The SVU team is undergoing some changes.
An attack on a family by some gang members forced the SVU team to work with another unit that had Benson clashing with its boss.
Meanwhile, Rollins still wrestled with the effects of her injury while Velasco got an intriguing offer.
On top of all else, Benson welcomed a new face to the SVU team while wondering if a cop had crossed the line.
This made The One You Feed almost like another Season 24 premiere to put the new season on a good start.
A brutal subway ride
A family was leaving a college tour while a young man named Ricky (Julian Anthony Martinez) joined his friends across town. They headed to the subway with one flaunting a gun at a store owner.
The teens came down to the subway to board the same train as a family. Wearing masks, the punks stole the father’s phone, his wife saying just to let them have it.
They then grabbed the daughter, with one pulling a machete to hold the parents back. As the family watched in horror, they attacked the daughter on the glass.
Benson and Fin arrived to meet Velasco and Rollins (on her first day back) at the scene. They heard how the 14-year-old daughter had been raped, and her father cut up when he tried to stop them.
McGrath came up with a pack of cops, led by Detective Mike Duarte (Maurice Compte) of the Bronx Gang Unit, who said they were taking over. McGrath said the unit knew more about the gang that could have been involved as McGrath wanted them working together.
Benson told Fin to run interference on Duarte, who was checking out the scene with Detective Grace Muncy (Molly Burnett).
Benson wasn’t happy to find Duarte, and his unit had already moved into the SVU precinct. He defended himself on just following orders.
At the hospital, Rollins checked in with the victim, Nora Whitman (Brooklyn Shuck), as Velasco talked to her sister. The mother was obviously shaken as she heard one of the attackers being called “Sleep.”
McGrath arrived to find Benson and Duarte already at odds. He told Benson that Duarte had a “golden ticket” after a huge bust to go where he wanted on a gang case. He admitted that Duarte got into a jam with a witness some time earlier but was still a good cop.
Fin interrupted to report they’d found the machete left behind while the family managed to identify a couple of the gang members. Benson wasn’t happy with Duarte making a promise to find the attackers.
The doctor then had to break the news to Mrs. Whitman that her husband had died of his wounds, making this a murder case.
The perps were soon identified as Ricky Pinto (Anthony Martinez). Sabo Santiago (Daniel Travas), Manuel Rivera (John Lara), and Cesar Rodriguez, aka Sleep (Matthew Taylor Zuniga). All are known members of the gang BX9.
Duarte figured that flipping one of these guys could lead to their boss, Oscar Papa. Benson made it clear she was more interested in busting them for rape and murder than Duarte’s quest for their boss.
Velasco and Muncy talked about his past in gangs (on both sides of the law) as he noted, “If I talked to Benson the way you talk to Duarte, I’d be reassigned to harbor duty in Staten Island.”
Muncy noted it had to be hard for a white woman like Muncy to work in gangs, and she flipped it on how it felt for rape victims to talk to a man. Sabo’s aunt, Lucia, didn’t want to believe he could be involved but then showed he was taking a bath.
Sabo claimed he was pushed into this by Ricky and didn’t expect it to turn out so bad. Duarte threatened to toss him into a cell with his gang’s sworn enemies to force Sabo to give up Ricky’s location, so Rollins and Fin arrested him.
Sabo lawyered up before he could give up the other gang members while Ricky played dumb. Carisi had a good case but would rather have all four to try together.
Velasco and Duarte looked up a contact for Cesar while talking about their experiences with gangs. He said that “Guys like me and you have to clean up our own trash,” and offered Velasco a spot with his unit.
Was it an accident or murder?
Duarte talked to Elena Gomez (Briana Aponte), Cesar’s girlfriend, who was more upset about Cesar cheating on her than the entire rape/murder part. She gave up their location with the cops raiding the house, and Manuel was shot in the process.
Cesar headed to the roof with Duarte in pursuit, holding him at gunpoint near the edge. Just as Benson and Fin came around the building, Cesar came crashing through a shed behind them. Benson looked up to see Duarte looking down from the roof.
Fin talked to Benson on discovering Duarte had gotten too deep undercover and Cesar and Ricky had once attacked him. Benson flat-out accused Duarte of pushing Cesar off the roof, with Duarte claiming he’d jumped.
When Benson said, “You let the mask become your face,” Duarte claimed Benson was projecting her own issues with Stabler onto him. Benson warned him that his actions could jeopardize the case.
Benson met with Muncy, who agreed Duarte could be hot and cold in his temper but respected him and didn’t believe he’d murder a suspect. Benson seemed impressed by her loyalty.
Carisi said that Ricky and Sabo were going to claim they were just poor, innocent teens recruited by BX to commit the crime. They needed Nora to make an ID while the medical examiner ruled Cesar’s death an accident and Manuel dying of a gunshot wound. Carisi told Rollins she shouldn’t be so eager on the case as Rollins agreed she was tired out.
A new face joins SVU
Benson found Duarte at a bar to tell him her rape case took precedence over his gang work. She was surprised at hearing of the offer to Velasco but made a sarcastic toast as she said, “If he wants to jump, I’m not going to hold him back.”
Duarte related that “There are two wolves inside of us,” and when Benson asked which one was going to win, he answered, “The one you feed.”
Benson confronted Rollins at the office about missing some therapy appointments and coming back too soon. Rollins defended it as being shot before but soon broke down, talking of how terrified she’d been with the shooter.
“I let my guard down. I let myself be happy, just once, and this is what happened.” Benson summed up how Rollins never had anything to lose before but now was affected.
Nora and her mother were shaken coming in for the lineup. Nora, at first, was unable to identify anyone. Muncy took her aside to give her a talk, calming Nora down and helping her identify Sabo.
Duarte still felt the case had failed because he couldn’t get BX9, while Benson was focused on the Whitmans finding justice. Duarte wanted to flip Ricky to get at his boss and was not happy McGrath was listening to Duarte’s idea.
Carisi met with Ricky, Sabo, and their lawyers about a deal. Maxwell seemed open to stopping BX9, which further outraged Benson.
Fin groused about the state of the world as Velasco asked about Fin being in SVU, and Fin replied he liked being in a unit “Where bad guys are bad guys.” He warned Velasco that “If you’re going to do something that’s easy, at least give Benson a heads up.”
Maxwell decided not to drop the charges after all as Maxwell cracked on, “Martinis are the lubricants of justice.”
Finding Muncy fighting the vending machine, Benson helped her out. She then talked about Muncy being good with Nora and how she seemed a bad fit for the gang unit as she couldn’t go undercover. Muncy shared she and her brother lived together, and “Sometimes it’s nice to talk to another woman.”
Sabo and Ricky ended up pleading guilty and then turning on each other to try and get lighter sentences. Benson was worried about Rollins when Velasco interrupted to say he was happy to stick with SVU. Benson was delighted as she put him in charge of training Muncy, who had just joined the unit.
Missing the hypocrisy, Duarte complained about Benson poaching one of his detectives. He claimed Benson saw something of herself in Duarte, and the pair shared drinks while still not sure what to make of each other.
It was a tricky case yet had some dramatic turns for Rollins and the introduction of a new detective to build up the SVU team.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.