother is taking Zara on the train Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, Fr. Shea is being taken away by ambulance. A man, Sam – likely the one who’s voice called out to the attacker - tells the police that someone was beating Fr. Shea. But someone from the crowd counters that, saying that Sam was the one who beat the priest and stole the present and the other kids ran off. As police arrest Sam, he swears he did not do this, and says his brother in law in on the job.
Back at the Christmas party, Teresa, Fin’s ex-wife, races in and asks Benson to see Fin. She then approaches Fin, who is taking with Warner. Warner’s arm is resting on his shoulder, and she makes a quick exit. Teresa tells him that her brother Sam has been arrested, and they say he carjacked a priest, then vigilantes beat him up. She insists he turned it around. Fin says he has been on parole for 9 months and is skeptical. Sandy gets a phone call from Ken, their son, and walks off. Fin tells Benson and Rollins that his ex brother in law got locked up again, and his family is complicated.
Fin drives with Rollins to the police station. He says she did not have to come with him, but she says it was either him or the morgue driver. Fin says Sam has been more in jail than out over the last 6 years. His ex tells him that Sam is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rollins thinks people can change. Fin says you don’t get your ass kicked for nothing.
At the 55th precinct, Sam tells Fin and Rollins he is guilty of being black. He admits he he was in a fight, but he was trying to save that priest, they were calling him short eyes and chomo. Fin asks if he is making that up, and Sam says it is the truth. He saw them beating the priest and a kid running away. Rollins questions what he looked like, and Sam corrects her that it was a she, young, maybe 8 or 9 and Hispanic, long hair and cute. Sam says that not all priests like boys. Fin asks if he saw him do anything to her, and Sam says he saw two guys kicking his head in and they were going to kill him. Fin voices skepticism, and Sam says he swears, he doesn’t a car, he doesn’t want to get sent back to prison, so why would he do this? Rollins looks at Fin, and Sam adds that he has to get home for Christmas.
Later, Fin and Rollins talk with the office who says it was a righteous collar. They got two 911 calls about the priest on the ground and that others kept a black man from stealing his car and witnesses on the scene confirmed. Rollins questions about the guys who attacked Sam, and the office says they took off when they heard sirens. Rollins questions - good Samaritans that did not stick around? The priest did not ID Sam as he is still unconscious. Rollins asks if anyone talked to the girl, and when the officer asks what girl, she adds that there was girl with the priest and she ran from the car. He says he did not hear anything about this, and Fin tells her to let it go.
At Payson Avenue, Benson and Amaro walk up to the scene of the crime as Fin and Rollins look over Fr. Shea’s car. Rollins mentions the inconsistencies like the girl who ran from the car, and Fin says Sam could have made her up. Rollins goes on to mention the disappearing vigilantes and there is no statement from the vic. Amaro says he talked to the 911 callers and they both saw the black man’s face and could not ID the neighborhood guys who beat him up. Rollins says the car has not been processed, and Amaro is surprised that CSU did not cover the scene. Fin says it is not likely as it was two days before Christmas. Benson suggests they ask Warner to back door it and send techs, but Fin says he divorced into this and there is no need to drag her into it. Benson says “Screw you Fin.I’m all yours till Christmas Eve and after that you’re on your own.” Amaro looks in the car and finds the Christmas card from Sofia, and Rollins suggest this means Sam was telling the truth about seeing a little girl. Fin says it doesn’t prove anything, but Benson points to a nearby surveillance camera and says that might.
Back at SVU, they watch the surveillance tape and they think it shows Sam is telling the truth, but Fin says the assault is off camera and it doesn’t prove anything. Benson says they called Shea a pedophile and asks what they know about him. Rollins explains the transferred to an orphanage in Guatemala 4 years ago. He was ordained in May of 1996 and before Guatemala he was in Boston and Chicago and was a prison chaplain on Staten Island and 10 years ago he was at St. Horatio’s in Inwood. Benson says they have a priest who moved around a lot and was alone at night in a car with a girl. Amaro defends him, saying priests get transferred for a lot of reasons and a young priest like that sometimes threatens the “old guard” at a parish and they don’t want to lose control. Benson asks how they track down the girl and two guys, and Fin, who is looking at his phone, says they may have a break. Father Shea regained consciousness. Benson says she will go talk to him, but Amaro suggests that he and Fin may be better and she and Rollins can pay a visit to their old pal DA Barba and show him the video. Rollins said they could if he wasn’t skiing in Gstaad. Benson says how about “Georgia Peach” and her sweet talk the unlucky junior ADA who got stuck with the holiday weekend.
At Superior Court, Benson and Rollins explain the situation with Sam to the ADA and when he questions them, Rollins asks where is his supervisor. He asks if they are the arresting officers and when they don’t say yes, he says a carjacking is not a sex crime, asking what is this about. Benson says the suspect is family. He replies she should have kept that to herself, he bids them good day, and walks off. Rollins tells Benson so much for sweet talk.
Meanwhile, Fin and Amaro speak with Fr. Shea who thinks he got jumped for the gifts. He forgives them, saying it is done, but Amaro says it is not, they have a suspect in custody and they need him to ID him. Fr. Shea says he is not interested in pressing charges, but Fin makes him look at a group of photos anyway. Her recognizes Sam as the good Samaritan who saved him from the 2 others, and he could not make out their faces. He does not recall being called any names, and Fin wonders if the little girl can help clear this up. Amaro asks why he was alone with Sofia and Fr. Shea says he visited her at her apartment and gave her a gift and she came back down to give him a card and doesn’t think she saw anything. Amaro says they will have to confirm it with her and Fr. Shea says her name is Sofia Santiago, her mother Margarita is the secretary at St. Horatio’s. He comes back every year to visit his sister and look into his old parishioners. When Fr. Shea asks if there is anything else, Fin says that for the man who saved him – Fr. Shea needs to return the favor.
At arraignment court, Sam pleads not guilty, and Fin and Amaro approach and ask the ADA for a word. Amaro shows him Fr. Shea’s statement but the ADA is reluctant to show it to the judge as he doesn’t know the detectives or know if Fr. Shea was pressured into making the statement. Amaro explains the arresting officer left for the holiday. Sam looks back at Teresa who is sitting in the gallery. The ADA tells Fin and Amaro when the arresting officer gets back, he will speak with him, reminding Fin that Sam was arrested while on parole – end of story. The ADA goes back to the judge and continues with the charges, asking for remand. The judge grants it. Sam’s son Dante shouts out to his father as they take him off, and then tells Fin his father did not do this. Fin says he knows he did the right thing this time, and Dante asks Fin to promise he’ll get him out. Fin does not answer.
Afterwards, Teresa speaks with Fin and Amaro, saying all that Dante wanted for Christmas was his father. Amaro says they are working on it. She says Sam was just trying to help the priest but Fin reminds her Sam is on parole, you don’t jump in, you call 911. Teresa leaves to go home, and Fin says the ADA is not going to take their word for it. Amaro says they have to find the 2 guys that assaulted Fr. Shea and wonders if Sofia saw something.
At St. Horatio’s Church, Benson and Amaro speak with Monsignor Menendez who says the church is shrinking and they needed Fr. Shea elsewhere. He brings out Margarita who says Fr. Shea gave presents to all the parish kids, he loves kids. Sofia is 9 and Sofia has known him for years. Amaro explains Fr. Shea may have been inappropriate with Sofia. But she says that is ridiculous and when Amaro says the men that beat him up called Fr. Shea a pedophile, she says they are wrong. She says Sofia’s biological father was never around and they have him all wrong. Benson says they still need to speak with Sofia and Margarita says she is very upset but will see if she is up to it. As Margarita walks off, Benson tells Amaro she has seen this before – a mother who doesn’t want to admit she put her child in danger so she denies, denies, denies. Amaro says everyone is in denial and sometimes people are just innocent. Benson asks if he is going to tell her that Margarita is not hiding something, and Amaro says they just don’t know what. He adds he is not protecting the Catholic Church if that’s what she is thinking. Benson says that is not what she said. He replies “yeah.” Margarita comes back out and says Sofia will talk to them but she wants to be in the room.
Benson and Amaro speak with Sofia about what happened to Fr. Shea. She explains she was in his car as she forgot to give him the card. She explains that Fr. Shea liked the card and gave her a hug. The men broke the window and Fr. Shea told her to run. The bad guys spoke Spanish and were wearing hoodies. The good guy was black and he tried to save Fr. Shea.
At the ME’s office, Warner tells Fin and Rollins they owe her for doing NYPD’s job and Fin says they always owe her. She is still running the DNA on Fr. Shea’s car but the blood traces are from 3 different males. The prints on the door handle match Adam Benitez who was convicted twice for assaulting registered sex offenders. Fin wonders if Benitez knows something they don’t. He says “Thank you Melinda” and she replies “Merry Christmas Detective Tutuola” with a slight smile.
At 125th Street & Lennox Avenue. Fin and Rollins try to find Benitez who is dresses as a Santa – and there are many Santas on the street. Fin calls out his name and Benitez looks up and then bolts. Rollins tackles him and Fin tells him he should have called his reindeer.
Back at SVU, Fin and Rollins question "Santa" Benitez and he explains he was abused when he was 8 and no one believed him which is why he goes after pedophiles. He says Fr. Shea was hugging her when “we” got there. He was there with a friend who says the priest “did his sister ugly” and heard he was home for the holidays and they were watching. When Fin asks if his friend has a name, Benitez asks if they are playing ”Let’s Make A Deal” Christmas edition, adding this would be a good time to call a lawyer.
Later, Fin and Rollins arrest Enrique Rodriguez while he is on the job. Rodriguez says Fr. Shea rapes little girls and he gets arrested? Rollins asks if he means his sister, and he says everyone knows and no one is doing anything. Fin puts him in the car and Rollins says they have their two suspects and it is time to call the ADA and get Sam out. Fin suggests they get Fr. Shea to ID them.
At the hospital. Fr. Shea is talking to the Monsignor, saying not this time. Amaro and Benson enter the room and Amaro asks if there is a problem. Fr. Shea says the Monsignor is just leaving and Benson asks “you too?” when she sees the plane ticket to Guatemala. The Monsignor says Fr. Shea wants to return to the orphanage. He says he is not pressing charges, but Amaro says he is still a witness and they need him to come to the station and make an ID. When the Monsignor says Fr. Shea was in a coma and is concussed, Amaro suggest they consult with the doctor to confirm if Fr. Shea is up for it.
Back at SVU, Amaro tells Benson the one way ticket to Guatemala was paid for by the archdiocese. Benson says Menendez wants Fr. Shea gone just like 10 years ago. Rollins adds they got Benitez’s statement and this should be enough for the ADA. Fin says that guy is covering his ass 6 ways to Sunday and they should get Enrique’s statement on video. He doesn’t want the ADA questioning it later.
Benson and Rollins question Rodriguez and video record the questioning. He explains his sister Angelica’s abuse when she was 12. She later started drinking and smoking pot. He found out about the abuse when Angelica came in stoned at Thanksgiving when she was supposed to be sober and he went off. She started crying and said he had never been there for her. He said “he” made her have an abortion when she was pregnant at 13. He never knew, and he thought he was in church all that time with Fr. Shea in counseling. He said the sick bastard said she seduced him – Fr, Shea said he would exorcise the demon of sex in her. When he saw Fr. Shea in the car with the little girl, he did what he should have done 10 years ago. Benson says if Angelica will corroborate the story and ID Fr. Shea it may help a jury to understand. Enrique does not want to put her through that, she is in rehab and is a mess. He asks if Fr. Shea is coming in to ID him, and Benson nods. He says to ask him.
Meanwhile, Rollins and Fin continue to argue with the ADA but he is still resistant. He says there is protocol, this is not their case. He adds maybe there is probable cause for the attack on the priest but there is still a parolee who went vigilante – assaulting anyone violates his parole. Fin says he knows. The ADA says if they want Sam released, Fr. Shea must ID his attackers just for “belts and suspenders.” Rollins explains they are pulling a line up now. He tells them to get that and they will talk.
At SVU, Fr. Shea looks at the line up but he says he does not want to send anyone to prison. Amaro reminds him about Sam Randall and that Sam may go to jail. He identifies Enrique by name, saying he was a parishioner of his. He says he will not testify against him, and Benson asks why is that, did he give him good reason to attack him? Fr. Shea says he deserves forgiveness, as they all do, they all make mistakes. Benson asks if that is what he calls what he did to Angelica. He seems shocked at her inference and says they have it wrong. Amaro says that is not what Enrique told them.
Later in an interrogation room, Benson and Amaro show Fr. Shea the video of Enrique explaining what happened to Angelica. Amaro and Amaro put the pressure on Fr. Shea and when Benson says they will bring in Sofia, he says they can’t. He cries and begs for God’s forgiveness.
Elsewhere, Fin and Rollins speak with Angelica who has an attitude. They explain Enrique’s arrest and she says she should have never told him where “the good father put his little bishop.” She says she is a dead girl walking but Enrique could still have a life. Fin says she can help him by testifying to her abuse and ID her abuser.
Back at SVU, Angelica is at the line up and she identifies #4 as Fr. Shea but he is not who abused her. She says it wasn’t him, and when Rollins puts her hand on her shoulder to calm her, Angelica pulls back and tells her not to touch her.
Meanwhile, Fr. Shea is in the holding cell and Amaro asks him to tell him what is going on. He says if Angelica won’t say it is not his place, she gave him her confession. Amaro says that is not an excuse to cover a crime. When Amaro asks why he was transferred out of St. Horatio’s, Fr. Shea said he sinned and broke his vows. He says it is not his story to tell.
Angelica tells Benson and Rollins that the priest said abortion was a sin but then murdered her baby. She said Fr. Shea tried to help her. She was bleeding after the baby was gone, Fr. Shea found her and she confessed what she did and who she did them with. It did not happen again. Benson asks who abused her, she is 22 and they can still put him away. Angelica does not know if she can do this, but Rollins mentions her brother’s situation. Benson assures her they will be with her every step of the way.
Amaro continues to speak with Fr. Shea, saying the men who beat him up were wrong and SVU was wrong. He did not molest Sofia but knows who did. Fr. Shea says he is bound by the seal of the confessional. Amaro continues to pressure him for justice, and asks how does he know the person he is protecting is still not molesting girls? Fr. Shea says he swore to him he wouldn’t. Fr. Shea continues to refuse to cooperate, he gave his word. Amaro asks why he is protecting him, and Amaro asks who matters so much to him …. and Amaro finally gets who it is. He says he is sorry and leaves the cell.
Amaro tells Benson she is right, Fr. Shea is hiding something. Benson says he is not guilty of the abuse, and Amaro says they have the wrong sin.
At St. Horatio’s Church, Benson and Amaro speak with Margarita and explain that Fr. Shea can’t – or won’t – defend himself and if he tells the truth someone innocent will get hurt. Amaro mentions his own daughter and sometimes when her mood changes he sees himself. Margarita cries and Benson asks if Sofia knows who her father is, and Margarita does not answer.
Back at SVU, Benson tells Fr. Shea that they spoke to Margarita and says she told them Sofia is his daughter. He says he spent 10 years making sure that was kept secret for Sofia’s sake but Margarita confessed to Menendez and told him how much in love they were. After Angelica came to him he went to Menendez and he asked to hear his confession and Menendez told him what he did to her. He said it was a onetime weakness. Amaro says once he confessed he was bound by the vows of confession. Benson said that is still not good enough. He put other girls in jeopardy, and when Fr. Shea says Menendez swore it would not happen again, Benson comments “and you believed him?” She adds that pedophiles are gifted liars. Fr. Shea says he left his daughter at the parish and Margarita kept her eye on him and once a year he comes in to take his confession for a decade and does not believe he has hurt anyone else. Benson asks if that is how he sleeps at night, and he comments who says he does. Amaro says he broke the law, he has a legal obligation to report the abuse and he is just as guilty. He says he understands. He also understands he has to testify against Menendez. Amaro says his transgression will come out and he should tell Sofia himself.
Angelica later tells Enrique that it wasn’t Fr. Shea and said he never said who it was. She was afraid he would go after him. Angelica tells Rollins that he got the wrong priest and they should let Enrique go. Rollins explains that is not how it works. Angelica tells Enrique she is sorry and she cries. He says if he would have looked out for her in the first place this would have never happened,
Back at SVU, Fin is on the phone telling Teresa he knows it is Christmas Eve, he is trying. Rollins asks if Teresa hung up on him and he says old habits die hard. Teresa doesn’t seem to think he is doing everything he can, but he has an idea.
At the home of Judge Peter Harrison, Fin asks him to sign a conditional release for Sam. The judge says it is not his problem but Fin reminds him it is Christmas Eve and he knows Sam is innocent. He says he will keep him handcuffed to him if he wants. The judge’s grandson walks up and the judge tells him to get his reading glasses and asks for the papers. He tells Fin that Sam is his responsibility and wishes him a Merry Christmas. Fin says the same.
Back at SVU, Amaro tells the others that Fin called, Sam is free and on his way home. Benson calls it a Christmas miracle, and Amaro adds she will make her flight. She says she is not going anywhere until they get a warrant for Menendez from Judge Harrison. Amaro tells her to go, he has this. She says she can’t. When she still resists, he pulls out her purse from her desk drawer and hands her the cell phone and keys and says this is his Christmas gift. She says “really?” and he replies “really” as he helps her put on her coat. She replies she wants jewelry next year. She reminds him she will have her phone with her and won’t turn it off, and he tells her to enjoy. She tells him Merry Christmas and they share a hug. She runs off.
At Teresa’s home, Fin brings in Sam to see his son. Rollins is there and when she says she is going home, they insists she join them.
At the church, Angelica sees Monsignor Menendez who is getting ready for Mass, putting his arm around a young girl as they walk into church. Fr. Shea also arrives with Margarita and Sofia.
At Teresa’s home, they all sit around the table as Fin pours the wine.
Amaro knocks on Judge Harrison’s door who is annoyed when he answers. Amaro apologizes, saying they want to pick him up tonight. The judge says one condition – let him finish Mass. He signs the warrant.
Benson, on a plane, hears from Amaro that he got the warrant, saying it is great news. A man sitting next to her – his hand and only part of his arm visible - places his hand over to Benson and she smiles back.
Amaro checks his phone and waits outside the church while the churchgoers exit. Gunshots ring out, and everyone scatters as Amaro races up the church steps. He sees Monsignor Menendez laying on the ground, dead, shot in the chest. Amaro picks up a gun and then pulls two men off Angelica who are holding her to the ground. He tells her he was here to arrest him. She says it is too late. As he cuffs Angelica and she looks at Menedez's dead body, we fade to black.
All Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) Copyright © allthingslawandorder.blogspot.com unless otherwise noted
Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, on All Things Law And Order.
Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.