Thursday, April 12, 2018

Law & Order SVU “Service” Recap & Review

“Service” wasn’t just an episode about the assault of a prostitute by a member of the military, it was about bias and/or preconceived notions. The story about the prostitute and the military would have sufficed as a stand-alone episode but apparently it needed the twist of a transgender military man, which also could have been a great stand-alone. Running in tandem is personal turmoil for Rollins, who is in a snit at the start, morphing into a full-fledged caustic attitude which affects her objectivity in this case.  Rollins' problem would have made an excellent story on its own as well if we could have watched her relationship issues unfold.  A lot of things were going on here.  On one hand, this made the episode move very quickly; on the other hand, I felt cheated when it came to seeing Rollins' relationship problems explode.

I was more interested in Rollins' issues than rest of the episode so I’ll discuss this first. When Fin and Rollins are at the hospital to speak with the victim - Sky - about her attack (March 22), Rollins has an obvious chip on her shoulder which causes Sky to shut down completely. Later at SVU, while Carisi is able to quickly (almost too quickly) zero in on the hotel where the assault actually occurred, Benson notices that Rollins seems to have a problem, which Rollins quickly denies. Later, and back at SVU, Rollins and Carisi discuss the situation:

Rollins: I’ve been here, what, 7 years, I still don’t get it
Carisi: World’s oldest profession, my friend.
Rollins: I understand why they’re hookers Carisi, I just don’t get why we give a damn. They - they know the risks.
Cariisi: Maybe they don’t have a choice.
Rollins: Everybody’s got a choice. Besides, there are pleny of women out there who need our help - more importantly, want it.

When Sky is at SVU in the interview room, Rollins gets even more pushy and combative, but Benson storms in and tells Rollins that is enough. Sky calls Rolllins a “bitch with a capital C” (as we know you couldn’t say the word she means on network TV). Of course, Benson must be the one to save the day and gets Sky – who admits her real name is Sandy – to explain how she was raped. Carisi, who is watching with Rollins, tells Rollins that Benson “is pretty good at this” (which annoyed me to no end), and Rollins comments, “after I teed it up for her.” Carisi says Rollins was pretty convincing and when Rollins scoffs, Carisi asks if she is okay, and Rollins gives him a look. Rollins seems to work the rest of the case more objectively, that is, until the trail hits a major bump and Sandy comes into SVU, livid. Rollins gets into a shouting match with her and comments that Sandy is upset because she missed a couple days work. Calling her Sky, not Sandy (saying she will always be Sky), Rollins puts down $300 to a stunned Sandy, who gives Rollins a sob story about how she gets up in the morning and thinks she is invisible but when SVU started with her she began to see a piece of someone looking back at her and it felt good. But being humiliated in court made her lose that pride and piece of worth and it is never coming back, throwing the money back at Rollins. Afterward, when Rollins is in the break room – Benson is already there – Benson asks her again what is going on and Rollins doesn’t want to talk about it, saying she is okay and she will get over it. Benson tells her, “Whatever it is, let’s not take it out on Sandy.” TOO LATE!

At the end of the episode, Rollins apologizes to Sandy, confessing that she didn’t like Sandy at first. Rollins admits she was dating a cardiologist and she thought things were going great. He left his credit card statement out and she discovers while she has been working late, “Dr. Al” has been running around with escorts. Rollins says she’s counseled hundreds of women but when it happens to you, you wonder what do they have that you don’t. Sandy explains that guys come to girls like her not because women like Rollins are not lacking something, it’s because the guy IS, and they are never going to find it. While I’m not a huge fan of too much personal drama in SVU, this was one of those situations that begged for an entire episode, or at least to see Rollins relationship and the resulting issues build over a few episodes. Rollins is probably the most uneven, sometimes unsympathetic character on SVU;  I never know what to expect from her week to week. She admits she’s been there 7 years and still doesn’t get it – maybe she’s in the wrong job?

Now, on to the case. When a prostitute is found beaten and dumped on the street, she’s uncooperative at first, forcing the SVU to try to find the location of the actual assault on their own. They find a seedy hotel run by “Grigor” (played by an underutilized Wayne Knight) where Sky was assaulted, then quickly discover Sky has checked herself out of the hospital. To try to track her down, Carisi and Rollins set up a “sting” where they flush out Sky and bring her down to SVU. This is where Rollins “tees up” the interview where Benson gets important information from Sky – now Sandy – that points them to 3 military men (as one of the men left his money clip that had an army insignia).

At the local army base, Fin uses trickery to weasel out some information by stating that that the city has an arrangement with the local army base to open any files to them on any crimes committed off base. (This was a comment worthy of Law & Order’s Detective Fontana who used the “We’re authorized” line to get information.) With Sandy’s help in identifying them, the detectives hone in on 3 men.

But ADA Stone doesn’t think that the information Benson has is enough. She thinks that the ID in a rape case goes a long way, but Stone reminds her she has no semen, hair samples, and they have fingerprints from a hotel room where there are many others. Stone says he hates to be a hard ass but they need corroboration and if they want to nail one of the guys, one of the others has to rat. I cheer quietly that Stone has stood up to Benson, wanting more hard-ass Stone (that sounds weird, sorry).

Rollins is able to turn the youngest, inexperienced guy – Billy, on the other two – Staff Sergeant Tyler Jones and Jim Preston – and those two arrested and arraigned, held on $50,000 bail. Trial commences on April 2 and the defense brings out that Sandy expects some brutality in her job which Sandy is able to negotiate. But things turn bad when Billy admits he has sex with Sandy but states they all left after and went back to base. PROBLEM! Stone and Benson try to talk him out of his change in story but Billy would rather be a criminal than a traitor. Benson is appalled at this but Stone thinks that they can get to Jim next.

At SVU with Jim in interrogation, Carisi tips off Benson and Stone that Jim Preston’s blood tested as genetically female. Jim is a transgender man – which is why he won’t testify. Stone states the court will never uphold any law against transgender people serving in the military. Benson says there is a huge distance between the law and life. Back in interrogation, Stone then tells Jim all charges against him are dropped with prejudice and he expects Jim to testify against Jones. As Jim and his lawyer walk out, Stone tells Jim if he refuses he will be subpoenaed, and if he fails to appear, it will be met with the strictest punishment the law allows. Benson tells Stone if Jim testifies it will ruin his life, Stone says if he doesn’t it will ruin Sandy’s – it’s Benson’s choice. It’s good that Stone continues to push back on Benson.

Benson, of course, must be the one to save the day. She has a heart to heart with Jim and he knows they know he is transgender. We hear this political commentary. which hit the nail on the head:

Preston: Once I'm outed to officials, there's no going back in. And by the stroke of a tweet sent from Air Force One, I could lose my job, my career, everything I've ever worked for.
Benson: I know that things feel uncertain, but do you get any comfort knowing that that tweet did not become a law?

When Jim says he enlisted to serve his country, Benson tells him to serve its people, and convinces Jim into testifying.

Back in court, Jim explains what happened, saying he got hit by Sandy as she was afraid he would attack her based on how Jones had treated her, thinking Jim would do the same. He saw Jones beat her and he pulled him off when Jones started strangling her. Under cross, it comes out that Jim is transgender and is physically able to have sex with whoever her wants. He state he was always a man and his change has been in his medical forms. He admits all the charges against him have been dropped. Later, Jones is found guilty. As Jim leaves the court, is is saluted by the army personnel in the courtroom, and he turns and salutes to all.

We close with the scene with Rollins and Sandy (mentioned earlier).  Next week, Alexandra Cabot returns!

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:
Wayne Knight - Grigor
Christopher Wiehl - Defense Attorney James Olson
Morgan Taylor Campbell - Sandy "Sky" Ksenivch
Marquise Vilson - Jim Preston
Timothy Adams – Staff Sergeant Tyler Jones
Yvonna Kopacz-Wright – Dr. Darby Wilder
Michael Mastro - Judge Serani
Jack DiFalco - William "Billy" Shaughnessy
Mary Hodges – Judge Anita Wright
Josh Rhett Noble – Bobby Johnson
Jonathan Castro – Reception Nurse
Eric Rizk - Marty Berkowitz
Jill Durso - Paramedic
Ben Gougeon – Foreperson

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Sharla Madewell said...

I was so happy that Peter was firm with Olivia. She deserves it. I want more to see it. Go Peter. Don't take her crap. Stand up for her. This season I really don't enjoy Olivia drama and snotty remarks.
Rollins, who cares about her relationship. She really don't deserve anyone at all. She is mean and hateful person.

Pathena Xayasane said...

I loved Sherlock Carisi in the entire episode!!! They should have more of that! He's really grown a lot since he joined the team. Plus he looked extra hot and sexy in this episode!

Vim said...

This is first episode in some time which I was able to watch to the end. It still have the same flaw, what other episodes this season and previous one (too much Benson), but still it was probably the best episode for me in this season.

Laurie Fanat said...

I get that they are probably trying to get away from the standard "rape of the week" show but the transgender military man felt shoehorned in.

I'm growing tired of Benson's syrupy advice.

I'm not a big fan of Rollins (the character, not the actor) but even I thought that it was lazy for them not to show her going through the relationship issues. It could have garnered Rollins some sympathy if we'd seen it. Without it, she came across as a shrill, bitter, biased person. She shouldn't be in that line of work if she can't see that this woman was a victim after all these years working with SVU.

Keith said...

Next week CABOTTTTT IS BACK!!! <3 is anyone else as excited as I am :)

Sharon Polikoff said...

Who is this doctor in Rollins's love life? Another invisible man like Jessie's father?

Chris Zimmer said...

@Sharon Polikoff - at least we know who Jesse's father is and we've seen him!

Sharon Polikoff said...

I guess I did miss the big reveal of Lt. Murphy as Jessie's dad. I just hope our favorite show doesn't drift into soap opera territory with Rollins's personal problems, Stone's mentally ill sister, etc. The worst episode of the original L&O was when Claire Kincaid got killed because she gave a ride to Lennie Briscoe because he couldn't drive because he had been drinking because he was upset because his daughter was involved with drugs....(run-on sentence intentional.)

Sharla Madewell said...

I agreed with Sharon about Rollins. I really don't care for Rollins personal lives. She is not my favorite character on the show. She needs to leave. Or change her attitude.

seren Dipity said...

I think what makes a good show great is being able to see several sides of the characters. It makes them more human and gives the viewer different ways to connect with the story. I'm glad the writers don't leave us with one dimensional episodes. I think that is what has kept this show on for as long as it has. Even with all the changes in cast SVU is still compelling. Overall this was an excellent episode.

aja chatmon said...

I am tired of benson too. I like they got back to the stories but this one seemed rushed. I also miss when they didnt tell u who did it so quickly.

Unknown said...

Soldiers don't salute a non-commissioned officer! This, even more than the fact that there was no visible wound on Jim after numerous stitches, drove me crazy!