Big name guest stars don't always lead to great stories.
Sometimes they're just there to attract viewers without offering a solid story.
But Law & Order: SVU Season 20 Episode 11 wasn't like that. Royal Pains alum Mark Feuerstein again played a doctor -- this time a creepy and unempathetic one, and the result was a riveting hour of television.
The scariest thing about Feuerstein's Heath Barron was that he believed everything he was saying.
He continually said inappropriate things and tried to come onto Rollins, all while thinking he was doing something positive for humankind by making fantasies come true.
I did not doubt that he believed his encounter with Ava was consensual, and she just had buyer's remorse in the morning even though it was obvious she was suffering.
And if not, he was at least able to sell a persona that believed his own BS.
That didn't make him any less of a predator. In fact, it made him more terrifying.
He managed to brainwash a fourteen-year-old girl into believing she was the love of his life and that he could do no wrong despite evidence in front of her eyes to the contrary, too.
I'd have liked to have known more about how that happened.
It seemed that Cici/Sadie had significant self-esteem issues that allowed Heath to take advantage of her in the first place. But was this an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome or something more insidious?
Heath did prescribe Sadie a lot of heavy-duty drugs, after all. Was part of her blissful denial of what he was due to being sedated for years at a time?
Three-ways are illegal now? I thought this was New York, not Texas!Sadie
Raise your hand if you predicted Sadie was the missing girl as soon as this plot element got introduced!
I figured it was her because the age was about right and that seemed like a logical twist. That was a nice fakeout with the dead body in the wall, though. For a second there I thought I was wrong.
There wasn't any reason for Heath to have killed a young girl other than setting up a red herring to make viewers think they'd guessed wrong. His crimes were heinous enough without that, and the death was never fully explained.
Benson's theory that Heath wanted the perfect woman and disposed of Moira when she ceased to fulfill his fantasies made sense, I guess, but I'd have liked some confirmation.
That would have been a great time to bring back Dr. Huang for a guest appearance. Those kinds of psychological explanations are best left to experts, even if Benson was able to use it to get through to Cici.
In any case, Cici's father stole the show! Mr. Taylor was a relatively minor character, but his story broke my heart.
Believe me, we prayed every night for some sign that Cici was still alive. Seven years ago on her birthday, we had a fake funeral. Father John said it would give us closure. There is no such thing as closure.Taylor
The pain of losing his daughter and not knowing what had happened to her was bad enough. Did the poor guy have to lose his wife to a drunk driver too?
Kevin O'Rourke played these scenes to perfection but even better was Taylor's reunion with his daughter.
The logical part of my brain thought that Cici/Sadie was in far too good a shape after her ordeal, but that was quickly overridden by how emotional it was for this man who had given up hope to finally reunite with his long-lost daughter after more than a decade!
Ava picked up on Cici/Sadie's heartbreak. I got the sense she saw her as a fellow victim even though Sadie participated in the rape and in vilifying Ava after she reported it.
Ava was, understandably, all over the place, and during the first half of the hour, it was hard to know what had actually taken place.
I thought it might come down to Ava having been too high to consent after voluntarily taking MMDA and whatever else and the Barrons claiming the affirmative defense that they didn't realize she was that incapacitated and thought she wanted it.
Ava: They're making me out to be the bad guy, to be a prude who had regrets after.
Benson: Ava, listen to me. You're not a prude because you didn't want to be assaulted.
Ava: They're vilifying me!
Benson Okay, let's take a breath here -
Ava: No! I'm done with this. I'm not pressing charges.
Benson: Ava, they're gonna keep doing this. There's going to be other girls -
Ava: So let one of them testify. I'm done with this.
Ava's story touched on some issues related to the difficulty of prosecuting drug-facilitated rape cases. Even when a survivor remembers getting raped, trauma can cause the survivor's memories to be inconsistent, leading to accusations of making the whole thing up.
But with drug-facilitated rape, it's even worse because the survivor literally remembers nothing and witnesses might think she voluntarily got drunk.
This particular story didn't make that point explicit, but Ava was definitely confused as a result of the drugs, and viewers didn't know at first whether she didn't use drugs outside of this experience or was only trying to make herself look better so she wouldn't get blamed for her rape.
I didn't blame Ava for not wanting to testify. Even the cops were questioning her story and then once she told it, her name immediately got dragged through the mud.
Ava: Are you saying you believe them?
Benson: We're just trying to find out what happened. We got three people involved in this and two of them say you're lying.
Ava: Oh my God! You don't believe me.
Rollins: They say you gave them the Ecstasy.
Ava: I told you, I don't do drugs!
Rollins: They also said you had a three-way in college and wanted to try again.
Ava: Even if I said that, I didn't want this! I was raped!
Ava: Okay, what? Are you going to arrest them?
Benson: We will build a case and we'll start by getting a search warrant for their home.
I thought Benson was off with her advice to Ava.
The usually empathetic Benson missed the boat when suggesting the Barrons would target other victims. A young woman who deeply feared getting publicly vilified wasn't going to care about the effect her decision had on other people, and that comment came close to trying to shame her into speaking up.
And Ava didn't trust Benson, either. She thought Benson didn't believe she had gotten raped. So why would she listen to her opinion about what she should do?
While Fin didn't have a story of his own, he had more airtime during "Plastic," and his interactions with Carisi were entertaining.
Having a gay couple be the one to find and rescue Ava was all sorts of awesome.
With the Barrons engaging in nonconsensual threesomes and treating women having same-sex attraction as a fetish, having the Good Samaritans be gay drove home the point that being gay is not merely a sexual fetish.
- Where the heck was Stone? The deal with Cici was made off-screen, and we didn't even get one sardonic comment during this whole messy case.
What did you think, SVU Fanatics?
Was the reveal that Sadie was Cici a shocking surprise, or did you figure it out?
How'd you enjoy Mark Feuerstein playing a baddie?
Did Cici's father break your heart too?
Weigh in below, and if you missed anything, be sure to watch Law & Order: SVU online to catch up!
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.