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EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP: The Law & Order: SVU Premiere Tries To Get Smart

Amy Smart, that is. Also, a different Noah, same old boring peril; Luke from Nashville is a monster; and Cassidy's back!

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Guys! I actually can't wait to dig into this Law & Order: SVU season premiere in recap form! Over the last few seasons, the show has increasingly suffered from "especially heinous" writing and silent-movie acting, with the result that it's now a hate-watch for this correspondent -- but, to lean on another reference to the aughts here, I just can't quit it.

[fires warning shot of compressed air under caps-lock key] Aight, let's get this over with so we can get back to marinating in quality episodes from the past on USA Network, shall we? Chung chung!

Fade up on what I can only classify as proof that NBC is trying to penny-pinch SVU to death. You know in high-school productions of, like, South Pacific when a scene supposedly takes place on a beach, and the "sea" is two rows of blue oaktag cut into scallop shapes, with one of the theater kids who can't sing in the wings on each side, shoving them back and forth and seething because Mr. Ellroy SAID the spring play was Noises Off?

Welcome to the network equivalent, although a chyron is valiantly pretending it's "Havana, Cuba" and not a cramped corner of a Silvercup soundstage. When Will "Luke Wheeler" Chase appears with his pretty lady friend and adorable moppet, I almost expected him to have a plywood-and-suspenders "boat" on. He does not. Nor does he break into "Younger Than Springtime"; he merely bids his (we assume) little family adios and strolls off down the "cobblestone" "street."

Cut to another, verifiable street in the 212, where Lt. Olivia Benson and Noah are heading towards a corner, and Noah is whining about…well, I can't make it out over the loud whooshing sound generated by his Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Unless that's the sound of that vein in my forehead swelling with rage-stroke blood because oh my God when is SVU going to stop with the Noah In Peril storylines -- NO! ONE! CARES! This is a police PROCEDURAL! Please proceed…TO NEVER SHOW NOAH AGAIN! …Why do I bother. As long as MarHar Superstar is an executive producer, I have better odds of Santa finally coming through with that pony than I do of getting anyone to listen to me on the Noah tip. More on why I find the child's storylines so terribly tiresome in a moment; first, let me note that, when last seen, Noah was a toddler with straight dark brown hair and brown eyes. This Noah is twice the height -- I'd guess the actor's age at seven, minimum -- and has light brown curly hair. I just…what?

At least he's also wearing black Chuck Taylors, my own Converse of choice, but before I can sew a cool-parenting badge on Liv's sash, Liv chooses to respond to Noah's whingy "I don't wanna go!" with an overly cheery "School is fun, right?" I just don't understand why the writers do this to Mariska Hargitay, I really don't -- or why she lets them, when she has kids of her own and should know that this fakey, hesitant dialogue she's always saddled with in her scenes with Noah is not how parents speak to their children. I don't have kids, so boulder of salt, of course, but I know parents, I had parents, and this is how people who don't know how to talk to kids, or who just met a kid five minutes ago, talk to kids. Exhibit B: Noah monotones that Lucy, his nanny, wouldn't make him go, and he wishes she were his mommy. Liv:

I mean, first of all, the fuck she wouldn't; Liv is always calling Lucy at all goddamn hours to get childcare coverage because God forbid she delegate anything to Fin, plus working for this stupid family has gotten Lucy shot at, menaced by William Lewis, and I've forgotten what all else, so there is no damn way she's letting Noah horn in on her cigarettes-and-crossword time when she can drop him at school instead. Second of all, and to my point above: toughen up, Liv. It's not your first day. Kids say bratty stuff. Get over it. But no, she's got to whip off her aviators and cry-voice, "What did you say?" This is where I start giggling because I'm remembering the time, SINGULAR, I observed that I would like to go live with my grandmother, who was a lot more permissive about things like sugar cereal and…most of the other things, because grandmothers, and my mother said, "What did you say?" and because I didn't want to get kicked to death, I chirped, "Nothing!" and ran off to do a loathed chore unprompted.

Alas, it is not Barb who is in charge here, but Liv The Helicopter Friend-Mom, so Noah reads off a cue card that is very obviously positioned 140 degrees away from where Liv is kneeling that he wishes Lucy were his mommy. Liv physically flinches, but pulls it together to quaver that it looks like he's stuck with her. She takes his hand and they continue on down the street, but at the corner, she gets a call and lets go of Noah to answer it. The signal changes from don't-walk hand to walk figure, and Ryan Buggle rather too carefully proceeds towards his mark in the crosswalk, and nearly gets grease-spotted by a taxi. Liv shrieks, "NOAH!" and grabs him out of harm's way as the cab -- and all the rest of the traffic on that avenue, like, is the light red for them or not? -- careens past, and then the ADR kicks in with a bleaty "Mom-meeee" that sounds like a kitten, so how old is Noah supposed to be, seriously?

Liv clutches him and repeats that he's okay about 150 times, and if she reams him for going ahead into the street without a grownup and/or scaring the shit out of her, we don't see it, because Liv is a saint who would never raise her voice to her child. I get that seeing the quotidian discipline and negotiations of child-rearing isn't necessarily great TV, but there's a simple solution to that problem in a cop show, to wit: refer to Noah without showing him onscreen. If you must incorporate him into filmed material, write Liv like an actual parent and not a weekend-dad kiss-ass.

Cuba Luke finishes an espresso, then gets kidnapped off the street and hurled into an ancient VW bus by two burly guys. In the back of the van, he's cuffed, then greeted by Fin: "Buenos dias, pendejo." You can say that word in network primetime now?

Hey, I wasn't complaining!

Cop shop. Liv gets another call, this one from Noah's school; apparently he's got some worrisome bruises, and after asking if he's in any pain, Liv theorizes that "maybe it was another student" and "maybe he just fell." Jesus H. Gambino, writers. Has any of you ever even met a little boy? I don't think my brother took a school photo without some kind of contact injury on his face until he was 12. There's no way a New York City school is going to call a parent who is a New York City cop over minor bruising, and there's no way said cop parent isn't going to be like, "Kids bang into shit, don't call me at work unless he's bleeding," and hang up. I mean, am I the crazy one here? Fortunately for us all, Liv is distracted by the entrance of Fin, styling a pair of black shorts and a little Panama hat, and his prisoner. Carisi and Rollins exposit that Willuke, who is going by "Byron Marks" here, raped three women "that [they] know about," then split before they could arrest him. Byron, unconcerned, greets Liv with "Detective Benson. How are you?" "A lot better now," Liv smugs, and I expect her to issue a snotty "and it's 'Lieutenant'" but she doesn't, just adds, "I hope?" by way of confirming with Fin that he took Byron into custody by the book. Fin claims he did.

In an interrogation room, Byron blah-blahs smarmily about the Cuban people. Rollins and Carisi are humorlessly offended by his bonhomie, to the show's customarily non-credible-for-veteran-police degree. Enter Liv; Byron twinkles that he missed her, calling her "Detective" again, and this time she does snap that she's a lieutenant, and if he missed her, maybe he shouldn't have run. He notes that, when "wanderlust strikes," a man has no choice, and blathers on about the verbal sparring, the "heave and ho" he so enjoys; even Liv's assertion that his DNA came up a match to all three victims doesn't affect his sunny attitude, so she leans down into his face to PSA that he ruined the lives of "three! innocent! human beings!" At that, Byron joins the rest of us in having had it, blaring, "And I suppose your sanctimonious crap fills their days with sunshine, and light!" I don't care to be siding with the perp here, but the writing has left me little choice, so: seeeeriously. Byron then bets that he can guilt Liv for not following up with the survivors forever, and snots that, after a couple of years, she stopped sending them Christmas cards because she got busy with conferences and co-op meetings -- but it's cool, because another victim will come along soon enough to let Liv pour out "that goopy stuff" overflowing her heart. Burn. Doesn't seem like he struck a nerve there, as Liv shrugs, "You done?" and suggests he confess and save them all some time, since they've got him cold. Byron's like, nah: lawyer. Rollins: "What happened to the old heave and ho?" Hee. Credits.

Barba's in the house, and he's skeptical of whether they can stick the landing, given the statute of limitations. When Fin's pressed this time re: whether the arrest was lawful, his answer is a dodgier "I thought we were all on the same team!" Encouraging! For now, we're briefed on Byron's m.o.: meet prospective victims at farmers' markets, carry their bags, then threaten to cut off their breasts "if they didn't 'enjoy their afternoon.'" Barba's like, yikes, then asks how the arrest went down. Fin's story is that he was on vacay in Cuba, saw Byron, tipped the local authorities, and pinched Byron without incident. Barba doesn't buy it,

but when Liv backs Fin's play, Barba tells them to "arraign the bastard." He leaves. Liv cuts Fin a "you better not fuck me up with this" side-eye.

At the apartment of Joyce Peterson, Carisi and Rollins inform her of Byron's capture. Joyce is visibly depressed and suffering from PTSD, but when she fails to evince a sufficiently gratifying reaction to the news, Rollins duhs at her that Byron "raped you at knifepoint," like, I think she knows. Joyce mumbles that nobody cares about her, including NYPD; that's why it took them six years to crack the case. Rollins protests that they never stopped looking for Byron. Carisi tells Joyce, albeit reluctantly, that they can subpoena her, but Rollins interrupts to thank Joyce and say they'll be going.

A playground. Keesha Johnson and Rollins watch Keesha's son shoot hoops. Keesha shrugs that she can't blame her son's dad for running off; who would want to be with a victim of sexual assault? Rollins reminds her that it was in fact assault. Keesha says that's what the doctor at the ER said, and Liv, but those are just words. "Things are good for" Keesha now, finally, so she's not going to testify.

Carisi bitches that they've finally caught "this prick" and now the victims won't take the stand. Rollins notes that Byron was one of her first SVU cases (NB: it was offscreen; we've not seen him before) and talks about his very real charm, and how she could have been "one of those women." Carisi joins me in giving her a "…k" look.

Karla Wyatt answers the door to Carisi and Rollins with, "Please don't tell me he's dead." Karla is played by Amy Smart, whom I've always liked and thought should have gotten more famous than she did. It's not like she vanished; she works, but she has star quality, and didn't turn into a star. Until recently, I guess I chalked it up to bad script choices or "just one of those things," but now I have to assume she got Weinsteined some kind of way. Anyway, here she's got a significant scar on her face, and a Jabba of a husband whose response to Karla's excited report that "they caught the bastard" who raped her is, and I quote, "whoop dee doo." He goes back to watching bowling -- okay, we get it -- but perks up, and not in a good way, when he hears that Karla has to testify. Carisi's like, it's not your choice, but Frank's like, she's my wife so it is too: "Like I'm gonna let her embarrass us in front of Mikey and Joe and the guys?" Yeah, we get it. Karla cringes, possibly because her living room just turned into a social-hygiene film about the stigma of sexual violence, as Frank goes on that the other victims can shoulder the burden of court. "Actually, Karla's all we've got," Carisi grunts. Frank's like, so "those other girls" have their heads on straight. Karla sighs that "Frank knows what's right"; Rollins's attempt to argue that testifying could bring Karla closure goes nowhere. Despite six years on the job in New York City alone, Rollins has apparently never been confronted with a reluctant witness or family member.

Back at the cop shop, Liv tries to de-Amish the proceedings by noting that the Wyatts' balking is "upsetting, but not surprising." Liv is wearing a pale-peach version of what is evidently her blouse of the season -- you know, for a couple seasons it was a lightweight v-neck sweater over a cami; another season, it was that gauzy floral under the v-neck?

Lately it's this tenty notch-neck affair. Not the most flattering, IMO. Anyway, Fin suggests using grand-jury testimony from six years ago, but Liv wearies that it's inadmissible hearsay; she'll let the Wyatts mull it over for a day or two and take another run at them herself. Fin doubts that's going to work. Liv snarks that she's sorry he ruined his own vacation, then, and he shrugs that he can only do so much fishing. Liv calls him aside and asks if he's still sticking with the coincidence story. No reason to change it now, Fin says. Hee. Liv is getting heated about how unlikely it is that, with the FBI and the Marshals looking for the guy, Fin's the one who happens to stumble over Byron in Havana. "I'd rather be lucky than good," Fin says, but Liv won't leave it alone. She's shocked Byron didn't put up a fight. Fin should know better than to admit that he "may-a had a little help," but admit it he does, and adds that it's better Liv not ask from whom. This gets a full-head eye-roll from Liv, but Fin is saved from a deeply hypocritical lecture by Liv spotting Karla at the precinct desk. She's going to testify, "screw" Frank. Liv and Fin exchange "…huh" looks, but because it goes on for like 45 minutes into the act-out, it's more like "…h…uhhhhhh…hhhhhhh."

Byron's arraignment, at which he's represented, scruffily, by Randolph J. "Taub From House" Dworkin. Dworkin takes issue with every single person in the state of New York arraying themselves "versus" his client, at length, and when Barba tells him to get new material and asks for remand, Dworkin objects not just to that but to "this entire proceeding," and asks for ROR. Judge Peck is like, "ha? defendant is remanded," as Fin slinks out the back. We're not the only ones who noticed that, as Barba catches up to him outside and asks since when he attends arraignments. Ain't you watched the show lately, Rafa? The whole squad is in court for everything, because nobody else gets assaulted until the current case is discharged. Keep up. Fin does not say this, just claims he wanted to make sure it stuck this time, and what's up with "that clown show" Dworkin? Barba would kind of like an answer to that himself, as Dworkin's usual bailiwick is federal court.

Oh, brother. So Liv is trying to back Noah's teacher, Mrs. Smiley (snerk), off with the "he's a kid" explanation for Noah's bruising. While I try to triangulate an explanation of Noah's current age based on the "Kindergarten, Here We Come!" signage in the room, Mrs. Smiley explains that the nurse interviewed Noah about the bruises, and Noah said Liv gave them to him. Liv does her now-patented Starman head cock and says she finds that hard to believe.

Exactly. Mrs. Smiley observes pointedly that Liv's job sounds very stressful. Liv doesn't see what that has to do "with anything," obliging Mrs. Smiley to explain to a veteran police officer who heads up a unit devoted to sexual and domestic assault that stress can cause people to act out physically. So Liv…acts out physically, rolling her eyes and grimacing and pacing and literally clutching her forehead.

When Mrs. Smiley isn't having her histrionics, Liv fumes that this is all a big misunderstanding. Mrs. Smiley's like, riiiight. Then she asks about Noah's father, which doesn't strike me as relevant or appropriate; Liv is incensed, but confines herself to gritting that "he is deceased." Mrs. Smiley is sorry to hear that. She says Noah seems to like Lucy a lot. "She's his nanny, what's not to like," Liv cry-voices bitterly.

Mrs. Smiley 2020. Liv begs her not to go where Liv thinks she's going "with this," and repeats desperately that it's all a huge miscommunication. Mrs. Smiley is sure Liv's right. (Ron Howard: "She isn't.") She just "had to see it for [her]self." What does that even mean? If you think Liv is harming Noah, the hell good does a parent-teacher conference do? You're a mandated reporter, no? File the report. On another show, preferably, because I could not care less about Noah if I were in a coma. Liv has also had it with this scene, because she stalks off.

Cop shop. Liv is sloshing coffee everywhere. Rollins is like, maybe enough caffeine?, and asks if Liv needs an ear. Liv brushes her off, but Rollins asks again if she's okay, like, she's your boss so maybe leave it out. Alas, Liv only needs one follow-up question to start sharing, like, she's your employee so maybe leave it o-- ugh, forget it. She tells Rollins she got called into the school about "this mysterious bruise on Noah's arm," which, now that I think about it, should really not be all that puzzling since Liv commented in the previous scene devoted to this POS subplot that she thought she'd cleared "all that" up "yesterday" -- meaning she got the initial call about the bruise yesterday, then presumably picked Noah up from school, or at least saw him after she got home, and could have questioned him about the bruise or even merely looked at/for it when she was getting him ready for bed. But no, by acting like they don't live together or that Noah chills at home in a hazmat suit, the writing can amp up the threat to Liv's little family by making the bruise "mysterious." Rollins NBDs that he probably fell off the swings; that's what Liv thought, but Noah told the nurse "a different story." Rollins is gobsmacked by the idea anyone would think Liv hurt Noah. Liv doesn't know "if he's mad, if he's acting out…" You don't know if your kid is mad? Whom you live with? I fucking can't, people! Learn how humans who live together act, writers' room! And by the way, The Horror At The Corner occurred a fucking day ago; would not a veteran investigator DETECT that perhaps it's whipping the ankle-biter out of the crosswalk like a giant yo-yo that caused the bruising?

Giphy

Liv whispers that she just kept thinking while Mrs. Smiley was quizzing her, "I'm the one who asks the questions." Rollins reassures her that she's a good mom, and "if anyone says different, they'll have to answer to" Rollins. Because who's a better character witness than Amarofucker McGamblingdebts over here. ...Okay, that second bit is unfair, but I stand by the first part. Shut up, Amaro. Barba stomps in just then looking for Fin, because Dworkin has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, claiming Fin kidnapped Byron.

Hee. "What if he did?" Liv grunts, not caring as much about managing her staff as she probably could. "We're screwed," Barba says. Liv looks around and chews her lip for a week before someone finally says "cut."

Motion hearing. Dworkin asserts that Fin "invaded a sovereign country" and grabbed Byron up. Barba counters that Byron is a serial rapist. Dworkin rants that that isn't a fact until a jury says so. Great, Barba says, a trial is what we want. The Honorable Johnny Sack looks disgusted with both of them as Dworkin continues that, had Fin pulled this shit even in Jersey, the arrest would be thrown out. Judge Sack asks if Dworkin wants to put Fin on trial. Dworkin says this court doesn't have jurisdiction in the first place. Barba and Dworkin joust with precedents for a while before Sack announces he'll hear arguments tomorrow.

Fin, Barba, and Liv sulk in Liv's office. Fin swears he didn't torture Byron, so the case Dworkin cited to kibosh the arrest isn't relevant. Barba hopes Fin can make that case from the stand. Fin: "I'm a credible guy!" Ringtone! Fin can't believe it doesn't matter that the arrest was in a grey area; neither can Barba, actually. He leaves, and Liv clocks him for not looping her in. Fin can live with some "mud" on his face if it means he caught Byron, but Liv can't; she intenses that, as long as she's in charge, "we do things the right way -- the legal way!" [eye-roll] Okay, Atticus. Fin's over it as well and snarks that she wanted Byron as bad as he did. She stares moodily out into the squadroom and says they fucked up not arresting Byron fast enough the first time. Fin shoots her a "well…yeah" look. She announces that she has to go home and teach her son -- pointed stare at Fin as she grabs her keys -- "that lying is a bad thing." Fin pulls a "good luck with that" face that is probably not how Ice-T was directed, but is quite amusing, because shut up, Liv.

Oh "goody," we "get to" see the aforementioned lesson. Liv is helping Noah on with a supes cute pair of octopus pajamas. Examining an adult-hand-shaped bruise corresponding to where she would have pulled him out of traffic, she asks if it hurts. It doesn't. Liv lets him know that she talked to Mrs. Smiley, and what she said the nurse said. "She asked!" Noah shrugs. Liv's like, we talked about telling the truth, remember? Noah did tell the truth: she gave him the bruise when the taxi almost clipped him.

My tax dollars at work, ladies and germs. Liv forgot! She's so sorry! Big hugs, and a reminder to tell the whole story when he tells the truth! Rueful violins are rueful, because even though Liv is doing a great job picking out cute sheets for Noah's bed, the violins have watched TV before, and this is not over!

Motion hearing. Dworkin examines Byron, and notes upon learning that Byron's job is English tutoring, "That's admirable." Barba objects without looking up from his legal pad. Hee. Judge Sack sustains it. We learn that Mrs. Byron and the Byronlet are Cuban, not American citizens, before Byron testifies that two guys grabbed him and threw him in the van, Fin cuffed him, they "drove…someplace," and he was left in the back for four hours. Here then is the torture claim, as it was over 100 degrees that day. Hearing this, Barba chews the inside of his cheek.

Fin's turn on the stand. He walks Barba and us through tracking Byron down: Byron is a big jazz fan (pfft, figures) (don't @ me), and in particular a fan of a guy named Walter Smith. Fin checked Smith's website periodically to see if Byron might have commented, and when a "B from Havana" compared Smith to Coltrane, Fin thought he might have his guy. So, he went down there, he put Byron in a van, and he convinced the local cops that he was legit and Byron was a bad actor. But he didn't torture Byron. Dworkin begs to differ, confirming with Fin that if he found a dog in a hot car he would have to arrest the owner for animal cruelty. Fin's like, I checked every now and then, and Byron never asked to get out. "Could be because he was unconscious," Dworkin says. Fin glares.

Judge Sack rules that, while he doesn't approve of Fin's tactics, they don't descend to the level of torture, and the trial will proceed. Not so fast, says Dworkin, and introduces a Mr. Formosa, a representative of the Cuban government who objects to his country's borders and laws being violated. Now it's Barba's turn to glare. Dworkin tries to tell Judge Sack he's not competent to hear a political question such as this, but Sack thinks he can deal after he eats some lunch.

And now, to lose my own lunch as Karla stomps into Liv's office to complain about the handling of the case and that the cops don't care. Liv's like, that's not exactly what's up here, which is true, and then Karla is obliged to whine, "You told me closure's a good thing, that it helps in the healing process!" They sit on Liv's Empathy Office Couch so Liv can cheerlead that Karla hasn't let the attack stop her. Karla is not a hundred that her having gotten married is evidence of her indomitable spirit (cosigned), and shovels an exposition pass about politicians deciding whether Byron gets justice in Liv's direction. Liv dunks it: for Cuba to "have standing," they have to show harm to one of its citizens, in this case Mrs. Byron, who's set to testify tomorrow. If Karla doesn't also testify, well… Told that they need her to keep the case alive, Karla's like, maybe Frank's not so dumb after all, and stalks out. Wait so but isn't she upset that the case might not go to trial? And given that it's not the cops' apathy that's endangering it, but rather a presentation of related factors which she could directly influence by taking the stand, why is Karla against participating now? The show could conceivably be taking the position that a survivor's attitude towards testifying can be changeable and/or illogical, but this doesn't feel purposeful. It feels like this part of the script never got past a first draft because everyone's focus was on this dumb wiener Noah B-plot.

Mrs. Byron testifies breathlessly that she met Byron when he came into her store. They went to lunch every day "for weeks" -- during which time, it's implied, he didn't try to rape her -- and fell in love and got married. She wails directly to Barba that it's wrong what Fin did. If Byron doesn't come back, the Byronlet, Teresa, will be destroyed. Dworkin stretches his legs after the guilt trip with a motion to release Byron ROR. Barba leaps to his feet while Dworkin needles him about only charging Byron with one count of rape instead of three, and maybe Karla's testimony isn't so solid either, hmmmmm -- and by the way, if the court isn't "competent" to adjudicate this case, it's not competent to hold Byron, either. Not sure how that argument works if you're going ahead and calling witnesses in a proceeding you don't acknowledge the validity of, but in any case, Judge Sack releases Byron to Dworkin's custody with a stern warning that they both better show up the next day. The Byrons hug.

On the courthouse steps, Barba grumbles that he wants Byron followed. He's not keen on letting Fin of all people do it, but allows it until someone else can take over, and bitterly bets that the Byrons will be en route back to Cuba by the next day.

What looks like a JFK terminal too fancy for me to have set foot in. Rollins tails the Byrons and Dworkin. She loses them, but Carisi picks up the trio. Later, Carisi explains how Fin violated international law as he and Rollins watch their tailees eating at a diner. Byron gets up to use the head, and Rollins tries to keep an eye on him while Carisi is still banging on about Raúl Castro sending a federale to kidnap Fin. Rollins is peering around Carisi's noggin and grousing that she gets it, he went to law school. After about 12 seconds they decide Byron's taking too long, and head in to check on him. Dworkin brays, "This is harassment!" It's going to get way worse if Byron isn't back there struggling with his dairy intake, Rollins tells him (sort of), and sure enough, a search of the crapper and the diner's storeroom makes it clear Byron has bolted.

Cop shop. Fin's alerted all the area airports, but Byron can't leave the country because he doesn't have his passport…so where did he go? Liv gets that liquid-bowels look and calls Karla, begging her to pick up. Then she dashes out. Um, delegating?

…HA HA HA HA, because why keep it frosty in your office like our queen Anita Van Buren when you can go out in the field without backup instead and REALLY put your foot in it? Liv charges up the front walk of Chez Wyatt, gun drawn, yelling for Karla. The front door is open. Liv has her gun sighted, but has learned nothing from the home invasion she blundered into a couple seasons back, or from doing this for 20 years, because she fails to clear the doorway, doesn't have a vest on, etc. She finds Byron seated tensely on the couch, and Karla pointing a revolver at him. She tells Liv to go away. Smiley/Karla 2020. Karla knows Liv can't do that, so can she put the gun down? Byron eye-rolls, "Women," and I don't want to laugh, but that line reading is aces. Less so Amy Smart's screechy choice on "You think this is FUNNAYY?!", which gave the line a weird top note of Real World Tami that doesn't work so well. Liv doesn't want to see Karla go to prison, but what does Liv think Karla's been living in the last six years? She sees the scar every time she brushes her teeth, brushes her hair…Byron babbles that he didn't come there to hurt her, he just wanted to explain about his family and ask her not to testify. Karla's like, GTFOH with that. Liv then goes with a "point the gun at me" approach, and I kind of want to see her get shot somewhere non-fatal like in the ass to teach her a lesson, but girlfriend never learns so let's just get on with this.

The ploy fails. Karla orders Byron onto his feet and shrieks at him about having made her beg him to cut her face. Now she wants him to beg. Byron is frozen, so Karla orders him to his knees or she'll kill him. Liv undermines her with, "No, you won't," like, shoot her in the kneecap or shut up, but you're not helping. Karla and Liv then get in a spat, basically, over whether Karla's capable of shooting Byron and how Liv can't leave her alone with Byron because blah blah blah honor-cakes, and it looks like Byron is thinking that he can make a break for it while these two dummies debate the concept of closure, but in the end he decides not to risk it, and kneels. "Now. I want you to beg me to shoot you." Karla presses the muzzle to his temple. Liv, who in this shot is standing not eight inches from Karla, keeps fruitlessly pointing her own gun at Karla's…belt? and reminding Karla she'll have to arrest Karla if she "do[es] this." Just arrest her now, fool! She's right next to you! Byron begs. Karla isn't satisfied: "You call that begging?!" She cocks the hammer, then begins to decompensate, wailing about the contents of her farmers'-market bag and Byron taking her life away. Liv murmurs platitudes about the pain returning when Karla is behind bars, but at least she's putting up her own gun and making like she's going to grab Karla's arm, finally. Liv says she's just going to take the gun, but a weeping Karla resists, and as Liv is wrenching it away, it fires into the ceiling. Liv orders him onto the ground at the point of Karla's gun, and cuffs him. "You're okay," Liv pants, but a sobbing Karla very much is not.

Cop shop. Liv hurls her blazer at a coat rack, where it lands on a hook perfectly straight. Got it in one! Nice. Barba hopes Karla thought Byron was going to assault her, presumably so he won't have to charge her, but Liv doesn't think so; nor does she think Byron broke in. She's going to take Karla's statement "in the morning" while Byron cools his heels in a holding pen overnight for tampering with a witness. Karla's not there now? I sympathize with her, but: menacing? illegal discharge of a weapon? Liv sighs that this way they can guarantee Byron shows up for court tomorrow. "If only to file false imprisonment charges," Barba sighs back, like, thank you, as I said I stand with Karla but she didn't not do anything. Barba says maybe Liv should just have let Karla shoot Byron. Liv snorts. Barba has to point out that he was joking. After a moment, Liv cry-voices, "I told her to point a loaded gun at me." Barba makes a face like "Livs gonna Liv," and Liv says, "I have a kid, Rafael. What was I thinking?" Not paraphrasing; that's the line. Barba doesn't know what to say to it either, so he pats her on the shoulder and murmurs, "Anyway." Pretty much, yeah. As he's leaving, Liv wonders if there's any way to convince a judge this isn't a political matter. Barba's like, after poor widdle Mrs. Byron cried on the stand about having her hubby taken away? Unlikely. Liv stomps off to take Karla's statement.

Said statement goes into detail about the rape -- Karla remembering trying to get through it by counting crumbs from her breakfast toast is quite affecting -- and is taken in the presence of Mrs. Byron, Dworkin, and Formosa. No idea how that's supposed to be binding, what the timeline is, whether Karla consented to putting this on Front Street for Mr. Formosa...I assume they're flooring it in the A-plot because Bruisegate ate so much runtime, but let's just go with it. Mrs. Byron is crying; Dworkin complains that this is completely out of line (amen). Liv tells him he can leave if he doesn't want to hear it. Mrs. Byron can't believe it was Byron, but Karla presses on with her story. Prompted by Liv, Karla sobs that, when Byron was done, he let her drop to the ground, then urinated on her. Dworkin starts to herd Mrs. Byron out of the room, but Liv notes that they have Byron's DNA, so they know he's done the same thing to at least two other women. Liv then works the kid angle, talking about how Noah insisted on bringing Teddy to school so he wouldn't get scared at home alone. (Fine, that's cute.) Teresa, the Byronlet, used her allowance to buy her doll a dress so she'd look pretty at Teresa's birthday. Dworkin can see the effect this is having, but Liv talks over him to ask Mrs. Byron if she really wants a rapist raising her daughter. Dworkin's like, aaaaand scene, but now Mrs. Byron wants to know what happens if she changes her mind and her story. Liv says that's fine: "All you have to do, is tell the truth." Barba asks Formosa in Spanish what the Cuban government's play is. Formosa basically says they'll stand aside if Mrs. Byron changes her testimony. Is Byron going to jail? Liv assures Mrs. Byron that her soon-to-be-ex is going to pay. Mrs. Byron wants to go home. Formosa will put her on a plane. They leave. All better! ...Yeah, I know, but again, just going with it here. Dworkin knows he's beat and asks if Barba is willing to talk. "As long as he does double digits…and the first one is two," Barba says smugly.

Everyone else shuffles out, and of course Karla has to thank Liv, although Liv says that was "all you, Karla." Karla half-jokingly asks when the closure kicks in. Liv takes her hands: "You're gonna be good. That I can promise you." You…can? Because picking up trash as part of your gun-charge probation is cl…eansing? This show, ffs.

…THIS SHOW, FFS. Okay, so Liv is fun-mom sing-songing "Who wants ice creaaaam?" to Noah and teasing him about how he ate all the strawberry ice cream AND finished the chocolate syrup too, like they're roommates and he was supposed to put it on the list or something, idek. There's a knock at the door, because Liv lives in the Felicity dorm where you can just walk into the building, no doorman, no buzzer. She does check the peephole, for once, and given who's on the other side of the door,

I suppose you could fanwank it, since they were basically living together a few years ago and he could still have a key, or have badged her doorman, but it seriously happens all the time on the show and I simply cannot accept that a longtime SVU detective who has been stalked her own self would be this blithe about home security, especially not when she has a kid now. She gets doorstepped by Brooke Shields in the next episode, no? Writers: buzzer. Videophone. Something.

Anyway, Cassidy is still foine, and flirty about Liv owing him a cup of coffee. She allows as how it's not a great time, but doesn't invite him in, choosing to make chitchat in the doorway about Cassidy's moving to Florida, and this is totally me projecting because I own three cats but Liv just standing there with the door open is giving me agita. Invite the man in already, jeez -- especially since the rambling story he's telling about deciding retirement isn't for him and moving back to Gotham to take an investigator gig in the DA's office is taking kiiiind of a long time to get to any kind of point. As I'm wondering why he didn't bring his old partner Munch with him since he's also on DA-investigator detail, and whether Belzer passed on coming back or what, Cassidy edges up to why he's really there, saying he caught a child-abuse case. SVU had to recuse themselves, he says. "That's odd," Liv says, because apparently giving Karla purpose and meaning caused a selective amnesia concerning Bruisegate in The Best Detective Ever. Cassidy's like, sooooo it's not really that odd because we're investigating you. Liv gawps at him for what feels like a month, no doubt groping for something, anything to say in the face of the utter pointlessness and inanity that is this plot twist. Cassidy comes to tell her? Not a social worker or Child Services, or IAB? Not a cop from another precinct? Not Peter Gallagher's left eyebrow? And…now they come? Over a single bruise that she can credibly explain, and presumably did already? And seriously, truly, find me someone who cares in the first damn place. YOU CAN'T. NO ONE CARES. NO ONE! NOT ONE PERSON!

CREDITS! …God.

Dear Lord in heaven, how I love to hate this 25-car pile-up of a show. Thanks so much for coming on this journey with me, and for supporting us in our quest to return to old-school epic recaps. (I dare y'all to force me to recap the Vixy Platinum episode somehow. Hee.)

Cragen 4eva,
Sars

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