Accepting a change is never easy, even for a cop.
After a case where they had to handle a sports star accused of assault, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit had the team aiding one of their own.
The murder of a detective’s son had the SVU team going all out to find the perp. It was complicated when the youth’s secret was revealed.
As the crew had to handle this case, it became clear the father may have gone too far in what he thought was the right thing.
Meanwhile, Rollins got an intriguing offer that could pave the way for Kelli Giddish’s upcoming exit.
This had A Better Person being an intriguing episode focusing on how acceptance can be a hard thing.
A cop becomes a hard victim
At a bowling alley, a young woman was doing some cheesy pick-up lines while stealing a guy’s drink. He realized it was a setup by some friends, including Detective Mark McDaniels (Greg Grunberg).
The man was upset as he wanted a quiet birthday and stormed out. He was Aidan (Dani Foster), McDaniels’ son, and not happy about his dad running his life.
Rollins found Carisi with a bottle of champagne in his office as he was celebrating that Rollins had done such a great job at her college talk that the university wanted to offer her a teaching position.
Rollins was thrown as Carisi said she was out of sorts and looking for a change, with Rollins pondering it over.
McDaniels arrived at Aidan’s house only to see him lying naked and bleeding on the floor. SVU was called in as the youth had bite marks on his nether regions.
Benson recognized McDaniels as a good cop from the fraud division and naturally wanted to help one of their own. A grief-stricken McDaniels refused to leave the house as Benson tried to talk him through things.
Fin and Muncy showed up as McDaniels had to break the news to his wife. Benson found the body, now lying in bed with a towel covering him as she and Rollins reflected on losing a child.
Medical Examiner Truman shared that Aidan had several injuries indicating he’d been beaten before his death. There was also evidence someone had cleaned him up to ensure no DNA.
Fin and Rollins talked about the case, with Fin revealing he knew of Rollins’ offer.
Muncy found texts of Aidan planning to meet friend Brian Donnelly (Brian Wolfe) in a pretty rough neighborhood. The bar owner had seen Brian but not Aidan, and his slip-up about serving minors alcohol had him hand over the security footage.
It showed Brian having issues with a woman, but when they looked closer, they realized the “woman” was actually Aidan.
Brian admitted he was shocked to see Aidan was now going by Aida and overreacted, which he was sorry for. He did give dental impressions as he claimed he had an alibi with his wife.
Another attack amid a secret life revealed
Brian wasn’t the perp as they tracked Aida to a bar in the West End. Laura McDaniels (Christine M. Campbell) had arrived for a memorial to her son. McDaniels refused to accept what his child had been doing, although Laura had known and accepted it.
Benson and Rollins had to share how the attack was brutal but cleaning the crime scene was odd, including removing any traces of Aida’s secret life. McDaniels got in Benson’s face about accusing them as she fired back, “If I thought you killed Aida, you’d already be in cuffs.”
Rollins and Benson talked about Benson using the wrong pronoun and the look on McDaniels’ face convincing them he was hiding something. They were interrupted by word of another victim covered in bite marks.
Paramedics were checking out Cora Jones (Rain Valdez) as she claimed she was attacked by a man she met at a bar. He’d fallen off a fire escape and likely not getting too far.
At the hospital, Cora said she’d met the man at the bar, and he’d seemed charming enough. He knew she was transgender, but the second they got to her place, he attacked her.
Thanks to an old woman and her dog, Muncy stumbled onto the perp, trying to escape in a bodega cellar. He attacked her, but Muncy was able to beat him down to arrest him. A quick scan showed the man had been maced by Cora even as he claimed it wasn’t him.
He was Lukas Peeters (Tyler French), a Belgian national with Cora identifying him. He was already claiming it was consensual.
McDaniels burst in, convinced Peeters had killed Aida too and demanding Benson “do your job.” Rollins and Benson pointed out the crime scene had been cleaned too well as McDaniels pressed them to check everything or he’d bring this to their superiors.
At the trial, Rollins testified on the evidence and how easily transgender people were targeted. McDaniels was troubled hearing of the problems transgenders face being accepted.
Peeters’ attorney, Elaine Samuels (Frances Turner), tried to play this was just some rough sex that got out of hand. She even used Rollins’ own lecture words against her to support it.
Cora testified about the attack, with Samuels pointing out she never actually said “no,” even as Cora fired back, she was too busy defending herself. Samuels brought up her past on a college wrestling team, and Cora wanted this as she cried.
A father’s love comes through in the end
Benson comforted Cora, who blamed herself for not recognizing the signs of a predator. Benson saw McDaniels watching them as he couldn’t believe the work SVU put themselves through.
He wondered why Cora’s parents couldn’t defend her, with Benson saying most folks didn’t have that luxury. She said that McDaniels was a person who’d make a mistake but do the right thing eventually.
As McDaniels took exception, Benson said she knew he’d cleaned up the crime scene of Aida’s real life. He admitted he didn’t want folks to know, so hid her clothes and adjusted the body, messing up the crime scene.
McDaniels was afraid if he’d left the evidence behind, Peeters might have been arrested before he attacked Cora. McDaniels felt he was a bad person for not listening to his child, as Benson said he could be a better one.
McDaniels provided all of Aida’s clothing, and he knew his career would be ruined by admitting he messed up a crime scene.
McDaniels testified to taking off Aida’s nails, makeup, and clothing, knowing it was wrong and just wanting to spare his child some indignity. He also admitted it was shame over not accepting Aida as she was.
With the evidence, Peeters was forced to accept a plea deal for almost twenty-five years in prison. Given he was wanted for several rapes in Germany, he was happy to stick to a New York jail.
Fin confronted Muncy about going in alone after Peeters against his orders. He understood her being passionate and warned her not to do it again.
Rollins and Benson attended a memorial service for Aida as McDaniels talked of how sorry he was not to tell her he loved her. Benson and Rollins shared a toast as Benson teased Rollins on being a “professor.”
It was a tough case putting a cop in the middle while also showing an intriguing new direction for Rollins.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.