SVU Episode # 15-16: “Gridiron Soldier”

Today’s post is written by the fabulous David Delee.  David was a licensed private investigator and holds a Masters in Criminal Justice. Now he writes the acclaimed Grace deHaviland Bounty Hunter novels and is a star of the Dark Road Publishing empire. Check out his latest novel, Pin Money.

Image of David DeLee

David was kind enough to fill in for me because I’m still hunkered down trying to finish up my next book. I’m six days past my publisher’s deadline. Gah! I’m the person who shows up five minutes early for everything. David’s generous blogging freed me up to perfect my own story (which I’m hoping to turn in tomorrow).  With my extra time last night, I wrote a smoking hot sex scene. So, when my book eventually comes out and you get to the part where you think Yowzers! you’ll know that was written the evening of 3/5/14, while intrepid David was discovering the crazy things that turn up in Google when you’re researching SVU.

Many thanks, David! Hope you’re recovering from your 3 AM Google adventures today!

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Talk about life imitating art. Tonight’s SVU episode began by tackling the Jonathan Martin – Richie Incognito hazing scandal and ended with University of Missouri player Michael Sam’s

recent announcement about his sexual orientation. Quite a feat considering the episode was written in December and wrapped up production in early February, days before Sam came out according to an article in the Wall Street Journal today.

Recap: Amanda Rollins is spending her time off in a bar upset over a ref’s bad call in a basketball game on TV. Turns out she’s in deep with her bookie, who’s threatening her, and so desperate she goes to her ex-sponsor, ‘thirteen-stepper’ Nate who’s surprisingly free with his bar’s money, giving it to Rollins, presumably so she doesn’t get her legs broken, asking only in return she go to a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting with him.

 Meanwhile football player Cedric Jones arrives in town from Georgia where he’s met by Hudson University coach Bill Becker and Zoe and Tanya, two, beautiful, young women the coach introduces as his hostesses for the weekend. After telling the girls he’s committed to Georgia Tech, Cedric attends the recruitment dinner where the coach has some of the other players give him a tour of the facility, a tour that ends in the weight room, where according to one of the players, “boys turn into men,” and where Zoe and Tanya are waiting for him, with a blindfold, and Cedric with a grin so big it would make the Cheshire Cat proud. [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-8: Rapist Anonymous

In a riveting riff on the Jodi Arias case, tonight’s SVU was smart, fast-moving, and got a lot right. It was also the rare episode where the real-life headlines were more lurid than the episode it inspired. A good chunk of the Arias trial was too explicit to air on NBC.

Recap:

Amanda finally seems to have her act together: attending AA meetings and dating a cute guy named Nate. But scratch the surface and things aren’t so pretty.

Amanda doesn’t have a drinking problem; her addiction is gambling. She’s only attending Alcoholics Anonymous to support Nate, who is also her Gamblers Anonymous sponsor. See, Nate is not only a “double winner” – dealing with both addictions – he’s a “thirteen-stepper,” using the programs to seduce nubile newbies like Amanda. Worse, Nate is sleeping with a lovely alcoholic named Lena. He doesn’t mention this to Amanda, who unwittingly befriends her romantic rival.

Lena, meanwhile, is caught in a dysfunctional relationship with a diaper salesman named Gene, who’s engaged to someone else. One night, Lena shows up at Amanda’s doorstep, crying that Gene raped her. [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-6: Dissonant Voices

A pair of vindictive teen girls were (once again) the unlikely culprits on tonight’s SVU, in an episode that mashed up the real-life sex abuse cases involving The Voice judge Cee Lo Green (cleared of all charges), Elmo’s creator Kevin Clash, and TV host Jimmy Saville.

Recap:

A music coach on an American-Idol-like show is accused of sexually abusing two four-year-old boys at the posh private school where he’s their music teacher. The detectives build a strong case, arrest him, and hold him on $1,000,000 bail.  But, it turns out, the boys were coached to lie by their pouty teenage sisters, who were angry at the coach for rebuffing the girls’ attempts to sing on the TV show.

Verdict: B-

What they got right: 

The first half of this episode showed some authentic details about how child-sex-abuse cases are built.  The boys initially gave very good disclosures: with specific details, in their own words, without appearing rehearsed.  They described things a four-year-old would not usually know, like the purple egg-shaped vibrator.  They corroborated each other, without giving verbatim stories. And many of the details of this case were exactly the kind of details that would come out in a real case of child sex abuse: like a kid mysteriously coming home without his underwear (an occurrence I heard several times in my caseload) and the suspect changing his stories.  “I was never alone with kids” became “I was alone with the boy because he fell in the toilet, and he was embarrassed, so I threw his underwear out and, uh, I never told his mom.” Often, predators do not give full confessions, but are caught in a web of lies and inconsistencies.  [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-5: October Surprise

The fact that SVU waited until the fifth episode of the season to peek down Anthony Weiner’s trousers shows an admirable level of restraint. “October Surprise” was a fun storyline, although, like the politician it portrayed, some of the details were sketchy. The real Weiner scandal was far more interesting. I suppose it’s hard to fictionalize a true story that is itself totally unbelievable.

Recap: Handsome Alejandro Muñoz is twelve days away from becoming New York’s first Hispanic mayor, campaigning with his beautiful wife by his side. That is, until the SVU detectives are called to the apartment of a screechy blonde named Lindsey who’s fighting off a mope named Eddie. She claims Eddie was trying to rape her.

But that’s a lie. See, Eddie is one of Muñoz’s best friends since childhood and his current bodyguard. Eddie was actually at Lindsey’s place to pay her off, so she wouldn’t tell the world that she exchanged lurid text messages with Muñoz.

Amanda sets up the online equivalent of running through a park in spandex, and flirts with Muñoz by email. After a couple of “hey babies,” Muñoz texts her a picture of his hairy stomach and then (as Ice-T puts it) a photo of “the full Muñoz.”

Turns out, Muñoz sexted a bunch of different women, including a 15-year-old high school girl who reciprocated with a naked photo of herself, thus making him the purveyor of child porn.

But wait! There’s more. Muñoz’s other childhood bestie is our good ADA Rafael Barba, who, of course, is assigned to the case. Barba wrings his hands about what to do, and even tells Muñoz that his texts are under investigation. Muñoz, Nick, and Barba engage in some chest-thumping about who’s the most Hispanic alpha-male of the bunch (a competition which Barba, who I thought was Italian, clearly loses). [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-4: Wonderland Story

Tonight’s SVU promised a trip down an Alice-inspired rabbit hole of mind-bending drugs, hipster popup parties, and sly trust-fund kids. But the thing about “Wonderland Story” that was curiouser and curiouser was the oblivious way that the detectives botched their investigation.

Recap:
A pretty blond named Sarah wakes up and discovers she’s been raped – for the second time in two years. At first, we suspect Michael Wedmore, the guy who got away with holding a gun to Sarah’s head and raping her in Season 13. But that would be crazy, right? I mean, no one gets raped by the same stranger multiple times (except in the SVU episode “Behave,” where Jennifer Love Hewitt was raped by the same stranger four separate times.) Anyway, Wedmore has an alibi: working at the nearby hospital and going on a church retreat (all of which seemed rather out-of-character for this psychotic gun-toting rapist, but let’s go with it).

So our detectives don some designer jeans and go undercover (of course!) to follow a path through some spectacular popup Manhattan and Hamptons parties. They discover that a preppy young millionaire named Cameron is using GHB to immobilize and rape young women at these lavish, secret soirees. Not only did he probably drug and rape Sarah, he also probably drugged and raped her best friend Nicole, who doesn’t realize that her blurry night and sore morning in the Hamptons some months ago were probably the result of a sexual assault.

The detectives briefly debate whether they should tell Nicole that she might have been raped. Yes, they decide. “We think you were raped,” Olivia tells her. Nicole can’t believe it. Amanda assures her, “We wouldn’t have told you if we weren’t sure.” “Cameron is a serial rapist,” Olivia adds. “We need to put him away.” (As the Red Queen might say: “Off with his head!”) [Read more…]

SVU Episode #15-3: “Internal Affairs”

Olivia’s in love! Munch is retiring! And Cassidy reluctantly kisses three women in a single episode. “Internal Affairs” was a smart riff on some seriously troubling headlines – but it was the personal drama that stole tonight’s show.

Recap: A terrible NYPD cop named West is escorting drunken young women home from nightclubs, only to rape them once they’re inside. West’s female partner, Quinn, routinely stands guard, lies to protect him, and makes bogus 911 calls for cover.

Beady-eyed Lt. Tucker of Internal Affairs enlists the help of SVU and Olivia’s on-again boyfriend, Cassidy. Tucker promises to return Cassidy’s badge and close the investigation into Cassidy’s own IAB case if Cassidy goes undercover and catches the bad cops.

Cassidy agrees, takes a break from adorably unpacking wine glasses into the new apartment he and Olivia are moving into, and becomes West’s new “partner.” Along the way, Cassidy has to hook up with a call girl in order to gain West’s trust. Poor Olivia, who is Cassidy’s backup, has to listen to her boyfriend murmuring, “Oh yeah baby, right there” to a hooker, via his hidden microphone.

As I recall, Cassidy got into quite a heap of trouble last season for doing exactly this. The man is cute, but he is not a fast learner. [Read more…]

SVU’s Season 15 Premiere: “Surrender Benson” and “Imprisoned Lives”

Okay, I was skeptical of Law & Order: SVU’s Season 15 premiere. After the Season 14 cliffhanger, in which a handsome serial rapist burned off his own fingerprints, branded and raped an adorable grandma, and took Det. Olivia Benson hostage, I was prepared for more over-the-top shock gags. But tonight’s double episode was a lean, razor-sharp exploration of one woman’s struggle to survive – and thrive. And Mariska Hargitay’s harrowing performance deserves Emmy consideration.

Recap: In “Surrender Benson,” we return to Olivia’s apartment and find her duct-taped, bruised, blacked-out and tied to a chair. As she regains consciousness, the leering face of her sex-offense defendant, Louis Williams, comes into focus. She tries to negotiate for her freedom, but he sees through her techniques, taunts her, and then knocks her out again – but not before she warns him that NYPD hell will rain down on him. “Let it rain,” he sneers.

If Olivia Benson ever envisioned her own personal hell, it probably looked a lot like what followed. Louis wraps her in a blanket and stuffs her in the trunk of his car. He tricks his smitten defense-attorney girlfriend to invite him to her parents’ house on Long Island – then kills her father and rapes her mother while forcing Olivia to watch. He steals another car, then kills a cop who pulls him over and asks about the tarp covering Olivia in the backseat. He goes to a hardware store and buys rope, more duct tape, and a hand-held blowtorch. Then he breaks into an empty beach house, handcuffs Olivia to the bed, and starts slicing through her clothes with a knife.

Meanwhile, the SVU squad and Olivia’s cop boyfriend Cassidy are one fateful step behind Louis at every turn.

Olivia tries seducing Louis, but when that fails, she breaks down crying. She wants to live. Louis is distracted by a maid at the door. When he returns, Olivia seems stronger. She asks why he hasn’t raped her yet. Is he afraid of her? To prove he’s not, he unzips his pants – and she uses the opportunity to beat him with the rickety iron bedpole to which she’d been tied. They both lunge for his gun, and Olivia gets it! She points it at him as he creeps closer to her. “You don’t have the guts,” he says. (Was I the only one yelling “Shoot him!”) Olivia hits him on the head.

When he awakes, Louis is now the one handcuffed to the bed. Olivia is staring at herself in the mirror, trying to decide what kind of person she is. She wants to shoot him. He wants it too, and taunts her, honing in on her weakest spots: Elliott and her father. Her anger overpowers her ethics, and she bludgeons him some more with the pole. (He lives, barely.)

The police arrive, and Nick drapes a dark blanket that might as well have the word “victim” printed on it over Olivia’s shoulders, and leads her out of the house into a crowd of waiting officers. She looks overwhelmed. She isn’t used to seeing the world from this side of the crime-scene tape.

Later, Cragen assures her that she’s a hero. But as she walks through the squad room, her colleagues stare at her with the pity reserved for a victim. She goes home and chops off her own hair, looking into the mirror with loathing.

Two months later, she’s taking karate, having flashbacks, and seeing a therapist. Revisting her apartment – the crime scene – is especially hard. Even before the assault, she realizes, “I hadn’t thrived there.” Her therapist wonders if Special Victims is the right place for her now. “He doesn’t get to take that from me,” Olivia says. But her next case will test her.

“Imprisoned Lives”

With a pale little boy rushing to hug a big furry monster on the street, the second half of this double-episode started with a head-fake about the guys in knockoff Sesame-Street costumes harassing tourists in Times Square. But it was really about a man who kidnapped three young women, held them in chains for decades, and fathered that pale little boy with one of them.

This episode was a dramatic mashup of the real-life cases involving the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard and the kidnapper Ariel Castro, with a dash of the brilliant novel, “Room,” thrown in. (That book is told from the point-of-view of a little boy who’s lived his entire life in a shack; his father is his mother’s captor.)

Like the character Kayla, 11-year-old Jaycee was kidnapped by a pedophile and his wife, who held her captive for many years. The man raped her repeatedly and twice impregnated her; the woman pretended to be the babies’ mother. And like “Pa” in tonight’s episode, Ariel Castro kidnapped three girls, held them in chains in his home for decades, repeatedly raped them, fathered a child by one – and then said at his sentencing that all of the sex was “consensual” and they were a happy “family.” Castro has since killed himself in jail.

In this episode, Olivia struggles to investigate the case while having flashbacks to her own abduction. She uncharacteristically yells at one of the women who helped “Pa.” Ultimately, Olivia finds her core self – and all of the abducted girls. In counseling the one who gave birth to the pale little boy, Olivia rediscovers her own strength. “People who’ve gone through unfair, horrific experiences – they have this will,” she says. “And when they get support, they can not only survive, they can thrive.”

It was a strong message to take away from a strong story.

Verdict: A

What they got right: Olivia’s emotional arc was pitch-perfect. At first, she couldn’t believe what was happening to her. Then she tried to bargain with Louis, using some good solid hostage negotiation techniques (like implying that this was a temporary crisis that could be solved safely). Then she got angry, then cagey, then desperate and pleading. And then she kicked some ass.

Olivia’s subsequent psychological reaction was accurate too. Survivors of terrible trauma often have PTSD, which includes the kind of flashbacks, anger, and guilt that Olivia experienced tonight.

And the Castro-inspired plot hearkened to the best of the ripped-from-the-headlines formula that has kept SVU fans clamoring for more for a decade and a half. If this is any indication of the writing for this season, Season 15 might be the best one yet.

What they got wrong: Detectives do sometimes get taken as hostages. But this is Olivia’s sixth time. Enough said?

What did you think, SVU fans? Were you shouting “Shoot him!” too? Will Olivia ever be the same? And was this Mariska’s best performance ever? Leave your comments!

SVU Episode #14-22: Poisoned Motive

Prisoners fathering children with prison workers; rogue cops going on killing sprees targeting other cops: Tonight’s episode took several real cases of official misconduct and turned them into a fairly unrealistic but fast-moving story about mental illness, rage, and revenge.

Recap:

As Amanda leads a human trafficker on a perp-walk from police headquarters, she’s shot in the shoulder by a sniper hiding on a nearby rooftop! Finn rushes her to the hospital, where she recovers in a slurry morphine stupor. Finn promises to find the bad guy who hurt his partner.

Our detectives cycle through the requisite colorful suspects, including: (1) the “dragon lady” trafficker who was being perp-walked, (2) a hippie druggie friend of Amanda’s no-good sister who had a beef with Amanda for shooting the sister’s no-good boyfriend, and (3) “Escobar,” a notorious drug dealer who tried to kill Finn fifteen years earlier, but failed when Finn’s beloved partner, Luis (who we’ve never heard of before tonight), took the bullet.

Escobar fathered a child with a foxy prison nurse named Anna, who subsequently became an ex-prison-nurse. For a minute, we suspect that she’s helping Escobar plan the attacks. [Read more…]