Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 15, Episode 12 of NBC's Law and Order: SVU, titled "Jersey Breakdown."
With the latest real-life developments in New Jersey's political scandal -- nicely detailed for us by Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen in "Gov. Christie's Traffic Jam" parody -- pointing out some flaws in real life New Jersey politics, the possibility exists that this episode of Law and Order: SVU may have more truth to it than we'd probably all like to think.
The episode starts with two guys walking down an abandoned street, just chewing the fat, until they notice a girl slumped over along the side of the road. She manages to feebly mumble "Help", and initially it appears as though the guys are actually going to help her, but instead one of the guys whispers something about her "nice body" and starts to expose himself. Luckily, a kid wearing custodial attire, sees the guys by the girl and sprints over to try and help her. Just as he does this, NYPD conveniently appear out of nowhere. They're either really good at their jobs or really terrible. Dun dun.
Amaro is still on desk duty, but he wants everyone to know he's not happy about it
Before the detectives even get the call, Liv wakes up in the middle of the night to find Amaro grabbing some of his stuff. If you missed last week and have been weirdly shipping -- yeah, I said "shipping" in an SVU recap -- Bemaro or Amson (I just made those up) -- no, that's not why he's here. After Amaro shot a kid last week, he had to stay with Liv for a little while. Anyway, Amaro starts babbling about how he's still on desk duty. Liv suggests that he see someone, but of course, Amaro stubbornly insists that he sees his priest, which is enough. His current goal is to win back his wife, Maria. Their conversation is cut short when Liv receives a text notifying her of the case.
We check in with the victim
The victim says her name is Erin Fogarty. Her clothes were torn and there were signs of assault. The girl is cagey, refusing to talk to police, but she did already do the rape kit.
Who did it?
After explaining he was just doing his community service, the custodian kid says that other guy, Tommy, was standing over the girl with his pants down and "thing" out. After analyzing the rape kit, they find that he may be telling the truth because Tommy's DNA is on her, but Tommy's friend and the community service kid's are not. Eventually, Tommy admits his intention of "seagulling" her, but the rape kit also proves he was not the one who raped her. Dun dun.
The victim goes missing
The hospital seems to have lost Erin Fogarty. The information she left at the hospital leads the detectives to an ice skating rink where they meet the real Erin Fogarty. After seeing a picture of the girl, Erin identifies her as her sister's friend from Maine, Claire Wilson, to whom she gave her old ID when she first moved here so she could get into the bars. She tells the detectives they might find her at the "steak house"...
...Which is actually a stripclub
Perry, the club owner, says he knows the girl (although he knows her by Claire) who worked as a waitress. Overall, he's very dismissive. Even after the detectives tell him they have proof she was raped, he still says, "Yeah yeah yeah did she say that?" in a way that implies the detectives shouldn't believe her.
After getting her address from Perry, the detectives find Claire at her apartment. As she opens the door, she practically collapses into their arms. Clearly, something is wrong.
The victim returns to the hospital
Feeling a bit better after getting her stomach pumped, Claire admits to taking sleeping pills claiming she "just wanted to sleep." She opens up to detectives telling them how her mom kicked her out of the house two years ago after one of her boyfriends "liked" Claire more than her mom. Although she's only sixteen, she was able to get a job at the club with Erin's ID. With some more encouragement, she tells them how one of the guys at the club groped her. Usually one of the bouncers step in, but this time, no one came. After he refused her offer of a blowjob, he raped her. "At least it didn't last long," says Claire.
The detectives pay Perry a visit, but he's not talking. In the meantime, they relocate Claire to a group home where they assure her she'll have the opportunity to turn her life around. She seems genuinely optimistic about the idea, until the Hudson County Sheriff's Department barges in the room with a warrant for Claire's arrest -- credit card fraud and grand larceny. Apparently, she also worked at Perry's Jersey City club where he had her overcharge customers. Seeing as there's nothing they can do, the detectives watch as Claire is taken from her new home.
Who gets the case?
With Barba's help, SVU realizes they need the help of the feds to override this ruling, so they visit prosecutor Connie Rubirosa of the Federal Task Force, who tell them Perry has a history of targeting runaways, getting them hooked on drugs, and forcing them to work at his clubs. Rollins and Liv assure her that Claire would be a credible witness for her case.
Barba visits the Prosecutor Mosconi who's in charge of Claire's Hudson County case. Mosconi says his wife is the ADA on the case, so he'll have her speak with the judge.
New Jersey court
People v. Claire Wilson. Barba approaches the bench to tell the judge that Claire is wanted as a grand jury witness in a federal case. Judge Dolan says the government of New Jersey has a zero tolerance approach to fraud, so she must be charged. Even after Barba reminds her she's only a minor, Judge Dolan orders Claire into custody without bail. Dun dun.
They raid the stripclub
After calling upon a handful of government organizations to assist, SVU leads a raid of Perry's stripclub. Mid-investigation, Perry finally offers to name the perp if they'll leave him alone.
Rollins battles her demons
Even after making a (semi) joke assuring Liv she wouldn't gamble on her way to pick up Claire (now that the feds are even further involved), Rollins sits down to gamble. Cigarette in hand, we see her lose a good number of chips and perhaps a good bit of sanity.
Meanwhile, at the precinct, Amaro tells Fin that Rollins is 20 min late pointing out that she was late the other morning too. He's worried she has a problem. Of course, assuming there's still bad blood between Amaro and Rollins after last week's incident, Fin stands up for his partner, as he always does, ordering Amaro to focus on himself.
Where is the victim? Part 2
Once Rollins finally shows, she goes to pick up Claire in Hudson County, but she's too late: she was acting up so they sent her out for some "diesel therapy" aka they sent her off to Knollwood Juvenile Facility at the Delaware border.
Once Rollins arrives at the facility, a woman informs her that Claire is not "available" seeing as she's in solitary because she got into a fight with another inmate. Even with Rollins' protests, the woman tells her to come back tomorrow.
A scandal surfaces
Seeing as Knollwood is a private facility, more prisoners means more money for the facility. Apparently, Judge Dolan sends 90% of the juveniles up there, so maybe he's making money off of it.
With Claire in solitary, Rubirosa orders for her release to DOC (meaning they can take her regardless of whether she's in solitary). A haggard-looking Claire tells Rollins she was doped and forced to sleep on the cold floor without a blanket; other inmates were beaten. Just then Rollins gets a call learning that Knollwood keeps a Jersey PR firm on retainer for $35,000 a month, which is weird considering the facility doesn't actually want anyone to know it even exists. Turns out, the firm is owned my Mosconi's mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer's. Mosconi is up to something.
A closer looks at Judge Dolan's finances reveals that he had to take out a second mortage and was paying other government officials until Knollwood hired the Jersey PR firm with ties to Mosconi. "What does he have on him?" Rollins confronts Dolan, but he maintains his innocence.
A twist in the case
Liv gets a call from Fin telling her to turn on the TV: Dolan was found dead in his apartment; he committed the samurai-originated harakiri and was found dead in his apartment. But before he died, he received a text with an image of him and a young girl. The sexual implications are clear.
Rubirosa recognizes the young girl -- she disappeared four years ago, just when Dolan began paying off Mosconi. Also the girl used to work at Perry's Jersey City club. All roads lead to Perry.
The truth is revealed
The detectives visit Rikers to confront Perry, who eventually admits to knowing the young girl in the photo with Judge Dolan. Amaro asks why he's protecting him -- "You gonna be the last guy in Jersey to honor the code? " he asks. Eventually, Perry says he wasn't protecting the judge...
He was protecting Mosconi. Claire identifies Mosconi as her rapist. When she learns who he is, she's shocked that the man who raped her is the same man who charged her with fraud. The detectives bring her back to the group home, where they once again assure her that things will get better. After everything, Claire still seems to be staying optimistic.
But what's really going on with Amaro?
With Liv struggling with her new responsibilities as head of the unit, and Rollins spiraling back into gambling addiction, things are not looking great for the detectives on a personal level. Back at the office, Amaro apologizes to Liv. He tells her he plans to go to D.C. to talk things over with Maria this weekend. That all seems good, right?
Wrong. Once she gets home (and downs a whole bottle of wine, I might add), Liv gets a call from Maria. She's extremely concerned about Nick. We don't get to hear Maria's side of the convo, but it seems as though Amaro is going through a tough time right now...suicidal maybe? It's not completely clear. Regardless, Liv assures her that he seems fine, but she immediately opens a second bottle of wine...
Do you think the detectives' struggling personal lives will begin to impact their work? What do you think Liv should do about Amaro's current emotional state? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
"Law and Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.