The past has an ugly way of coming back to the present.
Meanwhile, Carisi took a big step with Rollins, along with a surprising revelation from an ally in, If I Knew Then What I Know Now.
A happy meeting turns ugly
At a small apartment, a young woman named Ashley (Gates Leonard) was tended by her parents before a big meeting. At a restaurant, she met Michelle Young (Lisa Joyce), the birth mother she’d never known. Meanwhile, Rollins was jarred when daughter Billie asked Carisi, “are you my dad?”
Ashley asked Michelle about her birth mother. At the station, both Fin and Velasco were quarantined so Khaldun (Ari’el Stachel) was borrowed from hate crimes. Ashley showed up to report a rape…the one of Michelle that led to Ashley being conceived. Naturally, Benson was rocked by a kindred spirit.
Ashley shared Michelle’s story of being taken advantage of when drunk at a party in 2003. She felt some guilt from her mother’s life being wrecked because of her and wanted some justice. Carisi warned it would be complicated with a case so old and never reported.
Rollins and Carisi talked briefly about Billie before Benson relayed Michelle was willing to talk. Rollins and Khaldun spoke to her, with Michelle refusing to tell more. Carisi said they could prosecute but needed more evidence. He also suggested maybe Michelle would respond to a personal touch.
Benson visited Michelle to reveal she was a child of rape and understood Ashley. She and Ashley both wanted to help Michelle deal with this, the woman admitted she felt guilty over not being in her daughter’s life but thought it was time to address it.
Finding the father
Ashley’s adoptive father, Tony (Andrew Garman) wasn’t happy about this being dredged up. Neither was Michelle’s mother, Lois (Veanne Cox), as Michelle blamed her not being around for what happened and wanted nothing to do with this.
Michelle wasn’t happy when a former classmate claimed not to know anything of what happened that night despite an old picture showing them with some guys at a bar that night.
Carisi and Rollins’ talk on the case turned to Carisi being upset they had to keep their relationship quiet on the job and even from her kids. He’d even floated a hypothetical with HR and wanted to ask how long they could be together if she couldn’t be honest with Rollins responding she’d never been more honest in any relationship in her life.
Benson was wary of having Michelle do a “cognitive recreation” visiting the townhouse the party had been held at. Michelle walked through the event, seeing a lion’s head decoration on the ceiling, which shook her.
Rollins and Khaldun talked to Denise Wilcox (Suzanne Savoy), who had owned the house, claiming she wasn’t there that summer but her sons, Zach and Josh, were. Zach (Corey Sorenson) wasn’t ready to talk more without a subpoena.
Josh (Ben Jeffrey) stopped in at the station and warmly talked about knowing Michelle. He said they simply made out at the party but also couldn’t remember exactly what happened and was amazed he could be a father.
Michelle was rocked to realize she might not have been raped, just a drunk hook-up. Benson wasn’t sure, given her reaction in the bedroom. Benson shared how it felt when her mother, in a drunken rage, revealed the truth about Benson’s paternity and “I wish I’d never had you.”
Ashley showed up, talking about Michelle saying it was all a misunderstanding, and already happy to meet Josh. She even gave Benson a hug as they realized how complex this case had become.
Is he a predator?
Josh showed up again to be informed the DNA tests said he wasn’t the father. Disappointed, he talked of the party and how a friend named Cole Eaton was also staying with them that night. The man was married to their sister, and Zach was his lawyer.
Lorraine Maxwell (Betty Buckley), warned the cops that the Wilcox family was a powerful one and they had to tread carefully. Cole was cagey talking about Michelle and not giving any details.
Michelle met Cole at a bar, his assuming this was a shakedown and offered money. She was outraged, railing at him with him realizing he was being recorded and refusing to confirm anything. Rollins and Khaldun came with Cole agreeing to a meeting.
Buckley pointed out the flimsy case and knew first-hand how bad this could go for Michelle. She shared she’d been raped when she was a college freshman, but the attacker was the son of a powerful trustee and never told anyone until now. “Take Cole Eaton down.”
Cole played it that he just “wanted to do right” by his newfound daughter and even offered to let her meet her half-siblings. They arrested him with Josh willing to testify, and when he said Maxwell would make this go away, Carisi responded she signed off on his arrest.
Michelle didn’t want to pursue this, but Ashley intended to make Cole pay. They met Cole trying to be friendly, bringing up his family, but Ashley coldly responded that he wasn’t her father, just her mother’s rapist who had to pay.
Cole agreed to a deal to avoid prison but probation, a lot of community service, and paying the college fees for both Michelle and Ashley. The two agreed, knowing it might be the best way to move on as the mother and daughter finally enjoyed their reunion.
Rollins told Benson about her and Carisi with Benson’s smirk showing she’d known all along and was happy for them. The pair met with both happy to finally be an official couple and making Rollins’ kids their next ones to tell.
It was an emotional episode for the guest stars but also an important step for Rollins and Carisi going forward.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.