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The Man In The Mirror Is A Sleazy Pickup Artist On Law & Order: SVU

And the episode itself shows us two faces, with zippy dialogue and strong acting culminating in a cheap shocker.

Initial Crime

Rollins and Carisi arrive at the hotel-room scene of a suicide attempt to find that Laura Collett didn't just try to take her own life; she sent a dying-declaration text to a burner phone accusing the recipient of having raped her. We've just seen her pack her husband and son off on a college-admissions trip, then meet up with her alleged attacker at a hotel room, where he asked her point-blank if she was sure she wanted to have sex and she assented...not to mention that Laura had sent a text ten minutes before the "you raped me" one claiming that it was the "best sex ever." So what happened?

Real Crime

Well, Laura is obsessed with getting her son Justin into Hudson University -- the most dangerous institution of higher education in the world; nice parenting -- and will do anything to assure him of a spot in the class of 2021, up to and including boning an admissions officer, which the mystery text recipient claimed to be. But he isn't; he's a pickup artist named Tom Metcalf who styles himself as various important careerists (neurologist; admissions dean) to get women to sleep with him. He's even planning to write a book about it. This isn't a crime, technically (Tom looked it up), but Benson is petulantly determined to nail him for rape by fraud, reasoning that, if his victims didn't know his real identity, they weren't capable of informed consent. That Metcalf appears to have been secretly filming the sexual encounters would seem to give her and a semi-reluctant Barba leverage...

REAL Real Crime

...but trial judge Johnny Sack is not keen on Barba's activist prosecution and basically orders Barba and Metcalf's attorney to come to a plea agreement, which means the Colletts' dirty laundry got aired for nothing, prompting a mortified Justin to take the clunkily dropped hints from the third and fourth acts and attempt suicide himself -- and succeed, while Mariska Hargitay is left to take the trash out with a series of rubbery faces.

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No shade on Hargitay, who's trying to give an unearned grabber emotional resonance. That she can summon any amount of horror after the corny close-ups of Justin's head surrounded by a halo of fugazi Gatorade "blood" is the hallmark of a professional. That ending's a serious sellout of an interesting concept paired with entertaining zingers and solid performances.

Verdict

The jury does seem like it will let Metcalf off on a rape charge, and since it's actually his skeezo doorman friend who installed the secret cameras, Judge Sack tells Barba to take what he can get with an unauthorized-surveillance misdemeanor.

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Worth it for that glower, though.

Headlines This Was Ripped From

Barba refers to the state legislature trying to tie identity fraud of this type to consent issues; the Jersey statehouse tried to do that in 2014 but it doesn't seem to have gone much of anywhere. And a pick-up artist named Roosh got arrested for rape earlier this year, but...

How Was The Real Story Fictionalized?

Roosh is apparently openly "pro-rape," roofied women to get them to sleep with him, etc. -- i.e., he's a legit bad guy and his victims really didn't consent, versus Metcalf just sleazeballing it up with borrowed apartments and burner phones.

Famous Guest Star Who Obviously Did It

Wallace Langham, late of CSI (if you've never seen him in The Chocolate War, try to track it down; he seemed like a comer, once upon a time). Callie Thorne is his attorney and is guilty of nothing but defense-attorney zeal (and inspiring my tonsorial envy with her razored lob). Paula Marshall is Laura.

L&O-verse Regulars

Thorne turned up in a couple SVUs in '03 and '04, though I don't remember her role in them. Vincent Curatola as Judge Bertuccio is a semi-regular fixture in courtroom scenes. Chris Henry Coffey as Laura's husband notched a few Criminal Intents as a defense attorney or tech.

It's Late, Y'all!

"Just gotta say, best sex ever" is cringey, but relatively tame.

Fin Speaks For Us All

His aria of snark re: whether lying to get laid is a crime is art, starting with, "Just being real? Lyin' to have sex is just part of the game."

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Then he chuckles, "I pretended to be Melle Mel's cousin one night -- you tryin' to tell me that was rape?" I guess I should disapprove of that, especially since it probably actually happened in Ice-T's real life, but I can't stay mad at a guy who's trying to puncture Liv's petulant self-righteousness with "Everybody's lyin' at the club, trust me on that." And it's not like he admires Metcalf:

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He's also not the only one flinging one-liners; when Carisi's getting ready for the interview Barba set up for him with a Brooklyn ADA, Rollins asks if he has to grow a beard and make artisan pickles, which ha ha we've heard that one three times before breakfast but Kelli Giddish sells it. Later, Carisi whacks the printer and grumbles, "You know what's overrated? Wireless. That and putting lemon in water, I don't get that." I like both those things and the lines don't totally work for the gentle gourmand Carisi usually presents as but I still laughed. Nice work by longtime L&O writer-producer Rick Eid and first-time SVU scribe Gavin Harris (he did write a couple Convictions).

Egregious Breach Of Procedure

Why is the whole squad in the gallery again? This was bad enough when everyone was just humping along as detectives but Liv has a squad to run, no?

Who On The SVU Team Is Taking It Personally?

Liv, because she's trying to get Noah into some schmancy private pre-K and because moms; Barba, because Judge Bertuccio walked right up to the line of ordering him to dismiss the charges.

Revelations About The Continuing Characters' Personal Lives That We Should Remember Going Forward

Noah's language skills are "underdeveloped" for his age. Can't wait to see how they tie that to special-victims policework! Just kidding, I can wait indefinitely, show!

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