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S21.E07: Counselor, It's Chinatown

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Info from Googling "law & order: special victims unit season 21 episode 7"

The SVU joins an under cover task force in busting a human trafficking ring.

From All Things Law & Order

Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Kelli Giddish, Peter Scanavino, Jamie Gray Hyder, Margaret Cho as Evelyn Lee, Nelson Lee as Sergeant Joe Park, Shuya Chang as Mei Mei Li, and Christine Chang as Lily Song

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Considering the title, I can't help but think that this episode will end, the same way the movie "Chinatown" (with Jack Nicholson) ended. IMO, it implies sadness, disappointment, and despair. Bottom line, nothing ever ends well in Chinatown.

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In the promo pics for this episode, Carisi is apparently out in the field wearing a bulletproof vest. This makes no sense, why is an ADA out there doing that? I like more screentime for Carisi but this just doesn’t make sense, I hope they have a reasonable explanation for why he’s out there. 

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21 minutes ago, Xeliou66 said:

In the promo pics for this episode, Carisi is apparently out in the field wearing a bulletproof vest. This makes no sense, why is an ADA out there doing that? I like more screentime for Carisi but this just doesn’t make sense, I hope they have a reasonable explanation for why he’s out there. 

I think we have seen Cabot in a vest, but that was once in the field and never done again, but it wouldn't surprise me if they have Carisi wearing it every episode. It also wouldn't surprise me if he gets shot here and Benson is granted a temporary law degree and then she prosecutes these human traffickers.

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And......once more, non-white special victims!!!! Wow! So far this season I think we've had more "not a white woman" special victims than in the entire 4 seasons prior.

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Poor Lily. She didn't know never to be hopeful until a Benson inspirational speech at the 50 min mark. Hope 20mins in about testifying never works out. You're safer saying "I'll be right back" in a horror movie.

Edited by Gigi43
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A pretty good episode, I liked seeing another different type of case, I like how this season they’ve switched it up and we’ve had fewer he said/she said rich white people rape cases and a greater variety of cases. I liked how the case played out, it felt very realistic and it was a solid episode. 

Benson didn’t annoy me tonight which was unusual, she didn’t dominate the screen time and she was good in her role as captain. Everyone else had a nice role, although I did wonder why Carisi was in the stakeout van with Benson, it seemed unusual to have an ADA there, while the more of Carisi the better we never saw Barba or Stone on a stakeout like that that I recall. 

I liked the Asian sergeant that helped them out on the case. 

One thing that bugged me - when it was said the DA signed off on the deal, are we to assume McCoy is still the DA or not? I wish they would clear that up, because not giving his prosecutors a heads up that the feds were taking over the case would be very OOC for McCoy, so I’m assuming that the DA is someone new and Jack has retired, but the last we heard McCoy was still in office. I wish they would clear that up by either saying McCoy’s name or mentioning a new DA, it bugs me when the writers have no respect for the continuity of the franchise, that’s one thing that I liked about the previous showrunner. Maybe this will be cleared up, but I doubt it. 

It was obvious when the witness asked to go to the bathroom she was going to jump. 

Overall this was a good episode, I’ve enjoyed how this season has given us a greater variety of cases, it feels fresher and there is less of St Olivia saving the world it seems like. I’ve liked this season more than I expected to.

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1 hour ago, Xeliou66 said:

Everyone else had a nice role, although I did wonder why Carisi was in the stakeout van with Benson, it seemed unusual to have an ADA there, while the more of Carisi the better we never saw Barba or Stone on a stakeout like that that I recall.

I think the writers/producers are undecided about Carisi.  On the one hand, they finally got to use Carisi's law degree and made him into an actual practicing lawyer.  On the other, they miss having him on the squad (as do we), so they put him in a police-related situation. 

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The Good:
The COTW. It was a particularly heinous sexually based offense (even if there was more than a little handwaving getting there and they could have used a little more exposition at the beginning as to why SVU was taking point on a operation that is more of a vice or precinct matter) investigated by a squad of elite detectives. No extraneous soapy drama and a realistic resolution after we got to see the legal process too which is a bonus.
Benson and Rollins. A rare appearance for both in this section, but Benson was actually mostly a hands on CO in this episode rather than an avenging angel with a few acolytes assisting her with the minor details. And Rollins was barely present (maybe one of those light duty weeks for KG) but managed not to say anything stupid about trafficking victims or immigrants or anything else so let's count that as a win.
The guest cast. Margaret Cho was the big name and she was good, but the real standouts were the actors playing the other Asian characters.
Another episode where someone other than Benson got to have the big cathartic moment at the end.
The preview for next week has potential.

The Bad:
Carisi: Action ADA. I like Carisi and it was nice to see that it wasn't Benson saving the day, but that's not his job anymore. And they really missed an opportunity there to have Benson say something along the lines of "that was incredibly brave. Don't do it again." I guess Fin is the only one on the squad who has any common sense about Carisi's new role which is pretty much to be expected I guess. He was there to monitor and supervise  and run point on any legal issues that might pop up not to go out in the field and start giving direct orders to the officers.
Warren Leight is back and so is the nameless "DA" boogeyman making all sorts of convenient political deals to let perps get off easy and treating their subordinates in a a high handed and dismissive manner. You don't have to like courtroom scenes to have a modicum of respect for continuity and one of the greatest characters in franchise history. It's a bad look.
Hadid. She's still less a real person and more of plot device. It would be nice to actually have Carisi tell them that you need to take down big game with the first shot instead of having her be cartoonishly scared of, and deferential to, the wealthy and powerful.

Overall this was a strong episode that could have been truly excellent if they wrote the legal side better. I wonder if that now that they've broken the record they are making a play for the casual viewer to try to increase the value of the re-runs and/or slow the ratings erosion? I hope so and that this recent trend of old school episodes with diverse plots isn't just another example of the tug of war between good writing and single issue activism that has been going on since Season 17 preceding another swing of the pendulum back to episode after episode of rich white women being abused by richer white men until Benson saves them.

Edited by wknt3 · Reason: revise and extend my remarks
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I liked the episode. I've been wanting a good female perp and so when Margaret Cho's character started with her sad backstory I thought she was in for a more sympathetic write than a sex trafficker should and that a man wouldn't get. So I liked that she had some thing worked out with the Feds that kept her underhanded. Though I too question  if McCoy is DA because he wouldn't pull not telling his ADAs. Cho was good casting. The Asian sergeant was good too. I know I've seen him in other things but can't fully place where.

Every one had stuff to do. They clearly don't want to write too much legal stuff so it looks like Carisi will be playing cop with them a lot. I liked Lily's tragic ending was sorta balanced with giving May-May a good one.

They're really trying lately. This episode was topical, there's been a lot of news stories here in NYC about the cheap massage places (not all of them giving happy endings ) with the women being treated unfairly, maybe trafficked and even how nail salon workers have their money /tips taken. And the last few episodes haven't felt over the top heavy handed whether ripped from the headlines or just general topical ones unlike that ridiculous Covington Catholic meets fake Illhan Omar with Sharia being spoken every few minutes. They're continuing trying to use the whole cast too. Shaking up the format a few times lately has worked too. I didn't watch the abortion episode at first because of baseball but since reading about it it does seem like it was full of stereotypes and heavy handed so now I haven't watched because I'm enjoying this current run as is for the reasons I've stated above. 

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Oh my God, another episode that wasnt a lecture on some social issue or a he said/she said between pretty rich white people?! What is this witchcraft?! I mean, they did have to sneak in a few evil rich white guys, but I will take what I can get. This was still a good episode, and continuing our streak of mostly good episodes that actually felt like old school SVU with diverse characters, issues, and cases, and some actual detective work over annoying speeches. 

 Carisi showing up in his cop vest, while certainly welcome for shallow reasons, just seemed confusing. Come on show, is Carisi a cop or a lawyer?!  Carisi, action lawyer! Complete with kung fu grip! 

Poor sweet Lily, I knew she was doomed as she as she was skipping around happy to testify, before the half hour mark had even been crossed. Thats the SVU equivalent of announcing you have two days left until retirement before going to battle! At least May-Mat got a happy ending, I kept being worried that someone would get a call that her brother had been killed or something. 

Margaret Cho was the big guest star and she was really great, but I thought the whole guest guest did good work, I especially liked the sergeant from the human trafficking division, I would be happy seeing him again. I was already annoyed that they were giving the head trafficker a sob story, as its something they so often do with their female perps as opposed to their pure evil male perps (especially in the later seasons) so I was actually glad that it turned out that she had another ace in the hole. I do think she felt real remorse and guilt over what she had done, but she was also ready to get outta dodge. 

The legal aspect of the episode was the weakest, and while I know that they had to do the "forget it Jake its Chinatown" ending with the villain pulling strings and getting away, this all seemed confusing. 

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12 hours ago, SarahPrtr said:

I think the writers/producers are undecided about Carisi.  On the one hand, they finally got to use Carisi's law degree and made him into an actual practicing lawyer.  On the other, they miss having him on the squad (as do we), so they put him in a police-related situation. 

Yeah! Especially, with Kat on the squad now, that balances things out.

The appearances of Hadid always bugs me out! She either looks guilty or insincere...

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On 11/8/2019 at 12:48 AM, Xeliou66 said:

A pretty good episode, I liked seeing another different type of case, I like how this season they’ve switched it up and we’ve had fewer he said/she said rich white people rape cases and a greater variety of cases. I liked how the case played out, it felt very realistic and it was a solid episode. 

Benson didn’t annoy me tonight which was unusual, she didn’t dominate the screen time and she was good in her role as captain. Everyone else had a nice role, although I did wonder why Carisi was in the stakeout van with Benson, it seemed unusual to have an ADA there, while the more of Carisi the better we never saw Barba or Stone on a stakeout like that that I recall. 

I liked the Asian sergeant that helped them out on the case. 

This one remind me of the old cases where the writers (and producers) had an agenda, but they didn't make it so outrageously unbelievable like they did "Zero Tolerance". They told it in an objective way, that will make people think about it. Benson is still a little too involved in this and Carisi was so out of place in the beginning. Tamin is stepping up and Fin his usual top-notch self. If they ever write an episode where he is so out of character, I believe there will be a major revolt.

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On 11/8/2019 at 12:48 AM, Xeliou66 said:

One thing that bugged me - when it was said the DA signed off on the deal, are we to assume McCoy is still the DA or not? I wish they would clear that up, because not giving his prosecutors a heads up that the feds were taking over the case would be very OOC for McCoy, so I’m assuming that the DA is someone new and Jack has retired, but the last we heard McCoy was still in office. I wish they would clear that up by either saying McCoy’s name or mentioning a new DA, it bugs me when the writers have no respect for the continuity of the franchise, that’s one thing that I liked about the previous showrunner. Maybe this will be cleared up, but I doubt it. 

This was one of the weak points of this episode, where they wanted to make the Feds the "Heavies" again. To us real fans of L&O, it makes McCoy look bad and it was done in a sloppy manner.

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On 11/8/2019 at 7:14 AM, wknt3 said:

It was a particularly heinous sexually based offense (even if there was more than a little handwaving getting there and they could have used a little more exposition at the beginning as to why SVU was taking point on a operation that is more of a vice or precinct matter) investigated by a squad of elite detectives. No extraneous soapy drama and a realistic resolution after we got to see the legal process too which is a bonus.

Agreed! It would have taken only a few seconds to say they were doing a favor for Tamin and the vice squad group she used to work with to help on a case.

Edited by dttruman
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On 11/8/2019 at 8:24 AM, Gigi43 said:

I liked the episode. I've been wanting a good female perp and so when Margaret Cho's character started with her sad backstory I thought she was in for a more sympathetic write than a sex trafficker should and that a man wouldn't get. So I liked that she had some thing worked out with the Feds that kept her underhanded. Though I too question  if McCoy is DA because he wouldn't pull not telling his ADAs. Cho was good casting. The Asian sergeant was good too. I know I've seen him in other things but can't fully place where.

If anyone is familiar with Magaret Cho as a comedian you are familiar with her impersonation of her mother. I think she was doing it here, but in a more serious fashion for the episode.

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7 minutes ago, dttruman said:

If anyone is familiar with Magaret Cho as a comedian you are familiar with her impersonation of her mother. I think she was doing it here, but in a more serious fashion for the episode.

Oh yeah, I've seen her do the impersonations from her stand up (on Youtube, not live).  Being from a Korean background, I definitely had some laughs.

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They're really telegraphing that Hadid is not to be trusted, aren't they?

And they weren't exactly subtle about Lily's fate either.

Liked seeing Margaret Cho, and hope we see Sgt. Joe Chin again. I liked the actor who played him.

Carisi was super hot running to rescue Mei Mei, but...yeah, he's an ADA. Why is running to rescue victims? Why is he even out in the field with the cops. Are they trying to tell us that he wants to go back to his old job?

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2 hours ago, dttruman said:

This was one of the weak points of this episode, where they wanted to make the Feds the "Heavies" again. To us real fans of L&O, it makes McCoy look bad and it was done in a sloppy manner.

I think the problem isn't making the feds the heavies. It's the portrayal of the unnamed DA as a political opportunist without any sort of scruples or regard for the other people involved in the case. This seems to be one of Warren Leight's personal tics and it kind of seemed that he was marking his territory again after Chernuchin tied the whole series back into the larger franchise and made it clear that Jack McCoy was DA.
 

2 hours ago, dttruman said:

Agreed! It would have taken only a few seconds to say they were doing a favor for Tamin and the vice squad group she used to work with to help on a case.

Or since it seemed like it was a task force they could have brought in for their expertise in dealing with traumatized victims and abusers. This was something they really used to be good at - making up reasons for why the squad was brought in to a case that wasn't really in their purview. And there were all sorts of ways that the exposition could have given us a good character moment like having Tamin say that she really appreciated not arresting the girls and how it differed from the usual vice raids she worked on, or having Fin complain that they finally got a replacement for Carisi and they were being given special assignments instead of working the backlog, or maybe having this task force being run by the new chief. All sorts of possibilities they missed.
 

2 hours ago, Gillian Rosh said:

Carisi was super hot running to rescue Mei Mei, but...yeah, he's an ADA. Why is running to rescue victims? Why is he even out in the field with the cops. Are they trying to tell us that he wants to go back to his old job?

I think they've been trying to show us that Carisi still has a cop's mindset (as well as trying to cover for the fact that they have such a small cast) and leave open the possibility of him going back to the squad if they couldn't make a new character work (or if they didn't get the budget for a new regular) but they've been pretty sloppy about it beyond the scene with him and Fin in the bar. I don't have a problem with him being out in the field more than other ADAs and there was a good logical reason for him to be there in the command truck (supervising the collection of evidence and being on scene if they needed to get approval for something not covered in the warrant) and I could even buy him reacting impulsively and running off without thinking it through, but I do have a real problem with Benson smiling instead of telling him he can't be doing that, or at least an on screen scolding from Hadid, whose whole purpose as a character is to be the evil speaker of truths the squad and the writers would prefer to ignore.

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On ‎11‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 11:14 AM, DB in CMH said:

Did that not feel like an Asian minstrel show to anybody else? That dialog and acting were so.... Cringey.

I was coming here to post the same. I felt like the accents were akin to people making fun of Asian people. And the brother in college in San Fran seemed like a major stereotype. Yikes.

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On ‎11‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 2:33 PM, tennisgurl said:

Oh my God, another episode that wasnt a lecture on some social issue or a he said/she said between pretty rich white people?! What is this witchcraft?! I mean, they did have to sneak in a few evil rich white guys, but I will take what I can get. This was still a good episode, and continuing our streak of mostly good episodes that actually felt like old school SVU with diverse characters, issues, and cases, and some actual detective work over annoying speeches. 

 Carisi showing up in his cop vest, while certainly welcome for shallow reasons, just seemed confusing. Come on show, is Carisi a cop or a lawyer?!  Carisi, action lawyer! Complete with kung fu grip! 

Poor sweet Lily, I knew she was doomed as she as she was skipping around happy to testify, before the half hour mark had even been crossed. Thats the SVU equivalent of announcing you have two days left until retirement before going to battle! At least May-Mat got a happy ending, I kept being worried that someone would get a call that her brother had been killed or something. 

Margaret Cho was the big guest star and she was really great, but I thought the whole guest guest did good work, I especially liked the sergeant from the human trafficking division, I would be happy seeing him again. I was already annoyed that they were giving the head trafficker a sob story, as its something they so often do with their female perps as opposed to their pure evil male perps (especially in the later seasons) so I was actually glad that it turned out that she had another ace in the hole. I do think she felt real remorse and guilt over what she had done, but she was also ready to get outta dodge. 

The legal aspect of the episode was the weakest, and while I know that they had to do the "forget it Jake its Chinatown" ending with the villain pulling strings and getting away, this all seemed confusing. 

I felt that this "twist" was a reference to Cindy Yang and her supposed connections to the Trumps.

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On 11/10/2019 at 8:34 AM, dttruman said:

This was one of the weak points of this episode, where they wanted to make the Feds the "Heavies" again. To us real fans of L&O, it makes McCoy look bad and it was done in a sloppy manner.

My issue isn’t their portrayal of the Feds but of how they threw the DA under the bus, since at last we heard McCoy was the DA, he was last mentioned in the season 19 finale. If they are going to vilify the DA, at least have a line about there being a new DA and McCoy retiring or something, as of now we have no idea if McCoy is the DA or not, I don’t believe McCoy would cut a deal with the feds without giving Hadid and Carisi a heads up. I have no idea why Leight has no respect for the franchise as a whole or for the continuity, one thing that I liked about Chernuchin was that he had respect for those things, Leight obviously doesn’t and I have no idea why he wants to vilify the DA. It shows a lack of respect for the fanbase and for the franchise and arguably its most beloved character in McCoy. It really pissed me off. 

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On 11/10/2019 at 10:14 AM, DB in CMH said:

Did that not feel like an Asian minstrel show to anybody else? That dialog and acting were so.... Cringey.

As to be expected anytime any show does a "Chinatown" episode.

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5 hours ago, Xeliou66 said:

 If they are going to vilify the DA, at least have a line about there being a new DA and McCoy retiring or something, as of now we have no idea if McCoy is the DA or not, I don’t believe McCoy would cut a deal with the feds without giving Hadid and Carisi a heads up. I have no idea why Leight has no respect for the franchise as a whole or for the continuity,

Yes, this why I think it's sloppy and so unprofessional of Leight to do it this way. The mothership (L&O) made an episode where there was a murder investigation and trial, and the Feds took over the case and offered the murder suspect almost blanket immunity like it is here. But those writers and producers instead of leaving it at that, with Mccoy having egg all over his face, they maneuvered the plot so skillfully, that McCoy was able to still prosecute both father and son successfully for major crimes. I remember their names were Afakians or something like that. It was a great episode, with a great plot and resolution.

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Me: Why is Carisi on scene, in the van, wearing a bulletproof vest, instead of lawyer-ing in an office somewhere? Why is he running through the streets and climbing fire escapes to rescue women like that? So unrealistic! Ugh, this is such blatant fanservice! This show has no shame at all!

Also me: *watches appreciatively* 

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16 minutes ago, incandescent said:

So Chinatown episode featuring special guest star Margaret Cho vs. Chinatown episode featuring special guest star Ming-Na Wen. Which won for you guys?

'Debt' with Ming-Na by far.  It also featured Huang as one of the main storyline characters and he interacted with the little girl who was the niece and he knew when Li Mei was lying when he heard the conversation because he understood Mandarin.

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