Law & Order: SVU (S17E17) “Manhattan Transfer”


Law and Order: SVU aren’t holding back this season, and why would they, when for 17 years they have been one of the most popular procedural shows on our televisions. This week’s episode was another thrilling look at a story that has recently re-entered headlines across the world – the systemic abuse of children within the Catholic Church. After the recent success of Spotlight and the current Royal Commission investigation taking place in Rome – the timing of this episode was quite perfect. Not only that, the entire team at SVU once again honestly and respectfully rip from the headlines, putting their own spin on the story.

As the episode opens, another sting operation is currently underway but this time it is Detective Carisi (Peter Scanavino) who has gone undercover. From what we can see, it is a mixer of sorts – prostitutes, pimps, and high-powered clients. Cut to the rest of the squad in the surveillance van and we learn that a number of the men inside are judges, police officers and political officials. As a fight erupts, Carisi tries to mediate, yet Liv (Mariska Hargitay) with Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Dodds (Andy Karl) in tow bursts in to make the bust. There is a catch – two of the party goers pull their own guns, and who would have guessed but they too are police officers, undercover. Let the war between SVU and Vice ensue.

Back in the squad room Rollins is tasked with taking the statements of the underage girls working the party, while Carisi is watching over the nun who tipped the squad off to this situation in the first place. Welcome, guest start, Abigail Savage as Sister Nina. Evidently uncomfortable in the presence of a man, Liv takes over the questioning process but soon finds out the Nina is unwilling to give up any more information than needed. Elsewhere, Dodds is trying to get any information at all from his fellow detectives you say they have been working undercover. Let’s just say they completely stonewall. From where we are, the case doesn’t look very strong and when Captain from Vice arrives, the case pretty much goes up in flames. Even when IAB becomes involved, questions the accused detectives no headway is made. Whatever is going on, it obviously involves a lot of people, in high up places with the ability to make cases like these just disappear.

After last week’s bombshell that Tucker and Liv are involved, it is only right that they hit a bit of speed bump, right? When the investigation leads to a church/private school that Tucker’s cousin works at, a personal aspect is added. The initial conversation is quite pleasant; two long, lost family members catching up. The priest seems reliable and his story checks out. Tucker breathes an obvious sigh of relief. As Detective Rollins and Carisi return to question Cara some more, Sister Margaret informs them she hasn’t been out of her room since they were last here. With no answer at her door, they make their way into the room and find an unconscious Cara laying on the bed, a needle sat beside her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it. Liv is tasked with breaking the new to Nina; and as her psychological instability comes to the forefront, Liv insists they get her somewhere safe. Little did we know that that place would be Liv’s apartment. In the meantime, there has been a break in the case when the Detectives can’t seem to pin point who else knew about Cara. Hang on, Tucker mentioned her name to his cousin, the priest/guidance counsellor and what follows is a pretty intense stand-off. We all know Tucker is a pretty relentless force, but his confrontation with his cousin was out of this world. The built up anger and obvious disappointment that his cousin could be involved is evident and before long Liv is stepping in to stop the argument from escalating. Did anyone see a parallel between Tucker and Liv and old school Liv and Elliot?

Tucker eventually cools down accompanying Liv back to her apartment where Nina is babysitting Noah. The update her on the case, however when the information of Tucker’s connection to the priest is spoken about Nina devolves into a paranoid state, going as far to pick up Noah and use him inadvertently to get what she wants. Tucker leaves, and thankfully Liv is able to rescue Noah while Nina begins to pack a bag; she’s now wary that Liv is plotting against her, that the conspiracy goes deeper than she could have imagined. Liv just doesn’t seem to catch a break this week.

When Liv arrives to update Barba on the investigation she is met with more than she expected. After meeting one of the more senior priests, Barba has discovered that Tucker may be involved in the current investigation, but on the dirtier side. “How well do you know him” asks Barba, and we can all hear the hitch in Liv’s breath when he asks. Barba is asking because serious allegations have been made against Tucker regarding the information uncovered in this case having been buried years before. Trying her best to keep her relationship under wraps, her out of the ordinary support for Tucker peaks Barba’s interest. He’s a lawyer, so really, knowing when someone is lying is part of his job; and it doesn’t take him long to work out that Liv may in fact be biased. Raul Esparza plays this scene so layered; one minute completely passionate about serving justice then next, utterly disappointed that after everything Liv would be involved with him. Following this heated discussion with Barba, Liv meets Tucker in an isolated location to talk the latest developments in the case. We can understand Barba’s shock at the news these two are together, but this scene in a dive bar really shows the chemistry and mutual respect one has for the other. With a strong embrace and a subtle but loving hand hold, Ed urges Liv not to stick her neck out for him. That it isn’t worth it. What these two have in common is their ongoing need to protect the people they love, to deliver justice no matter the price.

I’m not sure we’ve had a more collective gasp since William Lewis graced our screens, but the closing moments this week came in a close second. As Liv returns to the squad room after meeting with One Police Plaza, she orders Rollins and Carisi to get boxes. Dodds is summoned into her office, where she asks him is he knew? Knew what? He evidently has no idea what she is talking about (Really though? Do we believe him?) Regardless, the rest of the squad follow in behind as Liv packs up her desk. And with not much of an explanation of why, she officially hands over the reins of SVU to Dodds. I for one cannot imagine an SVU squad without the leadership of Olivia; after 17 years she has forged a sense of teamwork, honesty and utter respect for one another, the job they do and most importantly the victims and their justice. Talk about a cliff-hanger. If the SVU creative team were going for shock they nailed it.