Thursday, May 18, 2017

Law & Order SVU “Conversion” Recap & Review

This episode of Law & Order SVU, “Conversion”, involved a church who will “rape the gay out of somebody” - as Rollins put it – to convert a congregant away from homosexual tendencies. It was an interesting topic but it was wrapped in tepid writing and a mediocre guest cast. It did offer some memorable lines; besides Rollins’ “rape the gay out of somebody” we also got Fin’s “the guy in the sky isn’t down with rape” and Fin’s priceless reaction when Lucas spoke about a woman feeling the full glory of God inside her.

This whole episode could be summed up in two sentences:  "I did it - because God" and "It's rape."    (Hint - it's the latter, in case they didn't make that point often enough.)

I’ve asked this question many times over the years and I will ask it again – does anyone in New York City ever look through those peepholes in the door to see who is on the other side? I know that Ann expected it to be someone else, but as a young girl alone in a hotel room in the big city, I would have expected her to look first to be sure.

Benson also introduced Fin as "Detective" so although he passed the Sergeant's exam, he may not have the official title as yet.   It also may be worth noting that even for Benson, God is a “He.” But that issue is an argument for another day.

Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.

Guest stars:
Kip Pardue - Reverend Gary Langham
Michael Kostroff - Atty. Evan Braun
Casey Cott - Lucas Hale
Jessie Carter - Ann Davenport
Sarah Nicole Deaver - Lydia Banks
Orlagh Cassidy - Cheryl Davenport
Zachary Knower – Mr. Davenport
Michael Mastro – Judge Serani
Tom Titone – Judge Joshua Goldfarb
Eric Camarano – Officer Rachel Ortiz
Rebecca Krainik - Charlotte Owens
Peter Graham - Brad
David Julian Levi - Dave
Alexander Hodge - Trent Dillon

Reverend Gary Langham and Charlotte Owns are in Times Square, along with other members of their church. Gary is shocked at the sights and tells the group this isn’t want they want. Ann Davenport, another church member, scans the crowd for her friend Lydia Banks; she tells Lucas that she hasn’t seen her since she left New York. Ann spots Lydia and they hug in happiness while Gary and Charlotte look on, somewhat displeased. Ann introduces Lydia to Lucas;   Lydia asks where to?

Later, Lydia and Ann are in a bar, and as Lydia brings the drinks over to Ann, she complains the bartender keeps trying to sell her shots. Lucas thinks he should be doing that and moves off to tell the bartender. Two young men approach Ann and Lydia and try to hit on them with zero success when they wisecrack about Ann being a churchgoer and a virgin. Reverend Gary approaches them and asks if those guys were bothering them, and Ann explains that Lydia got rid of them. Gary says, “Well. I see.”

Afterward, Charlotte knocks on Ann’s hotel room door to say it is 11 and time for light out. Lydia pops up and when Charlotte tells Ann she knows the rules – no guests in the room – Lydia explains she was just there to use the bathroom. She leaves and Ann apologizes. They hug each other and while doing so, Ann puts a hotel room key card in Lydia’s back pocket. As Lydia leaves, Charlotte sternly tells her lights out.

Sometime later, Ann’s phone rings and she sees a picture message from Lydia noting “Buzzkill”. She laughs. There is a knock on the door and she turns out her lights. Thinking it is Charlotte, she says she turned out the lights as she opens the door without looking through the peep hole to see who is on the other side. She gets a look of concern.

Thinking Charlotte is now asleep, Lydia races down the hotel hall to Ann’s room and uses Ann’s key card to enter Ann’s room. She is shocked to find Ann sitting on the floor next to the bed, crying, her panties down around her ankles, in shock.

Later, Benson and Fin arrive on the scene and are told by an officer that the victim is Ann Davenport, 18, part of a visiting church group from Hunter, Indiana. Her friend, Lydia Banks, said Ann was sexually assaulted; she called 911. Fin explains they will need security footage from the hallway and elevator, key card entry logs, the works. Benson knocks on the door and introduces herself and (still detective) Tutuola. Benson asks to speak with Ann alone and Lydia moves off with Fin. Benson asks Ann what happened and she is not really sure, and Lydia, who hasn’t quite made it out of the room, turns back and shouts to Ann that she was raped. Benson looks at her as Lydia says that Ann would never let a man have sex with her, she is a lesbian. Ann looks as little surprised at this outburst, as does Benson.

In another room, Lydia tells Fin that she doesn’t know what Ann has been telling him, but the church has brainwashed her and convinced her being gay is a sin. Fin asks how they know each other, and Lydia explains that they grew up together and she got out of Indiana when she turned 16. They did stay in touch, but tonight was the first time she’s seen her since she moved to New York. Fin asks what they did tonight, and Lydia says they had a drink – just a soda – at the bar and they went back to her room and the chaperone knocked on the door and said it was 11:00 – lights out. Ann snuck her her room key so she could come back and they could hang out. Fin questions how much later, and Lydia states maybe a half hour later. She thought everyone would be asleep so she went in and Ann was crying and say she had been raped. When Fin asks if she used that word, Lydia says “basically”; she said he made her, her virtue was gone. She asks Fin what does that sound like to him?

Meanwhile, Benson speaks with Ann in her room. Ann explains a few minutes later she heard a knock on the door and she thought it was Charlotte again but it wasn’t. It was just a guy, and when Benson asks if it was someone she recognized, Ann explains it was dark and she can’t say. Benson asks if he threatened her or did he have a weapon, and Ann replies n, he told her to lie down on the bed. She didn’t want to but she thought she had to. Benson tries to assure her it is okay and asks if she can tell her what happened next. Ann says he pulled her skirt up and she said no and tried to fight him off. He had sex with her anyway and she would never have sex with a boy. Benson asks if it is because she is a lesbian, and Ann replies no, she is saving herself for marriage. She is a virgin – or she was. Benson comments so what Lydia said before…Ann says she is not; she has feelings for Lydia but she would never act on them, it’s a sin. Benson tells Ann she needs to listen to her, if she didn’t want to have sex with that boy, that’s rape. Benson explains she would like to take her to the hospital where she can be examined. Ann nods.

At Mercy Hospital at 365 West 32nd Street on Wednesday, May 3, as they walk in the hall, Fin asks Benson if Ann can’t tell her who attacker her or won’t tell her. Benson states it is obvious she is traumatized and it is possible the perp threatened her. Fin wonders if she had sex with her boyfriend and didn’t want her girlfriend to know. Benson shakes her head, saying she is not getting that. They get to a waiting area and Reverend Gary Langham arrives and introduces himself to Benson and Fin and he says Ann is one of his congregants. Fin excuses himself to make a call. Gary says they are worried sick about her, asking that she was sexually assaulted, asking if she said by who. Benson says no, not yet, she is quite hesitant to tell them what happened. Gary says he can understand that, Ann is very sheltered, Benson questions if it is possible Ann is involved with somebody in the group or that she has a boyfriend in New York. Gary replies absolutely not, stating Ann is chaste, all of their congregants are. They don’t believe in premarital sex. Benson explains that she understands, she just had to ask. Gary blames himself for this, adding that he never should have brought her to New York, she is naive, trusting, and obviously taken advantage by someone. Benson asks that Gary didn’t see anyone in particular, and Gary comments now that she mentions it, there were these 2 boys that were drunk and obnoxious and one was wearing an orange sharkwear hat. Benson writes that down, saying that could be very helpful. Gary’s phone buzzes and he sees it is Ann’s parents, they are getting on a flight here now. He adds it is not the best light to see your kid in for the first time. Benson gives him her card and says if he can think of anything else to give her a call. He says he will and he walks off, passing Fin who is returning. Fin comments, “Reverend, huh? What did he have to say?” Benson replies, “That they’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Meanwhile, at a hotel, Carisi, there with Rollins, bangs on the door of the hotel room of two jerks who came on to Ann in the bar. They recall her as the church chick but says they left the bar, saw a Billy Joel show at the Garden, and missed the last train home so they got the hotel room. Her boyfriend was hanging around and they wanted no part of that; he was yelling at the bartender.

They then question the bartender who explains the guy jumped down his throat; he didn’t know the girls were underage. Rollins asks isn’t that part of his job, and he says he was just up-selling, they were just ordering sodas and not tipping. He describes the guy and then said he ran out of cash so he had to charge a smoothie to his room. Carisi asks for the room number.

Later, Rollins and Carisi question Lucas in his hotel room. He states Ann is not his girlfriend, she is just his friend, they go to church together. He asks is she is okay. Carisi asks if they were at the ball together last night, and he says yes, and her friend Lydia. Rollins asks if he noticed anyone following her or was Ann flirting with anyone. He says no, Ann doesn’t flirt, asking what this is about. Rollins explains Ann was assaulted last night, in her room. He is shocked, asking that she said she was assaulted, if that was the word she used. Carisi says no, that’s what happened. Lucas shakes his head, saying it’s not. Rollins counters Ann was raped, and they are trying to figure out who might have done something like this to her. Lucas insists she wasn’t raped, saying he would never rape anyone. Carisi and Rollins give him a quizzical look, then Rollins asks what is he talking about. Lucas says it wasn’t rape, it was curative intercourse; he was saving her soul. Carisi and Rollins give each other a look of disbelief.

Back at SVU in the interview room, Benson and Rollins speak with Ann who says Lucas was doing what he thought was right which is why she couldn’t tell them it was him. She explains the curative intercourse was to cure her of her attraction to Lydia and that homosexuality is a sin.

Meanwhile, Fin and Carisi have Lucas in the interrogation room, who says he was following God’s command. Carisi explains Ann did not consent and when Lucas says she wanted to, Fin questions if Ann told him this. Lucas explains she didn’t have to, he knows she didn’t want to be a homosexual, no one does.

Benson continues with Ann, saying that Ann said she was a virgin and isn’t what Lucas did also a sin. Ann states that fornication can be forgiven, it is a small price to pay for the greater sin of homosexuality. He was saving her.

Fin, meanwhile, tells Lucas that Ann says she didn’t want him in there and that she said no. Lucas said even if she did, it wouldn’t have mattered because they are taught not to heed the words of the devil.

Benson explains to Ann that whatever was in Lucas’ mind, if Ann did not give consent, that’s rape. Ann shakes her head, saying that may be what Benson believes but Benson counters that is what she knows, that’s the law. Ann explains that is not God’s law.

Lucas tells Carisi and Fin it’s not rape; it’s not done with hate or anger, it’s done with love. The world is filled with temptation but when a woman feels the full glory of God inside her, she sees the true path. Fin gives him a look and says, “The full glory, huh?” Lucas says being one with a man as God intended; when a woman feels that, she is brought back to God’s will and understands her role. Ann needed to be saved.

Carisi enters the interview room asking for Benson, who excuses herself. When Benson steps out of the room, Carisi explains Lucas is basically confessing, he had sex with her to save her from going to hell. She tells him to keep Lucas talking. He adds that Ann’s parents are here.

Rollins leads in Ann’s parents and they don’t understand how this happened. Rollins asks if they know Lucas – they do – but they think this has to do with Lydia, claiming she tried to lead Ann astray, saying with contempt that she is a lesbian.

Shortly afterwards, the Davenports are storming out of SVU, saying they are taking Ann home and they need to deal with this their way. Benson, with Rollins, tries to stop them, saying they are in the middle of a criminal investigation and they would like their cooperation. Mrs. Davenport seems receptive but wants Ann safe, Mr. Davenport says he’s had enough of this, saying they will be at the hotel. Ann asks what will happen to Lucas, and Benson explains that he committed a crime; they can’t pretend it never happened. Mr. Davenport sees Gary who tells them to take Ann back to the hotel, they will handle the police. As Ann and her parents leave, Gary explains he has retained an attorney - Evan Braun – who says Lucas’s interview is over.

Later, as Lucas speaks with Even Braun, Benson explains to Gary that Lucas has a right to counsel but he confessed. Gary states there is nothing to confess to, explaining the curative intercourse, it is his right under the first amendment. It is an expression of his, and Ann’s, religious beliefs. As Benson scoffs, Fin comments “Look, I’m no preacher, but I know the guy in the sky isn’t down with rape.” Benson adds neither is the state of New York and regardless of his religious beliefs, Lucas is guilty of sexual assault and he won’t be going anywhere. Gary counters that he will see them in court.

Later, Barba is at SVU hearing that the lawyer is claiming the First Amendment. The detectives explain Lucas thinks he was trying to save her and Ann thinks Lucas did it for the right reasons. Benson asserts none of that matters; Ann did not give consent, it was rape. Carisi comments if what Ann really believes what Lucas did was curative…Barba interrupts and says even if you buy into his demented doctrine, a patient has the right to refuse care at any time. Carisi argues that given her religious beliefs, his defense attorney is going to lather that up into consent. Barba agrees, so they have to help Ann see the light, so to speak. Fin asks how do they do that, and Barba tells him to use his imagination – religion has been used to justify everything from genocide to the war against Christmas, he’s sure they can twist it in their favor for once. He adds to just get Ann on their side.

Sometime later, Benson speaks with Ann outside, in the rain. They discuss Lydia and Ann mentions that God’s law and man’s law say two different things, asking how does she know what’s right. Benson thinks she may not need to know, just to tell the truth. Ann asks if she mean that she has feelings for Lydia or what Lucas did. Benson says both. Ann states her lust is a sin. Benson explains that God made her the way she is, asking if God would condone what Lucas did; he hurt her. Ann cries. Benson says she believes in God too, and she is not sure what he has in store for her or for anyone but she is sure, regardless of religion, is that what Lucas did to her, was wrong. Lydia cries, nodding. She hugs Benson.

Later, Lucas is being arraigned for rape in the first degree. He pleads not guilty. Barba asks for remand but Eric tries to make his case against it. Judge Serani tells him to save it for trial and sets bail at $100,000, cash or bond. Lucas comments he doesn’t have that kind of money, and Gary says the church is taking up a collection, saying for all to hear that the church takes care of their own. Mrs. Davenport and Benson connect looks, and Mrs. Davenport walks over to her.

Outside the courtroom, Cheryl Davenport pleads with Benson not to make Ann testify as she will be shunned by the church and community and it is a private matter. Benson counters that it is not, a crime has been committed and this is a public matter. Cheryl doesn’t understand why they are making her do this, and Benson explains she only asked her daughter to tell the truth and Ann said that was something she valued. Cheryl states the truth is Lucas tried to save her soul, but Benson states sternly the truth is her daughter was sexually assaulted. Cheryl says she knew Ann should have never come to New York and her father can’t even bring himself to come here. Gary has walked up to them and suggest to Cheryl they just go; they think their secular law takes precedent over God’s law but they’ll find out they’re wrong. They leave Benson, and she puts her hands to her face is disbelief. Barba approaches and comments he can imagine what that was about. Benson explains these people think nothing criminal happened. Barba shrugs and says never underestimate the power of faith, regardless of where it is placed. Barba adds Braun won’t take a deal, and Benson thinks it’s because Reverend Gary won’t let him. If Lucas admits he committed a crime, Gary loses face with his congregation. Barba suggests they go over Ann’s testimony one more time and make sure she is consistent. He said in a he said – she said – God said situation, you don’t want God to get the last word. He looks at his phone and says he spoke too soon – the defense filed a motion to dismiss on a first amendment protection. Benson thinks they are saying that rape is okay if it’s done for religious reasons. Barba quips he doesn’t remember reading any of that in the bible.

In the chambers of Judge Joshua Goldfarb at 60 Centre Street on Monday, May 15, Barba and Eric Braun cite various cases to make their point but the judge decides they are good arguments and the jury should hear them. The motion to dismiss is denied

Back in the courthouse hall, Lydia approaches Benson. She is concerned that Barba says he will not need her as her relationship with Ann could hurt the case. Lydia insists nothing happened between them. Benson explains it is not that simple. Lydia thinks they will try to make it look like Ann does not want to be gay, and Benson explains they will use that as part of the defense. Lydia cries that Ann won’t even call her back. Benson says this has not been easy for Ann, she has been focusing on the trial. Lydia thinks this is her fault, if Lucas hadn’t seen them together, Ann would not have been raped. When Benson tells Lydia she is not to blame, Lydia scoffs, saying God is. Benson excuses herself, saying she has to get inside. She says she is sorry as she walk off.

In Supreme Court part 31 on Monday, May 15, both Barba and Eric make their opening arguments. Barba thinks this case comes down to consent.

On the stand, Ann testifies as to what happened that night, that Lucas said she needed to feel the full glory of God’s purpose to overcome the lust. She said she could resist on her own, she didn’t need that, and he pushed her on the bed. She explains the assault and that she said no and tried to fight him off but he didn’t stop. She didn’t tell the police as she didn’t want to get Lucas in trouble, h was doing what he thought was right. She did not consent.

Eric Braun cross examines her and sympathizes with her, but mentions that Lucas and she are friend, he had no weapon and she could leave. When Braun mentions Ann’s lesbian friend, Barba objects and it is sustained. She did not tell Lydia she was raped, she was just upset and said she had sex and he made her do it. She admits she did not use the word rape or sexual assault or she did not call the police. She admits Lydia called against her wishes but she was trying to help her. Braun asks if she is in a romantic relationship with Lydia and Ann shakes her head and says no. Braun implies that Lydia came back to the room to seduce her and became upset when Ann had sex with Lucas, and Barba objects. A woman enters the courtroom and Braun asks for a moment. The woman hands Braun something and Barba prompts the judge on his objection and the judge sustains it. The judge asks Braun if he is with them and he withdraws the questions but then asks to continue his cross by admitting some video evidence. Barba stands up and says this is the first he is hearing of this, and Braun says that is because they only just received it, and it pertains to Ann’s testimony. Barba counters nice try but he needs to reviews the evidence. The judge wants to see it as well and adjourns for a recess. Benson and the detectives are sitting in the gallery, looking surprised.

Afterward,  they see a video of Lucas speaking with Ann, saying he is sorry she had to deal with the police. He did not want her to be damned. She says he understands. Lucas asks her why she said he was raped, but then Gary’s voice is hear off camera and he suggests that maybe she was confused and overwhelmed with Lydia and New York and the police. He asks if that is why she said she was assaulted, and she replies yes, she guesses. Gary said what happened between the two of them was a blessed event, then comes on camera and kneels down in front of Ann and Lucas, taking their hands, and asking them to pray. They all kneel to pray. Benson shuts if off and then says, “There goes our case.” Barba comments “Man plans; God laughs.” Benson states there is nothing funny about Reverend Gary, or rape in the name of religion.

Later, on the stand, Gary explains what he did on the video, and he recorded it as he thought the state of New York would not understand or accept their beliefs. His obligation is for the well-being of his congregants and Lucas should not suffer for saving Ann and being a messenger of God’s will. He thinks Ann wanted to be saved and they discussed it on many occasions. Barba objects saying this is privileged communication between a clergyman and a congregant and Ann has not waived this privilege. The judge sustains. Braun asks Gary that, as head of the church, is it his belief that God condones – mandates – curative intercourse, Gary states yes. Braun ends his questioning.

Under cross, Gary must admit he was not in the hotel room when Ann was assaulted and he did not hear what she said or did not say. Barba comments that Gary alleges in their private meeting after the assault, Ann forgave the defendant, and Gary says he is certain of it, he was there. Barba asks if he is certain of that, that her forgives was genuine, and Gary says absolutely. Barba comments then the defendant must have done something wrong, asking that doesn’t granting forgiveness imply a crime – a transgression – that needs to be forgiven in the first place. Gary looks cornered but says yes, saying they do not understand their core beliefs, and as Gary tries to explain more, Barba cuts him off, countering this is not about beliefs, or God, or homosexuality. He adds it is about a crime, a woman who said no and a man rapes her anyway. Braun objects and Barba withdraws it. Gary looks crestfallen.

Later, Lucas is on the stand explaining what happened that night and how he explained to Ann what had to happen. They were both scared but he wanted to free her from sin. She was tense but thinks she knew what had to happen. She cried a little afterward and was upset, he was too, but then she understood why she did it an she should go. She did not call the police and when the police came to him, he told them the truth. Under cross, Lucas says he considers Ann to be truthful, and says it is not in her nature to lie. Barba brings up where Ann’s testimony directly refutes his, and he says she didn’t lie, she was experiencing a union with God, it is like what Gary says: resist the devil and he flees from you. When Barba asks that she was resisting, Lucas says the demons were resisting and sometimes you have to fight through them to save someone. He says if he is the one who has to pay for it, so be it but he loves her and would never want to hurt her. Barba says he did. Ann cries quietly in the gallery.

Outside the courtroom, Barba comments to Benson that the defense looks happy, and Benson says they should be; Lucas is earnest, sincere. Benson asks if they lost the jury, and he thinks it is quite possible. Benson questions if he is thinking of taking a deal, and Barba states no, they are all complicit. Benson asks when will they go after the real villain, Barba mentioning Gary. Benson reminds him he saw Lucas on the stand and saw that video, and Barba says they would need to prove Gary ordered Lucas to rape Ann. Benson says Lucas is the only one who can tell them that, suggesting Barba let her do some digging and see what she can find out about Lucas and Gary’s relationship.

Back at SVU, Fin hangs up the phone, explaining that was Lucas’ parents who said that Lucas quit school in the 12th grade and spent the next year living with Gary being home-schooled. Apparently Gary has “special students” he looks out for and Lucas was just one of them, studying his faith as Gary apprentice. What that means they did not know. Carisi comments that could mean anything. Fin asks Carisi and Rollins which one of them will call Benson, and when they give him a look, Fin explains this is him delegating, practicing his Sergeant skills. Rollins gives him a look.

Later, in the meeting room for the New York DA, Barba enters. Benson and Carisi are already there, as is Lucas and Eric Braun. Barba is proposing a better deal, bringing up what Gary told Lucas. Braun is confused but Benson asks Lucas that if Gary has some kind of hold on him they need to know, it is in his best interests. When Lucas is not sure what Barba means, Carisi explains they know Lucas lived with Gary for over a year and Benson asks why. Lucas says he got in trouble at school and says he was told by Gary to live with him, saying it was the best thing that could have happened. He learned so much and to trust God’s plan. Barba asks if being on trial for rape sounds like a part of God’s plan, and Lucas says it has to be, Benson continues to press and gets Lucas to admit there were others. They had to do chores at the house and church and study scripture and help at other youth programs. Barba asks if Gary ever asked him to perform curative intercourse before, and when Braun tries to stop Lucas, Lucas just says Barba doesn’t understand Gary or them. He showed him the path to righteousness. Carisi comments that he knows when Gary is quoting the bible it sounds like he knows what he is talking about but somebody who uses God to commit crimes…Lucas cuts him off and says they have it all wrong. Benson says Gary told him to assault Ann, and Lucas blurts out that Gary saw her with Lydia and he knew Ann was in trouble and they were out of time. When Benson presses that Gary ordered it, Lucas stands up and shouts that Gary saved him; Gary is not the sinner, he is, it was hi penance. When Carisi asks penance for what, Lucas admits Ann didn’t just confide in them because they were friends, they succumbed to the same temptation. He admits he never got into trouble at school, Gary caught him one night with a friend, a boy. Benson shakes her head.

Back at SVU, Fin asks Carisi that Lucas is gay and Gary caught him, and Carisi says that is what Lucas said; when he started to confess he couldn’t stop talking. Benson adds the curative part was supposed to go both ways on Lucas and Ann. Barba comments Lucas agreed to testify against Gary, maybe enough to charge him as an accomplice. Rollins states she found something else; the church’s bank statement where Lucas said he was paid a monthly stipend of $200 – Benson saying Lucas said that was for maintenance, chores – Rollins says maybe but she found disbursements for $200 for half a dozen other kids going back years. Carisi adds that Lucas said he was not the only kid living there. Barba says if they can prove any of the other boys living there got paid for curatively raping someone, they’ve got sex trafficking. Rollins says they can’t, not without their cooperation. Benson counters that Gary doesn’t know that, he doesn’t know what Lucas told them. Barba comments that asset forfeiture laws are very strong under sex trafficking. Rollins says the church has a lot to forfeit, they have hundreds of thousands earmarked for missionaries work and homeless shelters. Carisi suggests they hit Gary where it hurts the most, and Benson tells them to bring Gary in and see if he really is a man of God.

Later, Gary is in interrogation with Eric Braun, saying it is not enough they turned Ann against him but Lucas too. Rollins counters he did that all on his own, but he says he was trying to save their lives and their souls. Carisi states they were kids with normal sexual desires but Gary made them feel like they had the devil inside them. Gary says they do and it kills him. All he wants to do is protect them from the sins of the world and themselves, Rollins say he can’t rape the gay out of somebody, conversion therapy doesn’t work. They continue to press him and bring up sex trafficking and the payments but Gary says he saved them. Braun says they don’t have jurisdiction, but Carisi states the Feds do and the first thing they will do is seize the church assets. Gary says he has over 900 congregants who raise money for the poor and other work and they are good people. Carisi agrees, but adds the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road Gary is on right now, every person he has ever preached to, will be tainted. Everything he ever built or worked for will vanish. Rollins adds unless Gary makes a deal and plead guilty. Braun says they are done here, but Gary tells him to wait. Gary says the people that they help don’t deserve this, his congregation doesn’t deserve this. Braun cautions him, saying this is blackmail. Gary say no, this is his burden, his church and his people. If it means he has to sacrifice himself to save them, so be it.

As Benson and Barba observe from her office, Benson comments they are really going for it. Barba states he will offer a plea for facilitation as long as it stops that church from conspiring to commit rape. Benson adds whatever the judge gives him, it will give him plenty of time to get right with God. She asks about Lucas, and Barba states he held up his end of the bargain – rape 3, I to 4 years. Benson comments that the most frightening part of all this is Gary actually believes he is going the right thing. Barba adds so do his congregants. Benson says that is more frightening. Barba exits her office.

At Rikers Island Correctional Facility on Wednesday, May 17, Ann visits with Lucas. Lucas says he is paying a lot and he apologizes to her. They discuss what he did and that she had a choice and Lucas took it away. She touches his hands and says she forgives him but he can’t change people like that. Benson waits nearby. Ann says God made them this way, how can they be anything less than perfect and how can any love be wrong. Benson steps in and tells Ann it is time to go; Ann cries and steps away. Lucas says nothing. As they walk away, Benson says to Ann that couldn’t have been easy. Ann says it wasn’t. Benson asks what she will do now, and Ann says she has cousins in Denver she will stay with and figure things out. She is not coming back to New York any more. Benson asks about her parents, and Ann explains they are not ready yet and maybe they will be one day. Benson assures her that things get better, easier, with time. Ann adds “and with faith.” As Ann walks off, Benson watches as we fade to black.

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Roselynn Finch said...

I liked the episode. However, Olivia has never been religious, so this was a major retcon. I am going to assume she was just trying to bond with Ann.

As a lesbian, I am used to people assuming it is because I was raped. A lot of stuff said here was said by my own family. So, I really bonded with Ann.

Roselynn Finch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Draven Long said...

I knew when I saw the promo that this episode wouldn't be much to admire, and for me, it wasn't. The guest cast was amateur and the writing was rather tedious, save for those lines from Fin and Rollins.

A few things to note:

Since when was Lt. Benson ever religious? If there was ever a religious person that would have had to bond with Ann, I would think that person to be Carisi, as he is the one we saw frequently at the church during the latter half of Season 17.

It was mentioned that the church group was from Indiana, and as I am a proud and native Hoosier, I was quite surprised and proud that Indiana, was featured on a platform such as NBC. However, I wasn't very happy with the portrayal of the church group. By that I mean the malignant behavior its members. I can assure you that, at least as far as I know, no Indiana church group has ever committed such horrible acts. I also don't think there have every been any cases of rape among church pastors.

Speaking of pastors, we have a "repeat offender" on our hands. While the actor (Kip Pardue, I believe his name is) plays a different character, he has appeared on SVU once before. He appeared in "Patrimonial Burden", the seventh episode of the seventeenth season. Using the term repeat offender spoils the episode badly enough, so I won't go into detail.

When he said the bit about Ann having "the full glory of God inside her," I nearly screamed at the TV. I'll just say in response to the monstrous Reverend what Fin said: "the man in the sky isn't down with rape."

Also, I was laughing even half an hour later at the comment Rollins made: that the church group is one of those ones that "rape the gay out of people." That may have been one of the most hilarious moments of Season 18.

As I said, there was a funny part here and there, but all in all, this episode was a dull one. 4 out of 10

Laurie Fanat said...

This episode was extremely weak. It was repetitive. How many times did we have to hear the church gang say it was to save her and have SVU say that it was rape? I would have spent more time on arguing the First Amendment issue. The scene with Benson and Ann in the rain felt odd, those words coming out of Benson's mouth did not feel like the Benson we know.

There were some funny lines though. It still couldn't save this episode.

Mandy said...

Lord, this episode was awful. The writing was beyond stilted. The bigger aspects of the plot were done better back in season 8. And as someone from Indiana, I am really, really tired of getting this from smug New Yorkers. Contrary to apparently popular belief, we are not, in fact, all different versions of your caricature of a rural evangelical Christian.

gummboote said...

I think we've had a run of about half a dozen terrible episodes now. This one, ironically, felt like a tract: a massive agenda, total caricature of its opponents, the victim getting absolution for her wrongthink from Benson.

And there's the rub: the show just doesn't work with Benson as the boss. It's not helped when Mariska's performance feels as tired and by-the-rote as it did in this episode.

ladybug81 said...

I wanted to like this episode, I really did, but it fell flat for me. I did enjoy some of the acting, and there were a few good lines, but that was about it. The story was too drawn out, felt like the episode was 2 hours not 1. Like a previous poster, I would've liked to have seen them argue the 1st Amendment more than they did. I'm glad the show is coming back, now I just hope they can bring in all new writers. The writing has grown stale over the last couple seasons so maybe a whole new writers room could benefit the show .

OhSusannah said...

Did Olivia have some kind of religious conversion of her own during this episode?In past seasons, her disdain for organized religion was practically palpable.I'm thinking of the early episode with Tim Daly as a guest star.He played a devout minister of some kind who was suspected of killing a gay parishioner in his church. Olivia seemed to scorn the church to Elliot at every turn in that one.

Dad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Opinionator said...

Early Christians were accused by pagans of incest because they spoke of loving their brothers and sisters; they were accused of cannibalism because they spoke of the body and blood of Christ. The recent SVU episode falls into the same tradition of ignorant slander. There are plenty of bad acts by Christians, but where is the church that upholds a doctrine of "curative intercourse"? Pitiful propaganda.

Roselynn Finch said...

I am so happy to see that there are still true SVU fans who see that Olivia Benson no longer exists. Mariska is playing Mariska. Caring about her latest bed buddy, an unrealistic child, and now religion? I am so close to ending my viewing choice for SVU. I already refuse to watch most episodes. This was the first in months.

Jess said...

Count me among those who find it a cheap shot as well as a caricature that the adherents of an evangelical church that advocates rape as a way to "purify one's soul" are presented as being somehow typically Midwestern. Not only was the church group from Indiana (perhaps a nod to the antihomosexual legislation run through by the now VP when he was governor there?, Benson tossed off a snide, "They're not in Kansas anymore" quip.

It's not the first time SVU has portrayed visitors to the city from the interior of the country as being hapless rubes, but this was even a step further. I'm sure there is no shortage of weird, creepy, cultlike religions in NY itself, yet the show smugly attributes exploitative evangelicals and their brainwashed congregants as being "those naive yokels from flyover country" every chance it gets.

Draven Long said...

@Jess, couldn't agree with you more. As I am an Indiana, I was particularly insulted by that remark Benson made.

Unknown said...

It's just a TV show people so get over it!

I bet you all think homosexuality is a sin don't you?

I'm sorry that you are so closedminded and judgemental

Draven Long said...

I just want to remind Unknown that homosexuality is NOT a sin, as has been proven time and again over the years.

Doubtless said...

It may just be a show, but naive people let this garbage influence their thinking about whole groups of people. I am against stirring up hatred for any group of people, evangelical or homosexual. This episode is abysmal and jilted against those it fails to understand. How many actual cases have you heard of churches condoning rape as a means to "curing" someone from homsexuality? It's just a sensationalized characature of evangelicals ulizing a made-up pathology to demonize them. If you want to combat hatred, try not stirring it up yourself in opposition to a fake issue. There are, sadly, churches that hate homosexuals, but this is absurd.

Werd Mann said...

I watched the first two episodes of the season and it became clear that the writers were just going to bash conservatives. The last two seasons started to show signs of going in the direction of a far left tv show with an obvious agenda, but I watched as I love SVU. I happened to watch this episode, and as a right of center Christian I got extremely angry at the portrayal of rural evangelicals. The whole season was basically just MSNBC in the form of a fictional TV show, virtue signaling the latest liberal causes and portraying everything resembling centrist or conservative positions as pure evil. This type of crap is the reason everyone voted for the worst Republican candidate, and that tertible candidate won the oval in a landslide.

malifact said...

I'm surprised people have commented on Olivia saying she believes in God. Even in the earlier seasons she referenced God, she just always struck me as somebody who wasn't in doctrine or organised religion. Also, didn't she having a naming ceremony for Noah in a church? But I come from a country where many people say they believe in a God / higher power but only go to church for special occasions. Anyway, it was an okay episode. I do think the whole errant preacher as the villain and rural Christian equals extremist has been done before. I also guessed Lucas was gay and I'm usually terrible at predicting these things. I thought the trial scenes were the best part of the episode

CK~ said...

You can still believe in God and not go to church.

bchase88ny said...

While I certainly doubt that there is any sect of Christianity in reality that would ever believe in such a concept as Curative Intercourse... I don't know all that there is to know about every church, or it's congregations.

The Westboro Baptist Church for example, believes and spouts MANY things that devout, practicing, God-fearing Christians disagree with... But that is one Church. One congregation... And that's all that's being portrayed in this episode... A single church, with "over 900 congregants" whose whole understanding and belief in their religion is due to their Reverend/Pastor Gary.

To people who don't focus on this fact, and distinction that this is not a blanket "attack" of Christianity... Well that's their own issue... The writers however DID make that distinction, and reiterate it numerous times...

That's WHY Benson, Rollins, Carisi etc. Keep bringing up that "I don't remember reading THAT in the Bible" and similar statements...

Now, that being said, some people don't want to notice those efforts to make it abundantly clear that this isn't "Christians are rapists, SVU said so!" well... I don't know what to say to those people.

Is the episode Leftward leaning politically? Yeah, sure. It says what a large number of people believe... Being gay, or a lesbian, is NOT a sin... It is not something you've done wrong... It is genetically pre-determined(it's been proven... Look it up) It also says that Rape, for WHATEVER reason... Is a crime, and religious beliefs don't give anyone, anywhere in this country, the right to break the law.

Now... Since when is Benson religious, some of you ask. As one commenter pointed out, she's mentioned believing in God before, as far back as when Elliot was still around. And her motherhood to Noah is neither convoluted nor unrealistic... She's wanted to have a child ever since the episodes with Maria Bello as her "almost" sister... So it fits right into the existing narrative.