Getting a promotion isn’t always a good thing.
After last week, when cop Santos was arrested after Donnelly killed a diamond merchant, Stabler once more found himself handling the issues of the Brotherhood.
He also had to handle more of his problems regarding his late father, making Change the Game an apt title for this episode.
Stabler gets a promotion
At Donnelly’s house, Frank was throwing a party for his pregnant wife Bridget (Jen Jacob) with the rest of the squad celebrating. Bridget shared with Stabler that she had been Donnelly’s girlfriend when he was married before and ended up marrying Bridget.
The rest of the squad was in the kitchen, concerned about Santos maybe rolling on them. Donnelly assured them all he had leverage to keep Santos quiet.
One cop was suspicious about this happening after Stabler joined them, with Stabler snapping he’d been the one helping Santos. Donnelly then announced Stabler was now his number two man as “I want someone I can trust at the top.”
At Cassandra’s art gallery, Webb oversaw his thugs smuggling in some weapons hidden in “art” crates. Cassandra wasn’t happy to learn one of the crates was missing with both weapons and one of her sculptures inside.
Donnelly and Stabler arrived, with Donnelly telling Webb he could trust Stabler. Donnely laughed at Webb being in the doghouse with his wife, with Webb responding by firing a machine gun near them. Stabler tried to play peacemaker with Webb wanting them to find out who had robbed him. “You’re detectives, detect.”
They agreed to do it for fifty grand and Webb wanted the thief. Donnelly warned Stabler not to speak on a deal for him again.
Bell laid it out for Santos how much trouble he was in and that cooperating was his only option. She also wasn’t happy about Stabler getting closer to Webb but was more interested in the armor-piercing weapons on the street.
Stabler headed to Cassandra’s gallery, the duo playing a game of Stabler the honest cop and Cassandra not knowing of her husband’s business. They bantered about art and knowing human life, with Cassandra noting, “I can always spot a man with taste.” She shared she used Norman Escher as her local dealer.
Escher (Jason Nuzzo) was thrown to find Stabler and Donnelly in his home, smashing up some of his artwork to make him talk about hiring a new security company whose “connections” cut through the red tape of security. Donnelly and Stabler knew whoever the owner was, he was a dead man as soon as Webb got hold of him.
Tracking some ‘artwork’
Eli knew something was off about his father’s tattoo, which translated to a police “code of silence.” Stabler invoked it with Eli upset as he was defending his father to his friends.
Bernadette noted Eli reminded her of Stabler at his age. When Stabler brushed off talk about his father, Bernadette was upset he never even kept photos of the man around. “You have to learn to let go of the past or you’ll never be free of it.”
Stabler and Donnelly sat in a stakeout for Coda’s boss, with Donnelly defending cheating on Bridget with another woman. The pair talked about their fathers, with Donnelly noting he probably would have turned out the same “just minus the badge.” Stabler mused he’d likely have been, of all things, an architect.
They saw their target, Officer Harkins (Danel J. Martin) enter a hotel. They broke into the room, letting his “date” go before beating Harkins down. Donnelly threatened the guy with a gun, Stabler pulling it away before threatening Harkins himself.
Harkins admitted he gave the guns to Victor Braden, a customs broker at JFK Airport who (in either stupidity or suicide) planned to rip off Webb to sell the guns himself. As they left, Stabler mused, “I felt like playing good cop.”
Stabler headed to an old storage locker to dig up a photo book of the family Bernadette had made.
He showed Jet the old movie reels with her cracking “vintage porn?” She showed some seriousness when told they were home movies with Stabler hoping she’d put them on video.
Bell brought in Santos’ wife to try to get through to him, but he still wasn’t talking. Stabler took a different tactic by pretending to sneak into Stantos’ cell area to talk to him. He warned Santos he had to give Bell something, if just to protect his family.
The team focused on Braden (James Joseph O’Neil), who, like other customer brokers, had a lot of power to handle shipping but little oversight. The plan was for Stabler and Donnelly to give Braden a “friendly warning” to hand over the guns or else.
The plan hit a snag right off when Stabler showed up at the docks only to get a call from Donnelly on him not coming and Stabler would handle this. Bell worried it was a setup, but Stabler insisted on going ahead.
Stabler in the line of fire
Stabler met Braden in the dark warehouse, the man a paranoid mess who refused to deal with Stabler. He pulled a gun with Stabler trying to deal with it peacefully, only for it to turn into a brawl.
The shots brought in the rest of the team, giving Stabler the chance to tackle down Braden. They also found the weapons as well as the players in the supply chain.
A naturally ticked-off Stabler headed to Donnelly’s home to find Bridget in labor. He gave her a quick ride to the hospital with Donnelly happy the birth went okay.
Stabler claimed the cops showed up just as he arrived to meet Braden. Donnelly had needed to handle his girlfriend’s ex attacking her and mused on Bridget being more important right now.
Stabler got a phone call from Bell, who informed him Santos had shared how Donnelly buried Hurley’s body in a cemetery. Unaware the walls were closing in on him, Donnelly thanked Stabler for his help and how he truly was “a brother.”
Stabler went to Webb to report the guns were confiscated and he needed a new supplier. Webb briefly seemed ready to threaten Stabler but instead, let him go with a show of respect.
Escher and his accomplices were arrested as Webb brought Cassandra the piece of artwork Stabler had taken from the crime scene. Cassandra noted Donnelly was becoming unreliable and something should be done.
Stabler played the video Jet had put together of the family home movies. Bernadette joined him as they took in the memories of the past and Stabler remembered the good times with his father.
While the Webb-Brotherhood drama continued, the true focus was on Stabler once more caught in his loyalties and dealing with the past.
Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 returns with new episodes Thursday April 28 at 10/9c on NBC.