I know, I know — trying to select the five craziest episodes of Law & Order: SVU is like trying to determine which part of Lake Michigan is the wettest. SVU has ridiculosity running through its very veins, which may the reason the series has survived so long; its 300th (!) episode airs tonight on NBC. (It’ll take several years before the show catches up with original flavor Law & Order, though — the franchise’s flagship lasted 456 episodes.)
Still, we can’t let a milestone like this pass by without some kind of celebration — and what better way to fete this series than to highlight its most insane installments? My picks, in chronological order [chung chung]:
“Families” (season 5, episode 15)
SVU has run a few episodes about incest, including season 12’s “Bombshell” — but one of its first explorations of the topic was especially nuts. In “Families,” the investigation of a pregnant 16-year-old’s murder leads to the discovery that her best friend was sleeping with her choir teacher — and, oh yeah, that the dead girl was unknowingly sleeping with her own half-brother. Squick!
“Sick” (season 5, episode 19)
This one has everything: an old-school chatroom, a billionaire toy store owner pedophile, and the coup de grace: a cancer-stricken little girl who doesn’t actually have cancer. (Her grandmother’s been poisoning her with mercury in order to get charity money.) And to top it all off, the detectives don’t even catch the bad guy in the end!
“Identity” (season 6, episode 12)
Don’t you love episodes that end nowhere near where they began? This one kicks off with a gang rape, but it eventually turns into the tale of two twins — one boy and one girl. We eventually learn that the girl was born male but raised female after a botched circumcision and the two have also been abused by their sex therapist for years. The most unbelievable part of all: It’s based on a true story.
“Web” (season 7, episode 21)
Connor Paolo — a.k.a. Gossip Girl‘s Eric Van Der Woodsen and Revenge‘s Declan Porter — has appeared twice on SVU. The first time (season 4’s “Juvenile”), he played a 12-year-old accused of raping and murdering a cancer patient. The second time, he played an underage kid who runs and stars on his own child porn site. Kids today!
“Wildlife” (season 10, episode 7)
Monkeys are truly the most special victims. In this episode, the sex crimes unit inexplicably tries to catch a band of Russian animal smugglers, who are attempting to import a rare gibbon so they can make chopsticks out of him. Seriously. To crack the case, Olivia goes undercover as a hooker, because of course she does. At one point, Big Boi (from Outkast) gets eaten by a hyena. The whole thing ends with Captain Cragen picking up a basketball and opening it, revealing that the monkey has been inside it all along. And then the monkey hugs him. It’s… it’s… here, just watch this:
Honorable mentions: The one where Robin Williams sets up an elaborate variation on the Milgram experiment (“Authority”); the one where Rooney Mara beats up fat people because she used to be fat (“Fat”); the one where Ari Graynor plays a sociopath who gives her sister gonorrhea, then stages her death (“Damaged”); the one where Bob Saget puts a tracking device on his wife (“Choreographed.”) Clearly, I could go on all day — but what are your favorites?