|←||SVU, Episode 9.17||→|
|Production number: 9017|
First aired: 29 April 2008
| Written By|
Neal Baer & Amanda Green
A fast-food restaurant employee files a complaint with the SVU after being subjected to a strip search on the premises. The search was conducted by her manager, who claims that an NYPD Detective called him with information that this employee was stealing from the business. However, the call turns out to be a hoax, one of several perpetrated by an individual going by the pseudonym "Milgram." It does not take long for the detectives to connect the calls to Merritt Rook, an audio engineer who delights in flouting and opposing authority figures every chance he gets. Rook uses his skills to falsely establish a trip to Margaretville as an alibi, but is found out.
Rook is charged with conspiracy to commit sexual assault and represents himself at his trial, in which he is found not guilty. He then organizes a number of public demonstrations to urge people not to blindly bow to authority, adopting a live sheep as his mascot and naming it Elliot in mockery of Stabler. The detectives discover that his anti-authoritarian streak began after his wife died in childbirth some time earlier. Rook had seen that she was in distress and urged the doctor to perform a Caesarean section; the doctor insisted everything was fine, but mother and child both died.
Shortly before the start of this episode, the doctor was killed in a car accident that was ruled a suicide. However, evidence soon comes to light indicating that Rook hounded him incessantly after losing his family, to the point that the doctor felt he had to take his own life. The squad moves to arrest Rook, finding him at Grand Central Station during his latest demonstration. Stabler hangs back in the crowd as Benson starts to make the arrest, but within seconds he loses sight of the two among the passersby.
Benson's gun and cell phone are found in a nearby trash can, suggesting to Stabler that Rook may have threatened harm to innocent bystanders if she did not go with him. After searching his apartment and talking to past acquaintances, Stabler learns that Rook used to work at a local recording studio, where he finds the fugitive at the soundboard. Rook briefly turns on a monitor, showing Benson in a soundproof booth; she cannot hear the men, but a microphone inside broadcasts her voice to the studio. The booth has been wired with explosives, Rook says, and any attempt to open the door will set them off and kill all three.
Now Rook brings out a control button and presses it, saying that Benson's seat is connected to a voltage generator, and screams are heard from inside the booth. He offers Stabler a choice: either press the button himself or watch Rook do it, increasing the voltage and duration of the shock every time. Stabler refuses to inflict pain on his partner and listens as her screams get louder and longer, all the while trying to persuade Rook to end this game. Finally admitting his guilt in driving his wife's doctor to suicide, Rook allows himself to be taken into custody and reveals that the whole scenario was a sham. There were no explosives in the booth's door and Benson was never wired up to the generator; her screams had been pre-recorded.
As they take Rook out of the studio, Benson tells Stabler why she went along: at Grand Central Station, Rook had told her he had a bomb and would set it off unless she cooperated. As he stops briefly to tie his shoe, Rook sets off a detonator on his ankle, triggering an explosion that destroys the studio and throws all three to the ground. Rook slips away in the confusion and is nowhere to be found as the two detectives give chase. The detectives presume that he jumped into the water handcuffed and drowned, but they do not look any further to find out for certain.
- Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler
- Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson
- Richard Belzer as Sergeant John Munch
- Diane Neal as A.D.A. Casey Novak
- Ice-T as Detective Odafin Tutuola
- Adam Beach as Detective Chester Lake
- B.D. Wong as Dr. George Huang
- Tamara Tunie as M.E. Melinda Warner
- Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen
- Joel de la Fuente as T.A.R.U. Lieutenant Ruben Morales
- Mike Doyle as C.S.U. Detective Ryan O'Halloran
- Joanna Merlin as Judge Lena Petrovsky
- Audrie J. Neenan as Judge Lois Preston
- Didi Conn as Nurse
- Robin Williams as Merritt Rook
- Monica Raymund as Trini Martinez
- Ka-Ling Cheung as Dr. Cheng
- Joe Scarborough as Himself
- Scott Adsit as Dwight Lomax
- Mo Rocca as a Protest Leader
- Matt Stadelmann as Joel
- Ramsey Faragallah as Dr. Sandip
- Guy A. Fortt as Officer Fagan
- Angelique Cinelu as Marcie
- Linda Thompson Williams as a Female Customer
- Mike Edwards as ESU Lieutenant
- Gail Thomas as Jury Forewoman
- Tzahi Moskovitz as Juror #6
- Ian Blackman as a Tourist Dad
- Joe Melendes as a Court Clerk
- Merritt Rook: If it's a crime to play hookey, then cuff me now, I'm guilty!
- Elliot Stabler: Oh, we'll get to that soon enough, may I come in?
- John Munch: "Just following orders." That's the preferred defense of every war criminal from Eichmann to Milosevic.
- Elliot Stabler: I don't abuse my authority.
- Merritt Rook: Oh, every cop abuses his authority!
- Olivia Benson: (about Merritt Rook) You think he's innocent?
- John Munch: No, he made those calls, but it was never about sex.
- Casey Novak: Well, what was it about, then?
- John Munch: The danger of obedience. If you don't question authority, you lose your humanity.
- Merritt Rook: (in an anguished tone) I put my faith in a little god in a white coat and he killed my wife and son. PUSH THE BUTTON!
- Elliot Stabler: (softly with tears in his eyes) No.
- (Merritt pushes the button and a female voice screams)
- Merritt Rook: (screaming) PUSH … THE … BUTTON!!!
- Elliot Stabler: (looks at the button) I can't do it.
- Merritt Rook: No? Why?
- Elliot Stabler: Too many people have suffered already.
- Merritt Rook: Then you, Elliot Stabler, are a human being. Congratulations, you are not a sheep like I was. You're a man. Thank you.
Background information and notes
- Rook's pseudonym, "Milgram," is a nod to Stanley Milgram, famous for conducting a series of experiments that pitted obedience to authority against the dictates of conscience.
- In the original Dr. Stanley Milgram experiments, participants had to oppose the authority figure in the room four times in order to stop and end the experiment; otherwise you were told to continue. Det. Elliot Stabler opposes the authoritarian order to push the shock button four times near the end of the episode.
- Dr. Stanley Milgram's experiments were also referenced in L&O:Criminal Intent "Abel & Willing." Season 9, Episode 6.
- Goof: When Stabler enters the record studio to save Benson, the door is the type that needs to be pulled open, but he pushes it open.
- The stunt that occurred within Grand Central Station was "ripped from the headlines". In January of 2008 the group, Improv Everywhere, known for organizing "missions" such as the No Pants Subway Ride (where hundreds of people ride subways in their underwear) and the Food Court musical (where over a dozen people broke out in spur-of-the-moment singing in a Los Angeles mall's Food Court) gathered at least 207 of its members in New York's Grand Central Station and had them freeze in place at exactly 2:30 PM. Improv Everywhere whose mission statement is "about having fun" was founded by a group of stage actors in New York City and has a policy to refuse organizing "missions" for political causes.
- The first half of the episode is based on the strip search phone call scam. The method was the same: a man claiming to be a detective called the restaurant and told the manager that an employee might be a thief. The caller then instructed the manager to force the employee to undress and participate in other humiliating acts. Multiple managers complied, despite never having met the man or asking for his credentials or evidence, who, as it turned out, was not a police officer.
- Parts of the Merritt Rook character are very similar to Jigsaw in the Saw movie franchise. In one scene, Benson was bound in a chair, exposed to electric shock, and subjected to heckling – also part of Saw.
- Many of the actors have noted this episode as one of their favorites, citing Williams' presence both on and off the camera was entertaining and a pleasant experience.
- When the car that the doctor was in when the accident happened appeared, it had the same plate number as the one that hit Denise Pikering in "Pretend".
Episode scene cards
Trial Part 22
Trial Part 22
Saint Mark's Hospital
Grand Central Station
| Previous episode:|
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
| Next episode:|