Law & Order: SVU (S17E21) “Assaulting Reality”


For all those fans whose allegiance lies with Law & Order: SVU and UnReal, you would have seen your worlds colliding on the latest SVU episode in which a reality show was at the centre of the investigation. Titled “Assaulting Reality” began on “Heart’s Desire” the reality show meant to mimic everyone’s beloved Bachelor, and it does. Down to the last three girls, the competition is obviously heating up. Cut with scenes of the SVU squad; Tucker and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) sitting in a bar demanding the bartender turn off the program, and contrastingly, Rollins (Kelli Giddish) sitting on her couch with a bowl of popcorn watching eagerly. It’s obvious she’s a fan. A fact Carisi (Peter Scanavino) can’t seem to get his head around while he nurses baby Jesse. So, are Carisi and Rollins a thing? Or is it Rollins and Dodds? Either way, there is something going on between Rollins and one of the attractive men in her team.

As they continue to watch, the footage shows each girl and their respectable dates with Bachelor Ryan. The most interesting footage comes when bachelorette Melanie is taken to the “dream suite” with Ryan after their amazing date. However, what follows is footage of them having sex; footage she doesn’t know existed. Seeing it for the first time on live television, Melanie is understandably shaken and confused. She doesn’t remember that happening, she’s a virgin, and did Ryan rape her? With the SVU squad still watching on, they witnessed the entire thing and of course need to investigate. The squad assemble the next day to talk about what they witnessed, and what the game plan is going ahead. Must draw your attention to the surprise from both Fin (Ice T) and Liv when Rollins and Carisi admit to watching together – they are definitely what’s up. Regardless though, Liv sets them their tasks and encourages the team to remain focused on “our” reality not theirs.

Arriving at the set of “Heart’s Desire”, and after a momentary lapse of fangirling, Rollins and Carisi begin their investigation with co-produced Lizzie Bauer. She’s reluctant to give much away, however she does let the Detectives in to talk to Melanie. They are quickly directed to cameras filming their discussion, and move their interview into the bathroom. Melanie admits to not remembering anything at all, but feeling different and sore the morning after. She mentions the executive producers, Jeffrey and Regina Prince before she asks if she can call her mom. It’s obvious that Melanie is well and truly traumatised. Lizzie continues to try and stop the investigation from going ahead, so much so that she admits to the girls having signed a waiver – they aren’t allowed to talk to anyone about anything, off script. To make matters worse, when questioned, Ryan admits to it being consensual and that Melanie’s outburst must have been all part of the script. We don’t think so Ryan.

Leaving with not much to go on, the Detectives are confronted with the executive producers who ensure the team that they are appalled with what’s happened. You can tell that they are spinning a whole lot of bull; attempting to blow smoke up the arse of the SVU squad. They even go as far as showing Liv and co. Melanie’s morning after interview in which Melanie seems perfectly fine. But Liv knows to take all this at face value; they take Melanie back to the squad room to get more information and in the meantime none other than Ryan shows up. Ryan and his lawyer mother (Thank god for mummy dearest) are there to tell their story, the truthful one. Ryan’s admission involves him saying that he freaked out when Melanie started talking about her virginity; that he in fact, left the room shortly after the footage showed them in bed. Nothing happened. So what does this mean? Was the footage edited? Changed?

Checking back in with “Heart’s Desire” their suspicions are proven right – there is footage missing, and footage that has been altered. With this revelation, Barba (Raul Esparza) orders a warrant and the set is locked down until the SVU team is able to question everyone involved in the show. They find out through their interrogations that Ryan, in fact, spent the night with Gigi. More so, they discover that Lizzie orchestrated that hook up and encouraged Graham to check on Melanie. As the information begins to snowball, matters are made worse when Melanie shows up hysterical, after being diagnosed with an STD. Now that’s a twist. Assuring Liv and co. that everyone is vetted, the executive producers again reveal more hidden footage. Footage that in fact shows Graham being the one assaulting Melanie. Graham is arrested, and no one from “Heart’s Desire” come to his rescue – even innocent/guilty looking Lizzie who we are sure, knows what is happening.

Everything seems pretty clear cut, that is until a special edition of “Heart’s Desire” is aired in which the Princes paint the SVU team as incompetent and that Lizzie is the one to blame. If we didn’t believe that reality shows are scripted before tonight, we sure do now. The obvious editing that has gone into this edition is highly offensive. The Princes have certainly played their hand well. They come out looking like heroes, while Liv and her team look like they’ve done nothing and Lizzie is being used as the scapegoat. After being played, well and truly, the team come up with an idea to get the real culprits. With the help of Lizzie, who seems to be the one taking the fall for it all, the team successfully get evidence that the Princes were the ones behind the whole cover-up to begin with. For ratings sake. Ironic thing is, that being executive producers of a show promoting love, they sure do have no such thing for anyone else but themselves. Thankfully, the case is closed and ends in the best way possible; Melanie returns home with her mother to attempt to heal, while the Princes go to jail.