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'Law & Order: SVU' recap: A timely, familiar drama

Season 16 | Episode 2 | “American Disgrace” | Aired Oct 1, 2014

Some of my favorite episodes of Law & Order: SVU are the ones with plots that have been RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES. (You have to put “ripped from the headlines” in caps to capture the drama.) SVU can take some of the facts of an actual case, pump up the drama and insanity, and voila, engaging television. Admittedly, I’ve wondered in the past if the showrunners have the inside track on what really happened in some of these incidents. It’s kind of exciting to think they’re using heavily disguised versions of the actual juicy details to which the public wasn’t privy. Yes, I have conspiracy theories about SVU scripts. (#sorelyineedofalife)

Season 16’s second episode is called “American Disgrace,” and they must have written and shot it yesterday because, wow, timely. Famous people have been acting the fool more more than usual in 2014. Solange Knowles whooped her famous brother-in-law, Jay-Z, in an elevator for (reportedly and allegedly) cheating on big sis Beyoncé. The elevator-cam footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally punching and knocking out the woman who is now his wife blew up all over the media last month. The now former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was smart enough to take the stairs, but he was still recorded and revealed as a huge bigot. These stories are ripe for the SVU treatment.

Shakir “The Shark” Wilkins (Henry Simmons) is a retired basketball superstar in partnership with sportswear mogul Orion Bauer (Stacey Keach). We’re at Shakir’s contract-resigning event. Everything is aces until we learn that Shark’s Town Car isn’t working for him to drive home. Old Man Bauer tells a lovely young employee named Carla (Kelley Missal) to “Über” a car for him. (As you know, QuickRide went out of business. They were cheaper, yes, but all the human trafficking was scaring away the customers.) Unfortunately, Carla is disturbed by this request and chooses to turn the building’s elevator into her own personal UFC octagon. And she designates Shakir as her opponent. Carla is dragged, kicking and screaming, from the lift. In front of the press, she shrieks that Shakir raped her.

Liv and Rollins meet with Carla. She tells them that Shakir drugged and assaulted her after she had a drink with him at his hotel bar on Memorial Day. Gals? Always keep an eye on your drink. Very important.

Rollins is waxing skeptical about the whole thing because she’s a “Shark” fan. Sgt. Liv and Mandy are a little taken aback to hear that Carla went to Old Man Bauer about the attack, and he told her to keep it on lockdown and she’d get bonuses. Can you actually spell that out in an employee contract? Oh, and “ew.” She recently received $5,000. We learn that Old Man Bauer also cut another $5,000 check for Shakir’s OTHER alleged rape victim in Atlanta.

Rollins takes this opportunity to fly down South to visit her mom (that’s a lie and she says so; that’s not very daughter-y, Mandy) and take the victim’s statement.

(Don’t think I didn’t squee when SVU showrunner Warren Leight and the SVU Writer’s Room retweeted me.)

We meet Manda’s ex … wait, this guy is in ADDITION to the chief whose squad car she was sharing? Yes, that’s a euphemism. Slut-shaming is not allowed here in these recaps, but I assume it was dicey around the office for Manda when she is sexually pinballing between two coworkers AND nurturing a gambling addiction. Mandy’s plate in Atlanta = full. No wonder she transferred.

Rollins and Fin visit Old Man Bauer and his harried-looking daughter/lawyer Cordelia (Teri Polo and Keach kill it in this episode). Bauer isn’t quite clear on why bribing rape victims to ensure your superstar athlete keeps making everyone scads of money is wrong. He’s an older gentleman from a different time. A time when you could be corrupt and it took a really long time to get an article about it into the papers because dinosaurs and Johannes Gutenberg wasn’t around.

Meanwhile, back at the 19th, our heroes are having their umpteenth conversation about women and whether they lie about sexual assault. Liv is obviously wondering if she has to schedule yet another sensitivity seminar for her DETECTIVES WHO BRING RAPISTS TO JUSTICE BUT STILL LEAN TOWARD “WELL, MAYBE SHE WAS MAD AT HIM OR WANTED MONEY.” Still?

Shakir and Lovely Rita Lawyer Lady (the wonderful Elizabeth Marvel) are denying all the charges against him. This is difficult to believe because there’s a SharkWear store employee named Tiana (Lakisha May) who claims to have a pair of panties with Shakir’s DNA sample on them. That wasn’t the sort of autograph she asked for, and it would have been nice to have been conscious during the signing. Oh, and Old Man Bauer told her he’d make her store manager if she kept quiet. Professional development shouldn’t require semen. Shakir is arrested and charged with multiple rapes.

Things are a little off. Old Man Bauer is acting old in the head. His legal-eagle daughter seems way uptight. And why does everyone keep referring to Tiana as “that black girl”? I’m sure there are other identifiers you can use to describe her and not sound like Kramer.

The case goes to trial. Bauer testifies to avoid being charged with witness bribery. On the stand, he claims he now believes that Shakir raped the girls—hence his contract being dissolved. Cordelia and Shakir share a heavy glance across the courtroom aisle. We’re not sure if it’s a “You dirty rapist” look or an “Ugh, if my father finds out, we’re dead” look. Wait, does this mean all of the SharkWear locations are closing? Before Tiana makes store manager? Cold.

But don’t feel too bad for her. When Barba and Mandy prep her for her courtroom appearance, she suddenly does a 180 personality-wise, from trembling victim to straight-up mercenary. She schools them (hilariously addressing Mandy with “HELLO WHITE GIRL”) on how she needs more scratch. Yep, Old Man Bauer paid her to fake a rape accusation against “The Shark.” She also lays down (not literally—well, at least not yet) an offer to Barba to “do you nasty” if he can get her more cash.

Barba’s day just got very bad. Carla and Macie both insist they were raped despite Tiana’s assertion that she actually LIKES the fact that she can board up a window during a hurricane with her crunchy post-Shakir sex panties. Let’s go back to Old Man Bauer’s office for a thinly veiled racist diatribe about “tribes” and “cultures” and how he forgives his daughter for what she’s done. Come again? Don’t tell me I called the plotline ahead of time. This totally makes up for when I was POSITIVE that The Carver on Nip/Tuck was Julia McNamara.

Rollins tries to pry the true story out of Cordelia via girl-talk, but the attorney for Paw merely states her admiration for Daddy and his whole “my word is my bond” schtick. His word IS his bond, because he told all three of those gals that he would pay them to make false rape accusations against his star athlete—and by golly, he did! Yep, turns out Old Man Bauer found out Lawyer Daughter Bauer had a thing with Shakir. And by “a thing,” I mean “a pregnancy.” It turns out that Daddy’s got a problem with people of color, so you can image his feelings on a biracial grandbaby. He’s not the prettiest man inside.

All of the charges against Shakir are dropped. This is little comfort to him, seeing as his career is over and his child with Cordelia was aborted. It’s sadness all around. I’m assuming Tiana wasn’t able to transfer over to Foot Locker what with all the bad press. No one wins this episode.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8C on NBC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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