Forgiveness is never an easy thing to earn.
To get to an assault case, Carisi had to tackle the Catholic Church and the sanctity of confession.
Meanwhile, Benson had to handle a rough reunion with an old flame, making Confess Your Sins To Be Free a troubling hour for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Confessions soon go awry
At a confessional booth, Audrey O’Neill (Kirsten Connolly) confessed to having an affair. Across town, Burton Lowe (Aidan Quinn) was confessing to an AA group about his problems and hoping to come back. He admitted the next step, making amends, was going to be the hardest.
Audrey returned to confession to admit she “paid the price” for her sins as she’d been raped and saw it as punishment. Carisi showed up to find Audrey’s sister, Caitlin McKenna (Cara Cooper), an old friend of his, at the church.
Carisi was struck by how troubled Audrey looked leaving. He talked to Father Ryan Duffy (Patch Darragh) and Father John Regis (Kelly AuCoin) about his relationship with Rollins. Carisi pressed on Audrey, but Duffy was unable to break the confession. However, he hinted that Carisi should talk to her.
Benson met Lowe at a diner as he tried to apologize, but she was cold on him not understanding what that truly meant and he had to figure it out before calling her again.
Carisi and Caitlin talked about Audrey’s affair as she was having problems with her husband, Shane O’Neill (Roberts Jekabsons), a guard at Rikers. He suggested Audrey talking to Benson might be a good idea.
Fin was suspicious of Lowe reaching out and Benson was unsure how to handle it. Carisi interrupted to ask Benson to speak to Audrey.
Audrey admitted she’d been raped but didn’t think it was by her secret lover, her upstairs neighbor Vince Costa (Daniel Passaro), who’d comforted her afterward.
Fin and Velasco found Vince had a criminal record for theft as they questioned him about Audrey. He admitted he’d been confronted by Shane, who seemed to know about the affair.
Lowe showed up at the station to ask if Benson would come see him get his first AA chip and she cut off Fin’s would-be comments. They figured Vince was “a bottom feeder” but not the rapist. Shane was at work at the time of the crime, but they didn’t put it past him to get someone else to do it.
Shane showed up as the cops were checking out the apartment and as soon as he heard of the rape, yelled about her affair. Velasco had to hold him back. Audrey related that she’d told the priest everything in confession, including her door being unlocked, with Carisi getting a very bad idea in his head.
Targeting a priest?
The idea that either Duffy or Regis (the only priests on duty that day) could be behind this was troubling, but a priest wouldn’t spread a confession as gossip. Carisi talked to Duffy, who denied telling anyone and would help any way he could without breaking his vows. But his lack of a clear alibi didn’t help.
Regis wouldn’t give an alibi either and trying to break confession was a no-go. Benson suggested they “catfish” with a fake confession and see if one bit. Detective Mia Ruz (Dynee Rivera) went to each priest in confession to claim she’d be meeting her “lover” at a club, giving the code to the place.
The team staked out the club to see a man enter and found it was Duffy.
At his meeting, Lowe admitted not realizing the damage he was doing to others with his drinking and moved to see Benson enter. He confessed to hurting many women over the years and especially regretted hurting “my first real girlfriend when she was just a girl.”
Lowe and Benson talked afterward as Lowe said that, while he knew it was wrong, he had been in love with Benson. She admitted so had she been, but it didn’t change things. She had to end it after getting the arrest call.
Duffy was upset about Carisi using the confessional booth and claimed he wasn’t behind the assaults. He said he couldn’t say why he was there and Carisi wanted to believe him, but the evidence was too strong. Benson had to warn Carisi not to talk to Duffy alone.
In interrogation, Duffy said he just wanted to make sure Ruz was safe but refused to break his vows even to save himself. Carisi refused to believe his old friend could do this, but Benson reminded him “we all have our blind sides.”
Carisi realized the real rapist had confessed to Duffy and he couldn’t tell what he knew. The cops theorized Regis may have confessed the urge to Duffy, who tried to intercede.
Benson faces her tough past
The cops talked to a woman who’d been raped years before, admitting to having confessed to her priest about an affair, which was followed by an assault. Regis was one of the priests on duty. He’d also sent her white lilies, the same flowers he’d sent to Audrey after her attack.
It was hinted the Church knew about Regis as he’d been transferred following the attacks. The problem was even if Duffy broke his vows, it would be inadmissible in court.
Benson was met by Beverly Morrison (Traci Wolfe), who claimed to have been raped by Lowe six months earlier. He’d come to see her and make amends. As it turned out, she taped the whole thing.
Carisi met Duffy at the church but Duffy refused to talk. Carisi pressed on how many women could be in danger from Regis and Duffy had to choose between his faith and stopping a sinner.
Duffy was upset Carisi was asking him to leave his calling for this, but Carisi pointed out that Duffy would have to answer to God one way or another. While Duffy couldn’t break his vows, he did share Regis didn’t just confess to priests.
Benson went to where Lowe was crashing at his agent’s place to talk about Beverly. Benson related Beverly may have forgiven Lowe but wanted justice. Beverly had been too drunk that night to say no, and it turned out the encounter had happened right after Benson had walked out on Lowe.
Lowe tried to blame it on both of them being drunk, and Benson coldly stated all Beverly wanted was to see Lowe in prison.
Benson played the tape of the meeting for Carisi since Lowe was willing to plead guilty. Carisi shared how Regis regularly talked to his mother’s grave and her being murdered by Regis’ father explained a lot of his actions.
Regis appeared to place lilies on the grave and talked about the attack and Duffy taking the fall, all of which was recorded by the cops. As he spoke of getting away with this and “all this being God’s will,” they arrested him.
Carisi and Duffy talked at the church about Regis pleading guilty to seven rapes over the last decade and had already been defrocked. Duffy still felt guilty as Carisi admitted it was tough having his faith.
Benson and Lowe talked one last time about Lowe accepting a plea deal to be registered as a sex offender and accepting responsibility for his actions.
Benson said she wanted to forgive Lowe, but he said she didn’t have to. He walked off on his journey to leave a troubled Benson behind.
It was a tricky case to push Carisi’s faith while Benson faced a dark page of her past.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 finale airs Thursday, May 19 at 9/8c on NBC.More: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit