SVU Finale! Episode #13-23: Rhodium Nights

Recap: The SVU finale “Rhodium Nights” ended Season 13 with a bang. This was a fast-paced, fun episode (to the extent anything involving two murdered escorts can be “fun”), based on a couple of interesting real-life cases.

We open with the world’s most extravagant, debauched bachelor party. Dozens of gorgeous semi-naked women lap-dance on NY Yankees, Secret Services agents, and the bachelor – who’s the son of the police commissioner. The guy who’s hosting the party goes to his bedroom to get busy with a giggly blond. Instead, they find the cold, dead body of a 16-year-old girl in her panties.

All the VIPs deny knowing the dead girl. But the ME determines she died from a lethal dose of scopolamine. Our good detectives figure out her identity by tracking down the serial numbers of her breast implants.

The trail soon leads to an elite underworld of high-priced sex for sale. In the midst of this world is Olivia’s gravelly-voiced ex-boyfriend, Cassidy, who greets Nick by punching him in the face. See, Cassidy is undercover, and needs to preserve his undercover status. (Um, ok. Seems his undercover persona might have taken over his psyche a bit too much.)

We soon learn that all the girls at the party were escorts. And there’s a vicious war going on between two rival escort agencies. Cassidy’s boss, Genzel, supplied the escorts to the bachelor party. But a female madam, Delia, has been the leading supplier of expensive sex in NY for a long time. She doesn’t like the up-and-coming challenger to her throne. So, maybe, she arranged to have the 16-year-old killed to frame Genzel.

Dispute resolution in the escort world can be vicious. They can’t really call the cops, so they have to get creative.

Our detectives go to talk to Delia. She lives on a farm, wears a flannel shirt, and looks like a frizzy Everymom, feeding a baby goat a bottle of milk. (Goats again! This has been the Season Of The Goat on SVU. There was even an @SVUgoat who appeared on Twitter tonight, tweeting – or bleating – some of most hilarious SVU tweets ever.) Delia claims she’s just a simple goat-cheese maker / soccer mom who dabbles in matchmaking.

And the case might have ended right there. But then someone slips under the door pictures of Captain Cragen canoodling with a Russian mail-order bride/escort from last season. Although that was a totally legit undercover operation, Cragen says he’s recusing himself and the SVU from the case. Olivia’s puzzled scowl doesn’t last long, because she’s then called to investigate an ex-governor who died in the middle of a massage. He was also poisoned with scopolamine. That is not a happy ending.

Questioning the woman who booked the governor’s massage, our detectives soon gather enough evidence to arrest Delia. The judge orders her held on $2 million bail – but her attorney puts up his house to bail her out. The defense attorney sneers at our heroes, “She has the goods on everyone you work for or ever will.”

The next morning, Cragen wakes up with blood all over his hands. An escort with her throat slit is lying in bed next to him.

Fade to “Dick Wolf” and our final dun dun of the season. What?? That’s the end? Even the Godfather gave us the closure of knowing who killed that horse. I can’t believe we have to wait until Season 14 to find out what happens with Cragen.

Verdict: A-

What they got right:

At first, I thought this was going to be about the Secret Service / Colombian prostitutes scandal. But those Secret Service agents at the party were just a tip of the hat to that case.

This episode was primarily about the real-life case of Anna Gristina, also known as the “Millionaire Madam” or the “Soccer Mom Madam.” She’s charged with running NY’s most elite escort agency. Some think her little black book holds the dirty little secrets of some of the most powerful men in America. And some wonder if corrupt police officers helped her run her business.

Like the madam on tonight’s show, Gristina has a gaggle of kids and summered on a farm in upstate New York. (She has a fondness for potbellied pigs rather than goats.) She was also ordered held on $2 million bail, for which her defense attorney made the extraordinary offer of his townhouse as collateral (in real life, that fell through, and she’s still in Rikers). And Gristina had a famous rivalry with the self-proclaimed “King of All Pimps,” Jason Itzler.

According to the New York Daily News, Itzler described Gristina as “the most vindictive b***h ever in the escorting game,” and said she is: “Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.”

Another thing the episode got right was that the police have tracked breast implants to find the identity of murder victims before. The most famous case involved the murder of Playboy bunny Jasmine Fiore, who was strangled and stuffed in a suitcase. Her body was so badly mutilated, she was unidentifiable. But tracking the serial numbers of her breast implants, the police could learn her name, address, phone number, and Social Security number, as well as the contact information for her surgeon and primary-care doctor.

Ryan Jenkins was charged with murdering Jasmine Fiore.


What they got wrong:

These guys threw the most elaborate bachelor party of all time … and video-taped all eight hours of it? In my experience, the type of guests who flee on an elevator after a body is found are also the type who do not record hours of illegal sex among their VIP friends.

Poor Nick got a bad rap tonight. First he was clocked by Mayhem itself. But then he was mocked for talking to the blond escort. Just because she was flirting with him didn’t mean he had to stop listening to her. To the contrary, some of the best information police get is from women who are flirting with them.

Cragen didn’t have to recuse himself because there were photos of him doing an undercover prostitution sting. That was either the flimsiest excuse ever … or Cragen is corrupt. And I can’t believe that of our sweet, earnest captain. Even if he does have blood all over his hands.

Rivals madams may beef with each other, but not to this extent. They threaten. They rat each other out. They may even hurt each other. But they don’t kill escorts and plant them in each other’s beds. Or – especially – the police chief’s bed. I’m not saying they’re above that. It would simply be bad for business.

Well, SVU fans, that’s all the episodes for the season – but there’s still lots of fun ahead this summer.

If you like my blog – or, hell, even if you don’t like it – please buy my novel, DISCRETION. Coincidentally, it is about the investigation of a high-priced escort who’s killed at the U.S. Capitol, and was inspired by my work as a sex-crimes prosecutor and some real cases. It’s been getting great advance reviews. I would especially appreciate if you would pre-order it today. Pre-orders mean a lot to authors. And I would love to hear your comments on what I got right and wrong!

Meanwhile, stop by the blog over the summer. I love hearing from you. And I have some great pieces lined up:

– Top 10 Lessons from SVU That May Save Your Life
– Best and Worst Moments of SVU Season 13
– Why We Love and Hate Crime Dramas
– An original e-short story, TEN RULES FOR A CALL GIRL, that I’m really excited to share with you
– Great guest bloggers
– Interviews of bestselling crime writers and TV show writers
– Reality-checks of the summer blockbuster movies

I’ll be posting every Monday.  Keep stopping by!



    • James Pollock says

      Not just breast implants, but every kind of impantable medical device. Knee replacements, bone pins and plates, everything.

  1. Mike says

    Very interesting blog! I pre-ordered your book, too.
    I was going to make some lame joke about getting fingerprints off of her breast implants, but it seemed tacky.

  2. Michelle Cunin says

    I hope we get to see more than just the explanation about what happened to Cragen in his house. Like why he practically stalled when it came to this case, when they worked other high-cases and he didn’t stand in the way. I get the feeling that Cragen isn’t as squeaky-clean as he wants to portray. Maybe that undercover work made him realize just how lonely he was and he went to these same women. There’s just more to the story than him waking up to find the dead hooker in his bed.
    And please God, DO NOT LET TUCKER be the one to investigate this one. Although, I would love to see Cragen tussle with Tucker.

  3. James Pollock says

    It wasn’t just Cragen. There’s a bit of dialog near the beginning that went something like this: “Why did you call in SVU?” “My captain’s not a risk-taker”.

    All the brass knew that this investigation would involve wealthy, powerful people and investigating wealty, powerful people is fraught with danger… one little mistake can blow up in your face. This is already true of sex crimes investigations (accuse the wrong person of a sex crime and you can ruin their life) and wealthy, powerful people have more to lose and know it. Charlie Sheen might have been able to remain popular even after his unusually high interest in prostitution, but, as Charlie Sheen will tell you, other people are not Charlie Sheen. Most of them are more like Eliot Spitzer.

  4. Alenna says

    Very entertaining episode! I liked it really, but….but I don’t believe the real SVU would ever get anywhere near this case. SVU doesn’t do prostitution or murder. In reality, after the Homicide and Vice detectives find out the guest list (including BigWigs and Secret Service agents), and they discover the girl was Canadian brought in by a Colombian friend, they would probably gift wrap it with a bow and send it over to the Feds ASAP. No case is worth finding dead bodies sleeping next to you – yuck!

    But really, I liked it.

    • says

      They might want an SVU detective on it, because that first murder might’ve involved a sexual assault, and SVU would have expertise in that area. But I agree – the feds would be the right place for this case, especially with the police chief’s son involved! Totally calls for a recusal by NYPD altogether.

  5. ladini says

    I guess I’m dating myself here…:-)

    But they also included more distant scandals in the plot -going way back to ’79!

    Just Wiki about former NY Gov ( and VP)
    Nelson Rockefeller
    and the circumstances of his sketchy demise…

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