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Recap / Law And Order Special Victims Unit S 9 E 5 Harm

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Written By Josh Singer

Directed By Peter Leto

The deaths of a rehab volunteer (Elizabeth Morton) and an Iraq refugee (Jarreth J. Merz) may be linked to a war veteran hired to silence them about the horrific torture the latter endured after being suspected of being a terrorist. The detectives are unable to catch the murderer, so they decide to focus on the American doctor (Elizabeth McGovern) that taught him his torture techniques which were not just used on innocents, but also on people around the world. While she argues that she was working in the US interests and that her methods are relatively humane, the team doesn't buy it considering one of the victims actually died under the strain of this treatment.



  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Taking Arabic in college (especially in the U.S.) usually doesn't render a person able or qualified to translate complex interview-style conversations.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Dr. Sutton has overseen so many prior interrogations, she was completely oblivious that her torture methods would lead to long-term effects.
  • Cowboy Cop: Matthew Braden used to be one. He lost his job for physically assaulting a suspect in order to find a child who was Buried Alive. The case got thrown out and it cost him his job, but he still feels that saving the child was worth it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The enhanced interrogation techniques in a nutshell. They were supposedly meant to avoid permanent harm, but it's quite clear that that's not how it worked out; Abbas lost weight and became a shell of his former self after his torture, and one of the other torture victims reveals that whatever they did to him left him needing an oxygen tube for the rest of his life.
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  • Diabolus ex Machina: An unusual variation; just when it looks like Novak is about to expose Sutton on trial for her actions, an old man in the jury suffers a heart attack with Sutton joining Warner to save his life on the spot. This results in a mistrial since the jury who saw that can't render an impartial verdict, and after the incident goes public, they know that re-trying her would be useless because public perception of her has shifted. She does get a small bit of comeuppance as her medical license is suspended, ruining her career.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The sole reason why Abbas was tortured to begin with was that he just so happened to be the cousin of a notorious terrorist.
  • Downer Ending: In the end, neither of the victims gets justice. Their murderer is still at large and the doctor that assisted him only suffers a relatively minor consequence.
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  • He Knows Too Much: Kate Simes was helping Haroun Abbas testify about his experiences back in Iraq, and they both ended up dead for it.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Kate Simes' corpse is obscured by pillars in a park.
  • Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: Warner antagonizes Sutton for this very reason; she used her medical skills to cause harm in Iraq and who knows how many other people learned from her to apply it abroad. Sutton can only argue that it was inconvenient at the time because it was war.
  • Karma Houdini: Several.
    • The murderer, George Tomforde, gets away with killing two people when his company sends him to Bahrain, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US.
    • Downplayed in Sutton's case. She escapes conviction and gets lauded in the news for saving a juror who had a heart attack, and only gets a temporary suspension of her medical license, as opposed to the full revocation that Warner was pushing for. However, as Sutton herself points out, a temporary suspension is enough to torpedo her career.
    • Two other examples are mentioned in Braden's backstory. While he was a cop, he was faced with a suspect who had buried a child alive, and broke the suspect's arm to make him give up the location. They saved the child, but his actions got the case thrown out in court, so the perp walked. Braden himself was also never really held accountable for torturing a suspect; he was fired, but received no further punishment and was able to go on to a new career as a successful lawyer.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The episode deals with a doctor who works with private military contractors to oversee their use of "enhanced interrogation methods" (a fancy way of saying "torture").
  • Posthumous Character: Haroun Abbas is already dead when introduced.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The final line of the episode.
    Warner: (to Sutton) You took an oath. You don't get to take a time-out because we're at war, because it's difficult to uphold. The oath was written for times like these.
  • Shadow Archetype: Faith Sutton to Melinda Warner. Both are doctors who served in the military during The Gulf War. But unlike The Fettered Warner, Sutton is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who has less restrictions.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Sutton taught the torture techniques to Tomforde and other American troops in Iraq because she genuinely believes she is helping her country. The idea that they might be used on innocents doesn't seem to trouble her.
    • Her defense attorney also qualifies, such as when he tells a story about how he helped save a little girl's life by breaking a suspect's arm and uses this tale to show Novak that the ends justify the means. Novak asks him what would have happened if he was wrong, but he simply responds that he wasn't.