This episode felt extremely relevant to everything going on in the entertainment industry as well as politically right now in our country. Following on the heels of the #metoo movement, it was about both the personal rape of a victim (Co-Pilot Tara) and the entrenched sexist attitudes that allowed this rape and the fallout happen.
During a flight from NYC to Atlanta we’re introduced to Captain Carter and his co-pilot, Tara. While his affect is amiable, it’s very clear that she’s extremely distraught, made plain by the terrible look on her face. When Carter steps out to use the bathroom, Tara disengages the autopilot and changes the planes course. This causes panic amongst the passengers as they’re thrown all over the plane. The Air Marshall helps Carter break into the cockpit, and they arrive back in NY safe.
Once she’s back in NY, Tara has her union rep call the police department, which means Benson (back from her time off with Noah) and her team get the case. Tara tells Benson that she was raped by Carter, that Optimum Air knew and put her in the cabin with him anyways. Although the FBI initially thought she might be a terrorist, she tells the police that she was just turning the plane around so she could get away from Carter. I’m trying to give the lady some slack here, flying in a panic couldn’t be easy – but she threw that airplane all over the place for someone just trying to turn around.
When Benson goes to talk to the CEO of Optimum Air he claims to be a feminist, in the most gross condescending way – so proud of himself for “allowing his assistant to take a day off for the woman’s march, and even letting her wear that dumb hat for a week.” Of course he then explains the lack of women pilots as due to women not having the stamina or focus for aviation – it wouldn’t have anything to do with bosses like him right?
Rollins and Carisi are able to get more corroborating evidence from Tara’s sister who took photos of Tara the night she was raped, while she was sleeping. They then convince Tara to call Carter and confront him to try to get him to confess while on tape. He does, sort of, and they arrest him for rape. The crowds around at that time, and during the trial are all fans of his, the media has played him up to be the hero. I can’t even imagine being a normal victim coming forward, but to have to fight through that to testify would be terrible.
Tara testifies to the rape, and tells the jurors that she’s already plead guilty to Federal charges. She’ll be serving 2 years in jail and permanently losing her pilot’s license, so they should know that she’s only pressing charges because of the rape, not to try to get out of trouble for almost crashing the plane.
Benson and Rollins finally track down the only other female pilot who’s flown for Optimum Air and they’re able to get her to tell them why she left. She was also raped by Carter, and this time kept all the evidence needed to convict. Using that leverage, Barba is able to get Carter to plead guilty to 2 counts of rape.
That alone was not enough for our dedicated DA, Barba is out for blood. Barba convenes a grand jury to bring indictments against Optimum Air for the sexist environment they created. They promoted 2 female pilots only after they were raped, and in return for not calling the police. Flight attendants were punished if they complained about sexual harrassment. The cherry on the top – a memo brought forward by the CEO’s assistant in which the CEO claimed that “women are not mentally or emotionally equipped to captain and aircraft and should only be flight attendants.” Sound like anything we’ve seen out of Silicon Valley lately? Barba gave an impassioned speech against this kind of grand larceny, telling the jury that Optimum Air stole these women’s dignity. Rafael Esparza was brilliant in the monologue (no surprise to his fans) and afterwards Benson tells him that he’s a feminist icon (lol).
The interesting tidbit we’re left with at the end is Tutuola speaking with the Chief – after asking for the Chief’s reassurance that he wouldn’t be trying to replace Benson, Tutuola handed the Chief a memo. He told the Chief that he had kept a copy, and just wanted to be sure they were on the same page. Now I’m dying to know what the memo said!!