Law & Order: SVU premiere recap: Season 18, Episode 1
How many stories can one episode hold?
Did you gasp when that young, sweet, little boy casually reached into his backpack and pulled out a gun — a gun pointed at Olivia Benson, with her own young son playing nearby?
Though she quickly got the situation under control, it was a terrifying moment — and, like the rest of this episode, which included the race to stop a possible terrorist attack in New York City — one that felt all the more real after all the recent awful headlines we’ve seen on the news.
The episode’s title, “Terrorized,” is fitting in more ways than one. It applies to Olivia during that scary moment in the park. It fits again when that lost boy leads the squad to evidence that his parents could be planning a mass-casualty attack on the city, and again to the boy’s mother, who says she’s been terrorized in another brutal way.
We learn that little boy is named Ali, and he was alone after running ahead of his great-aunt, Rahima Babic, who was hit by a bicyclist while crossing the road and died from her injuries (similar to this real-life NYC event). Identifying Rahima leads Liv & Co. to identifying his mother, a woman named Ana Kapic, a Bosnian woman living in the U.S. on a student visa. It appears that she left the boy in her aunt’s care with a detailed schedule for him and a potentially ominous note that asks Rahima to make sure Ali knows his mother loves him, no matter what happens. Ana hasn’t shown up to her waitressing job at a Queens diner for three days, the address her boss has on file is a dead end, and her cell phone is a burner. But a partial print on the gun leads them to an apartment for Luka Terzik, and a photo there indicates he and Ana are a couple and Ali is their son. It looks like they left the apartment in a hurry, their computer’s hard drive is destroyed, and then Fin finds something even more sinister — a room filled with weapons and bomb-making materials.
Luckily, security cameras do, and Luka and Ana are seen walking into the park carrying large black bags. They hover by a dance performance with a small crowd, and when an off-duty cop notices them acting suspiciously and shows his badge, Luka pulls out a weapon and shoots him and four others. Olivia and other members of the team race to the scene, and he’s shot and killed by another cop before he can hurt anyone else. Ana, meanwhile, surrenders and begs them not to shoot.
NEXT: Olivia vs. the world
Returning defense attorney Rita Calhoun comes in as Ana’s lawyer, and later tells the cops that Ana says she has been raped and tortured by her fiancé, Luka, and his half-brother Armin, for the past five years, and didn’t go to the park that day of her own free will. Barba thinks the story is just spin, but Olivia points out that Ana can be both a suspect and a rape victim.
Olivia believes Ana’s claims, but Barba and Dodds (who is still angry with Olivia over his son’s death at the end of last season) don’t want her to pursue that because it could distract from their murder case (the off-duty cop and one other woman died). “The rape claim has nothing to do with the criminal charges — could make her more sympathetic in the eyes of the jury, raise the question, was she really a willing participant in the crime,” Barba tells her. Olivia being Olivia, she vows to investigate it anyway and testifies on the stand for the defense that Ana’s rape claims seem credible.
Not surprisingly, that doesn’t go over well with her bosses, but the judge rules in Barba’s favor and the rape case is inadmissible. Olivia then implores Rita to cut a deal for Ana, in part because it would give them better leverage to pursue the rape case, and also because Armin, who DNA has shown is Ali’s father, is pursuing custody rights for the boy.
Rita relents, telling Barba, “Without being able to discuss the mental and sexual abuse Ana suffered, we have no case, which is of course why the judge ruled the way she did. Due process is the cornerstone of our judicial system, unless the term radical Islam is involved. Then it’s just an inconvenient nuisance.” They agree on a deal, with one of the provisions being that Barba do his best to investigate Ana’s rape case — but when he tells Olivia there isn’t enough evidence, she remembers there might be more:
Ana had said Luka and Armin had videotaped their abuse as a way to keep her quiet. The footage, of course, is on that destroyed phone — so Barba goes back to court to argue again for the manufacturer to unlock it. The phone makers that their users expect them to keep their information secure, and they can’t create software to unlock one phone without effectively creating software to unlock all of them.
The judge ruled in Barba’s favor, but the manufacturer immediately appealed. Liv argues they still have a strong case, but he says he doesn’t think the DA will move forward with the current political climate. She knows, referencing the Pulse nightclub shooting Orlando and the police officers killed in Dallas. “It’s horrific — we’re under siege, nobody knows what’s gonna happen next,” she tells Barba. “But Ana deserves justice for what happened to her.”
Olivia goes to arrest Armin but finds Special Agent Conley and the FBI already there — turns out they heard “chatter” about Armin talking with known radicals in Afghanistan. She has a warrant for his arrest, but Conway says it’ll have to wait. “Months? Years?” Rawlins asks. No answer.
So when the episode ends, with Ali now going to live with Ana’s sister in Bosnia and her serving time while her rape case hangs in limbo, Olivia seems unsure about things. She’s never been happier, she tells Tucker (they’re still together, awww), but she’s afraid it won’t last. “Not if I can help it,” he assures her. They walk off together, both holding hands with Noah.
What did you think of the SVU season’s return? Is this the last we’ll see of Armin, or Ana? Share all your thoughts in the comments below!
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Law & Order: SVU