Special Review Unit Bottom Five: Rescue

Scene Depicted Does Not Occur in Episode

Title: Rescue (Season 12, Episode 10)

Uncomfortable Synopsis: A SVU detective’s interest in a young boy leads to legal proceedings.

Memorable Line: “You were expecting a pie chart?”

Plot: Detectives are called to a party and investigate the case of twenty-six year-old Caitlin Lamark. She’s definitely not the belle of the ball as everyone who knew her found her to be … troublesome to say the least. Caitlin was writing a blog about her sexual encounters with the male employees at the ad agency she used to work for. Despite apparently being invited to a party with all of her ex-co-workers, she was found bleeding from the back of her head and violated (Remember, this is Special Victims Unit, so they can’t just respond to a case of head trauma.)

Stabler and Benson discuss Calvin, the kid she’s fostering, while making their way to the hospital to interview Caitlin. There, they discover she died from her head wound.

Oops.

Medical Examiner Warner tells them that hitting the mirror caused her brain to bleed. Also, she found a “blue fluid with particulate” in her.

Back at the squad room, the SVU team discusses Caitlin’s blog, which was meant to be a private goof until one of her friends made it available to everyone. This is an important lesson in Internet Safety, kids. NOTHING is a private goof online and trying to keep something on the down-low means you’ll eventually get questioned by Detectives Munch and Tutuola.

“I don’t like your status update.”

Thanks to Finn’s computer work, the team gets a list of dudes who slept with Caitlin in an attempt to figure out who invited her to the party. One of them, “Ash” turns out to be the boyfriend of Jill, the girl who threw the party and called the cops.

Finn and Stabler question Jill about a text message she sent to Caitlin. Stabler lays out the whole plan to her: they all decided to invite her in an attempt to humiliate and kill her. She cracks and says, “I didn’t mean to kill her.” Admitting that the two struggled, she explains how she laid Caitlin on the bed and pretended that she didn’t know the victim was even there … but she doesn’t take the rap for the sodomizing the body with blue stuff. Stabler tells Captain Cragen that he believes her, but that leaves a possible rapist in that group of advertising people until ME Warner arrives with news of the substances she found: defibrillator transmission gel and silica powder from a medical glove. It doesn’t take long for them to leap to the conclusion that one of the paramedics raped Caitlin.

I know, it seems like the plot is thickening, but trust me. It’s not.

The trail leads to one Mike O’Doole, a 32-year veteran and his partner Chris Tinta. The junior EMT has multiple flags in regards to forcing himself on women. Stabler and Benson go to visit the medics to “ask” about Caitlin. The two stonewall the detectives with O’Doole claiming he was in the back … but it turns out the older tech has his own proclivities. He likes to take watches and jewelery at crime scenes.

Stabler brings O’Doole in for stealing a wedding ring from a heart attack call. Poking holes in his story, the guy rolls over on his partner and agrees to wear a wire.

Oh, except Benson walks away because Calvin got into a fight at school.

Also, oh — Benson has been sitting on a sample of Calvin’s blood in an attempt to find his father. Stabler finds it in her desk and sends it off to Warner to get a trace.

O’Doole makes for a terrible informant, but Tinta is an even stupider guy, giving up everything to the police wire. He tries to make a run for it, only to get to the ambulance and giving himself an air-embolism before justice could be metered out.

So, with that story over, we learn that Calvin’s mother Vivian was spotted with her good friend Sarah at the open house O’Doole knocked over during the heart attack call. It turns out the pair have been showing up at other open houses to rifle through the homeowners’ medicine cabinets. Did I forget to mention Calvin’s mother is a junkie? I do that sometimes. Just as Benson and Stabler are off to investigate, this week’s ADA tells her that she cannot interview the witnesses.

Benson leaves as she gets another phone call telling her that Calvin is in trouble. Stabler is also pulled off the case. When Finn and Munch question the older couple who lost their ring to O’Doole, they find out “the lady cop” asked all the same questions.

Ahead of the game, Benson tracks Vivian to a flophouse in the south Bronx. Strung out, Vivian is only mildly surprised to see the detective, who arrests her.

Vivian shouts one of the most important truisms about Olivia Benson: “You ruin everything!” She also tries to barter with Liv for custody of Calvin: Olivia can keep the kid if she just lets Vivian go. Stabler appears to push the phony-baloney moral choice. You can guess which one she makes.

At the squad room, Vivian tells the detectives the story of how she murdered the guy in her previous episode — who also happened to be her father. Cragen appears at the door and pulls them both out of the interview room. He’s about to give his famous “you just used your ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card” speech again when Sarah appears to confess to the murder herself.

Remember how this episode started with interesting crimes?

Sarah tells Finn what happened, but Vivian explains her motivation to Munch. In one of those silly cross-cutting scenes, the two reveal how pain prevents them from ever getting clean.

At arraignment, the defense attorney tries to use Benson’s involvement to get the bail amount reduce. Surprisingly, it doesn’t work, but Vivian has the cash to spring Sarah anyway. Benson and Vivian talk on the courthouse steps and she admits that she wants to see Calvin. They go back and forth about being damaged when shots are fired. Sarah is found shot in the head. Vivian blames Olivia.

But, of course…

ME Warner appears at the squad room to tell Stabler that the man who shot Sarah is Calvin’s father. Trace evidence at the crime scene partially matches Calvin’s blood sample. They rush to the father’s house and discover him waiting there with the murder weapon on the table. Turns out he cleaned up, but resented Sarah for taking both Vivian and Calvin away from him. The news reports of Vivian brought him to the courthouse in order to exact revenge.

Back at HQ, Child Protective Services arrives to take Calvin away. Vivian has rescinded Benson’s claim to the child. Also, Calvin’s father has signed over his rights to his own parents. This understandably disturbs Calvin and the episode ends with him screaming “Olivia!”

Why it’s one of the worst: As much as a break of format leads to a terrible episode of SVU, it seems any attempt to give Olivia more an interior life also takes us down the rabbit hole into the bottom five. Echoing all the way back to the pilot, “Escape” offers us another look at what Olivia’s wiling to do when it comes to her limp desire for a family.

It seems the producers of the show sought to mix up the SVU formula again in Season 12, probably in the hopes of securing several more years on the air. The original squad room was replaced by a new modern facility that, quite honestly, seemed like a waste of effort. The season also solidified the idea of a rotating stable of ADAs for the detectives to spar with. Both everyone’s favorite ADA Alex Cabot and her worthy replacement Casey Novak returned. Even drunky DA Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) reappeared for to give Stabler someone to feel superior toward.

Sadly, Sharon Stone did not return as ADA Jo Marlowe … much to the determent of a second Review Unit Top 5.

Come back, Sharon! All’s forgiven!

Another quirk of the season was Benson’s fostering of Calvin. Though the character does not appear in every single episode, he is mentioned (explaining away Liv’s modest presence in some stories). The writing team is playing with the character’s wish for roots again. With the death of her mother early on in the show’s run, Olivia has been on her own. On occasion, she has become awfully concerned with a child involved in a case. In one instance, the daughter of rich rock stars became attached to her, but that disintegrated when Olivia refused to let her spend the night. A subsequent Internal Affair episode would bring this incident up as evidence of Olivia’s compromised state.

In Calvin, she seems to finally have it all … but just as quickly, it falls apart by writerly fiat. I think that’s the clear problem with this episode. It doesn’t feel natural or organic. Vivian returns because it is the mandated time for her to do so. Calvin is literally ripped from Benson’s arms so that she can have something else to feel raw about.

Remember, she’s a product of rape whose half-brother may or may not have been a rapist himself, but was forced to go on the run because of an overzealous sheriff with a vendetta. She also survived an almost-attack at a women’s prison that left her unable to do her job for several episodes. Also: her mom died while drunk and falling down some stairs.

So, you know, the show likes to pile it onto Benson and I guess the audience never complains too loudly about it … but I find these episodes to be some the least deserving of broadcast.

And, like the previous Bottom Five entry, it comes at the cost of some pretty interesting crimes. The case of Caitlin Lamark takes some curious twists with her sex blog, the angry girlfriend angle, and finally, the EMTs who dabble in crime. That’s an idea worthy of its own episode that gets rushed through so Olivia can get another whipping at the hands of the writing staff.

It seems like such a long way to go just to punish a fictional character.

Like the pilot, Olivia also commits some serious dereliction of duty that Cragen seemingly just forgives. His scenes in this episode remind me just how hokey this aspect of the format is and just how often his threats of a “rip” comes back to his line in the pilot about the “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Back then, THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, he said, “There’s only one in the pack.” Clearly, he’s got a lot of packs in his desk.

This episode also features one of the less successful ADAs assigned to the Sex Crimes Bureau. Gillian Hardwicke, as played by Melissa Sagemiller, really comes off as a disposable guest character whose only job is to “neener, neener” at Benson and Stabler. I know that’s often the role of the ADA on this show, but at least there used to be a character attached to that. With Hardwicke, one gets the sense that she’s here because one the more dependable actors was unavailable.

All and all, this episode makes me long for the laser-like focus of Sharon Stone’s five-episode stint in Season Eleven. Yeah, she chewed all the scenery, but at least it wasn’t because Olivia screwed up again.

Lesson learned: Olivia ruins everything. She will find where you live and piss all over it.

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About Erik

Erik Amaya is the host of Tread Perilously and the former Head Film/TV writer at Bleeding Cool. He has also contributed to sites like CBR, Comics Alliance and Fanbase Press. He is also the voice of Puppet Tommy on "The Room Responds."
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