Of this week Law & Order: SVU – marking that huge milestone for the series – acknowledges the achievement via an Olivia-centric hour with a man from the Captain’s distant past.
Other familiar faces from more recent years also pop up on the EP, most notably Nick Amaro, Capt. Cragen and medical researcher Melinda Warner. And if you’re only reading this to find out if Chris Meloni’s Stabler is present in the episode, let us help you: he does, but it’s limited to a flashback of the show’s early seasons. Now, on to what happens in “The 500th Episode.”
On the way to school, Noah asks Olivia about his grandmother, Serena. “Does she like that you were a detective?” he wonders. What a coincidence, kid: we just had a flashback to the very first episode of the show, where Serena tells her daughter not to be a police officer anymore. At the police station, Liv tells Fin about Noah’s questions. “You went with short answers?” he says, well versed in the history of Benson women’s dynamics. (Ha.)
When Benson enters the interrogation room, she is surprised to see Amaro there with Rollins. After we hug Liv, we find out why he’s there: He went back to high school for genetics and forensics, and now he works for a company called Forum that uses new technology to solve old cases.
“We are testing DNA samples that used to be considered too small or too degraded,” he explains. And on the orders of a real-life crime writer investigating a 1990s SVU case, Amaro hopes Liv and her team will reopen the investigation.
The crime: the rape and strangulation of 15-year-old Haley West, who died at prom. Her then-boyfriend Ian confessed to the murder and has been in prison ever since, but he overturned his conviction and has maintained his innocence ever since. did not orchestrate.
Burton Lowe (Elementary‘s Aidan Quinn, who will always be Benny & Joonis Aidan Quinn to me) is the writer in question, and Olivia is surprised when he walks into her office and tells her she hasn’t changed. “We’re…old friends,” she tells the group. “From a lifetime ago,” adds Burton.
Through a helpful flashback to one of Olivia’s Season 6 conversations with Casey (in Episode 19 to be exact), we’re reminded that Serena was a college professor and that when Olivia was 16, Liv dated—and later got engaged to—a of Serena’s 21-year-old students. Burton was that student.
When they are alone, Liv tells him that Serena forced her to end their engagement via letter, adding that her mother said he had a girlfriend in college. He denies it, saying he was in love with Olivia, but disappeared after Serena threatened to have him evicted if he tried to contact her daughter. “She lied to both of us,” Benson says sadly.
Amaro stops by the morgue to retrieve the evidence left over from Haley’s case; the ME seems proud to hear that he is doing his PhD in biophysics. (Side note: literally no one asked, but I am proud that Amaro seems to have broken the SVU curse because he works normal hours, still pursues his passions in the service of the greater good, seems to have a good family life, and seems quite content overall.)
Meanwhile, Liv and Burton guide Ian through the night of the crime by taking him back to the high school bleachers where he and Haley were making out when they were attacked. He remembers being hit on the head and hearing that his girlfriend was being dragged away, and reliving the incident is so traumatic that the prisoner is left sobbing.
How about a little good news? Through the company Amaro represents, they discover that the seminal fluid on Haley’s underwear does not belong to Ian. But that evidence isn’t enough to exonerate him, so the team begins interviewing everyone involved again and perusing consumers’ genetic databases to find out who might have done it. In that sense, Liv consults Cragen, who tells FaceTimes that he is Haley’s tennis coach, Mr. Murray, never seriously considered a suspect because he was so close to the family and he seemed credible.
Murray is played by Brian Kerwin (A life to live, Broadways August: Osage County), and you all know what happens when the show brings in actors of this caliber to play these kinds of roles, so let’s recap this: He did it. He eventually admits the crime in public court, which shocks both his wife and Haley’s mother. And that’s when things get REALLY interesting. (And, forewarned is down below, a little icky.)
Let’s go back for a second. As the investigation continues, Liv and Burton gradually become more sociable. He kisses her during an evening walk in Central Park, and when he asks her about his hotel room, she’s down. (Interestingly, this is where the show posted the Stabler clip from season 1, episode 5, where Liv tells El obliquely about her relationship with Burton, isn’t it?) and Mariska Hargitay, it should be noted, glows throughout this entire episode . Five hundred suits her well!
So things seem fine in Liv’s love life…until Trevor Langan (aka Peter Hermann of Younger, aka Mr. Mariska Hargitay), who represents Ian, tells Liv to see herself near Burton; apparently the writer doesn’t have a very good reputation when it comes to ladies. And THEN, after the trial, Olivia is approached by a younger woman in the lobby of the courthouse. “Ask him what he did to me at the time,” the woman says, angry that Olivia chooses to hang out with Burton. “I was only 20 years old.” It turns out she was an intern for the editor of one of Burton’s books ten years earlier. She says he raped her and she wants him arrested.
Burton recalls having “a flirtation” with the woman. She remembers passing out on his hotel bed after they ate and waking up with him inside her. “I just let him finish,” she says. (Side note: Ugh. This never gets easier to hear, does it?) The statute of limitations has passed – “It’s a 10-year-old he/she said,” Fin point sout – and they don’t have enough evidence to arrest Burton. Meanwhile, the writer panics and claws at Liv like “what should we do now?” as she says, “There’s no ‘we’ in predator, my dude.” It is clear that she is officially withdrawing from the case. Nevertheless, she is dismayed to realize that some features of Burton’s grooming of the intern, such as making a mixtape with “The Girl From Ipanema,” match moves he made with Olivia all those years ago.
With no official investigation imminent, the former intern takes to social media to denounce SVU for protecting Burton… and several other women reply that he has done the same to them. Amaro, meanwhile, feels immensely guilty for bringing Burton back into Liv’s life, something the ex-cop now sees as a highly manipulative maneuver. Benson counters that Burton didn’t take care of her because they were in love: “Everything we did, I wanted to do. It was my choice.” But he insists and reminds her of how young she was, which makes Liv get on the defensive. “I appreciate you having a degree, but I’ve been here a long time,” she says with pure ice in her tone. But AMARO IS A FREE ELF! now, and he won’t back down. “Doctor, heal yourself,” he counters. “I think we’re done here,” she says, almost opening her office door. shuts his nose.
Later, Olivia goes to Burton’s hotel room, where he drinks and rants about cancellation culture. She lets him know that he will escape any possible crimes, but that what he did was outrageous anyway. “These women looked up to you. You abused their trust,” she tells him. But he doesn’t get it; he wants her to stand up for him publicly. Not going to happen! “You slept with me when I was 16, Burton,” she says, starting to cry. “You were 21, and technically that’s sexual assault.” He mocks her (“Oh, are you saying that?” you are now a victim?”) and reminds her that they were in love. She says she would have done anything to get out of Serena’s thumb — and now that she thinks about it, her mom may have just been trying to protect her.
Burton really isn’t doing himself any favors here, mocking her and announcing that he’s not going to apologize. “I can see that,” Liv says. After she leaves, he throws his glass at the door she just closed behind him.
We get another flashback of Benson women—the one where Liv says she hates her mother being raped, and Serena says she agrees, but Olivia wouldn’t be there otherwise—and then Benson calls Nick for a leave an apologetic voicemail. Finally, in the closing moments of the episode, she takes Burton’s mixtape and tosses it in a pond in the park.