Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 15, Episode 7 of NBC's "Law and Order: SVU," titled "Dissonant Voices."
While last week we got fake Weinergate, this week we get fake "American Idol." The episode begins backstage as vocal coach Jackie Walker gives his nervous student, Grace, one last pep talk before being thrust before a panel of judges. Wait, is that... Ashanti? Oh, yes it is, along with Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks (just Google "that grey-haired guy from "American Idol"). After playing a short biographical clip, Grace timidly begins her song, barely at an audible whisper. Luckily, our panel of judges doesn't immediately cut her off, because she eventually belts out a relatively soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life."
For some reason all of the detectives are actually watching "American Diva," but that would mean they actually have personal lives! Although "Law and Order: SVU" tries to introduce casual bits and pieces of the detectives' private lives throughout the show, it still kind of feels like seeing a teacher outside of school wearing a bro tank and flip flops. But they're not the only ones watching, of course. Many of Jackie's students watch their teacher on TV in their respective homes, but one student refuses to watch, claiming he doesn't like Mr. Jackie because he makes him play doctor. And so begins another traumatic episode of "Law and Order: SVU."
The case: Sitting down to talk with Liv, Jonah tells her how Jackie followed him into the bathroom and tickled him. In a separate room, the detectives wonder if this may be a cry for attention or a damning divorce maneuver sparked by his parents' recent separation. While the detectives speak with Jonah's mother, his father storms in saying not to listen to his wife because she's only concerned with money. He claims she has already reported him to the IRS. Meanwhile, Jonah's sister, Brooke, begins to cry, claiming it's all her fault -- Jonah tried to tell her a couple weeks ago, but she didn't believe him because he's always making stuff up.
Alone with Olivia, Jonah explains that Mr. Jackie tickled him with a magic egg that he keeps with the rest of his musical instruments. He says Mr. Jackie likes to play doctor in a special bathroom with bluebirds and flowers. As they head out to find more evidence, Rollins suggests they try to keep the investigation secret because of the immense harm it could cause to Jackie's reputation even if he isn't charged, but the other detectives seem to ignore her suggestion.
At the school, the principal shows them the bathroom, which resembles the one in Jonah's description. Finding Jackie in the music room with a parent, they immediately beeline to the musical instruments where they find the magic egg, which turns out to be a vibrator. Initially, Jackie asks if he's being punk'd but quickly learns that this is no reality show. Dun dun.
The possibly innocent perp: Back at the precinct, Jackie continues to claim innocence, seemingly appalled by the accusations. Liv and Amaro ask him if he's ever spent time with Jonah alone, why he still teaches preschool when he's already famous, and if he has kids of his own. Feeling attacked, Jackie lawyers up.
Another victim: And another student comes forward. Calling Jackie a "bad man," Cooper explains how he sometimes follows him into the bathroom with a bathtub. When asked to further describe the bathroom, Cooper corrects himself saying he meant sink, not bathtub. Once again, he tells them Jackie tickled him with purple magic eggs. On a quest for more details, the detectives speak with Cooper's mother, who recalls that Cooper came home without underwear about a month ago, claiming he "had an accident."
Rollins gets a call confirming that Jonah's saliva and fecal bacteria have been found on the vibrator. But since there was no trace of Jackie's fingerprints or DNA, Rollins hesitates to jump to conclusions. Always stubborn, Amaro ignores her.
A misstep or a crime? Even with the latest evidence, as well as other kids coming forward, Jackie refuses to admit any guilt, but he does admit he lied about something. He did go into the bathroom alone with Cooper. Why did he lie? He was embarrassed that he made such a misstep. Why didn't he mention the incident to Cooper's mother at the time? Well, she didn't pick him up from school that day, and he had to get to rehearsal. According to Amaro, this is just a series of excuses and tells him his case will be brought to public trial. "You had your chance, pal," Liv chides.
The three "American Diva" judges (I'm seriously loving these guest stars. Maybe it's already time they get upped to season regulars. Anyone? Anyone?) hold a public conference announcing Jackie's voluntary leave of absence. With the repercussions of their actions staring them in the face, Rollins implies that maybe Liv is working through some things after everything that happened earlier in the season - perhaps her judgment is clouded. Naturally, Amaro stands by Olivia, refusing to consider Rollins' concerns.
Arraignment: Two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree. Bail is set at one million dollars, but Jackie doesn't have that amount. With his brother giving him the silent treatment, he has no one to turn to. Rollins points out that he's only been on "American Diva" for one year, so it's possible he doesn't have the funds. Olivia just sees this as a classic predator move for sympathy.
As more and more kids come forward with accusations of sexual abuse, ADA Barba points out the rare mix of girls and boys -- most predators only abuse one or the other. Additionally, they have no reliable witnesses since all of the victims are too young, and there is still no fingerprints or DNA as evidence connecting Jackie to the assaults. They realize there may be one person who could testify: Jonah's sister, Brooke - who was also one of Jackie's students.
The key witness: The detectives meet with Brooke. She tells them Mr. Jackie was her vocal coach for 10 years until she abruptly stopped taking lessons a couple months ago - she "just wanted to be a normal kid." With music posters plastering her walls, it seems as though she hasn't completely lost her love of singing. When asked if he ever touched her, she breaks down and nods. She wishes she had told her parents, so none of this would have happened to Jonah. She was Jonah's age when the abuse began. While she never told her parents, fearing they'd be mad, she did tell someone...
The twist: Cooper's sister, Rachel. During their visit to Rachel's house, Rollins notices a bird on a stained glass window in a bathroom with a bathtub, just as Cooper initially described, before correcting himself. After asking Cooper, Rollins confirms that Mr. Jackie has never been in this bathroom. Meanwhile, Rachel explains how Mr. Jackie sexually assaulted her, only to be interrupted by Rollins, who drags Liv to the bathroom. With some slight prodding, the boy breaks down and admits that someone told him exactly what to say. None of his tales of abuse were true. But who told him to lie? Brooke did.
The motive: But why? With several possible motives, Barba insists they visit Jackie at Rikers where they learn the truth: Brooke and Rachel didn't stop going to Jackie for voice lessons, but rather he dropped them as students after choosing to focus on coaching Grace for the competition. I spy a motive.
Armed with this humiliating piece of information, Finn speaks with Brooke. She says it doesn't matter that he dropped her, because everyone knows she's going to be a star. "Must have really sucked when you found out everyone was lying to you," Finn taunts. Not getting very far with Brooke, Liv talks to Rachel, who caves after they threaten to search her computer and phone records. She freaks out and claims the whole fabrication was Brooke's idea!
The conclusion: At the dismissal hearing, the judge asks that he be released immediately and extends apologies to Mr. Walker and his family. After the hearing, Rollins tries to apologize, but it's too little too late. "Haven't you done enough?!" Jackie shouts. His name is ruined and his "life is over." He asks Barba how much time the girls got, only to learn that they only got one year probation after entering a plea. Upon hearing this, Jackie yells, "Get away from me! Just get away!" and storms out of the courthouse. Feeling guilty, Liv says the kids really didn't sound coached, and Barba says this sort of thing comes with the territory. But Rollins is having none of that -- "You guys can tell yourselves whatever, but this could have been stopped." She turns and leaves.
"Law and Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
Do you think Olivia's judgment is compromised? Is Rollins the only one seeing clearly or is she being too harsh? Or for those looking for lighter fare, what did you think of the "American Diva" judges? Sound off in the comments.
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