Law & Order SVU
Original Air Date: Feb 23, 2011
Caitlin- Associate Staff Writer
Remember The Devil Wears Prada? Well, tonight’s episode of SVU was a lot like that. I mean, it was wine instead of fashion, but besides that, the lack of nearly all humor and the considerable amount of blood, they were very similar. Ahem.
An art patron compliments an artist on his work, but he’s a bit confused on the piece she’s referring to, probably because it’s actually the blood of a dead woman seeping through the room above onto the walls.
Ellen was a co-owner of Luscious Grape, a wine company selling extremely high-end bottles to an elite clientele. She’s dead from the piece of glass vase sticking out of her throat. According to a video produced for the company, all the employees couldn’t be happier. But Ellen probably wasn’t very happy, as evidenced by the fact her neighbors barely knew her. One turns the detectives on to Andreas, the artist and also the owner of Ellen’s building. The neighbor, Maureen, says he took advantage of her when she was drunk. He denies this, and though he’s arrogant and irritating, he was doing an interview when Ellen was murdered.
Olivia and Fin aren’t buying that Luscious Grape was as loved as its website proclaims. They go talk to Annette, who seems deeply affected by her friend’s death. She mentions Ellen was close with Bruce, the head of advertising, though Bruce is gay. He turns them on to Ellen’s alcohol addiction. Apparently even Annette never knew, and though Ellen got sober, she started drinking again after being tormented by a man over the phone. He’s Ross Alvarez, from a accompany called My Leather Fantasy (it’s not what you think). They go to arrest Ross, and as they are taking him a way, a man comes from basically nowhere and shoots him, saying he killed his wife.
The man admits that Ross did not actually kill his wife, but that he tormented her with phone calls after she bought a bunch of expensive items she couldn’t pay for (she had Alzheimer’s). After being screamed at once more, the wife collapsed and died. Ross maintains that he has a no return policy, but that people are free to complain on his website- because that just gets him more customers. Unfortunately for basically everyone, he was tormenting someone else when Ellen was killed. On top of that, Dr. Warner argues the death could have been an accident, with Ellen falling drunkenly on a broken piece of vase. She was already harming herself in fairly gruesome ways.
Further investigation reveals Ellen wasn’t really close with anyone at the company. They all continue to insist Luscious Grape is a wonderful place to work. Then a call from Andreas sends Olivia and Elliot back to Ellen’s apartment, which has been torn to shreds. All they find is a flash drive. On it are videos of Annette, supposedly the perfect boss, screaming at all her employees, and hitting Ellen. Annette becomes more and more desperate when questioned, trying to argue first that it was just a disagreement, then that she was actually victimized by Ellen.
Again all the employees of Luscious Grape are questioned, and again they all refuse to stray from their happy tales, even when easily proven wrong by the videos. Huang says this is due to a form of Stockholm syndrome. Sure enough, Annette bought her staff gifts, pulled strings for them…and drove them to therapy or living with their mothers. Now Annette appears to be getting her comeuppance. The press gets hold of the videos and a throng of reporters follows her. She envisions herself only as a victim, and dramatically announces a press conference to talk about her actions. There, she accuses everyone of betraying before she pulls out a gun and shoots herself in the head.
The employees are all in ruins, having been affected by Annette’s death just as she wanted. Abruptly, Bruce winds up in the hospital after getting hit by a car. The car was driven by Corin, a young new hire. She confesses to hitting Bruce, and then says he killed Ellen. A screaming match ensues, and it’s revealed that all the employees, desperate to keep their benefits, conspired against Ellen, who was about to reveal Annette’s true nature. A man named Justin was actually supposed to get her out of the way. Annette did fall on the broken vase, but only after he pushed her. To make her death look like an accident, he got champagne into her system by…well, it was a trick he learned from his mother, an opera singer, who wanted to get drunk but didn’t want to actually drink alcohol. I’ll leave it there.
I kind of wonder whether the writers threw that last plot twist in just to creep everyone out with what Justin did to Ellen with the bottle of champagne. (In Olivia’s words, “File under things I never wanted to know”.) It kind of took away from Annette being such a villain. Though it probably would have meant leaving Ellen’s death as an accident, I think ending on Annette shooting herself would have been effective. She- and the actress portraying her- stole the show.
All that said, I found the episode to be twisty and absurd in an enjoyable way, unlike the random storylines that just leave me confused. Yes, this would probably never happen in real life, and yes SVU is acclaimed for its portrayals of some of the worst things that happen in real life. That doesn’t mean the writers can’t have a little morbid fun once in a while. (Okay, “fun” might be the wrong word. But everything was just a bit too outrageous to really dwell on the tragedy of it all.)