Law & Order: Special Victims Unit recap: The team takes a deep dive into a dark case

Peter Scanavino as Dominick Carisi on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Pic credit: NBC

What happens when the people you trust with your life are monsters?

After a case where a kidnapping led to a dark chain of abuse, the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit cops dealt with a darker event. 

A claim of abuse showed how a lifeguard may have taken advantage of the people under his watch for his own desires.

But things got worse with the implication the man may have allowed unqualified lifeguards to be in charge, endangering the public.

The case was tricky, thanks to political pressure on Carisi and the reluctance of victims to talk.

This made Breakwater a deep dive into an ugly case for the SVU team. 

A deep dive into a rough abuse case

Martina Rodriguez (Samantha Boscarino) was swimming at a pool with her brother Diego (Damien Diaz), a lifeguard. They were congratulated by head lifeguard Paul Greco (James Carpinello), who also used Martina as the “dummy” for CPR training. 

Greco then called Martina to a private meeting in his office. He told her she needed to “practice” her mouth-to-mouth more. He had her do some exercises while rubbing his hands over her.

Martina seemed upset as she left with Diego tackling Greco and threatening to kill him if he saw Greco come near his sister again. 

Diego was drinking at their home with Martina and their mother, Yara (Leticia Castillo), upset. A drunken Diego stormed out of the apartment. 

Fin talked to Rollins about how she and Carisi should just move in already. He gave her a memento of a bullet on a chain: “You need to own your trauma, or your trauma will own you.”

The pair got a call about Diego being arrested and claiming someone was after his sister. When Fin asked if Greco had raped Martina, Diego replied, “No. He raped me.”

The next morning, a hungover Diego clarified how he’d been upset with Greco as he knew what kind of guy he was. An upset Martina arrived as Diego didn’t want to repeat what he’d told the cops before. 

He finally said he’d trained as a lifeguard to earn money with Greco teaching him. Martina told Rollins nothing had happened between them, while Diego claimed Greco had assaulted him and he was too ashamed to say anything.

It was the only time as Diego basically got any assignment he wanted afterward. He never even thought Greco was into women, which was why he never warned Martina. 

The squad talked of lifeguards getting paid more than they did for less work and no record or complaints on Greco. Diego had been a top student, but building a case with little to go on was tough. 

Greco denied the assault and claimed Diego had taken a harder attitude, even using steroids. Fin said, “The muscles are armor” against something in Diego’s past. Greco added Diego was already at work at a beach, which undermined the assault claims. 

At the beach, Velasco and Muncy talked to Ronnie Volpe (Sam Wolf), who confirmed Diego had a harder attitude and may have been drunk when attacking Diego. Diego was already working off a punishment of doing some serious laps after drinking. Velasco was doubtful about Diego’s story, while Muncy said maybe Diego just wanted to move on.

They met Frank Pinsky (Kevin Thomas), another lifeguard watching Diego. They saw Diego floundering in the water, but Pinsky just paused at the edge of the beach. Velasco raced in with Volpe backing him to get to Diego. 

A drowning exposes a larger crime

Diego was loaded into an ambulance as Pinksy defended himself by saying that the conditions were too dangerous to go in. Sadly, Diego died of drowning, affecting both Fin and Velasco. 

The cops speculated that this was punishment for Diego speaking out, but with Diego dead, the leads were low. Fin pointed out that Greco had to have done this before. 

After helping a devastated Yara to bed, Martina said Diego had told her about Greco but didn’t want their mother to know. She pointed them to Daniela Cruz (Sol Ramo), his old girlfriend. She said Greco had raped her once and thought Diego stayed away because of loyalty.

She was stunned to hear Diego had also been a victim. The worst part was that it was for nothing as she could barely swim, so she didn’t deserve to be a lifeguard.

They still had her kit in the system, which led to the cops arresting Greco. His attorney, Sandy Braun (Jason Kravitz), argued for him, but he was held without bail.

Carisi told Benson his bosses wanted to have this pled out as they didn’t want a long-term civil chief on trial. He was proven right as Assemblywoman Diane Garcia (Andrea Bianchi) popped up to speak up for Greco, and it might be best not to open the city up for civil litigation.

Carisi pointed out to Benson how much control Garcia had over judges and budgets, so he’d have to play nice.

Thankfully, the rape kit on Daniela came back. Less thankfully, Daniela didn’t show up for the grand jury hearing as her dad was on parole, and she believed Greco was influencing the parole officer to threaten to send him back to jail. She refused to help, ruining the case. 

Greco denied influencing Daniela and that Diego’s death was not his fault. He snapped his career was about saving lives, not destroying them. “Men like you get so good at lying, they even believe the ones they tell themselves,” Benson snarled.

Carisi brought up the fact some of these lifeguards didn’t seem suited for the jobs. A quick search showed nearly a dozen people had died under lifeguards Greco trained and suspected he’d passed unqualified people in exchange for sexual favors.

They targeted Volpe, pointing out he could be a party to manslaughter. That broke him down as he said he’d entered the real scores, and they were changed later, showing the original tests. That gave Carisi a shot to charge Greco with manslaughter and perhaps second-degree murder. 

Whose life is really being guarded?

At the trial, health inspector Anne Callas (Carolyn Faye Kramer) testified that each of the ten victims died under the watch of lifeguards Greco had appointed. Braun pointed out they were all accidents and nothing suspicious. 

Former veteran lifeguard Matt Gentile (R. Ward Duffy) testified that a qualified lifeguard should have easily saved these people, but a few didn’t even go in the water. 

Volpe testified about the changed scores and that Greco had boasted of a “pay for lay” scam of giving these people jobs. He even had a recording of Greco joking about one female lifeguard’s “audition.”

Braun pointed out Volpe could have spoken up about this before and was only talking now in exchange for a deal. 

Rollins and Carisi talked about the case, with Rollins saying Fin’s gift worked as she finally got a good night’s sleep. 

Greco testified he never did anything that would harm the job or put people in danger. He snapped to Carisi on not understanding what it was like to have lives in his hands.

Carisi goaded Greco into admitting he ordered Diego to swim but didn’t know about the rip current that would kill him. “I’m the boss, and all my lifeguards know it.” Pinksy stood up and walked out of the courtroom at that. 

Velasco talked to Pinsky, who admitted feeling guilty about Diego’s death. He then revealed that Greco had told him not to help Diego, no matter what. Pinsky added that Greco had pictures of them with other men and would release them if Pinsky didn’t do as he said. 

When Pinsky complained Greco had all the power, Velasco told him, “Then take it back.”

Greco ignored his lawyer’s advice, thinking he could still get out of this. Carisi stated that the photos meant Greco’s political allies would drop him fast and would love to expose him in court.

Greco pled guilty to ten counts of manslaughter, guaranteeing he’d be in prison for most of his life. Velasco headed to a memorial for Diego as Benson told him not to blame himself for Diego’s death. 

It was a tricky case for the team as a reminder not everyone involved in saving lives may truly mean it. 

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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