Spoilers for the September 30 episodes of Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC.
Law & Order: Organized Crime got its turn for two episodes in one night after Law & Order: SVU launched with a two-hour premiere last week, and a whole lot happened. Although Jet going out into the field and catching a hacker was more than a little noteworthy and the developments with Stabler undercover with the Albanians will undoubtedly have lasting consequences, it’s the long-awaited reveal about Stabler’s letter to SVU’s Benson that may have fans talking the most. And now that the truth is out, I’m… mostly just sad about how it happened.
As somebody who had been wondering ever since the teaser aired after the Organized Crime Season 2 premiere what on Earth could happen that Stabler would actually open up to Benson emotionally in a way that he couldn’t just walk back like his “I love you” last season, Stabler showing up on her doorstep because he was drugged out of his mind actually made a lot of sense.
And Benson taking him in and trying to follow protocol made sense too, so if this was how they were going to have the long-awaited heartfelt discussion of the letter that he wrote her, then that was all well and good. Their relationship has never been straightforward anyway! And then came the reveal that Stabler did not, in fact, write the letter, but his late wife.
A very loopy Stabler stumbled into Benson’s apartment and said that he felt he had to come to her because they never talked about “what happened,” then completely knocked the wind out of her with his confession that he didn’t write the letter. Benson had to repeat it to make sure that he knew what he was saying, and… yep, it was Kathy, and based on the contents, it’s no wonder that Benson hasn’t known what to make of her former partner since his return from Rome.
According to Stabler, Kathy had the idea that it would be easier for them to talk “when we see each other after so much time,” and she helped dictate after he tried and tried. Kathy wrote that what they were to each other was never real, and they got in the way “of each other being who and where we needed to be.” Speaking as her husband, she wrote that if there was a man in Benson’s life, he hoped “he’s the kind, faithful, and devoted man” that Benson deserved. And then came the kicker: Benson started to quote the letter, with one sentence beginning “But in a parallel universe –” and Stabler picked up the rest, saying:
Come on, Stabler! He passed out shortly thereafter, and Benson awesomely called Bell off-screen while he was unconscious to come and take him off her hands. She may love the man in some form or other, but Noah did not need to wake up to find Stabler unconscious on the couch, and Bell was the one who had to make the decisions about what happens next for Stabler after he was drugged on the job.
The whole scene was fantastically performed by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, with Meloni showing the sincere emotions beneath the drugged state and Hargitay taking Benson on an emotional ride of finding out that Kathy – who spent the years of their partnership in Special Victims afraid that her husband loved another woman – wrote the letter. And it was mostly on Kathy’s behalf that I was sad.
While it wasn’t exactly the best thing in the world that she wrote things in the letter that she had to know her husband didn’t truly feel, I honestly put that more on Stabler than on her. I love the man as a character, but Kathy had to deal with his feelings for Benson for a very long time, and at the very least suspected that those feelings were still going strong even after a decade (and an ocean) apart.
If anything, Kathy’s wish for Benson in the letter of a “kind, faithful, and devoted man” she deserves makes me think that Kathy was wishing her own husband was that kind of man for their whole marriage, even if she never would have said it. Besides, nobody made Stabler give Benson the letter and say he wrote it. Bad form, Stabler!
I’m also feeling some kind of way on behalf of Benson, who had her whole perspective of Stabler since his return turned upside down, and who has to know that the only reason he came clean was because he was drugged. The reveal of the contents of the letter just wasn’t a good look for Stabler, even if the line about a parallel universe was downright swoon-worthy.
As for Stabler… well, the last thing the man needed was a long-term undercover gig when he was still recovering from the death of his wife and PTSD that followed, and it would be downright bizarre if he wasn’t a mess in his personal life. The scene was true to all the characters, fantastically acted, and very rewatchable, but also sad for at least me. Stabler isn’t doing well and needs help he won’t ask for, Benson was blindsided, and poor Kathy didn’t deserve her fate.
The plot has officially thickened in many ways on Law & Order: Organized Crime, so keep checking out NBC on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET for new episodes, following new episodes of Law & Order: SVU at 9 p.m. ET in the fall TV lineup.