Law and Order:SVU (S19E17) "Send in the Clowns"

***spoilers ahead***

Last night’s episode was weird in all the best ways. It was such a classic SVU, and thankfully not quite as heartbreaking as the last few weeks have been. Well, unless you count the revelation that our favorite ADA Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) has an ill family member that he visits regularly. More on that later.

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When 16-year-old piano prodigy Haley (Mallory Bechtel) goes missing on a school trip to New York the team goes into overdrive trying to find her. She had snuck off during a school trip and gone with a friend to a super creepy circus themed club. In what is my worst nightmare, Haley leaves with a man wearing a clown mask (seriously – has every scary movie EVER not taught her better). Piano teacher, and chaperone, James Turner, turns up a video Haley had taken in the car while being taken away by the clown man, and the team is able to track him down at a butcher shop. Vinny (Eric Tabach) swears up and down that nothing happened, but when the detectives search his apartment they find blood and Haley’s bloody boa.

Unfortunately, there is no body and doesn’t seem to be much hope of finding one. Despite this Bensen (Mariska Hargitay) convinces Stone to press murder charges against Vinny. This scene in the bar was iffy for me – I get it, Bensen fights for the victim always, but when Stone repeatedly tells her that there is not enough to go on, maybe it’s time to back down a bit. Bensen pushes and in perfect timing, the news program playing in the background shows a concert of Haley’s. Stone is visibly moved by this, and with Bensen’s infamous persistence moves ahead with the case.

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Things really start to go wrong at the trial when teacher James Turner goes missing before he’s due to testify. Spidey senses tingling, the team heads out to find him. And they do – in bed with Haley!! Haley and Turner set the whole thing up so that they could disappear together – these two are super creepy together. Haley is smitten to a repulsive degree, she’s convinced that only with Turner can she make the kind of spectacular music she’s destined for.

The big twist of the night comes back at the station when Haley’s mom confronts Turner about seducing her the same way years ago. Oh, wait – not JUST seducing her, but getting her pregnant. Pregnant WITH HALEY. Gag. So he’s been sleeping with his own daughter, which is disgusting. Haley has a totally INSANE reaction to this news – she’s happy, it confirms to her that she was born special, not just the daughter of a “garbage man”. That is one sick puppy. Thankfully Turner had already admitted to everything and it’s a slam dunk.

As for Stone – we learned last night that it wasn’t just McCoy (Sam Waterston) who had convinced him to stay in NY. He has a sister with schizophrenia who lives in a facility nearby. His father visited her every week, and now he feels like this task is left to him. It was incredibly moving to see him with her, she has no idea who he is and our ADA is devastated. Stone has really been through the ringer – I’m hoping some joy is ahead for him.

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So, last night was solid, not spectacular. But it was maybe needed, the last few weeks – really since Barba (Raul Esparza) departed – have been devastating and difficult to watch. It’s nice to have a good old twisty turny SVU case.