Detectives Benson and Lake investigate a double homicide in which a man was shot and a woman was raped and stabbed. They soon team up with Special Agent Cooper (Erika Christensen) who is tracking a serial killer and sexual sadist known as "The Woodsman." Through the Woodsman's aunt (Jane Cronin), they are able to find out the location of his latest victim. Police rescue the tortured woman (Amanda Leigh Cobb) but she succumbs to her injuries during treatment. The tragic ordeal turns into a case against a vigilante when the SVU discovers that the serial killer is already dead and that he was in fact the male victim discovered with the gunshot wound.
This episode provides examples of:
- Absentee Actor: Christopher Meloni (Elliot Stabler), Richard Belzer (John Munch), and Ice-T (Odafin Tutuola) sit this episode out. Their absence is explained as them being in Canada (see Sequel Hook below).
- And Starring: "Special Guest Star Erika Christensen".
- Asshole Victim: Despite Lauren Cooper executing "The Woodsman" being against the law, every other character besides Casey dismisses it as "he had it coming".
- Boom, Headshot!: Lauren Cooper's mentor killed himself this way. By the end of the episode, she does the same.
- A Day in the Limelight: Benson and Lake are the central detectives this episode.
- Downer Ending: "The Woodsman"'s rescued victim ultimately dies from her wounds and Lauren Cooper gives in to her depression and kills herself in front of Benson and Lake, leaving the former traumatized.
- Driven to Suicide: Lauren's mentor and eventually Lauren herself both shot themselves in the head.
- FBI Agent: Lauren Cooper and her contemporaries.
- Gory Discretion Shot: When Lauren kills herself, only her blood is shown.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Lauren Cooper ultimately finds herself Not So Different from "The Woodsman", much to her dismay. She even quotes the trope nearly word per word before killing herself.Lauren Cooper: Those who fight monsters has better make damn sure they don't become one.
- Heroic BSoD: Lauren Cooper committed suicide in front of Olivia, who is predictably traumatized.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Lauren justifies executing "The Woodsman" due to him being a Serial Rapist.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Lauren's mentor committed suicide.
- Rogue Agent: Because "The Woodsman" is too rampant and there are too many procedures in the FBI to follow for her to even make an official course of action, Lauren Cooper chooses to take matters into her own hands.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Lauren Cooper chooses to be a Rogue Agent by killing the notorious Serial Rapist known as "The Woodsman".
- Sequel Hook: Cragen explains Elliot, Munch, and Fin's absence as them working a case in Canada, which is the plot of the next episode.
- That One Case: Agent Lauren Cooper is overly obsessed in putting down "The Woodsman" she's willing to break the rules.
- White Shirt of Death: Lauren is wearing a white top prior to her suicide.