The Cases That Haunt Us
Huang returns, and so does an S14 case ripped from the 1979 headlines -- and Liv's soggy self-regard. Boo. However: Barba! Yay!
Back in 2012, Lewis Hodda allegedly kidnapped a young boy, and in order to get Hodda to give up the boy's location during interrogation (which we see), Liv threatened to lock him up as a "chilmo" (which we don't see) as a means of getting him to talk.
That threat produced not just little Wyatt's location, but an admission of guilt in the long-ago disappearance of Hector Rodriguez, whose backpack 1) is mentioned specifically by Hodda in the interrogation and 2) turned up in the suspiciously-timed "new" concrete of a building Hodda used to manage. Hodda's as good as convicted on the circumstantial evidence, but at the eleventh hour bucks his plea deal and fires his lawyer.
...That, according to everyone's faces of silent-movie revulsion, like, just exactly how long have you people been doing this particular thing for a living that a scumbag acting selfishly causes this degree of rubbery consternating? Bring it down about 377 notches, maybe. According to Liv, it's also at least a misdemeanor for Hodda's fancy new defense attorney to question the ethics of her interrogation techniques, and when Dr. George Huang has the temerity to take early retirement from the FBI's OK City office and go into consulting, Liv is cartoonishly offended and hurt, pacing around the elevator she's awkwardly confronted Huang in like a caged cry-voice-iraptor and whining, "We used to put away guys like that!" You want a "REAL Real Crime"? THAT? Is a lieutenant. ...This goddamn show. It was doing pretty well lately too!
Barba, forced to try Hodda on the Rodriguez murder despite the fact that it's a weaker case because the kidnap victim's parents won't let him testify, is also not allowed to bring in any other alleged bad acts AND has to manage an uber-defensive Liv on the stand AND the forewoman is, according to social media, stoked about a family reunion she's got planned for Thanksgiving, which in the show's timeline is that week. That last bit is pointed out by the law-school "shadow" Barba reluctantly agreed to for the duration of the trial, one Detective Carisi, whom Barba is still disproportionately annoyed by until he pulls down a key tell during Hodda's direct and lets Barba convert it. But the jury's hopelessly deadlocked, so despite a deal Barba and Calamity Hassler put together moments before, the judge has to declare a mistrial...but Liv emotionally blackmails Wyatt's mom into letting him take the stand in the retrial. Yay team?
Perhaps eagle-eyed readers will find a case in which the auxiliary police officer so interested in "helping" the real police actually committed the crime, but the closest analog I'm finding is the disappearance of Etan Patz, given the Pedro Hernandez mistrial in May of this year and his defense attorney's contention that his interrogation was improper. (As well, Mrs. Rodriguez didn't move in case Hector ever tried to come home. Heartbreaking.)
No conclusive evidence of Patz's presence was found in the basement the police excavated; two different men were considered strong suspects, but Jose Antonio Ramos was not tried in criminal court for killing Patz; and so on.
Tom Sizemore, who's really quite compelling -- and almost pathetic at times, in that Soviet dye job. JV officer Alex Karpovsky was a suspect in Rodriguez's disappearance and still seems like he could have had something to do with it. Robin Weigert is detestable as Hassler but technically innocent.
The usual suspects (as it were) return from the original episode devoted to Wyatt's kidnapping, "Manhattan Vigil": Mili Avital as Wyatt's mom, Liza Colón-Zayas as Dolores Rodriguez, Sizemore as Hodda, Karpovsky as Auxiliary Officer Lomatin (Munch is mentioned but unseen). BD Wong is back as Huang, of course. Trial judge Joe Grifasi is a Mothership and SVU veteran, usually as defense counsel. And the jury forewoman looks to me like Kathryn Meisle, who played Gina Silver in S01E13, "Disrobed" (judge took beejs to keep abusive husbands in jail) but IMDb isn't confirming at this writing and it doesn't sound exactly like her.
The similarities to/reminders of Etan Patz are sad, versus disgusting, but the show's decision to make the actually/recently pregnant Kelli Giddish act the terror of hemorrhaging during labor is figuratively quite gross.
Liv allegedly only turned the camera on after already having questioned Hodda for six hours, but she's not yelly or threatening that we can hear. Hassler's "deal's off, sucka" play when the bailiff comes in with the note from the jury seems sketch to me, but Barba doesn't object to it. Mostly it's Officer Karpovsky, who offers that he'll say "anything" the real PD wants in order to get a shot at a legit badge, and later passes a bribe to get information on a juror who lied about an assault conviction.
Liv, because moms, and because Huang, and because anyone has the temerity to question her ethics, and because that that someone is Barba a couple of times, though his "you need the prep or you'll bone this cross" take on Liv's attitude is both businesslike and a relief to this viewer. Rollins is also obliged to take it personally since Karpovsky had a crush on her and she has to work that from bed rest to help research the case.
Looking sharp in his courtroom suit, and sweetly supportive as he brings Rollins to the hospital when she needs to go on a monitor, but no Tutuola truth bombs.
Wherever Munch opened that bar, it's keeping him too busy to come back to testify. Huang got so sick of Oklahoma he took early retirement. Carisi and Fin have been keeping a consistent eye on Rollins, but the baby's heart rate is doing things her doctors don't like; at the end of the ep, she goes into labor, then feels a stabbing pain, then starts bleeding, and while Giddish's rendition of terror is legit, I again have to object to Leight & Co. making her do this. It's mean, and this is a police procedural, hello.