This week’s episode was a fantastic example of murky waters. Crimes that were almost not crimes and a relationship possibly built on falsehood. SVU was firing on all cylinders as we head into the winter break.
We open on Benson arriving to pick up Noah from Sheila after school. It’s a happy family scene, interrupted when Benson finds out that Sheila has spoken about Ellie to Noah, specifically against her wishes. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be a grandmother trying to connect, but Sheila has got to wrap her head around Benson being Noah’s mom, period.
Onto our crime of the night, we’re introduced to an Instagram celebrity, Katy Mills, as she arrives in New York. She’s picked up by a man (Andy “The Monster”) who takes her home for a first date. The date very quickly goes awry after Katy asks him to take things slow and Andy instead picks her up by her throat, and brutally rapes her.
Tutuloa and Rollins are the responding detectives, but when they arrive at the hospital Katy is already checking out. She tells the two that she wasn’t raped and abruptly leaves without allowing the hospital do a rape kit. She’s obviously distraught leaving and the team very quickly decides that she’s been bullied into keeping quiet. Carisi briefs everyone on her being an Instagram star, and through her pictures they’re able to start digging, unwilling to just let the crime go.
Benson and Rollins go together to meet with Katy, she allows them into her apartment and gives them a peek of how she makes a living off of Instagram. Her unwillingness to pursue the rape investigation has to do with her image on Instagram. It’s such a terrible truth of women that victims are vilified and mistreated instead of empathized with. Benson spots a picture of Katy and The Monster and recognizes his tattoo from a picture Katy had posted on Instagram. I’ll be honest I was pretty skeptical here, the only tattoo we saw in the Insta picture was on his wrist – not visible in the photo of him and Katy. It’s a fairly big leap to just assume one large, tattooed man must be the same man as in another picture. Whatever the case, Katy will not confirm and sends the team to her lawyer instead. When Carisi and Tutuola do go speak with this lawyer he denies ever having met Katy which is very weird. Who claims to have a lawyer if they’ve never met one?
The team is surprised when Andy “The Monster” reaches out to them first, claiming that he’s been set up. He shows them texts that he had exchanged with Katy over several months, the final ones proving that Katy had repeatedly asked him to fulfill a rape fantasy for her on the date. Andy seems to defy the stereotypical MMA fighter personality, he’s interested in Katy because she’s intelligent and empathizes with her because he was bullied as a child. He doesn’t understand why she’d ask for the rape and then blackmail him after. He’s clearly baffled by the whole situation and when Carisi straight asks him if he forced Katy to have sex he answers, “Yeah. No. I don’t know.”
The team sets up Katy, having Andy send her a message to come get the 10,000$ that she’s asked for. But when she arrives in the park the sight of Andy startles her and she runs. Back at the station she shows them her texts – she and Andy had been having 2 different conversations. She’d never asked for a rape fantasy, she was actually a virgin just interested in a good looking guy. The team realizes that she and Andy have both been a victim of a catfish plot, really almost the worst one imaginable. This also explains the weird lawyer, it was someone pretending to be that lawyer who Katy had spoken with.
Now it’s time for Barba to get to work, only he’s pretty sure he has no work to do. Lying on the computer is unfortunately not a crime, and the only way to prove accessory to rape is if Andy is first convicted of rape. He says that’ll never happen, no jury would convict the guy, which I totally agree with. Although he isn’t the biggest victim by any stretch, he is still a victim. Benson counters and asks him to call in Andy. They offer him a plea deal – plea to rape 3, no time or anything. His lawyer is rightfully incensed, why should he plea to something that they can’t even charge him with? To top it off Andy knows he’ll never fight again and totally ruin his reputation if he confesses to rape. Benson explains about not being able to charge the person who set him and Katy up without this conviction. They even bring in Katy to speak with Andy and explain that even if he thought he was doing what she wanted, he still did rape her. Andy steps up and does the right thing. He agrees to confess to rape so that Barba can charge the catfisher. I was really torn up about this, and it’s what I meant about murky waters. Andy committed rape, no question – however, its the first instance I’ve ever heard about where I’d say – not his fault. For him to agree to confess, knowing what that will do to him the rest of his life, shows so much of his character.
Carisi and Rollins head to West Virginia to pick up the catfisher, Heather Parcell. In her home she immediately confesses when she says them, simply saying she knows that they’re there “because I’m stupid.” She seems pretty blase about having caused someone to get raped.
Before heading back home Carisi and Rollins hit up a local bar. They both get pretty drunk with Chuck the local cop, and actually get involved in a bar fight. After kicking ass the two of them head back to their motel. We almost get a Carisi/Rollins kiss (which seems to have been coming for 2 seasons) but Rollins heads into her room. In the morning Carisi is visibly upset when he sees last night’s bartender leaving Rollins’ room.
Back in NYC Benson lays down the law for Sheila, making sure she understands that Noah is not ready to hear about Ellie. There is just too much explaining to do about his first year, Ellie’s death and everything surrounding that. Sheila agrees and the two seem to find common ground. Benson even agrees to let Sheila take Noah jacket shopping.
Once Heather is in custody in NY, Barba and Benson offer her a plea deal for rape 2. She still seems super unaffected by all this, she even questions, “How can I rape a girl?” The public defender is on the verge of convincing her to take the deal when a new lawyer walks in. It’s actually the lawyer that Heather had pretended to be while catfishing Katy which just seems super weird. But he gets her to plea innocent instead.
In court Barba takes the jury step by step, interviewing Katy, Andy and then Rollins. He makes it very clear that the only reason Katy got raped was because of these text messages sent by Heather. Heather’s lawyer’s rebuttal is not that she didn’t do it, but that she was a lonely, bored girl who meant no harm. After watching her on the stand Barba tells Benson that even he wouldn’t convict Heather, simply out out of pity. Thankfully Carisi and computer crimes are to the rescue. Back on the stand Heather breaks down when Barba confronts her with her reddit posts hating on Katy. She may have not meant to harm Andy, but Heather cries out, “She deserves what she got.” A jealous girl who couldn’t stand someone else’s success. Thankfully the jury does convict Heather of Rape in the 1st degree.
As always SVU has to leave us on a cliffhanger, and it’s almost always with Benson. Sheila is out shopping with Noah, turns her back for an instant and he’s gone. The last scene we see is Benson getting the call that Noah has been kidnapped. Poor Olivia just never gets the easy breaks. Anyone else think that Sheila is the one who set this up so she could take Noah for herself? Lying to Olivia this whole time so that she wouldn’t be the immediate suspect? I can’t believe anyone would think they could pull one over on Benson!
image courtesy @nbcsvu