Olivia Benson's caring is both a blessing and a curse.
She is the detective/counselor that everyone needs and wants if they are ever sexually assaulted or otherwise traumatized.
But as Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 2 demonstrated, her relentless insistence on helping can be annoying to a victim who wants to be left alone. Plus, an unstable witness could definitely take advantage of her!
Reagan James was the opposite of an ideal witness.
She lied, exaggerated, and made serious accusations as a joke.
She got angry and defensive every time her bizarre stories were questioned.
Her behavior was so erratic that I half expected the surprise twist at the end to be that she made up the rape too!
SVU generally doesn't do that, though. False rape accusations are statistically rare and having an unstable victim like Reagan make up an entire traumatic episode, complete with reactions, would undermine the advocacy the show does for real-life victims.
So instead they went the route of Reagan's rape being the one thing that really happened to her.
Benson: Tell me about your family.
Reagan: So this is what this is about? You're mad because I exaggerated a few details? So what? Real life is boring. My version is more exciting. You know what? I thought I could trust you.
Benson: Reagan -
Reagan: I was raped! Screw you!
Clearly, this girl had issues, though, and avoiding a trial was in her best interest.
Any defense lawyer would have ripped her credibility to shreds on the stand.
She got angry enough to storm out when Benson gently questioned a detail of her life that had nothing to do with the rape, so it's not hard to imagine how she'd respond if a defense attorney confronted her about anything!
And the truth was even more bizarre and inhumane than anything Reagan could have made up!
What are the odds that a taxi driver and a passenger would take a drunk and high girl to a marina and introduce her to their friends so that those friends could rape her?
Reagan was lucky she had Benson in her corner because Carisi's assessment that they could get three of the four suspects on rape charges was generous.
In real life, if these lowlifes didn't confess, they might have walked even though there was evidence that Reagan had drugs in her system at the time of the rape.
Reagan had a legitimate case, and Benson was right to do whatever she could to get her justice.
But Reagan also was manipulative, alternately trying to flatter Benson and lashing out at her, and given what her friends said, her acting out wasn't just because of the rape.
Tracking her down at her house was one thing. Benson needed to try to re-establish rapport so they could move forward with the case.
But then after the case was over, Benson offered to be there any time Reagan needed to talk!
Benson wouldn't be Benson if she didn't do that, but come on! Reagan is NOT the kind of person you want to give a carte blanche invitation like that unless you want her calling at all hours of the night.
On the other hand, Benson's connection with Reagan allowed her finally to get some closure on the William Lewis thing.
As soon as she sat down with Reagan, I knew she was going to tell her she was a survivor too, and hopefully Benson's experience with the mandatory
victim interview training therapy for SVU officers will help her feel there was a purpose to her own traumatic story.
Benson: Okay... I came to and he was still in my apartment. I could hear him breathing.
Therapist: Olivia. You ask victims to go back to a place they'd rather not be when they are at their most vulnerable.
Benson: Okay. I felt him... um... pull off the duct tape and it was burning. And I thought... I'm a cop. How could I have let my guard down?
The mandatory training was an interesting sideline to the case, though it wasn't clear what Benson learned that was any different than the usual techniques she uses when talking to victims.
It demonstrated that the three remaining SVU detectives all have traumatic pasts that led them to work for SVU, though.
I was glad the facilitator told Fin that he might experience uncomfortable feelings after the session because I wanted to know what she was going to do to make sure the participants were okay before they left her office.
Fin seemed to have processed his trauma better than Rollins and Benson had processed theirs.
Benson has had a ton of therapy already, though Rollins ran away from the therapist's office back on Law & Order: SVU Season 16 Episode 10.
It remains to be seen how uncovering this trauma that she supposedly got past will affect her throughout the rest of Law & Order: SVU Season 21.
Rollins has never dealt with any of her trauma, including not only the rape but having had to escape her crazy family. Maybe 2019 will be her year for doing just that!
She's going to be under a lot of stress until Benson finds some new SVU detectives, since she and Fin are the only ones left, and on top of that she's raising two kids on her own.
Will she turn to Carisi for help?
A relationship between them has always seemed in the cards, and the stakes would be higher now that she's an overworked SVU detective and he's the new ADA.
Either way, the severe understaffing is likely to be a theme all season long, unless SVU gets some new detectives quickly!
Fin was right -- he and Rollins can't possibly investigate every case by themselves, and trying to deal with overworked detectives and hiring problems will surely be a headache for Benson.
What did you think, SVU fanatics?
Was Benson just being Benson, or did she go too far in her efforts to support Reagan?
Who do you think will burn out first as SVU deals with a staffing shortage?
And will Rollins finally face her demons as Law & Order: SVU Season 21 continues?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything!
Law & Order: SVU continues its historic 21st season on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.