|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode|
|Episode no.||Season 13
|Directed by||Norberto Barba|
|Original air date||May 23, 2012|
"Rhodium Nights" is the 23rd episode and season finale of the thirteenth season of the police procedural television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the 295th overall episode. It originally aired on NBC in the United States on May 23, 2012. In the episode, a high-society bachelor party ends when an escort is found dead, and the Special Victims Unit must proceed with caution as influential people try to bury the truth, which may destroy the life of one of the detectives. Meanwhile, Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) is blackmailed and later he awakes in the middle of the night to find blood on his hands and a hooker's (portrayed by Pippa Black) dead body in his bed, her throat slit.
The episode was written by showrunner/executive producer Warren Leight and Julie Martin and was directed by Norberto Barba. The episode featured a guest appearance from Dean Winters, who reprises his Detective Brian Cassidy for the first time since the episode "Disrobed".
"Rhodium Nights" received fairly positive reviews from critics, with critics commenting mostly on the cliffhanger ending. According to the Nielsen ratings, the episode's original broadcast was watched by 7.16 million total viewers and received a 2.0/5% share in the 18–49 age demographic, making it the most watched program on NBC of the night.
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A high-class bachelor party is in full swing in a fancy penthouse apartment. Two police officers arrive at the door responding to a noise complaint but instead the officers wish Will Brady (Matt Burns), the groom-to-be, a good night and depart. Meanwhile, Will’s friend Clayton Hannigan (Eric Ladin) goes into a bedroom with an escort named Carissa Gibson (Pippa Black). Moments later, Hannigan and Carissa discover a dead girl lying in the bed. Detectives Benson and Amaro (Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino) respond to the scene of a potential homicide. But when they arrive at the party, they find the dead girl's body is in the swimming pool. A police officer explains that partygoers claim they don't know her, only that they found her floating in the pool. The detectives learn that most of the partygoers have already fled the scene, except for a few who are stuck on an overloaded elevator. Benson tells officers to hold them for questioning when they get out of the elevator.
Benson and Amaro talk to Hannigan, whose clothes are soaking wet; he explains that he got soaked trying to save the unknown victim. Detectives Fin Tutuola and Rollins (Ice-T and Kelli Giddish) arrive to tell Benson and Amaro that the elevator was full of high-class partygoers including professional athletes, prominent hedge fund managers, and secret service agents. Also on the elevator: groom-to-be Will Brady, who happens to be the police commissioner's son. Benson interviews Will; he tells the detective he has no idea who the girl is. Cragen comes over to make sure Benson doesn't get too hostile; he knows Will could create professional problems for them all if he's not handled right. Cragen tells Will that he appreciates his assistance. Meanwhile, Fin and Amaro grill Hannigan in an attempt to find out who was at the party and where the escorts came from. Nobody seems to have any useful information regarding the dead girl; they all claim not to know her.
Dr. Warner (Tamara Tunie) tells Fin and Rollins that the victim didn't die from drowning, instead she found a lethal amount of sedatives in her blood, suggesting that she was drugged. The medical Warner also found semen in her vaginal cavity but nothing to suggest that it wasn't consensual. Fin and Rollins conclude that the girl was a prostitute. Warner tracks the serial number of the victim's silicone breast implants to determine her identity. The ID comes back on the victim: she's Maggie Murphy (Meg McCrossen), a 16-year-old girl from Winnipeg who ran away from home six months ago. Nobody at the party seems to know who Maggie was or how she got to the party. Cragen sends the detectives back to Hannigan's penthouse to investigate the scene again. Back at the squad, Will shows up with his lawyer (Sam McMurry) and presents Benson and Cragen with a video taken the night of the party. His lawyer explains that the video documents Will's entire evening and proves his innocence.
Cragen advises Benson that they'll need to back off of the case because the suspects are too high profile. He explains that the escorts involved in the case have clients who are high-powered politicians and law enforcement officials; they need to proceed with caution. Benson is annoyed by Cragen's meddling and she wonders if Cragen is hiding something. Benson and Amaro interrogate Hannigan. He confesses to putting Maggie's body in the pool, reasoning a drowning would create less suspicion. He remains adamant that he doesn't know who Maggie is or how she got to his penthouse party. Eventually, Hannigan gives the detectives the name and number of his escort, Carissa, to corroborate his story. Carissa arrives at the station but refuses to talk to the detectives until her lawyer is present. When Benson leaves, Carissa begins flirting with Amaro. Cragen interrupts and tells Amaro to be careful. After her lawyer (Reg E. Cathey) arrives, Carissa tells Benson and Amaro that she works for an escort service and that she knew all the girls at the party except Maggie. The detectives decide to talk to Carissa's booker, Bart Ganzel (Peter Jacobson).
When Rollins and Amaro arrive at Bart Ganzel's residence, they discover a party in full swing, with attractive escorts everywhere. Detective Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters), formerly of the SVU, is now working as Bart's bodyguard. He gets a tipoff about the detectives' arrival and tells Bart that they need to leave immediately. Rollins and Amaro intercept them on the way out and Cassidy gets into a tiff with Amaro. The argument comes to blows, and Cassidy and Bart are immediately arrested. In the interrogation room, Benson explains to Amaro that Cassidy used to be a detective. Cassidy explains that he's been working undercover for the past three years. When questioned about Maggie, Cassidy says she's not one of Bart's girls. He encourages Benson and Amaro to question Bart, saying he's got every reason to cooperate. Cassidy also explains that the detectives need to hold him, so as not to blow his cover. Benson makes a show of locking him up. Rollins and Fin question Bart Ganzel, who re-affirms that Maggie isn't one of his escorts and she didn't arrive with any of his girls. According to Bart, the only escort he hasn't heard from is Anya, a Colombian escort who flew back home the day after the murder.
The detectives search Anya's apartment and find an empty pill bottle that matches the drug Maggie was poisoned with. The detectives decide to question Cassidy about Anya. Benson and Amaro meet Cassidy in a bar; Carissa joins them shortly after. When asked about Anya, Cassidy tells Benson that Anya used to work for another escort booker, Delia Wilson (Brooke Smith), who is Bart Ganzel's main competition. Cassidy warns Benson that if she's going after Delia, she needs to be careful: Delia has rich and powerful clients to protect her. Meanwhile, Carissa continues trying to seduce Amaro. Benson and Amaro visit Delia at her farm to question her about her connection to Anya and Bart Ganzel. Delia is feeding a baby goat when the detectives arrive, and she certainly doesn't seem like a notorious madam. When asked about her escort service, Delia describes it as a "match-making service", and though she says she's heard of Bart Ganzel, she doesn't know him personally. Back at the station, Cragen urges Benson to back off of the case, because he's being blackmailed (with photos taken from Cragen's own undercover stint in the episode "Russian Brides"). Benson says the photos came from a normal part of Cragen's undercover work and that he has nothing to fear, but Cragen says they can be misinterpreted.
The two detectives are interrupted by a call: the former governor has been found dead in his home. The detectives soon learn that the governor was with one of Delia's escorts at the time of his death. During the autopsy, Dr. Warner discovers a drug in the governor's system; it's the same drug they found in Maggie's body. The detectives suspect that Bart Ganzel is attempting to frame Delia. They're caught in the middle of a war between two powerful escort service kingpins. Fin and Rollins track down the escort who was assigned to the governor; she tells them he was dead when she arrived. She says she called her booker, Iris, who told her to leave the scene of the crime immediately. The detectives call in Iris; she too denies knowing anything about drugs in the governor's body. Iris goes on to tell Benson and Amaro everything they need to know about Delia: that she's a notorious madam and that she's waging a war against Bart Ganzel. She claims that Delia sent Maggie to Hannigan's party and had another escort drug her in order to destroy Bart's business. The detectives head back to Delia's farm to place her under arrest.
Later that evening as Amaro is leaving the station, Carissa catches him in the parking lot. She tells him she's afraid for her life. Amaro wants to take her into the station house, but Carissa insists she has to leave. In court, Delia is arraigned. Her bail is set at $2 million, which her lawyer Marvin Exley (Ron Rifkin) pays immediately. Exley then warns the detectives that Delia has influence over extremely powerful people, and that they should leave her alone. At home, Cragen wakes up in the middle of the night, confused, to find Carissa in his bed with her throat slit and blood on his hands.
"Rhodium Nights" was written by executive producer/show runner Warren Leight with Julie Martin and directed by Norberto Barba. On April 25, 2012, Warren Leight noted on his Twitter profile that he had just finished the first draft of the season finale, "Thanks to everyone at SVU for all your hard work. Thanks to all tweeps/fans for your support." Dean Winters returns to the show in this episode as Detective Brian Cassidy, who was last seen in the first season episode, "Disrobed", where he felt he should transfer to a Narcotics Unit of the NYPD. On May 16, 2012, Ice-T said on his Twitter profile that filming on the episode had finished, "Just shot the last scene of the 13th SVU season.. See y'all for season 14. #SVU Season Wrapped!"
Being interviewed by Zap2It at the NBC 2012-13 upfronts, Danny Pino noted, "There is a huge cliffhanger at the end, so it's worth sticking around to the end." Ice-T added, "Some people end up in harms way, I mean the show is really about us going up against pretty much an organized crime family, well not really a crime family but some criminals who have their hooks pretty deep in the system. They got their hooks in the politicians, and really we're pushing against people who can push back, and it turns out to be a little hazardous for us." And Dann Florek joked, "I think it's the biggest cliffhanger we've ever had in the show, stuff is flying, you know what I'm saying, stuff hits the fan. [...], there are deaths. Generally there's some deaths, there's some blood, you know what, I'm going to tell you the honest truth, I'm not one-hundred percent sure everyone walks away or not, it's exciting you know."
Dann Florek noted to TV Guide; "It looks like he could be a little shady, and it's up to Cragen to say, 'I know Brian and he's a good cop,'"; Detective Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters), is now an undercover cop who is involved in the team's latest case. Unfortunately, Detective Amaro (Danny Pino) doesn't quite believe him. "It's contentious with Amaro," Pino says. "Dean's character is not as affable as Amaro would like."
In "Rhodium Nights", For Pino’s Detective Amaro, one part of his personal life — a shaky marriage to Laura Benanti's Maria — will be touched on. "There’s a scene that may or may not illuminate where their future is headed," Pino hinted to TV Line. He also noted about the cliffhanger, "It doesn’t end well [for certain characters], let’s put it that way. In fact it’s such a cliffhanger, if I say anything more, I’m going to give it up!" Kelli Giddish said of the episode, "It’s a great cliffhanger, one that really mirrors a lot of stuff that’s been going on in front-page news." Ice-T added, "A lot of people end up in harm’s way." And having been down this annual road before with SVU, he reminds, "You don’t want to go into the finale bleeding or shot, because that is not good. It’s hard for [contract] negotiations, too!"
In an interview with Yahoo TV show runner/executive producer Warren Leight noted, "This episode is a real potboiler that involves a lot of politics, and in politics, you never know who to trust." With a smirk, Leight continued, "I know viewers hear this about shows a lot, but I'm very serious when I say, do not turn off the last five minutes of this episode." Bringing on Cassidy falls right into Leight's vision for the show throughout the 13th season, "A lot of what I was trying to do this year was pick up the interesting threads that have been left over the years. We brought Olivia's brother back in "Child's Welfare" and Fin's son showed up in "Learning Curve"." With the recent renewal of the show, Leight says there will be adjustments for next season, although he's not sure what those are as yet. He did mention that at some point during the show's 14th season the show will hit episode number 300, certainly a major milestone. "I think we really have to do something for that," he offers. "I'm not sure what it is, but I'd like to figure out something special to do."
Pippa Black who portrayed Carissa Gibson said of the episode to the Australian News.com, "Playing this character was something new for me," Black says. "Any role you do, you go outside of yourself, but you don't want to stretch it so far that it's unbelievable to you. Carissa is someone who felt no man would say no to her. I loved doing the role. And working with Danny Pino (Nick Amaro)... he's a very handsome man, isn't he?" Black added with a laugh. Black said to Yahoo Australia, "I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm going to have to be naked and on a stripper pole,' but my manager said it was a really great role and that I should have a look," she explained. "So I was sitting there trying to scroll through the episode (script), and my god it was such a page turner. I loved the character, it was such a strong story of who-done-it."
Just two days after agreeing to take on the part, Black flew to New York to begin filming, "I love New York," she said. "Spending two weeks there was great. We were filming New York stories on New York streets, so it felt very real." She continued, "I guess the thing that sticks out to me is that last scene where I'm with (detective) Nick, it was the first time he sees her scared, when she's around him she's always seductive or very in control of herself but at this point she's almost helpless."
"Rhodium Nights" was partially inspired by a woman who claimed to be raped by New York City FOX 5 news reporter, Greg Kelly - who is the son of the actual NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly - Kelly was accused by this woman who said Kelly took advantage of her after she had too much to drink. The case was handed to the district attorney's office, which later decided not to charge Kelly, based on insufficient evidence that a rape occurred.
Warren Leight has confirmed that the guest stars from "Rhodium Nights" will return for the 14th season's premiere episode, which will possibly be a two-parter itself, and it will pick-up where the finale left off. In fact, there were a number of scenes that were shot that didn't make it into this cut that may make it into the next one. ... It's good to know who did it and why, and who's pulling the strings. I don't think we have every beat plotted out, and we may even do a two-parter to open the season. That's still in discussion. We have booked many of the actors so they're available when we begin shooting again in July. So just on that basis, we had to know who was complicit, because we had to know who was coming back." Leight said to Zap2It.
After filming for season 14 started, Warren Leight said to Today, that while they were filming the season finale, NBC hadn't yet renewed SVU a 14th season. Leight admitted that having a cliffhanger was a bit of a wink at NBC, "I thought, let's make it as difficult for the network as possible," he chuckled. "I don't think that swayed them one way or the other."
In its original American broadcast on May 23, 2012, "Rhodium Nights" was viewed by 7.16 million viewers and acquired a 2.0 rating/5% share in the age 18–49 demographic. "Rhodium Nights" was the most watched program on NBC that night, beating both the season finale episode and an encore episode of Betty White's Off Their Rockers as well as a repeat of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which preceded this episode's broadcast. It was the second most watched program in its time slot, behind ABC's Revenge but ahead of a repeat episode CBS's Criminal Minds.
Kristen Elizabeth of TV Equals said of the season finale, "Wow. After a somewhat lackluster season, Law and Order: SVU came to life in "Rhodium Nights," their season finale, and gave us one crazy cliff-hanger. I certainly didn’t see it coming, but I will back in the fall to see what happens, so score one for SVU!" Teresa L. of TV Fanatic ranked the episode a 5.0/5.0 and noted, "The cliffhanger really renewed my interest in catching the next season."
Valerie Milano of Hollywood Today felt differently about the episode and left a mixed-to-negative review, "Without revealing any spoilers, I can tell you that this show maximized uncomfortable tension within the team surrounding the sensitive nature of the investigation and what they could and could not focus on. Further, there were some familiar faces, including a former cast member from several years ago. This episode gets messy and involved. It does not, however, get resolved. It doesn’t even partially resolve. It merely sets up the next season and then offers a nasty cliffhanger. The whole thing strikes me as a cheap way to get people to come back and watch. I’ve been a fan of the show for the several years and I’m sorry to say that I am disappointed. This is the first season without Detective Stabler, and frankly, the show suffers because of it. The chemistry and tension between characters just doesn’t hit the same mark. The show seems to need more and more outrageous situations because it lacks the underlying charm, friction, and character dichotomy of the main characters. Even Tutuola and Munch seem to have lost something. All in all, the show is not what it once was."
Milano continued with, "That being said, it’s still more solid than a number of shows out there. While attempting to look at the show through new eyes, it’s still watchable; it just isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be. There’s still lots of drama and horror at the depravity the human race can sink to. However, I do believe that this next season will be the last unless they can get back some of the magic that they have lost."
Former sex crimes prosecutor Allison Leotta positively reviewed the episode saying, "The SVU finale “Rhodium Nights” ended Season 13 with a bang. This was a fast-paced, fun episode (to the extent anything involving two murdered escorts can be “fun”), based on a couple of interesting real-life cases." And she also said, "I can’t believe we have to wait until Season 14 to find out what happens with Cragen." But she gave the episode an "A-".
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