Law and Order: SVU, in its eighteenth season, has started off with some its most explosives topics and episodes yet. The latest episode, titled “Imposter”, explored the high pressure environment of private school education and what lengths some go to, to get their children enrolled. It opens on a couple and their son, the conversation is all “say this” and “do that” as the son and father leave for, what we assume is a college interview. Once the woman sees them off she receives a phone call, and all she says is that she’ll see them soon. Cut to soon, and we see said woman being thrown to the bed by a well-dressed man that isn’t her husband. Before it continue, the unknown male asks whether she’s sure she wants to have sex. Of course she does. As the night progresses, and the sex is obviously had, we then see the woman running a bath. She suddenly looks concerned and a little scared, could she be regretting what just happened?
The next morning, Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Carisi (Peter Scanavino) are on the case, it seems as though the woman overdosed the night before. Not only that, she’s now accusing the man she slept with of rape. What makes it complicated however, is she text him two different times, one being positive and the other angry upset. It already creates reasonable doubt and the case hasn’t even really started. Carisi and Rollins, now joined by Fin (Ice T), catch Liv (Mariska Hargitay)up on the situation. They’ve discovered that the texts went to a burner phone, and that her husband had no idea she was having an affair. The husband is in shock, questioning how this was possible when they seemed happy, regardless though, Liv encourages him to give consent for a rape kit. Liv gives everyone their marching orders, with new video footage evidence being uncovered; facial recognition will surely be able to trace the suspect.
In other news this week, Carisi has a job interview with the ADA in Brooklyn, meanwhile Liv discovers that Noah isn’t doing so well in school, that his language skills are a little underdeveloped than the others his age. Fin notices Liv’s change in demeanor and questions if everything is okay, it seems Liv may discover the pressure associated with trying to get a child into private school, sooner rather than later. Back to the case, the team have also found evidence that Laura’s son sent her a fairly aggressive text a couple of days before. Carisi, having had his interview, questions he son regarding the message and whether he recognizes the man from the footage. He doesn’t recognize the guy, but does admit to sending that text because he was mad; his mom has been putting heaps of pressure of him and he had had enough. With no luck identifying the man, Fin and Carisi catch a break when two separate leads direct them towards Alden Kessler, Head of Admissions at Hudson University. Shockingly though, when they arrive to find a completely different man the case becomes even more complicated. It seems as though the rapist is pretending to be him.
In the meantime, Laura has woken up and Liv is there to ask her some questions. Laura remembers he said he worked at the admissions office but more importantly she figured he was lying to her by a statistic he mixed up. Liv continues and asks Laura if she meant to overdose, Laura didn’t but does reveal she was trying to numb the pain. After listening to Laura’s testimony, Liv concludes that Laura never consented to sex with the man therefore making it rape. This conclusion seems fairy ludicrous to Fin, noting that everyone is lying in the clubs these days, that it’s all a game yet Liv, stubbornly and rightly so, continues to move forward with the case. Elsewhere, Rollins and Carisi have returned to the college to show the picture of the unknown male around and this time have success. Beforehand, Rollins and Carisi discuss the nature of the case in which Rollins identifies a stance similar to Fin. She notes it’s disgusting what he’s doing, but where do they draw the line. She doesn’t like the fact this entire situation is gray. Regardless, the have a positive ID – Tom Metcalf, campus security who they track to a nearby bar.
Back at the station, Carisi runs lead on the interrogation as Rollins (interestingly taken with Carisi’ skills) and Liv watch on. Metcalf continues to maintain his belief, that what he’s doing is not a crime. A fact he even looked up. Peter Scanavino does brilliantly in this scene, playing the tricky yet honest cop perfectly. He’s questioning technique uncovers quite a bit about Metcalf; he’s got a long line of persona’s he uses, as well as nailing the humble brag. Yet when Carisi pushes a little harder, he becomes defensive – if he isn’t being charged then why is he still there? With Tom identified and no other way to hold him, Liv reaches out to Barba (Raul Esparza) for assistance. What about rape by fraud Liv questions to which Barba responds that the law hasn’t necessarily caught up when it comes to that. Either way, he says he’ll try the case but needs the victim to testify as well as the team to establish a pattern. That doesn’t seem like it’ll be hard especially when soon after this discussion he’s tracked to an apartment building where Fin and Liv intercept him after having just had sex with another prospective parent. He’s smug and cocky, and Fin isn’t having any of it but they don’t have anything to arrest him on, yet.
Upstairs, they meet the woman he’s just slept with who doesn’t want to testify; she knew what she was doing when she decided to sleep with the man. Who he was doesn’t change that. Her monologue seemingly resonates with Liv as she attempts to navigate the education system with Noah, but nonetheless the “victim” is okay with the fact the “hustler got hustled”. Liv insists thought, CSU process the hotel room as it is a crime scene. What this turns up is information that Metcalf doesn’t even own the condo, but he seems to have hidden a video camera and filmed all the rendezvous’ with the women. This is the evidence that Barba needs to charge Metcalf, Liv is happy but Barba is still reluctant. Liv and the team arrest Tom but weirdly he doesn’t know anything about the video. Passing the news onto Laura, Liv assures her they have a decent chance of winning, a fact that looks to calm Laura’s nerves. It also gives her hope that the feelings of humiliation and pain she feels won’t be for nothing.
The court proceedings get underway, with Tom’s defense attorney (played by Calliope Thorne) making her opening statement regarding whether the video evidence will be admissible in court. Laura’s footage is, everything else is thrown out. After the hearing is finished, the judge suspiciously pulls Barba aside to question what’s going on and his motives behind taking this case. Barba noting how out of line this is, denies any accusations that he’s planning a political run. The next day, Barba makes a strong opening argument but is consistently overpowered by the defense attorney and the judge. Laura testifies, and it doesn’t go too well with the sex she had painted as consensual and a business transaction. Afterwards, the defense call Gary Bell, a witness not on the witness list. This uncovers a lewd setup; Gary is the one that setup the video camera and enjoys watching. Tom and Gary know each other which could end up bad for Laura’s case. It seems though, Barba and Carisi have an idea, one that will see Gary get a deal for testifying against Tom.
We return to the court room the next day to discover that Gary won’t in fact be testifying, instead, closing arguments begin. The defense does a good job, so much so that the judge urges Barba to take a plea. He does, even though it doesn’t sit right with anyone. Tom won’t be charged with anymore than a misdemeanor. Liv, taking responsibility for passing on the news, arrives at Laura’s house to find her husband inconsolable. As he collapses on the front stairs, Liv walks to the back of the house to find Laura screaming and crying. The camera shot reveals a motionless Justin on the ground; he’s committed suicide by jumping off the roof. This twist, this conclusion, is one myself and the audience, I’m sure didn’t see coming. Throughout the episode, the focus is on the case but little did the team know how much Justin was struggling. It’s a testament to the SVU creative team in exploring such a complex issue, and the reality of how much pressure is placed upon our maturing children and education expectations.