12/06/2012 03:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Dreams Deferred': SVU Sends a Regular Joe on a Killing Spree

There wasn't a special victim in sight, but "Dreams Deferred" was a strong episode about a regular joe who snaps and goes on a killing spree. The hands-down highlight was Patricia Arquette, who acted the hell out of her role as an aging prostitute with an unlikely bond to the killer. I hear Emmy calling.


The episode opens with our guest stars doing their nightly routines. For Jeannie (played by Arquette) that involves stuffing her cleavage into a push-up bra and slipping on a pair of thigh-high platform boots. For Craig, her regular john of 20 years, it involves sitting on a bar stool and taking a phone call from his henpecking wife. The wife harangues Craig about his shoddy attitude toward her mom. Here's where the routine veers wildly off course.

Craig takes one more shot of whiskey, goes to his mother-in-law's house, pulls out a gun and takes a shot at her face. Then he goes to an office and shoots his wife and two co-workers. He flees, stopping just long enough to pick up unsuspecting Jeannie from a street corner. "Ooh, baby," she says, "let's go have a good time."

With the killer speeding across state lines, the FBI is on the case! And their first move is... to set up their command center in the SVU office? In the flimsiest pretext of the evening, the FBI explains that Olivia once helped Jeannie deal with an abusive john -- like 20 years ago. Although Jeannie has been arrested 79 times in the past 25 years, she'll definitely remember Olivia! The FBI wants Olivia's help to talk to the prostitute now. Okay, just roll with it folks, it gets better.

The SVU detectives go to Jeannie's street corner, and frantically question the remaining prostitutes. (BTW, did anyone else notice the one-legged hooker from the amputation-fetish episode making a cameo appearance, peg-leg and all? Brilliant.) Just as they're giving up hope, a mini-van pulls up -- and Jeannie comes out, safe and sound. Turns out, Craig took her to a motel, but they had a dispute about what $20 buys (Craig thought "around the world," but Jeannie explains, "20 gets you a jack and that's just 'cause we're friends.")

The SWAT rushes to the hotel. Craig is gone, but he's shot two college boys and a pink-haired hooker in the next room.

Jeannie doesn't want to talk to the police. The FBI agent wants to arrest her, but Olivia goes in and works her conversational magic. Soon, Jeannie is helping the cops.

The police put a trace on her phone. When Craig calls, Jeannie keeps him chatting long enough to receive a deranged marriage proposal -- and allow the police to pinpoint his location. But by stealing cars, driving fast and shooting anyone who gets in his way (the body count was seven by the second commercial break, then I lost track), Craig eludes the police.

Finally, the cops decide to use Jeannie as a lure. Realizing how risky this is, Jeannie goes to make peace with her life. At church, she confesses all her life's sins (per the priest's advice, she has to fast for five days to be absolved of 25 years of tricking -- not a bad deal). She tries to talk to her estranged family, but they shun her. Then she takes a shot of vodka (apparently, the fasting starts tomorrow), and hits the streets.

Craig drives up, points a gun at Jeannie and orders her into the car. Shaking, she gets in. The SWAT team storms up and shoots Craig in the head, splattering his brains on Jeannie's cheeks. Blech.

Now that she's safe, Jeannie plans to go back to her life of hooking. To stop this, Olivia arrests her and arranges an intervention. Ice-T convinces Jeannie's family to play nice (if anyone can do that, it's Ice). Jeannie's mother, priest and kids embrace her and convince her to turns her life around. She agrees to go to rehab. I was heartened by the message about the power of faith and family, and how a single cop who cares can make a difference.

(But some Twitterers didn't think Jeannie's resolution would last a week in real life. She already forgot about fasting.)

Verdict: B+

What they got right:

It seems that every week, there's a news story about a guy who goes crazy and kills his wife, co-workers and often himself. NFL player Jovan Belcher was the story this week. For every celebrity, there are a hundred regular joes. Here's an apparent murder/suicide committed by a husband (and father of three) in North Carolina this Monday. Before the event, the husband was apparently living a solid middle-class life. There's a dark element to most crimes, but what makes this type of crime so chilling is the idea that the perp is a regular person, who just snapped. Someone just like a hundred people you know. Maybe just like your spouse. Or you. We've all felt the urge to clobber our partner now and then. (Except me, my husband is perfect. And... reading over my shoulder.) Guns make momentary rages turn into forever tragedies. I suggest only having a loaded pint of Häagen-Dazs in the house as your tool for dealing with marital stress.

Tonight's episode gave a gritty and realistic depiction of street prostitution. Jeannie was right when she said the Internet has revolutionized the business. With escorts and websites offering sex-on-demand, only the most desperate sex workers ply their trade on street corners these days.

It's true that a special-victims detective would know how to talk to a prostitute more effectively than the average FBI agent. Most FBI agents are in cybercrime, counterterrorism, national security, counter-espionage... or some other synonym for "Not Talking to Prostitutes."

It's also true that the police can get wires into very tiny objects, like the cross that Jeannie wore.

What they got wrong:

There's no way the NYPD's special-victims unit would be working this interstate shooting-spree case. But you already knew that.

Craig kept eluding the police by stealing late-model cars. But he was a balding middle manager at the Port Authority. How many middle managers have car-thieving expertise? And newer cars, with computerized keys, are particularly hard to steal (especially compared to older models, which can be hotwired or have their ignition punched with a screwdriver).

In the lockup scene, Jeannie refused to eat because of her religious fasting. But why fast when you're still hooking? Jeannie was all decked out in her want-a-date? clothes. I'm not an expert on Catholicism, but I'm pretty sure no one gets absolved while wearing a red satin corset.

Then she woke up in the cell wearing a cozy (and expensive-looking) NYPD sweatshirt. In DC, prostitutes who have to spend the night in lockup in skimpy clothing are provided Tyvek paper jumpsuits, dubbed "bunny suits."

What do you think, SVU fans? What does it take to make a regular guy go on a killing spree? Could a single prostitute be the thing that stops him? And would Patricia Arquette rock a bunny suit? Leave your comments!