Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fans are used to "ripped from the headlines" episodes, but Thursday night's still jolted fans out of their seats with the twists and turns. "Down Low in Hell's Kitchen" was a complex hour, based on the story of former Empire actor Jussie Smollett. In January, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago, but he was later accused of filing a false police report.
In the new episode, actor L. Steven Taylor played Mathis Banks, a singer who claimed he was one of the victims of a predator targeting men in gay bars in New York City. Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), Fin (Ice-T) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) had trouble catching the predator until Mathis came forward. However, their investigation eventually causes the team to grow suspicious of Mathis' claims.
Wait a minute... He did that to himself with a taser & a bottle?! Jussie barely pinched himself. Yikes! #LawAndOrderSVU— Florida Woman (@pyt713) October 11, 2019
Awesome episode! Love the ending with fins words and captain bensons wholesome moment. ☺️ #SVU— jeremy deputy (@Jdep5832) October 11, 2019
Mathis was attacked by the predator after he was noticed by a man at a gay bar. He was found by police with his pants down, bent over a piece scaffolding. The serial predator's M.O. is going after men who do not want to come out publicly. He tases them and sodomizes them with a bottle.
Mathis told police he walked home after working in the studio and said he was not gay. Thanks to Instagram though, they discovered Mathis went to a gay bar.
After the team suggests Mathis coming out could help them in the case and would be an inspiration to his fans, Mathis does so willingly. Benson was surprised he did so willingly, and then did plenty of press about it.
Next, they try to bait the predator by using Deputy Chief Christian Garland (Demore Barnes). The scheme appears to work, as a man does go after Garland with a bottle and tries to attack him with a taser.
Unfortunately, none of the other victims described seeing the predator's face... except Mathis. The singer was apprehensive about identifying the predator and the line-up went terribly. Mathis could not identify him.
Then, reports speculating that Mathis made it up begin to surface after footage shows his brother bought a taser. Now, Mathis has made actually proving the predator is guilty even harder. Mathis insisted the attack really happened though.
Rollins interviewed Mathis' brother, who revealed that Mathis heard about the predator's attacks. They also learned from Mathis' manager that TMZ was going to report Mathis is gay. So they realize Mathis wanted to get ahead of the story and thought being attacked would get more sympathy and simply coming out.
The whole situation starts blowing up in their faces. If the predators' other victims would have testified, they wouldn't have had to go so hard after Mathis. So D.A. Hadid (Zuleikha Robinson) tells the SVU team to get more evidence and fix this.
One of the other victims revealed more details. He said he had consensual oral sex with the predator and even took a photo. Thanks to the photo, the predator agreed to reach a plea deal and no one would have to testify.
Garland later told Benson and Fin that they need to charge Mathis with a crime, but Benson disagreed. She said keeping this in the news would only make victims of other crimes more afraid to come forward. Garland was surprised that they would let Mathis go without him paying a price.
"He's paying... plenty," Fin said.
Fin later told Mathis he will have to come to terms with whatever happened to him in the past that led him to that moment in his life.
In the last scene of the episode, Benson dropped Noah off at his first dance class and smiled.
ugh baby Noah wants to be a dancerrrrr, MY HEART 🥺 #SVU— 𝙺𝚎𝚕𝚜 ☼ (@kelseyhodgess) October 11, 2019
Although many of the details in "Down Low in Hell's Kitchen" were very different from Smollett's real-life case, it was clearly the inspiration for the plot.
Smollett claimed he was attacked on Jan. 29, while walking back to his Chicago apartment. He said two men shouted racial and homophobic slurs, put a noose around his neck and dumped a substance on him. The men allegedly referenced President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan by yelling, "This is MAGA country."
After their initial investigation, the Chicago Police Department accused him of staging the attack to raise his profile and get a raise. They also accused him of paying brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to carry out the attack. Smollett was arrested on Feb. 20 and was later indicted on 16 felony counts related to filing a false police report.
Surprisingly, on March 26, the charges against Smollett were dropped in exchange for Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bond and completing community service. The prosecutor's decision to drop the charges is under investigation by the FBI and there are signs that authorities are not finished with Smollett.
Meanwhile, Smollett has insisted the attack was real.
"I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one," Smollett said after the charges were dropped. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I've been accused of."0comments
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC