Yep, you read that headline right: There was a lot going on in SVU last night.
Just how much? About as much as was stuffed into 2013’s biggest kitchen-sink episode, “American Tragedy”—a smorgasbord that included takes on Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin, stop-and-frisk, and even “Blurred Lines.” The latest entry in the SVU canon—which aired almost exactly one year after “American Tragedy”—was a similarly chock-full affair, complete with an analogous title (“American Disgrace”), another big-name guest star (Stacy Keach as a Donald Sterling-esque billionaire), and the same disingenuous opening title card: “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.”
Mmmhmmm. Check out this list of issues crammed into the episode, then judge for yourself.
“American Disgrace” is focused on fictional NBA player Shakir “The Shark” Wilkins, a player who retired three years before the events of the episode. Perhaps uncoincidentally, it aired just days after New York Yankee Derek Jeter played the final game of his career at Boston’s Fenway Park. Shakir’s post-sports life—in which he spends his time mostly doing charity work and enjoying a lucrative endorsement deal with a sportswear company called Orion Bay—also recalls Michael Jordan’s.
SVU detective Amanda Rollins, whose gambling addiction has been featured on the show before, comments that she never had a problem until she started betting on Shakir—who never let her down.
Jay Z and Solange Knowles’ elevator brawl
And now we come to the meat of the episode: After a press conference, Shakir and a few of Orion Bay’s employees board a lift together. Their quiet ride is disturbed when press rep Carla suddenly attacks Shakir; the fight should look familiar to anybody who’s seen sh– go down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator. Naturally, the whole thing is caught via soundless security camera video. The twist? Because this is an episode of SVU, Carla’s claws are out because, she claims, Shakir raped her three months ago. Chung chung!
This one’s a bit more of a stretch—but a scandal involving a professional athlete, violence against women, and camera footage leaked to the public at large by TMZ? Tastes like Rice, the Baltimore Raven who was suspended indefinitely after being caught on tape knocking out his then-fiancée and dragging her out of an elevator.
Cee Lo Green
Carla says that she had a drink with Shakir—then woke up the next morning, naked and sore. Soon enough, another employee, Marcy, comes forward as well, giving a version of the same story. Sounds like Shakir was sort of on the same wavelength as Grammy-winning singer and Voice judge CeeLo Green, who recently pleaded no contest to slipping ecstasy to a woman. (Prosecutors had rejected a rape charge against Green in 2013 due to a lack of evidence.) There’s also a third alleged victim named Tiana, who says Shakir raped her in a dressing room at the Orion Bay store where she works. Remember her; she’ll be important later.
Shakir took them with his alleged victims. These Modern Times!
Paula Deen, again
The case against Shakir mounts—and Orion Bay owner Orion Bauer (Keach, natch) stands accused of bribing witnesses after the SVU learns that Carla, Marcy, and Tiana all approached him after their assaults. He paid each of them a “bonus” for keeping quiet. Orion’s caught in a bind—so he decides to sever all ties with Shakir, much like zillions of companies did after Deen admitted to using racial slurs.
Orion Bauer’s lawyer? That’d be his beloved daughter, Cordelia. We get it, SVU writers—you went to college.
This is where things get tricky. Upon preparing Tiana for trial, the “Law” team discovers that Orion paid her less than half as much as he gave the other rape victims. And after she discovers this tidbit, she admits that Orion wasn’t actually paying her off because she got raped—he was paying her to pretend that Shakir had raped her.
Say whaaa? It’s true: Orion made up all three rape cases so that he’d have an excuse to cut Shakir’s contract. Why? Because he found out that Shakir and Cordelia have been sleeping together. What’s more, they’re going to have a child together. “You expect me tos tand by and become the laughingstock of corporate America, while this son of a bitch knocks you up?” he rails, before revealing his true colors: “These people come into our homes, come into our families. They are animals. I did what I had to do to protect you from making the biggest mistake—” That’s as much as we hear, because that’s where the recording Cordelia’s secretly making cuts off.
So yeah: Orion is Sterling, billionaire former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, caught on tape making racist remarks (by his mistress, not his daughter—but still).
Orion also tells Cordelia she’s very lucky she didn’t catch this from Shakir.
It wouldn’t be SVU without one hell of a kicker. The racist recording wasn’t exactly made in a lawful and orderly fashion, so it can’t be used against Orion in court. The charges against Shakir are dropped, but his name is ruined forever. The girls who lied under oath won’t be prosecuted for fear of prompting real special victims from coming forward with their stories. And finally, Shakir tells Cordelia that they can make a fresh start with their new baby—and she replies that “there is no baby anymore.” Well, then—goodnight, everybody!