Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 15, Episode 11 of NBC's Law and Order: SVU, titled "Amaro's One-Eighty."
Luckily, this week takes a break from the Save Benson storyline. In fact, the episode starts on a high note for Liv with a party celebrating her relatively new status as a sergeant. With everyone having a good time (except maybe Fin -- feeling this is the umteenth time they've all celebrated Liv's new rank, he can't wait to GTFO), Rollins pours everyone a glass of wine, except Amaro, who refuses, even after she pokes fun at him for always being "the choir boy." Then comes the big announcement: Liv gets to stay at SVU!!! According to Cragen, this is because everyone is worried about some structural changes over at 1PP, which has caused enough people to leave that they can no longer spare any more sergeants. But the real reason is obviously just because Detective Benson is perfect. With this new knowledge, Amaro celebrates with another glass of wine! Hip hip hooray!
The fun times end abruptly
But the party never lasts too long on Law and Order: SVU. As Amaro and Rollins are leaving the party, they're nearly hit by a man followed by two police officers. Unfortunately, one of the officers is actually hit by an oncoming cab, rendering him unable to continue the chase. So Amaro takes off in pursuit of the suspect. After following the suspect into a building, Officer McKenna (Vicky Jeudy from Orange is the New Black) tells Amaro that she thought she saw a gun. Meanwhile, a bystander enters the building wielding a cellphone camera. Amaro tells her to leave. Just as the woman closes the door, shooting erupts in the hallway. McKenna has been shot. Thinking the suspect has a weapon, Amaro fires several rounds until there is silence. With Rollins attending the officer (who sustained a gunshot wound to the calf), Amaro runs down the hall to check on the suspect who is now bleeding on the ground -- he has been shot in the stomach. We see he's only a child. He doesn't appear to be armed. Dun dun.
The question remains: Where is the gun?
Fortunately, Amaro saves the boy's life. As the paramedic wheels him out of the building, a bag falls out. Amaro recognizes its contents as khat, an East African amphetamine. Meanwhile, everyone is ordered to search for the weapon -- "The kid was armed, find the weapon." While unable to find a gun, Rollins finds a window open and the victim's brother missing. Could he have jumped out the window with the gun?
Over at the hospital, Amaro waits to get his blood drawn, per NYPD protocol. But just before the nurse gets to him, his delegate arrives. After learning he had two drinks, little dinner, and went to the gym prior, she stalls the blood test fearing his BAC might be too high. "We pray somebody finds that gun," she says.
Of course, IAB has to get involved.
Next thing we know, IAB arrives led by Lieutenant Tucker, claiming that the new mayor thinks only IAB can conduct an independent investigation. "Is that when any cop fires or only when a teenage black kid gets shot?" snaps Cragen. (Clearly there's always been some animosity between IAB and SVU, but this comment seems like a lame -- if not off color -- retort, if you ask me). To make matters worse, Cassidy shows up claiming to be part of IAB now (I have a theory. Earlier in the episode, Liv mentioned that Cassidy was undercover. Is he investigating IAB from the inside? Does IAB have a rat named Cassidy? Because that would be great).
The victim is alive, but was he armed?
Liv delivers the news that the victim, Youssef, is indeed alive, but was hit in the spine by one of the bullets rendering him paralyzed. Hit with an onslaught of guilt, Amaro heads to the church where he speaks with a priest. He begins unleashing a torrent of emotion saying he wishes he hadn't been drinking, not because it actually impaired his judgement, but because of what everyone will say -- that he was drunk and the shooting was racially motivated. Recognizing this as flawed thinking, the priest responds, "One lesson you can learn is why pride is a sin."
At the home of Officer Shannon McKenna, Rollins tries to find out as much as possible about the shooting. McKenna says she saw a flash of metal and then got hit with a bullet (suddenly she no longer says it was a gun), but she wonders if maybe the woman with the cell phone got anything useful.
IAB continues to investigate Amaro
Next IAB interviews the regular suspects: the SVU detectives. Cassidy interviews Amaro, harping on the fact that he drank before the incident and wouldn't allow the nurse to take his blood, leaving enough time for his BAC to lower to a legally sober .049. However, seeing as two hours had passed since the shooting, the reality exists that his BAC was probably over the legal limit at the time of the shooting. Fin, Rollins and Benson all verify Amaro's version of events.
More evidence surfaces
Thanks to the Internet, SVU doesn't have to look far to find the cell phone video taken by the bystander, seeing as she uploaded it to a cop watch site, the fictional "Eyes on Cops." The video shows Amaro saying "Speak English!" (when really we know he said "He doesn't speak English!", in reference to the suspect during the shooting), followed by shots fired out of view of the camera. Essentially, this video does nothing to help Amaro's case.
Bad news for Amaro
Lieutenant Tucker makes another appearance to tell Amaro that the victim has no trace of gunshot residue on his clothing, meaning that he never fired a shot. Officer McKenna was hit with a stray bullet. This leaves the cold hard truth that Amaro shot an unarmed 14-year-old boy leaving him paralyzed, possibly for the rest of his life. Tucker tells Amaro that he has til tomorrow to turn himself in. And just like that, bail is set at $500,000.
Next Youssef's brother stops by the hospital giving SVU the perfect opportunity to interview him. He says Youssef delivered khat for him, but never sold it. He only ran because police shot his little brother. "Wouldn't you run too?" he asks.
Amaro's daughter's safety is threatened
While at home, enjoying possibly his last moments of freedom with his daughter, Liv laments how 1PP is leaving him out to dry. At that moment, shots are fired through his living room window. Amaro and Liv go outside to find the brother and several other young black men. Upset over the endangerment of his daughter, Amaro picks up a baseball bat, ready to beat the living daylights out of whoever was responsible. It doesn't help that one of the kids yells "You sure it was a gun? Maybe it was imaginary?" Luckily, Amaro kind of holds it together (other than taking a good swing at a trashcan). But they learn the gun definitely wasn't imaginary when they find a .22 in a sewer grate down the block
Amaro goes to Munch for advice
At a loss as to what to do, Amaro calls Munch (yes, Sergeant John Munch!) who tells him to take the plea -- "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you don't have enemies." Cragen, however, urges Amaro to think about how life would be without the precinct. He comes up with a few meager ideas -- like being a security guard in D.C. -- but we can tell he would miss SVU too much.
Unfortunately, the plea is essentially taken off the table because the DA wants to charge Amaro with a hate crime based on the seemingly racial motivations of this case -- the chasing after black men with a baseball bat probably isn't helping.
The Grand Jury
This leaves Amaro no choice but to go before the Grand Jury. Long story short: Officer McKenna says he didn't verbally identify himself, he might have been legally intoxicated, etc. etc. Basically, things are not looking great for Amaro.
Going against the advice of Cragen, Amaro goes before the Grand Jury, so they can hear his side of the events. He recounts how he followed all of the rules -- he fired after an officer was shot and the suspect had a gun, etc., until one black female juror asks the daring question: "Do you honestly think you did everything right?" She even questions if he would have done things differently had it been a 14-year-old white girl, at which point Amaro can only reply, "There is not a right way to shoot a 14-year-old boy, cripple him, and put him in a wheelchair." He ends saying he's upset that doing everything right can lead to such a terrible result, but he would do it the same again, although he certainly regrets it.
With only eight jurors voting to indict, leaving 10 voting to let him go free, Amaro is free to go.
Goodbye, Captain Cragen
After assigning Amaro to desk duty and anger management training (amongst other things), Cragen tells Liv it's up to her to decide when Amaro is ready to go back on the streets. Huh? Isn't Cragen the one who should be making those calls? Well, normally he would be, but he informs the entire SVU squad that he'll be retiring -- or rather first he'll be going on a six-month cruise with his wife (using up his accrued vacation time) and then finally retiring for good. After exchanging kind words with all the detectives, he unpacks his office and heads out. After Munch's departure earlier this season, I'm not sure how much more of this we can take! But so long Captain Cragen. It's convenient that he's going on a cruise...now he can seamlessly switch over to being a sea captain, no problem. Now that would be a great spin off.
"Law and Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.