Friday, March 22, 2024

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Olivia Provides Confidence to a Witness Afraid of the World in 'Third Man Syndrome'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 25.08 "Third Man Syndrome"

A brutal assault in the street leads Carisi to pursue hate crime charges. Benson must support a homebound witness too scared to speak up.

"Third Man Syndrome" was written by Kathy Dobie & Candice Sanchez McFarlane and directed by Norberto Barba

A victim doesn't have to belong to a specific protected group in order for prosecutors to charge their attacker with a hate crime. It's entirely based on what motivated the assailant. It's their perception of the world that defines the charges. It doesn't have to be correct. The protections and enhancements still apply. Javier and Mateo are cousins. They were mistaken as a couple by a group of troubled young men looking for a fight. Homophobic slurs were used against them. Javier was brutally attacked in the groin. It took extensive surgery for him to survive from these injuries. He still has a long road to recovery. This assault doesn't dim his dream of attending art school though. That's inspiring as well. Olivia knows something beautiful can come out of this pain. Art is the way Javier will channel that energy. She provides that reassurance. She doesn't have all the answers. However, she ensures the situation doesn't become worse because of her actions or limitations. She will carry that burden personally if she has to.

Zach and Mo were perfectly comfortable attacking guys they thought were gay on a dark street in the middle of the night. In the harsh light of day, they attempt to move towards different justifications. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is still spread. They view that as more socially acceptable. Those beliefs have the potential to win them support amongst the public. That's the cold calculation they make. People will rally behind them if they believe they were the actual victims of crazed and violent immigrants. Those are stereotypes embraced by a certain segment of the population. It's heinous and wrong. It doesn't work either. The squad knows precisely what happened. Sure, they are confused for a bit because Javier insists a man from earlier in the evening held his hand as he waited for help to arrive. That was purely a creation of his mind. It provided comfort when he needed it the most. The squad has seen that before. That too doesn't derail the investigation.

The biggest legal hurdle the investigation must overcome is the inability of the cousins to identify their attackers. Mateo ran. He loves his cousin. He didn't know what happened to Javier. He hoped for the best. He also abandoned him. He runs from the police when they start asking questions. He fears what will happen to him as he is technically working with an expired visa. His immigration status doesn't matter to the squad. They just want to provide justice for this family. It seems impossible. Their salvation comes from Anne, who saw the entire attack from her window. She provides Olivia with a detailed breakdown of what happened. Zach and Mo are arrested after Anne provides that information. She is afraid of the world. Everything is so cruel and sinister. She hasn't left her apartment in years. And now, she's the only hope in holding these criminals accountable for their actions. She can't sit idly by and let it happen. Her own moral code has to be stronger than her fears. It's relatively easy to defeat that obstacle. It's not a significant problem for Olivia to address. That lessens the impact slightly because no legal ambiguity is allowed to foster.

Anne doesn't need much time to identify the attackers. She remembers each of them vividly. She knows precisely which one did what. She knows Jordan never actually participated in the attack. He just stayed in the van and pleaded with his friends to go. They are all guilty of stealing the vehicle. That's their version of a fun night out with friends. They cause a lot of trouble. Javier could have died. Doctors saved his life. He continues to have the support of family. He's grateful for everyone who helped along the way. He couldn't have survived without the love and actions of these public servants and decent people. This was a traumatic introduction to the city. He's returning home. His plans have shifted because of this attack. It will forever shape him. It doesn't have to define his life entirely moving forward. Anne feels that shift in confidence too. She was once afraid of the world. Now, she's willing to be seen and let others know she's the reason why they will be held responsible for their crimes. Of course, plea deals are ultimately struck. Carisi doesn't have to take the case to trial. He hasn't had much courtroom drama this season. That has relegated him to the background without much purpose. However, it also supports the idea of the squad being a well-oiled machine working cohesively and effectively in handling these stories.