Goodbye To All That
Alec Baldwin peaces out on NYC playing a tabloid monster on the New-Yorkiest show ever. Sarah respects his desire for privacy by not using a press photo with him in it.
Alec Baldwin, the only L&O guest star to date who's both contributed to a script (a '98 Mothership episode about, shocker, his damaging experiences with the tabloids) and appeared on the show, takes his leave of public life as a Mike Fake-alary type who interferes in an SVU investigation while strongly implying that he's going to die of lung cancer. Obviously.
A Muslim woman is found in Central Park, her headscarf torn; she accuses two white men of assaulting her and calling her a "Muslim bitch." Benson's decision on whether to declare the assault a hate crime is complicated by the 1PP-mandated presence of legendary columnist Jimmy "Mac" MacArthur, who's exploiting the full access granted by the police commissioner in order to become the story himself.
The victim, Heba, lied about the stranger part of the rape; she was actually lured up to the office of her brother's boss, Elias Kemp Jr., while tipsy on her first glass of champagne, where Elias and his evil ginger colleague, Mike Sullivan, attacked her.
According to the episode, that Jimmy Mac has declared Heba's story a hoax and implied that SVU is leaking details of the crime, which in turn undermines their investigation and re-victimizes Heba, but given that 1) Benson has 15 years' experience in the unit and 2) SVU has consistently portrayed every member of the press as a venal information broker with no larger sense of ethics, I don't feel that sorry for our heroes.
Jimmy Mac makes explicit reference to Tawana Brawley, a favorite stalking horse of Law & Order since the first season, and calls Heba a "Tawana-be," a phrase he's planning to trademark -- but Jimmy himself is a mix of his originator, Alec Baldwin (viz. his speech at the end about how he's quitting the Ledger, he's 55, all his ex-wives hate him, etc.), and the New York tab monsters of the past -- Breslin, McAlary, eg. I think that "I write for the guy who takes the 7 train" line is Breslin's.
Brawley was African-American, not a Muslim from India; Breslin is historically tied to Son of Sam, not Brawley, and I don't believe he took an adversarial position against NYPD on those murders.
Baldwin didn't commit any felonies, but the real baddies aren't names, and Questlove (as a body in Warner's office) and Katie Couric (as herself) don't count.
The "remnants of torn hymen tissue" indicating the attackers took Heba's virginity; the use of "Eiffel tower" as a verb (complete with icky hand gesture) (you can look it up, but I…would not).
After last week's breach-athon, it's a refreshingly by-the-book evening for SVU, though that prat Abraham naturally sticks the squad with Jimmy Mac with no warning, then accuses them of shooting their own case in the foot by giving him intel.
Benson seems to feel personally betrayed by Jimmy's late-career cynicism, at one point suspecting he took a payout from Elias's family to side against Heba. She's super-fidgety at dinner with Jimmy as she talks about not having as many nightmares, then asks him to take that part off the record.
Jimmy: "'Tutuola.' Two Ts, two Us --" Fin: "One '-ola.'" …Hey, I laughed.
Even if the press hadn't made a BFD of Hargitay making her directorial debut in this ep, I would have known; first-timers can never resist the handheld, but she settled down with that after the second act break. She should have declined to shoot that cheesy "always be closing" Glengarry hat-tip, though. …Oh, the case. Well, thanks to giant Ledger headlines that prove irresistible to the jurors -- specifically, the one in which Jimmy converts after a Benson guilt trip and makes the story about how Elias's family and NYPD "played" him into think Heba was lying -- a mistrial is declared. Elias hurls Mike under the bus and gets no time, but they both join the sex-offender registry, and Elias's family gives Heba's family a big cash settlement to go away.
Warner's sick of Rollins asking if she's "sure" about various results, and we get our first overt reference to de Blasio (instead of the "new mayor" of previous episodes), but no Cassidy, no gambling, no Nick stalking Maria.