Decline and Fall Recap: Law & Order SVU

Well, there certainly was a break from the parade of suspects we usually have to sort through in “Decline and Fall” (January 19, 2017). In this one, we had two suspects right off the bat and it got narrowed down to one pretty quick because the culprit didn’t see anything wrong with his modus operandi.

It’s Lawrence Hendricks’ 75th birthday when we open the story. He is the head of Avalon Store, a very successful retail operation, and we get several hints that he’s a philanderer right off the bat. “What a treat,” he quips when presented with his birthday cake by two beautiful model types, “Oh, and the cake, too.” He gives a little speech about the company and how his daughter, Cynthia, will one day take over, but not anytime soon if it’s up to him. His grandson, Eric, wants to know if Grandpa’s much younger girlfriend, Sue Ann, is cool with the other women. Sue Ann pops up and says Grandpa deserves to have a little fun. Eric wants to be introduced to one of the models but Lawrence tells him to go find his own and to lay off the booze: “Always stay sharper than your targets.” Strike philanderer… predator!

Eric turns around and starts hitting on the pretty young bartender. He tells her he lives there, Lawrence is his grandfather and mentor (uh oh!) and he hangs around her till she agrees to have some tequila with him. “It’s pure agave. You can’t get it in stores,” he says as he pours her a shot. “Whoa!” she exclaims after swigging it and it looks like Eric is setting her up.

Her name is Sarah Morrissey. She wakes up the next morning alone in a state of undress, grabs her things and goes to the police station where she runs into Lieutenant Olivia Benson. (In most police stations, you have to go to the front desk first, but not on SVU). She tells Benson that she thinks she was raped but can’t remember anything other than bartending at a birthday party for a old rich guy, the head of Avalon Stores. Benson immediately knows who that is, as well as his reputation as a “geriatric playboy billionaire.”

Sarah is examined and evidence of forced sexual contact is found while her bloodwork gets done. She can only remember talking to one young guy around her age so Benson sends Rollins and Carisi to the company offices to get a list of anyone at the party under age 30. They get to talk to Lawrence himself who admires Rollins’ looks and the photo of Sarah and offers up Eric from the under-30 range.

While speaking to Eric, Rollins gets a message. They take Eric to the station. He freely admits to consensual sex with Sarah and doesn’t know anything about the quaaludes that turned up in her blood. All they had was tequila and he had more than Sarah did. Rollins tries to get him to admit that Sarah did not literally say the word “yes” beforehand but just then, Eric’s father, Larry shows up. He terminates the interrogation, informs Eric he is not going to live with his grandfather anymore and marches his son out of there.

They go about building a case against Eric with a warrant to search Hendricks’ apartment where they find quaaludes in Eric’s bedroom– even before Eric is identified by Sarah. Meantime, an analysis proves that two different men who were related had sex with Sarah that night. Sarah recovers the memory that she consented to sleeping with Eric and is beyond horrified to realize the second man was the old goat. Lawrence is arrested in the middle of a boardroom meeting. He cheerfully admits to having sex with Sarah in front of everyone. Now they have to prove that he drugged Sarah.

Cynthia files a motion to have her father declared mentally incompetent and they go through a big rigamarole about how he thinks it’s still 1975 and how she is doing it to take his company away when they are really doing it to change his plea to being unfit to stand trial on the rape charges.

Benson comes up with a “sting” idea and has Sarah meet Lawrence and Cynthia, who are trying to pay her off, but Sarah insists she only wants an apology. They are taping the conversation. Lawrence weirdly calls Sarah “Monica” and that later turns out to be Eric’s mother.

Benson tricks Sue Ann into testifying by lying that her fingerprints were found on the quaaludes bag planted in Eric’s bedroom. Sue Ann admits that she planted the drugs and testifies that Lawrence puts quaaludes in her drinks, too. He doesn’t ask her if it’s okay. She just knows he does it.

The real person they need to testify to nail Lawrence is Eric but he refuses. Eric yells at his father and says awful things about his own mother based on Grandpa’s version of what she was like– “a party girl.” Larry offers to testify to help bring his father down. His testimony is not that effective because Harold Timmons, the Hendricks’ attorney, casts him as an ex-heir to the business with an axe to grind now that his sister, Cynthia, stands to get it all after he fell out with his father. This is when his ex-wife’s name comes up. Benson takes note and confronts Larry with her suspicions that his father ruined his marriage by drugging Monica and assaulting her. Larry rebuffs her, unwilling to air the family’s dirtiest laundry, but Benson makes him realize that Eric won’t protect his grandfather if he knew the truth.

Eric crumbles when they tell him what really broke up his parents. He was covering up for Lawrence more than we knew. On the stand, he testifies that he and Sarah had a nightcap with Lawrence who poured 3 drinks. When Eric went to take one, Lawrence said “No, not that one,” and gave that one to Sarah. Eric told Sarah in open court that he was so sorry, and should have known. Then Lawrence jumped up and said “You’re soft just like you father.” Timmons could not silence the old fool: “I was trying to show you how to be a man. You don’t apologize. Take what’s yours! You don’t have what it takes.” Then, he sat down and got convicted.

Our epilogues:

The truth set Larry and Monica free. Now that it was out in the open and her son was no longer subject to his grandfather’s influence, Monica agreed to come back to the States and repair their relationships.

Sarah also went to counseling so that she could put the sordid episode behind her and get on with her life.

The backlash of the conviction on the company took its toll for a while but Cynthia publicly repudiated her father’s evildoings. She rebranded the company, made a big contribution to RAINN and asked Larry to come back as an equal partner.

Sue Ann found a new sugar daddy.

Cast of Decline and Fall:
Mariska Hargitay – Olivia Benson
Raúl Esparza – Rafael Barba
Kelli Giddish – Amanda Rollins
Peter Scanavino – Dominick Carisi Jr.

Guest Stars:
Ariane Rinehart – Sarah Morrissey
Jim True-Frost – Larry Hendricks
Ian Nelson – Eric Hendricks
Bob Gunton – Lawrence Hendricks, Sr.
Sarah Clarke – Cynthia Hendricks
Raphael Sbarge – Harold Timmons
Jackie Debatin – Sue Ann Daly
Kathryn Kates – Judge Marlene Simons
Helmar Augustus Cooper – Judge Reginald Flowers
Gail Bennet – Justine
Annika Pergament – Newscaster

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