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Much of the SVU Fandom came away from this episode ecstatically happy. Their heroine, Olivia Benson, for once, has ended a season on a happy note.

Me, not so much. I’m a fan of the show, and I like Mariska Hargitay a lot. But I’m not a fan of Benson worship. The episode ended with Olivia holding a baby that has been entrusted to her care. Anyone who has watched the show much knows that the lack of a real family is a gaping hole in Olivia’s life. Now, I am very happy that Olivia finally has the child she has always wanted. Really. It’s the way she got baby Noah that I have a problem with. More about that later.

“Spring Awakening” jumps back and forth between two stories: the continuation of Nick Amaro’s story from the previous episode (S15E23 “Thought Criminal”), and the current case, which eventually leads to Benson’s happy ending.

The episode begins as the previous episode ended--with Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) beating the crap out of a suspected, but acquitted, pedophile. Fresh from an argument with his wife, Amaro took his frustrations out on a man he is confident will, if given the chance, torture and rape young boys. Nick is arrested, and his victim, Simon Wilkes, is in the hospital with a concussion.

Nick’s one phone call was apparently to Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish), since she is the first to arrive at his cell. We recently learned that the two are sleeping together but keeping it secret from the rest of the squad. When first seeing Amaro behind bars Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is genuinely concerned for her partner, asking about the cut over his eye, and Amanda is visibly shaken by the whole incident. Their C.O., Lieutenant Murphy (Donal Logue), no fan of Amaro, tells him to keep his mouth shut.

Meanwhile, we see the sad plight of Baby Boy Doe, a child who was put into the care of ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) after being found with a couple who had kidnapped several children and were using them to make child pornography (S15E14 “Wednesday’s Child). Benson has taken a special interest in Baby Boy Doe, and has kept in touch with ADA Pippa Cox (Jessica Phillips), who is handling his case. It is still unknown who the boy’s mother is, and he is passed from foster home to foster home.

At an interview with IAB, Nick’s lawyer, Counselor Desappio (Jason Cerbons), states his defense: Simon Wilkes attacked Nick first, hitting him with his camera. Amaro was defending himself. Later, before a judge, Amaro’s bail is set high because of his previous arrest (S15E11 “Amaro’s One-Eighty”). Nick can’t ask his wife to put the house up as collateral again, so he is sent to jail.

The squad wants to find witnesses to support Nick’s story that Wilkes hit him first, but Murphy tells them, “Do not even think about investigating on your own.” Instead he has them get back to work investigating the story of a German tourist who was beaten, robbed and sodomized in a hotel room. After interviewing the tourist, it’s clear that the prostitute who was with the man when the attack occurred is part of the scam. Murphy goes undercover as a tourist from Ireland and answers the same Craig’s list ad the German answered.

The sting works and the squad arrests the girl and her pimp, Augustino Aguilar, aka Little Tino. Aguilar lawyers up right away, but the prostitute, Ellie Porter, is in lock-up. When Ellie’s attorney arrives we find that it’s not a first-year lawyer from Legal Aide, but high-priced attorney Trevor Langon doing a pro-bono job. Trevor Langon has been at SVU before, but it’s been a few years. He is a fan favorite because he is played by Mariska Hargitay’s real-life husband, Peter Hermann. Langon seems genuinely concerned about Benson as he asks her how she’s doing.

The German tourists picks Ellie out in a line up. When Liv comes down hard on Ellie, Langon tells her Ellie should be viewed as a victim. Tino first started giving her drugs and selling her out as a prostitute when she was 16. Liv sees her as a career criminal. Langon says she needs rehab, not jail time. Meanwhile Little Tino goes free when the tourist picks the wrong man from the line up. Against Langon’s advice, Ellie refuses to testify against Tino, even though she will be charged with robbery and accomplice to rape. Later, Benson is surprised when ADA Pippa Cox stops by looking for Ellie Porter. DNA tests show that she is the mother of Baby Boy Doe!

Rollins visits Amaro in jail. He tells her it wasn’t really self-defense; He went after Wilkes. She refuses to listen. Wilkes is in it for the money, and is suing the city. Nick has to fight, but Nick says he doesn’t have much fight left. Amanda reminds him that the squad is on his side. “You’ve got a lot of people pulling for you, Nick, but you gotta put out your hand.” Just then John Munch (Richard Belzer) enters the room. Nick is visibly relieved to see his old mentor.

Nick tells Munch that none of this would have happened if he had gone with his wife, who is taking his daughter and moving to California. Munch tells Nick he has to face the fact that his marriage is over. Then Sergeant Munch gives one of the best speeches about the “good guys” of law enforcement you’ll ever hear.

Amaro: Both One PP and IAB want me gone.
Munch: Don’t flatter yourself, Kid. The reason you’re on their radar is ‘cause they’re worried about their image. This will pass. They don’t understand what we do. Even if they once did it themselves. The only thing the big boys care about is self preservation. But you, you’re the police. You’re a detective.
Amaro: Not now, I’m not.
Munch: Detective Amaro, you went after Simon Wilkes ‘cause he’s a bad guy. You lost your head for a minute, but your impulse was right. You fight for the victims. For the survivors. That’s who you are.

Then Munch surprises Nick by using his own money to bail him out of jail.

Back at the station Ellie explains that she OD’d at Christmastime and her son, Noah, was left with Little Tino and his mother, who runs a daycare out of her house. When she came back she was told that her baby had died. Ellie doesn't know who Noah’s father is, since she was “working” when she got pregnant. Benson tells Ellie and Langon about how they found little Noah. Ellie realizes the couple who had Noah had done business with Tino before. Realizing she could go to prison and never see her son again, Ellie agrees to testify against Tino. Information she provides leads to the arrest of Little Tino and his mother.

Olivia and Amanda are waiting for Amaro after he meets with IAB. He tells them that One PP (higher ups in the NYPD) and IAB want him to do time. Amanda tells him to “Hang in there,” and runs off to a meeting. Nick tells Olivia, “Thanks for having my back, Liv.” “Always!” she answers. Then they share one of their signature looks.

Amanda’s “meeting” is a confrontation with Simon Wilkes’ wife (Kate Blumberg). Amanda produces an iPad showing her husband’s chat room activity from the night before. “Who wants to do my boyish wife? I get off on watching you torture her while she begs for her life.” Amanda chatted with him all night and he asked her for photos of boys. If she sends photos and he downloads them, he will be arrested for possession of “Kiddie torture porn.”

Now, whether Amanda did this for Nick because they are sleeping together or because she’s watching out for a fellow cop is unclear. He has stuck out his neck for her before. Her actions, though questionable (okay, illegal), may be how far members of this elite squad will go for each other. Yes, if it comes out it may jeopardize her career, but she’s come through far worse after her gambling fiasco earlier this season (S15E17 “Gambler’s Fallacy).

Whatever her motivation, her strong-arm tactics work. IAB tells Amaro that Wilkes has dropped the charges and now says that he swung first. Nick’s lawyer tells Nick he caught a break. The charges will either be dismissed outright or pled down to disorderly conduct. He’ll do an anger management class and a psychiatric evaluation. Amaro wants to know, “But, I keep my shield?” “As long as you don’t screw up again.” It’s unknown whether he will be allowed to return to SVU, and despite Benson's request, Murphy won't waste a favor to put in a good word for him.

Little Tino is released on bail, but Ellie should be safe in a halfway house for women until she can testify before the grand jury. She is determined to get clean so she can raise Noah herself. Later that night, desperate for drugs, Ellie skips out of the halfway house.

The police trace Little Tino’s ankle bracelet to a creepy freight yard and find Ellie’s body, burnt to a crisp. Witnesses say it was a group that attacked her, not Little Tino, but no one will say much more. An autopsy shows that Ellie was gang raped, tortured and set on fire. Tino confesses, but it’s clear that he’s covering for someone else. Benson wants to continue the investigation, but Murphy is ready to let it go. Then he announces that the squad is under Benson’s command again. He’s going back undercover and has recommended her as acting C.O.

Back in Family Court, the judge declares that Noah is a ward of the state and will continue to be cared for in an ACS facility. Then she stops and asks Olivia, since she is the only one to have taken a consistent interest in the boy, if she would like to become his foster mother. Really?

I don’t know all the ins and outs of foster care and adoption, but it seems pretty sketchy to me that a judge can make that kind of ruling from the bench without looking into Benson’s background. Especially after her recent traumas. I think this was a last ditch tactic by the SVU writers to force a happy ending for Olivia and her scores of fans, just in case the show wasn’t picked up for season 16.

I felt “Spring Awakening” was weak for a season finale. Covering two major stories made both seem rushed and unfinished. Both endings were somewhat unbelievable and farther from reality than SVU usually strays. Individual scenes were well written, but it didn’t flow well, and not only because of the juxtaposition of the two story lines. The acting was on par with other episodes, which is usually very good. Personally, the episode left me happy for Olivia (but, really?), and distrustful of Rollins, even though I’m glad she did what she did. And I want to take Amaro home and nurse him back to mental health. But that would be a whole new spin off.

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