Law & Order: SVU's 400th Episode Is A Mother
The show celebrates a milestone with a MarHar-directed take on the predator-shrink trope.
Fifteen-year-old Luke Keller is headed home after an argument with his dad, but can't reach his mom -- and is greeted with what sounds like a struggle. He grabs a hunting rifle from a gun safe and heads downstairs to investigate, and finds his mom Nicole bent over the breakfast bar. She spots Luke and pointedly wails, "Help, he's raping me!"
Luke overcomes his horror and trembling hands to shoot her assailant...who turns out to be Trey Franklin, Luke's best friend. Nicole's immediately fishy and rehearsed-sounding story is that, although Luke was at his dad's for the evening, she let Trey in to do homework, and when she went downstairs for a glass of wine, he forced himself on her. But those of us who have watched any L&O franchise before knew as soon as we found out Nicole is a psychiatrist that she'd probably been having a purposeful relationship with Trey...
...and sure enough, she'd LeTourneau'd both Trey and classmate of Trey and Luke's, Ethan, into boning her. Her ex-husband reports to the squad that she's a "malignant narcissist," and after he's done expositioning the symptoms of borderline-personality disorder, Barba decides to go after Nicole for third-degree rape of a minor and second-degree murder. The script could do a better job of connecting the dots of intent here, but I believe the rationale is that, once she realized Luke had busted them, she decided to set Luke up for his death -- and Nicole even changes her defense strategy on the stand, implying that Luke had known all along about her "relationship" with Trey and even masturbated while watching them Doing It at one point.
The jury is rightly grossed out and finds Nicole guilty on both counts.
Word of advice: avoid Googling the basic outlines of the plot to check my work here, because you will turn up some deeply disturbing shit, like the Italian mom who killed her son (who was eight) for discovering her affair with her father-in-law. That said, this is probably not ripped from any specific headlines.
Sarah Wynter as Nicole. Hat tip to Aaron Sanders as Luke; he's quite good.
Delaney Williams as Counselor Buchanan and Jenna Stern as Judge Barth. Daniel "Matt Durning" Cosgrove as Luke's father seems like he should have turned up in the L&O-verse by now, but never has. Benton Greene (Trey's father) has credits from all three L&Os, including as defense counsel in one of Criminal Intent's takes on Bernardo/Homolka.
Nicole's childlike recitation of the "assault" includes the line, "He pulled up my nightgown and put his penis inside me," which is all the creepier given that she's talking about a minor child.
"Fifteen's a crazy age," he murmurs, and that's before the naked Polaroids of Nicole and Trey are discovered jammed into a copy of Anais Nin (...hee).
It doesn't seem like Barba actually can choose to recall Luke in lieu of cross-examining Nicole, but I didn't go to law school.
Liv, because moms, and I acknowledge that the case is unsettling, but she keeps it together for most of the episode -- until Barba's like, "I need a cocktail; you?", at which time Liv immediately gets teary-voiced and falters that she needs to go home and see Noah and "be with my boy," like, given that the case involved the statutory rape of a teenager, is anyone else just a trifle weirded out that her first instinct is to go home and snuggle her own toddler son?
And that she's crying about it? Hargitay did a good job directing the ep otherwise, but as I've said before, she's a lieutenant, and the tremblechin Taking! It! Personally! is not a pro look. Next time that acting choice comes up, MarHar needs to...not.
Not a one. Can I get a amen up in here?