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Recap / Law And Order Special Victims Unit S 9 E 17 Authority

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Written By Neal Baer and Amanda Green

Directed By David Platt

A telephone voice impersonating a police officer asks a fast food restaurant manager to strip search and tie up an employee (Monica Raymund). SVU detectives learn that this plan was orchestrated by an engineer, Merritt Rook (Robin Williams), in order to convince the public to be more discerning and oppose authority. After he is found not guilty, Rook gains much media attention and seizes an opportunity to abduct Olivia Benson. With the help of Rook's co-worker (Ka Ling Cheung), Elliot is able to learn about the man's tragic past and track him down. In an apparent hostage situation, Rook tries to make Elliot inflict pain on Benson by way of a Milgram experiment.



  • The Anticipator: When Elliot arrives in Merritt's lair to rescue Olivia, Merritt is on a chair and congratulates Elliot for finding him quickly. He then escalates to Crazy-Prepared during his daring escape by blowing up his lair as a distraction.
  • Affably Evil: Despite being an anti-authoritarian vigilante, Merritt remains polite and friendly to the SVU detectives and to Casey during court.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Did Merritt really commit suicide by jumping into the lake while handcuffed? Or did he flee, with Benson and Stabler deciding to presume he was dead out of sympathy?
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The scam that Merritt pulled at the Happy Burger place.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Merritt Rook, especially during his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Driven to Suicide: The doctor who tended to Merritt Rook's wife later died in a car crash. While it was initially ruled a result of brake failure and believed by one of his nurses to have been a drunk driving accident, Benson and Stabler learn that Merritt psychologically tortured the doctor into killing himself as revenge for him being indirectly responsible for his wife and child's deaths.
    • This also appears to be Merritt's fate in the end, if we're to believe he really did jump into the lake handcuffed after fleeing from Benson and Stabler's capture.
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  • Enhance Button: Deconstructed. Merritt acts as his own defense attorney and questions the techie on the software used to enhance a photograph that showed him leaving a library, which was the key piece of evidence against him. He coaxed the techie into admitting that the software can only make educated guesses based on various factors of the picture itself and can't actually recreate the scene shown the photograph in higher resolutions. Merritt then presented the original photograph, where his face is too shadowed to be seen. It works and the jury lets him go.
  • Evil Counterpart: Merritt Rook. As a freedom-loving, anti-authoritarian anarchist whose "noble" goals are actually a cover for more selfish personal motives, he forms a poetic contrast to the SVU crew, whose sometimes fascistic tendencies are born out of a genuine, desire for the greater good of the people.
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  • Freudian Excuse: The reason behind Merritt's anti-authoritarian zealotry: his wife and child died while she was giving birth, a result of her doctor ignoring Merritt's insistence that he do a C-section and Merritt not challenging his authority.
  • Mind Rape: (Of the "mundane kind", of course): Merritt Rook]] puts Elliot and Olivia through this once. It fails.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The fast food manager is stunned to learn that the "NYPD detective" who instructed him to strip search and tie up a young female employee was a fraud. He can seen visibly crying as he's put in the holding cell.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Merritt comes off as this during the arraignment where he represents himself and doesn't argue against the bail request of $250,000. But during his trial and later abduction of Olivia, he shows just how dangerously manipulative and intelligent he is.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The first half of the episode is based on the strip search phone call scam. The method was the same: a man claiming to be a detective called the restaurant and told the manager that an employee might be a thief. The caller then instructed the manager to force the employee to undress and participate in other humiliating acts. Multiple managers complied, despite never having met the man or asking for his credentials or evidence, who, as it turned out, was not a police officer.
  • Secret Test of Character: Merritt tried to force Elliot to inflict pain on Olivia but Elliot didn't budge. Turns out he was merely testing him and Olivia was never in any harm.
  • Sequel Hook: The episode ends with Rook escaping and appearing to evade capture. The only obvious escape route - the river - probably would have been fatal since he was handcuffed and wouldn't be able to swim, but the door was clearly left open for him to make a return appearance. He never did, sadly, before Williams died in 2014.
  • Take That!: In-Universe example - Merritt Rook, after winning his case, appears on a morning talk show with a pet sheep named "Elliot."
  • Worthy Opponent: Merritt Rook regards Casey as this when acting as his own defense attorney. Casey is perplexed by how smart he is and wonders how good he would be if had a law degree.

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