The SVU team has investigated rape after rape after rape, always careful to advocate for victims and not to doubt their stories without a compelling reason.
But what happens when the accused is someone they work with and trust?
Law & Order: SVU Season 20 Episode 9 examined that question in a beautiful, character-driven story that managed to once again ask more questions than it answered.
I expected Stone's alcohol use and tendency to hook up with random women while drunk to get him in trouble sooner or later.
But I didn't expect the accuser to come from his distant past.
This story provided a nice counterpoint to Law & Order: SVU Season 20 Episode 8, where a corrupt ADA was arrested for a decades-old rape. In that case, the ADA was guilty and justice was finally served.
In this one, there was a 12-year-old case of mistaken identity that could have ruined Stone's life. And if the SVU team didn't know him personally, would they have discovered the error?
Way things are, we're all looking at our past through a different prism.Fin
Rollins thought Fin and Carisi were jumping to Stone's defense because he was a guy, and she didn't appreciate it. I thought she had a point, since Fin was busy playing the "guys can be young and stupid" card.
Youth is no excuse for rape and neither is drunkenness, and it was disturbing to hear a seasoned SVU detective take that point of view.
At the same time, the cops' gut instincts were right: Stone was innocent.
Carisi: Rollins, I know our job is to believe survivors; we start from there. But on this one... I believe him.
Rollins: You're allowed to feel that way.
Carisi: I don't think I am.
Carisi summarized the conflict perfectly. Believe survivors, but what if your gut says the accused is innocent? And does personal knowledge of a suspect's character have any place in investigations at all?
On the other hand, the cops were quick to focus their investigation on Stone even though there was another viable suspect in the room and Sarah had no way of knowing what went down.
She said that she, Stone, Reggie, and Wanda all went to Stone's hotel room -- yet nobody gave Reggie a second look until the end of the hour.
Did the cops not consider the possibility that Sarah was mistaken about who raped her? She kept saying she woke up next to Stone, but she had said there was another guy in the room.
Maybe they looked into Reggie before this off-screen, but there was no evidence they did.
Does believing survivors mean not investigating alternate theories of the crime when a victim doesn't remember exactly what happened and it's possible someone else committed the rape?
Or were the cops right to focus on Stone since he was the one Sarah was accusing of raping her?
I didn't like the hostage sequence. It's been done a billion times before, especially on SVU, and I felt like it wasted time that could have been spent on moving forward with the case against Stone.
However, it did drive home the point that often an accusation is equivalent to a conviction in the court of public opinion, and that once a person is charged with rape, his or her life will never be the same even if the charges are dropped.
Stone was lucky. There were no bullets in the gun and Gary eventually surrendered without hurting anyone.
But even though Reggie was arrested for the rape, will everyone believe Stone is innocent? Or will some people assume he got away with it because he's a DA, just like Gary assumed Stone was guilty because ball players sleep around?
I'm hoping there's some fallout from this in future episodes. I'd like to see Stone dealing with the ghost of this accusation for a while.
Either way, I think Stone needs to stop drinking.
He didn't rape anyone -- which, by the way, goes to show that getting drunk doesn't necessarily lead to sexual assault -- but he wasn't entirely wrong when he blamed himself for inviting Sarah to his hotel room.
He got so drunk that he couldn't remember the next day what had happened and was confused by her demand that he never contact her again.
And that was far from the only time he's been that drunk. On Law & Order: SVU Season 20 Episode 1, he was drinking and hooking up with random women.
After Sarah accused him at the bar, he got blacked out drunk again and somehow made it to Fin's apartment without getting into additional trouble. And after his arrest, when he was released from jail he went right to the bar where Gary attacked him.
It's obvious that when he's stressed, drinking til he passes out is Stone's go-to move.
That in itself is a problem. And since he seems to like to have sex when he's drunk, that's really asking for this kind of trouble to keep happening.
I hope this whole thing is a wake-up call for him, but it doesn't seem like it! Maybe Rollins can talk to him about her experiences with addiction, if she ever gets enough of her break from her boyfriend drama to talk to Stone instead.
Personally, I'm with Carisi: I'd be happy if I never saw Al again.
Rollins made the strong decision to raise her baby without him after she realized what a player he was.
And now she's considering moving in with him because her apartment is small! Talk about self-destructive choices.
I don't know what I want. But I know what I don't want. I don't want me and this baby and Jessie and Frannie crammed into my two-bedroom apartment.Rollins
I could understand her annoyance that Carisi was pushing her so hard to reconsider that decision.
He was sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted, and considering how much testosterone there is in the squad room it's natural she wouldn't want to be treated like she's not as smart or capable as the male detectives in any aspect of her life.
But could this be the beginning of a romantic reunion between Rollins and Carisi? Even though Carisi's going to have to learn to keep his mouth shut more often, I'm all in for them revisiting their relationship!
So what did you think, SVU fanatics?
Was Stone's brush with the defendant's side of the courtroom satisfying?
Do you want to see Rollins with Al, Carisi, or nobody at all?
And was anyone surprised Reggie turned out to be the rapist?
Hit the comments with your thoughts! And don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.