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This week, we join the elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit three months after Captain Cragen has been cleared, but he still hasn’t returned to work. In the meantime, the temporary captain (no need to learn his name; Cragen will be back next week) switches up the partners on Amaro’s request. Benson and Rawlins have been paired up to create the only all-female team I can remember in the history of the show. Munch and Fin are back together (YES! I love this!). Amaro is a swing guy, being able to fill in for missing detectives or working on his own. He’s the one who requested the switch after the rest of the team excluded him from their secret meetings, so I guess he’s a little ticked. Funny, if it’s been three months since Cragen was cleared, Amaro has been working with Benson normally for three months…let’s overlook that.
Because SVU loves to rip stories straight from pop culture, this episode deals with a book called 25 Acts, which we’re told makes 50 Shades look like a Disney story. The author is a young, attractive woman named Jocelyn Paley; we first see her as she is interviewed by Adam Cain, a man who hosts a political talk show called Raising Cain. Jocelyn and Adam go out on a hot date after the show and the pair goes back to Adam’s apartment where Jocelyn asks Adam to dominate her. He decides to act out some scenes from her book but gets too rough. She asks him to stop, but he strangles her with a belt so tightly that she soon can’t protest. She is found bloody, bruised, and crying by her assistant the next morning and is taken to the hospital.
Benson and Rawlins talk to Jocelyn, but she feels that she can’t press rape charges because she asked to be dominated and because of her book, though he did things to which she did not consent. Rawlins scares her into getting a rape kit by pointing out that she needs to be tested for STDs. Jocelyn does not press charges, but the detectives press on because they believe that she may change her mind. Jocelyn gets painkillers from the hospital and continues on with her book tour.
After learning of rumors about Adam having violent sexual relationships with interns, the classic team of Munch and Fin (again, I can’t tell you how excited I am that they’re back together) question Adam. They find him “testy,” but there’s not much they can do.
Knowing that the police are investigating, Adam shows up at a magazine party being thrown in Jocelyn’s honor to — no, he wasn’t invited. To add to the creepiness, Adam gives a toast. When a rattled Jocelyn tries to escape in an elevator, Adam follows her into it and rapes her again, telling her that she wanted it the previous night and she wanted this. Like the previous rape, this one was also based on a chapter of the popular book (domination in an elevator is Chapter Nine, I guess.) He tells her if she screws with him, she’ll be sorry.
Jocelyn decides to press charges. With most of the prosecutors still tied up in the prostitution scandal from the previous episode, the captain finds a tough prosecutor who loves high profile cases in Brooklyn. Raphael Barba has been looking to move to Manhattan, so this seems like the perfect opportunity. He’s quite abrasive for someone dealing with special victims, but apparently he’s the only prosecutor who will touch this case. Barba talks fast, asks a lot of questions, and is most concerned with the victim’s credibility. Though Jocelyn wrote a book that mirrors the style of her attacks, she seems to be credible and Barba agrees to take on the case.
Adam tries to bully Jocelyn into dropping the charges by talking about the incident in the opening monologue of his show, saying that he is being attacked like other successful men and admitting that he did have sex with Jocelyn but that it was consensual. Barba takes this as an attack and decided to strike back by arresting Adam in a public place surrounded by paparazzi.
Amaro, Munch, and Fin decide to dig up any secrets from Jocelyn’s past before the defense can, so they go back to her college to look for past lovers. They meet her longtime boyfriend, with whom she had a very quiet, domination-free love life. They had been together for three years and were both virgins when they met, so it is unlikely that she had other partners. Her roommate said that she never spoke of any of the raunchy stuff the book includes. They speak to her faculty advisor who assures them that she had no affairs with older professors. Rawlins and Benson speak to one of Adam’s former interns who got an excellent job on a recommendation from the host. She had an affair with Adam and ended up with a broken wrist, but she refuses to testify about it because of the way Adam spoke about Jocelyn in his monologue.
Amaro returns to the office of Jocelyn’s advisor, Dr. Dobson, when he becomes suspicious of a few details he’s uncovered. He found that a line of 25 Acts plagiarizes Dobson’s scholarly work and he realizes that Dobson recently spent a few hundred thousand dollars on an antique harpsichord, which she wouldn’t be able to afford on a professor’s salary. It turns out that Dobson wrote the book but was concerned about her reputation, so she offered Jocelyn ten percent of the royalties to act as the author. Needing to pay off student debt, Jocelyn agreed, signed a contract saying that said she would forfeit all earnings if she ever admitted to not writing the book, and took on a flirtatious character.
Jocelyn testifies that she did not write the book, so she must repay all of her earnings and ruin her reputation and writing career (um, wasn’t it more of an acting career?). Dobson eventually takes the stand and risks her reputation to admit that she wrote the book. Adam takes the stand and talks about how he’s a hit with the ladies, accuses Jocelyn of acting like a victim. Barba asks Adam to demonstrate, on him, how he strangled Jocelyn. Barba eggs him on and Adam snaps, strangling the lawyer. Um, I know that some television hosts can be hotheads, but wouldn’t this guy be smart enough to control himself in court and stop himself from strangling a man in front of people? The jury finds him guilty.