The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit/Law & Order: Organized Crime crossover was as epic as promised.
By the time it was done, a relationship was tested, a shocking alliance was made, and Elliot Stabler’s life would likely never be the same.
It ended 2021 on a wild note while setting the stage for a bold new year to come.
The trial begins
As People vs Richard Wheatley began, Benson visited Stabler and his family at Kathy’s grave, noting Stabler’s shave. Kathleen held tears wishing her mom a happy birthday with Eli blowing off lunch. Stabler admitted he had a tracking app on his son’s phone as “trust but verify.”
In court, Judge Ellery (Rocco Sisto) refused to admit the taped confession of Izac Becker into evidence, which was a crucial part of the state’s case. Wheatley instantly fired his lawyer (his fourth) in what seemed another delaying tactic.
In his cell, Wheatley met the last of his lawyer candidates: Rafael Barba (Raul Esparaza), who was open to hearing him. He agreed to take the case to press on anything his friends knew.
Bell and Carisi met Angela, who didn’t recognize Carisi. Meanwhile, Richie (Nick Creegan) talked to Fin on the phone from his own jail cell about being willing to take down his dad.
Stabler was holding back from unloading on Barba with Benson not far behind him. Barba defended himself on how, if someone as rich as Wheatley could be “railroaded,” so could someone less fortunate and innocent. He pressed that he would have to bring up Benson and Stabler’s relationship, and he’d go far easier on them than another lawyer would. Benson still couldn’t believe Barba held to Wheatley being “framed.”
Baptiste questioned Benson on the stand who made it clear that Wheatley was the only suspect. Then, Barba began his cross-examination, bringing up the brief arrest of Jackob Peters, who took credit for it.
Barba showed a video of the interrogation where Stabler nearly throttled Peters and Stabler’s (very) long list of reprimands over his temper.
Carisi talked to Bell about the evidence, with Barba undermining her testimony and trying to make it sound like Stabler had planted the evidence against Wheatley. He also tossed in Bell suing the NYPD to muddy the waters further.
Angel’s testimony takes a turn
In private, Wheatley met Benson and Barba, with Wheatley denying both Kathy’s murder and being responsible for Benson’s car accident. He dryly stated that Stabler’s kids shouldn’t be around for Angela’s testimony as “they might not want to hear what she has to say. And neither should you.”
That drove Benson to meet Stabler, pressing him on Angela. Stabler could tell this wasn’t just about the case as Benson complained that Stabler hadn’t asked a single question about her life in the decade they’d been apart.
Angela took the stand to openly state Wheatley had killed her son, although Ellery told the jury to disregard that. That drove her to believe Stabler was responsible for ordering the hit on Kathy.
Barba began pushing Angela on her relationship with Stabler, including the kiss. Wheatley seemed more upset about this with Barba bringing in Angela’s arrest, and she began stammering. When Barba asked if she was in love with Stabler, she replied, “I wish I wasn’t.”
The only person more upset about this than Eli and Benson was Wheatley, outraged at the “soap opera” with Barba firing back that it was a way to win over the jury.
Richie testified via video of his dad lying with Wheatley yelling at him. But to Carisi’s shock, Richie claimed to have not heard his father talking to Becker and had lied in his earlier testimony. Given how he’d kept looking away during the talk, the cops figured someone had gotten to him.
Stabler on the stand
Carisi warned Stabler the case now rested on his shoulders as he took the stand. Stabler testified on coming across the Wheatley organization, confronting Wheatley and other events of Season 1 of Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Barba began pressing, bringing up Stabler’s temper and vendetta with Stabler unable not to hold back accusing Wheatley. Finally, when Ellery tried to quiet him, Stabler asked how much Wheatley was paying him, earning him a contempt charge.
Somehow, Wheatley and Stabler ended up in the men’s room together for a tense talk on Benson and Angela, with Stabler needling Wheatley on the pair being together with amused Wheatley. He warned Stabler that when this was all over, “Angela will be right back on my side,” with Stabler firing back, “but she’ll be thinking of me.”
Barba rested his case only for Wheatley to overrule him to testify himself. Wheatley proceeded to put on an award-worthy performance of a successful man wrongly blamed by a grieving detective looking for someone to hurt. He even faked tears over his family’s woes, which had Carisi and Baptiste rolling their eyes.
Wheatley claimed it was Becker behind all this, not Angela and that Becker must have fled town when confronted. Carisi brought up how “lucky” Wheatley must have been to have no idea his underling was doing all this. He pressed Wheatley, who snapped, “if I wanted someone dead, they would be dead, including you.” Too late, it hit Wheatley he’d just threatened a prosecutor in open court.
Barba met Benson at a bar as he’d figured out Stabler had deliberately “lost it” on the stand to goad Wheatley into testifying. Benson still wasn’t willing to forgive him for this, but they were interrupted by the jury returning.
Wheatley offered Barba a job as his aide, with Barba replying there wasn’t enough money in the world. Just as the jury announced they were deadlocked and thus a mistrial, Stabler got word from his mother that Eli had looped his surveillance tapes and was now missing. Stabler left to close out the SVU portion of the tale.
Eli is in serious trouble
The Law & Order: Organized Crime half, The Christmas Episode, began with Stabler, Kathleen, and other cops showing up at the apartment where Bernadette was more concerned with putting up decorations than her grandson missing.
At a party, Eli hit it off with another woman, Mia (Nuala Cleary), on his feelings over the trial. They were soon at her apartment, sharing drinks and pills before it got intense.
The next morning, Eli woke up to a bunch of empty bottles, a massive hangover, and, oh, yes, Mia’s dead body in the bed. Naturally freaked out, Eli proceeded to do the dumbest thing possible and just leave the scene with a neighbor spotting him going.
Bernadette was freaking out Kathleen talking about Eli possibly dead just as he called in from New Jersey. By the time Stabler and Benson got there, he was gone, having headed to a nearby bridge over the river.
Thankfully, a passing police officer was able to talk Eli out of jumping. Stabler met him at the station to say they’d figure it out, only for Eli to explain what had happened.
This rocked Stabler and Benson with Eli claiming he and Mia never actually had sex. Benson hit the crime scene but was blocked by the local cops, led by Detective Angel Ramirez (Yancey Arias). However, she did overhear talk confirming Mia had been suffocated with Stabler realizing his son was in serious trouble.
Was this a frame-job?
Ramirez and Stabler did not hit it off with Ramirez wanting to charge Eli with murder but letting him go to a psych evaluation first. Unfortunately, it got worse with the neighbor and cop both identifying Eli in a lineup.
Stabler recruited Jet to go through everything on Mia. Jet brought up Mia’s history as a stripper and an escort, and the apartment wasn’t hers but run by a guy accused of peeping on customers with a camera.
That gave Jet a chance to make the company give up the footage, showing Mia being suffocated by none other than the neighbor, Swofford (Mike Carlsen), who’d identified Eli to the cops.
With Eli exonerated, Stabler went to pick him up at the hospital with Benson waiting. As they waited for the doctor, Stabler finally talked to Benson about her life over the last few years, bringing up past relationships like Tucker.
The doctor told Stabler that Eli may be free but had anxiety issues and that Eli was afraid for his dad more than himself. Stabler hugged his son before taking him home.
Swofford confessed to Ramariez he’d been hired to kill Mia and frame Eli but didn’t know by who. Stabler told Benson they needed a balance to their friendship and invited her and Noah for a Christmas dinner.
Get ready for a twist…
Wheatley was the prime suspect, although he denied it as he wanted a “fresh start” once he got out of prison. He added the only person who had access to his cryptocurrency accounts was his daughter Dana.
Stabler and Bell saw a weakened Angela, who looked worse than ever, now with a cane as her motor skills and mind were affected. She had no idea where Dana was and kept stumbling over her words. Seeing how rough she was, the cops left.
As soon as she saw them go, Angela turned…and, leaving her cane by the window, walked perfectly normal to pour herself two glasses of wine. As Dana entered, Angela, sharper than ever before, told her to get out of town as “your father should be able to arrange something.” The pair toasted pulling a brilliant fast one over on the cops.
Eli apologized to his father for his behavior at home, saying he just wanted this all to be over and was happy his dad was back.
In jail, Barba told Wheatley the D.A’s office had decided the case was too weak and dropped it, meaning that Wheatley was now a free man. He once more turned down the job offer with Wheatley hissing, “there’s plenty of money in the world and I plan on getting my hands on all of it.”
At home, the Stabler family gathering was interrupted by Bell bringing the bad news as the worst Christmas present possible.
Thus, Wheatley is now a free man, Angela has been working with him all along, and Stabler will enter the New Year out for blood.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 and Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 return with new episodes Thursday, January 6, 2022, starting at 9/8c on NBC.