Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 Episode 6 recap: Benson takes a trip down memory lane

Law & Order SVU 500
Aidan Quinn and Danny Pino guest-star with Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 500th episode. Pic credit: NBC

Olivia Benson took a harsh trip down memory lane on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The Five Hundredth Episode (both its title and number) was an emotional one with Benson meeting a couple of old friends, one of which didn’t end well. 

Benson meets some old friends

The episode opened with Benson remembering her late mother with Noah emphasizing she must have been a good person like Olivia.

Showing up at the station, Fin told Benson a perp had walked himself in and “be careful, he’s a charmer.” Entering the interrogation room, she was happy to see Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) for a hug.

Nick explained he was now working cold cases as an investigator and needed to reopen the 1988 murder of high schooler Haley West. While her boyfriend Ian Ridley confessed, he later recanted and Nick is working with a true-crime writer to get at the truth.

The writer is Burton Lowe (Aidan Quinn) who Olivia recognizes as (as shown in flashbacks) she and Lowe had a brief fling back when Lowe was a senior college student under Olivia’s mother and Benson was 16. 

Lowe brought up the case with Ian having been arrested fast and confessing but later recanted and refused to apologize. Warner shows some of the old evidence which is still frozen and ready to be used. 

Benson and Lowe talked at a track field about how Olivia’s mother had forced Lowe to leave or be expelled while telling Olivia that Lowe had a girlfriend. Some prison officers brought out Ian (Kyle Cameron) to walk through what happened. 

A tearful Ian related how he and Haley had been making out when someone hit him over the head and he heard Haley screaming out. He admitted he was so messed up at the time, he briefly thought he had killed Haley but cried that he couldn’t have.

The case takes a romantic turn….

Rollins pressed Benson on how, like Stabler, Lowe was a man from her past returning and how odd it was he chose Benson to help on this cold case. The tests showed no traces of Ian’s DNA, but it was unlikely Ian could be exonerated with no viable suspects.

A check did hint Roger Murray, a teacher at the school, could have been a suspect. The team talked to a retired Cragen (Dann Florek) over a video chat who remembered Murray claiming Haley said Ian was stalking her and didn’t feel he was a suspect as Ian confessed. 

Rollins and Fin talked to Haley’s mother, Joyce (Bernadette Quigley) who made it clear she hated Lowe turning her daughter’s murder into “entertainment” and that Roger was a help to her in all this. 

Carisi and Amaro saw Murray (Brian Kerwin), acting like they didn’t believe Ian’s story and were just “making sure of the facts.” However, Rollins and Fin soon had Roger admitting he followed Haley (who he said he saw “like a daughter”) to the field to try to stop that “bad kid” Ian from doing more. He then shut up to ask for a lawyer. 

Lowe and Olivia took a walk with Lowe brushing off his ex-girlfriend in Paris before giving Olivia a kiss, which she returned. The two were soon in bed with Benson musing on how amazing it was to be with Lowe again. They were interrupted by a text from Amaro on how the semen sample on Haley’s underwear was a match for Murray. 

Carisi met with Lowe, Ian and his lawyer, none other than our old friend Trevor Langan (Peter Hermann). Carisi could push to expedite Ian’s release but overturning the conviction was rougher. Langan warned Benson that Lowe “had a reputation” to watch herself. 

Benson talked to Cragen on how it might be smart to have Haley’s mother be at the hearing with Cragen tossing in how proud it was to call Liv “Captain.”

….And then comes the heartbreak

At the hearing, Nick discussed the DNA evidence which pushed Murray to finally blurt out he killed Haley, apologizing to a shocked Joyce. Carisi felt this would get Ian released in no time.

Just as Burton asked Olivia to a celebratory dinner, up came Andrea Malone (Victoria Pollack), a former intern who worked with Lowe ten years earlier and demanded Lowe be arrested for raping her. 

Lowe claimed it had been consensual with Benson naturally upset as she had to recuse herself from the case. Malone claimed that she and Burton had a brief flirtation, met for drinks and she woke up with him in bed with her. She kept quiet but seeing him on the news with this case pushed her to finally speak up.

Fin sums up it’s a “10 year old he said/she said” with the statute of limitations passed. Benson was still unsure of this until she realized Lowe had given Andrea the exact same mixtape he’d given Liv back in college. 

Andrea posted her story with almost nine women coming out with much the same story of Lowe coming onto them for an affair, but he didn’t assault them. Amaro blamed himself for bringing Lowe such attention and that this was never about helping Ian but getting at Benson. Their argument got heated with Nick snapping that Liv was fooling herself that she wasn’t a victim to Lowe back then before storming out. 

Benson met Lowe who was having a small meltdown over the publicity and that Andrea was out to get him. Benson explained he couldn’t be charged with anything but troubled as Lowe went on about how he may have slept with women but “never took advantage.”

Their argument stepped up a level with Lowe claiming his dalliances shouldn’t hurt the good work he’d done like Ian and wanted Benson to publicly defend him. Liv faced up to how her mother was trying to protect her from this affair as Burton openly stated “you didn’t put up much of a fight” back then. 

After Burton refused to admit he’d gone anything wrong, Olivia walked out on him. She left a voicemail for Nick apologizing and thanking him as a good friend. She then tossed Lowe’s tape into a river before walking off. 

Peppered with flashbacks of Benson talking to past faces like Stabler, this was an emotional hour fitting for the show’s landmark 500th episode.

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

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