Law & Order: SVU 24×17 “Lime Chaser” is definitely Jasmine Batchelor’s chance to give us a better idea of who Detective Churlish is. But while Batchelor has some incredible moments in the episode, the character is a little bit trickier to pin down. Even for viewers who can get past Churlish’s initial introduction as “person who illegally recorded Velasco’s conversation and brought it to Captain Benson, thus doing the wrong things for the right reason,” this latest episode brings about plenty of…we’ll go with…interesting choices.
To some extent, that’s actually fine. People are flawed, and flawed characters are actually far more intriguing than those that strain credulity by either being too perfect or too cartoonishly villainous. It’s just that, here, there’s just enough “off” about the writing — and enough distractions from the aspects of this character that really resonate — to to make Churlish’s weak points…well. Weak.
And speaking of muddying the waters, Detective Velasco’s back. Which, ok. Yay for more Octavio Pisano, but also ugh for that particular storyline? While we’re at it, Olivia is a very strange mix of things in “Lime Chaser.” Just saying, “hey, give Mariska Hargitay more than the same old, same old” didn’t mean “make Liv wildly inconsistent within a single episode just to give Hargitay more.” Sorry for not clarifying, we guess.
Part of the problem with continuing the Velasco crime saga (or whatever you want to call it) is that it sets Muncy and Churlish up to be awful to one another. In “Lime Chaser,” they go so far as to be downright petty and immature about it. To be fair, it’s entertaining — to a point. But at the same time, these are grown adults. Cops, no less, who are supposed to be part of an “elite squad” (not so much emphasis on “elite” with this behavior), handling very important cases. So, how are we supposed to take Churlish seriously in her first big case when she’s studiously ignoring Muncy’s morning greeting?
Put another way, when we’re watching a series like SVU, with such dark material, comedic relief is certainly welcome. So, the moment where Muncy and Velasco basically get caught doing something they shouldn’t by Captain Mom, only for her to immediately put them in their place, is great for a chuckle. Pisano and Molly Burnett give us truly fun reactions there and everything.
…but what does it really say about any of these characters that they need Mama Benson and Daddy Bruno to set them up on a playdate to make nice with each other? While we’re at it, what’s with the corny lines about Bruno taking “those two millennials out for a beer like [Liv] asked”? Since when were they close enough to gossip about the kiddos like that? And let’s not even get started on “the millennials” being synonymous with “the youths,” when the broad majority are pushing 40 or already there.
Even with all of those strikes against it, the rivalry between Muncy and Churlish has (had?) the potential to be compelling, in its own way. After what Churlish did, Muncy’s right to be upset. She wants to be there for her partner, which Olivia Benson herself ought to understand. So, that’s perfectly fine. It’s also a welcome change that Muncy isn’t just mean-girling Churlish just to be a mean girl. As in, we don’t have a case where Grace just hates Toni on sight, seemingly for no reason at all. And there will (probably) be no burn books to worry about here.
But the Velasco aspect of this is so messy. Again, Churlish wasn’t an angel for what she did. Additionally, even if you take that piece away and go with an interesting sort of enmity between a “Little Miss Perfect” type and Muncy, who’s kind of rough around the edges, Law & Order: SVU 24×17 still doesn’t do the Churlish character justice in terms of making it clear why this new detective feels like she has to work 10 times harder than everyone else. There’s a little bit of a mention of McGrath’s deadline and a very superficial mention of her parents putting a lot of pressure on her to be perfect. Sure, that’s a start.
But, rather than unpacking why a young Black woman might take proving herself to the extreme or why she’d want to keep working, even when everyone else goes out for drinks, the storytelling leans toward wasting that opportunity. It’s all very misguided and kept only at surface level. Which is a shame when there’s a hint at a real angle.
That’s not to say Law & Order: SVU 24×17 doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. Not at all — and we’re a far cry away from the sixteenth episode. Just to close the loop with all the Muncy talk above, the awkward handshake toward the end is a great moment. There’s something very telling about the halting way that’s handled, in terms of the issues not being completely over. And yet, it’s also quite obvious that Churlish has gained a grudging sort of respect from Muncy. Both Batchelor and Burnett really deliver there, and it’s the kind of subtle sort of “personal,” yet still working, work dynamic. These two are more than capable of being professional, even if they never quite become friends. Not every squad has to be a tight knit family (though, as viewers, we are always here for that).
Another aspect that really lands well is Benson and Churlish’s heated argument after Benson finds out the detective essentially put herself undercover with zero notice, approval, or — most importantly — readiness. Or, well, it works except for the part where it seems like Olivia actually doesn’t know about Chief McGrath’s 30-day deadline? But that little wrinkle doesn’t even matter because the performances are fantastic. No, that never surprises us when Mariska Hargitay is involved in a scene. But yes, Jasmine Batchelor rises to the occasion. Big time.
Olivia is utterly terrifying in all her “pissed off boss” glory. (But um. I know she’s not really this forgetful about her own past. Right? More on that later.) And Churlish simply doesn’t back down. She stands up for herself in a way that steps right up to the line of, potentially, talking back too much to a superior officer. But she never actually crosses it.
Unfortunately, though, the character’s original bad deeds make what she does here look far worse than it is. How many times is she going to do the wrong things for the right reasons? First, it’s recording fellow detectives’ conversations with witnesses. Now, it’s inserting herself as bait on a whim. So, what’s next?
Certainly, we’ve still rooted for other characters on procedurals who had this “gray area” sort of problem. A young Olivia Benson and that partner of hers both come to mind. But usually, those actions were painted as selfless — for the victims. Protect and serve or whatever. At least so far, though, Churlish’s motivations seem to be…not great. The reasons for her Velasco recording are a little uncertain, but in this episode, she’s all about earning her spot.
So, is she selfish or what? Not a great look. So, we have concerns — both for how we view the character and for what that means about the creative vision as a whole when it comes to introducing her.
Speaking of vision problems…the Captain
When it comes to our beloved Liv, “Lime Chaser” doesn’t give us a clear picture of…anything. There’s SVU‘s ongoing issue with not providing viewers any kind of real insight into where her head is at, so all we’re left with is intellectual reaches. Are we supposed to believe that she’s overly hard on Velasco, yet not hard enough on either Muncy or Churlish, for a reason? If so, what is it? Is she an emotional mess because of her non-existent relationship with Elliot, thus clouding her judgment? Or is there something else at play?
While we’re at it, there are plenty of things Olivia did in her past that she seems to forget here. Basically, nothing makes sense.
So, sure. It’s great seeing Sassy!Captain Liv. Or the irritated mother figure who breaks up the children’s little tantrum. And we’re always here for that huge outpouring of emotion, and care, and concern when Benson rushes in to check on a drugged Churlish. Or how she just exudes authority bursting into the bar not long before that.
But she’s kind of all over the place. The performance matches each scene, but the scenes don’t necessarily jive well with each other.
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×17
- “Grudges are not the most attractive quality in a new coworker.” I didn’t realize coworkers, of any kind, needed to be “attractive” at all.
- “We all gotta make peace with the fact we’re gonna die. But we still gotta live.” It’s giving “back to normal” and “don’t live in fear” with COVID. No thanks.
- “They avoid eye contact. Helps keep the weirdos away, you know?” Smart.
- “SO VERY GOOD TO BE SEEN, CAPTAIN.” We get it, Bruno. You’re in love with her just like the rest of us and want to be noticed. But, like. Chill.
- “But you don’t want people knowing your business. Ok. Velasco. I’ll run him through the system. But. I want you to know that I am not going to teach you how to wipe your own nose, alright?” Should it not have been “wipe your own ass,” at least, if she was going to be like this?
- “I know that I’ve been hard on you lately. But I also want you to know that I’m proud of you.” Me at this show…Although, the “proud of you” usually mostly applies to the actors. (Especially y’all know who.)
- Irritation at the “millennials” line aside, when’s my turn to talk shit with Olivia Benson over coffee?
- “It was a COVID romance.” Ah, yes. And coViD iS OVeR, so the marriage has to end right along with it. So true.
- “We don’t react to drugs in a normal way.” Actually true about redheads!
- That pained look on Liv’s face when Muncy approaches her on her way in? Same. Do not talk to that poor woman before she’s had her coffee! (And definitely don’t talk to me before mine. It’s a danger.)
- It’s nice to get to see Muncy stand up for and believe in her brother here. But there’s just too much going on otherwise to really make this a strong story about two siblings.
- “…drunk enough to say yes but sober enough to regret it the next day.” I threw up in my mouth a lot.
- “Face it. At best, your brother’s a crime-adjacent apologist to some toxic bartender. At worst, he’s a red pilled alpha Chad in search of an alibi.” I mean.
- “If I reported every bartender who had a drunken hookup, I’d never work again. Half the bars in this city would be closed and under investigation.” Ok, so they probably should be then.
- “Maybe crisis is their foreplay.” You’re projecting there, Captain “my friend Olivia.”
- Weird how Liv went out of her way for a brother she’d known for five minutes, but she can’t seem to empathize with Grace defending Teddy? Whatever, I guess.
- “So you’d rather ask for forgiveness instead of permission, is that it?” MA’AM. LOOK. IN. TO. YOUR. OWN. PAST.
- “Captain. Captain, I have been working undercover every day of my career up until now. And yes, I might just be a white shield to you. But I am an expert in dealing with scumbags who underestimate women.” I actually love this line, this delivery, Liv’s reaction, everything.
- I highly doubt Muncy, Velasco, and Bruno all know their Shakespeare. It’s the weird pseudointellectual crap, yet again, for me. This ain’t Sorkin, guys. It’s not even Korsh.
- So. Much. Foreshadowing. We get it! Something very bad will happen…and be rushed.
- “You don’t have to go home, but you cannot stay here.” It reminds me of that one Fresh Prince episode.
- No but Jasmine Batchelor kills it as Drugged!Churlish.
- And that genius move, even while nearly blacking out, of getting the squad a urine sample. She’s a badass. Fight me.
- “They’re family. They’re not gonna turn on each other.” Exactly.
- “Now? Now, you have to spend that time trying to win my trust back.” “How do I do that?” Yes, how. If anyone finds the answer, please pass it along to bald man with the buns.
- “I need to know that you’re here for the right reasons. Because you care about survivors, and trauma, and healing. Not because you want a promotion.” I have so many thoughts on this that would get me in so much trouble.
- “They’re not perfect. But that allows them to lead with empathy and with compassion.” Again with the thoughts. And no, they’re not good ones.
- Also, if anyone else feels called out by all the perfectionist talk, let’s bond.
- Ok but where was Fin?
Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 24×17 “Lime Chaser”? Leave us a comment!
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.
While it felt like Liv was corralling a group of teenagers, i really do like the dynamic of the new cast.
That’s the bizarre part of it all for me: I also really like the dynamic, even when some of the way it’s being presented is exactly how you described it. The power of really, really good actors.