Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is continuing its 21st season with yet another ripped from the headlines story in "Down Low In Hell's Kitchen," which dramatizes Jussie Smollett's case. The episode stars L. Steven Taylor as a celebrity who claims he was attacked at a bar, but the twists and turns in the case lead Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team to question the validity of his claims. In reality, Smollett was also put under increased scrutiny, though he continues to claim his story is true.
In the new episode, a serial predator is targeting men in gay bars and the SVU team struggles to stop him. But Taylor's character, Mathis Banks, claims he was attacked and that could help them solve the case. Then again, Mathis might have made it all up. The case then comes under national scrutiny and gains attention outside New York City. The episode also guest stars Demore Barnes, Zuleikha Robinson and Curtis Armstrong.
Smollett, who starred on Fox's Empire, claimed he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, dumped a substance on him and put a noose around his neck on Jan. 29 while he was walking to his Chicago apartment. The men allegedly told Smollett, an openly gay actor, "This is MAGA country," referring to President Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again."
After Smollett's claims were reported, there was initially a groundswell of support for him. However, the Chicago Police Department accused him of staging the hate crime in an effort to get a raise. They accused him of paying two brothers to stage the attack.
Smollett was arrested on Feb. 20 and charged with a felony for filing a false police report. In March, he was indicted on 16 felony counts. However, on March 26, all charges were dropped in exchange of the actor completing community service hours and forfeiting his $10,000 bond. Smollett, who was removed from Empire, has continued to insist the attack was real. Just last week, Smollett replied to an Instagram post comparing his case to Amari Allen, a girl who claimed three white classmates pinned her and cut off her dreadlocks before recanting.
"With all due respect brother, y'all can clown me all you want, [but] my story has actually never changed and I haven't lied about a thing," Smollett reportedly wrote in response. "Y'all can continue to be misinformed, internalized sheep, who believe what actual prevent liars feed you or you can read the actual docs... Either way, Imma be alright. I know me and what happened. You don't. So carry on. All love."
Authorities in Chicago recently interviewed Abel and Ola Osundairo, the two men allegedly paid to carry out the attack, meaning prosecutors are not completely done with Smollett's case. The FBI said in March it would investigate the decision to drop the charges in March.
Of course, Smollett's case is hardly the first time SVU has mined the headlines for an episode. In fact, last month's season premiere, "I'm Going To Make You A Star," featured Deadwood star Ian McShane as a Harvey Weinstein-like movie producer who sexually assaults women during auditions. The story ended with Benson being promoted from lieutenant to captain.0comments
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
HOLD UP! Make sure to subscribe to GroupChat, PopCulture.com's official reality tv podcast! Check it out by clicking here or listen below.
Punch play to listen to GroupChat's new Episode 8 where we're talking new 'Jersey Shore' breakup drama, Joe Giudice, 'Teen Mom' and a Kardashians robbery! Don't miss a minute and hit that subscribe button so you don't miss an episode!