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Watch out, this is a double recap for a double episode. There was a lot to cover in this continuation of the season finale, so there were two hours of headline-mooching drama. In the season premiere, we pick up with the elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit as they find themselves stuck in staged crime scenes and set-ups. Captain Cragen is contacted by an escort/witness in their murder case that has brought a pimp and a madam to the NYPD’s attention, meets her at a diner, then can’t remember anything until he wakes up next to her dead body the next morning.
The investigation is being handled by the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, led by DA Paula Foster. Cragen is arrested and SVU is shut out from the case, yet Warner does his physical exam (how is it that no one sees the conflict of interest?). Though she first tells SVU that they must stay out of the case, she suddenly allows Benson to be part of everything and starts sharing details about her life and the case, like that Cassidy is her undercover agent. Foster and Benson go back and forth between suspecting Delia Wilson, a powerful madam pretending to be a simple farmer with connections to just about everyone, and Bart Ganzel, a well-known pimp. Cassidy, a former member of the SVU (back in the first season) and current undercover officer for the Public Integrity Unit, tries helping SVU with what he knows from being undercover with Ganzel for three years.
In case you don’t remember Brian Cassidy, he was Munch’s partner for half of the first season. He had a brief affair with Benson (though it must have happened off-screen because I barely remember it and I watch a lot of non-sequential SVU reruns.) He realizes that he can’t take the difficult cases of the unit and transfers to narcotics. When he showed up as Ganzel’s security last season, Benson was pretty cold to him. He told them he was undercover and would help them. Oh, by the way, Cassidy is played by Dean Winters, who also plays Mayhem in the Allstate commercials: that’s why he looks familiar.
So while Cragen sits in solitary confinement, the SVU secretly looks into Delia and Ganzel and goes back and forth about which one set Cragen up. Delia accuses Cragen of using escorts for kinky things, and it comes out that he has used escorts for companionship on dates only. As witnesses in Delia’s prostitution case start dying in a suspicious ways, she looks more guilty, but there is no proof linking her to the deaths and Cragen is still the prime suspect in Carissa’s murder. Amaro is also looked at because Carissa, the murdered escort, falsely accused him of making improper advances.
To add to Amaro’s stress, the other detectives start leaving him out of their secret meetings about Cragen’s case. His wife suddenly takes a post in D.C. and takes their daughter with her, so Amaro goes a little nuts, brandishes a gun to get answers out of Cassidy, and starts looking over case files (that he shouldn’t have access to, how did he get them?) at home while drunk. He takes out a lot of frustration on Benson.
Ganzel spots a surveillance camera in his loft and realizes that Cassidy is a cop; he calls in favors with a police sergeant and a car theft ring to stage a stand-off where Cassidy gets shot twice by a rookie police officer. Benson rides with Cassidy in the ambulance and we start to see that she’s attached to him (big change from last episode and the first season). He pulls through; Benson figures out that Ganzel was behind the shooting, and tells Cassidy when she visits him in the hospital. She gets awfully touchy-feely with someone who is still sore from getting shot and ends up kissing him. A lot. Whoa, were did that come from? She said that there’s something about a man in a hospital bed. Riiiight. I guess she got over DA Hayden.
Foster offers Ganzel’s lawyer a chance to make a deal to get out of sex trafficking charges if he testifies against Ganzel. He accepts and when he goes to tell Ganzel that he’s dumping him as a client, he record’s the pimp’s entire confession about how he sent Carissa to kill the governor (last season) and sent Carissa to set up Cragen, but killed her when she told him that she’d been having an affair with Cassidy (wow, the man is in demand). Sure, there is client-lawyer confidentiality, but shouldn’t Ganzel have realized that it wouldn’t apply if his lawyer just broke up with him? Why would he confess to everything? Well, Ganzel is screwed; he’s off to jail.
Though Delia is likely behind a few deaths, she isn’t being charged with anything. Even her prostitution charges are dropped. Benson finds this suspicious, so she and her secret detectives club (the SVU working on cases they’re not supposed to be) figure out that Foster is being paid by Delia. She needs the money for her daughter’s care (the daughter has a condition that causes fragile bones), so she has been doing favors for Delia like keeping an eye on Ganzel, Delia’s main competitor, through Cassidy’s undercover work. Benson and Rawlins arrest Foster and other officials like the Attorney General and some members of the vice squad are arrested as well. DA Hayden steps down. Even top officials are brought to justice by the SVU.
The episode ends with Amaro still mad at everyone, especially Benson, and no clue what the heck that was between Benson and Cassidy.