Thursday, February 19, 2015

Law & Order SVU “Undercover Mother” Recap & Review

“Undercover Mother” is a perfect example of how an episode can be so much more compelling when the whole cast is in on the action. It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve had all the detectives and Barba in the same episode. This A+ story provided something for everybody: action, drama, a solid guest cast and some surprises.

The SVU team, while working a stakeout at a brothel, arrest who they think is the madam, Martha Thornhill (played perfectly by Lili Taylor). But Martha explains she is working undercover - on her own - to find her daughter who was kidnapped 3 years ago. Barba has enough to charge Martha but Benson’s soft heart gets the SVU team involved in a sting to help locate Martha’s daughter Ariel. And then the surprises begin.

This episode brings back characters from previous cases. The first is Selena Cruz from the SVU episode “Girls Disappeared” from earlier this season. More notable and far more enjoyable was the return of Lieutenant Declan Murphy, who again is working undercover. His work, and the SVU case, cross paths in an unexpected way. Lucky for Murphy, the SVU team keeps his cover intact, but he is less than thrilled in what he perceives as Benson’s inability to think big picture. While I do understand Benson’s desire to reunite Martha with her daughter, I do question her judgment in going all in so quickly for an undercover operation AND for bringing Martha along, despite Barba’s prior instruction not to do so. I am sure Benson wanted to show that she can be assertive and decisive, but Barba clearly was displeased and disappointed in her actions.

This isn’t the first time SVU worked a sting and almost blew someone else’s investigation. I can’t recall the episode name, but Cragen once ordered a sting operation and later found the Feds had already infiltrated their targets. Cragen was rightfully pissed that he wasn’t informed of a Fed sting going on in his area, and maybe Benson should have been alerted by Murphy or by whomever Murphy is getting is orders. Rollins did check with Vice who said Martha was not working for them undercover, so I assume that if Murphy was working for Vice, Vice should have alerted them to their own operation at that time. If I recall correctly, SVU also stumbled on Brian Cassidy working undercover, so maybe it’s standard procedure for the NYPD not to share any undercover operations with other divisions. I’m not clear on exactly which NYPD organization Murphy is working for and I don’t know why, but something bugs me about his undercover work here.

Murphy shouldn't be putting all the blame on Benson for intruding on his operation.  He's worked SVU and he knows the issues they face.   He is engaging in illegal operations under the guise of gaining the trust of the people running them and in the process, he allowed girls to remain in danger. It seems he’s done little if anything to help those victims in order to preserve his cover. I understand he needs to behave a certain way to get himself further into the organization, but at what expense? In his defense, if there was a concern that the brothel was operating while someone at the NYPD was allowing them to do so, maybe Murphy did not know whom to trust. It’s a touchy situation for everyone involved, especially for the victims who continue to be held against their will and abused while Murphy infiltrates.

One question remains: will Barba charge Martha?  She admitted she engaged in illegal behavior to find her daughter, but the fact remains she was party to the illegal operation, regardless of her motives. I’m curious: if this were a real case, what would a real DA do?

Regarding SVU staking out the house where Tracy and the girls were working, could they be any more obvious by sitting right in front of the driveway with the camera directly facing out the window? It’s no shock they may have been spotted. Likewise, Amaro and Rollins were parked in the same direction as Fin and Carisi, so when their mark made a u-turn, there was no way any of them could make a move without it looking obvious. Next time, park on opposite sides of the street with one car pointed in each direction.

The ending provided the biggest shocker to Benson: Johnny D, the leader of the pack, is Noah’s father. Things could get messy.

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 Carisi, Jr.

Guest stars:
Tamara Tunie – M.E. Melinda Warner
Donal Logue - Lt. Declan Murphy
Lili Taylor – Martha Thornhill
Danielle Burgess - Nina Soren
Amanda Warren - Tracy
Justin McCarthy - Tommy Strickland
Charles Halford - Johnny D
Nikki M. James – Detective Gail Dunbar
Laura Gomez - Selena Cruz
Jas Anderson - Timmer
Jay Patterson - Judge Evans
Bronwyn Reed - Lucy Huston
Justin McCarthy – Officer
Derrick Baskin – Det. Cash Gillette
Jamila Velasquez – Pilar Morenas
Emily Althaus - Jessie
Danika Yarosh - Ariel Thornhill
Josh Saviano – Counselor Don Taft
Danielle Burgess – Nina Soren
Candace Gordon – Federal Prosecutor
DK Bowser – Frank
Shannon Garland – Officer Denice Legrange

The SVU team is working a stake out, Benson and Rollins are in a van and Fin and Amaro are in a car. Carisi is undercover inside. A camera is in his eyeglasses so Benson and Rollins can see what is going on inside. He approaches the house madam, acting impatient about his wait and she tells him it is worth the wait, the girls are young and fresh. Fin radioed that a minivan with blacked out windows has arrived. Benson and Rollins watch as young girls exit the van and Benson recognizes the female handler as Selena Cruz, someone they’ve picked up once before and whose son they got out of Mexico. Rollins comments Selena is doing what she knows. Benson radios to Fin and Amaro and all the other units that the female handler is known to them and they will have to secure her before she gets upstairs. All the others copy Benson’s information.

As the girls are being taken to the entrance, they are arrested as Selena opens the door. The other NYPD cars move in and the other detectives and police storm inside. Carisi continues to pretend he is a customer. Another detective corners the madam who says it is a private party and it is legal, claiming she is just a waitress. They arrest everyone, including Carisi,

Back at SVU, Benson tries to get the girls to talk but is unsuccessful. She tells Rollins to talk Selena – calling her a piece of crap – into holding. The guy Amaro is bringing in says the girls are all 18 and to check their IDs. Amaro states they did and they are all fake.

As Fin brings in the madam, she asks to speak to someone in charge, and Benson tells her it better be good. The woman claims she is undercover and has been tracking this ring for a years. When Benson asks for who, the woman says they have her daughter,

As the woman walks into Benson’s office, she looks to the interview room and tells Benson that she needs to talk to those girls SVU picked up. Rollins enters the office and states that vice doesn’t know her and she is not UC. The woman says she is not a cop, her name is Martha Thornhill and she is from Calgary and her daughter Ariel was kidnapped three years ago. Benson asks if Martha thinks that Ariel was taken by traffickers, and Martha says she knows she was’ she has been tracking her from Toronto to Minneapolis to Buffalo. She has seen her pictures in sex ads; if they took her to New York 6 months ago. Rollins asks Martha if she contacted NYPD, and Martha replies no. When Benson asks why not, Martha states Toronto police didn’t believe her. She explains Ariel was 13 and they were on vacation in Toronto, they were having lunch in a café and she went to pay at the register and she was gone two minutes tops. The Toronto police thought she and her boyfriend had something to do with the disappearance. Rollins bluntly asks if she did, and Martha replies no. The adds that the three days the police spend grilling them is when they lost her. Benson seems skeptical and asks Martha why should they believe her, they just caught her red handed trafficking, Martha asks them to let her show them.

At Martha’s apartment in Flushing Queens on Thursday, January 29, Benson and the detectives enter to find one of her walls covered with photos and information tracking her daughter. Benson seems to believe Martha now,  and when Martha says she is not a criminal, Benson says they will have to speak with the DA. Martha says they have to let her go, but Fin reminds her she told their UC she had underage girls coming to the brothel. Martha explains that Ariel was to be there, she called her 6 days ago. Martha gave her number to a girl that knows her and Ariel didn’t know it was her. She was crying that they wouldn’t let her go. Benson presses for the name of the girl but Martha is reluctant to say because the girl thinks she is a madam. She is her only connection to Ariel and she is not giving up until she finds her daughter,

Back at SVU, Barba looks at the info on the board and says that the woman saying she is pretending to be a sex trafficker is a new defense. Rollins explains the Toronto police confirm Martha’s story. Fin explains the police suspected the boyfriend Brian Marks, a pot dealer. Amaro states Marks has since died from a heroin overdose, the police could not implicate and the trail went cold. Carisi adds how Martha kept searching and Benson explains local precincts blew Martha off so Martha went deeper into the life, putting herself at risk. Barba wisecracks “Touching story” and asks them to tell him how posing as a criminal and engaging in criminal activity doesn’t make you a criminal. Benson explains Martha has recorded every single job and every single pimp, and is better than any US they’ve seen. Barba counters it is because she IS a trafficker. Benson says Martha has been searching for her daughter, which Barba understands. He adds that, assuming Martha hands over all her records and turns state’s evidence, he MIGHT take that into consideration. Benson argues that it has taken Martha three years to get this far, she is not going to work with them unless they help her get her daughter back. Barba states firmly that Martha is not going back in. Benson pauses, then suggests maybe they go in for her.

In the interrogation room, Martha is shocked and questions that they are going to charge her. Barba reminds her she broke the law - kidnapping, sex trafficking – and she is looking at 20 years. Martha counters that her daughter has been passed from pimp to pimp for three years, she has been in New York for the past year and they have done nothing. She argues that she finally finds the pimp who has her and they decide to move in NOW? Barba reminds her she is running a brothel. Martha insists she is infiltrating to get to Ariel’s pimp. She adds that they scared him off and she may be lost forever. Benson informs her they are going to keep looking for Ariel, but Martha begs that they let her keep looking. Barba states Martha is out of this game and if she does not want to do time, they need her names, her intel – all of it. Benson adds that the girl who gave Ariel Martha’s phone number is where they start. Martha says she can’t, it will blow her cover; she promised she wouldn’t give her away to anyone. Barba answers, “Well, guess what – you lied.” Benson asks if she thought Ariel was going to be delivered last night, and Martha states that Selena told her boss she was going to bring 7 girls. Then she called and said she was just going to bring 5. Her pimp held back 2 so he could discipline them. Barba asks who is the pimp, and Martha says they call him Timmer; if a girl gets out of line, he boot-stomps them in front of the others. Benson asks who told her that, and Martha replies that she has not saved her daughter yet but she bought and sent home 6 girls. Barba questions “Bought?” and Martha explains if a girl causes enough trouble, a pimp will sell her for $1,200. Benson comments it is a slave trade. Barba tersely asks where does Martha get the money, and she explains it is from donations from her church. When Barba raises his eyebrows, she adds it is a cash business. She explains the pimps deliver the girls at the beginning of the night and when the night is over, they take them home; they get 70% and the house gets the rest. Benson concludes that Martha was going to buy back Ariel last night, and Martha confirms it, and also buy her friend. Barba thinks the girls they picked up last night should know Ariel. Martha insists they will not talk to him, Timmer owns them. Barba states not any more, adding Martha has a choice: cooperate with them or he will charge her. He walks out of the interrogation room. Martha begs Benson not to do this, adding her daughter might be lost forever. Starting to cry, she says, “Please.” Benson says she promises her that she will do everything she can not to let that happen. Benson gets up and leaves the room.

At the Parisian Suites Motel in Queens Village, Queens, on Friday, January 30, Rollins speaks to one of the girls who is reluctant to give Rollins any information. Rollins brings up Timmer’s name but it doesn’t do any good. Rollins shows her a photo of Ariel and asks if she is still alive.

Meanwhile, in the same motel, Carisi works another girl for information. The girl calling Ariel a “snow bunny” and said Ariel mouthed off and Timmer stomped her in front of them. Carisi continues to press but the girl isn’t buying.

At prison, Amaro and Fin press Selena about Ariel and use Selena’s son as leverage Selena thinks the other girls are lying but Amaro and Fin aren’t buying it and explain how things will play out for her. But Selena still will not talk.

Back at SVU, Fin explains after they walked out on Selena, she called her lawyer; she wants to see her son again. Amaro says she would not give up Timmer but gave them a location of a party house where they rotate girls. Martha says she’s been there; the madam’s name is Tracy. Rollins says on that black there have been 5 911 calls in the last 6 months for assault and drunk driving but no charges. Fin thinks someone is paying off the precinct. Carisi suggests he go in and get eyes inside, but Benson suggests they stake it out to see what they are dealing with. Martha says if they see Ariel, they move in and Benson says they will – if they can.

At the party house in Jamaica Queens on Saturday, January 31, Fin and Carisi sit in a van right outside the house, Carisi taking pictures. They see a van pull in and girls disembark and they think Timmer is there. Fin comments the girls look more ethnic. Amaro and Rollins are in another car nearby and Rollins thinks Selena’s tip was good. Amaro doesn’t know if that will help her cause. They don’t see Ariel and neither does Fin and Carisi. One girl looks like she is in trouble and a woman approaches and Fin thinks this is Tracy, who may be upset the girl is strung out. Fin radios Tracy may not be happy and is sending the driver back for more girls. Carisi and Fin decide to follow the van and Amaro and Rollins stay at the house. Amaro seems concerned that Carisi is driving and Fin urges Carisi to slow down. Amaro worries they will lose the van but Rollins asks him to give Carisi a break. Amaro and Rollins see a truck pull up and a driver makes a beer delivery.

Meanwhile, the driver of the van turns around and Fin and Carisi are forced to let him go. Amaro gets upset when they see the van come back towards them but Rollins tells him to relax, telling him the guy made a u-turn and none of them cam follow him without setting off alarms. Amaro is testy over it but Rollins reminds him they still have the beer delivery guy – illegal delivery of alcohol to an unlicensed and non-commercial establishment. Amaro suggests they not pull him over anywhere near the house.

Shortly later, they pull the driver over for the illegal distribution of alcohol to a brothel. The driver says he is trying to make a living and they take this as an admission and arrest him.

Back at SVU, Martha is in Benson’s office looking at the photos the detectives took and picks out Timmer, one of the Asian girls, and Nina, Ariel’s friend that she gave the phone number to. But no Ariel. She worries Ariel is injured. Benson tries to reassure her and says they will start working on the ones Martha ID’d and asks Martha to see if she can ID anyone else.

In the squad room, Benson informs the detectives that Martha identified 2 girls and the pimp, Timmer. Carisi states the plates on the van are to a rental made by a church which is licensed to a non-existent church. The drive has been cautious. There was no sign of Ariel, the girls were more ethnic and Ariel may be considered high class and by special request. Benson says they need to get into that house. Rollins reminds them tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday and they already grabbed half his girls so Timmer will be working every single one of them that he has. Fin comments it is also a big day for beer delivery. Benson asks if Tommy, the beer delivery guy, has lawyered up yet, and Rollins replies not yet, she thinks he is afraid of calling his wife.

In the interrogation room, Rollins and Amaro press Tommy who insists all he does is deliver beer. But they continue to press him and he finally explains for special events they bring in the best girls and it is high class and those are big delivery days for him and Super Bowl Sunday is his biggest day of the year. Amaro says they will take that delivery off his hands,

Later, Benson and Fin are in the surveillance van watching as Amaro makes the delivery. Amaro knocks on the door and says he is filling in for Tommy and convinces Tracy to let him in. Once he has eyes inside and sees the young girls, asking how old are they, one of the men stands up. Amaro pulls out his gun and announces he is NYPD and shows his badge. Fin and Rollins break in the front door and stop anyone else from fleeing. Tracy bitches to Benson they are taking her down on Super Bowl Sunday, and Benson tells her to consider it a hostile takeover.

Afterwards, Benson works Tracy and gets her phone, and when Tracy questions where is her warrant, Benson says it is on the way. Benson tells her if they work with them, Benson will work with her. They suggest she go on with the party and that Tracy needs to tell them who is coming – how many johns, pimps, girls – no surprises. Benson says when they arrest them, they will arrest Tracy too and make it look good and no one will know she cooperated. When Tracy asks what if she says no, Rollins reminds her they have two underage girls. Benson adds if Tracy says no, she is talking Federal charges. Benson shows her a photo of Ariel and Tracy hasn’t seen her in a week. She says she doesn’t know who she is with but Fin tells her to make some calls and get her here. Carisi adds for her to tell the pimp that she has a special request; she has a whale here willing to pay top dollar for snow bunnies. Benson tells her to stand up and uncuff her, and it anybody asks, Benson is Bethany and she is here to help her out for today. Fin states he is her new supplier and he will bring her new girls fresh from vice. Carisi will be the whale. Benson tells Tracy to make the call, and Tracy angrily grabs the phone and make the calls.

Back at SVU, Benson is on the phone trying to get the youngest looking girls available and get the house wired – today. Martha is there and is hopeful Ariel will be at the party, and Benson explains they put in a request and Timmer will make some calls. When Martha asks to come with, Benson says that will not happen. But Martha pleads to Benson’s mom instincts.

At Benson’s apartment, she gets dressed up for her undercover role while Lucy tends to Noah. Her doorbell rings and Benson says that is her date. It is Fin, dressed for the part as well. He asks if she is ready to roll.

Back at the house, Benson, Fin, and Carisi play their roles. Timmer asks Tracy who is Benson and she explains that she is her sister in law Bethany and works a house in Nassau country, chiding him that she told him she needed help. Benson asks if those are his girls, and asks which ones do special requests. Timmer says they do what he tells them to do. Benson says that is what she likes to hear.

Meanwhile, Martha watches the video feed from inside the van with Rollins and Amaro, worried they have not seen Ariel. A vehicle pulls up and it is not a car she knows.

Inside, Carisi gets impatient and asks Benson where is his blonde. Timmer sends him over to Nina in the meantime. Benson tells him he has money and asks if she is actually coming. Timmer says he will make another phone call. As he goes to make the call, Fin explains to Benson a mystery pimp just pulled up in the driveway. In the van, Amaro watches the unknown pimp and says they have a problem. Benson asks Tracy who just arrived in the black Escalade, and Tracy says it is Bishop, he is crazy; Timmer must have called him about Ariel. Benson questions that he is alone. Bishop walks into the room and calls out to Timmer. Benson turns and is shocked to see that it is their former Lieutenant Declan Murphy, apparently undercover. He asks who are these trespassers; he doesn’t know them. Timmer looks uncomfortable and Benson explains she is with Tracy, they are all friends here. Murphy, continuing to play his role, says she is no friend of his. Carisi pushes Nina off his lap and tells her to “shut up, bitch.” Murphy gets in his face and tells him never to speak to a woman like that, he is done. Carisi pushes Murphy and tells him to back off, the game hasn’t started yet. Murphy says his is over, and when Carisi asks who is he, he doesn’t know him, Murphy clocks Carisi in the head with his gun. Fin tells Murphy to take it easy and Murphy says he doesn’t know him either, calling him Superfly. Murphy holds a gun on Fin and yells that the party is over, but Benson pulls out her gun and tells Murphy to drop his. Murphy looks at Timmer and says he prays he did not invite a pig to the party. Benson orders Murphy to drop the gun. He tells her to take it easy, then tells Tracy to tell her bitch to step back. But Amaro and Rollins burst in with police and they make arrests, surprised to see Murphy but not blowing his cover. Amaro arrests Benson to keep her cover as well.

Back at SVU, Benson walks into her office with Barba, who comments if he wants to know why she is dressed like that. When she explains she and the squad was undercover and that Martha was there, he is less than thrilled, reminding her he told her Martha could not be involved. Benson says “Sorry” and Barba says “Sorry? That’s it?” She explains that what she was trying to tell him is before they could rescue Ariel, Declan Murphy shows up, deep undercover as a trafficker and they had to arrest him. Barba is incensed, asking who is Murphy undercover for? Benson can’t answer that. Barba tersely tells her to see if Murphy can.

Meanwhile, Carisi is in holding with an ice pack to his head, nursing a nosebleed. Murphy gets on Timmer’s case. Amaro comes in and lets two guys out and then tells Fin and Murphy to come with him, Fin saying he doesn’t know Murphy, he’s crazy. They leave Carisi inside.

Benson brings Fin and Murphy into the interrogation room and Fin and Benson get on his case. But HE wonders what THEY are doing, saying he embedding himself 9 months into a trafficking ring and asks that they want to blow it with a Super Bowl vice bust, the dumbest, riskiest day of the year. Benson explains they are looking for a trafficked girl and he asks - just one? He thought he taught her to think big like hundreds. He is working for Johnny D. Fin says they don’t know him, and Murphy angrily retorts of course they don’t, it took him 9 months to figure out and now with this he will have to spend a week at Rikers until the gun charge is dropped. He tells Benson he handed the reins to her and she had to bollocks [not to be confused with "Bullock", Donal's character on the series "Gotham"] the whole thing up. Benson retorts that she missed him to, and shows him a photo of Ariel. He knows her and says she is damaged goods, Timmer did a number on her before he sold her to Johnny D for $800. Johnny D has just bought girls from him, he’s never taken Murphy to his lair. Benson is shocked, saying so now he is trafficking. Murphy says he is earning his trust and angrily says she does not relay that to One PP. Benson says he should tell Johnny D he wants to buy Ariel from him, but he says she overplayed that hand and Johnny D will sense a trap. Benson explains she made a promise to that girl’s mother, and Murphy says that is a promise she will not be able to keep. He explains it is too late for Ariel, those girls are so broken they won’t save themselves and Johnny D won’t think twice about killing a whore, pimp, or cop. If alone with him, given the chance, he will put a shiv in him and just walk away but they have to put him back in holding before they make this worse. She opens the door and Murphy and Fin walk out. Benson closes the door and looks concerned.

Meanwhile, Rollins works Nina in the interview room and she tells her about how Martha was going to buy them and Timmer walked in while Ariel was on the phone with Martha. Timmer beat Ariel until she blacked out. Martha watches with Benson from the observation window in her office. Nina doesn’t want to talk and Martha convinces Benson to let he talk to Nina. Benson relents.

Martha speaks to Nina and explains she is Ariel’s mother. Nina says Ariel's mom’s boyfriend pimped her out in Canada but Martha says this is not true, explaining she has been looking for Ariel since the say she disappeared. Nina says no one ever came looking for her, and Martha asks who told her that, Timmer. She continues to press Nina about wanting to reunited with her daughter. Martha continues to beg. Nina says that the morning after Timmer beat her, he drove Ariel to hell – to Johnny D. Johnny D keeps his new girls chained up for a week and lets his pimps come in and do whatever they want to them; that’s how he breaks them.

Meanwhile, Fin and Rollins question Timmer who realizes this was a set up. They know he is a pimp, and Fin uses the recent photos to make Timmer think they have been following him for a year. Rollins says they embedded Selena, and her madam, Martha, was a UC. He isn’t buying it and says he will call his lawyer now. Martha, watching this, asks Benson and Barba is this is over? Barba says not yet, and Benson adds they know what they are doing. In interrogation, Fin and Rollins tells Timmer they are letting him and Bishop go, and Bishop and Johnny D will think Timmer set them up so they will be waiting on him when he gets out. Fin says he is looking at a dead man now and Timmer’s body doesn’t even know it. Timmer gets worried, saying he didn’t set up anybody, and Rollins says if he wants to live, where is Ariel?

On Sunday, February 1, the detectives arrive at an abandoned hospital in Forest Hills, Queens. In the basement, they find 3 girls in locked rooms with nothing but a mattress, all in bad shape. They hear a scream and follow it to another locked room. Amaro kicks open the door to find Johnny D holding Ariel with a piece of glass to her neck and Amaro orders him to drop the glass. Johnny D threatens to kill Ariel but Benson says if he kills her, he dies too, asking if she is really worth it. Johnny thinks about it and gives up, asking for his lawyer. Ariel runs to Benson, who rushes her out of the room,

Later, Benson is with Martha in the hospital where Ariel lay in a bed. Martha thanks Benson. Ariel opens her eyes and is happy to see her mother. She cries and embraces her as Martha says she is safe now.

Back at SVU in the interrogation room, Rollins brings in something to drink for Murphy who is sitting at the table. She comments he has been under a long time and asks if he is okay. He says he is fine. Rollins says some of the girls say Murphy pimped them out, and he says you can’t believe what they say, they are liars. He asks what about her, is she walking the walk? She says she hit a rough patch but what doesn’t kill you…Murphy finishes that it makes you a better detective. She nods and smiles. Benson enters the room and Murphy comments he heard she found her girl. Benson says they did and the bruising and fractured ribs will heal but the rest …Murphy says one can only pray. Benson informs him they took his man down and found him in his lair with 4 sex slaves as prisoners and he will be going away for life for Federal charges. Murphy comments maybe; he has trafficked for over 20 years with no paper trail and not a single arrest. He warns them not to turn their backs on him. Rollins asks Murphy if he can come in from the cold now, and he asks if they want him back in charge that badly? He explains that Johnny D was the king and now he is out of commission which makes him the heir apparent. He mentions the gun charge and says Benson should be ashamed at themselves for the illegal search. It will get dropped and he will be back on the streets in no time and every trafficker in the northeast will be kissing his ring, so make it look good. He gets up and Benson asks “Cuffs?” and he replies, “By the book.” Rollins cuffs him. Murphy tells Benson she has a good team here and to take care of themselves. She replies, “You too, Declan.” Rollins leads him out of the room.

At Federal arraignment court on Tuesday, February 3, John Drake, AKA Johnny D is arraigned and pleads not guilty. Benson, Barba, Amaro, Rollins, Carisi, and Martha sit in the gallery, The prosecutor is successful in getting him remanded to a Federal penitentiary. Martha is happy.

Back at home, Benson is reading to Noah and her doorbell rings. She answers it to find Melinda Warner. Melina apologizes for coming to her home but says she has something she wants to keep off the books. Melinda asks the legal status of her relationship with Noah and if Benson started the adoption process. Benson explains there is a pile of paperwork but the second she is allowed to adopt him she will. Benson asks what is going on, and Melinda says there was a hit on Johnny Drake’s DNA when it went through the system. It was a familial match in an unrelated case which is not discoverable in Drake’s current case; he never needs to know. Benson asks “Needs to know what? What are you saying?” Melinda explains that Johnny D is Noah’s father. Benson looks at the file, stunned. She shakes her head in disbelief, then looks at Melina and Noah with concerns and worry as we fade to black.

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Ana Andrade said...

I absolutely loved this episode. It was awesome seeing Murphy again. I find it interesting how SVU seems to constantly run into other undercover operations. I think the NYPD should make these operations known so that someone's cover doesn't get blown. As for Johnny D being Noah's father, I can tell that this is going to be an issue, especially when it comes to Olivia adopting Noah. Is it just me or did Murphy seem to be too harsh on Olivia? The highlights for me where when he pistol-whipped Carisi and when Ariel was finally reunited with her mom.

Nancy R said...

I liked Barba chastizing Benson when she went against his orders.
Also his conversations with Martha suggesting she herself was a criminal! Always enjoy seeing his occasional out-of-work outfits.

Njtoocool said...

Loved the puffy coat! Whoever does the costumes deserve a raise :)!

Question for anyone who wants to answer: if you were the DA would you charge Martha?

Cath T said...

Great episode.

Well written, performed, tightly constructed.

Fantastic to see the whole cast together and all of them with something relevant to do.

Nice to see Murphy back (although I'm not a fan.) His inclusion wasn't done just for the sake of it. It was a good fit and done well.

I am sad though that Amaro, my favourite character, is becoming such an unlikeable person. Present day Amaro bears very little resemblance to the person he started out as.

I can understand that he's a little harder in attitude but he's also crueler and that I don't like.

He was downright nasty about Carisi and somewhat petulant. So at odds with the empathetic, understanding SVU detective he started out as.

It's a shame.

Petra S said...

Most importantly - I can't believe you guys liked Barba's puffy jacket. Like I was in shock for minutes, couldn't believe my eyes that he would ever wear something that hideous ;) (I'm serious though - hideous jacket!)

For me this episode fell a ltl flat and I think it was the hype over at Twitter's fault. The two big surprises, everyone undercover yada yada.
Freaked out a ltl though when I saw Donal's name in the credits. Adore him & Murphy as a character. Loved the scene with him and Amanda. Thank you Murphy for checking in on how she's doing since her squad seems oblivious!

@Ana - I don't think he was hard on her, although I am hard on Olivia so I might not be the right person to judge this but imo he was on point & Liv needs to step up & take better care of her squad. I'm not a fan of her as a boss, mostly cause I had such high hopes for her before she took charge, I've always imagined her as an excellent boss but I just don't see it.

Even though I was a ltl let down by the episode I still think trafficking is such an important subject to raise awareness on so it still delivered on some levels. Lili Taylor was good but not as awesome as I'm used to seeing her.
Barba was on point as always!! even in a malfunctioning wardrobe.
Carisi is a hoot!
Wished Amanda would've been undercover as well, was expecting it since Warren & Co had tweeted everyone would be UC.
The whole squad/cast should always be in every episode!!!

I wish we could've been w/o the last minute though. Loved seeing Melinda but enough with the Benoah drama. & I'm really disappointed that this (Johnny D/Noah) apparently will be the season finale. I'm sick & tired of the entire focus always being on Liv. She's had her fair share of drama, let her have Noah & just be happy and give me a finale with like a hostile take over of the courtroom with Barba in the midst of flying bullets or strangling a perp with his suspenders. Give me anything but Benoah p-please! :(

Laurie Fanat said...

This was an interesting episode and it had plenty in it to get people talking. I was thrilled to see Donal’s name in the credits and seeing him on the show made me wish even more that he was in charge of SVU. In my opinion, he was right to get on Benson’s case for going in for a sting when she did. She is thinking of ONE special victim where Murphy is thinking about ALL the victims. She has a huge blind spot and Barba was 100% right to be angry that she went against his course of action. Benson is a loose cannon and goes into things head first without thinking. She’s acting like a control freak. It didn’t matter to her what Barba said, she wanted to do things her way because she felt it was within her right to do so. Well, it may be within her right to do so but that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Murphy got on her case for the illegal search and Benson could have ruined it for all of them. She has to start thinking like a boss and not like a social worker.

The surprise about Noah was interesting and I figured one of these days his daddy would be identified. They wrote this in well. A shame we only saw ME Warner for a short scene.

I was laughing out loud when Carisi and Fin were sitting right across the street from the house and Carisi was obvious with the camera. The first rule of a stake out – don’t be obvious! I agree both teams should have had both cars pointed in opposite directions. It was lucky when the van first left the house that it was heading the way Carisi had the van pointed, because had the van go the other way from the start, Carisi and Fin would have had no ability to follow without being obvious.

Lili Taylor is always great. The issue I had with the dialog written for Martha was all I kept hearing was “please please please.” I guess these are the magic words because she managed to get Benson to do her bidding and got Nina to spill the beans easily.

On Barba’s puffy jacket – that got a WTF? from me. That does not seem his style.

Icy said...

@Petra s- Where are you even getting this info about this Noah's daddy being for the season finale which hasn't even been written??

I'm wondering that why. I really disgree that this will be brought up in the finale.
Second Melina did state that no one will find our, it's being kept from the trial why it's irrevelvent and there would be no way Johnny D would ever get custody of Noah he's going to Jail for a long time.

Plus being who he is, I doubt any one would give him custody he probbaly doesn't even want him.

Think about it , Ellie was abused and assulted by this guy which lead right into Noah's conception.

There's not going to be a custody battle at all. It would be out of place. The judge for the child custody has Liv's back.
Actually this Benoah storyline is a good one, I rather see Liv be a mom then her date someone.

Icy said...

Sorry for posting twice- In regards to this episode, it was a tearjerker.

I was shocked when I saw the actor who plays Murphy's name appear on the screen, It was nice to see him again.

I think Olivia over time will learn how to run the squad she's still learning, it takes a long time.

OVerall, Olivia is still very strong you can see how much she cares for the victims. I do see just how strong her love for Noah is.

She would do anything to protect him

Doreen Chiapparelli said...

Great episode! Best one this season bc the whole cast was used. I would love to see Murphy back at svu. Loved the UC theme Keep the full cast episodes coming.

CLA said...

Loved the episode and Mariska was beautiful. Unlike many, I love how emotional Olivia driving cases. That's what makes it a character so loved by the public. She has intuition, has experience and sensitivity. While being just and dignified. Carisi is very beautiful and I love the character. I would like Olivia was not the squadron commander. Olivia is a great detective in the field and Amanda Rollins will never be as big as her. Love to see Rollins go, Olivia pair with Fin and Carisi and Amaro form a double.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this episode. It kept me glued to my seat the whole time even though I was able to guess the two "surprises" even before it aired. I knew something about Noah was going to come up. I do firmly believe that when all is said and done, Liv will be able to adopt him. Really, how much can you put the woman through? I've read they want the season to end as a cliffhanger, so I look forward to seeing how they do that. It will hopefully be multifaceted and encompass several if not all the characters.

I was glad to see Murphy back. They tied it in nicely and was an obvious set up for a return later on. He can come on strong, but he does often offer some very good advice for the squad and makes a lot of good points. It's almost like he swoops in to offer guidance right when they need it the most.

I agree 100% with the comment about Amaro. It's like they are trying to sabotage him as a character. At least in the past we had some insight into his anger, but this seemed totally unprovoked. Whether you are a fan of the Rollins/Amaro pairing (which seems ambiguous right now) or not, that "wanna bet" comment came off as kind of mean and out of character for him. She, on the other hand, seemed to remain calm and tried to diffuse his anger (maybe it's because she knows what it is like to fight those inner demons and wants to help?). I was just very confused by it. Why so angry? She didn't do anything and it seems odd to be THAT upset over the notion of Carisi driving. In the beginning of the season, it looked as though they were really trying to have him work on his anger, but he is now a far cry from who he was. I know he's been through a lot, but the hope would be that he would grow from those experiences, not alienate people around him who are trying to help him. I would never want any of the characters to be without flaws, but the writers do need to let them learn from mistakes. I often watch in fear that he'll have another outburst, or that Rollins will gamble again. I know that addictions and certain personality traits are things that people never fully get over, but at the same time, other sides of their characters need to be explored as well. They seem to be trying that with Rollins. Let's just hope this is a phase for him and we get the caring and kind Amaro back soon.

Catherine said...

"Will Barba charge Martha?"
I certainly hope so. She knowingly broke a number of laws. Her motive is no excuse. However if she pleads guilty to whichever of the charges Barba brings and testifies against Johnny D., she should be able to get probation instead of jail time. She unlikely to break those laws again.

In real life, that is most likely how things would play out.

Catherine said...

"there would be no way Johnny D would ever get custody of Noah he's going to Jail for a long time."

Actually, Johnny D. being Noah's father could be his get out of jail card when it comes to trial.
No matter what Dr. Warner claims, that's a secret that will come out. The only question is who will find out and how will they use it.

My first guess is Johnny D.'s lawyer in the criminal trial. The best way to raise reasonable doubt is to claim that Benson set it up so she would have a clear path to adopt Noah. Given Benson's behavior in this episode, that would not be hard to sell to a jury. Johnny D. walks. And Benson faces an IAB investigation into her conduct.

The other possibility is that it comes up during the adoption proceedings. Whether he's in jail or not, Johnny D. can still claim his parental rights. If he can show that Benson knew he was Noah's father and did not inform the court of that fact, there goes the adoption.

It is also possible that both scenarios came into play. Johnny D. walks and gets Noah.

Petra S said...

@Icy - from an article online, sorry on my phone so I can't dig it out for you. Warren said one of the two surprises would spill in to the finale and since, unfortunately, Donal is stuck on Gotham (& I mean 'stuck' in the nicest way, I watch Gotham & it's okay but I'd rather see Donal on SVU) it can only be the Benoah drama. Even if it's not written I'm pretty sure W & co had a notion where they would take the season from the very beginning. Unfortunately for those of us that don't watch cause of Olivia (& I know I'm not the only one, almost the entire board over at previouslyTV dislike her now w the direction they've taken her character) it's the worst case scenario. If they go there, God forbid, I at least hope S17 will be Benoah drama free

Kittukat1978 said...

Solid episode and it was nice to have to whole cast together. I hope this is the beginning of a trend for the writers. Donal is awesome I love him on Gotham and I love him on Svu. He has proven an actor can do 2 series at once so I am optimistic he will be on the finale. And since s17 is a go you know the finale will be a cliffhanger.
Amaro is really becoming an ass....I liked him in the beginning not so much now. It's amazing how well Carisi plays an arrogant ass or crazy when he goes's fun to watch.
As for Johnny D filing for custody I don't see that. I do predict a kidnapping from him which would make for a cliffhanger finale.

Njtoocool said...

Even though they may be over doing it a little bit, I'm still glad to see Olivia with something she always wanted, a kid of her own

Cath T said...

The main reason I continue to watch SVU is due to Amaro because I do like Danny Pino but it's becoming harder and harder to care about the character while his head is stuck so firmly up his arse.

I don't understand why the writers are intent on making Amaro so unlikeable unless they intend to kill him off. That's a possibility I guess. There's never been a major character death on SVU. He redeems himself in his last heroic moment but by then nobody will give a crap.

I don't know. I'm joking sort of.

Danny Pino did such a wonderful job of portraying Amaro's pain and vulnerability in Padre Sandunguero that it's a shame to squander that and just make him a one note, angry guy again.

Njtoocool said...

For the amaro situation I agree that they are making him a pain... But it does show evolution and progression of his character (even if it's not for the best)

aapond88 said...

This was probably my favorite episode of the season. I loved seeing the whole cast together. Even though, I think I would have been fine not seeing Amaro. He was a complete ass in this episode. Not only about Carisi's driving, but also when he didn't let Carisi out of the cell after his face was smashed. I don't get what his problem is with Carisi. I was not a huge fan of Carisi at the beginning, but now I think he may be my favorite. He is a breath of fresh air. I love how he is always volunteering to go undercover, then when they really allow him to do it he ends up getting pistol whipped. He may be a more skeptical next time. Also, I was excited to see Donal but for some reason I just got a weird feeling about his undercover operation. I didn't like that he didn't want 1PP to know. I didn't like that he never verified who he was undercover for. I didn't like that he called all those girls liars when they accused him of pimping them out. I just thought there was something suspicious about that. I really hope it doesn't end up being a Dana Lewis situation. Seeing Warner was amazing!!! I miss her character so much! Overall, I think this was one of the better episodes this season.

Cath T said...

Obviously I'm not the only one feeling that Amaro is a character going downhill fast.

His passion is now anger, his toughness now a cruel hardness and his once cool demeanour is now a nasty coldness.

He started to normalise a bit after his stint in uniform but now he's regressed yet again.

Perhaps as in the past the writers have a reason for writing Amaro this way. Could still be a holdover from his recent trials with his family.

I continue to hope that the man he used to be will resurface and that his care for his colleagues and love for his kids will ultimately mean more to him than battling his demons.

Anonymous said...

@ Cath T
I completely agree with you. I really, really enjoyed this episode, but when I finally had time to digest it all, his behavior is the one thing that bothered me.

I've really only come up with a few reasons why they could be writing him this way. The first is the one you mentioned. It might be residual effects from his recent family drama (an episode in which he really showed restraint). The second, and this is definitely a weak stretch, is that they are doing it to set up a fight with Rollins. The writers never really explained what was going on with them and their "relationship" so this might be a way to end it? He did kind snap at her in the car which is why I thought that. Again, that one is really out there and I hope they wouldn't weaken his character over that. The last and most likely is that they are setting him up for something later this season. This is probably the most likely since they've done it before. I know the arch for the end of the season is the Noah story-line, but I am still hoping for more development for the rest of the squad. In one of the first episodes of the season, Amaro pretended to be a crooked cop and the guy who he helped arrest vowed to get even. Ever since that episode I have been waiting for that story-line to be revisited. We've got 8 episodes left, so we shall see what they decide to do with Amaro's character.

I am right there with you when you say you hope the man he used to be resurfaces!

EchoInTheSilence said...

I think Murphy was right about one thing, though; SVU does tend to get tunnel vision from time to time (it's one of my biggest problems with the show). Yes, Ariel's mother was involved and Olivia made her a promise, but there were a lot of other girls at stake. I feel like early-season SVU wouldn't have done that.

Petra S said...

Re Amaro; not to try and sound fresh, oh who am I trying to kid it will sound fresh either way I put this, maybe he needs to get him some!?
I know this blonde within an arms length that certainly needs some TLC.
And that's coming from a Finanda shipper. I just think it could work out well for both their stories/development. She's tried to push his limits/anger before & it would show progress if he sorts a situation out with her w/o using rage/anger.
With her history it would be interesting to see how she approaches a guy after 'realizing' she was actually raped.
I know it won't happen though, it would take screen time away from Benoah & God forbid that would happen.
Yes, both fresh & holding grudges, aren't I just a jolly cup of preciousness, going back to watching Boxtrolls now :)

Ana Andrade said...

I understand why people think Olivia is not a good boss, but I feel as if people are expecting too much of her at this point. That's just my opinion. I do believe she is better suited as a detective rather than sergeant though.

I'm glad I wasn't the only one that believed that there was something off about Murphy's undercover work.

As for Nick, I hate what they're turning him into. I've been watching some of the older episodes on Netflix and I miss the guy he used to be :(

@Petra- I do agree that Amanda and Nick being together has the potential to be good for both characters. Though I might just be saying that because I'm a Rollaro shipper already ;)The way I see it is that the tension between them is probably leading to something big between them. Hopefully is something that changes their relationship for the better. All I know is that something is happening between them or else the writers wouldn't put tension between the characters. As for Benoah, I don't mind that they get a storyline, though I do wish the writers would just let Liv be happy already.

Cath T said...

The "this ain't over Amaro" line by Joaquin Menendez at the end of Girls Disappeared will no doubt play out at some point.

Now that there's to be a Season 17 the writers can even leave it until then if they wish but it would make for a good season cliffhanger.

Time will tell.

Jen said...

They can't make them known because dirty cops and blabbermouths on the force.