Law & Order: SVU Season 17 Episode 12 Review: A Misunderstanding

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When a popular boy asks a shy girl out, does she feel pressured to have sex?

What's the line between pressure, popularity and rape? Can parents misjudge a situation and ruin their kids' lives? These are some of the questions Law & Order: SVU Season 17 Episode 12 addresses. 

It was great to have a nuanced story with no clear answers, though some of what went on in "A Misunderstanding" was problematic. The best SVU stories are the ones that raise more questions than answers, and this one certainly did just that.

A Murky Case - Law & Order: SVU

Throughout the hour, it was unclear whether Abby really thought she'd been raped or not. She consistently texted with Chris and after his conviction, her mother practically had to drag her away from him.

I liked him. I wanted him to like me.


Was Abby's apology because she hated the thought of a popular boy being mad at her, or did her parents decide for her that she was raped? The ending scene was ambiguous enough to go either way. It was possible that Abby's parents didn't like the idea of her having sex and cried rape for her. It was equally possible that she actually was raped.

Certainly something happened, as Abby went to her room and cried after the party.

Whatever happened, the tactics the cops used to get Chris were a bit disturbing. It seemed like Chris would be punished whether or not he was actually convicted of a crime. The suggestion that his name would be linked to his arrest forever, even if found innocent, and that would ruin his life, seems like a violation of the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

Of course, the cops could have been making that up to get Chris to cooperate. That doesn't really sit well either.

Later in the hour, Fin blackmailed a football player into giving up some information.

Better yet, how about we call Notre Dame?


Basically, if the kid didn't talk, Fin would interfere with his sports scholarship to the school he wanted to go to. This didn't seem like an ethical means of getting information. Would evidence gathered this way really be admissible in court?

Once the police begin using blackmail and other coercive tactics to get suspects to talk, confess and/or take deals, it opens up a can of worms. Rape is a serious crime, and innocent or semi-innocent people's lives could be ruined because of coercion like this. This type of behavior also makes people look more suspiciously on rape allegations. Thus, the one thing missing from "Misunderstanding" was this point.

No wonder Chris' mother believed Abby was lying!

No. Before my daughter went to college, I heard her friends saying they would accuse a boy of rape if he didn't call them back.

Chris' Mom

At first,  Mrs. Roberts seemed like an overprotective mother who believed her son could do no wrong and that girls all lie about rape just for fun. However, given the ambiguous nature of the case and the tactics the police used, she might not have been quite so biased as it seemed.

Whatever happened was more than likely a misunderstanding, and even Barba and Benson thought so.

The world is changing. We need new rules.


Benson is right that there need to be clear rules and some way to prevent confusion from turning into rape. Whatever happened here, it didn't seem like justice was served. 

Chris' attorney didn't do anyone any favors, though, by relying on cliches and stereotypes as part of his defense. Buchanan accused Olivia of blaming the victim, then proceeded to blame Abby for the alleged rape in a number of ways.

The tired old cliches that she led him on and that she went to an area where most people have sex so therefore he couldn't have done anything different had no place in this trial. The issue was whether Chris continued engaging in sexual behavior that he was told to stop or not.

It was odd that Buchanan argued that Abby never said no when nobody disagreed with her having said "Too fast" and "Don't go there." Since when do words that translate to No don't count? The argument that Chris didn't understand what "down there" meant was also a bit silly. Abby said it immediately after he put his hand in her pants. What else could it possibly mean?

I'm surprised nobody brought up the alcohol use except for Chris during his testimony. There was no evidence that Abby was drunk and Chris sober, as she did not have a blood alcohol test on the night of the incident. However, the alcohol could have impaired her judgment and ability to consent. Yet this issue was not mentioned.

Putting the case aside, there were a few personal moments rounding out the hour.

Psychiatrist: So no nightmares, no flashbacks?
Benson: I have both of those, that's nothing new.

Thank goodness Olivia saw her therapist rather than the events of Law & Order: SVU Season 17 Episode 11 being swept under the rug! I was expecting a PTSD-related problem on the stand since she insisted she was fine when she clearly wasn't. Plus we got more of a backstory on Roxy.

It'll be interesting to see, too, how Rollins balances motherhood and work. It sounds like she may not be allowed as much time off as she wants. Seeing Rollins stand up for herself while everyone was arguing about her fate was a nice touch. She is as strong as ever, but what will happen next?

What did you think? Did Chris rape Abby or was this a war between two sets of parents? Were the cops' tactics justified? Do you think Rollins will be forced back to work within a few weeks? Comment below!

Miss an episode? No problem! Just watch Law & Order: SVU online and come back to share your thoughts when you're done.

A Misunderstanding Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
  • 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 17 Episode 12 Quotes

Dad: How was the party honey?
Abby: Fine. I'm just tired.

Psychiatrist: So no nightmares, no flashbacks?
Benson: I have both of those, that's nothing new.