A Law & Order: SVU Suspect Investigates The Squad Right Back, With Technology
The team's efforts to take down a rape and murder suspect are complicated by his determination to take them down first.
We open on a department-wide briefing about the Second Avenue Strangler, a serial rapist-murderer who has been operating on a two-week cycle with a very specific M.O. This is, of course, terrible for the fictional victims, but what about real-world viewers who have to watch some half-dozen people at the front of the room tossing bullet points back and forth at each other like a hot potato? When did they have time to rehearse stepping on each other's lines like that?
Some smarmy dot-com entrepreneur named David Willard is boasting to his employees about the bleeding edge data-mining software they're peddling, until he takes a break to mack on one of his employees, Jennifer Knowles. Next thing you know, Jennifer is found dead at a construction site, much like the victims of the 2A Strangler. And it hasn't even been two weeks!
Before long, the fuzz has rounded up a skeezy cab driver who is only too happy to confess to the rape and murder of every headshot they show him, including that of Jennifer Knowles. But despite Detective Perry's eagerness to close the case, Olivia is convinced that one of these things is not like the other, and that Jennifer is the one who doesn't belong. We learn from Jennifer's sister that her boyfriend/boss, the aforementioned David Willard, might have had a motive: Jennifer was planning to break up with him and he was already an e-snooping control freak even before that. Olivia starts building a case against him, but she soon discovers that she's building it on quicksand. First rope from Jennifer's apartment -- and from Jennifer's body -- isn't a match for the rope used on the other victims, and then suddenly it is. And then Barba abruptly recuses himself from the case. Is our technically savvy suspect using hacker skilz to cover his tr@x?
Sure enough, Willard has been able to use ill-gotten info to blackmail key figures off the case, starting with Fin's rope expert Dr. Bennett, and proceeding all the way to Rafael Barba himself. But he who lives by secret surveillance may die by secret surveillance: Jennifer had her smart-TV rigged to record voice-activated video in her apartment. And thus the NYPD is able to unearth actual footage of Willard punching Jennifer hard enough to kill her outright. Blackmail that, smart guy.
From tape stuck over webcams and always-on devices listening in on us, to musings about targeted online ads and internet privacy, it's more like it's ripped from an entire issue of Wired.
Erm...thoroughly. It's like the show decided to explore what it would be like if one of our seemingly omniscient real-life tech gurus were motivated to cover up a crime, and then researched it by skimming a year's worth of Gizmodo headlines.
I'm not sure if we can call Chris Diamantopoulos famous, per se, given that cartoon voice acting comprises much of his CV. But his turns as the fourth-wall-breaking sound guy on The Office and as Moe in The Three Stooges TV movie (2012) (!?) certainly elevate him to at least H!ITG status.
Meredith Travers returns, but this time she's playing Jennifer Knowles instead of Brooke Rayburn. Sorry, die-hard Brooke Rayburn fans. Also, sorry to Jennifer Knowles fans, for obvious reasons. Other familiar faces include Jason Bowen as Detective Marcus Perry and -- probably for the last time -- Max Baker as Dr. Bennett.
Dr. Bennett doesn't even get specific about what his blackmailer was holding over him; just that it was "embarrassing and wrong...very, very wrong." Too wrong for 9:00, apparently. Also, David Willard's idea of secretly filming his sexual encounters with Jennifer involved pointing his webcam away from the bed.
It was years ago, but Barba is just now confessing to it, now that he's being blackmailed. It seems that he gave a key witness money for a fix so that she could get through her testimony on the stand, and she died hours later. Barba's been financially supporting the woman's young daughter ever since, which is not as bad as Willard's assumption that he's been paying the girl for sex, but it's still bad. "We may have seen our last case together," he intones to Liv.
Most of the team keeps it pretty professional, but it falls to Carisi to serve as the Greek chorus remarking on how technology has led to loss of privacy. Probably because he's the one who's got brassiere ads popping up on his work computer.
This week is an embarrassment of riches for us Ice T fans, but my favorite moment is when he expresses doubt that Dr. Bennett might be susceptible to blackmail: "The guy's into ropes, ties, paints, and solvents." Well, when he puts it that way, that...sounds even worse.
We close on Barba heading into a meeting with the D.A. in which he'll have to answer for sacrificing his witness to her opiate god, so we'll have to see how that shakes out. Also, Carisi apparently likes his ladies with brars upon thars.