The hardest blows aren’t always the physical ones.
A week after the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit handled a rough case of a child abduction showing old wounds, they had to deal with a boxer who had his own problems.
That also led to a new turn on the conflict between Benson and McGrath as the show heads into a winter break in Tommy Baker’s Hardest Fight.
It’s Fight Night
The episode began with a big media weigh-in as MMA fighter Tommy Baker (Cole Doman) was facing off against rival champion Kiki “Killer” Alves (Gabriel Wright). Tommy’s manager and trainer Phil Diaz (Gavin-Keith Umeh) both noted Tommy seemed a bit out of sorts.
Benson and Fin were arguing over paperwork at the office while Rollins and Velasco were watching a video showing Alves defeating Baker in an earlier bout that injured Baker’s shoulder. Both Rollins and Velasco were eager for this, Rollins more so as Baker was from her hometown.
The pair headed to a bar for the fight, seeing Tommy’s father, Duke (Chance Kelly), and wife Chrissy (Dana Melanie) in attendance. However, everyone was concerned when Tommy didn’t show up. A pair of cops were soon called to a car where Tommy was found near death after being tied up and beaten.
Benson met Rollins at the hospital where Tomy had been sexually assaulted and one cop said he’d seen a Grindr profile on his phone. Evidence indicated someone else had been driving the car first with no witnesses.
McGrath actually showed compassion telling the reporters to back off before pointing out the media mess this case could become. Benson was struck by McGrath suffering a hard headache while giving his orders.
Chrissy hadn’t seen Tommy beforehand as his routine was to be on his own before a fight. She also revealed she’d known for a long time Tommy was gay and in a secret relationship with Diaz and their marriage was for appearances.
Phil related that Tommy was planning a big victory and then coming out to the world in his speech in the ring. The only person who knew outside the family was Jax Bell (Erik LaRay Harvey), the league commissioner.
The Grindr account had just been activated so it was likely it was created only to lure Tommy into a trap, possibly to keep him from revealing himself.
The problems grow for the boss
Benson found McGrath getting off a phone call with his wife about his daughters, one of whom had been drinking, setting off a row with his wife. Benson was sympathetic as McGrath wanted to focus on the case.
While he hadn’t been fighting, Baker had been going through cash a lot. Alves wasn’t a suspect as he wanted to beat Tommy in the ring, not take him out like this.
Bell was doing a big speech on finding justice for Tommy as Rollins and Velasco talked to Tommy’s fellow fighter Ricky Nowak (Ignacyo Martynia). Ricky added that Tommy had talked to Jax about something which made Jax upset.
Checking out the gym in Tommy’s place, Benson and Finn found blood in the hallway. Bell claimed he was okay with Tommy coming out and even planning a merchandising campaign around a “rainbow warrior.” However, Tommy said he couldn’t do it because his father was in the audience as Duke was a nasty man.
Rollins shared Duke was known as a fighter himself. When Velasco was doubtful of a father doing that to his own son, Benson stated that one thing to learn on this job was “you never know what anyone is capable of.”
Alone, Fin shared with Benson the rumors about a domestic incident at McGrath’s house that he tried to hush up. Benson tried to play nice even as Fin suggested using this as leverage.
Rollins used her knowledge of Duke and Tommy to press him on this with Duke upset at the idea he’d have done this to Tommy. Duke said he’d always known Tommy was gay and hoped being taught to fight would help him. He added he had pancreatic cancer and just a few months to live. He’d been about to tell Tommy when Tommy got a phone call about money that distracted him.
A quick check showed Ricky had gotten a ticket driving Tommy’s Porsche with Chrissy stating the two were friends. She said Ricky and Tommy weren’t lovers as she was sleeping with Ricky herself, and Tommy had just found out.
The final blows
Ricky had already fled his apartment, with Chrissy denying she had any idea what he was up to or involved in the attack on Tommy. She was just ashamed to admit she and Ricky had been involved for several months with Tommy only upset she was with a “loser fighter.” Chrissy was driven by her own loneliness rather than any feelings for Ricky.
While arguing over the case, they tracked Ricky to the train station and arrested him after a quick chase. Ricky didn’t bother denying the affair and that more people were upset with Tommy being gay than they let on. He also denied attacking Tommy as “this was a crime of passion.”
Benson and Fin found Phil in the hospital chapel, Phil quickly coming clean: He’d assumed when Tommy came out, he and Phil would be together only to learn Tommy was never going to leave Chrissy.
When Tommy found Chrissy had been giving Ricky so much money, he was ready to fire him. Phil and Ricky met Tommy where Ricky hit him with a weight, believing he was dead, and cooked up the assault to muddy Tommy’s reputation. Obviously, Tommy surviving threw the whole thing off. Diaz still said he loved Tommy as he was arrested.
Diaz agreed to a deal to lay it all on Ricky while Tommy was moving back home with Chrissy to be with his dad. Benson assured McGrath that his personal problems were his own, and she wasn’t going to add to them. However, she did suggest that maybe anger management would be a good idea for McGrath, which he seemed unsure of.
McGrath did seem affected by a video Tommy put out announcing he was gay and hoped it could be an example to others to be true to themselves.
While the key plotline of the fighter was intriguing, the more interesting parts of the episode were showing where McGrath’s attitude comes from and Benson trying to reach out to him.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 returns with new episodes Thursday Febuary 24 at 9/8c on NBC.