Title: Shattered (Season 11, Episode 24)
Uncomfortable Synopsis: A contentious custody battle leads to a confrontation at the city morgue.
Memorable Line: “You can can-can your ass off, Dr. Gerard, but you’ve got some explaining to do.”
Runner up: “So we just sit here while she gets her brains beaten out in the boobie hatch?”
Plot: Detectives are called to the scene of a kidnapping. The squabbling witnesses fail to give Benson, Stabler or Finn much help, but the technical wizards back at HQ discern the boy, Nicholas Olsen, was abducted off the street and into a van that screams “child predator.” Red, blue, green, with bunnies on the side, the van says “Gary’s Gooforama” on the side. Benson and Stabler pay Gary a visit. After scaring him and making him lose his most expensive balloon package, Gary shows them his van has been out next to his business for the past six months. Meanwhile, Finn finds the duplicate van torched under a bridge. Inside, they find a school book for Whitethorn Academy.
There, the detectives talk with the principle, who is either Sharon Stone’s understudy or desperately trying out for an opening in “Sin City 2.” She also has a hard time opening her mouth when she talks. Video at the school reveals Nicholas’s mother, Sophie, visited the boy and gave him a necklace. An officer who can read lips discern Sophie told her the necklace would keep him safe.
Nicholas’s father Paul comes to HQ and describes Sofie’s archeological digs and lifestyle. She’s always away and it drove them apart. Benson and Stabler pay her a visit to question her. Stabler finds packed bags for China and arrests her. She starts to freak out when Benson tells her Nicholas is missing.
Questioning the parents, the detectives get a he said/she said reel which includes Sofie allegedly attacking Paul with a ceremonial axe, Paul possibly destroying rare artifacts and both calling the other a pathological liar. All the ways people go at each other when a child is involved.
Finn, meanwhile, found a French passport for Nicholas, one-way tickets to China and such. When ADA Jo Marlowe (SHARON STONE!?) questions Sofie, she eventually gives up the name of professional child recovery guy Jason Culross; an ex-Green Berret. When detectives visit his warehouse, Benson ends up in a sleeper hold and Stabler knocks the guy out. When he comes to, Culross reveals he walked away from the case because he found out Sofie was lying about her custodial situation.
In the midst of this, one of Sophie’s credit cards is used to get a motel room on Long Island. When they arrive on the scene, the local police have the place secured, having cleared out a couple of guests and a maid. When Stabler and Benson break into the room Nicholas and his abductor are supposed to be in, they find the maid. Turn out the kiddnapper grabbed her clothes, cart, and car keys. A car chase ensues and the car goes over into the sound.
Yeah, you read that right. The kid and his napper died. Um … Dong-Dong!
After a reaction montage that kills any emotion one might have about a little boy dying, Cragen presses Benson to get the confession out of Sofie. Unfortunately, Sofie has entered La-la Land and insists she must get to Nicholas because he’ll be out of school soon. Dr. Huang appears to tell them she’s having a breakdown and the boy’s death must be made real for her. Jo and Benson take her to the morgue.
There, Sofie starts to get it together and just as she appears ready to talk, the lip-reading officer escorts Paul into the room. He freaks out, Sofie matches her. In the struggle, Sofie grabs the officer’s gun, pushes him out of the room, accidentally shoots ME Warner and announces “everyone will die!”
She also wants everyone to be quiet because Nicholas is sleeping. Clearly, she’s cuckoo-bananas at this point, so Jo does the only thing she can to defuse the situation, join her. She admonishes Paul and tells him to apologize to Nicholas.
This works long enough for Benson to assist Warner in saving her own life and getting her out of the room. Upon leaving, she tells the other techs “Get away from me, you vultures, I’m not dead yet.” Back in the morgue, Sofie is getting ready to shoot Paul and presumably Jo and then herself. When Jo tries to remind her that Nicholas shouldn’t be seeing this, Sofie switches tracks and admits her son is dead.
At some point, Jo admits she got breast cancer and had a radical, bilateral mastectomy. It’s unclear if Jo is making this up or offering a true confession, but it keeps Sofie reeling long enough for Stabler to burst through the air ducts to reveal Paul hired the guy who abducted Nicholas. Needless to say, Sofie’s got the blood libel and is ready to kill Paul.
At this moment, Jo PICKS UP NICHOLAS’S CORPSE and manages to get her to drop the gun. She then takes the body from Jo and sings it a lullaby.
Shockingly, that’s the end of the episode.
Why It Is a Contender: With the top 5 complete, I’ve waited for an episode to have the magic ingredients of insanity, doubles cross, and affluent families to give me a contender for to break the list apart and reorder. This season 11 episode is close. While some would say Sharon Stone is the added spice that makes this stew work, I’d argue something else is going on. All the elements come together in an episode worthy of being the season finale.
First, there’s the parade of over-acting. I’m told guest star Isabelle Hubbert is quite respected in the foreign film circuit and appeared in some well-received film that no doubt brought her to the attention of the SVU production team. Here, she’s utterly ridiculous. Even though she’s supposed to be playing unhinged, it comes off as the wrong kind of unhinged. So much so, that when Sharon Stone joins the crazy, it’s more because she doesn’t want to outdone by a guest character.
Secondly, the episode features a high speed chase that takes place COMPLETELY OFF CAMERA. It’s a wonderfully un-subtle moment of budget constraints. The camera goes for a tight shot of Mariska Hargitay as she reacts to the police chatter, no doubt read to her by a script supervisor with a thick Jersey accent. It’s bold in its way, but cheap in another. I’m sure if it had been produced earlier in the season, we would’ve seen at least part of the chase and maybe even the car going over the bridge.
The lip-reading officer early on mentions a “deaf grandmother” who would be proud of him. Let’s examine that line for a moment. How exactly does that work? She’s couldn’t train him to lip read, right? His learning it would not aid their communication in any appreicable way. I guess she’s always just a little bit proud of him … even when he allows a crazed French woman to take his service pistol and shoot a medical examiner.
Ooh, while we’re at it, this episode indulges in some Francophobia. From the memorable line to the way the school principle says Sophie is French, there is an undercurrent of French resistance that I simply cannot decide is a joke or honest fear of baguettes.
Actor D.W. Moffett’s turnabout at the end is priceless. He plays the character as though the twist was withheld from him for fear of telegraphing the truth too soon. His blubbery endlines are just a hoot.
Stabler does “Die Hard.” Need I say more?
Okay, let’s talk Sharon Stone. She was a mid-grade actress perfectly suited to movies like “Total Recall” and “Alan Qatermaine and the Lost City of Gold.” She’s a working actor who does okay in a low-grade sort of cinema one likes to watch on TBS on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then “Casino” happened. Yes. Martin Scorcesse’s epic about the rise and fall of the Mob in Las Vegas. Stone played a hustler who marries Robert De Niro’s lead character. She’s a sex-pot at the start of the film, but a ridden-raw junkie by the end. It’s an amazing performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination. There’s just one catch: it’s not a genuinely good performance. Like Paul Veerhoven, Marty played to Stone’s weaknesses as an actor. The role is built around the extent to which Stone can not pull off things. Based on that, the director got out of her a remarkable character that is truly a credit to the profession.
And she’s been trying to recapture it ever since.
While turning into America’s drunken (and grabby) aunt, Stone’s problem is understanding that she was the new hotness at the exact right moment for someone who looks like her. Two years on either side of her relevance, and she never would’ve gotten out of the sci-fi/adventure ghetto. Instead, she tries ACTING! Though not quite from the Lithgow school, her every move and line is forced and hammy as she pursues what she believes to be the craft. She even approaches basic television blocking with loudness. Count the times in this episode when she walks into the frame, stealing the shot from another actor. I’m convinced she pitched every line she said in the episode and everyone just agreed with her to get it over with. Consequently, her stint on SVU is the greatest thing she’s been part of since “Casino.”
Coming into SVU, she did her best to be “hard boiled.” She says things even Frank Miller would find absurd, rides along on the investigations as though it were a revolutionary way to do the job, and gets backstory via Stabler. She trained him and they were partners for a time. Each of her episodes feature her in Plot Contrivance Playhouse and, besides “Shattered,” at least one enters the special realm of the Review Unit. Did the writer mean for this to happen or was it all her influence. You the viewer can decide.
Sadly, her time was short with the series. Though, perhaps, groomed to be the permanent replacement for Stephanie March, Stone did not return to the series when its 12th season (god help us!) premiered last fall. Instead, several other actresses were announced and replaced. I’m not sure if the show currently has a regular prosecutor in its cast, but at least for four brief episodes, Sharon Stone did her thing and made her character a brightly-burned, if short lived candle.
You can tell this is the end of the season from the shot of Stabler and Benson that closes the episode. They have a genuine look that screams, “did we really participate in this mess?”