After last week's Mike Tyson debacle, I was hoping SVU would regroup and come back with a strong, realistic episode. Instead, "Secrets Exhumed" eschewed plausibility and focused on creating unbelievable plot twists. It succeeded... in being unbelievable.
Recap: A cold case is re-sparked when a Florida prisoner's DNA matches a series of five rapes from 25 years ago. When Olivia and Nick fly to Miami to pick up the suspect, wheelchair-bound Brian Traymore, they're met by an FBI agent played by Marcia Gay Harden, who cheerfully suggests they all investigate together. Olivia happily agrees to work with Marcia, who has periodically guest-starred on SVU over the years.
Olivia and Nick quickly extract a confession from Traymore, who was a serial rapist until a car accident severed his spine. But he only admits to four of the five rape/murders. That is, until Marcia comes into the room and, using a voice as soft and creepy as a snake charmer, convinces him to confess to rape/murder #5, the attack on a beautiful young kindergarten teacher named Kyra.
The case seems closed, until Kyra's fiancee, Noah, shows up at the station and greets Marcia with a hug and an exchange of guilty glances. Nick's Spidey sense tells him something's off. And he's right.
Turns out, Marcia used to date Noah in college. He broke up with her just a few weeks before getting engaged to Kyra -- who was pregnant at the time she was killed.
Although SVU conventions demand that at least one investigator be personally involved with a victim or witness to the crime (case in point: the preview for next week, where Amanda shoots her sister's boyfriend), Nick is shocked -- shocked! -- that Marcia had a relationship with Noah.
Is she covering for him? Quite the opposite.
Nick and Olivia trick Marcia into waiting in the interrogation room, telling her that Traymore has soiled himself and needs to be cleaned up. Then they proceed to interrogate her. How long did you know Noah? Did you ever meet Kyra? When did you find out she was pregnant? Marcia nervously asks, "Am I being interrogated?" at which point Nick reveals the shocking backstory he just learned from Noah.
See, Marcia didn't just casually date the victim's fiancee. She dated him for seven years. Then she got pregnant with his child. He convinced her to have an abortion. Two months later, he proposed to pregnant Kyra.
Marcia sobs her confession: "I went to talk to Kyra. She described how he got down on one knee -- and she looked SO HAPPY! The next thing I knew, her body was in front of me."
What? Marcia, our FBI profiler heroine, is actually a cold blooded killer (and, needless to say, serious obstructor of justice)? Yep, afraid so. Marcia was intimately familiar with Traymore's MO. So, after she killed Kyra, she trussed up the crime scene to make it look like this was just another in Traymore's series of assaults.
Cragen -- registering only a world-weary resignation at the fact that his longtime friend and colleague is a murderer -- leads Marcia away in handcuffs.
What they got right:
Having watched the promos, I was prepared to mock the detectives' trip to Miami as another SVU boondoggle and an excuse to film some pastel scenery. But they got this part exactly right. If a warrant issued for the arrest of a suspect is in Miami, NYPD would extradite him and send a detective down there to pick him up. (Probably not two detectives, but hey Olivia could use a break after spending all her personal days in Ohio exonerating Tyson.) They didn't even stay in Miami long enough for us to see a palm tree or Nick in a pair of Speedos.
The way Traymore was caught after 25 years was realistic. He might have escaped detection forever, since DNA at a crime scene is not useful unless you can match it to a real person. Once he was arrested for his cocaine felony, though, his DNA would be entered into CODIS, the national DNA database of profiles of convicted felons, and it would be matched to the DNA at the old crime scenes. (The three-month turnaround from cocaine conviction to CODIS hit was pretty speedy, however.)
Kyra's killer being a romantic rival was a realistic twist in one sense: you are more likely to be killed by your ex's next partner than a stranger. Murder usually involves either the drug trade or someone who knows you or your loved ones intimately.
What they got wrong:
The minor stuff: That iPad Ice-T used to conduct his photo lineup. I wish! Despite this optimistic Apple ad, most real cops don't have iPads or iPhones. In D.C., most officers use their own cell phones, which they have to pay for. I've never seen a photo lineup done on an iPad. That said, just last month, NYPD launched a crime-fighting iPhone app for civilians. Real police involvement in iPads and iPhones usually takes the form of investigating their (very common) theft.
The big stuff: It was completely implausible that Marcia Gay Harden was the killer. The woman was a squeaky clean, highly decorated FBI profiler and undercover officer for years, tasked with the FBI's most difficult situations and dangerous assignments. Under incredible amounts of daily stress, how did she manage to keep the homicidal part of her personality hidden for so long?
And keep in mind that she was a rape victim too, back in season 12, when a white supremacist injected her with a paralytic drug, tied her up, and sexually assaulted her. I'm not surprised that Marcia Gay Harden can play FBI profiler, rape victim, and murderer -- she's a great actress - but all in the same SVU storyline?
Finally, for a criminal mastermind, she sure made some stupid moves. First, inserting herself into the investigation. If she hadn't been around, no one would have connected the dots -- it was only her constant meddling and ex-boyfriend-hugging that caught SVU's attention. Next, can you imagine a real 25-year-veteran FBI profiler confessing after five minutes of waiting for a soiled prisoner? No way. She knows how interrogations work. She would have shut up. Or turned off the videotape. Walked out of the room. Called a lawyer. But one thing that kick-ass, criminal genius, FBI Agent Marcia Gay Harden is NOT going to do is break down sobbing and confess to a crime she's managed to cover up for the last quarter century.
What do you think SVU fans? How busy has Marcia Gay Harden been, between profiling, surviving rape, and whacking romantic rivals? When will every person on the planet have an iPad? And ... cough... will SVU ever work in a scene with Nick in swimwear? Leave your comments.