[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime crossover “People vs. Richard Wheatley” and “The Christmas Episode.”]
Can Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) be stopped, or does he beat yet another charge, as he did at the beginning of Organized Crime Season 2? Well, the SVU crossover features a couple of major surprises as he stands trial for Kathy Stabler’s (Isabel Gillies) murder.
Then after the trial, a case gets very personal for Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) when his son Eli (Nicky Torchia) is the prime suspect of a murder. Plus, across the two hours, Stabler and Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) begin to talk about their (very) complicated relationship.
Barba Being Barba
Wheatley’s lawyer, Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza), gets his ex-wife Angela (Tamara Taylor) to admit in court that she was and still is in love with Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Wheatley clearly gets to his son, since Richie (Nick Creegan) changes his testimony. But then Stabler succeeds in following Carisi’s (Peter Scanavino) advice and getting into Wheatley’s head about his and Angela’s relationship. So then Wheatley decides he wants to say a few words — “no, you wouldn’t,” Barba tries telling him — insisting upon taking the stand in his own defense.
During Carisi’s cross-examination, he tries to get Wheatley to admit that Kathy was murdered because he couldn’t risk Angela finding out he’d executed her son. “For the last time, I didn’t have anyone murdered,” Wheatley says. “If I wanted someone dead, they would be dead, including you, Mr. Carisi.” Carisi’s only response? “Did you just threaten a prosecuting attorney in open court?”
So is Carisi worried after that? “I think Carisi always knew that that was a possibility with Wheatley. He knows he’s a dangerous person. I think just the fact that he says it out loud in court doesn’t make him more worried of the threat that he already posed. So I guess he’s not terrified,” Scanavino tells TV Insider.
“I almost think the fact that he said it out loud now makes it so he couldn’t do it,” he adds. “I think if he would have orchestrated my downfall, he would just have me get hit by a bus or whatever, before he even said it. But the fact that he’s threatened me in open court as he did kind of almost gives me a cushion in a way.”
That cross-examination was Scanavino’s favorite scene to film from the crossover. “I thought a lot about that scene and it was just great to be with him on the stand because he was such a good actor and he had such a good idea of how he wanted to play the character,” he shares. “So it was fun to kind of just go at him.”
Richard Wheatley’s Verdict
When the jury is deadlocked, Barba moves for a mistrial and the judge declares one. Later, Barba informs Wheatley that the DA’s office decided not to move forward with a re-trial. He’s a free man.
Carisi is “extremely frustrated because Wheatley was able to get his son to change his testimony and that was the most damning testimony we had,” Scanavino says. “It’s kind of been a theme of a lot of cases that Carisi’s been involved in: There seems to be an outside hand, it comes in and change the circumstances, whether a higher up cuts a plea or the feds will take the case or Wheatley’s bought the judge or whatever. That seems to be a thing that has gotta be getting under Carisi’s skin.”
Another Angela Wheatley Twist
And while Angela may have claimed to be getting worse after being poisoned by that nerve agent — seemingly not even recognizing Carisi pre-trial, using a cane when Stabler and Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt) visit her later — the end of the Organized Crime episode reveals that she’s been lying to everyone, except her daughter, Dana (Christina Marie Karis). She’s fully recovered. (For now, but “not for long,” only Dana knows the truth, Taylor says.) Speaking of Dana, now Angela must protect her after she pays to have Eli framed for murder.
So how long has Angela been recovered? When we see her in the Season 2 premiere, “she absolutely is struggling. She’s in witness protection. I think it’s all very real,” Taylor shares. “What will start to become clear is that her decision to maybe continue to appear to not be well is absolute self-preservation and to protect her family, her daughter specifically. Because if Richard knows that she is well, she’s a threat again, unless she’s allied with him.”
And considering the trial did not go the way they wanted, Angela’s now facing what that means for her. “What happens in real life with people that are in the witness protection program or that are being protected until they take the stand is once the trial is over, they’re kind of left high and dry, and that’s essentially what the NYPD does to Angela,” Taylor explains. “Once she’s of no use to them, she has no protection. Angela is certainly a survivor and she’s very smart. ‘How am I going to stay alive?’”
Angela’s Complicated Relationships
So what’s next for Angela and the men in her life? “You are definitely going to see Angela interacting with Richard,” Taylor confirms, and yes, she still wants him dead. “If your husband’s killed your son and then tries to kill you twice, there’s not much going back. I don’t think she’s in love with Richard. She’d like to see him dead if she could. She’s too smart for that, but I think whatever she’s up to, I don’t think she’s in love with Richard.”
As for Stabler, who remains in the dark about Angela’s health, their upcoming scenes are “complicated,” she says. That includes one in a diner in the next episode. “There was just layer upon layer upon layer of whatever their bizarre sort of connection is. And then sort of a big reveal,” she teases.
“Like she admitted on the stand reluctantly, [her feelings for him are] still there,” Taylor shares. “Both of them would love to not have whatever this strange connection is and the truth is it’s just there and it doesn’t go away just because we know what we know and we’d like it to. So I think she is still reluctantly, very connected to Stabler.”
Taylor hopes that when the truth comes out, Bell understands why Angela lied. “Angela’s built some trust with Bell and has been on the right side of things and absolutely allied with Stabler and Bell,” she says. However, “any reasonable human being would not trust somebody who’s literally faking an illness. I hope maybe there’s some measure of compassion when Bell finds out why: ‘We kind of left her. We left Angela out to dry. There was nothing we could do. What did we expect her to do?’”
Benson Gets Honest With Stabler & Barba
After Wheatley warns Benson that she and Stabler’s kids might not want to hear Angela’s testimony, she confronts her former partner. “That’s none of your business or the court’s,” Stabler says, wondering why she’s asking.
“I wish I could trust you, Elliot,” Benson admits “I know that you are carving your way through a mountain of grief and I have tried to be here for you, but this is a one-way street, Elliot. You have not asked me one question about what was happened to me since you left. You show up at my house in the middle of the night when my son is there, asleep. That was hard for me. Scary. And this letter, why did you give me that letter? A letter that you didn’t even write? What was that about?” All he can offer is “I guess I didn’t know how to begin.” That’s something they can agree on.
Benson then stays by Stabler’s side as he deals with Eli in the second hour. It’s during that time that Stabler tells her, “I want to know about your life, what you’ve been through, the things I missed. Seeing anyone? Too awkward?” Not at the moment, she says after a moment, sharing just a bit about Ed (“there was one who I thought I might actually … but I wasn’t ready”).
“I want to find balance here, in this, whatever this is,” Stabler insists. “How about we call it a friendship, how’s that for now?” Benson asks, and he pushes for her and Noah to join his family for a Christmas get-together.
Meanwhile, Benson, understandably, is upset that Barba is Wheatley’s lawyer. “I step aside, whatever shark Wheatley hires will put not just the NYPD and Stabler on trial, but you. You! Not just your partnership with Stabler, but your relationship,” he argues. “They’ll eviscerate you on the stand, maybe end your career.”
“So which is it — are you protecting me or is this your defense attorney outrage. Or is this about Stabler?” she wants to know. “I don’t know Stabler,” he quickly replies, allowing, “maybe it’s the first two out of three.”
When the jury is deliberating, Barba then finds Benson. “Stabler coming back has made things more complicated,” he says, but she’s not in the mood for small talk. In fact, “just so we’re clear, I feel betrayed by you, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it,” she says. Ouch!
What’d you think of the Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime crossover?
Law & Order: SVU, Midseason Return, Thursday, January 6, 9/8c, NBC
Law & Order: Organized Crime, Midseason Return, Thursday, January 6, 10/9c, NBC