Law and Order:SVU (S19E09) "Gone Baby Gone"

***spoilers ahead***

We left our team before Christmas in a serious cliffhanger with Olivia’s son Noah missing.  This episode was all about Noah, Olivia and their relationship with Sheila as Olivia desperately searches for her son.

Picking up where we left off, a devastated Olivia rounds up her entire team to begin the search for Noah. They race to the mall where Sheila runs through the events of the day. Really the thing that amazed me most was the unresponsiveness of the crowd. Here are a bunch of detectives running around shouting for a little boy, showing his picture and literally having to scream at people to get them to stop and look. I felt like this was a little unrealistic, people tend to be seriously on it if a kid is missing. Even the manager was belligerent, having to be bullied into locking the store down. Insane.

After determining that Noah is no longer in the store Sheila takes Olivia to her apartment to see if he’s there. At this point I felt really strongly that Sheila was the culprit, she talked way too much about Ellie and her loss and very little about Olivia and Noah. After Carisi and Rollins find footage of a man taking Noah, Olivia shows his photo to Sheila who says she doesn’t recognize him. It becomes obvious that this was planned, not spontaneous when the detectives realize that this man not only brought a change of clothes for Noah but had preinstalled a car seat as well.

Carisi and Rollins are able to find the car, but it’s at a bus station. They think they have a lead when the ticket taker remembers the man clearly, but it turns out that this was on purpose to throw them off. Tutuola tracks down the car dealership where the man bought the car and discovers the interesting tidbit that the man had brought the (very expensive) car seat with him, that it fit is the only requirement when buying a car. He’s able to dig around in the nearby dumpster to find the car seat box.

After leaving Sheila’s apartment (and Sheila’s extremely unhelpful presence) Olivia heads back to the office. We get a very moving scene there of Barba showing up just to offer his, well, anything. I love the friendship between these two, even if someday I’d root for it to be more!

Using the barcode that Tutuola found on the car seat, Carisi and Rollins track down the store where it was purchased. To only their surprise, the buyer was Sheila! They immediately call Olivia who rushes back to Sheila’s apartment. Although there are still clothes there Olivia’s stomach sinks when she notices that Ellie’s picture is gone, “She’s never coming back. She took the one thing that mattered to her.” Shortly thereafter the detectives find out that she’d emptied her bank account over a period of months, she’d been planning this before she ever showed up in New York. This was the one part that felt truly surprising, although considering that she’d initially tried legally to take away Noah I supposed it shouldn’t have been. She was just too good of an actor (as is Brooke Shields in general) that I thought this had been a recent decision after Olivia didn’t want her to talk about Ellie to Noah.

We get a brief glimpse of Sheila with Noah at a fast food rest stop,  my stomach literally hurt when she pretended to him to be leaving a friendly message for Olivia, even holding the phone and having him say “hi mom” to the fake call.

Olivia is back in her office with Barba and is absolutely beating herself up for not seeing this coming, for letting Sheila into their lives. We know that Olivia feels her sense of responsibility strongly, it affects her in cases and so much stronger here. She feels like she should have known, and laments that in their job they only clean up messes, not prevent them. Although Barba reminds her that they prevent the next mess, he also tells her that maybe she wanted a family too bad, that’s why she wasn’t more suspicious of Sheila. Dude, not helpful. True, but maybe a discussion for after she has Noah back?

The detectives are able to get an ID on the man who took Noah out of the store, turns out it’s Sheila’s longtime gardener Juan. Carisi and Rollins go to question him. His daughter doesn’t believe a word of what they’re telling her and even tries to warn her dad away when he comes to the door. Despite that they’re able to grab him and bring him inside for questioning, which gets pretty brutal after Olivia reminds Carisi that they aren’t detectives there – and therefore don’t have to abide by any rules. Yikes. After Rollins grabs his daughter’s face, shoving it into Juan’s, he finally confesses. He believed Sheila that Olivia was hurting Noah, and wanted to be a family with the two of them. His daughter is rightly disgusted and says that Sheila was using him, but he refuses to believe that.

The team gets 2 leads – one is for a cabin owned by Sheila’s late sister, Olivia heads for that one. The other is for a cabin owned by Juan, which he tells Carisi that Sheila and Noah are using, waiting for him. Sheila, again to no one’s surprise, isn’t there, and Juan finally realizes he’s totally been played.

In New Hampshire, Olivia sneaks directly into Sheila’s cabin, but Sheila is prepared and hits her upside the head, taking her gun. They have a tearful confrontation, Sheila says “You were coming to take my baby!” to which Olivia responds strongly, “He’s not YOUR baby.” Sheila is determined, telling Olivia that Noah should be with her because he’s her blood. Olivia speaks for all of us when she retorts, “blood isn’t the only thing that makes families”.

You can tell Olivia is really struggling to keep her cool here, she’s doing that classic Benson whispery negotiating voice but, when Sheila (still pointing a gun at her) says “I’m not a bad person Olivia”, Olivia’s face does this totally amazing twitchy thing that shows exactly what she thinks about this. Noah comes in the room during this conversation, Sheila hides the gun and Olivia uses this moment to get Noah out of the cabin where, I’m presuming, some other police are waiting to take him to safety. Sheila and Olivia wrestle at this point, with Sheila finally breaking down sobbing on the ground.

When the police are about to take Sheila away she turns and apologizes to Olivia and seriously I wanted to reach through the screen and throttle her. She’s been so manipulative and you can’t believe a word that comes out of her mouth. I’m only hoping we don’t see this storyline coming up in the future with her not going to jail because Olivia was involved in the case.

Back home with Noah safe and sound the whole team rallies around Olivia and Noah, spending an evening playing games. I think this was the solid reminder to Olivia that your family is who you make it – not some random blood relative. All ends well and that’s a wrap.

image @nbcsvu