season 15 finale “Spring Awakening” which ended with Benson becoming foster mother to Ellie’s baby, Noah. “Girls Disappeared” begins with Benson making a promise to Noah that she will get his mother’s killer, and we see a brief flashback of events that happened 4 months earlier to refresh the viewers' memories.
Back in the present, Amaro is now working as a traffic cop, and he makes an arrest of a john and his under-age hooker. He soon learns from his former colleagues at SVU that the hooker is a material witness in Ellie Porter’s murder. It was a nice tie-in, bringing both the SVU squad and Amaro together to work the case to get Ellie’s killer plus and take down an operation of the trafficking underage girls. This was an extremely well written story, filled with the right balance of action, drama, and suspense. Also making the episode very satisfying was some nice staging of scenes and camera work, which brought a fresh perspective on some of the usual settings which had become a little stale over the years.
In the last season, Fin was too subdued and had become a dull character who seemed to be going through the motions. It was a pleasant change that he appeared edgier and quick on his feet in this episode. Thankfully, he was also quick on the trigger during the final moments of the episode.
I had two worries going in to this episode: the first being too much focus on a “baby Noah” story, the second being the addition of a new detective, Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino). While putting a lead character’s child in danger is an overused plot device, I thought that it was good to get it out of the way while there was a logical way to fit it into the story line. And the writers DID fit it in very well. Hopefully, though, they won’t go to this well again. The writers also included just the right amount of short scenes with Benson and Noah to emphasize Benson’s resolve to find his mother’s killer and to show the joy that Noah brings to her life. (Anyone else notice the tipped stroller added to the opening credits? Update - the stroller has been in the opening, I guess I mjust noticed it because I had the baby story line on my mind!)
My worry with Sonny Carisi, based on the short clips that I saw prior to the premiere, was that we were going to have another “Stuckey” on our hands. (Fans will know exactly who I am talking about.) Instead, my worries quickly disappeared when I found that I liked Sonny coming in and jumping right into the mix in a very forward way. He added a bit of a spark and possibly a new approach. I hope that I will continue to feel this way about Sonny in his future SVU appearances.
Season 16 is off to a great start!
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Sergeant Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Peter Scanavino – Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi Jr.
Lobo Sebastian - Joaquin Menendez
Manny Perez - Angel Perez
Emma Greenwell – Ellie Porter
Michael Kostroff – Attorney
Amina Robinson – Officer D'Bora Maresko
Jayne Houdyshell - Judge Linden
Alexa Mansour - Luna Garcia
Laura Gomez - Selena Cruz
Lenny Venito - John Gatto
Gavin-Keith Umeh - Little Tino
Bronwyn Reed – Lucy Huston
Sara Contreras – Alminia Aguilar
Chelsea LJ Lopez – Missy Brooks
Maria Rivera – Carmen
Ciara Renee – Sra Perez
Williams Watkins – Uni
Angel Romero - Miguel
Benson puts a sleepy Noah in the crib and she whispers to him about him missing his mommy and his mother's hard road. She wonders if she will even be able to tell his mother’s story. Benson whispers that his mother loved him very much and that her name was Ellie.
Four months earlier…
Flashback to Ellie, Benson and Fin at the halfway house. Benson tells her Little Tino is out but he is wearing a bracelet. Benson tells her she will be safe here. Fin explains she will have to testify at the grand jury tomorrow. Benson wants her to focus on being clean and working the program, Ellie tells Benson she does not want Noah to grow up in foster care and wants him to grow up being loved. Later, the detectives find Ellie’s dead, burned body. Little Tino is questioned at SVU, and Benson is asked to be Noah’s foster mother.
Back in the present...
Benson continues to whisper to Noah to reassure him they are trying to find the man who hurt his mom, saying he has a lot of friends. She promises she will not rest until she gets him.
Elsewhere, Amaro is now working as a cop and he and his partner stop at a car parked on the street next to a hydrant and the man, in the car with a woman, is exposing himself. Amaro and his partner get the couple out of the car and in the process of checking them out, the young girl kicks the officer and grabs her own purse and runs off. Amaro races after her and tells her she does not have to run. As he restrains her and cuffs her, she is worried her pimp will kill her. A car, presumably the pimp’s, drives by with another young girl watching in the back seat.
Rollins and Fin arrive at the 116th Precinct for Luna Garcia and the find Amaro is working there. He apologizes for not calling them, saying he has been busy doing as much OT as he can. He explains that Luna is underage and her prints came in form INS a half hour ago. Rollins explains she is also a material witness in the rape-homicide of Ellie Porter. Amaro recognizes Ellie’s name is being Noah’s mom and asks if Benson knows, and Fin explains that is why they are here. Amaro explains his partner did the paperwork and if he had seen the want card he would have called right away. Fin explains Benson wants them to bring Luna in and Amaro understands.
Outside the precinct as Rollins takes a cuffed Luna to the car, Luna doesn’t know what is going on and Rollins says she will be fine, they just want to talk to her. As they get to the car, a shot is fired and a nearby car window is shattered and they all duck for cover. Fin then moves to another spot for cover and tells the shooter he is police and to drop the gun. The shooter continues to fire ad Fin returns fire. The shooter runs into the street and is hit by a passing car. On the ground, he reaches for the gun, but Fin races up, his gun drawn, telling him if he moves he will cap his ass. Fin kicks the gun away.
Benson steps out of the elevator and asks Rollins where is the shooter, Rollins explains he is at the hospital with Fin. Luna is in interview and is shaken up. Benson wonders how the shooter knew they were picking up Luna, and Rollins explains Amaro thinks they were followed to the precinct. Benson is surprised it was Amaro who said that and Rollins explains he was the arresting officer. A detective walks up and interrupts, saying that they shot at a cop right outside the station so they want them to know they are crazy. Benson comments that he must be her new detective, and he holds his hand out to Rollins to shake it, introducing himself as Dominic Carisi Jr., and asks them to call him Sonny as he shaken Benson’s hand, saying he brought food. Benson half questions that she asked for an experienced, empathic detective and they sent him. He replies he is way experienced, sensitive and moody too and he can do that whole empathy thing. Benson and Rollins smile and as Benson walks off, Rollins asks where is Sonny from. He says he was at Staten Island SVU form 2 months and Brooklyn for almost a month – and Benson’s smile fades from her face – he adds also Queens last week. Benson quips that they love him wherever he goes, calling him Carisi. He reminds her to call him Sonny, adding he was supposed to start tomorrow but started a day early when he heard about the shooting on the police scanner. He asks what is our read. Benson says the 116 had a witness from one of their open cases and they took a shot at her. Sonny asks if it was the girl giving a smoothie to the mook in the minivan, asking what she was a witness to. As Benson takes out a folio from her briefcase, a pacifier falls onto the desk and she quickly picks it up before anyone can see it. Rollins explains that few months ago a trafficked girl was gang raped and set on fire. Sonny recalls hearing about it, saying it was horrible, saying a pimp green lit her. Benson explains it was Little Tino, who took the rap but they don’t think he ordered the hit. Sonny thinks they think Luna will give up Mr. Big, and asks Benson if she wants him to take a run at her. Benson says with sarcasm that she can certainly see why he is so popular, then tells Rollins to talk to the john and she tells Sonny to come with her, she needs him to follow her lead or he will be 0 for 4 in his all-borough tour of SVU will continue in t he Bronx. She walks out of her office.
Meanwhile, Rollins questions the guy about being in the car with a 16 year old and he inadvertently admits to statutory rape. Rollins shows him a photo of Ellie and he doesn’t know her. Separately, Benson, with Sonny, questions Luna about Ellie and Luna begs to be put in jail. Benson says they want her dead and they killed Ellie and if she works with them they will keep her safe. Sonny pipes up saying she will be as safe as she can be. Benson glares at him and he says if she is not going to talk to them and keep blowing smoke. Benson sits back and lets Sonny question her. He talks to her very frankly and Benson finally asks him to get Luna something to drink. Luna shouts that she told them she doesn’t know her, and Sonny gets up to leave and tells Benson it’s no problem but before he goes, he strongly tells Luna that wasn’t a warning shot, He adds her papi green lit her ass. Benson says that is not helping but he goes on to say she has one hope: teen non-immigrant status for traffic girls. She will get a new identity and move to a new city, adding “welcome to America.” He says he can pull those strings and make that happen but Luna has to make a statement...at least they can offer her a chance. Benson says it is either us or them, she wants them to live but they don’t. She then says that Sonny will get her something to drink
Afterwards, Benson walks into her office with Sonny in tow and says he got pretty lucky in there offering her T status and asks what is he, and immigration lawyer? He explains he is halfway there, he just did a term paper on the issue. Benson questions that he wrote a paper and now says he has pull, but he thinks because he got her to believe he does. Benson says that may work on Staten Island but that is not how they do things here. He apologizes but knows after what happened to Ellie Luna knows they can’t keep her safe. Benson said so he scared her, asking what happened to that empathy thing. He asks when was the last time she got empathy from a man? She is used to her pimp telling her what to do, a nice guy is just playing her. Benson says fine, just get her to talk.
Later in the squad room, Benson asks the detectives for a progress report. Rollins says it is the same set-up as Little Tino’s operation. Fin comments that Little Tino is in jail so this is another franchise. Benson asks about the shooter, and Fin informs her that Diego Ramirez somehow managed to lawyer up while in surgery. He has no record. Rollins adds that his prints match ones on the gas can found at Ellie’s murder. They are waiting to find if he raped her. Sonny walks in and says he knows why Luna doesn’t want a lawyer, saying she has a mouth on her. He got the address of the house she is working out of. It was too soon to ask about the pimp, and Benson tells him he has nothing, Fin glares at Sonny who is eating while he is talking, and he adds he is trying to build a rapport. He tells her to just stake out the house, they will find him. He holds out his bag of food towards Fin and Fin dryly asks “Who are you?” Benson introduces Sonny, reminding Fin about the sensitive, experienced detective she put in for. Fin raises his eyebrows. Sonny asks who do they call for a warrant. Benson says, “Easy there, cowboy.” Adding they already took down one house and all they got was house. She thinks something bigger is going on here. Rollins suggests they do stake it out and put a UC inside. Sonny says they don’t know him, suggesting he go in. Benson asks him to hold that thought, suggesting they go with somebody they do know and somebody that they also know has a grudge against NYPD.
At the house, Amaro is staking out the place and then pulls over a car. It is Joaquin Menendez and Amaro talks to him about the house with his working girls. Amaro gives the impression he wants in and says he will prove it, warning Joaquin of a raid tonight. Amaro hands Joaquin his card with his burner cell number on it. He knows Amaro is on the outs for beating up a perp. Amaro says if Joaquin is too stupid to believe him and he gets snatched up to tell El Moreno they are friends.
Later, the house is raided and Rollins coaxes one of the young girls out. Outside, Sonny pulls a gun on an escaping Joaquin but Fin takes over, saying Rollins needs him inside. When Sonny moves off, Joaquin says he is a friend of Nick’s and Fin lets him go.
Back at SVU, Rollins and Sonny question one of the young girls who doesn’t want to talk. When Sonny brings up they have her phone and shows a photo of her daughter on it, she asks for something to eat. Rollins walks out. Meanwhile, Benson walks out of a session with another girl who won’t talk and she and Rollins confer in the hall. Rollins explains Sonny is talking to one of the girls about her baby. Fin comments that their set up worked, after he let Joaquin go, he called Amaro and told Amaro he owed him a favor and would put him on retainer. Benson wonders if they got anything out of the raid, and Rollins explains TARU is going over the phones and the numbers match the ones on Craigslist ads going to mid town hotels. The girls had the same app for a car service, Quickride.
At the Quickride office in Queens on Wednesday, August 6, Rollins and Fin try to get information on the accounts and find they are all paid by an offshore LLC with a PO Box address. He closed an account a few months ago for complaints about a man roughing up young girls in the cars – Tino Aguilar’s,
At Attica Correctional Facility on Wednesday, August 6, Benson is there with Barba and as Tino is being led down the hall, they discuss that both pimps used Quickride. Benson thinks and ADA coming to Attica may make Tino think that he can get a deal. As Tino is led into the room, he asks what do they want from him. Benson says his girls used Quickride and they just busted another house using Quickride. Benson says it’s the same question, who is in charge here? Tino says he is already in jail for rape and murder, asking if Barba can get him off from that. Barba replies that he is here, isn’t he? Benson suggests that if he cooperates, witness protection is one phone call away. Tino says if he talks everybody will know it came from him, but Benson thinks not; he has cover now – the other house and the car service. They have the shooter in custody who tried to take out one of the working girls and somebody will give up his boss. Benson thinks Tino is the last person they are thinking about. Tino counters that none of those witnesses have talked yet, and doesn’t that tell her something? Benson haltingly asks who.ordered.Ellie.killed. Tino asks why is she so worried about that dead whore, it worked out pretty good for Benson. Benson looks questioningly at him and asks, “Excuse me?” Tino replies he heard she got a baby out of it. Benson says nothing and Barba quietly asks where did Tino hear that? Tino asks Benson if she loves that little baby. Benson sits back and lets out a breath, and Barba leans in, asking Tino if he is stupid enough to threaten a Sergeant’s family in front of a DA when he is offering him a deal? Tino calmly comments that all he is saying is if he was Benson, he would leave this alone, some of her own guys are working against her. He gets up to leave, and Benson takes another deep breath and has a look of disbelief on her face.
Elsewhere, Amaro gets out of his squad car with his partner and he tells her to stay in the car and keep her eye on the street. He enters a pizza place where Tino is waiting. Amaro picks up a newspaper on Tino’s table and Tino has it stuffed with a wad of money. He tells him Tino’s shooter Diego is in recovery and is looking for a deal. Tino says he don’t know nothing and his girls are all lawyered up and out on bail and he has no worries. Amaro explains the DA is leaning on Little Tino and Amaro says if he keeps getting the money he can find out if Tino is talking. He warns Joaquin he doesn’t want to be the last man in. Amaro gets up to leave, grabs a slice form Tino, and tells the one that let him go can walk him through the door if he needs it.
Back at Attica, Tino is ambushed and repeatedly stabbed. Elsewhere, one of the girls who had been arrested in dead in a car. Diego is injected with a drug in his hospital bed and is killed.
Back at SVU, Benson hears the news and Rollins, Fin and Sonny have heard about the others. Benson tells them to go and says she is going to check on Noah. She calls home to check with Lucy and tells her she is coming home and not to let anybody in. Lucy says they are not home, they are at the park. A car drives by and begins to shoot and Lucy drops her phone and shields Noah. Benson hears the shooting and asks what is going on. She hangs up and makes another call to say shots were fired at the De Witt Clinton playground as she races out of the squad room.
In her car, Benson races to the scene. She sees a stroller knocked over and calls out for Lucy. Lucy calls out that they are fine and Noah is sitting there in his stroller. Lucy adds no one got hit, she thinks they were trying to scare them. Benson picks up Noah in great relief.
Back at SVU, Benson recaps that Diego was killed in Bellevue, Missy Brooks was executed along with a john, Little Tino is critical and still in surgery, he was shivved 9 times. Rollins adds the shooter at the playground. Barba asks if she is okay and suggests Benson get them out of the city. Benson said there is a detail on them and they also picked up Luna. She adds they need to do now is find out who ordered the hits. Sonny thinks it was Joaquin but Rollins asks how, they have his phone tapped and is under surveillance. Benson tells them to tell Amaro to set up a meet with Joaquin and the second those two sit down to bring them both in. Fin questions that she wants to arrest Amaro, and Barba says it has to look hood. Benson says she knows. Sonny comments that Missy was killed in Richmond Hill in a john’s car, wondering how she got there and suggests he go talk to Quickride. Benson suggests they both do.
Benson and Sonny get to Quickride ride and Benson calls out for Angel Perez. But his office looks like it has been trashed and he tells her to get out, he is not talking. Benson thinks he’d want them to catch these guys and Sonny brings up one of his drivers dropped off a girl who was murdered. Angel’s wife tells them to get out, saying this only happened because Angel spoke to the other detectives.
Elsewhere, Amaro meets up with Joaquin in the pizza place and he yells at Joaquin about the killings, who says he had nothing to do with it. Amaro gets irate and Joaquin asks who does she think he is talking to? Joaquin says if he takes him down he will bring him down with him, it will be the final nail in Amaro’s coffin. As Joaquin tries to walk away, Rollins and Fin enter and arrest them both. Amaro says to Fin he thought they had a deal, but Fin says not any more as he cuffs him.
Back at SVU with Joaquin in interrogation, who says their dirty cop Amaro set him up. Benson asks who green lit Ellie, and he wonders if she care so much because she has Ellie’s kid. Benson doesn’t care if he did it or she knows who did it, but says this one is on him. Rollins enters and calls to Benson, and Benson tells Joaquin he’d better start talking or they will find him hanging in his cell, adding she promises him that. Benson steps out and Rollins explains she just got a call from Attica that Little Tino in conscious.
In the hospital wing at Attica on Thursday, August 7, Benson and Fin arrive and Tino’s mother says they are not going in to see her son. Benson explains it is police business but Mrs. Aguilar says they set up her baby and if he talks to them again they will kill him. But Fin reminds her what they did even though he didn’t talk, and asks her to tell them who is boss is. She says she doesn’t know but as Benson and Fin move to Tino’s room, she stops them and says that she doesn’t deal with the boss but has death with the bottom, Selena. Selena breaks in the new girls and she heard there is a new girl who goes by the name of Carmen on Craigslist. If they book a date with her, Selena will be close by.
Later, at Richmond Hill Motor Lodge in Queens on August 7, Sonny opens the door and the young girl is waiting. He has her come into the room and he locks the door and asks what she will do for him. She asks what he wants and suggests a massage but he starts to push her to the bed roughly but she resists and runs into the bathroom. He pushes open the door and says he likes it rough, that’s what he wants and if she can’t do that to find someone who can. As she gets out her phone he yells at her and she gets more flustered. She makes a call to Selena. Soon afterwards, there is another knock on the door and when he opens it up, a man with a gun pointed at him enters, along with Selena. Sonny complains they sent him the virgin Maria. She says if they hurt her girl, he needs to pay. He says they don’t have to do this and reaches for his money and tries to calm them. But the door bursts open and Fin enters and knocks the man with the gun on the head and he falls to the floor. Rollins enters through another door and tells them to get their hands in the air. Selena says the girl is her cousin and she was trying to help, and Rollins tells her to save it, sister. As they take Selena away, Rollins tells the other girl she is safe.
Back at SVU in interrogation, Selena tries to explain her way out of it, but Benson says they have been tracking her and they have her and she could face 10 years minimum. Fin enters to bring in Selena’s lawyer. Benson suggest he get Selena to tell them something and she insists she told them nothing, Rollins says Selena didn’t have to, they know she’s worked her way to the bottom and they are building a case against her boss. He asks how, by threatening his client with jail or deportation? He thinks SVU detectives would have more sympathy for the path she’s had to walk. Benson suggests they talk about her past, and then outlines how she got here and who she works for and what he made her do.. He says what they are asking her to do would but her in grave danger so he is invoking. Rollins asks if he wants to consult with his client first, but he says not to try and trick her, she knows to trust her abogado. Selena says nothing. Benson and Rollins leave the room.
In Benson’s office at the observation window, Rollins mentions the look of terror Selena had of the lawyer, and Benson says Selena worked for those pimps and had to know about Ellie and Missy and going after Noah. She is a victimizer now and they have to build a case against her. Benson asks where is Luna, and Rollins replies she is in the bunkroom. Benson instructs her to get her down here.
Later, Benson is in the interview room with Sonny and Luna, who asks how is her application is going. Sonny says he is working on it. He asks Luna if she knows Selena and Luna explains everybody knows her, she is in charge of us. Benson asks if Selena she is the enforcer and Luna says yes, but adds that Selena thinks she is better than them because she works for them. She used to be like them, and tells her it is her fault she is a whore, asking how could she be so stupid. She said in their village, Vargas, every girl know it could happen. She did what her mother said and tried to look ugly and no dresses and when the narcos come, you hide. Her kitten ran away and she climbed out after her and they took her after her first communion. Sonny asks why did she say “our village” and she explains Selena was one of the first girls taken and everyone knew her story. She was at the market with her mother and let go of her hand and that was it. Everybody knew she was taken to Tenancingo, the same place she was taken.
In the squad room, Barba explains that Tenancingo is the center of sex trafficking in Mexico. Pimping is their main industry and it is a poor village except for an area of mansions 5 stories high. Rollins adds she spoke to a federal task force looking into this and the traffickers make so much money they build these huge houses and the mothers live there with a few guards and the children. Fin asks how this helps bring down this crew, and Barba says the task force was able to ID three owners, first shot to death in Tijuana last April, the second a relative of a respected member of the town council and the third they claim is somewhere in the US possibly New York. He brings up a photo identified as Teodoro Juarez, but the detectives realizes immediately that it is Angel, and realize he vandalized his own office. They explain to Barba that Angel owns Quickride. Rollins thinks no one will testify as he is ruthless and he doesn’t think twice about kidnapping young girls and raping them and holding the babies hostage. Benson thinks this is their way in; these girls have given up on themselves but what about the babies? Benson asks if the task force has eyes on the ground, and Barba adds also in the air. She asks if they can tell how many kids are at Angel’s mother’s house and who they are? Barba says yes.
Later, speaking with Selena in jail, Benson and Rollins bring up Selena getting her son back, and she is clearly concerned about him. Selena asks if they want her to talk, she is worried they are going to kill her baby. She is concerned about this being a trick, but Benson says if she wants to see her son, again she has to turn on Angel and testify and that life is over. She asks where doe she start? Benson holds up Ellie’s photo and tells her to start with her. Selena says Ellie was smart and had spirit and that is always trouble. She is worried what happened to Ellie will happen to her if she helps them?
Afterwards, Rollins speaks with Tino, who is in a wheelchair and Rollins asks him to sign the statement. He does so.
Later, Amaro is let out of jail and goes to see Joaquin who thinks Amaro is going down for taking a bribe. Amaro says the UC’s call that evidence and he is not as dirty as he seemed and everyone is cutting deals and turning on Angel. He tells Joaquin it is too late for him, he’s looking at life with no parole. Joaquin reaches out his arm through the bars at Amaro but misses, and tells Amaro this is not over.
Back at SVU, Benson hangs up the phone and tells Barba there are signed statements from Little Tino and 5 trafficked girls and Selena. As they walk out of her office, Barba says everyone hates guys like Angel and when it turns, it turns fast. He hands her a piece of paper and says 10.
Elsewhere, the detectives and back up arrive at Angel’s home as he is leaving with his wife. As they arrest Angel, Benson tells Angel it is over, they arrested his mother in Tenancingo for kidnapping. Fin reads him his rights. Angel tells his wife to call the lawyer. He tells Benson she knows this is stupid and he knows where she lives, and he knows about the baby. He adds from one parent to another, she does not want to do this. Fin asks if he is threatening his Sergeant’s kid, and Angel’s wife yells that they can’t do this. As she struggles with Rollins and Sonny, Angel elbows Fin and reaches for a gun and raises it to fire. Fin fires first and shoots Angel. As Angels’ wife screams, he slides down the side of the car, dead. Benson says to get them out of here.
At Rikers on Monday, August 11, Benson and Rollins wait with Selena as the gate opens and Barba enters with her son. Her son races to her and they embrace. Barba, Rollins, and Benson look on.
Later, back at home, Benson sits with Noah in her arms, whispering she has good news. She says the man that hurt his momma will never do that again and it is okay now. She looks at him and says she loves him. We fade to black.
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