Law & Order: SVU (S17E19) “Sheltered Outcasts”

Review:

This week’s installment of Law & Order: SVU involved one of the team’s own, Detective Carisi (Peter Scanavino), going undercover to find a suspect connected to a string of rapes. The episode opens on two young women; one, a new mum and her friend are discussing how a soul cycle class would be just what the new mum needs. After rejecting the offer, the two women go their own way. Later on, we see the single, soul-cycle friend walking home alone and as she enters her building she is rushed from behind by a figure wearing a ski mask. She is pushed up against the glass, evidently scared for her life, and as the assailant whispers something in her ear, she is trapped as he attacks her. The team arrives – Rollins (Kelli Giddish), Fin (Ice T) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) – and after talking to the victim, the suspect is either white or Latino, he wore a ski mask and his behaviour matched two previous rapes that occurred in the neighbourhood. Not only that, the victims friend from earlier approaches the Detectives to see what is going on and to offer evidence that a lot of these rapes started occurring when the homeless shelter nearby started housing registered and paroled sex offenders. On the tails of this information the squad head to the homeless shelter where they are introduced to the group of sex offenders, some of them familiar to the team. Remember Gregory Searle, the creepy, older guy from a while back that loved little girls – he is there, released on compassionate terms. Obviously disgruntled that their status on sex offenders immediately puts them on the suspect list, the group remain tight lipped, and when a dishevelled, dirty looking Carisi stumbles in, the audience knows the story is about to get good.

Back at the precinct, all sex offenders there to be interrogated, Carisi gives Liv and the other a run through of his time undercover. Identifying that Carisi looks like hell, Rollins becomes increasingly concerned that it’s about time Carisi get himself out. Liv disagrees, and insists that he is doing a great job of “living the life” and that she has a handle on the situation, Carisi knows that when he wants out, he just says the word and that’s that. Rollins and Benson go through stages of such comradery followed by heated tension, that anyone would think they were sisters or partners. This week, the unrelenting nature of Rollins’ concern for Carisi is enough for Liv to stamp her authority. Rollins backs down, noting that Liv is back and she’s the boss.

Liv takes the victim statement from Sophie, whose father is having a hard time keeping his anger in check but with a stern word from Liv, she’s able to continue the interview. With no other evidence to go on, but the voice of her attacker, the Detectives collect voice recordings from each of the sex offenders. Sophie is unable to recognise any of the voices, leaving the case at square one with nothing to go on. Carisi ensures that he is making headway with some of the members, and when he returns participates in a group therapy session where we learn what his undercover story is – he likes child porn. Peter Scanavino does an excellent job of portraying Carisi’ deep disgust in the words he is saying, that this undercover mission is so far from what he is used to, that delving into this world is harder than we can ever imagine. After group, he is accosted by Sophie’s father and two other men accusing him of being the rapist however, before the altercation gets out of hand Richie, a member of the group, steps in and saves him.

When he checks back in with Liv and the team (Rollins still not letting up on her concern for Carisi), they have uncovered a new lead in the investigation. Richie Caskey, the guy that just saved Carisi from being beaten, is identified as a suspect. With his alibi shaky and his wife unable to confirm his whereabouts Caskey seems to be the likely suspect. However, when the counsellor from the homeless shelter is raped and killed, another suspect is identified. Loomus, a silent recluse with a long history of similar crimes. When Fin and Rollins execute a search warrant on his storage locker they find evidence that links Loomus to both crimes – didn’t that seem too easy? But as the investigation seems to be cut and dry, more and more information comes to light leading the detectives to discover that they may in fact have two rapists on their hands, Caskey and Loomus.

When Sophie returns to the precinct later on in the episode, in another attempt to identify the voice of her attacker, she is unable to. But when all seems dead in the water, as Liv leads Sophia out of the squad room she has a physical reaction to one of the voices she hears. The conversation happening nearby between Caskey, Carisi and Zimmerman is the one that sparks this reaction. As Liv notices, she leads Sophia away, questioning as to which one of the men had the voice she recognised. Caskey? No. And of course it wasn’t Carisi, so that only left one other option, Zimmerman. In the interrogation room, as the Detectives question Richie again, we are now more aware of the manipulative nature of Zimmerman when he is strongly convincing Richie against letting the Detectives search his apartment. When Richie doesn’t heed the warning, Zimmerman insists that his wife should have an attorney present and he leaves to be present during the search.

After executing a typical SVU set up, Zimmerman is uncovered as the rapist and is found to have been committing these crimes close to sex-offender homeless shelters as a way to cover up or put blame on unsuspecting individuals. Richie is understandably shocked by the new information, and wonders why he would do such a thing. In the hope to silence some of Richie’s inner demons, Carisi offers him an apology, saying that he was wrong to ever doubt Richie in the first place. Zimmerman is taken to court, and charged, with no offer of bail. Another successful week for the SVU team, however the repercussions of his stint undercover are still hitting Carisi. Rollins – who I might add has been oddly protective of Carisi this episode – notices and invites him over for dinner. Is it me or is the SVU creative team hinting at a new pairing? Could Rollins and Carisi be the next big thing? Either way, the concern shown by Rollins for Carisi this episode was a lot more than just a colleague looking out for another colleague. It seemed deeper than that.