Law & Order: SVU (S17E18) “Unholiest Alliance”

Review:

After a two week long hiatus that had us all holding our breaths, waiting to see whether Lieutenant Benson would return to her beloved squad, “Unholiest Alliance” answered all our questions and calmed our fears. As we saw previously, Liv (Mariska Hargitay) was stripped of her command with Little Dodds (Andy Karl) stepped in. The opening scene of this week’s episode showed a team quite rightly pissed off over the recent events, none more so than Fin (Ice-T) who literally had no idea what was happening. Dodds ensure he was as blind sighted by this as any of them (You sure? Daddy didn’t give you a heads up?), enlightening them to the fact that Benson has been recused and charges are being brought against Tucker. What follows is a montage of Tucker being questioned over the suspected cover-up intermittently cut with scenes of Sister Nina packing her things and fleeing. The testimony from two priests confirm that there was a cover-up and that Tucker was behind it. Meanwhile, Liv approaches Barba (Raul Esparza) trying to gather any information possible; the sass that Barba gives her is absolute brilliance. Liv, feeling hurt and betrayed that Barba went behind her back and outed her relationship with Tucker, pleads with him to talk to her.

Elsewhere, Sister Nina has picked up Natalia and they are heading out of town; concerned that they know she is cooperating with police Nina calls Liv to consult her. While on the phone, a dark coloured van comes up behind them, and runs Sister Nina on the road. As Liv was cut off during the conversation, she is concerned about Nina when she meets with Tucker. The little touches these two share are so nuanced and so simple as to not throw their new relationship in our face. It’s a testament to the chemistry between the two actors as well as the writing, that within a strong procedural such as SVU the relationships are added to balance it out. The team attempt to breakthrough the case by bringing all the suspected players in the conspiracy back in for questioning. With no luck, and the news from Benson that Nina is now missing, the Detectives try and piece together what may have happened.

With a lead, Fin and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) visit the crash site where they work out that Nina wasn’t travelling alone and when they trace the van back to a priest in the city discover that he and Nina had been in love. Closely after this discussion, Fin and Rollins receive information that Natalia – the girl who had been traveling with Nina – has shown up at the hospital. After lying about having found Sister Nina, Natalia opens up to Finn and Rollins about what really happened – her and Nina were taken by a black priest, into the woods, where she was raped and then shot – and that if she talked to the police, what happened to Nina would happen to her. Passing on this information to Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and Dodds, the search the woods and unfortunately come across Nina’s body. Even with this development, the Detectives are stonewalled by each faction of the church, refusing to talk about anything regarding these allegations.

Back at the squad room, after hitting every wall possible the team is trying how they are ever going to bring justice to these women. It is known that no judge in their right mind will take on the church, but hang on, how about that judge caught at the party a couple of weeks back? I’m sure he’ll be able to help out (oh the blackmail). And so he does. Getting search warrants signed for the detectives, they execute them on the many rental properties Father Eugene seems to have. Upon arriving at the first property the team uncover a dark secret of the dear old Fathers’ – a BDSM style apartment with his own “personal trainer” and everything. Organising a sting operation, with “personal trainer” in play, the team catch Father Eugene in the act. Check, mate. Meanwhile, Liv and Tucker are at a bar, patiently (somewhat) waiting for something to give when Dodds arrives to give them an update. And even with an overwhelming amount of evidence against the Catholic Church, it is still the entire congregation’s word against Tucker’s. To make matters worse, the Mon Senior goes public with the information about Father Eugene, condemning his behaviour as unacceptable and making sure that the blame falls upon the members of the police force. Well played, sir. At this point, it doesn’t seem like there will ever be a way to break through the fortress that is the Catholic church.

Throughout the episode it is obvious that the case has a personal effect on Carisi; that he has consistently struggled to remain mutual when being pulled from one side to the other. As Dodds hands down the order that the team is to back off the case, Carisi is left dumbfounded that they can’t do more. Taking it upon himself, he visits Father Eugene to see if he can get through to him, one last time. What he does beautifully is bring the entire reality of the case back to something Eugene understands – God, religion and faith. Offering some of his own history as a child growing up within the Catholic Church, Carisi urges the Father to admit his wrongdoings, to have faith that God will forgive him. In a highly emotional scene, Father Eugene eventually gives up evidence – I should have protected them – and leads the team to graves behind the church, filled to the brim with photographs and documents substantiating the claims abuse and trafficking. With this evidence now uncovered, what follows is a fall of dominoes. Grand jury testimony of priests and nuns that were made to cover the abuse, as well as heart breaking testimony from the female victims more than solidifies the insidious, unbelievable things these people of faith have got away with. Everyone involved is charged – with the exception of the Bishop – Tucker is cleared of all charges, and Liv has been reinstated. Not only that, Chief Dodds offers a subtle yet still slightly sarcastic congratulations to the team. This episode, at the time that abuse within the Church is one of the most discussed issues, successfully offered another view into what goes on behind closed doors. That no longer, and no more, should individuals be able to hide behind institutions such as the Catholic Church.