Law & Order: Special Victims Unit recap: the team tackles a unique hate crime

Beverly D’Angelo guest stars with Kelli Giddish and Peter Scanavino on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23. Pic credit: NBC

The biggest question of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is how Hudson University remains open.

Right after handling a radio host’s murderous actions, the SVU team returned to their least favorite college for yet another assault accusation covered up by the school. 

But this time, an intriguing suggestion meant a different trial while Carisi and Rollins had a family encounter in Promising Young Gentlemen. 

Hudson University is in the crosshairs again

At Hudson University, two girls were prepping for a party, overseen by Carisi’s niece Mia (Ryann Shane). Meanwhile, Carisi was bringing Rollins to meet his mother, Serafina (Beverly D’Angelo), with his father helping out Carisi’s sister in Connecticut. Rollins was in full bright “help out” mood as Mia showed up for dinner.

A limo containing some fraternity brothers and their dates pulled up before the Bishop Club with Annabell Nelson (Avery Cole) unsure of leaving her phone in the limo as ordered. 

Sarafina gave Amanda an interrogation that would make Benson proud, pressing on Rollins’ family and background. Mia mentioned she was a campus advocate for possible assaults. 

At the club, the fraternity President Whitaker Yates (Arthur Langile) invited the ladies to a special private party under tight secrecy. Rollins and Carisi were home when Carisi’s father called to talk of Sarafina liking Amanda.

The good mood ended with Mia calling alongside a sobbing Annabell who had been raped. 

At the hospital, Annabell admitted she was drunk and had been trying to get her purse when a man named Austin brought her to a room and she passed out, awakening with two men holding her down for Austin.

Annabell’s roommate, Sarah (Iliana Garcia) was guilty over leaving her at the club and figured Austin’s “friends” were Jacob and Brad. She figured she was spared as she wasn’t wasted enough and just wanted a good time.

Yates seemed surprised at the attack and refused to let the cops inside. He backed down over some threats but brought up the club had a long history of famous figures and wasn’t going to give up members. 

Brought in, Austin (Trey Fitts), Jacob (Eric Weigand) and Brad (Colin Trudell) played the classic “she was flaunting it” excuse. Austin flat out stated Mia “and her coven” hated men, so this was an attack on them. 

The boys’ parents tried to brush this off as they took them home. Carisi saw this as a coordinated assault, with Fin pointing out, “if this was three guys from a housing project, they’d be locked up by now.” 

Recruiting a familiar face

Benson suggested that the club staff would know a lot more with Fin and Rollins questioning them. A threat to revoke his license was enough for the bartender to admit he had orders to keep the girls drunk for fun. 

Going through the club, they were surprised to find a portrait of one member: Hate Crimes detective Andy Parlato-Goldstein (Jason Biggs). Andy said the club had once been a respectable place but fallen badly. What they needed was someone on the inside as “I’m kind of a legend there.”

Sure enough, the club members were amazed that the “living legend” who even inspired his own drinking game, was dropping by with some beer. They let him sit on a throne with a pledge song that bragged of getting women drunk for fun with lyrics a rapper would find disgusting. That had Carisi ready to arrest the whole pack. 

College President Rosa Freeman (LaChanze) was appalled at this and ready for an internal investigation. To her horror, Benson broke it to her they were arresting the entire club on the spot. They were soon rounded up, Yates calling Andy “Judas” as they arrogantly acted like they’d be out in no time. 

McGrath was outraged he hadn’t been given a heads-up on this, with Benson pointing out this was a conspiracy. While he had no love for “these spoiled brats,” McGrath warned Benson this looked like “cancel culture on steroids,” and their job was to make the cases. He then surprised her by asking if he’d come off too harsh as he was trying to manage his anger. 

The judge was amazed at the mass arrests, each one pleading not guilty. Their lawyer, our old frenemy Elana Barth (Jenna Stern), said this was a witch hunt.

The team got word of a protest of women against the Club only to be attacked. The Club members defended they had trespassed with Annabell and Mia among those shaken up by it. 

When Benson said this was “a war on all women,” Andy asked if rape should be counted as a hate crime. When Carisi said it had never been tried before, Benson thought it was about time. 

A daring courtroom tactic

McGrath was actually reasonable, telling Freeman that SVU was right to arrest the group and they were trying not to inflame the situation. Freman wanted more transparency with Benson bringing up Hudson University’s sad history of covering things up. Freeman promised it wouldn’t be that way as she left. 

McGrath was surprised at the hate crime charge but let them go ahead after seeing a video of the attacks on the rally. Carisi said they needed hard evidence and got it via photos the boys shared of an unconscious Annabell with insults written over her. 

Barth argued that hate crimes shouldn’t count if it wasn’t about race or religion, but Carisi fired back that by definition, targeting someone simply for who they were counted as one. When Barth brought up they all had female family members, Carisi retaliated with the “some of my best friends” excuse used by bigots. The judge agreed to at least hear the evidence first. 

With a major jail sentence hanging over his head, Jacob was the first to fold. He gave up he, Austin, and about half the Club was involved in the attack on Annabell. While he didn’t rape Annabell himself, he was guilt-stricken over his part in this. 

With Jacob getting the deal, Carisi was soon playing the other brothers against each other to save themselves. That included giving up Annabell’s underwear with Austin’s DNA on it. 

When Barth brought up Andy’s past with the club, he fired back they were never that bad. Austin then insulted Andy’s Jewish heritage to prove the hate crimes label wasn’t that off.

The team arrived on the campus to see the Bishop Club being shut down, with a grateful Annabell thanking Benson. They watched its member portraits removed as a cheering crowd of female students chanted, “Get them out!” 

It was an intriguing challenge for the team with help from another cop to show how hate crimes and sexual assaults are surprisingly not that far apart.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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