Do the ends justify the means if an innocent person is in the crossfire?
An attack on a woman at a strange party led the SVU team to the rare case of a predator who knew how twisted he was.
However, it also involved a powerful woman using blackmail material in what she saw as a justified attack on men.
Her battle of wills against Benson was intriguing, leading to a surprising conclusion.
As the title implied, Controlled Burn addressed if creating a smaller crime could justify stopping worse ones in the future.
The worst after-party experience ever
Rollins delivered a lecture to some college students on how to handle cases involving predators. As she spoke, Spencer Lewis (Jordan Belfi) was listening to businesswoman Lean Hess (Lola Glaudini) try to win his equity firm onto a deal.
Spencer talked to an assistant about a date even as he claimed he and his wife had an open relationship. After she turned him down, he talked to Maggie D’Angelo (Brooke Bloom) about a party, and before she knew it, she was roped into being his date.
Rollins talked about a “controlled burn” where a smaller fire fought back a bigger one. She compared it to stopping a predator early on before he became violent.
While Rollins and Carisi were getting hot and heavy, Maggie discovered Spencer was bringing her to a swinger’s party. She tried to focus on her work before a masked man sent her a drink.
Maggie soon found herself getting dizzy and passing out on a bed. She woke up the following day lying on plastic sheets as the masked man washed his hands.
Maggie quickly left in a daze, wandering with messed-up clothes. When a homeless man checked on her, Maggie coughed up her own panties before collapsing.
Fin noted how Rollins was in a good mood as they arrived at the hospital to check on Maggie. The medic noted she had been drugged with scopolamine.
Rollins talked with Maggie, who was already working on her computer and clearly didn’t want to speak about what happened. She claimed she couldn’t have been raped because a cancer treatment made sex hard for her. Maggie was more worried about her company’s big deal than the attack.
Fin talked to the homeless man, who related where he found Maggie and her being chased by “A giant crow.” Spencer arrived to reveal they’d been at the party together, with Maggie telling Rollins she wasn’t raped and refusing to say anything else.
Spencer was doubtful of the attack as he claimed the party was just a Wall Street event and didn’t even know who was hosting it. He shared the address before Maggie left with him.
Rollins told Fin that Maggie was in denial as they left. They checked out the address, which was unoccupied, meaning someone had used it just for the party. Muncy showed some video of the masked man they realized was the crow the homeless man had seen.
Maggie still couldn’t remember much as she admitted there was a clear swinger feel to it. Seeing the photo of the masked man, she remembered the drink and then his voice gushing about her neck being like a painting, but that was all she could recall. Hearing about the underwear in her throat, Maggie finally agreed to a rape kit.
Fin and Muncy talked to Spencer, who denied being responsible if only because he’d be lost without her excellent work. Fin noted an investigation could tank this big deal as Spencer agreed to get them an invite to the next party before Muncy swabbed his cheek in full view of the office.
A security guard tried to stop the cops before Hess talked to them. She wanted to know about Spencer in case it came up later and expected to be looped into their investigation.
A dangerous voyeur exposed
The DNA didn’t match Spencer, and there was no record of who it belonged to. Maggie was rocked to realize she had been assaulted and was now eager to find out what had happened.
The team staked out the new party site and headed inside to see some people doing drugs. That gave them the excuse to bust it up with various hookups interrupted. They found someone had been watching the whole event on private cameras.
Some partygoers had seen the masked man at previous events but not tonight. One related the man was pretty rough with women.
Carisi knew going after a masked man would be tricky and that any sex there appeared to be consensual. They suspected someone was taping these New York rich folks in wild times for blackmail.
Muncy revealed that Hess’ company owned the townhouse, which was a pretty big coincidence. Hess admitted to owning the property but had no idea who could be using them. She admitted to using the cameras for security but that she’d be liable for any crime on her property.
Benson warned Hess that if they found any connection to the assault, she was in serious trouble.
Carisi warned Benson of going after someone as powerful and connected as Hess.
Maggie arrived at the station for an update and was freaking out about the trauma. After she left, they found footage of the masked man choking Maggie several times, which could fall under attempted murder.
They saw the man unmasked as well as photos of Spencer in a very compromising position. Put on the spot, Spencer admitted to knowing the man, who played for the New York Orchestra.
At a recording studio, Fin and Muncy confronted the man, Ethan Schmidt (Dave Shalansky) and arrested him right in the middle of a performance. They found the mask and drugs at his home and Maggie identified his voice.
The mastermind is revealed
Schmidt’s lawyer tried to argue this was a fishing expedition, but the evidence was too strong. Schmidt confessed to his “compulsion” and offered to tell who threw the parties in exchange for getting much-needed help.
He related that Hess herself had struck up a talk on music before inviting him to a party where Schmidt could do whatever he wanted.
Rollins had to ask Ethan what he found so pleasurable about choking a woman. His answer that it was like a musical symphony made her sorry she asked.
The cops headed to Hess’ office, with Hess defending herself with the line, “If men disappeared tomorrow, so would war and rape and just about every evil of mankind.” Benson felt sorry Hess had this foolish mentality.
She was amazed this whole thing was all about Hess getting back at men with blackmail as she fired back, “I don’t make them light the fire. I just give them a little tinder.” She didn’t care about the innocents like Maggie, who got burned along the way as Benson arrested her.
They found a large collection of blackmail material on half of the most powerful men in New York City. Benson and Rollins talked about Hess likely having been a victim herself and was now attacking all men.
Benson admitted understanding Hess’ belief a bit as Rollins was happy she was raising daughters. They also talked about Rollins being in a better place mentally.
Hess pled not guilty and was placed on house arrest. They were worried Hess was so confident and wondered if she had something on the judge.
Maggie was happier about being alive and had already quit her job, as well as Ethan cutting a deal to spare her a trial. She decided it was time to have surgery on her scar tissue to move on with her life.
Maggie didn’t want therapy but did demand to see the video of her attack. Before Benson could reply, they got word Hess had slipped off her ankle monitor and was in the wind.
Hess had left behind a phone number and when Benson called it, Hess answered from her private jet. She said Benson could do a lot with the footage she had as Benson snapped Hess was playing with fire.
She hung up, telling Fin it was a wrong number before stalking off.
Thus, it appears the SVU team might have a new opponent who can make life tougher for them in the future.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.