Thursday, March 8, 2018

Law & Order SVU “In Loco Parentis” Recap & Review

Update March 14, 2018 - a deleted scene has been added at the end of the recap. 
Update March 18, 2018 - another deleted scene with Philip Winchester has been added below.

In Law & Order SVU “In Loco Parentis”, Detective Sonny Carisi screws things up, both officially and unofficially. The episode took the overused story line of a “he said/she said” sexual assault on a college campus (in the hotbed of crime – Hudson University) and made it personal when Sonny’s niece is the victim. Eventually we find this is a storm of her own making; the twist is revealed that she lied about being raped…but that’s not the end of it. This was a great feature role for Peter Scanavino. We also saw new ADA Peter Stone show that he doesn’t need a lecture from Olivia Benson to win a case. Benson was in full brainwashing mode on Stone in this episode and I found her comments not only wrong but cringe-worthy (more on this later). Despite some issues that I had with both Benson and Carisi in this episode, I really enjoyed the quality of the production, which gets better with every episode and is a huge improvement over prior seasons.

The problem begins when Carisi’s niece, Mia, a student at Sex Crimes University Hudson University claims she was raped by fellow student Ethan. Ethan faces the university tribunal who suspends him for one year and he must vacate the school, effectively torpedoing his medical education. When Carisi’s sister Teresa tells Carisi about the rape, Carisi decides to pursue the matter criminally by opening a police investigation. Stone offers to get the school tribunal’s transcripts until enough evidence is found. Benson tells Carisi to stay off the case officially, and unofficially, not to screw it up.

Carisi screws it up.

It eventually is revealed that Mia lied about being raped. She told Ethan yes to sex but told her friend Renata she was raped to prevent Renata from getting mad at her;  Renata got the school involved. Carisi – wrongly in my opinion – tells Mia that she should apologize to Ethan and tells her to make it right. With Carisi’s legal education and his experience with how special victims cases can go wrong, he shouldn’t have encouraged Mia to contact Ethan at all and instead should have suggested to her and his sister that they get legal advice before doing anything. He also should have clued in Benson and Stone. My thinking is that Ethan could have enough for a civil case against Mia and even the SVU. But no, Carisi lets this play out, and when Mia tries the apology route, Ethan decides he’ll make things even by raping her. Of course, when Mia spills this information to Carisi, he tells her they aren’t going to say anything about what really happened the first time.  Nothing like compounding the mistake!

Things go from bad to worse at Ethan’s trial when the defense questions Carisi about the first rape claim. When Carisi balks at answering, the defense presses and Carisi is forced to admit that there was no first rape, that Mia lied to the school tribunal and to the SVU and the court. Welcome to “Sex Crimes” Peter Stone!

Of course, when back at SVU, Benson rips Carisi, telling him what matters in these cases is the credibility of the parties. I laughed at this, because Benson earlier lectured Stone on “no perfect witnesses” and the “less perfect they are, the harder we fight”. After her high-and-mighty routine with Stone, this has to be a huge embarrassment for her (I'll address this is detail below).

Stone later takes the high road with Carisi and lets the setback roll off him, telling Carisi that he told the truth and “only a irrational man acts rational when family is involved.” He adds they all have family secrets and Carisi told the truth when it counted. Carisi tells Stone he is not such a bad guy for a lawyer, and when Stone comments he heard Carisi had “the same disease,” Carisi admits he’s been cured. Is this a signal that Carisi’s legal aspirations will be dropped from now on? I hope so, because Carisi spouting legal advice to Barba was becoming annoying.

Back at court, Stone uses Ethan’s anger about how his life has been ruined by Mia’s first accusation which causes Ethan to implode on the stand and admits what he did to Mia.  Later, he is found guilty of rape in the first degree. Stone gets a WIN – despite all that sage advice from Benson and the lies from Carisi and his niece.

After the trial, Benson visits Stone in his office – she finds him changing his shirt (shades of the scene with Jack McCoy changing his pants while Claire Kincaid is in his office, I think in the Law & Order episode “Second Opinion”). She thanks him for not “beheading” Carisi, to which he replies “what good would he be to anyone without a head?” She asks if that is his plan to “charm” his way into their hearts and he thinks it could work. She counters they are New York City police detectives and they can see through charming. He says it’s a shame. He comments he hear Noah is a ballplayer and offers to get him all the Mets tickets he wants, and Benson says “You are good”, obviously in the charm category. Peter Stone WILL be good if he continues to take this paced approach to his job and not letting himself be derailed by the SVU. Personally, I want to see more of the charming Peter Stone.

Mia decides to leave the university for a while. Had she not done that on her own, if I were Hudson,  I would have thrown her out for lying to the tribunal. Of course, this is Hudson, where standards seem to be pretty low.

Now, onto Benson’s sanctimonious lecturing.  When Stone admits to Benson he hasn’t prosecuted any college-age assaults, Benson says “It’s rarely a clean narrative, right? There could be alcohol involved, the victim can feel conflicted, there could be memory loss, there’s self-blame, it’s complicated.” What an insult to Peter Stone. He may not have prosecuted any college age assaults, but he’s not an idiot. Anyone in his position would surely be aware of what has happened on college campuses over the years – and decades – and Benson did not need to explain this to him. He was being more than kind to her when he told her he would follow their lead, a classy response in my opinion.

But this isn’t the end of it from Benson. The Benson attempt at brainwashing continues when she meets up with Stone at Forlini’s restaurant for a drink (she can’t stay for dinner). Here’s the dialog, with my comments inserted:

STONE – Look, what you do, working full time as a Lieutenant and being a single mother, that must take more energy than I can imagine. And you, what I mean is, you make it look effortless. [I groan loudly here. I know he’s trying to charm her, but it sounds like just another instance where we have to hear about the superwoman that is Olivia Benson]

BENSON – Okay, you don’t have to flatter me.

STONE – I’m just telling you how I see it.

BENSON – Okay. Carisi’s niece is telling the truth. She may have been unclear the first time, but the second time, I believe her.

STONE – I do too. But she’s still an imperfect witness. [Just wait Stone, you haven’t heard the half of it]

BENSON – Welcome to Sex Crimes. [Sex Crimes? Really? I thought that term went out many seasons ago. Special victims are not all sex crime victims.] Look Stone, there are no perfect witnesses. They leave out part of the story, they can’t remember, they feel guilty, change their minds, they blame themself, they think it’s their fault. But that’s why we’re here. To fight FOR them and the less perfect they are, the harder we fight. Look, nobody asks a robbery or a homicide victim if she wanted it. Nobody says “hey, why was she walking down the dark alley, why was she wearing a dark skirt, nobody implies that the crime was somehow her fault. [Her comments regarding robberies or homicides are off the mark. People who are robbed have been challenged about their judgment and whereabouts or actions at the time of the robbery, and homicide victims can’t be asked anything because they are DEAD. That said, the whereabouts and actions of homicide victims at the time of death can also be brought into question. Benson’s gender bias is showing as she refers to all victims of sexual assault, robbery, or homicide as female-specific.]

STONE[with a look on his face that Benson doesn’t understand that a prosecutor needs some semblance of evidence to go to trial] I’m just used to having more evidence before I go to trial.

BENSON – You have the victim’s word. We go to trial so the victim, the survivor, can look her rapist in the eye and tell the world her truth. We go to trial so she can be heard. The truth. That’s what heals. If you’re going to trial because you want to win, you’re in the wrong place. [Oh pul-leeze! No prosecutor goes to trial to simply to give the victim a voice and to look the attacker in the eye. They want JUSTICE. Trials are traumatizing for the victim.   Has Benson forgot how many cases were lost and the victims were devastated? Sure, the truth can come out but if the evidence is bad, the case is lost and the victim never gets the satisfaction of seeing justice served, causing further trauma to the victim. A good prosecutor goes to trial to WIN, not to simply make a point. Benson needs to get off her high horse and deliver Stone better cases that helps the victims get justice.]

My advice for Peter Stone: Stay charming and tune out Benson’s emotional pontificating. Listen to what she says but take it with a grain of salt. Don’t get stuck in Benson’s web…look what happened with Barba.

Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.
Philip Winchester – ADA Peter Stone

Guest stars:
Rachel Bay Jones - Teresa Carisi
Ryann Shane - Mia Toscano
Sam Vartholomeos - Eli Hartley
Tijuana Ricks – Dean Lisa Baldwin
John Rothman - Judge
Susie Essman - Arlene Heller
Dominic Comperatore – Steven Hartley
Barbra Wengerd – Jane Hartley
Rachel Finninger – Renata Schaeffer
Amanda Debraux – Hillary Baker
Bjorn Thorstad – Mitch Jackson
Zeus Taylor – Andy Rayburn
Jason Liebman – Stuart Green
Jennice Fuentes – Susan Trask
Steve Boghossian – Foreman

Deleted scene with Kelli Giddish, Peter Scanavino, and Philip Winchester:

Deleted scene with Philip Winchester

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magix74 said...

I really wanted to like this episode but there just wasn’t something right about it to me. I think Carisi’s lack of objectivity didn’t seem real. I know It was his niece (and a reason why he shouldn’t have been working on the case) but he seemed too over the top.

I often wonder too, if Benson was a male, whether people would be concerned so much about how the show revolves around her. While it does annoy me slightly, it is still such a rare thing to have a woman the central part of a tv show. The conversations she had with Stone were partly correct. While I guess she was preaching, it is true that victims of other crimes don’t get asked the same type of questions etc etc. It’s just a little hard to separate Benson and Mariska and her work with JHF.

Js McFail said...

The writing was better. The acting was superb! I still don't care for Stone or his bland acting style...JMO
I feel more like NBC is trying to further blacken the Barba character & his legacy with trite remarks, but that's just me!
And the shirt off scene was so contrived to make us think he's a hunk...Hey Raul's got a great body too, but we never in 6 years, ever saw his naked torso from the waste up & we ( & Liv?) get Stone's early on?
NBC is pushing this too hard for my liking...Let us get over the horrible way they wrote Barba out before we start getting Glamour shots of the new guy!
JMO & Yes, I'm still upset...

Js McFail said...

(for magix74) Yes, ITA with what you said! Mariska IS THE STAR of the show! Without her there would be NO SVU! Hello people, if she were male, nobody would think a thing over her being on screen more than the others...That's why she gets & deserves NBC's BIG BUCKS!

Jessica F. Norick said...

I thought the outcome of this episode was quite far-fetched, even for Television. I feel that if this were real life, it's highly likely that as soon as Carisi admitted under oath that his niece's first allegations had been fabricated, (not to mention his willingness to cover up the truth), that definitely would have been the end of the case against Ethan, and quite possibly the end of Greasy Carisi with the Crisco in his hair.

Yeah, it's true, the new prosecutor bullied a "confession" out of Ethan on the witness stand, but it seems to me that if you asked the niece 12 more times what *really* happened, you'd likely get six of "It was Rape!" and half a dozen of "It was consensual". If I were a juror on that case, I have serious doubts as to whether I could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, even with the "confession".

Laurie Fanat said...

I liked Raul Esparza, don't get me wrong, but Philip Winchester is a much better fit. I kept hearing that Raul's heart was in Broadway and I don't blame him, he's a perfect fit for the stage. After Warren Leight left, who brought him to the show after that failed play, maybe Raul just wasn't into SVU as much. It was time for him to leave and it sounds like he wanted out. So I am embracing the new ADA and think Philip will be great. As mentioned in the recap, that shirt scene made me think right away of that Jack and Claire scene from years back.

Carisi made some dumb moves here. Benson made the error by even making him think he could be involved unofficially. Carisi should have known better and it never ceases to amaze me how these characters can throw their judgement out the window at the drop of a hat when a family member is involved. His advice for Mia to stay silent was awful. Stone was far too gracious with Carisi. Why would the defense attorney allow Ethan to testify? After Mia's lie was exposed, I thought that would be enough to acquit him.

Benson has to stop preaching, it's making her look bad. She is supposed to be investigating crimes and keeping objective but she makes it emotional. She should be handing Stone a case he has a chance of winning. A prosecutor doesn't go to trial so the victim has a soapbox! Benson should be looking for justice. Why would Benson even want an "imperfect witness" to get on the stand and be traumatized all over again? She should know by now she can't hand Stone a garbage case. When Barba first started, he would have never taken that from her. Please Peter Stone, run away from Benson ASAP! I also ask the writers not to try to put her and Stone in a relationship. He deserves better.

Keith said...

Really think the legal side of the show would be 10/10 if we got some more scenes with Stone & Jack McCoy or Michael he still Bureau Chief, we haven't heard his name dropped since season 13? Maybe Cabot can become Bureau Chief, that would be perfect, does anyone else agree?

Unknown said...

She made a good point about robbery and sex assault. Robbery victims are not blamed or shamed to the extent rape victims are. Not even close. Ive never heard of a robberry victim being asked why they were wearing something, or "what do you expect when you send off those signals"

Jodi Stephens said...

I am always angered when a family member is involved in something and the member detective just can't stay out of the case. Almost anything the detective would find would not be used in the prosecution because it would be tainted. It portrays them as thinking they are above the law. I think Carisi would have explained things in more detail to his sister about what to, and not to, expect.

Surely Stone understands about Special Victims; not everything is a sexual assault. Now, that being said, where in the world do the writers even think having Stone changing shirts and inviting someone into his office is appropriate? With all of the #metoo movement, sexual harassment claims, he would know better! If not, then Benson is right; he doesn't belong in SVU! He should have locked the door if he was changing clothes. I think when McCoy was changing pants, he did so behind a screen.

The difference between Stone and Barba, is Barba was working sexual assault cases in Brooklyn before he came over to Manhattan, so he was familiar with some issues. Is Benson preaching? Yes, and I think the viewers feel that Stone should be more educated on SVU, but she is trying to bring him up to speed. I wish the writers would not write him with such obvious pickup lines; it's like being in a bar on Friday night. Let his character grow on the department much like Barba did. Let Stone show what he expects (like Barba did in the beginning) and stop with the cheesy compliments. I'm not a Stone fan, and probably never will be but I wasn't a big Liv, Rollins, Carisi, Elliot, Nick, Munch, etc. fan either. I fell hard for Barba though; something just clicked for me over him. He made me want to watch every episode.

Jessica F. Norick said...

Yeah, well I've never heard of robbery victims changing fundamental elements of their story, or fabricating it altogether.

Queenmarie88 said...

I think Mariska's line was "short skirt" instead of "dark skirt" and she just flubbed it and they didn't do it over.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

"You have the victim's word" Uh, no, that's NOT enough. Not in real life, anyway. They've done episodes on this show where people were falsely accused.

Amanda Marie said...

I don't mean this to sound vain, but this confuses me... Esparza was getting plump at the end, and was never ripped during the past 6 yrs. You can tell by the way their shirts lie on them, they make it pretty obvious with wardrobe. SVU makes a habit of showing off their toned stars (Meloni, Pino) so the Stone show wasn't a surprise to me at all.

Sharon Polikoff said...

A minor point, but ... I know it's a nice Italian name, but would anyone name their daughter Teresa if their last name is Carisi? Teresa Carisi, really?

Chris Zimmer said...

Note: A deleted scene has been added after the recap. Enjoy!

Alex Owen said...

I’ve been a L&O fan since the beginning, and a bigger SVU fan. (Don’t think I’ve missed a single episode) So I may just be mixing things up but I feel like part of Stone’s Cross of the Defendant is almost too familiar. Like it was almost word for word either one of his arguments on Chicago Justice, or a throwback to an argument his Dad made years ago. (Possibly re-saw old Episode recently)
Did anyone else catch that, or am I off my rocker?

Chris Zimmer said...

@Alex Owen - I don't know if that was the case but it certainly wouldn't sueprise me if they did "lift" parts as an homage...?

Chris Zimmer said...

Note: Another deleted scene, this one with Philip Winchester, has been added.