Thursday, February 8, 2018

Law & Order SVU “The Undiscovered Country” Recap & Review; Raul Esparza Exits

“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns…”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Farewell, Rafael.

What an amazing episode, with exceptional writing by Michael Chernuchin. I almost never say this anymore: this was an Emmy worthy episode on many levels.

Law & Order SVU “The Undiscovered Country” was an emotional roller-coaster episode that many Law & Order fans were eager to see as it featured the return of Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) as District Attorney. But this joy was short-lived as it brought trouble – and the prosecuting career end - for ADA Rafael Barba, who resigned his ADA position. This episode also marks the beginning of Peter Stone’s move from Chicago to New York. The convergence of all these characters occurs when they are faced with a moral and ethical issue that tests everyone involved. But it’s Barba who takes decisive and controversial action, much to the detriment of his career. It’s clear early on that the job is wearing on him when he makes a comment about getting some sleep within the next decade or so. This case may have arrived at a time where Barba was reaching his emotional limit with the job.

The final scenes with Raúl Esparza were difficult to watch without feeling a flood of sadness. Esparza was able to brilliantly convey the complexities of what Barba went through with his father, plus the controversial decision he made to turn off Drew’s life support. One could almost see what looked like the real weight of those actions on him during the scene where Barba had to testify about why he did what he did. Raul Esparza is an amazing talent who brought a passion and spark to Law & Order SVU that few have been able to deliver, and he will be greatly missed on this show.

Was Barba right to turn off life support and was the verdict correct? I’m still on the fence. The parents clearly contributed to the issue by not being in agreement on the fate of their son. Had they had agreement, the issue may have been easily resolved in court and the SVU would have never been involved. I suspect that Barba has, over time, become too emotional after working with Benson and the SVU, and, also influenced by the situation with his own father,  he couldn’t think logically about baby Drew.  He shouldn’t have been the one to turn off life support but I understand why he did and I’m satisfied with the verdict. Barba was clearly listening during McCoy’s eulogy of Ben Stone, as Barba used that advice to do what he must.

Benson is feeling guilty for bringing Barba into this case, but it was her job to do so. Her constant need to fix things, however, is what makes the mess. She frequently becomes too emotionally involved in cases and then makes rash decisions; for example, putting herself at risk when she decides she can handle the hostage situation. This could be her way of trying to make amends for Mike Dodds’ death in a hostage situation but that doesn’t make it any less reckless. (Benson was lucky this time; she couldn’t know that Aaron was only holding a paintball gun until she got into the house.)  When she finds that Barba turned off Drew’s life support, she again says she has to fix this. Maybe she wouldn’t have to fix things if she took a more tempered approach and looked first before jumping in, or she should at least realize that she can’t fix everything.

This episode neatly tied in the Law & Order past by bringing in Peter Stone, son of Ben Stone, the first Manhattan EADA featured in the Law & Order series. Ben Stone is dead (R.I.P Ben), and Peter has come from Chicago for the funeral, where Jack McCoy delivers a eulogy.  As the years progressed, Ben Stone was only rarely mentioned in the Law & Order universe and only served as a connection to Peter Stone for Chicago Justice. It made sense that the character pass on in order to open the door for Peter to make his own mark in New York. The one thing I liked about Peter Stone on “Chicago Justice” is that he had a real passion for his job and wasn’t afraid to rock the boat. I hope we see this same Peter Stone on SVU.

Jack McCoy, while he seems to genuinely like Barba, knows that he has to prosecute him as he “can’t have his ADAs killing people.” Benson really has a negative attitude with Peter Stone right out of the gate, telling him  “I sure hope you suck” (causing Stone’s handshake to retract like a deflating erection).    I think we all wanted Stone to do badly prosecuting Barba. Benson continues to take it to the next level with Stone, saying with typical Benson sanctimony that Barba lives in a place that the men who wrote the law don’t even think about. Thankfully, Stone has the perfect retort, that “amongst us mere mortals, it’s a class A felony.” This is going to be a rocky relationship and I think that it could bring some much needed tension between SVU and the DA’s office, in more ways than one.

The possible reason Barba is burned out came at the end of the episode when Barba explains that when he started the job, it was black and white. Working with Benson as she started to “weasel” (interesting choice of words) her way into his world, he began to see shade of gray and then color. When he says “I’m you now, Liv”, this tells me that he, like Benson, became too emotionally involved in his cases. I think she ruined his legal objectivity. For a while it seemed they were dumbing down Barba; I liked him more when he had that defined, “black and white” approach to the law. It meant for more tension and drama as well. Right now Peter Stone is taking a black and white approach, and maybe this is the best way to see the job. (There is nothing wrong with throwing in a little gray, as there are still legal loopholes.) Barba is smart to move on, and hopefully he will find a career that allows him to use what he learned in his job as ADA to make changes in the law. That said, I hope that someday we will see Raúl Esparza make a guest appearance in another role.

An interesting touch was bringing in the annoying yet effective Randy Dworkin to defend Barba.  Abigail Hawk also played the emotionally wrecked mother with perfection.

I almost hate bringing this up with such an excellent episode, but there were two significant continuity errors in this episode.  These kinds of errors are extremely annoying. The most glaring was Jack McCoy as District Attorney. In the SVU episode "Scorched Earth" (season 13, episode one, air date September 21, 2011), SVU Bureau Chief Mike Cutter says there was a new DA. As SVU went through a many seasons after that with a nameless, faceless District Attorney, viewers were only left to conclude that Jack McCoy was out as DA. This episode doesn’t really explain why McCoy is still in the job.  I suppose it's possible he was out as DA for a while and was later elected back in...?

The other continuity error – maybe not as obvious – was Barba telling McCoy that his father died 7 years ago. In the episode “ Padre Sandungeuro” (season 16, episode 12, air date January 21, 2015), Barba states “I know what it's like to have to face down your old man. Mine's dead 15 years, and my hand still curls into a fist whenever I think of him.” It’s perplexing that the writers recalled Barba’s relationship with his father was contentious, but didn’t get the timing of his death right.


Update February 13, 2018 - a deleted scene has been added after the recap.

Here is the recap:

Jack McCoy is delivering a eulogy at the funeral of former EADA Ben Stone. Ben’s son Peter is in attendance, as is Rafael Barba. During the eulogy,  McCoy mentions a case where an inculpatory document was included with a discovery request received from opposing counsel and McCoy did not know what to do. He went to Ben Stone for advice and McCoy commented he can either ignore the document…and McCoy says Stone cut him off, saying that a man shouldn’t do what he can, he should do what he must without regard for consequence or repercussion, that’s what makes us moral, and god help us if we lose that. He says his goodbyes to Ben.

The SVU case began with baby Drew, kidnapped by his own father, Aaron Householder, that turns into a legal battle over the parents’ right to allow Drew, who suffers from Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome, to die. The baby’s mother – Maggie Householder  – wants to end Drew’s suffering, as he has no brain functions and can’t hear, see, or eat normally. Aaron takes the Drew as he doesn’t want to take this action.

Aaron is quickly tracked to a house in Sheepshead, New York where he’s set up a life support system for Drew. The SVU squad arrives on the scene with backup. Benson, who seems to be trying to make up for the hostage situation where Mike Dodds was killed, decides she can handle this situation. Against strong objections from Fin, she ditches her gun and phone and enters the house to try to diffuse the situation. She tries to talk Aaron down and is finally successful when she tells him she is a cop and knows her guns – Aaron is only holding a paintball gun. The hostage situation ends.

Later, at SVU, the parents – separately - discuss Drew’s heart-wrenching and hopeless medical situation, and they eventually reconcile. Benson tells Barba that no one is forcing him to prosecute. Barba replies that if he doesn’t, he is telling the world that baby Drew has no rights. When Rollins asks what about his right to die, Carisi comments that, unfortunately, that’s not in The Constitution. Barba asks them to find out if the kidnapping caused the baby any harm, and Benson adds that is so he can let Aaron go with a clear conscience. Barba says it's so he can prosecute and maybe get some sleep in the next decade or so.

Meanwhile, McCoy and Stone meet at the courthouse. They share McCoy’s sandwich while sitting on a bench near the courthouse hall. McCoy suggests he has a place for Stone in New York but Stone plans to stay in New York only until his father’s affairs have been settled. McCoy recalls how proud Ben Stone was of Peter, and Stone wishes he knew this before. Afterward, Stone enters an empty courtroom and cries.

Later,  while Barba is in his office having a drink and is looking out a window, he hears a voice say “We don’t pay you to think, we pay you to work.” He turns and sees it is McCoy, who says, “Sure, I’ll have one.” McCoy says he wishes the law was more like chemistry; you heat up water to 212 degrees and the sonofabitch boils. As McCoy sits in Barba’s chair and grabs the liquor out of Barba’s desk drawer and pours himself a drink, Barba comments, “Sans bias, sans judgment”  and McCoy replies, “Sans conscience.” McCoy asks what is so interesting out that window, and Barba explains his father. He explains (continuity error warning!) that 7 years ago his father went into a diabetic coma and was on life support for six weeks. When McCoy says he is sorry, Barba tells him don’t be, he was not well liked by anyone, especially him. Still, he was at the hospital every morning before work and every night until the nurses threw him out. The doctors said there was nothing they could do for him; there was no brain activity and they highly recommended they end it, but he said no, where there is life, there is hope. He could have eased his suffering but he didn’t, and told himself it as because Father Mike wouldn’t approve. McCoy says he is sure he wouldn’t. Barba states he was selfish; he hated the man, but still he didn’t want the burden of being the reason he took his last breath. He states again he was selfish; he let him suffer. Jack tells him to prosecute Aaron Householder, and Barba asks if it is for doing the same thing he did to his dad. McCoy explains that law is what the statutes says it is. Barba counters it is a shame, no matter how hard they try, they can’t legislate morality. McCoy comments, “We’re not in the compassion business, Rafael.” Barba nods, and says “Sure. Why not.” McCoy finishes his drink and tells Barba to cut a deal, offer Aaron probation, go to church, say 3 Hail Marys, and then come back to the office and finish that bottle. But we can see the gears moving in Barba’s head.

Barba heads to the hospital room where Maggie is there with Drew. After Maggie has a bit of a breakdown about Drew’s situation, she asks why Drew can’t just die. Barba tells her that he can. But Maggie can’t turn off the machines, and Barba tells her to go. He looks at Drew, makes the sign of the cross over him, and the scene fades to black. We know what he does, however.

Later, Benson sees Barba outside the courthouse and is shocked that he “killed the baby.” But Barba states he expedited his passing. Benson thinks this will be a tough hair to split in the courtroom. The courtroom was the last thing he was thinking of in that hospital room. He knows he could go to prison, saying sometimes you have to act, without concern for the consequences. But Benson says not him, he wears suspenders and a belt. He thinks he had no option. Benson says she has to fix this (there she goes again) and as she walk off, Barba says she can’t help him.

Benson meets McCoy in the courthouse hall and makes her case for Barba. McCoy says he can’t have his ADAs running around killing people, it’s unbecoming. Benson says Barba did what he thought was right, and McCoy states he knows that, and says she knows that, and he hopes the jury agrees with them. Stone approaches and McCoy introduces him to Benson. McCoy calls him the “hotshot out of Chicago who is going be Special Counsel in The People v Rafael Barba”. Stone looks a bit surprised as does Benson. He tells her it is a pleasure and reaches out to shake her hand. Benson declines to do so, instead telling Stone “I sure hope you suck.” He quickly closes his hand and Benson walks away, glaring at him. It’s obvious that this is the first Stone has heard about the special prosecutor job. He asks McCoy how he knew he’d say yes, and McCoy says it’s because he has more of his father in him than he knows.

Meanwhile, Barba gets the annoying yet effective Randy Dworkin as his attorney and, after a rocky start, Dworkin says Barba killed what 9 out of 10 doctors said isn’t alive. Barba worries about the 10th doctor. But Dworkin says both he and Barba want to prove a point, that the government’s power has grown too much and the bigger it gets, the smaller it leaves the individual. Once the government takes away our right to die, it takes away our right to live. Barba sits down to hear more.

On February 6 in Supreme Court, the parents testify. Maggie admits that she did not have an abortion when it was first discovered about Drew’s condition, because it would be wrong. Stone asks if it is no okay to kill him 10 months after he was born?

Afterward, Stone and Benson meet on the courthouse steps and she asks if he has spoken with Barba. He replies the law says he can’t. She tells him to forget the law and look into his eyes, and talk to him; Barba lives in a place that the men who wrote the law don’t even think about. Stone counters that down here amongst us mere mortals, it’s a class A felony. As he walks off, Benson asks if he has kids and he doesn’t, and Benson says their pain is your pain and Barba knows that. Stone counters he knows why Barba did what he did and he understands but if they as a society ignore it, they are saying murder is no longer absolutely wrong.  Condoning it in one case would allow us to condone it in any cases. Benson says she is talking about a decent man who did a decent thing. Stone says they shoot horses, not people, asking if Drew didn’t have MDDS, what if he had Downs or leukemia or a sore throat? What if he didn’t have physical pain at all, what if he was just unhappy? Benson retorts that is the thing about you lawyers, they are always talking about the reasonable man. She states he wouldn’t know a reasonable man if he fell out of the sky and landed at Stone’s feet.

Later, Barba testifies in his defense and admits he killed him, saying it was a justifiable homicide. He explains how Drew couldn’t smell flowers or hear the music his mother was playing. He would never see a cloud, a rainbow, the sun or moon. He wouldn’t know he existed, he would only know pain. The doctors said he had no brain function. The courts have only dealt with these issue tangentially, saying that Roe v Wade said an unborn baby was alive when it could survive on its own. Drew could not. All he knows is that he saw a baby who couldn’t form the most basic thought of his own, he couldn’t love, hate, or hope and when he saw the pain and unutterable suffering that his existence was causing for the two people who loved him most, he had to do something, whether it meant going to prison or not.

Under cross, Stone brings up that Barba did not bring up with issue with Aaron, and Barba  admits  he did not. When asks if he feels guilty, he avoids a straight answer and when Stone presses, Barba admits he does.

On February 7, the jury returns a verdict of not guilty for the charge of murder in the second degree. Barba and Benson look relieved and Stone seems to be in agreement. Benson hugs Barba and Stone tells Drew’s parents “well done.”

Later, Barba is cleaning out his office as McCoy enters, who asks if Barba realizes that half his job is keeping people who work there from doing something stupid. He is holding a resignation letter. Barba says now McCoy has one less person to worry about, and McCoy tells him he doesn’t have to do this. Barba knows, saying he is going to do what he must. McCoy understands. They shake hands.

Later, outside the courthouse, Barba looks back on the building as Benson approaches. She feels guilty that she called him about this case. He says when they started working together 5 years ago – Benson corrects it to six – the world was an old movie, all black and white and it was High Noon and he was Gary Cooper. He was absolutely sure who were the good guys and the bad guys,  and says Benson started to weasel her way into his world and black and white became different shade of gray. He tells her not to say it…before he knew it there were blues and greens and yellows and reds. He adds, “I’m you now, Liv. You opened my heart and I thank you for it.” Benson says, “And?” to which he replies, “I’ve got to move on. “ She looks dejected and he kisses her forehead. As he walks off, crying, he leaves Benson standing there alone, watching him as we fade to black.

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:
Sam Waterston – DA Jack McCoy
Philip Winchester - Peter Stone
Peter Jacobson - Randy Dworkin
Abigail Hawk - Maggie Householder
Joe Tapper - Aaron Householder
Ami Brabson - Judge Blake
Damien Brett – Mel Cooke
Lindsay Becker - Sandy Householder
Precious Cruz-Dyson - Jury Foreperson
Sprague Theobald – Priest
Dave Adams – Sniper

All Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) Copyright © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, on All Things Law And Order.

Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.


Charliejamezz said...

Thank you Chris!
I am so upset that Barba is no longer a part of the cast, and since he was one of the only reasons that I watched, I probably will have to say goodbye to SVU for a while. I just want to ask however, if we are absolutely sure that he actually will quit the show. Do you think there is any possibility of him coming back as Rafael Barba? I'm just thinking since the creators/producers have tweeted about the fact that there will be no changes in the cast.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Charliejamezz - you are welcome! And yes, Raul has left the show. He's said so in a few interviews released today. Here's a link to one from Us Weekly:

Philip Winchester was originally listed as a recurring character but I've heard that it really is permanent. I think they just said it was recurring at first so as to not tip their hand about Raul leaving. I'm sorry to see him go, I wish they would have used him more! But as long as he is happy and doing what he likes to do, I'm happy too.

Js McFail said...

First of all TY Chris! Next, I for one feel lied to by NBC...They assured us fans that Stone's coming on board would be adversarial with Barba NOT a replacement!
I've read that NBC wrote Winchester's contract in the failed show for longer than it lasted thereby obligating NBC to continue paying him even though he was not working for them...
I think NBC decided to move him into SVU to make up for this discrepancy!
Also, why did they lie to us loyal Barba fans? If, Raul really wanted out, why did he even sign a new contract for season 19?
There are just too many gaps/loopholes in this story right now to even begin to trust all the data we were given last night & I for one, feel like I was duped...I could go on & on about feeling kicked in the gut by NBC but I think I'll wait & see what comes out about this situation! JMO

M Garcia said...

Thank you for the blog! First time posting but I’ve been reading for awhile :)

Something crossed my mind just now regarding the inconsistencies with Barba’s dad being dead. I wonder if it was intentionally written that way, to show how time moves erratically in Barba’s world. The sleep in the next decade supports this, but more so Benson’s correction at the end of the episode (he says 5 years, she corrects him to say 6). It’s possible the years have just blended together for him.

This was an excellent episode, and a much needed break from the constant Benson drama. I will miss Barba though... he was my favorite character.

Fefe Yo said...

Great review! I totally agree. Rafael was my favorite character on the show, and Raul is an excellent, grade A actor. It is no surprise to learn he also is in Broadway.
I totally agree about the Olivia thing...she has been responsible for a lot of bad things...the death of Mike (I think that was his name) Dodds, the suicide of a few victims she pressured into continuing the case (including the son of the woman who was sleeping with the admissions member to get her son into the university), etc.. I am so tired of Olivia. She always goes off tangent and manipulates Barba. If she wanted to be so involved in law, she should have been a lawyer.
This show has been a constant musical chair game of characters. It is about time Olivia (Mariska) leaves the show. She is very annoying (both the character and the actress).

Fefe Yo said...

Looking at the preview for next we go again. Olivia once again is in the way and imposing herself on to the case.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Js McFail - you’re right. NBC sources to the entertainment media first said Philip Winchester was recurring and the relationship was adversarial I think a lot of Raul fans feel misled! It sounds like, based on his interviews release after the show that he wanted out this season. Maybe they just needed to buy some time to get all their ducks in a row to tell the story of Barba’s exit right? All I know is that the character seems diminished starting last season and it seemed like the spark was gone. I enjoyed Raul and am really sad to see him go! Philip looks like a great addition, though so maybe Stone will give the SVU a much needed kick in the pants!

Chris Zimmer said...

@FefeYo - I wonder if they are making her annoying just to give Mariska a more interesting story line down the road? Olivia IS getting to be more of a demanding control freak, though...,

Rick W. said...

I will miss both Raul Esparza and Rafael Barba. What I would have liked to see at Ben Stone's funeral were some of his contemporaries. Like Mike Logan and Paul Robinette. I don't know if Chris Noth and Richard Brooks were even approached. The amount of screen time they would have received was minimal, so I doubt they were.

Chris Zimmer said...

@M Garcia - I suppose it is possible Barba lost track of the years but the huge time difference doesn’t make that likely!

Chris Zimmer said...

@Rick W - that would have been a great idea but I bet it would have cost them too much $$$ for such a short scene...

Laurie Fanat said...

Raul Esparza was a great addition to the show and he really was shining during the Warren Leight years. But after Warren left it was like the life went out of Barba. It's not a bug surprise that Raul decided to leave the show at the start of the season (link to interview from Entertainment Weekly: I agree with Js McFail that people feel lied to about Raul's status and WInchester coming on board. Were they terrified they would lose too many fans along the way? Or did Raul decide to stay on until they could work in a replacement, maybe with his work on that play in DC as a deadline to be out? NBC and the Wolf Films people are probably masters at spinning the facts to fit their needs and maybe they had a good reason to lie to everyone.

I liked Raul as Barba but there always seemed to be something there in the backgound that made me feel like his heart wasn't in to doing television long term.

About the case - if the baby had no brain activity then it should not have been in pain. I think that's the case, anyway. I blame the parents for fighting between themselves on the issue. Barba had no business turning off the machine if the mother refused to do it. He also had no business encouraging the mother to do so. What happened to Barba's rational brain? I'll tell you - BENSON brainwashed him with all her emotional BS.

Benson is another issue. She's a loose cannon and thinks that she can fix everything and is indestructible and can do no wrong. I hope Peter Stone can shock some sense into her. I can see them butting heads and I hope he wins. I think it would please me to see her kicked down a notch in rank for *something*. That would make the show interesting.

The episode WAS good, it's about time we had a story that had some meat to it.

Thanks for bringing back Jack McCoy!

Jane said...

I will miss Barba, he was my favorite character, but over this last season he’s lost his edge, his drive and determination....He did let Olivia influence him and that has meant a ‘lesser’ Barba. I hope Stone will be tough, won’t listen to Olivia and we can get away from all the personal drama with Olivia and Noah and get back to what SVU used to be..Solving crimes.


Thanks Again Chris For Recap. Just Want To Say Not Sure If It Was You Or Another Person Who Brought Up The Dodds Incident, But I Have To Say Liv Could Be A Hypocrite At Times. Just Like You Said About Barba Dad Mentioned A Few Years Ago, Also On The Episode When Lee Tergeson Reunited With Chris Meloni Since Being On OZ Together On That Very Same Episode Remember The Final Decision Liv Had To Make For The Baby? But When It Comes To Someone She Knows The Law Doesn't Matter, And She Was Very Rude To Amaro When She First Met Him Like She Was To Stone Last Night. And Speaking Of Stone For Those Who Don't Know His History It's Kind Of Sad How They Are Bringing Him In Looking Like An Antoginist First In Last Night Episode, And By The Looks Also In The Next Episode Coming Up In A Few Weeks.

Jodi Stephens said...

I love Raúl Esparza as Rafael Barba. So many of us on a Fandom sight have hashed/rehashed everything said here. Were we lied to? Maybe, but what happened between July (when they start shooting and the announcement of Winchester coming on) and airing of last night's episode, I believe Esparza's life was going to where he wants it; live theatre. Hence, his departure may have been hastened at his request. We know there is a 6-8 week lag from shooting to air, and there was a 5-month lag between the original announcement and last night's episode; plenty of time for opportunities to arise.

I like Hargitay, but it has become too much about her personal life, and even as Unit Command, she would not be in the field as much. Higher ups would have made her find someone to replace Amaro to allow her a position more like Cragon. It is Law & Order, and like many other shows, it is becoming more about personal issues than actual cases. Esparza also references that his leaving has something to do with Leight (who brought him on, and wrote Barba especially for Esparza) leaving last year. Esparza has had some good scenes lately after a terrible start this season (I think 1 episode he had 5 lines!).

What I found upsetting was during Barba's trial, Rollins, Carisi, and Fin were no where in the courtroom. They weren't there after the incident, nor to seek out how their long time colleague/friend was handling what happened, no matter what their personal thoughts were. This is after Barba has gone to bat for them in almost all cases. Some loyalty. Maybe they are in the notorious number of "deleted scenes" we've grown accstomed to.

I look forward to whatever Esparza connects to in the future as he is too talented to be pigeonholed into one character. His voice is too good to be ignored also. If at all possible, I will travel to see him perform where ever he does.

Jess said...

Raul Esparza is by far the most talented actor this franchise has employed in forever. What a loss.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Jodi Stephens - I suspect some deleted scenes will be least I hope so! And yes, it was odd that the rest of the team was missing in action during the trial. I suspect this episode was only supposed to be about Benson, Barba, Stone and McCoy...

Draven Long said...

While I haven't watched episodes 11 or 12 yet (I watched 8-10 and they were all great IMO, ESPECIALLY Gone Baby Gone) I will say that i just HAD to watch this episode no matter what, the second I saw the promo. I was NOT disappointed.

Stone's handshake scene with Benson was comical to me, while also managing to be dramatic. The mother's acting was top drawer. And of course Raul was the icing on the cake...the ending scenes had me tearing up rivers!

I've said this for one or two episodes of the Warren Leight era, but I agree with you Chris: Chernuchin did a HELL of a job on this. This episode truly does deserve to win multiple Emmys. 15/10 A+

Mending Wall said...

Im so sick of getting connected to characters just to have them leave. I know I should be used to it by now, but I cant help it. This musical chairs is beyond annoying. Im not looking forward to a new ADA. I dont think this is the way for Barba to go. He usually has "the law is the law" attitude and I didnt expect him to do this. Also for some foolish reason, I think Sonny would one day be an ADA, hopefully on this show. He didnt get a law degree for nothing.

RescueDogMom said...

I will miss Barba beyond belief—Raúl was always brilliantt, even last season when Rick Eid practically destroyed the character.

Since he said in his interview in Entertainment Weekly that he thought it was possible there was a life for Barba as the show goes on, I have a little hope that they may have him back, although not as an ADA. He also said “Absolutely” when asked if he would be interested in returning to SVU in the future so I will root for a 21st season and an opportunity to appreciate his great work again.

It was wonderful to see Jack McCoy again and this episode will resonate with me for a long time. I liked Chicago Justice so will wait to see how Peter Stone works out with SVU. Thanks as always for the recap.and your insights.

Margot Undercliffe said...

Barba was my main reason for watching the last few seasons (plus the increasingly rare Peter Gallagher).

His acting is superb and he deserves an award for this episode.

The end explained a number of things I had noticed about Barba. He took on weak cases, cases where the law hadn’t developed and sometimes poorly prepared cases which Alex and Casy wouldn’t have touch or made SVU do more work. There are times when I wondered if the DA would intervene. It comes down again to SVU getting to the character and literally breaking them.

Olivia going into that house! In the real world her character would be medically discharged as she seems to have a death wish or be attracted,to serious danger. Maybe she rightly feels guilt for Dodds’ death, but she has been going into hostage situations for a long time. I just wanted to scream at her.

Chris Zimmer said...

@RescueDogMom - FYI - we still have to get a season 20 before we can get to season 21 (wink)!

Ry A said...

In regards to the continuity error with McCoy...

I think you're right, in that he was voted back in again, particularly after the scandal in the DA's office. I suspect he has been DA for a fair few years (which might explain Cutter's disappearance - if McCoy became DA again, then he may have promoted Cutter back up to EADA).

But I agree, it annoys me when the writers play fast and loose with the continuity like that. :/

Still, a bloody brilliant episode :)

JSlayerUK said...

Why would it have been a crime for the father to take his son? Surely the only crime was what he did to the sitter. You are allowed to move your son. That really confused me at the beginning.

Chris Zimmer said...

@JSlayerUK - I think the problem was the parents were arguing about how to handled their son (turn off the machines or let him live as is). The fact that the father bound and gagged the sitter was the first part of the problem. Then they saw that the child was taken without medical equipment he needed to survive and without the knowledge of the other parent. When they tracked down the father, he was holding the child and had a gun to keep officers away. My guess is that the fact that he bound and gagged the sitter to take the baby is what escalated the issue to something criminal.

Js McFail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Js McFail said...

Another thought on Raul's departure...I think the writer's wrote Raul/Barba's departure a very derogatory way...They left him a broken, sad piece of what we knew as the strong & always-doing-the-lawful-thing Barba that we knew & loved! (A negative departure)

Why didn't they at least give him a promotion to be the DA in another borough (or something comparable) so he could've left with his head held high & all his friends & cohorts giving him a congratulatory good-bye/good-luck party like they did for Cragen & Munch (even Amaro) were given on their departure... (Positive departure)

Why make him basically a broken/lost man with no one but Benson even there to wish him well & tell him they loved him...?
As you can tell, I'm still crushed about the WAY it was handled by NBC et al...

Chris Zimmer said...

@Js McFail - Over this season and last, they've really taken the edge off Barba. It's like they were slowly dumbing him down. I didn't like it. My guess is they wanted something really controversial to trigger his exit to get people talking (if that was the case they were successful). Maybe if they promoted him, people would keep hoping that he'd be back soon, and they didn't want to string fans along? I don't really know. One thing is for sure - in my opinion - Benson, with her constant emotional influence - ruined a great ADA.

Js McFail said...

I hate to disagree Chris BUT the PTB@NBC/writer's ruined Barba...All Benson ever did was be his friend & emotional support...JMO

malifact said...

Thank you Chris as always. I had mixed feelings about this episode. The acting was very good, especially by Raul and the actress who played the Mum and kudos to the writers for tackling a very difficult issue. However, I still find it unbelievable that Barba would have ended the child's life, no matter how they tried to build up to it. I also found the part at the end where Barba talked about how Olivia had changed him too much. I could understand him saying that working with SVU and helping victims changed him, but giving full credit to Olivia was overboard.

Chris, one thing I think they completely overlooked was what the father did to the babysitter. Surely he should have been charged with assault or false imprisonment (sorry I don't know if these are the correct offences in America)?

Chris Zimmer said...

@malifact - yes I agree. Aaron should have been charged with something for what he did to the babysitter. Some type of assault charge would probably cover it but there could me more! The Barba that came on board to SVU would have never turned off that machine - and his work with Benson and SVU didn’t change him for the better in this case!

EchoInTheSilence said...

I hate to go against the grain here, but I was very uncomfortable with the direction the story took in this episode. I think it would've been okay if it had just been a question of turning off life support when someone was all but dead already (although, frankly, SVU has already done that, way back in season 5), or whether it's a crime for Barba to do it given the mother's clear consent. But as soon as they veered into "right to die" territory, I was...less than impressed. Right to die should be something a person invokes only for themselves, not something that can be invoked by a third party, especially a caregiver who may have difficulty separating out their own feelings from the question of what's best for their charge. Even Barba ultimately admits that his action was about the parents' suffering, not Drew's me that makes it crystal-clear that for all "Drew's right to die" is talked about, it's ultimately the parents whose needs are centered, and that does raise the exact question that Olivia calls Stone unreasonable for asking.

Makes me wish Munch was still on the show. His argument would likely have been similar to Stone's, but I think Olivia would have at least heard Munch out instead of lashing back at him like she did Stone.

Doreen Chiapparelli said...

First and foremost thank you Chris for the recap and review! I am with you on all counts- I totally enjoyed this ep- did not understand benson going into the situation- how doesthe ESU team even let her take over like that? Was she the highest ranking officer on the site? She just chastised herself to Barba a few months ago when she had Karla point a gun at her in Contrapasso - saying “ i have a son Raphael! What was i thinking?”and now did the same freakin thing! Olivia needs to go back to Lindstrom and figure out what the hell is going on- —the continuity issue is so annoying-how do the writers not realize this? Do they not binge watch svu marathons like the rest of us??Love your blog! Enjoy reading it- Season 19 has been a huge step up from 18- good stuff to come!!

Doreen Chiapparelli said...

Karla -Gone fishin not Contrapasso

Chris Zimmer said...

@Doreen Chiapparelli - Sometimes I think the writers aren't as devoted to the show as the fans!

Roselynn Finch said...

So, when Casey committed a Brady Violation to get a rapist sent away, everyone called her a liar and a bad attorney. But Barba turns off someone's life support, and he is a complicated hero to some people here. That's fascinating. Truly. As for me, I still read the recaps, but haven't seen a single episode this week. I'm sick of Noah. I'm sick of Cassidy. And I'm sick of the liberal agenda on this show.

Roselynn Finch said...

*this season, not week

Chris Zimmer said...

Please note: A deleted scene with Mariska, Raul, and Peter Jacobson has been added after the recap!

Js McFail said...

NBC should've kept this scene...Barson fans would've loved it!

BensonFan said...

I thought this episode jumped the shark. No ADA would ever do a thing like killing a baby. Not that fiction has to imitate reality, but really. This was just silly. I didn't buy that he did it out of some sense of wanting to ease the suffering of the parents, of trying to take away their burden of making the decision. I may rewatch and see if I feel differently, but right now I can't get beyond the ridiculous premise of an ADA pulling the plug on a baby.

Js McFail said...

ITA BensonFan...NBC/writers took our beloved & so highly respected Barba & turned him into a wimpy, sad, dejected & baby-killing man...NOT anywhere even close to his established strong character he was...(I do want to add that while I believe this episode WAS a terribly written/portrayal of Barba; the ACTING WAS AWESOME!)JMO

WestVirginiaRebel said...

Benson seems to have forgotten that she's a cop, not a social worker. It's not her job to "fix things." In the past she'd have been reprimanded by Donald Cragen or McCoy. She's gotten too emotionally involved.

Candace P said...

I couldn’t agree more. Sick of the Olivia saga. She’s a bore anymore.

BarbaxBarson said...

I was very disappointed in this episode, they left a beloved character a broken and very sad man. Raúl and Rafael and his fans deserved better, I would have preferred they killed him off, but leaving it like this it is much worse to try and get over and move on and asking why. I hope people eventually found out why he did leave, not just for theather, but he was also doing a pilot for a new TV show in which he would have been the star, it was produced by the same woman who did the Path, with which he also stared in, I am confused by some of these comments on here, yes Barba changed over the years to me that showed growth and yes he had a hard time saying no to her but he was also in love with her, working in sex crimes takes its toll on a person many people have said so including Elliot and Capt. Craven. Mariana did say when asked in June of 2018 if he would be back and she said, Yes I can promise you that, so hopefully one day he can come back as a guest and mend my Barson broken heart.