Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09 “The Christmas Episode,” as the second half of the series’ most recent crossover with SVU, had a pretty stellar act to follow. With the deeply personal story of Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) trying desperately to first find, then help, his youngest son, though? This story was always destined to be yet another hit. Not only did the drama surrounding Eli’s disappearance show us exactly why Nicky Torchia belongs on this series, alongside such talents as Meloni, Ellen Burstyn, and (occasionally, at least) the Mariska Hargitay; Organized Crime‘s latest also showed us the raw personal impact of everything that went down during the previous hour.
Certainly, SVU showed us quite a bit of that piece, as well. But this direct follow-up was more about how the Stabler family has been affected by all the turmoil of the last several months. And yeah…It was also about “whatever this is” between Elliot and Olivia. Because, well, they’re them. So, let’s talk about El’s youngest and, you know, lose it a little bit over EO. As we do.
Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts. Please skip over the Eli part and go straight to the shipping if you need to.
Eli Stabler Visits New Jersey
Ever since Eli Stabler stole his grandmother’s pills, we’ve known he wasn’t exactly handling either his mom’s death or his dad’s time undercover very well. But, at some point, he started being able to fake it better and better…Maybe he even was doing better, but by the time Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09 rolled around, everything that happened in Richard Wheatley’s trial in the first half of the crossover had put him right back in a very, very bad state of mind.
So, he couldn’t stay to hear the trial’s verdict. Instead, he disappeared and went off in search of something to distract him, to ease the pain. And it was pain that, even with as good of a detective as his dad is, Elliot absolutely missed. Because he was dealing with his own, because he was probably in denial…Because he thought he’d taken care of everything with his overbearing Papa Bear surveillance nonsense.
The problem with searching for unhealthy coping mechanisms, though, is that they eventually catch up to you. Maybe they don’t always kick you in the ass as hard as finding yourself in a different state, with no way home and a dead girl whom you just met in the building you just ran away from…But they do catch up to you. For Eli, when he had nowhere else to turn, and he was afraid to put more weight on his already struggling father’s shoulders, he even considered taking his own life. And no, that’s not at all rational—if he didn’t want Elliot to hurt more, jumping off that bridge wasn’t exactly going to accomplish that goal—but that’s the thing about grief, and anxiety, and depression: They don’t often allow us to think logically. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Luckily for Eli, and for any viewers of Law & Order: Organized Crime who couldn’t bear to see a teenager actually jump off a bridge, the right kind of cop found him. Luke did a phenomenal job of talking Eli down…And all I kept thinking about while watching that utterly heartbreaking moment was, “imagine if the cops were really like this.” On just his third day on the job, this rookie showed the type of empathy and deescalation skills that even Captain Olivia Benson could be proud of—and on a level that, unfortunately, real police officers rarely exhibit.
“Yeah, of course you’re scared. Me too. You know, this is only my third day on the job? Lucky you, huh? Out of all the police officers in New Jersey, you get me.”
And without going into it too much because, frankly, it’s a difficult thing for me, specifically, to talk about…Folks often try to talk about suicide and substance abuse both as selfish, stupid, or “the easy way out.” These are all horrible, insensitive, and just plain out of touch takes. I think what Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09 did really well here, and that’s particularly thanks to Nicky Torchia’s gut-wrenching performance, is show just how difficult even considering that drastic of an action was. Eli was lost, alone, terrified of what had happened to Mia, worried about his father, still grieving his mother, and just looking for a way to make it all stop. But (thank God) he couldn’t take the supposedly “easy” route in jumping off that bridge, and he couldn’t make himself ask for help until it was (almost) too late, either.
“I’m glad you’re ok, Eli.”
“I’m not ok.”
This boy was suffering, and he needed someone. But his “someone” was his dad, and he was so busy trying to protect the father he loved, he lost himself. That’s not selfish. It’s not easy. And no, it’s also not something we ever want to see happen to anyone, ever—least of all any of the remaining Stablers.
“There’s no need to be sorry. I’m sorry that you’re hurting so bad.”
And dear readers, if you’re out there feeling hopeless, please know there are people who care and resources that are available. Please.
Progress? After 84 Years? And Flirting? In A Hospital? Good For Them.
I would like to point out that my Jewish ass is celebrating Christmas this year because Santa brought me some EO moments. So, let’s talk about them.
It’s particularly interesting that, even after Olivia Benson told one Elliot Stabler that she wished she could trust him, that their relationship was pretty much all give from her and take by him ever since he came back, she was still there for him throughout Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09. To anyone who hasn’t followed Bensler’s whole journey, or anyone has just been in more denial than either of these two idiots for a couple of decades, it might have been somewhat jarring to leave the conversation from the SVU half of this crossover to then see Liv back to her role as El’s support system.
But, as I’ve pointed out plenty of times before, there is a particularly beautiful type of strength that lives in Olivia Benson—and it’s the strength of her heart, her ability to care and love and just be there for the people who matter to her. And Elliot Stabler matters to our Captain. And so does Eli Stabler. She has always loved her partner’s kids as an extension of him, and Eli…Well. See also: SVU 9×09 “Paternity.”
So, once Eli finally called home and said he needed help, of course Liv was going to be in that car with her…whatever he is. Of course she was going to reassure him in any way she could, to slip in and out of Captain Benson mode more seamlessly than ever when it came to keeping Eli calm and helping figure out what the hell happened in that apartment. There was never any doubt that she’d be the one to smooth things over at the hospital when Elliot was a little bit too alpha-male about wanting his son back.
Partners for life, after all.
What was pleasantly surprising, however, was the conversation Bensler had in the hospital while waiting for the doctor to come fill Elliot in on his concerns about Eli.
“I want to know.”
For once, Elliot took the time he was together with Olivia, working through yet another one of his crises, to ask about her. It was a direct continuation of, and reference to, Olivia’s emotional statement in SVU 23×09 about Elliot having failed to ask her about her life—even once—since he’d come back. And he could’ve kept putting it off, honestly. Stabler absolutely has had way too much on his plate.
But he didn’t. He wanted Olivia to know he’d heard her outside the courthouse—he wanted this woman, with her superhuman ability to love and forgive and love some more, to know she meant as much to him as he did to her, that he could give back all the love and support he’d been given. That is so vitally important. Was it hilarious and awkward that he asked her about her love life, even going so far as to hint at wanting to know how many people she’d been with? Well, yeah. On the flip side, though, the pure anguish Meloni displayed as Elliot listened to how Olivia had thought she’d found the one, wasn’t ready, and then he died? That really said it all. I’m not even sure Stabler realized who the “Ed” Benson was talking about was…
But the pain he felt just because this woman he cared for so much, who keeps being there for him—even when he knows he doesn’t quite deserve it—had hurt like that? Well. That’s love.
Was it frustrating that the doctor showed up and cut the whole thing short? Yes. I mean, I could absolutely watch an entire episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime that’s nothing but “Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni’s How To Make Your Characters Flirt, Make Googly Eyes, And Have Big, Emotional Breakthroughs: 101.” I’ll take what I can get, though.
What’s even more promising, however, is what happened once the case was closed. Elliot made it a point to thank Olivia for being there for him, yet again. And he didn’t let her brush it off like it was nothing, which she always seems to do and get away with. This was a change. He let her know that he wants balance…And yeah, being friends again is a great place to start working on figuring out what that looks like.
But no, nobody is fooled by either of these two. You don’t look at your “friend” like that. Your face doesn’t light up, more than even the most garishly-decorated Christmas house, just from hearing that the woman desperately searching your eyes for meaning in your invitation to come over is your friend. And Liv doesn’t get that choked up and shy over a friend wanting to spend time together either.
In Which We Have All The Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09 Feelings
- The number of times I was like, “call your father” when Eli was losing his shit over finding Mia’s body, though.
- …they still have pay phones in New Jersey? Seems fake.
- Ok but the Bernie meme ornament.
- “It’s not your fault, Mama.” “Yeah, it is.” Crying.
- The barely-there “please” when Elliot asked Olivia to go in to see Eli with him? I’m unwell. Honestly, I was unwell for this entire episode and will continue to be unwell until further notice. (Forever.)
- “Are you saying he’s afraid of me?” (THIS IS A BROKEN MAN.)
- “No. No, no. He’s afraid for you. He told me how much you’ve been through. And he’s just not sure how much more you can take.” Pain? Pain.
- Their hands.
- “Seeing anyone?” “Seriously?” “Too awkward?” “Little bit.” Anyone else scream? I screamed.
- “Well, it has been ten years, Elliot.” Finish him.
- Liv’s hand. On her heart. And then her guts. And then her heart again. While she watched Elliot and Eli? Crying again.
- Angela is an evil bitch, huh? So, Richard was telling the truth about not wanting Elliot as a lifelong enemy, I guess? Law & Order: Organized Crime continues to throw me for a loop.
- …or maybe my brain was just completely dysfunctional from the way El’s face lit up when Liv merely said they should call “whatever this is” a friendship.
- “How’s that for now?” Emphasis on for now.
- I’m not going to survive.
- “Just come.” Ok, Detective Bashful and Captain Emotional.
- Cause of death: “Hey, my friend, Olivia” and all the heart-eyes around out, from both of them.
- Bless the camera angle when Casual!Stabler leaned over that bed in those joggers and that hoodie. If Olivia Benson didn’t get to see that ensemble after Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×09 ended, then what even is the point?
- Zaddy Stabler, adorable grandpa. End me.
- “Are you Eli’s mother?” She should have been.
- “Thanks for coming along.”
- “Thank you. For being there. Again, when I needed you.”
- It’s all the gratitude being the new “I love you” for me.
Are we finally seeing some movement on the EO front? Is it a holiday miracle??? Let’s have a chat in the comments.
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.