“Law & Order: SVU” mini-cap: “Mask”


This week’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit followed a storyline about a lesbian couple that falls victim to a pattern of violent crimes in which the perpetrator rapes women with a history of sexual assault in order to somehow “redeem” them. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, the handling of the lesbian couple was done sensitively and delicately, without it being a point of conflict in a situation already fraught with pain and suffering.

In the episode, Ann and Debbie are domestic partners who’ve been living together in New York City. Debbie, played by A.J. Cook, is attacked and raped by a masked man, who thereafter assaults Ann when she comes home.

Detectives Benson (played by the ever-so-lovely Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler are on the case, and when they arrive at the hospital to check on the terrorized couple, realize that Debbie is actually Dr. Shields, who scrubs in on her partner’s surgery, thereby failing to do a rape kit. The detectives try to get any other information from Debbie, who reveals that she’s been threatened because of her cutting-edge yet controversial work with gene-manipulated embryology. According to her studies, some women carry mutant mitochondrial genes that cause diseases in their babies, but Debbie was able to make a disease-free embryo using one father’s sperm and the eggs from two mothers. The embryos didn’t carry to term but think of the possibilities! Although, this sounds like The Kids are All Right, which worries me about the longevity of these two mommies’ — whoever they are — domestic partnership.

This medical breakthrough apparently offended an individual, who sent Debbie a threatening note that reads: “GOD HATES FRANKENBABIES. People like you should be stomped out like bugs.” Stabler and Ice-T confront the Bed Bugs exterminator-by-day/abortion clinic terrorist-by-night, but find that he is not the assailant, though he sure does hate those who tamper with baby-making.

Stabler is awesome and tells him, “Once god gives you a uterus, then I’ll listen to your sermon” (about how if a woman is pregnant, she should stay that way, and if she’s barren, tough cookies).

Back at the hospital, Ann’s father, Dr. Jackson, M.D., a dashing Brit, demands to know the whereabouts of Ann. He clearly hasn’t met Debbie, but is forthcoming and warm toward her. Dr. J. has been “kept at arms’ length” from Ann, which is of concern to Benson and Stabler, but gets the lowdown from Dr. Shields, and says, “If there’s to be a medical decision God forbid it’s yours to make.” Thank goodness we’re not dealing with daddy-gay daughter drama at a time like this that would be in poor taste.

The team discovers that the attacker is a serial rapist who, masked as the mythological Hindu “God of Love and Redemption,” has attacked 14 women in cities that have sex addiction rehab centers.

Dr. Shields, finally able to talk to the detectives, reveals that the masked assailant had been waiting for Debbie in the hallway of her apartment, choked her unconscious, and when she came to, told her that he would cure her of “Falmouth,” whatever that means.

Dr. Jackson looks like he’s seen a ghost and has to excuse himself to the waiting room. Dr. Jackson clearly knows something about “Falmouth” and discloses that the assailant raped the wrong girl. He knows this because he’s a psychiatrist specializing in sex addicts, and, given the nature of the attack, one of his patients must be the attacker. He asserts to Stabler, however, that he can’t betray patients’ confidentiality, even in the case of bringing justice for his daughter.

Jackson says that his clients are “deeply disturbed” and deserve treatment just like other addicts. Why does he feel so strongly? He’s a former sex addict and alcoholic who effectively broke up his family. The sex-addicted rapist who attacked Debbie and Ann has a pattern of trying to “save” and “cure” women who have been sexually assaulted in the past by raping them. So why did he want to cure Ann of Falmouth?

Falmouth is the place where the Jackson family used to spend their summers, and where he and Ann became estranged 20 years ago. She was 16 and coming to terms with her sexuality; both of Ann’s parents knew she was gay, but it didn’t bother them. But the worst thing Dr. Jackson ever did to his family, though he can’t quite remember due to the influence of alcohol, is the possibility that he may have raped his own teenage daughter. Jackson had told only one of his therapy groups the Falmouth story, which indicates that a man from that group must have been Debbie and Ann’s attacker.

Back in the hospital, Dr. Jackson describes the day he crossed the line and raped his daughter, and tries to relay to Benson his years of anguish and misery and that of many other addicts. He asks her, “Can you really say that some people are not worth saving?” “Yes,” replies Benson, without hesitation.

Ann’s friend Linda comes back into town after 20 years and reveals the real shocker: she and Dr. Jackson had sex that summer — not Ann and her father. In fact, Linda was 17 and it was consensual. What’s more is that Linda was Ann’s first love, and Linda broke Ann’s heart in the worst way possible, which is why Ann became estranged from both of them.

Well, that’s a huge relief for Dr. Jackson, who now has a renewed vengeance against the attacker and agrees to have Stabler infiltrate the center and pose as a patient. Finally, Stabler and Jackson solve the mystery and catch Jackson’s fellow therapist, Brett, before he’s able to brutalize another woman. Stabler and Jackson hope he’s locked up for life.

Ann is still in a medically induced coma, but until she wakes up, Dr. Shields and Dr. Jackson will be at her bed side.

What did you think of the episode?