With Elliot Stabler back on the NYPD force after his wife was killed in a car bombing, it seems hard to avoid wondering whether that romance with Olivia Benson will come to fruition in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Stabler's new spin-off, Law & Order: Organized Crime. Although this week's episodes of the two series did not include traditional crossovers, the connections between the two continued when Garland (Demore Barnes) warned Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to stay away from Stabler (Christopher Meloni) because he heard rumors that Stabler was "going rogue." In another scene in "Our Words Will Not Be Heard," Fin (Ice-T) asked Benson if she ever told Stabler about IAB's Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke).
"Speaking of IAB, did you tell Stabler about you and Tucker?" Fin asked Benson in the middle of a conversation about Internal Affairs. Benson said she had not. "He has too much going on as is and, to be honest with you, the last time I saw him, he flat out told me to leave him alone," Benson said, referring to the conversation from the second Organized Crime episode. "Just so you know, I mentioned to him that you were involved with somebody while he was gone," Fin told Benson. "Did you?" Benson wondered. "I think right now that's the last thing on his mind."
Benson briefly dated Tucker in Season 17, but the relationship didn't last. Tucker made a brief return in the Season 21 episode "The Longest Night of Rain," but he has not been seen since. In that episode, Tucker celebrated his retirement from IAB. It's possible that Benson did not really want Stabler to know about her past romance because she's unsure what his response will be. After all, Stabler never had a great relationship with internal investigators. Also, Stabler does have his hands full trying to stop Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott).
Since Stabler returned, the scenes he shared with Benson have been filled with tension, building to a part when Stabler told her she means "the world to him." Benson didn't seem interested in going down that road at the time, but she makes another appearance in Organized Crime during the upcoming April 22 episode.
During the first 12 seasons of SVU, there was always a question of a possible romance between Stabler and Benson, but Stabler's marriage acted as a buffer between the two characters. In a recent PEOPLE interview, Meloni admitted that he and Hargitay were aware of the fan speculation and would often joke about it between scenes. Even they had to admit there was undeniable chemistry. However, before this could finally happen on screen, Meloni said Stabler will have to work things out with Liv, who he hadn't seen in 10 years.
"I think we're going to stumble bumble, as I think most human beings do, through complicated areas or difficult terrain, emotional terrain," Meloni explained. "What are the answers? Really, there are no answers right now. And I think that's the art and the beauty of what we do, the writers get together and they create these connections or circumstances and the actors get to play them out, so I'm excited. I think there's a world of possibility."
Meanwhile, Organized Crime showrunner Ilene Chaiken said she is prepared for the backlash when a romance doesn't happen. "I'm excited too, and I'm also just girding myself for the onslaught," she said. "No matter what story we wind up telling, I know that there are some folks that are going to want the other story, and we'll see." SVU and Organized Crime air Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET on NBC. You can stream episodes on Hulu.