Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 15, Episode 18 of NBC's Law and Order: SVU, titled "Criminal Stories."
Law and Order: SVU has certainly had its fair share of celebrity guest stars over the years -- Claire Danes, Hayden Panetierre, Robin Williams, Clay Aiken, Ashanti, Angela Lansbury, Ludacris, to name a handful -- but this one might take the cake. With his antagonistic relationship with the media -- and by that I mean accusations of assault, racial slurs, and retirement from public life as a whole etc. etc. etc. -- Alec Baldwin guest stars as an arrogant hard-hitting reporter, Jimmy MacArthur, who makes a point of making the SVU detectives the subject of his next takedown piece. (Secretly, I was hoping he would basically just be Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock, but I guess this will have to do -- at least he's still got that classic Baldwin twinkle in his eye and of course, a luxurious head of hair)
As always, SVU doesn't miss a beat. The episode begins with a gregarious MacArthur making himself at home in the squad room -- with the permission of 1PP he now has full access to SVU. Of course, Benson is less than amused, especially with the Amaro's shooting and Rollins gambling issues just barely under wraps. Although begrudgingly, Benson gets drinks with Jimmy and finds herself answering his questions perhaps too honestly. When discussing her own attack, she mentions she doesn't have as many nightmares anymore at which point MacArthur begins jotting down notes. Realizing she messed up, she asks him to keep it off the record. To our surprise, he actually does what she requests -- he doesn't want to give Louis the satisfaction. Hmmm maybe this duo won't be so terrible after all...
On to the real case
Heba Salim was found with scratches on her face, bruising on her body, saying she'd been raped by 2 male whites. During the attack, they tore off her hijab and yelled racial slurs. Liv looks around to see MacArthur already monitoring the scene, gathering info for a story. The next day detectives visit her at the hospital. With the case already labeled as a hate crime, Reverend Curtis is already by her side and he is not please. The family requested that their names be kept out of the press, but MacArthur has already been calling the family, hassling them for quotes.
A hate crime
Heba spent the night with her brother Fareed at his work event where she was volunteering. The story goes as follows: she had a glass of champagne (her first ever), she heard two men behind her laughing, but thought they were just making fun of her hijab, but they attacked her from behind, pushed her to the ground and raped her while yelling racial slurs at her. She was unable to see their faces.
But her story doesn't quite match the evidence. The rape kit confirms vaginal tearing and semen from two different men, but Amaro doesn't understand how no one saw the attack at that time of night in such a busy section of the park.
Blah blah blah DeBlasio
Lately SVU has been really into mentioning the recent election of a new major of NYC. In this case, Fin questions a Central Park buggy driver who makes a comment about trying to get in as many hours before DeBlasio illegalizes carriage rides. Naturally this man doesn't actually have any information for the detectives, except the subtle reminder that New York has a new major who has new policies that might change some things. Got it? Ok, moving on.
More evidence causes more speculation
A security tape surfaces showing Heba wandering toward the park at 1:54 am with torn clothes and no headscarf. Why would she be walking toward the park in that condition? Futher inspection by the medical examiner concludes that she was attacked, but not in the park. Her injuries are consistent with carpet burn -- animal hair and red and gold fbers were found under her fingernails. Oh, and she mentions that Jimmy Mac called asking questions...darn Jimmy Mac is up to no good!
MacArthur calls it a "Hoax"
The next morning the front page of The New York Ledger reads "Hoax" in obnoxiously large print -- apparently MacArthur doesn't believe a word this girl says and he wants everyone to know it. But now the question persists...who's been talking to Jimmy MacArthur? He might be a savvy journalist, but he doesn't have ESP (unless Law and Order: SVU has suddenly decided to go the sci-fi route. Maybe Munch was right about all those UFO sightings all along!)
Needless to say, Benson is pissed. She storms into MacArthur's office explaining how more than half of victims omit details of some aspect of the crime. But Jimmy continues to claim that this was no hate crime -- how did they know she was from india? MacArthur thinks racism is a crime of ignorance, so the perps wouldn't have known that. However, her father was a victim of hate crime after 9/11 but the perps weren't prosecuted. MacArthur even mentions how there were fibers found under her nails negating her previous story. But how does he know that?
The detectives search for the truth
Heba's brother said he left Heba alone at his work party under the care of his coworker. But upon questioning, the coworker says she didn't watch after her because the party was busy at which point the President of the company Elias Kemp and his VP Mike Sullivan enter. Kemp invites them into his office, but asks them to take off their shoes before entering at which point we notice his red and gold carpet. He claims he left the party early to take a call with Hong Kong...
With fibers from the carpet on his Fin's sock, the ME concludes that the carpet is a match to the fibers under Heba's nails after the assault.
Why make up a story?
Rollins shows the team footage of Kemp and Sullivan entering the office at 12:05 am on the night of the party. About ten minutes later, Heba arrives. She's been lying to them. The ever-pragmatic Barba admits that her cred is completely shot. No one will believe the truth now.
However, they do still have a chance to match the DNA. Fin and Amaro barge into their office with a warrant for their DNA. With much attitude, both comply.
And of course, the DNA is a match, but..
...they claim the sex was consensual. Kemp says he didn't mention this before because he knows how "old world" Heba's family is.
At this point, Benson and Barba beg Heba (with Rev. Curtis by her side) to tell them the truth. She says she doesn't want to go up against Kemp because his family is so powerful. As always, Benson encourages her to testify, but as she leaves with Barba even she admits Kemp's lawyers would destroy her on the stand.
Jimmy MacArthur has a biased source to say the least
Barba asks if MacArthur was given access to SVU before or after the rape. When he learns he had access beforehand, he tells Benson to check her timeline -- "Kemp Jr. rapes and then the paper calls her a liar on the front page?" Seems as though MacArthur found a source with an agenda...
MacArthur continues to call Heba a liar -- including a brief clip in which he's interviewed by Katie Couric (yet another great cameo on SVU).
In the courtroom...
The detectives are forced to testify to everything we already know -- Heba initially staged her crime scene, but the rape itself was real. Meanwhile, the defense rehashes their consensual sex story. Eventually Heba takes the stand. She says Kemp and Sullivan were both very nice to her; they brought her champagne (which really was her first ever), then they invited her to come over to the office for an after party, but when she arrived, there was no after party. Kemp ripped off her hijab, pinned her to the ground, while he and Sullivan took turns raping and sodomizing her. When they were done they high-fived each other. When she asked for her headscarf back, Kemp wiped himself with it and threw it in the trash.
But what about the hate crime?
She admits that she made all that up. This seems to be the tipping point. And we can tell that she's not going to win this.
In a rage, Benson rushes over to MacArthur's office claiming that the whole jury was probably influenced by his column. But MacArthur won't admit defeat without a fight -- he continues to say he got the story right. He asks her what she would even want him to do to remedy the situation. She asks him to retract the story. Speaking of himself in the 3rd person, he says "Jimmy Mac don't retract and Jimmy Mac don't explain." Benson accuses him of letting the celebrity get to his head. We can tell this comment really hit MacArthur hard -- maybe he realizes he made an error getting all his information from a rapist. Hmmm maybe not the most reliable.
Jimmy MacArthur has a change of heart
The next morning, Amaro rushes in to show everyone the newspaper -- MacArthur has written a story about how he got played by his source. Back in court, the judge asks the jury who has been reading MacArthur's columns. Seeing as everyone raised their hands, the judge finds the jury to be biased and declares a mistrial. Justice at last? Not really. Kemp ends up claiming Sullivan acted alone and pleads to sexual misconduct, which will only get him a year in prison at best. While Sullivan will be away between 5-15 years.
They go check on Heba to explain that at the very least Kemp will forever have a record, but Heba doesn't care. She figures it was all part of the settlement. Apparently, they gave her a lot of money. Since she has lost all of her honor, as far as her parents are concerned, at least now they have money to send her brother to get his MBA. She no longer wears her hijab.
Benson + MacArthur = Some romance, perhaps?
Benson grabs one last drink with MacArthur. He announces that he's writing one last column for The Ledger about a month in the life of Elias Kemp Jr. -- rapes a girl and blames it all on his friend. Now whenever someone looks up his name, this will be the first thing that they see. Now that's Search Engine Optimization if I may say so myself. "Everyone knows I have balls the size of Jupiter again," he adds.
Ok, now I don't know if it was just me, but I feel like Benson may have had a little twinkle in her eye as she looked at MacArthur. Could this become a recurring role? A budding romance? I'm thinking it's a good idea. Sorry Brian Cassidy.